Thursday, 14 May 2015

Morning briefing

Blair to the throne.. 

The release of letters written by Prince Charles to government ministers after a 10 year legal battle has been reported widely across this morning's papers, with our front page dwelling on "How Blair admitted defence failings to Charles". 

The Prince of Wales' "black spider memos", so-called because of his handwriting, feature on the other newspapers' front pages, including the Times, FT, Sun, Star, Mirror, Express, Mail, Independent and the i. The Guardian, which fought for the disclosure of the Prince's letters, has splashed on how he "intervened for farmers, army and herbal medicines".  

So what do we learn from these memos? Prince Charles once attempted to get a toilet listed, he's really rather keen on alternative medicines, thinks the badger lobby are "intellectually dishonest", worries about the plight of the Patagonian toothfish. He also was remarkably prescient, beginning one letter to Tony Blair in 2005 with the words: "You kindly suggested that it would be helpful if I put [my thoughts] in writing – despite the Freedom of Information Act!" Here's our 60-second summary of what his letters say.

Blair, who later wrote in his memoirs that introducing the FoI Act was "naive, foolish [and] irresponsible", would likely agree with Prince Charles today. Channel 4 reporter Michael Crick's attempt to ask the Prince about the letters resulted in a brisk encounter (which you can watch here) as one of the Prince's aides pulled apart his microphone.

Is a constitutional crisis looming over Prince Charles' concern for the Patagonian Toothfish? The heir to the throne's letters show he spoke up for the armed forces, farmers, and alternative medicine, topics that are hardly dissimilar from what he talks about in public. Senior Tory MPs said that the letters did not show anything "sinister", but in fact revealed that the future King is a man "deeply committed and passionate about the interests of this country and its people". 

"Prince Charles is a passionately involved individual who simply can't leave issues be if he feels he can contribute something useful," writes the historian Andrew Roberts. "Naturally, this must occasionally involve writing directly to government ministers; it's much more than a predilection for interference that the Left-wing media is depicting; it's actually his proper constitutional role."


Theresa May has said economic migrants crossing the Mediterranean to seek better lives in Europe should be returned to Africa, Rosa Prince reports. The Home Secretary suggested she wanted to remove the "pull factor" for desperate Africans deciding to put their lives at risk by boarding unseaworthy crafts. EU leaders rebuked Britain over its stance on the Mediterranean migrants crisis, and suggested it could be prevented from deporting thousands of asylum seekers.

"Why has the woman set to detoxify the Tories turned nasty now?" asks Cathy NewmanGraeme Archer argues the Tories may seem like they're "resorting to type" with "belligerence towards the boat people", but "the true picture is far more complex". My colleague Laurence Dodds has been looking at how the Conservatives are hoping to tackle immigration as a topic in general


The French economy has grown at its fastest pace in two years, with GDP rising at twice the pace managed by the UK in the beginning of the year, Pete Spence reports. French GDP grew at 0.6pc in the first quarter, 50pc faster than economists had been expecting. At that pace, the economy increased in size twice as quickly as the UK's over the same period. Before Britons flee across the Channel, it emerges that British workers have enjoyed their strongest pay rise in many years.


Ed Miliband is off recovering from election defeat in Ibiza, but the mystery of where the infamous "Ed Stone" is - on which the former Labour leader's election pledges are engraved - has finally been solved. We called it the election's "most tantalising riddle" and contacted more than 50 masonry firms to try and find it. But now the Guardian has discovered it is languishing in a south London garage under lock and key.


Manchester is to get new powers to elect a new mayor with sweeping new powers over roads and rail, housing, planning and policing, Manchester Evening News reports. Chancellor George Osborne will say that he wants to see Manchester's mayor elected by 2017 and for the city to become a "blueprint for the rest of the country". Philip Blond, director of the ResPublica think-tank, says it's time to unleash the power of the north.


Douglas Carswell, Ukip's sole MP, appeared to have declared victory in his battle with party leader Nigel Farage over his refusal to accept millions of pounds of cash, Chris Hope reports. The row centred on Carswell's refusal to accept in full more than £3 million of "Short Money" which the party is entitled to under House of Commons rules.

Meanwhile, the party's campaign chief has accused Nigel Farage of becoming a "snarling, thin-skinned, aggressive" man who is turning Ukip into a "personality cult". In an interview with The Times, Patrick O'Flynn, the party's economics spokesman, warned that the Ukip leader's recent behaviour risked portraying the party as an "absolute monarchy".


An SNP MP has been photographed pretending to be the prime minister on a tour of the House of Commons. A photograph of Roger Mullin grinning as he leant at the Dispatch Box used by David Cameron during Prime Minister's Questions was posted by a colleague on Twitter. Here are more details


Tim Farron will declare on Thursday that he wants to lead the Liberal Democrats, Chris Hope reports. However it is understood that the former president of the party has not tipped off former leader Nick Clegg about his plans, in a move which will be seen as an attempt to distance himself from the Coalition.


Labour cannot survive without the unions and Ed Miliband lost the election because he lacked "courage in his convictions" and was not left wing enough, the head of Britain's biggest union has suggested. Len McCluskey, the head of the Unite union, said that Lord Mandelson, the former business secretary, is wrong to claim that Labour needs to the values of New Labour and "party like it's 1997 again". This comes as Labour prepares to choose its new leader on September 12


Labour's biggest individual donor is ready to fund a leadership candidate who abandons the party's "left wing" policy platform in favour of a more pro-business agenda. John Mills told Ben-Riley Smith that he is open to donating to a contender who proposes moving away from Ed Miliband's policies and takes the party back to the centre ground.


Labour MP Simon Danczuk, a prominent critic of Ed Miliband's leadership, has lashed out at his party's frontbench for "dripping with privilege". Writing for the Telegraph, he warned: "To the man or woman in the pub, Labour seems like a party that's run by a distant Metropolitan elite that neither looks like or sounds like they understand the reality of their lives." This comes as Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham have joined the leadership race. 

Meanwhile, the Spectator magazine claimed that Ed Miliband's office knew Ed Balls was going to lose his seat as an MP before the general election, but did not tell him.


Tory minister Grant Shapps has been promised a return to Cabinet by David Cameron, the Sun reports. This comes after a row over claims – which Shapps denied – that he edited the Wikipedia pages of other politicians. Shapps was also embarrassed after using the alter-ego Michael Green when acting as a business consultant before he became an MP.


Priti Patel, the new employment minister, has refused to say whether she still wants to bring back the death penalty as a deterrent to crime, Steven Swinford reports. In September 2011, Ms Patel told the BBC's Question Time programme that she would support the reintroduction of the death penalty because she believed it would act as a deterrent to crime.


Britain will remain under the oversight of European Union budgetary authorities after failing to take enough "effective action" to reduce the hole in its public finances, Mehreen Khan reports. At 5.2pc of national output in 2014, the UK's budget deficit was found in breach of the EU's 3pc limit, and will remain under surveillance for the next two years.


Senior Conservatives made "repeated threats" of reform to the BBC to try and alter its election coverage, Ed Miliband's chief spin doctor has claimed. Tom Baldwin, a former Times journalist, said BBC executives were threatened with consequences if it did not "fall into line" with more sympathetic coverage for the Tories, Ben Riley-Smith reports. It comes after David Cameron appointed BBC archcritic John Whittingdale to his cabinet as Culture Secretary, as the Tories accused the corporation of "dancing to Labour's tune".


David Cameron has "strongly urged" the parliamentary watchdog not to give new MPs a 10 per cent pay rise within months, Chris Hope reports. The Prime Minister's official spokesman said Cameron "does not agree" with a proposal from the independent MPs' expenses watchdog to give MPs a £7,000 backdated pay rise.


@ShyTory_: In a coffee shop, sitting with a copy of the @guardian. Reading the @Telegraph on my iPhone. #undertheradar #shytory


From The Telegraph

Allister Heath - If the unions think they can wreck this Tory victory, they will only destroy themselves

Philip Blond - It's time to unleash the power of the North

From elsewhere

Stephen Bush - Labour's path back to power is tougher than you think

Baroness Warsi - The way to build British values is to bring people together – not to isolate, ban, and silence them


08:50 Jack Straw on Today programme about Prince Charles' "Black Spider" letters.

12:00 Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister's Questions

22:45 'Question Time' from Uxbridge. On the panel: Conservative Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Labour shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, Ukip leader Nigel Farage, Economist editor Zanny Minton Beddoes and musician Brian May

Yvette Cooper to launch a bid for the Labour leadership

Tim Farron launches bid for Lib Dem leadership

60 years since the Warsaw Pact was set up by Russia in opposition to Nato

The Electoral Commission publishes donations to political parties during the election campaign


No business