Friday, 9 November 2012

Balls secures fuel duty debate..

The Chancellor faces the unwelcome prospect of having to defend a scheduled 3p rise in fuel duty after Labour forced a vote, scheduled for next week, on delaying the increase. As the Telegraph reports, Ed Balls is the mastermind of this particular wheeze which he argues could be paid for by more diligent tax collection. The Treasury will be loathe to lose the estimated £350m revenue boost, but having been bounced into Commons defeat by Labour over the EU budget, the Whip's Office may fancy persuading Tory backbenchers to join the war on the motorist even less.
The Guardian names the former Tory official who has wrongly been subject to trial by Twitter this morning. Lord Alistair McAlpine, the former party treasurer under Margaret Thatcher, has always strenuously denied the allegations, and the paper says that the offences were in fact committed by a different person with the same name. Lord macalpine was a victim of mistaken identity.
The Prime Minister faced trial by Schofield yesterday after This Morning presenter Phillip Schofield passed Dave a list of names he claimed were being connected with child abuse on social networks. Mr Cameron, who had been hoping for a soft morning which would help him reconnect with women voters, warned of a "witch hunt, particularly against people who are gay", as the Independent reports. Mr Schofield later apologised but Dave's morning had long been ruined.   Our leader takes the view that the Prime Minister only has himself to blame for a difficult morning:
"There is something faintly patronising about politicians choosing these supposedly easy-touch programmes hoping to show voters what nice people they are. Mr Cameron’s appearance came in a week when he had pointedly declined to take journalists with him on an important visit to the Gulf, something his predecessors did not do. No 10 needs to get its priorities right. If he has come unstuck, he has only himself – and his advisers – to blame."
In one of those funny coincidences that make the world go around, the Guardian story naming the Conservative politician at the centre of the recent Twitter allegations is accompanied by another piece noting Conservative politicians calling for curbs to press freedoms. The 42 Tory MPs and two peers who have written to the Guardian include Caroline Spelman and Sir Malcolm Rifkind. They blame a public interest test which has been "too elastic" for press abuses and call for a more stringent definition.
Eric Pickles is a Wagner fan who idolises Oscar Wilde's comic creation Lady Bracknell, according to Ephraim Hardcastle in the Mail which suggests he is unfairly presented as an "oaf" by Tory high command. One group who will be feeling less complimentary about the Local Government Secretary this morning is council bosses. In a Telegraph op-ed, Mr Pickles says he will put an end to the era of "golden goodbyes":
"The message we’re sending to Chief Execs is simple. You need to be able to look people in the eye. You need to remember your responsibilities as guardians of public money. It’s time to spend less on super salaries and more on super services."
Half the British population want to leave the EU, according to this morning's Telegraph which cites a YouGov poll. Dave might be forgiven if he felt the same way this morning after an unproductive day at the negotiating table with Angela Merkel. The Germans want Britain to stump up another £400m according to the Sun, a proposal which had a snowball in Hell's chance of being adopted. As the Times (£) reports, Downing Street's focus now switches to building a coalition with the Nordic block and the Netherlands.
Chris Grayling has raised the spectre of quitting the ECHR if a "new relationship" cannot be forged after the next election. Talking toConservativeHome he issued a rallying call to the party base, thundering: "well, again, I'm not ruling it in and not ruling it out". Take that, judges.
Britain's backlog of asylum cases now stands at 300,000, the equivalent of the population of Iceland, the Sun reports, helpfully clarifying that it means "the country, not the shop". The Commons Home Affairs Committee say that the 26,000 have joined the queue in the last three months and the backlog is currently growing at 280 cases a day. All under control, then.
Glyn Davies strikes a serious note for a change, rebuking Philip Schofield:
@GlynDaviesMP: "Because Paedophilia is so awful a crime, treating accusations casually is irresponsible. Philip Schofield should be very ashamed of himself."
In the Telegraph
Best of the rest
Philip Stephens in the FT (£) - The world crowds in on Obama's second term
Philip Collins in The Times (£) - Our twin dangers: cynicism and nostalgia
Today: Transport Minister Stephen Hammond launches consultation on proposals to increase the HGV speed limit.