Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Brogan's morning briefing..


It’s a critical day a Westminster. Nick Clegg will present his Lords reform package to the Cabinet this morning. The shadow cabinet will in turn meet and discuss whether to oppose it, and in particular whether to vote against the programme motion. It's also an important moment for Ed Miliband, who must decide whether to pursue principle or opportunity. In the Telegraph, Mary Riddell sets out his options:

“Does Labour “sit back and enjoy the show”, as one Lib Dem puts it, while the Coalition tears itself apart? Or does Mr Miliband shun tactical slithering and support the reform he has always espoused? His holding pattern, to say nothing until he has seen the proposals, conceals a wider Labour indecision.”

Danny Alexander will try to appeal to the parties’ better nature at a speech at the Electoral Reform Society today. He asks the Conservatives to back Lords reform because “it is the right thing to do”. You can read more in our report here .


David Cameron gets a mixed reception for his welfare reform wish list. One of the noticeable themes is whether the well-off elderly should pay more. The Times says they should in its leader, while the Indy brings comment to its front page by declaring "The old get richer and the young pay the price".

The IFS makes the case for taxing the better-off elderly to pay for long-term care (you can read more in our report here). The Mail goes for the regional welfare angle, which we reveal was excised from Dave's speech under pressure from the Lib Dems. The Guardian reveals growing doubts about the timetable for delivery of Universal Credit: the Treasury now expects it to cost money rather than save it. Patrick Wintour says senior government sources say that it’s over budget and running late – raising questions about the implementation of the wider reforms.

The Guardian leader column says “Punishing scroungers may be popular in general terms, but support will shatter if the government lacks the competence to sort the "deserving" from the "undeserving".”

The government seems serious about some of the narrative set out yesterday. Today, Grant Shapps is publishing proposals to encourage councils to reshape council-house waiting lists, so priority is given to those in work or with a local connection.


Once again, the eurozone brings surprises. The FT has splashed on a report to be discussed at the eurozone summit this week. It argues for far-reaching powers to rewrite national budgets for eurozone countries that breach debt and deficit rules.

The bad news for Dave is that Germany has said it will let its people have a referendum if closer integration is required, increasing the pressure on Dave to grant the UK one. The Mail has given its p2: “Now even Germany gets a referendum...”

Dave’s facing pressure on both sides though. Our business section has splashed on Peter Sands, the chief executive of Standard Chartered, who warned him yesterday that withdrawal from the EU is the biggest threat to the City.


Ed Balls is causing mischief. He’s calling on rebel Tory MPs join forces with Labour and vote down George Osborne’s contested 3p fuel hike. Writing in The Sun today he says: “The Government should be giving our economy a boost — not clobbering families, businesses and pensioners just at the wrong time. That’s why Labour is calling on the Chancellor to stop August’s fuel duty rise — at least until next January.”

This is clever manoeuvring on Mr Balls’ part. He knows he that both Nick de Bois and Robert Halfon are publicly against the tax hike - and they just so happen to be influential members of the 1922 Committee. Looks like George is in for a rocky ride.

Mr Balls has just been on the Today programme. He said that there has been a fall in the global oil price, but it hasn’t come down at the pumps. “The Government should be leading the campaign to pressurise the oil companies. When the oil price is coming down that should reflect in the prices we are paying at the pumps. It has not happened yet.”


In the Times, Rachel Sylvester’s column claims that Dave is dragging his feet on Army reforms. No wonder: it’s apparently the biggest rejig since the Cold War, which could see Army numbers shrink from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2020, with eight armed units axed.

This is causing tensions between No 10 and the MoD - Dave’s had the plans since Easter and was set to make an announcement on it in May, but he’s still not signed them off. No 10 is worried this will trash the Tories’ reputation of being the party of defence, but it sounds like hanging around is doing that anyway - at least among the top brass.

Today is a bad day for this to come to light. The Defence Select Committee publishes its report on housing military families this morning. It concludes that the MoD is sending “the wrong signals” to Forces families about the value it places on providing good accommodation.

This will certainly turn the heat up in No 10, since one of the MoD’s biggest gripes is waiting for the Treasury or No 10 to sign off on four new super-garrisons. And the return of 20,000 British troops from Germany and the withdrawal from Afghanistan will only will increase the pressure.


Yesterday Alistair Darling drew the battle lines for potentially the longest referendum campaign in modern political history. The papers seemed pleased, but offered some words of warning. Our leader column said he “Mr Salmond has the bully pulpit of power, the ability to manufacture rows with Westminster, a formidable political organisation and millions of pounds in funding,” while the FT  warned against “the risk is that the continuing ambiguity of their positions [over the unionist’s ‘devo max’ offer] will give [Alex Salmond] him further ammunition.”


And Michael Gove continues on the warpath. At an event today organised by the Speccie, Mr Gove will say:

“For a decade now we have steered hundreds of thousands of young people towards courses and qualifications which are called vocational even though no employer rates them. Politicians took the credit for ever-rising exam performance and exam boards took the profits from a system which incentivised dumbing down. That is why we have to reform our whole discredited curriculum and examination system.”

He’s also speaking alongside the controversial American schools reformer Michelle Rhee at a Policy Exchange event at 12.30pm today. Incidentally, we carry a column by Ms Rhee in the Telegraph today. She attacks the vested interests that protect teachers, and the lack of representation for pupils. She’ll be arguing this point head-to-head with teaching union boss Mary Bousted on the Daily Politics show at 11am. Mr Gove clearly knows how to keep the Right wing happy.


Chuka Umunna is giving a speech today on entrepreneurship and how it can enhance social mobility, suggesting that gang members could make excellent entrepreneurs. He’ll say:

“Many of these young people are using skills that, if channelled in the right way, would provide them with an alternative route to success. And yet, in Lambeth, too much of this entrepreneurial instinct is being channelled into totally the wrong thing. Just imagine what these young gang members could achieve if their energies were redirected.”

He’s bound to get an interesting reaction.


And finally, bad news for Dr Dre: The Mirror has rehearsed well-worn claims about Craig Oliver's wife's tax affairs over two pages.


“@LouiseMensch: About to turn 41, which is actually not as depressing as it sounds. Life gets better as you get older because you're more relaxed?”

Thanks, Mrs Mensch. That’s reassuring to read - until you see the question mark, of course...


Latest YouGov/The Sun results: Conservatives 32%, Labour 43%, Lib Dems 11%, UKIP 7%

Overall government approval rating: -36


In The Telegraph

Mary Riddell: Lords reform gives Ed Miliband a glorious chance to make mischief

Philip Johnston: It’s not heartless to replace welfare with work

Michelle Rhee: How to improve schools the American way

Leader: Loving Scotland doesn’t mean hating the Union

Best of the rest

Philip Stephens in the Financial Times: Penitent comedian offers lesson to bankers

Polly Toynbee in the Guardian: Cameron's big cut 'idea' will only backfire on the Tories

Steve Richards in the Independent: Cameron is just after a quick hit in the polls

Rachel Sylvester in the Times: The Army is no longer the Tory party at war


Today:  Lords Reform Bill published

Today: Cabinet meets

Today: Health Minister Anne Milton makes an announcement on Health visitors and new parents

9.10am: Damian Green MP appears before the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee. Room 8, Palace of Westminster

10am: Bank of England Governor Mervyn King gives evidence to MPs on Inflation Report. Wilson Room, Portcullis House, London

10.30am: Sir Bob Kerslake, Head of the Civil Service, appears before the Public Administration to discuss the role of the head of the Civil Service. Room 16, Palace of Westminster

11am: Sir Malcolm Rifkind appears before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee to discuss the role and future of the Commonwealth.  Room 6, Palace of Westminster

11.15am: Police Minister Nick Herbert and Tom Winsor, the Government's preferred candidate for Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee. Thatcher Room, Portcullis House

12.30pm: Michael Gove attends a Policy Exchange talk by Michelle Rhee, the founder of the New Teacher Project, which in ten years has recruited and trained over 23,000 new teachers to work in urban schools across the United States. Clutha House, 10 Storey's Gate, London

1pm: Proposals for backbench debate. Room 7, Palace of Westminster

2.05pm: Edward Davey appears before the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee to discuss the draft Energy Bill. Grimond Room, Portcullis House

6pm: Chuka Umunna gives a speech on entrepreneurship