POLITICS

The Waugh Zone, Friday July 14

14/07/2017 09:00 BST
Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

1) Battle Of Britain

Theresa May is already facing battles in Westminster and Brussels, but the next wave of attacks could come from Edinburgh and Cardiff.

Numerous front pages today are leading on the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly threats to vote down the Brexit Bill presented yesterday.

Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Welsh Leader Carwyn Jones issued a joint statement branding the Bill “a naked power grab, an attack on the founding principles of devolution and could destabilise our economies.”

The PM’s spokesperson yesterday said it was “very pessimistic” to talk of the Bill being defeated in the devolved bodies, adding: “We’re optimistic.” 

The devolved bodies voting against the Bill will have no legal impact, but it would have political ramifications.

For Sturgeon, this row comes at just the right time. After losing seats in the General Election, the SNP leader needs to regain some initiative to rescue the floundering hopes of a second independence referendum - and a row with Westminster could prove just the tonic.

But if she pushes too hard, and is seen as opposing for opposing sake, she could fuel the narrative that she doesn’t respect any referendum result that doesn’t go her way.

The Guardian quotes Tory MP Anna Soubry as urging Theresa May to start listening more, dictating less: “How many times do people like me have to tell them this? It’s all changed since 8 June. If [May is] going to stay and see this through, she’s got to step up. She’s got to get herself fully briefed; and she’s got to put David Davis back in his box and listen to Greg Clark, Amber Rudd, Philip Hammond. They should be giving the directions.”

2) Hammond’s Top Gear

Damian Green used the Office For Budget Responsibility to help him out of a ‘no deal’ shaped hole when he stood in at PMQs on Wednesday, suggesting the financial watchdog would set out the implications of such an outcome in a report on Thursday.

Yet while the OBR’s made no such specific analysis, there was plenty in there to help Philip Hammond fight off those Cabinet Ministers who want to see the purse strings loosened a little.

The watchdog effectively endorsed Hammond’s approach to fixing the roof while the sun is shining, especially as Brexit storm clouds are gathering on the horizon.

A trade hit caused by leaving the EU would impact on public services, and the OBR also pointed out that the UK has had a recession in every decade since the 1970s, but not one since 2010 - meaning one is overdue.

The Times reports Sir Charlie Bean, a director at the OBR, as saying: “This is the sort of time when you would hope that you would be starting to create fiscal space for there will be some bad surprises that come along. We don’t necessarily know what they will be but you should sure as hell prepare for bad news at some point.”

3) The Drug Strategies Don’t Work

The Government has today announced a new strategy for combating drug use.

The Home Office pledges to crack down on drug dealers and cut demand by expanding education on drugs and alcohol and beefing up the Prevention Information Service.

In a blog for HuffPost UK, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the plan would target “unscrupulous drug dealers” while trying to do more to “protect the vulnerable - to prevent them falling into the cycle of drug abuse and to help them turn their lives around”. 

The new strategy comes against the backdrop of a rise in deaths from heroin and morphine - which have more than doubled over three years.

Critics, including Niamh Eastwood from Release and Martin Powell from the Transform Drug Policy Foundation were highly critical of the new strategy, with Powell branding it “the same failed old recipe of criminalisation and under-funding that has lead to record numbers of vulnerable people dying”.

He added: “It dismisses out of hand or doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of measures proven to save lives and reduce crime - from decriminalising people who use drugs, to safer drug consumption rooms and heroin prescribing.”

The Lib Dems argue that if the Government really want to tackle the increase in drug deaths, the issue needs to be seen as a health, not a law and order, issue.

The strategy comes on the same day the All Parliamentary Group on runaway and missing children and adults highlights how middle class children are at risk of being groomed to sell drugs by criminal gangs.

Police believe gangs’ use of children to sell Class A drugs has spread from London to other cities like Liverpool and Greater Manchester.

One middle class parent told the APPG: “My son became involved in a gang where he was exploited to sell class A drugs at the age of 14 in 2012, I didn’t know what to do or who to call.” The APPG report warns that children from “stable and economically better off backgrounds” are being drawn in, coerced and exploited by gangs.

Last year, the National Crime Agency said gangs were using children in 80% of police areas in the country. The children were as young as 12.

Because you’ve read this far....

Watch Donald Trump turn the creepiness up to 11 when he meets Brigitte Macron:

 

4) Deep But Not Broad

In the run up to General Election, the feeling among many Labour MPs and commentators was that Jeremy Corbyn would stockpile votes in already safe seats while losing marginals.

An analysis of the results by Labour Roadmap - a group of party activists - suggests that despite the better than expected seat return, this pre-election analysis is still accurate.

According to the research, “Labour’s general election result is the least effective translation of popular vote to parliamentary seats since the 1950’s” and “Labour is racking up even larger majorities in places it holds but losing ground in places it doesn’t. Our appeal has become deeper, We have failed to register more seat gains with breadth.”

The report claims a progressive alliance with the SNP and Lib Dems will not put Corbyn into Downing Street, and the party’s “one more heave” plan of doubling down on its manifesto if there was another election would only work if it could win over Tory voters in England.

5) Political Climate Change

Donald Trump is continuing to make it up as he goes along it seems. In France for the Bastille Day celebrations, the US President suggested yesterday he could change his mind on pulling his country out of the Paris Climate Change deal.

In a news conference alongside French President Macron, Trump said “something could happen” when asked about the accord. “If it happens that will be wonderful and if it doesn’t that will be ok too,” said Trump.

Macron tried to help Trump by offering a little life raft for his concerns of the impact to protect US jobs, saying: “I respect the wish to preserve jobs, I think that’s compatible with the Paris accord.”

But let’s be honest, the Paris agreement is probably the last thing on Trump’s mind right now.

The US President gave a staunch defence of his son, Donald Trump Jr, over dealings with a Russian lawyer during the election campaign.

“Most people would have taken that meeting,” he said, referring to the one set out in the emails tweeted out by his son earlier this week.

“It’s called opposition research, or even research into your opponent,” he added, “I’ve only been in politics for two years, but I’ve had many people call up, ‘Oh gee, we have information on this factor or this person’, or, frankly, Hillary.”

While Trump dodged further questions - including whether his son should have told the FBI about the meeting, Trump Jr will find it harder to equivocate when he appears before the Senate judiciary panel.

Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican who chairs the committee, wants Trump Jr to give evidence “pretty soon” - with some members of the committee wanting to grill him as early as next week.

Should Trump Jr refuse, the committee could subpoena him to appear.

Commons People

Our latest Commons People podcast is out. Click HERE (for iPhones) and HERE (for Android) to hear us discuss the Brexit Bill, Emily Thornberry and a quiz on all those Tories to stand at the Despatch Box in PMQs since 1997...

HuffPost UK

 

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