Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Secrecy and silence..

A while back I attended a quiet leaving do for a friend who worked as a researcher for an MP, who I won't name.  She was sad to be leaving Parliament - but relieved to be away from the wandering hands of her boss.
That is an important part of the background to Theresa May's announcement yesterday of two inquiries into allegations of sexual abuse. We already know that the Houses of Parliament have done - and still do - a poor job of holding MPs and peers to account. We already know that keeping MPs out of the press has long been an article of pride in the Whip's Office; Tim Fortescue's colourful line about being able to cover up "a scandal involving small boys" is everywhere today. 
Now it appears that a similar culture of silence and secrecy may have allowed very serious crimes to take place. We won't know for sure for some time: the first inquiry, chaired by Peter Wanless, will look at historic allegations,  while the longer, statutory inquiry into abuse allegations in Parliament, the BBC and religious organisations won't report until after the 2015 election. But as with the allegations around Lord Rennard, the troubling truth is it is not so hard for anyone with a passing knowledge of the working conditions of today's Parliamentary staffers to imagine how sexual abuses in the Westminster of the past could have been ignored and concealed for so long. 
British troops will be pulled out of the Afghan badlands two months early, Tom Newton Dunn reveals in the Sun.  Most of the 5,000 troops in Helmand will have been lifted out by the end of October, although the agreed deadline for the end of operations is December 31st, and there are still ongoing clashes with the Taliban.  The MoD says that the early withdrawal is possible because local forces are now able to fend for themselves. Ex-Chief of Defence Staff Lord Richards isn't convinced, telling the Sun: "I am very disappointed. This is not what we committed ourselves to."MAN OF STEEL
Nick Clegg's interview with the Radio Times is widely reported. He will "do everything to try and discourage" his three sons from following him into politics, says that he enjoys his LBC show, Call Clegg, because it allows him to talk to ordinary people, that he believes in being tough without being rude, and that his preferred radio stations are Magic and Heart.
Alex Salmond has been accused of personally pressurising the Scottish Financial Enterprise, the body that represents Scotland's financial services, Ben Riley-Smith reveals. The First Minister is said to have telephoned the SFE's chairman, Sir Ewan Brown, and discouraged him from publishing a briefing paper on the referendum, while both Mr Salmond and his finance minister, John Swinney, are also alleged to have rung senior executives at SFE member organisations expressing their concerns about the paper. The SFE confirmed that personal calls had been made by the SNP leader to their chairman, although the Holyrood administration denies that undue pressure was brought to bear. Meanwhile, Alistair Darling warns that a  "Yes" vote could be more damaging for the United Kingdom than the 2008 banking crisis in an interview with the Independent.
The plan to deliver Universal Credit, Iain Duncan Smith's ailing welfare reform programme has still not been approved by the Treasury, the head of the Civil Service told MPs yesterday. More than £40 million spent on IT systems to support the scheme has been written off in the last financial year. The programme still seems a long way off being fit for purpose. ENTRAILS AND TEA-LEAVES
"Labour ahead as 'Juncker effect' wears off" says the FT. Two polls (Populus and Ashcroft) gave Labour a seven-point lead over the Conservatives yesterday. The "Labour in crisis" narrative is in crisis! But today's YouGov puts the party's lead at three points. Labour back in crisis! A note on Ashcroft: the variation between vote shares is far larger than any of the other pollsters. There is a eight-point gap between the biggest (33%) and the smallest (25%) Conservative vote share recorded in an Ashcroft poll. Compare that to two-point gap in Survation's polling over the same period and a three-point gap in Populus polling over the same period. That wider variation means that Ashcroft's polls are more likely than other polls to throw out these larger fluctuations in party support - but also that they should be taken with a sizable pinch of salt. I'll write in more depth about the party's poll positions on Friday.
Labour will introduce German-style "technical degrees", allowing students to learn trades at university will being sponsored by business, Ed Miliband will say today. Meanwhile, over at the Economist, Jeremy Cliffe casts a despairing eye over Labour's messaging. "The Tories and Lib Dems, too, put out unpleasant attack briefings," Jeremy writes, "but neither (in your correspondent's experience) is quite as prone as Labour to crass, sweeping generalisations about its opponents and their motivations."
Politicians and the press have exaggerated the Isis threat and handed the extremists a propaganda coup, the former chief of MI6 has said. Sir Richard Dearlove told the Royal United Services Institute that Isis had created a "major problem" in the Middle East but that Britain and the West were only "marginally affected".
Ministers have cleared their diaries on Monday the 14th in advance of a rumoured reshuffle. Guido Fawkes rounds up some of the rumoured moves. It's expected to be a good day to be a Conservative woman, although Esther McVey is likely to suffer for her comments during the Maria Miller affair. Penny Mordaunt - who so impressed while delivering the Loyal Address - is tipped to do well. The biggest rumoured move is a job-swap between Philip Hammond and Iain Duncan Smith, leaving Mr Hammond to steady the ship at the DWP.

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 Instagram
@George_Osborne: Gandhi was father of democratic India. Can announce we'll honour his memory with statue in front of mother of parliaments in parliament sq
Poll of polls 1st to 8th July (ComRes-Opinium-Populus-YouGov) Labour lead by three points
In the Telegraph

Eileen Fairweather - Survivors of child abuse deserve better than yet another cover-up

Ben Riley-Smith - Four things the SNP hope can turn around the independence campaign
Dan Hodges - Labour's Left cries about the 'rats' who betray the party. Well, us rats want our party backBest of the Rest
Rachel Sylvester - Our civil servants must not be the masters?

Jeremy Cliffe - The gloomy party
Janan Ganesh - Sharp cuts and dull protests augur ill for Labour
AGENDA0930 LONDON: Department for Transport gives evidence to Commons Committee on the HS2 Bill.
0945 LONDON: Ed Miliband speech on apprenticeships to Sutton Trust.
1000 LONDON: HMRC chief executive Lin Homer gives evidence to the Commons Treasury Committee.
1000 BOURNEMOUTH: Local Government Association annual conference.
1130 LONDON: House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee takes evidence on independence referendum.
1430 LONDON: Commons Health Committee takes evidence on NHS complaints.
1430 LONDON: Vince Cable and CBI deputy director general Katja Hall give evidence to House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee on foreign takeovers.
1445 LONDON: HMPO chief executive evidence to MPs. Passport Office head Paul Pugh appearing before Home Affairs Select Committee on application backlog.1515 LONDON: Home Office mandarin gives evidence on historic sexual abuse row.
1900 LONDON: Harriet Harman speech on Parliament and Equality.