The five things you need to know on Wednesday May 4, 2016…
1) TRUMP TOWERS
It’s May the 4th, which happens to be Star Wars day (Mark Hamill is guest editing the Sun). But the big story is the unstoppable rise of the man many see as politics’ Darth Vader, the enemy of the Republic(ans) and Democrats alike: Donald J Trump.
After an extraordinary 24 hours - in which he suggested Ted Cruz’s father was linked to JFK’s assassin and Cruz slammed Rupert Murdoch for ‘picking’ leaders in the US, Australia and UK - Trump has triumphed in Indiana. He is now almost certain to become the Republican nominee for US President. The billionaire towers over the Grand Old Party in a way that was unthinkable just a few months ago. I think there’s basically only Louise Mensch left (she’s tweeted vigorously for months) who thinks that a brokered convention can somehow stop Trump.
But there is a Plan C: getting a senior Republican to run as an independent. As my colleague in Washington Sam Stein reveals, there is a logic to this: it guarantees Trump won’t win the Presidency (and in the process trash the Republican brand), while helping the party win Senate and House seats as voters feel there is something on the ticket to vote for. The only problem, a bit like Labour plotters out to get Corbyn, is finding a suitable kamikaze pilot who would be willing to take the onslaught of flak from Trump and his followers.
Last night, Trump tried to end the vitriol, offering olive branches to all those he’s offended to get this far. You can expect the Hillary attack ad avalanche to start soon, highlighting all the splits in the Republicans and the nastiness to date.
And yet, and yet. Trump has tapped into the anti-establishment mood so much that now the Democrats need to worry about blue collar workers in swing states. Never forget that for his supporters, Trump is more Luke Skywalker than Vader (though spoiler alert: there is a family link). It sounds outlandish, but a Trump White House can’t be ruled out. And there's a UK read-across: some anti-establishment Brexiteers over here are quietly welcoming Trump’s progress.
Speaking of that read-across, David Cameron once took a gamble and said Trump’s Muslim ban plan was ‘divisive stupid and wrong’. More notably he refused to retract those words at his Obama presser the other week. Now the Times reports Trump’s foreign policy advisers wants an apology and an invite to the UK. That may seem unlikely, but as Leicester City proved, unlikely is an outdated concept these days.
2) GOING NOWHERE
Jeremy Corbyn was at a Sadiq Khan phonebank last night. So was Margaret Hodge (who seemed to hide any stalking horse ambitions pretty well, though many believe she could do it). So too was John McDonnell. And after the event ended, the MPs did short speeches to campaign staff. I’m told someone mistakenly introduced McDonnell as 'deputy leader'. To which some MPs and members called out “No, it’s the leaders job he is after!” Half the room laughed, the rest scowled.
Sadiq Khan wasn’t at his own phone bank, apparently. And as Nick Watt pointed out on his excellent Newsnight debut last night, that may well be because Khan is very keen to distance himself from Corbyn at all costs. In fact, Khan plans to keep Corbyn away from his victory celebrations should it occur this Friday. That’s an extraordinary state of affairs for any party leader (remember Boris getting the champers visit from Cameron?)
At his local elections poster launch in the morning, Corbyn blurted out the kind of line that just shows he still has a lot to learn in the leadership stakes. Having said he didn’t want to make predictions he did just that, saying: “We're not going to lose seats”. Just as eye-catching was his defiant line on the coup rumours: “I’m here and I’m going nowhere.” Corbyn was just as defiant in an op-ed for the ‘i’ this morning.
The Shadow Cabinet are indeed split. There are some who want action swiftly in July after the EU referendum, but a majority who think Corbyn needs a couple of years to ‘hang by his own rope’ as council seats are lost year on year and the polls flatline or worse. One plan does involve at least five Shadow Cabinet ministers quitting, and Rosie Winterton and Tom Watson refusing to condemn them. That’s quite a tall order.
As for the anti-semitism row, the Telegraph splashes on the Chief Rabbi saying Labour has a ‘severe’ problem and attacking those who claim it is a mere ‘smear’ to get the leader. One source claims an extra dozen allegations were filed yesterday morning. Ever helpful, Tony Blair has piled on the pressure, telling Bloomberg there is ‘no place’ for the ‘poision’ of anti-semitism in Labour.
3) REFUGEE ROUTE
The Alf Dubs amendment is continuing to cause the Government a huge headache. Last week, Jeremy Corbyn could have made this issue his own at PMQs, but instead it was Yvette Cooper who won the applause of Labour and SNP MPs for standing up for lone refugees across Europe.
James Brokenshire is set to meet Tory rebels this afternoon and there are tentative compromise plans in play, but it may well be that as a result the PM won’t have anything firm to announce at PMQs at noon. If so, Corbyn (who after all raised this issue on his own visit to the Jungle camp in Calais) could seize the moment, rather than be wrong-footed by No.10. Cameron could be tempted to make a retort about Labour’s anti-semitism issue, but that would look pretty cheap.
A U-turn of some sort looks likely not least after No10’s Lobby mood music. I’m told that David Cameron himself was very firm in private as much as in public that he didn’t want to budge and didn’t want to give people traffickers any incentives. But with the whips reporting a loss was inevitable, with unto 35 Tory rebels and 8 DUP MPs set to end their abstentions, the Home Office has been ordered to find a solution.
Concessions could include a speeding up of the Dublin 3 Protocol to allow those unaccompanied kids with ‘extended family’ links to settle in the UK. Others are talking about a plan to give minors ‘humanitarian visas’ followed by extended leave to remain once they reach 18. Will it be enough to buy off the rebels?
Overnight Sir Erich Reich, Chair of the Association of Jewish Refugees, responsible for the network of Kindertransport survivors, has written to the Prime Minister calling on him to drop his opposition to the Dubs amendment. And Alf Dubs and Rabbi Harry Jacobi (who wrote a powerful piece for us last week) have asked the PM to meet Kinder survivors ahead of Monday. Note how in at least this area, Labour still has a good working relationship with Jewish groups.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Watch this unbelievable brawl in the Turkish Parliament. Looks like another Monday night at the PLP to me..
4) AM ZACS DAY
At a rally in Richmond last night, David Cameron and Boris Johnson papered over their differences to Back Zac. I’ve sketched the event HERE. What was most notable was the way Europe wasn’t mentioned for even a nanosecond, which kinda makes sense given how two out of three of them back Brexit.
Boris being Boris he couldn’t resist a mention of Heathrow, pointing out right in front of his own Prime Minister that Zac had ‘excellent environmental policies’, including on the airport. In for a penny, in for a euro, I guess. As it happens, the Transport Select Committee has today blasted the Government for failing to come up with a clear timetable on airport expansion (and the Standard revealed last week a decision is being delayed until September, at the earliest).
Goldsmith meanwhile had yet another bad day at the office, starting with his LBC interview in which he tried to sound like a football fan (saying he’d be like Leicester ‘zooming in from behind’) and failing (Leicester have been ahead in the league for months).
A new Standard/Opinium poll put Sadiq Khan on 14 points ahead of Zac on 2nd prefs yesterday - and a LBC, ITV News London and ComRes poll this morning says he has a 12 point lead - though the PM last night suggested polls were still as bunk as they were in 2015. And the Mail and others have pounced on yet more Khan flip-flopping (a far stronger card than ‘extremism’, I reckon), with a Press TV video of him calling moderate Muslims ‘Uncle Toms’.
5) TURK’S HEAD. TO EUROPE.
Brussels today may hand the Brexiteers one of their biggest propaganda gifts of the campaign so far. With Nigel Farage and many in the Vote Leave camp warning that Turkish membership of the EU will flood us with uncontrolled migration, the European Commission is to propose all Turks be given 3-month visas for unrestricted travel in the Schengen zone.
The Front National are not the only people who think that this is a step too far and that in return for a desperate deal with Ankara to stop a million Syrian refugees, the EU is being asked to allow 70m Turks in instead. The UK of course is not part of Schengen, though the Brexit camp suggests one day we won’t be able to hold the line. But Schengen could itself implode if individual states refuse the Commission plan..
In his Bloomberg interview, Blair says that Obama’s warnings should matter to Brits ‘if you’re rational’. Which is kinda like saying those who vote for Brexit are ‘irrational’. Which in turn makes him sound like Mr Spock. (Hey wasn’t John Redwood meant to be the Vulcan??) Expect the Vote Leavers to pounce on that.
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