MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph).
This morning’s debating point is to U-turn or not to U-turn. The consequences of the compromise on the pasty tax and static caravans can be seen in the headlines. No sooner has George Osborne climbed down than his next u-turn – on charitable donations – is being lined up.
The Times (£) points out it’s Tories leading the charge (David Ruffley was on the airwaves yesterday urging him in that direction).
The papers are having a bit of fun with it all – although they disagree on the number of U-turns. The Sun’s headline reads “26 U-turns… so far,” while the Mail’s gone for “32 policy reverses.. and counting”. They’ve listed them in full. You can read the Mail’s here .
Simon Jenkins in the Guardian argues persuasively that changing course is fine if it’s the right thing to do, saying: “Better a U-turn than a brick wall. Better a Whitehall stained with burnt rubber than one running with blood. One man’s complete shambles… is another’s “outcome of further consultations”.”
The Guardian’s leader column also takes a view: “those who do not fetishise stridency over wisdom should praise rather than condemn a willingness to stop and rethink.”
It’s noticeable that Ken Clarke has got away with his compromise on secret courts, winning praise in the Mail and plenty of fan mail for his devotion to chillin’ at the cricket.
As Max Davidson’s column in today’s Telegraph says: “somehow I can’t quite bring myself to censure Clarke – not just because it is an Englishman’s inalienable right to doze in the sun while watching cricket, but because the image of post-prandial stupor which he projects is harmless, even wholesome.”
Andrew Grice makes an interesting assessment of the relationship between Dave and George Osborne:
“The tennis-loving Mr Cameron will hate the unforced errors in the Budget and the U-turn headlines. He was reluctant to cut the 50p rate. Despite all that, there is little sign he has fallen out with Mr Osborne. They may have copied Labour’s U-turns, but they know they cannot afford to copy the battle between Labour’s Prime Minister and Chancellor.”
OSBORNE’S POOR PIE CHARTS
And George Osborne’s feeling the heat for a lot of this U-turning. The FT (£) have detailed the Chancellor’s difficulties, quoting one of his aides: “We were overconfident. We thought we could sell the tough decisions in the Budget because of our ability to sell tough decisions on the pace of deficit reduction.”
Thankfully, he didn’t go with the pole dancing tax though. The Mail’s Hardcastle says it didn’t make the red book because there was some confusion on who owned the pole. Apparently, it’s usually leased back to the dancers by club owners.
In my column I’ve looked at the run on George’s share price, and the prospects for a recovery, questioning his sudden interest in football and his wife’s comments about him when she launched her new book. Revelations like those don’t often happen by accident in Westminster…
James Kirkup has blogged on the difficulties Ken Clarke has created for the Government by saying that the only demand for a referendum came from “a few right-wing journalists and a few extreme nationalist politicians” on yesterday’s Today programme. He says:
“Not only is Clarke’s ill-timed outburst an embarrassment for the Prime Minister and the Conservative-led government at a time when it badly needs to win back conservative supporters, it is a also a demonstration of just how far out of touch British eurofederalists have become with public opinion.”
EU U-TURN TOO?
And, of course, the Daily Mail wouldn’t let Mr Clarke off the hook for it, giving its p2 to the results of a Conservative Home survey showing that 83 per cent of Tory members want an in/out referendum.
It also says that Philip Hammond warned in Cabinet last week that the economic crisis was likely to strengthen the case for a vote – and quoting a senior Government source saying that Mr Cameron was inviting views on whether to promise a referendum, explaining:
“We are thinking a lot about Europe and wanting to hear Conservative views… David and George are pretty much as one on this. We are not about to announce a referendum but we are not ruling one out. We are thinking about exactly what to do and how we might do it.’ Mr Osborne is said to be concerned that London Mayor Boris Johnson – seen by many as a future leadership rival to the Chancellor – has already backed an in/out referendum.”
Perhaps they’re worried that Labour might get there first?
James Kirkup has a fascinating blog on this.
CLEGG’S NOT AV’ING IT
And finally someone speaks on Matthew Elliott’s almost appointment. Mandrake’s man in Downing Street says:
“David feels Matthew is in touch with what ordinary people are thinking and wanted to draft him in, not as a replacement for Steve Hilton, as has been suggested, but as director of external relations…
The whole process dragged on for three months, with all the usual vetting and so on, but then Clegg told Cameron that he regarded his appointment as totally unacceptable. It looked to Nick as if Matthew was being rewarded for the way he had run the successful ‘No to AV’ campaign, which had been so damaging to the Lib Dems’ interests.”
COALITION CRACKDOWN UNWISE
We’ve splashed on a letter sent by heads of UK universities to David Cameron warning that his crackdown on immigration risks deterring legitimate foreign students and robs the country of billions of pounds of investment. You can read more about it here.
BINNING THE POLICY
And then there’s another sort of U-turn in the Government’s bin policy. Caroline Spelman will say that fines of £110 for people who breach complicated waste policies will be cut — but not entirely scrapped.
Eric Pickles said as recently as February that the Government was “stopping the levying of fines by overzealous bin bureaucrats”. The pledge now appears to have been watered down and the Environment Department will simply say today that it is pursuing a “longer term law change” to stop criminal action being taken against well-meaning households. You can read the story in more detail here.
GO FOR GOVE
Michael Gove set hearts alight yesterday – his robust defence of the free press before Leveson had the Lobby swooning. Guido Fawkes lists the tweets.
CAMERON AND BLAIR’S SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP
And finally, the Mail’s got a story on how David Cameron has developed a ‘special relationship’ with Tony Blair, holding at least eight conversations with him on how to run the country – a rate of around once every three months.
TWEETS AND TWITS
The Guardian tipped her as a “New breed of Iron Lady” this week, and she must be a very new breed indeed. Somehow I can’t imagine Mrs Thatcher saying:
“@claire4devizes: Wonder if I can still skank?………………”
Latest YouGov/The Sun results: Conservatives 32%, Labour 45%, Lib Dems 8%, UKIP 8%
Overall government approval rating: -39
In The Telegraph
Benedict Brogan: The stakes are perilously high for our winner-takes-all Chancellor
Daniel Knowles: Let immigrants come and Britain will boom
Max Davidson: Caution: the Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke at work
Best of the rest
Daniel Finkelstein in the Times (£): Our last chance to show faith in politicians
Alice Thomson in the Times (£): Can we learn to enjoy food but detest greed?
Leader column in the Financial Times (£): Secret justice is better than none
Simon Jenkins in the Guardian: From secret justice to VAT, coalition U-turns are in the right direction
Today: Nick Clegg and Sarah Teather unveil plans to boost childcare and early years education.
Today: Grant Shapps launches a ‘right to build’ scheme
9.30am: Alan Milburn publishes his social mobility report. Cabinet Office, Admiralty Arch (North Entrance), Spring Gardens
10am: Vince Cable and Ken Clarke appear before the Leveson Inquiry. The Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London
11am: Chris Grayling makes a speech marking the first anniversary of the Work Programme. IEA,2 Lord North Street,Westminster