MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph)
Public derision won the day on Super Thursday, with voter steering clear of what the Independent termed “the secret policeman’s ballot”. Overwhelming public apathy held sway in both the PCC elections (Telegraph report here) and the three byelections. The 18.16pc turnout in Manchester Central’s byelection was the lowest in a byelection since the Second World War. Turnout in Cardiff South & Penarth was barely better, with just over a quarter voting. The Wiltshire PCC election attracted a shade under 16pc turnout with only 10pc in Devizes and 11pc in Trowbridge and Chippenham, according to the BBC. In summary:
- Cardiff South & Penarth byelection: Labour hold. Majority 9,936. Turnout 25.65pc. Swing, Con to Lab, 8.41pc.
- Manchester Central byelection: Labour hold. Majority, 5,334 . Turnout 18.16pc. Swing, Lib Dem to Lab, 16.77pc.
- Wiltshire PCC election: Conservative win. Second round majority, 14,162. Turnout 15.8pc.
The byelections were bad for the Conservatives. In Manchester Central, the party lost its deposit after attracting only 754 voters, while the Mail is predicting that they will struggle to beat UKIP to second when Corby announces this afternoon. UKIP are also expected to put up a prominent showing in the PCC elections, with Lib Dem officials putting UKIP just behind Lord Prescott in Humberside. This is the last thing CCHQ needs. There is growing anxiety in leadership circles about the prospects of Ukip giving the Tories a kicking at the next euro elections, which would put Mr Cameron under overwheling pressure to harden his line on Europe ahead of 2015. There are already challenges enough ahead for Mr Cameron, as the FT (£) notes, without further pressure from the Right. Paul Goodman at ConservativeHome has written that the lesson of the elections is that Mr Cameron is already under seige from both sides and that Labour are the new establishment party. Whoever is the party of the establishment, though, apathy proved the party of the masses yesterday.
MAIL OPENS FIRE ON LEFT WING CONSPIRACY EXPLOITING LEVESON INQUIRY
“Leveson: disturbing questions over his key adviser”, runs the headline of the Daily Mail. The paper’s leader argues that its decision to investigate Sir David Bell, a Leveson advisor who is also a trustee of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, is in the public interest following the BIJ’s involvement in libelling of Lord McAlpine. They acknowledge that the barrage in today’s paper will draw accusations of interference in the Leveson process:
“The Mail is acutely aware of the seriousness of publishing this investigation. We know all too well that our enemies will accuse us of being aggressively defensive in a bid to pre-empt the outcome of the Leveson report, which is due any week now. But in the light of the scandal engulfing the BBC, we passionately believe in the public’s right to know about a senior Leveson assessor’s role in it.”
The paper goes on to look at the “nuclear bomb that dropped on the press – and the motley crew who seized their chance”, arguing that it amounts to a “coup by the Left’s old boy network”. There’s a dozen pages to read, so judge for yourself, but even the most dispassionate observer will have noticed that behind the concerns for those affected by the News of the World’s criminality is a wider left of centre campaign of retribution against the centre right press. You might conclude that it’s the final battle in the 40 year political and cultural war between the lefty establishment and Rupert Murdoch, and Leveson is the Left’s Doomsday Machine. There will be tears.
ASHDOWN CALLS FOR WITHDRAWAL
Britain and France may tear up their embargo on arms exports to Syrian rebels, the Telegraph reports. In the meantime, as one war becomes slightly hotter from a British perspective, another drags on. Paddy Ashdown has called for Britain to withdraw from Afghanistan before any more troops are killed. Writing in the Times (£), he criticises the allied forces for building an unsustainable state with a corrupt government:
“All that we might have achieved if we had done things differently has been lost. The only rational policy is to leave quickly, in good order and in the company of our allies.”
JSA AND INCOME SUPPORT COULD BE FROZEN
The Independent is reporting that some state benefits could be frozen, with Jobseeker’s allowance and income support the likliest casualties. IDS has joined the Quad to discuss a scheme which would receive Lib Dem support for freezes in exchange for a form of wealth tax. Additional welfare savings will not be stripped out of the total government spend, however, even if they are made. The Coalition is serious about “not a penny more, not a penny less”, and rather than close the deficit, any funds freed up would likely be targeted at infrastructure projects.
BRITISH EXPORT DRIVE UPDATE: SELLING ICE TO THE ESKIMOS
Chicken feet to the Chinese, actually. Owen Patterson has spotted a gap in the market for British “phoenix claws” in the Orient, the Independent reports. Perhaps we could exchange them for some coals to send to Newcastle…
BORIS BIDS FOR MORE IMMIGRATION
Immigration targets came under fire from both BoJo and the CBI last night, the FT (£) reports. Speaking on the Hindu Business Line, Mr Johnson helpfully explained that the Prime Minister’s policy of cutting net immigration to the tens of thousand meant “we are losing a massive business opportunity here which is completely crazy for the UK market”. Still, at least the Mayor chose a good day to bury bad Borising, ahem.
WAR OF WORDS OVER IPSA
Staff working on MPs expenses are “lions led by donkeys”, according to Sir Bob Russell, a member of the Speaker’s committee which agrees on funding for the body. He added “good riddance” to the four Ipsa board members who resigned rather than re-apply for their positions, and argued that Sir Ian Kennedy, the last remaining board member should also go, according to the Telegraph.
TWEETS AND TWITS
Michael Portillo, agriculture guru:
@DavidJonesMP: “I once told Michael Portillo that the Orme goats were presented to Queen Victoria by the Shah of Persia. He said: ‘They must be very old.'”
In the Telegraph
Fraser Nelson – Pay attention in class! Mr Gove is teaching the art of politics
Jeremy Warner – Like it or not, Beijing and Berlin must pay
David Blair – So it starts again – but why now?
Richard Blackden – Obama can do without Churchill’s bust, but not British cash
Best of the rest
Richard Pendlebury in The Mail – A coup by the Left’s old boy network
Peter Mandelson in the FT (£) – Britain must be ready for the inevitable referendum
Philip Collins in The Times (£) – Force is the only way to change the police
Polly Toynbee in The Guardian – Forget Bermuda, Britain’s tax havens are closer to home
TODAY: By-election result from Corby expected 1300. Counting of votes for Police and Crime Commissioner elections in 41 police areas in England and Wales (excluding London). Results expected between 12:30 and 18:00.
Business Minister Michael Fallon is to announce an initiative to help entrepreneurs.
09:40 am: Business Secretary Vince Cable speech on improving access to university. Brunel University, Uxbridge, London.