Queen’s speech: it’s what’s out that counts

MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph).

BREAKING NEWS: The omission of measures aimed at problem drinking and smoking from today’s Queen’s Speech does not mean they have been abandoned, Jeremy Hunt told the Today programme:

“Just because something is not in the Queen’s Speech does not mean the Government can’t bring it forward as law, but we have not made a decision…On plain paper packaging, if we do it we will be the first country in Europe, the second country in the world – Australia only introduced it in January. So it is a much harder job to assess the evidence as to how effective it would be. I want to make sure we do the job properly so I’ve said I will take the time needed.”


Good morning. It’s Queen’s Speech day, and what’s out is just as noteworthy as what’s in. As we report, there’s some meat this morning on immigration – landlords will be made responsible for checking their tenants’ status before arranging a letting. The headline announcements we have already – an Immigration Bill which will curb access to benefits and non-emergency NHS treatment for temporary visitors, the flat rate pension scheme, a £72,000 cap on care contributions, and a paving bill for HS2. Patrick Wintour has a full list of runners and riders over at the Guardian. The speech cannot be said to be a knee jerk reaction to the local elections – for a start it needs to be written three days in advance as the ink takes that long to dry on the goat hide (h/t Nick Robinson) – but it does bear the fingerprints of Lynton Crosby. There’s meat here for the Tory backbenches if they can stop squabbling long enough to enjoy it.

What isn’t there is also instructive. Out have gone proposed measures on plain cigarette packaging and data (the snooper’s charter), suggesting Dave is weary of another fight with the malcontents. Nor is there any mention of gay marriage (actually, there was no mention in the last speech, either) except to say that it has been carried over from the last parliament. As our leader points out, that presents Dave with a messy dilemma. Assuming it comes back from the Lords having been amended to within an inch of its life, he will be under pressure to reverse those amendments in the lower chamber. Cue a repeat of the popular Tory mods v head bangers slugfest. Party unity demands he let it slip quietly into the night, but having expended so much political capital to take the bill this far, it is difficult to see how he can drop it.

Finally, there’s Europe. Dave conceded yesterday in a letter to John Baron that he wouldn’t be legislating for a vote in this parliament after all, despite several hints to the contrary. As we report, it was only last week that Downing Street was whispering that Dave would introduce legislation even at the risk of defeat, so strong were his convictions. Now, it appears that Number 10 would stop at backing a backbencher bringing a private bill which would almost certainly run out of time. Surveys in both the Sun and the Times (£) indicate that the British public is more eurosceptic and ever. Dave choosing this moment to hide his light under a bushel is hardly calculated to make him friends in the marginals.

Nothing seems to frustrate Tory MPs more than Mr Cameron’s habit of over-promising and under-delivering. Equally, though, in the context of first Nigel Lawson and then Liam Fox, it’s worth pointing out how striking it is that otherwise thoughtful, intelligent Conservatives appear to have no sense of the harm they do to the party’s 2015 chances by airing their differences with Dave. Message discipline may have a slightly Stalinist flavour, but Labour are better at it.


Farewell Tory poll revival, we barely knew ye. The Sun‘s YouGov poll shows Labour’s lead back out at 10pts with Ukip biting a considerable chunk from the Conservative figures (Con 29pc, Lab 39pc, Lib Dem 9pc, Ukip 16pc). Eccentrically, the majority of Ukip supporters do not even cite Europe as a priority. Only 49pc select it as an issue of utmost importance to the country, compared with 90pc worried about immigration and 73pc with the economy.

That will confuse the Conservatives. Given that hardline policies on immigration and welfare abuse, exactly the issues Ukip voters prioritise, had been trailed extensively before the local elections, Dave could be forgiven for asking what it is that the party has that the Conservatives lack. Well, an increasing number of members for a start. The FT (£) reports that the party’s membership base rose by more than 50pc in the year to April, reaching 26,097 from a base of 17,220. It’s a long way short of the Tory number (which has declined from around 500,000 in the 1990s to c.130,000 today), but the respective trajectories of the parties will concern CCHQ. At least they have not lost any MPs to Ukip in this parliament. The Mail warns that Bernard Jenkin has already raised the prospect of others departing from the Tory benches to form a Ukip parliamentary delegation.


Bad news for Polly Toynbee – she’s lost Dr Liam Fox. Writing for us, Dr Fox explains that he no longer cares what was said around the Guardian columnist’s dinner table but “it should matter to [the Conservatives] what is being said in the Dog and Duck in Daventry, Darlington or Dover.” Obviously he did not have time to watch the Chancellor’s speech to warehouse workers in Kent last month. If he had have done, he’d know that nobody was employing working class idiom more effectively in the quest for a “bedder Briddain”. What Ed Miliband would give for the Chancellor’s mockney. As Mary Riddell points out, he still doesn’t speak human very well:

“Belatedly, Labour is shifting away from vague suggestions that the growth fairy would heal the broken economy. Past indecision cut no ice in Boston or elsewhere. If the days of boom have gone for ever, as some economists suspect, then the social democrats whose programmes are tailored to good times need a new story more speedily than ever. That does not mean an instant manifesto, but nor will vision suffice. Voters deserve precision and honesty, and the main parties have offered neither.”


As befits one of Gordon Brown’s former aides, Ed Balls has perfected the Macavity-esque trick of disappearing when turbulence hits. Now he has been told to pull his socks up, through a Peter Hain article in Progress Online . Mr Hain argues that “Labour’s Treasury team need to get out on the stump now and work even harder. It shouldn’t just be left to Ed and Harriet to carry the heavy load, whether on the World at One, the Today programme or anywhere else.” The former Welsh Secretary also argues for a defence of the position that Labour will borrow more in the short term, a point of some confusion for Red Ed in his WATO interview. Labour standing for more debt? As Fraser Nelson caustically notes in the Spectator, that’s another policy they have stolen from the Tories.


Dave will reject the proposals made as an alternative to the Government’s Royal Charter, we report. The Charter was withdrawn from the order of business for the next Privy Council meeting on May 15th in order to allow due consideration of alternative proposals by the press. A public consultation will now run until May 25th, although why, given that the Prime Minister “sticks to his position”, according to a spokesman, is anyone’s guess.


He’s coming whether you like it or not. The Chinese are warned in today’s FT (£) that they will be getting a visit from Dave in the autumn, despite sources making it clear in yesterday’s Telegraph that Sino-British relations were badly damaged by the Prime Minister’s desire to have his picture taken with the Dalai Lama. In the meantime, British ministers will decide “who they meet and when they meet them”, according to Downing Street. So there.


Lord Lawson’s comments yesterday won some praise from Austin Mitchell:

@AVMitchell2010:“Bring back Lawson as chancellor.He’s learned sense on EU and he knows how to get a boom going”

TOP COMMENT In the Telegraph

Mary Riddell – For all his proficiency on the palet, Miliband still can’t speak human

Nigel Farage – Lawson calls time on the three-pint heroes

Allister Heath – A revolution that is about to transport capitalism to a new dimension

Telegraph View – New Bills – and an old one that won’t go away

Best of the rest

Simon Jenkins in The Guardian – If Cameron had any sense, he would call a referendum now

Daniel Finkelstein in The Times (£) – Cameron needs a big tent Conservatism

Andrew Alexander in the Daily Mail – Why the Eton crew could sink Cameron

Matthew Norman in The Independent – If only the Queen would speak about a business that gambles with lives


Today: Civil service strike. Members of the Public and Commercial Service union at a number of government agencies and commissions stage a one-hour strike from 11am in a dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

11:30 am: State Opening of Parliament. Palace of Westminster.

New criminal offence to stop NHS hospitals ‘fiddling’ figures to be introduced

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, is to announce that senior NHS managers and hospital trusts will be held criminally liable if they manipulate figures on waiting times or death rates.

Trusts could be fined millions of pounds and managers jailed if they are found to have falsified data used by patients to select where they are treated.

Several NHS hospitals have been accused recently of seeking to obscure high mortality rates by “mis-recording” the reasons for deaths. Such practices make it hard for regulators and the public to identify hospitals that have poor standards of treatment.

Nurses have also alleged privately that they have been told to “massage” waiting time figures by changing the recorded time when patients are treated or discharged.


Sir David Nicholson is partly to blame for Mid Staffs, Jeremy Hunt says

Speaking in the Commons during a debate on NHS accountability, Mr Hunt, the Health Secretary, became the most senior Government figure to admit that Sir David, the NHS chief executive, was partly at fault for the failings that led to Mid Staffs, where up to 1,200 patients died needlessly.

It comes after it emerged that senior Government figures are considering a plan for Sir David to “pre-announce” his retirement.

Sir David would then step down later this year or early in 2014, having managed the NHS through the first months of major Coalition reforms starting next month

Sir David is under intense political pressure over the Mid Staffs hospital scandal. A public inquiry into Mid Staffs led to calls for his resignation.

David Cameron has backed him to remain in his post, and this week sent him supportive text messages, sources have disclosed.


Stafford scandal: Jeremy Hunt calls for police inquiry into NHS

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Hunt says it is “absolutely disgraceful” that no doctors, nurses or managers have been held to account for the substandard care which led to the deaths of up to 1,200 patients.

He says the Francis report into the scandal has put “evidence in the public domain” which should form the basis of a police investigation and questions the failure of professional bodies to uncover “abuse on such a wide scale”.

The Health Secretary also says there needs to be a major change in culture across the NHS as compassion was being “crushed” out of doctors and nurses by the system.


Stafford Hospital scandal: deaths force NHS reforms

The Sunday Telegraph understands that the report on Stafford hospital, where up to 1,200 people died needlessly in appalling conditions, will call for an overhaul of regulation to ensure poor managers are weeded out, and better training for nurses and healthcare assistants.

The chairman, Robert Francis QC, is set to deliver a damning verdict on the whole of the health service.

He will warn of a “culture of fear” from Whitehall down to the wards, in which pressure is heaped on staff to put management demands before patients.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, said the events at Stafford, and a series of failings at other hospitals, represented “the most shocking betrayal of NHS founding values in its history”.


Consultations by Skype? The NHS is turning into Dr Google. We should be worried

Last year my 80-year-old grandmother arrived at her doctor’s surgery for a routine checkup only to be presented with a machine to check her own blood pressure in the waiting room. I should have realised then that further moves to get patients taking on more of the work, reducing human interaction in the NHS, would be inevitable. People are expensive and investing in more technology often looks like an alluring and economical alternative.

Earlier this month, Jeremy Hunt presented the NHS Mandate with a promise that health records will go online by 2015 and contacting surgeries online will become easier. But the latest report from the Ministry of Health goes further. The authors of Digital First suggest some face-to-face consultations could be replaced by Skype video calls, test results should be sent by text and nurses be given iPads. They claim such initiatives would lead to £2.9 billion in savings.


London 2012: More troops deployed for Olympics

More than 1,000 troops who had been on standby to bolster security at the Olympic Games have been deployed.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the 1,200 troops were to be used because ministers were clear that “we don’t want to leave anything to chance”.

Earlier this month 3,500 personnel were drafted in after security provider G4S admitted it was short of staff.

The new deployment decision was taken at a meeting of the cabinet’s Olympics committee, chaired by David Cameron.

The move means 18,200 troops have now been deployed to the Games.

It is the latest step to strengthen security after G4S said it could not deliver enough guards.

Paul Deighton – chief executive of Olympic organisers Locog – said G4S had just under 6,000 personnel deployed for the Games to date.


Olympic Trouble

MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph).

BREAKING: Jeremy Hunt just spoke to Jim Naughtie on the Today programme about how the government is dealing with the Olympic security challenges and the planned strike action by border staff. He said the deployment of further troops to guard the security of the Games was not promoted by further failures by G4S, but simply because he didn’t want to “leave anything to chance”.

He stressed that G4S’s failings were with the management not the workers, and that it was important not to “demonise” those working at the Games.

On the border strike, he said “we can be very confident of the provisions we have in place”, but added that he thought the eve of the Olympics was “the wrong time to strike”.


The Mail has splashed on the potential border agency and tube driver strikes with the headline: “A gold medal for cynicism”. We report that the Home Office is attempting to make a late legal challenge to block the border strikes. Last night, they said they believed the strike might not be lawful because of the way the PCS Union conducted the ballot that backed industrial action.

The Mail’s leader is calling for tougher legislation on unions: “The Tories should seize the moment, ignore their junior partners – and introduce a simple law, insisting no union can hold the country to ransom without the support of at least half its members.” A lot of Tory backbenchers will agree.


Mitt Romney touches down in London today ahead of his meeting with David Cameron at Downing Street tomorrow. His advisers have told the Telegraph that he wants to abandon Mr Obama’s “Left-wing” coolness towards Britain, bringing an “Anglo-Saxon” understanding to the special relationship, and that he’d return the Churchill bust to the Oval Office. Bold stuff. President Obama’s team, meanwhile, are calling on Mr Romney to use his first overseas tour as the Republican presidential candidate to define a foreign policy that amounts to more than criticising them.


Mitt Romney is also meeting Ed Miliband, adding to the Labour leader’s week of being in the international limelight. The Times reports that François Hollande yesterday breached French protocol by greeting Ed on the steps of the presidential residence (something reserved for heads of state and leaders of governments). Mr Hollande is clearly very fond of Ed.

One reason could be that, according to the Times, Ed talked down any chance of Labour offering the British an EU referendum. To applause, he told a meeting of French socialists: “I want to say very, very clearly that we consider Britain’s place to be in Europe and firmly in Europe.” Later, asked if he would never endorse an in-out referendum, Mr Miliband said that it was not the priority. So much for that vote-winning strategy then.

But the admiration for Ed is not far-reaching yet. The Sun reports that he cut a rather lonely figure at the Élysée Palace. There weren’t many photographers waiting for him when he arrived. In fact, one French snapper confused Bob Roberts, Ed’s spinner, for the great man himself. Not quite the publicity coup Ed had hoped for.


This didn’t stop Ed and Mr Hollande proclaiming that “the tide is turning” on austerity economics, though. Our leader column is unconvinced: “Ed Miliband should note that François Hollande’s promises of jobs and growth are looking ever more empty.”

That said, things are certainly looking worse in the eurozone. Today we report that Greece may run out of money and go bankrupt by Aug 20, according to a British government analysis. Dave must have an opinion: he’s getting this analysis delivered to him daily.

But the PM will probably have his mind on the GDP figures released at 9.30am today, which are expected to show that we’re still in recession. Not to mention the charges faced by his former director of communications. Nick Watt says this “casts a long shadow” over Dave in his analysis, which can be read here .


It looks like a wind farm deal has been struck between George Osborne and Ed Davey (The FT says Mr Davey will make a statement in Parliament today). George has backed down on tougher cuts to subsidies and settled for a 10 per cent cut, and Mr Davey has conceded that the government’s statement will include a commitment to “unabated” gas supplies as part of Britain’s energy mix. Mr Davey was on the Today programme earlier. He said he can hold the subsidies cut at 10 per cent and insisted that his view was held across government.

It’s a risky position for George. The decision will anger a lot of backbenchers (100-odd MPs wrote a letter to No 10 earlier in the year opposing the subsidies earlier this year). Could he be more concerned about shoring up Nick Clegg’s position?


David Gauke didn’t find many supporters for his view that paying tradesmen cash in hand was “immoral” yesterday. Dave, Nick, Ed Miliband and Boris all lined up to say they’ve done it before.

We’ve got a feature by Dan Hodges calling the affair “another attack on the middle classes” ; he warns politicians about the hazards of moralising on tax.


Naturally, all the papers cover the Queen’s Jubilee lunch at Downing Street with her former prime ministers, but the Times reveals some of the seating plan, including this delightful nugget of information: Gordon Brown was seated between Sir Jeremy Heywood and Dame Norma Major — two of the most neutral figures in the room. Now what does that say?


Tom Harris tweets:

“‏@TomHarrisMP: Beginning to regret writing to Ipsa asking if they could pay my wages in cash in future.”

Don’t. It made me laugh.


Latest YouGov/The Sun results: Conservatives 33%, Labour 44%, Lib Dems 9%, UKIP 7%

Overall government approval rating: -40


In The Telegraph

Dan Hodges: It’s not our job to snitch on plumbers and plasterers

Philip Johnston: A government with 50 shades of grey would have the whip hand

Elizabeth Truss: Britain Unleashed: business mustn’t apologise for making a profit

Leader: François Hollande and Ed Miliband offer no alternative way

Best of the rest

Alice Thomson in the Times: Hard work and happiness go hand in hand

Stephen Glover in the Mail: Yes, I pay builders in cash. But what’s really immoral is billionaires and firms like Google who avoid tax

Lynsey Hanley in the Guardian: Tony Blair’s right: heaping blame on bankers misses the point

Christina Patterson in the Independent: Olympics could prove to be £9bn well spent


Today: David Cameron talks with Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff. 10   Downing Street

Today: Minister for Disabled People Maria Miller announces help to get more young disabled people into mainstream employment

9.30am: First estimate of second quarter GDP is published by the Office for National Statistics

11am: Locog daily briefing. Main Press Centre, Olympic Park

1pm: Andy Burnham MP and Jamie Reed MP host a press conference on the NHS. The Labour Party, One Brewer’s Green

3.30pm: London taxi drivers protest against the Olympic route network as they are concerned about the impact on their business. Aldwych

Dave at Leveson

MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph).

BREAKING: Iain Duncan Smith has just been on Today to talk about our splash: “Get a job, Iain Duncan Smith tells parents on the dole” and his plans to change the definition of poverty.

The DWP Secretary said he wanted to focus on “making work pay” and “moving them into work”, but he dodged questions on giving benefits to people with slightly more money and redistributing income with the statement: “I have a welfare budget and I have to make decision on the basis of that”.

He said that while “income matters”, so does does whether or not “life change” is taking place.


But the big news today is David Ca meron appearing before Leveson. What can he do to get through his session at the hands of Robert Jay QC? It helps that the inquiry is a respectful place that will make allowances for the office he holds. It helps too that Mr Cameron is good under pressure, and has a facility for mastering voluminous files of information. He will have absorbed the detail and the betting must be that he is unlikely to be caught out on matters of fact.

He will also have studied those who have gone before. Gordon Brown did himself further reputational damage by being both self-pitying and frankly incredible about his record. John Major by contrast won new admirers by displaying an ease that gave his testimony added credibility. Mr Cameron can rely on the fact that he has already pre-apologised, if that is the term, for getting it wrong with Andy Coulson. He has indicated he doesn’t favour statutory regulation of the press, but with Nick Clegg yesterday saying he’d accept a little bit, can he resist being led down that path?

Mr Cameron knows that behind this exercise is a politically motivated campaign by the Left that seeks revenge and punishment for the violence it has suffered over decades at the hands of the Tory press. He does not want to give them a victory, but his seduction by Rupert Murdoch has left him vulnerable. His best hope is to get the tone right – open, contrite, confident – while saying very little, in the hope of drawing a line under it all.

The Times, in its preview of the hearing, suggests that he’ll use the platform to flesh out ideas for a revised ministerial code. The reforms will include new rules for how ministers and their special advisers should handle quasi-judicial processes. The Mail adds that he’ll admit he ‘blundered’ over the handling of the BSkyB bid and that his chum Lord Feldman has been training him, taking the role of Robert Jay QC in the prep sessions. The Guardian says he will be forced to explain how his nexus of personal and professional relationships with News Corp execs. I wonder if he’s prepped that?


Dave had a reasonable day yesterday, he narrowly escaped having to order an independent probe into Jeremy Hunt’s behaviour. You can read the full report here .

And at PMQs his blushes were spared by a clumsy performance from Ed Miliband and a letter from Sir Alex Allan, the independent adviser on ministerial interests, that – at least temporarily – passed the buck. The letter confirmed that he as PM – the sole arbiter of the ministerial code – had already ruled that Mr Hunt was not in breach and that there was nothing he could usefully add to the case. Our leader column says:

“This has been an unedifying spectacle, from start to finish. When the Prime Minister appears before the Leveson Inquiry today, perhaps he will have the chance to explain how it has helped restore the public’s trust in politicians.”

It’s significant then that the Mail calls for Mr Hunt to go in its leader column. Particularly on such a pathetic day for politics, but its demolition job on Nick Clegg in Stephen Glover’s column is just as potent “Cleggie has double-dealing written in his DNA- and the bone-headed rabble he leads are even worse”

Those who fear the Coalition is holed below the waterline after yesterday’s theatrics should read Martin Kettle in the Guardian who says there’s “life in the Coalition yet” and that we should shake off the political class’s default setting “to see coalition as an aberration in a seamless culture of alternating single-party governments.”

The Institute for Government , however, has a slightly different idea. It releases a report today on the centrifugal forces pulling Coalition apart, suggesting that the Government should commit to a renewal plan setting out its priorities for the second half of the Parliament.


And for those waiting for Tony’s return to frontline politics – today’s your day. He’s given an interview in the FT warning of a popular backlash against austerity policies in the eurozone ahead of this Sunday’s re-run election in Greece. He seemed to accept that the crisis might cause the euro to lose some members, but said it would survive and that Britain must take part in the ‘reconstruction’ of Europe.

Meanwhile, the Times interviews Andrew Balls, the head of European portfolio management at the bond giant Pimco, and brother of Ed, who effectively calls time on Greece’s euro membership, saying that it is highly likely that the single currency will have to shrink to survive.

In his Telegraph column, Jeremy Warner says he’s has had enough with “miracle cures” and “quack remedy” for solving the crisis. He calls on Germany to accept some form of burden sharing.

He’s right to be alarmed by the discussion, it happens as the Greeks continue their bank run, withdrawing £800m a day from banks. You can read more in our report here.

George Osborne will have a chance to say more about how to get out of the mess in his Mansion House speech tonight. The FT says he will also accept Vickers banking reforms, while the Mail leader asks, pointedly: “With an economic tsunami heading our way from the eurozone, is it too much to hope that, rather than dwell for too long on banking regulation, he will seize the moment to unveil the vital Plan B?”


The FT reports that Mr Cameron is ready for another U-turn – this time on a third runway at Heathrow. He noticeably failed to give Zak Goldsmith a reassurance on that one in PMQs.

But No 10 and Justine Greening’s office insist that however equivocal he might have sounded on high speed rail yesterday, the project is still on track and the Speccie’s cover story is ‘utterly wrong’.


Today is the 30th anniversary of the Argentine surrender. Strange, and oddly apt, that it should be the same week as the Falkland Island announce plans for a referendum on whether or not to remain British.

Our leader column says that “Argentina cannot continue to bully and hector a free people who have made their wishes clear and expect to be afforded the normal courtesies of international diplomacy… the people of the Falkland Islands must be free to live and thrive under a government of their own choosing.”

In the Guardian, however, Cristina Kirchner has placed an advert demanding that we “bring colonialism to an end” in the “anachronistic” case of the Falklands. Yes, Cristina, quite.


And finally, for pure entertainment, if you haven’t caught up with it, the spat between Francois Hollande’s girlfriend, Valérie Trierweiler, and his ex-wife is a treat. France’s prime minister has warned Ms Trierweiler to “keep to her place” after she backed his former partner’s rival in parliamentary elections, causing a major political headache for the President. You can read our report here.


Labour MP for Ealing Southall, Virendra Sharma, tweets:

“@VirendraSharma: You can like my Facebook page here…”

Don’t all rush at once.


Latest YouGov/The Sun results: Conservatives 31%, Labour 43%, Lib Dems 9%, UKIP 9%

Overall government approval rating: -39


In The Telegraph

Peter Oborne: Behind Enoch Powell’s monstrous image lay a man of exceptional integrity

Sue Cameron: Whitehall’s knights joust over public service reform

Leader: The Falklands message that still holds true

Leader: An unedifying spectacle

Best of the rest

Max Hastings in the Financial Times: UK’s media fandango is spinning awry

Martin Kettle in the Guardian: Will the Jeremy Hunt vote unravel the coalition? Dream on

Bernard Hogan-Howe in the Times: Trust me, I need to know about your e-mails

Stephen Glover in the Mail: Cleggie has double-dealing written in his DNA- and the bone-headed rabble he leads are even worse


Today: Banking reforms White Paper

9am: Boris Johnson to join Margaret Mizen and Grace Idowu, whose teenage sons were murdered, as part of the 100 Days of Peace initiative. Coopers Lane Primary School, Pragnell Road, Lewisham, London

9.30am: Iain Duncan Smith gives a speech on child poverty. The Abbey Centre, 34   Great Smith Street, Westminster

9.30am: Release of poverty statistics by Office for National Statistics

10am: David Cameron at the Leveson Inquiry. The Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London

10am: Michael Gove gives a speech to the National College for School Leadership conference. International Convention Centre, Birmingham

10am: Vince Cable gives a speech on infrastructure to Reform conference. Association of British Insurers, 51 Gresham Street, London

10.30am: Culture, Media and Sport Questions.

11am: The Robin Hood Tax campaign protest ahead of Mansion House bankers’ dinner. Royal Exchange, Bank, City of London

11.30am: Draft Communications Bill to be published

12.30pm: Institute for Government hosts a panel debate on whether coalition governments can survive. The panel includes Margot James and David Laws, former Scottish First Minister Lord McConnell and Sir Alex Allan, former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice and Chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee. 2 Carlton Gardens, London
7pm: George Osborne and Mervyn King deliver their Mansion House speeches. Mansion House, Walbrook,London

Coalition At War

MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph).

The Coalition is at war over Nick Clegg’s decision to allow his MPs a free vote on the investigation of Jeremy Hunt. We’ve splashed on it – as has the Guardian, its splash reads: “Clegg leaves Cameron high and dry”, and the Mail who lead with “Clegg accused of ‘act of war’” .

Nick Clegg’s decision to desert Dave over Jeremy Hunt is a shock to the Coalition. He has an eye to his appearance at Leveson at 10am today, but it also reflects his long standing distaste for the way the Tories abased themselves before Rupert Murdoch, and his anger at not being consulted.

We hear there were several shouting matches between him and Dave. Mr Clegg is seething over the way the Prime Minister rushed to clear his friend Mr Hunt over the BSkyB business by ruling out a referral to Sir Alex Allan. But is he justified in his anger? Or is all of this just a manifestation of a truth about the Coalition, namely that internal party affairs are just that, a matter for the individual leaders?

Dave might say that he kept out of the Chris Huhne business, recognising that it was a matter for Mr Clegg alone, and in turn was entitled to dispose of Mr Hunt as he saw fit. By that measure of course Mr Clegg is perfectly entitled to let Mr Hunt hang: why should the Lib Dems help the Tories with their dirty business?

Some will say this isn’t about whether he should support the Culture Secretary, but whether he is obliged to support the Coalition under any circumstances. The Agreement says nothing about circumstances like these. Objectively, it is hard to see how Mr Cameron can expect Mr Clegg to back him, in particular as he didn’t consult the Lib Dem leader in the first place.

Where does it leave relations this morning? “Business-like,” No 10 folk say, which sounds ominous. “It’s part of the Coalition rough and tumble. We’ll all get over it.” Will Nick Clegg sit next to Dave at PMQs? Will Tory MPs turn on their Lib Dem colleagues?

Today’s vote on a Labour motion is not binding, and the Government will win it (the Tories are taking it quite seriously – they’re even dragging one poor MP back from honeymoon). Mr Clegg will have made his point. The public, already indifferent to Leveson, will scarcely notice. But it will weaken Mr Cameron’s defence of Mr Hunt. And it will leave a bad taste among Tories – and perhaps even those sanguine folk in Downing Street – who will conclude that Mr Clegg is not a man to go tiger shooting with. But that’s the point: he never was. If the Tories have any sense they will recognise that it’s only showbiz, and the Coalition is an alliance of convenience with a deadly enemy, not a friendship or a pact of loyalty.


But the Government are unlikely to find much party support for its latest claim. Downing Street are briefing that ‘the people don’t want a referendum’ – didn’t they see last week’s Times’ poll showing that 80 per cent of people did? This will anger a lot of Tory MPs, not to mention voters. You can read our report here .

But Daniel Finkelstein in the Times preempts the storm, warning us not to get referendum happy in his column. He says we should know where Europe is going before we call for a vote.

No 10’s view is surprising, given that George is busy stoking up Greek exit tensions (something that he hinted will force a referendum). The FT has splashed on this, using the Chancellor’s comments at a business event yesterday, he said:

“I ultimately don’t know whether Greece needs to leave the euro in order for the eurozone to do the things necessary to make their currency survive… I just don’t know whether the German government requires Greek exit to explain to their public why they need to do certain things like a banking union, eurobonds and things in common with that.”

The President of Greece’s Syriza coalition has other ideas though. In a column for the FT he says he will keep Greece in the eurozone and restore growth. At least he’s optimistic…

George also got animated about tax cuts at yesterday’s event – he warned businesses that they must shout louder for the merits of lower taxes or the Government will be unable to cut the top rate of income tax to 40p. The Times has splashed on this with “Chancellor to business: back us on lower taxes”.


Meanwhile, Dave is encouraging other referendumselsewhere – namely in the Falkland Islands. He’s pleased that they’re going to vote on whether or not to remain British. The hope is that a vote in favour will garner international support against Argentina’s claim to the islands. You can read our report here.


The Times is also previewing George’s Mansion House speech tomorrow. It says:

“In his Mansion House speech the Chancellor is expected to back the concept of a banking union in the 17-member region while insisting that Britain will not take part. Mr Osborne is expected to insist on safeguards to protect the UK financial sector amid warnings from his own party that Europe’s ambitions could damage the City.”


And as if the Coalition wasn’t in a delicate state, Desmond Swayne and Crispin Blunt have come out in favour of allowing churches to marry gay couples. An interesting move by Crispin Blunt, who recently left his wife because he was gay. Does he have re-marriage plans?

We have a column by George Carey, a former archbishop, saying that this threatens the bonds between Church and state. He also questions the Government’s competence, saying:

“The enduring legacy of the consultation on same-sex marriage may be to raise questions about ministerial competence. The Church of England’s response points out a number of matters where ministers’ judgment can be questioned. Crucially, it shows that proposals for same-sex marriage would create mutually contradictory versions of matrimony within English law.”

The Mail’s leader has come out staunchly against the plans, saying: “How can he [David Cameron] fuss with this irrelevance, when he has yet to do anything about honouring his promise to give families and social stability a boost by recognising traditional marriage in the tax system? This is displacement politics of the most shameful kind. The U-turn can’t come soon enough.”


And the war with the opposition within rumbles on. The Times reports that radical reforms to transform Whitehall staff into professional “purchasers” of private services are to be announced next week. Tensions are high though – the Government will“flounder and fail” if David Cameron fails to give them his full backing.


And finally, Cheryl Cole has revealed she would have gone hungry if the pasty tax had been introduced when she was a teenager. She told the Sun: “It was ridiculous. I would have been penniless as a teenager — and hungry — if I’d been taxed every time I had a hot pasty.”

How someone so slender was raised on fatty snacks is marvel, really.


Louise Mensch explains her membership of Labour Party in the ‘90s:

“@LouiseMensch: RT @James_Macintyre: Major: In many ways Blair was “to the right of me”. <~~ exactly why I joined New Lab in 1996”


Latest YouGov/The Sun results: Conservatives 33%, Labour 43%, Lib Dems 8%, UKIP 8%

Overall government approval rating: -35


In The Telegraph

Benedict Brogan: Osborne can only pray as the storm in Europe rages

Louise Mensch: Toxic trolls should have no hiding place

Leader: Winsor offers the police a professional future

Leader: A waste of experience

Best of the rest

Alexis Tsipras in the Financial Times: I will keep Greece in the eurozone and restore growth

Daniel Finkelstein in the Times: If you want out, don’t demand a vote too soon

Christina Patterson in the Independent: This gentle muddle of Church and State may be as good as it gets


Today: Opposition day debate (first allotted day) on the referral of Jeremy Hunt to the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests

Today: Chris Grayling will announce the expansion of Mandatory Work Activity with a boost of an extra £5m to create an additional 9,000 places

Today: Grant Shapps will set out proposals on social tenants on high salaries paying a fair level of rent for the privilege of living in a social home

Today: Andrew Mitchell is travelling to Washington DC for the US Aid conference

Today: Vince Cable will speak at The Investec Entrepreneurs’ Summit. Intercontinental Park Lane, London

9.30am: Children’s Minister Tim Loughton will launch a consultation on the principle of shared parenting following divorce or separation

9.45am: Sports and Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson will publish the final update on the Olympic budget before the Games begin next month

10am: Nick Clegg and Alex Salmond give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry. The Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London

10am: Boris Johnson at London Mayor’s Question Time. City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, London

10am:Rebekah Brooks to appear in court. Court 1, Westminster Magistrates Court, 181 Marylebone Road, London

11.30am: Cabinet Office Questions

12pm: David Cameron at PMQs

1pm: Iain Duncan Smith gives speech on skills and youth unemployment at the IGD Skills Summit, Millennium Gloucester Hotel, London

4.30pm: Defence ministers Peter Luff and Nick Harvey give evidence to the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee on the potential impact of independence. Grimond Room, Portcullis House,London