Monday, 21 January 2013

Cameron gears up for the long term..

The war on Islamic terrorism in Africa may take "years, even decades" the Prime Minister has said. Speaking at Chequers last night, Mr Cameron predicted a prolonged struggle in the region both militarily and diplomatically, the Telegraph reports. He will make a statement to the Commons at 3:30 this afternoon and a meeting of the National Security Council is being convened tomorrow to look at the deeper strategic implications for British policy. As Richard Spencer writes in the Telegraph, the region and its warlords are now figures of international importance.

Dave is keen to avoid committing troops on the ground, a task made more difficult by the ambivalent attitude of the world's (sleeping) policeman. Both Tim Montgomerie in the Times (£) and the Telegraph leader call for Mr Obama to take a greater practical interest in the region. The Prime Minister must also be mindful of the enemy at home. Both Melanie Philips in the Mail and Trevor Kavanagh in the Sunwarn that any attempt to fight fire with fire in Africa will inspire the venom of Al-Qaeda sympathisers in Britain. On the flip-side, if this does run into the next decade, we'll be able to lend the French an aircraft carrier or two (aircraft not included). Who needs the Americans after all?


Dave's European strategy has taken on some colour over the weekend. The Sunday Telegraph reported that he will offer an "in/out" choice to voters, but added that he will not legislate for the referendum in this parliament. You can understand why. Legislating in this parliament locks a prospective Labour government into carrying through with a popular election they disdain. Allowing an element of doubt makes sound strategic sense given the popularity of the policy and the hesitancy of Ed's response. It also acts as a sop to disaffected Tories currently considering Ukip. Nigel Farage made clear on Marr yesterday that there would be no deal between the two parties while Dave remains at the helm of the Conservatives, and the Tories will need to battle for the eurosceptic vote in 2015. It's going to be bloody, as James Kirkup notes in his blog. Still, as the Mail reports, Liam Fox is certainly impressed, telling Marr that he was "broadly satisfied" with the proposals.

When will the speech itself appear? This week, weather allowing. Both the Times (£) and the FT (£) suggest Wednesday, jinx allowing.


The Public Administration Committee's report on the handling of plebgate is out today, and it does not shower the Number 10 machine with roses. Messers Cameron and Heywood take most of the heat. The Cabinet Secretary failed to raise inconsistencies between witness testimonies and CCTV footage, while Mr Cameron was criticised for having appointed him.

Dave has taken responsibility for the fiasco, according to the FT (£). It is Sir Jeremy who has the hounds at his heels this morning, though. The Mail demands to know "why is Mr Cameron so in the thrall of this blunderer?" and quotes allies of IDS who resent his meddling in welfare reform. It seems a touch unfair to me. Tory dissatisfaction with Dave is running high despite what Tim Montgomerie writes is his move "towards the Conservative Mainstream in recent months". The Sunday Times reported that 17 Tory MPs have written letters of no confidence in the PM, and attacking Sir Jeremy has become a proxy for attacking Dave.


When you find yourself waiting on a cold platform for a cancelled train this morning, spare a thought for someone the cold snap will hit even worse than commuters: the Chancellor. Given weak manufacturing data, Friday's Q4 2012 GDP figures are expected to show negative growth at the end of last year. The snow and ice could be enough to ensure Q1 2013 also sees the economy shrinking, meaning a triple-dip recession, the FT (£) reports. It gets worse. Mayor of London, Telegraph columnist and now Astronomer extraordinaire, Boris Johnson worries about global cooling in this morning's paper:

"Of course it still seems a bit nuts to talk of the encroachment of a mini ice age. But it doesn’t seem as nuts as it did five years ago. I look at the snowy waste outside, and I have an open mind."


A report into standards of care in Mid Staffordshire NHS foundation trust is due within weeks, following an independent inquiry led by Robert Francis QC. Abuse of the sort seen at the trust, where patients were left in soiled sheets for hours at a time, is "dotted around the system", Jeremy Hunt tells this morning's Guardian.


Claire Perry, Dave's new childhood adviser, warns parents that they shouldn't treat their children's electronic communications as private, the Mail reports. Mrs Perry is hoping that more parental vigilance will ensure a less sexually licentious culture for young people. Still, as is noted elsewhere in the Mail, teenage misbehaviour is nothing new - just ask Michael Gove...


Fibre optic cables will be run alongside the new track when the line for the HS2 rail route is developed, Simon Burns has suggested. The Telegraph reports that other utilities such as water and electricity could also be improved concurrently in an attempt to "placate" those with homes lining the route. So don't worry that the view outside the window is ruined, stay indoors, draw the blinds and download a movie instead. Not sure the Government's obesity tsars will be entirely happy about that.


Keir Starmer, the head of the CPS, will seek to quintuple the number of tax cases the organisation takes on by 2014-15. The FT (£) reports that the Treasury currently loses £14bn a year from tax evasion, enough to cover the deficit for, er, a little over six weeks.


Andrew Rawnsley on the blossoming Ed Miliband-Nick Clegg bromance: "The personal defrosting between Messrs Miliband and Clegg is helped by the fact that they are meeting more often than they ever have before... The two leaders' offices have been closely co-ordinating, effectively working as a combined opposition [against boundary change]."

Matthew D'Ancona on how Barack Obama told David Cameron that actually, he would probaly do the same on the EU, and what that referendum will offer: "There has been some justifiable confusion about the likely consequences of a victory for the "No" campaign. Would such an outcome be taken to signal rejection of the deal and an instruction to the government of the day to come up with something better? Or would it trigger exit from the EU? I am told by Downing Street sources that "No" would indeed mean "Out" – an important clarification."

John Rentoul on why Ed Miliband made the wrong call on the Europe referendum: "So, although Cameron gets poor marks for expectations management for telling someone months ago that he was going to give a big speech on Europe, the question is whether or not the promise of a referendum is a good idea. In the end, I think Miliband will suffer for appearing not to trust the people."


It's a tough job, but someone has to do it:

@LucyMPowell: "Sledging in Lyme Park. Great fun."


In the Telegraph

Boris Johnson - It's snowing, and it really feels like the start of a mini ice age

Chris Skidmore - Our monarchy always moves with the times

Richard Spencer - The world's most wanted

Telegraph View - Obama needs to offer global leadership

Best of the rest

Tim Montgomerie in The Times (£) - We need the world's policeman back on duty

Trevor Kavanagh in The Sun - Yes, Africa is a terror hotbed...but fanatics are here too

Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail - Until we learn to be as single-minded as the fanatics - at home and abroad - we're all hostages

Francois Heisbourg in the FT (£) - Fifty years on, the union at Europe's heart is frayed


09: 30 am: Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) releases its lending estimate for December.

11:30 am: Foreign Minister Alistair Burt gives speech on UK responses to piracy off the coast of Somalia. UK Chamber of Shipping 30 Park Street.

01:00 pm: Centre for Cities. Research group Centre for Cities presents its outlook for 2013. Speakers include Housing Minister Mark Prisk and shadow minister Jack Dromey. City Hall, London.

02:15 pm: Bank of England Executive Director for Financial Stability Andrew Haldane gives evidence to Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards. Thatcher Room, Portcullis House.

03:15 pm: Treasury permanent secretary Sir Nicholas Macpherson gives evidence to Commons Public Accounts Committee. Committee Room 15, House of Commons.

03:30 pm: PM David Cameron to update Commons on the terrorist attack in Algeria and the threat from Al-Qaeda Islamic Maghreb. House of Commons.

04:05 pm: Transport Minister Simon Burns gives evidence to House of Commons Transport Committee on land transport security. Road and rail groups also appearing . Burns due at 5.20pm. Meeting starts at 4.05pm. House of Commons.