MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph)
David Cameron has sent out his ministers to spread the government’s good news today. Three of them will be making speeches highlighting new plans: Chris Grayling on slashing red tape, Justine Greening on cracking down on false whiplash claims that drive up insurance premiums and David Willetts on the academic journals.
The polls, of course, are all important tomorrow. The expectations game got into full swing at the weekend, when Eric Pickles said that Labour should achieve 700 gains “fairly easily”. Today, psephologists Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher are out and about backing up Mr Pickles’ view.
Of course, Labour is determined to do the opposite – it says it hopes to make gains of between 300 to 350 in England and 100 in Wales. A Labour source tells the Guardian :
“There is a lot of silliness on numbers. The 700 figure is inflated because it assumes that a national swing will translate down to a local level. That is never the case. We all know that incumbency and local issues matter.”
But while the number of council seats is important, what really matters is the mayoral races and certain key cities. If Labour loses in London and Glasgow (where the SNP may take the council), it won’t matter how many seats they take nationally.
In London, Boris’s polling, however, looks steady. A Populus poll gave him a 12 point lead yesterday. In today’s paper , Dan Hodges – once (still?) a Labour Party member explains why, based on his experience of working for Ken Livingstone, he’s going to vote Boris.
THE VIEW FROM PARIS
I’m in Paris today reporting on the French elections. Dave could learn a lot from what’s going on here. As I write in my column today:
“A conservative leader laid low by bad judgments and unwise friendships, a socialist geek with no charisma riding high in the polls, and a country growing hostile to wealth and the demands of austerity. Sound familiar?
Anyone bored by tomorrow’s mix of local and London elections, and specifically Tories who fear that David Cameron is letting the next general election slip from his grasp, should tear their eyes away from their troubles at home and pay attention to the sea-change that is about to overwhelm the centre-Right in France.”
THE VIEW FROM HOMS
Richard Spencer, our main man in the Middle East, has sent this dispatch from the Syrian city of Homs, which is still under siege – it’s well worth reading in full, but what will Mr Cameron think of this quote:
“[David Cameron] is a liar, a liar,” he said. “It was just talk, talk, talk. Nobody helped us. The whole world was against us.”
Rupert Murdoch has sent an email to all his staff, saying that News Corp can become “better and stronger” in the wake of yesterday’s DCMS Select Committee report. Not quite what the report says. It concluded that Rupert was not “fit” to run his business and that OfCom needed to decide whether he should give up his stake in BSkyB, read our report here.
But the controversy came largely from the fact that the report was not endorsed by all member of the Committee – the Conservative members refused to endorse Tom Watson’s anti-Murdoch amendment, which only passed thanks to Lib Dem Adrian Sanders.
Mr Watson may have overstepped the mark by making the report so viciously anti-Murdoch – Louise Mensch certainly thought so – but by doing so, he has created a tricky situation for David Cameron, as he will now face a Commons vote on the issue. Mr Murdoch himself (and his paper, The Times, which has splashed on the story), reckons that the verdict was “unjustified and heavily partisan”.
This is all to the benefit of News Corp’s share price in New York though. It went up 24 cents to $20.08 – traders clearly thought the Committee’s conclusion might mean Rupert would be forced to sell off his British papers.
Theresa May must be regretting her insistence on 100 per cent passport checks last autumn. She was hauled into No 10 by Dave yesterday to explain the ongoing border bungles. A few hours later Damian Green was wheeled out to announce that 80 extra border staff would be employed to cut down the queues, read our report here.
Over the Olympics, the Guardian reports , that number will go up to 585. They’re drafting in fully paid and expensed volunteers from the Home Office and Revenue and Customs – costing £2.5 million. As the Independent ’s article suggests, it might have been cheaper to have fired fewer people in the first place: the Government has cut nearly 900 Border Force staff over the last two years.
Dave and BAA are keen for the airlines to shoulder the cost. The FT (£) reports that Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines and Virgin Atlantic oppose the plans, arguing that that increased landing charges could be passed on to passengers.
The bungles don’t end there though. Mr Green also announced that he was deploying 150 extra consular staff in China over the busy summer period. This comes in reaction to the World Travel and Tourism Council’s charge that slow British visa processing abroad is “a much bigger deterrent” for visitors than passport queues – read the FT’s report on that (£).
As Philip Johnston’s says in his column in the Telegraph today:
“London is a world-class city and people coming to the capital on business or on holiday expect it to look like one from the moment they arrive. Otherwise, they might go somewhere else.”
Indeed – the whole affairs has been bad for our economy. A truth made worse by Moody’s judgement that – aside from the hotel sector – the UK economy is unlikely to benefit from the Games, read the FT’s report (£) .
NO BOOZE, BUT IPADS
John Bercow might have brought in restrictions to curb drinking in the House of Commons (read James Kirkup’s blog) , but iPads are fine for all. The House of Commons has decided that all 650 MPs are eligible for one, read our report here. I suppose that’s better use of our money – just.
Latest YouGov/The Sun results: Labour lead on 9: Conservatives 32%, Labour 41%, Lib Dems 9%, UKIP 8%
Overall government approval rating: -35
In The Telegraph
Benedict Brogan: If Nicolas Sarkozy is toppled, the tremors will shake Downing Street too
Dan Hodges: Why this former crony can’t vote for Ken Livingstone
Philip Johnston: London 2012: a passport to mayhem
Leader: Re-elect Boris – then give him more powers
Best of the rest
Daniel Finkelstein in the Times (£): No majority, no money: that’s the bottom line
David Willetts in the Guardian: Open, free access to academic research? This will be a seismic shift
Matthew Norman in the Independent: Now that the Prime Minister’s lost his charm, what’s left?
Simon Jenkins in the Guardian: David Cameron has only just learned what government is about
Today: Justine Greening and Transport Minister Mike Penning host summit on the cost of motor insurance
Today: Chris Grayling will host an enterprise forum on the Lofstedt Report that aims to reduce health and safety red tape for businesses
Today: David Willetts speaks about free access to academic research to the Publishers Association
Today: Andrew Lansley speaks at event to mark the anniversary of the government’s formal national apology to former child migrants.
6pm: High Court Judge, Sir Paul Coleridge, launches a major new campaign to support the institution of marriage. Middle Temple Hall, Middle Temple Lane
9pm: The Bank of England Governor Mervyn King delivers a BBC Today Programme Lecture