Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Boris v Cameron on Heathrow..

Good morning. The Airports Commission's report is going to spark a major political row. The Interim Report published today has announced that it will be taking forward for further detailed study proposals for new runways at two locations:
  • Gatwick Airport: Gatwick Airport Ltd’s proposal for a new runway to the south of the existing runway;
  • Heathrow Airport (two options): Heathrow Airport Ltd’s proposal for one new 3,500m runway to the northwest; and Heathrow Hub’s proposal to extend the existing Northern runway to at least 6,000m, enabling the extended runway to operate as two independent runways.
Here's the political problem: in their 2010 manifesto, the Conservatives announced that they were opposed to the expansion of Heathrow. The rationale for commissioning the Davies Review was to defer the issue into the next Parliament. But a major row will now be almost impossible to avoid. Boris Johnson, who has championed a whole new airport in the Thames - the so-called "Boris island" - has just told Today that "Building another runway in the west London suburbs is completely crackers, it will simply feed the beast." The Mayor of London wasn't convinced by Gatwick's claims, either: "An extra runway at Gatwick won't make a difference, the airlines will still want to go to Heathrow", although Boris said that it was the "least injurious" of the three options. Sir Howard Davies earlier told the Today programme that the commission would decide by next summer whether to keep the "Boris lsland" option open.
Still, the report will not have impressed Boris. Nor will it have pleased Justine Greening, MP for Putney in West London, who has consistently opposed a third runway at Heathrow and was moved away from Transport to avoid entangling herself in the decision. Zac Goldsmith, the MP for Richmond upon Thames, has previously suggested that he could quit the Conservative Party if they support a new runway at Heathrow. On a day when Tory spirits should be high - a new Yougov poll finds the party having closed the gap on Labour to only two points - David Cameron will instead have to contend with some very awkward party management. There is potential political difficulty for Labour too, but Ed Miliband has softened his opposition to Heathrow expansion in recent months.
The Daily Mirror splashes on expenses - again. Lord Hanningfield is the subject of the Mirror's attention, after claiming his £300 daily allowance on 11 occasions in July when he was in the Lords for under 40 minutes. Its headline - "THE LORD'S A-LEECHING" - doesn't quite tell the whole story: the point to emphasise is that Lord Hanningfield did nothing illegal. In fact, one way to assess the strength of a "sleaze" story these days is the use of the phrase "There is no suggestion that X has done anything wrong" or variations thereof, which immediately turns the story into a moral judgment. The rules may seem ridiculous, but Lord Hanningfield was not responsible for setting them: attention should turn to those who do. Amid the hysteria, Kevin Maguire goes as far as calling for "a clean break with a sordid past" and calls for the Lords to be abolished. We may hear plenty more of such calls in the next few days. But abolishing the Lords would change the nature of British politics far more than is realised, most significantly by increasing the power of the PM and Cabinet - which, during the Blair era, was considered to have dangerously centralised power. The Lords may be flawed, but there are very good reasons why the upper house has been around so long.
Remember the Immigration Bill? Six months ago, David Cameron told MPs that it was "a centrepiece of the Queen’s Speech". It has seen been mysteriously delayed, with Andrew Lansley telling MPs that it has been delayed because of "a lot of legislation before the House". Paul Goodman explains that "the real explanation lies elsewhere – in an amendment tabled by Nigel Mills, a Tory backbencher." Mr Mills's amendment seeks to halt the entitlement of Romanians and Bulgarians to enter Britain on the same basis as other EU citizens and, has already been signed by at least 72 MPs, getting close to half of all Tory backbenchers. Paul writes that "with the European elections looming in May, Ukip’s poll ratings nudging up again, and an unknown number of Eastern Europeans due to arrive – not to mention an Immigration Bill in suspended animation – we haven’t heard the last of it. Nor has the Prime Minister."
On a trip to visit British troops at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, David Cameron was asked: "Do they come home with mission accomplished?" The Prime Minister replied: "Yes I think they do." Mr Cameron was accompanied by several sporting figures - including Michael Owen - and aims to strengthen sporting ties between the two countries. He would like the end of Britain’s 13-year-long military involvement in Afghanistan next year to be marked by an international football match at Wembley stadium.
Some doom and gloom for you all: people born in the 1960s and 1970s face becoming the first generation since the Second World War who will be worse off than their parents in retirement, according to a new IFS study. They are only likely to be better off than their parents if they receive an inheritance, the report says. At a time when much political debate is focused on young people this will refocus attention on the plight of pensioners. 
George Osborne writes in the Wall Street Journal of how Britain got its growth back. And the Chancellor is optimistic about the future for Britain and America too, saying that "Both of our countries should also be tearing down trade barriers and opening up to investment from countries such as China. I've just been in Beijing to secure Chinese investment in a new generation of British civil nuclear power plants. Many Western nations lack the ambition to build such energy infrastructure, let alone encourage overseas investment in it. Not Britain."
What were Len McCluskey and Tom Watson deep in conversation about in Portcullis House yesterday?
Nick Clegg has weighed in against Theresa May's proposals to cap EU immigration at 75,000 a year. Mr Clegg called on the Home Secretary "to spend less time leaking policies that are illegal and undeliverable". Mr Clegg also uses an interview with I readers today to declare: "I am a passionate supporter of the freedom to move and work in the European Union" He also reiterates his support for a mansion tax, suggesting that this will be in his "little black book" when the Coalition partners coordinate their divorce before May 2015.
The Morning Briefing email is edited by Tim Wigmore. Follow Tim on Twitter 
A friendly warning: 
@LordAshcroft: I do hope the Tory leadership has a complete handle on the state of play in the marginal seats. If not........

In the Telegraph
Best of the rest 
Rachel Sylvester in The Times - Power is seeping from the party leaders
Janan Ganesh in The Financial Times - Cameron must show he’s the man 
NHS England's National Medical Director Sir Bruce Keogh's recommendations on seven-day a week services will be considered by the NHS England board at its public meeting.
8.45am Vince Cable speech and Q&A. The Business Secretary will be speaking at the launch of the London Professional Apprenticeship programme. PwC, 7 More London Riverside.
9.15am Government-appointed Airports Commission publishes first report. Report from commission led by Sir Howard Davies should be available from 7am.
9.30am Inflation figures for November are released by the Office for National Statistics.
2.30pm Commons Defence Committee hearing to examine the circumstances surrounding an attack on Camp Bastion, Afghanistan in September 2012.
2.30pm Jeremy Hunt at Health Select Committee. Wilson Room, Portcullis House.
2.45pm Tom Winsor, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary appearing at Home Affairs Select Committee. Grimond Room, Portcullis House.

3.30pm Bank of England Governor Mark Carney gives evidence to House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee.