Chris Heaton-Harris is in a spot of bother after the Guardian splashed on conversations he had with undercover Greenpeace operatives. Mr Heaton-Harris, coordinating the Tory byelection bid in Corby, apparently promed to provide "a handful of people who will sort him out" to anti-windfarm campaigner James Delingpole. At the time Mr Delingpole was mulling standing for the Corby seat. The deputy chairman of Mr Heaton-Harris' constituency party later resigned to become Mr Delingpole's election agent. The latter announced he would not stand in Corby following John Hayes' comments about windfarms.
Mr Heaton-Harris has admitted to "boasting" about matters over which he had "no control". Even so, his remarks on Mr Hayes' position are revealing:
"He's a man in a department which absolutely hates him [but] there's enough support in Cabinet to keep him there and at the moment it's quite active on the issue."
Of course, as Mr Heaton-Harris pointed out, Mr Delingpole never paid a deposit and was never a candidate.You might say that the scheme, if there was one, was merely a way of drawing attention to what was a naturally evolving change in the Tory position, as evidenced by what John Hayes has said, not least yesterday on the limit for on-shore windfarms being reached (see Telegraph report).
GLOOM FOR OSBORNE
Having begun yesterday with a call to the sunlit uplands of equality and fraternity between all, George Osborne would have ended it rather despondently. Inflation jumped from 2.2pc to 2.7pc on the CPI measure, fuelled by the trebling of tuition fees and rising food prices, as theTelegraph reports. Higher prices on the high street will hit consumer spending at just the wrong time for the Chancellor, as he seeks to prove that the 1pc GDP growth in the last quarter was no fluke.
Consumer confidence, dented already by the news on inflation, could be further hit when George takes up the axe once more in the Autumn Statement. The Guardian reports that Iain Duncan Smith will present the options for further cuts to ministers including Mr Osborne this week, in time for inclusion in his statement on December 5th. IDS is looking to identify where a further £6bn of welfare cuts to be made in 2015/16 while George is eyeing a further £10bn saving by 2016/17, as I noted inmy column yesterday.
REINSTATING MARRIED COUPLES TAX BREAKS LIKE IT'S 1999
George's promotion of gay marriage yesterday was a "dangerous game" according to the Telegraph's leader, which accuses the Chancellor of "political posturing". Worse still for Mr Osborne is the news that 15 Tory backbenchers seem to have a rather more conservative approach to lifestyles. A letter to the Telegraph signed by Tim Loughton, Sir Gerald Howarth, Nick de Bois and Priti Patel, among others, call for tax breaks for married couples. The Great Progressive clearly still has work to do. The allowance was scrapped in 1999, but the MPs argue that promoting the nuclear family is essential in tackling social breakdown, and point to figures from America showing that the marital status of parents is a greater determinant of wealth than their education level. That said, even two parent families will not be better off under Nick Clegg's new flexible working rules, Jill Kirby writes in today's Telegraph:
"If the Government really wants to facilitate such choice, and improve the lives of families, it should focus its attention on the cost of living. Keeping a lid on inflation, and cutting wasteful public spending in order to fund tax allowances for working families would be a more helpful course of action than piling new regulation on to businesses and damaging parents' job prospects."
CAMERON POSTPONES EUROPEAN VOW
Dave will pledge an in/out referendum on European Union membership, once he stops postponing the announcement, the Sun reports. The paper claims tha the Prime Minister had intended to deliver the promise at October's conference, and will definitely do so by the end of January. The reason for the delay? He doesn't want to upset other European leaders, although I think it is the content rather than the timing which will raise hackles in Brussles.
BERCOW IN CRONYISM ROW
Four of the five MPs sitting on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority will not extend their contracts amid a row over the influence of John Bercow. Sir Scott Baker, Jackie Ballard, Ken Olisa and Professor Isobel Sharp will all stand down in January as, in the Mail's words, they are "deeply unhappy about Mr Bercow's demand that they re-apply for their jobs in a process overseen by a former MP [Peter Atkinson] who repeatedly voted to block publication of MPs expenses".
SAVE BRITAIN: WEAR A TIE
Writing in the Telegraph, Iain Martin argues that the Prime Minister popping a button on his shirt midway through the Lord Mayor's Banquet is the least of his sartorial worries. Instead, it is the trend for tieless politicians which threatens to drag this country into the abyss:
"I am not suggesting ties should be mandatory at all times. Men need not wear them in the shower, or when jogging. But these are serious times... Britain is up against all manner of countries with hundreds of millions of ambitious workers who will do anything for a bit of growth – including dressing appropriately if asked to. Gentlemen, this country is in a hole. Put on a tie."
Earl Ferrers has passed away after half a century of service in the House of Lords. The 13th Earl topped the ballot to remain when all but 92 hereditary peers were removed by Labour in 1999. The Telegraph's obituary can be read here.
THE DAILY DORRIES
The Member of Parliament for Mid Bedfordshire was "put to the testes", as the Sun would have it, last night. Nadine emerged victorious from an eat off with Helen Flaneggan, having put away a lamb testicle, a baked spider, a camel toe and an ostrich anus. Her only failure was with a fermented duck egg. If you can find a tabloid without a "Go Nads!" headline this morning, you're doing well.
TWEETS AND TWITS
Claire Perry has been burning the candle at both ends:
@claire4devizes: "Don't think there is enough concealer in the world to cove my under-eye circles tonight
In the Telegraph
David Willetts - Defend universities - but celebrate them too
Jill Kirby - Clegg's not going to give her a helping hand
Iain Martin - Our tie-less brigade deserves a dressing down
Best of the rest
Daniel Finkelstein in The Times (£) - Wild, dangerous paranoia has no place here
Sebastian Mallaby in the FT (£) - Europe is messing up Merkel's union
Simon Jenkins in The Guardian - Bureacracy has become the BBC's dieback disease
Ian Birrell in the Daily Mail - There is something profoundly wrong with a Britain where only the 'little people' pay taxes
TODAY: Commons in recess.
08:10 am: Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to join Eurostar's 18th Birthday celebrations. St Pancras International Station, on the Eurostar Platforms.
10:00 am: Education Secretary Michael Gove speech on exam reform at Independent Academies Association autumn conference. Also speaking are former schools minister Lord Adonis and shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg. Adonis speech 1015, Twigg 1415 and Gove 1445.
10:30 am: Bank of England publishes its quarterly forecasts for GDP and inflation.
10:30 am: Culture Secretary Maria Miller makes her first speech as Women and Equalities Minister. The Deloitte Academy, Deloitte LLP, Stonecutter Court, 1 Stonecutter St.
12:30 pm: David Cameron bilateral talks with PM Yingluck Shinawatra of Thailand. 10 Downing Street.