Friday, 13 June 2014

Get a grip..

It was a day of defeats for David Cameron in Brussels yesterday. MEPs in his European Conservatives and Reformers caucus voted to admit the Alternative für Deutschland, the Eurosceptic rival to Angela Merkel's CDU/CSU. As James Kirkup explained last night - read his take here - the sight of Conservative MEPs getting pally with her opponents will make Mrs Merkel extremely angry - and unlikely to make concessions to Mr Cameron's attempts to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU. To make matters worse, the Socialists and Democrats  - the European Parliament's main centre-left grouping - confirmed its intention to join with their centre-right opponents, the European People's Party, in support of Jean-Claude Juncker's bid to become President of the European Commission. The list of allies in Mr Cameron's bid to stop Mr Juncker is no longer than it was a week ago - while the list of enemies grows ever longer.
Meanwhile, Russian tanks crossed the Ukrainan border, while the nation of Iraq moved close to a complete break-up, as ISIS forces continue to advance on Baghdad. And yet, in Westminster, the response to both continues to be muted. A holding statement from the government here - a prefunctory press release from the opposition there.  Consider that "renegotiation" - or the lack thereof - could prove the defining political issue of Mr Cameron's second term.
Consider, too, that without wading into the questions of whether Britain and the West have a moral responsibility to the people of Iraq and the Ukraine, the very real economic consequences of allowing  British energy supplies to fall into doubt. As Ambrose Evans-Pritchard explains here, the price of Brent crude has leapt to $110 a barrel in the wake of ISIS's capture of Mosul. Most Western economies are still too weak to pay for oil above $110, and if prices rise above $140 it could have catastrophic effects upon the global economy.
And where's the government? Those who fear that political establishment has yet to grasp the scale of what's at stake will find little reassurance in today's Mail. "Starstruck" is the splash: "As Iraq implodes and Russian tanks roll into Ukraine, PM goes on date night at celeb hotspot and Hague hobnobs with Brangelina." A search for solutions must now get underway. 

George Osborne and Mark Carney's Mansion House speeches are everywhere (Louise Armistead and Szu Ping Chan have the story, and you can read the full speech here). The message wasn't quite "mission accomplished", but this is probably as close as a victory lap as you are likely to see this side of the election. There were thank yous to the business community for staying the course during the dark years of 2012, announcements of planning reforms to make it easier to build new houses on brownfield - up to 200,000 could be built on these sites - and new powers for the Bank of England to cap lending. It's Mark Carney's speech that has taken the headlines, though - read James Kirkup's splash here - with his warning that interest rates could rise sooner than the markets expect. It makes it distinctly possible that rates could rise later this year or in January - and it's still not certain what the consequences of the ending of cheap money will be.
Iain Duncan Smith has called for the English to make the emotional case for the Union in a personal piece for today's Telegraph. Mr Duncan Smith reflects on his imminent returnsto the country of his birth to bury his mother's ashes, and strikes a markedly different tone to the often technocratic language employed by government ministers in the past. Meanwhile, the row over Alex Salmond's media adviser, Campbell Gunn, continues, with Mr Salmond attackoing the Telegraph for disclosing Mr Gunn's smear in the first place - rather undermining the sincerity of his adviser's apology. (Ben Johnson has the latest here)
The Coalition will split next week over knife crime, with Conservative ministers abstaining while their Lib Dem colleagues will vote against a backbench measure to impose tougher sentences for knife crime. Labour have indicated that they will also support the measure - and any doubts they might have on that score will probably be swiftly dismissed by the Sun's attack on "Rotten Clegg" this morning - which means that it will pass despite the split. What's worth noting, though, is not the uncoupling of Coalition partners before the election campaign gets going in earnest, but the relatively subdued coverage of the affair. That the Coalition appears to have found a way to disagree - and even to divide - without falling attests to the strength of a political relationship that could yet extend to the end of the decade. Peter Dominiczak and James Kirkup cover the spat here.
Nigel Farage could face a £200,000 fine or a jail sentence after failing to declare donations for a fourteen year period, the Electoral Commission has said ("Farage faces jail threat" is the Times' splash). It raises the pressure on Mr Farage to submit his accounts to an audit - something that the Ukip leader says he will only do if every MEP does the same. 
Lord Sainsbury of Turville, the former Labour science minister and supermarket magnate, who stopped donations to Ed Miliband saying that the Labour leader was "average", is back on the scene in a late bid to win business support for Labour, the Times reports. Lord Sainsbury, and other Labour figures, including Ed Balls, are increasingly nervous about going into a close election without any prominent supporters from the business community. In today's FT, George Parker, Jim Pickard and Brian Groom profile Labour's increasingly fraught relationship with big business. One aide's remark that some shadow ministers are "watching and not helping" may provoke an aggressive response from Labour frontbenchers who feel both marginalised and scapegoated by the leader's office. 
Have a lovely weekend, everyone. Ben is back on Monday. 
The Morning Briefing is edited - and this week, written - by Stephen Bush. You can follow him on Twitter or Instagram, or e-mail press releases or tips to
A novel alternative to tweeting about how wonderful your constituency is:
@andrewpercy: Just arrived back home. The air is actually cool. Feel like a human being again! London sucks!
YouGov latest:
Con 32%, Lab 38%, LD 8%, UKIP 12%
In the Telegraph
Con Coughlin - Who can halt the Jihadis now?
Isabel Hardman - The young think like Tories - so why do they vote Labour?
Jenny McCartney - If America can't see the threat posed by ISIS, we need to worry
Jeremy Warner - Banks are crying out for the Uber treatment
Best of the Rest
Mary Dejevsky - Has the Foreign Office lost its voice?
John McTernan -  We had to topple Saddam - now let's go back to Iraq to rescue democracy
0900 LONDON: Mayor and Chancellor visit prospective housing zone in Enfield.