What is confidence all about?
20 software giants’ CEO from different countries are invited to board a new supersonic airplane and told that the flight that they are about to take is the first-ever to feature pilotless technology; a totally unmanned aircraft.
Each one of the CEOs is then told, privately, that their company’s software is running the aircraft’s automatic pilot system.
Nineteen of the CEOs promptly leave the aircraft, each offering a different type of excuse. The Malaysian CEO alone remains on board the jet, seeming very calm indeed.
Asked why he is so confident in this first un-crewed flight, he replies: “If it is the same software that’s developed by my company’s IT systems department, this plane won’t even take off!”
That is Confidence!
MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph)
The Speaker wrenched David Cameron from making a rousing speech at BletchleyPark(very Churchillian) to defend Jeremy Hunt before the House yesterday.
Dave was clearly angry – the Telegraph’s Michael Deacon said his face looked like an “enraged plum”. He snapped that Ed Miliband should “get his facts right”, and suggested that 80-year-old Dennis Skinner should start claiming his pension.
Dave was defiant in his defence of Mr Hunt, but admitted that he’d not seen any evidence – taking his minister’s word on trust alone. He continued to insist that the Leveson inquiry was the most appropriate way to judge Mr Hunt. Few seem to agree. The FT’s (£) leader column joins the critics of Dave’s judgement, saying:
“This will not do. It is Sir Alex’s job to investigate claims such as those made against Mr Hunt. He should be allowed to get on with it. If Mr Cameron’s fine words were anything more than words, he would see this.”
Ouch. It doesn’t end there either. Rachel Sylvester in the Times (£), takes her criticism further:
“The clear unifying theme emerging is the sense that Mr Cameron and George Osborne are part of a gilded elite that is detached from the rest of the country. It is mates rather than the masses when it should be the many, not the few.”
Norman Tebbit isn’t being nice to Dave either. In his Telegraph blog yesterday, he said that “sloppiness is becoming the mark of this Coalition”
While Polly Toynbee says this is probably the worst government in her lifetime. Really? It’s not like Polly to exaggerate…
Either way, the news isn’t going away. The Culture Select Committee publishes its report on phone hacking today – the Guardian has a trail here : James Murdoch is criticised while Les Hinton, Murdoch’s predecessor, is likely to be accused of misleading parliament.
Speaking of Jeremy. G2 has interviewed Jeremy Hunt’s dance teacher who says this:
“Dance comes from the heart and that’s one thing Jeremy has – a big heart. The best students are the ones who have an open mind and a willingness to learn and forego their ego. If you can do that, there’s no limit.”
William Hague was ambushed by Argentina’s Ambassador at last night’s FCO reception. As the Independent reports :
“William Hague was keen not to let the media monopolise the questioning. So he turned to a lady sitting on the front row, among the great and the good at Lancaster House. He got more than he bargained for.
“Foreign Secretary, you speak about Britain promoting human rights and peace in all corners of the world – we need to introduce peace and dialogue over the Malvinas in line with the UN Resolution 2065 as passed in 1965!” So began Alicia Castro, introducing herself as the Argentine ambassador to the Court of St James.”
Mr Hague was shocked, but eventually got it together, saying that the Falkland Islanders had the right to self-determination…
BORIS SWEARS AND SOARS
He’s done it again – Boris has been swearing at people on the campaign trail. On a lunchtime TV news bulletin yesterday, he accused BBC London’s political editor Tim Donovan of talking “f**king bollocks” when he was accused of seeking funds from NI for his cable car project. Here’s the video.
None of this seems to have affected Boris’s polling though. YouGov have him four points ahead of Ken and the Mail has come out to back him this morning. Its leader column says it’s “Time to back Boris and true Tory values” – something Dave will note.
The Independent reports that Boris’s success is worrying some senior Labour figures though. They’re concerned that their local election gains could be eclipsed by the London mayoral fight.
Despite the Eds’ insistence that they’re looking out for “hard-working families,” Mr Balls warned that he would not back a tax break for married couples because this would “penalise” single mothers and reward abusive husbands who leave their wives for a new partner, read our report.
The Mail reports that Iain Duncan Smith will be backing a the High Court judge Sir Paul Coleridge, who, as we reported yesterday, is going to war against celebrities and their divorces.
Meanwhile, marriage tax allowance or not, Philip Johnston makes the moral case for taxing people less very persuasively in his column today.
The final round of the French presidential election is to be held on Sunday – arguably the more interesting and consequential election of this week. The election is tearing apart the Franco-German consensus about austerity, and if Francois Hollande wins, what will that mean for the eurozone crisis?
In today’s Telegraph, Jeremy Warner looks at the ongoing doom: “As it is, austerity has succeeded only in killing off growth, undermining support for structural reform and causing fiscal consolidation to stall.”
In the FT (£) however, Gideon Rachman points out that despite unemployment in Spain of 25 per cent: “there is no reason to believe that the markets are now suddenly prepared to fund wider deficits in southern Europe.”
That’s the problem. The people who need to borrow can’t, while the Germans – who could borrow far more – have a booming economy.
REWARDING THE BEST
We’ve splashed on the Education Select Committee’s suggestion that poor teachers should be paid less than their more competent colleagues. The report also suggests overhauling teacher training, bringing in sabbaticals and offering more professional development. In our leader column we argue that the recommendations are “a step in the right direction. But there is far, far more to be done.”
We also carry a column written by Charlotte Leslie , a Tory MP who sits on the Committee. She argues that the teaching profession needs a professional body akin to the Royal Colleges in medicine. She says:
“A Royal College would provide a universally recognised career progression…It would champion the evidence-based, professionally driven standards that give medicine its status; keep politics out of the classroom; and attract and retain brighter, better teachers. But it can’t be politicians who create it: that would defeat the point. It must be driven by the profession itself.”
It’s unlikely that the head of the teachers’ union will spearhead the changes – she’s already come out to condemn the report. Apparently performance-related pay is “divisive”. She must hate the fact it works so well for the rest of the British workforce.
Latest YouGov/The Sun results: Labour lead on – Conservative 35%, Labour 42%, Lib Dem 8 %, Ukip 7%
Overall government approval rating: -36%
Latest London Mayoral poll from Populus: Boris 46%, Ken 34%, Jones (Green) 6%, Paddick (Lib Dem) 5%, Benita (Independent) 5%, Webb (Ukip) 3%,
Second round Boris 56% Ken 44%
TWEETS AND TWITS
“@stellacreasy: argh. argh. argh. argh *skulks past certain MPs in the division lobbies for different reasons tonight*”
If you know who Labour MP Stella Creasy was hiding from, do let us know.
In The Telegraph
Charlotte Leslie: Teachers should be given a Royal College education
Philip Johnston: There is a moral message behind the low-tax story
Best of the rest
Rachel Sylvester in the Times (£): A dangerous pattern emerges from the mess
Polly Toynbee in the Guardian: Why we must vote Labour in Thursday’s elections
Philip Stephens in the Financial Times (£): Cameron can save his premiership – by fixing Heathrow
Steve Richards in the Independent: This crisis goes beyond integrity. It’s now about accountability
Today: Cabinet meets today
10am: Andrew Lansley speaks to the King’s Fund. London
11.30: Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee publishes findings from its inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal. Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House
2.30pm Justice Questions
Righteous indignation can be all very well when your case is strong. But when a government’s case is weak as it is on Jeremy Hunt, BSkyB, Adam Smith and Fred Michel it is much better to deal with any questions calmly and with a little humility.
I don’t know why some Tory MPs seem to have trouble grasping this point, but Lord Justice Leveson’s remit does not cover breaches of the ministerial code. It simply doesn’t. He was tasked with examining press ethics and practices after the now-defunct News of the World was revealed to have hacked Milly Dowler’s mobile. But still, clearly put up to it by the whips, a queue of Conservative MPs lined up to parrot the Prime Minister’s not very credible line that he cannot intervene on the question of the ministerial code until Hunt has appeared in front of Leveson. A few Tory MPs I spotted at least had the grace to look embarrassed by their colleagues’ toadying.
David Cameron himself was absolutely furious at being asked to come to the Commons to answer an urgent question on Hunt. I do not see what he has to be so annoyed about, unless perhaps he is deep down annoyed with himself and the mess he is in. More likely, he just didn’t like his enemy Speaker Bercow ordering him to turn up.
You may have received by email, as I did a few months ago, a story that purported to illustrate the way the tax system works. It concerns 10 drinkers in a bar who decide to settle their £100 weekly beer bill roughly the same way we pay our taxes. So, the first four men (the poorest) paid nothing; the fifth paid £1; the sixth £3; the seventh £7; the eighth £12; the ninth £18; and the 10th man, the richest, paid £59.
Then the barman decided to give them a £20 discount for being good customers. The group wanted to continue to pay the new £80 bill the same way as before. While the first four men still drank for free, the other six divided up the £20 windfall by following the progressive principle of the tax system. So the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing, making a 100 per cent saving; the sixth man paid £2 instead of £3 (a 33 per cent saving); the seventh man paid £5 instead of £7 (a 28 per cent saving); the eighth £9 instead of £12 (a 25 per cent saving); and the ninth £14 instead of £18 (a 22 per cent saving). The 10th man paid £49 instead of £59 (a 16 per cent saving).
Glory fades. Sooner or later, almost every party leader is seen as a husk who never possessed greatness or who lost it along the way. David Cameron, hurtling from crisis to crisis, may be denied the luxury of gradual decline. A failing economy, a discredited Culture Secretary and plunging poll ratings bedevil a Prime Minister whose tenure has been reprogrammed to fast-forward.
If Mr Cameron’s problems could simply be ascribed to incompetence, inexperience or arrogance, he might be less beleaguered. Instead, he finds himself on the wrong side of a law of the political universe. As Einstein said, the only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once. Now it has.
A tetchy Mr Cameron was dragged to the House yesterday to repeat implausible excuses for failing to mount a Whitehall inquiry into Jeremy Hunt’s alleged breaches of the ministerial code. Beyond Westminster, the PM’s problems multiply. Thursday’s local elections take place against the backdrop of impending polls in France and Greece, whose results may herald a revolt against the austerity programme that has strangled growth across Europe and propelled Britain back into recession. If only, Mr Cameron must think, he could turn back time.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph in Damascus, Faisal Mukdad, the deputy foreign minister and senior government spokesman, claimed most of those rebelling against Bashar al-Assad’s rule were “criminals and drug-dealers”.
Rejecting any blame for the apparent collapse of the ceasefire deal, he insisted it was the rebels who were “escalating their attacks” and that the Syrian regime had the right to defend itself.
He also claimed the United States and France were openly trying to ensure the peace plan’s failure, with the French foreign minister Alain Juppe, in particular, “calling for war”.
“This is what the West wants – extremist and al-Qaeda forces controlling the whole region,” he said.
Mr Mukdad’s message of defiance came shortly after two huge bomb blasts hit the restive town of Idlib, killing as many as 20 people and shattering the relative calm that had pervaded the city since the recent arrival of two UN peace monitors.
The Prime Minister has also been advised by Government lawyers that he cannot discuss with Mr Hunt the evidence about the Murdoch bid for BSkyB the minister will give to the Leveson Inquiry later this month.
Despite being unable to see or discuss the detailed evidence on Mr Hunt’s conduct, Mr Cameron strongly defended the minister during angry exchanges in the House of Commons yesterday.
To the irritation of many Conservatives, John Bercow, the Speaker, yesterday granted a Labour request to call Mr Cameron to the Commons to discuss Mr Hunt’s handling of the News Corp bid for BSkyB.
Mr Hunt’s special adviser resigned last week after it was revealed he gave News Corp confidential information about Mr Hunt’s “quasi judicial” decisions on the bid.
Labour says Mr Hunt has broken the Ministerial Code and says there should be a Whitehall inquiry into that. Mr Cameron again insisted that no such inquiry should be held until Lord Justice Leveson has taken evidence from Mr Hunt.
People have developed wildly unrealistic expectations about health and happiness, rather than settling for simply being in “reasonable working order”, Dr Rowan Williams said.
As a result “deep anxieties about ageing” in society have helped “marginalise and demean” older people.
The warning comes in an article for Prospect magazine in which Dr Williams also speaks out against an obsession with profit and financial growth.
Entitled “Money: Modern Babylon” the article accuses politicians of being obsessed with the financial implications of events and actions. A constant resort to market principles has “radically distorted” how we view the value of areas such as education and robbed us of any understanding of the common good, Dr Williams warns.