MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph)
Another week and the Hunt goes on. David Cameron has awoken to calls from Labour that he should appear before the Commons today to explain why he is blocking an immediate inquiry by Sir Alex Allan – the adviser on the ministerial code – into any breaches of the code by Jeremy Hunt.
Yesterday, the PM was fighting back on Marr. He said: “As things stand, I do not believe he broke the ministerial code.” He argued that the Culture Secretary will appear in front of the Leveson Inquiry under oath, and that will be scrutiny enough.
According to Dave, Sir Jeremy Heywood agrees with him, but others, and not just Labour types, aren’t so sure – the former independent adviser on the Ministerial Code, Sir John Bourn, reckons that this is one for Sir Alex – read our report here.
It’s worth acknowledging that Mr Cameron had a decent outing on Marr though. He was energetic, and I suspect anyone from outside the village who tuned in will have found him credible and will want to give him the Benefit Of The Doubt.
And that’s vital, because it’s BOTD that’s got Downing Street deeply worried. They fear, with justification, that Dave is no longer getting the BOTD, either at Westminster or beyond. I’ve blogged more extensively about this here.
IN THE MURDOCH
On Marr, Dave denied the ‘grand deal’ charge, and in a comparative viewing Mr Cameron beats Rupert Murdoch on credibility. I suspect that when he gets there he will give a good account of himself to Lord Justice Leveson, certainly better than Mr Murdoch.
By his account, his canoodling with News International stemmed from nothing else than his desire to persuade media groups to support him (remember, scarcely any did in the 2005 leadership campaign); he didn’t change his views to suit proprietors, ‘that’s not the way I work’ (in other words, he didn’t need Mr Murdoch to persuade him to deregulate broadcasting or nobble the BBC). He said:
“Personally, I would be quite happy if I didn’t see quite as many journalists as I do.”
You could hear cries of “the feeling’s mutual” echoing down Fleet Street.
They say dancing cheers the soul – a good idea for Mr Hunt who has been revealed as a master of lambada by Michael Gove. The Education Secretary told BBC Radio 4 on Sunday:
“[Jeremy Hunt] has a sprung dance floor in his house in London to enable him to practise, and if you ever want anyone to liven up your party by cutting the rug with dash and distinction, … then Jeremy is the man to invite.”
LOCAL ELECTIONS: POLL WATCH
Latest YouGov/Sunday Times poll: Conservatives 29%, Labour 40%, Lib Dems 11%, Ukip 10% .
Overall government approval rating: -42%
Thursday’s elections have the potential to make Mr Cameron’s life much worse. The Tories could start to panic if the omnishambles sinks Boris and delivers a vote-share in the locals that matches yesterday’s 29pc from YouGov. The panic could bring on some sort of knee-jerk response – a reshuffle or maybe even policy U-turns.
In our leader column, we argue that: “voters will reward honesty and competence,” suggesting that “the traditional pursuit of lower taxes and a smaller state still has a resonance among voters if they can translate it into policies that bring obvious benefits to the majority of hard-working people and their families.”
It looks like the Coalition is preparing for the worst – but how much is for show. As happened last year, James Kirkup reports that Dave and Nick are planning another Rose Garden renewal of the vows, to tells voters how well the Coalition is acting in the national interest.
Local Lib Dems don’t seem to think it’ll be that bad though. The Times (£) has a story on how Lib Dem councillors hope to capitalise on the Tories’ difficulties. The party is briefing that they expected to lose half of the 600 or so seats they are defending, but a Tory slump could reduce that figure to 100-200.
In London, however, the fight is still between Boris and Ken. Ken told the FT (£) that he’s confident of a win because last week’s poor GDP figures were an unexpected gift.
Mary Ann Sieghart in Independent laments the fact that the odds are always against independent candidates thanks to broadcasting rules. She says: “The idea was that we might have a Richard Branson or a Michael Bloomberg as Mayor of London.”
Finally, in The Telegraph, Daniel Knowles takes a look at the referendum for an elected mayor in Birmingham, where Liam Byrne, Sion Simon and Gisela Stuart hope to fight it out for the Labour candidacy.
We’ve splashed on the Home Office’s attempt to hush up the full extent of delays at Heathrow. In leaked letters obtained by the Telegraph, Marc Owen, the director of UK Border Agency operations at Heathrow, told BAA the leaflet was “inappropriate” and threatened to “escalate” the matter with ministers who were likely to take a “very dim view”.
Our leader column says the Home Office needs to resolve the problem now – even if it means manning the desks themselves.
Pressure will be mounting on Damian Green who will appear in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee next week.
The Guardian has a story about a group of Tory MPs from the 2010 intake who hope to oust the current Right-wing anti-Cameron members of the 1922 committee. The driving force behind the move comes from the new 301 Group ( more details on them here from Conservative Home).
The slate of candidates the group is putting forward will include a mix of old and new MPs with the aim of clearing out the old guard. They are targeting Christopher Chope, Peter Bone, Brian Binley and Philip Davies.
Finally some good news for the PM.
BEDS IN SHEDS
Grant Shapps is one for making catchy headlines: today’s is his crackdown on “beds in sheds.” He’s launching a task force to tackle criminal landlords and remove illegal immigrants.
RED PAPER BLITZ
Dave isn’t the only politician out doing a media blitz ahead of the elections. Labour’s Eds were out in force in yesterday’s papers.
Mr Balls gave an interview to the Observer about the economy, while Mr Miliband gave an one to the People over a pint and a game of pool at Askern Miners Welfare Club in Doncaster. Surely, that’s one for the Awkward Ed Miliband Moments’ tumblr.
TWEETS AND TWITS
His party’s poll ratings might be dreadful, but at least Chris Heaton-Harris is still cracking jokes:
“@chhcalling: A local school has become an academy; it’s sponsored by IKEA. I’m told exam results are massively improved, but morning assembly takes ages.”
In The Telegraph
Daniel Knowles: Election? What election?
James Dyson: Engineering can save us from drought
Leader: Voters will reward honesty and competence
Leader: Bordering on farce
Best of the rest
Neil O’Brien in the Guardian: Cameron’s still-to-do list
Paul Goodman in the Financial Times (£): Cameron must take the correct lesson from Ukip’s ri se
Vernon Bogdanor in the Times (£): Ukip is giving Englishness the voice it craves
Mary Ann Sieghart in the Independent: We need more independents to break the stranglehold
Today: Sunday Trading (London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) Bill – all stages.
Today: Ken Clarke and Justine Greening announce measures to make it easier for insurers to defend spurious or exaggerated motor insurance claims
10am: Ed Miliband and Ed Balls questions and answers session on economic policy and the UK’s return to recession. Coin Street neighbourhood centre, 108 Stamford Street, SE1 9NH
12.30pm: Frank Field MP speech to Policy Exchange on child poverty targets. 10 Storey’s Gate, SW1P 3AY
2.30pm: Communities and Local Government questions.
4.30pm William Hague appears before the National Security Strategy Select Committee. Committee Room 3, Palace of Westminster
6pm: The parliamentary Labour Party’s weekly meeting. Committee Room 14, House of Commons