Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The spectre of Blair..

It's just like old times. Tony Blair's Philip Gould Lecture is widely reported - and guess what? There was something in there for almost everyone. A warning to stick to the centre ground has been interpreted as  "a thinly veiled attack on Ed Miliband," by our man Matt Holehouse. Elsewhere, warm words on Europe and the party's policy programme are taken as an endorsement of Ed Miliband's agenda
Twenty years on, there's still no-one in British politics quite like Mr Blair. In the Indy, Steve Richards attributes Mr Blair's adoring reception to the fact "he is not Miliband, who they fear will lead their party to defeat". Certainly, Mr Miliband's image problem looks all the more acute next to the hyper-charismatic Mr Blair. But the appearance of that guy who won three elections from the centre invites unflattering comparisons between the PM and his predecessor-but-one, too. 
That said, it all makes one wonder: if, after two decades, nobody does it better than Mr Blair, why are there so few Blairites left nowadays? Mr Blair's party is - now more than ever - dominated by the Brownites.  Whatever rivalries Mr Miliband, Ed Balls, Douglas Alexander and the rest may have, they are all children of the House of Brown. A philosophy based around one man's personality has, inevitably, proved less enduring than one based around a dynasty. It suggests that Tory modernisers may yet regret loading quite so many of their hopes upon George Osborne, while Mr Miliband, who still boasts of his lack of "outriders" within his party, may yet pay a heavy price for his failure to build a "Milibandite" power base inside Labour. 

Something must be done about Vladimir Putin - but what? David Cameron's Commons statement dominates today's papers.  "It's time to punish Putin, says PM" is the Telegraph's splash. "Crony War" roars the Sun - they report that the PM is ready to freeze the British assets of the Russian President's pals, including the owner of Chelsea Football Club, Roman Abramovich. The French are firmly in the PM's sights; he wants all European countries to halt arms sales to Russia, and says it's "unthinkable" for Francois Hollande to fulfill an outstanding order for Mistral warships from Mr Putin's commanders. Charles Bremner asks the million dollar question in the Times: is the PM willing to take action against the Kremlin's biggest UK interest: the haven for Russian capital that is the City of London? George Osborne has told the BBC that the short-term economic  hit is a price worth paying to ensure security in Europe, the FT reports.
Alex Salmond's government pressured Audit Scotland - the country's independent public spending watchdog - into "watering down" a report showing Scotland sliding down the education league tables, Ben Riley-Smith reveals.  The revelations come after Johann Lamont, the Scottish Labour leader, claimed last month that the SNP had got Audit Scotland to tone down a major report on school education, citing a leaked draft report as proof. It's another example of a government that is "more interested in spin than the truth," Scottish Labour say. LIB-LAB COALITION? THAT'S DAVEY TALK! 
Ed Davey's prediction of a Liberal Democrat-Labour coalition after the next election is widely reportedThe Huffington Post's Ned Simons was at the Social Liberal Forum's conference, where Mr Davey said that he hoped the Liberal Democrats will be negotiating to form a coalition again "but probably with Labour". It's worth noting that the SLF are very firmly rooted on the Lib Dems' left; so Mr Davey's prediction - rather like a Tory MP showing a bit of leg on grammar schools or a Labour MP waxing lyrical about nationalisation - probably had rather more to with his audience than anything else. Still, it will fire up a renewed bout of interest and introspection about coalition negotiations in all three parties.
Dominic Grieve will warn that leaving the ECHR will cause "serious international reputational damage" to the United Kingdom in a speech today. It's part of an offensive by Mr Grieve to avert what he calls a "legal road crash", which kicks off with an interview in the Times this morning. Arguments about parliamentary sovereignty only get you so far, he warns.  “You could require the whole of the United Kingdom to worship the Moon, but we don’t do this and we don’t do it because it would be wrong, in exactly the same way it would be thoroughly wrong for parliament to use its power to defy an international treaty obligation.” 
STOP. OBAMA TIME!Ed Miliband had his much-coveted "drop-in" meeting with Barack Obama at the White House yesterday. During a meeting with National Security Advisor Susan Rice, the President popped by for a chat with the Labour leader. They talked for 25 minutes, Labour gushed. Mr Obama was left with a House of Commons goody bag including the original version of House of Cards. Mr Miliband's decision to travel halfway round the world rather than attend the Commons debate on the crisis in the UKraine has been criticised by the Conservatives - it's a disaster for Ed Miliband, says Dan Hodges. One can't help but feel that these American sorties so favoured by our politicians are terribly revealing of our national malaise - but Labour won't care if they fly back with some glossy video to go along with the photographs they've already bagged of their man in conversation with the leader of the free world.GOVE, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
"Governed by hate" is the Mirror's headline. Shahid Akmal, the former Governor of Nansen Primary School - one of the schools in the Trojan Horse row - told an undercover reporter that white women "have the least amount of morals" and that women are "emotionally weaker" than men. The Clarke Review into the Trojan Horse will be discussed in the Commons today. A difficult first week for Nicky Morgan - a worse onefor Michael Gove's SpAds, Steerpike reveals.
Close to half of students will not pay back government loans, the Commons business select committee has said. Around 45% of loans taken out will never be repaid, the Government has estimated. This is perilously close to the 48.6% threshold at which point the rise in fees begins to cost more money than it makes for the government. 
Evan Davis has been announced as the new anchor of Newsnight, which means he'll no longer have to get up with the lark to bring the morning news. Lucky Evan....
Nick Griffin has been ousted as leader of the BNP, following an internal coup. That "basically means that he was voted out by the six remaining BNP members and a stray dog that wandered into the committee meeting," Tim Stanley explains.
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 15th to 22nd July (ComRes-Opinium-Populus-IpsosMori-YouGov) Labour lead by three points
@drwollastonmp: As Putin immune to appeals to decency & humanity, only decisive international action that critically undermines him at home can cut through

In the Telegraph
Con Coughlin - By defying the West, bully-boy Putin could lead Russia to ruin
Kate Maltby - From Palestine to parenting: we've lost the art of good faith
James Kirkup - War is terrible, but it's simple exciting and popular, so it will never go away
Tim Stanley - Nick Griffin quits frontline politics to spend more time by himself

Best of the Rest

Rachel Sylvester - Pragmatists v romantics: the Tory dilemma
Polly Toynbee - Labour's spring is back - but it won't mean a thing without a swingAGENDA 

0930 LONDON: Public sector borrowing figures for June are published by the Office for National Statistics.
1030 LONDON: FA chairman Greg Dyke and Sunday Times correspondents give evidence to Commons Culture Committee on award of 2022 football World Cup.
1100 LONDON: Liberty to launch response to Data Retention Act. Speakers: David Davis, Conservative MP for Haltemprice & Howden; Tom Watson, Labour MP for West Bromwich East; James Welch, Legal Director for Liberty; Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty. 
1230 GLASGOW: First Minister Commonwealth Games press conference. 
1315 LONDON: Theresa May oral statement to MPs on police leadership and integrity.
1400 GLASGOW: George Osborne to speak at Commonwealth Games Business Conference. 
1445 LONDON: Commons Home Affairs Committee takes evidence on immigration from immigration minister James Brokenshire and Sir Charles Montgomery, director general of Border Force. 
1630 LONDON: Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to give evidence to parliamentary Ecclesiastical Committee on women bishops.