Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Beware Greeks bearing bonds..

Greece's debt crisis continues to grip Europe, with pressure mounting on the European Central Bank to keep the country's banking system alive for another day amid hopes it will finally be granted the bailout cash needed to avoid a default next week. Eurozone finance ministers discussed in Brussels yesterday the idea of Greece bringing in capital controls to stop money bleeding out of the financial system, but it was dismissed by Greek's finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. Finland's Alexander Stubb summed up the frustrations of many when he said: "We have wasted a lot of air miles."

There may limited cause for hope, as the Times reports that the Greeksproposed significant concessions like VAT hikes and pension cuts. "Europe's leaders are prepared to go a very long way to stop [the euro] falling apart," we note. Some remain sceptical. "Europe's leaders need to accept that Greece cannot thrive unless its debts are written off, and that this wouldn't be acceptable to other countries unless it also exited the euro", writes Allister Heath. "For everybody's sake, it is time to set Greece free."

Meanwhile, the latest chapters of Business for Britain's heavyweight report "Change, or Go", which we're serialising this week, suggest that the typical British household would be almost £1,000 a year better off if Britain leaves the European Union. Outlining the potential benefits of "Brexit", the analysis suggests that without fundamental overhaul of Britain's EU membership terms, the national interest will lie outside the union. With EU officials telling Britain off for letting so many mothers stay at home, to the fury of Tory MPs, Brussels is hardly helping the case for "in". 

Downing Street now suggests that that David Cameron could secure a deal to reform Britain's relationship with Europe in "several months", indicating that it could be by the end of the year, or even in time for the Conservative party conference in October - which would delight Tory MPs. However, with the Greek crisis raging on, the Prime Minister's renegotiation risks falling off the European agenda. 

This Thursday is meant to be the big moment Cameron sets out his demands to EU leaders when they meet in Brussels, however his team has admitted there'll be no "massive discussion" of his plans as European Council president Donald Tusk wants to focus on Greece and the Mediterranean migrant crisis. Former minister Tim Loughton has warned Cameron in the Guardian not to let his EU reform plans turn to "mush". He'll need to get a move on if he wants to avoid disappointing his troops.


Courts are offering a "gold standard" to the wealthy from around the world but failing vulnerable British victims of crime, Michael Gove is to warn. In his first speech since being appointed Justice Secretary last month Mr Gove will attack the "creaking" legal system which makes crime victims "suffer twice", David Barrett reports.

Meanwhile, Labour MP Simon Danczuk has told Channel 4 News that his party's leadership "failed to act quickly and efficiently" to suspend Lord Janner, despite writing to Ed Miliband last year in private to warn him of "stomach-churning" allegations of child abuse faced by the peer.


Who is the real Andy Burnham? BuzzFeed's Emily Ashton has written a fun profile of the Labour leadership frontrunner, revealing that he was said to be so hardline in his first government job that officials dubbed him "Burnham and Flog 'Em". She also chronicled how Burnham ended up playing on the swings with Ed Balls - in a now infamous photo op - and his awkward reaction to being spotted by a member of the public at a gig in Hyde Park. 

Meanwhile, Emily Gosden reports that a study on fracking used by Burnham to justify calls for a ban was produced by a veteran green campaigner opposed to the practice. The Labour leadership contender has also insisted that he has experience of living in the "real world" - because his wife used to run her own business. "Wasn't it refreshing to hear a senior politician boasting about his wife's achievements rather than burying them, or worse denying their existence?" says Rosa Prince.


Labour Governments have traditionally increased spending on benefits before general elections "to buy votes", Iain Duncan Smith has said. The Work and Pensions secretary was speaking after David Cameron, the Prime Minister, signalled he was preparing make cuts to tax credits as part of the effort to balance the books, Chris Hope reports

By cutting tax credits, ministers could well make some workers worse off. But ministers hope that employees help pick up the slack and increase wages. Here are five ways that might happen. "Freeing Britain's workers and businesses is not only economically right but compassionate too," we say.


George Osborne's father-in-law has launched an extraordinary attack on "moaning American generals" who complain about Britain's defence cuts and spout "damaging nonsense", Ben Riley-Smith reports. Lord Howell of Guildford said US military figures were "quite wrong" to claim Britain is in "retreat" because of its defence budget being slashed.


Labour grandee Peter Mandelson, nicknamed the "Prince of Darkness", has failed in his bid to become chancellor of Manchester University despite a concerted lobbying campaign, losing out to a poet from Wigan. His campaign team blamed his failure on an anti-Mandelson campaign run by "people in the shadows", according to the Guardian's Helen Pidd.


Coasting schools which fail to help their brightest pupils to reach their full potential face being taken over as part of a government bid to drive up standards, David Cameron has announced. The Prime Minister said that the culture of schools giving children "just enough" education to avoid falling below basic standards "isn't good enough for my children and it shouldn't be good enough for yours".

Meanwhile, Michael Gove has posted a lengthy list of grammar instructions to his civil servants at the Ministry of Justice, setting out strict writing rules to guide departmental correspondence. Could you meet his high standards? Take our Gove-inspired grammar test here. If you don't do well, Olivia Goldhill has also included Gove's guidance beneath the quiz.


Theresa May's most senior counter terrorism adviser has warned against portraying Muslim communities as "intrinsically extremist" just days after David Cameron said some were "quietly condoning" radicalisation, Ben Riley-Smith reports. Charles Farr, director general of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, said there was a "risk" of oversimplification given around 2.7 million Muslims live in Britain but just a few hundred had joined Isil in the Middle East.

Every Muslim in Britain should be made to take counter-extremism lessons at school to prevent radicalisation, a Pakistani politician and senior Islamic scholar has said. Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri said that lessons on "peace", "counter-terrorism" and "deradicalisation" should be made part of the national curriculum in state schools. Read more here.


@AFNeil: Greece's Fin Min Varoufakis on @bbcquestiontime this Thursday, same day Eurogroup of fin mins now reconvenes. Wonder which he'll got to?


From The Telegraph

Allister Heath - For everybody's sake, it is time for the EU to set Greece's economy free

Philip Johnston - The moment of truth is dawning for Cameron on Heathrow

Dan Hodges - Charleston Massacre: Why the South needs to be taught a history lesson

From the Politics blog

Asa Bennett - Five ways David Cameron can cut tax credits without making workers worse off

Toby Young - At last, some good news for eurosceptics

From elsewhere

Ed Conway -  The IMF gambled on Greece and has lost

Conor Pope - We decided a week ago to broaden the debate about Labour's future – let's not try and close it down now


George Osborne leads Commons debate on EU budget cut
Peers debate 'legal highs' bill as Lib Dems table series of amendments

Justice Secretary Michael Gove to speak at Legatum Institute on "What does a One Nation justice policy look like?"
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh begin Germany State visit
Lancashire County Council is to open a two-day meeting to consider whether to approve an application for fracking in Little Plumpton
14.00 RBS Annual General Meeting in RBS Conference Centre, Edinburgh
14.30 Former England captain Sol Campbell talks to LBC radio about his London Mayoral bid
11.00 Shadow communities and local government minister Steve Reed and Lord O'Donnell speak at a Reform event in London to launch its report on the 2015 spending review 
18.30 Kwasi Kwarteng MP speaks at the launch in London of his book on free enterprise 
19.30 Boris Johnson takes questions at State of London Debate, broadcast on LBC Radio


Conservative MPs Jesse Norman and Andrew Bingham turn 53

On this day:

Chancellor Anthony Barber announced his decision to temporarily float the pound in 1972



11:30: Justice questions (topicals at 12:15)

Main business
European Union (Finance) Bill: Committee and remaining stages
High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill: Instruction (No.3): Motion to approve
Adjournment debate: Expansion of the Butec facility in the North West of Scotland (Ian Blackford, SNP, Ross, Skye and Lochaber)


14:30pm: Oral questions, to ask the Government:
- Lord Dubs (Lab) to ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to protect tenants in the private rented sector.
- Lord Farmer (Con) to ask Her Majesty's Government, in the light of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman's report Dying without Dignity, what steps they are taking to ensure that everyone in need has access to good palliative care.
- Lord Storey (Lib Dem) to ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to develop mental health services for pupils and young people.
- Baroness Worthington (Lab) to ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact on investment in renewable energy of their decision to end the subsidy for onshore wind farms.

Main business
Psychoactive Substances Bill [HL]: Committee (Day 1 of 2)
Question for short debate on the 2016 Welsh Assembly elections and the recent and planned changes to the Welsh devolution settlement (Baroness Randerson, Lib Dem) (1 hour)


9:30 - 11:00: Government policy on support for pupils with English as an additional language (Stewart Jackson, Con, Peterborough)
11:00 - 11:30: Reforming the House of Lords and the number of Peers (David Morris, Con, Morecambe and Lunesdale)
14:30 - 16:00 Work of the Crown Prosecution Service (Teresa Pearce, Lab, Erith and Thamesmeade)
16:00 - 16:30: Local government funding in Tameside and Oldham (Angela Rayner, Lab, Ashton-under-Lyme)
16:30- 17:30: BBC investment in the East and West Midlands (Mark Spencer, Con, Sherwood)