Friday, 26 July 2013


Good morning! There's a decided spring - even summer - in our step at Morning Briefing Towers, because today is the last one before Tim Wigmore and I head off for an extended summer break, and a long, long sleep. Helpfully, Dave, Nick and Ed have all done the same,disappearing by Easyjet to their hideaways in Portugal, Spain and France (respectively). Westminster is taking to its deckchairs and whatever the valiant efforts of those left behind to man (and woman - sorry Harriet) the Lobby, politics is switching off. So the morning email will too. We hope to return around September 2, but that depends on whether I'm back. In its absence, do try James Kirkup's lively Evening Briefing, which digests the day most usefully, and our new The World Today briefing by Alex Spillius, which summarises the essentials of our foreign coverage. In the meantime, enjoy what's left of the summer, thank you to the tens of thousands who have subscribed so far, and do let us know how we might improve it.
As expected, the ONS yesterday announced that the economy grew by 0.6 per cent from April to June, and it has now grown by 1.4 per cent over the past year. No one would pretend that's brilliant, but it is good news for Dave to take on holiday. His backbenchers, sensing a coherent and optimistic message coming into place before 2015, are increasingly optimistic that the party is on the right track; internal Tory grumblings about the need for a different economic course, so audible a year ago, have been silenced. 
All of which creates difficulties for Ed Balls (who observed the release of the figures from America). We argue that "unlike much of the eurozone, the UK is at least travelling in the right direction. This is something the shadow chancellor finds it hard to come to terms with." The approach Mr Balls is taking is to focus on the squeeze in living standards, but George Osborne, writing in The Times (£), argues that, by "implementing a full spectrum of the most radical changes for a generation — in schools, welfare, tax, skills, planning and universities", growth can be taken to the North and low earners. But, while Mr Osborne writes that disposable incomes have risen by 1.4 per cent on the previous year, The Times (£) note that average earnings rose by less than the consumer price inflation rate.  
Larry Elliott distils how George Osborne's economics and politics meshin The Guardian. "Osborne wants to go into the next election with the following message: we inherited a right old mess from the last lot; that mess has taken us longer than we expected to clear up; we stuck to our plan when the opposition told us to change course; the benefits are now coming through; so don't hand power back to the people who screwed up in the first place." Labour might console themselves that they still have almost two years to attack the message - but it's simple and could yet be very effective too, especially with Lynton Crosby at the top of his game,as Tony Blair's former political secretary John McTernan points out
Matthew Hancock has called on firms to do more to train local workers, and avoid the "easy option" of taking on migrant workers. He told the Mail: ‘As vacancies rise, and unemployment falls further, it is the duty of companies, especially big business, to take on local young people – not immediately take the easy option of recruiting from abroad."
Mr Hancock's intervention comes when there's already a bit of a row breaking out over the two vans with the "Go Home or Face Arrest" billboards currently touring Hounslow, Barking & Dagenham, Ealing, Barnet, Brent and Redbridge. By texting “HOME”, illegal immigrants are offered “free advice, and help with travel documents.” A few Lib Dems have spoken out against it - and it's surely no coincidence that the scheme has coincided with both Nick Clegg and Jeremy Browne being away - but Conservative MPs seem to back the measure. Tim Wigmore blogs on how the billboards fit into the Conservatives' anti-Ukip strategy. 
No punches have been thrown, but there is quite a fight breaking outover Anne McIntosh's seat in Thirsk and Malton. The local Conservative executive board decided not to re-adopt Miss McIntosh as its candidate in January - despite her receiving 52 per cent of the vote in 2010 - but the Conservative Party’s national board have ordered another contest in September. It's an unseemly repeat of what happened in 2009: Miss McIntosh is nothing if not a political fighter. 
It could hardly have come at a time when fewer people would notice, but it's worth looking at the party income and expenditure data from 2012, released by the electoral commission yesterday. Labour received £33 million and recorded a £2.8 million surplus - though, as The Times (£) notes, they didn't pay any corporation tax on it while the Conservatives, who made a smaller surplus, paid £500,000. But spare a thought for the Lib Dems, who received only £6 million, a £400,000 loss, and now have debts of £1.15 million. 
The suspicions that the Lib Dem grassroots would sooner go into coalition with Labour than the Conservatives after 2015 has been given new credence by a new poll for Lib Dem Voice. It finds that, in the event of a hung parliament in 2015, just 18 per cent of Lib Dem members would prefer an alliance (either a coalition or confidence and supply agreement) with the Conservatives, compared to 55 per cent for Labour. Dave had better aim for a majority, then. Meanwhile, as Isabel Hardman writes, Nick Clegg still needs to convince the electorate "that this third party is committed to taking the difficult decisions of government, rather than simply maintaining the idealistic purity of opposition." The autumn conference looms as a big test. But there was some bad news for the party yesterday night - and some more summer cheer for CCHQ - with a notable by-election gain for the Conservatives in Kingston Beverley, as reported in the Kingston Guardian. The ward is in the heart of Ed Davey's seat. 
Andrew Griffiths survived the needle:
@agriffithsmp: As a confessed needlephobic,can I reassure anyone thinking about giving blood it didn't hurt a bit & it puts a smile on your face afterwards 
In the Telegraph 
Best of the rest 
George Osborne in The Times (£) - Growth must reach the North and low earners
Mary Dejevsky in The Independent - Stop treating the state pension as a handout
Maurice Glasman in The Guardian - Labour should join Justin Welby's war on Wonga
Samuel Brittan in The Financial Times (£) - Go for growth, inflation is not imminent