Tuesday, 11 June 2013

What Cameron's all about..

Good morning. Dave gave a speech yesterday, and it was - whisper it - quite good. As our leader argues, he made a decent fist of explaining what he's all about. Those wanting vision and ideology should chill out and accept that his strengths are those of a managerial pragmatist who can thread his ways between different positions in search of useful solutions to the problems the nation faces. It was a preview of the G8 which, in the image of Dave, is on course to be low key and utilitarian: there's no sense of the kind of grandiose ambitions Gordon Brown was particularly prone to. Cameronism may not be pretty, it may lack any kind of intellectual oomph, and it may drive his more purist colleagues nuts, but Mr Cameron is sticking by his model.
And if you avert your gaze from the various presentational feck ups that Downing Street is prone to (everyone will have their own thoughts aboutGuido Paul's mischief about Susie Squire and the No10 operation, for example), the Government is stacking up a list of substantial policy achievements. A good day doesn't get him out of trouble though. He's helped by the fact that we are in a Westminster lull while attention is on the Snowden business. There's precious little politics about, but No10 can't be sure we won't be plunged into another round of leadership nonsense at some point. The atmosphere on the Tory backbenches remains febrile, and loyalty - party or to leader - no longer applies. Some are keeping a weather eye on Lord Ashcroft, who is manoeuvring against Lynton Crosby and Dave with abandon (did you notice that he invited Alastair Campbell to lunch on Twitter this morning after the Labour big boy asked him if Mr Cameron has any chance of winning in 2015?). Still, every small advance for Dave is a victory.
In the "global race", Mr Cameron has found a decent narrative. The challenge is to stick to it, as Janan Ganesh points out in the FT (£), warning of "the government's weakness for important but entirely separate international issues." Still, Michael Deacon can't resist having a bit of fun at Dave's expense
"We’re familiar," he said sternly, "with their frankly patronising attitude to those who disagree." No one with concerns about immigration, he went on, should be dismissed as a "Little Englander". Or, presumably, a fruitcake, loony and closet racist.
From a current PM's speech to a future PM's one. Well perhaps, anyway. Boris Johnson is speaking to City Hall today on the future of London, especially on the challenges posed by "a population that will rise by over a million in the next decade, a vast shortage of homes, and an uncompromising global economy". Boris will outline his response to these:
That's why government must invest in London’s future for the good of the whole of the UK. It's why we must continue to attract international investment. This is everyone’s city and all of our futures.
The fallout to the leaking of US spy documents has continued. William Hague yesterday defended Britain's system of checks and balances in the Commons, saying that "Our laws do not provide for indiscriminate trawling for information through the contents of people's communications." Mr Hague insisted that each request from the security services to carry out covert operations was reviewed by lawyers to ensure they complied with a strict legal framework.
And while some politicians are being attacked for being too lax on information protection, others are being attacked for placing an abstract concept of liberty ahead of security. The Sun has a leaked letter to Nick Clegg from the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, about the Communications Data Bill. Mr Starmer wrote to Mr Clegg on April 23, before Mr Clegg declared his opposition to the "snooper's charter":
For cases such as counter-terrorism, organised crime and large-scale fraud, I would go so far as to say that communications data is so important that any reduction in capability would create a real risk to future prosecutions
If institutions, be they parliaments or spy agencies, cannot be entrusted to make sense of this ocean of data on our behalf, then who can? Why should Mr Snowden, or The Guardian, or David Davis, be a better judge?
In the most optimistic report yet, it has been estimated that Britain has enough shale to meet its needs for a decade. The US government's Energy Information Administration estimated Britain's "technically recoverable shale resources" at 26 trillion cubic feet “technically recoverable shale resources” at 26 trillion cubic feet (tcf); annual gas consumption is around 3 tcf. All of which suggests that it is worth pursuing shale above nimbyism. But there could be an ironic turn of events: that while the Conservatives lead the pursuit of shale, it could be Labour that benefits from the boom. Meanwhile, Ed Davey has launched an independent review of the North Sea oil and gas industry, reports the FT (not online).  
Tim Yeo has announced that he will "temporarily stand aside" from the energy and climate change committee. The Parliamentary Standards Commission has launched an investigation into lobbying allegations against Mr Yeo. What is to be done? Paul Goodman writes for Conservative Home:
The lesson of the Yeo affair is that those who chair Select Committees should be barred from having any outside interest that can reasonably be seen to conflict with their role as Chairmen.
A huge overhaul of GCSEs will be announced today, focussing on increasing the rigour of the syllabus, toughening standards by ending grade inflation and abolishing coursework. A "two-tier" system of exams, which was previously mooted, does not feature. Writing for The Times (£), Michael Gove explained the driving force for the reforms:
I am determined that children from poorer families should enjoy the same opportunities that the privileged and wealthy have bought for their sons and daughters. 
The "Build to let" scheme was supposed to temper criticism that the Government was doing too little to address the country's housing shortage. But it has hit a snag: no one is interested. The plan aims to finance over £5 billion of homebuilding, but no financial group has come forward to run the scheme, as the FT (£) notes. After the criticism of the Help to Buy scheme for boosting demand while doing nothing to address supply, housing has emerged as one of the most calamitous of Government policy areas.
The National Audit Office will today give a "deeply critical" rural broadband rollout, calling it a "train crash", reports the FT (£). The NAO will say that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport failed to deliver a proper bidding process, contributing to only BT bidding for the subsidy. 
Ed Balls has received some praise from an unlikely source: the Institute of Directors. Simon Walker, the director general, praised Mr Balls's comments that he believed pensions should be included in a review of benefit entitlements for "opening up the debate on this vital subject". But given the propensity with which over 65s vote - 76 per cent in 2010 - Labour should be concerned that the general secretary of the National Pensioners’ Convention has accused Mr Balls of making "a fundamental error".  

Teresa Pearce is surprised to agree with a fellow Labour MP:
@tpearce003: Had a chat with Liam Byrne tonight and we agreed on somethings. Not sure who is more worried by that, me or him!

In the Telegraph
Best of the rest
Michael Gove in The Times (£) - Grade inflation flatters ministers, not pupils
Janan Ganesh in The Financial Times (£) - UK diplomacy must boost UK business
09:30 London: Commons Justice Committee takes evidence on proposed legal aid reforms.

12:30 London: Mayor Boris Johnson launches 2020 Vision plan for London. City Hall.