Friday, 15 November 2013

Sri Lanka doesn't take kindly to Cameron..

Good morning. It's a quiet Friday at home, leaving attention focused onhow David Cameron handles his commitments at the Commonwealth Heads of Government MeetingYesterday evening, Mr Cameron criticised the "appalling" and "chilling" crimes allegedly committed by the Sri Lankan government. He will defy President Mahindra Rajapaksaand travel to the north of the country to meet victims of the civil war. Mr Cameron is calling for an international inquiry into war crimes believed to have been committed by the Sinhalese against Tamil rebels in the civil war that ended in 2009 and resulted in as many as 40,000 people being killed. It's worth pointing out that allegations of atrocities were also levelled at the Tamil Tigers. The Sri Lankan government have not reacted well to Mr Cameron's intervention - President Rajapaksa said that he has "nothing to hide" while another minister accused the Prime Minister of treating Sri Lanka like a British colony.
Labour, in the shape of Douglas Alexander, has pressed its case for a boycott, a suggestion that is somewhat undermined by the fact that it was Gordon Brown who agreed Sri Lanka as this year's venue back in 2009. It would also look odd for Britain to miss a summit attended by the heir to the throne. William Hague on Today criticised Labour's position as "at the less convincing end on the spectrum of hypocrisy and political opportunism." We argue that "no purpose would be served by reopening that particular question. Instead, today’s ceremony is a moment to recall the enduring value of this unique institution, which draws together 53 rich and poor countries from every continent, together comprising almost a third of humanity." Writing in The Times,Philip Collins takes a different view and says that "It would be better if the Prime Minister had followed the example set by his counterparts in Canada and India and stayed at home." Instead, "Mr Cameron will therefore find himself in the position of Triton, the brilliant young chef in Romesh Gunesekera’s Booker prize- shortlisted novel Reef, who, because he can do nothing about the carnage taking place outside his front door, takes refuge in the kitchen."
Meanwhile Nick Clegg yesterday entered the row over coalition. He talked of Conservative proposals to cut employment rights, prevent profit-making free schools and stopping the snoopers' charter as examples of the Lib Dems acting for the common good. It rather has the air of a stage-managed row - a preview of the 2015 election campaign, rather than a crisis for the coalition.

Jeremy Hunt and Andy Burnham have clashed on Today about Mr Hunt's changes to the NHS, including making GPs personally responsible for the care of all patients aged 75 and over. Mr Hunt said: "The biggest problem in the NHS at the moment is that we don’t know where the buck stops with out-of-hospital care." Mr Hunt criticised Labour's NHS record, saying, ""In 2004 there was a very big change made that led to target chasing & tick boxing, but most importantly it removed family GPs."
Mr Burnham said: ""It has got harder to get a GP appointment under this government and nothing in today's announcement will correct that." He said that he did not oppose having a responsible GP for every older person, but added that "People will still face the frustration of phoning the surgery at 9am and being told there's nothing available for days."
Mr Hunt is trying to present himself as the Michael Gove of NHS reform.We splash with Mr Hunt's plans to bring back "proper family doctors" - reversing changes agreed by Labour to allow family doctors to abandon responsibility for care outside office hours, and part of wider efforts of the Conservatives to side themselves with patients. Andy Burnham has said this morning that the announcement "should come with a pretty big spin warning". But - even though Labour retains its huge historic lead on the NHS - there are risks in positioning the party as the enemies of reform.


The Falkirk row rumbles ignominiously on. Eric Joyce, the MP for Falkirk who is standing down at the next election, said that at least 15 voters on the party's membership list who do not live at their registered addresses had been signed up by the Labour Party. These "phantom members" suggest that there was something rotten in Falkirk, and it extended beyond Unite. Mr Joyce pointedly said: "The local party is very angry with Ed Miliband for closing his investigation. This clearly goes further, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg." Dan Hodges says that:
pattern is now starting to develop. And because of it, the word is starting to go out. If you strike an agreement with Ed Miliband, you’d better make sure you’ve got it written down in blood.
It’s one of the key reasons why Labour’s leader has found it so hard to secure the support of his shadow cabinet. Time and again I’ve heard the identical phrase; "I just don’t trust Ed Miliband  to have my back.
And there's more bad news for Labour with the departure of its leading fundraiser John McCaffrey. The fear is now that Labour will become even more dependent upon the unions for funding. If Ed wants a break from it all, he'll get one on Desert Island Discs on Sunday 24 November - Robbie Williams and Billy Bragg will be among his music choices. 

There's an interestinf ComRes / ITV News Index poll on economic trust. It's a reminder of how much ground Labour still has to gain on the issue: Ed Miliband has a net trust of -34pc and Ed Balls of - 42 pc. Dave is on - 22pc and George Osborne on - 34 pc. But there is some solace for Labour: the two Eds are outperforming their long-term average, while the opposite is true for the PM and Chancellor. Poor old Nick Clegg is down on -50pc, six points worse than Nigel Farage.
Baroness Warsi has written a piece for the Telegraph warning that "From continent to continent, Christians are facing discrimination, ostracism, torture, even murder, simply for the faith they follow." Lady Warsi describes it as a "global crisis" and will today give a speech in Washington DC making the case for an international response.
Countryside Tories always suspected as much, and now it is increasingly unlikely that there will be a debate on the hunting ban before the next election. George Eustice, a Conservative environment minister, said there's a "reluctance" among MPs to use "increasingly precious" parliamentary time on the issue when there was no "realistic prospect" of winning. But there is a notable concession to shire Tories, with the FT reporting that plans for garden cities will be dropped because of concerns that the "top-down" idea would cost votes in the Home Counties. A Lib Dem aide is reported saying: "Garden cities need to be in the Tory heartlands, a great arc from Oxford across to Cambridge." Perhaps Dave thinks that the shires are fed up enough already.
There are more attempts to rewrite history to report. While the Conservatives have culled their Youtube page - including the Webcameron series - Labour's new website only goes back to September 2010 and the start of Ed Miliband's leadership. Former Cameron speechwriter Ian Birrell says that "The sanitisation of the Tories' website archive sends out a message that the era of reinvigorated Conservatism is dead."
Sir Robert Smith, the Lib Dem MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine since 1997, been diagnosed with the early stages of Parkinson's disease. Sir Robert will remain as an MP and still intends to fight the next election. Sir Robert said: "This was not easy news to receive but it is a condition that can be managed and I plan to make the best I can of it."
The Morning Briefing email is edited by Tim Wigmore. Follow Tim on Twitter


Chris Heaton-Harris is on a roll:
@chhcalling: My mate's girlfriend is so obsessed with money she plays FTSE under the table with him.


In the Telegraph 

Fraser Nelson - Our second city is third rate, and its children are paying the price
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) in Colombo, Sri Lanka, attended by David Cameron and the Prince of Wales. (Chogm runs until Sunday.)
1pm Briefing on report by House of Lords Committee charged with investigating the legacy of the Olympic and Paralympic Games

4pm Tamil Solidarity campaign protest against David Cameron's attendance of Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka. Outside Downing Street, London.