Thursday, 4 September 2014

Send in the drones..

The PM is in Newport for what our leader describes as "a defining moment in the organisation's 65-year history". As he and Barack Obama note in their joint op-ed in the Times, when Nato last met in Britain in 1990, the Cold War was ending and many thought that the alliance's relevance was coming to an end. Few doubt today that Nato must survive and thrive - but not many more can say with confidence that it it will. 
President Obama is facing criticism from his enemies and his allies, both at home and abroad. "Your move, Mr President" says the Independent's splash. Jack Straw's remarks on the Today programme that President Obama is "long on analysis" but short on solutions were met with nodding heads inside the Foreign Office yesterday. The PM's foreign policy chops are under scrutiny too - "David Cameron and Barack Obama have a few things in common," says the Sun's leader. "One is that they both need to grow a spine."  "Stop droning on Mr Cameron - Send In The Drones" is their splash.
Belatedly, the alliance is starting to strengthen its defences in Eastern Europe, and, in Westminster, as Peter Dominiczak reports, cross-party support for air strikes against Isil is building. Another question occurs - for all the Sun's poll may show that, in the wake of a horrific murder, the people want action, and fast, most people also greeted President Obama's more pacific foreign policy after a decade of "American aggression" with acclaim. We all say that we want the Prime Minister and the President to show leadership, be bold, and above all, Do Something.
But consider the fate of the last PM who Did Something: yes, Tony Blair was re-elected after invading Iraq, but these days even something as trivial as a magazine award becomes a proxy for people channelling anger over interventionist foreign policy. In my view, the PM is right to say that this "medievalist, murderous" ideology is the root of the problems in the Middle East, not Western action in Iraq. But Ed Miliband's defeat of the government during the Syria vote is still wildly popular a year on. So I wonder. Regardless of what we tell the pollsters, do we really want to do more?
Goldman Sachs has warned that Britain would be plunged into a "currency crisis" in the event of a Yes vote; "Yes vote could cause sterling crash" is our splash. Uncertainty over the future of Scotland's currency would cause a run on Scottish banks and a widespread sale of assets north of the border, Goldman estimate, raising the possibility that the Bank of England would have to intervene to prop up the pound within hours of a Yes vote, with the possibility of a "eurozone-style" crisis within the UK, similar to that which plagued Greece and Spain. As Simon Johnson explains in our Scottish edition, it would also mean, far from ushering in an era of Scandinavian-style social democracy, a 'Yes' vote would be followed by a programme of deficit reduction far heavier than that envisaged by George Osborne. 
Better Together have a new gambit to persuade Scottish voters, George Parker explains in the FT: "reassure them David Cameron is about to lose the next election".  Ed Miliband rejoins the fray and will attack the Tories and declare that "change is coming to the UK".  Bluntly, the more likely a Conservative government looks after 2015 the more jittery that the undecided Labour voters become about staying in the Union, as this chart shows. That's why Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, has been talking down Dave's chances and will continue to do so. If the Union is to survive, "the words that Ed Miliband needs to keep saying are: "as Prime Minister I will.." one Labour strategist explains. Equally, that's why the PM is keen to play down any idea that he'll stand down in the event of a "Yes" vote, as he did on the Today programme just now. The effort from all sides now is on closing down the SNP's avenues of appeal to Labour waverers. Meanwhile Jim Murphy, who resumed his 100 Streets campaign yesterday, writes in the Mirror about his experience of the campaign so far.  
Two Conservative MPs are calling on Boris Johnson to stand in Clacton. Matthew Offord and John Stevenson made the call in an article for ConHomeChris Hope finds that that Messrs Offord and Stevenson are by no means alone in their liking for the idea. It's tricky for the Mayor - the demographics are against him and the polls so far show that he'd make little difference if he did, potentially jeopardising his reputation as "the Heineken Tory" who can reach parts of the electorate his rival cannot. On the other hand, staying out of Clacton could make him look as if he doesn't have the stomach for a tough fight. 
The Home Office has lost track of more than 50,000 illegal immigrants, Steven Swinford and Matt Holehouse report. The immigrants, who have been told to leave the country, have been granted a "de facto amnesty". "Complacent Home Office loses 175,000 illegal immigrants" is the Mail's take. 
"Stick to your knitting, minister tells campaigning charities" is the Guardian's headline. Brooks Newmark, the new minister for civil society, has told charities they should "stick to their knitting" and stay out of politics. It's "patronising" and "offensive", Labour's Lisa Nandy says
On the Today programme, David Cameron defended his counter-terrorism proposals. There should be "something in the locker" to stop people returning to Britain. The question raised by Dominic Grieve in a piece for the Guardian today -  "Where are the common law pirnciples of freedom under the law and the presumption of innoncence if individuals cannot return to face prosecution and trial in their own country?" - remains unanswered. 
Former Cameron guru Steve Hilton speaks to Seb Payne for the Washington Post, and strikes a markedly Carswellian tone.  “In both countries, you do have a sense that people are really feeling that their political system doesn’t properly represent them,” he says. “There is this sense they want to have more control and more power. There’s a sense of frustration that is something very common.”
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 28th August to 4th September, Labour lead of four points (ComRes-Populus-Opinium-YouGov)
YouGov: Con 33%, Lab 36%, LD 7%, Ukip 14%
@IanCLucasTories' obsession with the Speaker is tedious in the extreme.
From the Telegraph
From elsewhere
Isabel Hardman - How Eurosceptics will squeeze Cameron (Spectator)Stephen Glover - Just two weeks left to save Britain (Mail) 
0900: Call Clegg on LBC 97.3. 
0930 LONDON: Oliver Letwin, Steve Webb and Lord Glasman speak at launch of Breakthrough Britain report by Centre for Social Justice.
1000 EDINBURGH: Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael meets voters.
1000 PERTH: Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson sets out the defence case for Scotland staying in the Uk at an event attended by veterans.
1030 BLANTYRE: Labour leader to join referendum campaign trail. MP Ed Miliband will join Scottish party leader Johann Lamont, deputy leader Anas Sarwar and shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran at the event.
1800 NEWCASTLE: Implications of Scottish independence for the north of England to be discussed. Dr Angus Armstrong, director of macroeconomic research at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, and Bridget Phillipson, MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, will discuss the likelihood of independence and what this would mean for the north of England for IPPR North.
1830 LONDON: Boris Johnson will give a lecture entitled Athenian Civilisation: The Glory that Endures. 
1900 GLASGOW: Referendum debate to be held by the Ethnic Minority 3rd Sector Network. Labour MSP Ken Macintosh and Scottish Government minister Humza Yousaf will take part in the event