New Brexit secretary is the ‘invisible man’

Prime Minister Theresa May, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and Brexit Secretary Stephen

Prime Minister Theresa May, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay. Photograph: PA Wire. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Can you name the new Brexit Secretary?

Stephen Barclay, who was given this post when Dominic Raab resigned in a huff, has been virtually invisible from that day to this. He was elevated from the obscurity of the Health Department to the new obscurity of being the cabinet minister, supposedly overseeing probably one of the most important political decisions this country has ever made.

Yet he has not been seen at the side of the prime minister as she commutes back and forth to and from Brussels. Theresa May appears to be running the show virtually single-handed.

Rarely has such an important cabinet post been downgraded so rapidly and so drastically.

If Barclay thought he was going to become a political super star overnight, he must be severely disappointed. He appears to have been allotted no role in the discussions and is relegated to handling the chore of the domestic side of things after Brexit. Poor, disillusioned man.


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A few thousand pounds going adrift. What can that possibly matter in an economy where politicians glibly talk in billions of pounds? Barely a ripple on the ocean.

Well, it does matter - and it matters a lot.

The Great Water Cannon Scandal demonstrates how politicians treat taxpayers' money with utter contempt and think nothing of it. Boris Johnson, when Mayor of London, bought water cannons, designed to quell rioters, from Germany at a cost of some £85,000.

But the chump stupidly failed to ask the then home secretary, Theresa May, before he made the purchase, whether he would be allowed to use them on the streets of London. She said 'no' but the purchase had already been effected. So that was a cool £85,000 of public money down the drain, thanks to Johnson's utter carelessness.

It gets worse. The cannons had to be put in storage in the unlikely event that someone would buy them. It cost £320,000 for their upkeep. But no one came forward. So finally they were sold to a scrapyard in Newark, Nottinghamshire for some £11,000 - altogether a pretty shameful episode.

It is outrageous that taxpayers' hard-earned cash should be frittered away like monopoly money.

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There were no obvious signs of wassailing or champagne corks being popped after the EU accepted Theresa May's much-mauled Brexit plan at the weekend.

But it might have been a different story behind the scenes at the EU headquarters in Brussels, if the prime minister's vociferous critics are right in saying that the deal meant the EU had got the UK just where it wanted - under its thumb.

The critical moment for the prime minister, however, still has to be reached: The crucial vote on her plans in the Commons probably early in December.

Pretty well every non-Conservative MP has served notice that they will vote against it, plus a not insubstantial number of Tory MPs themselves. On the face of it, the deal - described by the Germans as 'a diplomatic work of art' - looks doomed, but miracles do happen in politics, and Mrs May could be triumphant.

If the House of Commons deny her that, then the future certainly looks foggy. EU bosses have warned, grimly, that if this plan is rejected, the UK can expect nothing better. The received opinion is that this is not just an idle threat but one which Britain should take seriously. The EU does not joke about such things.

So is Theresa May teetering on the cliff-edge of resignation? What is certainly true is that a defeat at Westminster could damage her authority beyond repair.

But you have to hand it to her for standing up so manfully to the incessant and sometimes vicious barrage of criticism which she has faced from within Parliament and beyond over the last few weeks.

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John Hayes, an amiable, witty and bright ex-Tory Minister, and a long-serving MP of some standing, is being made the recipient of a knighthood.

This event should be received with pleasure by his friends, but instead it has been the subject of allegations of cronyism and a disgracefully venomous letter from a fellow Tory Brexiteer the little-known Mark Francois.

He wrote: 'Could I suggest a crest of an utter cock rampant on one side and a big chicken on the other?'

He added that Hayes could probably write out his political principles on the back of an old postage stamp.

It is hard to believe, after reading this cruel and infantile bile, that the two men are colleagues in the same political party.

Francois should be ashamed of himself. Or if he isn't, he should at least grow up. Brotherly love? You must be joking.

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