Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Success brings worries..

Good morning. Optimistic Dave is pressing home his advantage. His speech to the Lord Mayor's banquet last night talked up Britain's buccaneering spirit. He's pleading for a "fundamental culture change" based on embracing risk and reward. He talks about not just government policy, but the need for a social revolution in favour of entrepreneurs. Of course, his speech invites the answer that the Government needs to do more to generate that entrepreneurial revolution, through sweeping supply-side reforms that will get the state off the back of business and allow investors to get on with the work of creating wealth. Two messages have caught the headlines. We liked his stress on Britain's need to be "buccaneering", as did the Sun ("Buccaneer we go"). The Mail preferred his caution that austerity will be with us forever, as did the Indy.
What's noticeable today though is a degree of resistance. The FTchronicles growing unease at the way the Government appears willing to do anything to cut deals with China. It's surprising that there has been relatively little reaction to the news that the Chancellor has agreed to shift a major parliamentary occasion - the Autumn Statement - back 24 hours to Dec 5 to allow Mr Cameron to make his long-awaited visit to China (imagine if we asked for the date of the Third Plenum to be moved to accommodate a Chinese visit here). There's uncertainty too across the papers about the impact of Help to Buy on the housing market - lots of talk of overheating. My column today looks at the way economic success is giving the Tories more confidence and opening things up for them. We get new inflation and unemployment figures this week, and the Bank of England's revised growth forecast, all of which will help Mr Cameron's narrative of optimism. Even The Guardian's latest ICM poll, which widens the gap between Labour and Tories, still shows Mr Cameron outscores Ed Miliband on who makes the best PM.
Mr Cameron is plainly going for growth. Economic recovery and increasing national wealth are the policy imperatives that trump all other Government activity. George Osborne is likely to say more when he addresses the Telegraph's Festival of Business this afternoon. How does this translate in politics? The Cabinet is being left in no doubt that the Prime Minister wants growth at all costs. It's a sort of great leap forward. That may explain why, for example, immigration is becoming an increasingly fraught topic among ministers, with Theresa May under huge pressure to back down on numbers and soften her stance. We have badgered Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne to do everything for growth. Now they are trying to, and voices are being raised against them - too fast, too risky, too easy. Success brings its own worries.
Labour is determined not to let Dave hog all the headlines today. They have called an Opposition Day debate on the Bedroom Tax, reflecting Labour's belief that while the Government's wider agenda on welfare reform is popular, this is an exception. Labour is making a play of Iain Duncan Smith's absence from the debate. Rachel Reeves told Daybreak this morning that "If Tory and Lib Dem MPs vote against repeal, we won’t let them forget it – and we’ll step up our campaign to elect a Labour government that will." How concerned Tories will be is a moot point - in private they like to point out that there is polling evidence that the public doesn't think the Government has gone far enough on welfare.
Meanwhile, Mr Miliband will speak at Tech City in London today. Ed is expected to reiterate support for Labour's controversial policy of requiring  large firms which recruit a skilled worker from outside the EU to take on an apprentice in the UK. No such rules apply for small businesses; Labour is trying to emphasis that they view small and big businesses differently, although a minister says that the distinction is "too cute" and businesses do not divide themselves up in this way. Ed will also outline his plans to boost apprenticeships - making an apprenticeship programme a condition of bidding successfully for big government contracts; introducing a new "gold standard" for apprenticeships; and creating a new generation of elite technical colleges. Mr Miliband will also announce that Maggie Philbin, the former Tomorrow’s World presenter and CEO of TeenTech, has been appointed to head an independent Digital Skills Taskforce. Ed is expected to say: "Her report will be independent and her advice made available to all parties before the next election because it is vital that whoever forms the next government makes giving young people the tools they need to succeed in the digital world of tomorrow."
Theresa May has popped up in a few places this morning. Mrs May warned that "the BBC's dominant position on the internet and its ability to subsidise the provision of internet news using the licence fee" was "destroying local newspapers" and also threatens national publications. Speaking at the Society of Editors' annual conference in London, Mrs May said that "the BBC has to think carefully about its presence locally and the impact it has on local democracy." This is, of course, another example of Mrs May giving comments in an areas not covered by her brief. Back in the day job of Home Secretary, Mrs May is trying to change the law so that terror suspects can lose their British citizenship and be made "stateless". This would involve overturning international human rights conventions that prevent individuals with only one citizenship being made stateless. Mrs May also received a letter from Yvette Cooper yesterday; Mrs Cooper accuses the Home Secretary of ignoring repeated warnings concerning Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures.
Sir John Major's remarks about social mobility have generated much debate. Sajid Javid, one of the few ministers to have attended a comprehensive, said that the lack of social mobility  "should trouble every politician of any background and any party because you can never have enough of it." Rachel Sylvester writes that Dave would be wrong to ignore Sir John's message, writing that "In the past, right-wing leaders positioned themselves as the champion of the little person against an over-powerful state, now it is a left-wing one who is representing the individual against large corporations. Mr Cameron risks being the establishment Goliath pelted fromleft and right by Mr Miliband and Nigel Farage, of UKIP." Dan Hodges isn't sure what all the fuss is about, pointing out that "What has been lost amidst this fashionable moral panic over social mobility is that it is being conducted against a backdrop of narrowing social inequality. In July the Office for National Statistics reported that the gap between the richest and poorest in Britain is at its lowest level since 1986." John Harris asks what happened to state-educated Tory leaders, and points out how close David Davis, state educated and raised on a council estate, was to beating Mr Cameron to the Tory leadership. "Had Davis become Conservative leader back in 2005, things might have been slightly different; certainly, his take on the current state of Tory play was crisply summed up in advice he threw Cameron's way earlier this year: "No more Etonian advisers". Preditcbaly, Sir John's comments have reopened the grammar school debate: Harry Mount yesterday made the case for their expansion though Tim Wigmore analyses the performance of the poorest pupils at grammars now and isn't convincined. The debate will rumble on. 
Following on from Sir John's comments, it's notable how Dave yesterday framed Help to Buy: "This is about social mobility. The fact is that without Help to Buy we were beginning to see a country where only people who had wealthy mums and dads who could give them the money for their deposit were able to buy a flat or a house." There remain plenty of sceptics about the economics of it all - not least among the Tory backbenches - but Janan Ganesh explains why Tory high command is so taken by it. "There is a glittering electoral prize beckoning whichever party can connect with the many young to middle-aged voters priced out of the housing market... Help to Buy might be the antidote to all this, the "nuclear bomb" needed to turn the war over the cost of living in Mr Cameron’s favour. A home is, after all, the most expensive thing most people will ever buy. The arguments against the policy are legion and compelling. But if Mr Miliband’s energy freeze has proved anything, it is that bad economics and good politics can be cohabitees." Dave certainly thinks so: he yesterday toured new home-owners boosted by Help to Buy and private polling makes the Tories optimistic that they are on to a winner. Labour clearly fears so too: they are calling for more houses to be built rather than the scheme to be scrapped.
Ed Davey is speaking to the energy companies today and he isn't going to be too kind. Mr Davey will today accuse them of treating customers like "cash cows", demand energy companies "open their books" and will even compare their reputation to that of Fred Goodwin. Ouch.  
Not content with taking on the teaching blob, Michael Gove has now turned his sights onto social workers. Mr Gove will today accuse social workers of abdicating their responsibility by viewing individuals as "victims" of injustice and being filled with "idealistic" left-wing views that allowed them to "make excuses" for the behaviour of people from troubled backgrounds. Mr Gove will outline plans to raise standards nationally by adopting rigorous working practices that have been credit with success in Hackney. He's also still got a fight on his hands with the teaching unions, who have accused him of "provocation" and threatened a major national strike.
More evidence of the bad state of Dave's relationship with his grassrootscomes from Croydon South. The local party branch conspiciously ignored the claims of three of his allies - Oliver Dowden, his deputy chief of staff; his spad Laura Trott; and Shaun Bailey, the Government’s "youth and engagement champion". None made the four-person shortlist, which consists of Suella Fernandes, Lucy Frazer, Chris Philip and Charlotte Vera.
Nadine Dorries is back in the news, though perhaps not as she'd wish. She apologised to the Commons yesterday for failing to register her media earnings, including for I'm a Celebrity, in the proper fashion. Ms Dorries said she apologised "fully and unreservedly for what was a genuinely inadvertent breach of the rules".
The Morning Briefing email is edited by Tim Wigmore. Follow Tim on Twitter 

Poor Greg Mulholland sent this at 3am:
@GregMulholland1: Just left the office, had some key documents to work on hence the late hour. Not what you want on a Monday night - & it's raining! Oh well! 

In the Telegraph 
Telegraph View - Curb the corporation
Best of the rest

Rachel Sylvester in The Times - David Cameron ignores John Major’s message at his peril
Janan Ganesh in The Financial Times - Tory election hopes are pinned on Help to Buy
Ed Miliband speech at Tech city on high-tech jobs and immigration.
George Osborne speech at the Telegraph's Festival of Business.
Michael Gove speech on children's services and child protection.
Energy UK annual conference. Speakers include Energy Secretary Ed Davey and shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint.
Opposition Day debate on the Bedroom Tax.
9.30am ONS releases its house price study for September.
2.30pm Care minister Norman Lamb gives evidence to Commons Health Committee on managing long-term conditions.

6.30pm Lord Heseltine speaks on HS2 in Royal Town Planning Institute lecture.