The five things you need to know on Thursday March 3, 2016…
1) HOLLANDE DAY’S SAUCE
David Cameron and Francois Hollande are putting a bit of intent into the ‘entente cordiale’ today with a summit in Amiens. The grand day out is meant to be about joint defence working, but inevitably it is being used unashamedly by No.10 to ram home its Better Off In message for the EU referendum.
Ahead of the gathering, French finance minister Emmanuel Macron has delivered the best line Downing Street could have hoped for, telling the FT that Cameron was right to warn that Brexit would lead to migrant camps relocating from Calais to Dover. Well, OK, he hasn’t exactly said that, but the quote is good nonetheless: "The day this relationship unravels, migrants will no longer be in Calais," told the FT. The Out camp says this sauce is all a bit rich as there's no need to change the bilateral deal under Brexit.
Macron, by the way, is seen as so devilishly handsome that he’s even had some trouble of late from admirers. HuffPost France reports that one fan even ‘erotically harassed’ him with emails and racy photos. No, it wasn’t DCameron@No.10.gsi.gov.uk…
Let’s see if Hollande obliges with more of the same at the presser later. Cameron is certainly pushing the ‘safety and security’ card and will again claim “the UK’s membership of the EU gives us greater security and greater capacity to project power globally”. As this is the first gathering of its kind since the Paris terror attacks, the event carries more weight than usual.
2) SKETCHES BY BOZ
As it happens, Macron was also wearing his finance minister chapeau when he also told the FT that the UK “deciding to leave the single market will not be able to secure the same terms”. And while Dave trots out the safety case over the Channel, George makes the ’economic security’ case back in Blighty at the British Chambers of Commerce later.
Osborne will also dub Brexit "the worst of all worlds" and declare: ”In last few days, we’ve had confusion heaped on confusion from those who want to leave the EU”. The Treasury and No10 think that the failure of the Outers to explain what Out would actually look like is a real trump card.
In fact, the In campaign has released a new attack ad that shows Brexiters ‘umming and ahhing’. It cuts and pastes their words to make it look like they have no answer to the ‘Norway? Switzerland? Canada?’ questions. The video's creators tell me its a ‘light hearted’ way of making a serious point. See my video section below.
The Inners have seized on the Rolls Royce/BMW warning staff of job losses under Brexit, and the car manufacturers society is making similar noises. But the Leave campaign had a gift yesterday when gaffetastic Stuart Rose suggested wages would go up outside the EU. Yet more proof that professional politicians are actually better at this thing called politics.
Those in Labour who back Brexit will be cheered too by Joseph Stiglitz yesterday warning that he could not support the UK staying in the EU if the TTIP trade deal was anything like the US-Pacific deal.
But it is Boris Johnson, not Osborne, who often has the best one-liners. His Sun piece today proves what a good communicator he is, attacking the PM and Chancellor for “clutching at skirts” of the EU (ie Mutti Merkel) for fear of something worse. He also has a new tack on eurozone integration: “if we stay in the EU, we will inevitably find ourselves dragged in”. And he sketches out the Vision Thing: “Forget Project Fear, it is time for Project Hope.”
Bozza was hugely more popular than Osborne among Tory members in a YouGov/Times poll this week. The Telegraph claims he could go head to head with the Chancellor in the big BBC Wembley debate ahead of the referendum, though neither side confirms it. Still, with Boris due on Marr this Sunday, he’s clearly not going to have a quiet campaign.
3) FRIENDS REUNITED
Jeremy Corbyn is back in the thick of it today, at the British Chambers of Commerce conference in London. The best overnight line seems to be him attacking New Labour for creating the conditions for the financial crash by "outsourcing economic policy to the City of London”.
But the big news among some Labour MPs last night was our HuffPost exclusive that Labour had readmitted two leading leftwing union bosses: the PCS’s Mark Serwotka and FBU’s Matt Wrack. Serwotka was expelled more than 25 years ago and even last summer was not allowed to use his GMB ballot in the leadership race because he did not share the ‘aims and values’ of the party. Wrack’s brother Nick, who was the Socialist Party candidate against Harriet Harman in 2015, is not back in the party.
And Labour’s cash links with the unions may not suffer as badly as thought after yesterday’s Lords committee report on the Trade Union Bill. The Times rightly picks up on talk of concessions by ministers that could reduce the £8m a year cut in its income that Labour feared. What was significant yesterday was Frances O’Grady’s offer of a compromise, buried in a letter to the committee. Sounds like the two sides can now do business. Similarly, on Short Money, there’s a deal in the ether. But will Chris Bryant dig in - and will the DUP get the concessions it wants?
Labour is getting on with the day job as Rebecca Long-Bailey tackles Government plans to sneak out income disregards on tax credits via a Statutory Instrument.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Watch the latest US-style attack ad from the EU In campaign. It’s cheeky, as the quotes are out of context, but it could be effective.
4) FALLON’S SUB WAY
It’s the Scottish Tory conference tomorrow and No.10 has deployed one of its prime political missiles, namely Michael Fallon. Having fired off a volley at Sadiq Khan’s extremism earlier in the week, the Defence Secretary will strike again with a fresh attack on Labour ahead of the Holyrood elections.
Fallon will come armed, however, with an announcement that he will steam ahead with spending on Trident renewal. A £136 million Scottish contract for the new submarines will be confirmed, as part of a £642 million package.
Yet to my mind what’s most eye-catching is his admission to the Daily Record that there now WON’T be a Commons vote on Trident before the Scottish elections in May. “We have to fight for parliamentary time and the current session is ending so it is unlikely to be in this session”.
Given that the next Parliamentary session is expected to start in June or July, that means No.10 may have won its battle to get the vote delayed until after Labour’s party conference in the autumn (and certainly after Thornberry’s interim defence review in June). And there’s more. Fallon confirms the vote will be only on the ‘principle’ of Trident, not a so-called “main-gate” decision. “We don’t envisage one single main-gate decision, because that would reduce our bargaining position with the supply companies.”
5) DOCTORING THE DATA
Jeremy Hunt is in the crosshairs of the doctors again as the BMJ today releases a fresh attack on him for ‘misusing the data’ on weekend death rates.
Dr Fiona Godlee editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal says Hunt’s aim in citing a 6,000 ‘excess deaths’ claim last year was to ‘beat up on doctors’. A new investigation by the BMJ found no misconduct in the way the Health Secretary obtained the figure, but instead focuses on how he used it. It says he was “clearly warned” there was no evidence to link the deaths to problems with staff shortages.
“Hunt’s approach demonstrates either extreme political arrogance or an attempt to destabilise the NHS. Whichever, NHS staff and patients must deal with the fallout.” Some in the DH point to Godlee’s admission elsewhere that she has ‘liberal’ views, so this war of words isn’t going away. But with more strikes looming, it’s not clear who will suffer most damage.
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