Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Whistling in the dark..

The euro headlines are dire for Dave. A briefing note prepared by euro officials and leaked in Holland has been picked up here. It says that Angela Merkel has had enough of waiting, thinks further delays mean trouble, wants Jean-Claude Juncker, and wants a vote in the next week. She "now favours moving very promptly to appoint Juncker". The note also claims that Ivan Rogers, Dave's point man on Europe, has warned that choosing Juncker would precipitate a crisis that could accelerate Britain's withdrawal from the EU. And it says Mrs Merkel is worried that the debate is becoming toxic, "not least in the British tabloids".
"Cameron dealt Juncker blow" is the FT splash, the only paper to put the story on the front. But the tone is dire elsewhere. "EU is 'sleepwalking into a crisis' warns senior UK diplomat," says the Mail. "Cameron faces bruising defeat over Juncker as Merkel digs in" is the Times' take. "The die is cast for Juncker in Berlin," says the Telegraph. Worth recording that Dominic Cummings has had a pop at the Government's European strategy on his blog: "whining, rude, dishonest, unpleasant, childishly belligerent in public while pathetically craven in private, and overall hollow." Mr Cameron now contemplates ending up with what he so publicly opposed, and the loss of face and negotiating power that follows.
Is it a done deal? Of course not. Plenty can happen in the next 10 days, and one bum note does not mean a foregone result. Note that the Times says the idea that it could be Christine Lagarde has been rejected by her and Francois Hollande. But I am told it's worth keeping an eye on her candidacy. She is an attractive alternative in a number of ways, not least that she is a woman, from the centre right, and would put Hollande back in the EU game. The view in London is that she wants the job. Team Dave has not given up hope. Expect work to focus on that idea. No10 is also relieved that however bad things look, none of Mr Cameron's proposals for EU reform have been fatally damaged by other EU countries. They are trying to put together an argument that says the appointment of Juncker would force EU countries to address reform more seriously. I'm not so sure: sounds a bit like whistling in the dark.
"From the Great Satan to the great rapprochement" is the Indy's splash today. The crisis in Iraq has forced the West into an alliance with Iran. That William Hague will announce today that the British Embassy in Tehran will reopen for the first time in three years attests to the thaw in relations; and also to the pickle that the West has got itself into. The finger of blame is being firmly pointed at Tony Blair  and the Sun castsan unsympathetic eye over the fortune Mr Blair has amassed since he left Downing Street.  "Blair Rich Project" is the headline. He's "raked in" up to £20m, including a £5.8m country estate and a £3.7m "London pad", says the Sun. But, as I note in my column today, while Tony Blair has been roundly castigated as mad for daring to say that events in Iraq today cannot be blamed on his military adventurism, he was surely right when he said that the cause of the crisis lies within the region, not outside it.
Michael Gove has distanced himself from Dominic Cumming's remarks yesterday. Mr Gove says that the first he heard of the interview was when he received an early edition of yesterday's Times, but, as Andrew Pierce notes in his profile of Mr Cummings today, some of Mr Gove's admirers as well as his opponents believe that the two men are still in cahoots. It could, Andrew believes, yet end up with Mr Gove losing his job in the reshuffle. Meanwhile, Mr Cumming's aside about the picture of Macmillan in the PM's office has inspired a profile of Dave's working habits on page 3 of today's FT. Elsewhere in the pink paper, Janan Ganesh explains that the real reason why Mr Cumming's criticisms will sting Downing Street is that they are merely a more forceful expression of criticisms that Dave has heard all too many times over the years.
Nick Clegg's warm-hearted welcome to visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is everywhere this morning. China is guilty of "large scale and systematic" human rights abuses, Mr Clegg says. The nation is still "politically shackled" to an outdated communist doctrine, the "antithesis of the kind of open, democratic society" that the DPM believes in. (Matt Holehouse has the story.) One wonders what the DPM is playing at. He may be right, but, as much as it might chafe, Britain has no real chance of changing the way China operates. What Mr Clegg can do, however, is cause real harm to British business and British interests.
Lord Saatchi believes that abolishing corporation tax for firms with fewer than 50 employees would break down "cartel capitalism" by making it easier for small businesses - which often struggle to secure credit - to self-finance their own expansions. Lord Saatchi, now the chairman of the Centre for Policy Studies, has made the call in a column for today's Telegraph in advance of the CPS' Margaret Thatcher Conference on Liberty, which takes place tomorrow.
The Sun's investigation into zero hour contracts - so loathed by the Labour leader - finds that Ed Balls is one of Parliament's biggest users of them; he's employed four workers on zero hour contracts in the past year. The Shadow Chancellor responds that the contracts have gone to students and interns, which is fair enough. As the Sun notes in their leader, if nothing else, it ought to scupper Ed Miliband's "heroes and villians" fantasy about employees, bosses, and zero hour contracts.
Google giveth, and it taketh away. Helen Goodman gave a speech at the village of Ingleton (County Durham, on the edge of her constituency in Bishop Auckland) talking about the village's limestone caves, links with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and picturesque waterfalls. Unfortunately, the village of Ingleton has neither caves nor waterfalls, while its links to Sir Arthur are exiguous at best. She was referring to the Ingleton in North Yorkshire. "Village Idiot" is the Mail's unsympathetic take. Oliver Duggan has the story.
Boris Johnson is keeping awfully quiet about the big 5-0. His 50th birthday is Thursday and yet, Sebastian Shakespeare reports, the Johnsons are being very coy about it all. Could it be that Boris fears that his age will be a handicap in the battle against the fortysomethings who also aspire to lead the party after Dave?
Lefty pin-up Lord Wood of Anfield sat down with Ed Miliband's closest aide Thomas Piketty - wait, no, I've got that the wrong way round. Also getting it the wrong way round was Len McCluskey, who attended the Q&A and falsely claimed that Lord Wood follows the FA Cup winners Arsenal. More worrying for Ed Miliband was that Mr McCluskey - who also attended the event - called on the Labour leader to be "more aggressive". Further interventions from Mr McCluskey are unlikely to be welcomed in the leader's office. Meanwhile, has anyone asked what MrCluskey - who, like Lord Wood, follows Liverpool -what he thinks about this Sun business?

The Morning Briefing is edited by Stephen Bush. You can follow him onTwitter or Instagram, or e-mail him at stephen.bush@telegraph.co.uk.
Make a note in your diaries, folks:
@Keith_VazMP: The Head of the Passport Office to appear before the Home Affairs Committee today.
YouGov latest:
Con 32%, Lab 36%, LD 10%, UKIP 14%
In the Telegraph
Benedict Brogan - The West should think carefully before embracing Iran's mullahs
Maurice Saatchi - A radical policy to set small businesses free
Telegraph View - It is Britain's interests to secure a stable Iraq
Best of the Rest
Rachel Sylvester - Gove's rallying cry: don't patronise the poor
Janan Ganesh - Cheer Britain's defining liberal values
0930 LONDON: Inflation figures for May are published by the Office for National Statistics.
1030 LONDON: Ruling in a case in which the Government and health chiefs have been accused of failing to tackle widespread confusion and uncertainty over the imposition of "do not resuscitate" order.
1300 LONDON: Chinese premier Li Keqiang visit. Premier Li holding talks with David Cameron at Downing Street. Arrival photo at 1300, followed by press conference around 1545.1445 LONDON: Passport Office chief executive Paul Pugh and PCS union give evidence to Commons Home Affairs Committee.
1600 LONDON: Commons Home Affairs Committee takes evidence on Trojan Horse affair and radicalisation in schools, including Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birimingham City Council, and Lee Donaghy, Vice Principal of Park View School.  1630 LONDON: Angela Eagle speech on political reform to the Electoral Reform Society.