The Essex Rose Garden

MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph)

David Cameron and Nick Clegg are renewing their Coalition vows in front of a group of local business employees at 3pm in Essextoday. But the relaunch will not impress the bookies overmuch. In a joint speech – reminiscent of their Rose Garden one two years ago – they will reaffirm their commitment to the cutting the deficit. Dave will say:

“Two years ago our two parties came together to form a strong Coalition. We agreed that our number one priority was to keep Britain safe from the financial storm and to rescue our economy from the mess left by the last Labour Government. That was and remains our guiding task.”

Their personal commitment to making their arrangement work remains impressive, and is the Coalition’s equivalent of dilithium crystals, the thing that keeps the project moving.

But external forces are mounting, the most potent of which is not voter indifference but the eroding effect of Tory opposition. Enough Conservatives now privately – and in some cases publicly – would like to see Mr Cameron fail, and are beavering away to make that happen.

Around them is a wider circle of fellow travellers who think they are helping him to be better, when in fact they are helping Ed Miliband. Perhaps the greatest modernisation of all eluded Dave: persuading his party to give up its habit of eating itself.

Lib Dems don’t seems to have it any easier. The Times (£) has a front-page story on the party’s plan to quit the coalition early.

FROM THE LAWS

David Laws has just been on the Today programme to discuss the Coalition’s woes.

On the rebellions brewing on the backbenches, he said: “You’re always going to get people on the extreme edges of Coalition feeling isolated… [but] Iron discipline isn’t a stabilising force…. [and this] Doesn’t mean the minor things that the parties care about have to be left aside.”

On the Coalition’s bruising in the local elections: “It’s not surprising that voters are feeling pretty grumpy about life. When you talk to people out there in country.. people don’t seem to agree with the Labour remedy to borrow more.”

HOLDING IT TOGETHER

Dave doesn’t just have to hold the Coalition together today. The weekend saw some serious rumblings from his backbenches. The Conservative Home website has teamed up with David Davis to publish an “Alternative Queen’s Speech”.

The proposal includes plans to create more grammar schools, axe employment rights and hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

Iain Martin in the Telegraph warns the Tories to be careful, saying:

“[The Conservative Party] is in enough trouble already, without silliness being added to its long list of problems. A few of the more melodramatic MPs most critical of the Prime Minister are acting as though they are auditioning for parts in an amateur dramatics society re-enactment of November 1990”

In the Times, Rachel Sylvester agrees: “To give in [to ConHome and David Davis] would be a fatal mistake.”

Resisting the pressure, however, might not be so easy.

EUROPE’S RED TIDE

Mr Cameron isn’t just suffering from the leftward shift in the UK though. Francois Hollande’s victory in France and Greece’s rejection of parties supporting austerity measures over the weekend gives the PM much to worry about.

Europe seems to have lost its stomach for tackling debt. Global stock markets tumbled at the news from France and Greece, read our report . The instability has no doubt been caused in part by Mr Hollande’s anti-austerity stance. Angela Merkel has already kicked back saying:

“We in Germany are of the opinion, and so am I personally, that the fiscal pack is not negotiable… We are in the middle of a debate to which France, of course, under its new president will bring its own emphasis. But we are talking about two sides of the same coin – progress is only achievable via solid finances plus growth.”

Dave has already come out to defend his view on austerity. As we’ve splashed, there is to be “no going back” on spending cuts here.

There’s not much Dave can do about snubbing Mr Hollande earlier this year now. Especially given that Mr Hollande has already said stepped out to criticise his desire to protect the City from EU legislation, read the Mail’s report.

It’s perhaps not been the best start…

COMMENT

It might not all be bad though. Mats Persson in the Telegraph says this is an opportunity for Mr Cameron to become closer to Mrs Merkel, suggesting that:

“Anglo-Franco relations are fairly static, and are based on a series of mutually recognised stand-offs that persists no matter who is in power…[but] this is the perfect chance for No 10 to begin a concerted effort to lure Berlin in the direction of a more liberal, outward-looking Europe.”

But Polly Toynbee in the Guardian doesn’t think so. The change in mood leaves Cameron “pinned in a corner” apparently.

SOCIAL CARE

The Coalition also needs to worry about social care. We report that Labour is prepared to pull out of cross-party talks on reforming elderly care if the Coalition continues to “kick the issue into the long grass”.
That aside, the Guardian reports, that Iain Duncan Smith’s Center for Social Justice thinktank has set out plans that directly oppose those laid out in the Dilnot report. Could this signal a change of tack for the Coalition?

Either way, it’s a major issue for the Mail. The paper has splashed on an open letter to the Coalition from 78 charities and campaign groups, warning that unless the PM acts, millions more pensioners will be condemned to a life of ‘misery and fear’.

CABLE OUT AND ABOUT

Seemingly unfazed by the political drama at home and across Europe, Vince Cable is out and about in today’s papers. In a column for the Telegraph, he argues that the tide is turning against EU bureaucracy and the Working Time Directive. He said:

“There were governments of centre Right and centre Left [at a recent conference aimed at tackling EU regulation]… Yet there was a common purpose: to close down the red tape factories of Brussels.”

Tough sounding stuff. Likewise, the Mail has a story on Mr Cable’s plans to crackdown on supermarkets ripping off small firms.

LIKE FATHER LIKE SON?

In the Mail, Ephraim Hardcastle says Jack Straw might give up his seat at the next election.

“After 33 years as MP for Blackburn, the former Foreign Secretary is said to be considering relinquishing the seat in 2015. It’s a safe as houses Labour seat, so potential candidates will certainly be eyeing his movements closely. I am told Straw’s ambitious son Will, 31, is already ‘frantically networking’ local Labour bigwigs”

POLL WATCH

Latest YouGov/Sunday Times results: Conservatives 31%, Labour 43%, Liberal Democrats 9%, UKIP 8%

Overall government approval rating: -43

TOP COMMENT

In The Telegraph

Mats Persson: David Cameron: the man in the middle in Europe

Vince Cable: The tide is turning against EU bureaucracy

Iain Martin: The Tories must find a way of getting along

Con Coughlin: A frontier far away holds the key to our Olympics security

Best of the rest

Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times (£): The Greek crisis will fast expose Mr Hollande

Rachel Sylvester in the Times (£): Spin away from the centre and the ride is over

Polly Toynbee in the Guardian: Hollande and Europe are turning the tide. Where will it leave Cameron?

Stephen Glover in the Mail: If I had to cross the Sahara with either Boris or Dave and one bottle of water, I’d pick the PM every time

THE AGENDA

Today: The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister will be addressing and holding a Q&A session with staff at a business in Essex

Today: Ministers are expected to attend the ‘Giving summit’ hosted at the Natural History Museum for charities and donors

10am: Andy Coulson launches appeals against a High Court decision that News Group Newspapers does not have to pay his potential legal costs over the phone-hacking affair

1.30pm: Skills minister John Hayes participates in a Policy Exchange event on the Olympic legacy

2:30pm: David Laws chairs an Overseas Development Institute event looking at the Sustainable Development Goals at the centre of this year’s Rio +20 conference

6pm: Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett and Baroness Lister participate in a Compass event on local elections

6.30pm: Ed Vaizey attends this year’s Corinthia Artist in Residence 2012 private view

 

The Dentist

A guy and a girl meet at a bar.

They get along so well that they decide to go to the girl’s place.

A few drinks later, the guy takes off his shirt and then washes his hands.

 He then takes off his trousers and again washes his hands.

The girl has been watching him and says:

“You must be a dentist.”

The guy, surprised, says:

“Yes …. How did you figure that out?”

“Easy..” she replies, “you keep washing your hands.”

One thing leads to another and they make love.

After it’s over the girl says: “You must be a good dentist.”

The guy, now with an inflated ego, says:

“Sure – I’m a good dentist. How did you figure that out?”

The girl replies:…..

“I Didn’t feel a thing.”

The Tories must find a way of getting along

The Conservative Party needs to be careful. It is in enough trouble already, without silliness being added to its long list of problems. A few of the more melodramatic MPs most critical of the Prime Minister are acting as though they are auditioning for parts in an amateur dramatics society re-enactment of November 1990, the most theatrical of Tory plots in which Margaret Thatcher was dispatched. There is daft name-calling and there are whispers of an imminent leadership challenge, which is a completely ludicrous idea.

The Government is in deep trouble and there is profound Conservative unhappiness. But there is no Michael Heseltine figure waiting to mount a challenge, or any other alternative prime minister on stand-by. Even if the 46 signatures required to trigger a ballot were assembled, there would most likely follow a huge vote in favour of the incumbent: “A leadership challenge ain’t going to happen,” says one minister. Instead, the various Conservative armed camps are just going to have to get on with it and try to come to an accommodation with David Cameron as he attempts to get his administration out of the ditch into which he drove it.

Read more….

London 2012 Olympics: I made a massive mistake and I am so sorry, says former drugs cheat Dwain Chambers

Britain’s most high-profile former drugs cheat is bracing himself for the storm he is about to sprint into. While he can barely contain his gold-toothed smile at the reprieve he received last week when the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned the British Olympic Association’s policy of lifetime bans for drug offenders, he is also genuinely apprehensive about what awaits him when he returns home from Jamaica.

“I have made a mistake, a massive mistake, and all I want is another chance to correct it, a chance to do the best for my country,” he says in his first interview since being given the green light to seek selection for the Games. “To run in my home Olympics? I would say it was a dream come true but it’s not. Because I didn’t even bother dreaming. I thought I would be sitting at home watching.

“Now the reality is if I qualify I will be there. That is something I will cherish, it would be an honour and I want to make sure I do it with pride and enjoy it. But I know it won’t please everybody ”

He knows that, to many eyes, he will always be Chambers the cheat.

Read more….

Syria: killings continue as country goes to the polls

Amid the fog of war, two things are certain: rebels shot Abdulhamid al-Taha in Deraa last week; and no one could say he wasn’t warned.

Three months ago, a phone caller told him to stop passing information on opposition activists to the feared Air Force Intelligence. The next day, eight houses belonging to him and his extended family were torched.

Still, he refused to stop working for the regime. He was a devout Baathist, his brother, Afif, said. An activist briefed on the operation to assassinate him did not disagree.

“Many people died because of him, including families and children,” the activist told The Daily Telegraph. “It was explained to him that he had to stop giving information to the Intelligence. They burned his house first, but he carried on doing what he did.

“So I think they did what they had to do.”

Read more….

Cost of keeping Abu Qatada in Britain ‘tops £3m’

The figure has built up over more than the decade since he was first arrested and is expected to continue to rise despite attempts by the Home Office to deport him.

The bill includes £825,000 in government legal bills since 2002 and a matching sum for Qatada’s legal aid and court costs.

The country has spent a further £850,000 to keep him in a maximum security prison and £500,000 on police surveillance, according to the figures revealed by the Daily Mail.

Other miscellaneous amounts, including money spent on benefits and compensation for the cleric are estimated to total a further £200,000.

Jonathan Isaby, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, told the newspaper: “Taxpayers will be angry and dismayed by this latest estimate of the cost.

Read more….

French and Greek political earthquakes point to rise of the anti-austerity movement

With unemployment in Europe at its highest level since the creation of the single currency, resentment has been growing over whether strict budgetary discipline is the best way to brace a spiral of debt.

Street protests have been seen across Italy, Spain and Portugal as people reacted to spending cuts that have slowed economies across Europe.

Savings have been wiped out and in Spain, a real estate crash has helped swell unemployment to 25 per cent of the workforce.

Many economists have advocated a greater emphasis on growth, but it has only gained traction among European policy-makers and politicians in the past few weeks.

Paul Krugman, an economics Nobel Prize winner, welcomed the anti-austerity groundswell in Europe, saying the bloc’s voters proved “wiser than the Continent’s best and brightest”.

Read more….

CIA foils new al-Qaeda underwear bomb plot

Terrorists in Yemen reportedly planned to use a device similar to the one that failed to explode on a plane to Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009 but American officials said the new bomb was significantly more sophisticated.

While the would-be suicide bomber had yet to select a target and there was no imminent threat of attack, the plot served as a reminder of al-Qaeda’s ambitions to strike against US civilians.

Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, confirmed the operation last night, saying the US must “continue to remain vigilant against those that would seek to attack this country.”

Read more….

David Cameron: there is no going back on austerity

The eurozone is in “extreme trouble” and headwinds from the turmoil threaten Britain’s recovery, he will warn.

In a rare joint appearance with Nick Clegg, the Prime Minister and his Deputy will rededicate themselves and their parties to protecting the country from “the financial storm”.

Two years on from their sun-dappled press conference in the Downing Street rose garden, the Liberal Democrat and Conservative leaders will restate the case for the Coalition to “rescue the economy from the mess left by Labour”.

Their pledge will come against a backdrop of turbulence in the markets and the election results in France and Greece, which saw two pro-austerity administrations ousted.

Read more….