Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Tory Euro madness.. Ben Brogan's morning briefing

BREAKING NEWS: William Hague has been attempting to explain Dave's Private Member's Bill plan on the Today programme.
"If this was a Tory majority government, we would pass such legislation...we can't do that in a Coalition agreement [but publishing this bill] we underline our commitment to it." As for the PMB, he wasn't very optimistic, "of course it is more difficult [but] it means there can be a debate in the House of Commons, there can be a vote on it." Will there be extra time for the measure? No, the party is "constrained" although "there can be an effort," Mr Hague argued.
"Tory MPs are frustrated...Conservative MPs can vote for the amendment on the Queen's speech [although] ministers cannot vote for it... None of us in the Conservative party are happy with the current settlement."
Good morning. Looking back, there was something of the African coup about yesterday's events. Leader on a foreign jaunt, troops mutiny while he's away, loyal generals go rogue, leader reduced to asking foreign governments for statements of support, issues desperate late night promise to increase rebel pay, rebels tell him to get stuffed and shoot up the palace. Consider the past 24 hours: the Prime Minister goes to Washington, piles in to his critics, seizes Barack Obama's endorsementwith the grip of a drowning man, then issues a sudden, half-baked concession - only for it to be dismissed as not enough by his backbench tormentors John Baron and Peter Bone on the Today programme just now.
Mr Cameron's offer to bring forward a Private Member's Bill and give it ministerial support seems to be falling apart under scrutiny. Its shortcomings are obvious: a PMB can be talked out unless the Government puts its full weight behind it, which won't happen, and anyway it's a weak alternative to a government bill. All it does is highlight his powerlessness. It achieves nothing except draw our attention to the fact that he can do nothing. As I argue in my column, this has its origins in No10's mistaken belief that it could hold out the prospect of a referendum Bill in this Parliament without having to delver. Tories who will ask why Mr Cameron hasn't even attempted to get a Bill past Nick Clegg will be those who do not recognise the strictures of Coalition. How Dave must regret not getting his MPs to vote on the Coalition plan back in May 2010.
This morning though the situation looks particularly dire: the Prime Minister is letting himself be led by his backbenchers, the Government is allowing Cabinet ministers to disown its programme by abstaining on the rebel amendment, the Tories look like a bunch of self-indulgent lunatics. And to think things were looking up for them a few weeks ago.
Spotting the strategic rationale for the Tory long game is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack (although Adams might have found the reason Dave's horizons have shifted). If it was to slay the Ukip dragon, it has been spectacularly unsuccessful. In fact the party is becoming something of a hydra - for every policy you appropriate, it grows two points in the polls. The Guardian's ICM poll puts the Kippers on 18pc (+9pc), with the Tories at 28pc (-4pc), Labour at 34pc (-4pc), and the Lib Dems at 11pc (-4pc). As far as the contemporary scene goes, they can probably claim to be the originals on immigration and the EU, it looks as though increasing numbers of voters also think they're the best. Humiliatingly, the Express reports that Nigel Farage is prepared to offer a coupon deal to Tories prepared to run as joint Conservative-Ukip candidates. Dave will have kittens. Perhaps that's the point.
Clowns to the Right of him, bullies to the Left? Tim Montgormerie thinks so, writing in the Times (£) that "Mr Cameron has become the bullied child in the playground. One day it's the Lib Dems stealing his sweets, the next day it is Tory MPs who are humiliating him. He needs to show who's boss. At the moment, it's not him." All sound a bit John Major? Tim's colleague Rachel Sylvester suggests that it's all just a little bit of history repeating - both Labour (the economy) and the Tories (Europe) have returned to their ancient blood feuds, and may find that "borne ceaselessly into the past, they will find themselves swept - like Jay Gatsby - to oblivion." But what choice does Dave have but to go with the flow? As Janan Ganesh argues in the FT (£), elements of his party are becoming ungovernable. As a consequence, it feels like the PM is clinging on to a run away horse, rather than controlling it.
And yet, does any of this address the problem the electorate wants solved, the economy? Dominic Raab writes an op-ed for us in which he argues that "whether we are in or out of the EU, we must deliver reform at home in order to compete abroad in the 21st century." That's close to Boris' line yesterday, and it's true. The Sun's leader praises the PM's "bold act of political cunning", but if political cunning mattered as much at the ballot box as it did in the Village, Peter Mandelson would currently be in his fourth term. Besides which, voters may also choose to see it as a confession that Cam doesn't keep his word - you could argue, and Ukip will, that the legislation is necessary because of the legacy of an evaded promise over the Lisbon Treaty.
Ed's 35pc strategy allows him to ignore the prevailing mood outside of his core electorate almost entirely. That's just as well given current sentiment on benefits, but as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's report this morning on changing attitudes to welfare and poverty suggests, even Labour voters have hardened in their outlook in the last 30 years. In 1987, 21pc of Labour voters thought  welfare recipients were undeserving, now it's 31pc. The number saying lower benefits would force people to stand on their own two feet has gone from16pc to 46pc over the same period. Dangerous waters for Ed, given his commitment to opposing even capped rises.
And on the subject of marching in step with public opinion, Lord Mandelson's remarks at a Progress rally yesterday will have Ed reading his Mail through his fingers. His confession that both Blair and Brown governments encouraged immigration as they believed the economy to be at full employment doesn't quite warrant the headline "Immigrants? We sent out search parties to get them to come... and made it hard for Britons to get work, says Mandelson", but it hardly helps Ed's tough guy stance on migrants.
Unionists breathe easy, Gord's on board. In a speech opposing independence, Mr Brown laid bare the horrors which awaited if there was a yes vote in 2014: "you would lose half the share of corporation tax revenue. Then what would happen is the English would cut their corporation tax, the Welsh would demand they had the right to cut theirs, the Northern Irish already want the right to cut theirs." A low tax economy? No, thank you. As the Guardian reports, Mr Brown also had some strong words for the Tories on immigration, arguing that "a party which was once pro-Europe is now anti-Europe, a party which was once anti-Powellite on immigration is now becoming very close to being Powellite on that issue." Maybe he means the leadership. Ted Heath was certainly anti-Powellite, but it's hardly a phrase which could be applied to Tory backbenches of ages past.
Unite's runner for the Labour candidacy in Falkirk in 2015 has withdrawn. The Times (£) reports that union favourite Karie Murphy has pulled out of the selection process after the row over dirty tricks, including her union signing up and paying for new members who would support her. An unseemly Labour brawl? And in the seat being vacated after Eric Joyce admitted assaulting four people in a Commons bar. Imagine.
Chuka Umunna is going back to his (Nigerian father's) roots in Lagos today where he will address the Nigerian British Chamber of Commerce. His argument, that Britain is in danger of wasting the trading opportunity it has with the emerging economies of West Africa, is part of Labour's new push on developing economies which the FT (£) notes. as Chuka will point out, it isn't an area in which we excel at present - "in the first decade of this century, China’s trade with Nigeria increased by a whopping 800 per cent.  By contrast, Britain exports more to the Czech Republic – a small country less than a tenth of the size and less than a fifteenth of the population – than it does to Nigeria." Raises a question though - if the future is in West Africa and East Asia, why are Ed and the gang still so wedded to the EU?
Philip Hammond will today tell MPs that extending troops' Afghan tours from the standard six months to nine months will mean only two more brigades need to be deployed before combat operations close at the end of 2014. As we note, it's just the latest example of cuts in the defence budget biting. Fortunately, those savings haven't been in vain. As theGuardian notes, Dave is planning to double the size of the British payment to the Syrian opposition. Fortunately, it's all for "non-lethal support".
If you're giving a speech on the dumbing down of education, you're going to need to have dignified the sentiment with some pretty serious research. Fortunately, an FOI request to the DoE suggests that Michael Gove has been drawing on some heavy duty scholarly investigations, including market research by Permier Inn and UK TV Gold, when crafting his speeches. As the Independent reports, the grandmother from Lincolnshire who pursued the matter with the DoE also found that Mr Gove has used the noted academic journal London Mums Magazinein putting together his speeches.

Two days before he was due to face a disciplinary hearing for publicly blaming a Jewish conspiracy for a previous dangerous driving imprisonment, Labour peer Lord Ahmed has resigned from the party. But, as the Times (£) reports, he isn't slipping quietly into the good night. The peer grumbled that his hearing would have been based on "flawed evidence" and would contravene "the rules of natural justice" in his resignation letter. Nice to see the Carry On argument deployed again in top level politics - infamy, infamy, they've all got it in fer me.

Minister of State for Care and Support Norman Lamb has unveiled plans to make integrated health and social care the norm by 2018, according to the Guardian. The proposals could see financial penalties imposed on services if they ask patients to re-tell their stories to different layers of professionals; hospitals could also be paid based upon how patients rated their experiences there. Ed Miliband has previously made integration of services central to Labour's health policy. It sure beats the disintegration other departments' budgets are facing, anyway.

Only two months into their eight-month sentences, Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce are now as free as two birds. But what happens next? As theTimes (£) reports, Pryce already has plans to release a book, Prisonomics, analysing the economics of how prison works. While Huhne's fate rather resembles that described in Pryce's last book - Greekonomics - murmurs persistent that he isn't, or at least doesn't want to be, done with politics just yet.
Baroness Thatcher's old Oxford college, Somerville, have announced the formation of a new £100 million Margaret Thatcher Scholarship Trust. Ten "Thatcher scholars" will be selected each year from around the world, with a particular focus on those from less wealthy backgrounds. As we note, the trust has an eminent list of patrons from around the world, including George Bush Sr, Condoleezza Rice, Mikhail Gorbachev and Sir John Major. Not forgetting the ubiquitous Tony B, of course.

Boom! Boom!:

@chhcalling: "@LouiseMensch Did you know Arnold Schwarzenegger is related to Johann Sebastian Bach? His grandfather on his mother's side was Albie Bach."

Telegraph View - Boris is right: the world does not owe us a living

Best of the rest

Rachel Sylvester in The Times (£) - Two parties both riven by the same old splits
Steve Richards in The Guardian - Politicians, beware the deadly lure of referendums
Janan Ganesh in the FT (£) - The Conservative party has become ungovernable
Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail - A charter for killing grannies and the malign meddling of Labour's Lord High Busybody


Today: Business Secretary Vince Cable is to hold the first meeting of the Industrial Strategy Council. Science minister David Willetts to launch the Technology and Strategy Board delivery plan with a multi million pound investment.
08:00 am: Care Minister Norman Lamb to hold seminar and make announcement on plans for integrated care. The King's Fund, 11-13 Cavendish Square.
09:30 am: Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) releases its lending breakdown figures for March.
10:00 am: Mayor to launch public consultation on routes for Crossrail 2. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, will lead a short walkabout around Wimbledon High Street as he helps launch a public consultation on proposed routes for Crossrail 2. Wimbledon Tube station.
10:30 am: Arts minister Ed Vaizey gives evidence to the Commons Culture Committee on Government support for creative industries. Grimond Room, Portcullis House.
12:30 pm: Defence Secretary Philip Hammond statement on Afghanistan. House of Commons, London.
12:30 pm: Parliamentary inquiry on electoral conduct. The all-party parliamentary inquiry into electoral conduct holds its first evidence session. The witnesses from 12:30-1:45pm will be Conservative MP Lee Scott and former Labour Minister Parmjit Dhanda. The second group (1:45-3pm) will feature Liberal Democrat compliance officer David Allworthy and Ukip general secretary Michael Greaves. Committee Room 9, House of Commons.
02:30 pm: Food Standards Agency gives evidence to Commons Environment Committee on food contamination. Committee Room 8, House of Commons.
02:45 pm: Chief Inspector of Constabulary Tom Winsor and others give evidence to Commons Home Affairs Committee on police leadership. Grimond Room, Portcullis House.
03:35 pm: House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee takes evidence on taxation of global corporations. Committee Room 1, House of Lords.