The talk in the saloons of Westminster? The EU referendum. The top item on news bulletin? The EU referendum. The dominant subject in this review of the week in Westminster? The EU referendum.
There is no escape.
This week's extension of the deadline to register to vote made headlines after the registration website crashed prior to the deadline closing. Arron Banks, from Leave.eu might challenge the decision and if there is a tight vote to Remain on 23rd June, this won’t be the last we’ve heard of this.
After last week's In and Out debates on Sky News, Dave and Nige returned to the Sky News studio for another audience battering. Most of the pundits called a better night for the Prime Minister who impressed with his answers on the economy.
After weeks of criticism about the lack of prominent female voices heard in the campaign, the ITV referendum debate on Thursday evening featured a panel of six including five women. Of course Boris managed to wangle a place. If I had a penny for every time the Leave debaters uttered the phrase “take back control”, I’d have collected at least £4.06. Andrea Leadsom, Gisela Stuart and Boris clearly visited the Peter Mandelson school of communication prior to kick off.
Elsewhere, John Major and Tony Blair teamed up for Remain, former Leaver Sarah Wollaston MP come out for Remain, and Jezza sign up to an EU grilling on Sky News on the same day as an England game. The bookies quickly opened up a market on whether the Labour leader or England will turn in a more disappointing performance.
In other news
In the Commons, the Investigatory Powers Bill continues to make progress under the radar, ironically. Labour backed the Bill, known as the “Snoopers Charter 2.0”, to silence from Labour activists. The Bill is off to the House of Lords now.
Mike Ashley appeared before the BIS Select Committee to discuss “working conditions” at Sports Direct. Ashley admitted Sports Direct had “probably” outgrown his ability to run the company. For Newcastle United fans, the words “definitely” and Newcastle United would probably be more appropriate. Ashley will be back before the committee to discuss the plight of BHS shortly. Expect fireworks.
Upset at the Tories having a near monopoly on internal division, senior Labour MPs are spoiling for a fight with Shadow Defence Secretary Emily Thornberry ahead of a Commons vote on Trident renewal at some point this year. Thornberry is writing a report many think is a fait a complet given her position on the issue. Rumour has it she will table the report to Labour’s NPF and circumvent usual procedures and the associated scrutiny that accompanies it. Cue unhappiness among senior Labour politicians.
Busy times in Westminster. But hey ho, recess is just around the corner. Rumour has it, British holiday resorts are braced for an influx of Brexit backing MPs. After all, they wouldn’t be seen dead on a European beach!