Monday, 9 June 2014

No horses and no Trojan's..

It's all about Islamist Trojan Horses today (talk about mangled metaphors). We are told David Cameron will "take charge" of the Government's response, to illustrate his frustration with his colleagues. The papers and the airwaves are dominated by the fall-out from the May/Gove business. There are some significant new strands which suggest No10 will have its work cut-out to draw a line under this business.
On policy, it's all about the Ofsted inspection results out later. The Times reports that the Government is considering the case for introducing a "no notice" inspections regime after the schools targeted allegedly used the advance notice they were given to set up what we might call Potemkin classes about Christianity for the benefit of the inspectors. According to the Guardian there is also the possibility that Birmingham schools might be taken over from the centre, the so-calledLouisiana option. Then there's the central question: has there really been an attempt by Islamist extremists to take over certain schools, the"Lessons in Hate" the Sun refers to? There isn't an obvious consensus. Alan Judd in the Telegraph, who advised Mr Gove on extremism, offers a lucid exposition of the problem. But Richard Adams in the Guardian puts the opposite case, that's it's a "crude with hunt". Islamist plot to take over schools? Or simply odious cultural medievalism that uses Islam to justify backward social traditions? David Blunkett reminded us on the Today programme this morning that Labour's academies had to struggle against chains that wanted to teach creationism Word is we won't get evidence of an actual plot, but that does not mean there isn't something wrong with some schools in some communities. 
The politics are fraught. There's detail in the Mail of the feud between Mr Gove, Theresa May, and her special adviser Fiona Cunningham, who is blamed for a "reign of terror". The Sun claims Craig Oliver was behind her enforced resignation: the Mail too claims they had been at odds for some time. Bang on time, Labour's Keith Vaz has popped up to say he wants Mrs May and possibly Ms Cunningham to give evidence to his committee. It's coincidence no doubt that Labour's Yvette Cooper piled in at the weekend. Tristram Hunt this morning accuses Mr Cameron of "headline chasing". 
The presumption is that in the wake of the Heywood investigation No10 imposed a settlement that traded Mr Gove's abasement to Mr Cameron and Charles Farr for Ms Cunningham's resignation. Is that the end though? Mrs May has not spoken publicly yet. Presumably when she does it will be all about her admiration for Mr Gove, but that's a tricky moment to navigate. No10 though is still furious. They find her hard to work with, and are frustrated by the hermetic way she runs her department. She will justifiably feel aggrieved about having to lose Ms Cunningham. The facts admittedly were against Ms Cunningham - her blatant publication of a ministerial letter was egregious even by Whitehall standards - but the politics were more balanced. Her colleagues will think it odd that she had to be sacrificed while the Gove operation, which has in the past been far more, shall we say, robust in the field of media briefings, remains intact. In some ways Mr Gove and Mrs May are similar: they both claim to themselves the right to run their departments without the slightest intrusion from No10, and are notorious for refusing to share information with colleagues. They now both have influential former special advisers who are free of Whitehall constraints (Dominic Cummings, profiled by Richard Garner in this morning's Indy remains a vigilant supporter of his friend Mr Gove). The feud feels as if it's in abeyance rather than over. In the end, its origins are in the ambitions of Tories who want to follow Mr Cameron, and that debate has a long way to go.   

Swedish premier Fredrik Reinfeldt has given a further boost to David Cameron's hopes of blocking Jean-Claude Juncker taking post as president of the next European Commission. ("Swedes hit Juncker's hopes for Brussels job" is the FT splash). Mr Reinfeldt is one of the European leaders who have been relieved to see Mr Cameron standing up for the right of ministers to decide, not the European Parliament. Now Mr Reinfeldt has made his opposition to the process public. It's not all good news for the PM, though, as his Swedish counterpart warned that it is not "wise to link very important discussions over generations to single names". Mr Reinfeldt - who, along with the Dutchman Mark Rutte and Angela Merkel, form what the PM calls his "reform quad" that are his best hope of securing meaningful reform - may himself be a possible compromise candidate. Polls say that Mr Reinfeldt is likely to be defeated by the centre-left in the Swedish elections in September. 
Nick Clegg's speech to Bloomberg later today is everywhere. The DPM's pledge that the Liberal Democrats will not support "austerity for ever", and would, once the finances are back on track, borrow more to fund new housing, transport and other infrastructure, puts him at odds with George Osborne. It's all part of Mr Clegg's plan to fight the next election as 'equidistant' between Labour and the Tories (Ed Miliband's party's target is to clear the deficit by 2019), although both sides will feel that the DPM is altogether too close to their opponents.  The Mail is unimpressed. Mr Clegg, their leader says, "flutters his eyelashes at Labour - and casts off the last vestige of his integrity."
The Scottish referendum campaign has entered its last 100 days. If, as I blogged last week, Barack Obama's unexpected endorsement of the No campaign was the unofficial starting gun to the the campaign proper, today is the real thing, as both campaigns host events to mark the occasion. Alistair Darling's remarks that the nationalists are "running out of arguments and running out of time", attests to the growing confidence within Better Together. Now that the cross-party campaign's biggest problems - namely, that the Tories were unwilling to stump up the cash and that Labour no longer had the organisation - have been addressed, the next 100 days will be focussed on ruthlessly targeting the undecideds. Labour's Scottish beasts are out in force, with Jim Murphy launching his "100 Towns in 100 Days" tour. As Ben Riley-Smith notes in his primer to the state of the race, it is Labour voters who will decide one way or the other whether the United Kingdom stays that way. (You can read the full story here).
It's just like old times. In the Times, Francis Elliot reports that Dave is set to emulate Mr Tony with a star-studded bash at Downing Street. Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwitel Eijofor and Emma Watson are amongst the guest list, which includes veterans from the Blair-era jollies such as Dame Helen Mirren and Ralph Fiennes. It's all being organised by Gabby Bertin, Number Ten's director of external relations, and the not-so-secret item on the agenda is securing celeb backers for the 2015 campaign. One celebrity who surely would lend his support to Dave's re-election effort, however, is not on the guest list: it's Take That star Gary Barlow.
"I can reveal that it will not be Commons leader Andrew Lansley,"Trevor Kavanagh says in today's Sun. No word on who it will be, but, he says, Dave wants someone with "zest and determination to fight our corner". Trevor adds that he's bet his old editor, Kelvin MacKenzie, fifty quid that Dave will still be PM after the election, "probably with an outright majority". 
Peter Hain, who announced this weekend that he will step down from Parliament at the next election, cast doubt on Ed Miliband's hopes of winning a parliamentary majority in 2015. Speaking on Sky News' Murnaghan programme, Mr Hain - who was one of the first MPs to back Mr Miliband for the Labour leadership - said that voters "don't see" Miliband the younger as a Prime Minister. But, Mr Hain says, should Mr Miliband end up in Number Ten, voters will be surprised at his aptitude for the role. "It's as desperate a plea to voters as we've ever seen," says the Sun. It comes in the same weekend that Rachel Reeves warns that Labour is losing the support of its core. Matt Holehouse has the story
The government will miss its child poverty targets even if unemployment falls faster than every other developed economy for the next five years, the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission will say today. Alan Milburn, the commission's chairman, says that ending child poverty solely through increasing employment is not "realistic". (John Bingham has the story.) Meanwhile, the Times reports, George Osborne and IDS are still at odds over how best to measure it all. 
Greg Hands could be promoted from deputy to Chief Whip in the reshuffle, when Sir George Young stands down, James Kirkup and Christopher Hope report. Sir George, who was brought back into government following Andrew Mitchell's resignation, is to stand down in the reshuffle and is retiring in 2015. If Mr Hands does make the step up into the chief's chair, it will be another win for Team Osborne.
I'm away now until Monday. Stephen is in sole charge of the MB for the rest of the week. Be gentle, please. 
The Morning Briefing is edited by Stephen Bush. You can follow him on Twitter here.
@edballsmp: Watching Sound of Music, kids just fell in Lake, about to sing to and with the Captain.. always the tear-jerking moment - Top Cinema
YouGov latest:
Con 33%, Lab 37%, LD 7%, UKIP 14%
In the Telegraph
Boris Johnson - Junking Juncker's pointless. It doesn't mater who gets the job
Alan Cochrane - Danger for Better Together is complacency - the Nats are not finished yet
Telegraph View - A challenge beyond political squabbling
Alan Judd - On a mission to end extremism
David Blair - Ukraine must correct its chaotic response
Best of the Rest
Melanie Philips - Sometimes justice has to be done in secret 
John McTernan - Immigration will not be the issue to split the Labour Party
0915 LONDON: Launch of report on concussion in sport by parliamentary all-party group. Speakers include: Chris Bryant MP, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, John Glen MP, Chris Heaton-Harris MP and Lord Addington.
0930 EDINBURGH: Deputy First Minister and Yes Scotland mark 100-days to go. Nicola Sturgeon will join Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins and volunteers to unveil a new initiative for the final 100 days of the referendum campaign. 
1215 LONDON: Nick Clegg speech at Bloomberg.