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.