David Cameron is talking about immigration today, delivering a speech – which we have splashed on – in which he will pledge that illegal immigrants working in Britain will have their wages seized by police and face deportation without appeal.
Why is Cameron suddenly unveiling a “migrant crackdown” (as the i newspaper bills it)? The Office for National Statistics’ latest numbers – out today – are set to show that the Prime Minister has still not managed to get net migration down below 100,000 every year, and so by promising action, he hopes to take the sting out of the awkward headlines. Although some may wonder, isn’t the Prime Minister just promising to make illegal immigration illegal?
Downing Street has been bracing itself for today’s figures, with the Sun reporting that the Prime Minister has “read his top ministers the riot act on immigration”, telling them it was “every single department’s responsibility” to help get net migration down. The Tories are still committed to the target, even though they failed to meet it over the last Parliament, with the most recent figures putting net migration at 298,000. The pledge will still be a struggle to keep, as my colleague Laurence Dodds concluded: “It is going to be very difficult – at least so long as Britain cannot directly control the number of EU nationals who can enter the country.”
Immigration also feeds into the Prime Minister’s fight to renegotiate a better deal with Brussels, where he is hoping to change EU laws to restrict migrants’ access to benefits in the UK. Once a leader who warned his party to stop “banging on about Europe”, he’ll be doing plenty more of that at a major EU summit in Riga on Friday, while his Europe minister has suggested that he could secure a referendum before 2017. Dangling some Eurosceptic red meat that will leave many Tory MPs salivating, David Lidington said his boss would “welcome” an earlier referendum. The SNP would back him on this, with Alex Salmond telling Newsnight that the vote should happen “as soon as it can be democratically and properly arranged”.
Lidington also said that the government was pushing for “serious reform” in EU talks that were “picking up pace”. Such rhetoric will ramp up expectations over what Cameron can get out of Brussels, which may be risky, as a Tory MP mused to me recently: “If he presents us with a fig leaf, he will quickly be found out.” Cameron isn’t getting much support from his Eeyore-ish former business secretary, Vince Cable, who has written in the New Statesman that “the chances of things going badly wrong are endless”.
Potential Conservative rebels have so far been well-behaved so far, reportedly pledging their “undying loyalty” to the Prime Minister. But for how long will this remain? Peter Bone has already predicted that Cameron will “fail to get the British people want”, so he will need to manage expectations if he wants to impress voters and backbenchers.
Members of the public can see original copies of MPs’ expenses receipts for the first time in six years after the Parliamentary expenses watchdog dropped a £187,000 legal case, Chris Hope reports. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Watchdog said it was dropping a legal challenge dating from 2010 to a request from The Sunday Telegraph under Freedom of Information laws to see MPs’ original receipts.
FOLLOW THE LEADER
The idea of Labour electing an interim leader, who would be “reaffirmed” in 2018 ahead of the general election, is gathering pace. Tristram Hunt floated the idea of a “break clause” on Wednesday, and now the Guardian has backed the idea. In a leader column on the “daft” and “absurd” leadership contest, the newspaper argued: “Labour should put its thinking head on before it is too late. It should have agreed on an experienced interim leader who commands general confidence…while preparing Labour – and its electoral system – for a proper contest between its next generation of leadership candidates in time for 2020. Ideally it should still do this.”
Meanwhile, the shadow education secretary has said he would not stand for the leadership, endorsing Liz Kendall for the job. He said he had been “surprised” by how many MPs had been signed up to back just two candidates within five days of the election, and wanted to make sure there was a chance for outsiders like Kendall to get on the ballot paper. “Nobody called Tristram Hunt could ever have been Labour leader,” says Julia Hartley-Brewer.
Others are even more scathing about the leadership contest. “Labour seem destined to chew on the same issues, extracting precious little nourishment,” warns Allison Pearson. “Extinction seems inevitable”.
GEORGE’S CUTS ROLLERCOASTER
George Osborne has told the Ministry of Defence and other Whitehall departments that they still need to find billions of pounds worth of cuts this year to help Britain go into “that extra gear” and secure the economic recovery, Steven Swinford reports. Speaking to the Confederation of British Industry in London, the Chancellor declared that “the more you can do early, the smoother the ride”, as he said that unprotected departments will be expected to find £13 billion worth of departmental savings.
EU ARE THE WIND BENEATH MY WINGS
The head of Airbus in the UK has said the aerospace and defence giant would reconsider future investment in the UK were it to leave the European Union, James Quinn reports. Paul Kahn, president of Airbus UK, has used a speech in London to make a strong stand in favour of Britain’s EU membership.
WORKMAN BLAMES TOOLS
Labour will “rue the day” it ordered the party’s manifesto pledges to be carved in rock, the man who made the eight-foot stone plinth has said, Peter Dominiczak reports. Ed Miliband faced criticism after in the final week of the general election campaign after unveiling a huge limestone block with the party’s key manifesto pledges carved into it. Steve Vanhinsbergh, director of Stone Circle, which carved the plinth – dubbed the “EdStone” – said it was was full of “vague” promises and that are “not worth what they are written on”.
CONSPIRACY OF ONE
Nigel Farage plotted against himself, Ukip’s deputy chairman Suzanne Evans has claimed, denying that she or others planned a coup for the party leadership, Emily Gosden reports. This comes as the Ukip leader returned to Brussels, and was branded a “big loser” by MEPs. “Nigel Farage is the Europhile’s greatest weapon,” says Dan Hodges. “Hooray for Ukip!”
Meanwhile, Ukip’s former deputy leader Mike Natrass has claimed that Farage wanted “total power” over the party and adapted the constitution to ensure that he had control over everything. Natrass, who resigned from the party in 2013, told LBC: “He’s always been like that. Absolute monarchy? I used to call him the dictator.”
Theresa May has a revealed the police service is to face more cuts as she warned rank and file leaders to stop “scaremongering” and “crying wolf”, Tom Whitehead reports. In a hard-hitting speech, the Home Secretary said there was “no ducking the fact” that police spending will have to come down again as the Government’s austerity drive continues. She also pledged to free up police officers from having to care for people with mental health issues with millions of pounds to provide beds.
STOP JOCKING ABOUT
SNP MPs have been urged to start behaving like “adults” in the Commons as senior party figures fear they are developing a lightweight reputation, Ben Riley-Smith reports. New MPs have been told not to take “selfies” in Parliament by staff of the chief whip, Mike Weir, following a backlash when one party member posed at the Dispatch Box.
DON’T CARRY ON – DOCTOR
Ministers must stop their “surreal obsession” with wanting to see GPs’ surgeries opening seven days a week, one of the UK’s most senior doctors is set to warn today. Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the British Medical Association’s (BMA) GP committee chairman, will highlight how its recent survey revealed a “potential catastrophic time bomb ready to explode”, with one in three GPs intending to retire in the next five years.
This comes as health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has vowed to make tackling the “great scandal” of childhood obesity one of the main priorities of this Parliament. Laura Donnelly has more. It has also been found that MPs and peers accepted gifts from the tobacco industry, such as tickets to the men’s final at Wimbledon and the opera at Glyndebourne, before voting against plain packaging.
YOUR HOME ISN’T YOUR CASTLE
Landowners’ rights to use their property as they wish are to be watered down for the public good, a senior SNP minister has warned as she unveiled a Left-wing agenda to create a socialist society over the next century, Simon Johnson reports. This comes as new figures reveal house prices have skyrocketed in Scotland at twice the rate of England partly thanks to a stampede from buyers to avoid the SNP’s new tax on purchasing a home.
Meanwhile, David Cameron’s father-in-law has said he may have to put on a “Rob Roy-style Scottish accent” to stop the Scottish National Party launching a “Mugabe-style” raid on his family’s estate in Scotland. Viscount Astor, writing in this week’s edition of The Spectator magazine, said he was worried the SNP was planning land reforms to take away estates from large landowners north of the Border.