The Telegraph – Brexit Bulletin

Good afternoon. Today the House of Lords began the process of debating and potentially amending the Article 50 bill, and Theresa May is watching them closely. In fact she paid them a rare personal visit, pointedly perching on the steps by the throne like Stringer Bell sitting in on the murder trial which opens The Wire. Whatever can she mean by it?

Some people see, in the intervention of Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson over the weekend, the beginning of a Remainer fightback. The FT’s Janan Ganesh believes that “friendships are growing” between pro-European MPs and Lords across three parties, with “lots of money” sloshing around. Meanwhile we report on the various peers who enjoy generous EU pensions: among many others they include Lord Mandelson, at an estimated £34,659 a year, Lord Kinnock, at an estimated £87,794 a year, and Baroness Ludford, estimated at £21,000. The big demand will likely be a guarantee of the rights of EU nationals in Britain, which the public strongly backs.

But there are also factors weighing against a decisive intervention by the Lords at this stage. Labour’s Baroness Smith confirmed Labour will try to amend the bill but that there will be no house-to-house “ping pong”. William Hague advised that “if there was a real chance of rising up successfully against leaving the EU, it would open up the most protracted, bitter and potentially endless conflict in British society since the decades of debate on Irish Home Rule.” The Bishop of Southwark argued that, if faced with a choice between passing an amendment and accepting an assurance from a minister, peers should do the latter. This is what happened in the Commons when a potential rebellion on EU nationals’ rights was blunted by a ministerial concession, and if followed by a large number of peers it would obviate many mooted amendments. Then there are the people (those pesky, pesky people): an ICM poll has found that 68 per cent of voters want the Government to get on with Brexit, compared to 54 per cent of people last year. Quite quickly it seems that Theresa May is leading the country with her, Mr Blair be damned.

In other news, Emmanuel Macron, a strong candidate in the French Presidential election, will visit London tomorrow hoping to woo the 300,000 French nationals (mostly young, often affluent, and by definition cosmopolitan) who live in Britain. If he wins it will have implications for Brexit. Mr Macron has said he will be “pretty tough” on Britain, “because we have to preserve the rest of the European Union”. His rival François Fillon agrees. Only Marine Le Pen, as illustrated in our interview last week, is pro-Brexit, seeing it as the first crack in the “whole psychological framework” underpinning the status quo she intends to destroy. Some Britons may welcome her victory on the grounds of our national interest. Others, I think, will find the price too high

Source: for MORE

The Telegraph – Brexit Bulletin

  Good afternoon.

Tony Blair is back, and he’s on a mission to re-educate the British public about why they were wrong to vote for Brexit. “This is not the time for retreat, indifference or despair; but the time to rise up in defence of what we believe,” he told his pro-European flock in London this morning. The former Prime Minister insisted that the referendum vote had been “based on imperfect knowledge”, and held out the prospect of Britain backtracking on its decision once it had become “informed” of what the consequences of leaving would be. This drew a fierce reaction from Boris Johnson, who accused Mr Blair of “insulting the intelligence” of the British people. He added: “I urge the British people to rise up and turn off the TV next time Tony Blair comes on with his condescending campaign.”

The Foreign Secretary and his fellow Brexiteers are annoyed by his intervention, but in private they may secretly be grateful for his continued enthusiasm. As I pointed out online, voters tend to distrust Mr Blair more than they trust him when he speaks about the EU. So if he is the figurehead for the anti-Brexit movement, Leavers will be happy.

Labour has tried to shrug off Mr Blair’s intervention, as it knows how unhelpful it could be as it tries to convince voters that it understands them on Brexit in Stoke and Copeland. “Blair built his political reputation – and Labour’s election victories – on his ability to “get it”, to understand working people’s priorities and their motivations,” Tom Harris writes. “He should retrieve those unerring political antennae out of whatever cupboard he left them in 2007 and dust them down.”

Source: for MORE

Hugh Fitzgerald: The Confusions of Tony Blair, Part II

Recognizing that something’s wrong with Islam is an advance. Assuming it can be made right smacks of Pollyanna. Tony Blair has said that the educational systems in countries where [Muslim] extremism had taken hold must be overhauled.

And just how will this be done?

“We’ve got to use our negotiating power and might with these countries to say, “You’re going to have to reform the education systems that are educating millions of young people day in and day out to a view of the world that’s narrow-minded, bigoted and hostile to those who are different.”

Now why didn’t the rest of us think of that?

This dreamy belief that any Muslim country or people would change its teachings about Islam, because some Infidels consider those teachings “narrow minded, bigoted, and hostile to those who are different” shows a deep miscomprehension of Islam and of Muslims. If Blair thinks pressure from Infidels will force the likes of Saudi Arabia to rewrite its textbooks (which, unsurprisingly, contain the more rigid, Salafi version of Islam, that Salafists believe to properly reflect the time of Muhammad and the two generations of “pious ancestors” that followed him), he misunderstands the hold that Islam has over such adherents. He has only to look at the reports on Western attempts to have the Saudis overhaul their textbooks, to discover how many hopeful tales of Saudi compliance were not supported by what Western investigators subsequently found in the teaching materials that are used not only in Saudi Arabia but all around the Muslim world, and in mosques in the West, where Saudi money, for mosques, for madrasas, for payment of clerics’ salaries, calls the ideological tune.

Source: for MORE

Hugh Fitzgerald: The Confusions of Tony Blair, Part I

Soon after the Muslim terrorist attacks of 9/11, Tony Blair let it be known that he was a great admirer of Islam, and that he had taken to carrying around with him the Qur’an, a book that he claimed he read almost every day. Islam, he knew then, was “beautiful” and the Prophet Muhammad “an enormously civilizing force,” claims that he continued to make on every possible occasion. In 2008, he was still reading the Qur’an “every day” or “practically every day.” In June 2011, he again admitted that “I read the Qur’an [Koran] every day. Partly to understand some of the things happening in the world, but mainly just because it is immensely instructive.”

After the killing of Lee Rigby in London in 2013, Tony Blair was certain that “there is not a problem with Islam. For those of us who have studied it, there is no doubt about its true and peaceful nature.” The two converts to Islam who hacked Rigby to death and then decapitated him apparently understood Islam differently. But at the same time, Blair said “the ideology behind his [Lee Rigby’s] murder is profound and dangerous.” And what is that “ideology”? It could not, of course, be Islam itself. Blair insisted that while Islam has a “true and peaceful nature“ there is a “problem within Islam, and we have to put it on the table and be honest about it… I am afraid that the problematic strain within Islam is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view of religion – and of the relationship between religion and politics – that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies. At the extreme end of the spectrum are terrorists, but the worldview goes deeper and wider than it is comfortable for us to admit. So, by and large, we don’t admit it.”

In 2015, Tony Blair was still reading the Qur’an “every day.”

Tony Blair will now admit that this “extremist” strain is more widespread than many think, as long as he can continue to insist, defying the evidence pouring in from all over the world, that Islam itself is “peaceful” and, unlike that dangerous mutant “strain” within Islam (which, we all are supposed to repeat ad nauseam, has nothing to do with Islam itself, even though many Muslims for some reason subscribe to it) is “compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.” He is, thus, stuck with this narrative, believing, or at least pretending to believe, that the real Islam is compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.

Source: for MORE

Tony Blair and Nick Clegg risk damaging British business by seeking to block Brexit

As a businessman and a proud Brexiteer – I was treasurer and board member of the Vote Leave campaign – I am convinced that Britain’s best days lie ahead.

But we need to be ambitious. If we are, and if we seize this Brexit opportunity together, Britain can change for the better.

My online financial trading business, CMC Markets, has been successful because we have embraced technological change underpinned by an entrepreneurial spirit. Free from the shackles of the EU, Britain too can embrace the change necessary to succeed in an increasingly competitive and exciting new world.

Read more: Britain has a moral duty to lead the world on free trade

When we take back control of trade, we can be more globally oriented. Research by Change Britain shows that leaving the EU’s customs union and striking trade deals just with the countries that have already expressed an interest in negotiating a deal with the UK will open up export markets worth over £16.8 trillion. That’s more than double the size of the export markets that the UK currently has access to as a member of the EU.

This will benefit businesses large and small, and help to create jobs and spread prosperity across the country. The success of our offices trading across the Asia Pacific region tells me how big the global opportunity is for my business.

When we take back control of our laws, we can reduce regulatory burdens and ensure that Britain is the best place to do business and becomes the go-to destination for the wealth creators of the future.

Source: for MORE

Morning Briefing – The Telegraph

Good morning.

Westminster takes a break from the Tory leadership race (check the news items below if you want the full details about yesterday’s voting) to look back at the Iraq War as Sir John Chilcot prepares to release his long-awaited report at 11am. His verdict on the UK’s decision to go to war, and where it went wrong, will come in a 12-volume, 2.6 million-word report as the culmination of a seven-year-long inquiry.

The key players are ready to come out fighting, we report this morning, with Tony Blair set to blame intelligence failures over Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction for his decision to intervene in Iraq. The former Prime Minister faces danger on two fronts, with the families of troops killed in the conflict ready to take legal action that could “bankrupt” him if Sir John’s inquiry finds he acted wrongly, and Jeremy Corbyn preparing to give Labour’s official response to its findings. “The families want to see justice and if it proves, as a result of reading the report, that there was dereliction of duty, malfeasance in a public office, that intelligence was negligently handled, then of course they will take action.,” said former special forces director Gen Sir Michael Rose.

David Cameron and the Jeremy Corbyn are set to issue their responses to the Chilcot Inquiry after PMQs. The embattled Labour leader is expected to formally apologise on behalf of the party for the Iraq War, in keeping with his leadership campaign pledge. This will delight Corbynites and infuriate moderates in equal measure. He could go as far as accusing Blair of committing war crimes, depending on what Sir John says. Anti-war activists meanwhile will demonstrate in Westminster to mark the occasion, with Stop the War, CND and other groups demanding “truth and justice” over Iraq.

But Chilcot’s inquiry doesn’t mean this is a day for anti-Iraq campaigners. John Bolton, George Bush’s former US ambassador to the United Nations, argues in today’s Telegraph that the only mistake Western nations made over Iraq was not to have taken action sooner. “Iraq today suffers not from the 2003 invasion, but from the 2011 withdrawal of all US combat forces,” he writes. “What strengthened Iran’s hand in Iraq was not the absence of Saddam, but the absence of coalition troops with a writ to crush efforts by the ayatollahs to support and arm Shi’ite militias.” Sir John’s findings will inevitably revive debate about whether Britain was right to intervene. You can read all the details of his findings, and the reaction to it, on the Telegraph.

Ed forced to defend leadership at PLP meeting

MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph).

Good morning. A meeting of backbenchers, a message of defiance from an embattled leader and a desperate appeal for unity. And for a change it wasn’t David Cameron. Tories will allow themselves a brief moment to relish overnight reports that Ed Miliband had to give his troops a pep talk at the PLP last night. The troubles besetting the Labour leader are growing. The reverberations from Mr Tony’s intervention in the New Statesman last week are still being felt. He reinforced his message in a speech in the US, reported in the Guardian, namely on the perils facing parties and leaders that lose touch with the centre.

Mr Miliband must be resenting the drip-drip of ‘helpful’ advice from those associated with Mr Blair, who plainly feel that with David Miliband gone, there is nothing left to be loyal for. Dan Hodges has another of his perceptive pieces of analysis in the Telegraph today, in which he details Labour’s 35pc strategy for sneaking over the finish line, which, as Rachel Sylvester explains in the Times (£), amounts to 29pc core vote plus 6pc grumpy Lib Dems. If true, it’s unambitious. Tories believe the skids are under Mr Miliband, both on policy and party management. They should look to their own troubles. But when a leader has to issue an appeal for unity, things are not going well. Are Labour wars about to become the theme of this late spring?

Well, there’s still the possibility of peace in our time. The Mail reports that Ed Miliband has invited Mr Tony to “truce talks” with a view to keeping him quiet in the run-up to 2015. As Polly Toynbee writes in the Guardian, there’s fat chance of that. Mr Blair is, she writes, careering around “like a loose horse at the Grand National” and threatening to cast a shadow over the current leadership in the same way that Baroness Thatcher did with generations of Conservatives.

Of course, unlike Lady Thatcher, Tony’s message is all about consensus. But the catch-all model also flies in the face of the 35pc strategy. AsDan Hodges writes, it isn’t just Mr Blair who finds Ed’s plan wanting:

“Of course, Blair’s political judgement isn’t infallible… But his comments aren’t the act of a back-seat driver, either. They’re the act of a passenger who’s tapped the driver on the shoulder and told him ‘It’s OK, I’ll walk the rest of the way.’ He’s not grabbing for the wheel. He’s getting out before the car ends up in the ditch. And there are several members of Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet starting to wish they could get out with him.”

NO THATCHER BOUNCE FOR TORIES

If Margaret Thatcher was leading the Tory party today, it would be 8pts better off in the polls, a Guardian / ICM survey has found. She isn’t though, and Dave’s troops have not profited from the wall-to-wall coverage of her passing. They register 32pc, up only 1pt, in the latest survey, with Labour slipping back a point to 38pc and Ukip’s vote share still stubbornly high on 9pc.

Lady Thatcher will lie overnight in the chapel of St Mary Undercroft, allowing MPs and peers to pay their respects. The Speaker announced yesterday that Big Ben will fall silent for the funeral, the first time the chimes have been halted since Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral in 1965, as we report. Dave has defended the £10m cost of the proceedings, helpfully converted into teachers and nurses by the Guardian (not online).

Still, if the Conservatives were intending to launch again from the Right (as many have intimated since Lynton Crosby’s arrival), surely Lady Thatcher’s funeral provides an ideal opportunity? Not at all, argues the FT (£). Dave will fight the next election from the centre ground, they argue, with Andrew Cooper re-hired as an adviser once he does leave Downing Street late this year or in 2014. While Tory MPs have returned from their recess with familiar grumbles about gay marriage and the party base, Number 10 has been buoyed by what it believes is a change in the economic weather (today’s sharp rise in business confidence is a case in point). As I write in my column, Number 10 has reasons to be cheerful:

“A year ago we were settling into the disastrous aftermath of the “omnishambles” Budget. Incompetence had taken hold. The Treasury was in retreat and it seemed as if nothing could go right for Mr Cameron. Set against that, his present circumstances look better. His message that Britain is locked in a ‘global race’ that requires relentless economic reform based upon a keen understanding of the aspirational hopes of the British people is being relentlessly stuck to…the new campaign chief, Lynton Crosby, is bringing much needed rigour to the operation.

BRITAIN SENDS MILITARY AID TO SYRIAN REBELS

Britain’s involvement in the Syrian civil war has escalated further with William Hague announcing that 34 armoured vehicles and 20 sets of body armour will be supplied to the rebels. The Mail reports that the Foreign Secretary will also seek to tear up the EU’s arms embargo, allowing Britain to supply weaponry as well as transport and defence equipment.

NAO TO PROBE 4G AUCTION

The failure of February’s 4G auction to raise the £3.5bn forecast in December’s Autumn statement will be subject to a National Audit Office investigation, the Guardian reports. The sale fell short by £1.2bn, prompting Labour claims that the auction process had not been run in a way which maximised value for money. Taking the highest bids across the board, the auction would have raised some £5.2bn, but thanks to a system of adjustments which saw the highest bidder pay little more than the second placed offer, the total take was significantly lower. That isn’t just problematic for the Coalition – if you are taking the Labour line that the auction’s timing was a cynical exercise in massaging the deficit statistics, you would have thought that the bidding process would have sought to maximise revenue too.

BORIS OF ARABIA

Well, the UAE actually. The Mayor of London is in the desert kingdom as part of a trade mission to the Gulf. Confronted by a camel meat platter, the Mail reports that he made lighter work of it than the Prince of Wales earlier this month. On the home front, Bo-Jo has given an in-depth interview to CNBC as part of a 30 minute long show airing on Wednesday. Insisting that he already has “the best job in British politics”, he goes on to deliver a paean to his political style:

“Self-deprecation is a very cunning device. Self-deprecation is all about understanding that basically people regard politicians as a bunch of shysters so you’ve got to be understood and then you try to get to the point of what people are saying, that’s what it’s all about I suppose.”

ANDREW MITCHELL: REPUTATIONAL ADVISER

One frequent criticism of politicians who take consultancy jobs is that they lack direct experience in the sector where they have been hired. That’s not a criticism that can be levied at Montrose Associates’ newest hire. Andrew Mitchell has been taken on at £3,000 a day by the firm which specialises in “reputational threats”, according to the Times (£). Clearly an astute move – Thrasher has done an excellent job of rehabilitating himself following the Plebgate smears – but does this mean he has closed the door to an EU role in the coming months?

VINCE TAKES THE WRONG DIRECTION

Presumably working on the principal that the Prime Minister’s friends are his enemies, Vince Cable launched an attack on the “immoral” size of the earnings of the band One Direction. As the Times (£) reports, the Business Secretary later recanted on the grounds that he had misheard the question and thought he was criticising chief executives and not popstars. “Apparently [they are] very popular and very succeSsful, so I have nothing against them,” he added.

TWEETS AND TWITS

Toby Perkins thoughts on last night’s events in Boston echo those of his colleagues:

@tobyperkinsmp: The appalling+heinous criminals who detonated bombs killing ppl running to raise money for good causes are as sickening as police are brave.”

TOP COMMENT

In the Telegraph

Benedict Brogan – A last piece of advice for the PM in the pew at St Paul’s

Philip Johnston – When does peaceful protest cross the line?

Dan Hodges – Blairite barbs expose the frailty of Labour unity

Telegraph View – Welfare reform remains a moral imperative

Best of the Rest

Rachel Sylvester in The Times (£) – Ed Miliband should be pitching a bigger tent

Polly Toynbee in The Guardian – Tony Blair is like a loose horse at the Grand National

Ian Birrell in The Independent – We subsidise firms that keep workers in poverty

Janan Ganesh in the FT (£) – Conservatives should be pro-market, not pro-business

THE AGENDA

Today: Lord De Mauley to publish the Draft Wild Animals in Circuses Bill clauses.

09:30 am: Ex-No 10 Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell at Public Administration Select Committee on Civil Service reform. Committee Room 15, House of Commons.

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

09:30 am: Office for National Statistics (ONS) releases its house price study for February.

10:00 am: Energy and Climate Change Committee to take evidence from energy company executives on energy prices, profits and poverty. Portcullis House.

10:00 am: Money announced for railway station makeovers in Edinburgh. Transport Minister Keith Brown gives details of stations to receive money for refurbishments for next year’s Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games. Carlton Hotel, North Bridge, Edinburgh.

10:30 am Hearing in action brought by Lord McAlpine against Sally Bercow. The Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand.

11:00 am Results of random tests for horse meat and bute by the EU to be announced today. Bussels.

11:15 am: Culture Secretary Maria Miller, Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin and Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman give evidence to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee on press regulation. Thatcher Room, Portcullis House.

04:00 pm: The body of Baroness Thatcher to rest overnight in the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft on the eve of her funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral. After the service, the Chapel will be open (from 1700 until 2100) in order that members of both Houses and parliamentary staff holding permanent passes may pay their respects. Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, Westminster.

06:00 pm: Government’s health tsar Dr Don Berwick to address The King’s Fund. The King’s Fund, 11-13 Cavendish Square.

07:00 pm: William Hague speaks to Lord Mayor’s Easter Banquet. The speakers at the dinner will be William Hague MP, Alderman Roger Gifford and The Ambassador of the State of Kuwait – His Excellency Mr Khaled AAS Al Duwaisan GCVO. Mansion House, Walbrook.