Good morning. Jose Manuel Barroso will call this morning for Britain’s political leaders to fight just as hard for Britain to say in the EU as they did to save the Union, and he’ll throw in a small warning, too: “Just as nearly 70 years ago peace could not be built by one country alone, today even the largest, proudest European nation cannot hope to shape globalisation,” Mr Barroso will say.
It’s intended to rouse the pro-Europeans into making some noise – “you need to start making the positive case well in advance, because if people read only negative and often false portrayals in their newspapers from Monday to Saturday you cannot expect them to nail the European flag on their front door on Sunday just because the political establishment tells them it is the right thing to do”, Mr Barroso will argue. (He’ll also pop into the Telegraph’s offices afterwards – you can put your questions to him using the #askbarroso hashtag on Twitter if you’re so inclined.)
But as far as winning friends and influencing people, Mr Barroso’s appearance on the Marr show – “like a puffed-up bullfrog” is Trevor Kavanagh’s verdict in the Sun – seems to have ruffled feathers rather than smoothed egos. His warning that the PM’s proposed changes on immigration contravene European law – “Migrants cap would be illegal, warns Euro chief” is our take – is hardly the best lift to David Cameron’s efforts to persuade Britain that the deal they want is possible, let alone his parliamentary party.
On that second front, Douglas Carswell’s interview in today’s G2 will be the cause of further discomfort, not least because it will reinforce the worst fears of many of his former colleagues. He explains why, despite his earlier statement that only a Conservative victory will guarantee an In-Out referendum, he chose to walk away: “It’s a smoke-and-mirrors referendum. His advisers told me the plan; it’s to work out from focus groups and pollsters what it would take to get the soft ‘outers’ and the undecideds to stay in, to offer them that, and once that hurdle is cleared to stick with the status quo.”
At the same time, Downing Street is all too aware of the truth behind Mr Barroso’s warning that the United Kingdom risks alienating its natural allies in the battle for EU reform in order to keep his party sweet before the election. A delicate balancing act continues.
“Coalition’s ‘lamentable’ child poverty failure” is the Indy’s splash. The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission will issue its second annual report today, and Alan Milburn, the organisation’s chief, has condemned all three parties for their approach to the problem in a column for the Times. It’s “not good enough”, Mr Milburn rages. In his sights: Ed Miliband’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour will be a 23p cut on the expected rise, an equivalent to an hour less a week and a £397 reduction a year for someone working full-time on minimum wage. He’s not sold on the threshold raise, either: “not the best use of scarce resources if the aim is to tackle working poverty” is the verdict.
Cabinet ministers have been warned by the Treasury that a shortfall of tax revenues and growing concern about the global economy mean that big pre-election giveaways are out of the question, George Parker and Chris Giles report in the FT. Far from splashing the cash, further spending controls may well have to be introduced in the Autumn Statement, Danny Alexander told Cabinet ministers. While the short-term prospects for growth in 2014 and 2015 remain rosy, there is growing concern that the slowdown will be difficult to stop.
STEP FORWARD FOR HEALTH BILL
Dying patients could be given access to untested medicines from early next year after the Government and senior doctors gave their backing to Lord Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill, Chris Hope reports. Significantly, the GMC, which had previously opposed any change in the law, has given its tentative backing to the Bill. Lord Saatchi began his campaign after the death of his wife, Josephine Hart, from ovarian cancer. Supporters say that the Bill will allow victims of rare forms of cancer to volunteer to be treated with untried drugs.
STRAWS IN THE WIND?
Two interesting polls over the weekend. ComRes’s regular poll for the Indy on Sunday and the Mirror tweaked their metholodgy for Ukip slightly. One sample was asked in the usual way to indicate support for “the Big Three” or one of the others, resulting in a bump for that party from 19% to 24%. (That’s not to say that treating Nigel Farage’s party in the same way is necessarily the correct way to gauge that party’s support, as Anthony Wells explains.) Meanwhile, YouGov re-ran its question about a Tory-Ukip pact for the Times, again finding that it results in a poll boost for Labour. Ukip voters seem to be more opposed to the pact than their Conservative counterparts. Kippers divide 57% to 30% against an alliance, while just 48% of Tories oppose a pact to 29% in favour..
BILLY GOAT GRAYLING
Internet trolls who post abusive messages online could face up to two years in prison after Chris Grayling announced plans to quadruple the maximum prison sentence, Nick Watt reports. Mary Beard, who was subjected to online abuse, says that she is “far from convinced that longer prison sentences are the answer”.
DON’T GET SICK IN THE VALLEYS
The BMA, Plaid Cymru, the Conservative Party and Labour MP Ann Clywd are all demanding an inquiry into the NHS in Wales, the Mail reports. A Mail investigation has revealed medical records that have been altered or gone missing, six nurses arrested on criminal charges with more expected and elderly patients denied food and water for long spells. “Labour’s NHS Shame Exposed” is their splash. A spokesperson for the Cardiff administration says: “The vast majority of people in Wales receive excellent care” and adds “if issues are identified, we will work quickly to put them right”. Wales is the biggest loser from the Barnett formula which decides how Treasury funds are divvied up between the United Kingdom.
Supreme Court judges have backed moves to widen the selection to include legal academics and other legal professionals outside the judiciary to increase the diversity of the Court, Frances Gibb reports in the Times. Of the twelve judges, just one is a woman and none are from minority ethnic backgrounds. Lord Wilson of Culworth explains: “Here there is no witness box, the facts are sorted out one way or another, there ar epure points of laws and questions of legal argument…that is a job an academic could do without previous court experience.”
YOU’RE FIRED, FREUD?
Labour will force Lord Freud’s future to a vote in the House, Georgia Graham reports. The PM refused to dismiss the peer from his post at the DWP after he said that some disabled workers were “not worth” the full wage. It could lead to a Coalition row if Liberal Democrat MPs back the motion.
FIVE MORE YEARS?
The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act should be axed and replaced with a “gentleman’s agreement” among Coalition parties, Richard Drax, a backbench Conservative MP, has said. Mr Drax launches a bid to repeal the Act that will be debated on Thursday, Chris Hope writes.
The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism (or ‘Sarah’ if you like) Bill reaches its final stages in the House today. The Bill – which is intended to protect so-called “have a go heroes” from legal sanctions – is certainly pithy at just around the 100 word mark. Sir Edward Garnier, the PM’s first Solicitor General, has warned that the Bill will ultimately become “the subject of derision”.