MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph).
The US election is finally here. After what seems like an eternity of campaigning, Americans will go to the polls in an election which will also impact upon British economic and foreign policy.
The Government, with the exception of Iain Duncan Smith, is studiously impartial, of course (in public, not in private, as Rachel Sylvester points out in the Times (£) today). For those of you who are partial, or just interested in one of the closest races since the last one, the Telegraph’s brilliant live blog can be found here, and you can read polling day reports as they come in here. The best of the coverage elsewhere includes the Huffington Post’s guide of what to watch and when as the results roll in.
DAVE OF ARABIA RUNS INTO BOTHER
David Cameron’s sales trip to the Arabian peninsula has been dogged by yet more media mismanagement. What could have been a story about British manufacturing and a Prime Minister personally leading the export drive has become lost in reverberations from a paedophile scandal. As the Telegraph reports, Mr Cameron yesterday announced an inquiry which will examine whether a judicial inquiry ordered in 1996 by William Hague, the then secretary of state for Wales, was “properly constituted and properly did its job”.
What is remarkable is that Downing Street have decided to make headlines in this area when it was not under any pressure to do so. The fact that claims about individuals within the BBC swiftly became claims about the BBC itself and the culture there may have influenced the leadership, but this route is scarcely likely to be any gentler.
Then there is the exclusion of the lobby from this trip, barring a tiny retinue of pool reporters. The cloak and daggers approach has gone down particularly badly at the Times (£) which has devoted its leader column to demanding Number 10 explain its inability to charter a plane to carry the press pack to the Gulf. It also furthers the impression that the Prime Minister is doing something furtive and wrong from a human rights standpoint. The Telegraph leader supports British arms trade with the Gulf states, pointing out that the deals are defensible in their own right. The frustration for Downing Street will be that another potential good news story has already become a defensive battle.
BOUNDARIES BECOMING FRAYED
Nick Clegg has told Dave he will lead his MPs to vote against the government on boundaries, leaving the PM facing an immediate threat to his credibility and the future of the Coalition.As I note in my column, Mr Cameron now needs to decide whether this is Nick being Nick, or a threat to the continuation of the Coalition. It’s more dangerous than it sounds, as I write:
“If Mr Clegg’s plan goes through, any pretence of collegiality between Tories and Lib Dems will end. Party discipline will collapse. Mr Cameron will be powerless to sanction his own rebels when the Lib Dems are allowed to defeat the Government – and Labour will look for other ways to tempt them across the floor.”
PICKLES TO TAP COUNCIL PENSIONS
Eric Pickles will announce plans to double the proportion of their holdings council pension funds are allowed to put into local infrastructure projects, the FT (£) reports. At the moment, councils can invest 15 per cent of their holdings in limited partnerships. If that limit were moved to 30 per cent, Mr Pickles hopes that £22bn of additional infrastructure investment would take place. This would be helpful, of course, given that infrastructure spending has been hit hardest of all by the Treasury’s austerity measures, with spending falling by 25pc between 2010-11 and 2013-14.
OSBORNE TO ACT ON CORPORATE TAX AVOIDANCE
The Chancellor signalled a crackdown on multinationals paying little or no tax in the UK, the FT (£) reports. In a joint statement with his German counterpart, George Osborne called for tax loop-holes to be tightened through international cooperation. Easier said than done, given the cordial reception British financial proposals are being received with in Brussels at present. Tax doesn’t have to be taxing, but legislating for it usually is.
IDS ADVISOR BEING PAID BY THINKTANK LOBBYING HIS DEPARTMENT
Philippa Stroud, IDS’s longest-serving advisor, is being paid by the thinktank which he set up and which lobbied his department , the Guardian reveals. The Centre for Social Justice pays Ms Stroud to act as its co-chair. The Cabinet Office says that the position was fully disclosed and is “content” with the arrangement.
I’M A CELEBRITORY, GET ME OUT OF WORK
Nadine Dorries will appear on I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here having accepted “no more than £40,000” for the role, according to the Sun. Mad Nad will be away for almost a month, missing the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement and possibly offering David Cameron an excuse for withdrawing the whip from one of his most trenchant critics. Mrs Dorries hopes to raise support for her political agenda with her trip to the jungle. Well, it certainly worked out well for Lembit Opik…
CHILD BENEFIT LIMITED TO TWO CHILDREN?
Child benefit could be limited to two children for all families, the Mail reports this morning. Still, it’s not just parents who will be bearing the brunt of it, drunks and drug addicts face losing their benefits as well. We’re all in it together, after all.
MAUDE TO LAUNCH DIGITAL GOVERNMENT
Francis Maude will launch the Government’s digital plan today. Online access to government services could save up to £1.7bn a year by 2015, the FT (£) reports. Not only will services be migrating online, but the scope of the Government’s online presence is already being pulled back, with those devoted to topics as absorbing as the British mosquito relegated to smaller sub-pages elsewhere. Writing in the Telegraph, Philip Johnston is sceptical:
“One of the aims of ‘digital by default’ is to reduce personal interaction between citizen and state even further. Any remaining contact centres will use voice recognition technology to nudge callers back to the web.’We will end up with people being excluded by default from public services,’ says David Moss, a computer expert who has been following the unfolding strategy with growing alarm.”
TWEETS AND TWITS
Nadine Dorries will never live up to the standards set by the king of parliamentary reality television, says Alistair Carmichael:
@acarmichaelmp: “Nadine Dorries, I served with Lembit Opik, I knew Lembit Opik, Let me tell you, Nadine Dorries, you are no Lembit Opik.”
In the Telegraph
Benedict Brogan – Clegg’s tit-for-tat retaliation could bring about the Coalition’s end
Philip Johnston – Whitehall has its head stuck in the cloud
Andrew Haldenby –Our firefighters are inflaming public fears
Best of the rest
Janan Ganesh in the FT (£) – Britain and Germany are growing apart
Rachel Sylvester in The Times (£) – Support for Obama: the Tories’ guilty secret
Alex Brummer in the Daily Mail – Political cynicism, economic illiteracy and a crusade for a ‘living wage’ that will just kill off jobs
Polly Toynbee in the Guardian – The living wage tide is turning, but it’s not enough
Today: Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude to launch the Government Digital Strategy. Culture Secretary Maria Miller speech on tourism and the Olympic legacy at Mansion House.
09:30 am: Commons Energy Committee takes evidence from minister John Hayes and officials on nuclear power station new-build.
02:30 pm: Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick gives evidence to MPs on youth justice. Wilson Room, Portcullis House, Westminster.
02:45 pm: MPs hear evidence in two inquiries into localised child grooming in Rochdale, and the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Committee room 8.
A kid Pick Up the phone
Hi honey, this is Daddy, Is Mommy near the phone?
No Daddy, She’s upstairs in the bedroom with Uncle Paul
After a brief pause, Daddy says, But honey, you haven’t got an Uncle Paul.
Oh yes I do. He’s upstairs in the room with Mommy, right now.
Uh, okay then, this is what I want you to do.
Put the phone down on the table, run upstairs and knock on the bedroom
door, and shout to Mommy that Daddy’s car just pulled into the driveway.
Okay Daddy, just a minute.
A few minutes later the little girl comes back to the phone.
I did it Daddy.
And what happened honey? he asked.
Well, Mommy got all scared, jumped out of bed with no clothes on and
ran around screaming. Then she tripped over the rug, hit her head on…
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With the polls showing an appallingly tight race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, it is, of course, essential that everyone vote for Romney and the GOP congressional candidates.
I confess I cannot understand why anyone would vote for Obama after the worst record of failure for any first-term President since Jimmy Carter, but that is also the reason that I have a gut feeling that the polls and pundits may be wrong.
With history as my guide, I can see a lot of cross-over votes from dissatisfied Democrats and those who voted for Obama for no other reason than the fact he would become the first black President in the nation’s history.
Right up to Ronald Reagan’s election, the experts were predicting that Carter would win a second term.
White guilt and black aspirations made for a powerful combination in 2008, but both have dissipated…
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The Prime Minister will have to hit back if his deputy deliberately kills off the boundary review
Today marks the precise halfway point of this parliament, and to listen to those at the top, all is going swimmingly. Disagreements on the margins over wind farms, a wealth tax, benefit cuts and employment rights have had little impact in the centre. Nick Clegg and David Cameron go out of their ways in private to say nice things about each other. The relationship on which the Coalition is built – that between Tory Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat deputy – remains impervious to the stresses of life in the political trenches.
The “appalling and shocking” claims that a Tory grandee was involved in a paedophile ring at a Welsh children’s home must be fully investigated, Theresa May said today.
The Home Secretary is due to give a statement to the House of Commons after the Prime Minister ordered an investigation into the “truly dreadful” allegations dating back to the 1970s in North Wales.
Speaking to to BBC, Mrs May suggested there could be new information and said ministers need to make sure that a first inquiry “did the job it was supposed to do”.
Downing Street launched the new investigation three days after a victim claimed he was raped “more than a dozen times” by the senior Tory when he was just 13 years old.
This morning, the Home Secretary said the “appalling and shocking” claims must be looked at again, despite a previous public inquiry and police investigation into child sex abuse in North Wales care homes.