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The Priti Patel fiasco shows Theresa May is weak — and that’s the issue we need to address

I JUST want to get one thing off my chest. Priti Patel’s lack of clarity about the meetings she held in Israel is indefensible. But the number of times I have heard her being referred to as “ambiti…

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I JUST want to get one thing off my chest.

Priti Patel’s lack of clarity about the meetings she held in Israel is indefensible. But the number of times I have heard her being referred to as “ambitious”, as if it is a despicable character flaw, is beginning to really irritate me.

 Priti Patel holding private meetings is inexcusable, writes Karren BradyDan Charity – The Sun Priti Patel holding private meetings is inexcusable, writes Karren Brady

I feel weary about even pointing out the obvious truth that a thrusting young minister who happens to be male is only admired for such qualities. Whereas a woman who is ambitious is considered with an eye-roll.

“Bet she’s hard work,” people think. And by people, I mean men.

But now on to the facts.

The revelations about the 12 meetings — including one with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu — held by Patel when she was on a family holiday in Israel over the summer, are shocking for several reasons.

 Brady says that Patel wanted to use British money to fund Israeli soldiersAFP or licensors Brady says that Patel wanted to use British money to fund Israeli soldiers

She failed to mention to the PM that she was holding these sensitive and unauthorised meetings.

She also failed to inform her of departmental discussions over plans to send aid money to the Israeli army to support humanitarian operations in the Golan Heights.

This is problematic not only for the lack of transparency but because the UK does not recognise Israel’s permanent presence in the Golan Heights, which was seized from Syria in the 1967 war.

So providing aid to the Israeli army in this occupied territory could contravene UK policy.

 Theresa May needs to focus on the impending collapse of the NHSAFP – Getty Theresa May needs to focus on the impending collapse of the NHS

The situation with Israel and Palestine is best dealt with using diplomacy and authority, not by holding secret meetings that make us look like a load of amateurs based at Fawlty Towers.

Something as important as decisions about where to send aid in a complex world needs to be thought through very carefully, with full Government oversight, and answerable to the democratic process — not decided on a whim in private by a lone minister.

These meetings were chaotic, without direction, without leadership and ultimately damaging to the country’s reputation, standing and respect internationally.

Patel’s concealment of the truth showed that she cannot be trusted. It is hard to work out exactly what was motivating her.

 The bigger picture in the Patel fiasco is that we should reconsider how much aid we give outEPA The bigger picture in the Patel fiasco is that we should reconsider how much aid we give out

Could it really be down to total naivety that she didn’t know what she was doing was questionable?

Was it just an over-confident act of rebellion by someone who is known not to like officialdom?

Or was she simply pursuing her own private foreign policy because she knew she could get away with it as part of a Cabinet that is paying less and less attention to the Prime Minister?

And that is really the bigger picture at play here. In deciding to take matters into her own hands, Patel was taking advantage of a Prime Minister whose power is seriously on the wane, all hopes of a strong and stable leadership turned to dust.

Priti Patel leaves Downing Street half an hour after her meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May

And the timing really could not be worse.

We are on the threshold of trying to build our own international trade relations and negotiate complex deals as an independent country.

International relationships — and the way we conduct ourselves with other countries — have never been more important, nor more under the spotlight.

We should be managing ourselves with the utmost care, not in this clandestine and shambolic manner.

This whole affair makes us look like a bunch of blithering idiots.

 Theresa May needs to deliver on her promise of bringing us a strong and stable leadershipEPA Theresa May needs to deliver on her promise of bringing us a strong and stable leadership

The subplot of this story, in my mind, is the whole business of foreign aid and what the heck we are doing with it.

Patel wanted to use British money to fund Israeli soldiers. In the week that the NHS warned the waiting list will grow to five million by 2021 without an immediate financial boost, surely that money is better off used at home?

As the world’s third biggest donor, we spend £13billion per year on aid. The Prime Minister has stood by that figure despite a series of scandals over where the money goes.

In my view, it’s time to reconsider Britain’s commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of our national income on other countries — many of whom don’t thank us or even like us.

 Brady says that Patel made us look like blithering idiotsAndrew Styczynski – The Sun Brady says that Patel made us look like blithering idiots

Until our deficit has been paid off, until we can pay our own dedicated nurses, police and firemen and women fairly, until we have a budget surplus — i.e. spare cash to give away — our priority should be to help ourselves.

In many ways, though, all of this is a distraction from the really important story. The Government is facing one of the biggest challenges in history and this is just a sideshow.

Theresa May needs to focus on running the country, the impending collapse of the NHS and the advancing approach of Jeremy Corbyn, who is nipping at her heels.

She needs to keep a level head, focus on the matters at hand and find a way to offer the strong and stable leadership she promised. Or else we are all in trouble.

Priti Patel resigns from position of International Development Secretary following undisclosed meetings

Prof is right to warn of boozing

I’M a staunch advocate of protecting the mental health of our young people.

But I think that the campaigners at Student Minds Cambridge could be taking things a bit far by accusing a professor of “damaging their mental wellbeing” this week.

 Professor Eugene Terentjev sent advice to his students about not partying or drinkingFacebook Professor Eugene Terentjev sent advice to his students about not partying or drinking

His crime?

Having the temerity to ask them to work hard and avoid getting drunk.

Professor Eugene Terentjev sent the advice in an email to first-year physical science undergrads to prepare them for the “very hard” course ahead for which they’d need their “full brain capacity”.

But according to the student group, his email was “not appropriate or acceptable”.

 Brady says that he gave sound advice to students who can't waste their educationGetty – Contributor Brady says that he gave sound advice to students who can’t waste their education

They added: “No matter how much work you have, no matter your current levels of attainment, there is nothing more important than your mental health.”

For what it’s worth, I think Professor Terentjev is doing his students a huge favour.

Good mental health is crucial, yes. But you don’t achieve it by boozing every night.

University is about finding your independence having some fun, getting the grades and a good education but it’s also about becoming a mature person.

 Telling a young person to work hard is one the best pieces of advice you can give themGetty – Contributor Telling a young person to work hard is one the best pieces of advice you can give them

Despite paying £27,000 for the privilege of university, too many students seem to treat their years there totally divorced from the reality (not to mention the debt) they are going to be plunged into when they graduate.

“Work hard” is probably the best piece of advice you can give a young person as nothing compensates for the hours you put in.

We need to stop mollycoddling students and prepare them for real life.

Brussels Sprouts cleanser?

SORRY to be juvenile but I had to laugh reading about the juice bar Crussh’s new Christmas Cleanser drink, the main component of which is Brussels Sprouts.

I mean, quite apart from the “yuck” factor one main thought springs to mind: Farty pants! No?

Quick to fill space

 Kevin Spacey has been cut out of the film about oil magnate J Paul GettyTriStar Pictures Kevin Spacey has been cut out of the film about oil magnate J Paul Getty

HOW satisfying is it to see how speedily Kevin Spacey has been cut out of Ridley Scott’s forthcoming film about oil magnate J Paul Getty?

He has been replaced by Christopher Plummer just six weeks before the film’s release.

What a fantastic reminder to all those abusing their positions of power that not only are they are replaceable but that, when you abuse it, power can evaporate overnight.

Sexist draw crosses the line

 Hopefully the male pro tennis tour and Redbull jump to 2017 after their sexist drawGetty Images – Getty Hopefully the male pro tennis tour and Redbull jump to 2017 after their sexist draw

THE male pro tennis tour and Red Bull have apologised for the “unacceptable” sexist draw. It saw players such as Andrey Rublev pick a female model (who had had the letter A or B hidden on their body) to select their group for the tournament.

After their choice, they walked down a catwalk arm-in-arm with the girl, who would reveal the letter to the cameras. It was a bit . . . retro. Let’s hope they jump forward to 2017!

Vino it’s not true

NEWSFLASH! The secret to staying youthful is eating chocolate and drinking red wine, according to scientists.

They have discovered both help to rejuvenate old cells, making them look and start to behave more like younger ones.

I’d so love to believe it was true but it can’t be.

If so, I’d look about 12.

Opinion

We are over the first Brexit hurdle… now we want free trade with the EU

BRITAIN has cleared the first major hurdle towards striking a Brexit deal – despite all  the pessimists warning of impending doom. It’s not a perfect outcome and won’t please everyone 100 per cent.…

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BRITAIN has cleared the first major hurdle towards striking a Brexit deal – despite all  the pessimists warning of impending doom.

It’s not a perfect outcome and won’t please everyone 100 per cent.

Britain may have cleared the first hurdle but there is still plenty of work ahead

4 Britain may have cleared the first hurdle but there is still plenty of work ahead

But now we have made progress on the Irish border, the size of the divorce bill and EU citizens’ rights, we can start discussing the more important issues of trade and future relations.

Before we do though, we really must learn to stop going into meltdown every time these talks run into the buffers.

It is certain to happen again as we move into the more difficult stages but as we learned this week, when things go wrong, you go home, sleep on it and move forward.

As we go into these negotiations one idea must remain at the forefront of our minds — whatever deal we get with the EU will not be as important as the decisions we make once we have left.

Contrary to some of the shouty nonsense we heard from both sides of the referendum campaign, leaving the EU will guarantee neither failure nor success.

When a young adult sets off from his parents’ home, the act of leaving is only the first step.

It is a daunting time, with many risks and much uncertainty, but it is what that person does with their new-found freedom that really counts.

The same will be true of Britain’s future outside the EU.

Theresa May and Jean-Claude Junker shake hands at EC headquarters

Reuters 4 Theresa May and Jean-Claude Junker shake hands at EC headquarters

Over the coming weeks we will learn how much Europe’s elite want to maintain their current trading relationship with us.

Three issues will dominate discussions:

FIRST, what degree of freedom will we have in the way we regulate our economy?

SECOND, to what extent will we be able to determine our own tariff regime and strike trade deals with other nations?

And THIRD, what control will we have over our borders?

We will have to make compromises in all three areas.

But before that, we need a clear understanding of what we want to achieve.

No such vision has yet emerged from the UK Government.

Whatever deal we get with the EU will not be as important as the decisions we make once we have left

AFP – Getty 4 Whatever deal we get with the EU will not be as important as the decisions we make once we have left

The process of national debate is beneficial and important. But there comes a moment when leadership is needed.

The Government must now set out its aspirations for our future outside the EU.

Regulation and red tape is likely to be the first battleground.

Some people argue we should aim to be like Norway. It almost completely aligns its regulations with the EU to get the best possible access to its markets.

But Norway must take rules from Brussels without a say in how they are shaped.

As a result, it is burdened with 93 of the 100 costliest EU regulations.

Such arrangements impose costs on an economy and restrict its freedom to strike trade deals outside the EU.

For me, it comes down to who will make the laws that govern our country. I am sure we will choose to implement many of Europe’s regulations going ­forward, but that choice must be ours.

All new regulation involves choices between competing interests. Our interests in remaining aligned to the EU will be one important consideration, but only one.

There are other competing interests — importers, exporters, producers, consumers, the environment and the economy — and deciding between them will be hard.

But the choice must be made here, taking account of Britain’s unique circumstances.

Rules in the EU are designed on a one-size-fits-all basis.

They are a compromise between 28 countries, not tailored for each country’s specific situation.

Rules to protect newts might make sense in parts of Europe where they are endangered, but not in the UK, where builders find them in abundance.

As a result of this and other inappropriate regulation, the EU’s Habitats Directive makes it harder and more expensive to build the houses we ­desperately need.

To accept the idea of independent regulation we need to eliminate one pervasive and muddled myth.

Simon Wolfson is a Conservative life peer and chairman of pro-Brexit think tank Open Europe

PA:Press Association 4 Simon Wolfson is a Conservative life peer and chairman of pro-Brexit think tank Open Europe

Many believe that unless we are bound by European regulation, Britain will be unable to trade with Europe.

I work for a company that imports products from inside and outside the EU and sells them into 70 different countries across the globe.

So I know an exporter does not need to impose the EU’s rules in its own markets to export to the EU.

Individual companies can still make their products comply with overseas regulations.

How else does China, India and the US manage to do so much business with Europe?

Failure to agree equivalent regulation may increase the administration of crossing borders but will not prevent UK companies trading with Europe.

The Government has already sensibly said it will not rip up the EU rule book as we leave.

And of course we will keep many rules that help secure a deal and a soft border with Ireland.

But we should not bind ourselves, for the rest of time, to abide by unknown future rules over which we have no control.

For this reason, a Norway-style arrangement will not work for the UK, nor is it the only available model.

In my mind the vision is clear — we should aim to trade fairly and freely with Europe and, if possible, we want them to have the same privileged access to our markets that they currently enjoy and we would like the same in return.

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Opinion

PM striking Brexit ‘deal’ is welcome but there are still causes for concern

The news on Friday that Theresa May had struck a “deal” with the EU Commission was welcome. Certainly, its language was an improvement on the draft which we saw on Monday and the Government has cle…

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The news on Friday that Theresa May had struck a “deal” with the EU Commission was welcome.

Certainly, its language was an improvement on the draft which we saw on Monday and the Government has clearly managed to move the Commission some way.

Owen Paterson is the former Environment Secretary

News Group Newspapers Ltd 3 Owen Paterson is the former Environment Secretary

The agreement allows the talks to move forward. It does not set in stone any terms of the final Brexit arrangement.

There are, however, obvious causes for concern.

The continued oversight of the European Court of Justice in the UK is not good.

It is standard practice across the world for the courts of countries in an international treaty to pay attention to the judgments of their partners, and to try, if possible, to apply a consistent interpretation.

That poses no problem, but the idea that EU citizens in the UK should be “protected” by the ECJ would be a bizarre situation, creating a privileged class of 3 million people whose rights in this country would be enforced by a court beyond the influence of our Government and Parliament.

The question of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland has dominated the headlines in recent days, so it was particularly good to see confirmed what many of us have been arguing for some time: there is no need for a “hard” border and avoiding one is entirely possible with new technology and goodwill which should exist on both sides.

Paragraph 45 of the agreement clearly states that the UK is leaving both the Single Market and the Customs Union. Too many Establishment figures – from senior civil servants to the EU-funded CBI – still cannot accept this.

To understand the scale of the problem, look at the CBI’s President Paul Dreschler, who absurdly called Brexit “the most serious issue any country in the world has ever had to face”.

More serious, he claims, than the Reformation, the English Civil War, the Great Plague, Stalin’s purges, the Cuban Missile Crisis…

In 1999, 61 per cent of UK goods exports were with the EU, now they are 43 per cent

AFP – Getty 3 In 1999, 61 per cent of UK goods exports were with the EU, now they are 43 per cent

At best, they see our leaving as a problem to be solved rather than an opportunity to be grasped, and at worst something they reject outright.

They narrow-mindedly focus on our trade with Europe, but ignore the massive gains that can be made from expanding our trade in a changing economic world.

In 1999, 61 per cent of UK goods exports were with the EU, now they are 43 per cent. By 2025, it has been projected that they will account for under 35 per cent.

The European Commission itself says that 90 per cent of global economic growth in the next 10-15 years is expected to be generated outside Europe, a third of it in China alone.

Those who would now cling gloomily to the status quo would deny us the key benefits of expanding free trade – lowering the price of food, clothing and footwear for all consumers – preferring instead to stifle new competition and enterprise.

Paragraph 45’s clarity is welcome, but Paragraph 49 states that the UK will maintain “full alignment” with their rules to support North-South co-operation on the island of Ireland in the absence of agreed solutions.

We cannot allow “alignment” to be interpreted as shackling our whole domestic economy with the rules of the Single Market (exports to which account for only 12 per cent of our GDP) and having us effectively inside the Customs Union.

Such an outcome would leave us without control either of our borders or our trade. It could not possibly be consistent with the outcome of the referendum.

Tee CBI narrow-mindedly focus on our trade with Europe, but ignore the massive gains that can be made from expanding our trade

Getty – Contributor 3 Tee CBI narrow-mindedly focus on our trade with Europe, but ignore the massive gains that can be made from expanding our trade

The Government must now make the exciting case that only after we leave both the Single Market and Customs Union can we take full advantage of Brexit; Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, the United States and others will be watching the negotiations closely, knowing that they will only be able to do deals with a fully independent United Kingdom.

The UK’s position is strong, and the speed with which the Commission moved this week showed their willingness to make concessions.

Our net contribution to the EU budget has been over £180 billion – the second biggest in the bloc. Ending those contributions is clearly a major cause of European concern.

As we move ahead, we work on the principle that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.

So, if the EU wants our cash, it must talk seriously about a comprehensive reciprocal free-trade deal with zero tariffs.

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Opinion

Bake Off Paul’s post-affair actions were so Hollywood — and not just his name

WHEN a married, middle-aged man is caught out having an affair there are usually two options that present themselves. Option A: He gets kicked out pronto. Or Option B: Things have to change. Option…

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WHEN a married, middle-aged man is caught out having an affair there are usually two options that present themselves.

Option A: He gets kicked out pronto. Or Option B: Things have to change.

 Paul Hollywood's actions after his affair were not those of a man trying to put his wife's mind at restGetty Images – Getty Paul Hollywood’s actions after his affair were not those of a man trying to put his wife’s mind at rest

Option A usually involves a rented bedsit in a dodgy area, the imminent arrival of a buggy in the communal corridor when his thirtysomething lover suddenly decides she wants a baby and, of course, the bi-weekly visitations from a couple of sullen teenagers who, understandably, feel that dad’s been a bit of a chump.

Option B requires utter compliance on a lengthy tick list headed: How I’m Going To Make Amends for Being Such An Arse. Or words to that effect.

When Bake Off star Paul Hollywood first admitted to having an affair with his US co-presenter Marcela Valladolid in 2013, he and wife Alexandra split up.

However, after he admitted the affair was “the biggest mistake of my life” (tick), the couple, who have a 16-year-old son, decided to give their marriage another go. Now, four years later, they have released a joint statement to say they have split for good.

 Paul Hollywood and wife Alexandra have split for goodGetty – Contributor Paul Hollywood and wife Alexandra have split for good

So what went wrong?

Until one of them provides more detail, it remains guesswork. But recent events suggest that maybe Paul didn’t quite grasp the post-affair rules that need to be followed if a wronged spouse’s trust is to be rebuilt.

Aside from the vital remorse, they include patience, transparency, no furtive glances at your mobile phone, no shutting your laptop lid as soon as your spouse walks in to the room, no unexplained late nights out (particularly if alcohol is involved), no talking about personal issues with anyone other than your spouse and, most of all, absolutely no flirtatious behaviour with a member of the opposite sex, however harmless.

A couple of weeks ago, Paul was photographed giving a goodbye kiss to former Bake Off winner Candice Brown following a charity event.

 Paul judged this year's Great British Bake Off competitionPA:Press Association Paul judged this year’s Great British Bake Off competition

Others were present and say it was totally innocent. Fair enough. But that’s not the point.

As I wrote at the time, “Given that Mr Hollywood is now back on track with wife Alexandra after his much-publicised affair . . . he should perhaps desist in future from clasping the back of a woman’s head when leaning in for a supposedly chaste goodbye.

“It’s very Hollywood. And I’m not talking about his surname.”

In other words, a man trying to keep his post-affair marriage on track would either stay away from the event, invite his wife too or, if she didn’t want to go, turn up, shake a few hands and be in a cab home as soon as the last award had been presented.

 The pair have a son togetherRex Features The pair have a son together

Instead, he pitched up at the after-party and sat outside (in full view of the paparazzi) drinking champagne with Candice and others until the early hours.

Which, however you look at it, is hardly the behaviour of a man trying to put his wife’s mind at rest.

SECRET SERVICE

FORMER One Direction star Harry Styles performed at the famous Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in Shanghai, China, this week.

The show, which will air on US TV later this month, involves prescriptively “perfect” models showing off the latest range of boudoir-esque undies for peachy-thighed young women to choose from.

And of course, young Harry could select his next girlfriend too.

Welcome to the past

HOLLYWOOD practices have been put under the spotlight following the revelations about producer Harvey Weinstein preying on young actresses.

But sexual assaults aren’t the only issue. How women are presented on screen is part of the problem too.

 Does Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle misrepresent women? Does Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle misrepresent women?

An analysis by the University of Washington of 800 screenplays has revealed that gender stereotypes are the same as 60 years ago, with men portrayed as “powerful” and women as “timid”.

The study shows that male actors also spend more time on screen than their female counterparts and speak more.

And that’s not the half of it.

Check out the photo from the set of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, starring Dwayne Johnson and former Doctor Who actress Karen Gillan.

 Alex Rodrigues and Jennifer LopezGetty – Contributor Alex Rodrigues and Jennifer Lopez

While he’s in practical combat trousers and a khaki shirt, she’s wearing a skimpy pair of shorts and a belly top.

As you do.

Meanwhile, the current issue of US Vanity Fair includes a photograph of singer Jennifer Lopez with her baseball player boyfriend Alex Rodriguez.

Mr Rodriguez is fully clothed, while his hand is lifting up Ms Lopez’s dress to reveal her admittedly impressive derriere.

 In the wake of the Hollywood sleaze scandal, why did J-Lo feel the need to flash her bottom?Getty – Contributor In the wake of the Hollywood sleaze scandal, why did J-Lo feel the need to flash her bottom?

Twitter lit up like a Christmas tree as her fans feverishly debated the, er, issue of whether her suspiciously elevated bottom crease meant that the image had been retouched.

But surely, of far greater concern is why, against the current backdrop of women collectively voicing their frustration at being treated like sex objects, one of Hollywood’s most powerful women has chosen to depict herself in this way?

 – NEWS that Donna Air, the on-off girlfriend of the Duchess of Cambridge’s brother James Middleton, is taking part in Dancing On Ice has led certain sources to suggest they have finally split for good, as she would “never risk embarrassing the royals by joining a reality contest”.

Oh, I don’t know.

 Donna Air revealed she is taking part in the new series of Dancing On Ice©ITV Plc Donna Air revealed she is taking part in the new series of Dancing On Ice

As James’s Uncle Gary has just pleaded guilty in court to punching his wife in the face during a boozy argument, I think Donna’s skating on thin ice pales in to insignificance.

– OPERA singer Katherine Jenkins has apologised to hotel guests after making “elephant noises” while warming up her voice for her tour. One imagines they were thankful for the clarification.

INSURER The Co-op has advised that we should all avoid placing presents under our Christmas trees in a bid to deter burglars.

 

Alternatively, the police could try catching a few habitual thieves earlier in the year and then we could all just enjoy our festive season without having to alter our traditional, law-abiding behaviour.

– THE Cinderella-style Debenhams Christmas ad ends with Ewan McGregor saying to camera: “As for happy ever after, well, who knows?”

 Ewan McGregor stars in Debenhams Christmas advert Ewan McGregor stars in Debenhams Christmas advert

As he’s just dumped her for a younger woman, Mrs McGregor might have an answer to that.

– STRICTLY Come Dancing pro Brendan Cole is reportedly still fuming with new judge Shirley Ballas after their on screen run-in and is rumoured to be ignoring her backstage.

 Brendan Cole is reportedly still fuming with new Strictly judge Shirley BallasPA:Press Association Brendan Cole is reportedly still fuming with new Strictly judge Shirley Ballas

No doubt she will see that as a result.

– MEMO to air stewardess Lucy Sargeant, who is suing BA for £750,000 after being “traumatised” by an engine setting on fire during a flight: Isn’t that one of the more extreme eventualities you were trained to deal with?

[boxout featured-image=”4968425″]THIS shot of former England and Chelsea striker Dennis Wise jumping out of a helicopter in the opener to the excellent I’m A Celebrity . . . reminds me of the ripple effect when I put my “of a certain age” hands in one of those turbo-charged dryers.

It’s reminiscent of the wind-whipped sand-dunes in Lawrence of Arabia.

[/boxout]

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