MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph)
BREAKING NEWS: Nick Clegg has been doing the TV and radio rounds this morning ahead of his flexible working time announcement later today. The Deputy Prime Minister told ITV’s Daybreak: “What we want to do in government is give mums and dads more choice… Everybody should have the right to ask whether they can work flexibly.”
Mr Clegg also vowed the Coalition would not let the Abu Qatada case rest after his deportation was ruled out on human rights grounds. He said: “we are determined to deport Abu Qatada. He doesn’t belong here and he shouldn’t be in this country.”
BBC IN NEED OF RESTRUCTURING SAY PROMINENT TORIES
The BBC crisis is becoming increasingly political. Lord Patten remains under pressure, especially given our revelation this morning that Lord Entwistle was “paid double to go quietly”. Conservative MPs, who had largely held their tongues so far, tore into the corporation yesterday. John Whittingdale, head of the Commons culture committee, told the FT (£) that a reorganisation was needed in the corporation as George Entwistle “clearly demonstrated that he couldn’t fulfil both parts of the job, and maybe no one can do that”. Conor Burns also argued that the role should be split in future.
It isn’t just the Tories. Tessa Jowell writes in this morning’s Telegraph about the “culture of moral smugness” which detracted from the organisation’s internal management. She argues that only “radical public ownership” of the BBC will see it salvage itself. Our leader is equally damning, insisting that the BBC must do less, and do it better:
“In pursuit of the renewal of its charter and licence fee, the corporation has become obsessed with extending its ‘reach’, but in trying to appeal to every demographic it risks diluting the quality of its output and the values that it is there to represent. It has also become over-managed, inflexible and sclerotic.”
OSBORNE BACKS GAY MARRIAGE
Never let it be said the Chancellor is out-of-touch with his base. His op-ed in this morning’s Times (£) – where else – embraces gay marriage and rules out changes to the abortion time limit. It is an instructive insight into the thinking at CCHQ that after extolling the virtues of economic conservatism, Mr Osborne argues it must be paired with social liberalism:
“It is astonishing that Mr Romney won the election among men by a clear-cut margin of 7pc; but it was Mr Obama’s 11pc lead among women that won it for the President, even though many of those who voted Democrat thought Mr Romney would manage the economy better.”
Good job the Prime Minister doesn’t have a women problem, in that case. Even so, as I write in my Telegraph column, it might be time for the Chancellor to turn his attention to more prosaic matters. A 40pc tax rate is fast becoming the new normal thanks to fiscal drag. The proportion of the workforce paying will hit 15pc next year, having been 5pc in the late 1980’s. It’s time the higher rate returned to being a tax on the wealthy.
PM TO PUT GUNS AND MONEY AT HEART OF FOREIGN POLICY
The Prime Minister gave his annual speech on foreign policy at the Lord Mayor’s banquet last night, resplendent in his rented white tie and tails. Our report is here. Dave promised he would personally lead the promotion of Britain’s financial services and defence sectors around the world. The Prime Minister also warned against bank bashing, adding, “those who think the answer is just to trash the banks, would end up trashing Britain.”
ABU QATADA SET TO BE FREED
Theresa May’s new found status as banisher of public enemies has taken a beating after Abu Qatada’s deportation was blocked by the Special Immigration Appeals Committee on the grounds that he would not get a fair trial in Jordan. Mrs May blamed a “deeply unsatisfactory” original ruling from the European Court of Human Rights for the decision, rejecting Yvette Cooper’s accusation that the Home Office had pursued the wrong strategy, the Telegraph reports. Perhaps Mrs May needs Peter Bone as a legal consultant. His advice? “Just deport him and worry about the consequences after.”
LABOUR LOSES FUEL VOTE
Two birds in the bush proved more tempting for the Tory backbenchers than the one in Ed Balls’ hand. There was no revolt over the planned petrol duty rise, largely thanks to the Chancellor’s heavy hints that he would abandon it anyway come the Autumn Statement. Even if the backbench stayed loyal, the frontbench nearly didn’t. Philip Hammond, Grant Shapps and others wandered into the wrong lobby and only just managed to force their way out in time to avoid being counted against the Government (see Tweets and Twits).
BOUNDARY BLOCKING LEGAL
Fresh legal advice given to the House of Lords indicates that a delay on implementing boundary reforms until after the next election is lawful, the Guardian reports. Lord Strathclyde had attempted to block the Labour-Lib Dem amendment to the electoral administration bill on the grounds that it was out of order and irrelevant to the main bill. However, legal opinion commissioned by Labour and placed in the Lords library disputes this. With a majority of at least 50 for the amendment in the Lords, and no blocking majority in the Commons, any vote effectively ends Conservative hopes of implementing the review.
CLEGG LOSES BATTLE ON PATERNITY PAY
Nick Clegg will make his flexible working speech today (08:45, Putney). The Mail reveals that his initial proposals were watered down heavily after opposition from Conservative ministers. The Deputy PM had wanted to add six weeks of paid paternity leave to the list of new entitlements. He settled for two days off, unpaid, for fathers to attend ante-natal classes, instead.
WHITEHALL BRACED FOR FURTHER CUTS
An additional 20pc may be shaved from Whitehall budgets after the next election, according to the FT (£). The squeeze on the Civil Service is expected to last until 2017-18. Although civil servants are yet to receive word from the Treasury, the prognosis looks realistic given calculations by the Social Market Foundation showing that if the health, schools and overseas aid budgets remain cut free, a 23pc real terms budget fall will be required elsewhere.
HUNT TO PROMISE ONLINE REVOLUTION
The Independent reports that the Royal College of Nursing is warning that up to 61,000 NHS jobs may have to go amid a looming “workforce crisis”. Never mind, computers will pick up the slack. Jeremey Hunt will give speech this morning (11am, Richmond House) pledging an “online revolution” in the NHS, the Sun reports. Patients will be able to order prescriptions , book GP appointments and see test results over the internet by the time of the next election, he will promise. Sounds like just the sort of large and intricate IT project at which the state excels.
PCC RUNNERS AND RIDERS
For those confused by the upcoming PCC elections, Michael White of the Guardian has produced a guide to the runners and riders in the key seats. Prezza has a fight on his hands in Humberside, apparently. Most telling is the graphic which details the backgrounds of the candidates. In an election aimed to open up democracy to those from public protection backgrounds, one third of Labour’s nominees are…politicians. Plus ca change.
GAS MARKETS RIGGED?
The Guardian seems to think so, splashing this morning on allegations made by a former industry insider that the market was manipulated at key dates in the accounting calendar. The FSA are already investigating, but this has ‘independent inquiry’ written all over it. Surely we’ll run out of judges soon?
Nadine outperformed tabloid darling Helen Flanagan when the pair were locked in separate coffins which were then filled with bugs last night. Neither lasted the ten minutes necessary to win extra food, however, leading the Sun to sternly label them “bottler blondes”. A sympathetic public has put Mrs Dorries forward for another bushtucker trial tonight.
TWEETS AND TWITS
Barry Gardiner reports confusion among the Tory high command:
@BarryGardiner: “Hammond, Shapps & a dozen senior Tories flee the No Lobby as they realise they were just about to vote against the Prime Minister’s amendment”
In the Telegraph
Benedict Brogan – Osborne needs to show a little love to the squeezed middle
Tessa Jowell – Let the public run our national broadcaster
Philip Johnston – There’s no such thing as a cure-all inquiry
Telegraph View – The BBC must do less, and do it better
Best of the rest
George Osborne in The Times (£) – Obama proves you can win in tough times
Polly Toynbee in The Guardian – If only soap operas didn’t wash their hands of politics
Domonic Lawson in The Independent – Elevated ideals are the only way ahead
Gideon Rachman in the FT (£) – Beijing and Washington navigate in risky waters
TODAY: Commons rises for recess. Foreign Secretary William Hague attending EU/Arab League meeting in Cairo. Prime Minister David Cameron visiting Netherlands and Italy. Mr Cameron will have talks with Dutch PM Mark Rutte in The Hague, followed by talks with Italian PM Mario Monti in Rome.
08:45 am: Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg speech on family-friendly measures for working women. The Third Door, 16 Point Pleasant, Putney.
09:30 am: Justine Greening gives evidence on aid for Rwanda to the Commons International Development Committee. Committee Room 15, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.
10:00 am: Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour.
10:30 am: Defence minister Philip Dunne and chief of defence materiel Bernard Gray give evidence to Commons Defence Committee on acquisitions. Grimond Room, Portcullis House, London.
11:00 am: Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to set out mandate of NHS Commissioning Board. Mr Hunt will set out details about the first ever “contract” between the Government and the health service. Department of Health, Richmond House.
11:45 am: International Development Secretary Justine Greening speech at Open Up! conference on technology, innovation and open government. Jerwood Hall, LSO St Luke’s, Old Street.
12:30 pm: Press conference to launch Conservative parliamentarians’ inquiry into women in the boardroom. Room O, Portcullis House, London.
02:00 pm: Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards takes evidence from bankers, including Stephen Hester of RBS.Grimond Room, Portcullis House.
03:00 pm: Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt gives evidence to Commons Health Committee on spending. Committee Room 8, House of Commons.
06:00 pm: Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg speech on One Nation Education. Committee Room 10, House of Commons.