One can at times feel almost sorry for David Cameron, especially when one contemplates his Coalition “partners”. The feeling evaporates as one recollects that it was his misguided election strategy which deprived him of a majority, and his own choice to enter a coalition. At that time the Labour opposition was still stinking of its monumental incompetence and would not have dared to bring him down and face another election. None the less, he certainly deserves both sympathy and support as he faces the judicial imperialist of the ECHR and the power-hungry European Commission in Brussels.
When David Cameron delivers his speech today, his first on crime since becoming Prime Minister, he will be keen to put the difficult events of recent days behind him. He wants to map out a more robust approach to criminals, to show that he understands public concerns. The emphasis on rehabilitation, caricatured as “hug a hoodie” in the early days of his leadership, is to be replaced with much spikier rhetoric. The new slogan devised by the Prime Minister’s advisers to sell his “mug a hoodie” assault on ne’er-do-wells is “Tough but intelligent”.
Tough and intelligent are not the words being used by Tories to describe their party’s high command right now. Lord Tebbit, the tough-minded veteran of Margaret Thatcher’s governments, was scathing yesterday: “The abiding sin of the Government is not that some ministers are rich but that it seems unable to manage its affairs competently.” He said the Prime Minister should impose “some managerial discipline not just on his colleagues but on himself”.
MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph)
The Queen’s Speech at 11.30am might give David Cameron the re-launch yesterday’s Essex Factory rose garden reunion failed to achieve.
The much-wrangled-over speech will include measures for families, including items that will allow mothers to return to work earlier and transfer their maternity leave to their partners. Read more in our splash here.
Tory MPs will ask – again – how layering yet more costs on businesses is going to promote growth. Dave will reply that looking to the social side goes hand in hand with economic “efficiency” – his favourite new word in place of austerity.
And it looks like George Osborne might agree with the Bill’s opponents. The FT (£) reports that he and other ministers are not keen on the plans.
Of course, all eyes will be on the wording of the Lords reform bill. My understanding is that whatever Bill is offered today – and it is likely to be significantly weaker than what Mr Clegg initially offered – the outcome will be put to a referendum.
Cameron appears to confirm this in his Mail interview (more on this below). And while this doesn’t help get the Bill past the Commons and Lords, it does offers some kind of fail-safe, the assumption being that the idea will be rejected by the public.
Norman Tebbit has just been on Five Live, saying that Lords reform is simply “a bargaining chip” with the Lib Dems. “Now they have to have something to throw around and that’s that.”
Meanwhile Lord Strathclyde is in the FT (£)making the provocative assertion that the new Lords should be “better able to challenge the Commons”, which is precisely what MPs don’t want to hear. He couldn’t be trying to provoke the Commons into voting the idea down, could he?
Interestingly, Gary Gibbon’s blogclaims that the Tories have agreed to dump the boundary review in exchange for Lib Dems parking Lords reform. No 10 denies this, though not entirely convincingly.
Other measures expected in the Queen’s Speech include business deregulation, reforms from the Vickers report, a new internet surveillance bill, a flat-rate state pension, and measures to ease the process of adoption. More details can be found in the Guardian.
NO GOOD WITHOUT GROWTH
My column today looks at the growing anxiety behind the scenes about the absence of growth, and how the Tories are trying to convert the Lib Dems.
This is all happening as pressure mounts on Andrew Lansley, who has defied another order to publish his own assessment of the risks his reforms have posed to the NHS. Read our report here.
Labour has been pushing for it, and waxed indignant last night. But the Government is right to resist: ministers must be able to get advice that is awkward without the risk of it being extracted by an Opposition gunning for mischief.
Dave must be hoping that all this news will dwarf his latest U-turn. He’s abandoned plans to buy the take-off version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, instead purchasing the jump-jet model of the plane. Read our report here.
The about-face may be necessary, but it is also embarrassing. As one of Liam Fox’s key defence decisions, it will be interesting to see how it plays on the Tory benches..
CAM’S CASE FOR TORY VALUES
Dave wasn’t so pragmatic in his interview with the Mail. The PM told James Chapman:
“There is a growing list of things that I want to do but can’t, which will form the basis of the Conservative manifesto that I will campaign for right up and down the country… Be in no doubt, I want a Tory-only government.”
He singled out human rights law, workplace rights and support for marriage as areas where Tory principles are being held in check, urging those growing tired of coalition not to “waste” the next three years.
Read the full interview and see pictures of the PM and James here.
We must not forget, of course, that all this high drama in Westminster happens against a backdrop of a global economic crisis. Stock markets across the world are falling as Greece moves closer to the euro exit following Sunday’s general election. Read our report here.
The FT’s (£) leader column makes the situation plain:
“The EU has gone as far as it can in seeking to help Greece. If there is not the political will in Athens to do what is necessary to preserve membership of the euro, it is pointless to continue. Europe must prepare for an exit from the eurozone that has become probable rather than possible.”
Rebekah Brooks’s appearance in front of Leveson later this week will also be volatile. Especially given the story the Times (£) has on the text messages between Mrs Brooks and the PM. It says:
“An updated biography of the Prime Minister discloses that Mr Cameron told Mrs Brooks that she would get through her difficulties [the phone-hacking scandal], just days before she stood down. Such contact then came to an “abrupt halt”, although the Prime Minister sent an emissary to apologise for his sudden coldness, explaining that Ed Miliband had him on the run.”
The most intriguing claim is that they met at a point-to-point after texting beforehand to agree they should not be seen together. Leveson may be knocking on the door of No 10 before long.
LAWS: THE RELAUNCH?
With this much for the Government to worry about at the moment, they should be grateful that David Laws is out there defending them. He was on the Today programme yesterday defending the Coalition and he’s popped up in the FT (£)today, sounding very ministerial:
“The country will judge us over our full term and not on the basis of a turbulent few weeks of “here today, gone tomorrow” headlines.”
Could Mr Laws be re-launching himself too?
KEN’S NO WAXWORK
And finally, to add insult to injury, the Daily Mail’s Ephraim Hardcastle reports that Ken Livingstone has had his waxwork removed from Madame Tussauds and placed in the museum’s archive. “He’s unlikely to be seen again,” a museum spokesperson said.
But Ken should take heart from another story in the Mail. Boris has been snapped wearing a pair of back-to-front silk dragon shorts. Photos here.
Latest YouGov/The Sun results: Conservatives 31%, Labour 44%, Lib Dems 8%, UKIP 8%
Government approval rating: -43
In The Telegraph
Benedict Brogan: That old rose garden routine is no good without growth
Leader: How to help the aged
Best of the rest
David Laws in the Financial Times (£): My second-half coalition agenda
Simon Jenkins in the Guardian: George Osborne’s growth policy is turning British cities into Detroit UK
Daniel Finkelstein in the Times (£): We can’t afford public revolts against debt
Laurie Penny in the Independent: Gay marriage is one thing the Tories really don’t get
Today: State opening of Parliament
Today: William Hague to meet the President of Mozambique, Armando Guebuza at the Foreign Office
Today: The final appeal hearing on Abu Qatada’s deportation is made by European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg, France
Today: Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee meeting – result announced tomorrow
11.30am: The Queen’s Speech
6.30pm: Iain Duncan Smith gives a speech to Policy Exchange, 10 Storey’s Gate