Wednesday, 10 July 2013

A leader or a follower..

Good morning. Even Mr Tony had praise for Ed Miliband's speech,describing it as “a real act of leadership”. The move to automatic affiliation of three million individual union leaders to Labour - who will instead have to choose to "opt in" - could cost the party up to £5 million a year, party insiders reckon. Predictably, Mr Miliband has tried to drag the Conservatives into a Labour scandal, writing in the Mirror, "I've acted on party funding and it's time David Cameron did too."   
Perhaps more interesting were the comments in Mr Miliband's speech about adopting American-style "primaries". The proposals would open up the Labour candidate selection for London Mayor, as well as other selection (though he was vague on the specifics) to "registered supporters" of Labour. The hope is that this could transform the opaque nature of Labour candidate selection, but it also falls short of the genuinely open primaries called for by Douglas Carswell. Interestingly some in the party believe that such a system risks increasing the power of the unions, through the importance of money and getting "registered supporters" just before a primary.
The press reaction is a reminder that the possibility of future disaster for Mr Miliband remains acute. His actions retain the feeling of being led by, rather than leading, events, as we note; The Guardian characterise his actions as rolling the dice; and The Times (£) are cautiously positive but emphasise that there is a lot of detail to be filled inJim Pickard in the FT (£) thinks that the power of trade unions could actually be increased - because the overall political fee paid to unions will keep its "opt-out system" (raising the spectre of unions using this to donate to Labour). Tellingly, Mr Miliband hasn't seriously proposed diluting the unions' voting power.  
One of Mr Miliband's problems is that his lack of policy announcements means he is always vulnerable to internal trouble: "instead of making a clear and attractive offer to voters, he has created a vacuum ready to be colonised by the next row that happens along", as Mary Riddell writes.
The Constitution could be fundamentally transformed if an "English veto" on legislation is created. Proposals are being drawn up - apparently supported by both David Cameron and Nick Clegg - to create a "fourth reading" of Bills on devolved matters, at which only English MPs could vote, according to the Indy's splash
You will have spotted the obvious obstacles: fundamental reform of the way the Commons legislates is difficult to devise, even more difficult to deliver. At every level the idea contains reasons for MPs to object. Whatever we might be told about Dave and Nick liking the idea, or even supporting it, they will tread carefully before trying to introduce changes that could be designed to lose them votes if they can be presented as discriminatory. Worth mentioning too that despite considerable pressure to do so, Dave has always resisted invitations to play to the English vote.
But if this did happen, the implications for Labour would be disastrous. Labour won 190 seats to the Conservatives' 296 at the last election; under the "English veto" system, Labour would be powerless to legislate on domestic matters if they won a narrow majority at the next election (and even that is optimistic). So, for better and worse, it could mean another term of the Dave-and-Nick show.
Accompanying the plans are promises of more freedom to Wales and Scotland: the effect could be to give Scots "devo-max" from within the union, and so make the case for staying in the union even more compelling. That might concern Alex Salmond but, if these proposals become law, it's Ed Miliband who really needs to be worried.  
Plans will today be announced to find £1 billion a year in Whitehall savings, building on a report that huge gains could be made from the appointment of a senior civil servant with a remit to improve financial management across Whitehall, reports the FT (£). Reduced "churn" of permanent secretaries and giving ministers bigger personal teams are also suggested as ways of achieving savings. 
While both will be heartened by the upgrade in the IMF's upgrade of this year's growth forecast to 0.9 per cent, Vince Cable and Michael Fallon have seldom seemed to agree on much. The privatisation of the Royal Mail is a welcome exception. Mr Fallon has written today on the benefits of privatisation, saying "It cannot be right for a £9 billion a year business to come cap in hand to ministers each time it wants to innovate or commit future investment." The flotation of the shares would not be aggressive in the manner of the "Tell Sid" campaign, because of the considerable risks for shareholders.
Labour are strongly opposed to the idea, with Chuka Umunna saying that "This fire sale is not in the interests of taxpayers, the consumers and small businesses which rely on the services of Royal Mail every day." But if the Lib Dems remain supportive of the privatisation, Labour's best efforts won't be enough to stop it. 
We've recently opened registrations for the Telegraph Festival of Business, held in London on November 12. It is free for the owners and directors of companies, and confirmed speakers  include Willie Walsh, Mike Lynch, Julie Deane and Luke Johnson. You can register here.
Chris Bryant isn't jumping on the Ashes bandwagon: 
@ChrisBryantMP: I can't decide which I care less about- football or cricket?
In the Telegraph
Best of the rest 
Daniel Finkelstein in The Times (£) - It’s unavoidable: we need a directly elected PM
John Rentoul in The Independent ECHR Ruling: In some cases life should mean life
The Agenda

12:15 London: Francis Maude and Sir Bob Kerslake discuss reforms to the civil service. Institute for Government.