The five things you need to know on Friday January 22, 2016…
1) MANUEL DEXTERITY
The PM’s in Prague on the latest leg of his marathon tour to convince EU leaders to back what Eurosceptic Tory MPs dub his ‘basket case’ aka his ‘four baskets’ plan to get changes in Brussels. But it’s Manuel Valls, the French PM, who’s making the headlines with his Today prog interview signalling an openness on freedom of movement concerns pushed by Cameron.
Valls, who some suspect is shaping up for a tilt at the Presidency, has a hardline message on security and warns on the EU migrant crisis: “If Europe is not capable of protecting its own borders, it's the very idea of Europe that will be questioned.” He also has a pop at Angela Merkel: “A message that says 'Come, you will be welcome' provokes major shifts" [in population].
Valls has a sense of urgency and so does Cameron, given the impact on our EU referendum of yet another summer of uncontrolled migration from Syria. Cameron sounded like a novice poker player yesterday, bluffing that he was ‘not in a hurry’ to get a deal by February. As Sajid Javid warned the CBI last year, showing your poker hand “doesn’t work in the boardroom and it won’t work in Brussels”. And yet when asked by French TV yesterday if he felt “deeply European”, Cameron replied: “Of course. Britain is a European country”. Expect some “Truly, Madly, Deeply” gags from Vote Leave.
The Sun has story about new calls from Frank Field and Nick Soames for temporary suspension of the EU’s freedom of movement rules and has a photo of Theresa May and Liam Fox at the launch. The paper adds that Jeremy Corbyn is visiting Calais tomorrow (will he visit The Jungle, I wonder?)
Lots of merchant banks gave the cash, if not the public statements, the In camp needs this week. Fraser Nelson in the Telegraph says Wall St and Canary Wharf bankers are right to be reluctant to support Remain publicly as that “might very well be the kiss of death” to the In campaign. He adds that in Davos a burger costs £52. Good job Dave wasn’t near that one.
Michael Caine famously once said 'I've been rich and I've been poor. Rich is better'. He was on the Today programme this morning giving his verdict on Brexit: "Unless there’s some extremely significant changes we should get out". A bit more ballsy than Villiers on Question Time last night.
2) STONE ME, GOV
The Telegraph’s Kate McCann had a nice scoop yesterday that Labour shelled out £8,000 to commission, transport and store the Ed Stone (I work out that’s half the amount Labour spent on Facebook ads, compared to the £250k the Tories spent). As for claims in many papers that the infamous stone was broken up soon after the election, I’m told other party insiders dispute this and it is still ‘whole’ and in hiding. I am also told that one tabloid newspaper has offered a five-figure sum to buy the thing.
But the Ed Stone is the past, what some Labour MPs worry about is whether Jeremy Corbyn is tombstone-ing the party’s chances of winning in 2020. And many in the Shadow Cabinet felt a shiver of cold panic down their spines this week on hearing that Corbyn’s policy chief Neale Coleman had quit.
I’ve written HERE a fuller account of the real reason many believe Coleman quit. It wasn’t over some row with Seumas Milne, it was more serious than that: the inability so far of Team Corbyn to reach out to not only others in his party, but voters of other parties. The interesting question now is who will replace Coleman, with the Times suggesting John McDonnell could have a big say in who fills the vacancy.
We revealed this week that McDonnell teamed up with the Question Time tax credits star Michelle Dorrell at a meeting of Thanet Momentum. And the Shadow Chancellor may well be delighted that last night Labour won back a key council seat in a byelection in Thanet in Newington ward. And won it back from UKIP.
That may counter some of the gloom in the Shad Cab this week when it was shown a presentation warning the party could lose 200 council seats and control of six councils in May, as well as losing its majority in Wales and all Holyrood constituency seats in Scotland. The Telegraph reports MPs heard in “stoical silence” the assessment by Patrick Heneghan.
Yet if Sadiq Khan wins in London, it will be much harder for ‘moderates’ to move to oust Corbyn. Few plotters want to act in May given the country is likely to be in the middle of an EU referendum, and many in the party put the In campaign first. The real long game talked about by some Labour MPs is to let Corbyn bleed support steadily over the next year and wait for the May 2017 elections. Others think that will be too late.
Further evidence of the splits in Labour come in The House magazine, where Lord Winston predicts he will be dead before another Labour government, and backbencher Ronnie Campbell warns the party’s left wing would be “fucked” if Corbyn lost the 2020 election on a radical platform.
As it happens, Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Jon Ashworth writes for HuffPost today on why Labour needs to act on the Beckett report’s warnings that the party has to reach beyond its heartlands.
3) RUSSIAN TO PUTIN'S DEFENCE
It’s not quite ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’, but Russia’s entry into Syria’s war against ISIL really has made life very difficult for David Cameron. It is the need to work with Moscow on things like Islamist extremism that ensured the PM had to be circumspect in his deeds and words on the Litvinenko murder by the Russians.
But what’s this? George Galloway on Newsnight last night slammed the Owen inquiry (which concluded Vladimir Putin was "probably" involved in the murder of ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko) and claimed the process was “riddled with imperfection”. He even accused Newsnight of conducting a “show trial”.
The ex-MP, who is standing to be London mayor for the Respect Party, defended the Russian President for “trying to restore a lot of the lost prestige” in the country and being “the most popular politician on the planet”. Now this isn’t guilt by association, but…Labour MPs are again sharing pictures of Seumas Milne and Putin shaking hands at an event last year. Jeremy Corbyn (and Ken Livingstone) said before Christmas that was purely a matter for the NEC if Galloway wanted to come back into Labour.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Watch this video of South Koreans reacting to photos of Donald Trump for the first time.
4) STEEL YOURSELF
The Mirror splashes on what it think is another blow to the British steel industry, with a story that the MoD has admitted future Royal Navy warships could be built with foreign steel because it is cheaper than British products.
The Mirror reports that furious union leaders rounded on the government after defence minister Philip Dunne let slip steel for the fleet of Type 26 frigates could be supplied from abroad with multi-billion pound contracts. Stephen Kinnock piles in too.
Responding to a Freedom of Information request, the Ministry of Defence told the Mirror: "As for all major defence equipment projects, it is the responsibility of our contractors... to buy the steel on the basis of cost, time and quality.”
There’d be even more of a row if British steel wasn’t used on new subs that replace Trident. Michael Fallon was in Faslane yesterday and let slip just how quickly he wants that Commons vote on renewal. In a TV interview, he initially said it would be held in a matter of weeks but quickly corrected himself to say a decision had still to be taken and it would be held “shortly”. For good measure he added Corbyn’s no-nukes subs plan was “like making imitation rifles”.\
5) DELAYED LANDING
Patrick McLoughlin on LBC yesterday certainly unnerved some pro-Heathrow MPs when he gave the first hint that the decision on aviation capacity could be delayed yet again - this time by the EU referendum.
Asked when the issue would finally be resolved, the Transport Secretary replied: "I hope later this year. We have said we would hope to move some way by the summer of this year.” But he added: "There's lots of other things which are going on in the political spectrum - if there's a referendum this summer, and the like. But I would hope by the summer of this year we will be able to make progress.”
Word is the decision could be put back to the autumn…or even winter 2016/17
Listen to our weekly CommonsPeople podcast HERE. Lots on Trident, croissant munchers, the 2015 election inquests, poppers…and our usual ace Quiz Of The Week.
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