POLITICS

The Waugh Zone October 11, 2016

11/10/2016 08:42 | Updated 11 October 2016

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The five things you need to know on Tuesday, October 11…

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1) BUTTONS FOR PUNISHMENT

Given all the dire EU referendum predictions of instant recession and share collapses, the British public may be a little weary of any new attempts at a cost-benefit analysis of Brexit. But the Times has an excellent scoop of a Treasury paper warning the UK could lose £66bn a year in tax revenues if 'hard' Brexit goes ahead.

On seeing the story, novelist Robert Harris tweeted a sense of drama: “Immediately after the iceberg was struck, the lights stayed on, drinks were served. But down in the hold the experts were doing the math”. That sums up the mood among his fellow Remainers that the more time goes on the more the scale of economic hardship will become clear.

Brexiteers like David Davis dismiss this as yet more scaremongering and the point of the Times story is ministers were furious that these Treasury calculations (from April) are still being included in Cabinet committee papers. DD’s Commons statement yesterday was notable for the way he and ‘the Bills and the Bernards’ (as Cameroons used to dismiss the Eurosceps) were now the new Establishment. All the Remainer MPs were batted away as being, well, kinda batty.

DD also gave a decent news line, warning of a domino effect if Merkel and Hollande played hardball and lost. “If the EU adheres to a punishment plan and it fails, as I believe it would, then that's an even bigger incentive to countries that want to leave than no punishment at all,” he said. “The approach that is being talked about puts at risk the stability of the European Union.”

Who’s calling whose bluff is perhaps the most fascinating aspect to Brexit politics right now. Janan Ganesh in the FT says that for Remainers the only good Brexit is hard Brexit and “events must take their course”. The suggestion is that the economic shock needs to be so bad to prove to May what an historic mistake she has made in trading the single market for migration curbs. But no amount of ‘evidence’ will change the minds of some Brexiteers. As one put it to me in Birmingham: “Yes I am a fundamentalist. This is about freedom.”

As for the issue of whether Parliament will have any meaningful vote on Brexit terms, Keir Starmer (who made an impressive debut as Shadow Brexit Secretary) may be pleased at a hint of movement from No.10. Sources told the Beeb that a Parliamentary vote on a ‘final’ deal (not on triggering Article 50) could be possible. Never say never, again?

2) POLLING IN THE DEEP

Last night’s PLP underlined just how wide the gap still is between Jeremy Corbyn and some of his MPs. I’ve written an account HERE. MPs were still upset at Rosie Winterton’s sacking, at Momentum, at JC’s stance on the Socialist Workers’ Party.

But the most striking intervention came from Barry Sheerman, who pointed to the 17-point Tory lead in yesterday’s ICM poll. “I’m going to lose my seat. Other people in here are going to lose their seats,” he told Corbyn. Sheerman said afterwards he wanted to know ‘what’s the plan, Stan?’, which conjured up visions of the PLP karaokeing ’50 Ways To Leave Your Lover’ (‘Get off the bus, Jez, you don't need to be coy Roy, slip out the back Jack’).

The ICM figures were dire, for sure. The worst since Gordon Brown’s in 2008 (and he was PM after Labour was in power a long time), they also showed a huge gender gap. Some 52% of women back May to 22% for Corbyn. His allies countered after the meeting that it was PLP disunity that had ‘depressed’ the party’s poll rating. Depressed is an apt adjective.

As for Team Jez more widely, sanguine doesn’t do justice to how relaxed they were about the latest PLP grilling. “There were critical questions as there is at every PLP meeting but I think, for those of you who have been following this for the last year, will know that there have been a number of stormy meetings and this doesn’t even register at the low level on the richter scale,” one aide said.

There was also a warning to Labour MPs from the Labour source, that they had been elected ‘as Labour MPs, not as independent MPs’. The signal that it was Jez’s way or the highway was underlined when the source explained for the first time just why Winterton had been fired: “It’s necessary for the parliamentary operation to be reset in a way that effectively represents his mandate.”

Some bright new talent is being included by Corbyn in his reshuffled team. But by my count, there are still 44 shadow frontbench places unfilled (though JC's team say they don't have to match every Government post). I also hear that the Shadow Defence team only has Nia Griffith - and Fabian Hamilton is having to take two jobs in shadow foreign and shadow defence.

3) SLAUGHTERHOUSE BLITHE

The Speaker didn’t grant a special debate on Brexit but he did grant a three-hour emergency debate on Syria, which will take place in the Commons today. Former DfID Secretary Andrew Mitchell, who successfully secured the debate, has compared the Assad regime’s conduct in eastern Aleppo to the Nazi and fascist bombing of Guernica in Spain in the 1930s. Outgoing UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has described the situation in the city as “worse than a slaughterhouse”.

The late Jo Cox would have been at the forefront of today’s debate if she were still with us, and many MPs will want to highlight the tireless work of the White Helmet charity which is struggling to help civilians in Aleppo. No MP imagines that their words will affect Assad, but Mitchell told Today there has to be a new diplomatic push to get the Russians and Americans (the only players who make a difference) to end the suffering.

Last night, some Labour MPs were furious at Jeremy Corbyn’s line at the PLP that the Russians had only “apparently” been bombing civilians in Syria. Jezza aides insisted afterwards that the evidence did point to war crimes by the Russians but also that it proved why he was right to oppose all military intervention in the country. “He’s condemning the multiplicity of war crimes in Syria today,” one aide said.

BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…

Watch the best mashup so far of Trump-Clinton’s debate duet.

4) TRUMP TONE RIOTS

Donald Trump’s Teflon coating is coming under servere strain after a poll putting Hillary Clinton 11 points ahead in the wake of their second TV debate, and after Republican House speaker Paul Ryan making clear he was bailing on his party’s Presidential candidate. Both the tone and the content of the billionaire’s past and present outbursts may be catching up with him.

The Donald has been here before, of course, as the Republican establishment loathe pretty much everything he stands for. Yet after further ruining his hopes of winning over uncommitted women voters, the worry now is that a new ‘scandal’ tape will wipe out any lingering chance of getting the backing of black voters. Yes, the rumour is that an outtake of his Apprentice TV show has him using the N-word.

Meanwhile Twitter went into meltdown over claims Hillary really is a robot - she didn’t bat an eyelid when a fly landed on her face in the TV debate. Yet not everyone is laughing this side of the pond. One worried Cabinet minister has told The Sun: “Trump may look and sound like a bit of a joke, but he is a seriously dangerous man. He poses a serious threat to international stability because he won’t guarantee Article 5 (of Nato). We really are extremely worried about any prospect of him taking the White House”.

5) MIND THE GAP

If Hillary Clinton does become President, her supporters think she would become a role model for women, particularly older women, around the world.

Over here, the Telegraph has splashed on a warning from Ofcom chief Sharon White that there should be more older women on screen and that the BBC is ‘falling short’ in its duty to represent modern Britain. White, who will regulate the Corporation once the BBC Trust is replaced in April, had given an interview to the FT in which she said: “On minority communities, older women, it is not doing as good a job as it should be. There is a gap there and it is a gap I would like to see closed over time.”

Perhaps given its own demographics, the Telegraph focused more on the older women bit of that sentence rather than the minorities bit (the Beeb has a Black and British season this November). But White (whose other half is OBR chief Robert Chote, that’s what you call a power couple) clearly wants action. BBC DG Tony Hall admits there’s an issue with a lack of older women on screen, but the Corporation says all broadcasters need to do more - and argues it has an array of female talent from Mary Berry to Kirsty Wark.

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