Monday, 28 January 2013

Osborne: HS2 to act as engine of growth..

BREAKING NEWS: The Chancellor has appeared on BBC Breakfast stressing his belief that the HS2 extension will bring big economic benefits for Britain:
"[HS2] act as an engine of growth [in the] North and the Midlands. [It]will change the economic geography of this country," he said, adding that it would "help Britain win the global race."
Good morning. David Cameron is taking his colleagues away from it all for a regional Cabinet in Leeds this morning. They are taking the train, of course, as the theme of the day is HS2 and the route north of Birmingham. Back in Westminster the theme is Dave's future,whatever No10 may say about the weekend's farcical developments. As Peter Oborne argues, much of the Conservative party, like Mali, is an ungoverned space. Adam Afriyie's candidacy is being dismissed too easily by those who don't appreciate the extent to which Tory MPs yearn for a leader with a backstory of triumph over adversity rather than unearned privilege, although to judge by the coverage I suspect he won't thank whoever thought it would be a good idea to mention it to the Sunday lobby. When I discussed life after Dave with a cross section of backbenchers recently his name didn't come up. Instead the betting focuses on Michael Gove and Chris Grayling in Cabinet, Jesse Norman from the 2010, and Boris as the outsider favourite. Theresa May is dismissed out of hand, as is George Osborne. The point to retain from Mr Afriyie's quixotic sally, though, is this: the likelihood must be that the choice of next leader, whatever the circumstances, will leap generations. Those currently in Cabinet will find that with each year that passes their chances diminish. The 2005 intake may still hope. But the future I suspect belongs to the men and women of 2010.
The prospects of ConservativeHome's J Alfred Prufrock MP and his Turquoise Manifesto might be slim, but unless too much is read into Boris  dropping in on Rupert Murdoch last week, he has as good a chance as any of unseating Dave before the next election, which is to say, none. As one Tory MP tells the Mail - "oh good. We're back to being the stupid party". Never a truer word...
The proposals for the northern fork of the HS2 route are published today, and they pose as many questions as they answer. Our report that the Prime Minister expects the route linking London with Leeds and Manchester to generate 100,000 new jobs, but it is difficult not to think that this is optimistic, particularly as it will not call in the city centres of Derby, Nottingham or Sheffield. The Times (£) makes the point that the decision to link the £33bn line to Heathrow will not be made until 2015, adding to uncertainty around the hub's future and, if anything, discouraging investment. Then there is the imponderable of the extent of the shires rebellion. Five cases are already lined up for judicial review relating to the southern portion of the line. It isn't as if the anti-HS2 campaigners don't have credibility, they are led by Cheryl Gillan, a former cabinet minister.
Eric Pickles is writing for us this morning, and the Local Government Secretary uses his platform to criticise "cheating" councils who receive cash from central government to freeze council tax, but increase it anyway. Only 115 of 351 English councils have confirmed they will freeze council tax this year, compared with 85pc last year and 99pc the year before. In future, councils increasing taxes by more than 2pc a year will need to put the issue to a vote. Mr Pickles also takes aim at the BBC which he calls "wasteful". Our leader praises Mr Pickles' tough stance, noting approvingly that he is "not one for idle threats".
Grant Shapps has indicated that the Government might back a British exit from the EU should negotiations over the repatriation of powers be a failure, we report. Conservative flexibility on Europe is being met with Labour invisibility. Boris Johnson uses his column to castigate the "cowardly" Labour position on Europe, while in the Guardian, David Cameron's former tutor Vernon Bogdanor agrees that Labour are losing an opportunity to make a project of the elites one which belongs to the people.
Britain can expect much weaker Sterling, high inflation for a number of years and more money printing when Mark Carney replaces Sir Mervyn King, Trevor Kavanagh argues in a Sun column calling for Dave to devote himself to the economy now that a course is set on Europe. Mr Carney'slicence to pursue such a course of action depends on the target he is set by the Chancellor. The FT (£) reports that George is veering towards a "flexible" inflation target allowing the central bank to concentrate on growth. No details on how this would work as yet, although the FT lists some options, but it does mark a retreat from the idea of growthtargeting which was floated, notably by Mr Carney himself, when the appointment was made.
Lords reform isn't going well. An additional 50 peers will be created shortly despite promises to shrink the size of the chamber, the Mailreports. A further 100 will be created over the next two years to reflect the election result. David Blunkett also pops up in the paper to criticise the "complete mess" of boundary reform proposals. At least civil service reform continues serenely onwards. Caroline Spelman will speak at an Institute of Government event on the appointment of permanent secretaries this afternoon. The Times (£) reports that she will push the case for political appointments given that the permanent secretary"is the key person in the department...your political life depends on them".
It's the age of the train coalition, and David Laws would like to see that recognised. Taking the optimistic view that coalition politics is here to stay, Mr Laws uses an interview in the Independent to call for slimline manifestos from all three main parties which would set red-lines forcoalition horse-trading. He also insists that Lib Dem ministers will remain in post until the last minute, quashing rumours of an early coalition break-up ready for campaigning on political lines. Mr Laws is in charge of the Lib Dem manifesto for the next election, and will be interested to read Tim Montgomerie's piece in the Times (£) on how his friend Robery Halfon is pushing the Conservative case.
Campaigning on political lines remains alive and well in Fleet Street, however. This morning, the Mail has its say on Nick Clegg's choice of schooling: "while Mr Clegg’s agonising may be understandable, doesn’t it reek of arrogance and hypocrisy to suggest that comprehensives and mixed-ability classes may be good enough for other people’s children, but not for his own?" it asks. 
Whitehall's latest cunning plan to stem the flow of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants is an advertising campaign explaining that in Britain it rains constantly and there are no well paid jobs, the Guardianreports. "Britain - it's dreadful" is an unusual tagline for a state funded advertising campaign, but needs must.
Assuming this doesn't deter all of the 425,000 immigrants Philip Hollobone is expecting in the next two years, we can expect some to want to become citizens. When they do, they will have to get to grips with a new curriculum. Theresa May's reforms have eliminated New Labour from the citizenship exam and replaced them with...more Maggie. Would you pass? Have a go on our interactive test.
Speaking in Total Politics, minister for air travel Patrick McLoughlin explains the fact that he has been on only two flights since his appointment by confessing he is afraid of flying, the Mailreports. Thankfully, Simon Burns seems to have resolved his phobia of trains, so it isn't all doom and gloom at the department. 

Douglas Carswell - Cameron loyalist:

@DouglasCarswell: "Spring is in the air - and there seems to be an early April fool story running in some of the Sunday papers."


In the Telegraph

Boris Johnson - Only a coward would deny the people their voice on Europe
Jon Swaine and Peter Foster - Can Hilary be a comeback kid, too?
Telegraph View - A welcome break for the council tax payer

Best of the rest

Trevor Kavanagh in The Sun - Time to talk tough on the economy now
Tim Montgomerie in The Times (£) - Modern Essex man who has the key to victory
Veronon Bogdanor in The Guardian- Labour must back this vote
David Blunkett in the Daily Mail - Complete mess and an insult to voters


12:30 pm: Institute of Government discussion on how permanent secreraries should be appointed. 2 Carlton Gardens, London SW1Y 5AA.
01:00 pm : Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Foreign Office minister David Lidington give evidence to House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee on implications of Scottish independence. Royal College of Physicians, 9 Queen Street, Edinburgh.

02:30 pm: Holocaust Memorial Day exhibition and commemorative event. Exhibition opens at 1430 with commemorative event taking place from 1630. Survivors, politicians, young people, religious leaders and dignitaries will be in attendance. Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre Broad Sanctuary Westminster, SW1P 3EE.
03:15 pm: HMRC chief executive Lin Homer appears before House of Commons Public Accounts Committee. Committee Room 15, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.
04:05 pm: House of Commons Transport Committee takes evidence from wide range of organisations on aviation strategy. Witnesses include Huw Thomas, a partner with Fosters & Partners that has proposed new Thames Estuary airport. House of Commons.