Friday, 24 May 2013

United response to terror attack.. Ben Brogan's morning briefing

Good morning. The reaction to Wednesday's terror attack continues to dominate the political scene. David Cameron has reacted in a characteristically calm way, calling the murder a "betrayal" of Islam and emphasising that "One of the best ways of defeating terrorism is to go about our normal lives." Other party leaders, plus President Obama, have issued similarly measured responses, as we report.
Eric Pickles spoke to Daybreak about the reaction to the attack:
"The very sensible thing that I think has come out of this is the overwhelming majority of Muslims and Muslim organisations have condemned this. It’s been unequivocal in the condemnation and those that sought to use this to divide us - it’s actually been a catalyst to bring the communities together."
But unfortunately not all the reaction has been so sensible. As TheGuardian reports, there has been a spike in Islamophobic crimes and incidents - including 38 over Wednesday night alone. The English Defence League have already held a demonstration in Woolwich, with another gathering planned for outside Downing Street on Monday. The British National Party have also announced their own in Woolwich on 1 June. Against this backdrop David Blunkett has warned of the "very nasty and angry politics" Britain is threatened by, which needs to be carefully managed to to ensure "something much more dangerous is avoided", as The Guardian notes:
"52 people lost their lives in 2005, but the existence of social media and rolling 24 hour news repeatedly showing gruesome images makes this much harder for authorities. It makes it that much harder to calm feelings, ensure rational debate and prevent attitudes from hardening, and to prevent the kind of reaction we have already seen from the English Defence League."
Mr Cameron has - quite rightly - insisted that there will be no "knee-jerk" legislation in reaction to the attack. But Theresa May could revive plans for a "snooper's charter" allowing authorities to monitor internet use, reports The Independent. Given the Lib Dems' staunch opposition to any such measure, that would cause further tensions in the Coalition.
David Miliband has returned to the British political scene, however briefly, using a speech in Dublin to admonish Nigel Lawson's case for withdrawal from the EU. Miliband accused Lawson of "folly" over his claim that the eurozone is a unified bloc; said there was no European plot against Britain on financial regulation; and argued against the notion "that the single market is somehow cosseting British industry". In hisspeech to the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, Mr Miliband concluded that "The answer is not less Europe, more Europe, or no Europe; it is a different Europe."  
Liam Byrne is determined for Labour to end questions over welfare by adopting a renewed emphasis on the "right and responsibility" to work, with increased "benefit penalties" if the unemployed turn down jobs. In an interview with The Independent (not online), My Byrne said "George Osborne is inventing dividing lines on social security, to hide a failure to bring down the cost. We are not going to get caught in that trap." Mr Byrne also spoke of bringing the "contributory system back". All very interesting stuff - but how will the rest of his party react? It might just be an election-defining question.
The EU have reacted to recent tax avoidance allegations by forcing big companies to open up their tax affairs to greater public scrutiny. As theFT (£) reports, a law compelling companies to publish corporate profits and taxes on a country-by-country basis could be passed as soon as the summer.
New figures show that net migration fell to 153,000 in 2012 - a fall of 100,000 from its 2010 peak. As the FT (£) reports, the most significant decreases have been in student sponsored visas (although University visas have risen slightly since last year). It all means that the Conservatives could be able to boast of reducing immigration to "tens of thousands" in 2015, as they pledged to before the last election.
Figures released by the Department of Education show that, under plans to relax legal ratios for staff looking after children, the cost of childcare could fall by as much as 28%. The Guardian reports that this could yet raise hope among Michael Gove and Liz Truss that they could overcome Lib Dem objections to childcare reform. Even if it does not, childcare reform could be an important area in which the Conservatives say their will was thwarted by Lib Dem caution.
The FT (£) reports that there are murmurs that Philip Hammond might be considering resigning in protest at the further cuts of the armed services he is being asked to preside over - setting himself up as a leader of the Tory right. Add his opposition to defence cuts with his criticisms of gay marriage and the EU and it's easy to see why, in these times of coalition and Dave's modernisation, some Tories hanker for Hammond. 
Peter Mandelson has had a fair few roles in his time but here's a new one: high steward of Kingston Upon Hull. As The Guardian notes, the prince of darkness has been appointed to a role that his grandfather Herbert Morrison once held.  

William Hague's reaction to Wednesday's attack:
@WilliamJHague: PM @David_Cameron right to say Woolwich attack a betrayal of Islam and of Muslim communities who give so much to our country

In the Telegraph
Best of the rest
David Aaronovitch in The Times (£) - We're in the age of coalitions. Get used to it
Ali Miraj in The Independent - A cancer in our midst
Martin Wolf in the FT (£) - Osborne should not be complacent

Today: European Commission public hearing on Financial Supervision in the EU opens in Brussels.