The five things you need to know on Monday February 8, 2016…
1) JUNGLE DRUMS
The drums of war over the EU referendum keep on getting louder. And the two key themes are already crystallising, with immigration the main weapon of the Brexiteers and ‘national and economic security’ the bazooka deployed by the In camp.
Yes, Project Fear (which was derided but kinda worked in Scotland) is back - but this time on both sides. The Telegraph splashes that David Cameron will warn in coming weeks that the ‘Jungle’ migrant camp at Calais will have to move to Dover if the UK quits the EU.
Vote Leave insists it’s a bilateral deal that would be unchanged, and David Davis said yesterday there would be a migrant ‘surge’ because of the PM’s migrant benefit plans. In his own fear tactic, Nigel Farage claims more Cologne-style attacks on women will happen if we vote Remain.
As for who in Cabinet will back Leave, the fandango continues. There’s speculation Michael Gove could opt for Brexit but not in a leading role (which given his public image is probably wise). Priti Patel looks like she’ll be the ‘poster girl’ (copyright Mail on Sunday) of Leave, though that title could go to the ghost of Margaret Thatcher if her former minister Lord Young is right (he disagrees with Charles Powell, who said she’d back the In camp).
But Boris, in his latest Telegraph column, continues to play footsie with Eurosceps. He told Bernard Jenkin in the Commons last week he had never been ‘an Outer’. Yet in his column he lists more tests for the PM’s Brussels deal.
Meanwhile, that ‘economic security’ argument looms. The Times reports the Bank of England has increased it’s emergencies war chest by $25bn in the past year to protect against ‘market chaos’ if the UK quits the EU.
2) JAIL BAIT
Another Monday, another ‘legacy’ speech from David Cameron. Today it’s the turn of criminal justice with the PM’s six pilot ‘Reform Prisons’ unveiled. Moves to treat prisoners as ‘assets’ not liabilities echo similar campaigns by some conservatives in the US to end its own record locking-up rate.
The Howard League, while welcoming any change, warns that the big problem is overcrowding and our 85,000 prison population. But any let up in sentencing is exactly what worries the Mail, which splashes that Cam’s plans would see thousands of inmates in jail only at the weekends.
Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. Yet the gap between actions and words is also evident on mental health today (it’s Children’s Mental Health week). Head teachers are warning about a lack of cash to help primary schools cope with the problem. More widely, Labour’s Luciana Berger tells HuffPost that £87m promised for new mothers and children’s mental health has not been spent. See our story HERE.
3) CURIOUS GEORGE
George Galloway is a bit of a news magnet right now. ITV’s scoop yesterday - naming two other ‘Beatles’ Brits in Jihadi John’s ISIL terror cell - allows several newspapers to point out one of them, Alexe Kotey travelled to the Middle East on an aid convoy organised by Galloway.
But it’s Galloway’s decision to back Brexit that also catches the eye. Labour’s Jess Phillips Tweeted if ever there was a reason to back the In camp, this was it, adding “I'd never heard of him until he dressed in a body stocking & pretended to be a cat for cash”.
Galloway has given an interview to our own Owen Bennett in which he says he has no regrets over his Big Brother feline days. He also says he believes he is the spiritual son of Tony Benn. Read it HERE.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Watch Marco Rubio show in this Republican TV debate why shrink-wrapped soundbites don’t always work.
4) SITTING ON DEFENCE
Emily Thornberry is expected to appear before tonight’s PLP meeting to discuss the latest update on her defence review. But while she’s careful to keep some ‘alternative’ options to Trident in play, many Labour MPs are toughening their language ahead of any symbolic Commons vote.
Last night on Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, Stephen Kinnock revealed that he was one of many MPs who were ready to stand at the next election on a platform to renew Trident, even if his party changed policy to dump it. "I would consider standing on a separate pro-Trident platform if it came to that,” he said.
Meanwhile, left-wing grassroots group Momentum may get a mention tonight too. The group unveiled its steering group this weekend, including Jill Mountford, who stood against Harriet Harman at a general election in 2010. The Telegraph today has a leaked strategy document showing the group plans to spend £243,000 on eight permanent staff. It emerged this weekend Momentum’s social media coordinator has a criminal conviction for electoral fraud.
5) IT’S ALL FOR CHARIDEE
When Matthew Hancock turned up on the Today prog on Saturday at 8.30am, he stunned many by announcing new rules that any charity in receipt of public money must not use it to influence government or Parliament.
Though many Tories think this is eminently sensible, the backlash was swift. Former Charity Commission member Andrew Purkis said it was “shockingly repressive, terrible governance” and peers were furious that the new clause was announced just days after the Charities Bill was concluded in the Lords. Labour’s Baroness Hayter blogs for us on the detail today HERE.
There’s so much anger about all this that I’d be surprised if Labour didn’t table an urgent parliamentary question today. The Lords is also in revolt over the new ‘tenant tax’ (neat phrase, copyright John Healey). The Times reports Labour and the Libs will defeat it before Easter.
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