The five things you need to know on Friday June 19, 2015...
1) GREECE FRIGHTENING
Is the Tsipras brinkmanship a Greek tragedy, a West End farce or canny power play? The collapse of the IMF-EU-Greece meetings in Luxembourg yesterday proved that this really may go to the wire at the end of the month when the cash runs out.
Christine Lagarde was scathing last night in saying “we need a proper discussion with some adults in the room”. But Alexis Tsipras ain’t quaking in his boots. He was saying this morning that “all those betting on a crisis will be proved wrong”.
But George Osborne was sounding ominous just now, clearly flagging up the risk of Brexit with an almost stoic resignation.
Speaking ahead of today's Economic and Financial Affairs Council, he said: “We have entered the eleventh hour of this Greek crisis, and we urge the Greek government to do a deal before it is too late. We hope for the best, but we now must be prepared for the worst."
The Greek PM must surely be pleased that the EU’s decision to order an emergency summit next Monday takes this out of the hands of finance ministers and into the political realm of EU leaders. And although David Cameron likes EU summits like a hole in the head, he will be pleased that at least the Grexit crisis will be dealt with ahead of the full-blown summit later next week.
The PM wants that to be the start of his renegotiation. But the FT reports that Dave is being cautious. “Cameron will not make clear what he wants until very close to the referendum,” said one senior British official. “We have to find out what we are most likely to get before we make public what we want.” Will Tory Eurosceptics be happy with that stance?
Back home, Alan Johnson tells the Guardian he has agreed to head up Labour’s own Yes campaign. “This is not a return to the shadow cabinet, but Harriet is always very persuasive,” he says. AJ is highlighting growing fears on the Labour and union side that the PM will barter away the UK’s EU employment rights.
Meanwhile, the No campaign is shaping up, with key Tory, Labour and UKIP figures having held secret meetings since the election. Steve Baker, Owen Paterson and Bernard Jenkin have teamed up with Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins and Graham Stringer, and Ukip MP Douglas Carswell, in an “exploratory committee”, the Times and Sun report.
Brussels isn’t amused by the Greek government’s continuing attempt to flirt with Russia as an alternative source of funds (Tsipras meets Putin today). The Telegraph and Sun profile ‘Red Betty’, Tsipras’s wife Betty Batzian who has reportedly threatened to leave him if he gives in to the Troika’s demands.
2) COOPER WOMAN
Speaking of unelected partners, Yvette Cooper has been busy making clear she is her own woman despite all the focus on husband Ed Balls in recent years (and weeks).
The Shadow Home Sec’s appearance at the Press Gallery lunch yesterday went down pretty well with most who attended. She was much more relaxed in the informal setting than she often appears on TV, telling a string of decent jokes while getting across her mix of Government experience and willingness to move Labour on. Her aides hope that once ‘the real Yvette’ can be seen up close by party members, she can be unstoppable.
Her big pitch yesterday was to play up both the fact she was a woman and an economist. She said she wanted to become Cameron’s very own 'woman problem', while pointing out it was time to take on Boris.
I was struck by her determination to counter the Tories’ inevitable focus on Ed, emphasising how their careers had run 'in parallel' rather than in tandem. 'We've always done different things. We have always tended to do different jobs at different times. I was elected to Parliament quite a long time before Ed was," she said.
She also revealed that in 2010 she had “ruled out ever joining him on stage as a political wife because I think we should be beyond the era of expecting any politician to have the political wife standing next to them”. So Balls won’t be standing on stage if she becomes leader. That is both a feminist statement, as well as a simple way of ensuring he doesn’t become the distraction.
In something I expect we will see more of in the campaign, Cooper underlined her economist credentials (Oxford PPE, Harvard, MSc in economics from the LSE) yesterday by urging the EU not to ‘cauterise’ Greece, believing it would repeat the mistake of thinking closing Lehman Brothers would solve the subprime crisis.
The race isn’t short of bitterness, however. One of Liz Kendall’s backers Jonathan Reynolds yesterday said Jeremy Corbyn’s candidacy could “pervert the centre of gravity even further from where the public are”. Tessa Jowell has tried to defuse the row over Tony Taliban, telling the Telegraph “You don’t win like this, and so my advice to them [the candidates] is to call the dogs off.” Tessa also said she “hated this parade of people slagging off Ed Miliband”.
Speaking of Ed M, I reported last night that his former senior aide Simon Fletcher will on Monday become Corbyn’s campaign director. As a former chief of staff to Ken Livingstone, Fletcher has long been admired by the left and treated suspiciously by the Blairites.
3) TERROR, FIRMER
In timing his speech to coincide with the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, David Cameron knows he’s being controversial. But there’s a new mood of determination in Downing Street to be seen confronting the rise of Islamist ideology among some impressionable young British Muslims.
The Prime Minister’s speech at a security conference in Slovakia has already captured the headlines (two papers splash it) for his warning that ‘too many British Muslims quietly condone extremism’. How many is ‘too many’, you may ask? One suicide bomber may be too many, but with an estimated 700 people travelled to join Islamic State, the PM knows the risk of them importing terror back here is the spooks’ biggest security worry.
Cameron is deploying his liberal credentials to avoid anti-Muslim charges, pointing out that more should be done by communities to combat the Islamist ideology that includes viewing women as inferior and homosexuality as evil.
Police and prosecutors will also be heartened by his line that it’s time to stop criticising the authorities for not monitoring these potential extremists closely enough, saying the ‘finger pointing’ has to stop. It’s ultimately down to families’ responsibility to persuade their children or wives or husbands not to go to Syria.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch the children of one of the victims of the Charleston shootings explain why they forgive their mother’s killer, a white supremacist.
4) BORGEN GRINDER
The Danish election results suggest that anti-Islamic and anti-immigration sentiment is still driving votes. Helle Thorning-Schmidt quit as PM and SDP party leader after her centre-left bloc was beaten by the centre-right grouping. Despite remaining the largest party, her allies failure under the Borgen PR system means that Lars Lokke Rasmussen is PM. But the real eye-catcher was the rise to second largest party of the right-wing, anti-immigration Danish People’s Party.
David Cameron, despite losing a selfie friend, will be pleased that he has a potentially vital new ally in his renegotiation strategy. Dave has long been a lover of Scandi-dramas, and with populist right wing parties in power in Finland and Norway, it’s not just the box sets he can look forward to.
5) KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCKING ON EVANS DOOR
Thanks to Andrew Neil’s withering interviewing skills, appearing on BBC’s Daily Politics can be bad for your (political) health at the best of times. But if you’re in UKIP and you’re not 100% enthusiastic about Nigel Farage, it could be career suicide. Suzanne Evans - once lauded by Farage as a future leader and praised for her manifesto work - was effectively sacked as a spokeswoman last night for saying on BBCDP there are ‘better people’ to lead the No campaign.
Within hours of her appearance, an email was leaked to the BBC setting out that ‘no one employed by the UKIP press office is to have any further contact with SE..she is not to be offered as an official UKIP spokesman’. (As an aside, I note that UKIP lost a council seat last night to the Lib Dems in Mole Valley, Surrey).
At noon today, I happen to be on the Daily Politics, but so too will be Farage’s former chief of staff Raheem Kassam. Get that popcorn ready folks.
COMING UP LATER
Jeremy Hunt is setting out his plans to improve GP services, including extra cash for docs who work in poorer towns. The Daily Mail says the plans are ‘little more than sticking plaster’ and wants more home-grown trainee GPs.
Tom Watson has a speech setting out more on his deputy leadership bid.
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