Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Morning brief..


BREAKING: William Hague has just been on the Today Programme to discuss Lords reform.
He said: “We’re not going to get a better package for Lords reform than the one we’ve got now” and that “there is a lot of support for this in all the parties”. Anyone watching yesterday’s debate would probably disagree, William.

He opposed the idea of a referendum on the reform because all three parties supported reform in their manifestos, because previous reform of the Lords hasn’t required one and because it would cost £80 million pounds to do so.  Although his line that opposing Lords reform is a “perfectly honourable” position perhaps showed his true thoughts a little better.

He calls Labour’s behaviour “opposition for opposition’s sake”.

He also said he saw no need for George Osborne to apologise for suggesting Ed Balls was involved in the Libor scandal. I guess we’ll hear Ed Balls response to that later.


David Cameron is braced for his worst defeat in the Commons today. Between 70-110 (depending on what paper you're reading) are expected to boot out the Lords Reform Bill. Only 50 are needed to undermine the government's majority and 70 have already put their names to a letter opposing it. Three ministerial aides are thought to be helping to make up the numbers, Conor Burns included.

The Lib Dems aren't going down without a fight. The Guardian  reports that Charles Kennedy has made an impassioned plea to Labour to join a "progressive alliance" to defeat the Tories. Will they be tempted? Or will they take Peter Hain's view that dealing a blow to the Coalition is more important?

That's not the only uncertain factor, course. The rebel numbers may dwindle  at the last minute due to last-minute concessions brokered by the whips. But those who signed the letter might look a little silly if they change their mind.

If they stick to their guns they'll be well supported in the Telegraph and the Mail.  Iain Martin says "true Tories" will reject the Bill and the "shabby politics" it represents.  The Mail leader says "Constitutional reform is far too weighty a matter on which not to rebel." The Guardian leader, of course, supports the proposals, saying that they present "a historic opportunity".


Dave doesn't only have to face hostilities with his party today - he's meeting Francois Hollande at Downing Street. Tensions will be high. Mr Hollande won't have forgotte n Dave's red-carpet comment  or the snub he received in February. And that is only the beginning: Mr Hollande's fondness for public spending as the solution to the eurozone's woes is not shared by Dave. And the French are utterly baffled by Dave’s sympathy for an EU referendum.

Apt, then, that William Hague will be attending the launch of the Fresh Start Project Green Paper on the renegotiation of Britain's relations with EU this evening.

The Sun and the Mail want Dave to pick  a fight. The Sun calls on the PM to  "Do Eur Duty"  and has published a letter by Nigel Farage titled "We won't get fooled again". Likewise the Mail has given its p2 to say "Tell France we want powers back" . Provocative stuff. No 10 must be tempted to use the opportunity throw a bone to the Right. Particularly since they're so upset about  Lords reform.


Deputy Bank of England Governor Paul Tucker seemed to have put Ed Balls in the clear yesterday. At his appearance before the Treasury Select Committee, he repeatedly denied that any Whitehall officials or Government ministers - including Ed Balls and Baroness Vadera - ever encouraged him to “lean on” Barclays or any other bank for that matter.

This is bad news for No 11 who are desperately back-pedalling from George's accusation that Ed Balls was "clearly involved". Consequently, Mr Balls has escalated his calls for an apology. Why don't I expect that to happen?

Perhaps because everyone can see that the fight is no longer to do with the issues. So much so that Tory Treasury Select Committee member Andrea Leadsom tried to call time on the spat last night, telling The World Tonight: "I think obviously he made a mistake and I think he should apologise."

But Team GO seem to be fleshing out their line on the affair. The Mail  quotes a Treasury source, saying: "These emails don’t answer anything about what senior Labour figures knew or were saying in conversations with the banks. Labour protests too much. Can they say that no Labour figure was aware of Libor low-balling? Can they say no Labour figure implicitly or explicitly condoned it in conversations with the banks? They haven’t been able to so far."

George needs to watch out though. He's getting a reputation. In The Times , Rachel Sylvester quotes a Tory minister, saying: “I’m afraid George Osborne is becoming more and more like Gordon Brown.”


And finally, it’s worth checking out Stephen Twigg and Jim Murphy’s column in today’s Telegraph. They suggest that we should be increasing the military's role in education.

Now you wouldn’t have seen that in the 1983 manifesto.


Labour's Tom Watson gives Tory MP Matthew Hancock some advice:

“@tom_watson: @matthancockmp Cheeky boy. I've been following your career. You're there or thereabouts for a promotion. Don't ruin it by being too cocky.”

Once a whip, always a whip, eh?


Latest YouGov/The Sun results: Conservatives 35%, Labour 44%, Lib Dems 7%, UKIP 6%

Overall government approval rating: -35


In The Telegraph

Iain Martin:  True Tories reject the Lords reform Bill – and the shabby politics behind it

Stephen Twigg and Jim Murphy: Why the military must invade our schools

Jeremy Warner: A turkey shoot that brings little good

Leader: Hammering the banks won’t help business

Best of the rest

Charles Kennedy in the Guardian:  Lords reform: we'll defeat the rebels

Rachel Sylvester in the Times: Both sides must end the playground fighting

Steve Richards in the Independent: It's now or never for Lords reform – and it looks like never

Laurence Kotlikoff in the Financial Times: Vickers is not enough to stop another Libor scandal


Today:  Second day of House of Lords reform debate, with vote on timetabling.

Today: Caroline Spelman will set out plans for the reform of the water industry.

10am: Marcus Agius appears before the Treasury Select Committee. Wilson Room, Portcullis House

12.30pm: Damian Green appears before the Home Affairs Select Committee to discuss immigration. Thatcher Room, Portcullis House

2.15pm: David Cameron will host a joint press conference with President Hollande in Downing Street

3.15pm: Andrew Mitchell appears before the International Development Select Committee to discuss Afghanistan. Thatcher Room, Portcullis House

5pm: William Hague attends the launch of the Fresh Start Project Green Paper on the renegotiation of Britain's relations with the EU.  Committee Room 16, House of Commons, London