David Cameron threw the ground troops a tasty little campaigning morsel on Tuesday with news that prisoners would not be getting any perks - Sky TV, state-of-the-art gyms – on the inside as the Tories sought to prove they were no soft touch party.
It was a helpful dog whistle for Tory activists campaigning ahead of the county council elections. But privately, the Conservative leadership is bracing itself for big losses. Ukip is gaining momentum and could well give Cameron a bloody nose on Thursday.
The party is instead trying to look beyond this electoral test to the big one in 2015. The process started in earnest back in January with the arrival of the pugnacious Lynton Crosby as election chief. Last week it was given another push as Jo Johnson was brought in with a handful of backbenchers to work in No 10′s policy unit. Read more
Nigel Farage signs a book of condolence for Margaret Thatcher
Tories will not be thinking much about next month’s local elections as they gather in parliament to partake in collective mourning over the death of Margaret Thatcher.
The danger for David Cameron is that the wave of nostalgia for her will only serve to divide his party even more, when he needs it the least. As Lynton Crosby remarks, divided parties don’t win elections. And the infighting within the Tories over the past year is doing little more than help push their supporters into the arms of Ukip.
Cameron’s initial fightback against the rise of Nigel Farage’s party came in January with the promise of a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. Read more
David Cameron and Nick Clegg were this morning falling over themselves to claim the credit for helping “hard working families” with news of a new voucher scheme that could be worth up to £1,200 per child.
After weeks of wrangling, the coalition was finally ready to press the button on a tax-free childcare scheme to replace the current “employer supported childcare” system. The new scheme will eventually reach up to 2.5m families – compared with the 450,000 who access the current voucher system – and include the self-employed. Read more
Twitter was awash with “TM4PM” frenzy over the weekend after Theresa May delivered a speech to the ConservativeHome 2015 Victory conference that carried the undertones of a leadership bid.
The home secretary used the gathering of Conservative activists to sketch out her vision of Conservatism, just in case David Cameron’s one doesn’t wash with voters in 2015. She went far beyond her remit as she floated the idea of profit-making schools and a comprehensive industrial strategy.
Tim Montgomerie, ConHome’s founder and editor who has just been appointed the Times’s comment editor, was quick to calm the hype. He pointed out that May had agreed to speak at the event last November, quashing any talk of a post-Eastleigh leadership push. He also said May was loyal to Cameron and that her loyalty was one of her best qualities. Read more
A few weeks ago over a long lunch, a senior Tory warned that Cameron was going to end up cornered over press reform after Lord Puttnam rather unhelpfully decided to add Leveson-friendly amendments into the defamation bill.
The person said the amendment to introduce a cheap arbitration service between newspapers and the public meant that Leveson could end up being “put into law through the back door”. He added:
It is going to cause Cameron a huge problem when the bill comes back to the Commons.
Fraser Nelson writes an interesting column in the Telegraph today arguing that David Cameron has returned to Downing Street a changed man in 2013 with a renewed desire to make “Cameronism” mean something. But Nelson also notes that the Tory leader’s big vision all too often gets lost in policy u-turns and conflicting messages.
It is a trait that is increasingly vexing his backbenchers, fed up of defending contradictory messages emanating from the centre with their local associations. This week those rumblings rose to the surface when his parliamentary party used a meeting on the 2015 election strategy to let off steam about his very public backing of gay marriage. Read more
Labour MP Sharon Hodgson was given short shrift from the prime minister today when she asked David Cameron whether the following statement was true:
The problem is policy is being run by two public school boys who don’t know what it’s like to go to the supermarket and have to put things back on the shelves because they can’t afford it for their children’s lunchboxes. What’s worse, they don’t care either
The prime minister told the MP for Washington and Sunderland West to celebrate the fact Nissan is building a new car in Britain rather that focusing on “whatever nonsense” she had read out.
That “nonsense” actually came from his own benches in the form of the rebellious and outspoken Nadine Dorries – she made the comments to my colleague Kiran Stacey this week when asked to discuss child benefit. Hers is not a lone voice: Mark Pritchard, MP for the Wrekin, also made similar remarks to the FT about the prime minister a few days ago. Read more
At the start of the week, there seemed to be a general consensus among politicians that Stephen Hester was right to turn down his £1m RBS bonus but the treatment of Sir Fred Goodwin has sparked unease even among the political class, unsettled that due process has been cast aside to make a populist point.
If that is how the politicians are feeling, imagine how his de-robing has gone down within business circles. The hounding of Hester and demonisation of the former RBS chief has unnerved other chief executives of big FTSE companies, frustrated about the anti-business vernacular emerging from government as well as the opposition benches.
One FTSE chief executive said government’s handling of Goodwin had been akin to a “political drive-by shooting” and played to the gallery. Another said that this sort of “personalised, totemic targeting” was vindictive and would serve only to make business leaders withdraw from public life. Read more
Nick Clegg yesterday made a very public display of engagement with business over Europe as the deputy prime minister convened a business breakfast with Business For New Europe, a pro-single market group. Mr Clegg, flanked by Vince Cable, Danny Alexander, Chris Huhne David Laws, wanted to get the message across that he had dusted himself down and was ready to begin work on rebuilding relations on the continent after a bruising week for Britain.
But beyond the photo shoot and crafted media message lines, was a second, more exclusive meeting between Mr Clegg and the director-generals of key lobby groups. This meeting wasn’t briefed out but was apparently a quite detailed debate about tactics going forward.
“We pooled intelligence and talked about how big inward investors want
Mark Field, the Tory MP for the City and Westminster, and Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, make an unlikely pairing. But both men yesterday came out and attacked the government’s sale of Northern Rock to Virgin Money, asking whether it was the right time to strike such a deal against the backdrop of choppy markets.
Both wondered whether George Osborne might have extracted more than the £747m on completion of the sale — total proceeds could rise to just over £1bn over five years — had he waited a little longer. Both men also asked whether the government had fully explored the idea of the bank being turned into a mutual.
(Meanwhile Lib Dem peer Lord Oakeshott has put down some parliamentary questions asking if the Treasury have made it a condition of the deal that full British tax must be paid on all profits of Northern Rock and all dividends and capital gains received by the consortium.)
Others were more realistic on Thursday, with Lord Myners, the former Labour City minister, telling the Financial Times that his was a “very good price” to have achieved in Read more
Parliament’s long summer recess should be consigned to history and a November half-term break introduced permanently, as MPs on the procedure committee try to make life as an MP a little more family-friendly.
After months on consultation, the backbench committee which counts Jacob Rees-Mogg as a member has recommended that MPs cut short summer recess and instead add a half-term break to their calenders in November or go for a more radical shake-up where Read more