Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Cameron faces defeat on EU..

Hurricane Sandy made landfall overnight, striking the East Coast of America just south of Atlantic City. For the latest news, read our live coverage which can be found here. 

David Cameron is facing a "trouncing" come tomorrow's EU budget vote according to the Times (£). The Prime Minister risks being outflanked by Labour who may join forces with the Conservative awkward squad to push through an amendment calling for a cut to the EU budget being pushed by Mark Reckless, Mark Pritchard, John Redwood, Bill Cash, Sarah Wollaston and Zac Goldsmith. Labour have not formally announced a decision to support the amendment, but it would sit consistently by yesterday's Times op-ed by Ed Balls and Douglas Alexander.

Fortunately, Britain's last remaining europhile has ridden to the rescue.  Tony Blair has warned that a two speed EU heralds "a path to break-up". The solution? A directly elected EU president, according to Mr Blair. As the Independent notes, however, it is difficult to think of the populist statesman with sufficiently broad appeal who would fill the role, certainly now that Silvio Berlusconi has been sentenced to prison. Perhaps Mr Blair has someone in mind?

At any rate, the break-up of the EU can no longer be resurrected as the bogeyman of British politics. Although still distinctly the minority, increasing numbers at Westminster are coming around to the view of Daniel Hannan who writes in today's Telegraph that:

"Parliamentarians in all three parties know what their constituents think of giving more money to Brussels. They know, too, that there is no dishonour in representing the views of the people who elected them."

Philip Hammond "jumped the gun" in indicating Coalition support for the continuation of Trident, according to Nick Clegg. The Deputy Prime Minister is reported by this morning's Guardian to be "angered" by Mr Hammond's apparent disregard for the Coalition agreement which postpones any decision on the sea-based nuclear deterrent until 2016. Mr Clegg pulled rank on the issue yesterday saying "the coalition agreement is crystal clear: it stands, it will not be changed, it will not be undermined."

Well that told everyone. The fact that Mr Hammond's new £350m investment in Faslane naval base is also a useful gambit for the Unionist team in the Scottish independence debate did not go unnoticed either. The FT (£) reports that Nicola Sturgeon described the sum as "squandered". However, it is not just the Coalition with a Trident problem. As Polly Toynbee writes in the Guardian, Labour must leap onto the fence:

"Is Labour really going to sign up to [this]? Few who know his mind think Ed Miliband will, though he may have to reshuffle his cabinet to abandon Trident... If some cheaper unreality emerges – a bomb in a cupboard – Labour and Lib Dems should both seize it."

As details emerge of Lord Heseltine's report tomorrow on regional economic growth, it becomes increasingly clear that one of the original Big Beasts can still cause quivers of alarm to run down the Whitehall jungle telegraph. The FT (£) reports that Hezza will recommend a significant strengthening of England's 39 local enterprise partnerships and call for greater involvement from businesses in deciding how money is spent. In the Telegraph, Jeremy Warner is sceptical:

"The truth is that most of what has come to be termed 'industrial policy' is a form of protectionism. Yet the real cause of Britain's competitive disadvantage is not that it is a free trade nation, but that it has been too reliant on internal, domestic sources of consumption to fuel demand."

A report published this morning by the Joseph Rowntree Foundationsuggests that Iain Duncan Smith's Universal Credit may actually make the benefits system more complex. The reforms incentivise part-time work, but not full-time roles, fail to simplify emergency loans and risk IT failures, the authors suggest.


So says Lord Ashcroft, writing on ConservativeHome. The peer believes that with the economy on the up and Dave's conference strategy beginning to pay dividends, the existing Tory team is looking more formidable than it has for a while. Don't change a winning formula, he urges:

"I do not think [Mr Crosby] is needed and would become a distracting influence. Cameron and Osborne and their team have started to develop the strategy; Grant Shapps and the incomparable Stephen Gilbert will see that it is put into effect on the ground."


The Coalition's child benefit cuts for higher income families may break European law, the Telegraph reports. Ministers have been warned by the Institute of Chartered Accountants that the changes could fall foul of EU discrimination law. The EU, saviour of middle England? Who would have thought?


The interim statement by Sam Laidlaw found that officials were well aware of flaws in the West Coast Main Line bidding procedure prior to the tendering process, the Telegraph reports. If the flaws had been identified, it raises the question of whether they were deliberately concealed from ministers, or whether the right questions simply were not asked. Awkward questions which may have some awkward answers by the time the full report is published.

Janan Ganesh, writing in today's FT (£) is scathing on the subject of police commissioners, which he sees as a fine idea, poorly executed. The chance for a "defining policy" not characterised by fiscal austerity has been wasted, he argues, adding:

"The idea is authentic Cameron. Long before austerity, in his early years as Tory leader, he espoused a different vision of government: not so much smaller as looser and less centralised. He insisted on the distinction between society and the state, and defined himself not against debt but dirigisme."

Still, he is not quite as scathing as Dominic Lawson is when recounting the career of one aspiring police and crime commissioner. In the
Independent, he reviews the career of John Prescott, warning readers, "don't be surprised if this terrible man triumphs again". A must-read.
Austerity, the final fronteir. With parents losing child beneft and the young struggling, Rachel Sylvester in the 
Times (£) suggests it is time for the elderly to take their share of the Coalition's medicine:
"Tackling the final taboo in politics is long overdue... the number of wealthy pensioners is rising rapidly, with almost 2 million people over 60 in households with assets above £1 million and 988,000 millionaires over 65. Its analysis concludes that the Government is spending about £500 million a year on winter fuel allowance and free bus passes for millionaires. That can’t be right."
That's the advice from Austin Mitchell who took to Twitter yesterday to pronounce his verdict on Louise Mesch's public spat with her husband over her reasons for abandoning her Corby seat half-way through Parliament. The Telegraph reports that Mr Mitchell wrote: 
"Shut up Menschkin. A good wife doesn't disagree with her master in public and a good little girl doesn't lie about why she quit politics."

Mr Mitchell later clarified that he was being "ironic". Harriet Harman has yet to comment.


A senior Bank of England official has claimed that Occupy were morally and intellectually right in targeting the City, according to the Telegraph. Andrew Haldane suggested that the "hard-headed facts...are problems of debt and rising inequality".


At times of austerity, the Coalition is keen to have every arm of government paying its way. Yesterday saw the announcement by Francis Maude that the Cabinet Office is on track to deliver £8bn of savings this year, part of a £20bn austerity drive in the department prior to 2015. However, as the Daily Mail reports, the money saving drive may soon hit Big Ben, which could be let out for use as a film set. The move could apparently garner an additional £3m a year.

Emily Thornberry celebrates 50 years of Bond:

@EmilyThornberry: "Watch last bit of You Only Live Twice. So many unanswered Qs. At what stage in the big volcano fight does Bondgirl change into her bikini?"

ComRes / Independent: Con 33%, Lab 44%, Lib Dem 12%, Other 11%


In The Telegraph

Daniel Hannan - 
A day of judgement looms as the House loses its taste for Brussels 
Philip Johnston - 
The tax wheezes that drive motorists mad
Rupert Short - 
Persecuted throughout the world
Peter Foster - 
Playing politics with a hurricane? Surely not

Best of the Rest
Janan Ganesh in the FT (£) - Another good idea botched by sloppy government

Rachel Sylvester in The Times (£) - 
Think the unthinkable about the untouchables
Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail - 
A lethal arrogance

Polly Toynbee in The Guardian - 
On Trident, Miliband needs to be brave and jump ship

09:30 am: Ofgem and Energy Minister Greg Barker give evidence to the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee on Ofgem's energy tariff proposals. Grimond Room, Portcullis House.

10:00 am: Boris Johnson to launch the largest ever London Poppy Day appeal. HMS Severn - docked at South Quay, Canary Wharf, London.

02:00 pm: Danny Alexander speech to conference on growth. Conference, hosted by Local Government Association, British Property Federation and Local Partnerships, Pinsent Masons, 30 Crown Place, Earl Street.

02:45 pm: Commons Home Affairs Committee takes evidence on localised grooming and e-crime. Witnesses include ACPO and SOCA. Grimond Room, Portcullis House.

03:30 pm: Senior military commanders give evidence to the Commons Defence Committee on Afghanistan. Committee Room 8, House of Commons.