The five things you need to know on Monday, March 27…
1) TARTAN THERESA
Theresa May is in Scotland as part of her ‘Tour of Britain’ ahead of triggering Brexit’s Article 50 on Wednesday. She’ll meet First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to tell her in person that “now is not the time” to hold a second Scottish independence referendum. Given the awful famines currently stalking the planet, the PM has shrewdly chosen to visit DfID aid staff in East Kilbride to underline her ‘better together’ message ahead of the meeting.
In overnight extracts of her speech, May talks about ‘strengthening the devolution settlements’. We’re told that means more powers from Brussels over things like fisheries and agriculture, but what if it included other things? And what if those new powers were put on the ballot paper of any referendum, as a ‘third option’ to the status quo and independence - something Cameron was advised to do and didn’t? Could a new ‘vow’ and a referendum option split the indy vote and undermine it for good? Or were Scots burned by the last 'vow' and think Brexit is so momentous that they are more likely to back Sturgeon?
May’s warning that she won’t countenance #indyref2 until after Brexit is an attempt to call Sturgeon’s bluff. But what about her own bluff/threat to Brussels of a ‘no deal’ Brexit? The FT has senior Government sources saying the UK will agree to keep EU regulatory bodies for at least a transitional period because we simply lack the expertise to build them from scratch in two years. The Times quotes an LSE adviser to the Department for International Trade warning that an attempt to get a trade deal before 2019 will hurt British industry. And the Engineering Employers Federation’s Terry Scuoler today points out ‘average’ EU tariffs of 5% are misleading as 10% tariffs on car parts and agriculture could threaten many jobs.
Labour’s position seems a tad confused again. Keir Starmer told Marr he wanted the same benefits of single market access, while Jeremy Corbyn said “there has to be unfettered access to the European market”. Yet JC told Peston that he was not saying Labour would vote against a Brexit that lacked such acces.
2) WHATSAPP DOC?
In the wake of the news that Westminster murderer Khalid Masood used Whatsapp minutes before his attack, lots of newspapers this morning pick up on Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s line on Marr that it’s ‘unacceptable’ that the service uses end-to-end encryption. But the Guardian quotes former Met assistant chief constable Brian Paddick (now a LibDem peer) saying new powers to access the messages would not be proportionate.
Paddick said something I’ve also heard of late in Whitehall, that in fact our spooks do indeed have ways of reading such messages already. But more important is the point made by the BBC’s home affairs reporter Danny Shaw this morning: on Saturday, the cops categorically announced Masood was acting alone. They would not have made such a definitive statement if they believed the Whatsapp message was significant.
Given Google and Facebook now control much digital advertising that news media rely on, a cynic would say that’s precisely why they get it in the neck in the media. But the Times has an excellent splash that ISIS flooded Google-owned YouTube with hundreds of propaganda videos after the Westminster attack. And given these firms are in the US, I wonder if Donald Trump is considering any action? Or if he’s been asked to act by Theresa May?
As for the late PC Palmer, his family issued a message those who rushed to help the stricken officer in his final moments. “There was nothing more you could have done. You did your best, and we are just grateful he was not alone.” Emily Thornberry told Westminster Hour last night that arming all police in Parliament was “one of the things we do need to look at”.
On the tactics and strategy of the wider ISIS fight, we learn that 200 civilians have been killed in a US air strike near Mosul. That’s something Jeremy Corbyn may want to raise.
3) LENNY LANE
Unite boss Len McCluskey has been out and about as part of his re-election campaign (ballot papers went out today). And on BBC 5Live's Pienaar show he appeared to be yet another Jeremy Corbyn ally putting the Labour leader on probation: “Hopefully we’ll see if he can break through, the opinion polls begin to change. I would suggest that the next 15 months or so will give us the answer to that.”
The probation period seems to vary. John McDonnell gave him a year in February, then upped it to two years last weekend. Diane Abbott and Ken Livingstone have given him a year. All seem to think May will somehow get more unpopular as time goes on, but will Jeremy get more popular? (Ken's expulsion case is this week; read my report HERE on him saying he will take Labour to court if it kicks him out).
The Sun's veteran political commentator Trevor Kavanaghwrites today that if McCluskey beats Gerard Coyne in the Unite election, Labour can 'kiss goodbye' to any chance of forming an alternative Government. As for Labour’s future, Dan Jarvis has sketched out his vision a little more today, with a New Statesman piece calling for a new ‘civic capitalism’.
At least one bit of good news for Labour - and the Tories - is the disappearance of UKIP as a Commons presence, after Douglas Carswell announced he had become an ‘independent’ MP. In the Telegraph, Nigel Farage says he’s wanted Carswell out of UKIP since 2015. When asked by Andrew Neil yesterday if he would stand as a Conservative at the next election, Carswell said: “Let’s wait and see.” My colleague Owen Bennett has blogged HERE on why the Clacton MP’s failure to call a by-election means he has become like all those ‘Estabishment’ politicians he despised.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Watch pollster Frank Luntz (an Oxford contemporary of Cameron, whose focus groups helped him become Tory leader) claim being a socialist gets you more sex.
4) THE RANK OF MUM AND DAD
Social mobility czar Alan Milburn has a new report showing that the social rank or wealth of your parents has a huge impact on whether you can afford your own home. Nothing particularly new in that you may think, but his Social Mobility Commission has new research showing the problem has got much, much worse.
A third of people in England (34%) are relying on family for a financial gift or loan to help them buy their first home, compared to one in five just seven years ago. The growing gulf between rising house prices and stagnant wages has led to home ownership among 25-to-29 year-olds to fall by more than half in the last 25 years, from 63 per cent in 1990 to 31 per cent most today.
Milburn blogs for HuffPost today: “Owning a home is becoming a distant dream for millions of young people on low incomes who do not have the luxury of relying on the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ to give them a foot up on the housing ladder. “
5) FAT CHANCE
Another area where Theresa May has backed off the Cameron legacy is on moves to tackle child obesity (which don’t forget NHS chief Simon Stevens says is a multi-billion pound problem). Today, the Commons Health Select Committee says it is ‘extremely disappointed’ with Government plans and urges curbs on supermarkets offering “deep discounts” on unhealthy foods. Even the British Retail Consortium backed restrictions, but ministers haven’t, the MPs say.
With perfect timing, the Sun has a story that reveals just how bad things are. A primary headteacher in Kent has revealed that parents have sent their kids to school with jaw-droppingly unhealthy packed lunches: a cold McDonald’s Happy Meal; two bags of crisps and a crisp sandwich; four yoghurts and a packet of Smarties; a chocolate muffin and a bar of chocolate.
The FT meanwhile has a front-page report that half the additional money injected into the health service to woo voters before the last general election was spent on treating patients outside the NHS. Its analysis of health service data shows local commissioners spent £900m on care from the private sector and £800m from the NHS. That Andrew Lansley shadow looms large, it seems.
SUNDAY SHOWS ROUND-UP
Had a lie-in? Got the clocks wrong? Have a life? Read our handy round-up of all the Sunday morning politics shows, complete with short video clips HERE.
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