The five things you need to know on Thursday 26 June 2014...
1) BAD WEEK FOR DAVE
Poor Dave. The first half of this week was all about phone hacking and the fallout from a guilty verdict for David Cameron's former director of communications, Andy Coulson. Not only did Cameron have to offer his 'profound apology' but yesterday, as the Guardian reports on its front page, "criticism of the prime minister was compounded when a judge rebuked Cameron for potentially prejudicing the final phase of the phone-hacking trial by prematurely branding Coulson a liar before all the verdicts on his former spin doctor... had been reached." Oops!
The second half will focus on Cameron's failing strategy to prevent Jean-Claude Juncker becoming president of the EU commission. As the FT reports on its front page:
"David Cameron's European allies abandoned him yesterday ahead of a showdown over EU leadership, leaving him all but alone in opposing the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker to Brussels' top job at a summit tomorrow. Angela Merkel made a last -minute intervention to try to stop the prime minister's isolation over the appointment of the European Commission president turning into a diplomatic debacle, reassuring him that she would seek to help him reform the EU."
The Times takes a slightly different tack, under the headline:
"Angela Merkel claimed yesterday that there would be 'no drama' if the rest of Europe outvoted Britain and installed Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission."
Maybe not in Brussels. But in Westminster? Oh, there'll be plenty of drama. Dave will have been defeated. And the eurosceptics will be enraged. To add insult to injury, Michael Gove's former spad and Cameron critic Dominic Cummings has penned a column in today's Times headlined: "Cameron's empty Euroscepticism fools no one."
2) KEN DOESN'T GIVE A DAMN
Ken Clarke, the minister without portfolio and veteran of the Thatcher and Major governments, is expected to be booted out of the coalition government in the coming reshuffle. And he knows it. Basically, he's demob-happy and doesn't give a damn about standing up for the PM or collective responsibility. Witness the europhile minister's comments on the BBC's World At One yesterday - my HuffPost colleague Ned Simons reports:
"Cameron has been criticised by the judge at the Old Bailey after he used a TV broadcast to apologise for employing Coulson as his communications director while the jury was still considering other charges. Downing Street insist that the prime minister received the 'best legal advice' before he made the statement. No.10 refused to confirm whether it had come from Attorney General, Dominic Grieve. However Clarke popped up on BBC Radio 4's World at One programme to say Cameron had been 'unwise' to comment. 'They should have taken some legal advice first but I doubt whether it ever crossed David's mind,' he said. 'There obviously wasn't a lawyer sitting around when they were being pressed by the public and the press to give comments on the news that had come out.' Told about Downing Street's claim it had received legal advice, he said: 'I think I know the source of 'the best legal advice' so I'll have a chat with him and he can correct me.'"
He also intervened in the row over the appointment of former Luxembourg PM Jean-Claude Juncker:
"Cameron has been fighting what looks like a losing battle to block Juncker from securing the post, arguing he is too integrationist. However Clarke, the most pro-EU member of Cameron's cabinet, said Junker was not the 'arch-villain' he has been portrayed to be. "I'm one of the few people, the prime minister is another, who has probably ever met Jean-Claude Juncker, he said. 'He's been turned into an arch-villain. He's not an arch-villain.'"
3) MY ENEMY'S ENEMY
Now here's an axis George W. Bush could never have dreamt of - from the Times:
American, Iranian and Syrian military aircraft buzzed the skies of Iraq yesterday, conducting parallel surveillance missions and airstrikes as the global battle to halt a Sunni militant offensive grew more intense and complex, drawing in old enemies to the same side. While the southward offensive towards Baghdad appears to have stalled, gains by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Isis) in Anbar have brought fresh jitters to the capital."
They've also brought together Barack Obama, Ayatullah Khamenei and Bashar al Assad. Who'd have imagined it, even a month ago.
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this very amusing video of a pair of Romanians trying to inspect a sewage pipe.
4) LABOUR'S 'TOP TRUMPS'
Jon Cruddas has a way with words, doesn't he? And he probably thought he was helping when he sat down with the New Statesman's George Eaton to urge his party to focus, Tony Benn-style, on policies, not personalities. As the Times explains:
"Members of the shadow Cabinet must stop jostling for position to replace Ed Miliband and concentrate on winning over voters, a senior party figure has warned. Alluding to the in-fighting that has broken out within the party, Jon Cruddas, who is overseeing Labour’s policy review, said that those who believe a new leader would boost the party were 'deluding themselves'. ho believe a new leader would boost the party were 'deluding themselves'. He named Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper as he warned that a 'game of Top Trumps' had broken out at the top of the party over the future leadership... Mr Cruddas staunchly defended his leader. 'I see him at close quarters,' he told the New Statesman. 'He has a different form of leadership, which I quite like, actually, it's more inclusive, it's quite plural...'"
5) 'GRUMPY OLD MEN'
From the Telegraph:
"The campaign to keep the United Kingdom together is risking failure because it is run by "grumpy old men" while many of the undecided voters in Scotland are women, a former adviser to Gordon Brown has claimed. Baroness Vadera, a banker who became a Labour business minister, said the pro–UK Better Together campaign was 'testing to destruction' the belief that it will win. 'I think we'll win, I think it'll be all right, but really it doesn't have to be this close," she told an event run by Fortune magazine last night. Better Together is led by Alistair Darling, the former chancellor, who had a difficult relationship with the peer. In his memoirs, Mr Darling said he refused to have the abrasive Baroness Vadera on his team in the Treasury, saying she was 'only happy if there was blood on the floor – preferably that of her colleagues'."
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From the Sun/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 7
That would give Labour a majority of 58.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Seumas Milne, writing in the Guardian, says: "They say Miliband's a loser – that's because they fear he could win."
Tim Montgomerie, writing in the Times, says: "I come to praise Coulson, not to bury him."
Peter Oborne, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Prime Minister and his gang haven’t learnt their lesson."
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