Will yesterday’s employment statistics herald a rate rise? Not yet, says the Bank…

UnionJack arrows angled“Yesterday the Office for National Statistics said the unemployment rate is now at 7.1 per cent after falling faster than any economist or the Bank predicted. … But the Bank of England insisted interest rates are not on the brink of their first rise in nearly seven years despite governor Mark Carney saying it would consider raising rates if the jobless rate fell to 7 per cent. … In an unusually political statement, the Bank also said the Coalition’s benefits clampdown may have pushed more people into looking for work, rather than continuing to rely on State handouts.” – Daily Mail

  • “Mark Carney has launched a charm offensive that will see him sit beside more junior colleagues for a day at a time in a bid to improve relations with staff lower down the rungs of the Bank of England’s rigid hierarchy.” – Financial Times

And comment:

  • “Yes, this was another day of good news for the Chancellor. But the era of funny money cannot last for ever – and the toughest decisions lie ahead.” – Daily Mail editorial
  • “The impact of recovery is being felt very unevenly. In some northern cities, there’s no pick up at all” – Guardian editorial
  • “…we now know the MPC is relaxed about the 7 per cent threshold being breached. But when might it react? At 6 per cent, or 5.5 per cent?” – Financial Times editorial
  • “If Bank policy is to evolve in line with changing circumstances – as it unquestionably must – then does ‘forward guidance’ serve any purpose at all?” – Independent editorial
  • “Forward guidance should now be quietly shelved. The Bank should get on with its task of containing inflation and preserving the stability of the economy and financial system.” – Times editorial (£)
  • “The big question is whether declining unemployment has been a false omen of economic recovery. Was it a moment of madness in August when the BoE identified unemployment as its economic bellwether, even though it knew it did not understand recent movements in the data?” – Chris Giles, Financial Times
  • “This recovery is built on sand. We must become more productive and live within our means” – Stephen King, The Times (£)

> Yesterday:

…but Osborne is already preparing to change tack

“As expectations grow of an interest rate rise before the 2015 election, the UK chancellor is preparing to change his message and claim an increase would be ‘a sign of success’. … His aides insist that savers would be pleased to see higher rates, which would be evidence of a return to economic normality and healthy growth. ‘It’s not something we are worried about,’ an aide said.” – Financial Times

  • “UK car manufacturing hit a six-year high in 2013, driven by sharp increases in production at Jaguar Land Rover and Toyota and despite a fall in the number of cars built in December.” – The Guardian

IDS says that Benefits Street proves the need for his reforms

IDS on Marr“The Coalition’s welfare reforms will ‘make Britain great again’, Iain Duncan Smith will say, after the Bank of England suggested for the first time that benefits curbs are pushing people back into work. … In a speech that seeks to build on ‘extraordinary’ jobless figures, the Work and Pensions Secretary will promise to end the ‘twilight world’ of entire communities that are reliant on benefits. … He will warn of the hidden ‘ghettos’ of long-term unemployment that still exist and will pledge to transform lives by ‘lifting people up’.” – Daily Telegraph

“Iain Duncan Smith has been challenged by union leaders after saying that the coalition’s welfare changes have helped make people feel ‘more secure’ about the future.” – Financial Times

  • “Iain Duncan Smith’s policies on welfare are working” – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • “Needless to say, in all these matters it is important to adopt the right tone, and not to appear aloof, mean-spirited or overbearing. The Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who is no patsy, recently said it was time for some on the Right to stop ‘finger-wagging’ at the unmarried and the poor. … He’s correct about that.” – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail

The “Tory dining club” that’s paid £43 million and received access to Cameron

“An elite Tory dining club that enjoys direct access to David Cameron in return for cash has given more than £43million to the party, it emerged last night. … The secretive Leader’s Group of major donors is open only to those prepared to give the Conservatives at least £50,000 a year. … In return, they are promised regular dinners, lunches and drinks reception with the Prime Minister and other senior Tory figures. … But data released in the wake of the 2012 ‘Dinners for donors’ row reveals that 72 members of the group have taken the opportunity to dine privately with Mr Cameron and other senior ministers in the past 18 months. ” – Daily Mail

Hunt to doctors: patients are people, too

HUNT Doctor Carla Millar“The Health Secretary warns that hospital care has become a series of ‘brief encounters’ with staff and calls for the end of ‘ping pong’ referrals that leaves patients feeling ‘like parcels’. … He will today announce plans for a single doctor to take charge of each patient from the minute they are admitted to the second they are discharged. … Calling for a ‘culture change’ in the NHS, Mr Hunt will say: ‘That means reasserting a simple truth: every patient is a person.’” – Daily Mail

  • “NHS staff are wrongly recording patients’ waiting times, prompting fears that it is being done deliberately to meet targets.” – Daily Mail
  • “More than 1,500 heart attack victims are dying needlessly every year in Britain due to substandard care and delays in treatment, a study in the Lancet has found.” – Daily Telegraph

And comment:

  • “What the NHS owes the Tories” – James Forsyth, The Spectator

> Today: ToryDiary – Jeremy Hunt, people person

Growing calls for May to ban far-right Hungarian politician

“Theresa May faced calls last night to ban a Hungarian far-right politician from staging a political rally in Britain this weekend. … Jewish groups, anti-fascist campaigners and politicians are lobbying the Home Secretary to prevent Mr Vona from entering the country. … A petition drawn up by the Hope not Hate group calling on Mr Vona to be banned because his ‘politics of hate are simply not welcome here’ has been signed by more than 8,000 people.” – Daily Mail

  • “A visit by the leader of Hungary’s poisonous Jobbik party reminds us that we can’t just wish away anti-Semitism” – Owen Jones, The Independent

Green warns against the “increasing” danger of imported crime

“The number of crimes committed by foreign criminals is ‘sizeable and increasing’, a minister warned yesterday. … Police Minister Damian Green made the warning as he promised new action to clamp down on offenders from overseas. … He pointed to figures showing more than 74,000 foreign national offenders were arrested in London in a single year.” – Daily Mail

  • “Chief constables are to press the home secretary to authorise the use of water cannon by any police force across England and Wales to deal with anticipated street protests.” – The Guardian

Mitchell reckons that the police can’t be trusted to conduct stop-and-search fairly

“The situation has only worsened since the Macpherson Inquiry into Stephen Lawrence’s death: black people are 27 times more likely to be affected than their white counterparts. … Is this really the way we wish to police our nation? How can young people’s trust in the police be restored when so many of them have had only bad experiences? Stop and search stands out as perhaps the biggest source of resentment towards the police today.” – Andrew Mitchell, The Times (£)

The immigration system is just right for Scotland, says the Government

Scottish flag“The UK government has waved aside complaints its immigration policy hurts Scottish companies and universities, saying the current system gives Scotland the ‘best of both worlds’ when it comes to securing its borders and attracting foreign talent. … The latest in a series of government papers arguing the case against Scottish independence claims that Scots benefit from a UK-wide approach to border controls and migration.” – Financial Times

  • “An independent Scotland may escape being kicked out of the EU thanks to the problems it would cause for foreign workers, students and protecting the union’s sea area, a former European Court judge said yesterday.” – Daily Telegraph

John McTernan: Scottish Tories should celebrate their heritage

“All this is to say to Scottish Tories: stop apologising and start proselytising. We get that you are sorry for Margaret Thatcher, but until you get over her, no-one else will. When the dust settles, she in her turn will be rehabilitated. The first step will be when she is recognised as the patron saint of Scottish home ownership – never forget that without Right-to-Buy half of all Scots would still live in council housing. Half. That time will come for sure, but for now just be bold enough to say that you have paid the price for more than 20 years. The grovelling stops now. Go back to the long Scottish tradition of conservatism, name it and reclaim it.” – John McTernan, The Scotsman

> Today: Brian Monteith’s column – Would the Prime Minister have to resign if Scotland votes Yes?

An increasingly multicultural Britain is affecting attitudes towards war, according to MoD figures

“A growing reluctance in an increasingly multicultural Britain to see UK troops deployed on the ground in future operations abroad is influencing the next two strategic defence reviews, according to senior figures at the Ministry of Defence. … As well as a general feeling of war weariness, sources say they have sensed a resistance in an increasingly diverse nation to see British troops deployed in countries from which UK citizens, or their families, once came.” – The Guardian

Clegg to argue against the Tories’ EU policy at Davos

Curse of Clegg 2“Nick Clegg will today seek to upstage David Cameron at the World Economic Forum in Davos when he warns business and European leaders that the Tories are damaging Britain by ‘flirting with exit’ from the EU. … The deputy prime minister will call for Britain to ‘stand tall in the EU’ when he takes part in two events in Davos – a discussion on the new Europe with EU leaders, and a discussion about China – before Cameron takes to the stage.” – The Guardian

  • “Labour’s efforts to kill the EU referendum Bill have helped make its progress a farce” – Sue Cameron, Daily Telegraph

> Today: Andrea Leadsom MP on Comment – A conference that offered a real chance to reform the EU in Britain’s interests

> Yesterday: Lord Flight on Comment – The cost of the EU

The Lib Dem leader’s demands mean that only one terror suspect will be subject to controls

“Currently, eight men are subject to restrictions on their movements – which can include strict curfews and an electronic tag. … But, under rules demanded by Nick Clegg, seven of the so-called Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures will lapse by January 31.” – Daily Mail

  • “A wide-ranging review of counter-terrorism powers is urgently needed after next year’s general election because the existing measures are ‘withering on the vine’, parliament’s human rights watchdog has said.” – The Guardian

Miriam González Durántez denies getting involved in the Rennard row…

Miriam Clegg“Nick Clegg’s wife has angrily hit back at claims that she put pressure on her husband to take a tougher stance on sex-pest allegations against Lord Rennard. … In a highly unusual public statement, Miriam Clegg insisted she had nothing to do with the decision to suspend the peer from the party, describing a report suggesting so as ‘a complete fabrication’.” – Daily Mail

  • “Two women have indicated they are open to mediation over allegations that Lord Rennard harassed them, as senior party figures on Wednesday stressed that the priority was to stop the row descending into ‘mutually assured destruction’ and a legal battle.” – The Guardian
  • “The legal defence of marital coercion is to be abolished, the Government said last night. … The obscure defence hit the headlines last year after it was unsuccessfully used by Chris Huhne’s ex-wife Vicky Pryce in her trial for perverting the course of justice.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “Back in the day, young reporters were told to wear short skirts to attract the eye of MPs” – Suzanne Moore, The Guardian
  • “MPs grope men too” – Alex Wickham, The Spectator
  • “The Tories must rescue Nick Clegg in order to save their own skins” – Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph

…as another Lib Dem scandal surfaces: Hancock is finally suspended

“The Liberal Democrats are embroiled in a new sex scandal after a second politician was suspended from the party over ‘unwelcome sexual approaches’ to a vulnerable constituent. … Mike Hancock, the MP for Portsmouth South, has been stripped of his Lib Dem membership over a series of texts, lewd comments and sexual advances that he allegedly made to a woman with a history of mental health problems.” – Daily Telegraph

Davey welcomes the EU’s looser attitude towards energy targets

Ed Davey“The EU has scrapped rules that bind countries to renewable energy targets, lifting demands that Britain build more wind and solar farms. … Britain will still have to provide 15 per cent of its energy from renewable power by 2020, but after that there will be no target. Instead, the EU as a whole will have to produce 27 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2030. … Energy Secretary Ed Davey said the new rules provide flexibility in tackling emissions in a cost-effective way ‘so that British consumers aren’t paying over the odds to go green’.” – Daily Mail

  • “Geoffrey Cox, Conservative MP for West Devon and Torridge, said some homes in his area are now worth ‘significantly less’ thanks to giant turbines” – Daily Mail

Cable could block a pay rise for the boss of Royal Mail

“A politically toxic battle over the £1.5m pay of Royal Mail boss Moya Greene looks likely to intensify as the government suggested it might block any large increases in executive remuneration. … The move by Vince Cable’s Department for Business comes after he previously objected to £250,000 in relocation payments awarded to the recently privatised company’s boss when the mail service was wholly owned by the state.” – The Guardian

Business leaders fear the prospect of a Miliband Government

“Ed Miliband has alienated himself from Britain’s blue-chip companies and is risking the recovery by developing irrational and unpredictable policies, senior business figures have warned. … Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, one chief executive of a FTSE 100 company said: ‘Ed Miliband doesn’t give a toss about business. He will say anything to get elected. [We] think it’s economic vandalism.'” – The Times (£)

> Today: Pinning Down Miliband – Energy and the environment

But are Tory MPs warming to the Labour leader?

“Tory MPs have complained that they receive more attention from Ed Miliband than from David Cameron. … The Labour leader often writes notes, sends text messages or stops for chats with Conservative backbenchers. By contrast, the Prime Minister is regarded as frosty towards his own MPs when he bumps into them in the Commons.” – The Times (£)

Martin Kettle: The attacks that worry Labour

“The slogans Labour high command does worry about are more personal. ‘Not up to the job’ is one phrase that gets them nervous. I presume that’s because their own focus groups have alerted them that a soundbite of this kind – ‘Doesn’t look like a prime minister’ is another variant – is already out there in voters’ minds. Even Gordon Brown’s ‘No time for a novice’ jibe at Miliband’s brother David causes some unease.” – Martin Kettle, The Guardian

  • “Even when they agree, Cameron and Miliband dress their vision for Britain in clashing colours” – Rafael Behr, New Statesman
  • “From Scottish independence to education, everybody’s at it: inventing differences where they really don’t exist” – David Aaronovitch, The Times (£)

Tim Montgomerie says hello to NewKIP

UKIP glass“We’re all familiar with what we might call U-can’t-be-serious-KIP: the oddballs within Mr Farage’s ranks who talk about “sluts” who don’t clean behind fridges and suggest rivers flood because two men can now marry. But there’s another UKIP emerging, which we could call NewKIP. This group within the party wants to blend UKIP’s patriotism and populism with a social justice message.” – Tim Montgomerie, The Times (£)

  • “UKIP is subjecting candidates to tough examinations, including tests on media handling and policy, and promoting more women to try to widen its voter base.” – The Times (£)

> Yesterday and today, as part of Local Government’s UKIP Week:

Ofsted chief calls for bad parents to be kept in line

“Teachers and social workers have a responsibility to tell some people they are ‘bad parents’, the chief inspector of schools and social care has insisted. … Sir Michael Wilshaw called for an army of ‘good citizens’ to be given financial incentives to wake problem families up in the morning and make sure the children are fed and sent to school.” – Daily Telegraph

  • The average cost of raising a child is approaching £250,000 in some parts of the country – Daily Mail

Syrian peace talks: close to collapse already?

“Amid hostile exchanges in Switzerland, Syria’s government ridiculed demands by opposition leaders and their Western backers including Britain for Assad to stand down, saying it would never happen. … With renewed fighting in large parts of Syria, the opposition insisted the country’s leader lost his legitimacy when he crushed a once-peaceful protest movement. … But foreign minister Walid al-Moallem said it was terrorists and foreign meddling that had ripped his country apart.” – Daily Mail

  • “David Cameron opened the door yesterday for Britain to give sanctuary to some of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees trapped in appalling conditions in neighbouring countries.” – The Independent

News in brief

  • Muslim woman becomes first defendant, in Britain, to wear full face veil (but is told to remove it for purpose of giving evidence) – Daily Mail
  • The final legal challenge to HS2 has been unsuccessful – Financial Times
  • The number of taxpayers challenging HMRC decision by judicial review increased by a third in 2012 – Financial Times
  • SNP and Labour will agree to end bedroom tax – The Scotsman
  • Pupils issued with iPads in Welsh secondary schools – WalesOnline

And finally: Ottaway’s police protection

“Charity volunteer Liz Marsden had phoned Conservative MP Sir Richard Ottaway ahead to let his office know that she and around eight other people would be presenting a petition against the lobbying bill to the MP for Croydon later that evening. … Yet when they arrived, the group, amongst whom was an 81-year-old woman, were met by two officers and a police car barring their entrance to the building.” – The Independent