|Good morning. It is a measure of how used we have become to Tory infighting that yesterday’s shambles in the Commons gets negligible play this morning. It makes the front of the Guardian, and that’s about it. It doesn’t figure on the BBC main R4 bulletin. A result for David Cameron then, who will be relieved that the latest display of his political weakness hasn’t made waves. But he will know that yesterday’s rebellion by 86 Tories is a long-term disaster. Fraser Nelson nails it in his column, arguing that the relentless campaign by the band of Tories who want Mr Cameron to fail, even at the cost of returning to opposition, are Ed Miliband’s ‘single best chance of success’. The argument is building momentum. The Telegraph made it earlier in the week, the Spectator too. Voice are being raised to point out the terrible damage being done to the Conservatives by the behaviour of some MPs, the so-called irreconcilables. Consider some of the headlines: ‘PM rescued by Labour’ in the Mail, Cameron ‘running scared of own MPs over immigration’ in the Mirror, Cameron ‘left bruised’ in the Times, ‘Fury at PM on migrant vote fudge’ in the Sun. The damage manifests itself in a number of ways. The most obvious is disunity. The party loses when it appears divided and at war with itself. But there is a separate credibility issue. Mr Cameron has been guilty in the past of letting his rhetoric run away from his ability to deliver. But those pressing him to be tougher with the EU are equally capable of political over-optimism. Dominic Raab, for example, fresh from his amendment success last night, claimed that with a Conservative majority, it would have been possible to get the change through. Really? The legal advice wouldn’t have been different; the responsibilities and realities of being in office would, I fear, quickly crush his optimism.
The irreconcilables are beyond reason. They have Mr Cameron on the ropes and are going for the KO. They will pound away, using every opportunity they can. The weeks after the Euro elections will be terrible. Those I spoke to last night were up front about their intentions. “We have a case on Europe, he doesn’t. We need to shift him away from his unquestioning compliance with Brussels. And we will,” one says. Downing Street’s operation – ‘rank incompetence’, according to the Mail’s leader – has shown itself incapable to controlling its own side. The legacy of Mr Cameron’s indifference to his backbenchers cannot be overcome. What do they do? They could try harder to mobilise the silent majority who want to win in 2015. They could persuade those sitting on scant majorities to point out that the irreconcilables often are sitting on plush majorities and can afford to cause trouble. But I suspect it is hard to persuade them to stand up when, on yesterday’s showing, Mr Cameron is more likely to roll over.
DAVE MEETS FRANCOIS
It’s the first Franco-British Summit for four years today. Francois Hollande and David Cameron will answer questions at a morning press conference at Brize Norton airfield (James Kirkup will be particularly pleased), and the French President might fear that the British will be less bashful than the French when it comes to asking about his private life. Ever the diplomat, Dave has made no arrangement for wives or partners to attend. But there is a serious side to this all too: Dave needs some friends, and fast, if he is to get any meaningful concessions in his attempted renegotiation with the EU. As the FT’s leader points out, “The British prime minister’s European strategy, in which he has invested significant political capital, requires him to win the support of other EU leaders for an as yet largely unspecified package of reforms. He needs the support of the French president. He cannot just rely, as he has been doing, on the backing of Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel.” In other words, the comparisons of Mr Hollande and Ed Miliband, amusing as they may be, could be counter-productive. The FT pointedly reminds Dave: “Mr Hollande may have the worst poll ratings of any president of the Fifth Republic. But he will not be leaving the Elysée Palace before May 2017.”
TELEGRAPH CHRISTMAS APPEAL – LAST DAY!
It’s the final day of the annual Telegraph charity appeal. If you use your mobile to text the word TELEGRAPH to 70660, you will be donating £5 to the appeal, to be shared equally between the three charities – Chicks, Cure International UK and the Not Forgotten Association. For full terms and conditions, and details of the charities, go to telegraph.co.uk/charity
HOW THE LIB DEMS HAVE (MIS)HANDLED THE RENNARD AFFAIR We’ve got a first look at some ITV News/Comres polling about the Rennard affair. And they don’t make for pleasant reading for the Lib Dems: only 13% think that the party has handled the allegations of sexual harassment against Lord Rennard well, while a 33% margin think that Nick Clegg’s handling of the allegations shows that he lacks authority over his party. Not that the public thinks that other parties are much better: 59% think that the allegations of sexual harassment against Lord Rennard and other politicians show that women still face prejudice when trying to enter politics. Only 17% disagree.
CLEGG v CAR SMOKING BAN
Nick Clegg used his slot on Call Clegg yesterday to denounce plans for a law banning smoking in cars as illiberal. The Deputy PM said: “I am quite an old-fashioned liberal. I don’t think you should legislate unless you think it is going to make a difference. I don’t see how this is going to be enforced so families speeding along the M4 and mum or dad is smoking, how on earth are you going to properly enforce it?”
LABOUR REFORMS TO TAKE FIVE YEARS
Reforms to voting in the Labour leadership election (as well as to funding arrangements from the trade unions) will take five years to complete, the FT reports. Draft reforms are to be presented to Labour’s “National Executive Committee” next week before the special conference on March 1. Dan Hodges explains that Ed Miliband’s reforms are “going to strengthen the hand of the trade union bosses who won him the leadership.”
30 YEARS ON, THE ORGREAVE FALLOUT CONTINUES
Lord Tebbit isn’t happy. The Tory grandee says it’s “entirely inappropriate” for Cindy Butts, the IPCC’s commissioner for Yorkshire and the North East, to decide whether to launch an inquiry into the police forces’ violent clashes with miners at the “Battle of Orgreave” in 1984-85. Miss Butts spent three years working as a parliamentary researcher for two Labour MPs.spent three years working as a parliamentary researcher for two Labour MPs. We argue that “The IPCC must avoid being used as a sort of “truth and reconciliation” body by people with a political agenda.”
THE VERY SQUEEZED MIDDLE
No wonder some Tories are so keen to push through middle-class tax cuts. The IFS yesterday released figures showing who has lost out most since the crash. A childless couple earning a combined £67,592 before tax a year, for instance, will have seen their incomes fall in real terms by 8.7 per cent since 2007/8.
BALLS MARRIED TO HIS PIANO
If Ed Balls can give the impression of having a lot on his mind at the moment, perhaps he’s just thinking about how to master the piano. According to his wife Yvette Cooper, Mr Balls has now taken to piano-playing as the kids are getting ready for school: “the shouting now includes shouting at the kids, shouting at myself and shouting at Ed because he is playing the piano and why is he not helping to find the swimming kit?”
The Morning Briefing email is edited by Tim Wigmore. Follow Tim on Twitter
TWEETS AND TWITS
Just because it’s Friday:
@chhcalling: Stealing windows is very intricate. It’s panes-taking work:
In the Telegraph
Fraser Nelson – The Tories’ loop of vengeance could sink their election hopes
Dan Hodges – Ed Miliband’s trade union reforms aren’t a loosening of control. They’re a power grab
Jeremy Warner – Argentina is no danger to the world – but the eurozone is
Telegraph View – There is no need for a ‘Battle of Orgreave’ inquiry
Best of the rest
Financial Times leader – An entente that is not very cordiale
Philip Collins in The Times – Empty Dave won’t be offering us any ideas
Daily Mail leader – Cameron’s showpiece Bill ends in a fiasco
Polly Toynbee in The Guardian – Giving 16-year-olds the vote can be Labour’s Great Reform Act
Today Anglo-French Summit
Today David Cameron gives a full press conference after 226 days