Friday, 17 January 2014

Labour's economic credibility under attack..

Good morning. After struggling in PMQs, there's more difficulty for Ed Miliband this morning: the FT reports that Mark Carney has attacked his idea of a "crude bonus cap" and of reducing retail banks' market share. Mr Carney's candid jibe amounts to him questioning Labour's economic credibility, which is already under such scrutiny. Labour hope that they will be able to "neutralise" the business lobby at the election, but Mr Carney's intervention suggests this remains far away. Mr Miliband still has to convince many that his model of "responsible capitalism" doesn't amount to facile populism. He may have some rowing back to do if he is to avoid being saddled with the "anti-business" tag.
As a more candid Labour MP admits, "the cost-of-living stuff is not a substitute for an economic policy": Mr Miliband needs some economic credibility. That's what the Labour leader is trying to address in his speech on banking reform tomorrow: the attraction of this topic is anger with banks extends to the middle classes Mr Miliband made a pitch for in his Telegraph piece. The Guardian has a preview of the speech, which will say that Labour will refer the high street banks to the competition authorities immediately if it is elected in 2015. Nils Pratley asks five questions about Mr Miliband's proposals, pointing out that "forcing a sale of (RBS's) assets to reduce that figure below 25% would probably damage the value of the state's 81% holding in RBS."   
But Mr Carney's words may have another significance. Rumours have long circulated that, far from being an independent, non-partisan figure who keeps his counsel on the merits of our politicians, Mr Carney has made no attempt in private to disguise his contempt for Mr Miliband, Ed Balls, and Labour's economic credentials. At which point, I wonder, will Labour reply by asking about his impartiality?
The Conservative Party. Europe. Ukip. You probably feel like you can fill in the blanks by now. But The Sun has a fascinating new poll - and Tories won't like it. It shows Ukip piping the Tories to second in the European elections - Labour is on 32% (which would give them 28 MEPs), Ukip 26% (which would give them 23 MEPs), the Conservatives 23% (which would give them 15 MEPs) and the Lib Dems are on 9%, which would cost them all 11 of their MEPs. If those results come to pass, CCHQ will have to work overtime to prevent the airwaves from overflowing with MPs angry with Dave.
George Osborne's speech yesterday telling the EU to reform or risk Britain leaving gets a good write-up in the Mail, even if Mr Osborne is unlikely to take kindly to being told to explore an electoral deal with Ukip. We call for more honesty in the debate: "In the case of Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne: what are the reforms that absolutely need to happen and how much must be accomplished for them to decide to campaign to stay in? Or would they, as some of their backbenchers suspect, stay in at any cost? As the time of negotiations approaches, we need to know more."
Meanwhile, the mystery of the letter calling for the PM to veto new laws passed by the EU has deepened: The Times reveals that No 10 never received such a letter, and Bernard Jenkin admits that "the Government has not received this letter". A full list of the 95 reported signatories has never been released, but Mr Jenkin gives an assurance that he has them. It's all enough for Peter Oborne to ask: whatever happened to Tory loyalty?
Alex Salmond’s plan for an independent Scotland to continue to charge English students tuition fees is "illegal" and would trigger legal action from the European Commission, according to Jan Figel, a former European Commissioner for Education. The awkwardness for the SNP is this directly contradicts one of the central education pledges in the SNP White Paper – that after independence Scottish universities would continue to charge tuition fees for students from the rest of the UK while Scots could attend for free - and, more significantly, adds to the impression that there are great gaps in the SNP's vision for a better tomorrow. Over to you, Mr Salmond.
Lord Rennard was yesterday cleared of sexually harassing female party activists. But that doesn't mean that the difficulty has disappeared for the Lib Dems. One alleged victim said that "Faced with the opportunity to take strong action, the Liberal Democrats have once more opted for cowardice."  An independent review commissioned by the party said that despite "credible" evidence that he "violated" the personal space of women, it was not enough to prove that he sexually harassed them. What seems clear is that, despite Lord Rennard's hopes, he will not resume his old position in the party. Nick Clegg has already said that Lord Rennard will have no role in the election campaign.  
Nick Robinson was left red-faced on the Daily Politics yesterday, after Fat Bottomed Girls by Queen started blarring out of his iPad. You can watch Nick's embarrassment here.
Pressure is being ramped up on Mr Cameron to release all the documents relating to the UK’s secret involvement in preparations before the assault to clear militants from the Golden Temple in 1984; the PM is committed to publishing the findings of Sir Jeremy Heywood's inquiry but has not pledged to release all the papers.
Was Arthur Scargill a secret Thatcherite? It's a question asked by the Mail after it was revealed that Mr Scargill tried to buy a property under the Right to Buy scheme.
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Anne Milton's dilemma:
@AnneMiltonMP: Almost no standing room but would the sacrifice of getting up half an hour early and catching the 7.07 be worth it for a seat...?
In the Telegraph  
Best of the rest 
Sarah Wollaston in The Guardian - Dying patients should be exempt from social care charges
James Forsyth in The Spectator - Cameron’s mission for 2014: stay out of third place
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors releases its latest housing market survey.
George Osborne announcement on aerospace research.
8.15am Industry report. Press conference to launch a report into foundation industries. Speeches from Business Secretary Vince Cable and Tata Steel managing director Karl Kohler. The Shard, London Bridge.
8.40am Airports Commission chief Sir Howard Davies among speakers at Runways UK event. Grange Tower Bridge Hotel, London. 9am Call Clegg on LBC radio.

9am Open Europe and Fresh Start Project conference on EU reform, including panel debate with Europe minister David Lidington. One Birdcage Walk. Conference opens 9am, panel debate at 9.15am