We’ve known for two days that George Osborne, Danny Alexander and Ed Balls were about to rule out sharing the pound with an independent Scotland. What we didn’t know until this morning is that they would be joined by Sir Nick Macpherson, the Treasury’s top civil servant, who has written a letter the likes of which are almost never seen in Whitehall.
Belying the reputation of civil servants as cautious, apolitical, and perhaps occasionally slightly verbose types, Sir Nick has written a short, punchy and withering assessment of Scotland’s chances of forming a currency union with the rest of the UK.
In it he says: Read more
The prime minister surprised the Westminster press corps yesterday when he held a press conference to spell out his action to tackle flooding. It wasn’t just the press conference that surprised – it has been 238 days since his last at Downing Street – but what he said. He told reporters:
Money is no object in this relief effort. Whatever money is needed for, it will be spent.
He repeated that pledge at today’s PMQs, promising a string of spending measures to help relieve the burden on families and businesses. They include: Read more
Sir Andrew Dilnot, the head of the UK Statistics Authority, has concluded that the government may have given a misleading impression of how much it has invested in various infrastructure schemes – including flood defences.
I wrote at the back end of last year about the government’s “National Infrastructure Plan” and how it seemed to use statistics in a questionable way. Read more
By Emily Cadman and Henry Foy
Commuters in London are facing chaos on the way to work as RMT and TSSA unions strike against plans to close ticket offices and cut jobs, which Transport for London claim are essential to modernise.
FT reporter Bryce Elder found his local station, Ladbroke Grove, was closed when he had been expecting it to be open (photo left).
The last major strike was in 2007 and cost London an estimated £48m a day in lost productivity, according to the London Chamber of Commerce.
FT reporter Caroline Binham bumped into London Mayor Boris Johnson participating in the propaganda war at London Bridge station.
But aside from the politics about who is to blame, the challenge for most is simply to get to work.
And that is something which takes on a familiar pattern in the internet age: venting on Twitter. #tubestrike was choice more many this morning.
1. For most people it is likely to be as bad as you think it is going to be
One of the government’s main tax-cutting drives has been to encourage councils to keep tax rises to a minimum. Ministers have done this in two ways: firstly, by giving councils a cash incentive to freeze council tax; and secondly, by forcing any council that wants to raise tax by 2 per cent or more to put it to a local referendum.
Since that policy began, Eric Pickles, the local government secretary, has been irritated (but perhaps not surprised) to see dozens of councils raising tax by 1.99 per cent – just below the threshold. So recently, as revealed last week in the FT, he began pushing for a lower limit of 1.5 per cent. Read more
There has been an interesting shift in the polls north of the border with a rise in the support for independence from 26% to 29% in recent days.
The latest survey still points towards a “no” vote in September when the Scots get their historic chance to vote for independence from the United Kingdom. Support for the status quo has remained steady at 42 per cent, according to the survey by TNS BMRB of 1,000 people. Read more
Nigel Farage, Ukip leader
It might still be four months away, but attention is beginning to turn to May’s European elections, and especially the role that Ukip is going to play in them. What seems now fairly certain is that the party will come either first or second, pushing the Tories into third, and possibly prompting another bout of soul-searching among the governing party.
Whether it manages to top the ballot or not, Ukip’s likely success will see a host of previously unknown politicians catapulted into positions of power in Brussels. As next year’s general election approaches, these will be the figures we will see appear increasingly on our television screens – but who are they, and what do they tell us about the party?
An extensive study by the FT shows that the party is an interesting mix of people, some young, some old; most from the right, but a few from the left. Some have libertarian instincts, but most are social conservatives. All, of course, are united by a visceral dislike of Europe, and perhaps counter-intuitively, given this is nominally a libertarian party, of immigration too.
This is what we found: Read more
By Andrew Bounds
More trouble in the shires for Conservative high command as one of its dwindling band of female MPs faces a “campaign to unseat her mounted by local gentry”, according to her allies.
The Yorkshire Post, which opened the curtains on goings-on at Thirsk and Malton Conservative association, quotes one source who dubbed it “our very own Falkirk”, a reference to Labour’s attempts to influence candidate selection in the Scottish town.
The charge that unions unknowingly signed up members of a selection committee wounded Labour leader Ed Miliband. In James Herriot country the allegation is that the local association “co-opted” people to pack the executive committee and deselect Anne Read more
David Cameron has today thrown his weight behind the small but growing trend of “reshoring” – or returning production from overseas to theUK.
Speaking in Davos, the prime minister said he was setting up a government advisory service to help companies that want to reshore. The service, “Reshore UK”, will offer advice on questions such as locations. Read more
Last October, at the height of the political row over energy bills, we reported on the growing concerns of senior business people (including the CBI) about the impact on Britain’s future infrastructure.
The coalition was engaged in an attempt to rein back bills in a direct reaction to Ed Miliband’s promise of a 20-month price freeze.
The most interesting was Sir John Armitt, former chair of the Olympic Delivery Authority, who told me that Britain needed long-term investment and policy to get energy projects off Read more
It is impossible to describe how enormously distressed I am by this situation and I am certainly too ill to attend the House of Lords today.
In the interests of my party and all concerned, I will now release a statement that I have prepared:
In 2009, I was the subject of a smear campaign in relation to House of Lords allowances. The timing of this campaign was clearly chosen as it was in the middle of major election campaigns, for which I was then responsible. I warned Nick Clegg how I considered that the party might be damaged in those elections as a result of those allegations. I said that I would bring forward my planned resignation as the Liberal Democrats Chief Executive on health grounds. I had not intended resigning until after helping Nick and the party through the 2010 General Election campaign. Read more
Workers with savings who lose their jobs after fewer than four years in employment could lose their automatic entitlement to out-of-work benefits as a result of Labour’s proposals to strengthen the contributory element of the welfare system.
Rachel Reeves, shadow welfare secretary, has floated plans to give more money to jobseekers who have been working for longer in an attempt to restore the Beveridge principles of the welfare state. Read more