Monday, 11 November 2013

Cameron targets Sun readers..

Good morning. David Cameron has popped up in the Sun to promote the opening stages of his Help to Buy wheeze. Under an "It's about aspiration" headline, he says the numbers are positive, and he's particularly pleased that three quarters of those taking up the Government subsidy are outside the property hot-house of London and the southeast. He's anxious to dispel the suggestion that it's a bribe for wavering voters which will only serve to stoke a reckless consumer boom. Mr Cameron points out that the average price of the properties concerned is £160,000, substantially below the national average. The take-up numbers so far are modest - roughly 2000 buyers have been helped, or 75 a day. Mr Cameron calls them the hard-working, responsible people "who work hard put in the hours and can afford a mortgage - but can't afford sky-high deposits". Of course, the numbers show that a quarter of those who have qualified are trading up, which will encourage suggestions that the scheme is helping those who don't need help.
Privately, Tories worry that it's part of a deliberately engineered credit boom that is storing up problems for the future. According to this critique, exports haven't materialised, public spending is still not controlled, business investment is worryingly negligible and the Bank of England and the Treasury are hosing us down with cheap money, and the result is growth based on monetary steroids, all designed to deliver a Tory win in 2015. It's noticeable that Tories in private are a tad nervous about the way economic policy is going. But almost all accept that if the choice is doing the right thing or winning, they'd rather argue about their policy failings after 2015 and from a position of power. Mr Cameron will celebrate the merit of Help to But today as a worthy successor to Margaret Thatcher's Right to Buy in the Eighties.Mr Cameron and George Osborne want to talk up their affinity with the hard-pressed, aspirational voters. The scale of their task is made obvious by Sir John Major's angry intervention on Friday against the grip of the "affluent middle class" on the "upper echelons' of society". Mr Cameron says his help is specifically aimed at Sun readers, and he will do all he can to stress that those who benefit are not the well-off. His aim remains to create enough of a feel-good factor in the last 12 months of the Parliament to ensure that austerity and the strain of living costs is forgotten enough by May 2015 to maximise his chances of an outright win.
Sir John Major has made another notable intervention. He has describedthe dominance of a private-school educated elite in public life as "truly shocking". Sir John told the South Norfolk Conservative Association’s annual dinner on Friday night that "every single sphere of British influence" is dominated by men and women who went to private school or who are from the "affluent middle class". He blamed this "collapse in social mobility" on Labour, who "left a Victorian divide between stagnation and aspiration" after their 13 years in office. Sir John also warned about the dangers of public criticism by Tories of the Government: "Government should have the benefit of alternative views, but let’s do it in private. Public criticism is destructive. Take it from me. Political parties who are divided and torn simply do not win general elections." We argue that Sir John's intervention contains an important message: "The Tories must remind voters that they are, and always have been, the party of aspiration – not just for some, but for all."
There are concerns that the NHS may not be able to withstand the burden of a vicious winter, and the Government has put private hospitals groups on standby to provide beds and operating spaces. Labour sees an opportunity to reopen their traditional lead over the Tories on the NHS at the next election (largely neutralised in 2010). Andy Burnham writes in The Times: "2013 has been the worst year in A&E for at least a decade, with one million people waiting more than four hours to be seen and the first summer A&E crisis in living memory. The NHS stands in an even worse position than last year, with fewer nurses, fewer beds, a shortage of senior A&E doctors and social care support further reduced." But Dave and Jeremy Hunt think that they can blunt Labour's appeal with "the Burnham strategy" – blaming underlying problems in the NHS on Mr Burnham.
Labour's union strife continues to rumble on. The Times reports that Emilie Oldknow, Labour’s executive director of governance and party services, was alerted to a membership drive by a Unite activist in Falkirk on January 14th - ten months ago. A source is reported saying that it is "inconceivable" that Ms Oldknow (who is married to Labour MP Jon Ashworth) did not broach the issue with colleagues. Meanwhile, Len McCluskey is facing allegations that he was re-elected elected as General Secretary of Unite earlier this year thanks to 160,000 "phantom" voters who were not members of the union; Jerry Hicks, who lost to Mr McCluskey, has said that the ballot was unlawful and that ballot papers were sent to dead members and the Certification Office has launched an investigation. Priti Patel has used the allegations to raise the heat on Ed: "This raises questions about all the Labour Party selections that this trade union has been involved in, most notably in the election of Ed Miliband as Labour leader", Mrs Patel said.   
The Mail go all out for Nadhim Zahawi today, after Mr Zahawi admitted making an expenses claim for the electricity used by his horse riding business and a yard manager's mobile home. Its leader certainly doesn't hold back: "Mr Zahawi is an ardent supporter of state regulation. But as the free Press has so helpfully enabled him to rectify an honest mistake that was costing the taxpayer thousands of pounds, would it be too much to hope that he might now think again about trying to shackle it?" The Mirror continue their attack - highlighting Mr Zahawi's 31p claim for paperclips - and quotes Labour's Chris Williamson suggesting all MPs live in student-stye halls of residence near Parliament. We can think of nothing worse.
Wondering how Anna Soubry took Nigel Farage down on Question Time on Thursday night? Our spies tell us that Mrs Soubry spent many hours planning her line of attack  - far more than is the norm for Question Time.David Blackburn reports that she refused to take direction from the party machine about how to attack Mr Farage. There is surely a lesson for the Conservatives in there. 
Croydon South Conservatives have released the shortlist of four candidates, which includes three women, to succeed Richard Ottaway, who is standing down from the seat he has held since 1992. Mr Ottaway has a majority of 16,000. The four candidates are Suella Fernandes, Lucy Frazer, Chris Philip and Charlotte Vera and are profiled by ConHome.
William Hague yesterday said that a boycott of the Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka would damage the Commonwealth. You can watch Mr Hague's interview with Marr here. If you missed it, here's Mr Hague's op-ed explaining his stance from last week.
This week is Export Week as the Government continues its efforts to win the global race. Ministers might not be overjoyed to see the think tank Reform's latest report which points out that, on current progress, the Government will miss its target to double exports to £1 trillion by 2020. But Reform thinks UKTI is much improved since 2010 and the FCO's new "commercial diplomacy" is working. Lord Green, the outgoing trade Minister, will explain how the Government will step up the pace at a Reform conference hosted by Barclays in Canary Wharf tomorrow.
The Morning Briefing email is edited by Tim Wigmore. Follow Tim on Twitter 

Lilian Greenwood is ready for Christmas already:
@LilianGreenwood: After 4 hours+ the house smells amazing and the Christmas cake is out of the oven. #result. 

In the Telegraph 
Best of the rest

Andy Burnham in The Times - The Prime Minister is presiding over an A&E brain drain
David Cameron in The Sun - It's about aspiration
0930 Llantrisant: Welsh Secretary David Jones to visit Royal Mint. Llantrisant, Pontyclun
1540 London: Commons Foreign Affairs Committee takes evidence on UK response to extremism in north and west Africa. Witnesses include Foreign Office ministers Hugh Robertson and Mark Simmonds. Committee Room 6, House of Commons
1605 London: Commons Transport Committee takes evidence on winter resilience of transport system. Witnesses from Heathrow, British Airways, Gatwick, BATA, Network Rail and Local Government Association. Wilson Room, Portcullis House

1800 London: Prime Minister David Cameron foreign affairs speech to Lord Mayor's Banquet. Other speakers include: Lord Mayor Fiona Woolf , Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling. Gulidhall