A slippery slope for soapbox Ed

MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph).

Good Morning. Its leader might be a soapbox politician these days, but Labour’s head-and-shoulders lead over the Tories is being slowly pulled back. A succession of poor polling performances, with the party’s lead cut in both YouGov and ICM polls, was capped by last night’s Evening Standard/Ipsos MORI effort which found that only 24pc believe Ed is up to the job of being prime minister. The result is up from his 17pc rating last year, but it franks the findings of the Guardian’s ICM poll earlier in this week which put Ed’s personal popularity at an all time low. If the Independent‘s report that the two Eds will promise to outspend the Coalition plans should Labour win in 2015 were true, it would hardly help, given that polls consistently show that it debt and deficit are most salient issues for voters. But that’s a big “if” – Ed Balls’ mob call it “total rubbish”, a spin on an upcoming Fabian report and not party policy which won’t be settled until nearer the time as “‘it would be irresponsible to do otherwise, who knows where economy and public finances will be in two months’ let alone two years’ time?”

But without headline policies for the here and now, other than opposition to welfare cuts of all stripes, the party gives the appearance of twisting in the wind. This morning’s papers prove the point. The Mail reports on an interview Ed gave to a Left wing website in which he positioned himself as the heir to Margaret Thatcher’s “utter consistency of ideas” and attacked David Cameron’s “lack of consistency”. However, in a speech at Labour’s Scottish party conference in Inverness today, he will pledge to tear up Lady Thatcher‘s legacy of “deregulation; the dominance of finance over industry; allowing large private sector vested interests to flourish; government getting out of the way in the economy,” as we report. Where’s the consistency with the Ed who was going to “save capitalism from itself” only last September? Besides which, as a Compass report, noted in the Guardian, explains this morning, “there is yet to be [public] intellectual ferment around responsible capitalism or reformed social democracy.” What ails voters is the deficit.

Next week may be more difficult still for the Labour leader. The re-emergence of activist trade unionism is a gift to the Conservatives at a time when the party needs little excuse to indulge one of its periodic transformations into a 1980s tribute band. The Times (£) reports that union backed candidates have secured the “plum [Labour] seats” in the future European Parliament elections. That looming presence, plus the threat of a General Strike being called at next Wednesday’s meeting of the TUC General Council, may yet give the Tories the opportunity to reprise one of their greatest hits. One way or another, we may soon find out just how red Ed is.

OSBORNE THOROUGHLY IMF’D

Under promise, over deliver. That’s clearly Mark Carney‘s strategy prior to taking up the keys to the Bank of England vaults. As we report, the next governor placed the UK in “the pack of crisis economies” being left behind by a resurgent America at a fringe meeting around the IMF and World Bank spring meetings in Washington yesterday. “Can central banks provide sustainable growth? No,” he continued. “They can help with the transition, but they can’t deliver long term growth. That needs to come through true fiscal adjustments and necessary structural reforms… Sustainable growth comes from the private sector.” It’s an endorsement of the Chancellor’s fiscal vision, but it suggests that his hopes for a monetary bounce in the meantime may be overdone.

Before Mr Carney takes his post, there is the small matter of June’s annual visit by IMF officials to be negotiated. Relations between the two would not have been helped by Christine Lagarde’s speech yesterday, which the Guardian reports included her assertion that she “vividly remembered” the Chancellor’s shame at the size of his deficit. The FT (£) believes the Treasury are up for the fight, noting that “George Osborne is to go toe-to-toe” with the IMF if they call for an end to his deficit reduction strategy. As Jeremey Warner writes, the Chancellor feels that Ms Lagarde’s position is on shakier ground than those cheering her on from the opposition benches might suppose:

“Why is the UK being asked to go back to fiscal expansionism when there are no such demands made of Germany? Why, too, is Britain being told to let rip when much harsher fiscal consolidation is being urged on countries in the eurozone with smaller fiscal deficits. It makes no sense, unless explained as traditional French Anglophobia…”

Even allowing for Anglo-French rivalry, the Chancellor’s supporters have a tougher task on their hands now. Polly Toynbee argues in the Guardian that the statistical errors in the model of Harvard economists Professor Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff have “blown the austerians case out of the water”. With the academics discredited and the IMF deeply sceptical, one by one, the stilts holding up the house which George built are being gradually kicked away.

END OF THE ROAD FOR THE MOD SQUAD?

Senior ministers have urged Dave to ditch the modernisation project and emulate Margaret Thatcher by giving voters “red meat” on immigration and welfare, we report. That advice isn’t easy to square with Lord Ashcroft’s latest findings. As the Mail reports, he notes that only 16pc of non-white voters supported the Tories the last time around. Only 30pc of Asian voters believe that the Tories share their values, and 16pc of black voters. On the plus side, 51pc have never heard of Enoch Powell or the Rivers of Blood speech. Even so, with this segment of the electorate increasingly influential, the Prime Minister may have cause to think again before throwing any red meat on immigration to the Tory wolves.

SCHOOLS IN FOR SUMMER

It’s no wonder the Tories are opposed to votes at 16. Michael Gove’s speech at the Spectator Education Conference yesterday would have made him decidedly unpopular among the nation’s children. As we report, the Education Secretary called for an end to Britain’s “19th century” education system, a move which means extending the school day and curtailing school holidays.

If that causes long faces in the classroom, the good news is that there’s a sweetener. Britain’s best performing pupils will receive…a letter from David Willetts, the Times (£) reports.

CIVIL SERVICE FLYNN-FLAM

The Telegraph article by Sir Bob Kerslake and Sir Jeremy Heywood paying tribute to Baroness Thatcher which appeared last week has left Labour’s Paul Flynn very cross indeed, as the Times (£) reports. When the pair appeared at the Commons Public Administration Committee yesterday, an “incorrigibly vivid” (in Quentin Letts‘ words) Mr Flynn let rip telling them they had “prostituted” their office with their “entirely sycophantic” words. As Michael Deacon reports, he was most uncivil to the civil servants:

“Such was Mr Flynn’s disgust that he addressed the objects of his ire as ‘Mr Kerslake’ and ‘Mr Heywood’, even though the nameplates on their table clearly read ‘Sir Bob’ and ‘Sir Jeremy’.”

HEALTH TOURISTS CRACKDOWN

NHS numbers entitling non-UK residents to NHS care should be handed out far more sparingly, Jeremy Hunt tells the Mail. Instead, visitors should be issued with only a temporary number which would lead to them being charged for anything other than emergency care, the Health Secretary said. The Sun adds that a consultation is expected in the next couple of months.

ALLEGED PCC WHISTLE-BLOWERS ARRESTED

MPs have called on Theresa May to intervene after the arrest of a third person in Cumbria Police’s investigation into the alleged leak of PCC Richard Rhodes’ expenses to a local newspaper. As we report, Tim Farron and Jamie Reed have both called for protection to be extended to any whistle-blowers involved.

TWEETS AND TWITS

Tracey Crocuch has been making the most of the Commons dining subsidies:

@LiamFoxMP:Nothing says “I ate too much for lunch” than a midriff button pinging off your shirt…#chubbytummy

TOP COMMENT

In the Telegraph

Fraser Nelson: Will Gove’s schools revolution be just another false start?

Jeremy Warner: This is no time to go wobbly, Christine

Alistair Osborne: Has the world lost its lust for gold?

Telegraph View: Teaching unions put adults first, children last

Best of the Rest

Philip Collins in The Times (£): Small solutions should be Miliband’s big idea

Samuel Brittan in the FT (£): Thatcher was right – there is no such thing as society

Leo McKinstry in the Daily Express: So what would Mrs Thatcher do for Britain now?

Polly Toynbee in The Guardian: Osborne’s case for austerity has just started to wobble

THE AGENDA

08:30 am: Scotland Secretary Michael Moore is to deliver a speech at the Scottish Council for Development and Industry. RBS HQ, Gogarburn, Edinburgh.

09:00 am: Ed Balls on LBC 97.3.

09:00 am: Scottish Labour conference. Speeches from Labour leader Ed Miliband, Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, former chancellor Alistair Darling and Scottish Labour deputy leader Anas Sarwar. Eden Court, Inverness.

09:30 am: Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) releases its lending estimate for March.

Farewell to the Iron Lady

MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph).

Good Morning. Britain bade farewell to Baroness Thatcher with a service which our Elizabeth Grice describes as “ a simple, awe-inspiring and deeply devotional farewell to Britain’s greatest peace time prime minister.” For all the reports of hysterical divisions, the British public spoke, or rather applauded with one voice yesterday, a noise Michael Deacon describes as “gently rippling, a long impromptu chain of respect and appreciation.” As Christopher Howse notes, a funeral service which confounded Left wing fears of triumphalism gave the occasion an appropriately national and united dimension. When the most divisive aspect of the ceremony is the dress (the Mail dubs the Prime Minister’s wife “PanAm SamCam” in light of her bow tribute to Lady Thatcher, our Mandrake column notes Alan Duncan’s donning of his Privy Councillor’s “levee”), the organisers can take credit for a job well done. That said, the fact that the Bishop of London’s sermon has not raised more eyebrows is perhaps surprising, as Peter Oborne notes:

“[Bishop Chartres] ended up making what many will regard as a partisan speech…unfashionably argu[ing] that the roots of Mrs Thatcher’s political beliefs could be found in the teaching of Jesus in the Scriptures about compassion, freedom, honesty and truth. I personally agree with these arguments, and think that no prime minister since Gladstone has acted as directly as Margaret Thatcher on these beliefs, or discussed them in public so naturally or with so little embarrassment. But the fact remains that many Christians do not accept this and …nor do many church leaders.”

But are “we are all Thatcherites now”? A brief tour of the leader columns would suggest not. While we hail a woman whose “real monument is the country in which we are fortunate to live”, the Guardian complains that “her legacy is not one nation but two”. This is also a point echoed by our Iain Martin who reminds us that “in swathes of the nation outside London there are people who looked at the scale of the funeral and thought: this feels over the top.” The Sun‘s view that “she was always one of us” contrasts sharply with the Mirror’s (not online) that “minds were made up long ago about the most divisive Premier of the 20th century.”

The comment columns are similarly divided. Intriguingly, Matthew Parris in the Times (£) suggests that Lady Thatcher would have preferred a Methodist service, given the Church of England’s refusal to conduct her marriage to Denis as he was a divorcee.Martin Kettle in the Guardian argues that the pageantry was “an exercise in Downton Abbey politics…Thatcherism will not rise again, any more than she will.” But whether Thatcherism is now ubiquitous (as Dave says) or dead (the Guardian), nobody has questioned the uniqueness of its progenitor. As Sun‘s Trevor Kavanagh notes, the conditions which forged her character were of their time, and so was her response:

“Yesterday’s funeral marked the end of an era. Having grown up during the Second World War, Margaret Thatcher was the last British leader to remember what it was like to see the country engulfed in all-out conflict. She also witnessed …a once-great country brought to its knees by the unions who turned it into the Sick Man of Europe.It was her driving objective to ensure nobody had to go through either experience again.”

CRYING IN THE CHAPEL

For all the pomp and circumstance on show yesterday, the iconic image seems to be that of a tearful George Osborne, lost in grief as the Camerons smiled at the Bishop of London’s funeral oration (the Mirror notes that Dave was also in tears later on). Nicholas Watt contrasts the reaction of the Chancellor and Prime Minister in this morning’s Guardian, writing that Dave “has a better public image than the chancellor but lacks his humour and warmth in private.” The Mail adds that the Chancellor was mourning “his idol”.

There were no reports of one other ex-Chancellor sobbing yesterday. The “Tears of a Brown” headlines will have to wait until Mr Tony’s state funeral, clearly.

THE SQUEEZE CONTINUES

It was not just yesterday’s service which might have prompted George Osborne to shed a tear. Employment data has been a saving grace in an economy still waiting for a return to growth. In fact, there has been a great debate over whether the methodology used for the GDP numbers is incorrect, given the lack of correlation with the job stats. Unfortunately for the Chancellor, they correlate now. As we report, yesterday’s figures saw unemployment up by 70,000 to 2.56m with real wages falling with only a 0.8pc nominal pay rise over the same period and the slowest rate of wage increase since the measure began in 2001.

LORDS HIGHLIGHT EU CORRUPTION

Fraud by EU member states and officials administering community funds is more than ten times greater than previously thought, the Lords Justice Institutions and Consumer Protection EU Sub-committee announced yesterday. As the Express reports, the group believes that £4.3bn is lost from EU spending each year because of fraud, rather more than the £350m which Brussels acknowledges. No wonder it has been hard getting those accounts signed off.

HARD LESSONS FROM MR GOVE

You certainly couldn’t accuse Michael Gove of being cowed by the teaching unions. The latest escalation in his war with the status-quo is contained in a letter to the School Teacher’s PReview Body which requests that restrictions on teachers performing menial jobs like keeping absence records and collecting dinner money are lifted. As the Times (£) reports, Mr Gove also wishes to see schools hire fewer supply teachers by removing a condition that teachers must only “rarely” fill in for colleagues.

SCOTTISH PROSPECTS HEAD NORTH

Things are looking up in Scotland. As the FT (£) reports, the country now has a lower unemployment rate than the national average, it also out-performed the UK as a whole in Q4 of last year according to data released by the Scottish government yesterday. Critics will point out that the figures handily exclude North Sea Oil, but they will hardly hurt the SNP’s case in the independence debate.

TWEETS AND TWITS

The consensus among MPs was that yesterday’s funeral struck the right notes. Dr Liam Fox was an example:

@LiamFoxMP:Today was right & fitting exit for the political giant of our times. Simplicity & religious devotion of service spoke volumes about real MT.

TOP COMMENT

In the Telegraph

Peter Oborne – A moment of deep civility amid the brutality and bitterness

Sue Cameron – Will we see another like her? Don’t bet on it

Iain Martin – Britain after Thatcher is a disunited nation

Telegraph View – The monument to her life is this country

Best of the Rest

David Aaronovitch in The Times (£) – We watched a ritual from a foreign country

Trevor Kavanagh in The Sun – A victory for decency

Martin Kettle in The Guardian – Thatcher’s funeral was an end, not a new beginning

Dominic Sandbrook in the Daily Mail – For all the tasteless antics of the past week, yesterday belonged to the silent majority

THE AGENDA

09:00 am: Nick Clegg call-in on LBC 97.3.

09:30 am: Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood gives evidence to the Commons Public Administration Committee on the future of the Civil Service. Committee Room 15, House of Commons.

09:50 am: Children’s minister Edward Timpson speech at the NSPCC conference on child protection. BMA House, Tavistock Square.

09:30 am: Retail sales figures for March are published by the Office for National Statistics.

09:40 am: Michael Gove speech to Spectator Education Conference. Church House conference centre, Dean’s Yard.

10:00 am: Home Secretary Theresa May at Home Affairs Committee. Grimond Room, Portcullis House.

10:00 am: Local Enterprise Partnership Network annual conference, with speakers Vince Cable, Lord Heseltine, Patrick McLoughlin and Mark Prisk. Speeches by Mr Prisk (10:45), Mr McLoughlin (11:15), Mr Cable (12:00) and Lord Heseltine (02:45). One Great George Street, Westminster.

10:30 am: Political party launched. The new Alliance Party of Scotland “aims to provide disenfranchised voters with a party they can trust to represent their interests”. Thistle Hotel, Millburn Road, Inverness.

11:30 am: Universities minister David Willetts speech to HEFCE annual conference. Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus.

06:30 pm: Chief Treasury Secretary argues for keeping the Union. Danny Alexander makes speech to argue the financial case for Scotland remaining in the UK. Logie Lecture Theatre, Cottrell Building, University of Stirling.

Cameron salutes Thatcher ahead of funeral

MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph).

BREAKING NEWS: David Cameron has told the Today programme that “we are all Thatcherites now…the big arguments she had everyone now accepts”. He added that Baroness Thatcher was “partly” the reason he joined the party and was a “force for good”. He pointed out that her achievements arrived “step-by-step-by-step”, a pointed remark given the calls for him to adopt a more reforming programme.

“George Osborne put it very well in saying that we all live in Margaret Thatcher’s shadow…we should embrace that.”

He added that protesters to “show respect” at “a fitting tribute to a great prime minister respected around the world.”

PLANNING FOR CONFRONTATION

Good morning. The Coalition won last night’s planning vote, but narrowly. Carrying a majority of only 27, it defeated an amendment to the Growth and Infrastructure Bill which would have given councils a veto over the policy of allowing homeowners to build extensions of up to 26ft without planning permission. There were 16 rebels on the Tory side including Zac Goldsmith, Nick de Bois and Tracey Crouch. A further eight Lib Dems including former minister Paul Burstow also refused to back the Government (a full list is available over at the Spectator).

As we report, in order to save the day Eric Pickles was forced to promise MPs a revision to the existing plans. Appealing for the “help” and “assistance” of the backbenches to take these reforms forward saw them through, but former Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan’s remarks were instructive – “I am afraid we are not going to believe what you say at that dispatch box until we see it in black and white”. With the May council elections likely to see the Tories lose hundreds of seats, this was a timely reminder that while the public eruptions of discontent with the party hierarchy may have quietened down, the backbenches have become a little more submissive.

THATCHER FUNERAL

Overnight mourners have been camping besides St Paul’s Cathedral to participate in the public mourning of Baroness Thatcher. Her funeral arrangements were denounced by Lord Mandelson last night, as the New Statesman reports. New Labour “over-inhaled” Thatcherism, he told the audience at a Policy Exchange event where he appeared with Michael Gove. Still, the disapproval of the Left wouldn’t leave Lady Thatcher “the slightest bit upset”, as William Hague pointed out in a speech last night. As the Mail reports, he used his address at the Lord Mayor’s Easter Banquet to call for Britain to rediscover the “firmness of purpose” it exhibited in her era.

George Galloway’s attempt to prevent the cancellation of PMQs came to naught last night, although he did win the backing of 14 Labour MPs. But while parliamentarians have no excuse for not attending, the USA has discovered plenty. President Obama had declined an invitation even before the Boston bombing and the presence of both Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger in the delegation masks the absence of any current politician of the front rank, as the FT (£) reports. So much for the special relationship. Eleven serving prime ministers will attend, though, ranging from Canada’s Stephen Harper to Mario Monti of Italy.

The debate continues in this morning’s papers over Lady Thatcher’s legacy. The Mail‘s leader argues “Cameron must learn from the Lady”, while the Times‘ (£) leader argues that it, and modern Fleet Street, owes its existence to her reforms. Contrast that with the threats Harriet Harman is making over press regulation at present (see below), and you’ll see how far British politics has shifted since she left the stage. In the Mail Robin Harris argued that because she “slew the dragons” of economic inefficiency, she needs no heir, indeed”the meek can inherit the earth”. Writing for us, Robin Renwick argues that Lady Thatcher played a key role in ending apartheid. In the Times (£), Danny Finkelstein makes the point that her generation was the last in British politics whose outlook was informed by World War Two, hence its combative nature. While those arguments will continue for many years, let’s hope that the nation can bid its farewell today with order, decorum and dignity.

IMF CALL FOR PLAN A RETHINK

In an age where economic jousting between the opposing frontbenches consists largely of listing third-party supporters, the apparent defection of the IMF to Ed Balls’ side of the House is a cause for concern for the Chancellor. Yesterday’s statement was a carefully qualified one – “in the face of very weak private demand, it may be time to consider adjusting the original fiscal consolidation plan” – but as Philip Aldrick notes, it signifies an end of the love affair between George and the IMF.

As the FT (£) notes, Treasury sources are pointing out that the fiscal consolidation plan is not particularly demanding, in fact it is less severe than that of the Obama administration in Washington. The Chancellor’s allies say the economy has turned a corner and that positive business confidence numbers recently will start to show up in the growth figures by the end of the year. If so, the IMF may owe their old friend an apology.

LABOUR LEAD SLIPS

What a difference a week makes. In the last seven days, the Labour lead has slipped from 14pts to 7pts according to a Sun/YouGov poll. The new numbers put the Tories on 33pc with Labour on 40pc and Ukip out-polling the Lib Dems by 1pt on 11pc. Coming on the back of yesterday’s Guardian/ICM poll which put his personal rating at a record low of -23pc, it’s hardly a ringing endorsement for Red Ed (and nor are the words of the unnamed senior party member who tells us that the party’s welfare policies are “complete nonsense”).

What can he do to reverse the trend? Lord Ashcroft has some timely advice on ConservativeHome this morning. Listen to the New Labour critics, find and articulate a message, and show you understand the fear of reckless borrowing, he writes. One more thing – “what are you going to do about Ed Balls? Since he was part of the Brownite team who were in charge when it all went wrong – to put it as neutrally as possible – it is hard for you to claim Labour have learnt the right lessons and moved on while he remains Shadow Chancellor.”

But it isn’t all bad news. The Times (£) reports that Ed and Mr Tony will be meeting up to build bridges in “the next few days” while, as Mary Riddell writes, there are some on the Left who believe that “Titanium Ed” can pick up where the Iron Lady left off and be a champion for bold ideas in British public life:

“Mr Miliband buys the argument, made by Jon Cruddas and others, that Labour had become decoupled from the nation’s past and ceded patriotism, history and heritage to the Tories. Hence his mission to reshape Britain’s high streets and to give local power back to the small businessmen, councillors and aldermen whose writ once prevailed in Thatcher’s Grantham.”

HARMAN THREATENS PRESS

The press reforms following the Leveson report are becoming increasingly shambolic. As we report, Maria Miller told the Culture, Media and Sport Committee that some papers and magazines may choose to remain outside of the regulatory system, a situation which Philip Davies called “a farce…you have set up this system and nobody is signing up for it.” But wait! Harriet Harman then appeared and told the committee that Labour would back “full-on statutory regulation” if papers did not sign up to the compromise deal, as the Times (£) notes. Who’s in charge? It’s tempting to think that Mrs Harman’s clout is at least as great, given that, of the pair, she was involved in finalising the form of the Royal Charter in that late night session with Ed, Nick and Oliver Letwin.

AWARD.GOV

Britain’s greatest design icon? As Twitter followers will know, I’m a Shard fan. The building-cum-weather gauge lost out in the recent Designs of the Year awards, though. Instead the winner of the annual award was…the gov.uk website. As the Independent reports, it also beat off competition from the Olympic Caulderon and Louis Vuitton.

TWEETS AND TWITS

Gavin Shuker asking the big questions of our time:

@gavinshuker:Anyone had a good experience of reusable nappies? Asking in a wholly professional capacity, as Shadow Waste Minister, obviously.

TOP COMMENT

In the Telegraph

Mary Riddell – What Titanium Ed Miliband and the Iron Lady have in common

Tim Stanley – Boston Marathon bombings: America the vulnerable

Robin Renwick – Margaret Thatcher’s vital role in ending apartheid

Telegraph View – Human decency will always win through

Best of the Rest

Daniel Finkelstein in The Times (£) – Today we bury the last prime minister of WWII

Robin Harris in the Daily Mail – She slew dragons. Now the meek can inherit the earth

Richard Venn in the FT (£) – Cameron cannot revive Thatcherism

Seamus Milne in The Guardian – It’s time to bury not just Thatcher – but Thatcherism

THE AGENDA

Today: Baroness Thatcher’s funeral. Coffin leaves Palace of Westminster by hearse at 10:00; arrives at St Clement Danes 10:15; transferred to gun carriage at 10:25; leaves St Clement Danes at 10:33 when processional minute gun firing begins at Tower of London. Funeral service starts at 11:00 and is due to finish at 11:55. Guests begin arriving at Guildhall reception around 12:10. St Paul’s Cathedral, Saint Paul’s Churchyard, London.

Margaret Thatcher funeral: in the end, the protesters faded away

So there were no demonstrations worth mentioning after all. Apparently somewhere around Ludgate Circus, a few idiots threw things at the horses (a particularly nasty, gratutious gesture) but it scarcely touched the atmosphere of the procession to St Paul’s. The crowds, which a few doubters had predicted might be disappointing, were larger than expected and they applauded and cheered as the coffin went past both before and after the service. In the end, for all the talk of divisiveness and hostility, respect and admiration won the day.

More….

Margaret Thatcher funeral: the decision to have a full ceremonial funeral was not only right, it was necessary

Over the past week both Mrs Thatcher’s opponents and supporters have let themselves – and her – down. The debate over whether we should toll or muffle our bells, build statues, rename airports, buy pop songs, open libraries or silence our football crowds was trite and unseemly.

Her funeral service, in contrast, was solemn, and at times moving. If there were those who sought to protest they appear to have been in a minority, their boos effectively drowned out by the spontaneous applause of the crowds lining the route.

My own view before today was that the whole event would be seen to be over the top, grating against austere times. But in fact, it contained a strange simplicity.

It was also oddly apolitical. That’s partly because the assembled politicians and dignitaries were subordinated by Mrs Thatcher’s immediate family, in particular the dignity of Mark Thatcher, and a poignant reading by her granddaughter Amanda. And partly because the flag-draped coffin acted as a reminder that death has no party affiliation

More….

Subdued Westminster continues to mourn Thatcher

MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph).

Good morning. British politics is in abeyance in the run-up to Lady Thatcher’s funeral. Despite the intervention of the Bishop of Grantham and the Guardian‘s report that Scotland Yard has approved an organised protest at the funeral, the respective party leaderships have largely set aside ventures into tribal territory to play the statesmen. As Nicholas Watt writes, the Prime Minister has done well to unite his party, a process which included meeting with a group of “sane Thatcherites” consisting of John Wittingdale, Sir Gerald Howarth, Conor Burns and John Redwood, and offering his condolences that “their leader” had passed away. The suggestion that a museum dedicated to Lady Thatcher might be housed in the former Lib Dem HQ on Cowley Street has delighted some on the Tory benches, as the Times (£) reports, but as mischief making goes, it’s fairly restrained.

Not everybody labours under the restraints of office, however. Nigel Farage tells the Times (£) that Ukip would have been unnecessary had Lady Thatcher survived the leadership contest of 1990, a pointed attempt to paint Dave as firmly in the tradition of the Tory wets. This sounds optimistic, and ignores Mrs Thatcher’s capacity for compromising at home and abroad. Boris, meanwhile, is in rumbustious form in his column for us:

“Ding dong, the Soviet Union is dead! Ding dong, communism is dead! And so is the British disease. They are all dead as doornails…Ding dong! Old Labour’s dead! The Labour Party has given up its ridiculous belief in the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange – the slogan that used to be printed on the back of every party membership card. Ding dong, Clause Four is dead as a dodo.”

Our report on Dame Mary Archer’s relationship with Lady Thatcher is also notable for the comments from Sir Bob Kerslake and Sir Jeremy Heywood on the former Prime Minister’s relationship with Whitehall. She would be remembered as “kindly and unswervingly loyal to her team…the best kind of boss” they said. Surely not a very discreet dig at Francis Maude?

ED ATTACKED

It never rains but it pours. Under bombardment from friendly fire, confronted by blanket coverage of Lady Thatcher’s death which must seem at times like a Tory greatest hits parade, Ed Miliband also had a broken wrist to contend with which was operated on over the weekend. The Mirror gamely pays tribute to Ed the “iron man” who delivered his Lady Thatcher tribute despite his fracture, but you can’t help but feel that there’s something about fracturing a wrist while on a walking holiday in Devon that fits Ed’s Mr Milibean image perfectly.

Of more significant strategic concern is the leader’s increasing isolation from the big beasts of the Blair years. Mr Tony, of course, started the ball rolling last week. As we report, John Reid has echoed his former boss, arguing on the Sunday Politics that Labour needed to “move from being a vote of protest to offering solutions” and adding that Ed had yet to “set out the direction of a future Labour government.” In yesterday’s Observer, David Blunkett also got in on the act, writing that Labour needs to move beyond “politics built on grievance”. All of which raises the question – if the old guard are like this with a near double digit poll lead, what will they be like when the gap narrows near polling day? It’s not just the Conservatives who need worry about internal divisions come 2015.

REVOLUTION BLUES

Despite the good behaviour, two reports of Tory revolts in this morning’s papers are a sure sign that normal service is ready to resume soon at Westminster . As we report, MPs from both halves of the Coalition are likely to oppose the relaxation of planning laws in a vote on the Growth and Infrastructure Bill on Thursday. Zac Goldsmith is leading the Tory dissenters, backed by Anne Main and Bob Blackman. On the Lib Dem side, Paul Burstow is also planning to either abstain or join Labour in opposing the measures.

Britain’s stay at home mothers are the beneficiary of the second Tory revolt. The Mail reports that dozens of Conservatives will vote for an amendment to the Finance Bill being pushed by Tim Loughton which would introduce a tax break for married couples. This, of course, is Tory policy in any case, but it would seem a shame to waste it so far out from an election year.

COOPER CONFUSION

The Mail reports that Dave’s back office team, gently hemorrhaging modernisers midway through parliament, has lost Andrew Cooper, the brains behind the party’s gay marriage stance. Following a power struggle with Lynton Crosby, the paper reports that Mr Cooper will return to his old job at Populus, the polling firm he co-founded, doing a little part time work on the side for CCHQ.

I’m doubtful. As the Independent reports, Downing Street says the story is nonsense, while Mr Cooper and Mr Crosby get on fine behind the scenes. Although Mr Cooper was always planning to go at some point in this parliament, talk is of the date not being for another nine months.

TWIN TRACK DIPLOMACY

Tired with the Foreign Office’s lack of ambition, Dave has set the Fresh Start group of Tory MPs the task of conducting parallel negotiations on EU reform, Bloomberg reports. Angela Leadsom will visit Berlin later this month, with other delegations heading to Poland, the Czech Republic and Spain. Hardly a vote of confidence in the Civil Service, but rest assured, there’s no risk of confusion. As Chris Heaton-Harris explains “we’re not negotiating. We’re putting ideas forward and listening to the reaction to them.” Quite different.

LET THE BOOM TIMES ROLL

The Ernst & Young ITEM Club report out this morning predicts a swift recovery in 2014 fuelled by improving real incomes and a stimulated housing market. Growth of 0.6pc this year will be followed by 1.9pc in 2014 and 2.5pc in 2015, the report predicts. Added to the positive BCC report earlier this month, there may be a chink of light at the end of the tunnel for the Treasury.

OLD WARS REVISITED #213

Any future coalition negotiations between the Tories and the Lib Dems will be contingent on the former accepting Lords reform, Simon Hughes tells the FT (£). Given the state of relations between the parties, the prospect of another union won’t thrill Tory backbenchers no matter what form it takes, but given the common belief in the parliamentary party that a semi-elected second chamber would threaten a constitutional crisis, the Lib Dem leadership would be asking Dave to write a cheque his party might not honour.

60, THE NEW 20

Pensioners of Britain, your country needs you! We report Steve Webb’s remarks that, with a projected 13.5m job vacancies in the coming 10 years and only 7m young people coming into the workplace, those close to retirement are going to have to keep going for longer. The “untapped resource” of a generation of older workers will “tackle ageist attitudes” as employers come to rely on them, the pensions minister added. Unfortunately for Mr Webb, David Willetts already has plans to send the 60+ generation back to university. Perhaps they’ll have time for both, provided, that is, they survive Fresher’s Week…

ON THE WRONG TRACKS

The new and responsible attitude to expenses and the public purse found Jim McGovern in court last month challenging IPSA’s decision not to reimburse a £23.90 rail fare between Dundee and Glasgow, which he claimed was the first leg of a journey between his constituency and Westminster, and which the independent claims body found was for a Labour Party meeting unrelated to his work as an MP. As the Sunday Herald reported, IPSA won the day, but with each side meeting their own legal costs, the taxpayer is responsible for the £27,000 in costs run up defending the decision. Mr McGovern’s costs were met by the GMB.

TWEETS AND TWITS

Cutting, from Douglas Carswell:

@DouglasCarswell: Just read John Prescott comments re funeral of former Prime Minister. For such a large man, he is really very small.”

TOP COMMENT

In the Telegraph

Boris Johnson – Thatcherism is no museum piece – it’s alive and kicking

Roger Bootle – Thatcher set the ball rolling, it is up to others to ensure legacy is not wasted

Mary Archer with Peter Stanford – My unique chemistry with the Iron Lady

Telegraph View – Secret arrests would be an affront to justice

Best of the Rest

Tim Montgomerie in The Times (£) – The Right won on economics. Now for Act II

Trevor Kavanagh in The Sun – Unions that Maggie crushed are on the rise

Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail – Has Cameron at last leant Blair’s lesson that the British are NOT naturally Left-wing?

John Harris in The Guardian – Spare a thought for the late unlamented one-nation Tory

THE AGENDA

09:30 am: Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) releases its lending breakdown figures for February.

11:30 am: Foreign Secretary William Hague launches the annual Foreign Office human rights report.

Margaret Thatcher: Trafalgar Square has room for another great warrior

Horatio Nelson was a divisive figure, certainly so to Fanny (his wife) and possibly Sir William Hamilton (husband of his mistress, Emma). Apart from those two, whose hearts he and Emma may have broken, he was also fairly divisive with regard to proponents of European integration (Napoleon, for example, the Herman Van Rompuy of his day).

The year 1805 (in which Nelson died) was a backward time compared with our own in many ways, but one gracefully free of the various methods by which we now allow the foolish to parade themselves in public: on Facebook, or through the generous subsidies Radio 4 offers Left-wing comedians. Had social media existed then, you may well have been able to locate some idiot drama teacher in France, gleefully dancing around her town’s square. “I’m not celebrating his death,” she would have said, between mouthfuls of celebratory baguette, “I just want a discussion of his legacy.” And the early 19th-century version of the BBC reporter would nod his head, solemnly.

More….