Friday, 8 June 2012

Brogan's brief..


Today the papers are full of speculation on George Osborne's "hint" - or "threat" if you read the Guardian or the Independent - of an EU referendum.

On the Today programme yesterday he got everyone excited by saying:

"A reshaped relationship with Europe would imply, would involve, a transfer of sovereignty or powers to Brussels. I think we have a very clear safeguard in the system now, thanks to this Government, which is, if there is any transfer of power from this country, transfer of competence or transfer of sovereignty from this country to the European Union, then there will be a referendum."

It's not explicit, but it's certainly a hint. The Times (£) reports that this surprised Downing Street and the Lib Dems - and could cause tensions in the Coalition. Is this George the strategist at work, trying to outfox Labour's referendum chat?  

It's interesting that this happened while Dave was in Berlin talking about the eurozone crisis.  We've splashed on the robust stance he took, dismissing Angela Merkel's suggestion that the European Union should eventually have a single national identity as "nonsense".

He signalled that Britain was prepared to veto a new EU treaty unless it included safeguards for the City - and flatly refused a financial transactions tax.

Mrs Merkel hit back. She said "in a currency union have to move closer together", reinforcing the shift to "a multi-speed Europe" which had begun with the single currency. "We cannot just stop [the process] because one or other doesn't want to join in yet." You can read more on the specifics in the FT report here . The graphic breakdown of the situation in the Independent is also worth looking at.

They disagreed on the speed of reform too. He urged "immediate action", she called him "impatient". Our cartoon of them discussing the weather, before blowing away in the storm, probably sums things up.

Our leader column called it a "a watershed moment" and that there is a "a sense that we are moving towards something entirely new."

Dave and George best be careful though - the Mail won't tolerate a tease. In its leader column  today it demands "No more betrayals on the EU referendum."

And this diplomacy stuff could become farcical thanks to football.  The Sun splashes on the ministers who plan to boycott Euro 2012 over human rights violations in Ukraine - unless England get to the quarter-finals.

The Foreign Office said:  "No ministers will be attending group games at Euro 2012. We're keeping attendance at later stages under review in the light of ministers' schedules and concerns about selective justice and the law in Ukraine."  

They aren't the only ones fed up with politicking.  The Times (£) reports that Jeremy Heywood hopes to rein in the Coalition's 83 special advisers. He wants greater scrutiny and accountability from them post-Adam Smith. Whitehall sources are concerned that   "Many special advisers get a bunch of documents when they arrive and are broadly left to get on with it."


This is all to the backdrop of a worsening global financial crisis, of course. Yesterday Spain's credit rating was slashed from A to BBB by Fitch and China cut its interest rates - an acknowledgement that they're in trouble (you can read more in the FT's report here ).

The US and the Bank of England stood steady, but Ben Bernanke said that "the situation in Europe poses significant risks to the US financial system and economy and must be monitored closely."  


Closer to home, the big announcement is the ban on forced marriages - it's becoming a specific criminal offence. Dave will say:  "Forced marriage is abhorrent and is little more than slavery. To force anyone into marriage against their will is simply wrong and that is why we have taken decisive action to make it illegal."

The Sun has claimed victory on this one:  "Govt backs Sun's war on cruel weddings", while the Mail  who splashed on it yesterday points out that the new law could mean we're going to rescue women who are smuggled abroad to be married. Somehow I'm not sure the half a million pound budget will stretch that far.


Meanwhile, Ed Miliband, ever at the centre of important world events, is talking about Englishness and the union. He's written in the Telegraph  today saying that we can forge a progressive patriotism based on the qualities that shone through during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee weekend. He admits that the Labour Party has not been very good at patriotism in recent years and that discussing Englishness might undermine the union.

During his speech yesterday he also admitted that he looks a bit like Wallace from Wallace and Gromit. The Sun has a wonderful graphic showing Ed's face slowly merging into Wallace's - it's worth keeping.

And finally, this English-Scottish issue might be one to keep an eye on.  The Independent reports that No 10 has got squeamish about cutting Scottish regiments.


Latest YouGov/The Sun results: Conservatives 34%, Labour 43%, Lib Dems 8%, UKIP 6%

Overall government approval rating: -35


In The Telegraph 

Fraser Nelson: John Prescott climbed the ladder – now he wants to saw it away

Ed Miliband: The England I love is defined by its spirit

Leader: The comfortable course is no longer an option

Leader: Rights for grandparents

Best of the rest

Owen Jones in the Independent:  England, Miliband's England, is a lost country

William Rees-Mogg in the Times (£):   There's only one question on Europe: in or out

Gaby Hinsliff in the Guardian:  On pensioners, Iain Duncan Smith is right: 'granny bashing' is fair

Jin Liqun and Keyu Jin in the Financial Times (£):  Europe should stop arguing and look to Asia


Today: Theresa May will make an announcement on forced marriage

Today: Lord Freud, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, will make an announcement on the benefits of Universal Credit for young people aged 25 years and below

Today: Eric Pickles, will set out new guidance for strategies to support local shops