The five things you need to know on Tuesday February 9, 2016…
1) LEXICON SPITFIRE
In case you’ve haven’t heard, Emily Thornberry had a pretty rough time of it at last night’s PLP. I’ve done a full, blow-by-blow - or heckle-by-heckle - account of the meeting HERE. Some MPs chanelled Madness’s ‘You’re An Embarrassment’, Madeleine Moon tweeted her dismay, others were struck by the Shadow Defence Secretary’s suggestion that Trident could become as outdated as Spitfires.
Many at the PLP were depressed to hear Thornberry suggest that drones could one day track deep subs, a claim they think was based on guesswork at best and lefty conspiracy theories at worst. Yet what riled many was the ‘lie’ that the review was a genuine attempt to be ‘open minded’ on the issue.
Here's just one choice quote an MP present gave me afterwards: "It was a toxic mix of Islington dinner party self-assuredness, total ignorance about the subject and complete indifference to the disastrous path down which she and Jeremy Corbyn are taking the Labour party."
Thornberry’s defence review will be discussed by the Shadow Cabinet for the first time today (she gave a brief update last week but there was no time for a full debate). And it could get pretty brutal (though tempers may not boil over like last night).
Andy Burnham was on the Today programme this morning confirming just how difficult the defence review had been. Corbynistas will point to Burnham’s admission that this issue came up in the party leadership race, and counter that Corbyn won by a landslide.
But the Shadow Home Secretary spoke for many in the Shad Cab when he said: “I’m a multilateralist not a unilateralist…There are two positions here that are difficult to reconcile maybe impossible to reconcile. Some hybrid options have been put forward but most people have found that they just don’t work.” He said others have asked if you can “realistically find a half way house - and most people have found that you can’t.” That word 'impossible' will be repeated.
Thornberry is due on Today at 8.30am.
2) RICKETTS DIAGNOSIS
The Telegraph and Mail splashes ridicule David Cameron’s claim that Britain quitting the EU would lead to the Jungle migrant camp moving from Calais to Dover. Both pick up on the ’Scaremongering’ quote from Liam Fox and DD. But other papers point to real hints in France that they would indeed be forced to shift the border over the Channel.
And on the Today prog, the PM had some heavy duty backing from our former ambassador to Paris (and crucially former national security adviser) Sir Peter Ricketts. He pointed out Sarkozy’s opposition were already considering scrapping the deal between the UK and France, and said the current government were likely to reconsider it, with the treaty ‘under review’ after Brexit at the very least.
The Sun meanwhile has a neat story on the wider EU referendum, saying the PM will refuse pleas for head to head debates (especially with a ‘sweaty’ Nigel Farage), preferring instead the BBC Question Time format that served him so well in the 2015 election. Vote Leave may have to hire some chicken costumes of their own - Labour has some going cheap.
As it happens the IFS report yesterday (see below) had some warnings about Brexit too: ‘leap in the dark’ was a phrase we’ll hear more of. But what caught my eye was the line about freedom of movement would still be needed outside the EU.
3) MUM’S THE WORD
The IFS’s Green Budgets have a habit of pointing out uncomfortable projections for governments of all stripes and yesterday was no exception. Lots of papers have seized on the £2bn gap in Treasury coffers that could be triggered by global economic turbulence, and the Guardian focuses on welfare cuts while the Times prefers the go in on possible fuel duty rises and new child benefit cuts.
But the Mirror has the best cuts story, splashing on the revelation that David Cameron’s mother Mary has signed a petition calling on Oxfordshire county council to save 44 children’s centres. Mrs C doesn’t live locally but signed in on a visit, perhaps to see her son in his constituency home. She told the paper “My name is on the petition but I don’t want to discuss this any further.” Greg Clark at least cheered up some in his party with a council settlement yesterday that helps Tory rural areas.
It’s always a bit of a PR problem for the party of austerity to hold a lavish fundraising ball. Boris turned up on his bike in the City last night, but Sir Lynton Crosby wasn’t so squeamish and arrived in a limo. The poster of Miliband in Salmond’s pocket went for £50k in the auction. A pretty good deal given the original ad cost just £950.
The FT has a front page story suggesting The Big Short is on again, this time in London: luxury homes are being shorted by hedge funds in a bet on falling prices.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
4) CAN’T GET NO SATISFACTION
It never rains but it pours for Jeremy Hunt. The latest British Social Attitudes Survey has found that
public satisfaction with the NHS has fallen to a 30-year low. The main causes seem to be staff shortages, long waits to see a GP and a belief there’s not enough cash to fund services. Dissatisfaction has jumped by 8% – the largest year-on-year rise ever seen.
Just six in 10 (60%) Britons now say they are satisfied with the NHS, a sharp drop since the all-time high of 70% who voiced satisfaction as recently as 2010. Labour isn’t shy in saying 2010 was the last time it was in power.
Heidi Alexander ridiculed Hunt yesterday for again sending his deputy Ben Gummer to cover for him for an urgent question on the doctors’ strike. The Indy has an exclusive that Hunt blocked a deal that NHS Employers and officials believe could have ended the dispute. DH says the claims are ‘completely untrue’.
5) MENTAL HEALTH WEAK
Amid record deficits, Hunt is facing demands to give an emergency injection of cash to the NHS. The last time the DH spent more than Parliament had approved, Nigel Crisp was fired as its chief exec. Today, Lord Crisp Mental is back with an independent report on poor quality mental health services in England.
He says the NHS must stop sending severely ill adults long distances from homes and families – sometimes to hospitals hundreds of miles away. About 500 patients a month are having to travel more than 31 miles (50km) for acute care in psychiatric wards.
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