Friday, 30 May 2014

It's all about Newark..

Lord Oakeshott's remarkable implosion is everywhere.  "Lib Dems in meltdown" is the Mail frontpage. "Lib Dem chaos as Cable denies anti-Clegg plot" says the Guardian. "Cable in Lib-Dem 'leadership bid'" is the Telegraph's headline. From the outing of Charlie Kennedy to Ming Campbell's early retirement, the Liberals do seem to enjoy carrying out their plotting in public. The question today is: will the Oakeshott flounce have any lasting consequences?

This morning, it seems unlikely. Lord Oakeshott's resignation statement  - read it in full here - could have triggered another bout of yellow-on-yellow warfare. His revelation that Vince Cable - still in Beijing - knew that he was commissioning polls cast doubt on Dr Cable's "Who me, guv? Never heard of any Oakeshott" claims. ("Parting Shott" is the Mirror's take on it all) Would Nick Clegg have to sack Dr Cable? And what would the consequences be if he did - or didn't? That looks remote this morning. It may be that, as with Dr Cable's boast that he could"bring down the government", once the dust settles, what's left is a diminished, weaker Dr Cable, and a DPM more secure in his post than before. Reading between the lines, it may well be that it was Dr Cable himself who outed Lord Oakeshott.

The forces organising against the DPM now lack a plausible candidate; neither Tim Farron from the the left or the continuity candidate, Danny Alexander, could ascend without a leadership contest.Yes, the forthcoming Ashcroft polling on Lib-Con marginals could trigger another bout of Liberal introspection, but it now looks certain that, for better or for worse, Nick Clegg will lead the Liberal Democrats into the next election.

JUNCKER TO THE SCRAPYARDDavid Cameron appears likely to succeed in his attempt to prevent Jean-Claude Juncker from succeeding Jose Manuel Barroso, the FT reports. Nation-states within the European People's Party refused to back Mr Juncker at a meeting on Tuesday night; with Viktor Orban, the Hungarian premier, joining Sweden's Frederik Reinfeldt in voicing opposition to the appointment. Behind the very real concerns that some hold about Mr Juncker's suitability for the role is a power play between national ministers and their MEPs. "It's not just the power game, it's the implications of the power game," one EU official tells the pink paper. But if not Mr Juncker, who? That the FT's list of runners and ridersincludes Christine Lagarde (who Francois Hollande refuses to back), Irish PM Enda Kenny (who says he doesn't want the job) and Polish premier Donald Tusk (who speaks neither English or French) is a highlight of the paucity of the options available to ministers. Meanwhile, Nigel Farage has written a column for today's Telegraph profiles where he says that Mr Cameron's attempt to reform the EU will "fall at the first hurdle". Well, he would, wouldn't he?
There are no news channels in office and he has no newspapers delivered to his door.  Instead, he relies on his aides to summarise what's going on in the world outside (if only there were a morning e-mail he could use).  He's only a few pages into M Piketty's tome, and his sons (aged three and four) are developing a passion for Arsenal. Read more from BuzzFeed's Jim Waterson day with Ed Miliband here.

The Sun reports that William Hague and Theresa May are at odds over immigration. Mrs May wants Dave to make a pledge to limit the influx of foreign workers from lower income European nations, while Mr Hague believes such a pledge is "undeliverable". (A Home Office spokesman insists that there is no such disagreement) Dave is reported to be on the fence. Other senior Tories, meanwhile, fear that the missed migration target will be a source of solace and support to Ukip in the run-up to the election.  

George Osborne's reform to the annunities market may have to be watered down in order to plug a £24bn hole in the pensions budget. Treasury officials have warned that the change could leave the Exchequer short because of the new freedoms given to pensioners (John Greenwood has the story). Mr Osborne may face an unpalatable choice  between reducing the level of freedom given to pensioners or reducing the percentage that can be withdrawn from their savings. The story comes as Rachel Reeves gives her first major speech today on pensions since taking up post as the opposition's lead at the DWP. The mooted proposal would reduce the earnings threshold for auto-enrolment, adding 1.5million people to the pensions system. The Times reports that the CBI and the IEA have criticised the plan, saying it would pile additional costs on business.

The division between the Treasury's £1,400 "union dividend" and Alex Samond's £1,000 "independence bonus" dominates today's Scottish coverage. (Seb Payne explains in more detail) The FT's John McDermott explains the increasingly bureaucratic tone to the debate; "romantics on both sides have made up their mind". For all the optimism of the seperatist campaign, they will have to convert an overwhelmingly large share of the undecideds to be within a chance of victory. Elsewhere, Allan Massie sifts through the Scottish results in Europe and finds that the SNP is still making inroads into Labour's heartlands where the referendum will be decided.

MPC member's Martin Weale's interview with the FT urging for an interest rate rise sooner rather than later is a sign of the increasing pressure from the MPC's hawks. Coming in the same week as Mark Carney's intervention on moral capitalism, it raises the question of whether a new, more vocal Bank of England is a permanent addition to our political life.

The emergence of Lord Coe as the frontunner to replace Lord Patten as chairman of the BBC Trust is everywhere.  I've blogged on the importance of making sure Lord Patten's successor is at ease in the corridors of Westminster as much as Broadcasting House here.
The Morning Briefing is edited by Stephen Bush. You can follow him on Twitter here. 

@PhilipDaviesMP: Cable has positioned himself right behind Clegg but only because that is the best position from which to stab him in the back

YouGov latest:
Con 32%, Lab 36%, LD 9%, UKIP 14%

In the Telegraph
Sue Cameron - The clock is ticking for the traditional elite
Peter Oborne - Only our PM can lead the fight for a new look European Union
Nigel Farage - Match your words with action, Mr Cameron
Telegraph View - War is not cheap, but we must be prepared

Best of the Rest
David Aaronovitch - Let's calm down. Ukip's popularity won't last
Seb Payne - Five things you need to know about the Scottish independence papers
Steve Richards - Lib Dem discipline is gone. Convulsions will only deepen

1000 LONDON: Rachel Reeves speech to the Resolution Foundation: "A better deal for savers". Responses from Michael Johnson of the CPS, journalist Paul Lewis and Vidhya Alakeson of the Resolution Foundation. 
1800 GLASGOW: Lecture by Yes Scotland chief executive at the University of Glasgow. Blair Jenkins will speak about the opportunities of independence for Scotland.