David Cameron will never campaign to take us out of Europe (and that’s just one of the news stories that comes out of an interview in today’s Telegraph). But that doesn’t necessarily mean no referendum. He suggested he’d give the public a say on a “new settlement” with Europe rather than offering an in-out vote. He warned that life outside the EU would turn Britain into a “sort of Greater Switzerland”, which “would be a complete denial of our national interests”.
He chose an interesting day to do so since the Mail and the Sun report on the “outrage” at Europe Minister David Lidington’s comments in Le Monde saying the same thing. Not to mention the figures that have been released showing - in the Mail’s phrase - an “export revolution,” since Britain now exports more to countries outside of the EU than inside (the Express has seized upon this for its splash: “Proof we don’t need to be in EU”) . I wonder if Downing Street’s press office expected that?
Dave made another big revelation: austerity will last until 2020 (something Jeremy Heywood hinted at recently).Our leader hopes this “realism must not slide into defeatism”. Particularly given that there’s encouraging news elsewhere with unemployment figures ticking up gently for the fourth month in a row yesterday.
But Dave isn’t the only one bringing bad news: arch-hawk Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Andrew Sentance has a column in the Times titled: “Low growth is now normal. Don’t deny it”. He calls on the MPC to stop printing money and put up interest rates. I’m sure many of Dave’s backbenchers would agree.
It looks like Dave is being more realistic about his relationship with the Lib Dems. He also told us that plans for the Coalition spending programme from 2014-17 have been delayed until later this year or early next. The question of “how many years” they will consider is still up for discussion.
The partnership may switch to a looser form of “confidence and supply” government in the year before the next election. This would mean that the Liberal Democrats agree to support key Government votes on the Budget and any confidence motions – but not a wider policy agenda.
But there’s also good news for Tory MPs. Those who voted against Government plans on reforming the House of Lords will still be considered for ministerial promotion in the future.
HONOURING THE TROOPS
Interesting stuff, but not enough to keep Dave in Westminster. Yesterday, he visited the troops in Afghanistan where he assured them that Britain would not withdraw early. The Sun calls it a “slapdown” for Oliver Letwin, who the paper says wants us out of the conflict zone to save money.
Good job, really. The commanders made it clear there is still plenty to do.
He also announced that veterans will not have to take the new benefits tests. Now all maimed ex-service personnel will immediately qualify for a new guaranteed payment. He said: “This is about the country saying to our Armed Forces, ‘We respect and revere you, and we’re going to do more for you’.”
I’m not sure those working at the Olympics as security guards are convinced.
POLICING THE OLYMPICS
And Dave might need to call on even more soldiers for assistance, since the border staff could go on strike over the Olympics. The Mail reports that members of the Public and Commercial Services Union could walk out within a week.
No wonder Ed Miliband plans to make a speech on policing this morning.The FT reports that he’ll say the G4S fiasco raises “wider questions”.
The pressure has picked up on Lord Green today. The US Senate investigation into money laundering for Mexican drug gangs has released emails that show he knew about the problem in 2005 - two years after being made HSBC’s chief executive. Labour are piling on the pressure - they say he has “serious questions” to answer.
But Dave’s not fazed (yet). He’s got full confidence in the minister. Our story quotes a Downing Street source, saying: “As far as we are concerned, he’s not going anywhere – there are no allegations against him and all this information was already in the public domain.”
The Times leader says it would be interesting to hear “an account of how things at the bank went awry. The issues at stake here go beyond the role banks play in the economy to the role they play in society. Do they facilitate or inhibit crime? Do they enhance or undermine international security?”
Looks like another potential candidate to run the Bank of England has bitten the dust. Are there any left?
And finally, the Mail reports that Dave, Ed and Nick are in good company - House of Commons Library research shows that over the last 30 years there has been an almost fourfold increase in the number of politicians who have never held a significant job outside politics, lobbying or PR.