The five things you need to know on Friday May 27, 2016…
1) PURDAH, SHE WROTE
Naughty, naughty No.10. Just two hours before Purdah rules (preventing abuse of civil service during election campaigns) kicked in last night, the Treasury put out its scary forecast that Brexit would hit the state pension. The line was that quitting the EU would cause inflation to rise, eroding the value of state pension increases and costing recipients £137 a year. Private pensions would also be hit by the economic turmoil too, HMT claimed.
Unsurprisingly, IDS was apoplectic, saying the spin was ‘utterly outrageous’. His old foe at DWP, Ros Altmann was on the Today prog, ramming home the message, saying “this isn’t some kind of conspiracy, there’s a consensus here”. The Leave camp argues that the Government machine is being shamelessly abused, just as they feared and predicted.
Out at the G7 the world leaders didn’t discuss Brexit explicitly but its 32-page communique had this line: "A UK exit from the EU would reverse the trend towards greater global trade and investment, and the jobs they create, and is a further serious risk to growth.” Angela Merkel told Reuters “There was the signal that all who sat here want Britain to stay part of the EU.”
Speaking at an early morning presser in Japan, the PM dissed Steve Hilton’s claim to know his inner mind. “I pretty much had the same view about Europe ever since I got involved in active politics...No, I’ve never been a closet Brexiteer. I'm not a closet anything.”
And although Question Time was good for the Out camp last night, the earlier BBC EU debate was less helpful. UKIP’s Diane James gifted the Remain camp their best poster line so far, saying “we just don’t know, we just don’t know”, when asked whether Brits would need visas to travel or work in Europe after Brexit. On trade, security and more, We Just Don’t Know is not the best pitch to wavering voters. Maybe the Remain campaign will run a Boris attack ad: ‘You Used To Be Undecided, But Now You’re Not So Sure’…?
2) THE SNAP WAGONS
Donations to Vote Leave are outgunning those of Remain. But this week there was another fascinating straw in the wind: donations to the Tory party were 50% higher than in the same period after the 2010 election. PolHome spotted that the Conservatives raked in £9m more than Labour in the last 12 months.
Among all the parties, there’s the first mutters of a snap (if you can call next year ‘snap’) general election, called by a triumphant Cameron or Boris. The theory is to kick Labour when it’s down, exploit Corbyn’s weakness to increase the Tory majority - and without any messy boundary changes that upset Tory backbenchers.
The election bandwagons may have to roll. And Labour is trying to get its team as election-ready as possible and yesterday HuffPost was the first to reveal that Corbyn has called in former Civil Service chief Lord Kerslake to review the leader’s office and its links to the rest of the party.
But as I reported, there are other big changes to the leader’s office, with Simon Fletcher losing his chief of staff role to focus instead on campaigns and planning, and Andrew Fisher getting a beefed up policy role. I’m told Fletch is not being sidelined under the ‘flat back four’ structure, but Labour MPs see Seumas Milne’s power growing further.
Meanwhile, there’s nervousness among some in the party that a ViceNews documentary has captured on screen some of chaos at the top of late. The Telegraph claims Fletcher and Milne were caught on camera having a difference of opinion.
Jeremy Corbyn today has one big heave before his recess holiday (of which more below), appearing alongside Ed Miliband to claim Brexit would be bad for the environment. EdM was on Question Time last night (v unusual for an ex-leader so soon after a defeat) but talk of a Shad Cab role is still derided as bonkers by those close to him.
3) POST-DATED DAVE
Brexiters don’t tend to like talking about what happens to the PM should they win on June 23, fearing they’ll be accused of turning the whole thing into a referendum on Cameron himself. But David Davis has told the Guardian that Cameron will have to step aside from any exit negotiations. “I think David will have to appoint someone with credibility [to conduct negotiations]. It is very difficult to say something is impossible and then do it yourself…I would say the morning after Brexit, announce who you want to do the negotiation and tell the country that person is going have a free hand and make all the decisions on it.” Ouch.
Meanwhile IDS, who knows all too well what its like when the vultures are circling, had some advice for fellow Tories on BBC’s Daily Politics yesterday: “Stick your letters in your back pocket and forget about it. The PM said if the British people say leave, he has to get on and get us out as fast as possible.”
Boris, who obviously has an eye on the post-Dave era, again sounded more like the Leader of the Opposition than a Tory backbencher when he attacked Downing Street as ‘utterly cynical’ for claiming it could tackle migration (see below) while staying in the EU.
The language deployed every day in this fight is making it hard to see how the wounds can be healed. Osbo called his critics 'economically illiterate' don't forget. Cameron himself said this morning he would now stick to the "arguments" not the personalities and play the ball, not the man. “I’ve got a self-denying ordinance for 30 days - and maybe longer," he joked.
Bojo also hit back at Jean-Claude Juncker, inviting him to come to Britain to see how the EU has ‘damaged’ the country. Juncker’s chief of staff, Martin Selmayr, has long been a Twitter accident waiting to happen. And his tweet yesterday, summing up the worst smugness of the Brussels elite, will come back to haunt him: “#G7 2017 with Trump, Le Pen, Boris Johnson, Beppe Grillo? A horror scenario that shows well why it is worth fighting populism.”
Last night, Parliament rose after the unprecedented sight of a Government regretting part of its Queen’s Speech. And if the PM was in any doubt about the Tory Euroscep rebels’ strength, he need only note that Sir Greg Knight, ex whip under Major, became the latest to sign the TTIP amendment.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Watch Ed Miliband deal with his identity crisis for the millionth time. Mind you he’s not the only one on Question Time who was confused for someone else…
4) JUTLAND CONFLICT
HuffPost has revealed that Jeremy Corbyn will not be attending Tuesday’s 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland. The Labour leader is taking a break (domestic, not overseas I understand) as the bank holiday leads into the week-long Whitsun recess break.
The commemoration in St Magnus Cathedral in Orkney, and at a war cemetery, will be attended by David Cameron, Nicola Sturgeon, Carwyn Jones, Arlene Foster and members of the Royal Family. In Corbyn’s place will be Shadow Defence Secretary Emily Thornberry and probably deputy leader Tom Watson. I grew up in an area where all the streets were named after First World War battles: Mons, Jutland, Marne, Verdun, Falkland. And many believe the Jutland memorial is long overdue recognition for the 6,000 sailors who lost their lives.
Corbyn allies insist he will be attending the bigger event marking the centenary of the Battle of the Somme in July, when the Queen, Barack Obama and others will pay their respects. Some Labour MPs believe that with the EU referendum imminent, now is not the time for a break. But friends of Corbyn say he rarely takes days off and needs family time like everyone else.
5) DUCK AND COVER
Speaking of matters military, the Times’s excellent Brussels corr, Bruno Waterfield, has a splash that plans for an ‘EU Army’ will be kept under wraps until June 24. Which spookily happens to be the day after our referendum. The Express has a new video by the Outers which shows British pupils saluting the blue flag of an EU superstate.
Out in Japan, the PM has rewarded the travelling press pack with a traditional final day story, saying he’s sending a second Royal Navy warship to the coast of Libya to help tackle people smuggling (and to hit at ISIS, the Sun adds).
On migration more widely, yesterday’s ONS stats showing the second highest net migration on record were awful for No.10. And as the Sun splash points out, Cameron refused to take any questions on the figures. The cheers David Davis got on Question Time underlined just how potent this weapons can be for Vote Leave.
Our latest Commons People podcast is out - LISTEN HERE. Lots on migration, Brexit, Boris, the IFS + Eagle-Osbo PMQs. Oh and a cat quiz, which as Graeme Demianyk points out, we really should have called ‘Feline Fine, or Fe-lying?’
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