Monday, 3 November 2014

The point of no return..

Has David Cameron stuck out his neck too far with his plans for migration controls? This morning's papers certainly seem to think so. The German weekly Der Spiegel reports a frosty conversationbetween the PM and his opposite number. Mr Cameron is reaching the "point of no return", Angela Merkel has warned, and she'd be prepared to accept a British exit from the European Union if the PM continues his attempts to unpick freedom of movement.
"Auf Wiedersehen, Britain" wails the i. New plans to further block access to benefits to anyone who hasn't paid into the system for two years are being drawn up by Downing Street are being examined if Frau Merkel won't play ball, Sam Coates and David Charter suggest in the Times ("Block all benefits for migrants, No 10 urged" is their splash.). It's thought that having a universal, not a contributory system, is a major pull factor to European immigrants. 
What's going on? Downing Street's line is that the PM's position remains unchanged: he'll do what's "right for Britain". As Mr Cameron has said before, it's the British people who are "the boss". It's worth noting that Frau Merkel's aides are disputing Der Spiegel's account of events. Remember too that it's the German Chancellor who first commented that the freedom of movement must mean freedom to work, not for "immigration into social systems". The space between the two leaders is not perhaps so great as it appears.
But it's another day of headlines focussed firmly on Ukip's favoured turf of immigration and Europe, to the detriment of the Government's economic message. "There's a danger that the anti-immigration and EU minority tail is wagging the majority British dog," Margot James writes this morning. There's a danger, too, that Nigel Farage is still being allowed to drive the debate so close to the election. 

After 28 years in Parliament, 13 of them in the Cabinet, Alistair Darling will stand down as an MP at the next election, Simon Johnson reports. Mr Darling sits down with George Parker in today's FT. "I've had one banking crisis and one Scottish referendum," the former Chancellor says, "I don't think anyone can accuse me of walking away prematurely." He's also endorsed Jim Murphy's bid to become leader of Scottish Labour, saying he can put "real fight" into that party's struggle to see off the SNP surge in 2015 and take back Holyrood in 2016.  Mr Darling's retirement was greeted by good wishes both inside and outside his party, but he wasn't always so well-liked. After hearing a young Darling speak, Neil Kinnock fumed: "I never want to see that bearded Trot becoming an MP!"
Taxpayers will receive a letter detailing how their tax contributions are spent across government, Peter Dominiczak reports"Have You Been Add?" the Sun quips. It's the fulfilment of a personal project of the Chancellor that has been two years in the making, with the aim of increasing transparency around government spending. Other, more cynical observers, note that the letters are a useful dividing line as the election approaches. It appears to be having the desired effect: "How biggest chunk of your hard-earned tax goes on welfare" is the Mail's take. The average earner pays £1,113 on welfare, £857 on health, and £550 on state pensions, and just £52 on foreign aid.
Fiona Woolf has resigned from her position as head of the inquiry into historic child sex abuse, and the inquiry will start its work without a chairman. It's beginning to leave a mark on the usually bomb-proof Home Secretary, and to avoid a third resignation Ms Woolf's replacement will be vetted by both victims' groups and the Home Affairs Select Committee. Elsewhere, Theresa May has been accused of delaying Peter Wanless' report into the way the Home Office dealt with child abuse allegations between 1979 and 1999, Rowena Mason reports in the Guardian.

The UK "living wage" - an hourly rate based on the amount needed to cover the basic costs of living - has been raised by 20p to £7.85, with a new higher rate for London - it's currently £8.80 an hour - to be announced later today. In his column today, Boris Johnson explains why he supports the higher wage.  Elsewhere, Julia Unwin of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation explains her support for the wage in today's Times. But she's also got harsh words for Ed Miliband's £8 an hour wage pledge, saying it undermines "the careful tripartite approach" that has established the minimum wage and left it above "political whim".

Jim Murphy has resigned his post as Shadow Dfid Secretary to concentrate on the battle for Scottish Labour, with a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle expected to follow in short order. Meanwhile, the race for the deputy's post is hotting up, with left-wing MP Katy Clark throwing her hat in the ring, as well as highly-rated MSP and Shadow Scottish Education Secretary Kezia Dugdale, who has announced her intentions with an interview in the Daily Record.  But the post may go to Ms Dugdale unopposed. Ms Clark is currently five short of the parliamentary nominations required for the role with a day to go until nominations close.
The Fawcett Society is under fire after the Mail on Sunday that the T-shirts - worn by Messrs Clegg and Miliband but eschewed by the PM - were made in a sweatshop at wages of just 62p an hour, Nicola Harley reports. It's the charity's fault for not doing "due diligence" says Jim Murphy. It's the manufacturer's fault for not keeping their promises to us, reply the Fawcett Society. "This is what a chump looks like" the Mail chuckles over a picture of Mr Miliband in the T-Shirt. "So, this is what embarrassment looks like" is the i's slightly more sympathetic take.
You can get in touch with me by pressing "reply" or on Twitter. Our cartoon is the work of Christian Adams - a gallery of his work isavailable here.  
Conservatives 32% Labour 33% Liberal Democrats 8% Ukip 17% (ComRes-Populus-YouGov, 27.10.2014-03.11.2014)
Populus: Conservatives 34% Labour 34% Liberal Democrats 8%,  15%
YouGov: Conservatives 33%, Labour 32%, Liberal Democrats 7%, Ukip 15%, Greens 7%
@GordonAikman: 23 years as an MP, 13 in Cabinet, 3 as Chancellor, banks back from brink & > 2 million #indyref No votes — Not a bad shift,@TogetherDarling
From the Telegraph

Boris Johnson - If we can send a man to space, we can pay a living wage
Iain Martin - Miliband's blunder? To think Scotland was all sewn upFrom elsewhere

David Aaronovitch - The public menace of a modern-day Gladstone(Times)Margot James  - The immigration debate is putting Britain's reputation at risk  (PoliticsHome)
1400 LONDON: Respublica thinktank launches report on short-term credit.  Mark Garnier MP and Cathy Jamieson, Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury, among the speakers.
1530 LONDON: Home Secretary Theresa May Commons statement on the historical child sex abuse inquiry.
1605 LONDON: EU Commissioner Lord Hill before Foreign Affairs Committee.
2235: Chuka Umunna on ITV's The Agenda.
Work and Pensions Questions.
Recall of MPs Bill - Committee of the whole House.
A motion to approve a money resolution relating to the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill.
A short debate on the future of Blackpool Airport.
Infrastructure Bill (HL) - Report stage.
A debate on the proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament, and establishing an EU agency for law enforcement training