Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A little less conversation..

The European response to the MH17 disaster - or rather, the lack of one - dominates today's papers. That the European Union has agreed to tighter sanctions, in principle at least, has already caused panic among London's oligarchs, who are shifting their assets out of the United Kingdom to evade sanctions. But, as the Guardian points out, the EU has threatened such measures before collapsing into arguments over implementation. It all feels troublingly familiar, as our leader observes
The nations of Europe seem rather more interested in blaming one another. It's France's fault for refusing to give up its arms exports, says Whitehall. Hang on a moment, says Paris, in the guise of the chief of Francois Hollande's Socialist Partym Jean-Christopher Cambadelis. "This is a false debate led by hypocrites," says M Cambadelis. Look at all those oligarchs buying houses in Kensington and opening up British bank accounts. "David Cameron should start by cleaning out his own backyard," he continues, pausing only to wave a shipment of French warships on their way to Russia. Meanwhile, the Germans are worried that they won't be able to keep the lights on without Russian gas. 
It all has the potential to cause trouble at home for Mr Cameron. "Hand Back the Roubles, Dave" demands the Mail's splash this morning. They're leading on Labour's call for the Tories to return their Russian donations. The combination of spying, vast wealth, and the perception - however unfair - that Britain's foreign policy is for sale could add up for a perfect storm for the PM. That all pales in significance to the rather more important concern of Mr Putin's imperial ambitions. Eventually, Europe will have to show Vladimir Putin that he will not be allowed to pursue his dreams of a revivified USSR unchecked. The side-splitter on the Sun's frontpage this morning - "Show Some Boules" - will have to be heeded, sooner or later.

KILL THE COOKTalk about the triumph of hope over experience. Dave bravely decided to hold his annual barbecue for Conservative MPs just days after the reshuffle, leading to a party that was comfortable close to a wake,Christopher Hope reports. Of the sacked, only Ken Clarke put in an appearance, while resentment among those passed over made for a toxic atmosphere. The reshuffle, for all it may have got the Tory tribe ready for the fight, has left a mood of ill feeling at the worst possible time. The Lords are ticked off that the position of the Leader of the Lords is no longer a Cabinet-level job. Baroness Stowell will not be taking the £22,000 salary injection from Conservative funds, as she feels it would jeopardise her ability to lead peers of all parties and none, which means that she will be paid less than her male predecessor. Lord Howard's chagrin at Michael Gove's sacking - expressed in an interview over at ConservativeHome - is widely reported. It could all make for a rather uglier summer than Dave would like. 
The Commonwealth Games begin tonight with a lavish opening ceremony. Within both the Yes campaign and the Unionist effort, there is a feeling that the Games could result in a boost for the nationalists, although Alex Salmond could end up whipping up a storm of negative coverage like he did at Wimbledon. In part to avoid the perception that he is politicizing the Games, Mr Salmond has vowed to keep schtum about Scottish independence during the Games. But the "self-denying ordinance" didn't last until the end of the press conference, when the First Minister attacked George Osborne for being based in London and predicted that Scottish athletes would flourish under independence.   
Vince Cable's abandonment of the sale of the student loan book will leave a further hole in the public finances, the Times reports. Graham Parker of the OBR told MPs that it was a "reasonable assumption" that cancelling the sell-off would cost the Treasury £12 billion over five years and increase the public sector debt burden. It's a further headache for George Osborne who, Denise Roland writes, is on course to miss his goal of trimming Britain's deficit this fiscal year, with public borrowing increasing by 7.3% in the first quarter.
New measures to tackle female genital mutilation have been announced by the Home Office, mandating teachers and doctors to report instances of FGM and forced marriage when they become aware of them, and opening parents up to prosecution for failing to protect their daughters from FGM, while the victims will be given lifelong anonymity. Speaking at the first Girl Summit, the PM gave a personal speech outlining his opposition to FGM. “My eldest daughter is ten," Mr Cameron said, "not that much younger than some of the children who get pushed into childhood or early marriage, not much younger than girls who get cut and have their lives in so many ways taken away from them, and this really is about the world that we want children like my daughter to grow up in.” 

One of the problems with the long summer recess is that, freed from the constraints of the bubble, MPs - and frontbenchers - can get restive. To avoid a second damaging "summer of silence", Team Ed's plan for the summer includes a speech from every member of the Shadow Cabinet - twenty-three in all.  The big theme is the choice (whatever happened to "the promise of Britain"? Or "Hardworking Britain Better Off"? Etc, etc.) between the Britain of Dave and the Land of Ed, although some of those speeches will be focused on the campaign to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom. 
Peter Clarke's review into Islamic extremism in Birmingham's schools has been published and is widely reported. Liam Byrne, speaking in his capacity as the local MP, has warned that schools in Birmingham are so fragmented that it feels "like the Balkans" at times. Nicky Morgan has introduced a new raft of measures to prevent a repeat of the affair, including an education commissioner for Birmingham, inspections of city academy chains and strengthened oversight of school governors. 
The Liberal Democrat MP, David Ward, is under fire for appearing to support Hamas rocket campaign against Israel, Sam Coates reports in the Times. Mr Ward tweeted: “The big question is — if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? — probably yes.”  The Liberal Democrats are investigating the remarks - it will raise questions as to why Mr Ward, who had likened Israel to an "apartheid state" and had the whip removed for three months for his comments about Israel, was restored to the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party in the first place. 
More than half of Conservative women MPs are now in Government positions, Christopher Hope reveals. Of the 48 Tory women, 27 now have positions on the frontbench. That's there are still so few Conservative women to choose from in the House of Commons is one of the reasons why some Tories are beginning to look again at centrally-imposed all women shortlists, although figures at the top of the party remain opposed. 

Poll of polls 16th to 23rd July, Labour lead of three points (ComRes-Opinium-Populus-YouGov)

101 days, now:

@PennyMordauntMP: 100 days since the Nigerian school girls were kidnapped.  #bringbackourgirls #notforgotten
From the Telegraph
Mary Riddell - Ed Miliband must rouse himself from the chloroform of caution
Fraser Nelson - Salmond shouldn't bank on gold 

Gabriel Sassoon - Britain's hypocrisy over Israel is shamefulEmma Barnett - Anti-Semitism in Europe has a thin disguise  
Best of the Rest
Daniel Finkelstein - Blairism worked - but we can't go back to itHamish McRae - The West can't really hurt Russia


0900 LONDON: Francis Maude speaks to Reform conference on private sector and public services. 
0930 LONDON: Bank of England publishes minutes of July's monetary policy committee meeting. 

2100 GLASGOW: Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony Celtic Park.