Thursday, 18 June 2015

Jez he can..

Labour's four leadership hopefuls clashed last night in their first TV hustings. So who won? Jeremy Corbyn came away best, winning repeated cheers from the audience as he railed against austerity, Tony Blair and the "illegal war" in Iraq. He had the advantage of not being a front-runner, so had little to lose by being himself. "If the audience in Nuneaton is representative, then those Labour MPs who "lent" him their votes in order to have a full debate may yet come to regret it", writes Rosa Prince

Seemingly worried by the support Corbyn has been getting from non-Labour voters, the party has tried to stop the #ToriesforCorbyn movement by warning that it will check out those who've paid £3 to vote in the election to see if they "share" the party's values. This includes looking online for criticism from Labour, which risks stopping any voters who were disaffected by Ed Miliband joining in. Auditing every new recruit for "Labour values" may also be rather expensive.

What about the other three leadership contenders? Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper had their tough moments, like when an audience member asked the contenders to pick out one thing they most admired about Nicola Sturgeon. The trio kept her at a distance, stressing how different their values were, while Corbyn spoke unabashedly of how he had shared platforms with the SNP leader. "None of the three main candidates can lay out a truly new or radical path for their party because they're too scared of upsetting their party," said Dan Hodges.

Cooper struggled to break through, chiding the Tory and Ukip "arms race of rhetoric" on immigration and promising "controlled" immigration. However, the shadow Home Secretary sounded eerily like Nigel Farage and David Cameron, who both call for "controlled" immigration too. Kendall raised eyebrows by calling for an "Australian-style points system" on immigration, an infamously Ukip policy, while promising not to "out-Ukip Ukip". Andy Burnham, as the man to beat, will be relieved that no-one landed any direct hits on him. Kendall did her best, seizing on his declaration that he would quit if he couldn't lead Labour to election victory as "the party comes first" to tell him that "country comes first". 

Kendall portrayed a Charlie Sheen-like desire to win for her answer, repeating variations of the word "winning" in every sentence of her response. "I am going to be the Labour leader that the Tories fear and that's right because we need to win," she said, as if fuelled on Sheen's tiger blood. Will voters warm to her ambition?


The Greek government has admitted it will become the first developed country in history to default on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) if its creditor powers fail to strike a deal with the Leftist government over its eurozone future in the coming days, Mehreen Khan reports from Athens. With just 13 days before the country's bail-out programme officially expires, finance ministers will gather in Luxembourg on Thursday to discuss whether to finally give assent to release bail-out cash and stave off an unprecedented default. 

This comes as Germany disclosed that it is making contingency plans for Greece to leave the euro as "make or break talks" are expected to end without agreement today. Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany's finance minister, said he was not hopeful that Greece and its creditors would reach agreement on the release of new bail-out funds. Read more here

Meanwhile, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reports on how the Greek central bank is playing with fire. Daniel Hannan writes that Syriza's "leftist dogma makes Grexit pointless". "Britain could so nearly have suffered the same fate as Greece", warns Allister Heath. "If Greece's decline teaches us anything, it is that when it comes to political economy, fashionable ideas can be dangerously wrong." 


George Osborne stood in for David Cameron at Prime Minister's Questions for the first time yesterday. You can watch his performance here. Was it a slanging match? Our sketchwriter Michael Deacon says it "didn't quite work out like that". 

"Hungrily Tories awaited the inevitable trouncing. Poor old Labour, with their limp leadership campaign and their swithering over Europe and their general air of defeated ennui. George would knock them into next week," he wrote. "But then Mr Benn got up, and calmly and politely asked six questions about suicide bombers, Islamist radicalisation, terrorism and refugees. What a swindle! The rotten louse had only gone and forced Mr Osborne to talk about serious issues!" 


Boris Johnson was recorded allegedly telling a London cabbie to "f**k off and die", in footage passed to the Sun newspaper. The London Mayor launched the attack after a passing driver accused him of failing to protect the capital's black cabs, going on to bawl at him: "I hope you die". Read more here


Ukip leader Nigel Farage has conceded that "not everybody" likes him, as the debate about who should lead the EU referendum 'out' campaign rages on. The Independent's Jon Stone reports on the Ukip leader's comments at a press conference, coming just hours after he told LBC radio that he would "of course" be prepared to lead the campaign if pressured to do so.


Neil Young has criticised real estate billionaire Donald Trump for using his song Rockin' In The Free World when the Republican launched a US presidential campaign. In a statement, the singer-songwriter said: "Donald Trump was not authorised to use Rockin' In The Free World in his presidential candidacy announcement." Martin Chilton has more.


David Cameron has warned he is "fast losing patience" with the Iraq inquiry after Sir John Chilcot insisted he still cannot say when his findings will be delivered. In an exchange of letters, the Prime Minister was told by Sir John that those mentioned in the report are still arguing their case for changes. Read the story here.


Sajid Javid, the Business Secretary, overruled civil service advice warning that part of the latest Royal Mail shares sell-off would not be value for money, it has emerged. Martin Donnelly, the most senior civil servant in the Business Department, told Javid that giving Royal Mail employees free shares "does not provide a tangible return for the taxpayer". Ben Riley-Smith has more


One of America's most senior military figures has called on Britain and other Nato countries to end the "downward trend" in defence spending and accept that "security does not come for free". Deborah Lee James, US Secretary of the Air Force, told an audience in Brussels that Nato was at a "crossroads" and must increase spending to help counter Russian aggression. Here are more details


Labour has been losing support from its traditional working class supporters because of its "extremely unpatriotic" outlook, one of its MPs has warned. Kate Hoey, MP for Vauxhall, told the New Statesman's George Eaton: "There's just a feeling that we're half-hearted about being British, we're half-hearted about the monarchy, we're half-hearted about the way we see our country in the world."


@DPJHodges: "Tea or Coffee, Yvette?". "I like tea. But I also think it's important we don't forget about the coffee as well".


From The Telegraph

Daniel Hannan - Syriza's leftist dogma makes Grexit pointless

Joe Shute - How to master the art of political manipulation

From the Politics Blog

Peter Tatchell -  Britain should treat Saudi Arabia as a pariah state

Paul Nuttall  - It's pretty obvious why Labour voters are turning to Ukip

From elsewhere

Frankie Boyle -  The Labour leadership election is an oasis of boredom

Tim Montgomerie  -  The living wage could be a coup for Osborne


09.00 Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to meet Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny in London. He is also set to meet President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Commons leader Chris Grayling are expected to meet Schulz as well.

12.00 Nicola Sturgeon at Scottish First Minister's Questions

17.00 Memorial service held for Charles Kennedy at Glasgow University

22.35 'Question Time' on BBC1, coming from High Wycombe. Panel includes Alex Salmond, David Davis, Caroline Flint, editor of the Financial Times Lionel Barber and columnist Melanie Phillips

Chancellor George Osborne and Business Secretary Sajid Javid meet European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager

Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers to take place in Luxembourg

Festival of Ramadan begins

Danish general election to take place

200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo (follow our "as it happened" blog here)



9:30: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions (topicals at 10:05am)
10:15: Questions to the Church Commissioners, Public Accounts Commission and Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission
10:30: Business statement

Main business

European Union Referendum Bill: Committee (Day 2)
Adjournment debate: Recruitment and retention of teachers (Louise Haigh, Lab,  Sheffield, Heeley)


11:00: Oral questions, to ask the Government:
- Baroness Berridge (Con) to ask what discussions they have had with the government of Burma concerning the persecution and trafficking of the Rohingya Muslims and ethnic minorities in Burma.
- Lord Howarth of Newport (Lab) to ask what measures they will prioritise to reduce economic and social inequality in a One Nation Britain.
- Lord Ramsbotham (Crossbench) to ask what contracts have been let for the proposed secure college.
- Topical question

Main business

Debate on recent and proposed reforms to the state and private pensions, including the triple lock, the introduction of a single tier pension and increased pensions freedom (Lord Flight, Con)
Debate on the contribution of the creative industries to the UK economy (Baroness Wheatcroft, Con)


13:30: Tibet (Fabian Hamilton, Lab, Leeds North East)