MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph).
BREAKING: Iain Duncan Smith has just been on Today to talk about our splash: “Get a job, Iain Duncan Smith tells parents on the dole” and his plans to change the definition of poverty.
The DWP Secretary said he wanted to focus on “making work pay” and “moving them into work”, but he dodged questions on giving benefits to people with slightly more money and redistributing income with the statement: “I have a welfare budget and I have to make decision on the basis of that”.
He said that while “income matters”, so does does whether or not “life change” is taking place.
DAVE FACES LEVESON
But the big news today is David Ca meron appearing before Leveson. What can he do to get through his session at the hands of Robert Jay QC? It helps that the inquiry is a respectful place that will make allowances for the office he holds. It helps too that Mr Cameron is good under pressure, and has a facility for mastering voluminous files of information. He will have absorbed the detail and the betting must be that he is unlikely to be caught out on matters of fact.
He will also have studied those who have gone before. Gordon Brown did himself further reputational damage by being both self-pitying and frankly incredible about his record. John Major by contrast won new admirers by displaying an ease that gave his testimony added credibility. Mr Cameron can rely on the fact that he has already pre-apologised, if that is the term, for getting it wrong with Andy Coulson. He has indicated he doesn’t favour statutory regulation of the press, but with Nick Clegg yesterday saying he’d accept a little bit, can he resist being led down that path?
Mr Cameron knows that behind this exercise is a politically motivated campaign by the Left that seeks revenge and punishment for the violence it has suffered over decades at the hands of the Tory press. He does not want to give them a victory, but his seduction by Rupert Murdoch has left him vulnerable. His best hope is to get the tone right – open, contrite, confident – while saying very little, in the hope of drawing a line under it all.
The Times, in its preview of the hearing, suggests that he’ll use the platform to flesh out ideas for a revised ministerial code. The reforms will include new rules for how ministers and their special advisers should handle quasi-judicial processes. The Mail adds that he’ll admit he ‘blundered’ over the handling of the BSkyB bid and that his chum Lord Feldman has been training him, taking the role of Robert Jay QC in the prep sessions. The Guardian says he will be forced to explain how his nexus of personal and professional relationships with News Corp execs. I wonder if he’s prepped that?
Dave had a reasonable day yesterday, he narrowly escaped having to order an independent probe into Jeremy Hunt’s behaviour. You can read the full report here .
And at PMQs his blushes were spared by a clumsy performance from Ed Miliband and a letter from Sir Alex Allan, the independent adviser on ministerial interests, that – at least temporarily – passed the buck. The letter confirmed that he as PM – the sole arbiter of the ministerial code – had already ruled that Mr Hunt was not in breach and that there was nothing he could usefully add to the case. Our leader column says:
“This has been an unedifying spectacle, from start to finish. When the Prime Minister appears before the Leveson Inquiry today, perhaps he will have the chance to explain how it has helped restore the public’s trust in politicians.”
It’s significant then that the Mail calls for Mr Hunt to go in its leader column. Particularly on such a pathetic day for politics, but its demolition job on Nick Clegg in Stephen Glover’s column is just as potent “Cleggie has double-dealing written in his DNA- and the bone-headed rabble he leads are even worse”
Those who fear the Coalition is holed below the waterline after yesterday’s theatrics should read Martin Kettle in the Guardian who says there’s “life in the Coalition yet” and that we should shake off the political class’s default setting “to see coalition as an aberration in a seamless culture of alternating single-party governments.”
The Institute for Government , however, has a slightly different idea. It releases a report today on the centrifugal forces pulling Coalition apart, suggesting that the Government should commit to a renewal plan setting out its priorities for the second half of the Parliament.
MR TONY RETURNS
And for those waiting for Tony’s return to frontline politics – today’s your day. He’s given an interview in the FT warning of a popular backlash against austerity policies in the eurozone ahead of this Sunday’s re-run election in Greece. He seemed to accept that the crisis might cause the euro to lose some members, but said it would survive and that Britain must take part in the ‘reconstruction’ of Europe.
Meanwhile, the Times interviews Andrew Balls, the head of European portfolio management at the bond giant Pimco, and brother of Ed, who effectively calls time on Greece’s euro membership, saying that it is highly likely that the single currency will have to shrink to survive.
He’s right to be alarmed by the discussion, it happens as the Greeks continue their bank run, withdrawing £800m a day from banks. You can read more in our report here.
George Osborne will have a chance to say more about how to get out of the mess in his Mansion House speech tonight. The FT says he will also accept Vickers banking reforms, while the Mail leader asks, pointedly: “With an economic tsunami heading our way from the eurozone, is it too much to hope that, rather than dwell for too long on banking regulation, he will seize the moment to unveil the vital Plan B?”
The FT reports that Mr Cameron is ready for another U-turn – this time on a third runway at Heathrow. He noticeably failed to give Zak Goldsmith a reassurance on that one in PMQs.
But No 10 and Justine Greening’s office insist that however equivocal he might have sounded on high speed rail yesterday, the project is still on track and the Speccie’s cover story is ‘utterly wrong’.
30 YEARS SINCE SURRENDER
Today is the 30th anniversary of the Argentine surrender. Strange, and oddly apt, that it should be the same week as the Falkland Island announce plans for a referendum on whether or not to remain British.
Our leader column says that “Argentina cannot continue to bully and hector a free people who have made their wishes clear and expect to be afforded the normal courtesies of international diplomacy… the people of the Falkland Islands must be free to live and thrive under a government of their own choosing.”
In the Guardian, however, Cristina Kirchner has placed an advert demanding that we “bring colonialism to an end” in the “anachronistic” case of the Falklands. Yes, Cristina, quite.
DEALING WITH THE EX
And finally, for pure entertainment, if you haven’t caught up with it, the spat between Francois Hollande’s girlfriend, Valérie Trierweiler, and his ex-wife is a treat. France’s prime minister has warned Ms Trierweiler to “keep to her place” after she backed his former partner’s rival in parliamentary elections, causing a major political headache for the President. You can read our report here.
TWEETS AND TWITS
Labour MP for Ealing Southall, Virendra Sharma, tweets:
“@VirendraSharma: You can like my Facebook page here…”
Don’t all rush at once.
Latest YouGov/The Sun results: Conservatives 31%, Labour 43%, Lib Dems 9%, UKIP 9%
Overall government approval rating: -39
In The Telegraph
Sue Cameron: Whitehall’s knights joust over public service reform
Leader: An unedifying spectacle
Best of the rest
Max Hastings in the Financial Times: UK’s media fandango is spinning awry
Martin Kettle in the Guardian: Will the Jeremy Hunt vote unravel the coalition? Dream on
Bernard Hogan-Howe in the Times: Trust me, I need to know about your e-mails
Stephen Glover in the Mail: Cleggie has double-dealing written in his DNA- and the bone-headed rabble he leads are even worse
Today: Banking reforms White Paper
9am: Boris Johnson to join Margaret Mizen and Grace Idowu, whose teenage sons were murdered, as part of the 100 Days of Peace initiative. Coopers Lane Primary School, Pragnell Road, Lewisham, London
9.30am: Iain Duncan Smith gives a speech on child poverty. The Abbey Centre, 34 Great Smith Street, Westminster
9.30am: Release of poverty statistics by Office for National Statistics
10am: David Cameron at the Leveson Inquiry. The Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London
10am: Michael Gove gives a speech to the National College for School Leadership conference. International Convention Centre, Birmingham
10am: Vince Cable gives a speech on infrastructure to Reform conference. Association of British Insurers, 51 Gresham Street, London
10.30am: Culture, Media and Sport Questions.
11am: The Robin Hood Tax campaign protest ahead of Mansion House bankers’ dinner. Royal Exchange, Bank, City of London
11.30am: Draft Communications Bill to be published
12.30pm: Institute for Government hosts a panel debate on whether coalition governments can survive. The panel includes Margot James and David Laws, former Scottish First Minister Lord McConnell and Sir Alex Allan, former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice and Chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee. 2 Carlton Gardens, London
7pm: George Osborne and Mervyn King deliver their Mansion House speeches. Mansion House, Walbrook,London