The five things you need to know on Friday November 20, 2015…
1) LOOK, THE FORCE IS WITH YOU
Top cops have a stark warning to David Cameron and George Osborne: we’re with you in the fight against ISIL, but there are real dangers if you slash police numbers in next week’s spending review.
In a serious coup for Labour (Andy Burnham revealed it on Question Time last night), the leaked memo from an unnamed senior police chief to Theresa May gives the Treasury a headache. ‘Implications of the Paris Attack for UK Police Preparedness’ states that planned cuts of 20% to the budget could "reduce very significantly” the UK’s ability to mobilise police in the event of simultaneous multiple terror attacks across the country.
Burnham told BBCQT the document proved 5% cuts were ‘doable’, unto 10% difficult, but over 10% ‘dangerous’. Ex Home Office minister Damian Green (is he due for a recall?) dismissed the selective quoting from the report as ‘political froth’ on the Today prog.
And of course, the Home Office may already have some cunning plan for getting its savings without cutting cop numbers. But if he hasn’t, there’s now huge pressure on Osborne to find one. Let’s see if Boris piles in too (this row is a perfect storm for his looming leadership battle with both May and Osborne).
Sadiq Khan, who is proving a formidable political scrapper in his Mayoral campaign, has added to the pressure by writing to the PM to challenge his PMQs claim that neighbourhood policing numbers have gone up by 3,800 in London and a “500% increase”. Did the PM misspeak?
Speaking of cuts, it’s not just the Home Office budget cuts that worry some. Blogging exclusively for HuffPost, Arminka Helic - William Hague’s former adviser and now a Tory peer - today warns that spending round cuts to the Foreign Office could seriously “damage” the UK’s ability to protect itself from terrorism. She points out DfiD’s budget now dwarfs that of the FCO.
2) FRENCH CONNECTION
The global effort against ISIL continues to pick up pace. The Indy splashes on an exclusive that world powers are poised to table a single UN resolution agreeing a common war on ISIL. Amid French warnings of chemical and bio attacks, their draft resolution promises to "take all necessary measures, in compliance with international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law".
Jeremy Corbyn is under pressure to avoid a three-line whip on the coming Syria vote. The problem for the leadership is that if there is a whip on current policy of insisting on UN backing, there has to be a whip on the other current policy of keeping Trident (tho sources close to JC say Trident policy is ‘under review’ so that may not apply). In the Sun, one Shad Cab member says unto 10 of his colleagues would break any whip. “He says he’ll whip us, but we’ll see about that. If he does, we will ignore it.
Sadiq Khan was on form at the Commons press gallery lunch yesterday, giving full backing to the French cops for their shoot-to-kill response. He also revealed “Most British Muslims have come across someone with extremist views at some point - and so have I. It's affected my personal life, my friendships, and my career.”.
Khan added: “People I knew as a boy have gone on to hold extremist views, and even to act on them in terrible ways.” And he said as a lawyer he had “sometimes had the unpleasant job of representing people with extremist views”. Honest stuff - and smart politics. Why? Because there have been rumours some of his enemies were planning to smear him with guilt by association for his previous job representing unsavoury characters.
3) DOC DAD’S ARMY
The Times picks up on what many in Whitehall suspect will be the only way of fending off chaos during the junior doctor strike: a ‘dad’s army’ of retired and current consultants called up to provide cover during the action. Using locum agencies to cover strikes is illegal, so some hospitals will turn to volunteers instead, the paper says.
It was a hell of an overwhelming vote yesterday: 98% of the 37,000 junior doctors balloted by the BMA voted in favour of full strike action, on a turnout of 76 per cent (well above the threshold under the new strikes bill). The Telegraph reports that 100,000 operations could be cancelled.
The Indy highlights doctors’ fury with Sir Bruce Keogh for asking them to turn up to work if there was a Paris-style attack. He was accused of ‘scaremongering’ and ‘overt political spin’. Hunt is digging in against Acas calls so far. This is tricky for Labour though. Heidi Alexander has broken with previous Shadow Health Secretaries, saying it’s not her job to get involved in the dispute. The unions liked that line a lot. But once the second and third, all-out strikes start, things could change.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Watch Andrew Neil’s cold fury as he sends a message to ISIL in the opening of last night’s This Week on BBC1. No wonder it’s gone viral.
4) JUST CRIMINAL
Will Michael Gove axe the criminal courts charge imposed by Chris Grayling? There have been hints so far but Gove appeared to back the policy this month. The Ministry of Justice has again come under fire, with the Justice Select Committee today describing the fees of £150-£1,200 as “grossly disproportionate” and triggering “perverse incentives”.
HuffPost has done a handy guide to the range of offences that have triggered the charge to date: the theft of chocolate buttons, Red Bull and even plain old cheese have later incurred court fees of well over £100.
5) MAC THE STRIFE
John McDonnell’s in trouble again. His decision to pose for the camera with a list of demands including disbanding MI5 and disbanding the police has prompted ridicule in the Sun. His spokesman said he had never seen the letter from the Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory - but the paper has a pic to prove it, wth the Shadow Chancellor holding up the letter.
Now his spokesman says: “John posed in good faith to stand with a copy of what he thought were the principles he signed up to and not the demands which he had never seen before yesterday. To reiterate John does not share these views. Only this week he has called for additional funding for the security services to support them in their vital work in defending our country.”
Meanwhile, the Guardian reports McDonnell is to pledge “socialism with an iPad” as he promises Labour will make the UK one of the world’s great technology centres but also provide security for the army of new workers, many self-employed, who have been casualised by the internet. He has a speech today.
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