The five things you need to know on Monday May 16, 2016…
1) I’M WITH STUPID
Guilt by association is a terrible thing, but No.10 are delighted that Donald Trump is coming out in favour of Brexit. Like one of those American ‘I’m with stupid’ T-shirts, The Donald’s words on ITV’s Good Morning Britain were a gift to the In camp.
Asked directly about the PM’s line that his call for a Muslim ban was “stupid, divisive and wrong”, Trump told Piers Morgan: ”Well, number one I'm not stupid”. And on Cameron more generally: “It looks like we're not going to have a very good relationship. Who knows! I hope to have a good relationship with him but it sounds like he's not willing to address the problem either.”
Trump also attacked Sadiq Khan, suggesting he should take an IQ test and saying Khan’s claim that he was ‘ignorant’ about Islam was itself ‘ignorant’. “Tell him I will remember those statements. They're very nasty statements….I just think it's very rude of him. In fact it's the opposite. I wished him well when I heard he won.”
And on the EU, Trump told British viewers: “I would say, what do you need it for? If I were from Britain, I would probably not want it, I would want to go back to a different system…I’ve dealt with the European Union, it’s very, very bureaucratic..”
Lord Heseltine has been swift to react: "Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are now listed amongst those who would break up the safety and security of NATO and modern Europe. Their domestic audience enthuses at the narrow selfishness of Trump's isolationism and Putin's nationalism.”
The PM has made a direct pitch to Labour voters via the Mirror, telling them they are crucial to the In campaign. As it happens, Hilary Benn visits elderly voters today in Stevenage to ram home his message that ‘as a grandparent’ he feels a duty to future generations to back the EU in an age when the world’s problems (from climate change to refugees) can only be tackled through international cooperation.
George Osborne has yet another intervention on the economic damage Brexit will bring, but the Tory wounds are worsening not healing. Yesterday, Andrea Leadsom said Mark Carney would one day be “significantly regretting getting into politics” with his warnings over EU exit. Yes, that's a minister of the crown warning the Governor of the Bank of England he will regret his remarks. On a normal day, that would be extraordinary.
Still, on the Tory leadership jockeying, the Sunday Times yesterday had a source who has discussed the leadership with Cameron in the last fortnight, saying: "He said that he thinks his successor would be a Brexiteer and that George had a lot of ground to make up.” Cameron recently told one minister: "Only three people can do my job: George, Boris and Theresa [May]," the home secretary.
The Eastern Daily Press today has a new snapshot survey showing that Brexit is ahead in East Anglia by 39% to 30%, with a huge 21% yet to decide and 10% who refuse to vote.
2) QUEEN SPEAKS
The Queen’s Speech on Wednesday may well be the one day this week when the focus is not on Europe. But it so far seems like a terrifically dull (if in parts worthy) prospectus: a new ‘spaceport’ in the West Country, driverless car regulations, a revived counter-extremism bill, doubling the national citizen’s service, more adoptions, garden cities, league tables for prisons. All a bit John Major/Citizen’s Charter, sans cones hotline.
We are also promised the long awaited British Bill of Rights, yet given that both Gove and Boris were so underwhelmed by the final proposals, few expect it to be the real reform they wanted.
Even before the Queen’s speech, the attempt to show the Government is still governing today comes in the shape of the White Paper on higher education. Top lines look like unis will be allowed to charge even more than £9k in fees, new measures of the ‘student experience’ and a chance for Facebook and Google to se up their own institutions.
3) INQUIRY TIME
Shami Chakrabarti’s independent inquiry into allegations of anti-semitism in Labour will be formally launched today in Parliament at around 11.30am. The Jewish Chronicle had an early draft this weekend of the six terms of reference expected, including changes to the party’s code of conduct and party rules ‘if required’.
The inquiry will also “establish guidance about the boundaries of acceptable behaviour and language” and “develop clear and transparent compliance procedures for dealing with allegations of antisemitism and racism”.
As it happens, I’m told Baroness Royall’s own report on antisemitism claims at Oxford University was completed before the new inquiry was set up and it will be handed to the coming NEC meeting. Chakrabarti’s inquiry is set to report in late June.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Here’s the latest Hillary Clinton attack ad on Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns.
4) GREEN SHOOTS AND LEAVES
Late last night, the Greens announced that Natalie Bennett would not stand for a third term as party leader once her current term ends this autumn. Despite the criticism of her famous election brain fade, Bennett has a decent legacy of goals scored: an increase in MEPs, the best-ever result in a General Election in 2015 (with over one million votes for the first time) and a best-ever performance in London elections, where Greens are now the undisputed third party (as the Lib Dems did terribly).
A former Guardian journalist, she tells the Guardian: “I have a fraction of the resources of other party leaders…Sometimes I have just handed my phone to someone and said, ‘media manage me for the day’.”
Caroline Lucas, who set the PM that grammar test at PMQs recently, is seen as the favourite to get the top spot once more.
5) OH SUGAR SUGAR
Disability cuts dumped. Forced academies ditched. The Sun says that yet another centrepiece of Osborne’s tattered and torn 2016 Budget is now in danger: the sugar tax. Details of the policy are being kept under wraps until after the referendum, but the paper quotes food industry lawyers suspecting it was all a ruse to get manufacturers to cut sugar voluntarily.
Dominic Watkins, head of food law and legal firm DWF, told the Sun it would breach state aid rules not to include things like milkshakes and so on: "We've yet to see any real detail, and it could be the Chancellor will decide to use this as the biggest threat yet to force companies to reformulate their drinks. But there there is very real risk the Sugar Tax will breach EU rules."
One more area where the EU is very much in our lives, for good or ill.
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