Thursday, 5 June 2014

Pipeline to Mirpur..

A few years ago one of the country's most senior intelligence officials explained to me that one of the greatest threats to Britain was the "pipeline" of extremism that connected the Asian Muslim community here with very specific parts of Pakistan, namely Mirpur in Kashmir. Successive administrations, he went on, had failed to do anything about the religious and particularly cultural medievalism being imported to Britain by successive waves of immigrants from the undeveloped parts of Pakistan. He cited feudal attitudes to family, the place of women and the role of education as a toxic mix that led to ghettoisation and the radicalisation of ignorant young men addled by exposure to the lures of the West. Until the "pipeline to Mirpur" was shut down, the UK would continue to have a growing problem with extremism.
This deadly serious background is worth keeping in mind when contemplating the fall-out from this ministerial bust-up, far more than the question of whether those doing the feuding are mere "pussycats" compared to the Blair-Brown psychodrama, as Chris Grayling said this morning.We now know that its origins lay in an editorial lunch on Monday at the Times, when Mr Gove was critical of the Home Office and Charles Farr, the top spook who works for Theresa May, and who is in a relationship with her special adviser Fiona Cunningham. It seems the Home Office discovered that the Times was preparing to report Mr Gove's views, and gave its own, robust response. What has really got Whitehall talking is that the May camp then decided to put online her ministerial write-round letter detailing Mrs May's attack on Mr Gove. It was this remarkable bit of escalation that detonated in Downing Street. It was so bad that consideration was given to sacking Ms Cunningham on the spot (though we should stress that no public evidence exists that she was the person responsible).
The Mail has gone to town with a "Ministers at War" spread, a picture of Ms Cunningham and Mr Farr, and a report on "Theresa's leggy aide, an ex-spy and the affair that fanned the flames". The Telegraph's Sue Cameron looks at the growing power of Mrs May, the Times splashes on"Angry Cameron rebukes rivals as Tory rift widens". Across the piece the sense is that Mr Cameron blew his top and gave Mr Gove a particularly hard time. Some suggest he might be moved in a reshuffle a a result. In the Guardian, Tory sources accuse Mrs May in turn of "laying out her standard" for the leadership.
Mr Gove has yet to respond to the charges levelled at him by Mrs May, namely that his department ignored warnings of Islamist entryism in schools. Next week the results of the various "Trojan horse" investigations including Ofsted's will be published. I am told that these will rebut in detail all the charges. Meanwhile the Tories are left contemplating two issues: Mrs May's ambition and Mr Gove's reputation. Both have admirers, and while Mr Gove is having to cope with the consequences of his repeated interventions in the affairs of other departments, neither has actually suffered a political setback. Rather, it is the workings of government that are under scrutiny. Mr Cameron knows he cannot afford to have private ministerial exchanges becoming public property in the pursuit of individual feuds. It happens too often for comfort (recall the leak of the Laws letter). His pitch is one of competence and grown-up government, and this episode looks anything but.    
Much of the coverage of the G7's meeting in Brussels centres on David Cameron's continuing attempt to block Jean-Claude Juncker. Mr Juncker declared yesterday that he  is "more confident than ever that I will be the next European Commission President". Sources close to Mr Juncker now say that it "would be advisable to pick up a phone" to avoid "a lot of damage" to Britain's prospects for renegotiation. Angela Merkel, however, has indicated that imposing Mr Juncker without Britain's consent may be a step too far.
More important than the jostling over Mr Juncker, though, are the G7's discussions of the crisis in Ukraine and the question of how to tackle the Russian threat. Reducing dependence on Russian energy and tackling Russian aggression are at the top of the agenda before Mr Cameron meets with Vladimir Putin later today. That's the background to the planned war games in Poland, where up to 1,000 British troops could join in a military exercise just over the border with Ukraine later this year. As Con Coughlin explains, the show of force is a clear signal of intent by the West that it will no tolerate further territorial aggression from Mr Putin. Ben Farmer has the story.
The row over recall dominates the coverage of the Queen's Speech. The proposed Bill will allow voters to recall their MPs only in the event of serious wrongdoing - and after being signed off by a committee of MPs. It's a "con", says Zac Goldsmith. "Voters will learn that they have been duped and will be enraged," he says, perhaps overestimating the level of public interest in the measure. Defending the bill, Tim Farron told the World at One that it was better to have a bad Recall Bill than none at all (this is Labour's thinking on the whole 'zombie parliament' line). The speech itself gave us the usual embarrassing spectacle of Her Majesty struggling through political wonk-speak. Ann Treneman complains that the speech read as if it had been "concocted by a machine". It was all too much for Viscount Aithrie, a page boy, who fainted during the speech (watch the video here). It's all part of the Ceremonial Fainting of the Page Boy, Michael Deacon explains.   Shame: he missed an excellent speech by Penny Mordaunt, taking in everything from Hugh Gaitskell to the Royal Navy (you can listen to it here).
By the time you read this, around 1,000 Tory activists, led by Lord Feldman and Grant Shapps, will have finished a series of "dawn raids" around Newark, blanketing doormats throughout the constituency with reminders to vote. (Read Christopher Hope's report from Newark here). Also up in the small hours was Nigel Farage, who, the Mirror reports, went to a jolly in Malta after a conference organised by the Institute of Travel and Tourism. Photographs appear to show Mr Farage arm in arm with the Institute's chief, Ande Soteri. Mr Farage denies any impropriety: "Good god no. I had never even met her before yesterday." Mr Farage's absence from the Newark campaign (he has visited only once) may be the subject of mutterings may be the subject of mutterings should the party make a strong showing.
Alistair Darling sits down with Jason Cowley in this week's New Statesman. Comparing Alex Salmond to Kim Jong-il for his response to the Ukip surge in Scotland (it's all the BBC's fault, says Mr Salmond), Mr Darling warns of a "culture of intimidation"; where senior figures are kept quiet by nationalist threats and bullying.  That the CBI, academics and businessmen across Scotland have all felt the wrath of Yes supporters for voicing concerns about independence has been one of the nastier elements of the referendum campaign. Meanwhile, an open debate still feels very far from view - the hope will be that Mr Salmond takes up Mr Darling's invitation to a televised debate.
Iain Duncan Smith has accused the Big Issue of providing a back-door route for European immigrants to claim in-work benefits, the Times reports. The remarks where made during a Q&A on welfare policy in Berlin. A spokesman for the Big Issue has responded, saying that the loophole in question - now closed - was the creation of Mr Duncan Smith's department.  THIS IS MADNESS. THIS IS...SPARTA!
"Athens was an open city and Sparta kicked people out. Go and look at the ruins of Athens and Sparta now and ask which of the two cities made the greatest contribution to civilisation." A defence of immigration that could only have come from Boris Johnson.

The Morning Briefing is edited by Stephen Bush. You can follow him on Twitter here. 
Knock knock. Who's there?:
@grantshapps: Very early morning start supporting and the people of Newark on by-election day:
YouGov latest:
Con 32%, Lab 37%, LD 7%, UKIP 13%
In the Telegraph
Peter Oborne - This Coalition can be compared with our greatest governments
Benedict Brogan - Last stand? Hardly. Prepare for the Coalition to carry on
Jeremy Warner - Queen's Speech: Yawn. Where's the bold, deregulatory agenda?
Sue Cameron - Has Theresa May the mettle to follow the Iron Lady?
Best of the Rest
Rafael Behr - Cameron is running out of time show that he is serious about keeping Britain in the EU
Tim Montgomerie - Slog, snog and snug: the Tories' triple whammy
James Forsyth - Nigel Farage is becoming a moderniser
1145 LONDON: Health workers' protests. Nationwide demonstrations by health workers over pay, including protests outside the health department HQ in Whitehall.
1200 LIVERPOOL: Protests outside the annual conference of the NHS Confederation in Liverpool at 12 noon.
1230 LONDON: John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldrige discuss 'Reinventing the State' at the IfG.