The Breakfast Briefing: Today’s committee grilling will cap a grim few days for Boris Johnson as the Dominic Cummings row continues
Boris Johnson will face the Liaison Committee at 4pm.
Your essential morning guide to what’s moving in Westminster from the PoliticsHome team
Day six it is, then.
Boris Johnson faces a grilling from senior MPs on the Liaison Committee this afternoon with no sign of the row over Dominic Cummings’ trip to Durham going away.
In a grim 24 hours for the Government, Number 10 suffered the resignation of a minister, a public call from the leader of the Scottish Conservatives for Cummings to “consider his position”, and the sight of many more Tory MPs, including a former chief whip, going on the record with their anger at the way this has all been handled.
The polls took a nosedive too, with a ComRes tracker showing the PM’s personal ratings enduring a big hit. Today’s Times splash reveals that the Conservatives have suffered the biggest slump in a poll lead over Labour since some guy called Nick Clegg burst onto the scene in 2010 and stole David Cameron’s new boy thunder. Simpler times.
If that wasn’t enough, the day was capped off by a farcical press conference moment, as Martin, a vicar from Brighton, appeared to bump Matt Hancock into announcing a review of lockdown fines if people could cite childcare reasons. “We’ll look at it,” the Health Secretary said. As every news outlet splashed on variations of “lockdown fines review”, some frantic, er, clarification followed, and it was made clear that Hancock was promising only to direct the question to the relevant department. Labour, who kept relatively quiet yesterday, couldn’t help but rub their hands with glee at the “flip flop”.
There’s already furious briefing against the Liaison Committee’s new chairman
All of which provides one heck of a backdrop to today’s main event. Top man Sebastian Whale has written this excellent primer on the grilling by the Commons committee super-group - and as ever in politics, there are splits within splits.
There’s already furious briefing against the Liaison Committee’s new chairman, Sir Bernard Jenkin, after it emerged that vocal critics of the PM, including senior Conservative backbencher Tom Tugendhat, Labour’s Chris Bryant, and Tobias Ellwood will not be getting a chance to ask questions. “He’s allowed himself to be put in a position where, rightly or wrongly, the perception of him is that he’s a mere client of the Government,” one of Sir Bernard’s Tory colleagues says. Ouch.
But there should still be plenty of punchy questions, with Labour’s Yvette Cooper digging into the detail on the Cummings row and the internal workings of Number 10, while former Cabinet ministers Jeremy Hunt and Greg Clark - who haven’t exactly held back in their questioning of the Government - get a chance to pull the PM up on testing and tracing.
BEIS committee chair Darren Jones, who gets the chance to ask about the economic recovery plan, has written his own scene-setter for The House Live this morning, saying he’ll be wanting to see “a clear and coherent strategy to lift the lockdown and get our workers, businesses and consumers safely on the road to recovery”.
The whole thing kicks off at 4pm, so there’s plenty of time to make a socially-distanced trip to the shops and get the popcorn in. Be honest: what else have you got to do with your afternoon?
WHAT (ELSE) WE’RE WATCHING TODAY
It’s been rather overshadowed by the Cummings furore, but schools are meant to be reopening next week. And at 9.30am, the Education Committee will quiz schools minister Nick Gibb on the impact of Covid-19 on education.
In another box office committee session, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and the UK’s plain-speaking chief negotiator David Frost will be up before the committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union at 1pm.
And, as ever, we’ve got the usual Government press conference this evening, expected at 5pm.
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