Monday, 21 July 2014

Exit, persued by a bear..

The fallout from the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 continues. (Rolling updates from the Telegraph's team arehere, and you can catch up with what's happened so far here.
The apparent seizure of flight recorders by pro-Russian separatists and their transport to Moscow is fueling fears of a cover-up by Moscow. John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, has said it looks "pretty clear"that the weapons system that is suspected to have shot down the plane was transferred from Russia into the hands of the separatists.
Meanwhile, the relatives of the deceased face the prospect of their bodies - also packed up and shipped off, seemingly to Moscow - being used as a bargaining chip by the Kremlin.  David Cameron has told Vladimir Putin that he is partly responsible for the tragedy. The PM has threatened Mr Putin and his "cronies" with further sanctions unless Russia withdraws its support for the rebels. 

The "Russian question" still seems beyond European policymakers - in London as much as Paris and Berlin. Philip Hammond issued a warning to Mr Putin on the Marr show yesterday; but it's his continuing opposition to the status quo in Brussels that takes the headlines. Against the backdrop of the Russian threat, it's hard not to wonder if the greatest problem facing Britain in Europe today is not the EU's continuing appetite for federalism, as shown by its appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker. It's in EUROPE's  enduring refusal to confront Russia, as shown by the defeat of the hawkish Pole Radek Sikorski in his bid to become the EU's foreign policy chief, which took place with barely a murmur from the Foreign Office.

The Guardian has a profile of Michael Gove, tracing his rise from scholarship boy at Robert Gordon's, to the Times and eventually the Department for Education. It was his  "columnist's itch to be interesting" that led him to one battle too many, is Tom Clark's conclusion. Nicky Morgan's brief is effectively to be Mr Gove - but without being quite so interesting. She faces Tristram Hunt in the Commons today. Her Labour shadow's task is to prove that Ms Morgan isn't so different from Mr Gove. He'll have been cheered by Ms Morgan's Sunday Times interview, reported today in the Mirror - "Bride of Gove"is the Mirror's enlightened sobriquet for the new Education Secretary. Labour feel it was Mr Gove's support for unqualified teachers and opposition to termtime holidays, both of which "cut through" in the focus groups that made him so unpopular, not his eye for a wounding phrase. Today marks the beginning of Ms Morgan's - who is committed to both policies - attempt to prove them wrong.
The Scottish Affairs select committee has kiboshed Alex Salmond's claim that George Osborne and Ed Balls will relent on the question of the currency union. "This parrot is dead," said committee chairman Ian Davidson as he unveiled the report, "No ifs, no buts, no fudges, no deals." (Simon Johnson has the story.)  In further bad news for the First Minister, he's lost his long-running battle with the Telegraph to keep the list of five-star hotels where he and his ministers have jollied during foreign trips - the much-delayed response to the Telegraph's FOI reveals that Mr Salmond and his ministers have spent £56,652 at 183 overseas hotels since taking power in 2007 - 64 of which were five-star and a further 100 four-star. (The details are here.) 
Nick Clegg is under fire after he spent three hours downing tequila, sipping a cocktail and learning how to bake a cake while negotiations were ongoing into the crisis in Ukraine, Matt Holehouse reports.  It's not as exciting as it sounds. It's the DPM's appearance on the Channel 4 programme "Sunday Brunch" that is raising eyebrows. Remember that Mr Clegg is a member of the National Security Council and notionally the second man in Whitehall.  The Mail is unimpressed.  "How Mr Cameron must benefit from the gravitas, dedication and diplomatic skills of this mighty statesman" is their leader's withering verdict.  Also having a go is Grant Shapps - the Lib Dem u-turn on the bedroom tax is"utterly spineless", he says.
"Job Centres Out Of A Job"! Private firms and charities could take over the state-run centres' role in a radical overhaul being looked at in the next Conservative manifesto, Tom Newton Dunn reports in the Sun. It's being pushed by figures close to George Osborne, Tom says, who believe it will boost the Conservative drive to reduce youth employment.  Senior Tories are reported to have been won over by the arguments made in a new Policy Exchange report, released today.  A source close to IDS, however, fear that the plan looks "expensive and complicated".
There's "no worse way of spending a summer weekend that doesn’t involve a painful medical procedure,” ex-Labour staffer Steve van Riel says of Labour's National Policy Forum in today's FT. It ended well for the leadership, though with activists and trade union delegates endorsing a commitment to match the Coalition's spending plans for 2015-16 and rubberstamping the much-reported compromise where, instead of full nationalisation, a state-run provider will bid for the right to take over rail franchises as they lapse. It's a particular victory for Ed Balls' economic plans in the face of noises off from the trade unions and party activists.DOMINIC, AGGRIEVED
Domnic Grieve warned that leaving the European Court of Human Rights would lead to more diktats from Brussels, not less, in an interview with Sky News' Dominic Murnaghan yesterday.  He also suggested that his dismissal may have been a bid to appease Ukip.  Ken Clarke, meanwhile, seems to be enjoying his newfound freedom. He gave a unusually frank interview with Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer- the recovery is unbalanced, Dave's administration is too right-wing on crime and there's little chance of a majority are some of the highlights. Owen Paterson's broadside against the "Green Blob" of environmentalist charities, the Green Party, climate scientists in yesterday's Telegraph is widely reported. Meanwhile, the defenestrated Cabinet minister has also joined Twitter. Could trouble be brewing?
Szu Ping Chan sat down with Robert Chote of the OBR. Among the revelations - the plants in the OBR's offices aren't government-funded, dinners with his wife, Treasury mandarin Sharon White rarely stray across work, and the squeeze on public services is far from over. IT'S ALL THE FAULT  OF MR FREEZE
Bumper profits are not being passed onto consumers because of Ed Miliband's meddling, the "Big Six" energy companies tell the Mail. "Companies will not want to be locked into a lower price," one senior executive says. "This was always a fear when Labour announced their proposal," says Peter Lilley, a member of the Commons Energy and Climate Change select committee. "This doesn't surprise me at all," says Peter Atherton, an energy analyst.
The Morning Briefing is written by Stephen Bush, who tweets as@stephenkb. Our cartoon is the work of the Telegraph's excellent cartoonist Christian Adams; you can view sketches and recent Telegraph cartoons on his InstagramPOLL OF POLLS
Poll of polls 14th to 21st July (ComRes-Opinium-Populus-ICM--IpsosMori-YouGov) Labour lead by four points
@Conor_BurnsMP: Watching @therealgokwan Having done a course in Chinese cookery how have I not seen before. I want to meet him

In the Telegraph
Boris Johnson - This is Putin's war, and this disaster is his responsibility
Charles Crawford - How can we hold Putin to account?
Daniel Hannan - Russia must choose between respecting the law of nations and becoming a rogue state
Bonnie Greer - Does London really need a Smithsonian?

Best of the Rest

Damian McBride - Ed is wasting his time at the White House
Anne McElvoy - The 2010 Tories are making waves, but there's no leadership storm yetAGENDA
0900 LONDON: Nick Clegg press conference.
1100 LONDON: Tony Blair delivers lecture in memory of Philip Gould to Progress thinktank.