The Waugh Zone June 12, 2015

The five things you need to know on Friday June 12, 2015...


Theresa May didn’t look best pleased with David Anderson’s independent report on surveillance laws yesterday. There were some bit she liked but the plan to pass oversight for intercepts to judges has met with a frosty response from the Home Office and No.10 alike. The Times reports on ministers having ‘serious reservations’, while the Guardian highlights how civil liberties Tories like David Davis and co are now plotting to vote with the Yvette Cooper and the SNP if May tries to revive the ‘snooper’s charter’ excesses in the draft bill due this autumn.

The Mail targets US web giants in its splash for evidence to the Anderson review which suggested that protecting ‘brand’ identity was more important than intelligence needs. But although everyone has gone crazy over the Twitter policy that it will notify users of any requests - even from the security authorities - to access their account information, there is an important caveat. Twitter’s own policy states that ‘Exceptions to prior notice may include exigent or counterproductive circumstances (e.g., emergencies; account compromises).’ So in fact it can claim to treat terror threats seriously.

As it happens, Crispin Blunt, a former Tory justice minister, said that there was not a “cat in hell’s chance” of draft legislation being ready by the autumn if it had not been begun already.


Speculation continues to swirl in Whitehall that the Treasury has its eye on tax credits as the main source of the £12bn welfare cuts. But Nick Watt in the Guardian reports on senior Tories warning Osborne not to go after ‘the working poor’ as that would ‘gift the Labour party an easy route back’. One source says Osborne should accept ‘a bit of a loss of face’ and trim his £12bn figure or at least smooth out the savings profile. The Treasury is facing a 'pincer movement' from some in No.10, the DWP and Tory grandees to slow the place of the cuts.

Nick reveals how Philip Hammond joked at a recent meeting that the government could kill two birds with one stone in two key areas – forcing a treaty change in the EU negotiations and the £12bn welfare cuts – by denying all UK workers the right to claim tax credits for their first four years in work.

Newsnight last night had a scoop on further cuts planned, claiming Sajid Javid was looking at plans to start phasing out student maintenance grants, worth up to £3,387 a year for those from less well off households. Clegg blocked the plan in 2013 but they’re back on the agenda in the drive for cuts ahead of the July Budget. One source familiar with the discussions said: 'You tighten eligibility then eventually, move it down to nothing."


The Telegraph has splashed on files claiming to show how Tony Blair has used taxpayer cash (£16k a week on some estimates) to help fund his global business empire. Among the claims are that Blair secured a £1 million private contract with the World Bank, while simultaneously working with the Bank in his role at Middle East envoy; and that he struck lucrative commercial deals with Abu Dhabi while he was also in negotiations with the emirate as Middle East envoy over $45 million (£29 million) funding for the Palestinian Authority. It’s a major project by the Telegraph team. Blair's spokesman insists: "There are no conflicts of interests with any of Mr Blair's work, including his role as Quartet representative."

As it happens, Blair has also given an interview to the Indy’s proprietor Evgeny Lebedev. While he won’t be backing one Labour leadership contender over another it’s obvious who he wants. Blair has recently met Liz Kendall, who is seen as the Blairite candidate, and was impressed by her. But Blair also praises Nick Clegg, warns his party that it can’t tackle inequality by telling people the state should be ‘sitting on top of them’

Meanwhile, Kendall backer Simon Danczuk has told the Sun that Ed Miliband should have opted for a “dignified period of silence” after standing down. “No period of contrition. No rehabilitation. No time to reflect on his terrible leadership,” he wrote in the Sun. “The simple truth is that we won’t get anywhere near to Government while the failed creed of Milibandism hangs in the air like a bad smell.” With John Prescott telling David Miliband to belt up, the old guard are fighting like it’s 1999.


Watch President Obama explain how he responds to the letters he receives, even writing back to those who call him ‘an idiot’.


No wonder the PM was so confident about his migration crackdown in PMQs. It turns out that this week the non-EU 20,000 cap on skilled workers was breached for the first time this week. Visa applications will now be rejected. London First’s John Dickie wasn’t happy on the Today prog earlier.

As for EU migration, David Cameron is facing a trickier time. The Times’ excellent Brussels corr Bruno Waterfield reports that the PM has so far met 15 of the 34 most important leaders and officials targeted in a No10 ‘grid’ for his EU renegotiation. And it hasn’t been plain sailing. Mariano Rajoy told Cameron bluntly that one of his key reforms couldn’t be done, President Iohannis of Romania said that he would resist moves to “discriminate” against migrants from his country. Juha Sipila, the prime minister of Finland, warned Mr Cameron that pressing for a better deal for Britain would open a “Pandora’s Box” of demands from other countries. Belgian PM Charles Michel told Cameron that plans to give Westminster a veto over Brussels were a “non-starter”.

Meanwhile, the eurozone thinks Greece is more of a priority than Cameron's own demands. Is Tsipras bluffing?


Treasury select committee chairman Andrew Tyrie has underlined just why he was re-elected unopposed this week, with a nice bit of ‘small print’ analysis of the Chancellor’s Mansion House boast that we will make a £14bn profit on the bank share sell-offs. Tyrie has done his own sums and found there will be a £3bn net loss to the taxpayer (he spotted a tiny ‘Footnote 5’ in the Rothschild’s report that excluded a £17bn cost of funding the bailouts).

George Osborne’s ‘submarine’ reputation was underlined yesterday by his failure to turn up for the Commons statement on the RBS sell-off, leaving junior minister Harriet Baldwin to make it instead. The most fun came when Labour wag Kevin Brennan ridiculed the Treasury’s rationale for selling RBS at a £7bn loss. “So on that basis, with the weekend approaching, would she be prepared to lend me £20 and I’ll give her a tenner back next week?” Baldwin, not to be outdone, said Brennan “still owes my honourable friend a fiver that he lent him last week”.

Osborne’s former chief of staff Rupert Harrison is no longer around to appreciate such wit. At his leaving party, he recently joked “It has been an honour to play a role in the Harrison chancellorship”. But he may not see the funny side of the FT’s report that he has gone to work for US finance giant Blackrock, specialising in retirement. Labour MPs think it’s not on that the man behind the pensions revolution is now cashing in.


Charles Kennedy’s funeral will take place at St John the Evangelist church in Caol, Fort William, at 12pm. Pupils from his former primary school will sing the psalm O God, You Search Me And You Know Me.

Yvette Cooper has demanded a public inquiry after the IPCC found insufficient evidence to prosecute cops over the Orgreave wrongful arrests of miners.

Dan Jarvis has written an important piece on learning the lessons of Afghanistan, not least as he lost good friends in Helmand.

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