Monday, 28 October 2013

Labour enjoying Cameron's discomfort..

Good morning. The PM is being kept closely informed about the storm but his scheduled daily programme is continuing for now. Away from the storm, HS2 is the big story again this morning. The case is being made that the alternatives wouldn't be pretty: we could expect 2,770 weekend closures over 14 years if HS2 was scrapped, according to new Network Rail analysis. A new Government report will this week make the case for HS2 (and not before time, many will be saying). Dozens of Tory MPs (the FT today puts the figure at 30, which is on the lower side of what I've been hearing) are expected to rebel on HS2 this week. Labour's position remains to wait and see. Dan Hodges explains: "It has genuine concerns about the potential cost of the project. It believes any domestic discontent from Labour authorities can be managed, especially once the run-up to the election has commenced. And most importantly – from its perspective – it sees the opportunity to cause the Prime Minister and the Government maximum political discomfort over a project that’s already making many Tory MPs and activists distinctly nervous."
David Cameron's words on Friday - strongly suggesting that HS2 would be shelved unless Labour support it - are designed to put pressure on Labour to get off the fence once and for all. But they will also make Labour aware of the potential to inflict a humiliating climbdown on the PM.
Thirty-four days after Ed Miliband's pledge of a freeze on energy prices, it continues to dominate the political agenda. Labour intends to send direct emails to 100,000 voters in Conservative-held marginal seats to try and expand its support. Caroline Flint has said that Labour would support an overhaul of the Energy Companies Obligation, which adds £47 a year to the average bill and is deemed to be poorly targeted, as The Times reports. Ed Davey has accused energy companies of exaggerating the costs of the scheme, while Danny Alexander yesterday said that green taxes " are not something that Liberal Democrats will compromise on" while Chris Huhne says that green taxes " will save consumers about £166 a year (or 11%) by 2020 thanks to energy saving and diversification from fossil fuels" in his Guardian column. The suggested compromise - to move some green levies to general taxation - " might be a politically tidy way of hiding the costs of the Government’s goals, but it would not actually put any more money in the consumer’s pocket", as we argue.  Meanwhile  the FT reports that there's a row underway between Ofgem and the Big Six over the importance of wholesale prices in rising bills.
The trial of Rebecca Brooks and Andy Coulson into phone hacking allegations begins today. Be careful what you tweet or blog.  
Boris Johnson has taken to the letter pages of The Times to try and get Willie Walsh, the CEO of the International Airlines Group, to listen to his case for a new airport in London ("Boris Island").
Andrew Mitchell's daughter Hannah has told the Mail that her father was "stitched up" over Plebgate. She said: "I just remember sitting in the chair shaking, being certain that something really terrible was going on, and we would say this to people but no one would believe us. We knew from the word go that it was a conspiracy." Hannah, a Doctor, added: "I have known him always as being a kind, warm, generous character. This caricature came out of an arrogant Tory toff, somebody who was rude and abusive to people."
Labour could reopen the inquiry into vote-rigging in Falkirk. Emails have been disclosed suggesting attempts by Unite officials to undermine the investigation, as The Times reports. One email from Unite's director of legal and membership services Howard Beckett, warned that Unite’s PR team would "prepare the nasty stuff we know of individuals in the Labour Party but this will not be used".
The BBC could lose funding for "crown jewel" sporting events (such as Wimbledon and the Six Nations) after Maria Miller suggested that different broadcasters would be able to compete for licence fee funding.
The Universal Credit will continue its slow roll-out today, with Hammersmith & Fulham the latest council to start trials.
The Governor of the Bank of France, Christian Noyer, has warned that the Robin Hood Tax poses "an enormous risk" to the eurozone countries and "needs to be entirely reversed."
The Morning Briefing email is edited by Tim Wigmore. Follow Tim on Twitter

Greg Hands sees the funny side:
@GregHands: Good to see the @cabinetofficeuk still tweeting #UKstorm advice, despite having a crane falling through its own roof. #forhardworkingpeople

In the Telegraph 

Dan Hodges - They’re playing politics with progress
Best of the rest

Libby Purves in The Times - Anyone might get an Annoying Behaviour Order

1030 London: Government appeal against a High Court ruling over plans to reduce services at a major hospital. A judge decided in July that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt acted outside his powers when he announced to Parliament in January that casualty and maternity units at Lewisham Hospital in south-east London would be downgraded. The case will now be heard by Court of Appeal judges. The Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand
1530 London: HMRC give evidence to Commons Public Accounts Committee. Witnesses: Edward Troup, Tax Assurance Commissioner, and Jim Harra, Director-General Business Tax, HM Revenue and Customs House of Commons

1605 London: Transport Minister, airport chiefs and others appear before House of Commons Transport Committee on preparedness-for-winter plans.