The five things you need to know on Monday 4 November 2013...
1) SIXTY TWO BILLION REASONS TO STAY IN THE EU
Is the pro-EU campaign in the UK doomed to defeat come 2017 and the proposed in/out referendum? Not necessarily. The CBI will throw its weight behind the as-yet-undeclared 'Yes' campaign later this morning - from the Independent:
"Employers' group the CBI will today use its annual conference in London to make the case for continued membership of the European Union. It argues that Britain can best benefit from increased global trade flows from inside the economic bloc, and will present research that says each household in Britain benefits from membership to the tune of £3,000 a year.
"The CBI is the latest group to come out in favour of EU membership - while arguing for a renegotiation of Britain's role - as industry prepares for the inout referendum promised by David Cameron if the Conservatives win the general election in 18 months.
The paper adds:
"Research for the CBI found that EU membership contributed 4-5 per cent of gross domestic product, or £62-78bn, a year."
Eurosceptics - over to you...
Meanwhile, the Times reports that the CBI conference will also be the venue for a major intervention by the PM on high-speed rail:
"[T]he Prime Minister will announce today that he has ordered a swift review into how to complete the mammoth [HS2] project well under its £50 billion budget."
Good luck, Dave!
NOTE: I will be 'in conversation' with Russell Brand tonight, from 7.30pm, in front of an audience in London. You can watch a live feed of the event on the HuffPost UK website.
2) U-TURN IF YOU WANT TO... AND SO WILL WE
First, the 'Go Home' van, now the 'security bond'. The Home Office's U-turns on immigration policy are sight to behold. From the Sun:
"Tough plans for a £3,000 cash bond for immigrants from 'high risk' countries have been scrapped, it has emerged.
"Home Secretary Theresa May ditched the plans after Deputy PM Nick Clegg threatened to block the move.
"The scheme was aimed at cutting down the number of immigrants from nations including India, Nigeria and Pakistan who overstay their visas."
This'll be chalked up as a victory in the Lib Dems column of the coalition scoresheet - Tim Farron, the Lib Dem president, denounced the proposed scheme in a recent interview with me. He'll be delighted this morning. Meanwhile, the Tory press continue to build up Theresa May as a prime-minister-in-waiting, despite one embarrassing u-turn after another.
3) 'A MOST PECULIAR COSTUME'
It's not often you find Ken Clarke echoing the language of Nigel Farage. But the Tory minister most admired on the liberal left has waded into the veil row with rather provocative comments which have been (unsurprisingly!) covered prominently in most of the papers - from the Telegraph front page:
"Wearing the Muslim veil is like dressing in 'a kind of bag', Ken Clarke, the former justice secretary and home secretary, has claimed.
"He dismissed the niqab, or full–face veil, as 'a most peculiar costume for people to adopt in the 21st century' and called for clear rules to be drawn up on its use in the courtroom. Women, he said, should be free to wear 'what the devil they like' in day–today life but not while giving evidence in court.
"His comments on BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend came after his party colleague Baroness Warsi, the faith minister, this week dismissed talk of banning the veil as 'not the British way'."
Don't politicians have anything else to do, other than argue and pontificate over a tiny piece of cloth worn by a tiny, tiny, tiny minority of women in the UK?
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this all-singing, all-dancing, all-American safety video from Virgin America.
4) LET'S BE FRIENDS AGAIN
The United States claims to oppose military coups and support elected governments - except in Egypt, that is. US Secretary of State John Kerry was in Cairo yesterday, amid unprecedented secrecy... and with really bad timing.
From the FT:
"John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said in Cairo that there were 'indications' Egypt was moving back to democracy in remarks that provided comfort to Egypt's military-backed government on the eve of the trial of Mohamed Morsi.
"Egyptians are braced for a possible eruption of street violence over the trial of Mr Morsi, the Islamist president who was ousted in July by a popularly backed military coup.
"In a visit yesterday that appeared aimed at easing tensions between Washington and Cairo, a regional ally, Mr Kerry played down the decision by the administration to withhold a portion of its military aid to Egypt after the coup, saying it was not 'punishment' for the overthrow of Mr Morsi but a reflection of US law."
Meanwhile, the Times reports:
"Egypt's Government moved to head off demonstrations by Muslim Brotherhood supporters yesterday by switching the venue for the trial of the former president Mohamed Morsi on charges of inciting the murder of protesters who took to the streets to overthrow him... The trial of Mr Morsi and 14 other Brotherhood members is the latest step in a crackdown by the military government on the party that was forced out of office after only a year, amid public concern about creeping Islamisation... Mr Morsi's supporters have described the trial as a politicised farce. Since July more than 1,000 people have died in clashes with security forces, and hundreds of Morsi supporters have been jailed."
5) POLITICAL FLATMATES
You might think our lawmakers would have done whatever it takes to look squeaky clean on the issue of parliamentary expenses. You'd be wrong. From the Times:
"Ten ministers are among the MPs pouring taxpayers' money into their local parties by renting constituency office space from them, research by The Times has revealed.
"Critics have attacked the practice as 'back-door funding' for political parties and called for it to be outlawed.
"David Willetts, the Universities and Science Minister, paid £13,930 in rent and rates to his local party in Havant, Hampshire, last year, and Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister, paid £10,439 in rent to Horsham Conservative Association in West Sussex. More than £9,000 for 'office expenses' was handed by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, to his local party in Surrey Heath. David Laws, the Schools Minister, paid almost £10,000 in rent to his party in Yeovil."
While none of the politicians have done anything illegal or even broken any parliamentary rules, the paper notes:
"Abolition of the arrangement was also advocated by Sir Christopher Kelly, the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, after the MPs' expenses scandal in 2008.
"In his report on the scandal, he advised: 'Ban payments from expenses to party political organisations', noting that they could be used 'deliberately or inadvertently to subsidise party political activity'."
When o when will they learn?
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From yesterday's Sunday Times/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 8
That would give Labour a majority of 98.
140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
@EmilyThornberry Lynton Crosby lands fulltime job at No10. Panicking Tories prepared to pay £500k. That'll solve cost of living crisis.
@RogerHelmerMEP CBI: "We mustn't leave the EU and lose influence". But we'd have more influence as a major independent nation than as an offshore province.
@Ed_Miliband To all those celebrating the Festival of Lights, happy Diwali! Looking forward to Labour Party celebrations later this week.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Chris Huhne, writing in the Guardian, says: "What's all the fuss about the royal charter meaning the end of press freedom?"
Boris Johnson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "China built its HS2 in two years. Don’t let Labour derail ours."
Libby Purves, writing in the Times, says: "What is truly disturbing about the culture of payoffs is that those who take them have no sense of shame."
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