Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Public concern on EU deepening..

The third and final presidential debate has finished in the US. You can read our minute-by-minute coverage here. Tim Stanley says that "Romeny won the third presidential debate - and how he did so was encapsulated in a single exchange," read his verdict here.

William Hague will use a speech in Berlin today to warn that Britain's relationship with Europe is at its lowest ebb in decades, with public unhappiness "the deepest it has ever been", according to the  Telegraph . The Foreign Secretary will seek to impress upon Angela Merkel that the British government has little option but to stick to its guns over a freeze in EU real-terms spending ahead of November's budget summit, given domestic hostility to Europe. The Prime Minister yesterday appeared to reject Mrs Merkel's compromise deal of a spending cap of 1 per cent of GDP, insisting that it was unreasonable for the budget to rise ahead of inflation. It's not as though he really has a choice - as the Independentreports, anything else would cause havoc at home.

FT (£) confirms that Mr Hague is pushing ahead with the Coalition's "mammoth" audit by Whitehall departments of their relationship with Brussels which will touch on the economic impact of the single market, tax policy, health policy, foreign policy, international development and, um, animal welfare and food safety. The reports will be published by July next year. 

With Germany not budging on budgeting, and Ed Miliband caught without a policy for fear of alienating his newly pliant parliamentary party, Mr Cameron and Mr Hague have an opportunity to set the long term course of Britain's relationship with Europe. But while direction of travel is becoming increasingly clear, the question is whether Europhile Conservatives will go along with it. In any case, whatever Mr Hague promises, the right wing of the party already has a new hero. As Paul Goodman writes in the
 Telegraph , Theresa May is "on manoeuvres", and many MPs are starting to see shade of Margaret Thatcher in the Home Secretary...


Yesterday's criminal justice announcement by the Prime Minister was broadly welcomed in the morning papers. The criticism took a familiar form, though. The rhetoric was impressive, but leader writers, jaded by the festival of promises that is conference season, will believe it when they see it. As the 
Telegraph puts it:

"It is tempting for a prime minister in trouble to reach for the comfort blanket of law-and-order policy...yet words are just that; achieving the goals that successive prime ministers have identified as worthy of pursuit is another matter altogether."
Which isn't to say that tough talk pleases all of the people, all of the time. Polly Toynbee pops up in this morning's 
Guardian to remind us that crime rates are already falling and that "each plod on the pavement will only come within 100m of a crime in every eight years", which just goes to show that you can't please all of the people, all of the time - and you can't please some of the people at all.

Dave must sometimes wonder where it's all going wrong. Helpfully, theSun numbers yesterday's three "own goals" for the Prime Minister. The paper harangues Mr Cameron for his "petulant" defence of Andrew Mitchell in the Commons, for failing to fire Andrew Robathan in December after he compared medals for war heroes to gongs handed out by military dictatorships, something he avoided because "of the fuss [Mr Robathan] would have made" according to an unnamed insider, and finally it includes Dave's appearance next to In The Thick Of It star Rebecca Front on ITV's The Agenda last night. The paper's leader column thunders:

"If Ed Miliband feels cheerful today, who can blame him? Labour's 13-point lead over the Tories...is down to Tory arrogance and incompetence."
Sun stablemate the 
Times (£) does not think the situation is quite as dire as that for the Conservatives: their Populus poll shows the party pulling back Labour's advantage to only five points. The Guardian has a separate ICM poll this morning which gives Labour an eight point advantage. More worryingly for the Conservatives, it shows the Tory advantage on the economy slipping away, although with the two parties between them averaging less than 30 per cent each in terms of economic trust, it seems a case of 'least bad' with the economy, rather than "best".


One place where there is a clear winner from today's polls is Corby, former seat of Twitter's Louise Mensch. Unfortunately for the Conservatives, it's a 
22 point lead for the Labour party over the incumbents. #losing, as Louise might put it.


Freed from the shackles of Parliamentary hours, Mrs Mensch has been free to 
tweet through the US presidential debates. Sadly, we may be denied her running commentary on our own election debates. Although the Guardian reports that only the format remains to be agreed upon and the debates will go ahead, Nick Robinson, writing in the Times (£), argues that the Conservatives were burned by Cleggmania last time and will use the Coalition arrangement to avoid a repeat. The Tories are also worried about how they can legitimately exclude UKIP if the party wins the 2014 European elections, and over an extended series of debates "sucking the Oxygen" from the rest of the election campaign. If it's televisual drama you're after, you may have to stick with Homeland for the time being...

Norman Green has resigned as the Conservative's chief operating officer, the Telegraph reports. Mr Green was brought in "to help streamline" the party's headquarters operation after the 2010 elections and is leaving as he feels he has finished the job, although Guido Fawkes claims there was also a blazing row withco-chairman Andrew Feldman. He will not be replaced when he leaves in December. Perhaps Mr Green might be available for a move to Number 10 where the machine has been accused of malfunctioning badly in recent days. Patrick Wintour of the 
Guardianis the latest to claim that the message is getting mangled prior to transmission:

"The worrying aspect for Tory MPs is 'what is happening out there' is being obscured by what is happening in No 10... there is a three dimensional structural problem - within the Conservative party itself, between coalition parties, and between the political class and civil service - that leads to so many mistakes."

And finally... this morning's Mandrake column names George Osborne's ticket-gate aide as Poppy Mitchell-Rose. She should not be a stranger to the ticketing requirements in first-class, the Daily Mail named her as one of Britain's "most powerful posh people under 30" last year.

Glyn Davies with some timely advice for the Chancellor:

"Old resident of W'pool asked in 1950s why someone so wealthy travelled 3rd class. He replied 'Cos there's no 4th class. Its why I'm wealthy'"


Populus/Times: Con 35%, Lab 40%, Lib Dem 9%, Other 16%

Today's Morning Briefing was edited by Thomas Pascoe.


In The Telegraph

Paul Goodman - Mrs May might - why Tories are tipping Theresa May for the very top

Philip Johnston - 
There's nothing intelligent about this injustice

Anders Fogh Rasmussen - Nato's plan is working in Afghanistan

Martin Bell - The loss of nerve at the once brave BBC is nightmarish. It must stop playing safe. It must learn to take risks again.

Best of the rest

Dominic Lawson in The Independent - Police and press are at war with the PM. Mitchell was just a pretext

Rachel Sylvester in The Times (£) - To govern is to choose. Fudge won't work

Robin Harris in the Daily Mail - Dave can win back the blue collar Tories - if he follows Maggie's lead

Janan Ganesh in the FT (£) - Cameron needs to rediscover his political instincts


TODAY: Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announcement on community sentences. David Cameron to host a supply chain finance roundtable with leading UK companies.

09:30 am: Commons Energy Committee takes evidence from EDF, Scottish Power and campaigners on nuclear new build. Grimond Room, Portcullis House. 

12:00 am: Education Secretary Michael Gove to give a speech to the Politeia think tank. St Stephen's Club, 34 Queen Anne's Gate. 

03:15 pm: Business Secretary Vince Cable speech to TUC green industry conference. Green is Good for Growth. Congress House, Great Russell Street.