My colleague Beth Rigby reveals tonight that Nick Clegg is pressing the Treasury to give every British voter shares in the state-owned banks when they are privatised – creating a “people’s banking system”.
It’s a move that smacks of populism. Clegg has briefed the press corps following him around Brazil that he has penned a letter to George Osborne asking them to look into a “mass share ownership scheme” as part of the privatisations of RBS and Lloyds. Read more
This afternoon’s defence select committee on the strategic defence and security review began on a sour note.
Like an errant schoolboy, or rather the best friend of an errant schoolboy, armed forces minister Nick Harvey was forced by James Arbuthnot, the committee chair, to explain why it was he and not his boss in the hot seat. Read more
I said I’d give you Labour’s response to Ian Davidson’s use of the word “neo-fascist” to describe the Scottish National party – a bizarre lapse given that he chairs the Scottish affairs select committee. Labour says select committee chairmanships are a matter for the House. But a spokesman says:
“The use of the word ‘neo-fascist’ was unacceptable and Ian on reflection will want to apologise and withdraw the comment.”
Ed Miliband clearly has a new strategy for PMQs.
He began with some warm-up questions about the cost of the Afghanistan war, which he ended with a nice line about Cameron being “very crass and high-handed” when telling army chiefs, “You do the fighting, I’ll do the talking”. These were easily enough dealt with by the PM (although he did have an interesting line about wanting the strategic defence review to be implemented more quickly – more on that to follow.
But he scored a more direct hit when he began asking about DNA records of people who have been arrested for rape, but not charged. Read more
Apparently it’s a sign of strength to change your mind – at least that’s what David Cameron said yesterday about the sentencing U-turn.
So how’s this for a sign of strength? The foreign office this morning declared proudly on its website an additional £2.2m in funding for the World Service, headlining the announcement “Massive U-turn on BBC world funding”. (H/T to Tim Montgomerie at Conservative Home for the pic.)
We revealed last night that shadow cabinet members are unhappy that they weren’t told about Ed Balls’ announcement (last Thursday) about Labour’s plans for a £13bn a year VAT cut. Some are not sure that it adds to the party’s economic credibility.
On one level the policy may seem unsurprising, given that Miliband and Balls both spoke out loudly against the rise from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent at the start of January. But in the political world, opposing a rise is not the same as pledging to reverse it. Read more
I’m told that senior figures from the Scottish National party met Labour whips this morning to call for the resignation of Ian Davidson, chairman of the Commons Scottish affairs select committee.
During a heated debate last night (just before 11pm) Mr Davidson described the SNP’s outlook as “narrow, neo-fascism“. When the remarks prompted an uproar, the MP repeated his insult, saying: “Is it not neo-fascist to attempt to shout down speakers that you disagree with?” (Answer: technically, no.) Read more