The five things you need to know on Wednesday February 10, 2016…
1) DOCTOR HECKLE AND MISTER HIDE
It’s PMQs day again and David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn have a wealth of ammo to chose from.
Will Corbyn opt for Mrs Cameron’s council cuts attack (he’d surely never mention a family member directly?), the trade union bill criticism by Sir Christopher Kelly (‘partisan and cynical’) or maybe housing (‘tenant tax’ or social housing sell offs)?
For his part, Cameron could easily focus on the PLP v Emily Thornberry (‘you’re an embarrassment’, as Kevan Jones said, ‘Islington dinner party’, as another MP said), and trot (pun intended) out the line that Labour can’t be trusted with national security?
But for both leaders, maybe today’s junior doctors strike will be the real flash point. Jeremy Hunt in the Commons yesterday sounded very much like a man ready to impose his contract on staff, saying not imposing it would mean ‘giving up’ on 7-day care. Yet the Indy has a startling poll showing that if Hunt did take the nuclear option, 90% of junior doctors would quit.
It all depends on how much damage the PM wants to take in this dispute. Some of the PM’s allies believe he has to use up some political capital now because early in the Parliament is the only time to effect really radical, controversial change - especially while Labour is seen as so weak. Others worry Hunt has gone in too hard and could do long-term damage to the Tory brand on the NHS and hand Corbyn a gift.
Has Hunt vetoed a compromise that could give docs a Saturday pay rate they'll accept? The Health Secretary wasn't on the airwaves today (and was missing in action on Monday in the Commons). Even some Tory MPs feel like Hunt has looked like he's been heckling doctors rather than the BMA itself.
Meanwhile, as most public sector workers get a 1% cap on pay, the Sun reveals MPs will get a 1.3% pay raise this year (a nice £962), after last year’s bumper 10%.
2) LEN ME YOUR EARS
Len McCluskey last night used his speech at the Oxford Union to warn Labour MPs to stop ‘plotting’ against Jeremy Corbyn. After another fractious PLP, Jezza may be pleased at the support. Even some ‘moderate’ MPs may agree with the Unite leader that Corbyn’s critics have a ‘plot without a programme’: opponents still can’t agree on a single candidate let alone a single message.
But some MPs are certainly worried about Momentum and what got missed amid the Thornberry fest on Monday night was Tom Blenkinsop demanding the group be ‘proscribed’. As for the Shadow Defence Secretary, Tory MP Nick Soames has written a rather rude letter to her, as the Sun reveals today.
John Hutton laid into her last night too. But it’s Madeleine Moon (she of the famous PLP Tweet) who has again made the point on Trident most Labour MPs now focus on: even if Labour renews Trident, how can you have a party leader who vows never to use the nuclear deterrent anyway?
More than a few Labour MPs were amused when Speaker Bercow yesterday revealed that it was reading the Socialist Worker that made him a Tory. Watch the clip HERE.
Panic moves to prop up Deutschebank underline fears about both the eurozone and a wider global financial crisis. And there’s a lot of volatility in the political as well as economic markets, when it comes to the EU referendum. The Mail splashes on plunging exports to the EU, while the Telegraph reports that the Companies Act will force firms to detail the risks of ‘Brexit’ on the eve of the poll.
The Times reports that Unison, the UK’s second largest union, is refusing to back the In campaign over Corbyn-ish fears about privatisations caused by the EU-US trade deal. It adds that Andy Burnham clashed with Labour’s In camp chief Alan Johnson at Shadow Cabinet yesterday over how close he would be to David Cameron during the referendum - and the need for Labour not to be seen as part of the ‘establishment’ on EU migration.
Cameron isn’t having it his own way. Eyebrows were raised over the way Sir Peter Ricketts was nakedly used in a political manner yesterday on Calais, backbencher Sarah Wollaston says she’s heading for the Brexit door, Dominic Grieve slammed the PM’s ‘pointless’ sovereignty plan. Oh and Jose Manuel Barroso told Newsnight Cameron’s migrant benefit plans won’t stop the influx of EU workers.
At least Alex Salmond found a novel way to warn against a June referendum date yesterday. Watch him quote The Cat in The Hat in the chamber.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Watch a ‘RobotRubio’ get manhandled in New Hampshire. ‘Why have you got your hands on me?’ Rubio and Clinton have to record impressive wins in South Carolina next.
4) UNHAPPY FAMILIES
First it was David Cameron’s mum Mary signing a petition against children’s centre closures. Now it’s his auntie Clare, thanks to ITV News, who has gone further and gone on camera attacking council cuts as a ‘great, great error’.
The PM may agree with both of his relatives, saying that Oxfordshire county council should in fact find savings away from the frontline. But I suspect that won’t be the message most punters hear on this story and that ‘Tory cuts’ will be firmly laid at Cameron’s own door.
As it happens, Greg Clark’s new £300m cuts ‘cushion’ Tory councils gives many Conservative MPs a nice campaigning tool ahead of the local elections, but delivers nowt for many northern Labour authorities (the Guardian splash follows our own story yesterday). All councils are still facing billions of cuts over this Parliament.
5) FRANKIE: DO YOU REMEMBER ME?
Francis Maude is to step down from his role as Trade Minister after less than a year in post. For the man who was a Cameroon before Cameron, it seems to mark the end of a long career on the frontline. The peer tells the FT he will be quitting “pretty soon”, understood to mean the next few weeks.
Maude’s departure comes the day after figures showed the UK’s trade deficit had hit a record high and he admitted the stats were “not good”. As for George Osborne’s goal of increasing UK exports to £1trillion by the end of the decade, Maude said it is “what would be known in business as a ‘stretch target’”. Just like Osborne’s ‘march of the makers’ and ‘we’re the builders’, will his exports boast come back to haunt him? And will Labour be in a position to exploit any of it?
Maude says he will return to the private sector and do "a bit of not-for-profit". Trade unions however remember him for being the driver behind the ‘check-off’ reforms on their funding, reforms that look like they could be watered down in the Trade Union Bill. Labour is still furious about the overall impact of the bill on its funding though. And smaller parties are just as angry about changes to Short Money (we have a story on this, this morning).
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