Thursday, 6 September 2012

Cameron's building..

BREAKING: David Cameron was just on Daybreak. 

On the Cabinet reshuffle, he denied causing the ministers he sacked to cry. He also stressed that there are as many women in the Cabinet (four) as there were before. 

On the burglar shooting case, he said burglary is a “violent and despicable crime” and that while he had not seen the full case in question, burglars should go to prison. 

He also lavished praise on his wife, but said she’s unlikely to take the stage like Michelle Obama because she’s “not obsessed with politics”. 

Meanwhile, Nick Clegg was on Today. He said the country is not building enough new homes and that government will direct major resources at the problem. The new legislation provides for Government guarantees of up to £40 billion of major infrastructure projects and up to £10 billion for new homes. 

On Heathrow, he said “our position is very clear”. There will be no consent for a third runway from Clegg. 


David Cameron and Nick Clegg will appear together later to present their proposals for relaxing planning rules to stimulate housing growth. The opening salvo is our splash today, and briefed elsewhere too, namely that there will be a temporary suspension on rules governing home extensions.

Current restrictions will be lifted until 2015, allowing homeowners to double the size of their proposed extension, and without having to go through a cumbersome application process. The hope is that it will act as a useful turbo boost to the building industry. Mr Cameron will reinforce the point by visiting a building site.

Dig deeper though and interesting themes are emerging from the reshuffle, which has proved to be more revealing and worthy of dissection than we initially realised. Forget a U-turn on Heathrow, a more significant one is being prepared it seems: the Guardian mentions that the fiscal pressure on the Chancellor is such that ministers say the ring-fence around Health and International Development spending can no longer hold. The appointment of Jeremy Hunt and Justine Greening to those posts should be seen as the precursor to abandoning the Tory pledge to protect spending in those areas. Now that would be sport.


One of the most interesting titbits to land in the papers is James Forsyth’srevelation in the Spectator that Dave made three of his ministers cry. Sam Coates’s piece in the Times is packed with juicy details. 

Apparently, Cheryl Gillan and Bob Neill were two of the folk to burst into tears (although there are conflicting accounts).  

Dominic Raab and Ben Wallace turned down offers to be in the Whips Office - sources are warning that this rules them out of promotions in future. 

Caroline Spelman is said to have openly challenged the PM’s decision to sack her from the Environment brief, demanding a full explanation. When the PM suggested that the botched sell-off of State-owned forests was the driving factor, Mrs Spelman turned the tables on him, blaming him for agreeing the sale in the first place and then unexpectedly announcing the U-turn at the dispatch box.

Justine Greening is understood to have shouted at Dave, and Baroness Warsi turned down both the Commonwealth and Equalities brief. 

Must have been pretty brutal (no wonder Dave’s thinking about “butch” behaviour). He’s upset a lot of folk despite now trying to squeeze an extra nine seats around the Cabinet table (he’s created 32 jobs  despite there only being 23 full places). He has also dished out honours to placate others. You can read the full list of ministers post-reshuffle here


Despite keeping his job, Michael Gove is also thought to be unhappy. He put on a display of chumminess yesterday, sharing a car with his new deputy David Laws and ushering the Lib Dem into No 10 ahead of him. We were assured that they are best mates. But the Times (£) reports great unhappiness among Mr Gove's friends that he has been saddled with a potential meddler in the place of the more placid Sarah Teather.


The Heathrow fudge-o-rama rattles on. This morning’s FT (£) report that any decision on a third runway has been shelved until after the 2015 election. The decision perturbed Boris Johnson who has become increasingly vocal in his disgruntlement. According to the Mayor of London, the hesitation was: “A fudge that will cost business dear.”

Both Labour and the Conservatives have committed to the Davies enquiry on London’s airport capacity, but with Cameron assuring the House of Commons yesterday that he “will not break his manifesto pledge”, there is unlikely to be any movement in the life of this parliament.


All this drama got me thinking yesterday, does this Rightward shift mark the end of Tory modernisation? Old fashioned Toryism looks to be back in action (Greg Knight is back in the Whips' Office, for goodness sake). Climate change is in the hands of a sceptic, Heathrow in play, Justine Greening has been sidelined, Nick Herbert has left. 

Suddenly, Steve Hilton's departure is explained. Mr Cameron will doubtless deny that modernisation has been dropped, but I wonder if we will look back at this reshuffle as the moment when the Prime Minister went Tory on us. You can read more on my blog here


Meanwhile, on the other side of the political fence, Ed Miliband and Ed Balls are due to make a joint appearance at the London Stock Exchange (Mr Miliband is speaking at 11.15am). Bosom buddies, you see. Mr Balls makes this point emphatically in an interview with the Indy today. He says: "There is no argument or row…neither Ed nor I are being soft on bank regulation…"

Still no detail until next year, though. Mr Balls does make it clear that he is not keen on Vince’s mansion tax (he wants something more aggressive - a “serious” proposal for a high-value property tax, not a one-off). He is keen on the Business Secretary himself, however. He has already started talks with him. Mr Balls said:

"The person thinking seriously about this was not Nick Clegg but Vince Cable. I feel for Vince and the extent of his frustration [with the Coalition]…but if he wants to channel those frustrations into discussions about how we can achieve growth and jobs in the future I'll start discussions with him tomorrow".

Dave must be very pleased he put Michael Fallon and Matthew Hancock in BIS to keep an eye on Vince now. 


But Mr Balls isn’t the only one giving interviews. Mr Miliband has given one to the New Statesmen revealing that he is a Zen-like creature (clearly doesn’t care for the “butch” qualities the PM thinks he should have). 

He told the magazine that he didn’t take his phone on holiday, read the papers or watch the news. He told people that if they wanted to contact him, they would have to call his wife, Justine. 


Mr Miliband needs Zen when it comes to picking up sticky issues for Labour - namely immigration. And Frank Field isn’t making it much easier for him. He’s teamed up with Nicholas Soames to rail against mass immigration in the Mail and the Sun


The reshuffle has left green Tories feeling nervous. A report in today’s FT(£) quotes one saying:

“A number of us are concerned at Owen Paterson going to Defra and John Hayes going to energy...We are not sure where the Prime Minister stands now.”

Tim Yeo is also quoted lamenting that it would be “electorally harmful” for the Conservatives to drop their interest in a low carbon economy. TheIndependent, meanwhile, details how the Lib Dems are unhappy at the arrival of sceptics into the green swamp. Although green issues have long divided the grassroots and parts of the parliamentary party, this is the first sign of a green fault line between Conservatives and Lib Dems at cabinet level.


Following the chorus of boos which greeted George Osborne’s star turn as a dispenser of medals at the Paralympics, aides from No 10 have confirmed that the Prime Minister will not be following him. 

Meanwhile, Ed Miliband has added oil to the fire. He is quoted in today’sDaily Mail saying that the jeering crowd “spoke for Britain”. Only Jeremy Hunt (who will, no doubt, prove popular) and Hugh Robertson are still due to hand out medals. 


Former tax exile and millionaire party donor Lord Ashcroft has joined the government as David Cameron’s veterans’ tsar. (You can read theTelegraph’s report here). It is not yet clear whether Lord Ashcroft will be paid, answer questions in the House of Lords, or even have a desk at the Ministry of Defence. Civil servants promise details will be “ironed out” in the coming days. More “building in process” then? Jeez. 


And finally, with an economy to fix who could blame George for choosing to start his morning with a jog around St James’s Park as he did yesterday? (There’s rather sweaty photo available here). The mood of quiet solitude, however, was dented when the photographers detected two close protection officers following him in a Land Rover. Oh dear. 


Tom Harris is less than impressed with David Cameron’s choice of put-down for Ed Balls’ coffee bearer:

“@TomHarrisMP Seriously? We're using "butch" as a compliment now, and not in a vaguely ironic Village People kind of way? #youcanhangoutwithalltheboys”


In The Telegraph

Jeremy Warner: Boo the Tories all you like but they're right about saving the economy 

Sue Cameron: Whitehall's new boys given a helping hand

Chris Skidmore: The new Jerusalem should look like Palo Alto

Leader: Dither, not decision, on airport expansion

Best of the rest

Stephen Glover in the Mail: Is there a secret reason why Cameron has promoted a minister who should’ve been sacked for misconduct months ago? 

Andrew Gimson in the Guardian: David Cameron: a leader with no direction 

Camilla Cavendish in the Times (£): Hunt for health - it's a gamble worth taking 

Joan Smith in the Independent: We need female ministers not political wives 


Today: Michael Gove and the Institute of Physics announces the continuation of a scheme to recruit physics teachers

Today: Vince Cable is to visit Honda to mark twenty years of production at the company's plant in Swindon

10am: Boris Johnson meets Team London Ambassadors and Locog Games Makers to thank them for their service. Peninsular Square, North Greenwich Arena, London

10.30am: Business, Innovation and Skills questions

11am: Home Office Permanent Secretary Dame Helen Ghosh and Theresa May give evidence to MPs on the Olympics security row. Committee room 15, House of Commons, Westminster

11.15am: Ed Miliband speech at the Policy Network’s "Quest for Growth" conference. He will be joined afterwards by Ed Balls for a question and answers section. The London Stock Exchange, 10 Paternoster Square

12pm: The Bank of England announces its decision on interest rates and quantitative easing 

6.30pm: George Osborne gives a speech to the CBI Scotland dinner. Hilton Hotel, 1 William Street