Heard it Through the Grapevine

On my way to London, rather enjoying the picturesque snowscenes from the train window.

Today officially starts at 2.15pm with the usual Whips meeting, then it’s Defence questions, then a statement from the DfT on the severe weather, then the Second Reading of the Children, Schools and Families Bill.

The CSF Bill goes into Committee next week, and, as the departmental whip, I’ve spent the past week trying to agree witnesses for the evidence sessions with the Tories and Lib Dems. If the programme motion timetabling the Bill is approved tonight, we’ll have four evidence sessions next week, then eight scrutiny sessions over the following fortnight. No idea whether the Tories will vote against the Second Reading, or the programme motion (they shouldn’t because they’ve indicated they’re happy with the number of sessions), so we may be voting at 10pm tonight, we may not. I’ve also got an SI committee this afternoon, with my DFID departmental whip hat on. Shouldn’t be controversial; just got to make sure people have managed to get to Westminster in time!

The big event today is of course the PLP meeting at 6pm. (Parliamentary Labour Party, all Labour MPs and peers can attend). According to the Mail at the weekend, the agenda for tonight has been rejigged following “A Very Rubbish Coup”, and it’s a sign of the Prime Minister’s weakened position that he is now sharing the platform with others. Seeing as I – and presumably others – were told on Tuesday that this Monday’s PLP would be Gordon, Peter and Douglas talking about plans for the General Election, I can only say that the Mail’s piece is “A Very Rubbish Scoop”.

I don’t know in such instances whether lobby correspondents, under pressure to file copy, seize on tiny bits of information and go wandering off down the garden path with them, or whether it’s Labour MPs who are feeding them such titbits. All I can say is, articles in the press about the internal affairs of the Labour Party should be treated like those paths: with a hefty dose of salt.

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