Friday, 14 June 2013

Labour to abstain on EU referendum..

Good morning. Labour and the Liberal Democrats will avoid voting on the EU Referendum Bill. The parties have dismissed James Wharton's Bill as a "stunt" and will stay away from the Commons on voting day. The Bill would certainly pass the Commons but would then be blocked in the Lords. The aim of the Labour and Lib Dem game is to oppose the Bill without being seen to do so; neither Nick Clegg nor Ed Miliband want to publicly vote against a referendum, whatever they privately think.
The Guardian have a note from party whips to Labour MPs outlining their stance:
This is a Tory gimmick, a political stunt and therefore we are suggesting colleagues do not need to be here, unless they are prepared to make a supportive speech on Labour's position.
Confused much? It's a reminder that, for all the discussion of the threat to the Conservatives of the European issue, it poses significant challenges to Labour too. Expect to hear much more of the Labour for a Referendum campaign in the months ahead. And it's a case the group could yet win. As James Kirkup argued in yesterday's Evening Briefing Email, "A Labour referendum pledge in 2015 has just come another step closer." Mr Miliband's actions on this vote are those of a man biding his time before deciding what Labour's manifesto will say about Europe. But there is a strong feeling within the Shadow Cabinet, led by Ed Balls, that Labour should not end up as the anti-referendum party, as The Guardian notes.
Grant Shapps has wasted no time in attacking Mr Miliband's policy on the EU Referendum Bill:
Ed Miliband has made clear yet again that he is too weak to give his MPs, let alone the public, a say.
George Osborne has enough difficulty in the wrangling over the Comprehensive Spending Review without the Army getting involved. So he will not be happy with the news of General Sir Peter Wall warning that further cuts would seriously damage the Army's "professional competence" in some areas. While Philip Hammond has previously outlined millions of pounds of efficiency savings on MoD contracts, he still has a long way to go to identify the savings Osborne has requested, and this intervention will only encourage Mr Hammond's obstinacy.  
Another department facing cuts, Vince Cable's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, isn't giving in either. The Treasury is pushing for graduates to start paying back student loans when they are earning £18,000, £3,000 less than the current figure. But, having already suffered political damage by agreeing to a trebling of tuition fees to £9,000 a year, Liberal Democrats are digging in. One source said: "They know we’ll never accept it so they are just whistling in the dark."
Dave has found a new way to deal with the strong-willed potential successors in the Cabinet: embracing them, as the Mail notes. "I let them get on with the job. I look around the table and think, isn’t it great we’ve got this talent. I don’t want shrinking violets." There doesn't seem any danger of that anytime soon. A further reminded comes from Michael Fallon's response to a question about Theresa May's leadership ambitions in the Commons: "They may not need that much help". Lord Patten warns the Conservatives what all this idle leadership chatter could amount to: "parties that don’t look united don’t win elections."
Opposition is growing to Nick Clegg's stance on the Communications Data Bill, and not just from Conservative ranks. Three former Labour home secretaries, Jack Straw, David Blunkett and Alan Johnson, are among those who sign a letter in today's Times (£) urging the Lib Dems to stop opposing the Bill. The signaturies, who also include Lord Baker of Dorking, Home Secretary under John Major, warn Mr Clegg that:
Coalition niceties and party politics must not get in the way of giving our security services the capabilities they need to stay one step ahead of those that seek to destroy our society.
Dave's hopes of making significant progress on tax avoidance at the G8 summit are in the balance, as the FT (£) reports. Canada is resisting plans to require greater levels of disclosure on tax arrangements. There is also further bad news with France opposed to elements of a proposed EU-US trade deal. If Dave thought he could find foreign comfort for his domestic difficulties, he might be mistaken.
Another day, another significant education reform. Liz Truss has said that schools could stay open until 6pm under plans to increase "school wrap-around childcare", with local childcare providers replacing teachers after the normal school day. Ms Truss believes that this would help to lower childcare costs, which are the second highest in the world.
It also seems an appropriate time to assess the impact of Michael Gove's latest bout of school reforms. Comprehensive teacher Francis Gilbert is concerned about the lack of coursework and teacher assessment, writing:
If you have a system that is entirely focused upon exams, you inevitably get teachers teaching to the test. This is particularly the case when a teacher’s pay and a school’s future hinges upon exam results.
Streaming is currently optional for schools; it should be, if not compulsory, then at the very least the default. And we do need to think again about selection. While dividing children at the age of 11 may have been overly harsh, there is surely a need for schools whose explicit mission is to get the best out of the brightest.
On and on the arguments will go.
Boris Johnson and Nick Clegg used their radio shows to engage in a spot of verbal jousting yesterday, notes the Mail. Boris, who will appear on LBC radio station once a month, was branded "Slacker Johnson" by Nick, who will continue to run his weekly show. But Boris didn't take long to respond: "Good to see Nick’s got spare time in [his] ceremonial role as Lib leader." Ouch.  

Brooks Newmark thinks Mr Farage is getting an unfair advantage:
@TweetBrooks: Farage has appeared more times on @bbcqt (14) than any other politician since 2009. #justsaying

In the Telegraph
Christoper Hope & Richard Bacon - Teflon civil servants who never feel the heat
Best of the rest
Philip Collins in The Times (£) - Labour's addicted to meddling, not spending
James Barty in The Times (£) - Ministers are rotten shareholders. Sell RBS now
Will Hutton in The Guardian - If only Britain had joined the euro
Jonathan Ford in The Financial Times (£) - Osborne should not have meddled
0830 London: Queen's Birthday Honours briefing. The Birthday Honours are published. Briefing at Cabinet Office at 8.30am; list released publicly at 0001 tomorrow.
1430 London: Prime Minister David Cameron to meet Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to sign off an economic package for NI in advance of the G8 summit. Press conference at 1500 at 10 Downing Street.

Today's email was edited by Tim Wigmore