The Miliband team aren’t desperately happy that Ed’s decision not to attend tomorrow’s TUC rally has been construed in some quarters (see my last blog) as a U-turn. They are claiming that the event isn’t even a rally anyway.
Ed proudly supports the rights of people to voice concerns and lobby Parliament, they tell me. “But there is no rally, people won’t be marching, it’s not placards and braziers.”
They are half right (yes it’s only an event at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster) and half wrong (it is still a self-styled ‘rally’).
I was in the room at Manchester’s TUC conference when Ed Miliband was asked if he would attend the anti-cuts TUC rally tomorrow in London. “I’ll attend the rally, definitely,” he replied. As I wrote at the time it was a significant moment, not least because David Miliband sounded much more ambivalent. Their different replies may have made a difference in terms of crucial votes from union members.
Now Polly Curtis at the Guardian is reporting that Mili-E will not be there tomorrow; instead he will have some private chats with union officials. It’s a striking U-turn.
Here is a link to the judgments. And here is the Press Association:
Three peers were facing lengthy suspensions from parliament today after sleaze inquiries found they had wrongly claimed tens of thousands of pounds in expenses.
In damning judgments, the House of Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee said Baroness Uddin, Lord Bhatia and Lord Paul should repay nearly £200,000 between them.
It is now received wisdom in Westminster that Liam Fox emerged victorious from his battle with the Treasury over defence funding.
The official history has David Cameron making a last minute intervention to boost defence spending, particularly for the army. The Treasury were only able to secure cuts of around 8 per cent in real terms, rather than the 10 per cent cuts they were pushing for.
The alternative interpretation is that Fox was short-changed and that this will become clear in the months ahead. The argument runs in two parts:
Alan Johnson has seemed assured and capable since taking the job of shadow chancellor – despite joking that he would need to read an economics primer to get up to speed. (In fact none of the last four chancellors have had proper economics backgrounds).
But his maiden voyage this morning was not the most awe-inspiring of occasions, taking place at the KPMG offices just off Fleet Street. There were only 20 or 30 people in the audience, all of which seemed to be either journalists or accountants from the host company.
A no-holds-barred fight has broken out in think tank land. The quarrel is over the claim that the Browne student fees review hit middle income graduates harder than high earners. At stake is Vince Cable’s promise that the system is fair. This is basically an arcane row over discount rates, but let me assure you the politics are important.
In the red corner is the Social Market Foundation, which showed that graduates earning £27,000 will be hit hardest by the Browne reforms. In the blue corner is the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which has mounted a vigorous defence of Browne’s progressive credentials. The IFS analysis basically backs up David Willetts and Vince Cable, who had complained that the SMF failed to account for the “net present value” of payments.
The face-off is as feisty a row as you can ever hope for in wonk-land. But I suspect it is a classic case of the IFS (and Vince Cable) relying on a brilliant, sophisticated model of higher education funding — and completely missing the point.