The five things you need to know on Friday March 11, 2016…
1) ACTION DAN
Dan Jarvis’s speech on the economy yesterday wasn’t earth-shattering, but then again it wasn’t meant to be. Instead, it was aimed at reassuring the soft left of Labour (which makes up much of its membership and a fair few MPs) that the ex-Para shared their Milibandite analysis of the world’s problems, but had some more practical solutions. An Action Dan, with grip hands, you might say.
Chuck in a few neat references to Keir Hardie saying the British public don’t like ‘chasing bubbles’ and his tears at hearing his local youth choir and you see the beginnings of an offering. Although he ducked any such talk, for those of us in the room it felt like a very clear show of ankle for a future leadership bid. In sum, he’s not the Messiah, but neither is he a very naughty boy.
Despite his protestations that he was ‘in no way’ seeking to criticise Corbyn, the most striking message was how high Jarvis raised the bar for the May elections. Labour should be ‘taking’ not losing English councils, he said. (Stephen Kinnock, Angela Eagle’s PPS, was even more outspoken on the test for Corbyn on our podcast HERE). As for leadership challenges, he made plain no one should be doing anything before the EU referendum on June 23. But after it…?
2) KEN GOES NAGASAKI
Maybe that’s why many on the Left were nervous about Jarvis yesterday. And maybe that’s why Ken Livingstone really went nuclear on LBC, attacking Jarvis’s financial support from a hedge fund manager Martin Taylor as being “a bit like Jimmy Savile fundraising [for] a children's group.”
What was significant was the ferocity of the return fire from Jarvis’s troops and supporters. Jamie Reed ("There's no sewer so fetid that Ken won't swim in it”) and Michael Dugher (“Ken Livingstone is not fit to lace Dan Jarvis's boots”.) told HuffPost of their disgust, while plenty of MPs retweeted their anger. Expect more, much more of this mano-a-mano combat if the summer coup really does happen.
In the firefight between Corbyn supporters and those they see as the enemy, comedian Jeremy Hardy also took some flak after suggesting that ex defence minister Kevan Jones was suffering from ‘depression’ because of his bleak pro-Trident views (a neat hit for BuzzFeed). PolHome reports Jones has written to Corbyn demanding he ‘condemn’ Hardy’s remarks.
3) BLAIR FORCE AWAKENS
Mr Tony is back. He gave Nick Robinson a Today prog interview in which he rammed home Project Doubt, saying there would be years of economic uncertainty after Brexit and that he was ‘concerned’ not enough was being done to counter the Outers. What caught my ear was him saying it was time for people to argue the In case ‘with some passion’ - that sounded like a direct hit at Jeremy Corbyn (who on Monday was told by Barry Sheerman to show some passion). The rise of Clive Lewis’s new leftwing In campaign worries several of his colleagues. Blair tried to turn on its head the ‘elites v the people’ case of the Brexiters “come on, you guys are just as elitist anybody else”.
The row over the Sun/Queen story rumbles on with Cameron saying it would be ‘very serious’ if Michael Gove had leaked Her Maj’s words. Nick Soames suggested Gove should suffer the same fate as Sir Thomas More.
John McDonnell is not exactly Blair’s biggest fan but today he adopts a Blair-Brown pitch on fiscal rectitude (that sounds exactly like Ed Balls). Some have already pointed out its similarity to Liz Kendall’s line that ‘there’s nothing progressive about running a deficit’. Yet McDonnell is also keen on opposing cuts - cuts like the Mirror’s splash showing the PM’s mum has lost her voluntary job at an axed children’s centre.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Watch this baby sea otter snuggle up to its mum. Hey, it’s Friday
4) BISH BOSH
Just like the Bible itself, whatever your political persuasion you can pick and choose what you like from The House magazine’s excellent interview with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
His attack on the ‘outrageous’ suggestion that fears about migration are ‘racist’ (the ghost of Gillian Duffy returns) gets him the Mail splash and the lead on the BBC today. But he also attacked the PM for his ‘really very thin’ programme to accept just 20,000 Syrian refugees, compared to the 1.1m Germany has taken in.
5) OBAMA SCARE
Barack Obama’s Atlantic interview is a superb read. And a bit like Welby’s interview, there are so many news lines that you can cherry pick what you like. Obama going public with the open secret in Whitehall - that he warned Cameron to commit to 2% defence spending - is picked up by the UK papers.
But so too are Obama’s remarks about Cameron getting ‘distracted’ after the toppling of Gaddafi. There’s Washington irritation with the way George Osborne tilted to China by supporting its Asian infrastructure investment bank. And the BBC’s Jon Sopel points to another serious fracture: the Obama administration has grown frustrated that its requests for operational assistance from British special forces, including the famed SAS, are not granted with the same frequency that they were in the past. The criticism is that the UK is no longer punching its weight.
Yet the line that is exciting many in the US is Obama was ‘deeply proud’ of his decision not to bomb Assad over chemical weapons. We learn that Ed Miliband’s Commons ambush of Cameron on the issue was one factor. But a bigger factor was Obama’s own decision to stand up to his generals and find a different course: he reckons the deal with Russia to dismantle the weapons was in fact proof that action followed his ‘red line’ being crossed. That, plus his wider approach of not jumping in to the Middle East unless it posed a direct threat to the US, is sure to be picked up by Jeremy Corbyn.
Jeremy Corbyn Under Pressure, International Women's Day and that Sunday Trading Defeat all feature in this week’s Commons People podcast. We also have our usual Quiz of the Week - guess which ‘international day’ is real or fake. Plus Yvette Cooper and Stephen Kinnock interviews.
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