Friday, 11 October 2013

Conservatives need to show they're on the side of the people..

Breaking news: Vince Cable has been speaking on the Today programme.
Mr Cable said that the bulk of Royal Mail shares had gone to "long-term investors" like pension funds and insurance companies. He said that the 36 per cent trading premium on the shares was "froth" and "What matters in the end is where the price eventually settles". 
Mr Cable also said it "would be very short-sighted and foolish" to cut green targets to cut energy prices.
Speaking about the GCHQ leaks, Mr Cable said: "I think what the Guardian did was entirely correct and right" .

Good morning. Energy prices are in the headlines again today, withScottish & Southern Energy announcing an 8.2 per cent increase in energy prices, three times the rate of inflation. Mr Cameron may think he has all the reasoned arguments on his side, and by moving to put people on the cheapest tariffs he is already taking action now. But it's just not a message that is cutting through. "Sometimes we forget that populism is popular" as a Tory MP puts it, and right now the Conservatives have no answer to Ed Miliband's populist lunge. The anger the voters feel about it all is captured by the Sun's splash - "Upper Yours Britain!" The charge that the Conservative Party is on the side of energy companies rather than consumers is simple and simplistic - but it resonates. It is clear how Mr Miliband is trying to draw the dividing lines in this all. He tells the FTthat "The big divide in Britain is between those who want to fix broken markets and those who want to defend broken markets." Some may be more surprised by his claims that "We’re committed to a dynamic market economy".
For the Tories, there's only so much that can be gained from attacking Labour's wheeze; there is a little truth in the joke that PMQs has become "Opposition leader's question time", and Dave won't get very far if he thinks that attacking Ed as "Marxist" is enough. The Conservatives need to develop a simple and effective riposte, which destroys Mr Miliband's claims, cuts through the noise and convinces the electorate that, on the cost of living, it is they who possess the answers. Michael Fallon's suggestion that customers boycott SSE puts him in line with those who think that not all is well with the energy market, but as a solution it still falls short of Labour's seductive offering. For the Conservatives, this is a problem that will not go away anytime soon, especially with austerity limiting the scope for tax cuts. 
Mr Fallon will not be complacent. He is a shrewd operator who understands the challenges posed for the Conservatives. And Mr Fallon has handled the privatisation of Royal Mail with great skill - by ensuring that all those who apply for fewer than £10,000 worth of shares get at least £750 worth, Mr Fallon has positioned himself on the side of masses, giving as many people as possible the opportunity to acquire some shares. He has navigated away from his initial pledge - that everyone who applied would get at least £750 worth of shares - while minimising the damage. It's a reminder that, as Fraser Nelson writes, "when capitalism’s done properly it’s wildly popular".
Adam Afriyie's amendment to James Wharton's referendum Bill has revealed much about his status in the Tory parliamentary party. And it isn't very high: of the 147 MPs in the 2010 Tory intake, 140 or so have signed a letter telling him to drop his amendment. What this shows is the Afriyie operation is, and always has been, a political Trojan horse, a device used by Dave's enemies to maximise the PM's discomfort, as I write in my blog.
Theresa May is considering whether the Guardian broke the law over the GCHQ leaks while even Nick Clegg says they would be of "immense interests" to terrorists. Sir David Omand, the former head of GCHQ, has also described the leaks as the most "catastrophic loss to British intelligence ever".
The Times reports that Labour is planning a secret review into whether children who attend free schools are being educated in "unsuitable buildings" and Tories are concerned that this could amount to a back-door assault on free schools. Still, that's nothing compared to what one woman is doing to attack Michael Gove. Katrina Stiff has created a voodoo doll of the Education Secretary; each model costs £25 and Stiff says that it is "mentally infused with mean thoughts", as The Times diary reports.  
Richard Benyon's country estate was attacked by vandals who did £1 million worth of damage, including wrecking three planes and damaging buildings. The attack came within hours of Mr Benyon being sacked as a minister.
Sarah Wollaston has a warning:
@drsarahwollaston: No one wants return to the dangerous hours I worked as a junior doc in late 1980s but as a trainer I saw today's juniors tired & demoralised
In the Telegraph 
Best of the rest
Philip Collins in The Times - Forget Blairite v Brownite. We’ve moved on
Ha-Joon Chang in the Guardian -  The Royal Mail sell-off is not simply about bean-counting
Martin Wolf in the Financial Times - Beware Britain’s absurd property trap
Nick Clegg to launch round five of the Regional Growth Fund.
Plaid Cymru holds its annual conference in Aberystwyth.
7am Start of conditional dealings in shares of Royal Mail on the London Stock Exchange.
7am Royal Mail share protest. Communication Workers Union protest against Royal Mail privatisation, from 7am to 9am, Paternoster Square. Demonstrators will dress as robbers.
9.30am Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) releases its lending breakdown figures for August.

10am 2013 Nobel Peace Prize to be announced.