Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Morning briefing

Whitters' war on W1A...

David Cameron has been busy adding the finishing touches to his cabinet. A good few of his ministers are staying in place (see the full line-up here). However, his new Culture Secretary, BBC arch-critic John Whittingdale, is one of the big surprises. His appointment, which we splashed on our front page ("Tories go to war on the BBC"), has thrown the future of the licence fee into doubt. 

Whittingdale knows his brief inside out, having served as chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee since 2005. Last October, he said that the £145.50 a year licence fee is "worse than a poll tax" and ultimately "unsustainable". The Beeb gets most of its income, at around £3.7 billion, from people paying the feeHis committee also suggested that a cheaper German-style broadcasting levy on all households should be considered as a "preferred alternative" to the fee. Tory backbenchers are delighted with Whittingdale's promotion, with one labelling it the "appointment of the day".

The new culture secretary is expected to scrap the BBC Trust, the body that oversees the corporation, and push ahead with the decriminalisation of non-payment of the licence fee, both proposals his committee suggested. With the corporation's royal charter review looming next year, which sets out the future of the licence fee, Whittingdale may also push for a freeze, if not a cut. Most of the papers are anticipating a tough time for Auntie. "Cameron's shot across the bows to the BBC," reads the Times' front page. "BBC fears for its future", declares the i newspaper, while the Independent goes for: "BBC on edge". So are we in for a no-holds barred BBC-government grudge match? 

Whittingdale - in Metro's words - "HATES the licence fee", but he has acknowledged it won't be going anywhere soon. "In the short term," his committee recently said, "there appears to be no realistic alternative to the licence fee." The BBC, it said, "must prepare for the possibility of a change in the 2020s" - far from a bloodcurdling threat to scrap it. Sajid Javid, his predecessor, has insisted that Whittingdale's appointment does not mark "war with the BBC".

David Cameron wants to show he's not afraid to take on the Beeb, with some Tories still sore about its coverage of the election campaign. "There were times...when the coverage did seem skewed in Labour's favour," a source told the TelegraphOne MP adds: "the presenters barely even had the courtesy to hide their allegiances". However, surveys show the public still see it as the most impartial news source, so the government will need to be careful how it treats the BBC to ensure voters' sympathy.


Nigel Farage is back as leader of the Ukip after the party's ruling board rejected his resignation, Chris Hope reports. Farage's return comes after he quit as leader on Friday, delivering on repeated pledges to resign if he failed to become MP for South Thanet. "I was left in a situation that made it clear; there was only one person the NEC wanted for the job, and the party membership was in support," Farage explained in a piece on the Telegraph website

His comeback has been compared by Ukip supporters to Jesus' resurrection, as "he died (politically), but rose again after three days". Others aren't so messianic, with Rupert Myers concluding: "Today it looks like a zombie party standing for nothing much beyond Nigel Farage's ego". Meanwhile, Ukip's MP Douglas Carswell has repeatedly refused to say if Farage remained "the best person" to lead Ukip.


Lord Sugar, the entrepreneur and Apprentice star, has quit the Labour Party after becoming disillusioned with its "negative business policies" and "anti-enterprise concepts", Steven Swinford reports. The peer said that he repeatedly told the "most senior figures" in the party about his concerns over proposals should the party be elected under Ed Miliband's leadership, but they failed to act. Lord Sugar was also approached by top Tories who tried to get him to defect, according to the Sun.


David Miliband has savaged his brother Ed's failed election campaign – but ruled himself out of the Labour leadership contest, Peter Dominiczak reports. Miliband, the former foreign secretary, said that his brother had allowed himself "to be portrayed as moving backwards".


Ed Miliband has flown to Ibiza on holiday with his wife Justine, three days after resigning as the Labour leader following the general election defeat, Emily Gosden reports. Miliband was spotted at London's City airport late on Monday morning - narrowly avoiding bumping in to dozens of SNP MPs arriving in Westminster.The former Labour leader reportedly spent the flight reading the Financial Times and was said to look "tired" and "sad".


Grant Shapps has been sacked from the Cabinet by David Cameron, Peter Dominiczak reports. Shapps, who had served as Conservative Party Chairman, was made a mid-ranking minister in the international development department despite claiming to be one of the architects of the Tory election campaign.


The Government will stop the UK taking part in a proposed EU quota system to allocate asylum seekers, the Home Office has said. Meanwhile, Europe's foreign policy chief has urged the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution being drafted by British diplomats authorising a raft of EU measures, including military action, to defeat Libyan-based people smuggling gangs as she spelt out the harrowing humanitarian impact of the Mediterranean migrant crisis, Philip Sherwell reports


The frontrunner in the battle to lead the Liberal Democrats is looking at changing the party's name back to the Liberals, Chris Hope reports. Tim Farron, a former party president and foreign affairs spokesman, is tipped to throw his hat into the ring on Wednesday when nominations close.


Jo Johnson, the new Science minister, does not know anything about science, his father Stanley has told LBC radio. Jo Johnson was promoted to ministerial office, alongside his brother Boris who was given a role in David Cameron's political Cabinet. When presenter Iain Dale told him that it was he was also the science minister, Johnson's father replied: "Good Heavens. I don't think he knows anything about science. I am very glad to hear it"!


Labour's Naz Shah managed to oust George Galloway in Bradford West last week, and he isn't taking it kindly, launching a legal battle to try and overturn his election defeat. Speaking to Radhika Sanghani, she said: "I pity him for having to stoop to that kind of level and being that desperate. That desperation was quite evident."


Conservative rebels pledged "undying loyalty" to new Prime Minister David Cameron as the party's MPs gave the Tory leader a hero's welcome in Parliament on Monday. The Prime Minister was welcomed as a conquering hero by over 300 of his MPs at a meeting of the party's backbench 1922 committee. Here are more details


The woman whose husband had an alleged year-long affair with Sally Bercow has suggested the Speaker's wife is a heartless woman driven by "ego and narcissism", Gordon Rayner reports. Erica Bercow is back together with her husband Alan Bercow, who is John Bercow's cousin, after he ended his relationship with Sally, who the Sun reports has threatened to divorce her husband John if he doesn't do it first


The influential group of MPs responsible for scrutinising the Treasury, the Bank of England and the City may have a three-way leadership battle as it prepares for another major role in the new parliament, James Titcomb and Pete Spence report. The Treasury Select Committee's chairman for the last five years, Andrew Tyrie, may have to compete for support against Conservative MPs Jesse Norman and Mark Garnier, both of whom are believed to be considering challenges.


@MehdirHasan: Nigel Farage, so keen on people learning English, clearly has a different understanding of the phrase "curtains" to the rest of us.


From The Telegraph

Bryony Gordon - Stop your whinging: why the Left are such bad losers

Philip Johnston - David Cameron must beware the rebels in the shadows

From elsewhere

Charlotte Church - Champagne socialist? More of a prosecco girl, myself

Jonathan Powell - Labour must stop deluding itself about defeat


09:00 Boris Johnson live on LBC for call-in with Nick Ferrari.

09:30 UK monthly industrial production figures for March to be released by ONS

19:00 Margaret Hodge and Jesse Norman speak at an Intelligence Squared event on consequences of the election

Andy Coulson to face trial as early as today on perjury charges relating to evidence given in Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan's perjury trial

Chancellor George Osborne to travel to Brussels to meet fellow EU finance ministers for debt talks with Greece

Prime Minister David Cameron holds his first Cabinet meeting since the General Election

The shortlist of four artworks in contention for the Turner Prize 2015 is to be announced.


No business