Air strikes against jihadists could begin “within weeks”

Fighter jet“David Cameron last night indicated British involvement in air strikes against jihadists in Syria and Iraq could begin within weeks. … As senior Tories said there was ‘overwhelming’ support for the UK to join military action, the Prime Minister spoke publicly for the first time about striking Islamist targets in Syria without President Assad’s consent. … He also signalled that British attacks on Islamic State forces, which have seized large swathes of Iraq, could come as soon as the country agrees a new government. … But in talks with the Prime Minister at the Nato summit in Newport, south Wales, officials said President Barack Obama made no specific request for the UK to join strikes.” – Daily Mail

  • “David Cameron has told fellow Nato leaders not to pay ransoms for hostages as it only increases kidnappings and funds further terrorism.” – Daily Mail
  • “Dozens of British jihadists have become so disillusioned with fighting in Syria that they have contacted the UK begging to come home.” – The Times (£)
  • “In Friday’s Sun newspaper, a coalition of top Muslims are issuing a plea to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — the leader of IS — to stop committing atrocities, in the name of Islam.” – The Sun (£)
  • “The wife of the British hostage David Haines has described him as ‘everything to us’ in her first comments since terrorists threatened to behead him.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “India is said to have upped security after the leader of al-Qaeda announced he had established a branch of the militant network in the Indian sub-continent.” – The Independent

And comment:

  • “Isis sends a gruesome message but reveals little about itself” – Ahmed Rashid, Financial Times
  • “The world is marching back from globalisation” – Philip Stephens, Financial Times
  • “The fight against intolerance begins at home” – Eric Pickles, Daily Telegraph
  • “Nato allies must agree not to pay ransoms to free hostages. Instead the terrorists should be hunted down and punished.” – Times editorial (£)
  • “As for dealing directly with IS, we prefer the sword. Better still, a rain of Hellfire missiles from British drones.” – Sun editorial (£)

> Yesterday:

Will the prospective ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine hold?

Putin hunting“Nato leaders cautiously welcomed an apparent breakthrough in the five-month Ukrainian conflict after the country’s president, Petro Poroshenko, and one of the leading pro-Russia separatist leaders agreed to order a ceasefire on Friday. … But Poroshenko, who expressed cautious optimism about the truce, caught Nato officials off-guard with the disclosure that, while Nato was not arming Ukraine, at least one country, which he did not name, was providing Kiev with high-precision weapons.” – The Guardian

  • “Europe and the US will enforce a fresh round of biting sanctions on Russia – targeting its key energy industry for the first time.” – The Sun (£)

And comment:

  • “It may not fit Putin’s narrative, but Baltic Russians aren’t being victimised” – Rafael Behr, The Guardian

Cameron: I won’t resign if Scotland votes Yes…

CAMERON-PENSIVE“David Cameron has said ’emphatically’ that he will not resign if Scotland votes to leave the union this month, amid signs that Westminster and the City are starting to take seriously the prospect of a Yes vote. … Mr Cameron, who is unpopular north of the border, is anxious not to give Scots another reason to vote Yes. He said: ‘It is very important for people in Scotland to realise the consequence of their vote is purely and simply about Scotland and its place in the United Kingdom.'” – Financial Times

  • “Ed Miliband and Gordon Brown are to join forces on the campaign trail in Scotland in a last ditch bid to save the Union.” – The Sun (£)
  • “Ed Miliband caused a major rift in the campaign to prevent the break-up of Britain yesterday by defying appeals from Alistair Darling to stop attacking Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “The Canadian Prime Minister has voiced strong opposition to Scottish independence and praised the UK as an ‘overwhelmingly positive force in the world’.” – Daily Telegraph

And comment:

  • “Canada can show David Cameron how to rescue our United Kingdom” – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph
  • “A Yes vote brings grave security dangers” – John Scarlett, The Times (£)
  • “Ed better persuade the Scots or he’s doomed” – Philip Collins, The Times (£)
  • “If Scots keep the pound they forgo independence” – Martin Wolf, Financial Times
  • “A yes vote will produce a leaner, meaner Scotland” – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian
  • “Labour can preserve the Union” – John McTernan, The Scotsman
  • “The Labour leader has joined campaigning in the referendum, rather belatedly, because his party has the most to lose politically if Scotland goes it alone” – Telegraph editorial

…but Tory MPs may think differently

“David Cameron could face a leadership challenge from his own backbenches if Scotland votes in favour of independence, as Tory rebels blame him for presiding over the break-up of the Union. … The Independent understands that discussions have already taken place among Tory MPs considering standing a candidate against the Prime Minister if the Yes campaign is triumphant on 18 September. … ‘The move will take place immediately,’ said one senior Tory MP. ‘David Cameron will be unable to contain the anger at the humiliation. His position will be terminal.'” – The Independent

> Today: Iain Dale’s column – Why we may have entered the last two weeks of Cameron’s premiership

Salmond: I won’t resign if Scotland votes No

Scottish flag“During a walk-about on Glasgow’s Buchanan Street, which saw Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon mobbed by Yes supporters, the First Minister was asked if he would resign in the event of a No vote. … ‘No,’ the First Minister answered during a lively event, staged to mark the 10th anniversary of the duo taking over at the top of the SNP after the resignation of John Swinney.” – The Scotsman

  • “Rail union the RMT yesterday became the first industrial trade union to come out in favour of a Yes vote when it emerged that its Scottish members had narrowly voted in favour of independence.” – The Scotsman
  • “House buyers are now making offers on properties which include legal clauses that give the buyer the chance to walk away if Scotland votes for independence.” – The Scotsman
  • “Fracking in the North Sea could generate £300 billion in tax revenues, according to a report backed by Alex Salmond.” – The Times (£)

Gauke rejects backbench demands for stamp duty cuts: “We need the money”

“Anne Main, Conservative MP for St Albans, said stamp duty ‘discriminates’ against the South and is a ‘burdensome tax affecting that most British of ideals – home ownership’. … Dominic Raab, Tory MP for Esher and Walton, described stamp duty as a ‘vindictive stealth tax on aspirational Britain’ and an ‘assault by the taxman on hard-working, middle-income savers’. … But Treasury minister David Gauke rejected calls for reform, saying the duty raises almost £10billion a year and ‘we need the money’.” – Daily Mail

  • “Tens of thousands of middle class parents are being sent letters ordering them to repay hundred of pounds of child benefit, even though many of them may be innocent.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “The Bank of England remains unconvinced of the case for interest rate rises as its rate-setting body voted for no change from the record low of 0.5 per cent.” – Financial Times

Maude joins Heywood in calling for greater diversity along Whitehall

Francis Maude“All-male shortlists and selection panels for senior UK civil service jobs will be banned in all but exceptional circumstances under plans to increase the number of females in Whitehall’s top ranks. … Sir Jeremy Heywood, Britain’s top civil servant, and Francis Maude, Cabinet Office minister, will say in a joint statement on Friday that, while this is almost double the proportion of senior women at most FTSE 100 companies, Whitehall ‘can and should be better’.” – Financial Times

  • “Poor management of £40bn worth of outsourced public contracts has left the government exposed to the possibility of widespread fraud and overcharging, according to a report from the government’s official auditors.” – The Guardian

And comment:

  • “Steps to make the Civil Service more diverse are welcome” – Independent editorial

Hammond defends his plan to rely on Army reservists

HAMMOND Philip white background“Ministry of Defence plans to reform the army by cutting the number of regular soldiers and replacing the lost capacity with reservists were badly thought out, formed without proper consultation and risk creating ‘capability gaps’, says a parliamentary report. … Responding to the report, Mr Hammond, now foreign secretary, said: ‘The chief of the general staff and I are confident that we will reach our target of 30,000 trained army reservists by 2018-19.'” – Financial Times

  • “Britain’s Armed Forces need more cash – not more cuts” – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • “Defence cuts were too hasty and too deep.” – Sun editorial (£)

That prize-winning garden city design? Lewis doesn’t like it

“It may have won £250,000 and one of the world’s most prestigious awards, but a plan to build 3.5 million new homes by allowing 40 towns and cities to double in size has been almost immediately trashed by the Government. … the Housing minister, Brandon Lewis, has now condemned the scheme as ‘urban sprawl’ that would build nothing other than ‘resentment’ among local people and has said the Government would have nothing to do with it.” – The Independent

> Today: Local Government – Housing associations achieve fall in the number of empty homes

> Yesterday: Lord Wolfson on Think Tanks – The prize-winning ideas for building the homes that Britain needs

The Mayor of Calais takes on our Government over immigration

Border“The mayor of Calais launched a tirade on Thursday against the UK government, accusing it of ignoring the growing problem of migrants in Europe and renewing her threats to blockade the port – if necessary, with a human shield of local residents. … Natacha Bouchart said the population of Calais had suffered ‘for 12 years because of the rules of the UK government’ on migration, which she said were too lenient and gave migrants the idea that the UK was an El Dorado of employment opportunities and benefits.” – Financial Times

  • “Tourists watched in horror as up to 100 migrants tried to storm a ferry in Calais — and were beaten back with water cannon.” – The Sun (£)
  • “Passport Office staff received bonuses totalling nearly £700,000 this summer at the height of the backlog shambles.” – Daily Mail

Fabricant’s four-lettered claims about Bercow

“Commons Speaker John Bercow was facing further questions over his authority today after his own staff allegedly railed against him in an expletive-ridden phone call to a Tory MP. … Leading rebel Michael Fabricant revealed today that he had been egged on by Mr Bercow’s own Parliamentary staff. … He told the Spector magazine: ‘I have had so many messages of support from junior employees of the House saying go for it, the Speaker is a c***.’” – Daily Mail

> Today: Terry Barnes on Comment – Carol Mills is a decent person who has been left by the Speaker in an impossible person

> Yesterday: Profile – John Bercow, one of the best Speakers of modern times, but also by far the rudest

An open primary to select the Tories’ candidate in Clacton…

ballot_box“A US-style open primary will be used to select the Conservative candidate for the Clacton byelection as the party takes on Ukip defector Douglas Carswell. … The party confirmed it would hold a public meeting on Thursday 11 September at which residents will be able to vote for their preferred candidate from a shortlist of four selected by the local association. … In the face of opinion polls suggesting Carswell will become Ukip’s first elected MP, the Tories are encouraging anyone to apply to contest the seat, not just members of the party.” – The Guardian

  • “A Ukip councillor has quit the party complaining that he has been sidelined and ‘trampled on’ after being effectively relegated in his bid for the Clacton by-election to make way for a Tory defector.” – The Independent

And UKIP-related comment:

  • “Ashya King’s parents should not have been locked up in a foreign country for caring about their child” – Nigel Farage, The Independent

> Yesterday: MPsETC – Open primaries, caucuses and one cheer in Clacton

…as Gove tries to avoid another Clacton

GOVE, Michael blue sky“Michael Gove embarked on a charm offensive on his own MPs yesterday in an effort to prevent further defections to Ukip. … The Tory chief whip took Mark Reckless for a private lunch in the Strangers’ Dining Room in the House of Commons. The Tory the MP for Rochester and Strood is one of the closest friends of Douglas Carswell, who last week announced that he was jumping ship to Ukip and triggering a by-election in his Clacton constituency. … Mr Gove’s willingness to try to mollify the serial rebel is a sign of just how concerned the Conservatives are about the prospect of further defections.” – The Times (£)

  • “The UK Independence Party is mounting a huge defection campaign after commissioning polling designed to convince Conservative and Labour MPs to switch parties.” – Daily Telegraph

And comment:

  • “We’re losing the wrong sort of MPs – the ones with most to give” – Isabel Hardman, Daily Telegraph

> Today:

> Yesterday: Andrew Marshall on Comment – There is a breaking-point for the pro-EU Tory Left as well as for the Tory Right

Boris faces a scrap in Uxbridge

“Boris Johnson faces a serious fight for the safe Tory seat of Uxbridge from a high flying local, The Sun can reveal. … Tory sources said Councillor David Simmonds has made the shortlist for the constituency’s Conservative candidate alongside the London Mayor. … Former bank manager Mr Simmonds, 38, has risen through the party ranks to become deputy leader of Hillingdon Council. … He has a lot of support from local Tories, who had planned for years for him to be retiring Tory grandee Sir John Randall’s successor.” – The Sun (£)

A rebuke for the Tories’ plans to introduce more streaming in schools

School“Experts questioned the wisdom yesterday of plans being considered by the Conservatives to force all schools to teach children separately in ability groups or classes. … Evidence on the benefits of dividing pupils into ‘sets’ is inconclusive but educationists said that such classroom practice should be left to teachers. … Controversy over compulsory setting threatened to damage efforts by Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, to be seen to listen to the teaching profession.” – The Times (£)

  • “Up to 40 universities, including several of the most highly regarded, could be stripped of their right to recruit foreign students when tough new immigration controls take effect in the autumn.” – The Times (£)

And comment:

  • “The education secretary is right about setting” – Times editorial (£)

Lib Dems ready to confront Clegg over the bedroom tax

CLEGG Bird“Nick Clegg is facing a rebellion by grassroots Liberal Democrats who are demanding that he pledges to abolish the so-called bedroom tax. … Activists have tabled a motion for the party’s Glasgow conference next month attacking the Coalition’s policy on welfare and demanding a new approach in the Lib Dem manifesto at next year’s general election. … That could pave the way for a Lib Dem manifesto pledge to abolish the bedroom tax – as Labour has already promised.” – The Independent

  • “The Liberal Democrats are planning to match Labour plans and allow public sector organisations to bid for rail franchises as they come up.” – The Times (£)

Lammy intends to run for the London Mayoralty

“David Lammy, the former Labour minister who was praised for his response to the London riots in 2011, which started in his Tottenham constituency, has announced that he is to seek the Labour nomination for London mayor in 2016. … The former universities minister, who grew up near Broadwater Farm in Tottenham, north London, said he would place affordable housing at the heart of his campaign, with a pledge to introduce a “comprehensive programme” of rent controls. … Tessa Jowell, Sadiq Khan, Margaret Hodge and Diane Abbott are also seen as possible candidates for the Labour nomination.” – The Guardian

TUC leader warns against the “generational pay gap”

Pay“A generation of young graduates are stuck in low-paid jobs such as working as baristas in coffee shops, the Trades Union Congress leader warned yesterday. … Frances O’Grady voiced fears about the ‘generational pay gap’ between older workers and their children and grandchildren. … She said it was ‘clearly’ wrong to suggest older people were over-paid, but ‘it doesn’t look like a very bright future’ for a generation of young workers trapped in dead-end jobs.” – Daily Mail

  • “The head of Britain’s trade union movement has urged the governor of the Bank of England to place greater weight on real wage levels when deciding interest rates.” – Financial Times
  • “Britons are far more likely to work beyond the retirement age than any of their counterparts in the main EU nations, official figures revealed yesterday.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “It can scarcely be disputed that people in their 70s, 80s and 90s are increasingly made to feel they are part of a burdensome minority which is more or less surplus to requirement.” – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail

The Greens want a £10 minimum wage

green20party (1)“The Green party will on Friday call for the minimum wage to be raised to £10 an hour within the next parliament, in a move that appears to be aimed at stealing support from Labour. … On the first day of its annual conference in Birmingham, Natalie Bennett, the party leader, will call for the minimum wage of £6.31 to be immediately raised to the level of the living wage, which is £7.65 for everywhere except London, where it is £8.80.” – The Guardian

  • “The Green party is positioning itself as the ‘real opposition’ to the coalition, opening up a bitter fight with Labour on the left wing of UK politics, as the party’s key figures prepare to contest general election seats in parliament.” – The Guardian

Uh-oh – electricity supplies could be tight this winter

“Delays in restarting four key nuclear power stations after a safety shutdown could bring an electricity crisis this winter … The shutdowns have dangerously narrowed the gap between demand and the amount which National Grid can supply to homes and businesses. … The squeeze is now likely to step up the regime where major energy users, such as factories, are paid millions to shut down in peak evening periods.” – Daily Mail

  • “Why fracking should be for the many” – Guy Standing, The Guardian

Draghi’s dramatic move to support the eurozone

Euro meltdown“Mario Draghi startled markets on Thursday cutting interest rates to a record low and pledging to buy hundreds of billions of euros of private sector bonds in a dramatic move to save the eurozone from economic stagnation. … The euro fell to its lowest level in over a year – in the currency’s largest one-day decline since late 2011 at the height of the eurozone crisis – after what amounts to the European Central Bank’s last resort short of full-scale quantitative easing.” – Financial Times

  • “Broken and bruised, the euro staggers on” – Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • Joan Rivers dies, aged 81 – Daily Mail
  • Switching to e-cigarettes would save 50,000 smokers a year, say experts – The Times (£)
  • Police shoot knife-wielding man dead in London – The Guardian
  • Woman found beheaded in north London – The Guardian
  • Brits value mobile phones ahead of the food they eat – The Sun (£)

And finally 1) When Welsh school pupils met Cameron and Obama

OBAMA headshot blue“Pupils at a Welsh primary school were today left stunned when Barack Obama and David Cameron walked into their classroom. … Mr Obama greeted the smiling youngsters of Mount Pleasant Primary School in Welsh by saying ‘bore da’ – ‘good morning’.  He then listened to a welcome message, thanking him for being the first serving US president to visit Wales. … In a slightly confused tone of voice, he added: ‘I think he wants to sell ice cream or something.'” – Daily Mail

  • “Mr Cameron was getting so loved-up, he nearly gave Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper a snog.” – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

And finally 2) When a London school pupil – or was it? – spoke to Clegg

“Nick Clegg has been taken to task over his free school meal policy by a caller claiming to be a nine-year old boy, who told the deputy prime minister the results were not very impressive. … The caller was so eloquent that some questioned whether Clegg had been stitched up by a political opponent pretending to be a child.” – The Guardian

> Yesterday: WATCH – Clegg gets grilled by a 9-year-old over free school meals…

And finally 3) Boris’s great cities

borisfringe“There are, Boris Johnson argued in a speech last night, two cities which qualify as the high point of western civilisation. One is Athens in the fifth century BC, under the great statesman Pericles: the other is London in the 21st century under, though he was (unusually) too modest to say so, its great mayor Boris Johnson.” – The Times (£)