MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph).
BREAKING: Jeremy Hunt just spoke to Jim Naughtie on the Today programme about how the government is dealing with the Olympic security challenges and the planned strike action by border staff. He said the deployment of further troops to guard the security of the Games was not promoted by further failures by G4S, but simply because he didn’t want to “leave anything to chance”.
He stressed that G4S’s failings were with the management not the workers, and that it was important not to “demonise” those working at the Games.
On the border strike, he said “we can be very confident of the provisions we have in place”, but added that he thought the eve of the Olympics was “the wrong time to strike”.
HOME OFFICE PLEAS
The Mail has splashed on the potential border agency and tube driver strikes with the headline: “A gold medal for cynicism”. We report that the Home Office is attempting to make a late legal challenge to block the border strikes. Last night, they said they believed the strike might not be lawful because of the way the PCS Union conducted the ballot that backed industrial action.
The Mail’s leader is calling for tougher legislation on unions: “The Tories should seize the moment, ignore their junior partners – and introduce a simple law, insisting no union can hold the country to ransom without the support of at least half its members.” A lot of Tory backbenchers will agree.
Mitt Romney touches down in London today ahead of his meeting with David Cameron at Downing Street tomorrow. His advisers have told the Telegraph that he wants to abandon Mr Obama’s “Left-wing” coolness towards Britain, bringing an “Anglo-Saxon” understanding to the special relationship, and that he’d return the Churchill bust to the Oval Office. Bold stuff. President Obama’s team, meanwhile, are calling on Mr Romney to use his first overseas tour as the Republican presidential candidate to define a foreign policy that amounts to more than criticising them.
A BIG HOLLANDE
Mitt Romney is also meeting Ed Miliband, adding to the Labour leader’s week of being in the international limelight. The Times reports that François Hollande yesterday breached French protocol by greeting Ed on the steps of the presidential residence (something reserved for heads of state and leaders of governments). Mr Hollande is clearly very fond of Ed.
One reason could be that, according to the Times, Ed talked down any chance of Labour offering the British an EU referendum. To applause, he told a meeting of French socialists: “I want to say very, very clearly that we consider Britain’s place to be in Europe and firmly in Europe.” Later, asked if he would never endorse an in-out referendum, Mr Miliband said that it was not the priority. So much for that vote-winning strategy then.
But the admiration for Ed is not far-reaching yet. The Sun reports that he cut a rather lonely figure at the Élysée Palace. There weren’t many photographers waiting for him when he arrived. In fact, one French snapper confused Bob Roberts, Ed’s spinner, for the great man himself. Not quite the publicity coup Ed had hoped for.
This didn’t stop Ed and Mr Hollande proclaiming that “the tide is turning” on austerity economics, though. Our leader column is unconvinced: “Ed Miliband should note that François Hollande’s promises of jobs and growth are looking ever more empty.”
That said, things are certainly looking worse in the eurozone. Today we report that Greece may run out of money and go bankrupt by Aug 20, according to a British government analysis. Dave must have an opinion: he’s getting this analysis delivered to him daily.
But the PM will probably have his mind on the GDP figures released at 9.30am today, which are expected to show that we’re still in recession. Not to mention the charges faced by his former director of communications. Nick Watt says this “casts a long shadow” over Dave in his analysis, which can be read here .
It looks like a wind farm deal has been struck between George Osborne and Ed Davey (The FT says Mr Davey will make a statement in Parliament today). George has backed down on tougher cuts to subsidies and settled for a 10 per cent cut, and Mr Davey has conceded that the government’s statement will include a commitment to “unabated” gas supplies as part of Britain’s energy mix. Mr Davey was on the Today programme earlier. He said he can hold the subsidies cut at 10 per cent and insisted that his view was held across government.
It’s a risky position for George. The decision will anger a lot of backbenchers (100-odd MPs wrote a letter to No 10 earlier in the year opposing the subsidies earlier this year). Could he be more concerned about shoring up Nick Clegg’s position?
David Gauke didn’t find many supporters for his view that paying tradesmen cash in hand was “immoral” yesterday. Dave, Nick, Ed Miliband and Boris all lined up to say they’ve done it before.
We’ve got a feature by Dan Hodges calling the affair “another attack on the middle classes” ; he warns politicians about the hazards of moralising on tax.
Naturally, all the papers cover the Queen’s Jubilee lunch at Downing Street with her former prime ministers, but the Times reveals some of the seating plan, including this delightful nugget of information: Gordon Brown was seated between Sir Jeremy Heywood and Dame Norma Major — two of the most neutral figures in the room. Now what does that say?
TWEETS AND TWITS
Tom Harris tweets:
“@TomHarrisMP: Beginning to regret writing to Ipsa asking if they could pay my wages in cash in future.”
Don’t. It made me laugh.
Latest YouGov/The Sun results: Conservatives 33%, Labour 44%, Lib Dems 9%, UKIP 7%
Overall government approval rating: -40
In The Telegraph
Philip Johnston: A government with 50 shades of grey would have the whip hand
Elizabeth Truss: Britain Unleashed: business mustn’t apologise for making a profit
Best of the rest
Alice Thomson in the Times: Hard work and happiness go hand in hand
Stephen Glover in the Mail: Yes, I pay builders in cash. But what’s really immoral is billionaires and firms like Google who avoid tax
Lynsey Hanley in the Guardian: Tony Blair’s right: heaping blame on bankers misses the point
Christina Patterson in the Independent: Olympics could prove to be £9bn well spent
Today: David Cameron talks with Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff. 10 Downing Street
Today: Minister for Disabled People Maria Miller announces help to get more young disabled people into mainstream employment
9.30am: First estimate of second quarter GDP is published by the Office for National Statistics
11am: Locog daily briefing. Main Press Centre, Olympic Park
1pm: Andy Burnham MP and Jamie Reed MP host a press conference on the NHS. The Labour Party, One Brewer’s Green
3.30pm: London taxi drivers protest against the Olympic route network as they are concerned about the impact on their business. Aldwych
Someone on the Romney staff needs to be sacked – fast and publicly. On Tuesday, a campaign insider told the Daily Telegraph that Mitt wants to heal the divide between America and Britain that has emerged under Obama’s watch. “We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage,” they said, “and [Romney] feels that the special relationship is special. The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.” Of such gaffes are a million mainstream media headlines made.
There are two problems with the “Anglo-Saxon” bomb. First, the extent of the division between our nations is up for debate. Yes, Obama took the Churchill bust out of the Oval Office and hasn’t been super supportive during Britain’s spat with Argentina. But David Cameron’s last visit to the White House was a veritable love-in (“Get a room, guys”), and Obama’s popularity in the UK is undiminished. Many Brits love him because they see him as an antidote to the misdirected machismo of the Bush years. Few of us are keen to revive an alliance that led to the bloody mess of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr Kim inherited the post of “supreme leader” of North Korea from his father, Kim Jong-il, who died last December. Since then, he has consolidated his hold on power, officially becoming a “Marshal” – the highest rank in the Korean People’s Army – last Wednesday.
The announcement that he is married may be part of the process of establishing his authority.
State television named his wife as Ri Sol-Ju and reported that the couple jointly opened an amusement park in the capital, Pyongyang. Aged only 28 or 29, Mr Kim is the youngest head of state in the world.
“Marshal Kim Jong-Un took part in the opening ceremony of Nungra People’s Amusement Park with his wife, Comrade Ri Sol-Ju,” state TV reported.
Shock figures published on Wednesday showed that the UK’s gross domestic product fell by 0.7 per cent, for the third quarter in a row and by much more than the 0.2 per cent expected by forecasters.
The figures mean that Britain is enduring the longest double dip recession for more than 50 years.
Lord Oakeshott, who is close to Liberal Democrat Business secretary Vince Cable, said the figures were “dismal” and the economy was in “cold storage”.
The peer suggested that Mr Cable should be appointed Chancellor in Prime Minister’s reshuffle, which is widely expected in September.
He said that Mr Osborne did not have enough experience outside Government to run the Treasury, insisting that the UK needed its “A-team at the Treasury”.