Mehdi's Morning Memo: Hey Clegg, Go Take A Jump

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GEORGE OSBORNE
Nick Clegg won't like George Osborne's announcement on the mansion tax | PA

** Tory Conference Edition ** Hey Clegg, Go Take A Jump ** 'Common Ground' Cameron ** Keep Striving, Strivers! ** Philip 'Green Shoots' Hammond ** Mili-Bounce ** In The Blue Labour ** Still Hacked Off ** Hugh Vs Harriet's Spad ** Hunting Hunt ** Coalition 3.0? **

HEY CLEGG, GO TAKE A JUMP

"Osborne: My Tax Gift To Middle England," reads the splash headline on the front of the Mail on Sunday, referring to an interview in the paper with the Chancellor of the Exhequer in which Gideon has "emphatically ruled out any plans to impose ‘wealth taxes’ on high-earners".

It could have been headlined: "Hey Clegg, Go Take A Jump". As former Tory MP Paul Goodman writes on ConservativeHome this morning:

"George Osborne deals a double whammy to supporters of property taxes in the Mail on Sunday today:

Pow! 'We are not going to have a mansion tax, or a new tax that is a percentage value of people’s properties'.

Biff! New Council tax bands would be a 'tax snoopers charter...You would have to send inspectors out and it wouldn’t raise much money. I’m not going to let the tax inspectors get their foot in the door.'

... it raises the question of what's been agreed with the Liberal Democrats about further welfare reform and public spending."

Remember: the Lib Dem leader claimed, in his conference speech in Brighton:

"I will not accept a new wave of fiscal retrenchment, of belt tightening, without asking people at the top to make an additional contribution."

Clegg made clear that a mansion tax was on the agenda; his aides briefed journalists that the Lib Dems wouldn't accept new cuts in welfare spending without a mansion tax, or some form of wealth tax, in return. Simon Hughes, the Lib Dems' deputy leader, told me last month that he believed "on balance" there would be a mansion tax enshrined in law by 2015. Once again, there seems to have been a communications breakdown between the senior and junior partners in this coalition government.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr a few minutes ago, the prime minister David Cameron promised the rich would "pay a fair share" under this government but indicated that there would NOT be a Lib-Dem-style mansion tax.

Oh, and the omnipresent ex-defence secretary Liam Fox has done an interview with the Sunday Times calling for...wait for it...you won't believe it...yep...lower taxes and less regulation.

Nick, over to you...

'COMMON GROUND' CAMERON

The PM does his own Sunday newspaper interview, in the Sunday Telegraph, in which he tries desperately to reclaim the "one nation" mantle from Ed Miliband and accuses the Labour leader of “signalling right but turning left”.

He apologises for the West Coast mainline fiasco and takes a dig at Ed Miliband's notes-free speech (modelled, of course, on his own 2005 and 2007 efforts): “It is difficult to give a speech without notes for 70 minutes. It’s even more difficult when you haven’t got anything to say."

He adds: “Are the Conservatives deserting the common ground of British politics? Absolutely not.”

For me, the most interesting and provocative part of the interview is where the PM pledges to use Britain’s veto "to block 'outrageous' attempts to increase the European Union’s overall budget in upcoming negotiations to set total spending for the years 2014 to 2020. 'If it comes to saying 'no’ to a deal that isn’t right for Britain, I’ll say 'no’, he declares."

The Lib Dems weren't too pleased the last time - December 2011 - that the Tory leader exercised his veto. But I guess Tory strategists haven't forgotten that their one and only post-2010 poll bounce was... back in December of last year.

KEEP STRIVING, STRIVERS!

"Tories woo embattled 'strivers',"
is the splash headline on the front of the Sunday Times. Gotta love those strivers, eh? The paper says:

"David Cameron is to pledge a series of measures to support those who “work hard and want to get on”, regardless of their social background. He says 'strivers' are the key to Britain’s economic future in an increasingly competitive world.

The prime minister will use his speech at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham to appeal to middle-class families trying to recover from the recession, young people seeking to climb the career ladder and the ambitious working-class voters who once supported Margaret Thatcher."

Oh, how original! The Sunday Times report reveals that the PM "will this week unveil a package of measures thought to be worth up to £800m to help those who have been hit by the recession. They include freezing council tax and putting a cap on rail fare increases. It will be the third year running that council taxes have been frozen by ministers".

PHILIP "GREEN SHOOTS" HAMMOND

The defence secretary is a brave man. Philip Hammond, often seen as a future Tory chancellor of the exchequer, has told the Observer that he basically doesn't buy the ONS figures:

"You won't find anybody, hardly anybody in the business community or in the financial community, who thinks that the economy is doing right now what the data tell us it is doing. There is a mood that the economy is healing... If the eurozone remains stable, I think there is at least a good chance that we will start to see some sustained recovery in this economy over the next two years."

He doesn't quite say the words "green shoots" but, as the Observer notes, "his comments will inevitably draw comparison with those of former Tory chancellor Norman Lamont, who hailed the "green shoots of economic spring" in 1991, well before the economy emerged officially from recession in 1993". As I said, brave man...

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

As we celebrate 50 years of the Bond movie franchise, watch this clip of Alan Partridge narrating the opening scenes from The Spy Who Loved Me.

MILI-BOUNCE

Team Ed will be delighted this morning to see that their man has had a "mini bounce", in the words ofthe Observer, in the wake of his much-lauded 'speech without' notes in Manchester last week. The paper's Opinium poll shows the Labour leader's raw approval rating went up from five percentage points - from 23% before the speech to 28% after it.

Meanwhile, his net approval rating of -10% is well above that of David Cameron, who is on -21%.

The Observer adds: "Another worry for Cameron will be the 51% of voters with a favourable view of London mayor Boris Johnson compared with the 29% who have a similar view of the prime minister."

IN THE BLUE LABOUR

From the Sun on Sunday:

"Labour bigwig Jon Cruddas — the party’s policy chief — has been nicked for driving with no insurance or MoT.

The MP — at the wheel of a Land Rover Freelander pulled over by cops in central London — last night insisted his lapse was an “honest mistake”.

He said ahead of a possible driving ban after being summonsed to face court later this month: “I thought I had more time to renew both than I actually did, which of course I apologise for.”

Whoops!

STILL HACKED OFF

Watch out David Cameron - celebs are on the warpath and you're in their firing line! From the Observer:

More than 50 victims of phone hacking, including a number of top celebrities, have written to David Cameron expressing fury at suggestions that the coalition government could reject tough new laws that would see the press policed by an independent regulator.

... Celebrities including Hugh Grant, Jude Law and Charlotte Church, as well as 7/7 victims and members of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, have signed an open letter expressing alarm at reports that Cameron intends to reject any form of statutory regulation of the press if such a recommendation is made by the Leveson inquiry.

As the Observer's Jamie Doward reports, sources close to the prime minister have been quoted as saying he "is likely to reject statutory intervention in regulation of the press, even if it is recommended by Lord Justice Leveson". Michael Gove and Theresa May have made similar noises. Yet Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg have both suggested that they would back an end to the current system of self-regulation if such a proposal were to be made by Lord Justice Leveson in his final report. Whatever the PM might want to believe, Hackgate is far from over...

HUGH VS HARRIET'S SPAD

The Mail on Sunday reports on a "spat" between Hugh Grant and Ayesha Hazarika, Harriet Harman's chief of staff in the bar of the Midland Hotel at Labour conference in Manchester last week, in the midst of a heated discussion on the future of press regulation. Grant, it's claimed, called Hazarika a ‘f****** a*******’ while Hazarika responded by calling the actor: ‘F****** rude’. "Mr Grant," says the paper, "later apologised." The actor is planning on meeting the prime minister David Cameron in Birmingham this week - let's hope he leaves the four-letter words at home.

HUNTING HUNT

Tory spinners must be wondering why they let Jeremy Hunt anywhere near a journalist or a recording device. The new health secretary kicked off a pre-conference s**tstorm with an interview in yesterday's Times in which he expressed his support for a 12-week limit on abortions.

"Jeremy Hunt derails Cameron's conference plans," says the Independent on Sunday, which points out how "Mr Hunt was slapped down by the Prime Minister, who insisted there were no plans for the Government to change the limit and that the minister was expressing a 'personal view'." Oh, ok. So that's alright then.

COALITION 3.0?

I'm guessing Ryan Shorthouse isn't going to be one of the most popular delegates at Tory conference this weekend. The director of the BrightBlue thinktank and former aide to universities minister David Willetts, writing on the Observer's website, says: "Come 2015 and cross-party may be a necessity once again. Tories: think again too. If we want a second term, we may have to go into another coalition with the Liberal Democrats."

Liam Fox, in particular, will be delighted...

QUOTE UNQUOTE

"Before the Election they will call it a mansion tax, but people will wake up the day after the election and discover suddenly their more modest home has been labelled a mansion. We don’t think people who have worked hard, saved up to buy a home, should be clobbered with a mansion tax." - George Osborne, speaking to the Mail on Sunday.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From today's Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 45
Conservatives 31
Lib Dems 8

This would give Labour a majority of 130.

From today's Observer/Opinium poll:

Labour 41
Conservatives 30
Lib Dems 9

This would give Labour a majority of 112.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@paulwaugh Loadsa Cam lines from #marr: more taxes on rich, abortion limit shd be lower, EU ref timing, Leveson, benefit cuts, migration.

@georgeeaton Cameron: "I am on my fourth leader of the Labour Party." Rather misleading to count Harman. #marrshow

@afneil Cameron says he doesn't want BoJo to leave politics when Mayoral term ends. Don't think there's any danger of that!!!!!

900 WORDS OR MORE

Andrew Rawnsley, writing in the Observer, says: "Will Boris make an overt move to supplant David Cameron?... To hurt David Cameron, Boris just has to be Boris. And at that, as we know, he is terribly good."

Matthew D'Ancona, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, warns: "There is a clear and present danger that [Boris Johnson] will steal the show from the PM in Birmingham... If No 10 has a Boris Strategy, I can’t see it."

Martin Ivens, writing in the Sunday Times, argues: "On Wednesday in Birmingham the prime minister needs to convince us there is more to his own plan for one nation than austerity. Like [Barack Obama], Cameron now knows that he can’t count on his opponent fouling up for ever."

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