Saturday, 23 February 2013

Coffee House evening blend..

Today in brief

  • The BBC published redacted evidence in the Pollard Review of the Newsnight Jimmy Savile investigation.
  • CPS confirmed it would not charge former News of the World journalist Neil Wallis.
  • Motorists urged George Osborne to cancel September's fuel duty increase.
  • Eric Pickles accused the Lib Dems of holding the Tories back as he campaigned in Eastleigh.

The Analysis

David Cameron has been holed up at another Chequers strategy summit today, while Nick Clegg is holed up on holiday. It's not clear who is having the more relaxing time, though, given last night's revelations on Channel 4 about the party's former chief executive Lord Rennard.

BBC transcripts reveal ███████ about ██████ and █████.

Has the BBC learned lessons about how it handles big stories since the Pollard Review into Newsnight's decision not to broadcast its Jimmy Savile investigation? Well, if you want any early indications, there's the fact that the Corporation isn't putting acting director general Tim Davie up for interviews with other broadcasters today. He's done just the one, with the BBC itself, that's being pooled with the others. Channel 4's news editor added Davie to a rather interesting list of similar interview offers: Mugabe, Ahmadinejad and Charles Taylor. On the World at One, Davie insisted the redactions (which are extensive in some sections of evidence, as shown in this post), were 'purely driven by legal advice' and that lessons would be, and were already being, learned. 
Paxman's evidence is some of the most damning (and has more redactions), and his exasperation is clear throughout the transcript. At one stage he says the BBC's news department was 'taken over by radio… these people belong to a different kind of culture'. We've posted some initial thoughts here, but look out for our Coffee House post a little later this evening on the transcripts themselves, which we've spent today trawling through.

AA and MPs pump Osborne for fuel relief

George Osborne must be getting used to being caught in the headlights of campaigners, newspapers and MPs calling for the cancellation or delay of a fuel duty rise in the run-up to every autumn statement and Budget. The AA's report today that the weakening of the pound and stock market speculation are pushing us towards the highest-ever fuel prices renewed those calls. Osborneresponded by saying that petrol was 10p a litre cheaper than it would otherwise have been, but that he does 'completely understand the pressure on families, completely understand the pressure on prices'. Meanwhile Robert Halfon has been out and about calling for another freeze on fuel duty this year. 
But can Osborne keep delaying the inevitable? Remember the Treasury Select Committee has been urging him to develop a long-term strategy for fuel dutyrather than the current rabbit-in-headlights strategy of repeatedly cancelling and deferring the toxic tax.

Pickles in Eastleigh: the Lib Dems are beastly

It was Eric Pickles' turn to pound the streets of Eastleigh again today. He wasted no time in attacking the Lib Dems, saying they 'are taking the people of Eastleigh for a ride. Their homes tax would hit hardworking families hardest – with ordinary people running the risk of seeing a £320 hike in their council tax'. He added that the help for families was 'the result of David Cameron being in Government'. The implication, which CCHQ was keen to underline, was that the Lib Dems are actively holding back the Tories. David Cameron has made similar noises about the need for a Tory-only government post-2015, too, as we note here
Nigel Farage has written a bullish blog for the Huffington Post on how UKIP is taking votes not just from the Tories but from all parties and from 'the large number of people who have simply become too disillusioned with the political elite to bother voting at all'. Cameron's nightmare result is the Lib Dems holding the seat easily and UKIP coming a strong third: that would really get his backbenchers going.

The week ahead

  • Voting begins in the Italian parliamentary elections (ends on Monday). Pier Luigi Bersani of the centre-left Democratic Party, is the heavy favourite to become Prime Minister.
  • John Kerry visits the UK to begin his first overseas trip as Secretary of State.
  • Parliament returns from recess.
  • Lords debate the Defamation Bill, amended to create a Leveson-style arbitration service between newspapers and the public.
  • 15.45: George Osborne appears before the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards.
  • 09.30: The ONS publishes its revised estimate for GDP growth in 2012 Q4 (1st estimate: -0.3%).
  • 09.30: Chris Grayling gives evidence on rehabilitation reforms to the Justice Select Committee.
  • 09.30: Adair Turner and Martin Wheatley — chairman and director of the FSA — appear before the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards.
  • 09.30: Former Brown SpAd Damian McBride is quizzed by the Public Administration Committee on the future of the civil service.
  • 12.00: David Cameron battles Ed Miliband at PMQs.
Eastleigh by-election (polls open at 07.00 and close at 22.00).
  • 10.00: Gus O'Donnell answers the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee's questions on 'the impact and effectiveness of ministerial reshuffles'.
Eastleigh by-election results

Some vital statistics

  • Latest YouGov: 14pt Labour lead (Lab 45%, Con 31%, LD 11%, Ukip 9%). Implied Labour majority of 136.
  • Next government chances, as implied by bookies: Lab majority 40%, Con majority 22%, Lab-LD coalition 15%, Con-LD coalition 12%, other 11%.
  • Government borrowing cost (10-year bond yield): 2.12% (+0.01pts).
  • Eastleigh by-election chances, as implied by bookies (with changes since yesterday): Lib Dems 74% (0), Con 17% (-1), Ukip 6% (+1), Lab 2% (0), other 1% (0).