As the race for the lead heats up, it’s time to wave the thermometer

One thing that has stayed the same is the task of looking back at the past week, looking forward to the next one and answering some of the questions that have arisen along the way.

Today those questions included: How big is Matt Hancock’s What’s App cache as leaked to journalist Isabel Oakeshott and revealed in the Daily Telegraph? What exactly is an independence readiness thermometer? And last but not least: Is Boris Johnson a man of integrity?

Chris Heaton-Harris, the Foreign Secretary for Northern Ireland, appearing on Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday, managed to tie together the messages from Hancock, the dispute over Labor’s job offer to Sue Gray and the Commons Privileges Committee’s inquiry into Boris Johnson.

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Is Boris Johnson a man of integrity? Ridge asked.

“Yes, 100 per cent,” said Mr. Heaton-Harris. “I don’t believe for a second that Boris knowingly misled Parliament.”

The “knowingly” part of this sentence is, of course, crucial. Should the all-party committee decide otherwise and the Commons agree, the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip could be suspended and a by-election held.

Allies of Mr Johnson spent the weekend using Sue Gray’s appointment as Labor Party chief of staff to question her earlier report to Partygate.

Mr Heaton-Harris urged Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer to make public any conversations he may have had with Ms Gray during this period.

It is not known if such news exists as Labor has so far refused to say when it approached Ms Gray about a job.

Kuenssberg asked Jonathan Ashworth, secretary for shadow jobs and pensions, as talks between Ms Gray and Sir Keir began.

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Mr Ashworth would only say that the Labor leader had been looking for a chief of staff for “several weeks”. He did not know if Ms Gray had obtained the appointment watcher’s permission to make contact, as required by the rules.

After the program aired, the BBC reported that Ms Gray would speak to appointment watchers on Monday. With Mr Johnson due to testify before the Privileges Committee in a few weeks, Labor does not want the gray row to distract from their attacks on the ex-Prime Minister, which they clearly have done.

The Hancock WhatsApps were among the topics discussed by Kuenssberg’s panel. Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator, is one of the few journalists to have read all the news.

“This is the largest collection of documents that has ever been made available to a journalist or historian in my lifetime,” he said. “The whole file is four times the size of War and Peace.”

So to the last of the three questions asked: What is the difference between an “Independence Readiness Thermometer” and an “Independence Readiness Index”?

Everything was explained, or maybe not, in Kuenssberg’s interview with Ash Regan MSP, one of the three candidates for the post of SNP leader and First Minister.

When asked how she would achieve independence, Ms Regan said she would form an assembly made up of all Indy supporters. There would also be an “Independence Commission”.

“Your viewers may have never heard of this,” she said to Kuenssberg. “The idea is that there will be a body that will be charged with planning for independence and creating the infrastructure to prepare Scotland for independence.”

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Ms Regan was ridiculed last week when she suggested there could be a “stand-by thermometer” or other such installation that could be placed in a public place so people could see how close Scotland was to independence. Kuenssberg laughed and asked how that would work.

Referring to the aforementioned Independence Commission, Ms Regan said: “The idea is that we build trust with the public by explaining to them what we are doing to prepare Scotland. This is the actual infrastructure, so this would be things like planning the currency and organizing all of that stuff.

“What we want to do is some sort of representation, or maybe an index is a better way of expressing that, so the public and the media and anyone interested can see the progress we’re making in building that infrastructure.”

So now you know.

Dates of the SNP leadership debate for the diary: STV, Tuesday, March 7; Sky News, Monday March 13; BBC Debate Night, Tuesday 14 March. As the race for the lead heats up, it’s time to wave the thermometer

Grace Reader

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