Friday, 14 February 2014

A good crisis for Cameron..

Good morning. The floods remain the only game in town this morning - so much so that the PM ended his run of 238 days without a domestic press conference. Dave is trying to give the impression of a man incontrol of it all (and so far, he's doing a pretty good job), declaring that "money is no object" and staking his personal credibility on resolving matters. To that end, thousands more troops, in addition to the 600 already deployed, will be made available to tackle the floods. Mr Cameron will also chair a special cabinet committee to deal with the recovery. But Mr Cameron admitted that it will be a "depressingly long period of time" before normal service is resumed. The PM has also said that much more needs to be done to prepare Britain for extreme weather. The blame game went a little quiet yesterday, and the Conservatives will urge Owen Paterson and Eric Pickles to stop their unhelpful row about Lord Smith: public bickering during the floods is not a desirable look.  
While Mr Cameron has cancelled his trip to Israel next week (which would have been his first as PM), Ed Miliband has done the same with his trip to India scheduled for next week, no doubt remembering Dave's decision to go ahead with his visit to Rwanda in 2007 even as Witney flooded. A final thought: have these floods been bad news for Nigel Farage, as Will Heaven suggested in his blog? The Ukip leader hasn't quite captured the imagination. In times of crisis, do the public seek reassurance with the political devils they know, and who are in a position to give them practical help?
Labour is certain to win the by-election in Wythenshawe and Sale East but a brutal row is breaking out over postal votes. Nigel Farage uses his Indy column to call the campaign "as dirty as they come", saying that "There have been two cases of criminal damage, with the vitriolic phrases "f**k off scum" and "Leave Sale Nazi c**ts" spray-painted on our premises. The generator, used to provide power in the party shop at the beginning of the campaign, was stolen by opponents. Groups of activists even ran into the Ukip campaign shop to steal bundles of our campaign literature." In the latest UkipWatch, Mr Farage raises the issue of postal votes: "There are 17,000 postal votes and a three and a half week campaign. That’s not democracy." The Ukip leader seems to allege that Labour is guilty of dirt tricks: "You’re the little old dear at number 33. The postman delivers the ballot paper. Two minutes later, there’s a knock on the door. It’s the Labour canvasser. 'Do you want some help with that? Can I take that from you?' They’ve even got a barcoding system." Reporting from the ground in Wythenshawe and Sale East, Tim Wigmore explains how Labour is aiming its fire at Ukip, using its campaign literature to attack Nigel Farage's party, while there have been complaints that Ukip have used photographs of people in literature without receiving their permission. Meanwhile I explain in my blog how Ukip needs to learn to play the expectations game.
The independence campaign is preparing a huge ad blitz as the referendum campaign reaches a new stage. It has reserved up to £2.5 million worth of outdoor advertising space with billboards, poster spaces and phonebox panels. The backlash has already begun, with opponents accusing the Scottish Government of using taxpayers' money for political projects and more questioned being raised about the identities of the Yes Scotland's donor base. Meanwhile, George Osborne, Danny Alexander and Ed Balls are all planning to warn that an independent Scotland could not keep the pound.
The Times has an interview with Ian Richardson, one of the four officers on duty when Andrew Mitchell wanted to cycle through the gates, about the the Plebgate affair. The crucial point is that Mr Richardson says that he believes that Mr Mitchell did call the officers "f*****g plebs". Mr Mitchell's friend David Davis takes to the Mail to attack the Police Federation as a "bullying, crony-filled organisation that raises members’ subscription fees to pay for swimming pools and grace-and-favour flats in Leatherhead, and lavish trips on which Federation officials run up huge bar bills."
Was Nick Clegg the one complaining about Danny Alexander "going native"? That seems the obvious conclusion after Rob Wilson, George Osborne's PPS, told a gathering of Tory activists: "I think Nick Clegg complains quite often that Danny Alexander has gone native in the Treasury. I think there is some truth in the fact he has gone native in the Treasury." But Mr Clegg denied the claims to the Commons yesterday, citing Mr Alexander's opposition to lowering the 45p tax rate.
Mark Carney will today warn that the British economy is still not ready to withstand an interest rate increase. The intervention will cool speculation about an imminent rise, stoked by former BoE deputy governor Sir John Gieve saying there was "a good chance" that rates would rise in 2014.
The Morning Briefing email is edited by Tim Wigmore. Follow Tim on Twitter

Angus Robertson attacks the Better Together campaign:
@MorayMP: Anti-independence campaign moves from #projectfear to #projectbully on currency. Does Westminster not have any idea how bad this looks?


In the Telegraph

Mary Riddell - Ed Miliband has a cunning plan: win power and then give it away

Geoffrey Lean - UK flooding: A fall guy for the floods comes out fighting

UkipWatch - Wythenshawe and Sale East: Ukip can’t compete with Labour’s ruthless operation
Best of the rest

Nigel Farage in The Independent - The Wythenshawe by-election has been as dirty as they come
Alice Thomson in The Times - Cameron’s country vote is being washed away

9.15am Commissioner for Public Appointments David Normington gives evidence to Public Administration Select Committee. Committee Room 16, House of Commons.

9.30am Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw giving evidence to the Commons education select committee.

10am Mike Hancock's son to appear in court charged with assault of a photographer. Fareham.

10.30am A former top Scottish judge will appear before lords investigating the implications of independence. Committee room 1, House of Lords.

10.30am Bank of England presents quarterly growth and inflation forecasts.

12pm PMQs.

12.30pm Home Secretary oral statement to Commons on Hillsborough investigations. House of Commons.

2.15pm Public Accounts Committee hears from NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson on waiting lists.

2.30pm Chief of Defence Materiel Bernard Grey at Defence Select Committee. Grimond Room, Portcullis House.