Friday, 6 September 2013

Is the parliamentary mood changing..

Good morning. Dave's feelings on Syria are out in the open - and those who didn't vote for the Government motion would be advised to look away now. The PM said that those who opposed military action would have to "live with the way they voted". He contrasted the "easy and political path" of those who didn't vote for intervention with the "right and difficult path" he set out "against the gassing of children". George Osborne has also spoken: "The House of Commons has made its view clear on military action in response to chemical weapons. I'm happy with the way I've cast my vote. Those who voted a different way have to account for that. Britain is today leading efforts to step up then humanitarian situation in Syria, and the tragedy of 2m people leaving that country, fleeing for their lives."

But what happens next isn't entirely clear. The Government, as Mr Osborne's words remind us, has continued to rule out the possibility of Britain taking part in any intervention, even as he said that British intelligence agencies had amassed new proof of the Assad regime's use of sarin. The facts may have changed, but Mr Cameron doesn't seem to want to give Parliament the chance to change its mind. This seems a mistake. From talking to Conservative MPs who either voted against, abstained or didn't make the vote at all, it seems clear that, there would be a decent possibility of changing Parliament's mind. Noises from Labour also suggest that they could yet be open to intervention. Look at Ben Bradshaw's intervention in today's Guardian: "The Labour party is internationalist or we are nothing. We have a strong and proud tradition of supporting humanitarian intervention and being prepared to do difficult things with other liberal democracies to uphold global norms and stand up to dictators." He also warns that, "We have allowed Labour foreign policy to be dictated by the government." Mr Tony has also given another interview, conceding that Iraq has made Britain more "hesitant" to intervene in Syria while warning about the consequences of inaction: "you will have an Assad-dominated state, and that means in this instance an Iran-dominated state, probably around the borders of Lebanon and controlling most of the wealth of Syria." It may well be that the passage of time, the accumulation of fresh evidence, American support and the chance to reconsider will change the mood and make it easier for Mr Cameron to secure Commons support were he to present a fresh motion.

In the meantime, one domestic implication of Syria would seem clear. Conservative MPs who didn't vote with the Government have done serious harm to their hopes of advancement in the remainder of this Parliament. After his treatment of Jesse Norman, Dave will have to be consistent.


Nick Boles and Michael Gove have united against the nimbys. Both ministers have criticised those who oppose planning reforms, with Mr Gove accusing objectors of rejecting "social justice changes" and “stopping children growing tall” because they have to live in smaller homes in shared bedrooms. Mr Boles used an article for ConservativeHome to warn that the Conservative Party "loses elections when it defends the privileges of a comfortable elite. As the next election approaches, David Cameron is clear that the Conservative Party should be saying Yes to Homes.” The interventions are a reminder of the reoccuring tension between rural and metropolitan Tories. The Party will need to be at its best to show that, in listening to one group, it is not ignoring the other. Grant Shapps will hope there is room for both in the new CCHQ offices which, as I blog, will move to No 4 Matthew Parker Street from February. A key part of Mr Shapps' rationale is to move the offices closer to the Commons, to make it easier for MPs to drop in.


Labour's relationship with the trade unions may be more secure than feared. That's the message from TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady who says in the Guardian: "over history that link has changed, evolved, it is bound to, it is not written in stone, but the important thing is that it is there." Mrs O'Grady was supportive of Ed Miliband - "when push comes to shove Miliband rises to the occasion and has set out a direction for the country" - and set him a challenge for his TUC specch next week. "I think we do need that compelling story and [the speech] needs to give people confidence that we are not just describing the problems, we need [to hear] that they are prepared to tackle them and to square up to some powerful interests." After all his recent problems with the unions, any sign of constructive engagement will be welcome for Ed. If Ed can't rekindle the flame the question must be asked: where is Labour's money going to come from? One answer, reports the Independent, could be: all of us. Labour are considering including a £5,000 cap on individual donations in their party manifesto for the next election. Were this to happen, state funding would need to make up the shortfall. What the public will think of more funding for political parties in the current climate - well, we don't even need to imagine. For all the difficulties of cross-party talks on party funding, Isabel Hardman writes that cross-party talks on reforming the civil serviuce are now in the interests of all parties
The Public Administration Select Committee would seem to agree, and has proposed a strategic review of what the civil service exists to do, notes The Guardian.


Nick Clegg has used a column in the FT (£) to bat for HS2. Mr Clegg writes, "HS2 is going to happen because we need it. We will build it carefully, responsibly and within budget. Costs are controlled: the budget is £42bn, including a £14.4bn contingency that will be worked down, not up. When it is open it will become one of those useful and necessary things, like motorways or the Tube, that make life easier and our economy stronger." And it has been a good day for HS2 all round, with heads of eight major firms signing a letter to the Telegraphdescribing HS2 as "a much-needed investment in infrastructure for the future. Building it on time and within budget is well within the capabilities and ambition of the British construction industry."


Sticking with Mr Clegg, he has had a little public disagreement with Michael Gove about sex education in schools. Mr Clegg used his LCB breakfast show yesterday to express his disagreement with Mr Gove's inaction in updating the sex education guidance in schools, which hasn't changed since 2000, saying that the Government should "really raise the expectation that all schools do this properly in the classroom.” Mr Clegg's views support the Telegraph Wonder Women campaign for better sex education.  In response, Mr Gove expressed his wish that sex education in schools did not become "time bound" and he wanted to empower teachers to make the right decisions.


The Government is planning a partial retreat on the lobbying bill next week, according to the Guardian. It will offer to remove some of the most controversial clauses, with amendments meaning that no extra charities or third parties would be caught by the spending restrictions on political campaigning.


Tom Harris has had enough - and there's still a year to go:
@TomHarrisMP: 18/9/14 will be a crucial milestone for Scotland - when we won't have to listen to people banging on about the bloody referendum any more.

In the Telegraph

Fraser Nelson - We need a law to end gender-specific abortions

Jeremy Warner - Osborne has a recovery, but what sort?

Isabel Hardman - Universal Credit debacle is not the fault of IDS

Telegraph View - A decision that doesn’t serve the public interest 

Best of the rest

Frances O'Grady in The Guardian - Critics of austerity can't deny growth is back. But our arguments are still valid 

Nick Boles on ConservativeHome - Conservative councils must say Yes to Homes

Nick Clegg in the Financial Times (£) - London needs HS2 as much as the north

Phil Collins in the Times (£) - Labour can't allow the unions to win this


0930 London: ONS to reveal census statistics on the lives of the over 65