We’ve already reported the cabinet row ahead of Monday’s decision over carbon targets, with Vince Cable among those warning about the implications on Britain’s economic competitiveness.
David Cameron and George Osborne have a complex decision to make in weighing up their promise to be “the greenest government ever” and their desperate need to get the economy on track again.
And now Ed Miliband has weighed in, saying he is “dismayed at the news that the recommendations (from the committee on climate change) may be watered down.
I’ve seen a letter that the leader of the opposition is about to send to the prime minister, suggesting that any such dilution would mark an end to the cross-party consensus on climate change.
We have been passed the letter (see last night’s blog) that sheds new light on the inter-departmental row over increasing carbon-cuts targets. Ministers must decide this month whether to legislate for the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendations in full in Britain’s fourth “carbon budget”.
The row is not quite as straightforward as it first appeared; it’s not a binary argument over whether to accept the report or not.
The recent clash over AV has been portrayed as evidence of a rot at the heart of government between Lib Dems and Tories.
In fact, many of the rows within Whitehall since last May have not fallen into a predictable party pattern. If anything, ministers have tended to take a stance based on the department they occupy rather than their party’s pre-election manifesto. Immigration was one such issue, where certain Tories surprised their new comrades by being more liberal than the Liberals.
Take BIS, for example, where Lib Dems Vince Cable and Ed Davey are not exactly showing a herbivore sandal-wearing attitude. Last week, Davey and Francis Maude held private talks with Boris Johnson over ways to tackle the London strikes. It was Davey, I’m told, who showed a tougher outlook than Maude, wondering why Britain couldn’t – for instance – have the “minimum service agreements” (used in Spain) to stop public services being crippled by strikes.
David Willetts made a similar point this evening about the need for both coalition partners to share responsibility for all policy, good and bad.
With several weeks to go before the AV referendum the arguments are starting to get slightly repetitive. But Vince Cable has tried a different slant on the debate during this morning’s joint press conference with Ed Miliband.
Instead of citing other countries with AV (Fiji, Australia, Papua New Guinea) he chose the – not entirely comparable – example of Strictly Come Dancing.
Without plunging in the dagger to its hilt, Vince Cable made clear this morning that Prince Andrew should be carefully reflecting on whether to carry on as a UK trade envoy.
“He is a volunteer, he has offered to perform these roles. I think it’s down to him, essentially, to judge the position he wants to be in.”
If Nick Clegg every imagined the maximum £9,000 university fees would be levied in “exceptional circumstances”, Exeter is a wake-up call.
The university will be seeking to charge the full rate in 2012, a decision that shows £9,000 won’t just be the price for Russell Group institutions.
The Westminster blog is briefly interrupting its holiday break so readers can listen to the Vince Cable audio clip, courtesy of the BBC website.
Read our story: Cable says he ‘declared war’ on Murdoch
We reported yesterday that David Cameron had joined Nick Clegg in warning of new action against banks which did not show bonus restraint.
David Cameron warned banks on Friday that they faced higher taxes if they continued to pay “unjustified” bonuses, adding to a growing political and regulatory pressure on the City before the industry’s bonus season early next year.The prime minister, speaking after a European Union summit in Brussels, said that the public found such payments “galling”, adding: “Every decision the banks make like that makes it more difficult to keep a tax regime that they might favour.”
Over at the Guardian, Nick Watt has pulled together a terrific summary of the lifelong rivalry between Ken Clarke and Michael Howard. It began 50 years ago with a row over Oswald Mosley and it’s still going strong today over prisons policy.
Clarke and Howard are, of course, members of the so-called Cambridge Mafia that graduated from 1960s student politicking to rule the roost in Whitehall as cabinet ministers.
It is a famous tale. But there is a coalition twist to the Cambridge Mafia story that is less well known.
One of the Cambridge Union presidents around this time was a young liberal activist from York called Vince Cable.
Now that the coalition is formed, Cable has surely earned his place as a “made man”. He really deserves to join the list of Cambridge Mafioso, which includes Clarke, Howard, Norman Lamont, Norman Fowler, John Gummer and Leon Brittan. (Some of them are pictured here at Clarke’s wedding.)
That said, while they mixed in the same circles, Vince was never terribly keen on joining the gang. He remarked that Clarke was “not particularly exciting back then – not the real personality he later became”. And this is what he thought of the Tory “conveyor belt”.
The prospect of all Lib Dem MPs — including Clegg and Cable — abstaining on the tuition fee rise never did seem likely.
Well, Vince Cable has consigned the idea to the dustbin, saying he’ll vote for a rise in fees. He broke the news to the Twickenham Times:
If you asked a Lib Dem MP whether they would abstain on tuition fees given a free vote, the answer would almost certainly be no. Most of them have very strong views on the matter. Vince Cable just spelled out the obvious: his “personal instinct” is to vote for the policy he developed.
Yet when 57 Lib Dem MPs gather in one room, strange things begin to happen to their judgement.
Even Nick Clegg is now seriously considering the mass abstention option — bravely leading his party to sit on the fence.
To be fair, there are no good options. They will be punished for breaking their pledge to vote against a rise. But it seems that after countless hours of excruciating debate, they’ve decided the best way to minimise the pain is to not vote at all.
Transparency on high-end pay is good for Whitehall but not yet for the City – that is the conclusion emerging from the Treasury.
But what about the Lib Dems? Weren’t they billing themselves as the slayers of City excess? Tackling “obscene” banker pay was one of Nick Clegg’s top four priorities in the election campaign.
Yet it seems the element of the four point plan where the Lib Dems have made least progress.
Just compare what has happened to the proposals Clegg unveiled during the election.
Cash bonuses? Uncle Vince says £2,500 is your limit. Board level bonuses? Banned outright. (Vince made a joke about how the bank directors can make do with free golf club membership.) Working at a loss making bank? No bonus at all.
There was more. The one measure that really stood out was transparency. Cable and Clegg wanted to require banks to publish the names of all staff on a pay and bonus package greater than the prime minister’s salary. This would not only have ensnared top traders — it probably would have included their PAs as well.
When we asked Clegg about this recently, he dismissed the question, saying the Walker review was being implemented. When we pointed out that the legislation had been delayed, he seemed a bit taken aback.
Now George Osborne wants to impose such transparency rules on high pay “internationally rather than unilaterally” — which is an all too transparent code for shelving the reforms. Sir David Walker, the City grandee who proposed the tighter disclosure rules, has given the chancellor some convenient cover.
What will Clegg do? This will be a fascinating test of Lib Dem resolve.