Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Unhappy birthday for Cameron..

Good morning. Pity Dave. His birthday is being marked by another round in the interminable argument between press and politicians. If only it would just go away, which is what he has been thinking ever since it dawned on him that Leveson was something of a mistake. Politicians have been desperate for the press to get its self-regulation system up and running without anyone noticing. For all Ed Miliband's efforts, there is an unmistakeable sense that it would be easier for all concerned if the matter could be discretely parked up a siding. The Government's decision to reject the press proposal for a voluntary Royal Charter makes that more difficult. It must now decide whether it wants to impose its own version of a Royal Charter, and claim for itself the unenviable distinction of being the Government that ended 300 years of press freedom from statute. A Charter is usually applied for, not issued against the wishes of those it applies to. In our leader this morning we say it's unacceptable. Labour MP Tom Harris makes a powerful left-wing case for press freedom: "By supporting Parliament’s Royal Charter for press regulation, to be agreed by the Privy Council at the end of this month, my party is turning its back on a core tenet of progressive politics: that a genuinely free press, however infuriating, is an indispensable foundation stone of democracy."
Similar sentiments are expressed in other papers. There will now be another round of negotiations to see if a deal can be done, but it doesn't look good. It is far more likely that newspapers will follow the Spectator's lead and decide to thank Mr Cameron for his efforts but decline to take part. The issue is complicated by the Mail's ding-dong with Mr Miliband, and the general grumpiness of politicians who - as yesterday's statements in the Commons and Lords illustrated - would quite like to whack the press where it hurts. Lord Sugar attacked the Mail and Paul Dacre, Jim Sheridan complains about sketchwriters, Tory MPs cheer loudly at their away-day when Craig Oliver raises the Telegraph's sales: the mood is hardly conducive to a reasoned debate about the place of a turbulent, offensive press in Britain. Mr Miliband talked of the Mail 'crossing the line': but who says where the line should be? Then there is the broader politics: the drive against the press led by Hacked Off is an effectively run political operation on behalf of the left to shaft the centre-right media. Mr Cameron knows it but is struggling to resist, and feels he hasn't been helped by divisions among newspapers. In many ways it's a tiresome side-show, an inward looking argument that ignores the wider forces at work on the media. But it's an argument that will inform how the general election campaign is fought and reported.
There's been huge demand for Royal Mail shares - they have been over-subscribed by up to 15 times - and it's also a good time to own shares in George Osborne. There's more good news today for the Chancellor withthe IMF doubling its growth forecast for the year to 1.4 per cent - and it's now 1.9 per cent next year too. The IMF still recommend that investment be brought forward - saying it could "offset the drag from near-term fiscal tightening, while staying within the medium term fiscal framework" - but the Chancellor will be delighted. No doubt he will also get pleasure seeing the IMF's Olivier Blanchard eat humble pie.
News like this will give succour to the notion that the Tories may be able to go into the 2015 election being able to boast of a rising economic tide, taking the sting out of Labour's populism on the cost of living (also notetoday's announcement limiting rail fare increases to a maximum three per cent above inflation, down from the current six per cent.) As for Mr Osborne, a combination of economic good news and a rising number of allies in the government will give succour to those who mark him out as the next Tory leader, although the hurdles he has to overcome - he is another southern posh boy, still has mediocre public ratings and is so tied to Cameronism it would be hard for Mr Osborne to present himself as marking any break from the current PM - remain considerable.
Ed Miliband has sacked Diane Abbott as shadow health minister - but it seems that Miss Abbott is relieved. "I have enjoyed being on the frontbench. But I plan to enjoy being a free agent on the backbenches even more", she wrote for the Guardian.
Norman Baker has refused to distance himself from allegations in his book  that Dr Kelly was killed by Iraqi assassins whose crime was concealed by British intelligence services. One can only imagine what Theresa May makes of it all (and it it too mischevious to suggest that Mr Cameron won't be too worried about a potential leadership challenger having more work to do to keep her department on track?) Damian Thompson has some advice for civil servants at the Home Office: "If you spot a funny little man rooting through your waste-paper basket for "secrets", don’t panic. It’s not a spy. It’s the Minister." 
Permanent health secretary Una O’Brien has apologised to Andy Burnham, saying that her officials committed a serious "lapse" by handing over emails about the Shadow Health Secretary to Tory MP Steve Barclay in breach of the rules, as the Mirror reports. Right now, no match up is as spicy as Mr Burnham against Jeremy Hunt.
There's a fascinating piece from Steve Richards in the Guardian, calling "Blairite" the most ubiquitous in British politics and also the most misleading. Richards says that the notion that if Blairites support Osbornomics it does not match their founding father's attitude to public spending. Because of his attitude to Europe, "the Blairite Gove is at the opposite end of the argument to Blair" on one of the buggest issues around. Blairite Douglas Alexander disagreed with Mr Tony on Syria; Blairite Andrew Adonis supported a more active industrial policy than the old PM; and Blairite Nick Clegg has beef with Blair on civil liberties.
David Cameron defended Help to Buy yesterday, saying the idea was to help those who "haven’t got rich parents" to get on the property ladder, and that it would help to make the "dream of home ownership a reality". Not that he's convinced Simon Jenkins, who dubs it Help to Vote.
Telegraph writer Mic Wright is leading a campaign to get 10 independents under 30 to stand in 2015 and use technology, local activism and just plain cunning to win. You can read more here.
Harriet Baldwin takes delight in a new BBC poll:
@HBaldwinMP: #BBC shocked by its own poll showing how public satisfaction with local services has increased. …
In the Telegraph 
Best of the rest
Alice Thomson in The Times - Who will look after you when you’re old?
Simon Jenkins in the Guardian - Help to Buy should be dubbed Help to Vote
Martin Wolf in the Financial Times - The pain of rebalancing global growth
David Cameron's birthday: the Prime Minister is 47.
From 9.15am select committee hearings on climate change.
10am Green MP Caroline Lucas to appear in court in connection with anti-fracking demonstrations in Balcombe. Crawley.
10am Maria Miller and Hugh Robertson at Olympic legacy committee.
12pm PMQs.
1.30pm Theresa May and Chris Grayling before House of Lords committees on EU opt-outs.
2.15pm Border Force at Public Accounts Committee.

2.30pm Philip Hammond at Defence Select Committee.