The five things you need to know on Tuesday December 8, 2015…
1) TRUMP-TON RIOTS
Donald Trump has done it again, this time calling for a ‘total and complete’ ban on all Muslims from entering the United States. And it was no off-the-cuff remark, it was a campaign statement and repeated at a rally in South Caroline
There are questions about whether this would include American-Muslims returning from holiday (his spokeswoman replied “Mr Trump says everyone”) or from active service overseas with the US Armed Forces. There are questions about whether it would be constitutional. There are questions about what it will do for community relations. But most of all there are questions for his opponents: why aren’t they beating him?
Trump’s polling numbers always tend to go up after such inflammatory remarks, though this time that remains to be seen. US Muslim leaders have said Trump sounds like the leader of a lynch mob and described his remarks as ‘fascist’. Jeb Bush says the comments were ‘unhinged’, Rubio said they were ‘offensive’. But note that while Ben Carson says no one should be discriminated on religious grounds, his camp he wants all visitors to the US registered and ‘monitored’ during their stay. And Ted Cruz (the real dark horse) simply said Trump’s plan was ‘not my policy’.
The incident underlines Trump’s decision to put immigration at the heart of his platform for President. He does not appeal to the Republican Evangelical Christian base (many of whom believe religious discrimination is abhorrent), but he does appeal to a white blue collar vote his rivals can’t reach. One thing’s for sure, Trump is no longer (if he ever was) the joke candidate. As The Smiths once sang (and as my uber-boss Arianna Huffington has blogged today), that joke isn’t funny anymore.
2) SYRIA DIRECT?
After the PM’s 70,000 ground troops claim, now this. David Cameron is facing fresh spin accusations over his claim - in the run up to the Syria vote - that seven foiled UK terror plots were ‘linked to’ or ‘inspired by’ ISIL. Senior Westminster sources have made clear to HuffPost that not one of those seven plots were directed from Syria. This runs counter to the impression given by some that the UK needed to take out ISIL’s command and control centre in Raqqa to prevent a ‘direct threat’ to Britain. Expect the SNP - and other Syria bombing sceptics - to highlight this again.
If he’d been at the PLP last night, Jeremy Corbyn may have been tempted to underline his point that the Government’s case on Syria was looking thinner by the day. He was certainly pleased last week that he’d got a majority of the Shadow Cabinet and PLP to vote against bombing.
But - apart from a very warm welcome for Oldham’s new MP Jim McMahon - the PLP was notable for the way MPs circled their wagons around Rose Winterton. This followed weekend reports of a ‘revenge reshuffle’ against her and others who didn’t vote the same way as the party leader. After the meeting, a spokesman for the leader said that the reshuffle was not raised, but I was told that Gavin Shuker had very much raised it. Shuker actually used the phrase ‘revenge reshuffle’ and demanded to know if there would be no ‘political punishments’ for those who voted differently. The Shadow Chief whip won loud applause for saying the vote was a free vote and ‘there should be no political consequences’’. Read my report HERE.
Meanwhile, Theresa May today has a speech on police cuts. Having won the battle with the Treasury ahead of the spending review, expect her to underline her reforming credentials.
3) TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA HURDLES
The vexed issue of giving 16 and 17 year olds the vote in the EU referendum returns to the Commons today. All the talk is of the Lords, but I wonder if a few Tory backbenchers will give the PM a scare?
As for the Lords, Labour smells a rat over the designation of the Lords amendment as a ‘finance’ measure, even though the Speaker’s office tells me this is entirely a decision by the Clerks. I’m told that Labour will argue that there is no real extra cos in registering under-18s because they will need to be registered for the 2020 general election anyway - and this move would just speed that process up.
Of course it’s delays, not speeding up, that worries the Government most about this Lords amendment. It wants the EU referendum bill on the statute book by Christmas. And it suddenly gave itself more room for ping pong yesterday with an extra day of consideration of Lords amendments. Labour is looking at its own way round the problem, as it did with the legal aid bill. Under an obscure process known as “double insistence”, the bill could be temporarily shelved if the Commons rejects the Lords amendments twice.
It was of course another referendum - for Scottish independence - that gave 16-year-olds a say. The Mail reports that George Osborne in the US has hit out at the SNP and hinted that he as PM would never agree to another referendum. “It was agreed before we had the referendum that the outcome would be decisive and that would settle the issue at least for a generation, if not for people’s lifetimes…As far as I am concerned, the deal done before the referendum is the deal that should stay after the referendum.” And for good measure, he had a pop at The 56 (now The 54):”They are a noisy and aggressive block in the House of commons that are not trying to be part of the UK government and that is a departure.”
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Watch the BBC’s Clive Myrie drop the D-bomb (the word 'dickhead') on boxer Tyson Fury
4) GIVING IT SOME WELLY
The floods in Cumbria were truly awful, brining home the human cost of the extreme weather. The PM went up in his wellies (£12 from Asda, none of your fancy Hunter Sloane Ranger outfits) and announced he’d look again at flood defence funding. Having declared money’s no object in January 2014, will he believed this time?
Labour pointed to a £115 million drop this year in spending on risk management and flood defences. Jeremy Corbyn, who is mopping up lots of former Green Party votes and is possibly the greenest Labour leader ever, says it’s about a wider failure of the Tories to take seriously climate change.
Liz Truss - who unlike Owen Paterson at least bows to her scientists on the link between climate change and extreme weather - told MPs yesterday that she would “have to look at that modelling” again [on weather patterns and global warming]. But will any of it make Amber Rudd do things differently in Paris?
There was a hint, just a hint, from her on the Today programme that DfID cash for combatting climate change overseas could be used at home. "Both of those things are important, it is not an either or choice."
5) DOUBT OF THE BENEFIT
Iain Duncan Smith was up early with the bacon sarnies today as he briefed the media on the latest progress update on his Universal Credit plans. But it was on the PM’s four-year ban on migrant benefits that the Government looked most vulnerable yesterday.
Donald Tusk made plain in his letter that there was ‘no consensus’ on the four-year plan, which was the understatement of the day. IDS had craftily pointed out on Sunday that this was a Tory manifesto plan that the PM had promised to deliver. The Guardian reports the PM will make a final push on it at the EU summit next week in the hope that fellow leaders will prove more flexible than officials who have discussed its legality (or illegality) so far.
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