The five things you need to know on Thursday, September 22, 2016…
1) WARRING PEACE
After months of bitter infighting, the Labour leadership election ballot closed at midday yesterday. But is the war really over? That’s upto Jeremy Corbyn as he and his team meet Tom Watson, Rosie Winterton, PLP chair John Cryer to try to hammer out a deal over Shadow Cabinet elections.
Jezza declared in his close-of-poll statement (and on the BBC too, so it was no slip of the tongue) that he wanted to ‘wipe the slate clean’ for all those former frontbenchers who had criticised him and backed Owen Smith. It proved that the ‘conciliators’ around the leader are playing to his natural instinct to avoid conflict, but there are some hardliners who still want him to ram his new mandate down the PLP’s throat.
In his BBC interview, Corbyn showed Laura Kuenssberg his olive tree from which he’s offering his olive branches to MPs. But as HuffPost revealed this week, the tree was itself given to him by a Labour councillor - who has been suspended for suggesting deselection of MPs.
And on avoiding conflict more broadly, Corbyn underlined his preference for jaw-jaw to war-war in his Ken Loach interview, revealing his plan for a new Minister for Peace and a Minister for Disarmament (full marks to the Telegraph’s Asa Bennett for spotting it at the end of the hour-long documentary). If he’d called it a ‘Minister for Peacekeeping’, that may have pre-empted the ridicule that followed online. Then again, it may not. And as a keen reader of novels, did Corbyn have any idea that 1984 included a ‘Ministry of Peace’?
Ahead of the Liverpool conference, we reveal that party staff have been issued with an unprecedented advice note on how to respond to threats of “aggression and potential violence” from activists. Moreover, amid fears of a ‘clear out’ of alleged ‘moderates’ at HQ, staff weren’t exactly reassured when Corbyn wrote to them saying “at this stage” no “compulsory” redundancies were planned in the party.
2) BONUS OF PROOF
Andrew Lansley is disliked on the Left for his NHS reforms and on the Right for his avid Remainer views. Now the former Health Secretary has combined his twin interests by calling for a £5bn-year ‘Brexit Bonus’ for the NHS.
In his NHS Providers annual lecture, Lord (yes, he’s a peer don’t forget) Lansley tried to call the bluff of the Leavers by saying they’d promised extra cash post-Brexit, and should now prove they can deliver.
As it happens, it’s Lansley’s own clinical commissioning group (CCG) structure that is causing controversy on several fronts today. Different CCGs have differing funding rates for a breast cancer drug that charities say could save thousands of lives. And on IVF treatment too, there’s a local lottery, with parts of England failing to hit the Nice guidelines, while Scotland guarantees three cycles. As with mental health funding (see below), that Lansley localism has a political downside.
On the EU more generally, Leavers are delighted that the OECD has admitted it was too gloomy about the immediate impact of a Brexit vote (though it is still gloomy about 2017).
As for Labour’s stance on free movement, more former shadow ministers are joining Rachel Reeves in saying curbs are crucial. Jonathan Reynolds today tells HuffPost:”People who have a genuine emotional concern about the scale of immigration want to see that addressed.” Chuka Umunna said yesterday that immigration was the missing issue in his party’s leadership election. One to watch.
3) A RATIO HORNBLOWER
It’s not just ‘hard Brexit’ that worries some in the Treasury. Tory MPs believe the Chancellor has real concerns about some of the horn-blowing rhetoric from No.10 on taking on company ‘fatcats’ and plans to name and shame firms with large inequality ratios on pay.
As part of her mission to be on the side of the ‘ordinary working class’ voter, May and her team want a US-style annual publication of the ratio “between the CEO’s pay and the average company worker’s pay”.
But the FT reports that officials have warned the PM that the calculation could produce perverse results where some big banks (like Goldman Sachs) end up looking “fairer” than retailers such as John Lewis/Waitrose, which prides itself on an enlightened pay policy. Simply because banks have fewer low-paid staff, they come out with a better ratio.
Downing Street seems undeterred by what it calls ‘anomalies’. But May is famously a Waitrose shopper (and unafraid to say so), and officials are hinting they may reconsider the ‘one size fits all’ approach to how the data is presented.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Watch this pizza delivery guy’s wheelie fail in Clapham
4) GIANT LEAP FOR MANC KIND
George Osborne’s shot across Theresa May’s bows over the Northern Powerhouse looks like it may have paid off. Having launched his new think tank to boost his pet project last week (accompanied by a slightly menacing interview on the Today prog) the former Chancellor appears to have got his way.
Writing for the Manchester Evening News, May has lavished praise on the Northern Powerhouse. Having struggled to even utter the phrase after she entered No.10, the PM uses it no fewer than five times in her short article. May pledged that she “will ensure the whole machinery of government gets behind it.”
The Sun reports that Osbo has however ducked the chance to put his own political future where his mouth is. Asked if he would run for the Tory candidacy for Manchester’s Metro Mayor, he replied that he was “flattered by the interest and committed to making the new Greater Manchester mayor a success, but I will do that from the House of Commons, not the town hall.” The fact that the Tories have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning is, of course, a mere detail.
5) MENTAL WEALTH SPENDING
Long the ‘cinderella’ of the NHS and care system, mental health has in recent years risen up the political agenda. But according to Luciana Berger, the Government is still failing to deliver.
The former shadow health minister has some new figures showing that funding will be cut again in many areas and the postcode lottery will keep on producing losers as well as winners. At least 73 local areas will see their GP mental health budgets slashed in 2016/2017.
The gap between the smallest and largest spends will also widen: Haringey’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will put 16 percent of its budget on mental health, for West Hampshire that figure will be 5 percent.
Jeremy Hunt had promised that CCGs are committed to increasing the proportion of their funding that goes into mental health. But Berger said the commitment had not been met. As an aside, I wonder if she is one of the ex shadow ministers planning a return to the Corbyn frontbench? She worked well with him on mental health, and he’s been a lifelong campaigner on the issue…
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