Friday, 5 September 2014

A bridge too far..

 Is Britain heading for a second war in Iraq? Or is David Cameron heading for another defeat in the Commons? 
"Britain gears up for war on Isil" is our splash. The PM's pledge to use "everything in our armoury" to take on Isil is widely reported. The whips are canvassing opinon, although, Peter Dominiczak reports, these soundings are not a sign that a decision has been taken.  It's not yet clear whether Barack Obama needs or wants British assistance in strikes against Isil. What is already agreed between the PM and the President is that further support will be provided to the people of Kurdistan, while both men will work together today to persuade France, Spain and Italy to live up to their pledge - made at last year's G8 - not to pay ransoms, the source of at least $60m in revenue for terrorist groups over the last five years. 
Is this the prelude to bombings and further engagement in the region. Opinion on the Conservative benches is increasingly in favour of intervention in Iraq, but Syria is another question entirely. For all the cross-party noises sounded by Labour in recent days, "Syria is a completely different story", as one senior figure tells Francis Elliot and Laura Pitel in the Times. The Opposition's dovish tendency is starting to turn up the volume, and the Mirror's call for "a public debate...not a rush to war" in their leader today will increase their confidence, and reduce Ed Miliband's capacity to support Mr Cameron in the Commons. As for the Liberal Democrats, they are even more jittery about the prospect of another conflict in that part of the world than Labour. 
 The PM was right yesterday to say that the problems in Iraq do not begin there, but in Syria, and that Bashar al-Assad is part of the problem, not the solution, in that region. But securing parliamentary approval even to tackle Isil in that country looks like a bridge too far - and attacking Isil in Iraq without dealing with the Syria question may well be impossible.
The PM could face a leadership challenge in the event of a Yes vote,  James Cusick reports in the Indy. "The move will take place immediately," one senior Tory MP says. A former government minister says a Yes vote would be a "horror show that David Cameron could not possibly survive". In the FT, it's Ed Miliband who is facing questions about his job in the event that Better Together is defeated on the 18th. There's an understanding within Downing Street that it would be politically impossible - not to mention dishonourable - to oversee the dismemberment of Her Majesty's kingdom and remain as her Prime Minister. Equally, Team Ed are all too aware that the end of the Union means the end of Mr Miliband's left-wing agenda. Bluntly, however, there will be a great deal to worry about if the Nationalists prevail - and the fates of Dave and Ed will be pretty low down the list. Gordon Brown will deliver a speech later today on the Scottish referendum to the think-tank Progress. 
Price wars between supermarkets could cause another horsemeat scandal because retailers are pushing suppliers to sell them food at less than its value, Steven Swinford reports.  and a mme of deficit reduction far heavier than that envisaged by George Osborne. Cuts to local authority budgets and trading standards departments has left consumers at dangerous risk of food report. Liz Truss has accepted the reccomendations of the report, although her Labour opposite number, Maria Eagle, criticised the government for having "dragged its heels" in the 18 months since the scandal.
The Liberal Democrats will match Labour's commitment to open up rail franchising to a nationalised operator at the next election, Sam Coates reports in the Times. They will also be tramping into the division lobby alongside Labour in support of Andrew George's bill to exempt people from the bedroom tax if they have not recieved a reasonable offer of alternative accomodation, potentially defeating the Tories, although the bill has little chance of passing the required hurdles to become law. The Liberals are also gearing up for battle over the timing of the 2015 budget in order, Allegra Stratton explains, to prevent George Osborne using it as a pre-election giveaway, and also to give them more time to promote their own policies. The Tories, however, have told Newsnight that they feel a giveaway budget would damage the credibility of their message of "economic revival and fiscal rectitude. 
Conservative MPs have warned that stamp duty is "clobbering" middle class families and forcing young people to "squat like overgrown cuckoos" in their homes, Steven Swinford reports. The Treasury's refusal to move thresholds in line  with the property boom "discourages the elderly from downsizing, and worst of all, is a barrier to young people looking for their first home", Jonathan Isaby of the TaxPayers' Alliance says. 
David Lammy has officially launched his bid to become Labour's candidate for the London Mayoralty. He's launched early in order to steal a march on his rivals, who can all count on the support of one faction or another in the selection, I explain.
Ukip are wooing Conservative and Labour MPs with polling showing that they are more likely to be re-elected under a Ukip barrier, Peter Dominiczak reports. The Chief Whip, Michael Gove, has launched a charm offensive to keep his wavering flock in the blue corner. 
Nick Clegg's grilling by a precocious child, Rohan, on free school meals, is widely reported (you can see the clip here).  The child's grasp of the issue caused Team Nick to believe that they had been the victim of a dirty tricks campaign, although LBC are adamant that they spoke to the boy's parents and have since confirmed his identity and sincerity with his headteacher. 
The Morning Briefing is written by Stephen Bush, who tweets as @stephenkb. Our cartoon is the work of Christian Adams; you can see his cartoons on Instagram.
Poll of polls 29th August to 5th September, Labour lead of four points (ComRes-Populus-Opinium-YouGov)
YouGov: Con 32%, Lab 36%, LD 7%, Ukip 16%
In fairness, it could have been M15: 
@kdugdalemsp: Just been yelled at to "go back to england if you love them that much" #charming
From the Telegraph

James Kirkup - Douglas Carswell may have just saved the Union
Isabel Hardman - We're losing the wrong sort of MPs: the ones with most to give
Fraser Nelson - Canada can show Cameron how to rescue our United Kingdom
From elsewhere

Philip Collins - Ed better persuade the Scots or he's toast (Times)Gillian Tett - An unequal world is an charted economic threat (FT)
Rafael Behr - It may not fit Putin's narrative, but Baltic Russians aren't being victimised (Guardian)
The Telegraph Festival of Business is taking place once again on the 11th November, at The Brewery, London. Confirmed speakers include: Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP Group, Sir Charlie Mayfield, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, Nigel Wilson,Chief Executive of Legal & General, Tim Steiner, CEO of Ocado and Roger Bootle, Founder of Capital Economics and former HM Treasury Advisor. To register for your free place at the event, click here
1000 ORKNEY: George Lyon, chair of Rural Together, Advocate General Lord Jim Wallace and Orkney MSP Liam McArthur say no vote will protect UK dividend for Scottish famers.
1000 LONDON: Gordon Brown speech on Scottish referendum.
1100 PORT GLASGOW: Labour's Scottish General Secretary and the party's UK General Secretary board the Indyrefexpress.
1230 EDINBURGH: Scottish Greens independence event.