Further reading

Treasury drumbeat sets the Whitehall tempo — FT
New MPs set out with confidence — FT
Cable thrilled as Monaco based Sir Philip Green joins coalition — FT Blog
Cameron coalition is an ideas test-tube for the West — The Economist
A graduate tax is bad for students and parents — John O’Leary/Times (£)
Better than evens chance of Israel bombing Iran this year — Spectator
Some charts to explain inflation to John Redwood — Spectator
Sunshine Dave wants to move clocks forward — The Sun

Cameron must learn the lessons of New Labour — Matthew Taylor/FT
Fears of double dip recession as Fed downgrades growth — FT
UK near the top of economic gloom league — FT
Time to tame the erratic Bank of England — John Redwood
Difficult cut? Take it to the Downing Street appeal court — Bagehot
Make the children pay for their milk — Ann Widdecombe
How the Labour leadership candidates became MPs — Labour Uncut
Never pay spooks or credit agencies for results — Kings of War

Jim Pickard

The debate is already underway across Twitter and the blogosphere after David Cameron described himself as “middle class”* during his PM Direct event this afternoon.

Many will be surprised by this comment given that Cameron is an old Etonian, former Oxford student, prime minister, descendant of MPs – and ultimately of William IV – and husband of an aristocrat. He admitted earlier this year that he had had a “very posh, very privileged upbringing.”

Is this the final proof of the classless society? (It was John Prescott – the former ship steward turned deputy prime minister – who famously said in 1997 that “we are all middle class now“.) Read more

Jim Pickard

Employers group calls for ban on strikes in vital public services – Sky
Unison up in arms about “privatisation” within the NHS - Guardian
Taxpayer to make a profit from insuring RBS against catastrophe – Robert Peston, BBC
More BSF schools to be axed – Paul Waugh

Jim Pickard

You might have thought that David Cameron would be steering clear of foreign policy gaffes after his “news-rich” visit to Turkey and India*.

But he has just been accused by Labour of making a new blunder by mistakenly claiming that Iran has a nuclear weapon (at least, we are still assuming he’s wrong) during a PM Direct meeting.

The prime minister was asked why he was backing Turkey to join the EU and said it could help solve the world’s problems….”like the Middle East peace process, like the fact that Iran has got a nuclear weapon”.

Chris Bryant, shadow Europe minister, said Mr Cameron was becoming a “foreign policy klutz”.

“This is less of a hiccup, more of a dangerous habit,” he said. “Considering Iran’s nuclear ambitions constitute one of the most important foreign policy challenges facing us all, it is not just downright embarrassing that the prime minister has made this basic mistake, it’s dangerous.”

 Read more

Cameron should drive down house prices — Neil O’Brien/FT
Plans to split Afghanistan have never worked — Ahmed Rashid/FT
A freedom pass for social housing tenants — FT
Gieve warns of rapid rise in interest rates — The Times (£)
Lloyds turns profit after lending less and charging more — Peston/BBC
Don’t tack left David, fight the unions instead — The Times (£)
Zardari pulls out the stops for Palin — Spectator Coffee House
Cameron turns grey at sight of Lib Dem poll rating — The Sun

Jim Pickard

Thousands of military reports on Afghanistan leaked to the press via Wikileaks - Guardian
I support David Miliband says Gillian Duffy - The Mirror
Can Vince force the banks to increase their lending? - FT
Business school to set up new university – FT
Tory MP dissidents form “brokeback” club -Daily Mail

Split Afghanistan and give the South to the Taliban — Robert Blackwill/FT
Cameron bangs trade drum as Simon Fraser appointed to FCO — FT
Bank predicts higher inflation and lower growth — Independent
Chill wind hits the Miliband household — Times
Ed Miliband will never leave the party behind — Phil Collins/Times
Swedish schools: expensive, divisive, but better results — The Guardian
Obama must envy Cameron’s grip on power — Garton Ash/Guardian
Ken Clarke prison reforms were inspired by Churchill – Independent

Fox loses ground to the Treasury over Trident — FT
Keep the deterrent secret and cheap — Gideon Rachman/FT
Cameron puts special relationship on less emotional footing — FT
Whitehall efficiency savings? Reliably dubious or detrimental — FT
Clegg’s boundary reforms will disenfranchise the poor — Tristam Hunt
Cameron plots route out of Afghanistan — Rachel Sylvester/Times
Whatever happened to Cam Force One? — The Sun
The sudden lull in newspaper polling — Political Betting

Jim Pickard

The thousands of people who have signed up to a Raoul Moat fanclub on Facebook are clearly moronic on any level. But what exactly is David Cameron trying to achieve today by asking the website to take down the offending page? Read more

Jim Pickard

I’m told that Andrew Mitchell, the development secretary, will announce this afternoon that he’s appointing Lord Ashdown to a new humanitarian role: “Chair of the Emergency Response Review“. Read more

Jim Pickard

You have to admire Ed Balls for his persistence. On this morning’s Today programme he suggested that the New Labour battles between the Brown and Blair camps were merely a spot of “creative tension” that led to “great achievements.”

Bear in mind that there were vicious screaming matches between the two men and periods where they were barely on speaking terms – creating dysfunction at the top of the government machineRead more

Jim Pickard

Baffled and perplexed by plans to shake up NHS - Philip Stephens in the FT
Lansley is in a hurry and may lose control - Nick Timmins in the FT
I was always thinking straight unlike some colleagues - Mandelson serialisation continues in Times
Short jail sentences are pointless – David Cameron in Daily Mail
Many Tories hate David Cameron – Tim Montgomerie at ConservativeHome
Mark Hoban mulls tax on bank profits – FT

Jim Pickard

Carne Ross, a former British official to the UN*, offered his controversial testimony to the Chilcot inquiry today – and it makes uncomfortable reading for the government of the time.

In his written evidence, Ross said he believed the government had “intentionally and substantially exaggerated” its assessment of Iraq’s capabilities ahead of the 2003 invasion. For example, he revives the point that Iraq was officially thought to have “up to 12” Scud missles – which became “up to 20” in the September dossier.

Ross also highlights flaws in a paper sent to the Parliamentary Labour Party by then foreign secretary Jack Straw to drum up support from MPs. Read more

Kiran Stacey

Mandelson: Clegg killed off Brown – The Times
Plans for GPs to control up to £80bn of NHS funding –The Times
Budd sets out to repair OBR’s reputation – FT
Government puts extradition under scrutiny – FT
Pressure piled on Gove over schools errors – FT
Food Standards Agency to be abolished by health secretary – The Guardian
Probation watchdog: serious crimes may be price to pay for cutting cost of justice – Daily Telegraph
Cameron and Clegg promise to give power away – Daily Telegraph
Osborne’s cap on housing benefits will ‘drive poor families into ghettos’ – Independent

Jim Pickard

Incidentally, we said on Friday that Mandy’s publisher had not taken out any adverts; true enough. That hasn’t stopped the Times – which is serialising the memoirs – from doing its own TV ad. Shades of Professor Snape?

 Read more

Jim Pickard

This is a little unfair, because tonight’s Keir Hardie speech is meant to be intellectual and the audience will expect nothing less. This is the kind of rhetoric that plays well within the party heartland. Still, some of Mili-D’s comments seem more than a little confusing: is it just me?

I’ve put my own translations in bold – they may well be wrong. (Here is the entire text of the speech).

In our concern with meeting people’s needs we seemed to sever welfare from desert and this led people to think that their taxes were being wasted, that they were being used: Some people got benefits who didn’t deserve them

Our lack of distinction between the proceeds of financial capital, which was often concerned with its short term multiplication not its long term investment, and manufacturing capital, which was embedded in the real economy, led to a real lack in private sector growth throughout the country. We concentrated too much on City of London casino banking and not enough on manufacturing. Read more

Jim Pickard

John Healey, shadow housing minister, reckons that £450m has already been chopped from the government’s spending on housing since the election. That, he says, will cost about 6,000 new homes and a similar number of jobs.

Some free market Tory MPs may want to go even further. Why not cut the entire “National Affordable Housing Programme”, designed to produce more social housing* via grants to housing associations? The NAHP also provides five different “HomeBuy” schemes which subsidise first-time buyers and low-income workers to purchase homes.


DCLG has £6.2bn a year of capital spending, most of which goes towards housing. The National Affordable Housing Programme is £2.48bn of that in the current year.

The case for keeping it

Key workers and first-time buyers struggle to afford their own home after UK house prices soared in the last decade. That can have a damaging impact on labour markets. With councils having failed to build many new houses in recent years, housing associations have taken up the slack. Read more

Jim Pickard

Westcountry Lib Dem MP Andrew George has tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill* and has attracted the signatures of three colleagues, the Independent on Sunday has revealed. (Bob Russell, Mark Williams, Roger Williams). The amendment demands an assessment of the impact of the VAT rise on various social groups.

There is no doubt that some Lib Dem figures are hugely uncomfortable with the Budget – especially the VAT move. But how far would potential rebels go over the issue? It feels increasingly likely that the four may vote against the Budget; or at least the VAT element of it. The IoS story goes even further by suggesting they are already talking to Labour figures about covert co-operation. Read more

Jim Pickard

Harriet Harman made unemployment the focus of her shrill but effective riposte against the coalition, claiming that tens of thousands of people would lose their jobs as a direct result of the Budget. Her lack of a concrete figure, however, stems from the rather ambiguous picture painted by the Treasury’s Red Book.

If you compare the OBR’s new unemployment forecasts with the June pre-Budget forecasts there is a slight difference but it is not as stark as Harman would have you believe. For the current year, employment, ILO unemployment and the claimant count remain the same. Read more