Friday, 7 June 2013

Labour remain in denial.. Ben Brogan's morning briefing

Good morning. It has been a crucial week for Project Ed and, on balance, one that has gone well. But a good week does not a credible opposition make. Labour remain in denial - publicly at least - over the levels of debt they amassed in the boom years. Ed Miliband's comments yesterday that "you can believe that the financial crash caused the deficit" seem to ignore reality. Like the small fact that Labour was running a deficit for the bulk of the decade of growth they presided over. Mr Miliband has a lot of work to do to convince usAnd it remains far from clear that the public will accept Labour's defence.
There are other problems too. Ed and co have been happy to talk tough before, only to swiftly retreat into their comfort zone of opposing all Tory cuts. Has the new approach of the two Eds taken Labour with them? The FT (£) reports that they already face a backlash over abandoning universalism. Several important figures on the Labour Left have voiced their discontent, including a former Cabinet member not impressed by fiscal restraint:
I would be very worried if they are accepting spending limits for the first year or two of the next parliament. Why on earth would people want to vote Labour?
There also remains the knotty issue of feasibility over some of the reforms Mr Miliband proposed. His aides have admitted the difficulty of implementing his housing benefit reforms, as The Guardian notes.
But Ed now finds himself facing an unlikely description: Dan Hodges calls him a "Labour moderniser" trying to rethink the welfare state on Labour's own terms. To the FT (£), Mr Miliband has had an "epiphany". And Philip Collins in The Times (£) says that, following speeches from the two Eds, Labour are now in a better place than a week ago. But the challenge is to hone their message and stick to it, given Ed's "tendency to say a great deal once but not much twice, which is what you do when you are not entirely sure what you are trying to say."
Still, Ed isn't the only one who might have a problem with reality, as Jeremy Warner writes in his warning of the Coalition's lack of progress in addressing Britain's debts:
Inability to face the truth about Britain’s predicament is unfortunately not just a Labour failing. Great swathes of the established political class are afflicted by it.
Against this backdrop, Labour's donor problems rumble on. Never one to miss a political oppportunity, George Osborne has called on Labour to pay tax on John Mills's so-called tax efficient £1.65 m donation to Labour in January.
Mr Cameron has promised his backbenchers a vote over any decision to arm the Syrian rebel forces, reports The Independent. He yesterday received a letter from Andrew Bridgen, signed by a total of 81 Conservative MPs, saying that there was a "very real concern" of British involvement escalating, and calling for "a full debate and vote" in Parliament. Up to half of Conservative MPs could oppose arming Syrian opposition forces, making any vote unlikely to pass the Commons, as The Guardian reports a senior source warning of "parallels with Tony Blair." While the internal situation in Syria shows no sign of stabilising, The Times (£) have described arming the rebels as "right".     
Labour have said that they will reverse the Coalition's planning reforms and scrap the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which came into force earlier this year and requires councils to promote "sustainable development" in planning decisions. Writing for our website, Hilary Benn said Labour would decentralise planning decisions:
Local communities should decide where they want new homes and developments to go and then give their consent in the form of planning permission. It’s the difference between having a say and having it done to you
Perhaps the man in Whitehall doesn't know best after all.
As Mr Cameron heads North of the border to address Scottish Conservatives today, he can be increasingly confident that he won't be the PM who presides over the collapse of the union. Fraser Nelson writes that the SNP haven't made any progress in their pro-independence campaign, with a recent survey even finding that 61 pc of teenagers favour remaining part of it. This is because of the failure of the SNP to provide answers:
Which of Scotland’s many problems – including the horrific levels of poverty – would be solved by independence?  
The Government's approach to spending has always been to cut the budgets of departments rather than the departments themselves. But some welcome radicalism could change that, with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's very existence being threatened. Under plans the responsibilities would be shifted to other departments. It's no coincidence that one effect would be to change the minister charged with rolling out a high-speed broadband network, with Maria Miller's failure to make progress thus far angering several media firms and the Chancellor. Ms Miller must be considered among the most vulnerable if there is any future ministerial tinkering. As our leader notes mulling the future of the DCMS, Ms Miller's uncooperative attitude to the media doesn't help:
Whether or not it survives – and it has always been hard to see its point – we hope she eventually learns to show a little more regard for press freedom, and a little less for her own wounded pride.
Jeremy Hunt has given the NHS until next April to solve the pressure that "vulnerable elderly people" are placing on accident and emergency units. Mr Hunt has developed a strategy focused upon improving coordination between health and social care and making GPs responsible for patients’ well-being after they leave hospital, which health officials will now be charged with developing. Mr Hunt's emphasis on a more integrated system of health and social care is an idea that has been championed by Andy Burnham.
145 barristers on the Attorney General's Panel of Counsel have written an open letter to Dominic Grieve describing legal aid cuts as "unconscionable", reports The Independent. While some will downplay this as the result of self-interest, it is believed to be the first time that public criticism of policies have been made by the Government's own legal aid advisers.
The House of Commons has been hijacked by a narrow clique of toadying career politicians. The comment might not be surprising, but the author of it perhaps is. You can listen to the MP make the case for giving voters the power of recall in this week's Telegram podcast.

David Miliband supports the decision to award compensation to Kenyans abused by British colonial forces 
in the 1950s: 

@DMiliband: Kenya victims came to see me as Foreign Secretary in February 2010. Dreadful case. Definitely right decision to do right by them.

In the Telegraph
Best of the rest
Philip Collins in The Times (£) - This slow match will get Miliband nowhere
Philip Stephens in The Financial Times (£) - Nations and the illusion of sovereignty
Today: David Cameron will speak at the Scottish Conservatives' annual conference.

09:30 London: IFS briefing on the spending review.