Tuesday, 10 February 2015

The Naked and the Dead..

Everyone's stealing everyone's clothes today. David Cameron will hail Britain's recovery and say it's time for wage rises now that company balance sheets are in good order and dividends are starting to flow.  "Give staff a pay rise, Cameron tells bosses" is our splash, "Pay workers more, says PM" says the Times.  The cross-dressing is taken up a notch in the Sun, where the story is illustrated with a mock-up of the PM as Richard and George Osborne as Judy.  "We Say Say You Pay" is the headline.

Also at the British Chambers of Commerce, Chuka Umunna and Ed Balls will make raid on Tory territory with glowing words about the role of British business and spine-tingling warnings about the risks of an In/Out referendum under David Cameron. (No Ed Miliband this year as he and Ed Balls do alternate appearances) Both Mr Balls and the PM will make the same big argument: only rising wages can see off the threat of dangerous populists (with the minor quirk, of course, that the Shadow Chancellor means Nigel Farage while Mr Cameron means the Labour leader.) 

Not content with staking out Tory territory Chuka Umunna will become the second Labour heavyweight to pinch the Liberal line about "stronger economy, fairer society" after Rachel Reeves appropriated it last week. "We will work every day, strain every sinew, to make your lives that bit easier: easier to do business; easier to export; easier to create jobs; easier to succeed," Mr Umunna will say. 

But the Opposition's big argument to business - that only their party can see off the threat of an In/Out referendum - is starting to look a little shaky. BCC head John Longworth's calls for an early referendum in the FT puts in the public domain what many in business are saying privately.

We'll have uncertainty either way, Mr Longworth told the Today programme. A Labour party in possession of a comfortable majority might be a better bet for those businesses who fear Brexit, but as we all know, that doesn't look likely. A weak Labour government, dependent on the votes of Eurosceptic Labour MPs like Kate Hoey or Frank Field - and perhaps a handful of Ukip MPs from time to time - is probably just as likely to cause Euro-uncertainty as a re-elected David Cameron. Little wonder that increasingly, both In and Out are starting to plan for an In-Out referendum, regardless of who ends up in Downing Street.


"The risk to the British economy of this standoff between the Eurozone and Greece is growing each day," George Osborne says, with neither the Troika - the EU, the ECB and the IMF - or Syriza looking likely to back down. Representatives of the Treasury, the Bank, the FCO and BIS were at Number 10 yesterday discussing contingencies should Greece leave the Euro. Analysts say that Britain is better insulated from the consequences of Grexit due to stronger controls within the Eurozone than in previous years, however. Matt Holehouse and Pete Spence have the story


A new TNS poll finds the SNP on 41% to 31%, which, while still a mullering for the Scottish Labour party is some way short of the wholesale apocalypse suggested by the recent Ashcroft poll. There is some hope within Labour that the swing will be less acute outside of those areas that heavily endorsed Scottish independence, while others are hopeful that poor SNP candidates will allow A-List incumbents to keep their posts. "Are voters really going to change the Shadow Foreign Secretary for a 20-year-old who says theywant to headbutt people?" one muses. 


The Conservatives' glittering Black and White Ball is widely reported. "PM parties with the kings (and queens) of sleaze"is the Mail's somewhat Scrooge-ish take. The auction was, as ever, overseen ably by Hugo Swire and BuzzFeed's Siraj Datoo has got hold of the complete list of lots. Among the items under the hammer: a charcoal sketch of Baroness Thatcher, shoe shopping with Theresa May, a pheasant shoot for eight people, a chicken dinner with Michael Gove, and a JCB digger, which went for a cool £50,000, the Times' Lucy Fisher reports.  


Lord Green, a Conservative peer and a former trade minister, is under pressure to explain what he knew aboiut allegations relating to malpractice at HSBC, Britain's largest bank. A leaked report, unearthed by the BBC, the Guardian and variety of international news outlets, discloses that the bank's Swiss arm helped wealthy Britons avoid millions of pounds in tax. 


Shadow arts minister Chris Bryant has criticised the "disturbing" lack of diversity in British film-making after no ethnic minority performers were honoured at the Baftas. It feels like "an insulting throwback to a bygone era", Mr Bryant says. In an article for the Indy, he argues that by shutting out BME performers, the arts is losing out on BME audiences. 


Grey squirrel is now available to eat at the Cinnamon Club, a favoured haunt of MPs. The meat, which has little in the way of flat and is free-range, has a great, gamey flavour, according to reports. Mark Field is one of the first parliamentarians to try the dish, which he describes "a cross between rabbit and pigeon". The dish is available until February 21st.


Lord Ashcroft's focus groups turn to the tricky question of which beverage each party leader would be. The PM is a good red wine, a G&T or a martini, while Nick Clegg would be a Babycham or a WooW0oo. As for Ed Miliband, he would be either a non-alcholic beer, a glass of tomato juice, or, in the words of one participant: "the sort of drink nobody would order". 

I'm available by pressing reply or on Twitter - our cartoon is the work of Christian Adams- a gallery of his work is available here.


Labour 33% Conservatives 33% Ukip 15% Liberal Democrat 7% Ukip 15% Greens 7% (Ashcroft-Opinium-Populus-YouGov) 


Ashcroft: Conservatives 34% Labour 31% Ukip 14% Green 7% Liberal Democrat 7%

Populus: Labour 34% Conservatives 33% Ukip 15% Liberal Democrat 8% Green 4%

YouGov: Conservatives 34% Conservatives 33%  Ukip 14% Green 7% Liberal Democrat 7%

TNS (Scotland): SNP 41% Labour 31% Conservatives 16% Green 6% Ukip 2%


@SamCoatesTimes: Back from 2 weeks paternity leave today. Have to admit, wouldn't have said no to another two weeks...


From the Telegraph

Philip Johnston - Against all odds, a welfare revolution is quietly under way

Joan Bakewell - George Osborne is stoking inter-generational war

From elsewhere

Steve Richards - Today's party leaders are failing where Thatcher and Blair succeeded(Independent)

Tim Montgomerie - 10 Parts of the United Kingdom More Deserving Of Attention Than Scotland (CapX)


0900 LONDON: British Chambers of Commerce annual conference, with speeches by David Cameron (Chuka Umunna Vince Cable, Ed Balls, William Hague and Nick Clegg)

1040 LONDON: Former Ofsted officials give evidence on Rotherham child abuse scandal to Commons Communities Committee. 

1130 LONDON: One Billion and rising: Media briefing on a call to end sexual violence towards women and children.

1300 LONDON: General Synod opens. 

1400 LONDON: Housing minister Brandon Lewis speech to the British Property Federation Residential Conference. 

1430 LONDON: Former City Link chief executive gives evidence to MPs. 

1445 LONDON: Immigration officials and minister at Home Affairs committee.

1800 LONDON: National Union of Teachers (NUT) rally for education. Speakers include NUT general secretary Christine Blower, author Owen Jones, Imran Hussain from Child Poverty Action Group, author Michael Rosen and education expert Sir Tim Brighouse.

1800 LONDON: Fabian Women's Network 10th Anniversary celebrations. Seema Malhotra MP, the Guardian's Rowena Mason, the Fawcett Society's Polly Trenow and Birkbeck's Rosie Campbell discuss the progress of women in politics. Sky News' Anushka Asthana is in the chair. 

1900: Call Chuka on LBC


Commons: 1130 

Deputy Prime Minister's Questions. 

Attorney General's Questions. 

A Ten Minute Rule Motion: Tuition Fee (Transparency and Accountability). 

A motion to approve the Police Grant Report (England and Wales) 2015-16. 

A motion to approve motions relating to Local Government Finance Reports. 

Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill - Consideration of Lords amendments. 

A short debate on transport in Tees Valley. 

Westminster Hall: 

0930: Allied Steel and Wire pensions. 

1100: Householders responsibility for contaminated land. 

1430: Introduction of a maximum wage. 

1600: Regeneration of town centres in England. 

1630: Trading Standards and the Green Deal. 

Lords: 1430 


Recall of MPs Bill - Report stage. 

A short debate on local welfare assistance schemes.