Friday, 20 June 2014

Schoolboy errors..

If you are the leader of the Opposition, there is a great deal that you can neither predict nor control. You cannot predict, for instance, that David Petraeus will warn of the threat of "a terrorist army" - that's Con Coughlin's exclusive that takes the front page of the Telegraph today - or that the Government's reforms to disability benefits will be savaged by a parliamentary watchdog - that's the Indy's splash this morning.  Surely no one could have predicted that a former Ed Miliband adviser would defect from the Labour Party to the Lib Dems, branding poor old Red "weak" into the bargain ("Ed's weak" is the page 2 story in the Mirror). And you cannot control when Damian McBride chooses to make his return to the political fray with a broadside at the Labour machine.
"A thinly-disguised attack on Lord Wood," is Matt Holehouse's take on Mr McBride's blog and there's a feeling in some Labour circles that Mr McBride's intervention - coupled with Tom Watson's line on "schoolboy errors" earlier in the week - is the beginnings of a power grab by the friends of Mr Watson and the former supporters of Ed Balls. 
There may be some truth to that - Mr McBride's list of the exiled "warriors" that Mr Miliband should restore to prominence includes two former Balls-backers, plus the man himself. But here's something that Team Ed should be reflecting on this morning: pitting a 280-page report, however worthy, against the England football team, is almost criminally negligent. Mr McBride is right: Labour badly needs an inject of fight and backbone - and fast. 
Lord Ashcroft's latest poll of Lib-Con marginal seats makes grim reading for the Liberal Democrats. That Liberal MPs defending seats in Labour territory are in trouble is priced in - as James Forsyth explained a few weeks back, around a third of Liberal Democrat MPs are "cut off behind enemy lines and there is nothing that can be done to save them" - but this poll suggests that they will lose at least a dozen seats in Conservative territory too. This suggests that rather more of the army is in jeopardy than they might expect. When you look at the contact numbers, there's some evidence that the Liberal dictum of "where we work, we win" may have some weight to it: the higher the proportion of voters who say they have heard from the Liberals locally, the more well-placed they are to hold onto the seat. Even so, it suggests that there is no sign of a coalition dividend for the Liberal Democrats - and that the price they pay for taking out the shares in the first place may be greater than they think.   

"Governors told to abide by 'British values'" is the Guardian's splash today.  New rules will mean that governors of academies and free schools in England can be dismissed by the Secretary of State if they do not uphold "British values". Those values are given a name, too: religious tolerance, respect for the law, democracy and equality. "Community leaders" warn that it could bar Muslims from becoming trustees or governors. No one has yet seen fit to ask these self-appointed "community leaders" why exactly they think that tolerance, respect for the law, democracy and equality are incompatible with the religion of Islam.  
The introduction of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has been a "fiasco",  Margaret Hodge has warned. MPs in the Commons Public Accounts Committee have given the replacement for the Disability Living Allowance a rollicking, with delayed assessments and late payments a feature of the handdover. Steven Ford, the chief executive of Parkinson's UK, has described the handover as "utterly shambolic". "Disabled people 'let down' by benefit 'fiasco'" is the FT's take. The Sun reports it as a blow for Iain Duncan Smith. Meanwhile, the man himself is in the Mail reporting that the pilots for the Universal Credit are on track and are helping to drive the boost in employment among British-born workers. The scheme's aims are admirable, certainly, but, considering the troubling "reset" rating awarded to the programme by the Major Projects Authority and the failings reported today, it will fuel fears that there is a troubling gulf between the idea and the implementation at the DWP. 
Helen Grant's interview with the House Magazine has the papers aflutter. She suggests that people waiting for passports should stay at home instead - before going on to say that she has no fear of live interviews. Christopher Hope has the story.
Ian Traynor has put together an excellent profile of the man who looks increasingly likely to be the next head of the European Commission: Jean-Claude Juncker. Tidbits: until his resignation in December, Mr Juncker was the only person at the summit table who had taken part in the Maastricht summit that created the Euro, he has few interests outside politics, and is described by Vivian Reding, a European Commissioner and a fellow Luxembourger as "a well-recognised statesman, a safe pair of hands...he is in a long line of people who have been building Europe." Those last two, of course, are regarded as a bug rather than a feature by Team Dave. 
Zac Goldsmith is still trying to make recall happen.  After Nick Clegg said that Mike Hancock should resign from the Liberal Democrats - on LBC, of course - Mr Goldsmith criticised the Coalition's recall bill - which would not be enough to recall Mr Hancock, and called for stronger measures to hold rogue MPs to account
Boris Johnson turned 50 yesterday. "Nifty at fifty" is the Sun's take...on Yasmin Le Bon, pictured looking svelte in a swimsuit alongside a picture of a "knackered old Mayor" (ouch!). The Mail's double spread is kinder, and includes some of Boris' best quotes over the years. His defence of copying from a textbook at Oxford: "I'm sorry, I didn't have time to put in the mistakes" and his comments on fighting his first seat: "I fought Clywd South - and Clwyd South fought back" are my favourites. 

The Morning Briefing is written by Stephen Bush. You can follow him onTwitter or Instagram.
Greg Mulholland takes a measured view:
@GregMulholland1: To all the naive muppets who said it was ok for England to lose their 1st game. It wasn't. Now a national embarrassment. Useless..
YouGov latest:
Con 33%, Lab 37%, LD 8%, UKIP 15%
In the Telegraph
Best of the Rest
BERKSHIRE: Festival of Education.Speaks include Sir Michael Wilshaw and Michael Gove.
0930 LONDON: Public sector borrowing figures for May are published by the Office for National Statistics.
1230 CARDIFF: Labour shadow cabinet meets Welsh Government, followed by Ed Miliband Q&A.