Cameron loses allies over his bid to block Juncker

Juncker“David Cameron’s bid to block Jean-Claude Juncker becoming the next European Commission president looks set to fail after his allies changed tack. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had given the British prime minister hope after agreeing to a vote on the issue if there was no consensus. But both the Netherlands and Sweden now say they will back Luxembourg’s ex-PM.” – BBC

  • “Tory veteran Kenneth Clarke said the row was ‘out of all proportion’ to the threat posed by Mr Juncker, who he said was ‘not an arch-villain’. ‘No one knows what he’s supposed to have done wrong,’ he said. ‘The idea he’s an arch-federalist, a sort of public enemy number one which the media have made him in the last few days flat, is slightly exaggerated.’ Business Secretary Vince Cable also criticised Mr Cameron’s approach, saying: ‘It hasn’t been good for David Cameron. In an arch response to Mr Cable’s comments, Mr Cameron’s official spokesman said: ‘We’re always grateful for advice, particularly 24 hours before a summit.” – Daily Mail
  • “The fight against Juncker is a totemic moment in the history of the EU. Will the Europeans acknowledge Britain’s legitimate case for change or stick with past failures and discredited leaders? Mr Cameron must prevail for the sake of Britons and Europeans alike.” – Leader Daily Telegraph

1) Hacking: Judge criticises Cameron over Coulson apology…

guardianpm“David Cameron has been rebuked by the judge presiding over the hacking trial after his comments about Andy Coulson nearly led to the collapse of the remainder of the case against his former spin doctor. Mr Justice Saunders expressed concern that the prime minister had issued an apology for hiring him in 2007 while the jury were still deliberating over two charges against Coulson. “I don’t know whether it was was done out of ignorance or done deliberately,” Saunders said at the Old Bailey legal hearing.” – The Guardian

  • “A Government source accused the judge of being at fault, having not applied reporting restrictions until the case was concluded. ‘He opened the stable door and expected the horse not to bolt. It is a ridiculous state of affairs,’ the source said.” – Daily Mail
  • “Labour has demanded to know whether senior civil servants raised concerns about Andy Coulson before he was appointed Downing Street’s Communications chief. Ed Miliband said David Cameron must reveal whether either the then Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell or any other senior official had “raised concerns” about Coulson’s appointment as a special adviser in 2010.” – The Independent

2) Hacking: The Met are challenged over the cost

timesmet“Prosecutors have four days to decide whether to put Andy Coulson in the dock again after the £100 million phone-hacking trial resulted in a single conviction, the acquittal of five defendants and a hung jury. Scotland Yard denied yesterday that one of the most expensive trials in history was an attack on press freedom and defended its investigation after the dramatic clearing of Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International. Coulson, the prime minister’s former director of communications, was found guilty of conspiracy to hack phones but the jury were discharged yesterday after failing to reach verdicts on allegations that he was involved in the corruption of public officials while editing the News of the World.” – The Times(£)

  • “The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) should have been far more careful in advancing the charges in the first place. Presumably the CPS calculated that the police had gathered sufficient evidence to ensure a better conviction rate. That calculation turns out to have been spectacularly mistaken. Both the police and the CPS had endured severe and in large part justified criticism for mishandling the initial hacking scandal. Both organisations, it is not idle to suggest, became over-zealous in their desire to be seen to make amends.” – Leader The Times(£)
  • Milly Dowler’s sister attacks Tony Blair – The Independent

3) Montgomerie’s defence of Coulson

“Within a few weeks of joining the Tory operation Coulson, a former XR3i driver, hadn’t executed a gentle rightwards turn. He had dragged the Tory caravan across the central reservation, performed a screeching U-turn and led the Conservative party back towards its heartland voters. There was no more talk of hugging-a-hoodie. The party was promising a crackdown on crime, a referendum on the Lisbon treaty and the abolition of inheritance tax for all but millionaires. (Nigel Farage will argue, incidentally, that none of these has actually happened.) The Tories surged in the polls — especially in the tabloid-reading Essex, Kent and Black Country marginal seats that Mr Coulson knew so well. Suddenly Mr Brown’s moral compass wasn’t sending him towards an early election.” – Tim Montgomerie The Times(£)

4) Miliband misses at PMQs

Miliband coffee“Miliband began as if he’d just had a half-hour pep talk from Roy Hodgson. He also adopted the England manager’s tactical rigidity by basically asking the same question about whether the prime minister had ignored warnings about Coulson’s illegal activities in a different way over and over again. “On the 8 July, 2009 …” “In May 2010 …” It was meant to be forensic, but it just made him sound like the nerd so many Labour supporters fear he really is. This wasn’t a moment for finesse: swatting away inconvenient details is a training-ground exercise for Cameron. This was the time for Miliband to leap across the dispatch box with the ferocity of Luis Suárez and sink his teeth deep into the wounded prime minister’s back. Cameron couldn’t believe his luck.” – John Crace The Guardian

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Andrew Gimson’s PMQs sketch – Miliband strains credulity by claiming the whole country cares about O’Donnell

Lowest ever proportion of NEETS

“THE proportion of young people on the economic scrapheap is at its lowest ever level. Official figures have revealed that 7.6 per cent of 16 to 18-year-olds are classed as NEETs – meaning they are not in education, employment or training. The total number of NEETs has fallen by 33,400 in the past year, and by 55,200 since 2009. Ministers said the drop was due to their decision to boost traineeships and force school pupils to study English or maths till 18 if they fail their GCSEs.” – The Sun(£)

May renews call for “Snoopers Charter”

MAY Police Federation 2014“Theresa May is continuing to push for a change in the law to give police and security services the power to access email and social media. A communications data bill – dubbed a “snooper’s charter” by critics – was blocked last year by the Lib Dems. But the home secretary said it was now a “matter of life and death” that the authorities got the powers they needed.” – BBC

  • “The Home Secretary watered down key sections of a speech on Britain’s surveillance powers reflecting confusion over the the ability of MI5 and other intelligence agencies to snoop on Britons, The Telegraph can disclose. Theresa May used a speech on Tuesday to call for the security services to be given new surveillance powers to counter the threat from jihadists.” – Daily Telegraph

IT firms earn most from state spending

“IT companies benefited most from government contracts in 2012 and 2013, an analysis of public spending transactions has suggested. Think tank the Institute for Government and start-up firm Spend Network has analysed 38 million transactions involving 247 central and local government bodies. Researchers found that HP was the largest single beneficiary. But they warned that some of their figures were not accurate. Although they praised the government for having published the data, they said caution was needed in interpreting the figures and said further verification would take place in subsequent days.” – BBC

Cruddas attacks those plotting against Miliband

CRUDDAS Jon“Senior Labour ministers are agitating against Ed Miliband in a game of ‘leadership Top Trumps’, the party’s policy chief has admitted. Jon Cruddas named Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, Mr Balls’s wife and Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, and health spokesman Andy Burnham as among those positioning themselves to replace him. His comments are the most explicit admission to date by a senior party figure that senior Shadow Cabinet figures may attempt to remove Mr Miliband in a bid to improve the party’s prospects.” – Daily Mail

Balls calls for OBR to check manifesto sums

“Labour is to challenge Chancellor George Osborne to support the independent costing of major political parties’ spending commitments. Shadow chancellor Ed Balls says allowing spending watchdog the Office for Budget Responsibility to review their manifesto claims would reassure the public their “sums add up”.” – BBC

Cummings attacks Cameron – again

CUMMINGS, Dom“Picking fights over Jean-Claude Juncker won’t fool people. Cameron bungled into a referendum promise he never liked that commits him to something he never wanted to do yet doesn’t even achieve his aim of persuading people to vote for him. Because his policy lurches in response to pressure, it never solves his problems. His MPs do not trust him and may soon set their own red lines for a new relationship that does require major treaty changes. He rages that his party is making his position untenable.” – Dominic Cummings The Times(£)

  • “Mr Cummings said: “The general feeling is that ‘Cameron’s the best of a bad bunch’ in terms of ‘who’s best prime minister’, but nevertheless they want a change so much that most say they probably won’t vote for him”.” – The Sun(£)

Lord West challenges Gove to a fight

“The former head of the Royal Navy has offered to take on Michael Gove, Education Secretary, in a boxing ring to determine whether socialists can be patriotic. Admiral Lord West of Spithead, a Labour peer and former security minister, said he agreed with Mr Gove that the First World War was just, but hit out at his criticisms of the left. In a speech in the House of Lords, Lord West, who was first sea lord from 2002 to 2006, said he would be happy to settle the matter ”inside or outside” a boxing ring.” – Daily Telegraph

Grayling told to switch spending from prisons to crime prevention

Grayling470“Cash being used to build jails to hold the burgeoning prison population should be switched into preventing vulnerable people becoming caught up in crime in the first place, the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is warned today by MPs. In a damning assessment of the Ministry of Justice’s priorities, they urge the Treasury to investigate whether taxpayers’ money is being used effectively to reduce crime.” – The Independent

News in brief

  • Celebrities call for drug legalisation – BBC
  • Drink water not fruit juice say experts – Daily Mail
  • Northern towns bouncing out of recession – The Sun(£)
  • Brown warns an independent Scotland would not be more equal – The Guardian
  • Wronga: Police called over payday lender’s fake letters – City AM
  • Scotland scraps right to buy – Daily Telegraph

And finally…Manx Government complain to Downing Street

“The Manx government has had to remind the Prime Minister it is not part of the UK after the island was included on a UK map on the Number 10 Twitter page. The tweet from Number 10 two days ago, made ahead of the Scottish Independence vote, said: “By staying united we have much more to gain #UNITEDKingdom”. The Manx government tweeted: “Please could this map be corrected the Isle of Man is not part of the United Kingdom.” But Downing Street has yet to amend the map to correctly identify the UK. The island is a self-governing Crown Dependency like the Channel Islands.” – BBC


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