Monday, 12 November 2012

Patten fights for survival..

Now that George Entwistle has gone, the big question remaining is whether his Chairman will follow him. Will it be a case of "toast man Patt", as the Sun puts it, or will Lord Patten cling on? An assured performance on the Marr show yesterday was somewhat undermined by the discovery that he has authorised a huge payout of £450k to Mr Entwistle. The Telegraph leader column also points out that Lord Patten  "getting on with" Mr Entwistle was a major factor in the latter's appointment. Furthermore, as the Mail reports, Lord Patten and Lord McAlpine have previous, with Lord McAlpine apparently taking exception to Lord Patten's method of eating oysters. Now that Lord McAlpine is likely to sue the BBC for defamation, Lord Patten's personal judgement will continue to be at issue for the foreseeable future.
For the moment, Number 10 is steering clear of wreckage. Dave has let it be known that Lord Patten has his confidence and that there is no need for an existential crisis in the BBC, but is otherwise anxious not to politicise the issue. Existential crisis or no, there is no question that the BBC is doing some soul searching and reaching some uncomfortable conclusions. Writing in this morning's Telegraph, John Simpson argues that "the worst thing is, the BBC's injury is wholly self-inflicted", whileBoris Johnson writes that the onus is on the BBC to prove it was not acting maliciously towards Lord McAlpine:
"It was, as they say, a story that was too good to check... Newsnight taking up the cudgels against paedophiles, after the embarrassment of the axed Savile exposé. It went one better. It pushed all the buttons. It was like a dream come true for any vaguely resentful and Left-of-centre BBC producer. It was a chance to pour unlimited ordure on a man who – in their book – jolly well had it coming. He is rich, he is a toff, he is a Lord, he is a Tory, and – joy of joys – he is an EX-AIDE TO MRS THATCHER." 
It now looks clear that the  proposed 3p-per-litre rise in fuel duty will be scrapped in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement in exchange for the votes of would-be Tory rebels in today's cost of living debate. Our report is here . Robert Halfon said he had found the Treasury "in strong listening mode" when it came to abandoning the rise, although the Treasury itself claims "no promises have been made". More importantly in the short-term is that the Government has staved off a potentially embarrassing second rebellion in as many weeks. That happy situation may not last for long, the FT (£) is reporting that George Osborne is bering urged to swap a mansion tax for a council tax freeze with the Lib Dems, but the party hierarchy must feel relieved to see that their backbenchers don't just dance to Ed Balls' tune.
Looks a lot like the one leading to a Democrat America, judging by this morning's papers. A Baroness Warsi speech reported in the Sun will claim the party has a "brand problem" with ethnic minorities and will not win an election without them. Appealing to non-white voters "has gone from a moral imperative to electoral reality" she will tell Operation Black Vote, noting that by 2050, minorities will make up one fifth of the electorate. Rainbow coalition? Check. Next on the agenda, learning to love the big state, according to Tim Montgomerie writing in this morning's Times (£). Voters do not yearn to be free from the state, he argues, they look to it for shelter:
"Conservative parties will start to revive when they stop thinking monomanically about cutting the size of the State and instead address the central question: which party best provides security to the large number of people who fear rather than revere the markets."
A swifter path to a Conservative future, of course, would involve forcing the recommendations of the boundary commission through Parliament before the next election. The Guardian reports that the Tories are persisting with the idea, despite the opposition of the Lib Dems, and are attempting to form an alliance with the DUP in a bid to revive the reforms. Senior Plaid Cymru MPs have already indicated that they are ready to do a deal if the reduction in the number of Welsh MPs was tied to a return of powers to Cardiff. A potential deal with nationalists and unionists? Who says the Conservatives can't do diplomacy?
While the Conservatives are searching for a new approach, Labour will view this week's police and crime commissioner elections, and the Corby by-election as a test of their one nation credentials. Patrick Wintour in the Guardian argues that this week's elections are an acid test for the Labour leadership:
"A convincing victory for the Labour candidate, Andy Sawford, in Corby, where Mensch stood down, is vital. It is a bellwether seat that Neil Kinnock failed to win in 1992, and Labour nearly lost in 2005. Labour victory this time would be taken as a sign that David Cameron is losing his grip on middle England."
Got £6,200 to burn? Getting bored of frat parties and Spring Break? Then come and work in Parliament as an intern for Barry Gardiner. American students paying firm Global Experiences for work experience in Britain have been awarded positions as unpaid interns in Mr Gardiner's office, the Sun reports. Mr Gardiner accepted five students from the firm over the last two years and says he did not get a cut of the profits, nor did he realise interns paid for their places. He will stop using the firm. 
Nick Clegg will unveil plans which would allow all workers to demand flexible working hours in a speech tomorrow, the Telegraph reports. The plans will allow grandparents to take time off to help with childcare while also allowing mothers to return to work, he will claim.
Nadine Dorries made her reality TV debut over the weekend, performing stunts including fleeing a sinking ship, which some wags unkindly equated to her desertion of the Conservatives for the outback. While Mrs Dorries is in Australia, her parliamentary salary will go to charity, she revealed in an embargoed statement on ConservativeHome over the weekend, adding that she had told the whip's office she was leaving town.
Having already noted that "lots of people are voting Conservative tonight", Chris Heaton-Harris is clearly following Nadine Dorries' progress in the jungle closely:
@chhcalling: "Tonight's Bushtucker trial is all about politics. Poly (many) tics (blood sucking leeches). Oldest jokes are the best!"
In the Telegraph
Best of the rest
Tim Montgomerie in The Times (£) - Being anti-state is stupid for a Conservative
Simon Heffer in the Daily Mail - Patten vs McAlpine: a 40-year grudge match
Geoffrey Wheatcroft in the Guardian - US politics today resembles Britain's in the 18th century
09:00 am: Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards takes evidence from former HBOS executives.
12:00 pm: Union demonstration. Unions stage demonstration in Old Palace Yard, opposite Westminster, to protest against changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. 
02:30 pm: Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards takes evidence from Sir John Vickers. Thatcher Room, Portcullis House. 
04:05 pm: Commons Transport Committee takes evidence from chair and chief executive of the Office of Rail Regulation and minister Simon Burns. Committee Room 15, House of Commons.
04:30 pm: Home Secretary to give evidence to MPs on the national security strategy. Joint Committee on National Security Strategy, Committee room 3, House of Commons.
06:00 pm: Prime Minister David Cameron speech to The Lord Mayor's Banquet. The banquet is held in honour of the immediate past Lord Mayor and is the first to be hosted by the new Lord Mayor of the City of London. Guildhall.