Thursday, 11 July 2013

MPs can't do a lot right..

Good morning. MPs can't do a lot right. First they give up control over their salaries to an independent body. Then the independent body proposes a salary rise that is embarrassing. That will happen today when the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority will recommend a salary increase of £6,500 for MPs after the next election. There might be a "get out of jail" card, with IPSA expected to recommend that the decision should be “reviewed in the first year of the next parliament”, according to economic circumstances. Even IPSA's recommended increase isn't as generous as it might seem. The plan aims to be revenue neutral, coming with caveats including a reduction in the final salary pension awarded to MPs and a cut in expenses including the dinner allowance.
The real losers are the backbenchers: have they ever been less appreciated by their parties? It's a problem that goes far deeper than the lack of attention given to them by Dave. Ed Miliband has new plansbanning Labour MPs from holding company directorships and earning more than 15 per cent of their income through outside interests by the next general election. It sometimes seems as if party leaders are in a race to see who can bash MPs more - a populism which only perpetuates the negative way in which the public views MPs.  
Ironically, the populism leaders espouse on MPs' salaries contributes to a problem they all share - the party funding crisis. Yesterday's PMQs exchange between Dave and Ed on the matter was heated. But The Times (£) notes that restarting cross-party talks on party funding could yet be an option this Parliament.  
Theresa May may no longer be a darling of the Tory Right after they expressed her angst over her plans to opt back in to 35 pan-European crime and justice measures, including the European arrest warrant. While Mrs May's proposals would still see the repatriation of 98 powers to the UK, there are concerns that it will be impossible to opt back out of the other measures. Yesterday's 1922 Committee meeting was a tense affair; I'm told things are going to get more difficult for the Home Secretary.
The polling data has long showed that the public trust the Conservatives more than Labour on welfare. Given the political salience of welfare, this is one of the biggest obstacles to Ed Miliband becoming PM. So it makes sense for Labour to attempt a counter-attack on the issue. Slow progress in the Universal Credit - which will now be run at only six Jobcentres this year - has been seized on by Labour. Liam Byrne described the news as "final confirmation that the welfare revolution we were promised has collapsed". There is more bad news for the Universal Credit with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation finding that some families who work full time could have less disposable cash than those who work part-time. But, whatever the teething difficulties of the Universal Credit, Labour still have much convincing to do to break through on welfare. Even their complaints about rising inequality are losing their sting, with The Independent reporting that inequality has slipped to its smallest level for a generation
Ed Miliband's proposed reforms to the relationship between trade unions and the Labour Party may be those of a man in a corner. But that is not to say they will fail: just look at Dave, so often at his best when left with nowhere else to go. Some are not born courageous, but have courage thrust upon them. That's the verdict of John McTernan, who thinks that Mili E may yet become the heir to Blair:
He is playing a weak hand strongly – under attack from Left and Right, from McCluskey and Cameron, he has struck back and created new political space. Being seen to have broken the link with the unions shows the public that you are a leader and you have changed your party. 
Many in Whitehall will not find Francis Maude's proposed reforms of the Civil Service welcome, with fears that it will lead to the Service becoming overly politicised. Such a view is not shared by Sir Hayden Phillips, who describes the proposals as "sensible and timely" in The Times (£).     
Backbench MPs and ministers have formed ‘the BBB Club’, standing for ‘bol****ed by Bercow’, as the Mail reports. The MPs plan to wear club badges before next week's PMQs. The Speaker has seemed increasingly combative in recent weeks, accusing ministers of not answering questions adequately in the House and branding Philip Hammond "utterly incompetent". But at least he is providing some entertainment at a time when Parliament seems to have taken an early recess. 
William Hague appeared to mouth "Stupid woman" during a question from Labour MP Cathy Jamieson about Mr Hague's actions in helping Aidan Heavey, a Tory donor, over a tax dispute during PMQs yesterday. Perhaps, as Michael Deacon writes, Mr Hague really said "Stupendous weather!" or "Stamping Wombles!" And there was a double fault at PMQs, with Dave describing Andy Murray as "the first British player to win in 77 years", forgetting Virginia Wade's Wimbledon victory in 1977. 
Robert Halon has a warning about post office privatisation: 
@halfon4harlowMP: Govt has to make sure that post office modernisation does not go the way of utility companies like water: 
In the Telegraph
Best of the rest 
Sir Hayden Phillips in The Times (£) - It’s not the thin end of the wedge, Sir Humphrey
Matt Ridley in The Times (£) - There’s no cure to the health spending paradox
Bobby McDonagh in The Financial Times (£) - Britain, Ireland and two peace processes
The Agenda
08:45 London: Reform annual conference, featuring Danny Alexander, David Gauke and Jeremy Browne. Clifford Chance, Upper Bank Street, Canary Wharf.
1000 London: George Osborne gives evidence to Treasury Select Committee on Spending Round 2013. Thatcher Room, Portcullis House, London, SW1A 2LW. 
1000: Proposals on MP pay and pensions published. Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority releases details of new remuneration package for consultation.