The five things you need to know on Sunday 12 May 2013...
1) TORY CIVIL WAR OVER EUROPE. PART 774.
Question: Which of these two Sunday newspaper splash headlines could have been penned anytime between 1992 and 1997?
"Tory civil war erupts over Europe vote" (Sunday Times)
"Tories in Europe turmoil" (Sunday Telegraph)
Answer: Both, of course.
We seem to have gone back in time. The Tories, ignoring their leader's famous pronouncement in opposition that the party needs to stop "banging on about Europe", are now doing precisely that. And it could do as much damage to their electoral prospects in the second decade of the 21st century as it did in the last decade of the 20th century.
The Sunday Telegraph reports that the prime minister has "risked a Cabinet revolt over a European referendum":
"Downing Street said it would tell ministers to abstain this week from a key vote that effectively calls for Mr Cameron's pledge to have an in/out referendum on Europe in 2017 to be put into law.
"Eurosceptic MPs are planning a vote that will 'express regret' that the Queen's Speech did not contain a "paving Bill" for a referendum — an absence that has prompted fury among Tory backbenchers.
"Downing Street said yesterday that ministers would be expected to abstain from the vote — creating the almost unprecedented situation where members of the Government would not vote in support of the Queen's Speech... If any of the approximately 100 ministers and parliamentary private secretaries (PPEs) were to vote for the motion, it would be a huge embarrassment to Mr Cameron."
Meanwhile, the Sunday Times reports:
"Two parliamentary private secretaries to the Eurosceptic cabinet ministers Michael Gove and Owen Paterson said they were ready to support an unprecedented revolt by the government’s own MPs against its legislative programme."
Gove, speaking to James Landale on the BBC's Marr programme this morning, admitted he wasn't "happy" with the current UK relationship with Europe and revealed - drum roll! - that if a referendum were held today he would indeed vote to quit the EU. He said, however, that he'd be abstaining on the Queen's Speech amendment vote later this week, describing it as "an exercise in letting off steam" by Eurosceptic Tory backbenchers.
Back in the Sunday Times, Chris Grayling has added to "the febrile atmosphere over Europe by hinting that he could contemplate Britain leaving the EU":
"In an interview with The Sunday Times, Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, describes himself as 'firmly on the Eurosceptic wing' of the Tory party... He claims Britain 'cannot and should not continue without a change to its current relationship with the European Union... What you don't do is admit defeat before you've started, so I have not got to the point of saying what I would do in that event,' he said."
He'll have plenty of support on the backbenches - especially from newly-unsuspended Tory MP Nadine Dorries, who uses a column in the Sun on Sunday to say "Tories must dump Clegg and get into bed with UKIP". Let's see how long she keeps the whip this time...
2) ET TU VINCE?
Sticking with Europe, it isn't just the Tories who are at odds on this issue. Earlier this week, after Nigel Lawson issued his call to arms in the Times and said he'd be voting for withdrawal in 2017, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said such a move would cost Britain 3m jobs. His Lib Dem colleague, the business secretary Vince Cable, disagrees - in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph:
"I think that is putting it in too extreme a way. It is certainly true that there are, I think, roughly three million people whose jobs depend on trade with the European Union. I mean, to say that all of those people would be put out of work would be putting it in an extreme and unreasonable way."
Ouch. And Clegg should also be worried about Cable's continuing interest in the Lib Dem leadership:
"What about the top job in his own party? Again, he is quite happy to leave the option open. 'The party's wish, and his wish, is that [Nick Clegg] should continue as leader and nobody's questioning that. I don't have an ambition.'
"He points out that he has already filled the post, on a temporary basis in 2007 after the resignation of Sir Menzies Campbell (at the age of 66), and continues: 'I've said that if the necessity arose then it's something I would consider.'"
Watch out Nick - he's behind you...
3) PAKISTAN IS SCREWED. AGAIN.
Bad luck, Imran. From the BBC:
"Former Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif is celebrating with his supporters, amid early signs that his party will be the largest after parliamentary elections.
"Media projections based on partial results suggest a big lead for Mr Sharif's Muslim League, and he has already claimed victory.
"The election should lead to the country's first transition from one elected government to another."
I guess it's not all bad news - Imran Khan's party is predicted to be the second-biggest in parliament and the former cricket captain and anti-corruption campaigner therefore could end up as leader of the opposition and use that position to try and keep Sharif honest.
It's a remarkable comeback for the former PM - hated in some sections of Pakistan, long accused of corruption and mismanagement of the Pakistani economy and once seen in western circles as a friend of Islamist extremists - who was toppled by General Musharraf in a military coup in 1999.
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video of a pug puppy being dried off with a hairdryer. You know you want to.
4) 'BEDROOM TAX' SUICIDE?
From the Sunday Mirror:
"Ten days ago Stephanie Bottrill sat in the redbrick terrace house which had been home for 18 years to write notes to her loved ones, the Sunday People reports .
"She ripped the pages from a spiral-bound notebook and placed them neatly in little brown envelopes.
"... Then in the early hours of last Saturday Stephanie, 53, left her home for the last time... And at 6.15am she walked straight into the path of a northbound lorry and was killed instantly. Stephanie Bottrill had become the first known suicide victim of the hated Bedroom Tax.
"In the letter to her son, Steven, 27, she had written: 'Don’t blame yourself for me ending my life. The only people to blame are the Government.'
"Stephanie was tormented over having to find £20 a week to pay for the two under-occupied bedrooms she had been assessed for.
"Days before her death she told neighbours: 'I can’t afford to live any more.'"
5) WESTMINSTER'S GAFFE KING
Yes, Lord Young's been at it again - from the Observer's splash:
"The prime minister's adviser on enterprise has told the cabinet that the economic downturn is an excellent time for new businesses to boost profits and grow because labour is cheap, the Observer can reveal.
"Lord Young, a cabinet minister under the late Baroness Thatcher, who is the only aide with his own office in Downing Street, told ministers that the low wage levels in a recession made larger financial returns easier to achieve... Young, who has already been forced to resign from his position once before for downplaying the impact of the recession on people, writes: 'The rise in the number of businesses in recent years shows that a recession can be an excellent time to start a business... Factors of production such as premises and labour can be cheaper and higher quality, meaning that return on investment can be greater.'"
The paper reminds us that "Young was forced to quit just months into the government in 2010, after he was overwhelmed by condemnation of his claim that voters had never had it so good during the 'so-called recession' due to low interest rates... but was quietly reappointed 11 months later."
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From the Sunday Times/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 9
That would give Labour a majority of 96.
140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
@paulwaugh Gove confirms he'll abstain on EU ref amendment to QSpeech. But more imp, says if referendum held now, he'd vote to quit EU #notveryDave
@campbellclaret Gove still more a leader writer than a politician. But he packed a lot of news in there. Smashed Clegg-Cable. Ramped up out of EU drive
@WilliamsJon US official: "18 months ago, could have armed rebels & exerted some control. Now every option is horrible."
900 WORDS OR MORE
Andrew Rawnsley, writing in the Observer, says: "As David Cameron and Ed Miliband move away from the centre, they leave a space for Nick Clegg."
Matthew D'Ancona, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, says: "An EU referendum is the political mouse that roared."
John Rentoul, writing in the Independent on Sunday, says: "The next election may be a contest to see who is more determined to lose."
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