The five things you need to know on Thursday June 18, 2015...
It’s D-Day again for Greece as yet another deadline looms. Euro finance ministers meeting with the IMF in Luxembourg will have to decide if there’s a possible compromise for the recalcitrant Tsipras government. Some economists are saying the only realistic option is for Greece to go for the IMF deal (debt restructuring with pensions and other reforms, rather than the EU deal (no debt restructuring, but lots of reforms). Let’s see who blinks first. (Unusually, Yanis Varoufakis has been using more optimistic, talking about getting a deal "very, very quickly".)
But for David Cameron the Grexit crisis has, together with the Med migrants crisis, sucked the energy away from his own bid to woo fellow EU leaders on his renegotiation plans. Ahead of a No.10 meeting, the Guardian has an interview with Euro Parl president Martin Schulz. “I see no chance of changing the ever closer union,” Schulz says, as he also doubted the legality of curbing tax credits for migrants. Schulz will also meet Philip Hammond and Chris Grayling.
The PM will have an easier time with Enda Kenny when he visits today, though the Irish are worried about treaty change triggering a new referendum in their own country - and have created a special unit to deal with Brexit. Yesterday Cameron’s trip to see Italy’s Matteo Renzi went well, not least as Renzi said “a European Union without the UK is impossible”.
The first televised Labour leadership hustings last night allowed each of the contenders to better define themselves. Liz Kendall emerged as typically sparky, Yvette Cooper had a powerful line about her own ME illness and benefits, Andy Burnham rammed home his line that he was not part of the Metropolitan elite. And Jeremy Corbyn won most applause for an undiluted (nay, SNP-like) attack on austerity. Some Labour MPs are showing a bit of buyer’s remorse for getting Corbyn on the ballot. He has 24,000 likes for his Facebook page, more than the other contenders.
The top line news story came from Laura K’s smart question at the end (the old Columbo trick, ‘er, just one final question...’). Asked if they’d consider changing the rules to make it easier for MPs to get rid of the next leader, Kendall was enthusiastic, Burnham hinted it could happen, Corbyn liked regular democracy. Only Cooper flat out refused, suggesting it was a mad plan.
There’s clearly no love lost between Kendall and Burnham. When he said "The party comes first, always”, Kendall instantly interrupted: "The country comes first". Watch the exchange HERE.
Her allies think that with those four words she had the soundbite of the night (even though Burnham’s camp may say he was being quoted out of context). The Sun has grudgingly endorsed Kendall in its leader column today, just as Jeremy Hunt last night said she was the best in the race. Whether either of those endorsements helps or hinders her campaign remains to be seen.
Team Burnham were happy with his strong lines on immigration and this morning HuffPost has a new blog from the man himself.
Yvette Cooper is hosted by the Press Gallery at lunchtime. Her campaign staff were delighted by the feedback they got after the debate last night, and there’s a growing feeling that if she can get in the top two, she will win many second preferences in a close race.
Anyone who wants extra helpings of #labourdebate can come to Warrington where I'm chairing the *final* hustings.
And if you're a real glutton for punishment, here's the full Labour hustings list. Stevenage, Swindon, Brighton...Reads like a list of BjornAgain tour dates.
CHILCOT AS GODOT
Downing Street had a carefully choreographed operation to help George Osborne on the Chilcot issue yesterday, releasing the PM’s letter of exasperation during PMQs as Angus Robertson asked about it.
The Times says that Jake Berry has written to the PM to demand that generals and others criticised in the Iraq Inquiry report are denied gongs. He wants “a moratorium on public honours and appointments for anyone potentially implicated in the report”.
The Independent splashes on the Chilcot delay, quoting David Davis: “This is agonising for the families who lost loved ones. They will feel utterly exasperated. The purpose is to learn lessons, not write an academic treatise. Since the Iraq war, we have had Libya, Syria and Iraq again and we still don’t understand the mistakes we made in 2003.” He said Cameron should offer the Chilcot team extra resources to accelerate the process.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch the Sun’s brilliant video of Boris telling a London cabbie to ‘f*ck off and die - and not in that order!’
Sources close to Boris made light of it, pointing out the cabbie was a ‘serial heckler’. But it does underscore the ‘flip-flopping’ criticisms of the Mayor: taxi drivers thought Boris was on their side in the battle against Uber, but he’s recently changed his tune.
Last night’s anti-Heathrow rally in the Commons was quite an event. Zac Goldsmith out Borised Boris with a threat that a million-strong army of protestors would oppose a third runway. Justine Greening was present. And Boris warned: “I think everyone remembers the manifesto we ran on in 2010 . . . the prime minister should stick with it”. He urged David Cameron to “find the tree”, an oblique reference to the moment the Tory leader once joined celebs in planting saplings on the site of the proposed runway.
What’s really interesting is the way Zac’s possible candidacy for Mayor has spooked Labour. Even before he’s an actual contender, a poll in the Standard showed he could beat everyone other than Tessa Jowell. And his numbers can only go up. Sadiq Khan now opposes a third runway, having backed it in the past. My colleague Graeme Demianyk has written this blog on the Zac effect at the Labour mayoral hustings.
Michael Fallon in Poland yesterday warned Russia that Nato was ‘ready to match’ Putin’s ‘sabre rattling’. But UK former generals mobilised in the House of Lords last night to warn him David Cameron not to play games with the 2% defence spending target. Many suspect the Chancellor was simply delaying confirming the target in the hope of getting cuts in the meantime. But the Sun rightly picks up on the broadside from Lord Dannatt - the PM’s own former adviser sent to the Lords.
Dannatt said: “The danger of another six months of prevarication is that the UK’s position in the world will continue to look weak. The US will remain anxious that a once-reliable partner is now enfeebled, and other European states which look to the UK for a lead on defence matters will follow our limp lead and kick the issue of defence funding into the long grass.” Yes, ‘limp lead’ is the phrase he used.
Dannatt added an ominous warning about military equipment: “Our land forces, if committed today, would be woefully at risk in another conventional combat operation of any size.”
Ten MPs gathered at the Lords bar for the debate yesterday, including Gerald Howarth, Mark Garnier, James Gray, Bob Stewart and MoD PPS Oliver Colvile. Let’s see who gets the Defence Select Committee job this morning.
COMING UP LATER
The results of the select committee chair elections will be announced by the Speaker at 10.30am. The Guardian reported last night that Sarah Wollaston had beaten David Tredinnick in the health select race, but for some reason its article has been ‘taken down pending investigation’.
The long awaited ‘independent options appraisal’ on the £3bn restoration of the Houses of Parliament is due this morning. Will MPs go for the radical options? Some expect MPs will want a compromise where they shift Commons chamber business to the Lords, while the Lords shifts to Church House or the QEII conference centre.
Amber Rudd has a written ministerial statement on ending subsidies for renewable wind energy. The Mail reports green energy supporters saying this will ‘tilt’ (no pun intended?) the playing field towards fracking. She was on the Today prog earlier. But green groups point out that the UK could miss its renewable targets.
Liz Truss has Defra Questions at 9.30am and Chris Grayling squares up to Angela Eagle (now on the deputy leadership ballot) for the Business Statement at 10.30am, barring any Urgent Questions.
The main business in the Commons is the second day of committee of the EU referendum bill.
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