87 Tories rebel by voting for the Raab amendment

RAAB judo“Amid farcical scenes in the Commons, Mr Cameron had to rely on the votes of Labour MPs and his Liberal Democrat Coalition partners to defeat a revolt by 87 Tories, who voted to give ministers rather than judges the final decision on whether deportation would breach the human rights of foreign criminals. … Senior Tories admitted privately that the outcome was ‘chaotic’ and ‘messy.’ But allies of Mr Cameron said there was little point in a showdown with the rebels because he was ‘sympathetic’ to the objectives of Dominic Raab, the MP who proposed an amendment to the Immigration Bill.” – The Independent

  • “The Tories’ loop of vengeance could sink their election hopes” – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph
  • “The legislative minutiae may prove less important than the broad impression given, which is of the Tory backbenches being fed up with Europe. And the real upshot of the day is the world has now heard of Mr Raab.” – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
  • “”The Government’s stance on deporting foreign criminals shows it to be a prisoner of the ECHR” – Ross Clark, The Times (£)
  • “Cameron lost control of the Commons and his party. But with an election 15 months away, his rebels should be searching their souls.” – Sun editorial (£)
  • “It was a bad day for Mr Cameron, and it will not have done much to reassure those worried about migration.” – Guardian editorial

> Today: ToryDiary – The bristling tensions between David Cameron and Theresa May

> Yesterday:

Another European headache for the Prime Minister: France is agitating against his referendum

EU FLag“Cameron is heading for a collision with the French president François Hollande over his EU changes at the Anglo-French summit at RAF Brize Norton on Friday after the Elysée Palace challenged the prime minister’s referendum timetable. … On the eve of the first Anglo-French summit since Hollande became president in 2012, British officials dismissed French claims that a major renegotiation of British membership terms would not be possible before the prime minister’s planned referendum in 2017.” – The Guardian

  • “The British prime minister’s European strategy, in which he has invested significant political capital, requires him to win the support of other EU leaders for an as yet largely unspecified package of reforms. He needs the support of the French president. He cannot just rely, as he has been doing, on the backing of Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel.” – Financial Times editorial
  • “Overseas investment in France fell by 77 per cent last year as Britain retained its position as the most attractive country in Europe for foreign business.” – Daily Mail

Cameron backs snooping legislation, with a little help from his favourite crime dramas…

“He told a parliamentary security committee that monitoring private information was essential to keep citizens safe from terrorist attack and serious criminals. … He said: ‘In the most serious crimes [such as] child abduction, communications data… is absolutely vital – who called who and when, and where was the telephone at the time. Not the content, but the  communications data. … I love watching crime dramas on the television. There’s hardly a crime drama where a crime is solved without using the data of a mobile communications device.’” – Daily Mail

…and orders a investigation into energy charges

“David Cameron has ordered an investigation into the charges slapped by energy giants on millions of customers who pay bills by cash or cheque. … The PM has asked the Department for Energy to look into the ‘scale of the differentials between different payment methods’. … He says the investigation will check ‘suppliers are not over-subsidising their direct debit customers’ by overcharging others.” – The Sun (£)

Osborne writes to Balls, questioning his claims to “fiscal discipline”

Osborne Kitchen Sink“George Osborne today claimed the small print of Labour’s economic plan, including an extra £25billion in borrowing, poses the ‘single biggest risk to the economic recovery’. … The Chancellor today challenged Labour’s Ed Balls over the careful wording of his promise to run a surplus which only applies to day-to-day spending. … In a letter to Mr Balls, seen by MailOnline, Mr Osborne demanded to know how higher spending and more borrowing forever can be described as ‘fiscal discipline’.” – Daily Mail

“Mr Alexander suggested that if Labour chose to borrow and spend their entire leeway every year in the next Parliament that would add £166 billion to the debt.” – The Times (£)

  • “The majority of British households receive more from the State than they contribute, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.” – The Times (£)
  • “Labour was given further ammunition in its campaign over the cost of living when the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned on Thursday that living standards were unlikely to reach their pre-recession levels before the next election.” – The Guardian
  • “Middle class professionals who have been by controversial changes to child benefit have been granted an amnesty by the taxman.” – Daily Telegraph

And comment:

  • “It is worth pausing to note how dispiriting, how lowering, this whole row is to everyone who takes part. The gap between the maximum that Labour might spend and George Osborne’s plans amounts to 0.7 per cent of annual spending. Mr Balls’s plan is so secret he announced it in his speech. It is not a spree. It is just that there is no imaginable election that Mr Balls does not want to fight on the dividing line of investment (good) versus cuts (bad). His speech was the post-crash cover version of the same old tune. That’s all it is.” – Philip Collins, The Times (£)

> Yesterday: LeftWatch – Pinning Down Miliband: Labour’s fiscal plan

Somerset requires a 20-year plan to solve its flooding problems, admits Paterson

PATERSON floods“Troops were on standby last night as Somerset was braced for more floods – and Environment Secretary Owen Paterson admitted it could take 20 years to solve the area’s problems. … Mr Paterson said last night after chairing a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency committee: ‘We established that we do need a proper 20-year plan to satisfactorily cover this very specialist part of the country.’ … He reiterated David Cameron’s call for dredging to restart for the first time since 2005.” – Daily Mail

  • “Southern England has seen the wettest January since records began more than 100 years ago, official statistics show.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “Dredging rivers won’t stop floods. It will make them worse” – George Monbiot, The Guardian
  • “There need to be far-reaching reforms at the Environment Agency and a fundamental rethink of its administration and ethos, preferably under a new leadership” – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • “Why has it taken so long to help people who have been flooded since Christmas?” – Times editorial (£)

Leaves on the line: McLoughlin blocks HS2 report

“A key report into whether the HS2 rail line would give value for money is being kept secret by the Government. … Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin told Parliament he is using emergency powers to veto publication of the report that says HS2 is in danger of failing. He said that protecting the impartiality of civil servants’ secret advice to ministers has to take priority over disclosure to the public.” – Daily Mail

Hammond wants a more joined-up military

“UK military projects and procurement will fall increasingly to the new Joint Forces Command, the defence secretary has said, rather than being the individual responsibility of the army, navy or air force. … ‘We have to think holistically across the force,’ Philip Hammond said in an interview with the Financial Times in Yeovil, Somerset on Wednesday. ‘This is a big challenge . . . there is more and more joint thinking going on.'” – Financial Times

  • “Britain could end round-the-clock Trident submarine patrols and still keep a credible nuclear deterrent, according to a new analysis.” – Daily Telegraph

Maude investigates why women are failing to break through Whitehall’s glass ceiling

Francis Maude“The Cabinet Office is to spend £100,000 to determine why women are failing to break through the glass ceiling in Whitehall. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister, is to commission a think-tank to draw up proposals by May next year to try to ensure that more of the top Civil Service jobs go to women.” – The Times (£)

Government report suggests a “culture of disbelief” over rape claims

“Official concern over a ‘culture of disbelief’ in rape cases has been raised as new figures show that some police forces are writing off up to a third of all allegations reported to them. … A report by the high-powered joint government and police rape monitoring group confirms that a postcode lottery is operating in the way the 43 forces in England and Wales deal with rape allegations.” – The Guardian

  • “The amount paid by households towards the cost of policing looks set to rise by up to five per cent this year as the Government faces a potential show down with its flagship Police and Crime Commissioners who are demanding above inflation increases in council tax to combat swingeing budget cuts.” – The Independent

Tories question the police watchdog’s impartiality when it comes to the miners’ strikes

“The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is coming to the end of a lengthy preliminary assessment to decide whether it should launch a full inquiry into one of the most notorious episodes in the bitterly fought 1984-85 industrial dispute. … However, prominent Conservatives have questioned the police watchdog’s impartiality after it emerged that the senior official overseeing its detailed preliminary assessment of what happened at Orgreave has links to the Labour Party.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “The Independent Police Complaints Commission must avoid being used as a sort of ‘truth and reconciliation’ body by people with a political agenda” – Daily Telegraph editorial

McIntosh decision looms – will she have to make way for an Old Etonian?

Anne McIntosh“The sitting MP Anne McIntosh, 59, who has been fighting a year-long battle against deselection, will learn today whether she has seen off the local party bigwigs who want to get rid of her. If she loses, she will be the first female Tory MP in modern history to be sacked by her local party. … Meanwhile, in a twist which could have come from the pen of Evelyn Waugh, a dashing former officer in the Light Dragoons called Edward Legard, an Old Etonian school chum of David Cameron, appears to be the choice of the party high command to replace Anne McIntosh.” – Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail

Clegg speaks out against the “illiberal” car smoking ban

“The Deputy Prime Minister said it was ‘stupid’ for someone to light up in front of youngsters, but it was wrong to rush to pass laws just ‘to fix something you don’t like’. … Mr Clegg, who is a self-confessed secret smoker, claimed the Labour policy backed by Lords last night was like asking the police to monitor children’s TV habits and their consumption of crisps and fizzy drinks.” – Daily Mail

  • “Nick Clegg has said he will not drop a Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate who sparked widespread protests among some Muslims by tweeting a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed.” – The Indepedent
  • Clegg pledges £9 million electric car funding – Financial Times

Miliband’s party reforms could hand the unions 90 per cent of the leadership vote…

MILIBAND Red Ed“Ed Miliband’s plan to reform Labour’s relationship with the unions will strengthen their influence within the party, it emerged yesterday. … Union leader Paul Kenny has boasted that Mr Miliband’s flagship changes, which are due to be unveiled this weekend, will eliminate MPs’ ‘golden share’ of the vote in contests to elect the party leader. … Rather than controlling around a third of the vote as at present, Mr Miliband’s expected proposals would mean union members would account for between 50 and 90 per cent of the votes in future elections.” – Daily Mail

…but they’ll take five years, anyway

“Ed Miliband’s advisers promised last summer that the reforms would be carried out ‘as soon as possible’. But the unions have successfully pressed for a delay. ‘We’ve suggested … it will take at least five years … with all the possible ramifications on finance and organisation,’ said Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB.” – Financial Times

Is the Labour leadership split over the 50p rate? Alan Johnson reckons so

“Ed Miliband and Ed Balls suffer ‘tensions’ and are split over their flagship new tax policy, a senior Labour MP has revealed. … Dropping a Westminster bombshell, former Home Secretary Alan Johnson has told how the Opposition Leader wants to reinstate the controversial 50p top rate of income tax for the very well off permanently. … But his Shadow Chancellor only wants it to be temporary, as a measure to help bring down the deficit.” – The Sun (£)

  • “Labour’s Eds are split over the 50p tax rate. One is wrong. The other’s even more wrong.” – Sun editorial (£)

Toynbee: Giving 16-year-olds the vote can be Labour’s Great Reform Act

“Are 16-year-olds too dumb to vote? They can’t be dumber than all those who voted no in the AV referendum. Disaffected, alienated, anti-Westminster voters were asked if they would like a little more choice, a chance for new parties to break in, with a first preference vote to better reflect their feelings without a risk of letting in their most hated party: the idiots rejected it. Now pollsters find them again sourly grumbling that ‘They’re all the same’, when Labour and Tories are less the same than for years.” – Polly Toynbee, The Guardian

Oborne: Joyce, Hancock and Mercer are perfect examples of Parliament’s low standards

“…it is quite inconceivable that Joyce, Hancock or Mercer would have survived for a single second had they occupied a position in a serious profession. A drink-drive conviction is career death in the Army, let alone the kind of drunken brawl that is Mr Joyce’s speciality. A doctor with charges of the gravity being levelled against Mr Hancock, particularly when given credibility by an internal investigation, would surely not be allowed to carry on holding surgeries. Parliament, however, has very low standards.” – Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph

Committee report 1) Women are being failed by NHS maternity services

NHS“Women are being failed by NHS maternity services with more than 14 babies a day in England either stillborn or dying within seven days of their birth, according to a scathing report by MPs. … The damning report on maternity care by MPs on the Public Accounts Committee found there is too much variation in the quality of care offered by different trusts. … Many units are desperately understaffed – half do not have enough consultants and there is a ‘truly worrying’ national shortage of 2,300 midwives.” – Daily Mail

  • “More than a third of working mothers would like to give up their jobs completely and stay at home with their children, a major Government survey has found.” – Daily Mail
  • “The ‘pandemic’ of inactivity in poor areas of England is leading to 17 per cent of premature deaths, according to public health experts. … The research by Ukactive showed that in some parts of the country, four in 10 people exercise less than half an hour each month.” – Daily Mail
  • “…dissent is growing from privacy campaigners who say the [new NHS] database will threaten patient confidentiality and could fall foul of proposed EU laws.” – Financial Times
  • “Patients are facing growing rationing of treatments such as counselling, cataract removal and IVF since the coalition restructured the NHS last year, GPs say.” – The Guardian

Committee report 2) The Home Office is rewarding failure

“A powerful Commons committee revealed some 40 per cent of the Home Office workforce – 11,672 staff – was given a payout in the 2012-2013 financial year. … The Home Affairs committee said the level of reward was completely ‘irresponsible’ given the mess with contracts such as security at the 2012 Olympics. … And it called for a end to ALL bonuses until an performance audit of the Government department was completed.” – The Sun (£)

Mind the gender gap in university applications

Mind the gap“The number of young men applying to go into higher education is reaching crisis point, the head of the university applications service has warned. … The number of girls applying to study for a degree this year is more than a third larger than that of boys. … According to its figures, in England, over 62,000 more women than men have applied for places this year – a rise of five per cent in just 12 months.” – Daily Mail

  • “If young men are choosing not to go to university, so be it” – Independent editorial
  • “Brits back a radical proposal for children to stay in school for nine hours a day, a landmark poll revealed last night.” – The Sun (£)

Wolf: England must reject currency union with Scotland

“An independent Scotland would be free to keep the pound, without a currency union, or to peg any new currency to the pound. But currency union would be problematic. It would be folly for the rest of the UK to enter a union with an independent Scotland voluntarily, having seen what has happened inside the eurozone. But, if it did indeed agree to do so, it would have to be on the basis of a view of its own interests.” – Martin Wolf, Financial Times

  • “The leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, has publicly distanced herself from ‘intemperate’ comments by party grandee Lord Lang who said independence would ‘dishonour’ the memory of those who gave their lives for Britain in the First World War.” – The Scotsman
  • “The UK government should abolish the bedroom tax or hand the Scottish Parliament powers to scrap the controversial policy, Holyrood’s welfare reform committee has said.” – The Scotsman

Harry Phibbs: Charities have no right to play politics with our cash

PHIBBS Harry rosette“Yes, but these are charities not only expressing a corporate political view, but spending significant funds promoting them. Charitable status should not be given to political lobbying groups. At present there is not even a transparency requirement for charities to disclose the proportion of their funds that they spend on lobbying and campaigning.” – Harry Phibbs, The Times (£)

News in brief

  • Paddy Ashdown and his wife unhurt after fatal car crash – Daily Mail
  • Coulson “wasn’t in the office” on the day he allegedly listened to a hacked voicemail – Daily Mail
  • Amanda Know found guilty, sentenced to 28 years by Italian court – The Sun (£)
  • 133,670 homes were built in 2013, the highest number since the start of the downturn in 2007 – Daily Telegraph
  • 22 per cent of all people claiming out-of-work benefits have criminal records – Daily Telegraph
  • Scotland’s environment agency has failed to meet a third of its green targets – The Scotsman

And finally 1) Cameron, pub landlord

“Afternoon, sir. Welcome to the Coalition Arms. Shake my hand. The name’s Cameron, but you can call me Dave. All my regulars do. Beautiful British name, Dave. Just like the other half, Sam. Dave and Sam. Beautiful British names. … That’s Sam, as in Samantha, not as in Sam. Wouldn’t want you getting the wrong impression. Not that I’ve anything against it, mind you. Far from it.” – Richard Littlejohn, Daily Mail

And finally 2) Balls’s musical priorities

piano octave“In a revealing interview, Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, explains that husband Ed Balls is not much help on the school run. … ‘You haven’t got them ready, you haven’t got yourself ready and then suddenly there’s a discussion about PE kit, or swimming. Who knew it was swimming today? … ‘And Ed has taken to piano practising during that period. It’s infuriating,’ she told the latest edition of Red Magazine.” – Daily Mail

And finally 3) Who follows whom?

“It is easy to look a twit on Twitter – but has anyone told our MPs? … From PM David Cameron to UKIP maverick Nigel Farage, almost every politician can now be found using the site. … And checking their profiles reveals them to be secret fans of cheesy celebs such as Jedward and Keith Chegwin.” – The Sun (£)

> Yesterday: WATCH – “Is Vince Cable a freemason?” The odd things people Google about politicians