Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Bold, desperate or both..

Good morning. Will it be enough? Ed Miliband has thrown together a speech to explain how he will change the relationship between the party and the unions. On the plus side it looks like he's ending the block vote and breaking the financial link. But there seems to be a degree of uncertainty about the detail, enough to suggest that we should check the particulars. Downing Street have texted everyone to say Len McCluskey's rejection in the Guardian is a killer. On Mr Miliband's side they praise the boldness of his move. The snag must be that it is hard to describe as bold something that was forced: Mr Tony moved against Clause 4 on his own terms and in his own time; Mr Miliband has been forced by circumstance into a hasty announcement.
The whiff of desperation is hard to deny. Still, if what has been trailed about today's speech is really properly enacted - especially proposing that union members will have to "opt-in" rather than "opt-out" and allowing registered Labour supporters in some seats to select candidates, as the Guardian reports - it will make the charge that Labour is in hoc to the unions a little less convincing; Dan Hodges went as far as tweeting that "If Ed follows through with what's being trailed, it will make Blair's Clause 4 moment look like a resolution of the Tufty Club. Big moment." And not before time. The Conservatives will today release what they claim is further evidence of Unite influencing Labour policy.The Mail reports that trade unions have been stitching up candidate selection, choosing union-friendly white candidates over ethnic minority ones. 
One speech, no matter how good, can only mark the start of Mr Miliband's reforms if he is serious about ending up in No 10. Toby Young blogs on ten questions that Mr Miliband is still to answer - with the issue of how to force the unions to comply with the rule change particularly pressing. Len McCluskey's Guardian intervention - "switching to an opt-in for the political levy wouldn't work" - shows what a fight Mr Miliband faces if he wants to change his party. Mr McCluskey's other comments - "Only a return to New Labour could split the movement apart" - reminds us that Mr Miliband remains to the Left of the electorate.
And how would changing the rules be paid for? The Mail's splashdescribes it as a £9 million gamble. There is no doubt that, if this is really what it seems, it could virtually bankrupt Labour. There's also no doubt that the status quo is not enough to win Labour the next election. 
As I write today, Mr Miliband also faces a wider challenge: to show, like Mr Tony before him, that he is on the side of the consumer against the producer, and with those who pay against those who provide. This is true of education policy - the "scandal" lies in good schools not being able to expand, not bad schools with empty places - but also more widely.   
Vince Cable will tomorrow announce plans to sell off shares in Royal Mail- the biggest state privatisation for over 20 years. The flotation is likely to value Royal Mail at between £2billion and £3billion. If Dave needs a game changer to alter the political weather before 2015, could another "Tell Sid" campaign be it? Talking of game changers, Lord Lawson writes in The Sun that 12 inch fracking holes could transform the UK.  
Andrew Tyrie has described banking legislation presented to parliament yesterday as “so weak as to be virtually useless”. George Osborne's announcement that he was ready to implement the main recommendations of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards report has been rubbished by Mr Tyrie, who complained it "falls short on a number of points." The FT (£) has a useful summary of what Mr Osborne has proposed
Francis Maude will today announce radical proposals to change the Civil Service, including allowing ministers to hand-pick up to 15 staff for their private offices, as The Times (£) reports. It would mark a huge step towards the politicisation of the Civil Service and eroding the barriers to reform that have so frustrated the most radical ministers. The Times (£) argues that such reforms are long overdue. 
As chatter continues that Theresa May has leadership ambitions (I remain unconvinced she has sufficient support within the parliamentary party), she has outlined another message that will appeal to the Tory Right. Mrs May wants to withdraw from 133 EU crime measures (opting back in to around 35 seen as vital to the national interest, including the European Arrest Warrant), notes The Times (£).  
Boris is facing attacks for making a joke that female students "have got to find men to marry" at the launch of the World Islamic Forum last week. Labour have accused Boris of "outdated opinions". Meanwhile Ann Widdecombe has said that there is no gender discrimination in the Commons, and both sexes are equally "roughed up" during debates.  
The old gag about two Eds being better than one for Labour is getting a new airing after Stephanie Flanders confirmed she dated Eds Miliband and Balls in the past, as The Times (£) reports. To further add to the intrigue, Ms Flanders shared tutorials with Yvette Cooper while at Oxford.
Grant Shapps reminds Ed that he still has questions to answer: 
@grantshapps: Ed Miliband still refusing to investigate what has happened in 41 candidate selections Len McCluskey's Unite union has been trying to fix! 
In the Telegraph
Best of the rest 
Rachel Sylvester in The Times (£) - The barons are dead. Long live the rank and file!
Lord Lawson in The Sun - Holes this size can save the UK 
Janan Ganesh in The Financial Times (£) - Miliband must renounce more than Unite’s tactics
The Agenda
11.30 London: Ed Miliband gives a speech on the future of Labour and the trade unions.