MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph).
Good morning. Cast your eyes along the waterfront this morning after the night before and you might conclude that things are fairly dire for Dave. He’s suffered another major rebellion (I know, I know it was a free vote, but he still failed to persuade his colleagues to follow his lead), there’s lashings of backbiting, and he’s been reduced to sending a pleading ‘Dear Mr Loon, I still love you’ letter to his members, something even American commentators have picked up on as a bad look. Nick Watt, a keen reader of Tory runes, spots a sea-change in attitudes to Dave among MPs and raises the prospect of a move against him in The Guardian, with more letters going in to Graham Brady. As I mention in my column, grown ups inside No10 realise that they are stuck with a number of what they refer to as ‘legacy issues’, from not winning the 2010 election to the gay marriage idea.
But there is no reason why the situation should not improve. Much of what has excited us in recent weeks will have passed the voters by, and after tonight’s vote gay marriage will be on its way to becoming law, and passing out of the current political debate. With the economy slowly improving and Labour wallowing, the Tories surely should be able to claw themselves off the rocks. This will require a fair wind, and a commitment by Mr Cameron and those around him to sharpen up. It also means not surrendering to the bullying disguised as advice from those agitating against Dave, whether it’s David Davis or Lord Ashcroft. The recess starts today, a good opportunity for everyone to calm down and for the PM to have a think about how he organises himself from now on.
That “personal message”, here in all its glory, might not be a bad start. Sure, many will feel it’s more than a little late – there has been a chasm apparent between the leadership and the grassroots since the grammar school row five years ago – but that doesn’t mean it’s too late. The fightback could just start here. Though from a low base if you believe a new Survation poll in The Guardian. It has the Tories down to 24 pc – just two points above Ukip.
Gay marriage served as a stark reminder of just how far removed Dave’s world view often seems from his troops. As The Guardian notes, the inter-generational divisions in the Tory party were particularly stark . Sir Gerald Howarth, the former defence minister last year knighted on the PM’s advice, warned in yesterday’s debate of an “aggressive homosexual community” in the country. Edward Leigh lamented that the “outlandish views of the loony left of the 1980s” had become “embedded in high places”.
Yes, it passed easily. Tim Loughton’s “wrecking” amendment was defeated 375 to 70. But passage of the Bill really owed to the deal passed with Labour, including on an immediate civil partnership review. No wonder the Mail describes it all as a “humiliation”.
It’s not too late for a Tory electoral recovery but, as I highlight in my column, a little more brutal self-assessment certainly wouldn’t go amiss:
At times his operation shows insufficient guile, at others a lack of interest in the mechanics – and in the people on whom his leadership should depend, notably his MPs. It is a fundamental weakness at the heart of Mr Cameron’s leadership, and one which his skills as a statesman and his undoubted sincerity as a public servant struggle to counterbalance.
To Janan Ganesh in the FT (£), all this squabbling only reinforces a truth:
The people who should have been vindicated by the Tories’ failure to win in 2010 were the Cameron modernisers
A RATHER BETTER DAY FOR ED
Meanwhile it was a rather better day for Ed Miliband. It was the perfect opportunity for him to take a cute and clever line on gay marriage, supporting the Loughton wrecking amendment for the sake of a little short-term tactical gain. Instead, as Dan Hodges blogs for us, Ed took a position that seems dangerously close to principled. Rather than win a few cheap political points, he’s got what he wanted: gay marriage.
APPEAL COURT OUTS BORIS
The Appeal Court yesterday said that the public does have a right to know about Boris Johnson’s extra-marital lovechild, who was born in November 2009, as the Daily Mail reports.
PROGRAMMES NOT WORKING
The government’s flagship Work Programme isn’t helping the most difficult cases, the Work and Pensions Select Commons committee has found. As The Independent reports, there is “growing evidence” that disadvantaged jobseekers are being ignored, and that Work Programme advisers had to deal with up to 180 jobseekers at a time. The one perk? In a payment-by-results scheme in which all 18 providers failed to meet their targets in the first year, the Government has spent £248 million less than anticipated. Meanwhile, Jonathan Aitken has attacked the “big yawning gaps” in plans to get former criminals to take on probation work – an idea that uses similar outsourcing methods to the Work Programme, as we note.
HUNT ATTACKS SURGERIES
In a speech to the King’s Fund health think-tank on Thursday, Jeremy Hunt will call for a new chief inspector of GPs to increase their quality. As the Daily Mail reports, Mr Hunt will attack “out–of-hours services where you speak to a doctor who doesn’t know you from Adam and has no access to your medical record” and complain that surgeries have become “mini A & E units” in which doctors cannot cope. Under his plans, there would be one GP per family who the “buck stops” with.
BERLIN PLANS EU TREATY CHANGE
More bad news for Dave comes from Berlin. The FT (£) reports that Angela Merkel is drawing up plans to streamline decision making in the eurozone but not going as far as a wholesale renegotiation. Two recently adopted standalone treaties – one enshrining fiscal discipline in a “fiscal compound”; another creating the €500 billion eurozone rescue fund – would be the models.
DAVE’S GOOGLE GO-SLOW
Dave has also faced criticism after treading very softly around Google during his meeting with Eric Schmidt and other business leaders yesterday at No 10. As The Times (£) reports, Dave did not seek a one-on-one meeting with Mr Schmidt despite making the case for tax transparency to the council.
UKIP BLAMED FOR CLIMATE CHANGE
Ed Davey has warned that the rise of Ukip risks populist “saloon bar” politics extending to climate change scepticism. Davey told The Independent of the dangers of the Conservatives pandering to a party that “don’t want to say that things here have to change”.
SCHOOLS – MORE BUCK BUT NOT MORE BANG
There is “no correlation at all between spending and outcomes”, according to new research from Reform, as we report. Some schools spend twice as much as others to receive the same “value-added” scores. Cue the carping from ministers of non-protected departments to begin again – that’s if it ever stopped. Reform have already argued for an end to the ring-fence in the education budget.
TWEETS AND TWITS
Apparently Diana Abbott doesn’t do subtlety:
@steve_mccabe: One of our lighter moments Diane Abbott caught tweeting about being in same lobby as David Cameron by PM who was reading over her shoulder
In the Telegraph
Ben Brogan – Cameron shouldn’t blame our rowdy press for his own failings
Iain Martin – It feels like the Right has split irrevocably
Gillian Guy – Redemption awaits Britain’s battered banks
Telegraph View – A belated olive branch – but will it be enough?
Best of the rest
Rachel Sylvester in The Times (£) – Those aren’t loons, they’re just the over-60s
Jenni Russell in The Guardian – Politics needs mavericks, not just the same old chumocracy and groupthink
Dominic Lawson in The Independent – Hide behind the EU and the electorate will flush you out
Janan Gamesh in the FT (£) – Tories misunderstand the last election
09:30 am: Latest inflation figures for April released by ONS.
10:00 am London: Lord Deighton at Treasury Select Committee. Commercial Secretary Lord Deighton and Geoffrey Spence, Chief Executive, Infrastructure UK, HM Treasury will give evidence as part of the committee’s review of private finance.
12:00 am London: The London boroughs of Richmond and Hillingdon are announcing the Heathrow referendum results. Boris Johnson the Mayor of London, Lord True the Leader of Richmond Council and Cllr Ray Puddifoot the Leader of Hillingdon Council are due to attend. City Hall.