Friday, 18 September 2015

Telegraph Morning Briefing..

Can we trust MPs to police themselves? The Commons Committee on Standards, composed mostly of MPs, decided on Thursday to clear that Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind over a "cash for access" revealed by the Telegraph, and now some of its members have expressed major doubts about the rules.

This comes after our reporters, working with Channel Four's Dispatches programme, found that both Parliamentarians were offering to use their positions on behalf of a fictitious Chinese company in return for payments of at least £5,000 per day. Despite this, Parliament's Standards Commissioner Kathryn Hudson found that "there was no breach of the rules on paid lobbying" after accepting assurances from Sir Malcolm and Mr Straw that they were speaking "off the cuff" and were not intending to back up their words in meetings with actual actions. The Standards Committee in turn issued a thinly-veiled threat to journalists not to carry out such investigations in future, promising to "consider further the role of the press in furthering … understanding and detecting wrongdoing."

Can the public trust a regime where MPs are effectively marking their own homework? They now need a sensible outside watchdog. "The sorry tale of Sir Malcolm and Mr Straw and the standards committee's shameful response prove beyond doubt that MPs cannot be trusted to regulate themselves over lobbying," we say.


"Obviously the system is flawed...the House of Commons is incapable of regulating itself." Martin Bell
If At First You Don't Secede...
If At First You Don't Secede...

David Cameron today marked the first anniversary of the Scottish independence referendum by urging Nicola Sturgeon to "move on" and stop obsessing about breaking up the UK. This comes as Alex Salmond boasted to the Independent that the pro-independence side "would win" if there was another referendum. "One feels for the Prime Minister: he has enough battles to fight," Fraser Nelson writes in today's paper. "But the battle for Scotland is still very much one of them."

PM: #JezHeCan't
PM: #JezHeCan't

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will get "nowhere near power", David Cameron has claimed. Michael Deacon was struck by the Prime Minister's "thumpingly frank" remarks, which did not mention Corbyn by name. "The Tory plan make Mr Corbyn and the entire Labour party synonymous, so that Mr Corbyn's successors will be damaged by him too," he adds.

This comes as members of the Privy Council have warned Jeremy Corbyn that he will "embarrass" the Queen if he fails to kneel when he joins next month. Owen Paterson told Chris Hope: "He should grow up or go back to the back benches and play around like some sort of bearded activist." Dan Hodges sympathises with Corbyn, writing: "Let's not force him to his knees...let him keep his self-respect."

Taxing Questions
Taxing Questions
Jean-Claude Juncker has denied any role in designing the corporate tax system of Luxembourg, a country he governed for two decades, which is said to have helped multinational companies cut billions from their tax bills.
McDonnell Sorry After IRA Ire
McDonnell Sorry After IRA Ire

John McDonnell, Labour's shadow chancellor, has been forced to apologise "from the bottom of his heart" for saying the IRA should be honoured but faced criticism for attempting to "justify" his remarks by saving they helped to save lives.

Red Mist
Red Mist

Labour MP Jess Phillips has apologised after telling Diane Abbott to "f**k off" during a heated row about a lack of women in the top shadow cabinet jobs. Asked by HuffPostUK's Owen Bennett (no relation) what Ms Abbott did after her blunt request, she replied: "She f**ked off".

I Came, I Saw, iPlayered
I Came, I Saw, iPlayered
The BBC should ensure that people are able to use the iPlayer when they travel abroad, John Whittingdale has said
Spy Hard
Spy Hard
The head of MI5 has launched an unprecedented attack on social media companies, saying they have a "responsibility" to pass on intelligence of potential terrorism, Tom Whitehead has more.
Tweet of the day
"I'm just going to keep telling @JeremyCorbyn he's for Scottish independence until he starts saying it too. #SexySocialism"
Stats of the day
£5,000How much Rifkind and Straw wanted per day to use their positions for a fake Chinese firm
£67,060Their annual salary as MPs
More stats & analysis from our Politics team
From The Telegraph
Fraser Nelson - Cameron must wake up – the battle for Scotland, and the Union, is still being fought
Jeremy Warner - More firms are about to go bust - and that's a good thing
Liam Fox - London mustn't have a veto on Heathrow
From Politics Comment
Sophy Ridge - Meet the next leader of the Labour party (sorry Jeremy Corbyn)
Kate Andrews - Donald Trump slumped in the Republican presidential debate, and yet he still won
Glyn Gaskarth - Poor people need more bobbies on the beat
Julia Hartley-Brewer - Why should I pay for Jeremy Corbyn's friend Claire to have so many children?
From Elsewhere
Andrew Marr - Between revolution and reform: the challenge facing Jeremy Corbyn
Lord Ashcroft - Corbyn is doing the job as he understands it – and as his supporters intended
Isabel Hardman - Grumpy People
Today - First anniversary of Scottish Independence referendum/John Kerry begins three-day visit to London to meet Philip Hammond
Also - "The World Goes Pop" exhibition on at Tate Modern/Rugby World Cup begins with England v Fiji at Twickenham
09.05 - Nick Clegg MP speaks at the Royal Television Society convention in Cambridge
11.00 - Prime Minister David Cameron holds discussions with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades
20.00 BBC Radio 4 - 'Any Questions?', with guests Deputy Leader of the House of Commons Therese Coffey, Labour MP Tristram Hunt, Owen Jones and Allison Pearson
Tomorrow - Lib Dem Autumn Conference begins

Friday, 17 July 2015

Faron it is..

Jeremy Corbyn's leadership campaign is continuing to gather steam, but many senior Labourites are worried. David Cameron seems to be enjoying watching Labour tear itself up over its future, revealing to Conservative MPs that he advised the leftwinger to win by emulating how he became Tory leader in 2005, telling him: "You have got to be the change candidate – I was the outsider." Others share Cameron's support for Corbyn's campaign, with Rupert Myers arguing: "New Labour might not like the image which emerges, but at least Corbyn would turn the contrast button up to full and then rip it off the set."

Chuka Umunna has been trying his best to warn Labour off Corbyn, telling the New Statesman: "There are no free hits in this thing, we are not just selecting a Labour leader, we are selecting somebody who is a Labour prime minister." He told Newsnight that some of his colleagues were reacting to election defeat "like a petulant child", chiding them for "screaming at the electorate". One shadow cabinet minister told the Spectator's James Forsyth that Corbyn's candidacy showed Labour was "in real f***eroo territory now." The latest outpouring of rage comes as scores of rebellious MPs forced Harriet Harman to tone down support for George Osborne's benefit cuts, despite the acting leader warning that Labour lost the election because it was not trusted on welfare spending. 

So where does Labour go from here? Ed Miliband isn't keen on the party moving on, with the Sun reporting his message to supporters that "our cause will win one day". Harman has been hamstrung in her bid to shape Labour's direction, while Corbyn's support from local Labour parties is growing, in a sign of his popularity among activists. "Even to have Corbyn as a serious contender inflicts huge damage on Labour," writes Fraser Nelson in today's Telegraph, "and this lack-of-talent contest will run until September". How long will Labour's infatuation with Corbyn last?


British pilots have carried out military air strikes on Syria for the first time, the Ministry of Defence has revealed. The UK personnel were embedded with the forces of Allied nations, including the USA and Canada, which have been conducting strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) terror group. MPs voted against military action in Syria in 2013 and parliamentary authorisation has so far been given only to UK air strikes against Isil in neighbouring Iraq. Follow our liveblog for more updates.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama's former top military intelligence official has warned that the Iraq war boosted Isil by "putting fuel on a fire". Retired US Lt. General Michael Flynn, who quit as head of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) last August, told Al Jazeera's Mehdi Hasan that American intervention was a "strategic mistake".


Greece's banks may be able to reopen for the first time in three weeks on Monday, after eurozone policymakers handed them a much-needed lifeline, Peter Spence reports. The European Central Bank agreed on Thursday to raise the liquidity it provides to the country's banks by €900m (£630m), which should tide them over for a short time.

"Greece will continue to endure its long Calvary until somebody has the courage to tell the Greek people – and to keep telling them until the truth sinks in – that the drachma is their best hope of economic renewal," writes Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. "All they are being told now is that any discussion of the drachma amounts to "treason". If that is the level of intellectual debate, God help Greece."


The NHS is undergoing changes as radical as the Reformation, Jeremy Hunt has said, as he promised to put honesty at the heart of its culture, reports Laura Donnelly. The Health Secretary said that for too long, the treatment of the health service as a "national religion" meant that anyone who questioned its orthodoxy could be left "facing the Spanish inquisition".

"If Jeremy Hunt plays his hand right, the BMA may find that is has, at last, overreached itself and lost the battle for public opinion," writes Sean Worth, David Cameron's former special adviser on health policy, in today's Telegraph. "The real winners of such a victory would be the public themselves, who would be rewarded with a health service that matches their needs."


The Scottish Nationalists are to start regularly interfering in English affairs as part of a plan to use their new strength in the Commons to extend their power south of the Border, Simon Johnson reports. Angus Robertson, the SNP's leader at Westminster, said the ranks of new SNP MPs meant the party was no longer restricted to focusing on their traditional Scottish interests and they would now tackle issues affecting other parts of the UK.

This comes as the voting system at the House of Commons is to be changed after the success of the Scottish National Party filled the House with an unprecedented number of MPs whose surnames start with "Mc", Dillon Leet reports. Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the SNP, has denounced a cover of the left-wing magazine New Statesman that suggests female politicians cannot be successful unless they are childless as "crass".


The BBC has become too big and can no longer justify trying to be "all things to all people" in the age of Netflix, the government has warned as it unveiled the biggest overhaul of the corporation for a decade, Steven Swinford reports. John Whittingdale, the Culture Secretary, suggested that the corporation should become "narrower and more focused" to help cut the price of the TV licence and reduce the impact it has on commercial broadcasters. "He said all this in a diplomatic, reasonable, even benign manner. But beneath his emollience the BBC will have detected menace," says our sketchwriter Michael Deacon.

Some of the BBC's stars seem dismissive of the government's proposed overhaul. "I think they should switch off the BBC for two months," Graham Norton tells Bryony Gordon. "Just put £24 into everyone's bank account, and switch the BBC off for two months, and people would s*** themselves."


Britain's biggest trade union, Unite, could campaign to leave the EU if David Cameron uses his renegotiation with Brussels to "water down workers' rights", its leader Len McCluskey has said. He told the FT: "The whole question about what Cameron does to workers' rights would require us to review fully our position."


Interest rates could finally start to rise by the end of this year, the Governor of the Bank of England signalled on Thursday nightSzu Ping Chan reports. In the strongest signal yet that policymakers are preparing to act, Mark Carney said the decision to raise interest rate was likely to come into "sharper relief" by "the turn of this year". Allister Heath has written about why interest rates are about to start going up


Tim Farron has won the Liberal Democrat leadership contest, defeating Norman Lamb by winning 56.5 per cent of the vote, and will now have the task of trying to rebuild the party after its decimation in the general election. Dillon Leet has rounded up 24 things you didn't know about Farron, including his love of Doc Martens, his rockstar past and his karaoke song of choice. A former bandmate of the new Lib Dem leader said he would be good at the job because his days as a pop frontman means he doesn't fear rejection. If you're pressed for time, here's all you need to know about Farron in 60 seconds.


Parents of children with summer birthdays could be allowed to start school a year later, after official figures showed that August-born 11 year olds are 50 per cent more likely to be labelled "special needs", Chris Hope reports. The Government has launched the review because of concerns that summer-born children are being unfairly discriminated against at school and are falling behind solely because they are young for their year. 

"Despite the data from a new study, teacher friends of mine are reassuring, and report that children – whatever their date of birth – do catch up in the end," writes Lucy Denyer. "If you don't believe them, and really are desperate for your offspring to become the next sports star or academic wunderkind, then there's always abstinence – a no-sex policy between the months of July and December. Every child deserves the best start in life, right?"


David Cameron has opened a new front in his war on porn after Brussels made Britain's "adult filter" illegal under new rules coming into force next year, the FT's Duncan Robinson reports.  Britain will try to beat the EU ban by proposing national legislation to ensure the porn blocker remains intact, exploiting a loophole in new EU rules agreed last month


@AlexWhite1812: Finland signs up to Greek deal enthusiastically - 'Soini: There were no good options, we had to choose between plague and cholera'.


From The Telegraph

Fraser Nelson - Labour needs saving from itself – and Cameron is the man to do it

Judith Woods - Seven day shift patterns are a must and I should know

Sean Worth - Finally, the BMA is going to lose a health reform battle

From Politics Comment

Asa Bennett - Why Jeremy Hunt is right to take on doctors over weekend working, in one chart

Tom Harris - Smug MPs need to stop the hand-wringing and take a pay rise

James Kirkup - My failed attempt to destroy Jeremy Corbyn, Labour and British democracy

From elsewhere

Atul Hatwal - What if Comrade Corbyn became Labour leader?

John Harris - What Labour's next leader needs to know

Seumas Milne  - The crucifixion of Greece is killing the European project


09.30 Justice Secretary Michael Gove speaks at a Prisoner Learning Alliance event in London on the state of prisons
Germany's Bundestag votes on Greek bailout deal. Angela Merkel is also due to attend a press conference before she departs on her summer holiday
'Two strike' knife possession law in force in UK
BBC Proms begin
20.00 'Any Questions?' on Radio 4 with guests set to incl Nicky Morgan and Chuka Umunna
Culture Secretary John Whittingdale opens an exhibition in Parliament on the Gallipoli campaign 


Andrew Robathan, former Tory MP - 64



No business 


10:00: Second Reading of Private Members' Bills:
Accessible Sports Grounds Bill [HL]
Online Safety Bill [HL]
Constitutional Convention Bill [HL]