Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Cameron to reject 2015 Coalition..

Good morning. "They'll roll him if he tries." So said one of Mr Cameron's closest political advisers when I asked about the prospect for another coalition recently. My interlocutor meant Tory MPs, specifically those who are permanently on the look-out for an opportunity to do in the Prime Minister. Number 10 knows it has to prepare for the possibility that the Tories will end up as the largest party at the next election, but short of a majority. The assumption has long been that in that case Mr Cameron would seek a new arrangement with Nick Clegg. But his MPs have other ideas. They have secured an understanding that this time it would be put to a vote of the parliamentary party, a vote the PM would be likely to win. The worry in No 10 is that the irreconcilables would use the aftermath of another inconclusive election - another Mr Cameron failed to win - as a reason to come for his head. Which is why, as I set out in my column this morning, the Tory leader is considering a manifesto pledge to rule out a coalition altogether. He would tell voters beforehand that he would not do a deal to stay in power; he would instead seek to lead a minority administration, and accept the likelihood of another general election within months.
The argument that Mr Cameron is making is that voters want single-party government and will respond to being given a clear choice at the polls. In reply some might say that the voters could well take badly to having their options foreclosed on them, or that Mr Cameron would be foolish to limit his room for manoeuvre before the election. The art of politics is about keeping options open, etc… But he is motivated too by the appeal of a pledge that will delight many of his MPs and, he hopes, head off any danger to his position. The risk then is that he looks weak, forced into a position by necessity, not by choice. You will have spotted that there are a lot of ifs lined up here. Current odds say Mr Cameron needn't bother and that Labour will form the next government. What's telling here, for my money, is the clear message from Mr Cameron's circle that whatever others may say, he has had enough of the Lib Dems and of coalition, and doesn't want another one. It speaks volumes about the state of his relations with many of his parliamentary colleagues that quite a few won't believe him.

The realisation that Angela won't give Dave what he wants (see my blog yesterday) is decidely awkward for the PM. He has pinned all his hopes for EU reform onto support from Ms Merkel; if she doesn't play ball, Dave will have nowhere to hide. Rachel Sylvester says that the German Chancellor can't give the PM what he needs - and that Dave hasn't done enough to build bridges in the past. "According to one diplomat, she has still not forgotten that Britain 'sided with America' when it came to intelligence-gathering that involved the hacking of her own phone. Nor has she entirely forgiven the Tory leader for leaving the EPP, the centre-right grouping in the European Parliament."Janan Ganesh is similarly gloomy about how much Ms Merkel could help Dave, saying "The real error is to overrate her capacity to deliver change, even if she wanted it." In a fascinating piece, Paul Goodman examines the complex politics of European Parliament alliances and explains why closer links between Conservatives and Germany's anti-euro party the Alternative für Deutschland could be in the offing in the European Parliament - even though riling Angela Merkel would be one result.
SIR JOHN BATTLES TORY TOFF IMAGEA few weeks ago, I called for Sir John Major to intervene in the battle over Scotland's future. That hasn't happened just yet, but Sir John will appear with Grant Shapps today to launch a new Conservative apprenticeship scheme named in his honour and laud "a political party which would help give me a step up in life, rather than a hand out: the Conservative Party." The Tories are aware of how important Sir John could be in their battle against their "toff" image. In my blog, I examine Dave's difficulty escaping his school. MeanwhileTim Wigmore explains why Tory Old Etonian MPs - who numbered 73 in 1963 but only 19 today - are a dying breed.
Harriet Harman used her Newsnight appearance yesterday to accuse the Daily Mail of running a "politically-motivated smear campaign" against her. But the Mail isn't stopping questioning the Miss Harman, Jack Dromey and Patricia Hewitt's alleged links to a paedophile group, using its front page to exclaim "But Still They Won't Say Sorry".
Peter Bone gets it in the neck from The Times, who say that Mr Bone is under police investigation over an alleged £100,000 benefits fraud linked to his mother-in-law’s finances. Mr Bone has taken to Twitter to begin his defence, saying: "The Times allegation: We have done nothing wrong. The claims made are without foundation. A full statement will be issued in due course."
MAIL WARNS AGAINST UKRAINE BLANK CHEQUEThe Mail lays into George Osborne's offer of "a chequebook to help the people of Ukraine rebuild their country", quoting a warning from Bill Cash that the potential cost to British taxpayers was "so horrendous as to be completely unacceptable". First the floods and now Ukraine - Tory comments about cheques really aren't playing out very well at the moment. Mac's cartoon is particularly coruscating today. William Hague is in Washington today to discuss Ukraine with John Kerry.

There was more bad news for Alex Salmond yesterday. Paul Krugman, the economist loved by many Lefties, mocked the plans for Scottish independence, saying that "the Bank of England would be under no obligation to act as lender of last resort to Scottish banks". The FT uses its front page to quote Alistair Darling's claim that the "sterlingisation" of Scotland would put the country in the same category as Panama.
Labour will announce today that the party will stage a family-friendly workplace summit with employers: the issue has risen up the party's agenda after an IPPR report that suggested that getting mothers back to work could give the economy a potential £1.5 billion a year boost. The promise of action could also help further strengthen the party's grip over the female vote. But lets hope there isn't a mention of "One Nation" at the announcement: Stella Creasy has said that "If you ever met people from Walthamstow you wouldn't tell them anything like that because they'd quite quickly put you in your place." Chris Leslie is also speaking at 10am about Labour's zero-based spending review. Will there be an acknowledgement of the tough choices that lie ahead?The Morning Briefing is edited by Tim WigmoreFollow Tim on Twitter 
Latest YouGov poll: Con 33%, Lab 38%, Ukip 13%; Lib Dems 10%
Stella doesn't let CCHQ's Twitter operation rile her:
@stellacreasy: @CCHQPress aw *pinches random tory intern press officer cheek* you do keep trying don't you...such a shame it makes you look needy....BEST COMMENTIn the TelegraphBenedict Brogan - David Cameron’s election gamble could electrify British politics
Robert Colvile - Will we be able to resist the robots’ advances?
Tim Wigmore - Why Old Etonian Tories are a dying breed
Telegraph View - Ukraine needs help to rebuild its economy
Best of the rest
Rachel Sylvester - Mrs Merkel can’t give Cameron what he needs
Paul Goodman - Cameron must not dampen this Eurosceptic momentum
Janan Ganesh - Cameron overestimates Merkel’s vim for EU reform
WASHINGTON DC: Foreign Secretary William Hague visit to USA. Mr Hague will meet Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss Ukraine.
1000 LONDON: Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie speech on Labour's zero-based review of spending. Social Market Foundation, 11 Tufton Street
1030 LONDON: Commons Culture Committee takes evidence on future of the BBC. Witnesses: RadioCentre, Bauer Radio and Global Radio; KM Group, The Newspaper Society and Society of Editors Thatcher Room, Portcullis House
1430 LONDON: Health minister Dan Poulter at Health select committee on database. Room 15, House of Commons
1530 LONDON: Damian Green at Home Affairs committee on progress of Police and Crime Commissioners. Witnesses include Ann Barnes, Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, Kent Chief Constable Alan Pughsley and Policing minister Damian Green. The Thatcher Room, Portcullis House
1530 LONDON: Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and SW England council leaders appear before House of Commons Transport Committee on the flooding. Wilson Room, Portcullis House