Friday, 22 March 2013

Spectator evening blend..

Today in brief

  • Nick Clegg dropped the Lib Dems' pledge for an amnesty on illegal immigrants.
  • Campaigners tabled last-minute changes to the government's proposals for press damages.
  • Political leaders in Cyprus prepared to decide the country's fate.

The Analysis

Clegg's policy amnesty
Nick Clegg promised a 'sensible' speech on immigration today, which turned outto be the Lib Dem leader trying to make his party's policies a bit more sensible and palatable to the electorate, rather than just a party fine session. So he announced he didn't think the party should go into 2015 with a commitment to an amnesty for illegal immigrants because 'it risked undermining public confidence in the immigration system'. He also said he backed a security bond system for immigrants from 'high risk' countries to cut down on people overstaying their visas, which Theresa May has been developing.
David Cameron is giving his own speech on immigration on Monday. One thing that might be on his mind as he writes it is a backbench debate on Romanian and Bulgarian migrants. We revealed that Tory MP Mark Pritchard was pushing for one last month, and now it's been confirmed for 22 April. Backbenchers will be keen to chip in: not only are they annoyed with the Home Office after it avoided a vote on Dominic Raab's foreign criminals amendment to the Crime and Courts Bill (read here what one Tory MP thinks this has done to Theresa May's leadership hopes), they also think the PM takes their backbench debates and votes seriously after he told them the EU Budget vote had strengthened his hand.

Damaging damages plan damaged further

So, party leaders, how's that late night press regulation deal working out for ya? Today Hacked Off, Labour and Big Brother Watch have been tabling amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill ahead of its 'ping-pong' session on Monday. The problem is with the exemplary damages proposals, which turn out to envelop even the smallest blogs. Tom Watson today said that only 'very stupid' people thought press regulation should go beyond large publications. Meanwhile, Maria Miller is rebuffing calls for changes to the legislation. Presumably the Culture Secretary is worried that she accepts there is one snag, the whole deal could unravel.
This email briefing is going for an extended coffee break during parliamentary recess, and will return on 15 April.

The week ahead

  • 11.00: SNP conference opens in Inverness. Alex Salmond speaks at 15.00.
  • 13.00: Ed Miliband speech in Birmingham.
  • 09.00: Boris Johnson is interviewed by Eddie Mair on the Andrew Marr Show.
  • Lords debate and vote on the Crime and Courts Bill, including the provision allowing exemplary damages to be awarded against against newspapers that don't sign up to a recognised regulator.
  • 21.00: 'Boris Johnson: The Irresistible Rise' on BBC Two.
  • Lords debate the Justice and Security (or 'secret courts') Bill.
  • 10.00: The OBR's Robert Chote, Steve Nickell and Graham Parker appear before the Treasury Select Committee.
  • 14.15: George Osborne answers the Treasury Committee's questions about his Budget.
  • The House of Commons' Easter recess begins — MPs return on 15th April.
  • 09.30: The ONS publishes its third estimate of GDP growth in 2012 Q4. Its first and second estimates were both -0.3%.
  • 10.00: Iain Duncan Smith speech at Welfare Reform Scotland Conference in Edinburgh

Some vital statistics

  • Latest YouGov: 9pt Labour lead (Lab 41%, Con 32%, LD 11%). Implied Labour majority of 106.
  • Next government chances, as implied by bookies: Lab majority 41%, Con majority 19%, Lab-LD coalition 18%, Con-LD coalition 12%, other 10%.
  • Next Tory leader chances, as implied by bookies: Boris Johnson 19%, Theresa May 17%, Michael Gove 11%, Philip Hammond 9%, George Osborne 9%, William Hague 8%, David Davis 6%, Grant Shapps 5%.
  • Government borrowing cost (10-year bond yield): 1.85% (-0.02pts)