Javid says criticism of Carrie Johnson in Ashcroft book sexist and misogynistic – UK politics live

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LIVE – Updated at 10:55

Latest updates: health secretary says any politician’s partner should be ‘off limits’ and focus on Carrie is ‘very unfair’.

 

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10:55

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow work and pensions secretary, also told Sky News this morning that he thought criticism of Carrie Johnson because of her influence over her husband was sexist and misogynistic.

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Shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth tells @KayBurley claims by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft about Carrie Johnson’s alleged influence on political decision-making are “sexist and misogynist”.#KayBurley https://t.co/ZBGl0MDR6A

📺 Sky 501, Freeview 233 and YouTube pic.twitter.com/UbohZDg9Lv

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— Sky News (@SkyNews) February 7, 2022

For a defence of the Ashcroft book, do read this article by Paul Goodman at ConservativeHome. Goodman, who edits the website, considers whether singling out Carrie Johnson for criticism is fair. It’s a tricky journalistic task, because Ashcroft owns ConservativeHome, but Goodman does consider both sides of the argument. Happily, though, he sides with his boss. He says:

So it is true that “Carrie Johnson’s behaviour is preventing the prime minister leading Britain as effectively as the voters deserve,” as our proprietor claims?

The full book may help us to reach a decision: all I can say is that such is my impression of the consensus view in Westminster, at least among ministers, MPs and spads [special advisers].

But Goodman agrees with Ashworth on the key point.

But whether the charge is true or not, it deflects from the main point. Which is that the prime minister himself, not his spouse, bears responsibility for his decisions.

It would be unfair to blame others for them, even his politically-engaged wife. After all, he chooses who he divorces, marries and has children with.

Javid says criticism of Carrie Johnson in Ashcroft book sexist and misogynistic

10:43

And here are some of the other lines from Sajid Javid’s morning interviews.

  • Javid, the health secretary, said the criticism of Carrie Johnson, the PM’s wife, highlighted by a new biography yesterday was misgoynistic. Asked about the claims in the book by Lord Ashcroft, which were published yesterday by the Mail on Sunday, Javid said:

I don’t think it’s fair or right at all, and I’ll tell you why. I just think as a general rule, a politician’s partner – any politician, any party – should be off limits. It’s the politician that has chosen to have a public life … I think the, this whole focus on Carrie Johnson in some of these reports, I think it’s very undignified and very unfair.

Before her marriage and her relationship with Johnson, Carrie Symonds (as she then was) worked briefly for Javid as a special adviser. Asked on Sky if this criticism amounted to misogyny, Javid replied: “Yes, it is. It’s sexist.” The book accuses Carrie of frequently persuading Johnson to reverse decisions already taken with his official adviser and quotes unnamed sources claiming that her meddling is damaging or ruining his premiership. You can get a flavour of it here.

Get a preview of my next book, #FirstLady: Intrigue at the Court of Carrie & #BorisJohnson, serialised in The Mail on Sunday (@MailOnlin), to learn more about #CarrieJohnson, a very modern prime ministerial spouse & arguably the second most powerful unelected woman in Britain pic.twitter.com/Cw7TZdOKkE

— Lord Ashcroft (@LordAshcroft) February 6, 2022

  • Javid said it was time to “draw a line” under the row about Boris Johnson’s suggestion that Keir Starmer was to blame for the failure to prosecute Jimmy Savile. On Friday Javid disassociated himself from what Johnson said. But today, in an interview with Sky News, he said: “I think we should draw a line under this issue and just try to move on.” He said Johnson has clarified what he meant. But he sidestepped questions about whether Johnson should apologise, or whether he would have made the same comment himself.
  • Javid said he did not think there would be a Tory leadership election. He told Sky News:

I don’t think there is going to be a leadership election. We have got a leader in place who is doing an excellent job, is getting on with the job, is delivering on the commitments that we made, and I am there to support him, along with the rest of us.

Saying there will not be a leadership election is not the same as saying there will not be a vote of no confidence vote. Only 54 letters from Tory MPs are needed for a no confidence vote. But a leadership contest would only happen if Johnson lost or resigned, and 181 Tories would probably have to vote against him for him for the no confidence motion to pass. (There are currently 360 Tory MPs.)

  • Javid said he supported Johnson 100%. Asked if he backed the PM, he told BBC Breakfast:

Absolutely, 100%, and I’ll tell you why. Because despite the challenges, and of course there are many, we are delivering, this prime minister is delivering. When he was elected with a record majority, so many commitments rightly were made to the British people.

He’s saved this country from Corbynism, he’s delivered on Brexit, we’re getting on with the job of levelling up, he’s delivered the most successful vaccination programme in Europe, the biggest booster programme in Europe, making us the freest country in Europe and we have the fastest growing economy in the G7.

PM’s new communications chief signals boozing culture’s over as he arrives for work on first day

09:56

Guto Harri, Boris Johnson’s new director of communications, arrived for first proper day at work carrying a Tesco bag. It is not clear whether he had been shopping at the local Tesco Metro, where under the old regime staff used to buy enough drink to fill a suitcase to fuel their “wine-time Fridays”, but Harri told reporters that he was bringing healthy snacks and mineral water for his team.

It was a none-too-subtle way of signalling that the boozing culture in the press office is over.

This is from Good Morning Britain’s Lorna Shaddick.

Morning from Downing St where ⁦@Guto_Harri⁩ has arrived for his first day as Communications Director. What will be his first action in the new job? ‘Healthy snacks and mineral water’ for staff, he tells ⁦@GMB⁩. No more suitcases of booze and cake ambushes?! pic.twitter.com/xlR15ImZax

— Lorna Shaddick (@lornashaddick) February 7, 2022

Javid says criticism of Carrie Johnson in Ashcroft book sexist and misogynistic – UK politics live
© Provided by The Guardian Guto Harri, Boris Johnson’s new director of communications, arriving at No 10 today. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

Javid says ‘very active discussion’, rather than row, behind plan to tackle NHS waiting list backlog being held up

09:37

Good morning. Today the government was expected to announce its NHS “elective recovery plan”, giving details of the timetable for tackling the backlog of 6m operations and procedures that has build up during the pandemic. In a crowded field, this is almost at the top of the list of momentous challenges facing Boris Johnson.

But publication of the plan has been held up. This is how my colleague Denis Campbell explains it in our overnight story.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) was expected to publish the “elective recovery plan” detailing measures to tackle the 6 million backlog, on Monday. That, however, has been delayed for a second time by a fresh bout of wrangling between NHS England and the government over how demanding the targets imposed on hospitals should be.

The disagreement centres on the deadline by which NHS trusts will have to have treated all those who have been waiting either one year or two years for care, usually an operation. “Conversations about the targets have become protracted and difficult. The Treasury wants a certain scale of ambition, they want tougher targets than NHS England thinks is feasible,” said an NHS source.

Another NHS source said: “There will be an aim to end 104-week waiters by the end of March. And nobody will wait more than a year for treatment by March 2025, but the government are trying to bring that forward to March 2024, and that is still being negotiated.”

Sajid Javid, the health secretary, has been giving interviews this morning and he effectively admitted that ongoing negotiations were to blame for the last-minute hold-up. But he said he would not describe it as a row. He told the Today programme:

There’s been no argument. There’s been a very active discussion, within both the NHS and my department, to collectively agree on an elective recovery plan.

Javid also said that the rise of the Omicron variant was the main reason for the delay. And he rejected claims that the Treasury was being difficult. He told BBC Breakfast:

The Treasury is an excellent partner. No department in government works as a silo and it will always be much more effective when we work together and I’m very fortunate, we have a great relationship with the Treasury.

I can just tell you from my own personal experience having been chancellor, having the Treasury working with you in partnership makes a huge amount of difference and and that’s plain to see when you look at the billions of pounds of investment we’re putting into the NHS and social care.

I will post more from Javid’s interviews shortly.

The hold-up comes as Boris Johnson continues his shake-up of the Downing Street operation and anxiously waits to see whether he can get to Thursday, when the Commons starts a mini, half-term recess, with a no confidence vote being triggered. It is possible that more MPs may go public today to say they have submitted a letter calling for a ballot. And there are claims that Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s former chief adviser, may publish fresh claims today intended to undermine the PM.

Here is my colleague Rowena Mason’s latest story on Johnson’s situation.

Related: Johnson allies insist ‘grownups’ in charge of new team at No 10

Here is the agenda for the day.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

2.30pm: Thérèse Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, takes questions in the Commons.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com

 

09:36

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents health leaders, told the Today programme this morning that it was important for the government to set realistic targets for its elective recovery plan. He said:

It is really important that we are accountable for public money that is spent, but the danger is that, if you take on targets that are unrealistic, you end up skewing clinical priorities in pursuit of those targets.

The particular challenge we have got now is, whilst we know we have got millions on the waiting list, we don’t know how many people out there in the community ought to be on the waiting list but didn’t come forward during Covid. I think that big imponderable is why have have got to be a bit careful about targets.

Taylor used to work in Downing Street as head of policy for Tony Blair and yesterday, in a post on Twitter, he suggested that one reason for the delay in the publication of the elective recovery plan was Treasury reluctance to prop up a PM on his way out.

Increasingly getting the sense that Johnson now faces the same (but more intense and short term) challenge TB had in his third term. Namely that HMT is loath to agree to any No 10 plans involving money as the ChX sees these as opportunistic and wasted on a dying administration….

— Matthew Taylor (@FRSAMatthew) February 6, 2022

In his interview with Sky News this morning, Sajid Javid, the health secretary, was asked if he agreed with this analysis. “I don’t recognise that at all,” he said. He said that he had a strong relationship with the Treasury and “couldn’t wish for a better partner”.

 

09:26

Javid says criticism of Carrie Johnson in Ashcroft book sexist and misogynistic – UK politics live
© Provided by The Guardian Boris Johnson jogging in Whitehall this morning, with this dog, Dilyn. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

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