All Hands On Deck

MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph).

David Cameron has a big day ahead of him. He will no doubt face a grilling at PMQs after the IMF chief Christine Lagarde threw his economic plan into doubt. She endorsed the Government’s action on the deficit but said more was now needed.

The papers are split on their diagnosis: the Times (£) and the Guardian have splashed on“IMF tells Osborne: it’s time for Plan B”, while the Mailhighlights the OECD’s praise for holding its nerve on the austerity drive.

Ms Lagarde actually took a relatively sensitive line, as Jeremy Warner points out, urging the UK to implement aggressive policies to boost demand in monetary policy and in the grey area between monetary and fiscal policy, while still leaving the fiscal stimulus option on the shelf if these do not work.

Although she said explicitly that “further monetary easing is required” there should be more quantitative easing and a cut in the 0.5 per cent interest rate, the key line which will reassure the Treasury was when Ms Lagarde described how she “shivered” at the prospect of Britain’s 2010 deficit not being controlled.

Both George Osborne and Ed Balls seem pleased with her judgment. George welcomed the statement that “reducing the high structural deficit remains essential” and the pace of consolidation was “appropriate”, while Mr Balls said that “the IMF is right to call for action to boost the British economy and to stop slow growth“.


At least Nick Clegg has been a bit more decisive, giving an interview in the FT (£), saying that the Coalition is preparing a “massive” increase in state-backed investment in housing and infrastructure.

He borders on admitting that Britain is tired of austerity, but he suggests that after two years of “lurid” warnings on the deficit, it’s time for a message of optimism, saying:

“That kind of language over a prolonged period of time can have a dampening effect on mood, which is very important in an economy.”

The article also says:

“The stronger emphasis on growth was agreed by a handful of senior ministers in Downing St earlier this month, in a tacit recognition that François Hollande’s election as president of France had changed the terms of Europe’s economic debate. Mr Clegg said he personally welcomed the election of the French Socialist leader.”

If this is the case, this leaves Germany isolated on Greece as the FT (£) also reports that Germany has ruled out sharing the debt through common bonds.


We’ve splashed on the public spat between Vince Cable and No 10 adviser Adrian Beecroft. Mr Beecroft told us in an interview that Mr Cable was a “socialist” who is “not fit for office”

He also reveals that he was not commissioned by Steve Hilton, and offered harsh words on the state of the Government:

“I’m constantly struck by how un-robust the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are when it comes to pushing back [against the Lib Dems]”

“Nick Clegg [is] always threatening to go nuclear and dissolve the whole thing if he doesn’t get his way with this, that and the other. Which you’d think actually must be a hollow threat. Therefore, why can’t the Government be more robust? I don’t know what the answer is. But it is disappointing.”

He also pours scorn on George Osborne, saying:

“I don’t see them as a driver of growth … I think they’re fixated, understandably under the circumstances, on raising money. But if you take the recent Budget, it’s probably a very sensible thing to put VAT on alterations to listed buildings.”

Read the full interview here.


And Europe’s finally made us give prisoners the vote. The Sun, Mail and Express have all splashed on it in outrage, the Mail’s headline reading “Contempt for our democracy” .

Dave said the idea made him “physically sick” in November, and Dominic Grieve told EU judges it was a “political question” for national parliaments to decide.

Right-wingers David Davis, Priti Patel and Dominic Raab have made their disgust known. Read their views in the Sun’s report. The Government may find itself in a tricky spot if they don’t take action.

Mr Cameron will be urged for political reasons to ignore the doubts of his law officers and refuse to implement the decision.

Our leader column advises Mr Cameron:

“He can either pick a fight with his own party and try to ram through a Bill that will implement the Strasbourg ruling, a position that will not be understood in the country at large. Or he can tell the court that the UK Government is not prepared to accept this perverse ruling, and thereby reassert the rights of our own Parliament to make its own laws.”

And the Mail is also outraged by the secret justice bill that is due to be unveiled tomorrow or on Friday. It reports that the plans are still in turmoil just days before they are due to be realised, quoting government sources as saying, saying that the Tories and the Lib Dems are still wrangling over the details.

It give its whole leader column to the issue, making “a passionate plea to the Prime Minister to remember the sacrifices of our ancestors — and preserve the public inquest as the ultimate defence of our freedom, for which so many gave their lives.”


And the Right-wing troubles don’t end there. Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson broke ranks with the party line yesterday by writing a letter to a constituent, saying:

“Having considered this matter carefully, I am afraid I have come to the decision not to support gay marriage…”

Politics Home has a copy of the letter. Our reporthas more detail.


Latest YouGov/The Sun results: Labour lead on 11

Conservatives 32%, Labour 43%, Lib Dems 8%, UKIP 9%

Overall government approval rating: -35%


Lots like Harriet’s only keen on encouraging women when she agrees with them.

”@HarrietHarman: Dear god! Chloe Smith hopeless. On newsnight

Then again, she did momentarily confuse the deficit and the debt. Not great for a Treasury minister…


In The Telegraph

Neil O’Brien: Bend the twig to shape the tree – that’s the key to social mobility

Richard Spencer: Egypt decides between army and mosque

Leader: Energy security is worth paying for

Leader: The prisoners dilemma

Best of the rest

Guido Westerwelle in the Times (£): Europe has the money to kickstart growth

Daily Mail leader: Coroners’ courts are your last defence against a tyrannical State. Is that why Cameron wants to make them secret?

Matthew Taylor in the Financial Times (£): Beecroft is a glimpse into coalition future

Martin Wolf in the Financial Times (£): A fragile Europe must change fast


Today: EU leaders meet in Brussels

9.30am: Retail sales figures for April are published by the Office for National Statistics

10am: Stephen Dorrell MP, Andrew Marr, Jeremy Paxman and Lord Reid to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry. The Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand

10am: Boris Johnson at Mayor’s Question Time, City Hall, The Queen’s Walk

11.30am: International Development Questions

12pm: David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Question Time

12.30pm: David Cameron makes a statement to MPs on G8 and Nato summits. House of Commons

2.30pm: Ken Clarke appears before the Justice Select Committee. Grimond Room, Portcullis House

4.30pm: Tory backbencher Robert Halfon leads a debate on petrol and diesel prices, Westminster Hall

Working Out

Photo credit – Fotosearch

During his physical examination, a doctor asked a man about his physical activity level. He described a typical day this way:

“Well, yesterday afternoon, I took a five hour walk about 7km through some pretty rough terrain.

“I waded along the edge of a lake. I pushed my way through brambles.

“I got sand in my shoes and my eyes.

“I avoided standing on a snake. I climbed several rocky hills.

“I took a few ‘leaks’ behind some big trees.

“The mental stress of it all left me shattered.

“At the end of it all I drank eight beers”

Inspired by the story, the doctor said,

“You must be one hell of an outdoors man!”

“No,” he replied.

“I’m just a shit golfer.”

Gary Connery: stuntman completes 2400ft skydive without a parachute

The 42-year-old daredevil plunged from a helicopter in a death-defying feat before landing in an area containing 18,600 cardboard boxes.

The father-of-two, a veteran of 880 sky dives, 450 base jumps and dozens of film and television roles, jumped this afternoon above Ridge Wood, Bucks to become the first person to jump from such a height and live without deploying a parachute.

The entire flight of nearly a mile took less than a minute and was only given the green light because the weather conditions were “perfect”.

Mr Connery, from nearby Henley-on-Thames, Oxon, dropped for three seconds before reaching speeds of more than 80mph in a specially developed wing suit that “started to fly”.

He landed on a strip measuring about 350ft (100m) by 45ft (15m) – and at its highest point 12ft off the ground – at Temple Island Meadows, on the Buckinghamshire and Berkshire border.

Read more….

Beijing announces ‘two flies’ rule for public lavatories

It is not clear what the punishment is should a third fly be found in a lavatory.

The new rules, set by the Beijing Municipal Commission of City Administration and Environment, also include standards on odour, demands for the number of pieces of discarded rubbish – no more than two – and that discarded items should not be left for more than half an hour.

The guidelines include an advisory on exactly what constitutes “discarded items”.

There is also a demand for signs in both Chinese and English in the lavatories and better disabled access.

The new requirements are not compulsory and only aim to improve the Chinese capital’s notoriously unpleasant public lavatories, Xie Guomin, head of the sanitation management division of BMCCAE told the Beijing Times.

Read more….

Iran and world powers meet hoping to silence ‘drums of war’ with nuclear talks

Senior figures in the Government’s National Security Council told the BBC that they are looking at what military role Britain would play. One option is apparently deployment of the Royal Navy in the Middle East.

World powers are laying out a new package of proposals in crunch talks over Iran’s contested nuclear programme which will be “of interest” to Tehran, a spokesman for the EU’s foreign policy chief said.

“I am not going to go into the details of what we are proposing but of course we are putting proposals on the table that are of interest to Iran,” Michael Mann, spokesman for Baroness Ashton, said at the talks in Baghdad.

The one overriding issue is Iran’s nuclear programme, which the Islamic republic insists is peaceful but which much of the international community suspects masks an attempt to join the elite club of nations with the bomb.

The fear is that a nuclear-armed Iran would destabilise the already volatile Middle East and sound the death knell for 60 years of international efforts to prevent the spread of atomic weapons, sparking a regional arms race.

Read more….

David Cameron: Britain will decide on votes for prisoners not a ‘foreign court’

The Prime Minister said Britain should be able to decide whether its tens of thousands of prisoners vote, rather than a “foreign court”.

He backed MPs for last year deciding to keep the 140-year-old ban on prisoner voting, even though the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that this must be changed.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, he said: “I have always believed when you are sent to prison you lose certain rights and one of those rights is the right to vote.

“Crucially, I believe this should be a matter for Parliament to decide, not a foreign court.

“Parliament has made its decision and I completely agree with it.”

Read more….

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg sued by shareholders over IPO

The lawsuit accuses Mr Zuckerberg, Facebook and several banks led by Morgan Stanley of hiding the company’s weakened growth forecasts ahead of its $16bn initial public offering.

The defendants are claimed to have concealed from investors during the IPO marketing process “a severe and pronounced reduction” in Facebook revenue growth forecasts.

The news comes as Morgan Stanley, the bank in charge of the IPO, is being investigated over possible securites fraud.

The US bank has been accused of failing to warn smaller investors of a more negative assessment of Facebook’s future profits.

It is claimed that several major investors had been pre-warned that a Morgan Stanley analyst had cut the amount of money he expected Facebook to make.