Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Summer brings Labour no relief..

It's a boy! You can find all the latest reaction on our live blogDavid Cameron has told the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to “enjoy and savour every moment” and has disclosed that he and his wife Samantha will not be having another child.
Good morning. Ed Miliband is lucky the summer news - heat, Ashes, baby prince - means there's little appetite for Labour's troubles. The detail of what's going on with his party is passing the public by. He's trying to get back on the front foot by revealing that he will hold a special conference probably next spring to sort out the whole business of Labour's financial relationship with the unions, as the Guardian report. But that's starting to look dicey. Labour can't afford to lose the cash, and already there are mutterings of anxiety from both MPs and trade unionists about what his reform of the affiliation rules means in practical terms. He acted under pressure and in haste, and can now repent at leisure. 
Colleagues shouldn't underestimate his resolve though: Mr Miliband wants things to change, he's got Harriet Harman working away at it and he believes a way can be found to modernise the relationship without damaging the party's ability to function. But look at the Ashcroft poll of Unite numbers, which the Sun and the Mail have particularly focused on. It illustrates the glaring gap between party and union leadership, and members who have no idea what is done in their name with their money. The poll finds that only 49 per cent of members would vote for Labour (23 per cent would vote Conservative), only 16 per cent recognised Mr McCluskey - and fully 86 per cent backed the benefit cap, which Mr McCluskey staunchly opposes. Hence The Sun's headline "Union is united... against boss Len". It all amounts to a further reminder that, as Robert Halfon and others have been keen to emphasise, there is no reason why the Conservatives can't become the party of the trade unions. 
The Tories can see that the union link is once more a source of weakness and embarrassment to a Labour leader, and will exploit it relentlessly. One of the reasons Mr Cameron is said to be happy to stonewall questions about Lynton Crosby is that he believes the Miliband-McCluskey link is far more embarrassing. I expect the Tories will look for ways to clear their decks of their own difficulties in order to leave them clear to focus all fire on Labour. The leaders are heading off for their summer break. This weekend marks the point at which Westminster pulls down the shutters. But on current trends there can be no relief for Labour. Unlike the Tories, the summer does not mark a break with an unhappy recent past. 
The EU is good for Britain. That's the entirely predictable verdict of the first six of 32 review documents examining Britain’s relationship with the European Union, covering the single market, health, development co-operation and aid, foreign policy, animal health and welfare and food safety, and taxation. The review found that the balance of competences between the EU and member states was broadly appropriate - enough to have Peter Bone complaining of a "Whitehall whitewash" while Nigel Farage lamented “a futile and cynical PR exercise”. As we note, it's a review that will cause few to change their mind either way. But, if it sounds like great news for Dave, it's not without potential problems - "the reports appear not to give the prime minister a strong evidential base from which to argue for a renegotiation of powers", as the FT (£) notes. Still, Dave may be grateful for the timing of the review - the royal baby limits the Mail's coverage to half a page on page 28. 
While this is much summer loving in the Government, a couple of worrying figures show the challenges that still lie ahead. Nearly half of the "fit for work" reports carried out on disabled people are of "unacceptably" poor quality, a government review has found. The PM's official spokesman has admitted he is "concerned" by the failings of Atos: around a third of those who appealed against being denied Employment Support Allowance have been successful and subsequently been given the benefits.
But, in the interests of coalition unity, Nick Clegg is in no position to criticise: his Youth Contract, launched to much hype, is falling a cool 95 per cent short of target, notes The Times (£). Despite recent successes, Dave is also on course to miss his target - a majority in 2015 - as Paul Goodman explains in his piece on how Dave is preparing for another coalition. The claims by Tory Michael Fabricant that Francis Maude described Conservatives as “mad” are hardly helpful either. 
The Help to Buy scheme has subsidised an estimated £1.3bn-worth of house purchases in the past four months in the UK housing market - nearly 7,000 homes and equivalent to more than a third of sales of such property over this period, reports the FT (£). So it's a good time for George Osborne to announce more details of the second part of the Help to Buy scheme, guaranteeing part of high loan-to-value mortgages.
The public are still paying £82 million a year for a "white elephant" project of 46 local fire and rescue services, Commons spending watchdogs will warn today, reports the Indy. Labour's scheme, announced in 2004, originally cost £482 million and was abandoned in 2010, but money is still being spent clearing up the mess. Talking of clearing up messes, Alan Johnson believes Ed Miliband has placed too much faith in ministers who presided over the 2010 election defeat and should promote some more fresh talent
Robert Halfon welcomes a new arrival:
@halfon4harlowMP: Wonder if I will still be around on this Earth to see the #RoyalBaby become King? 
In the Telegraph 
Philip Johnston - A porn crackdown that ticks the right boxes

Christopher Wilson - The royal baby: a dynasty renewed

Telegraph View - Dusty dossiers give EU the benefit of the doubt

Best of the rest 

Rachel Sylvester in The Times (£) - David Cameron must woo the school-run mums
Janan Ganesh in The Financial Times (£) - Cameron falls prey to the lure of intrusion
0930 LONDON: Release of Government files from 1983 by the National Archives
1000 LONDON: Treasury minister Greg Clark gives evidence to Lords committee on eurozone crisis. Committee Room 3, House of Lords