Friday, 20 July 2012

Morning briefing..


Last night, senior Tories accused the PCS union of “holding the country to ransom” with its planned strike on the eve of the Olympics . The strike will affect border guards working at Heathrow and other ports of entry - but just a fifth of the union’s 16,000 members voted, with 57 per cent of them in favour, for a total of 11 per cent actively supporting the strike.

Theresa May has accused the unions of attempting to sabotage the Games. She’s written an open letter to border staff asking them to defy the walkout in a dispute. Sources close to one Cabinet minister said the Government is considering legislation to stop unions striking unless more than half their members vote - a move first proposed by Boris Johnson. And ministers might yet need to draft in more troops to fill in these gaps as well.

Boris’s column in the Sun calling on Olympic critics to “put a sock in it, we’re onto a winner” looks harder to get on board with as a result. But the unions aren’t making themselves any friends. Our leader says the strike “will bring shame on Britain”, warning PCS boss Mark Serwotka that if he and other union barons (including Aslef, whose East Midlands Trains drivers are also taking strike action), succeed in disrupting the Olympics, it will not be forgotten - or forgiven.


But Dave and George have far bigger things to worry about. The IMF has warned them that their austerity programme might have to be rethought if growth fails to materialise, jump-starting the ailing economy by slowing down the cuts. This comes just a day after Dave told us at the Telegraph that austerity would last until 2020.

The BBC’s Stephanie Flanders says  the fund’s report will leave George struggling to claim that a stimulus would cause Britain to lose the market’s confidence, as long as spending goes down in the longer term: “The Fund is saying that countries with their own currencies (ie not in the eurozone) don't have to worry too much about international lenders charging them higher interest rates because of increases in government borrowing and/or debt.”

Ed Balls must be delighted. He’s already issued a statement saying it’s “a very serious warning” and that the IMF have all but endorsed his Plan B. But Ms Flanders says: “That is a stretch.” I’m not sure it’ll stop him trying, though.


Dave’s comments about austerity yesterday aren’t the only thing coming back to bite him. His claim that he would never campaign to leave the EU has (predictably) upset his MPs. As  James Kirkup reports, they feel that by taking the option off the table, the PM will find it harder to push other EU leaders to accept a looser British relationship with the rest of Europe.


And the bad news doesn’t stop there for Dave and George. We’ve  got a story on our front page suggesting that Tory voters are turning against them. Research provided by Lord Ashcroft shows that more than a third of people who voted Conservative at the last election have “defected”. But disappointingly for Tory backbenchers, a shift to the Right isn’t the solution.

In a column in the Telegraph,  Mr Ashcroft explains the numbers and outlines a potential strategy for winning voters back. He concludes: “ Many Conservatives, up to and probably including the Prime Minister, are frustrated with coalition politics at Westminster. To be free of it, we must recognise that outside Parliament, all politics is coalition politics. There is a winning coalition still out there for the Tory party – but only if it shows more direction and grip.”


Tory backbenchers will, however, be pleased to see  the FT's splash this morning. It reports that the Coalition's green energy row - which I wrote about my column  in June - has finally erupted. George is blocking Ed Davey's attempts to protect renewable energy subsidies, forcing Mr Davey to cancel an announcement planned for this week.

Mr Davey accepts the case for a 10 per cent cut in the subsidy for onshore wind farms, but George believes it should be steeper. As I wrote, he’s looking for a 25 per cent cut, which could kill onshore wind stone dead.

George (with his strategy hat on) is concerned that voters will be angry if they see their energy bills rise for the sake of fashionable green policies. Not to mention that backbencher Chris Heaton-Harris and 100 Tory MPs wrote to Dave earlier this year to warn him that he faces (another) major rebellion if he fails to tackle this.

The FT says the squabble has been deferred up to Dave and Nick to solve. But Dave will have already known it was brewing. What will he do? Can he risk another Commons defeat? Or the accusation that he’s failed to deliver “the greenest government ever”?


And finally,  Michael Deacon draws our attention to a pressing security threat that Labour councillor Joy Garner seems to be fighting alone. At a Q&A session on crime with Ed Miliband yesterday, Cllr Garner asked:

“Building on the G4S thing... The RoboCop films are an extreme example of where privatisation can go madly wrong. This just seems to be the first step.”  

You can't say you weren't warned...


Ed Balls shows off his cooking skills:

“@edballsmp: Lively 8th birthday party this afternoon - this is my Pirate Ship cake... 


Latest YouGov/The Sun results: Conservatives 34%, Labour 42%, Lib Dems 9%, UKIP 7%

Overall government approval rating: -34


In The Telegraph

Fraser Nelson:  Wall Street is ready to pounce on the City, and we must defend it

Jeremy Warner: Britain needs privatisation more than ever

Michael Ashcroft:  The coalition David Cameron and the Conservatives need is in the country, not the Commons

Leader: The Olympic strike will bring shame on Britain

Best of the rest

Polly Toynbee in the Guardian:  Anna's charity was bid candy for the Work Programme. Now it's bankrupt

Philip Collins in the Times:  Not being a loser doesn’t make you a leader

Colin Mayer in the Financial Times:  Why ‘short-termism’ is the bane only of British companies

Laurie Penny in the Independent: One big happy family. Just don't put a foot wrong


9.30am: Public sector borrowing figures for June are published by the Office for National Statistics

9.45am: Nick Clegg launches a national scheme to help young people not in education, employment or training. Full Circle Learning, Unit K, The Crofts, Quarry Hill

10am: Boris Johnson unveils the first Team London Ambassador Pod. Bishops Square, Spitalfields, London

11am:  LONDON: LOCOG/IOC daily briefing. Main Press Centre, Olympic Park