Thursday, 26 September 2013

The People Revolt..

Ben Brogan's morning briefing..

Breaking news: Margaret Hodge has been on the Today programme speaking about rural broadband and the Public Accounts Committee report into it: "BT ended up becoming the monopoly provider... The taxpayer has been ripped off with £1.2bn going to the shareholders of BT", she said.  
Good morning. Late yesterday Stewart Wood tweeted "Tory Wednesday: defending big energy companies, court action to protect bankers bonuses, & a donor fined £55m for market fixing. #onyourside". Soon afterwards Lord Mandelson attacked Ed Miliband's price control energy policy, backed by Lord Jones. And in those two positions you can see the dividing line opening up, and the challenge for the Conservatives. On the one hand a populist leadership that has calculated the advantage of striking a pose that chimes with a frustrated public; on the other a collection of powerful companies, rich types and their political mates who, however much they wrap their argument in economic logic, end up sounding like the bunch of privileged plutocrats they are (I see on Twitter folk are asking where Lord Mandy has any clients in the energy sector).
We live in an age of pitchforks and flaming torches, usually manifested in social media campaigns. Austerity and the erosion of living standards have left voters open to the idea that the state could intervene to fix things in their favour and stick it to those who have sailed unscathed through the recession (to keep the Ed Miliband anti-yacht analogy going). It is a seductive world view. Why should you listen to Peter Mandelson or the boss of Centrica or even David Cameron when you have had your hours slashed, your fuel bill is crippling, you run out of money before the end of the month, and that's despite working long hours at a thankless dead end job? It seems fantastical to imagine our politics turning into those of Venezuela, with Ed Miliband in a purple beret listening to himself tell toothy gags for hours on telly while nationalising everything in sight. We'll all have fun portraying him as a Robert Mugabe figure or worse.
But there is method to what the right will call his madness. One source close to him dismissed the return to the 70s criticism, and compared what Mr Miliband is doing instead is more like the trust busting of the American progressive era. "Our policy - to freeze energy prices until we have reformed the way the domestic energy market works - is in the interests of consumers and a more competitive industry. It is not "pro-business" for government to stand aside when regulation is failing." All this poses a challenge to Mr Cameron. I sense that he is very relaxed about it. I'm not sure he should be. While Dan Hodges makes the point that Ed risks running as a revolutionary when the public will want security, Tim Montgomerie reckons that Mr Miliband could become PM by being as popular as Neil Kinnock in 1992.
Nigel Farage will not be impressed. It looks like TV debates will happen in 2015 with broadcasters close to agreeing a deal between the main political parties, as we report. This definition excludes Ukip, with broadcasters saying they cannot take part as they lack representation in Westminster. Ed Miliband yesterday said, “Let’s have election TV debates with the three party leaders. I’m happy with the same format as last time. Let’s have those debates.” A sticking point had been David Cameron's reluctance to debate Mr Farage but now that obstacle has been removed. Mr Miliband's gamble is that the public will warm to him the more they see of him. But given that Mr Cameron has consistently much stronger personal ratings than Mr Miliband, debates may help the Conservatives turn the election into a 'presidential' contest.
So much for a break with New Labour. Ed Miliband offered to intervene in a candidate selection process to allow Alastair Campbell to become the candidate for Burnley, which Labour lost to the Lib Dems in 2010 and expects to regain in 2010. But Mr Campbell decided against the offer; his partner, Fiona Millar, considered running for the North London seat of Hampstead and Kilburn, but also decided otherwise, as The Times reports.  
The whispers are that Andy Burnham's position as Shadow Health Secretary could be in danger. But Mr Burnham's speech at Labour conference yesterday was so well-received that it may have made him tricky to axe. Mr Burnham''s pledge to repeal the Health and Social Care Act ("privatisation by the back door") at the start of a new Labour government went down a treat.
George Osborne has launched a legal challenge to try and halt European attempts to bring in a cap on bankers' bonuses. Mr Osborne believes the moves would decouple the link between performance and pay and could undermine London's role as an international financial centre. 
But while Mr Osborne resorts to the European Court of Justice, Chris Grayling wants to pull Britain out of the jurisdiction of the European Court. He told The Spectator that “We have to curtail the role of the European Court of Human Rights in the UK, get rid of and replace Labour’s Human Rights Act." Mr Grayling wants “to see our Supreme Court being supreme again”. Others will note that the intervention seems another nod to the party's right by Mr Grayling: if the party leadership seems beyond him, higher ministerial office does not. 
Lord Younger, the Intellectual Property Ministerhas said that Google "have access, for whatever reason, to higher levels than me in No. 10" and that he is "very aware of their power", reports the Mail. It was last year revealed that Tory ministers had held meetings with Google an average of once a month since the General Election. Rachel Whetstone, Google’s global head of communications, is married to Steve Hilton and is a friend of Dave's going back to their time together at Carlton TV.
Ukip “are mostly our cousins and we want them back.” So says Andrew Mitchell in an interview with the New Statesman. Mr Mitchell also said that NHS spending should remain protected ("It is essential because of the growing elderly population and increases in the cost and scope of medicine.") And if David Davis had won the Tory leadership in 2005, "The sun would shine every day and we’d all live healthily until the age of 100." 
Labour aren't listening to Lord Mandelson anymore:
@johnmcdonnellMP: Shock, horror!! Mandelson supports multi billion profiteering capitalist companies lining their shareholders' pockets. What's new?
In the Telegraph 
Best of the rest
Tim Montgomerie in the Times - Ed Miliband can win where Neil Kinnock could not
Chris Giles in the Financial Times - Scant choice in UK’s 2015 election 

Iain Dale is due to attend Brighton's John Street police station to face further questions about his scuffle with an anti-nukes protester.

10am Navy's newest warship - HMS Duncan - to be commissioned. Victory Gate, Portsmouth Naval Base