The Laddie Is For Turning

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.”


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.”


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.


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.”


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.


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.


Michael Gove set hearts alight yesterday – his robust defence of the free press before Leveson had the Lobby swooning. Guido Fawkes lists the tweets.


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.


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

Leader: Balancing national security with justice

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

The stakes are perilously high for our winner-takes-all Chancellor

Optimism comes easily to George Osborne. In the face of adversity he chooses to smile with the confidence of a politician who relishes a challenge. There is something of the high-stakes poker player about the Chancellor, a keen student of the Lyndon Johnson Texas school of hard-nosed politics. He prefers long odds and a winner-takes-all throw of the dice. At a party in the Downing Street garden last week he gave every impression of relishing the game in hand, joking conspiratorially with journalists and showing no signs of the strain weighing on his shoulders.

Days before, Mr Osborne was caught by the cameras smiling broadly behind Roman Abramovich in the VIP seats in Munich as Chelsea lifted the European Cup. The Chancellor was there as the guest of the German finance minister. He even wore an electric blue tie for the occasion. Afterwards, he found time to pen an article for The Times describing his lifelong attachment to the sport and the devotion with which he has followed the London side since his days as a junior political hack in Fulham.

Read more….

David Cameron and Tony Blair ‘forge special relationship’

The Conservative Prime Minister and his Labour predecessor have held at least eight conversations about how to run the country, according to a newspaper.

Details about the relationship between Mr Cameron – who once described himself as the “heir to Blair” – and his former political adversary are likely to alarm partisans in both parties.

Mr Blair is said to have visited Mr Cameron at the Prime Minister’s official country residence of Chequers last July – in a meeting that had never previously been disclosed by Downing Street.

The pair have also reportedly had at least seven telelphone conversations since Mr Cameron entered Downing Street, averaging at about one every three months.

One call was in February this year while they also spoke in January and have another scheduled for September, Downing Street sources told the Daily Mail.

Read more….

Syria: Kofi Annan urges Bashar al-Assad to ‘act now’

Another day of deadly violence on Tuesday was the bloody backdrop to Annan’s last-gasp efforts to salvage his peace plan, with 98 people killed, most of them civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The daily toll, from the British-based monitoring group, included 61 civilians, 28 government troops and nine rebel fighters, as the country slipped further towards civil war.

On the diplomatic front, the apparently coordinated expulsion orders issued by the European Union, the United States and other governments including Australia, Canada and Switzerland – were in response to the earlier killing of at least 108 people, nearly half of them children, during an assault by pro-government forces last week.

Washington said it hoped the outcry over the deaths near the central town of Houla on Friday and Saturday would draw a change of heart from Damascus ally Moscow, which has previously blocked tougher UN action against Assad’s regime.

“We are at a tipping point,” Annan said after his talks with the Syrian leader in the capital, aimed at rescuing his troubled peace blueprint that was supposed to begin with a ceasefire from April 12 that has never taken hold.

Read more….

Comfort Zone

I was in Starbuck`s recently when I suddenly felt a desperate need to pass wind.

The music was really loud so I timed breaking wind with the beat of the music.

After a couple of songs I started to feel better.

I finished my coffee and noticed that everyone was staring at me

And suddenly I remembered I was listening to my iPod

…and how was your day?

That’s what happens when old people start using technology !