Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Mr Miliband's big day..

Good morning. It's a big day for Ed Miliband. He has to get through his appearance at the TUC without looking powerless. On his side they speak optimistically of a defining confrontation with the unions that will help improve his standing with the public. Very Blairite. They also expect to win, which is surprising. Mr Miliband's supporters are confident that it may take time but in the end he will get his reforms through, and the party will get used to a different financial relationship. They accept Labour will have less money - millions less, they say, as Dan Hodges' blog makes apparent - but the result will be healthier. Mr Miliband wants to put Labour through a dose of cold turkey to wean it off its reliance on union cash. The benefit, he predicts, will be an increase in membership back to half a million. From the leader's office, the view is that Unite is being helpful behind the scenes, the GMB are still angry, and 'God knows what Unison are up to'. Such optimism is laudable, but is it justified? It is probably wise to aim off for the vigour of the anti-Miliband coverage across the press. His party may be nervous and even doubtful, but he isn't going anywhere. A recovering economy makes it harder for the unions to stir trouble. Relations with Ed Balls are said to be dire - apparently the body language between them in meetings is beyond chilly - but the Shadow Chancellor now has his own problems explaining why the economy is not tanking as he predicted. Mr Miliband though needs to show that he leads his party and movement. By voting against the Syria motion he avoided revealing that his party would not have followed him if he had supported the Government. Today he needs not only to show that he can take on the unions, but that he can bend them to his will.Peter Watt, the former General Secretary of the Labour Party, this morning told the Today programme: "The short-term impact of Ed's proposals could be that the relationship between power, money and influence may go up... The worst choice Miliband could make is to back down, because that would be the death knell for him and make him look weak." 
As Rachel Sylvester writes in her Times (£) column, the mood in the Labour Party isn't great, with the calls for more conviction and credibility a common theme. To Janan Ganesh, writing in the FT (£), the problem is not that Ed lacks ideas, but thast he fundamentally misread the consequences of the collapse of Lehman Brothers. "Mr Miliband is lazily accused of lacking direction but he has evinced a clearer strategy than most leaders of the opposition. It just happens to be based on a wishful reading of a great historical event. As he addresses trade unionists on Tuesday, his best consolation is that they and most of the global left made the same mistake."

The Chancellor's speech yesterday - avoiding triumphalism but making his attacks on Labour's alternative strategy very clear - gets a pretty good reception in today's press. As the Mail leader puts it, "Who can begrudge Chancellor George Osborne a glow of quiet satisfaction over proving his critics so wrong?" Fraser Nelson takes some convincing, as his fisking of Mr Osborne on Coffee House shows. 
As I pointed out in yesterday's email, Mr Osborne will now change tack somewhat. The argument that his strategy has produced growth is being won. The challenge now is to show that he understands the cost of living issues and has a plan to deal with them. Ed Balls has shrewdly changed his central critique of Mr Osborne to the cost of living, as his Times (£) column today, focussing on Labour's plans for house-building and a reintroduction of the 10p tax rate, reminds us. Cost of living issues are the terrain on which the 2015 election appears likely to be fought on, which is why you can expect to hear much about the Government's measures to reduce energy bills, fuel duty and to increase the income tax threshold.  
But the most intriguing follow-up to Mr Osborne's speech is thesuggestion in the FT (£) that Mr Balls' position could be under threat. A 'senior ally' of Mr Miliband describes the Shadow Chancellor's position as a "sticky question" and says that, "if in late 2014 he has not managed to improve his image with the public, at that point Ed is going to have to think of replacing him.” Alistair Darling is again mooted as a possible replacement.

If the aim of Chris Huhne's Guardian article yesterday was to attract sympathy, he hasn't got any from his old boss. Nick Clegg said that the “muscular” British press is a model to the world in keeping politicians “on their toes”. And Mr Clegg wasn't the only one who seemed to think badly of Mr Huhne's intervention. Tory MP Julian Smith called on Mr Huhne to return the fee from his article: “It is wrong that Chris Huhne is profiting from his crime. Given the cost of his trial, he should not only be paying back his debt to society but also his debt to the taxpayer and donated this money to the revenue.” And Mr Huhne doesn't get any sympathy from us, who say: "If he hopes that this reverse mea culpa will speed his political rehabilitation, then he really has lost touch with reality." The Mail, reprimanding Mr Huhne for his "nauseating self-pity", are no more generous.

The PM will today add to those calling for faster civil service reform when he appears before the Commons liaison committee, as the FT (£) reports. While Mr Cameron is expected to speak very politely of Sir Bob Kerslake, the head of the civil service is already facing pressure as civil service reform is behind schedule and Iain Duncan Smith said he had "lost faith" in the capacity of civil servants after the problems of the Universal Credit. Jeremy Hunt shows no inclination of losing his own determination for NHS reform, as his piece in the Telegraph makes clear. 

Lords' caterers have been ordered to cook calves' liver thoroughly "irrespective of the guests’ wishes" - and they could be removed from the menu altogether - according to an internal email reported by Richard Kay in the Mail. And the Lords are not happy, with Lord Tebbit saying "This is madness, just madness. It is simply going way too far and it is one of the unhappy and all‑too-typical examples of health and safety getting out of control".

Mr Cameron has spoken about his enthusiasm that fracking will lower energy prices but, it seems, the energy secretary does not agree. Mr Davey said that "North Sea gas didn’t significantly move UK prices – so we can’t expect UK shale production alone to have any effect" and that it's "far from clear that UK shale gas production could ever replicate the price effects seen in the US". It's a reminder that energy policy remains a great dividing line between the two partners in the Coalition. 

The TUC conference in Bournemouth this week are selling “ I Still Hate Thatcher ” cups. Charming. They're available for £8 apiece.


John Mann is clear about the stakes for Labour:

@JohnMannMP: In Germany, Norway and Australia Labour has failed to modernise. No half measures please @edmiliband. This is much more than about unions. 
In the Telegraph

Benedict Brogan Shining a light on the shadowy figures who shape our politics 

Jeremy Hunt - A single reform that can change our NHS 

Philip Johnston - The strange case of the disappearing bobby

Telegraph View - Beyond contempt 

Best of the rest

Rachel Sylvester in the Times (£) - The Labour mouse needs to find its roar 

Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times (£) - Ed Miliband, like most of the left, misread Lehman
Richard Morris in The Guardian - Why Sarah Teather has let the Liberal Democrats down

0930 Martin Wheatley, Chief Executive, Financial Conduct Authority appears before Treasury Select Committee. Thatcher Room, Portcullis House.

0945 Transport Minister Stephen Hammond appears before House of Commons Transport Committee on maritime strategy. Lecture Hall, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

1000 Former MP Denis MacShane due in court over expenses. City of Westminster Magistrates' Court.

1000 Pre-appointment hearing for new Ofgem chief. Wilson Room, Portcullis House.

11.30 Ed Miliband addresses TUC Annual Conference. Bournemouth.

1330 Home Secretary Theresa May will make a speech at the Police Superintendents' Association Annual Conference. Chesford Grange Hotel, Warwickshire.

1600 David Cameron at Liaison Committee. The Prime Minister appears before the Liaison Committee, to discuss civil service reform and the capacity of the civil service to design and manage contracts, and press regulation and the proposed Royal Charter. Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House.