Wednesday, 11 September 2013

No wavering at the centre..

BREAKING NEWS: Vince Cable has been on the Today programme saying that the economy is "beginning" to turn but warning against economic complaceny. 
But Mr Cable denied any rift with the Chancellor, saying: "I think George Osborne’s comments the other day were spot on. I think some of the reactions to the new over the last few weeks have somehow suggested that we’re out of this dark, long tunnel and until we get very sustained investment, a commitment to industrial building up exports over a long period of time we will not have solved the problem, that’s the point I’m trying to emphasise." 
Speaking about the Lib Dems' electoral strategy, Mr Cable said: "We will be very distinct from the Conservatives in the message we give." Mr Cable also commented on Sarah Teather, saying,"Some of the things she said about immigration policy I have sympathy with" but that she "over-reacted" in saying that she will stand down at the next election.  
Mr Cable will give a speech on the economy at a joint government/CBI industrial strategy conference later today. 
Good morning. Going on the offensive to promote HS2 is a great idea. That said, it's not clear that commissioning your own survey saying it's going to be an economic miracle is necessarily useful. This is an argument about predicting the future. Critics say it will cost a bomb, produce no returns and blight the landscape. Supporters say the cost is spread over years, it will turbocharge the economy, connect the regions to the centre and won't look any worse than other rail lines. Neither side can prove its case, which leaves it to the politicians to make a judgment and place their bets. George Osborne, currently charting a political comeback, has bet his reputation on HS2, which is a daring play given the state of the Tory party. In my conversations I detect no wavering at the centre on either side of the Coalition. There seems to be a determination to make this one stick. The Syria vote reminded us of the damage the Tory parliamentary party can inflict if it decides to. No10 must hope that circumstances won't arise that prompt Mr Cameron's critics to rally around the Stop HS2 flag. It helps that the economy is improving fast, weakening the argument that HS2 is a financial distraction in a time of austerity.
Patrick McLoughlin will today claim that HS2 could boost the UK economy by £15bn a year when it is fully opened in the 2030s, as the FT (£) reports. The figures are based upon a 92-page report by KPMG, and the emphasis will be on showing that the benefits will extend way beyond London - it halves the journey time between Manchester and Birmingham, for example - and even to areas in which HS2 doesn't run through. Danny Finfelstein articulates the case for HS2 in The Times (£) today, saying that "HS2 is expensive because it is a big enough project to make a real difference. We shouldn’t lose our nerve." Not everyone agrees, of course, with Simon Jenkins writing in The Guardianthat, "High-speed rail is no longer tomorrow's transport but yesterday's. Its development has ground to a halt even in long-distance France and Spain as using too much energy and too much subsidy." So it's significant that, in the last 10 days, David Cameron, George Osborne and Nick Clegg have all publily reiterated their support for the project. The Government is right to sense that it can't be complacent in assuming support. But no one can accuse it of being too shy to make its case.

I said that yesterday was a big day for Ed Miliband. But it proved a distinctly underwhelming one, with no one quite convinced that Ed seized the moment. It's true that Ed didn't bomb - there were no boos from the TUC. But the key thing to note is that the unions' block vote at Labour conference seems to be unchallenged. So it's hard to escape the feeling that the speech amounted to rather less than hoped; The Times (£) headline - "Miliband blinks first in union stand-off" - conveys the mood. Mary Riddell warns that, "Should the stand-off between Labour and the unions deepen, both face disaster"; Dan Hodges think that Ed "ran away" from confrontation. To the Guardian, Mr Miliband delivered only a "low-key fence-mending speech in Bournemouth on Tuesday, when – far from renewing fisticuffs – he positioned the party squarely alongside the union movement."  After a speech that was meant to transform Labour's relationship with the trade unions, it's hard to
A cross-party group of senior politicinas - including Lord Mandelson, Lord Howard and Lord Ashdown - have written to the three main party leaders urging them not to see the recent Commons vote on Syria as the end of Britain's commitment to humanitarian intervention, as the Guardian reports. They write: "Whatever one's views on the vote, this must not be the point in British history at which we reach a fork in the road and choose to abandon such an important notion of collective global responsibility." 
Iain Duncan Smith's insistence that the Universal Credit would be fully implemented by 2017 appears to have been challenged by the PM, with Mr Cameron saying that he is not "religious" about the timetable. And Michael Gove may be regretting telling the Commons yesterday that people who use food banks were suffering "the result of decisions that they have taken which mean they are not best able to manage their finances". Meanwhile the UN special investigator for housing - I didn't know there was one, either - has called for the abolition of the bedroom tax, as the Guardian reports. Perhaps not coincidentally, she is a former minister for the Workers' Party in Brazil.
The fallout to Newsnight editor Ian Katz's mistakenly public tweet ("Tnks ... except for boring snoring Rachel reeves ... playout was fun tho, wasn't it? telly MUCH netter (sic) than snooooozepapers innit") continues - even after the programme's apology in yesterday night's closing credits. Labourhave demanded a written apology with vice-chairman Michael Dugher wrote on Twitter: "Good luck in future to @BBCNewsnight in trying to persuade Labour people to go on their frankly rather boring programme at 11 at night ... And whilst I'm at it ... I'm not sure a guy who worked for the Guardian (yawn) & now Newsnight (snooze) can lecture people about being boring." 

George Osborne will be a relieved man. His fears that an EU Financial Transaction Tax could undermine his recovery will be assauged by a leaked opinion from the European Union’s legal service that it is “not compatible” with existing laws and is also “discriminatory”. No wonder that a Treasury source said it amounted to vindication of the decision to challenge the FTT in the European Court.

Nigel Evans is facing fresh sex offence allegations after being arrested for a third time. But while Mr Evans has resigned as the House of Commons Deputy Speaker, he intends to remain MP for Ribble Valley. 

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

Mary Riddell - If this stand-off over funding deepens, Labour and the unions both face disaster

Dan Hodges - Ed Miliband strode into the TUC's house. And then he bottled it, and ran away

Best of the rest

Danny Finkelstein in the Times (£) - How to bring brains together - at top speed 

Financial Times (£) leader Osborne wins the battle on austerity
Matthew Norman in The Independent - Who's listening to Ed Balls?

0930 David Laws at Education Select Committee. Wilson Room, Portcullis House.

0930 Latest unemployment figures published by ONS

1000 MPs take part in a virtual racing day. Jubilee Room, House of Commons

1000 Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin makes a speech on HS2. Palmer Room, Institution of Civil Engineers.

1000 UN press conference on UK housing / "bedroom tax". Strand Bridge House.

1100 Launch of Future Hospital Commission report on NHS services.

1200 Prime Minister's Questions.

1415 Public Accounts Committee inquiry on Universal Credit.

1445 Keir Starmer at Home Affairs Select Committee.