Richard Porritt's Agenda: Cheap white wine, Jeremy Corbyn's chest-beating and Florence II

PUBLISHED: 07:00 21 December 2017

Theresa May at the switching on of the Downing Street Christmas tree lights in London

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RICHARD PORRITT with the week's big stories, including a diplomatic spat between Austria and Italy

It is Christmas drinks season in Westminster, when journalists are tempted by cheap white wine and nibbles.

The Number 10 event included invites to many of the biggest names in the UK media, to hear Theresa May chatting about her plans for Christmas dinner and whether or not she had finished her shopping.

And next door at Number 9 David Davis was conducting a bridge-building exercise with scores of foreign correspondents in a bid to get his flagging department some better press in Europe. Good luck DD. But there were some very notable journalists missing from these shindigs – most of Rupert Murdoch’s A Team. Instead they were down the road at the magnate’s soiree at his Green Park home, along with other big-name media types including... Daily Mail Editor Paul Dacre.

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Many put the Prime Minister’s current weakened position down to hubris.

Her utter, unabashed confidence that she could return from those Welsh mountains, roll the Labour Party over and claim a healthy majority has been widely noted as one of many reasons she now has to go running to the DUP for sign off. Odd then that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn should partake in a similar bout of chest-beating. “I will probably win. I’m ready to be prime minister tomorrow,” he told Grazia. Be careful Jezza – Britain doesn’t like a braggart.

And anyway, why is Labour so convinced of an election just around the corner?

One Tory source said: “The DUP are here to stay and that is just something we have to get used to. If someone takes over from May they will not go back to the country in a hurry. Everyone is worried about facing Corbyn. So let’s not bother – for a while at least.”

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May is working on another major Brexit speech – a kind of sequel to the one she delivered in Florence.

That speech has been credited with saving David Davis’ skin and getting the talks back on track. Perhaps that is why she wants to get this one out of the way before the scheduled start of phase two? It gives the Brexit Secretary less opportunity to bugger it up.

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Festive goodwill has certainly not been apparent between Italy and Austria this week after Rome accused Vienna of “ethnic nationalism”.

The diplomatic spat centres around Austria’s new far-right government offering passports to German-speakers living in South Tyrol in northern Italy.

The breathtaking, mountainous province was part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire before Italy annexed it after the First World War and it became an autonomous region. It is also known by the Italian name Alto Adige.

“Hands off Italy” screamed Italy’s favourite far-right mouthpiece Giorgia Meloni who is the leader of the Brothers of Italy party. And Italian European Parliament President Antonio Tajani slammed the move as “fanciful”, adding: “The season of nationalism in Europe is over.”

But has anyone actually asked the around 500,000 South Tyroleans? Governor Arno Kompatscher said the move went against their beliefs as “committed Europeans”. “We will continue to play our role as hinge, bridge, mediator,” he added.

A Christmas miracle? Commonsense?!

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