Thursday, 26 July 2012

Morning briefing..


BREAKING:  Vince Cable has just been on the Today programme discussing what the Coalition is planning to do get growth back on track.

He acknowledged that house building and infrastructure investment is needed to boost growth, but insisted that this is “coming through” and that it’s not too little too late.

He also recognised that “there is a link” between spending cuts and growth prospects, but said “right to have budget discipline”.

On his admission last night on Newsnight that he’d be a good Chancellor, he said “he’s not pushing for the job”, and if he were Chancellor he wouldn’t propose a plan “radically different” from George Osborne’s. (But it would be a bit different.) He would “be looking to build on” what George is doing (again, different).

On the accusation that George is a “part-time” Chancellor, Vince said “he’s not doing two jobs,” because “we all contribute to the decisions of the Coalition”. That said, he did say he was a “I’m a full-time Business Secretary”, subtly drawing the pair into to comparison again.


Meanwhile, David Cameron has just given an interview on BBC Breakfast in a sunny Rose Garden. He admits that the “cloud hanging over” the beautiful morning and the Olympics is yesterday’s GDP figures:

“They’re very disappointing figures, and they show extent of damage done to economy in the boom and bust years. We had the biggest budget deficit of almost any country in the world. But it does show that we’ve got to roll up our sleeves and get business going,” he says. He finds room for some optimism on employment: “We have created 800,000 private sector jobs. We’ve lost some public sector jobs as well, but still there are half a million more people working.” We mustn’t “scrap plans to deal with the debt”, he says. So Plan A it is, then.

He’s talking ahead of his speech this afternoon at the Global Investment Conference, in which he’ll be making a case for British business. “We have so much to offer,” he says, pointing to stable government, low business tax, and an entrepreneurial spirit. “We’ve even got good weather,” he adds, and says that our place in European markets but outside the euro is very advantageous.

Asked about the Olympics, he says that Locog was “let down badly” by G4S, but that troops were “always going to be involved” in security for the Games. On the “brand police”, he says, “You can see why the Olympic sponsors have to protect their brand. But you need to have a bit of common sense in how it's applied.”

Oh, and he wants to watch the middle- and long-distance runners. He was a big fan of Coe and Ovett in Moscow 1980, apparently.


And so he’s already started pushing through the horrific GDP headlines today - and they’re really quite something: the FT highlights the “Threat to UK triple A rating”, the Sun calls on him to  “sack work experience Chancellor”, and the Guardian  warns “Osborne reeling as economy enters the disaster zone”. It is potent stuff, but then again, so was yesterday’s 0.7 per cent GDP plunge (the Bank of England is expected to be stepping in with further emergency measures).

The business speech (mentioned above) will be at 10am alongside Vince Cable and Lord Green - hardly the best people to be sharing a stage with. Questions about Lord Green’s involvement in the HSBC scandal are mounting and yesterday, as mentioned above, Vince said he’d make a good chancellor. He insisted that George wouldn’t be replaced, brushing off Lord Oakeshott's call for him to take over, but his comment is a telling admission (those keen for the latest gossip on his game plan should read  Sue Cameron’s column today - more below).

The Times  reports that he’ll “plead” for investment in the UK, making the case for business in front of 180 of the world’s leading chief executives. Apparently, his message will be upbeat about Britain’s outlook, which is brave, given that it’ll contrast so sharply with the GDP figure.

The PM  will also be giving Mitt Romney the “full treatment” at Downing Street. We report that No 10 is trying to make up for snubbing him in America earlier this year. He needs to, not least because - as we report - Mitt’s advisers think he worships Obama, and they’re not pleased.

No doubt there will also be plenty of questions for Mr Cameron to answer on Jerry del Missier’s £8.75 million payoff. You can read more about it here.


There is no shortage of advice for George Osborne in the papers.  Our leader has had it with his double-jobbing: "he devotes too much time to politics and not enough to economics. That is a problem that can only be resolved by the Prime Minister, and it is time he did so."  The Guardian goes further, saying he “now has to make the case for why he is chancellor".

The Mail calls on him to draw up an emergency Budget "to sweep away red tape, slash taxes to stimulate spending, get serious about slimming a bloated state – and get those infrastructure projects moving". Meanwhile, the  FT continues to encourage him to adopt their long-held view that he should relax his deficit-reduction programme and bring forward investment spending.

The Times doesn't offer a specific plan, but urges the government to "revisit all the assumptions that lie behind its economic policy... to set out a plan that retains confidence in the public finances but also finally offers a meaningful agenda for growth."

I suspect whatever they do it’ll be framed in terms of “Plan A”, or an extension thereof, since any substantial change of course would play directly into Ed Balls’ hands.


Could George be reshuffled? Unlikely, but some high-profile characters will be in September, according to Sue Cameron in her column today.

She says there’s some speculation that Vince might step down to make a bid for leader of the Lib Dems (the Lib Dem leader doesn’t have to be in the Cabinet even in coalition, and Nick Clegg could continue to be Deputy PM).

His party is clearly ambitious on his behalf - he’s been encouraged to take over as Chancellor and thought to be in the running for party leadership in the same week.  

Elsewhere in the Coalition, rumour has it that Ken Clarke is on his way out, but won’t go quietly unless he likes his successor (no “bang ‘em ups”, then). George Young is thought to have not done enough to keep his spot. And Michael Gove could be moved to party chairman. (Grant Shapps seems to no longer be the favourite for that role, then.)

If so, Mr Shapps shouldn’t lose heart. Sue Cameron says he, Greg Clark and Chris Grayling are all tipped for promotion.


At an event at Downing Street last night, Dave vowed that he’s still committed to pushing through gay marriage.

The Times reports  that he said: “I am absolutely determined that this Coalition government will follow in that tradition by legislating for gay marriage in this Parliament. I make that point not only as someone who believes in equality but as someone who believes passionately in marriage. If it’s good enough for straight people like me, its good enough for everybody and that’s why we should have gay marriage, and we will.”

After this week’s wind farm fiasco, this will test his backbenchers’ patience. Andrew Pierce  in the Mail goes further, suggesting it could be the end of the Conservative Party: the number of members has fallen below 130,000, a drop of around 60 per cent since Mr Cameron took over.


And finally, the morning briefing is taking a break. Back in a few weeks. Enjoy the summer.


Labour MP Jamie Reed ‏tweets:

“@jreedmp: Anyone know if Mickey 'Handbag' Fallon is on le twitter? Would like him to confirm his 'Handbag' nickname from Tory HQ...”


Latest YouGov/The Sun results: Conservatives 33%, Labour 44%, Lib Dems 9%, UKIP 7%

Overall government approval rating: -39


In The Telegraph

Allister Heath: Britain Unleashed: David Cameron needs a change of heart – and some fire in his belly 

Sue Cameron:  Who among the Tory high command is heading for the reshuffle blues?

Leader:  Bolder action could reverse this slump

Leader:  Broad horizons

Best of the rest

Chris Giles in the FT: Whys, damn whys and statistics

Andrew Pierce in the Mail:  How Mr Cameron's obsession with gay marriage is killing the Tory party

Zoe Williams in the Guardian:  Pro-wind. Anti-wind. It's all so depressingly irrelevant

Steve Richards in the Independent: Time for a new plan or a new Chancellor


Today: The PM will welcome the Olympic Torch to Downing Street

Today: Disabled workers at Remploy factories across the UK stage a second 24-hour strike in protest at factory closures.

Late morning: The PM attends a press conference with Lord Coe

9.45am: Ed Miliband meets Mitt Romney. Leader of the Opposition’s Office, Norman Shaw North, Houses of Parliament

10am: David Cameron, Vince Cable and Lord Green attend the Global Investment Conference. Lancaster House, Stable Yard, St James's, London

11am: Locog daily briefing. Main Press Centre, Olympic Park

11am: Tourism Minister John Penrose outlines the UK’s tourism prospects ahead of the Olympics. 1 Great George Street, London

2pm: David Cameron meets Mitt Romney, Downing Street