Tuesday, 16 October 2012

European arrest warrant divisions..

BREAKING NEWS: Former Home Secretary Charles Clarke has defended the European Arrest Warrant in a debate with predecessor Michael Howard on the Today programme. Mr Clarke argued that the Coalition were wrong to propose an opt-out which would include the warrant as it "ensures we do not have to go through a massive exradition process". Lord Howard said that the warrent needed much greater public debate than it had so far recieved:
"I'm not saying that we should definitely not opt back in, it's something we have to consider."


The countdown to the Scottish independence referendum has begun. As the 
Telegraph reports, the Prime Minister has refused Alex Salmond’s challenge to a televised debate. Perhaps he ought to send Nick Clegg. The extension of the franchise to 16-year-olds will definately not become a permanent part of the British political landscape the Guardian reports today. Another one of Mr Clegg’s manifesto pledges that won’t become law.

The heart and the head are on display in the leader columns this morning. The Times (£) praises Mr Cameron’s negotiations so far, while theTelegraph stresses the need to make a positive case for the status-quo. TheMail, meanwhile, hails a "precious marriage which must survive". 

The commentariat have already called the referendum in favour of the Union. Writing in the Independent , Steve Richards argues that referendums are constantly threatening to great changes and thunderous debate without ever delivering. In the FT (£), Janan Ganesh adds that unionist pragmatism will win the day:

"Mr Cameron has ignored the high-minded advice and instead painstakingly ground down the nationalists on matters of economic substance... Even the unionists’ choice of unofficial frontman embodies their practical approach. Alistair Darling is the least lyrical of politicians [but] brings a forensic command of economic issues."

In the Times (£), Rachel Sylvester hopes that the Prime Minister does not get a likeing for referendums. An in/out poll on Europe would be a different beast, she argues:

"It would also create a political nightmare for Mr Cameron. He would have to campaign to stay in the EU under the terms of his brilliant new deal — which would infuriate Eurosceptics ... One senior figure admits 'this could tear the Tory party apart'."

Conservatives squabbling internally over Europe? Perish the thought.


Theresa May will make an announcement later today on the fate of Gary McKinnon, the computer hacker who faces extradition to the USA. As theTelegraph reports, Mr McKinnon’s constituency MP, David Burrowes, has pledged to resign from his position as a Owen Paterson's PPS if the extradition goes ahead, with a friend saying that he "can’t have blood on his hands". The Government has been desperately seeking a compromise agreement which would allow Mr McKinnon to be tried in the USA but serve his sentence in Britain, a position which would allow both David Cameron and Nick Clegg to claim they have acted consistently given their expressions of concern in opposition.


The pay MPs receive could leap to £90,000 following yesterday’s publication of an independent parliamentary standards authority report into wages. Ipsa, which publishes its full recommendations in the spring, wants to link MPs earning to average salaries, as we report.  Given the demands of the job, the suggested multiple - 1.5x to 4x average wages - does not seem unreasonable. As I  point out in my Telegraph column:

"A Hansard Society survey last year found that most new MPs took a 30 per cent pay cut when they entered Parliament, that they work a 70-hour week, and that the demands of working in two places – constituency and Westminster – have had a 'devastating' impact on their family life. We can jeer, but we get the politics we pay for. Peanuts? Monkeys."

A better salary is only any use if you have a parliamentary seat to fight for, however. At least George Osborne will not have worry on that score. It was announced yesterday that his Tatton constituency would survive boundary reforms intact.Of course, the great seat cull must still pass a parliamentary vote, and Polly Toynbee, writing in today’s Guardian, argues that the Lib Dems would be mad to accept a ‘cash for seats’ deal from the Conservatives:

"Superficially, the boundary changes look fair, cutting the number of Commons seats by 50 – highly popular – and strictly ironing out all seats to some 76,000 voters per constituency. The rigid formula ignores all natural communities that the boundary commission used to honour – creating one seat crossing the Tamar, to a West Country outrage that metropolitan Cameron failed to understand when he replied casually that it's 'not the Amazon'."


Theresa May’s plan to offer MPs a vote on an opt-out of more than 130 police and justice measures currently regulated by Brussels will cost millions, the Telegraph reports. Britain will seek to opt-out of all EU judicial cooperation en bloc, although it is not clear yet which measures it would seek to re-enter by way of special negotiation. EU officials have said that any British withdrawal will require payments to cover "administration". The Times (£) says that while these payments may not be a meaningful amount, the process of renegotiating membership in certain areas  could be painful:

"Bulgaria and Romania, for instance, might pressure the Prime Minister into easing restrictions on freedom of movement into the UK in return for their support."

The Lib Dems have been quick to make political capital at the expense of the Home Secretary. The Guardian reports that one of Nick Clegg’s aides has circulated private briefings condemning Mrs May’s decision which was described as an "open goal" for the party.

It is not just the Lib Dems giving up on the Conservatives over Europe. The mood seems to be catching. The Germans have given up on Britain. Angela Merkel is reported to have decided that her diplomatic energies are best reserved for the euro crisis. The Mail adds that Chancellor Merkel has taken to likening Dave and the British to Stalter and Waldorf - the grumpy muppets always grumbling from the sidelines.


In a Telegraph op-ed, Lizz Truss puts the blame squarely on her predecessors for the shortcomings of the childcare system. The Minister for Childcare and Education writes that:

"High childcare costs are putting British mothers off going out to work. It really is that simple. Eurostat figures show that 66 per cent of mothers in the UK work, less than France (72 per cent), Denmark (86 per cent), the Netherlands (78 per cent) or Germany (72 per cent). This not only damages Britain’s economic prosperity – it limits women’s careers and squeezes family incomes. It would be fine if this was the choice parents wanted to make, but it isn't. Half of those surveyed wanted to go to work and the expense of childcare was one of the key reasons they couldn’t."


The Independent reports that the Prime Minister withheld dozens of emails from the Leveson Inquiry after seeking personal legal advice. While the inquiry did agree not to publish irrelevant correspondence between Mr Cameron and Mrs Brooks which it received from News International, no such arrangement was reached with Number 10, which may have been a decisive factor in the Prime Minister’s decision on what to disclose.


Two pieces of good news for the mop-haired one in today’s papers. Firstly the people of Liverpool appear to have forgiven him his indiscretions. He topped a poll of potential Prime Ministers in the city, according to the Sun. Better yet, in the Telegraph, Mandrake reports that Arnold Schwarzenegger believes that Boris will lead the country one day. Even so, Arnie is careful not to burn his bridges with the incumbent:

"'I think David is doing a really great job,' [he said]. 'I've spent a lot of time with him, and I can tell you that he is a very, very, funny man.' Not just a prime minister, but, like David Brent, an all-round entertainer."


An independent Scotland might not look that different, as Denis MacShane points out:

@DenisMacShane: "So an indie Scotland would a) have Queen b) £ c) nukes d) BoE interest rates e) no border controls f) FCO g) Salmond. Isn't that Britain?" 


In The Telegraph

Benedict Brogan - However much they jeer, voters get the politicians they pay for 

Philip Johnston - Europhiles have only themselves to blame

Telegraph View - Scotland’s decision matters to everyone 

Elizabeth Truss - Squeezed parents cannot afford childcare

Best of the rest

Steve Richards in The Independent - Referendums: more about opportunism than real need

Janan Ganesh in the FT (£) - The head not the heart will decide Scotland’s future

Rachel Sylvester in The Times (£) - Scotland, fine. But an EU vote is a huge risk 

Polly Toynbee in The Guardian - A Lib Dem double backflip now would be madness


TODAY: Home Secretary Theresa May expected to announce her decision on the extradition of computer hacker Gary McKinnon. Second presidential debate. Inflation numbers for September will be published today, these will determine the level at which benefits are set next year.Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will seek to introduce principle of negligence into health and safety law.

10:30 am: Ministers Francis Maude, David Willetts and Norman Baker address the Lords Science and Technology Committee on public procurement. Committee Room 4, House of Lords.

11: 00 am: Prime Minister meets President elect of Mexico. 10 Downing Street.

02:45 pm: Home Affairs Select Committee takes evidence on the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report. Witnesses: David Crompton, Chief Constable, South Yorkshire Police; Lord Falconer of Thoroton QC, Margaret Aspinall and Trevor Hicks, Hillsborough Family Support Group and Hillsborough Justice Campaign Committee Room 15.

03:35 pm: Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander gives evidence on the implications of Scottish independence to the Lords Economic Affairs Committee. Committee Room 1, House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW.