The five things you need to know on Thursday March 10, 2016…
1) IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
The Sun’s eminence grise Trevor Kavanagh writes this morning that the paper had an “immaculate” source for its ‘Queen for Brexit’ splash, backed up by a second source. Intriguingly, he also suggests that, just as Downing Street engineered Her Majesty’s Scottish independence remarks, the Palace’s fury yesterday was manufactured. “We must not be surprised if the furious Palace denial about her views on Europe was also written by No10,” Trevor says. That’s fightin’ talk.
It may well be that the impact of this whole story stems from the initial weak non-denial denials from both Nick Clegg and the Palace, denials which hardened a bit yesterday following the electric shock of a Sun splash.
Michael Gove and Ex-Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan were at the Clegg meeting and both refused to deny they were the source yesterday. But the Telegraph splashes on Gove’s own non-denial, as aides said he had “no idea” of the story’s origin. It and the FT point out that three days before the story appeared, the Justice Secretary attended Rupert Murdoch’s wedding at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street. Among the other guests was The Sun’s razor sharp editor, Tony Gallagher (who was on Today hinting he had more in the locker).
The paper is sticking by its account and it’s perfectly conceivable that Her Maj did indeed say the EU was heading in the wrong direction, and that she didn’t ‘understand’ Brussels. But given that her remarks look to have been made long before any EU referendum was announced by the PM, some ministers think the Sun just over-egged it by then claiming she backed Brexit itself. After all, as Cam proves, you can be sceptical about and irritated by the EU without wanting to leave. Will regulator Ipso rule the story quotes can’t be disproved but the headline was misleading?
Tory Eurosceps were delighted by the story, not least for the ‘cut through’ it offers with millions of voters who want to back Brexit but are worried about the scare stories. In a neat reversal of Project Doubt run by the In camp, it plants the seed in voters’ minds that if Her Maj isn’t upset by Brexit, then it’s not a loony but a respectable position to adopt.
2) THE QUEEN SPEAKS. AGAIN.
The word in Whitehall overnight was that No.10 had done a ‘reverse ferret’ (the Sun’s everywhere today) on the date of the Queen’s Speech and now plans not to delay it until after the EU referendum. The Times reports that the legislative programme will be unveiled after the May elections after Chris Grayling and Mark Harper warned Parliament would look like it was ‘idling’ if there was a delay until July.
Whitehall, which has been idling, may be pleased. More importantly, Downing Street is keen on telling the world that it is not just ‘banging on’ about Europe. Amazingly, it has been surprised at the way the EU issue has dominated all political coverage. I’m amazed they’re amazed, frankly.
Grayling will use a speech today to put the focus back on Dave’s ‘meal deal’ from Brussels, suggesting it failed to put any real break on a loss of sovereignty or curb the ECJ. The Times also says the four-year welfare curb could ‘blow up’ IDS’ Universal Credit plan. It hasn’t helped the EU’s image that the European Parliament is planning a new limousine service at a cost of €3 million per year on cars and chauffeurs.
But the PM has a speech too (to car workers, cannily), and he hits even harder: seizing on admissions from Boris Johnson and others that jobs could be lost straight after Brexit.
Yet there is nervousness in No.10 about Labour’s line on the referendum. Richard Burgon’s question yesterday infuriated Labour MPs because it again risked turning the June 23 poll into a referendum on Cameron’s premiership. Len McCluskey last night underscored what many in Corbyn’s office think: that Labour should fight for an EU for workers not bankers.
3) DAN DARES
Dan Jarvis will this morning set out his own vision for economic policy under Labour, with a new line that the party should be sound on deficits and spending but also “tough on inequality, tough on the causes of inequality”. The Blair echo ain’t a coincidence, but neither too is the pitch to the soft left Milibandite analysis of why there’s still a big gap between many incomes in the UK.
The Guardian had some of the embargoed extracts. But I can reveal too that Jarvis will also make a pitch for a new approach to the City with a plan that has shades of Hillary Clinton. “We must act to encourage long termism in business. That means considering some radical options – like rebalancing our corporate tax system, which favours risky debt over equity,” he will say.
“And it might mean looking at the rights of shareholders, so that those who own the shares for longer have greater rights and those who buy in during a takeover bid don't get an unfair say.” Interesting stuff.
Jarvis’ speech will be watched eagerly by those who think he’s the best man to replace Corbyn after a July coup attempt. Has he improved his delivery style, his passion quotient and his policy ‘bottom’? That’s what Labour MPs want to know.
Corbyn’s spokesman insisted yesterday that he would automatically get on the ballot after any challenge but few in the PLP share that view, hence the Left’s new attempt to change the rules. At least the Compliance Unit finally kicked out 9/11 conspiracy theorist Gerry Downing (a great hit for Guido Fawkes). But how on earth did they not know about his views?
Meanwhile, here’s more good news for ‘moderates’. Elections to the Joint Policy Committee (the executive of Labour's National Policy Forum) saw a near clean sweep for the moderate slate organised by Labour First/Progress. And the two trade union reps are Len McCluskey (who's union has policy against Trident) and Dave Prentis, (who is particularly annoyed with the leader office after John McDonnell supported one of his opponents).
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Watch Rachel Reeves’s face as Richard Burgon asks his PMQ. If looks could kill…
4) SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY
The Government defeat on Sunday trading yesterday has started a blame game. The whips are getting it in the neck but so too is the Treasury and BIS for failing to draft their long-grass amendment sooner. Waiting until just before the debate yesterday to produce a ‘manuscript amendment’ gave the Speaker every chance to say MPs hadn’t been given enough time to consider its plans for a pilot and year’s delay. Bercow’s name was spat with venom by ministers yesterday but the worrying thing for the PM is his failure to win round MPs he had in for one-to-ones. Suggestions that the amendment could be introduced in the Lords fail to understand Parliamentary procedure.
Brandon Lewis said last night “This shows we were right at the general election to warn of the dangers of an unprincipled SNP propping up Labour”. But George Osborne is really getting it in the neck from his own side for yet another display of his ‘tin ear’ for backbench dissent. All a bit bloody for the Chancellor just a week before the Budget.
Yesterday was a reminder of how tight this Government’s majority is. What was striking was that it was defeated simultaneously in the Lords (on asylum seeker work rights) at the same time as the Sunday trading vote. And once again for good measure later in the Lords. Three defeats within an hour. Is that some kind of record? I hear that Keir Starmer and Alicia Kennedy played big roles in helping mobilise support for the Immigration bill Lords defeats.
5) APRIL FUEL’S DAY
Speaking of the Budget, the Sun has a story that the SNP is teaming up with Tory and Labour MPs to oppose a fuel duty rise in April. Stewart Hosie will table an amendment to the Finance Bill. With its 54 MPs, the SNP’s move – to be revealed tomorrow - means that more than 100 MPs across the Commons are now bitterly opposed to the move. Some 36 Tory MPs and 15 from Labour have this week told campaign group FairFuelUK they want a freeze or a cut at the pump. Yet where will Osbo get the millions needed to fund a duty freeze? Talk is of a big cut in another bit of the transport budget.
The trouble continues in the Mail splash on the ‘Houdini’ schemes used by UBS and DeutscheBank to avoid £100m in taxes. The BBC claimed Sajid Javid, ex Deutsche man, had questions to answer too.
Politico reports that Disney got €45 million from the U.K. taxman for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” (which made billions at the box office). Based on an analysis of 18 U.K. productions, the studio has received at least £250 million from the British taxman in the last five years. Osborne and Ed Vaizey were thanked by name in the film’s closing credits.
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