Thursday, 7 June 2012

Morning brief..

George Osborne has just been on the Today programme. He said:

On further EU integration to save the euro: “Let me be absolutely clear, Britain is not going to be part of that banking union.”

But “It’s massively in Britain’s interest for the euro to survive”

On the opportunity to renegotiate Britain's relations with Europe: “We have a safeguard in the system. If there is a transfer of power.. then there will be a referendum.”

On the U-turns: “They made up less than 5 per cent of the budget..It was much better to say ‘look we won’t do it’ ... The government needs to be focused on [the big questions].. not on the battles that don’t matter”

On the budget-making process: “I don’t think the way bits of the budget were leaked was helpful.”

Cameron leaves Oslo with the Norwegian PM today and together they head to Berlin where he will chat to Angela Merkel about the eurozone crisis. At 12.30pm they will be answering questions from a group of students (you can watch the live stream here - he’ll be speaking just after the Bank of England’s interest rates decision).

What will Cam say to Mrs Merkel? Some of his MPs have a suggestion: The Fresh Start group, which has been studying our relationship with the EU for intelligent ways of reordering it, tells him crisis brings opportunity.

In the Telegraph, Andrea Leadsom , its chairman, has written that this is the moment to extract agreement for a renegotiation. No doubt we all wish Mr Cameron would do the truth unto power/emperor's new clothes thing by confronting Mrs Merkel with some plain truths about the euro. But how does he game it: what does he have to offer? Will he trade cash help with the crisis for a deal on renegotiation? What if there's an exit fee?


The Telegraph leader column suggests:

“He should make clear to Mrs Merkel that the price of UK support for any new treaty would be a guaranteed renegotiation of this country’s position within what would be a fundamentally different Europe from the one we joined – with the outcome put to a referendum.”

Peter Oborne takes a similarly robust stance, saying:

“The last time Europe was in the grip of a rigid financial dogma was in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, when the collective bureaucratic and political mind was unable to envisage an alternative to the prevailing gold standard.

This outdated economic thinking inflicted devastation and untold suffering, while sowing the seeds for the rise of fascism and the outbreak of the Second World War. It is not going too far to observe that the chanceries of Europe are in the grip of a similar madness today.”

The former Labour Foreign Secretary David Owen is equally disillusioned with the current dogma. He offers a plan for the reorganisation of Europe in the Times (£) . He suggests that all countries should remain full members of a single market, but the eurozone countries that wish to remain part of the euro integrate further.

He also says:

“A referendum on the future of Europe I believe is inevitable at some point between 2013 and 2106 at the latest. I would hope such a referendum would pose something like the following choice:

Do you want the UK to be part of the single market in a wider European Community? Yes/No Do you want the UK to remain in the European Union, keeping open the option of joining the more integrated eurozone?”

As you would expect from the good Dr, it's very clever, but I must admit I found the questions a bit opaque.


And of course, this is all to the backdrop of the growing crisis in Spain. The Guardian leads with “Save our banks or break euro, Spain tells EU” and the FT’s “Europe weighs Spain bank rescue” says it all really.

Alex Brummer in the Mail brings the point home:

“And it is the Spanish government’s hopeless efforts to deal with an enveloping banking catastrophe that has brought the whole euro experiment and, for that matter, the prosperity of the world to the precipice...the leaders in the euro area are now in a desperate race against the clock.”


Always at the centre of things, Ed Miliband is focusing on Britain. At 11am he’s making a speech on Scottish independence. He is expected to say:

"We in the Labour Party have been too reluctant to talk about England in recent years. We've concentrated on shaping a new politics for Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. But some people in England felt Labour's attention had turned away. That something was holding us back from celebrating England too. That we were too nervous to talk of English pride and English character. Connecting it to the kind of nationalism that left us ill at ease.
"There may be a temptation on the part of others to conjure a view of Englishness which does not represent our nation, a mirror image of the worst aspects of Scottish nationalism - hostile to outsiders, anti-Scottish, England somehow cut off from the rest of Britain, cut off from the outside world, fearful what is beyond our borders, our best days behind us.”

"I don't think like that. I love the nation that we have."

The Independent has a poll proving his point (well, at least in the case of England and Wales). Only three in 10 people in England and Wales want to see Scotland break away from the United Kingdom.


And the Warsi debacle rumbles on. She’s facing another investigation by the House of Lords standards committee.

Matthew Parris in the Times  and Steve Richards in the Independent are united in the view that Lady Warsi is under attack because of the nature of the Chairman’s role.

Mr Parris calls it “an awful job: nobody really knows what you’re for,” while Mr Richards says she is “more dispensable” than many of her colleagues.


Meanwhile, the pressure’s on to cut rich people’s benefits. The Guardian reports that Nick Clegg has joined the fight, telling his colleagues he’d be happy to see them dramatically cut.

A party spokesperson said: "If you're faced with a choice in terms of helping the wealthiest pensioners or helping the vulnerable across Britain, then his priority is the vulnerable people across the country who need the most help.”

More information is available in our report here.


And they say everyone has a novel in them. Nick Clegg is no exception. In an interview in Easy Living magazine, he said he tried to write one in his 20s, producing 120 pages, before giving up. He said: “it was shockingly bad and will never see the light of day.” He also lets us know his favourite books are Disgrace by J M Coetzee and The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr. (You can read more in our report here).

Our leader column presents a “draft” of Mr Clegg’s work. It begins: “For a man of his age, 45, he has, to his mind, solved the problem of politics rather well. Punctually, at 2pm, he presses the buzzer...”


Nick isn’t the only one being poked fun at today. The Mail has interviewed one of the Jubilee “slave” stewards saying he had a marvellous time.

And by the way, if you were wondering why Gordon Brown missed the Jubilee, Ephraim Hardcastle has this:

“Gordon Brown was invited to the St Paul’s service of thanksgiving for the Queen’s six decades on the throne, but the former premier pleaded a prior engagement – the third marriage of former Labour MP Henry McLeish, 63, to Caryn Nicolson, 48. A spokesman said the Browns ‘found it impossible to manage their travel engagements to attend both events’.”


And finally it’s worth noting the Mail’s front page: “Forced marriage to be outlawed: Parents face jail for coercing daughters to wed against their will, which PM says is 'little more than slavery”

Theresa May will outline the plans tomorrow.


Latest YouGov/The Sun results: Conservatives 34%, Labour 43%, Lib Dems 8%, UKIP 7%

Overall government approval rating: -36


Peter Oborne in the Telegraph: The euro’s 'guilty men’ are now steering Europe to catastrophe

Sue Cameron in the Telegraph: Londoners won’t take kindly to Zil lanes at the Olympics
Andrea Leadsom: The eurozone crisis is a 'perfect opportunity' for Britain

Zoe Williams in the Guardian: The jubilee jobseekers show modern Britain at its worst

Steve Richards in the Independent: Warsi's problem is that her job just doesn't matter enough

David Owen in the Times (£): My vision for a new Europe

David Aaronovitch in the Times (£): You shouldn’t need a beard to bless a Queen 

Leader in the Telegraph: Cameron must name his price for on EU deal


Today: 'Park Lane' - a new novel from George Osborne's wife is published

9am:  Philip Hammond, Chief of General Staff Gen Sir Peter Wall and US Chief of Staff Gen Raymond Odierno speeches to Rusi. Church House, Deans Yard, London

11am: Ed Miliband gives a speech on"Defending the Union in England". Weston Roof Pavilion, Royal Festival Hall

12pm:  David Cameron, Angela Merkel and Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg attend an event in Berlin with around 100 students to discuss the subject 'Learning from each other. New approach to the relationship between citizen and state'

12pm: Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee announces its latest interest rate decision

12pm: Alex Salmond at Scottish First Minister's Questions

10.30pm: BBC Question Time