Thursday, 6 June 2013

Are Labour becoming credible.. Ben Brogan's morning briefing

Good morning. Ed Miliband will give a speech at Newham Dockside today in which he will outline his approach to two deficits - the government's economic one and Labour's own credibility issue. As we report, the most important aspect will be a pledge to cap some parts of the welfare budget. Mr Miliband will argue that the housing benefit bill could be reduced by a housebuilding programme that would reduce the amount spent subsidising rents to private landlords, as well as local authorities negotiating bulk deals with landlords. The FT (£) says that Labour have decided to stick within the departmental and welfare spending for 2015-16 laid out by George Osborne in his June 26 spending review. One noticeable effect is that the £2.3 billion cut to child benefit for wealthy families would not be reversed, as Liam Byrne has just confirmed on Today. Mr Miliband will also lend his support to a welfare system giving higher payments to those with a record of work. It's a strategy that aims to address the public's own perception of Labour as a party incapable of taking tough decisions. Dan Hodges blogs that "DUEMA (the Don’t Underestimate Ed Miliband Association) will be getting itself a new member." 
Not everyone is as convinced. The Times (£) questions whether Labour can restore economic credibility while Ed Balls remains in his post andMartin Kettle says in The Guardian that a "very large number" of the electorate still need to change their mind over Mr Miliband. The Conservative response to Mr Miliband's proposals will centre on attacking his policy flips: Labour have opposed a housing benefit cut, benefit cut and welfare uprating cut this Parliament, which is enough forThe Sun to band him "Ed turner". Perhaps Mr Miliband will reflect that the tardiness of his policy development has stoked up trouble.
Patrick Wintour in The Guardian explains that Mr Miliband needs to address the perception of the "nothing for something" welfare system, while Steve Richards argues in The Independent that Labour need to draw lessons with the 1997 election - because the key questions will be much the same. He questions whether Labour could end up giving themselves too little room for manoeuvre in government:
Can it be trusted to run the economy? Have they started to answer the question at the right time in the parliamentary cycle? Can they answer this question in a way that reassures critics while still giving them the space to act radically if they win?
Nick has made himself more Conservative enemies after announcing his plans to block reforms deregulating child care, saying he was unconvinced by the evidence that it would make childcare more affordable - without even warning the Department of Education. Liz Truss had strongly argued that allowing nurseries to look after more children would help cost-of-living concerns for working parents, and the reaction of the Tories can be guessed by what one Conservative MP told The Times (£): "Who does this guy think he is?"One senior Tory told The Guardian: "It is a bit premature to brief before the final package has been agreed."  
Stephen Twigg is putting in an Urgent Question request to the speaker to clarify the situation - and score political points.
Ahead of his big speech today, Mr Miliband could have done with his party keeping free of scandal. He obviously reckoned without our exclusive revelations that Labour helped its largest financial backer, John Mills, avoid paying any tax on a donation of £1.65 million. Following discussions with Labour, John Mills gave the payments in shares. To have donated the same figure in cash, Mr Mills would have needed to pay £1.46 million in tax. Labour may denounce tax avoidance - but, when it comes to their party's coffers, the party is in no position to moralise.
David Cameron's plans to gave Britain a major role in supplying Syrian rebel forces with arms is splitting the Cabinet. The Independentsays that Cameron is supported by William Hague, Philip Hammond and Michael Gove, but Nick Clegg is leading those opposed, who include Ken Clarke, Baroness Warsi and Justine Greening. Writing in his column,Peter Oborne sees unwelcome parallels between Mr Cameron's approach to Syria and Mr Blair's handling of Iraq
There is further economic encouragement with the news in the FT (£) that the service sector grew last month at the fastest rate in over a year.In The Times (£), Ian King proclaims "springtime" for the economy. This all makes Labour's challenge on the economy even greater.  
While the considerable savings achieved in Whitehall are to be commended, it's not exactly clear what politicians' constant demeaning of their civil servants is achieving. Sue Cameron questions not just the manners of Francis Maude and co - but also their tactics: "Do they seriously think this will encourage officials to work harder, or will it simply foster resentment?"
With an eye to another reshuffle of the Tory middle ranks that we can expect over the summer, Anna Soubry's comments yesterday about the NHS might give her bank manager cause for despair. She warned of the "unintended consequences" of the rise in the number of women studying medicine, saying that if they had children they would place a "huge burden" on the health service. The British Medical Association has already denounced Ms Soubry's words as reflecting "a very outdated view of women in the modern workplace". The suspicion has to be that Soubry is a women Dave will now see less of in his own very modern workplace. Unintended consequences, indeed.

Not everyone is convinced by Mr Miliband's approach on welfare:

@GregHands: If Labour were serious on welfare, they wouldn't be opposing every single welfare saving we have introduced! #sameoldLabour

In the Telegraph
Best of the rest
David Aaronovitch in The Times (£) - Sometimes it's right to tell voters they're wrong
Ian King in The Times (£) - At last it's springtime for British economy
Steve Richards in The Independent - Miliband and balls look to the past to plan for their future
10:30 London: Ed Miliband speech and Q&A on welfare. Newham Dockside

12:00 London: Bank of England decision on interest rates and quantitative easing programme.