Tensions emerged in the shadow cabinet this morning as senior Labour MPs expressed annoyance that they were not informed last week before Ed Balls announced party support for a temporary reversal in January’s rise in VAT.
Mr Balls held back his unveiling of the policy until the morning of his speech on the economy at the London School of Economics on Thursday, surprising many of his senior colleagues.
Tessa Jowell, shadow Olympics minister, pointedly asked during a four-hour meeting of the shadow cabinet why its members had not been consulted about the announcement.
One Labour frontbencher described the lack of discussion as “weird”, given that Mr Balls had made a lengthy speech to the parliamentary Labour party the previous Monday.
Another said: “It’s ridiculous when all our policies have to go past both Eds but then we have to go out on the airwaves and defend this VAT policy without any warning.” Read more
Headlines about the government performing a U-turn on reduced sentences for offenders who plead guilty early risk distracting attention from the hole in the budget that has just been created by the move. It is a policy that throws up more questions than it answers, some of which are:
1) Where will the extra £130m come from? Government sources suggest it will be from probation and courts services. But where, and what effect will this have? Clarke was pretty vague in the Commons:
The savings are not coming from any particular area. We are achieving more efficiency. Half is coming from administrative costs. If there are any new policies I will come forward with them.
If half are coming through administrative costs, where is the other half coming from? Read more
I wrote a few days ago about my gut instinct that Boris Johnson would win next year’s London mayoral elections.
Today’s YouGov poll puts Boris ahead by 48 per cent to 41 per cent, a clear but not exactly decisive margin. Read more
First it was Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, head of the Royal Navy, warning about the viability of an extended Libya campaign. Then today Air Chief Marshal Sir Simon Bryant, deputy head of the RAF, warned that the service’s capability to carry out future missions will be threatened if the Libyan operation continues beyond the summer.
David Cameron was just asked about it at his Downing St press conference: “There are moments I wake up and read the newspapers and think, I tell you what, you do the fighting and I’ll do the talking.” Read more
The Lib Dems introduced a business dinner for the first time at annual conference last autumn, charging £250 a head. This time around the third party is instigating an inflation-busting price increase; corporate titans can pay £350 or £500 a head depending on whether they want marketing opportunities thrown in as well. It’s a sign of either the Lib Dems’ newfound power or their need – now they aren’t getting short money – to find new sources of funds. Our full story is here on ft.com. Read more
Yes, that headline is right. Labour, half the Lib Dems and some Tories have been calling for the timetable to raise the women’s state pension age to 65 and 66 to be delayed. This would avoid penalising 330,000 women who were expecting to claim their pensions up to two years earlier.
Labour admits this will cost money, so in order to pay for it, Liam Byrne, the shadow work and pensions secretary, has asked whether DWP has looked at bringing forward the dates on which the pension age is due to rise to 67 and 68 by two years.
It is a smart move in one way, as it avoids the accusation that Labour are full of uncosted economic policies. But it nullifies their argument that changing the system is unfair to those who suddenly see the goalposts move and their planned retirement fade into the distance. DWP officials say such a change could affect millions of people, not just the 330,000 hit by Iain Duncan Smith’s proposals. Read more