Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Eurosceptics damaging Cameron..

Breaking News: William Hague has been speaking on the Today programme about Europe. The Foreign Secretary said that "We are in favour of people being free to move for work" in the EU, and that many British people benefited from that, but that people should not be allowed to move "in order to take advantage of benefits". Mr Hague also spoke about Syria. He called for "a political solution to end this bloodshed, that is why we're in favour of the Geneva II process." He described removing Syrian chemical weapons "the only bright spot in this entire business".
Good morning. One word from William Hague threatens to undo David Cameron's efforts to placate his backbenchers. The Foreign Secretary dismissed as 'unrealistic' the demand for a national veto from 100-odd (or, if you are Ken Clarke, 100 odd) Tory MPs, and the roof has come in. The leading lights behind the letter - Bernard Jenkin, Sir Gerald Howarth, Douglas Carswell - have taken it personally. Mr Cameron is accused of ignoring the democratically expressed will of his MPs. That Nick Clegg has backed him just makes things worse. The Foreign Secretary's point, and Mr Cameron's, is the obvious one: the EU is a club with a set of rules that the United Kingdom has signed up to. Indeed, most of the big structural rules, notably the Single European Act, were agreed by Mrs T. If we want to stay in the club we can't reasonably expect to be exempt from the rules we don't like, which is most of them. And that bring us straight to the political problem. Many Tory MPs, and most of those who signed the letter, and certainly those who organised it, don't want to be part of the club.
In Downing Street they are growing increasingly frustrated by the two-faced tactics of the EU irreconcilables. With a few honourable exceptions, Tory outers aren't out. They pay lip service in public to the Dave dream of renegotiation, then in private point out it's hopelessly over-optimistic and say, almost as an aside, 'anyway, we'd be better off out'. The Prime Minister can see the Jenkin letter, and indeed all the other attempts to force a confrontation over Europe, for what it is: an cattle prod to the exit. Take for example the little discussed dong dong over the Immigration Bill, by which 80-ish Tories want the Government to accept an amendment that is illegal. Ministers have once again pulled the Bill - itself full of useful measures to tackle immigration problems - and deferred it while they try to find a way out of that trap. No10 even sees the Boris one, as in his column today, as unhelpful, because all it does is build up the prospect of a major renegotiation when everyone knows that in reality, it ain't likely.
Mr Cameron is the victim of his own appeaser's rhetoric. He has tried to secure his Tory flank by talking a big game on the EU; his party knows he can't deliver, and is torturing him for it, all the time ramping up the prospects of Brexit. All this as George Osborne prepares to give his vision for Britain's continued place in Europe, with a stronger business slant (John Cridland of the CBI is the new favourite to take over as Britain's commissioner in Brussels). The anti-EU ultras are clever, and are holding Dave's feet to the fire. At some point he will have to call them out. That point has got a whole lot closer.
Everyone agrees with IDS now. As reflected across the papers, Labour and the Lib Dems both say that they support Mr Duncan Smith's plans to block benefits for migrants until they had been in the UK for two years - eight times the current amount - with Rachel Reeves and Nick Clegg rolled out to do the tough talking. Both parties are terrified of being painted as "soft" on immigration and welfare by the Tories. The rationale is simple: that tough talk on these issues is what swing voters want to hear.
This has the feel of being something deeply significant in the battle over Scotland's future. The UK Treasury will today assume full responsibility for Britain’s £1.2tn debt stock in the event of Scottish independence,reports the FT. The decision is designed to settle market nerves, but, by reducing the financial risks that an independent Scotland would face, the risk is this will end up making independence more likely. If Scotland is no longer ultimately liable for its share of the UK's debt stock (though it will still be expected to pay Britain back), then the potency of the argument about the cost of separation is dramatically undermined.
1 penny
Photos have been released of Penny Mordaunt ahead of her debut on Splash! on Saturday night, with the Mail noting that her "swimsuit reveals a little more than her political allegiance." Ms Mordaunt said she is looking forward to it: "I have the elegance and drive of a paving slab, but my navy training has certainly given me the guts to take on the challenge head on."
Nick Clegg used his appearance on Marr yesterday to reiterate his calls for the wealthy to pay more taxes - Mr Clegg's support for a mansion tax is well-established. As I argued in my blog, "if he presses on with this theme, it will be difficult not to conclude that he is laying the ground for an election alliance with Labour that will try to force the Tories to campaign against further taxes on the wealthy." Chris Huhne reckons that it's Mr Clegg's time to speak up against the Tories. The last 16 months of this government won't be pretty: the Tories and Lib Dems think that a lot of public rows over policy might rather help both parties.
Dave is trying to get councils to sign up to fracking, by letting them keep 100 per cent of business rates from shale gas sites they authorise - rather than the usual 50 per cent. Plans to give communities £100,000 per test drilling and a further 1 per cent of the revenues if shale is discovered have already been announced. The Mirror isn't impressed, quoting Lawrence Carter from Greenpeace who calls it a "bribe". French energy giant Total will become the first oil and gas major to back UK fracking, and it's hoped this this could be a catalyst for the sector. Michael Fallon told Today this morning that fracking wouldn't be allowed unless it was "absolutely safe for the environment" and said that he expects 20 to 40 sites to be drilled over the next two years.
Ken Clarke has been dispatched to China to try and secure contracts to export NHS expertise. But that doesn't mean that Mr Clarke is ignoring issues closer to home: he told the FT that "I just don’t think it’s true that the European Union is responsible for unacceptable waves of migration".
Francis Maude has hired a private recruiting firm to find 130 staff to help with projects including the Universal Credit - and, ironically, the Government's Red Tape challenge. The Mirror doesn't miss this open goal: "Whitehall hires £6m advisers... to cut red tape", it says.
17 MPs, from all three main parties, have called for David Cameron to consider arming Syrian rebels to "redress the military disadvantage" in the conflict. They have signed a letter to The Times, saying that "time is running out for Syria's citizens" and urging that this month's Geneva II conference "must focus exclusively on the needs and wishes of the Syrian people, whose call for freedom has been brutally suppressed since 2011."The Times reports that the arming of the rebels is not even up for reconsideration by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Discontent with Dave's handling of the Syria vote still simmers among pro-intervention Tory MPs.  
"Do you speak Italian? Good. Do you speak French? Good. Do you speak German? Ah, very good." Baroness Trumpington reveals all to The Times Diary about the testing interview procedure that earned her a place as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park during the Second World War.
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In the Telegraph  
Best of the rest 
David Davis in The Times - State snopping will hit Britain in the pocket
Trevor Kavanagh in The Sun - Clegg is no use at all, Cam
Daniel Kawczynski in The Financial Times - Poland must remember Britain is a friend
Chris Huhne in The Guardian - Nick Clegg's time to speak up

0930 London: Speech to NHBC by Labour housing spokeswoman Emma Reynolds. Floor 5, 80 Leadenhall Street, EC3A 3DH.