Thursday, 28 November 2013

Thank goodness for Boris..

Good morning. Thank goodness for Boris, who has spoken in praise of inequality. Hizzoner gave the third Margaret Thatcher lecture at the CPS yesterday, and didn't disappoint. Greed is good, some people are too stupid to get on, and - notably - bring back grammars were among the livelier messages packed into his address. The Mail liked his speech so much that they've run a panel of the best extracts. Once again Boris demonstrates his knack for the arresting phrase, and for confronting his party with the kind of plain truths that too many politicians avoid expressing. His line about a measure of inequality being necessary to encourage the "spirit of envy" which, like greed, "is a valuable spur to economic activity", is particularly telling: it is hard to imagine Dave saying the same.
As ever, Boris uses the freedom (and lack of national responsibility) that comes with his job to say more than might be deemed politically prudent. His praise of wealth is familiar, as is his message on immigration. What will attract attention instead is the way he has urged his party to back a return to grammar schools. His friend Michael Gove is of course the minister who must defend the Tory policy of opposing new grammar schools (and preventing the expansion of existing ones if the Sevenoaks case is anything to go by). Boris claims that when he was shadow higher education spokesman he attended a meeting of the shadow education team which agreed it would be "political madness" to bring back grammars "while I happened to know that most of the people in that room were about to make use, a parents, of some of the most viciously selective schools in the country". Westminster will have fun working out who has has in mind (his boss was David Willetts) and assessing whether sticking it to colleagues is a good way to advance his cause. Mr Johnson nurtures ambitions which he knows are undermined the better David Cameron does. He needs the PM to fail in 2015 and leave the stage if he is to seek leadership. Everything Boris says and does must be seen in that light. At a time when authenticity and voice are the issues that preoccupy the Tories, his intervention reminds his party that he is still here.  
There's plenty of reaction to yesterday's immigration announcement in the papers today. Dave will be pleased with the sympathetic treatment in the Mail: the line "Germany and France join PM in call for restrictions" makes Mr Cameron seem like he's in charge; The Sun calls it a "Berlin Wall for migrants". We welcome the move but aren't exactly impressed by the timing: "Mr Cameron says his aim is to issue "a very clear signal" that the UK is not a soft touch. It is one that should have been sent out a long time ago." The FT asks whether the PM has "an ulterior purpose – for example claiming that it was a "monumental mistake" not to impose transitional immigration controls when the likes of Poland and Hungary joined the EU. Yet the prime minister fails to produce any data to corroborate this." It reaffirms its view that "the principle that labour should stay free within the EU is right and should be upheld." Paul Collier writes that "Britain’s firms have become addicted to hiring motivated migrants rather than solving the greater challenge of turning our own young people into productive workers." David Aaronovitch doubts whether the steps will make Dave's life much easier, quoting Nigel Farage's comments yesterday that "Every time Cameron shoots our fox we’re up in the opinion polls." 
The move has gone done well with the Conservatives, but there remains a feeling that it does not go nearly far enough: 46 Tory MPs have signed a Commons motion calling for restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian workers to stay in place after January 1.
Michael Fabricant's 'tache was quite a sight during PMQs yesterday. The poor PM would have been jealous; Dave's admitted that such a 'tache is "not something I'm fully capable of." Good thing that Movember is almost over.
How to cut the green "crap"? It's tricky with the Lib Dems about and insisting on keeping the scheme giving free insulation to low-income homes, despite the PM's apparent wishes to ditch it. The most likely option, according to James Landale, is to fund the warm homes discount out of general tax rather than customers' energy bills, and implement the Energy Companies Obligation scheme over four years rather than two.
So it doesn't pay to be a snitch. That's the picture to emerge from Falkirk, where Linda Gow - the woman who raised the issue of vote-rigging - has been knocked out of the fight to be Labour's candidate. Note the comment from Mrs Gow's friend to The Times: "What does this say about the Labour Party’s attitude to whistleblowers?"
It's often been said by ministers that Mark Carney can intervene to stop the Help to Buy scheme from overinflating the housing market, but the Governor of the Bank of England says that he's got "no power" to stop it and "only has the authority to make recommendations" to the Treasury". But there's better news for Help to Buy with the FT reporting that it is good news for housebuilding: Ibstock Brick, the UK’s largest brick manufacturer, plans to keep all 20 of its plants open throughout winter for the first time since 2007.
As if Andrew Mitchell hasn't suffered enough over Plebgate already. The Court of Appeal yesterday rejected Mr Mitchell's claims to recover the costs in his case - some £506,000 – because the proper paperwork had not been filed on time. But the good news for Mr Mitchell is he used a "no win, no fee" arrangement with his lawyers, so it won't be him footing the bill.
Is this a U-turn? After Dave's rejection of the idea in July, it turns out thatcigarettes will be sold in plain packaging before the next election after all, with the Government set to announce plans within the next few days; a review should be published by March, though Labour say that even that's too slow. Seen through the prism of the next election, that will take the sting out of Labour's attacks on the Conservatives' perceived links with tobacco companies.
The Shadow Education Secretary has certainly got his eye on the ball:Tristram Hunt has twice claimed less than 10p to cover the cost of staples,The Times Diary reports. And staples seem ripe for a new expenses scandal: an Ipsa spokesman said that "We don’t count them out and back in again."
If Scotland votes "Yes" next September, it won't be a clean break with the union. MSPs were told that a second referendum for England, Wales and Northern Ireland would have to be staged if an independent Scotland wanted to share the pound. But would the rest of the UK want to become liable to bail out an independent Scotland's banks?
The Morning Briefing email is edited by Tim Wigmore. Follow Tim on Twitter


Michael Fabricant basks in the 'tache glory:
@Mike_Fabricant: Someone, very naughty, took this pic of me in the Chamber just b4 #PMQs yesterday while I was hiding!

In the Telegraph  
Best of the rest 
William Hague oral statement to MPs on campaign against sexual violence in conflict zones.
9am Nick Clegg's Call Clegg phone-in on LBC.
9.30am Migration Statistics Quarterly Report and final long-term international migration figures for the calendar year 2012 will be published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
10.15am Launch of Fresh Start Project EU Negotiating Mandate. Conservative MPs Andrea Leadsom, Chris Heaton-Harris and Tim Loughton MP briefing to mark the publication of the Fresh Start Project's "EU Negotiating Mandate". Committee Room 17, House of Commons.
10.30am Bank of England's, semi-annual, Financial Stability Report released. News conference with Governor Carney.

5.30am Mayor of London Boris Johnson to join a celebration to mark Chanukah, the Jewish festival of lights. Trafalgar Square, London.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Crackdown on EU migrants..

Ben Brogan's morning briefing..

Good morning. The Prime Minister will today announce a crackdown on EU migrants by stopping new arrivals from claiming benefits for three months (and only for six months in total) and calling for reform of the EU to stop "vast migrations". In an op-ed for the FT, the PM outlines a range of steps to mitigate the effects of new immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania: "If people are not here to work – if they are begging or sleeping rough – they will be removed. They will then be barred from re-entry for 12 months, unless they can prove they have a proper reason to be here, such as a job. We are also clamping down on those who employ people below the minimum wage. They will pay the price with a fine of up to £20,000 for every underpaid employee – more than four times the fine today." There are also plans to set up a new "minimum earnings threshold", below which benefits that top up earnings, such as income support, will be cut altogether.
Dave also outlines what sounds rather like a "shopping list" of demands in EU renegotiations: "Britain, as part of our plan to reform the EU, will now work with others to return the concept of free movement to a more sensible basis... And we need to do the same with welfare. For example, free movement should not be about exporting child benefit – I want to work with our European partners to address this." Most importantly, Mr Cameron supports a GDP measure before migrants can move, and says that there's cross-EU support for this.  
As ever in his dealings with the EU, the PM has to contend with the cumbersome legal reality, although he believes that restrictions are legal under the terms of EU treaties. And there is the risk that allowing rhetoric to outpace reality will backfire; Dave's strategy is to say he's doing all he can and blame Labour, but, given that he's been PM for 42 months, there may be limits to the effectiveness of this. Still, he will be heartened by the Mail's headline: "I do share your concerns". Nigel Farage was less convinced, telling Today "I still think it's being far too generous" and "This does nothing to stop an unrestricted flow of a very large number of unskilled people coming into Britain." In a sign of how much the political debate on immigration has shifted, Nick Clegg described the plans as "sensible and reasonable".
Andrew Mitchell held a special press conference yesterday evening to try and resurrect his political career. Mr Mitchell said he felt that he had been "vilified relentlessly" over the Plebgate affair and said that the allegations against him were "made up and disseminated" by PC Toby Rowland; "I wish now to make clear that PC Toby Rowland, who was responsible for writing those toxic phrases into his notebook, was not telling the truth." A few hours before Mr Mitchell's words, the director of public prosecutions Alison Saunders said that there was insufficient evidence that Mr Rowland had lied. The Guardian says that "now Mr Mitchell's last chance rests with a libel action." But - despite the best efforts of David Davis, who appeared alongside Mr Mitchell at his press confernece - it seems that there's little chance of a Cabinet return:the PM's spokesman said that nothing had changed since Mr Cameron accepted Mr Mitchell's resignation: "The position that was set out in the exchange of letters between Mr Mitchell and the Prime Minister remains the position". There's similarly bleak news from Ephraim Hardcastle, who reports a Cabinet source saying that Mr Cameron would be "bonkers" to give Mr Mitchell his old job back. Instead, "He and his new best friend David Davis should set up an amateur detective agency." Meanwhile The Sun reveals that Tom Newton Dunn has been cleared of wrongdoing for his reporting of Plebgate.
Few seem convinced by yesterday's White Paper on what an independent Scotland would look like. Our verdict is that it "was more an election manifesto than an objective assessment of how independence would work" and it "relied heavily on other institutions, such as the UK government, the European Union, Nato and others, accepting the rationale behind the SNP’s case." The Mail brands it "A 670-page insult to Scots' intelligence". The Times says that "The Scottish White Paper on independence asks the right questions, but fails to give satisfactory answers" and the FT's verdict is that "Independence involves harder choices than SNP admits". But Allan Massie warns: "Grant the nationalists a monopoly of emotion and, no matter what the polls say today, Alex Salmond’s dream may yet turn into the unionists’ nightmare."
There's a fascinating new poll of South Thanet, where Laura Sandys is standing down. The key findings show Labour in first place with 35pc (up five points on 2010), Ukip second on 30pc (up 24 points), the Tories third on 28pc (down 20 points) and the Liberal Democrats fourth on 5pc (down 10 points). The poll was commissioned by Ukip donor Alan Brown, and will add to the sense that Nigel Farage is eyeing up the seat in 2015. And there was further bad news for the Conservatives buried in the poll: 52pc of Ukip voters said they would stick with them even if it meant that ED Miliband became prime minister; only 27 pc said they "would rather stop Ed Miliband from becoming prime minister, even if that means I had to vote Conservative rather than Ukip".
Labour will gear up for 2015 with an all-day strategy session on Thursday. The party will say that it's aiming to win 106 target seats and over 40 pc of the vote, countering suggestions about the "35 pc strategy". The Indy notes that "Figures show that the English regions where the fall in average hourly earnings is highest –the South West, East Midlands and West Midlands—are where the Tories have the highest number of marginal seats."
Sticking with the election theme, Tory MPs fear that "cutting the green crap" will only result in "driving middle-class voters into the arms of the Liberal Democrats". The Lib Dems have a "green target list" of Tory MPs they think they can topple, even in an election when their vote is certain to fall considerably. Dave might have to get used to dissent on the Tory Left as well as the Right.  
A mansion tax is popular with Labour activists, but the party's politicians seems rather less enthusiastic. At an event seen as a pre-hustings in the race to be Labour's candidate for London Mayor in 2015, Dame Tessa Jowell, Diane Abbott and David Lammy all raised doubts about a mansion tax and its effects on London, leaving only Lord Adonis to support it. Dame Tessa said that some "asset-rich and income-poor" people "would have to move out of their family homes".
Regrettably tax cuts have to be off the table for the Autumn Statement, argues think tank Reform in new research published today. In the terms of Fraser Nelson's column last Friday, Reform sides with the fiscally conservative Chancellor rather than the tax-cutting Prime Minister. The think tank points out that taxes are already predicted to rise for years to come but even that, depressingly, will not prevent the public finances worsening again in the medium term. The conclusion: "It would be wrong to claim mission accomplished on rescuing the public finances."
The Morning Briefing email is edited by Tim Wigmore. Follow Tim on Twitter


Time for some sleep:
@Freeman_George: End of another long (18hr) but very fulfilling day: big cross party support for my 10Minute Rule Bill on #PatientDataPower.  On we go

In the Telegraph  
Allan Massie - Sing a song for the union
Best of the rest

David Cameron in The FT - Free movement within Europe needs to be less free

Daniel Finkelstein in The Times - Do the right thing and you win elections
Culture Secretary Maria Miller announcement on telecoms sector.
9.15am Jeremy Hunt to address Chief Nursing Officer Summit 2013. Hilton Metropole, Birmingham.
9.30am Education Select Committee hearing on children's homes.
9.30am Vince Cable questioned by MPs on Royal Mail privatisation. Business, Innovation and Skills Committee session, Grimond Room, House of Commons.
10.30am Lord Strathclyde at committee hearing on coalition government. Lords Constitution Committee investigation. Committee Room 1, Palace of Westminster.
12pm PMQs.
6pm TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady gives Aneurin Bevan Memorial Lecture. Grand Committee Room, House of Commons.
6.30pm London Mayor Boris Johnson gives the third Margaret Thatcher lecture. Gibson Hall, 13 Bishopsgate.
7pm Launch of the Reform Clause 1, ‘Feel Free to Annoy Me’ campaign. Jubilee Room, Parliament.

7.45pm Speaker John Bercow speech on future of Parliament. Attlee Room, Portcullis House.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Payday loans..

Breaking News: George Osborne has been speaking on the Today programme about the Financial Conduct Authority's plans to cap charges by payday loan companies: interest rates but also arrangement fees, penalty fees and rollovers.
Mr Osborne said: "People who believe in the free market like myself want that free market to be properly regulated...We need to make sure we fix all parts of the banking and financial system, and payday lending is part of it...We are stepping in where government needs to step in to create the rules of the market."
Labour's chief campaigner on the issue, Stella Creasy, earlier told Today: "What we're seeing today is a recognition that the case is overwhelming for capping the cost of credit." Mr Osborne also praised Ms Creasy's work, while blaming Labour for not doing anything on the issue during their 13 years in power.

Good morning. What do we do about the Romanians and Bulgarians who will supposedly head here once the restrictions are lifted in January? That's the question David Cameron and his chums are grappling with. The Prime Minister wants to double the three month minimum time in the UK required before new arrivals can claim welfare (not quadruple it as the Sunday Times suggested yesterday apparently) but the Lib Dems aren't keen and so there's a split in the Coalition. The Guardian says Nick Clegg will resist the change. Alistair Carmichael on Marr yesterday said they had not been 'persuaded' by the argument, which would include suspending child benefit payments to the children of migrant workers who are not in the UK. Interestingly though the Lib Dem anxiety is not the restriction itself but the risk that it might put the UK at odds with EU law, which bars discrimination between citizens of the EU. No10 hopes to set out its stall this week to show it is doing something to address the concern that the UK is about to see an influx of migrants from the two countries.
But is that concern justified? It's tempting to ask whether Mr Cameron is even asking the right question. We carry a fascinating interview with the Bulgarian ambassador today. Konstantin Dimitrov says the number of Bulgarians who come to the UK each year - about 8-10,000 - will not change when the restrictions are lifted. Why? Because the restrictions have never worked, and never mattered. In effect, there have been no restrictions. He claims that not a single work permit application has been rejected by the Home Office since the restrictions were introduced on Bulgaria's accession to the EU in 2007. When we put this to the Home Office yesterday they shuffled their feet and said they had no figures for the number of unsuccessful applications. Keith Vaz promptly stepped forward and promised his Home Affairs Select Cte would investigate. What Mr Dimitrov seems to be saying, and the Home Office is not denying, is that we have deluded ourselves in thinking that a system exists to keep out migrants from Romania and Bulgaria. The restrictions do no such thing. Which suggests that far more of them have been coming here since 2007, and the overall number will not shift significantly after January 1st. Which should make us even more sceptical about the postures being adopted by Downing Street this week, or the ability of politicians to prevent the movement of European peoples that Britain has legally signed up to. As Dominic Grieve pointed out in my interview with him on Saturday, the EU is above all a legal construct, and like it or not we are party to the rules that back Mr Dimitrov's other claim, namely that Bulgarians (and Romanians for that matter) are not immigrants: like the rest of us they are citizens of the EU, and free to come here. As with so much else about Europe, it is a truth that Mr Cameron dares not speak.
There's a smattering of headlines to worry Labour doing the rounds this morning. There's a new development in the Falkirk affair, with Karie Murphy's son Ryan Cullen reportedly signed up to vote in Falkirk - even though he was not a resident of the town; Mr Cullen was enrolled using the addresses of two rental properties in Falkirk but the Mail reports that the owners of the properties have no record of him ever living there. Moving onto the Rev Flowers affair, Ed Balls’s constituency buildings are among those that have benefited from cheap loans from the Co-op Bank; Labour Party Properties Ltd, which is wholly owned by the Labour Party, used its portfolio to secure cheap finance from the Co-op Bank. And the fallout could have repercussions for the next election: The Times reports that "Labour MPs bankrolled by the Co-operative Group have been put on notice that they will have their funding slashed by up to a third partly as a consequence of the Paul Flowers scandal." Ed Miliband is counter-attacking, accusing the Conservatives of a smear campaign and saying that David Cameron had "hit a new low by trying to use the gross errors of one man, Paul Flowers, to impugn the integrity of the entire Labour movement". The Mail isn't won over, saying that "Mr Miliband just looks too scared to face his own party’s moral shortcomings."
The latest round of the civil service rows takes place today, with Francis Maude calling on civil servants to "take responsibility" when things go wrong. Mr Maude tells the FT that Iain Duncan Smith had been let down by the civil service over the implementation of the universal credit scheme: "There were a lot of failures in DWP and it isn’t good that it took a review ­commissioned . . . by the secretary of state to disclose what was going on." But Sir Jeremy Heywood evidently doesn't agree. Sir Jeremy complained to the PM about the "concerted political briefing campaign" against Robert Devereux over the universal credit programme, Oliver Wright writes. Mr Devereux's treatment caused "a lot over anger" according to a Government source, who says that "for God’s sake Duncan Smith was the minister in charge and it was his one big project. If he didn’t know things were going wrong then he clearly wasn’t doing his job properly either."
The Government will release the HS2 hybrid bill today. Patrick McLoughlin has remade the case in a Telegraph article, attacking the "doubters and defeatists" and those opposed to "the principle rather than the design". The transport secretary warned that "Our children won’t thank us for failing to provide them with the opportunity to get a job, make a living, build a home, by choosing not to invest in their future when we had the chance." But, although Labour increasingly seems to be getting into line, the fight won't be easy: the Government expects 20-25,000 objections to the first stage of the route, according to the FT.
Ed Miliband enjoyed some light relief with his appearance on Desert Island Discs, although he still awkwardly admitted that his relationship with David remained in the "healing" stage. It was easy to be cynical about his choices, but Michael Deacon wasn't: "At the start of the programme, Kirsty Young asked whether these really were his own choices; had a spin doctor picked them for him? "It’s absolutely my list!" cried the Labour leader. I believe him. A spin doctor would have come up with something better." Quentin Letts is rather less sympathetic: "Ethnic minority anthem — tick. Patriotic hymn — tick. A love song to make female voters go ‘ah’ — tick. Was there maybe something a little calculating about Ed Miliband’s Desert Island Discs?" Here's the list in full:
1. South African national anthem (Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika)
2. Hubert Parry - Jerusalem
3. Paul Robeson - Ballad of Joe Hill
4. A-ha - Take On Me
5. Neil Diamond - Sweet Caroline
6. Robbie Williams - Angels
7. Josh Ritter - Change of Time
8. Edith Piaf - Je Ne Regrette Rien
Tony and Cherie Blair are angry and confused about rumours that Tony had an affair with Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife Wendi Deng, which he denies. The Mirror reports that the relationship between Mr Murdoch and Mr Blair is "over, finished", and their political closeness is a thing of the past - but sources say that Mr Blair is baffled by the rumours.
MPs will get an extra year of holiday in 2014 because of the Scottish independence referendum. MPs will sit for 145 days in 2014.
The Morning Briefing email is edited by Tim Wigmore. Follow Tim on Twitter

It's a very good morning for Stella Creasy:
@Jo_Milligan: Phenomenal achievement @stellacreasy - lots for others to learn about making change happen from your campaigning over last 3 years.

In the Telegraph  
Best of the rest

Matt Ridley in The Times - Let immigrants in. Then send them home

Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail leader - Castaway Ed and the most hilariously right-on Desert Island Discs ever 
Wolfgang Munchau in The FT - Europe will struggle even to disintegrate
1045 LONDON: Anti-HS2 campaigners rally at Westminster. Lobby of Parliament as HS2 Hybrid Bill gets first reading. Old Palace Yard, Westminster
1000 LONDON: Launch of independent report on policing in England and Wales commissioned by Labour. Lord Stevens to present report. Ed Miliband and Yvette Cooper take part in Q&A. RSA, 8 John Adam Street

1515 LONDON: Public Accounts Committee hearing on Government suppliers. Witnesses: Stephen Kelly, Cabinet Officer chief operating officer, Bill Crowthers, Cabinet Officer chief procurement officer, Les Mosco, MoD commercial director, Vincent Godfrey, MoJ commercial director and Richard Douglas, DH director general of Finance and the NHS. Room 15, Palace of Westminster

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Has modernisation failed?

Good morning. Nick Boles has lobbed some grenades at the Tory leadership, with his admission that "a significant number of people will not even contemplate voting Conservative". The arch-moderniser says that the Conservatives should be "shouting from the rooftops" about liberal policies like gay marriage. There was even the intriguing suggestion that the old National Liberal party (last seen in 1968 when it formally merged with the Tories) should be revived - a way of getting young and socially liberal voters to support the Tories without quite admitting it.
What to make of Mr Boles's intervention? It is a brutally honest analysis of the failures of the modernisation process in which Mr Boles was intimately involved. As I argued yesterday, perhaps "the question underlying politics at the moment is not, in fact, why Labour is doing so well, but why the Conservatives are doing so badly?" Many may disagree with Mr Boles's answers. but at least he is asking the right questions. We are witnessing something odd in British politics - Ukip, a party whose platform is by any measure to the Right of the Conservatives, are winning the support of many who would never vote Tory, especially in the North. There is an element of the anti-politics vote in this, certainly, but this also reflects deep problems with the Tory brand. Many will rightly point out that gay marriage damaged Tory membership more than any single policy in the party's history; Mr Boles's argument is that, on issues like gay marriage, "Having taken the pain, not to be proud of them is completely pointless." In the immediate future, the most significant aspect of Mr Boles's speech may be that it marks increased efforts from Tories to "peel off" Right-leaning Lib Dems, led by Jeremy Browne. Mr Browne has said that he will not join the Conservative Party, but he would seem a very natural fit in a National Liberal party. As for David Cameron, he may not appreciate the timing of Mr Boles's intervention, which could give Ed Miliband some much-needed relief at PMQs, where he will have to contend with the increasingly buoyant economic picture and questions about Labour's links with Paul Flowers.
The OECD is the latest respectable outfit to say things are going gangbusters, which adds to the sense of Tory optimism. It certainly encourages a perverse feeling of unexpected wealth among some politicians. Every hint that things may be better than expected gets them dreaming. It may turn out for example that borrowing will be £20billion less than predicted. That would still leave the deficit at £100bn, but some politicians might think that they have a £20bn windfall to play with. Nick Clegg is imagining extra taxes to pay for new giveaways, while George Osborne is considering a raid on wealthy foreign (or foreign-based) property investors. The overarching impression is of politicians who are happy to see taxes rises. Our leader today says "enough" and tells the Chancellor he should rule out any further tax rises. Allister Heath goes further: without tax cuts, the Totries are stuffed. And today's Adams cartoon makes the point in a Monty Python way. As things get better, so ministers start to think of sharing the proceeds of growth, when they should be thinking of eliminating the deficit, and nothing else.
Labour is considering proposals by the IPPR to scrap benefits for under 25s. They would receive a youth allowance of £56.80 a week - the same level as the Job Seekers' Allowance - and Under-25s would be banned from claiming additional benefits including Employment Support Allowance and Income Support. Those who laughed when Rachel Reeves pledged to out-tough the Tories on welfare may have to think again. Mary Riddellwrites in her column that "If Labour is to prove, as it must, that it can break the cycle of dependency, the best starting point is a generation whose annual benefits bill of £2.5 billion is merely a down-payment on what it will ultimately cost the taxpayer."
There's a tricky vote on the Defence Reform Bill today, in which plans to reorganise the army by expanding the Army Reserve to offset cuts in troop numbers will be debated. Conservative MP John Baron has tabled an amendment that would delay the plans until their impact is further discussed. Philip Hammond is certainly not impressed with the Tory rebels. "If passed, the proposal would cause great damage to our Reserve Forces. It would send a message to the men and women serving in our Reserves that their service and commitment is not valued; and it would inevitably put off those considering joining", the Defence Secretary writes.
The Mail splashes with the question: "How much did Labour know about disgraced Co-op chief?" The facts are deeply embarrassing for Labour: the party knew two years ago that Paul Flowers had been forced to resign as one of the party’s city councillors after gay porn was found on his computer, but the Co-op was not told. Mr Flowers enjoyed invites to Downing Street during Labour's time in office, including at a reception hosted by Ed Miliband and Ed Balls. The Times also sticks the knife in, reporting that the Co-op approved more than £1 million of fresh lending to the Labour Party within weeks of Ed Miliband meeting Paul Flowers.
There's a row over the civil service played out in the letter pages of The Times today. Francis Maude rebutes The Times' claims yesterday about the politicisation of Whitehall: "Our plans to allow ministers to establish extended offices were agreed by the leadership of the Civil Service. The Civil Service Commission has put in place new rules on appointments into these offices and to protect Civil Service impartiality. Any new appointments, other than special advisers, will be subject to the same rigorous requirements for political impartiality as other civil servants." Meanwhile, Vernon Bogdanor says that "an influx of more political appointees would not be in the public interest." The Mail sticks the boot in, writing in its leader that "It’s not as if there is any evidence that having more political advisers – Nick Clegg has 19 – makes for better government" and "The greatest danger of all is that ministers will turn their departments into finishing schools for prospective MPs plucked straight from university."
Good news for Dave. One of his most trusted advisers, Gabby Bertin, has returned to Number 10 after a year on maternity leave, just as the Coalition is having a rift over plans to share parental leave. Gabby has been appointed as Cameron’s director of external relations and will manage Downing Street’s links with business, charities and pressure groups. She's moved away from her old role as the PM's press secretary, where Richard Kay reports that she clashed with Craig Oliver.
The Morning Briefing email is edited by Tim Wigmore. Follow Tim on Twitter

A rival to Chris Heaton-Harris?
@gavinshuker: I once had a breaded fishcake in Hull. It had been, additionally, battered.

In the Telegraph 

Mary Riddell - Labour must step in to rescue a generation of doomed youth
Best of the rest

Daniel Finkelstein in The Times - A new generation of politicians is coming

Grant Shapps in City AM - Government helped get my business going – now it’s boosting startups again
0930 LONDON: Bank bosses questioned by MPs on Royal Mail privatisation.
0930 LONDON: Chris Grayling at Draft Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Bill committee.
0930: Edward Timpson at Education Select Committee on child protection.
1000 LONDON: Mayor of London Boris Johnson to be questioned on cycle safety by London Assembly Members.
1415 LONDON: Serco, G4S, Capita and Atos at Public Accounts Committee.

1800 LONDON: Speech by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson to Policy Exchange.