Compare and contrast Rachel Sylvester’s drive-by shooting of Boris two weeks ago – branding him an “international joke”, a “wally”, an “irrelevance” – with today’s piece coming to BoJo’s defence: “It is legitimate for the foreign secretary, who has been criticised for his lack of seriousness, to express his opinion on the biggest diplomatic dilemma facing the country in a generation”. What could possibly have caused such a sudden change of mind? Surely nothing to do with the fact that Rachel’s husband, Patrick Wintour of the Guardian, is off to New York to interview Boris…
Labour’s NEC has approved the Corbynista plan to reduce the threshold of MPs required for leadership nominations to 10%, which equates to just 26 MPs when MEPs lose their jobs after Brexit. The vote is all but certain to be won at conference. The threshold could fall again to 5% next year. Blairite MPs don’t have a hope of keeping a left-wing candidate off the ballot. They’re screwed…
Corbynistas are bullish:
Pete Willsman, of the Campaign for Labour Democracy, just told party NEC meeting: “Some of our MPs deserve to be attacked.” Lovely.
— Kevin Schofield (@PolhomeEditor) September 19, 2017
Sign of things to come…
The pre-briefed version of Vince Cable’s LibDem conference speech included the line:
“If Jeremy Corbyn sits on the fence any longer, he is in danger of being sliced up the middle by the serrated edge.”
The line was cut from the speech on delivery, perhaps after they saw how it went for Osborne talking about chopping up his opponents.
This is the most interesting thing to come from this week’s LibDem dross. Sky News cut away from Vince’s speech after a few minutes to hear from the President…
— Bloomberg (@business) September 19, 2017
Trump calls Kim “Rocket Man” in his speech at the UN…
Corbynistas are launching a power grab at Labour conference by seeking to pass a rule change giving them the right to suspend NEC elections in the event of an “emergency“. At present the rules dictate that NEC elections take place every two years. Guido has been leaked a draft of the recommendations the NEC are set to make for this year’s conference vote (if the NEC recommends delegates vote a certain way it tends to be a done deal). Included in their suggestions is a clause proposing to allow the NEC to suspend elections if they declare an emergency:
“The term of office in each of the five NEC divisions shall be two years starting immediately after the close of Party conference to which the election result is reported except where the NEC issues procedural guidance otherwise on an emergency temporal basis.”
This is being described in non-Corbynista circles as a “Venezuela amendment” – a naked attempt by Corbynistas to have the right to suspend NEC elections, under the guise of an “emergency“. What constitutes an “emergency” is unspecified, it would appear it can be declared on a whim by the Corbynista-controlled NEC. President Maduro would be proud of this one…
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In his Standard leader today George Osborne all but admits that he did make that infamous “chopped up in a bag in my freezer” comment about Theresa May. This evening’s editorial praises May on modern slavery, suggesting her critics should now refrain from OTT language about her:
“In the battles over Brexit, and over the future direction of the Conservative Party, some harsh words have been said about the Prime Minister. Her advisers created a poisonous atmosphere among senior Tories. But they are now gone, and a much more consensual team has recently replaced them in Downing Street. Mrs May’s critics in her party will want to respond in kind. We can reflect that strong differences of opinion do not need intemperate language, even when said in jest.”
So he did say it then. Think “sorry” is the word he’s looking for…
In the OBR’s February report there was a table, unnoticed at the time, which includes an OBR forecast on EU budget contributions up to 2021 based on Treasury information. They show the gross contribution soaring to £22.227 billion by 2021/22 – or £427 million per week. If, as Remainers and statisticians insist, we use only the net contribution – subtracting the UK rebate – then even that soars from £13.952 billion in 2016/7, to £17.405 billion in 2021/2. That is a massive 24.7% increase in 5 years…
But most importantly politically, even the net contribution of £17.405 billion works out at some £335 million per week in 2022. So even using the contested Remainer methodology, Boris would basically be right in four years if we don’t leave the EU…
Stats bods can check the calculation here.
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The Policy Exchange report on online extremism released this morning is getting a huge amount of pick-up. It concludes:
“The government should consider stronger action to try and limit the demand side of the extremism equation. One potential vehicle for this would be the creation of new legislative offences against the aggravated possession and persistent consumption of extremist material.”
A call for more regulation and a new quango with a helping of censorship on top. Ostensibly, the report focuses on online content that incites terror. The polling, however, canvassed public support for the removal of many different kinds of content. What exactly would the removal of “extreme politics” content involve? Likewise, pornography? Where is the line drawn and by whom?
Ironically, the report confirms that the public think extremist preachers in places of worship are actually a bigger problem than online extremist content:
Nothing proposed by Policy Exchange will stop determined terrorists communicating. Even if terrorist propaganda is driven off mainstream platforms it will still be found on elsewhere on the internet. That is the inherent nature of the internet, unless you want to go down the Chinese commanded and controlled internet path.
Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission is suggesting ‘banning internet trolls from voting’ for making negative comments online. That’s right, the voting regulator is seriously proposing disenfranchising citizens as a punitive measure designed to police their behaviour. This is near totalitarian hysteria…
Being discussed over coffee in PCH this morning: Mark Field’s researcher Lettie Egan’s star appearance on Channel 4’s First Dates last night. Lettie proudly flew the flag for Brexit, despite the Remain protestations of her date. You can do better Lettie…
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Interesting story in Rachel Sylvester’s column today suggesting Number 10 is acting unconstitutionally by bypassing the Cabinet on Brexit. At present Brexit issues are being debated by Cabinet sub-committees and decided by Theresa May’s team, not Cabinet as a whole. Sylvester says “there has been no substantive Cabinet discussion on our future relationship with the EU… That is not only astonishing but outrageous” and “constitutionally questionable”. Gus O’Donnell’s Cabinet manual makes clear “issues of a constitutional nature”, “the most significant domestic policy issues”, “the most significant European or international business” must be agreed by the whole Cabinet. That isn’t happening at present…
What is Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood up to? He has the responsibility to tell the Prime Minister that she has to make these decisions collectively, not with a smaller coterie of ministers and civil servants. He must know the status quo is in breach of the Cabinet manual, as Sylvester says it is constitutionally questionable. Heywood has a reputation for shirking tough advice – it was for example an abdication of duty that he did not insist to Cameron he had to make preparations for Brexit. Of course it suits Heywood to bypass Cabinet and give the civil service and Number 10 greater control of Brexit. The problem is this freezes out senior members of the Cabinet who should be integral to decision-making. Which means you end up with a situation like the Boris article…
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Green NGOs are spending millions lobbying against the interests of British taxpayers, analysis by the Taxpayers’ Alliance has found. Taxpayers’ cash received by charities including Friends of the Earth and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is being splurged on partisan political activities such as supporting parliamentary candidates and lobbying ministers. The cash has been used to block projects which experts say would bring down energy costs for consumers.
The RSPB received £27.5 million in grants from UK taxpayers in 2015 and 2016. Its sister organisation Birdlife International received the third highest amount of European Commission taxpayer funding of any green group, being granted €3.8 million. Likewise, Friends of the Earth received the second highest amount of any such group, being handed €7.6 million. In conjunction with Greenpeace (which does not receive EC funding), these charities have acted more like pressure groups by:
- Orchestrating a massive media campaign to fight a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point;
- Launching law suits to obstruct the construction of new power stations;
- Lobbying the UK government to prevent expansion of infrastructure;
- Lobbying successfully to prevent exploration for shale gas taking place in Wiltshire;
- Publishing misleading advertising to influence consumer and public opinion, and spread falsehoods about shale gas exploration.
Friends of the Earth also spent more than £100,000 backing a pro-Green crop of parliamentary candidates. The Electoral Commission intervened and fined Friends of the Earth for failing to register properly as a donor. The amount spent was way over the limit imposed on candidates themselves in the final stages of the election campaign…
Meanwhile, the Pesticide Action Network, which has received more than €710,000 from the European Commission over the past decade, is currently campaigning to ban glyphosate (a weed killer). The pressure group claims glyphosate is a “potentially cancer-inducing chemical”, despite Europe’s own chemicals regulator, the European Chemicals Agency, finding
“The available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria… to classify glyphosate for specific target organ toxicity, or as a carcinogen, as a mutagen or for reproductive toxicity.”
A ban would cost taxpayers £228 million a year. A probe carried out by the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the Energy and Environmental Legal Institute found that, overall:
- A total of €86.5 million has been given to a range of environmental groups by the European Commission over the past 10 years;
- 34 groups have been given more than €1 million.
This enormous pile of taxpayers cash is being ploughed into lobbying activities which directly prevent UK taxpayers from benefiting from cheaper energy and new infrastructure. Taxpayers’ Alliance Chief Executive John O’Connell said:
“It’s bad enough that politicians are piling costs onto consumers with their hare-brained energy schemes, but the fact that taxpayers are paying pressure groups to campaign against their interests adds insult to injury.
“There are plenty of reasons for the government to stop this gravy train in its tracks as it is, but the fact that some of these groups have run dishonest campaigns and fallen foul of electoral commission rules must surely be a final nail in the coffin for this taxpayer funded lobbying.”
Stay tuned this week for more in Guido’s Green NGO Sockpuppets series…
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Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have all in opposition opposed university tuition fees for some of the time. All in government have signed up for them and increased them.
There is growing unrest about these fees, as people feel £9000 is too much for some courses at some Universities. The answer then, is not to apply there. Governments had hoped there would be a market for university courses, with lower fees for the less well rated places and subjects. Instead universities decided to all price at £9000. Why signal your place or course is not as good as the best by offering a lower tariff?
In practice employers and the wider community do distinguish between courses and universities, prizing some more highly than others. The Universities might not like it, but they cannot prevent the publication of elaborate league tables showing Oxbridge and the Russell Group as more prestigious places to go than the names at the bottom of these publications. So why then do they not use price to attract students?
There are two main reasons. Setting a lower price for your course confirms what is otherwise a guess or opinion that that course is of lesser value. The more lowly rated universities can still fill enough places at £9000, so why not keep the prices up?
The truth is some courses cost a lot more than others. Offering a good science course in the centre of London with all the labs,property and equipment must be a lot dearer than offering a humanities course out of property 200 miles or more from the capital. Some of the cheapest courses to run are ones at the bottom of the unofficial lists of quality, giving to them the highest margin. I read that some in government now object to universities charging too much and making a surplus.
The danger of a blanket cut in the fees is that it damages the great institutions that are world class, who are spending large sums on facilities and teaching and often cross subsidising UK undergraduates. One of the UK’s big advantages as we go through Brexit is we have a good concentration of high class universities capable of great research which can have spin off for economic development. This would be an odd time to anger them and to disrupt their development.
There is no easy answer to the imperfect functioning of the university market for UK undergraduates. What we need is more demanding applicants, prepared to ask for better value fees where the costs of provision are low and the ranking of the course below average.
“I don’t recognise the simple binary approach to the question of Brexit and the future relationship between the UK and the European Union post-Brexit. I’ve always said that we’re not looking to take a model off the shelf of a relationship that current exists because the UK is unique. We’re already in the European Union and so we have a relationship with the EU already. When we come out we want to make sure we negotiate a good deal, a bespoke deal, a deal that is right for the United Kingdom.”
Speaking in Canada Theresa May has distanced herself from the CETA plus option for Brexit preferred by Boris, Gove and Vote Leave. She says it is not a binary choice between EEA light and CETA plus, implying government policy will fall somewhere in the middle. It needs to be further along the spectrum towards CETA plus and away from the Hammond / Heywood / Robbins EEA light option to satisfy Brexiteers…