Good morning. The US has told Britain that if it leaves the EU, it's on its own. Washington made it known before Christmas that it was unhappy about Britain's direction of travel. Obviously, they didn't feel the message was heeded, hence the rare public declaration from Obama administration official Philip Gordon that the special/essential/lop-sided relationship is best served by Britain in Europe. The Telegraph reports that Mr Gordon used a visit to London to call for "a strong UK voice in a strong EU".
It isn't just Washington turning the screws. The FT (£) reports that Irish prime minister Enda Kenny has spoken of a Brexit being "disastrous for our country", while the Mail reports that Herman Van Rompuy has announced the worst is behind the eurozone. That's nonsense, says theTelegraph's Peter Oborne:
"I am sure Mr Barroso is a kind, liberal man. But there is a comparison between the European Commission president and the fascists and communists who turned so much of the history of 20th-century Europe into a story of pure horror. All had been captured by a great enticing idea."
With the world set against an in/out referendum, the pressure is now on Dave to find a set of concessions which would give the British public a positive reason to vote to reform not run. The problem he has is that, by making it clear that he doesn't want to leave, he has little leverage other than the goodwill of his European partners. Mr Van Rompuy has already made it clear there are no treaty revisions in sight and therefore no re-negotiating opportunities. James Forsyth in the Spectator sees result being a Conservative Party more deeply split than at any time since the Corn Laws. It won't just be them. Apparently against the will of all involved, the drift is towards in/out being the question.
The ONS's national statistician Jil Matheson has unexpectedly announced this morning that it will not make changes to the way that the RPI inflation index is calculated. Instead, there will be a new RPI-based series called RPIJ from March onwards. The good news for George is that RPI will remain as the benchmark for index linked government debt, potentially saving billions in interest by allowing the credibility of the existing debt benchmarking to be maintained.
THE UNVARNISHED TRUTH...SORT OF
The Ronseal Coalition released the full MTR yesterday. As the Guardianreports, there was one glaring omission, the pledge made in George Osborne's emergency budget of 2010 that debt would be falling as a portion of GDP by 2015/16. Given the economy is the sun, the moon and the stars at Westminster, it is difficult to see how it was not seen that the omission of the "supplementary" part of the fiscal aspect would not become a talking point in itself. The Telegraph has a scorecard measuring the Coalition's progress, as had Andrew Sparrow's excellent Guardian blog yesterday.
A cunning plan which, as Michael Deacon notes in his sketch, involved deliberately not releasing the full picture initially in order to later claim credit for transparency, should have been easy meat for Ed Miliband at PMQs yesterday. Instead, as I wrote in my blog, Dave prevailed. A bad day for the "little red pests".
WHITEHALL CULTURE OF DRIFT EXPOSED
If you have ever woken up drenched in sweat, tormented by visions of an outdated scallop policy, you can sleep easy. The scallop policy review is one of 988 topics on which the government has sought public opinion in the last two years, the Times (£) reports. The paper alleges that a "culture of dithering" has cost the public millions in pointless policy reviews. How they expect legislation on ice-cream van chimes or the electronic tagging of pigs to go ahead otherwise, remains curiously unexplained.
EARLY RETIREMENT RETIRED
The growing number of people living into their late eighties means that early retirement will soon be a thing of the past, according to pensions minister Steve Webb. The Telegraph reports that the Government has "no idea" when workers currently in their thirties will retire. He is proposing a white paper which will link the state retirement age to average life expectancy. The effect may simply be to make pensions an electoral issue for younger as well as older voters.
BALLS TO QUIT IF MOVED FROM CURRENT ROLE
If Ed Miliband attempts to shift Ed Balls sideways and insert his brother as George Osborne's shadow, he can expect a bitter battle according to this morning's Express (which follows up Kevin Maguire's New Statesmanpiece) . Mr Balls would step-down and return to the backbenches, should that happen, the paper claims. Still, he seems a peaceful soul. I can't imagine he'd give the brothers M any trouble from his new perch...
GREENFIELD BUILDING OR GREYHEADED PAYMENT, BOLES INSISTS
Nick Boles will give a speech on housebuilding hosted by Policy Exchange this morning. He will address himself to the nation's grandparents, warning them that if they do not drop their resistance to the development of greenfield sites for affordable housing, they will end up having to subsidise two generations of dependents, the Telegraphreports. Stand and deliver: your money or your view.
GRAYLING TO ANNOUNCE SUPER-PRISON
Chris Grayling gets a glowing review from the Telegraph's leader writer this morning for his determination to tackle the "complete inability" of the justice system to rehabilitate offenders. Before they're rehabilitated, though, they must first be incarcerated. The paper adds that Mr Grayling will today announce the building of a new "super-prison" capable of holding 2,000 inmates, as well as four smaller ones. I wonder what Ken Clarke makes of it all?
VETERAN OF THE GREAT CHICKEN WAR CALLED UP AGAIN
The new Whitehall comms chief is Alex Aiken, the Independent reports. His pedigree is impeccable - he has even ripped the head off a chicken in the Tory cause... Meanwhile, senior diplomat Mark Sedwill is the new permanent secretary at the Home Office, the FT (£) reports. Charles Farr, the Home Office's senior spook is the internal candidate who loses out.
ATTORNEY GENERAL THROWS POLICE MINISTER OFF A BRIDGE
Admittedly it was 35 years ago, but this morning's Independent picks up a report in student newspaper Cherwell of a curious incident when Damian Green and Dominic Grieve were both undergraduates. Approaching the future Home Office minister in the grounds of Magdalen College, Mr Grieve and five chums were alleged to have tossed him from a bridge after becoming piqued at being suspended from the Oxford Union. No wonder the Attorney General is so interested in anti-social behaviour.
Andrew Marr's stroke was the talk of the Westminster village last night at Liam Fox's New Year party at the Carlton Club. On behalf of all of us at the Telegraph, we wish him a speedy recovery.
Tonight's Question Time is in Lewisham. The panel is Ed Davey, John Prescott, Nadine Dorries, Big Issue founder John Bird and the Times columnist Camilla Cavendish. Elsewhere, those wanting to catch Nick Clegg's debut as a radio phone-in host should tune in to LBC 97.3 at 9:30 this morning.
TWEETS AND TWITS
Labour's Jim Murphy finds Govan's Asda to be a hotbed of Thatcherism:
@jimmurphymp: "At all night ASDA in Govan 60 yr old shelf stacker has just told me he loved Mrs T (yes,in THAT way). Seemed like big news to his workmates. "
In the Telegraph
Peter Oborne - Europe's dogmatic ruling class remains wedded to its folly
Sue Cameron - Tinker, tailor, soldier...and a central banker
Brian Wilson - Life won't be a gas if we give up on British coal
Telegraph View - Graylng shows the rest how it's done
Best of the rest
Steve Richards in The Independent - Labour can't keep bus passes for millionaires
Camilla Cavendish in The Times (£) - We have the Good Society. Now make it Big
Chris Giles in the FT (£) - How welfare cuts could come back to bite the UK government
Simon Heffer in the Daily Mail - Losing oine Lord-a-leaping is unfortunate. Losing three at once should make Dave very worried indeed
09:00 am: Nick Clegg's first weekly radio phone-in on LBC 97.3.
09:00 am: Planning Minister Nick Boles speech to Policy Exchange. The Ideas Space, Clutha House, 10 Storey's Gate.
09:30 am: Commons Energy Committee takes evidence on Severn Barrage. Witnesses: Peter Hain MP, Martin Mansfield, General Secretary, Wales TUC and Andy Richards, Wales Secretary, Unite Union; RSPB, The Angling Trust, The National Trust and The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust; Associated British Ports, Bristol Port Company and Engineering the Future alliance. Grimond Room, Portcullis House.
12:00 pm: Bank of England decision on interest rates and quantitative easing programme.
12:00 pm: Leader of the Commons Andrew Lansley gives evidence to Constitutional and Political Reform Committee. Committee Room 8, House of Commons.