Good morning. Jose Manuel Barroso’s farewell tour is unlikely to have added many more names to his Christmas card list. “Despite being an unelected official, Mr Barroso feels no compunction in lecturing the UK and its leaders about what is best for the country,” Phil Johnston thunders. All Mr Barroso’s proved, spits Grant Shapps in City AM: “Europe’s bureaucrats are much too bossy, interfering and out of touch”, while Conservative MPs aren’t taking too kindly to being lectured by a man they see as a demob-happy Blair lackey.
The outgoing President’s interview with James Kirkup and Bruno Waterfield will do little to improve his standing. Margaret Thatcher would never have found herself in David Cameron’s position, Mr Barroso says. “It would be impossible to hear a Ukip speech coming from Margaret Thatcher, completely impossible,” he explains, before adding, helpfully: “She was for enlargement and for fighting protectionism. I don’t remember her defending labour market protectionism…she would not be surrendering to these arguments.”
In the FT, George Parker warns that the PM is “in danger of angering everyone while pleasing no one”, while that paper warns in its leader that the “government is fast losing friends and influence in the most important political and economic club to which it belongs”, a point that Rachel Sylvester makes in her column in today’s Times. Privately, it’s a point being made by pro-European Conservatives who are increasingly concerned that Britain is being gently inched towards the exit. Behind the scenes, some feel that these histrionics have proceeded each and every major victory for the PM. That’s true – but they also accompanied that chastening rebuff over Jean-Claude Juncker, and the stakes are getting higher.
ESCAPE TO OSWESTRY
Patients are so desperate to escape the Welsh NHS that they are crossing the border in their thousands for treatment or going private, Sam Marsden and James Chapman reveal in the Mail. The number of cancer patients travelling to England for treatment has quadrupled from 3,471 to 15,450 last year. “To suggest the NHS in Wales is somehow in every way in a more difficult state than in England is quite simply wrong,” Carwyn Jones, the First Minister, told reporters yesterday. But Kirsty Williams, the Liberal leader in Wales, describes the state of the devolved Health Service as “a national scandal”.
Ed Miliband conducted a minor reshuffle of his Opposition frontbench, following the resignation of Rushanara Ali over the vote on air strikes against Iraq, Yvonne Fovargue replacing Ms Ali as Shadow Minister for Young People, Ian Lucas moving from Foreign Affairs to Defence, and Gareth Thomas moving to fill his role, with former Blair aide Pat McFadden brought in as Shadow Europe Minister from the backbenches.
HE’D LIKE TO TEACH THE WORLD TO SING
Alan Milburn, the government’s social mobility czar, has called for a national programme to improve parenting alongside a range of other measures to prevent Britain becoming a “permanently divided” society, James Lyons reports in the Mirror. “Effective parenting has a bigger influence on a child’s life than their wealth, their class or even their education,” Mr Milburn said.
“EVERY WHISTLE-BLOWER I HAVE KNOWN HAS ENDED UP ON THE DOLE”
“Sacking threat to prison whistleblowers” is the Guardian’s splash. Conservative MP Gavin Williamson warns that attempts to silence prison workers with concerns risked a scandal in prisons on a par with the Mid-Staffs affair in the NHS. Mr Williamson was approached by prison officers at HMP Featherstone, a prison in his own constituency of South Staffordshire, who are concerned about rising levels of violence at the prison and inadequate protection for prison staff.
BALLS MOVES TO CALM LABOUR WORRIES
In order to calm jitters over Labour’s proposals for a “mansion tax”, Ed Balls laid out the details in yesterday’s Evening Standard. The tax will cost around £250 a month for someone in a home worth between £2 and £3 million, and anyone on an income below £42,000 will be allowed to defer payment of the new tax until they die. Labour insiders insist that the number of people on anything close to that income affected by the tax is vanishingly small – it’s as much about reassuring jittery Labour London MPs/Mayoral hopefuls as anything else. On that score, Tessa Jowell welcomed the greater protections while David Lammy believes that a greater proportion of the tax’s revenues should be earmarked for Londoners.
FARAGE RIDES AGAIN
An MEP who Marine Le Pen, leader of the hard right French National Front, described as “contrary to our values” has come to the rescue of Nigel Farage’s European parliamentary group, the Times reports. Robert Iwaskiewicz, of the Polish New Right party, caused controversy during the European elections when he said that Hitler was “not aware of the extermination of the Jews”. “No doubt, pointing out UKIPs latest far-right alliance will be called a slur,” Jamie Reed, a Labour frontbencher, tweeted, “Sadly, it’s a fact.”
RUM SHOW, CHAPS
Mark Carney has launched an investigation into the unexpected collapse of the Clearing House Automated Payment System (CHAPS), delaying hundreds of billions worth of deals, both to homebuyers and from businesses, who also use the system to make payments. James Titcomb has the details.
EENY WEENY ITSY BITSY EUROSCEPTIC BIKINI
Mike Read, the former Radio 1 DJ and Ukip supporter, has released a song called “the Ukip Calypso”, celebrating the rise of Nigel Farage’s party and performed in a cod-Jamaican accent (you can listen to it, plus five of my favourite political ditties here). It’s been endorsed by Nigel Farage, who has encouraged party members and supporters to propel the song to No.1. The bookies give it odds of 50/1. Matt Holehouse has the story – and the lyrics!