The 187 Tory MPs, including six Cabinet Ministers, who voted against the Prime Minister’s motion to extend Article 50

Almost two thirds of the parliamentary Conservative Party opposed it, alongside the DUP and a handful of others.

Parliament has voted to extend Article 50. The ranks of the Ayes include the Prime Minister and much of her Cabinet, but by a considerable margin only a minority of the parliamentary Conservative Party.

Almost two-thirds of Tory MPs, alongside all ten Democratic Unionists and a smattering of Labour and Independent MPs, voted against extension.

So too did six Secretaries of State: Steve Barclay, Liam Fox, Chris Grayling, Penny Mordaunt, Liz Truss, and Gavin Williamson. Andrea Leadsom, who attends Cabinet in her role as Leader of the House, also voted against. Alun Cairns voted in both lobbies to register what is known as a ‘positive abstention’.

The full list is below. Not included are Peter Bone and Will Wragg, who served as tellers and bring the true total up to 189.

  • Nigel Adams
  • Adam Afriyie
  • Lucy Allan
  • David Amess
  • Stuart Andrew
  • Richard Bacon
  • Kemi Badenoch
  • Steve Baker
  • Harriet Baldwin
  • Stephen Barclay

 

  • John Baron
  • Henry Bellingham
  • Jake Berry
  • Bob Blackman
  • Crispin Blunt
  • Ben Bradley
  • Graham Brady
  • Suella Braverman
  • Jack Brereton
  • Andrew Bridgen

 

  • Fiona Bruce
  • Alex Burghart
  • Conor Burns
  • William Cash
  • Maria Caulfield
  • Rehman Chishti
  • Christopher Chope
  • Jo Churchill
  • Colin Clark
  • Simon Clarke

 

  • James Cleverly
  • Geoffrey Clifton-Brown
  • Damian Collins
  • Robert Courts
  • Tracey Crouch
  • Chris Davies
  • David TC Davies
  • Glyn Davies
  • Mims Davies
  • Philip Davies

 

  • Caroline Dinenage
  • Leo Docherty
  • Michelle Donelan
  • Nadine Dorries
  • Steve Double
  • Jackie Doyle-Price
  • James Duddridge
  • Iain Duncan Smith
  • Michael Ellis
  • Charlie Elphicke

 

  • George Eustice
  • Nigel Evans
  • David Evennett
  • Michael Fabricant
  • Michael Fallon
  • Kevin Foster
  • Liam Fox
  • Mark Francois
  • Marcus Fysh
  • Nusrat Ghani

 

  • John Glen
  • Zac Goldsmith
  • Helen Grant
  • James Gray
  • Chris Grayling
  • Chris Green
  • Andrew Griffiths
  • Kirstene Hair
  • Robert Halfon
  • Luke Hall

 

  • Mark Harper
  • Rebecca Harris
  • Trudy Harrison
  • Simon Hart
  • John Hayes
  • James Heappey
  • Chris Heaton-Harris
  • Philip Hollobone
  • Adam Holloway
  • Nigel Huddleston

 

  • Eddie Hughes
  • Ranil Jayawardena
  • Bernard Jenkin
  • Andrea Jenkyns
  • Robert Jenrick
  • Boris Johnson
  • Caroline Johnson
  • Gareth Johnson
  • David Jones
  • Marcus Jones

 

  • Daniel Kawczynski
  • Julian Knight
  • Greg Knight
  • Kwasi Kwarteng
  • John Lamont
  • Pauline Latham
  • Andrea Leadsom
  • Edward Leigh
  • Andrew Lewer
  • Julian Lewis

 

  • Ian Liddell-Grainger
  • Julia Lopez
  • Jack Lopresti
  • Jonathan Lord
  • Tim Loughton
  • Craig Mackinlay
  • Rachel Maclean
  • Anne Main
  • Alan Mak
  • Kit Malthouse

 

  • Scott Mann
  • Paul Maynard
  • Stephen McPartland
  • Esther McVey
  • Mark Menzies
  • Johnny Mercer
  • Huw Merriman
  • Stephen Metcalfe
  • Amanda Milling
  • Nigel Mills

 

  • Damien Moore
  • Penny Mordaunt
  • Anne Marie Morris
  • David Morris
  • James Morris
  • Wendy Morton
  • Sheryll Murray
  • Andrew Murrison
  • Jesse Norman
  • Neil O’Brien

 

  • Matthew Offord
  • Priti Patel
  • Owen Paterson
  • Mike Penning
  • Andrew Percy
  • Chris Philp
  • Christopher Pincher
  • Mark Pritchard
  • Tom Pursglove
  • Will Quince

 

  • Dominic Raab
  • John Redwood
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg
  • Laurence Robertson
  • Mary Robinson
  • Andrew Rosindell
  • Douglas Ross
  • Lee Rowley
  • Paul Scully
  • Grant Shapps

 

  • Chris Skidmore
  • Chloe Smith
  • Henry Smith
  • Royston Smith
  • Mark Spencer
  • Andrew Stephenson
  • Bob Stewart
  • Iain Stewart
  • Graham Stuart
  • Julian Sturdy

 

  • Rishi Sunak
  • Desmond Swayne
  • Robert Syms
  • Derek Thomas
  • Ross Thomson
  • Maggie Throup
  • Kelly Tolhurst
  • Michael Tomlinson
  • Craig Tracey
  • Anne-Marie Trevelyan

 

  • Elizabeth Truss
  • Tom Tugendhat
  • Shailesh Vara
  • Martin Vickers
  • Theresa Villiers
  • Ben Wallace
  • David Warburton
  • Matt Warman
  • Giles Watling
  • Helen Whately

 

  • Heather Wheeler
  • Craig Whittaker
  • John Whittingdale
  • Bill Wiggin
  • Gavin Williamson
  • Mike Wood
  • Nadhim Zahawi

The Commons votes to extend Article 50. The Government no longer supports leaving the EU on March 29.

Some will say that this is the day on which Brexit died. On which the politicians failed the people – and deliberately defied the referendum result.

The Government’s extension motion passes by 412 – 202.

If it is backed up by legislation, the UK will no longer leave the EU on March 29 (assuming the EU plays ball).

Theresa May’s plan is now to get her deal through by means of a Meaningful Vote Three next week – and then seek a short extension until June 30.

That could happen.

However, it is arguably just as likely that a Brexit which is extended will turn out to be a Brexit that never happens.  Some will say that this is the day on which Brexit died.  On which the politicians failed the people – and deliberately defied the referendum result.

And they may be right.

Either way, those 202 MPs will mostly be Conservatives.  We gather that Steve Barclay, Liam Fox, Liz Truss and Gavin Williamson “plus half the whips office” opposed the Government’s motion.

Full division list of Conservatives who voted for and against extension coming.

The five Secretaries of State who supported the Green Amendment

As a free vote, this may give us the clearest picture of the divisions at the very top of the Party over how to approach Brexit.

Whilst several senior members of the Cabinet were amongst the 66 Conservative MPs who voted against ‘Malthouse II’, there were Secretaries of State on the other side of the question too.

As a free vote, this Amendment perhaps offers the purest insight into the divisions deepening at the very top of the Party about how best to proceed over Brexit. Excluding junior ministers, they are:

  • Alun Cairns (Welsh Office)
  • Jeremy Hunt (Foreign Office)
  • Sajid Javid (Home Office)
  • Penny Mordaunt (DfID)
  • Gavin Williamson (Defence)

Andrea Leadsom, who attends Cabinet in her role as Leader of the House, also supported it.

Greg Clark, David Gauke, David Lidington, Claire Perry and Amber Rudd are reported to have voted against the motion, with all other Cabinet members abstaining.

Henry Hill: Bradley faces fresh calls to resign as Williamson seeks to protect troops

Also: Ministers brace for fight with SNP over ‘Stronger Towns Fund’; Scottish Government backpedalling hard on welfare devolution; and more.

Bradley faces calls to resign over Troubles comments as Williamson seeks to protect troops

Karen Bradley has come under renewed pressure to resign after she appeared to claim that no deaths caused by the security services during the Troubles should be considered crimes, according to the Times.

Although she later clarified that there should always be investigations where there are allegations of wrongdoing, the latest faux pas has sparked fresh questions about whether or not she is fit to serve as Northern Irish Secretary. Her remarks were:

“Over 90 per cent of the killings during the Troubles were at the hands of terrorists, every single one of those was a crime. The fewer than 10 per cent that were at the hands of the military and police were not crimes. They were people acting under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duty in a dignified and appropriate way.”

Whilst it seems clear that Bradley meant to say that the most of the killings committed by the Armed Forces and Royal Ulster Constabulary were done in the lawful course of their duties, it is an unfortunate way to set the scene for Gavin Williamson’s bid to introduce new legal protections for soldiers and ex-servicemen.

Under proposals outlined in the Sunday Times, the Defence Secretary would introduce a ten-year limit for prosecutions over alleged historical offences. This comes after reports that four former soldiers are expected to face murder charges for their involvement in Bloody Sunday in 1972.

The plans will apparently entail a statutory presumption against prosecution for historical cases, the need for sign-off from the Attorney General, and new guidance from the same about both the evidence threshold needed to pursue a prosecution and a public-interest test.

In related news the News Letter reports that Jim Allister, the leader of the hard-line Traditional Unionist Voice party, has accused the head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland of “playing politics” by talking up the threat of terrorist activity related to Brexit.

Ministers clash with SNP over ‘towns fund’ as Scottish Government bails on welfare devolution

The Government is gearing up for a furious row with the Scottish Government over the fate of almost £100 million in public funding from Theresa May’s ‘Stronger Towns Fund’, according to the Sun.

According to sources James Brokenshire, the Communities Secretary, is insisting that his department must have a say on how the money is disbursed, rather than simply handing it over to the SNP to treat as a devolved matter. The paper reports one insider claiming that the Nationalists have already failed to properly pass on £40 million earmarked for the police to help with no-deal preparations.

Such a move would undercut the SNP’s efforts to centralise as much control of public spending as possible in Edinburgh, as well as to make the Scottish Parliament a gate-keeper between Westminster and Scotland. Expect much wailing about the ‘spirit of devolution’.

But that spirit has not had a good week, it appears, after it emerged that the Scottish Government is furiously backpedalling on a push to devolve welfare powers to Holyrood.

Last week the Scotsman reported that the Nationalists were being accused of ‘betraying’ Scots over a decision to delay the full devolution of welfare powers until 2024. This was compounded yesterday when they further reported that plans for the Scottish Government to assume control of one particular benefit – the Severe Disablement Allowance – have been postponed “indefinitely”.

That all of this chaos and delay should result from proposals to devolve just 15 per cent of social security spending – totalling some £3 million – may be what finally prompted one “senior Scottish Tory MP” to voice, albeit anonymously, the ultimate heresy: that there may need to be a “review into certain aspects of devolution”. As the Times reports:

“It cannot continue to be a one-way street,” the MP said. “This latest debacle, coming on top of the British Transport Police fiasco, demonstrates that there are areas where devolution may not be in the best interests of the Scottish people and that returning powers to Westminster could be contemplated.”

Wise words.

And if that weren’t enough, elsewhere this week the SNP’s new proposals for a post-Brexit Scottish currency were dismissed as a “desperate act”. The party is trying to disentangle itself from the political problems posed by keeping the pound without admitting that an independent Scotland would need to sign up to the Euro.

Dugdale accuses Scottish Labour of trying to hide support for second Brexit vote

Kezia Dugdale, the former leader of Scottish Labour, has accused her successor of censoring the party’s conference programme in order to stifle expressions of support for a second EU referendum, according to the Daily Telegraph.

In a letter to Richard Leonard she alleges that a statement penned by two of the party’s MEPs had been ‘doctored’ to tone down criticism of Brexit and remove a section stating support for a re-run of the 2016 vote – despite such a re-run being official party policy.

The attack exposes the depths of the divisions within Scottish Labour, where Leonard’s left-wing leadership is being criticised for failing to turn around the remarkable slump in the party’s fortunes north of the border.

Meanwhile, in other Brexit news, the FT reports that Bombardier, a major employer in Northern Ireland, are pressuring the Democratic Unionists to abandon their opposition to the backstop.

Our survey. Next Tory leader – Johnson is top again. Here’s why he’s in pole position with minimum effort.

It is striking how little the former Foreign Secretary is doing to maintain his lead. Then again, he scarcely needs to stir – for the moment.

Last month, Boris Johnson led our Next Tory Leader question with 26 per cent of the vote.  This month, he is top with 24 per cent.  Dominic Raab was second with 12 per cent; now he is second with 13 per cent.  Michael Gove was third with nine per cent; this month, he is third with ten per cent.  The mass of potential candidates on single figures ratings continues.  These changes are footling.

It is striking how little the former Foreign Secretary is doing to maintain his lead.  This morning sees his weekly outing in the Daily Telegraph, in which he has pop at the apparently forthcoming Bloody Sunday prosecutions.  Most weeks, it rages against the Government over Brexit.

Otherwise, he is, by the standard of such a master of self-projection, withdrawn.  Although he is not absent from Brexit-related proceedings in the Commons – he quizzed the Prime Minister during her statement of February 12, for example – he is not at the forefront of them either, like say Yvette Cooper or Bill Cash.  For example, he didn’t participate in last week’s debate.

Nor does he appear on BBC Question Time or Any Questions.  Indeed, he doesn’t seem to like being on a panel, and expose himself to the scrutiny of other members, or the chairman, or the audience.  (Though he performed robustly in during the EU referendum TV debates.)  His preferred forum is the big set-piece speech, like that he delivered at last year’s Party Conference ConservativeHome fringe event.

So what is going on?  This site’s tentative answer is that the main obstacle to Johnson’s ambitions is not the voters.  Nor (clearly) is it Party members.  It is Conservative MPs, who may not forward his name to those members for the final stage of a leadership election.  Which is why his priority at present is wooing them.

In the meantime, activists’ confidence in the coherence of the Government is low, and this lowers the ratings of potential rivals.  So the former Foreign Secretary is able to sit it out, enjoying his regular double digit lead in this survey, with other polls also showing him in the lead.

The Daily Telegraph is many party members’ broadsheet of choice, so that weekly column is enough to remind them he’s still alive and kicking.  His main opponent is not hostile MPs or disillusioned Remain voters or Cabinet members.  It is the passing of time – and the prospect of someone else, someone new emerging who is less divisive, less scarred.

Rachel Wolf: On policy, it’s not the Independent Group that’s driven to the margins. It’s the Conservative Right.

The new group’s platform is not very inspiring – if, like me, you still feel public services could do with improvement. But its biggest problem is it they won’t be very different from the Conservatives’.

Rachel Wolf is a partner in Public First. She was an education and innovation adviser at Number 10 during David Cameron’s premiership, and was founding director of the New Schools Network.

Will the former Conservative and Labour Members of the Independent Group find it easy to come to a consistent policy platform? And will that platform be ‘centre left’ or ‘centre centre’? My answers, in turn, are “yes”, and “there is no longer a meaningful distinction in Westminster between these two”.

To explain why, it’s important to look at the wider policy background.  There’s not been much of policy discussion within the Conservative Party recently. It’s wholly unclear what its domestic agenda would be at the next general election. Brexit dominates.

That will have to change. Anyone who campaigned in the 2017 general election discovered – to their cost – that many voters cared less about Brexit than the Conservative Party did. Doorstep conversations were often focused on the NHS and school funding – where the Conservatives were repeatedly crushed.

People in Westminster are often process, politics, and personality geeks – but the public care more about issues. Miserably, Brexit has whittled the number of domestic policy discussions to almost zero. The environment has become a major policy focus because at least, under Michael Gove, the Conservatives have something – anything – to say (even if that anything now appears to include a strong support for protectionism and tariffs).

Vote Leave, of course, recognised all this. Their arguments focused on the concrete: NHS funding, immigration control. Ideas that would have a direct impact on voters.

So if the Independent Group are to survive – and grow – they will need to make a differentiated case to the electorate on issues that they care about. One of their challenges, in my view, is that the space open for them is not as wide as many think.

While Theresa May talks like a traditional Conservative, domestically her government is increasingly indivisible from one that would be run by a Soft Left (not even necessarily Blairite) Prime Minister. She may have talked about citizens of nowhere, and Gavin Williamson may engage in occasional sabre-rattling, but all the substance points in the opposite direction.

The Conservative Government has become increasingly paternalist (with bans created or looming on public health issues such as sugar; on environmental issues like plastic and ivory; and on activities like social media). Ministers no longer focus on market-based reforms of public services in health or education (many of the interventions made by, for example, Justine Greening on education were completely indistinguishable from those that Gordon Brown and Ed Balls might have made back in their day). The Tories’ commitment to fiscal conservatism remains greater than Labour, but the dividing line is increasingly narrow.

Policies that were once derided when floated by Ed Miliband – such as the energy price cap – are now pushed by the Conservatives. The toughest area of government reductions that can be felt by voters – welfare – is being softened by Amber Rudd and the toughest area of government restriction – immigration – is being softened by Sajid Javid. It is only because Jeremy Corbyn is so extreme (and because all we ever discuss is Brexit) that there remains much distance between the Government and the Opposition. Between TIG and the government? It’s not very obvious.

Let’s take an article written by Chuka Umunna in 2011 in which he makes an appeal for “One Nation Labour” and which includes the two following passages:

“there is no disagreement on the need to address the deficit – despite coalition claims to the contrary. Where the disputed terrain lies is around the speed and depth of reduction and what that means for growth and jobs. “

“What I call “bad capitalism” – unrestrained capital, highly speculative, obsessed with the short term, dismissive of the ties that bind – acts as a barrier to this notion of the good society; whereas “good capitalism” – one that is entrepreneurial and productive with good democratic corporate governance – can smooth the path to a better tomorrow.”

Both of these reflect current government policy.

Now let’s take the Conservative defectors. They themselves sit on the soft left, One Nation wing of the Conservative Party.  All three of the Conservative leavers are critical of grammar schools, and are likely to support a liberal immigration policy. Allen has been a long standing critic of the rollout of welfare reforms. Sarah Wollaston has argued for a long time for much more NHS funding. Soubry is the one who may be most uncomfortable in a centre-left party – she is clearly a supporter of almost everything the Coalition government did, including “austerity”, and she has been an active Conservative for a very long time.

Fundamentally, I don’t think that merging with former Labour members will be a challenge. They will all agree that more money should be spent by the state (including redistribution). They will share a widescale support for state interventionism. There will be mutual antagonism towards some traditional ‘Tory’ policies.

This isn’t a terrible platform for public support (other than on immigration). It’s certainly not very inspiring if, like me, you still feel public services could do with quite a lot of improvement. But its biggest problem is that it won’t be very different from the Conservatives’.

I began this article saying that policy matters. It does – to peoples’ lives and therefore what voters want to know about. The irony seems to me that, actually, the TIG won’t have much new and different to say from the current government (though they might say it in a better way with different sounding people). It is the traditional right, now criticised for driving out Conservatives over Brexit, that has no place in the current domestic policy debate.

Benedict Rogers: Williamson was right to warn about the menace of China

My only criticism of the Defence Secretary? That he was too diplomatic.

Benedict Rogers is co-founder and Deputy Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, a former parliamentary candidate, and co-founder and Chair of Hong Kong Watch. He works for the international human rights organisation CSW.

Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, is under fire for his speech at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) last week. Some see it as an attempt to undermine rivals, others as self-promotion, while many believe it reflects a lack of co-ordination in Whitehall.

Those still fixated on trade with China at all costs, including our security and values, and who believe the way to do deals with China is to kow-tow as low as possible, are furious that a colleague even mentioned China in the context of the defence of Britain.

Yet whatever the gossip, what should not be ignored is that Williamson has a point.

What was it he actually said about China? After referring to Islamist extremism and Russian aggression, he simply added one sentence: “All the while, China is developing its modern military capability and its commercial power.” Fact.

He went on, more generally and without reference to China, to say:

“Our adversaries are increasingly using cyber-attacks, subversion and information operations to challenge us and the rules-based international order… We and our allies must deter and be ready to defend ourselves. Ready to show the high price of aggressive behaviour”.

He spoke about defending our values of “individual liberty, the rule of law and, of course, the tolerance of others”. And he announced that one naval vessel – HMS Queen Elizabeth – will include in its first operational mission the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Pacific region. And all this sparked fury in Beijing and caused the Chancellor to cancel his planned visit? Seriously?

As John Hemmings writes, Williamson is right. But his words were mild, subtle and understated compared to those of others.

Listen to George Soros at the World Economic Forum, who described China’s Xi Jinping as “the most dangerous” threat to free societies today. Or Mike Pence, the US Vice-President, at the Hudson Institute last October. It is not often one hears the same message from Soros and Pence – so when we do, it should be taken seriously.

For far from being the new defender of the international rules-based system that some still naively believe it to be, Xi Jinping’s regime is increasingly a grave threat to freedom, human dignity, and security around the world.

The list is endless: artificial intelligence; sabre-rattling against Taiwan; aggression in the South China Sea; and Huawei’s potential antics are just the start. Former First Sea Lord and defence minister Lord West warned last year that Chinese investment in 5G technology could threaten “chaos”.

The way a government treats its own people is a reasonable barometer of its reliability as a strategic partner. For over three decades, as China opened up economically, many believed it would inch towards greater political openness. A decade ago there were hopes that the rule of law was developing in China, as space for a growing network of human rights lawyers expanded.

But since Xi Jinping came to power seven years ago, these hopes have been dashed. In 2015 Xi unleashed a massive crackdown against human rights lawyers, their families and associates, imprisoning or disappearing many. As we approach the thirtieth anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre, China is experiencing the worst crackdown since the tanks rolled over the students on June 4th 1989.

This crackdown is most egregious against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs in China’s north-western province of Xinjiang, where at least one million, perhaps as many as three million, have been incarcerated in political prison camps. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has described Xinjiang as:

“…a massive internment camp shrouded in secrecy, a “no rights zone”, while members of the Xinjiang Uyghur minority, along with others who were identified as Muslim, were being treated as enemies of the State based on nothing more than their ethno-religious identity.” 

China’s state media has publicly stated that the goal in regard to the Uyghurs is to “break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections and break their origins”. As the Washington Post put it in a recent editorial, “It’s hard to read that as anything other than a declaration of genocidal intent.” Earlier this month a group of human rights organisations called on the United Nations to establish an international fact-finding mission to investigate.

But while the crisis in Xinjiang is the most grave, other communities throughout China are facing massive repression too. Christians, for example, are facing the most severe crackdown since the Cultural Revolution, with thousands of crosses destroyed, churches forcibly closed, pastors jailed, children under the age of 18 prohibited by law from going to church, cameras placed on altars to monitor who attends services, and portraits of Xi Jinping being mounted in place of crucifixes or religious paintings.

Tibetans, practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, bloggers, journalists, and dissidents are facing a similar reign of terror.

An independent tribunal chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, the barrister who prosecuted Slobodan Milosevic, has concluded that China has conducted forced harvesting of human organs from prisoners of conscience on a mass scale.

And in the past five years, Xi Jinping’s regime has dramatically torn up its commitments to ‘one country, two systems’ for Hong Kong, mounting a severe campaign of repression of dissent and erosion of the city’s cherished basic freedoms. Peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators have been jailed, democratic legislators disqualified, Victor Mallet, the Financial Times’ Asia News Editor, expelled, and booksellers abducted. One of those booksellers, Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen kidnapped from Thailand, remains in captivity in China, and recently a bizarre episode involving an attempt by Sweden’s ambassador to China to threaten his courageous daughter, Angela Gui, into silence has been exposed – illustrating the lengths China’s regime is prepared to go to silence its critics, and the reach it clearly already has into western democratic systems.

China’s regime has already extended its tentacles far beyond its borders. It has launched a concerted attempt at the UN to redefine ‘human rights’ and suppress Non-Governmental Organisations. Chinese students have been ‘weaponised’ around the world to shut down critics. And a report into China’s Confucius Institutes, released today by the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, details the threats posed by these outposts of Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda department which are now embedded now in universities and schools in 146 countries. There are at least 29 Confucius Institutes in British universities today, and 148 Confucius ‘classrooms’ in schools around Britain, spreading the love of Chairman Xi.

New Zealand academic Anne-Marie Brady has experienced China’s aggression first-hand. Australian academic Clive Hamilton has documented China’s infiltration of Australian politics in an excellent book, Silent Invasion. The disappearance of several Canadians in China in the wake of the arrest in Canada of Huawei’s chief financial officer is a warning for us all. And while I have not experienced anything on that scale, I have been refused entry to Hong Kong, and received eight anonymous letters – sent to me, my neighbours, my mother and my employers – in a clear attempt to intimidate me. Chinese state television reporter Kong Linlin tried to disrupt a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference last October, and MPs have been lobbied by the Chinese embassy to tell me to stop criticising China.

In June 2016, the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission launched a new report on human rights in China, titled: The Darkest Moment: China’s crackdown on human rights 2013-2016. At the launch, an MP who knows China well expressed agreement with all our findings. His only criticism was the title. It was, he said, premature – it will get even darker.

From what I have observed in the past three years, he was right. And in his passing reference to China, Williamson was right too. My only criticism of the Defence Secretary was that he was too diplomatic.

“Defence will be pivotal in reinforcing Britain’s role as an outward-looking nation.” Williamson’s speech to the RUSI – full text

“If we are to live up to our global role then our armed forces must continue to be a lethal fighting force fully adapted to the demands of 21st-century warfare.”

“Thank you so much for having hosting this event here today at RUSI. It’s a real privilege and honour to be able to come along.

It’s important to start off by asking the question why do we fight? It is fundamentally, to protect our people, protect our interests, and, of course, to defend Britain.

As a nation, we’ve never shied away from acting even if that has meant standing alone as we did in the darkest hours of the Second World War. Even after the Berlin Wall fell 30 years ago, when there was no overwhelmingly obvious threat to our security, we recognised the UK had a role and responsibility to stand up for our values across the globe. Defending our values took us to Kuwait, Bosnia, Sierra Leone and Kosovo and it made a difference to millions of peoples’ lives.

But, after September 11th, the importance of defence increased as a deadly new threat arose. A threat not just to any nation but to all who cherished the values of the Western way of life. A global ideology seeking the destruction of everything that we hold dear. We have learned much from fighting Al Qaeda and Daesh. But, while we tackled this extremism, state-on-state competition has reviving. Today, Russia is resurgent – rebuilding its military arsenal and seeking to bring the independent countries of the former Soviet Union, like Georgia and Ukraine, back into its orbit. All the while, China is developing its modern military capability and its commercial power.

Today, we see a world of spheres of influence and competing great powers. Not only are we confronting a state like Russia. An ideological enemy without a state like Al Qaeda and Daesh. But the very character of warfare itself is changing. The boundaries between peace and war are becoming blurred. Our adversaries are increasingly using cyber-attacks, subversion and information operations to challenge us and the rules-based international order. Operating in the ‘grey zone’. Operating below the threshold of conventional conflict. Our Joint Forces Command is already dealing with this. But, we need to go further. We need to bring together our strategic capabilities. We need to integrate them more effectively and a greater agility to meet the demands of this increasingly contested environment.

We and our allies must deter and be ready to defend ourselves. Ready to show the high price of aggressive behaviour. Ready to strengthen our resilience. And ready, where necessary, to use hard power to support our global interests.

But there is a great opportunity here too. As we look at our position in the world, we should remind ourselves that we are a nation with a great inheritance. A nation that makes a difference. A nation that stands tall. Inevitably, there are those who say that we are in retreat. Those who believe that, as we leave the European Union, we turn our back on the world. But, this could not be further from the truth. Whether people voted to leave or remain, they believe Britain must continue to play an important and major role on the international stage.

It is my belief that Britain has its greatest opportunity in 50 years to redefine our role. As we leave the European Union. And, the world changing so rapidly it is up to us to seize the opportunities that Brexit brings. We will build new alliances, rekindle old ones and most importantly make it clear that we are the country that will act when required. We should be the nation that people turn to when the world needs leadership.

And Defence will be pivotal in reinforcing Britain’s role as an outward looking nation. We are making sure it does so in a number of key ways…”

A global presence

“First, by increasing our global presence and building on our alliances.

NATO. 70 years on from its founding, remains the bedrock of our nation’s Defence. In the past five years, the Alliance has come a long way. It is far more focused and ready to deter and defend against Russian hostile acts. But, more European nations need to be ready and capable of responding too. Stepping up to the 2% NATO target and not being distracted by the notion of an EU Army.

Britain must be willing and able to lead the Alliance, to bring stability in a changing-world. We are a leader in NATO, this year hosting the Leaders Meeting here in London. Alongside this we have sent a Battle Group to Estonia to support NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence. We lead multi-national maritime task groups in the Mediterranean and defend the skies over the Black Sea and the Baltics. And, we strongly support NATO’s Readiness Initiative to make sure forces are available and ready to do their job.

And in NATO, we must stand firm against Russia’s non-compliance with the INF Treaty. If necessary being ready to deal with the threat that new Russian missile systems may pose. The Alliance must develop its ability to handle the kind of provocations that Russia is throwing at us. Such action from Russia must come at a cost. Nor, can we forget those countries outside NATO who face a day-to-day struggle with Russian attempts to undermine their very sovereignty. We stand ready to support our friends in Ukraine and the Balkans. These countries have the right to choose their own destiny and be free from Russian interference. At the same time, in such an uncertain age, like-minded nations must come together to increase their own security. That is why the United Kingdom is leading the nine-nation Joint Expeditionary Force which in a few months’ time will take part in its first deployment to the Baltics.

But we must not see this as our limit. We must be willing to go further. History has taught us that crisis comes when we least expect it. As uncertainty grows we must be ready to act, bringing others with us. Readiness has to be our new watchword.

In an era of ‘Great Power’ competition we cannot be satisfied simply protecting our own backyard. The UK is a global power with truly global interests. A nation with the fifth biggest economy on the planet. A nation with the world’s fifth biggest Defence budget and the second largest Defence exporter. And since the new Global Great Game will be played on a global playing field, we must be prepared to compete for our interests and our values far, far from home.

That is why Global Britain needs to be much more than a pithy phrase. It has to be about action. And our armed forces represent the best of Global Britain in action. Taking action alongside our friends and allies. Action to strengthen the hand of fragile nations and to support those who face natural disasters. Action to oppose those who flout international law. Action to shore up the global system of rules and standards on which our security and our prosperity depends.
And action, on occasion, that may lead us to have to intervene alone.

Now, I know there are some that question the cost of intervention. But it is often forgotten the cost of non-intervention. The fact that this has been unacceptably high. It will not always be the role of the traditional Western powers to act as a global policeman but nor can we walk-on-by when others are in need. To talk…but fail to act…risks our nation being seen as nothing more than a paper tiger.

I do not underestimate the challenges that this approach brings. But we do start from a position of strength. Our people are already acting around the world from the North Sea to the South Pacific to protect our interests and we already benefit from strong international partnerships. But we cannot take such relationships for granted.
Our global presence must be persistent… not fitful. Patient… not fickle. Permanent… not fly-by-night.

So, as well as our relationships with Europe, we need to build on our established relationship with the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada as part of the Five Eyes. With Singapore and Malaysia in the Five Powers Defence Arrangement. With other ASEAN nations, with Japan, the Republic of Korea and India. With our partners in the Middle East, and with our many friends in Africa – from Nigeria in the West to Kenya in the East.

And we are seeking to use our global capabilities to strengthen our global presence.

From this spring, HMS Montrose, along with five other naval vessels, will be permanently based in the Gulf using innovative crewing and support methods to keep the ship available for more of the time. Today, we also go further. And I can announce the first operational mission of the HMS Queen Elizabeth will include the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Pacific region. Making Global Britain a reality. Significantly, British and American F35s will be embedded in the carrier’s air wing. Enhancing the reach and lethality of our forces and reinforcing the fact that the United States remains our very closest of partners. We share the same vision of the world. A world shaped by individual liberty, the rule of law and, of course, the tolerance of others. We have the unique ability to integrate with US forces across a broad spectrum of areas. And, we are more determined than ever to keep working together.

We will also be using our string of global support facilities and military bases more strategically…to consistently project power both hard and soft. The Duqm port facilities in Oman are large enough to be able to support our aircraft carriers. The Al Minhad and Al Udeid Air Bases, in the Emirates and Qatar respectively, provide strategically important capabilities. In Bahrain, our Naval Base and our long-standing Maritime Command make a major contribution to our activities in the region but also beyond. Further afield we already benefit from facilities in Belize, in Brunei, in Singapore as well as our bases in Cyprus, Gibraltar and Ascension Island.

And, I believe that we need to go further. Considering what permanent presence we might need in areas including the Caribbean and Asia-Pacific to extend our global influence. Our proactive approach shows we are not getting by on half measures. For us global engagement is not a reflex reaction to leaving the European Union. It is about a permanent presence.”

Armed Forces with more mass

“But having that presence goes hand-in-hand with our multi-million-pound Transformation Fund, making sure our armed forces have the right capabilities as quickly as possible. And today, I can announce some of the first investments from that Fund.

Take the Royal Navy. They are exerting British influence through greater forward presence. I want to capitalise on that. Investing now to develop a new Littoral Strike Ship concept. And, if successful, we will look to dramatically accelerate their delivery. These globally deployable, multi-role vessels would be able to conduct a wide range of operations, from crisis support to war-fighting.

They would support our Future Commando Force. Our world-renowned Royal Marines – they’ll be forward deployed, at exceptionally high readiness, and able to respond at a moment’s notice bringing the fight from sea to land.

Our vision is for these ships to form part of 2 Littoral Strike Groups complete with escorts, support vessels and helicopters. One would be based East of Suez in the Indo-Pacific and one based West of Suez in the Mediterranean, Atlantic and Baltic. And, if we ever need them to, our two Littoral Strike Ships, our two aircraft carriers, our two amphibious assault ships Albion and Bulwark, and our three Bay Class landing ships can come together in one amphibious task force. This will give us sovereign, lethal, amphibious force. This will be one of the largest and best such forces anywhere in the world.

In 1940, Winston Churchill said: “Enterprises must be prepared with specially-trained troops of the ‘Hunter Class’, who can develop a reign of terror down enemy coasts.” Our actions mean that we will deliver on Churchill’s vision for our Royal Navy and for our Royal Marine Commandos.

Turning to our Royal Air Force, fresh from celebrating its centenary last year, it is now firmly focused on the next 100 years. They already have 17 new RAF and Royal Navy F35 Lightning jets, capable of land-based operations anywhere on the globe and due to embark on our aircraft carrier for the first time later this year. We’ll soon have nine new Poseidon P-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft enabling us to patrol thousands of miles of ocean and greatly enhancing our anti-submarine and maritime capability. We’re upgrading our AWACS aircraft with modern and better capability that will improve our battle winning airborne command and control. We are growing our operational Typhoon squadrons from five to seven – equipping them with world leading radar and now carrying deep strike Storm Shadow cruise missiles. And, to complement leading edge technology from F35, I have decided to use the Transformation Fund to develop swarm squadrons of network enabled drones capable of confusing and overwhelming enemy air defences. We expect to see these ready to be deployed by the end of this year.

And the Army is continuing to modernise its forces. We will have a Warfighting Division with troops able to deploy from our bases at home and in Germany. We’ll increase the firepower and protection of the battle-proven Warrior and introduce the ultra-modern AJAX. And, at the tip of the spear, will be our elite Parachute Regiment within 16 Air Assault Brigade, able to deploy into any environment at a moment’s notice.

So, we are making sure our armed forces have the sufficient mass to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right equipment to deal with the coming dangers.”

Transforming defence through increased lethality

“Finally, if we are to live up to our global role then our armed forces must continue to be a lethal fighting force fully adapted to the demands of 21st century warfare.

When I came into the Department the talk was about cutting capability. But instead, this Government has delivered an extra £1.8 billion of Defence funding, keeping us on track and prioritising the right UK Defence for the decade to come. That includes £600 million to protect the future of our nuclear deterrence. This ensures we will deliver the new submarines on time and means that we are spending £4 billion every year to ensure the ultimate guarantee of our safety for another 50 years.

That means £60 million to invest in Typhoon’s next generation radar. And, as the cyber threat grows, we are making a very significant additional investment on the £1.9 billion we spend on cyber capabilities. That’s funding to improve offensive cyber, putting the command and control structures in place across-Government. And, it will give us extra money to protect our network resilience from online attacks.

With the threat from the Kremlin increasing in the North Atlantic, we’re spending an additional £33 million to improve our anti-submarine warfare capabilities.

And, we will also spend £100 million on a variety of initiatives to modernise how we do business in defence. If this isn’t enough there will also be a further £24 million available through innovative Spearhead projects.

Meanwhile, we are using our Transformation Fund to further increase our armed forces’ lethality. For example, we’re going to make sure that our ground troops – whether in the Army, the Royal Marines or the RAF Regiment – are going to get the same night vision equipment that their colleagues in Special Forces have. We’re also going to buy pioneering robotic fighting and logistic vehicles. Reducing the risk to our personnel and increasing the firepower and agility of our infantry.

In addition, as a result of the Transformation Fund the Royal Air Force will double our armed ISR capability so we can identify and neutralise targets far faster. The Venom kinetic strike capability will mean those who wish to do us harm have more to fear.

And to our armed forces quite simply the sky is not the limit. In space, they look forward to the investment we are making to enhance our space operations centre bringing together the best civilian and military minds.

And our ambitions are greater still.

I want to see our armed forces embracing transformation at an ever-faster rate, keeping pace with technological change, enhancing our mass and increasing our lethality. We shouldn’t be shy about the ambition that we have for our forces. The future of conflict will require us to be adaptable, agile and capable of using new technologies quickly and cost-effectively. I am determined to focus the Transformation Fund on investments that will create the armed forces of the future.

That future, of course, is uncertain. But I expect to see, the Army using both manned and unmanned teams, Artificial Intelligence and the unmatched quality of our personnel to win, not just conventional wars but also dominate the conflict in the grey zone.

I expect the Royal Navy to deploy flexibly, to be capable of being in many places at once and to ensure we have an efficient fleet of warfighting ships, looking at how they can grow both their mass and their lethality.

And, I expect the Royal Air Force to operate the next generation with modern Air Command and Control, more combat air squadrons and energy weapons to keep our skies safe.”

Conclusion

“Wherever I go in the world I find that Britain stands tall. It’s not just because are the world’s fifth biggest economy. Not just because we have the world’s finest scientists, mathematicians and engineers. It’s because we have the world’s finest and best Armed Forces. Brave men and women who stand up for the values that we hold dear. Men and women that we are so truly proud of.

They are contributing and they are the key capabilities that guard UK airspace and waters. They are supporting the civil authorities right across the United Kingdom. They are ensuring that we remain a leading member of NATO. They are protecting our interests and enhancing our prosperity. And they are showing, they are showing that Britain still matters on the global stage. Some still wish to cut Britain down to size and send her back to her shores. But to those I say that has never been our way. It is not in our nature. Britain has always sought to take risks. Britain has always stood up for its deeply held values. Britain has always been an outward looking nation. And against adversaries upping their spending…investing in new technologies… we have to respond. If we do not, we will find ourselves with fewer options when we face the challenges and the threats in the future.

And Brexit. Brexit has brought us to a moment. A great moment in our history. A moment when we must strengthen our global presence, enhance our lethality, and increase our mass.

So today I set out my vision for UK Defence in a more global age. But as we look to life beyond Brexit, I believe it is incumbent on us all to consider the role of Defence in our national life. Defence has always been the most vital and first duty of Government. But now we have an unparalleled opportunity to consider how we can project and maximise our influence around the world in the months and years ahead. It is up to all of us…from here on in…to make sure that our great nation seizes and grasps the opportunity that present themselves with both hands.”

Hunt loses pole position in our Cabinet League Table as overall ratings languish

The Chief Whip has enjoyed something of a boost from last month’s victories on crucial votes, but the overall picture reflects a settled disenchantment.

Our last survey of 2018 revealed a Cabinet whose standing with the membership had scarcely recovered from the previous month, where we recorded our lowest-ever results since we started posing this question.

Has the New Year ushered in any re-appraisals or revivals of fortune? Alas, no.

  • Still 14 ministers with negative scores… And no change in the membership of that unhappy band, either: the Cabinet’s Remainers continue to predominate at the lower end of the table.
  • …but Smith almost breaks out. That the Chief Whip remains in the red doesn’t completely eclipse an impressive rebound, from -34.4 to just -3.8. Perhaps this is an outworking of the Government’s unexpectedly strong performance in those crucial Brexit votes – let’s see how this score fares after Valentine’s Day.
  • The rise of Leadsom continues. Last month we suggested that the Leader of the House’s big leap up the ranks might be a product of our readers’ loathing for John Bercow. If so, that well runs deep as she is up almost nine points and breaks into the top three.
  • Cox takes the top spot… But he does so whilst going backwards. Last time he was second-ranked with over 55 per cent, today he scoops the gold with less than 49.
  • Hunt loses his place on the podium. The Foreign Secretary records a serious fall, from over 60 to less than 42. We suspect this may be related to his becoming one of the most senior Cabinet members to float the idea of an Article 50 extension.
  • Javid falls into the mid-table. A loss of ten points takes the Home Secretary out of contention for the top three, reducing him to eighth place.
  • Are the non-Cabinet posts a barometer? Interestingly, both Paul Davies and Ruth Davidson have suffered some decline in their scores, despite neither featuring in any major stories and indeed the latter being on maternity leave.