** Boris (Sorry, Tory) Conference Edition ** Gideon Wins, Poor Lose ** Re-Elected And Olympotastic ** Return Of The 'Nasty Party'? ** Gideon: This Is Your Life ** Greenest Government Ever? ** Shappswatch ** Betting On Ed Miliband ** He's Baaaaaack ** Barack's Blues **
GIDEON WINS, POOR LOSE
Having ruled out a mansion tax on the top 10% in a Mail on Sunday interview yesterday, the chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne takes to the pages of the Daily Mail this morning, in a joint op-ed with fellow Conservative cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith, to announce further cuts in spending on the bottom 10%.
"If the rate of reductions in departmental budgets in the next spending review period is to be kept the same as the current rate, then the welfare budget would have to be reduced by more than £10billion by 2016-17," write Gideon and IDS. "We are both satisfied that this is possible..."
The duo suggest housing benefit could be removed from 380,000 people under the age of 25 and unemployed parents could be deprived of extra support if they have another child (prompting the Mail's front page splash: "Jobless with big families could lose benefits").
This Tory conference is rapidly turning into a "slap-the-Lib-Dems" summit. Remember Nick Clegg's promise on spending cuts at his own party conference in Brighton? That there "won't be a penny less or a penny more" than those already agreed? Remember how senior Lib Dems took to the airwaves to poo-poo the prospect of an extra £10bn in welfare cuts - claiming that the emphasis would instead be on a mansion tax on the wealthy?
Am I the only one wondering how embarrassed/humiliated/irritated/angry/delete-where-applicable they're feeling this morning as they look at the front pages? "George Osborne seals deal for £10bn welfare cuts," says the Guardian headline. "Austerity squeeze set to last until 2018," is the FT splash.
However, Tory sources tell the Guardian that Osborne will use his speech to "explain how in every single year of this parliament the rich will pay a greater share of our nation's tax revenues than in any one of the 13 years that Labour were in office".
Osborne has just told the Today programme, a few moments ago: "I'm clear that the richest have to pay more" but says the public aren't just angry about "the bankers" but also about the welfare system with "its perverse incentives". It's a "delusion", Osborne claims, to try and balance the budget on the backs of the rich alone.
On welfare, of course, the chancellor's political calculation is clear: spending cuts, as a whole, are pretty unpopular but cuts to the welfare budget go down rather well with large sections of the public. Hence today's Express headline: "Tories to launch war on workshy".
Meanwhile, the FT quotes Stephen King, chief economist of HSBC, pointing out how the root of the problem is that "people have been very slow to cotton on to the fact that underlying growth is slower than people expected".
RE-ELECTED AND OLYMPOTASTIC
That's the title of ConservativeHome's much-anticipated 'rally' for Boris this evening (at 6pm, ICC Hall 1) and, let's be honest, this Tory conference is also doubling as the Boris Johnson Show. The London mayor will be speaking to a packed crowd of delegates on the fringe tonight and then he'll be addressing his fans in the conference hall tomorrow morning. All of the chatter in Birmingham is around Boris taking over from a crisis-hit Cameron and the Blond One refused to rule a future bid for the Tory leadership in a BBC radio interview yesterday. Cripes!
A new poll of Tory activist by Conservative Home, says the Independent, shows Boris is far and away their favoured candidate for 'next Tory leader'.
The mayor himself has a column in the Telegraph highlighting the need to "target this group — the struggling middle — that is currently not being helped, and that is so vital for the economy... We desperately need more housing not just for the poor, but for this vast and economically crucial group who are the motor of the London (and therefore of the UK) economy."
Meanwhile, Tim Montgomerie, Boris's partner-in-crime this evening, has a column in the Times entitled: "My 2020 vision for a Boris Johnson Cabinet".
(In a similar spirit, the HuffPost UK has put together a list of 10 top Tories - some serious, some perhaps not-so-serious - who we think could end up replacing David Cameron come 2015. Who've we forgotten?)
RETURN OF THE 'NASTY PARTY'?
That's the suggestion on the front page of the Independent, with political correspondent Andy McSmith reporting:
"David Cameron has been warned that his attempts to shed the Conservative Party's "nasty party" image are being undermined by organisers of a mass rally against gay marriage.
About 900 people, the majority of them active members of the Conservative Party, will crowd into Birmingham Town Hall at lunchtime today to hear the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, the former Home Office minister Ann Widdecombe and others give speeches on why there should be no change in the legal definition of marriage to recognise same-sex couples."
A new survey of Tory constituency party chairs, incidentally, has found seven out of 10 want the PM to drop his pledge to legalise gay marriage, and more than half of them say the Tories have lost members over the gay marriage issue.
GIDEON: THIS IS YOUR LIFE
A semi-authorised biography of the chancellor by FT political columnist and Osborne-sympathiser Janan Ganesh has been serialised in today's Mail - you can read the exclusive extract here. I liked this bit:
"Then, on the eve of moving up to St Paul’s School in 1984, the 13-year-old Osborne made what some suspect was his first political decision — he changed his name.
He had long grumbled about being called Gideon. His mother, tired of fielding the grievance, finally took him off to the deed poll office and Gideon became George.
Theories abound as to why he did this. Was he being bullied? Unlikely. In a school of Mungos and Nathaniels, a boy called Gideon did not stand out. Osborne has always said he simply didn’t like the name, so he changed it. But it may also be that he was already set on a career in public life and feared that his baroque and rarefied name might hold him back."
Talk about forward-planning...
GREENEST GOVERNMENT EVER?
From the Times front page:
"Seven global electricity and nuclear technology companies are threatening today to withdraw plans for hundreds of millions of pounds of future investment in Britain because of attempts by George Osborne to water down the Government’s green commitments.
Siemens, the engineering giant, Alstom UK, the infrastructure and energy company, Mitsubishi Power Systems and four other companies, which together employ 17,500 people in the British energy sector, say that a lack of decision-making and threats to relax key targets 'have caused us to reassess the level of political risk in the UK'. This could cost tens of thousands of new jobs.
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video Michael Green (aka Grant Shapps) trying to evade a doorstep by Channel 4 News' Michael Crick, and opening the wrong door behind the conference stage in the process...
Gaffe-prone Tory chairman Grant Shapps told LBC Radio's Iain Dale yesterday that David Cameron had struggled to create a "top notch" government and had presided over an "absolute shambles" over the past six months. Shapps said there has not been "anything particularly glorious" about his party's performance for half a year.
Incidentally, the Tory conference handbook seems to have been printed prior to last month's cabinet reshuffle - Sayeeda Warsi is still listed as "co-chairman". Grant better get the Tipp-Ex out, quick...
BETTING ON ED MILIBAND
Friends of Ed Miliband often warn his critics not to underestimate or write him off. Well, a senior Conservative member of the cabinet agrees with them - the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith told a Tory fringe yesterday that he had won money in a bet when the younger Miliband was elected as Labour leader, against the odds, in September 2010.
THE BIG MAC APPROACH TO CAMPAIGNING
My colleague Ned Simons reports from Birmingham:
Conservative MPs are like owners of McDonald's fast-food restaurants distributing Big Macs to potential voters, a Tory MP has said.
Watford MP Richard Harrington told a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham organised by the ConservativeHome website that as a backbench MP he was simply 'distributing a product I don't make'.
Harrington, who is vice-chairman of the Conservative Party's committee for target seats, said policies were 'just an item from the McDonalds box' and parliamentary candidates had to decide which ones to hand out to the voters in their constituencies.
'We are distributors of a product produced centrally,' he said. 'I've got a bucket of Big Macs, I'm taking a product from the box.'"
Western diplomats will be pretty gloomy this morning - their bete noire Hugo Chavez has just been re-elected as president of Venezuala for a six-year term. He won 54% of the vote, quashing, in the words of a Reuters report "the opposition's best chance at unseating him in 14 years and cementing himself as a dominant figure in modern Latin American history."
Five days on from Barack Obama's car-crash of a debate performance against Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the Huffington Post's 2012 projection shows the Democratic incumbent has dropped below the all-important 270 electoral college votes for the first time. Perhaps President Obama should get some re-election tips from President Chavez.
"We need to be a little bit like Tony Blair - constantly invading other people's territory. I don't mean Iran, I mean political territory." - Tim Montgomerie, editor of ConservativeHome, speaking in Birmingham yesterday
140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
@oflynnexpress V strong from Os about creating a "fair set of incentives". Message would be even better coming from someone without his own trust fund tho!
@shivmalik1 Lets all live with our parents.
@ConHome 50% of Tory members are satisfied with David Cameron. 49% are not.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Jackie Ashley, writing in the Guardian, says: "[T]his week, in Birmingham, it will prove too ideological to accept a shift to the centre. Can Cameron persuade them? I doubt it..."
Bruce Anderson, writing in the FT, says: "Cameron must show leadership to win back the uneasy".
Wendy Savage, writing in the Guardian, attacks Jeremy Hunt's abortion comments: "Only someone totally out of touch with women and the medical reasons for abortion could reach this conclusion."
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