You are hereFeed aggregator / Sources / The Guardian: Politics Live Blog

The Guardian: Politics Live Blog


Syndicate content The Guardian
Latest news and comment on Politics live with Andrew Sparrow from the Guardian
Updated: 1 hour 37 min ago

Tony Blair's speech calling for global drive to fight Islamist extremism - reaction: Politics live blog

4 hours 54 min ago

Tony Blair's speech - Summary

Twitter reaction - from journalists and commentators

Twitter reaction - from politicians

Lunchtime summary

2.07pm BST

Tony Blair, the former prime minister, has called upon the world to confront the challenge posed by radical Islam. In one of the most substantial speeches he has delivered in the UK since leaving office, he reaffirmed his long-held belief that Islamist extremists pose a severe threat to world peace and he set out a detailed, country-by-country interventionist action plan. It was a bold, confident speech, but it also contained multiple acknowledgements that Iraq and Afghanistan have all but eliminated support in the west for military intervention in the Middle East, and Blair did not seem confident that his warnings will be heeded. Certainly, most of the early reaction from politicians, commentators and members of the public using social media in the UK has been negative. On the World at One just now the Conservative MP Julian Lewis said Blair was under-estimated the threat posed by Russia.

The problem that we've got with Tony Blair's speech is that it covers two dimensions of a three-dimensional problem; one can agree greatly with his analysis of the threat of totalitarian Islamism, but he is very light touch indeed, in fact there's hardly a mention, of the more conventional threat from Russian ambitions to try and reconstitute at least part of the former Soviet empire, albeit without the dangerous communist ideology.

1.39pm BST

Here are two blogs about the Blair speech.

Mehdi Hasan at Huffinton Post says Blair's policies helped violent Islamists.

"On foreign affairs, Tony is basically a neocon," a former cabinet ally of Blair once told me. "Tony believes he has a unique ability to join up the dots and see the big picture. The question is: do the dots exist and is he right to join them up in the way he does?"

Take Syria. Blair has long been a supporter of Western military intervention against the brutal regime of Bashar al Assad and in support of the Syrian opposition, despite the fact that in the conflict between Assad and the opposition, the violent Islamists - in the form of the hand-chopping, suicide-bombing ISIS and the al Qaeda-aligned Nusra Front, among numerous others - are on the side of... wait for it... the opposition. Blair glosses over this rather crucial point in his Bloomberg speech, making only a brief reference to "extremist groups" and saying, almost in passing, that they "should receive no support from any of the surrounding nations". (They do - including from our close ally, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.)

1.29pm BST

The strap that Sky News used when interviewing Tony Blair just now has generated some amusement on Twitter.

Tony Blair on TV: extremism warning. pic.twitter.com/kmDu368dN1

1.26pm BST

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, a British Muslim organisation, has said that he is "disgusted" by Tony Blair's speech.

I condemn and am disgusted by Tony Blair's comments today about having more war, occupation and military action. The British people were disgusted that the country was misled by him in regards to the illegal war in Iraq, thankfully Tony Blair has no more influence in the British government.

These lectures are becoming tiresome and during his adventures in power he has damaged Britain's standing around the world and hundreds of thousands have been killed by these illegal wars ...

12.59pm BST

Here's an interesting take on the Blair speech.

The fascinating thing about Blair's speech today is that it could have been a @netanyahu speech, word-for-word, they share the same outlook

12.53pm BST

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, has strongly criticised Tony Blair's speech.

#Blair's speech reconfirms his lack of understanding on Israel-Palestine. His failure as Quartet envoy has helped Hamas + Islamic Jihad

12.22pm BST

Earlier Tony Blair gave an interview to the BBC. He used it to set out some of the arguments he made in his speech. (See 10.37am.) But he made two other points too.

Blair said he thought the west should he intervened in Syria two years ago.

Personally I would have had us intervene - not full-scale troops on the ground or anything of that nature - but a couple of years ago, I think we could have created a situation in which an optimistic solution for the country was possible.

I think now we're faced with a situation where it's a choice of two very bad options - no one wants to see Assad stay, people are rightly, I think, now very anxious about elements within the opposition with extremists and so on - and this is, in my view, going to cause us problems for many, many years to come.

I think we've got a Christian heritage, of course we do, and I think we should be very proud of that. But none of that means we don't welcome people of different faiths and this should be, for me, an absolutely basic fundamental principle of any democracy, because democracy is ultimately a pluralistic concept.

12.22pm BST

There are two polls around this morning. For the record, here are the figures.

YouGov

11.51am BST

I don't normally post reaction to a speech in cartoon form, but Tony Blair does seem to provoke response on a scale most politicians don't manage. Martin Shovel has sent me this.

@AndrewSparrow: My cartoon - Tony Blair's interventionist hole #BloombergSpeech #NeoliberalExpansionism pic.twitter.com/m6Qrd0ydbo

11.24am BST

And here is some Twitter reaction to the speech from politicians.

From Labour MP Tom Watson (who called for Blair to resign when he was a minister in Blair's government)

Fascinating intervention on foreign policy from Tony Blair. He is more sympathetic to Russia than I thought he'd be: http://t.co/u43ZxU6F79

Hatred between West and East deepened by Tony Blair's mistake in joining Bush's War in Iraq. Blair now seeks absolution for Chilcot verdict.

Tony Blair thinks Britain should intervene in Syria. Thank heaven he's no longer Prime Minister.

Under pressure @TheBlairDoc the war criminal Tony Blair has finally lost it. And in the heart of "the City" for which he sacrificed us all.

When I attacked Islamism and urged support for British values as FCO min in 03 I was nearly sacked. Now Blair, Straw echo my appeal

Just read Blair speech. Ignore headlines. This is Fulton Mark 2. Bien pensant left then refused to challenge Stalinism. Orwell knew better

@DenisMacShane That really is over-statement. Fulton 2: Churchll was respected & revered. Blair has sadly become an out of touch caricature.

@NickCohen4 @DenisMacShane Churchill post-45 was still a towering respected figure. Comparison with Blair 2014 illuminating. Gap btwn 2 huge

Sad to see knee jerk reflex anti Blairism on parade. Mea culpas in his speech but it is a major effort @IainDale @martinbright @OwenJones84

11.14am BST

Here is some reaction to the speech from journalists and commentators on Twitter.

Tony Blair not taking questions after Bloomberg speech and "reserved" media seats are at the back of the hall #feralbeasts

Almost universally visceral hostile reaction on Twitter to Blair's BBC interview on Mideast - before he's even given his speech.

One important point being made by @tonyblairoffice is that terminology such as "Islamism" is not very useful

Tony Blair's sermons are counterproductive. But he is neither the problem or the solution. Middle East or anywhere.

Counter-intuitive of Blair to urge West to join forces with Putin to tackle radical Islam - and questionable timing.

Blair is conflating so many strands of Islamism here that he prescribes same thing for Brotherhood as for Al Qaida http://t.co/dsYcqKljKU

Blair's speeches becoming more absurd & risible. Now the backer of despots & coups seems to be saying lay off Putin http://t.co/znJkYARSaz

Blair speech the poorer for avoiding whether western intervention fostered Islamic extremism, an issue from which he does not usually shy.

Blair arguing the West will pay a "very heavy price" for not attacking Syria reminds me of the deadly cost of his Iraq invasion

#Blair says #Assad staying on as interim president in Syria may be the only way forward even if a repugnant choice. Too much realpolitik

Tony Blair, who left Iraq overrun with fundamentalist terrorists and backed Saudi fundamentalists, says we need to fight Islamic extremists

Tony Blair, paid millions to work for Kazakh dictator and who backs Egypts murderous junta, offering more sermons on democracy. No thanks.

A petition from the heart. That Tony Blair Never speak or write in public ever again about anything http://t.co/5h0soGzLRU

#Blair backs Egypt again; wants to whack both Saudi and the MB. Does he know the Saudis are Egypt's biggest backers? http://t.co/Yu6BdQFpGi

#pt "We have to have an approach to the region that .. sees it as a whole," says Blair, entirely without irony http://t.co/Yu6BdQFpGi

Worth recalling too that 'extremist-battling' #Blair pioneered UK 'engagement' with Muslim Brotherhood: http://t.co/hJnC5jvw6B via @guardian

10.37am BST

Say what you like about Tony Blair - and a quick glance at Twitter this morning shows that people do - but you can't fault him of lack of ambition. When he was prime minister he seemed at act at times as if he were the mouthpiece for the western world. Today he is almost going even further, proposing not just a western drive against Islamist extremism, but a global one too, including China and Russia. It is heady, big vision stuff, although, unlike in 2002-03, this time the world is probably not paying much attention.

Here is a summary of the main arguments in Tony Blair's speech.

The important point for Western opinion is that this is a struggle with two sides. So when we look at the Middle East and beyond it to Pakistan or Iran and elsewhere, it isn't just a vast unfathomable mess with no end in sight and no one worthy of our support. It is in fact a struggle in which our own strategic interests are intimately involved; where there are indeed people we should support and who, ironically, are probably in the majority if only that majority were mobilised, organised and helped.

But what is absolutely necessary is that we first liberate ourselves from our own attitude. We have to take sides. We have to stop treating each country on the basis of whatever seems to make for the easiest life for us at any one time. We have to have an approach to the region that is coherent and sees it as a whole. And above all, we have to commit. We have to engage.

On this issue also, there is a complete identity of interest between East and West. China and Russia have exactly the same desire to defeat this ideology as do the USA and Europe. Here is a subject upon which all the principal nations of the G20 could come together, could agree to act, and could find common ground to common benefit.

An international programme to eradicate religious intolerance and prejudice from school systems and informal education systems and from organisations in civic society would have a huge galvanising effect in making unacceptable what is currently ignored or tolerated.

At the root of the crisis lies a radicalised and politicised view of Islam, an ideology that distorts and warps Islams true message. The threat of this radical Islam is not abating. It is growing. It is spreading across the world. It is de-stabilising communities and even nations. It is undermining the possibility of peaceful co-existence in an era of globalisation.

Underneath the turmoil and revolution of the past years is one very clear and unambiguous struggle: between those with a modern view of the Middle East, one of pluralistic societies and open economies, where the attitudes and patterns of globalisation are embraced; and, on the other side, those who want to impose an ideology born out of a belief that there is one proper religion and one proper view of it, and that this view should, exclusively, determine the nature of society and the political economy. We might call this latter perspective an Islamist view, though one of the frustrating things about this debate is the inadequacy of the terminology and the tendency for any short hand to be capable of misinterpretation, so that you can appear to elide those who support the Islamist ideology with all Muslims.

Wherever you look from Iraq to Libya to Egypt to Yemen to Lebanon to Syria and then further afield to Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan this is the essential battle. Of course there are an array of complexities in each case, derived from tribe, tradition and territory. I would not for a moment suggest that these conflicts do not have their own individual characteristics. And the lack of economic opportunity is without doubt a prime proximate cause of the regions chaos. But there is something frankly odd about the reluctance to accept what is so utterly plain: that they have in common a struggle around the issue of the rightful place of religion, and in particular Islam, in politics.

It may well be the case that in particular situations, those who follow a strictly Islamist political agenda neither advocate nor approve of political violence. There are of course a variety of different views within such a broadly described position. But their overall ideology is one which inevitably creates the soil in which such extremism can take root.

The reason that this ideology is dangerous is that its implementation is incompatible with the modern world politically, socially, and economically. Why? Because the way the modern world works is through connectivity. Its essential nature is pluralist. It favours the open-minded. Modern economies work through creativity and connections. Democracy cannot function except as a way of thinking as well as voting. You put your view; you may lose; you try to win next time; or you win but you accept that you may lose next time.

That is not the way that the Islamist ideology works. It is not about a competing view of how society or politics should be governed within a common space where you accept other views are equally valid. It is exclusivist in nature. The ultimate goal is not a society which someone else can change after winning an election. It is a society of a fixed polity, governed by religious doctrines that are not changeable but which are, of their essence, unchangeable.

In saying this, it does not mean that we have to repeat the enormous commitment of Iraq and Afghanistan. It may well be that in time people come to view the impact of those engagements differently. But there is no need, let alone appetite, to do that.

Libya is not Iraq or Afghanistan. It is not impossible to help and NATO has the capability to do so. However reluctant we are to make this commitment, we have to recognise the de-stabilising impact Libya is having at present. If it disintegrates completely, it will affect the whole of the region around it and feed the instability in Sub- Saharan Africa.

Consider this absurdity: that we spend billions of $ on security arrangements and on defence to protect ourselves against the consequences of an ideology that is being advocated in the formal and informal school systems and in civic institutions of the very countries with whom we have intimate security and defence relationships. Some of those countries of course wish to escape from the grip of this ideology. But often it is hard for them to do so within their own political constraints. They need to have this issue out in the open where it then becomes harder for the promotion of this ideology to happen underneath the radar. In other words they need us to make this a core part of the international dialogue in order to force the necessary change within their own societies.

9.41am BST

Anyone familiar with Tony Blair's thinking will not be surprised by the Bloomberg speech he delivered this morning. It reflects concerns that he has been articulating repeatedly since at least late afternoon on Tuesday 11 September 2001. Essentially he is reiterating his belief that the west needs to take the threat posed by Islamist extremism much, much more seriously, and that it needs to confront it robustly.

But, even if you've heard Blair on this subject many times before, this speech is still one that's worth reading. I've just finished it, and I can't recall Blair setting out his case in such a considered and comprehensive manner.

8.55am BST

Tony Blair has just delivered a major speech on the Middle East, and Islamist extremism. He thinks the west is being too complacent.

Here's the full text.

Tony Blair will warn the west it needs to take sides in the Middle East and move the battle against Islamist extremism to the top of the political agenda.

In a speech to Bloomberg in London on Wednesday, the former Labour prime minister will say: "The important point for western opinion is that this is a struggle with two sides. So when we look at the Middle East and beyond it to Pakistan or Iran and elsewhere, it isn't just a vast unfathomable mess with no end in sight and no one worthy of our support. It is in fact a struggle in which our own strategic interests are intimately involved; where there are indeed people we should support and who, ironically, are probably in the majority if only that majority were mobilised, organised and helped.

Continue reading...

David Cameron and George Osborne hold joint Q&A: Politics live blog

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 11:25

Lunchtime summary
Afternoon summary

4.06pm BST

Workplace Q&As are almost always dull. That's not because members of the public can't ask tough, penetrating questions. You only have to listen to phone-ins like the LBC ones to realise that they can. Instead, I think it's because if people are at work, with the boss in the room sucking up to a VIP, they (understandably) take the decision not to rock the boat.

Now that I've got that off my chest, here's the afternoon summary.

Parties have to defend their own advertising campaign, so they will have to do that. What I want to talk about are the issues.

Ukip have lowered the tone of the European debate with these spiteful and inaccurate claims on immigration which seek only to divide communities.

At a time when our country really needs to come together, the Ukip advertising campaign is deeply divisive, offensive and ignorant.

In terms of onshore wind, obviously there will come a time when we will have built enough to meet all our targets and so I've always said, on subsidies, we shouldn't keep subsidies for longer than they are necessary. And so that's something we will be looking at.

I think you've seen that happen over the last couple of years on HS2 ... Attempts to break the consensus by some politicians have actually not got anywhere because the rest of the political party concerned said we want to go ahead with this, we think it's going to be transformative.

As an Aston Villa fan, we've had a bit of a ropey season, so I think I will [leave] advice on football management, a subject about which I know precious little.

3.13pm BST

Well, that was pretty dull.

Next time, David Cameron would be better advised to take Alastair Campbell's advice and instead give a speech saying that, although people may find the idea silly, he honestly does believe that his long-term economic plan is sexy. (See 1.52pm.)

3.05pm BST

Q: Do you support Sir John Armitt's call [in a Labour review] for an infrastructure commission?

Osborne says he has a lot of respect for Armitt. He agrees that it is best to get consensus for long-term infrastructure projects. This has been achieved over HS2, he says.

3.01pm BST

Cameron says he wants new teams to come into the state education sector.

3.01pm BST

Q: Nicholas Soames said the Ukip advertising campaign was divisive. Do you agree?

Cameron says parties have to defend their own advertising campaigns.

2.58pm BST

Q: What would the threshold for the 45p rate of tax be if it had been uprated in line with inflation?

Osborne says there are two issues here: the tax rate, and the threshold at which it applies.

2.54pm BST

Q: What do you think of a proposal to extend the capital allowance rules?

Cameron hastily offloads this one on Osborne. Osborne says this was a CBI proposal that he considered for the budget. But he decided other measures to help business would be better.

2.52pm BST

Q: People in Hertfordshire are paying £500,000 for last year's Bilderberg meeting in the county?

Osborne says we hold events in this country. We want them to be held peacefully. And there are policing costs involved.

2.51pm BST

Cameron takes a question from the media.

Q: [From Andy Bell, Five News] You were once described as two posh boys. Does the fact that you are out together for the first time since 2010 mean you are no longer worried about this?

2.49pm BST

Q: If Scotland votes for independence, what will be the financial impact on companies like this one?

Osborne says that, if Scotland votes for independence, that will be damaging for Scotland and for the rest of the UK.

2.47pm BST

Q: I'm going to have to advise the board shortly about an investment in renewable energy. They will want to know about the political risk. How committed are you to this?

Cameron says the government has put its money where its mouth is. There is a long-term plan. The offshore wind industry is the largest in the world. As for onshore wind, a time will come when enough has been built to meet the government's targets. He says he does not think subsidies should last forever. There will come a time when they have to be reviewed.

2.44pm BST

Q: How do you get more diversity in the construction industry?

Cameron says careers advice has been improved. There is a national careers service. But careers advisers tend to advise people to do what they did - ie, to go to university. Nothing succeeds as well as seeing people succeed.

2.43pm BST

Q: How can you make sure the procurement process assists industry?

Cameron directs this one to Osborne.

2.40pm BST

George Osborne invites a member of staff to pose the first question.

Osborne is standing at the moment in the centre of the circle. Cameron was on a stool, but he has just stood up.

2.37pm BST

They are now taking questions.

2.34pm BST

George Osborne is speaking now.

He starts by welcoming the job announcement made today by the firm hosting the Q&A.

2.33pm BST

Cameron mentions HS2. But the govenrment is spending three times as much on other transport projects as on HS2, he says.

And he says he knows that what matters are the people who are behind the job figures.

2.31pm BST

Cameron says he is not saying the government has sorted out the economy; far from it, he says.

But the government does have an economic plan. It is creating jobs, cutting taxes and controlling welfare, he says.

2.29pm BST

David Cameron is speaking now.

He starts by thanking the audience for not being disappointed.

2.26pm BST

Back to the main event, where David Cameron and George Osborne have arrived.

2.25pm BST

While we wait, here are some more mock Ukip posters.

New #UKIP poster just released. This one is a winner. pic.twitter.com/rOR0tKqXde

@AndrewSparrow #ukipbillboards reworked for commonsense women pic.twitter.com/ArmNxXw9pj

RT @UkipBillboards Just gone up in Manchester #ukip pic.twitter.com/dP0ZYoofFc @AndrewSparrow

UKIP launch new election poster #Moyes pic.twitter.com/nSbgXMZWMm

2.19pm BST

Here's the statement Chris Leslie, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, put out earlier about the Cameron/Osborne infrastructure announcement.

We need action not words on infrastructure if we're to get a recovery built to last.

Under David Cameron and George Osborne, despite multiple infrastructure plans and reheated announcements like today's, infrastructure output in the economy is down more than 10%.

2.15pm BST

All the reporters have now been taken into the atrium where the event is taking place. There are about 100 or so employees sitting on stools and chairs around a circle, where David Cameron and George Osborne will be taking the questions. Dozens more are lined up on the metallic spiral staircase, and the balconies on the first and second floor.

They are still being coy about security. Staff have been asked not to post anything about the visit on social media until it is over.

2.00pm BST

Here's how the Sun reported the news that David Cameron and George Osborne would be appearing at the Q&A together today.

Love is in the air... Cameron & Osborne to share a platform today in rare joint appearance... @TheSunNewspaper pic.twitter.com/cjlaxRRRYj

Those figures help to explain why Labour is losing ground on economic competence. YouGov repeated six questions we asked last autumn, about six different aspects of the party battle on living standards. Would a Miliband-led Labour government or a Cameron-led Conservative government do better? Our results give far more comfort to the Prime Minister than his rival.

On three aspects where Labour held clear leads six months ago, the race has tightened: providing more jobs (Labour lead down from 8% to 1%), keeping prices down (lead down from 6% to 1%) and improving the standards of living for people like you (9% lead down to 4%).

1.52pm BST

David Cameron and George Osborne are holding a joint Q&A this afternoon. It's at a company HQ outside London. I'm not even sure yet whether we're supposed to say where it is. Cameron and Osborne have not arrived yet, and the event is not due to start until about 2.20pm.

Supposedly they're here to publicise an infrastructure announcement. Downing Street released details of this overnight.

Ensuring Britain has first class infrastructure is a crucial part of our long term economic plan: supporting business, creating jobs and providing a better future for hardworking people.

As a crucial part of our long-term economic plan, this government is backing business with better infrastructure so that more jobs and opportunities are created for hardworking people, meaning more financial security and peace of mind for families.

12.04pm BST

Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, has defended his party's election campaign posters following complaints from a Labour MP that they are racist.

Ukip would have us believe they stand for working people but the truth is very different theyre even more right wing than the Tories. A vote for Ukip is a vote for higher taxes for working families, charges to see your GP, huge tax giveaways for the rich and even deeper cuts to public services. Only Labour can make Britain better off.

Cameron sees EU Pres Van Rompuy at Chequers tonight - PMS "Not enough progress on Ukraine in recent days. Russia been coordinating events".

11.47am BST

And here are three interesting blogs about the Ukip poster row.

Andrew Lilico at the Telegraph says the Ukip posters should say that, if 26m Europeans are after your job, that's a good thing.

If you are a UK employer or investor, that's a good thing, as it means firms have a wider pool of potential employees to choose from, and so may get the right person at the best price. If you are a UK consumer, that's a good thing, as it means firms will be more productive and cost-effective and produce a wider range of cheaper and higher-quality products for you to buy for any given amount of money. If you are a UK worker whose own productivity will be enhanced by having other higher-productivity staff working with you, that's a good thing, as it means your salary will be higher. If you are in the UK and are either unemployed or looking to change jobs, that's a good thing, as it means you are allowed to go anywhere in the EU to find the right job at the right price for you. If you are in the UK and working in a sector where your employer would be a monopsonist (a sole hirer of labour) without EU competition, that's a good thing as it means your employer will be unable to bid down your salary below the competitive market wage.

Not just because the outrage over the posters among those who are quite happy about mass immigration just puffs more air into Nigel Farages bellows by suggesting to voters who arent quite so happy that the liberal metropolitan elite still want to shout down debate about immigration. But also because it changes the whole debate into one where mainstream politicians find themselves desperately repeating mollifying phrases like its fine to worry about the effects of immigration or for too long politicians havent had an open debate about immigration. And because all three main parties have had to toughen up their immigration policies to respond to Ukip.

11.33am BST

Here is some Twitter comment on the Ukip poster campaign.

Regardless of whether he's right, not sure Mike Gapes was that helpful to Labour's immigration narrative this morning http://t.co/jiSwNXIFxp

I'm not convinced that condemning the many voters thinking of voting UKIP as stupid racists is a good electoral strategy.

UKIP say 'at this stage' there are 764 posters as part of their campaign

The @Ukip posters are wrong & pretty backward, they remind me of the much more offensive Home Office vans. But they're not racist

Attacks on #UKIP posters are childish name calling. Other parties abandoned the working class and have nothing to offer British workers.

Aren't those attacking that UKIP poster for being 'racist' doing @Nigel_Farage's work for him?

Well done to Labour MP @mikegapes for taking on @UKIP re their posters whipping up fear and hostility to migrants.

Fitting that listening to news of Moyes's departure as head to UKIP election launch. He took United out of Europe.

Not pro-Ukip or anti-immigration but don't see what's "racist" abt a poster noting EU rules mean 26m unemployed might want your job. They do

UKIP repeat the lie that 75% of our laws come from EU. It's only 7%, nearly all about selling into the single market.

11.01am BST

It does not take long these days for spoof posters to appear.

Here are three mocking the Ukip ones. They have been tweeted by the @UkipBillboards account.

Coming soon to a town near you! pic.twitter.com/PhP4PtpTXI

Just spotted on the A406 pic.twitter.com/QtoIyYsxYp

Scary statistics in Welwyn Garden City! #UKIP pic.twitter.com/ElPr0ljxBC

@AndrewSparrow How about: https://t.co/tkH7a1UmZy

10.19am BST

You can read all todays Guardian politics stories here. And all the politics stories filed yesterday, including some in todays paper, are here.

As for the rest of the papers, heres the PoliticsHome list of top 10 must-reads, heres the ConservativeHome round-up of the politics stories in todays papers and heres the New Statesmans list of top 10 comment articles.

When it comes to immigration there is one undeniable fact: a chasm has grown between what the public want and what our politicians promise, let alone do. A British Social Attitudes Survey in January found that 77 per cent of the public would like immigration to be reduced. The days in which this could be portrayed as barely sublimated bigotry are past. A majority of first and second- generation migrants (60 per cent) agree that migration into the UK is too high. While the public are not opposed to immigration, all polls show that they are angry about the scale of immigration that has occurred in recent years and especially the low-skill immigration that has soared thanks to the EUs control of our border policy.

This huge wave of people who came to EU countries trying to get well-paid jobs is over now, he said. There are more opportunities in Poland, we have had huge economic success, wages are higher in Poland now and there are more jobs in many parts of Poland, so I think this is over.

We are getting out of the crisis and there are more and more opportunities in Poland. Of course people would like to stay in Poland and not live abroad. They love the UK but if you are at home there is no place like home."

9.53am BST

In the Daily Telegraph Paul Sykes, the multi-millionaire and former Conservative, has written an article explaining why he is spending £1.5m funding the Ukip poster campaign.

The Single European Act, signed into UK law in 1986, guarantees the free movement of capital and labour across the borders of the 28 countries that now make up the EU. Disgracefully, this measure was adopted without a referendum of the British people.

It was a cruel and heartless act because competition from people from much poorer countries has forced down the wages of British workers to the shame of Labour MPs and the trade union movement. It also means 485 million people have the right to move to Britain at any time they please. We may have a UK Border Force. But when it comes to the 27 other countries in the EU, we have no borders, and no force.

9.42am BST

And here are the main points Paul Nuttall, Ukip's deputy leader, was making on the Today programme.

Nuttall rejected claims that the Ukip posters were "inflammatory". When this was put to him, he said: "No, it's stating facts."

The fact of the matter is that we've got wage compression in this country, we have uncontrolled borders to the whole of the European Union. And the only way we're going to get control of our own borders is by leaving this club.

The fact is in theory they can come to this country and work because we can't control our own borders.

There is a complete and utter gulf between what the politicians say in Westminster and within the establishment and what the people believe.

9.39am BST

Here is Nigel Farage's ITV Daybreak interview.

9.23am BST

The Today programme featured a debate about the Ukip election posters between Mike Gapes, the Labour MP who has described them as "racist", and Paul Nuttall, Ukip's deputy leader.

I could transcribe Gapes's comments, but there's not point because he has set out his reasons for branding the campaign racist in a blog for the New Statesman. Here's an extract.

I stand by my view that this Ukip campaign is a racist, xenophobic campaign designed to win votes by whipping up animosity against foreigners living and working and contributing to this country ...

We do need much stronger action against bad employers to stop immigrants being abused and exploited by stronger enforcement of the minimum wage, tougher measures by councils against "beds in sheds" and prosecution of "cash in hand" employers. But it is dangerous fallacious nonsense to say that British workers are facing a threat from 26 million unemployed Europeans. The real threat to British workers' jobs and British society comes from the incompetent coalition government carrying out policies to cut taxes for wealthy millionaires while millions suffer a cost of living crisis; creating a house price bubble while failing to invest in housing, infrastructure and skills, and privatising our National Health Service ...

9.15am BST

Here are some more of the Ukip posters.

9.00am BST

Welcome back everyone. I hope you all had a good Easter.

The Commons is still in recess and there are really only two items in the diary at the moment.

What I would appeal today is that the debate about immigration is done with a sense of realism and a sense of respect - and that it is not cushioned in expressions which are alarmist and evocative of anger or of dismay or distress at all these people coming to this country.

There is no angry language. There is very cool and calm language. We are not against anybody from any part of the world. But to have an open door to 485 million people from the rest of Europe, many from poor countries, many from countries where youth unemployment rates are as high as 60%, means there is an influx of foreign labour into Britain, the likes of which we have never seen, and it is working families in Britain who have paid a huge price for that over the last 10 years ...

We are a non-sectarian, non-racist political party. If I was Romanian, I would come to London too. I don't blame people from poor countries for coming here, but I think it is the job of the British Government to put the interests of our own people first.

Continue reading...

Politics Live - readers' edition: Thursday 17 April

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 04:55

Share breaking news, leave links to interesting articles online and chat about the weeks political events in our open thread

Im not writing my usual Politics Live blog today, but, as an alternative, heres Politics Live: readers edition. Its intended to be a place where you can catch up with the latest news and find links to good politics blogs and articles on the web.

Please feel free to use this as somewhere you can comment on any of the days political stories - just as you do when Im writing the daily blog.

Continue reading...

Politics Live - readers' edition: Wednesday 16 April

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 04:22

Share breaking news, leave links to interesting articles online and chat about the weeks political events in our open thread

Im not writing my usual Politics Live blog today, but, as an alternative, heres Politics Live: readers edition. Its intended to be a place where you can catch up with the latest news and find links to good politics blogs and articles on the web.

Please feel free to use this as somewhere you can comment on any of the days political stories - just as you do when Im writing the daily blog.

Continue reading...

Politics Live - readers' edition: Tuesday 15 April

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 04:41

Share breaking news, leave links to interesting articles online and chat about the weeks political events in our open thread

Im not writing my usual Politics Live blog today, but, as an alternative, heres Politics Live: readers edition. Its intended to be a place where you can catch up with the latest news and find links to good politics blogs and articles on the web.

Please feel free to use this as somewhere you can comment on any of the days political stories - just as you do when Im writing the daily blog.

Continue reading...

Politics Live - readers' edition: Friday 11 April

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 03:36

Share breaking news, leave links to interesting articles online and chat about the weeks political events in our open thread

8.36am BST

Im not writing my usual Politics Live blog today, but, as an alternative, heres Politics Live: readers edition. Its intended to be a place where you can catch up with the latest news and find links to good politics blogs and articles on the web.

Please feel free to use this as somewhere you can comment on any of the days political stories - just as you do when Im writing the daily blog.

Continue reading...

Question Time with Sajid Javid, Harriet Harman, Kirsty Williams, Billy Bragg and Sir Martin Sorrell - #bbcqt: Live

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 19:11

* Snap verdict

* Summary

12.36am BST

Here is a summary of the main news points

* Sajid Javid, the culture secretary, rejected claims that there is house price bubble in the UK.

There has been a lot of talk recently about a house price bubble. I don't think there is a house price bubble. But you don't have to take my word for it. Even more important are the independent people who have looked at this, and this is the Bank of England. And they have looked at this again and again, and they look at it on a very regular basis. They don't believe there is evidence of a house price bubble. They recently pointed out, for example, house prices on average are at 15% below in real terms from their peak.

I don't know how Sajid can say there's not a house bubble in London. It's much worse than a bubble. The prices have gone mad and we urgently need more building.

I think it was. And I don't want to second guess the committee's decision, but I would certainly say, as far as the public is concerned, if the public see a committee of MPs has made a decision in relation to an MP, or whether it's independent, there's more trust and confidence in an independent situation.

12.09am BST

Here is a round-up of some of the most popular tweets from tonight's Question Times. These are some of the #bbcqt tweets that, according to Tweetdeck, have been retweeted at least 20 times.

DIMBLEFACT: SEVERAL NEW COLOURS WERE INVENTED SPECIFICALLY FOR TONIGHT'S MAGNIFICENT DIMBLETIE #BBCQT pic.twitter.com/S3uH54j4B5

"JAVID" HAS CAUSED BIO-DIMBLEBY TO PERFORM HIS FIRST "FACEPALM" OF #BBCQT. THE AUDIENCE CHUCKLES CORRECTLY. pic.twitter.com/WraLzLun4E

MT: @ampp3d This year is first time in which the private rented sector was larger than social rented sector. #bbcqt pic.twitter.com/Yk67jD6569

This is the poshest edition of #bbcqt I've seen in ages. It's basically a dinner party.

Guy in audience re: #helptobuy said it all. This scheme is what crashed the American economy. The #Tories are trying to buy votes. #bbcqt

Well done @billybragg for bringing up the sell-off of part of the Charing Cross Hospital site to build luxury flats. #bbcqt

I don't know where Sajid Javid is getting his household debt figures, but IT AIN'T THE OBR. #bbcqt pic.twitter.com/HyF4HaBLqd

Opponents of New Labour's tuition fees regime warned future governments would hike them. Time to take responsibility #bbcqt

Neoliberal Britain: A lifetime of debt from student fees & huge mortgages. Who benefits the most? The banks #bbcqt

Deutsche Bank, which Sajid Javid worked at for 9 years, paid out a record 725m euro fine for Libor Fixing http://t.co/V1DXLP7xiX #bbcqt

Yes, Javid. You were the first in your family to go to uni, for free under the old system. Now, you'd be doing a nice apprenticeship. #bbcqt

"THE MESS WE INHERITED" GROAN #BBCQT #DIMGO

11.57pm BST

Snap Verdict: So, is Sajid Javid really any good? Labour's John Prescott doesn't think so.

Sajid Javid. Bit of a lightweight on tonight's performance so far #bbcqt

Not many MPs as articulate as Javid. If he can soften his tone occasionally, he could go very far. #bbcqt

I get the feeling we'll be seeing a fair bit more of Sajid Javid #qt

11.38pm BST

And that's it.

I will post a quick verdict in a moment, then a round-up of some of the best tweets from the programme, and then a summary of the news lines.

11.37pm BST

Q: In the Oscar Pistorius trial, does television in courts help or hinder justice?

Sir Martin Sorrell, Billy Bragg and Sajid Javid all say it has hindered justice.

11.31pm BST

Kirsty Williams says the Lib Dems have apologised for breaking their election promise on this.

But the issue is, is this a barrier to students going to university? No, it isn't, she says.

11.28pm BST

Harriet Harman says Labour always intended that some money for tuition fees would come from government, and some from students.

But the coalition took out the money from the government, she says.

11.27pm BST

Q: What is the point of having tuition fees when 45% of students won't be able to pay it back?

Sajid Javid says it was always intended that the debt would be forgiven if it could not all be paid. It's a very progressive system. Those that earn the most pay the most. It was always intended that some of it would be written off. That is what helps to make the system fairer and progressive.

11.23pm BST

Billy Bragg says he thinks people need to swallow more bitter pills in Northern Ireland. And, if there is an amnesty, it should cover everyone - British soldiers included.

Sir Martin Sorrell says he thinks prosecutions should continue.

11.18pm BST

Q: Should there be an end to prosecutions for offences committed during the Troubles in Northern Ireland?

Harriet Harman says she would not support that. But there should be a process to address this, she says.

11.17pm BST

Number of people (as @imranq's "famous last words") questioning if @sajidjavid will come to regret saying there is no housing bubble #bbcqt

11.14pm BST

A member of the audience says the Bank of England did not see the last house price bubble coming.

Sajid Javid says that's because Labour put City regulation in the hands of the Financial Services Authority.

11.10pm BST

Kirsty Williams says we need to build more houses. A mansion tax might help, she says. And she says the problem is not confined to London. In parts of Wales, like Cardiff, houses are rising quickly.

David Dimbleby asks Sajid Javid how he knows there is not a bubble.

11.04pm BST

A member of the audience says he wants to challenge Javid. Help to Buy is going to fuel house price rises.

Harriet Harman says people need housing to live in. If it becomes just a question of investment, that's a problem. There need to be more homes. And that includes affordable homes built by councils, he says.

10.59pm BST

Q: Is buy to let fuelling the housing market?

Sajid Javid says house price increases are not really driven by buy to let. That's because the number of houses affected is small. He does not think there is a house price bubble. But don't take his word for it, he says. This is what the Bank of England says.

10.56pm BST

Dimbleby asks how this rates compared to other scandals.

A member of the audience says it could have blown up into a bigger scandal.

10.54pm BST

The New Statesman's George Eaton is impressed by Sajid Javid.

Not many MPs as articulate as Javid. If he can soften his tone occasionally, he could go very far. #bbcqt

2 members of audience say MPs' pay (64k) is too low. This edition of #bbcqt is coming from West London

10.52pm BST

David Dimbleby asks if it was right to cut the amount of money Maria Miller had to pay back from £45,000 to £5,000.

Harriet Harman says that she thinks that was wrong. Then she qualifies it, by saying she does not want to second guess the committee.

10.48pm BST

As usual, Caitlin Moran has focused on the key issue.

Fuck me Dimbleby's got a Rave Tie on tonight #bbcqt

10.48pm BST

Kirsty Williams says politicians need to act within the spirit of the rules. And the system needs to be reformed from top to bottom. A recall law should be on the table, she says.

A member of the audience says the basic salary of MPs could be too low. (Brave man.)

10.45pm BST

It's starting.

Q: What will it take for the the public to trust MPs on expenses?

10.35pm BST

Michael Sylvain, a reader of this blog, has previewed tonight's panel on my blog earlier. His profiles have many virtues, but generosity of spirit is not one of them. Here's an excerpt from what he says about Sajid Javid.

Much is made by the Tories that Javid is the son of a bus driver who Did Well. In the absence of conclusive stats on whether Javid is a representative example of the prospects typically available to the progeny of bus drivers, lets just say that the fact he stands out so much is more an indication of how unusual a lack of privilege is in his party than an indication of the fantastic opportunities he's giving to the working class of Rochdale.

10.31pm BST

Tonight's Question Time is particularly interesting because it will mark Sajid Javid's first big outing since his promotion to the cabinet as culture secretary yesterday.

In the past he has not been a particularly newsworthy panelist or interviewee, because he tends, fairly rigidly, to stick to the party line. But colleagues who know him believe that he has a fine brain and strong convictions, and that he could go right to the top of his party.

Hes the first of the huge intake of 2010 Tory MPs to get to the cabinet. In terms of ethnicity, gender and schooling it was the most diverse parliamentary cohort in Conservative history. Mr Cameron will hope that the days of promoting women and minorities to positions of influence before they were ready are over. Hopefully, promotions will now be on merit rather than for presentational reasons.

Mr Javid is also one of the first children of Thatcher to get to the top table in government. We know that he shares her commitment to market economics, choice in public services and the nation state. Do he and others from the 2010 intake also understand Thatcherisms weaknesses? Will they worry as much about protecting the safety net for the victims of the economic cycle as she worried about creating ladders of opportunity for its beneficiaries? And will they be able to compromise with political opponents in a way that she struggled to do?

10.08pm BST

Welcome to tonight's Question Time live blog.

David Dimbleby is presenting the programme from London.

Continue reading...

Nigel Evans cleared of all charges: Politics live blog

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 11:57

Lunchtime summary

Nigel Evans' statement after the verdict

Police statement after the verdict

Afternoon summary

4.57pm BST

The Crown Prosecution Service has come under sustained criticism from Conservative MPs following the acquittal of Nigel Evans, the former Commons deputy speaker, of all the rape and sexual assault charges he was facing. David Davis said there should be an urgent wholesale review of the way sexual offences are prosecuted (see 2.59pm) and Crispin Blunt, a former justice minister, described the prosecution as "artificial" (see 4.39pm). But the police and the CPS have defended their decision to investigate and prosecute in this case.

One of the alleged victims in the Evans case has said the case should never have gone to court. (See 4.14pm.)

When it comes to standing up for Britain in Europe, is there anyone you would trust less than a group of Ukip MEPs? They talk the talk in Britain - but as soon as they're on that plane to Brussels they change completely. When they do actually bother to vote, they don't stand up for Britain indeed their own leader has said they 'cannot change a thing in Brussels'.

4.39pm BST

Crispin Blunt, the Conservative former justice minister, has also criticised the decision to prosecute Nigel Evans. This is what he told Sky.

If you look at how the case was constructed against Nigel, [the victims] do not regard themselves as victims and they didnt actually want to be in court. This was, to a degree, quite an artificial prosecution. I think anyone who was aware of the circumstances of the case against Nigel would not be remotely surprised that he was acquitted of all charges.

4.27pm BST

The Crown Prosecution Service has defended its decision to prosecute Nigel Evans. Here is the statement it has put out.

The complainants in this case provided clear accounts of the alleged offending and it was right that all of the evidence was put before a jury. That evidence could only be fully explored during a trial and the jury has decided, after hearing all of the evidence, that the prosecution has not proved its case beyond reasonable doubt. We respect this decision.

4.25pm BST

David Cameron has commented on the Nigel Evans acquittal. This is what he said.

It is hard to imagine the relief that Nigel must feel after such a traumatic time. I very much welcome what he said on the steps of the court and I think everyone should pay heed to that.

I'm sure he will want to get on with working with his constituents in the Ribble Valley and, as for the future, I'm sure it's something he'll be discussing with the chief whip when he returns to parliament.

4.19pm BST

And here are more Conservative MPs commenting on the verdict.

Good day for Nigel Evans but why was he charged in the first place? Serious questions for the police and CPS to answer! So pleased for Nigel

I'm so glad Nigel Evans has been found innocent, but saddened by the terrible toll it has taken on him personally

Delighted to hear Nigel Evans has been cleared of all charges. A good man maligned. He'll be warmly welcomed back to House of Commons

So pleased Nigel Evans has been cleared of all charges, a sweet, kind man, who didn't deserve such a hellish ordeal.

It is strangte to hear Police talking about "the victims" in the Nigel Evans case,when no crime was committed. The jury found Nigel innocent

4.17pm BST

And here's what No 10 are saying about the verdict.

PM spokesman says he has confidence in CPS. No words from Spox for Evans personally, just ref to CCHQ statement

(Understand PM does intend to talk about Evans in person though)

4.14pm BST

One alleged victim in the Nigel Evans case has told ITV News that he did not think he was the victim of a criminal act. Here's the quote.

I don't believe he [Evans] should have been charged. I don't think it was a criminal act. It's the sort of thing that happens in every bar. It wasn't a big deal.

4.01pm BST

My colleague Helen Pidd has sent me this about the team supporting Nigel Evans during the trial.

Each day of the trial, Nigel Evans was supported by an eclectic, ever expanding group of supporters who guided him gently through the pack of waiting photographers on the way in to court and gave him supportive waves from the public gallery. As well as Coronation Street star, Vicky Entwistle (Janice Battersby), there was the mayor of Clitheroe, Kevin Horkin, a pink-shirted film producer with the marvellous name of Huw Shakeshaft and a lady in full Salvation Army uniform at whose wedding Evans had been best man. Former Tory MP Edwina Curry, a friend for 30 years, also turned up during the final stages of the trial and told anyone who would listen how certain she was of his innocence. "I just don't think he's capable of it," she said. "Sometimes he even struggles keeping the MPs in line in the house - it's just not the sort. What he is is a superb MP and a public servant of the finest order."

3.54pm BST

Here is the statement from Detective Superintendent Ian Critchley of Lancashire Police about the Nigel Evans investigation.

Essentially, he defended the decision to prosecute - and implied that the same decision would have been taken again.

Firstly let me say that I entirely respect the verdicts reached by the jury today and I thank them for considering these matters so carefully.

I would like to particularly thank the complainants and many witnesses that have provided evidence to the court. I know that it has been difficult and challenging for many of them to do so given the circumstance that have been investigated.

3.36pm BST

Detective Superintendent Ian Critchley of Lancashire Police has just made a statement outside the court about the case.

He said the police respected the decision of the jury, and that there were careful discussions before this case was taken to court.

3.32pm BST

And Tory MPs are starting to demand that Nigel Evans has the whip restored.

The Conservative whip should now be restored to Nigel Evans

WONDERFUL news that Nigel Evans has been acquitted on all counts. The Party Whip must now be restored to him without delay!

3.29pm BST

More on the trial, from Newsnight and LBC.

1 of alleged victims in Evans' case tells me he told police all along he wasn't victim of crime but he says parliament has to act on culture

Friend/flatmate Brian Binley MP tells @LBC that Nigel Evans has spent £200,000 on his defence.

3.27pm BST

Nigel Evans started his statement by thanking his legal team and expressing his condolences to a juror whose father died during the trial. Then he went on:

As many of you know, I've gone through 11 months of hell. I've not been alone. Many have walked with me, including my team at Clitheroe and Westminster, my constituency association, my family, my friends, my constituents, and indeed many people who I don't even know have sent messages of support.

In my darkest and loneliest, there were only two, or one, set of footprints in the sand. And those of you of faith will know they weren't mine.

3.16pm BST

He says he has gone through 11 months of hell.

He has not been alone. Many have walked with him, including his team, his constituency association, his family, his friends, and many strangers too, who have sent messages of support.

3.13pm BST

Nigel Evans is speaking outside the court case now.

He starts by passing on his condolences to a juror whose father died during the trial.

3.13pm BST

The Labour MP Barry Sheerman has just been on BBC News discussing Nigel Evans. He said he had known Evans for many years, because he taught him at Swansea University.

His whole character led me to believe that [these charges were false]. He may have been a bit silly, and sometimes a bit stupid, but never malign. And I could not imagine him ever being violent. So his friends rallied round him. And we are delighted that he has been cleared of all charges.

3.08pm BST

Now the trial is over, the Press Association is about to report that a barrister friend of Nigel Evans has been referred to the attorney general after comments he made on his blog before the trial began.

Henry Hendron told the court he would also be reporting himself to the Bar Council after possibly jeopardising the trial process.

Red-faced Hendron made a contrite public apology to the judge on the first day of proceedings.

3.07pm BST

The Conservative MP Stephen Crabb, a Welsh Office minister, has issued this statement on Twitter.

So pleased for my friend Nigel Evans today. A good man. Horrid experience to go through.

3.04pm BST

My colleague Nicholas Watt has written a good profile of Nigel Evans. Here's an excerpt.

As the son of Swansea newsagents, Nigel Evans has always stood out in the modern Tory party. A friendly and wholly untribal figure with none of the airs and graces of more senior members of his party Evans has built up deep and enduring friendships in all parties at Westminster since his election as MP for Ribble Valley in 1992.

It was these friendships, ranging from William Hague on the right to the former National Union of Mineworkers official Kim Howells on the left, that explained his success in 2010 when Evans was elected as one of three deputy speakers in the House of Commons.

2.59pm BST

David Davis, the Tory MP and a former shadow home secretary, has called for an urgent overhaul of the way sexual offence prosecutions are prosecuted in the light of Nigel Evans' acquittal.

This case has highlighted serious concerns over how the police and the Crown Prosecution Service bring sexual offence cases to court. In particular we must now review the process whereby the police and the Crown Prosecution Service put together a large number of lesser, subsidiary cases in order to reinforce one serious case when prosecuting sexual offences.

It is clear from the way that this case proceeded that there is a risk of a serious injustice being done to an innocent man, and I would call on the Attorney General to urgently review this issue.

2.54pm BST

The Conservative party has issued a statement on the verdict.

We are very pleased Nigel Evans has been cleared of all charges after this very difficult time.

2.46pm BST

And here's the international development minister Alan Duncan on the verdict.

Delighted Nigel Evans has been cleared of all charges. We all wish him well.

2.43pm BST

Two more Conservatives have welcomed the verdict on Twitter.

And you can see the backlash against the Crown Prosecution Service already building up.

Surely prosecutors have questions to answer in Nigel Evans case, after Roach & Le Vell

Nigel Evans cleared on all counts. Lancashire Police and Crown Prosecution Service have some serious questions to answer

2.38pm BST

Here's the Guardian's background story explaining how the case against Nigel Evans fell apart.

And here's how it starts.

The prosecution case against Nigel Evans, the former Commons deputy speaker, began to fall apart as soon as his accusers entered the witness box. One by one, the young men trooped into Preston crown court and said they did not consider themselves victims of any criminal offence, nor had they wanted to complain to police.

The MP for Ribble Valley, in Lancashire, was an "all-round good egg", said one of the men. Others suggested they felt pressured by police into appearing as alleged victims in the high-profile trial. In testimony that would be echoed as the trial progressed, the first alleged victim described an encounter with the MP as a case of "drunken over-familiarity" rather than anything more sinister.

2.37pm BST

Here are two MPs offering their support to Nigel Evans on Twitter.

From Labour's Austin Mitchell

Evans case.There is some justice.Well not done Nigel.Happy for you

Really pleased for Nigel Evans, now cleared on all charges #justice

2.34pm BST

Here's the Press Association story on Nigel Evans' acquittal.

Former Commons deputy speaker Nigel Evans has been cleared of committing nine sexual offences against seven young men.

A jury at Preston Crown Court found Evans, 56, not guilty of one count of rape, five sexual assaults, one attempted sexual assault and two indecent assaults.

2.33pm BST

More from the court.

Evans was led from the dock in tears as local supporters and friends in the gallery erupted into cheers: http://t.co/DFng4Y42ib

2.33pm BST

And this is from David Skelton, who runs Renewal, a Tory pressure group trying to expand the party's appeal in the north.

Nigel Evans found not guilty on every charge. Justice has been done. How on earth did this end up in court?

2.32pm BST

This is from Iain Dale, the broadcaster and publisher and former Tory candidate.

Couldn't be happier to hear that Nigel Evans has been cleared. I'm wondering what charges can be laid at the door of the disgraceful CPS.

2.30pm BST

Jury being brought back into court in Nigel Evans trial after four and half hours deliberating, excluding lunch break

2.25pm BST

Nigel Evans has been found not guilty of all nine sexual assault charges he faced, the BBC is reporting.

1.51pm BST

Yvette Cooper's announcement that Labour would toughen the law governing the exploitation of migrant labour has received a mixed response from the CBI, the business organisation. In a statement, Neil Carberry, the CBI's director of employment and skills, expressed concerns that Cooper's plan could increase labour market regulation. But he welcomed other aspects of her speech.

Labours proposal to move away from a one-size-fits-all net migration target is a positive step. Its also right to ensure universities can bring students in for the duration of their courses, but this protection must also be available to temporary transfers of skilled company staff.

Businesses will engage with the consultation on the low-skilled labour market, but any action must be focussed on addressing areas of concern, not re-regulating a jobs market that is creating work.

Isn't the problem here that this decision is effectively a personal fiefdom of the home secretary and driven entirely by basic political motives?

She can and does ignore detailed representations by other ministers around government; she can and does ignore parliamentarians including a cross-party inquiry that I chaired last year; she can and does ignore the pleas of those who work with victims of torture, who say that she is exacerbating their trauma and forcing them into very severe poverty.

The truth is, no such proposal has been anywhere near a Party Conference and Federal Policy Committee. Danny talks to those groups but this policy has not been seen before; and when he appeared before the group that put forward a tax policy paper only last Autumn, he mentioned none of this."

The Lib Dems are the only party to have policy decided by democracy rather than media announcement. As the chair of the 2010 manifesto, Danny of all people should now know better and should set the record straight.

12.46pm BST

The Office for National Statistics has increased by nearly 350,000 its estimate for the number of migrants who have come to the UK over the last 10 years, according to the Press Association. It has filed this.

The net flow of migrants into the UK over the last decade was underestimated by nearly 350,000, statisticians have admitted.

A "substantial" number of citizens arriving in Britain from the eight countries that joined the European Union (EU) in 2004, including Poland, were missed.

12.24pm BST

Here are the main points from David Cameron's Radio Norfolk interview.

Cameron said that the government was proposing "a much tougher crackdown" on employers who exploit illegal immigrants. He said this would be the outcome of an announcement made yesterday putting the Home Office in charge of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and doubling the maximum fine for employing illegal immigrants.

We are also going to coordinate a much tougher crackdown. The Gangmasters Licensing Authority does do a good job at stamping out exploitation in this area. I'm putting it into the Home Office so that it can work alongside the National Crime Agency, which is the national body that can bring together all the latest technology and policing expertise, to really make sure when we find gangmasters behaving wrongly, or exploitation taking place, or cases of what I would call modern slavery, we absolutely crack down on it. I don't want to see this in our country.

In terms of money available from the European Union, you tend to find with some of these funds that every penny you take out of it, you have to put a penny back into it, so it does not actually save you any money.

There is no opposition that worries me. What worries me is people being apathetic and thinking you can't change things in Europe. You can.

11.58am BST

Q: How concerned are you about Norfolk. Are you worried about losing Norwich North at the election?

Cameron says he tries to pay attention to every area. Norwich has benefited from a city deal, he says.

11.44am BST

Q: What is happening about compensation for those affected by the flooding?

Cameron says he has just come out of a meeting about this. The government wants to encourage people to apply for the compensation available.

11.40am BST

Q: Eric Pickles has been criticised for delaying a decision on an incinerator at King's Lynn. Will compensation be available?

Cameron says if the government had taken a decision soon, it would have been subject to judicial review.

11.38am BST

Q: How do you counter apathy?

Cameron says he will persuade them that Europe matters. People do not realise that things can changed. Engagement and action and reform are what is required, he says.

11.38am BST

Louise Priest is interviewing David Cameron.

Q: Are you talking to us because of the Ukip threat?

11.31am BST

David Cameron is being interviewed on Radio Norfolk shortly.

You can hear it here.

11.14am BST

Here are the main points from Yvette Cooper's immigration speech.

Cooper said Labour would toughen the law governing the exploitation of migrant labour.

Take the case of the young Eastern Europeans forced to work for days at a time on chicken farms in filthy conditions without a bed, shower or proper food. Paid only by the number of chickens they caught, they worked through the nights and were forced to sleep through the day on a mini bus as they were driven round the country.

The Gangmasters Licensing Authority discovered it and described their treatment as disgraceful.

Currently EU citizens who are guilty of assault, burglary or robbery but arent imprisoned for more than a year are not deported.

A Labour government would change those rules, so that if new arrivals commit crime they shouldnt expect to be able to stay.

The reactionary conservative approach doesnt work. It says all immigration is bad.

It ramps up the rhetoric, raises false promises and expectations, undermines trust and confidence, and creates division and hostility ...

There can be no doubt this small island off the north-west coast off continental Europe could not have contributed so much to the world, from the English language to the Internet, without the contribution of immigrants.

10.35am BST

Here's the full text of Yvette Cooper's immigration speech.

I'lll post a summary of it soon.

10.12am BST

You can read all todays Guardian politics stories here. And all the politics stories filed yesterday, including some in todays paper, are here.

As for the rest of the papers, heres the PoliticsHome list of top 10 must-reads, heres the ConservativeHome round-up of the politics stories in todays papers and heres the New Statesmans list of top 10 comment articles.

George Osborne, the chancellor, and Lynton Crosby, his election supremo, made clear their anger at the damage being done to the Conservatives by the prime ministers staunch defence of his culture secretary, sealing Mrs Millers fate.

I should declare my own interest. Ive known Sajid for 25 years. I can even remember when he had hair. Ive forgotten how many Star Trek movies weve watched together, although mentioning that might not endear him to the artistic elites who will be wondering about their new ministers cultural hinterland.

We were in the Exeter University Conservative Association at the end of the 1980s. I remember him going to Tory conference to protest at the Thatcher governments decision to join the ERM. He handed out leaflets describing the decision as a fatal economic mistake. He was more Thatcherite than Margaret Thatcher and the Black Wednesday experience vindicated his judgment.

Im told the main reason Whitehall is holding back is that the Government fears any contingency planning could leak, giving Alex Salmond and the Nationalists the chance to claim that Westminster is preparing for defeat. Yet this is to put the needs of spin above common sense and good government. Surely we cannot be left to wake up on the day after the September referendum to find that the Scots have voted for independence and nobody in London knows what to do next.

Leaving aside the possibility of turmoil in the markets, there would be a whole series of issues to address, including sharing out the national debt, the future of the nuclear deterrent, the currency, Scotlands membership of Europe and what would happen to the 2015 general election. Would it be delayed a couple of years until after full Scottish independence? Not as easy as you might think. The one thing the Commons cannot do is prolong its own existence. Under the Parliament Act it must have the agreement of the Lords.

9.49am BST

This time last week, after the debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage, David Cameron went on television to accuse both of them of having an extreme position on Europe.

This afternoon Cameron is going to elaborate on that. The Conservatives have released extracts from the speech he will make in Manchester at the launch of the party's European election campaign, and he will argue that Labour and the Lib Dems on one side, and Ukip on the other, are in rival "extremist camps" over Europe.

If you want real change in Europe, you have got to vote Conservative.

Looking at the other parties, there are effectively two extremist camps.

9.24am BST

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, was on the Today programme this morning ahead of her speech. She confirmed that Labour would introduce criminal offences to deal with employers who use migrant labour to undercut local wages. (See 8.48am.) And here are some of the other points she made.

Cooper claimed that the government's policies were creating "the worst of all worlds" on immigration.

They set a big net migration target and instead of being able to meet it, in fact those numbers are going up and public concern is rising, but youve also got problems with illegal immigration getting worse and at the same time weve got fewer university students coming from overseas who bring billions to this country. So were in danger at the moment of having the worst of all worlds.

Theres a huge amount of abuse around these temporary student visitor visas; there should be a big clampdown on that.

We said over a year ago that there should be stronger restrictions, that people shouldnt be able to claim benefits when they first arrive from Europe. I think thats the right thing to do. I actually think we should go further and not have a system where things like child benefit and child tax credit can be claimed for those who live abroad thats not fair on the system.

9.01am BST

For the record, here are today's YouGov GB polling figures.

Labour: 36% (down 1 point from YouGov yesterday)

8.48am BST

There's no Call Clegg this morning. I trust you'll all be able to contain your disappointment.

But we have got a major speech from Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, on immigration. As Patrick Wintour reports in today's Guardian, Cooper will say that exploiting migrant workers in a bid to undercut wages would be a criminal offence under Labour.

The exploitation of migrant workers in an attempt to undercut wages would be made a criminal offence under a Labour government, the shadow home secretary will say. Yvette Cooper will also propose minimum custodial sentences for wholesale employment of illegal immigrants.

The measures are designed to reassure British workers that immigrant labour will not undercut their wages but the specific proposal is legally fraught since employers will be concerned that it could give the state greater control over the setting of wages in the private sector above and beyond the minimum wage.

Continue reading...

Maria Miller resigns: Politics live blog

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 13:07

Miller's post-resignation interview - Summary and analysis

My PMQs verdict

Lunchtime summary

Afternoon summary

5.09pm BST

David Cameron has been accused of reneging on his pledge to boost female representation in government. Following the resignation of Maria Miller, and today's mini-reshuffle, the Counting Women In coalition (which comprises the Electoral Reform Society, the Centre for Women in Democracy, the Hansard Society, the Fawcett Society and Unlock Democracy) said the proportion of women in cabinet had fallen to 13.6%, a 15-year low. Nan Sloane, director of the Centre for Women in Democracy, said:

Despite his pre-election pledge to make a third of his Ministerial list female, the prime minister is now running the country with a Cabinet that's almost 90% male.

The number of women in Cabinet is now at its lowest level since 1997, more than 15 years ago.

In the public mind, if you don't have voting rights you're somehow not a full member and I do think there's a case for saying - and there's possibly also a case for saying there should be more lay members - there should be a debate here. But in the public mind, this is something which doesn't look or feel right. And I think that it is at least the beginnings of a step.

I think there other, a whole number of steps, that parliament has to consider. There are general issues about the ethical awareness, right across the public sector and I think we need more alertness, more self-consciousness about these issues and we should be having a public debate about that as well.

4.46pm BST

Here's a reshuffle reading list.

Iain Martin at the Telegraph says Cameron is losing touch with public opinion.

In opposition, Andy Coulson was Cameron's best barometer in such matters. Although his advice wasn't always followed, he did as Cameron's director of communications have a good sense of public opinion and the direction of a story. Coulson was never really replaced and there do not seem to be many people in Cameron's inner circle prepared to stick it to him when necessary. Leaders make mistakes when they are insufficiently challenged.

Eventually the restrictions and flummery of office must have an impact on how a leader sees the outside world. Cameron was, as opposition leader, able to travel around the country talking to people much more freely than he can now. This is not a personal criticism of Cameron, just an observation that all those filtered lines of people meeting and greeting the PM must after a while give a leader a very strange and unrealistic perspective.

Women succeed in Government by being studiously loyal and rarely putting their head above the parapet. Having a wild interest in amphibians or a quirky fascination with bird-watching (as characterful male politicians like Ken Livingstone and Ken Clarke do respectively) seemingly isnt the way to the top.

I wondered how Ed Miliband would manage to make a mess of Prime Ministers Questions, after David Cameron hung on to an unpopular Cabinet minister for six days and finally let her go. Actually, it was a harder job than it looked. Maria Miller had gone. The boil had been lanced. The rage of the people against politicians had nowhere to go, and Miliband could not be its channeller.

Indeed, it was trickier even than that, because, as someone briefing the Prime Minister had noticed, Miliband had refused to call for Millers resignation the day before. I'm not calling for that today, he had said. Perhaps he had been intending to call for it at PMQs, in which case that will teach him to put off until tomorrow what he could do today.

4.32pm BST

Here's Sajid Javid meeting his new permanent secretary at the Department for Culture.

Perm sec Sue Owen welcomes our new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport @sajidjavid at DCMS HQ. pic.twitter.com/K5t2gbSHpt

4.19pm BST

Here are the main points from the afternoon lobby briefing.

Downing Street said Nicky Morgan, the new minister for women, will report directly to the prime minister in this role. She will not report to Sajid Javid, the culture secretary and minister for equalities. The notion of the minister for women having a man as a departmental boss was generating some criticism. (See 1.10pm.) But that was based on a mistake in the briefing given to journalists, the spokesman said. However, the spokesman could not say who would take the lead on an issue covering women and equalities, such as equal pay. The spokesman said it was not unusual for such overlaps to occur.

It is not uncommon across government for their to be different areas of overlap. Ministers work together on these in all sorts of areas of government.

4.07pm BST

The Number 10 lobby briefing is over.

The prime minister's spokesman says that, as minister for women, Nicky Morgan will report directly to the prime minister. She will not report to Sajid Javid, the culture secretary and minister for equalities. It was a mistake that that was not made clear at an earlier briefing (see 1.10pm), the spokesman said.

3.42pm BST

The Labour MP John Mann is also urging Maria Miller to decline here £17,000 pay off. (See 3.20pm.)

It is a ridiculous and outdated practice to pay off ministers when they return to the backbenches. In light of Maria Miller's conduct, it would now be inappropriate for her to claim severance pay following her resignation. For her to accept a payoff would be a further insult to the taxpayer.

I am also repeating my call for ministers' severance pay to be scrapped, and hope that more MPs will support my resolution.

3.35pm BST

Here are some more blogs on PMQs.

Isabel Hardman at Coffee House says it was bad for David Cameron and Ed Miliband.

In spite of the PM flailing, in spite of the messy briefing over whether an emissary from Number 10 was indeed sent to at least suggest to Maria Miller that she should think about stepping down (Number 10 will only say that this was her own decision and sources evasiveness in dealing with this question tells us everything we need to know about the answer), and in spite of the mess that this has provided the Opposition to feast on, it doesnt benefit Ed Miliband. Punching the expenses bruise hurts all parliamentary parties, not just the Tories. It benefits Ukip, not Labour.

This could have been an excruciating PMQs for Cameron: the day when the many people who deeply dislike him rejoiced to see him humiliated. But although Cameron sounded resentful, he did not look like a Prime Minister whose authority has been shot to pieces. How fortunate for him that Miliband is the Leader of the Opposition. Tony Blair would have had a field day.

3.29pm BST

Ladbrokes have now got Sajid Javid on 33/1 to be the next leader of the Conservative party. He was on 40/1.

I'm not a betting man myself, but that's probably quite good value. They could be under-rating his chances.

3.21pm BST

Here's the Guardian video of PMQs.

3.20pm BST

Ministers who resign are entitled to a pay off worth about £17,000.

Left Unity, the new party of the left, is probably not the only body that thinks Maria Miller should refuse this. But it is the only one to have sent me a press release. This is from Left Unity's Bianca Todd.

Theres no way Maria Miller should get a £17,000 payoff. That would be an incredible slap in the face for everyone in Britain and would stoke peoples anger about politicians further.

2.53pm BST

Gloria De Piero, the shadow minister for equalities and women, has written to David Cameron asking him to clarify various aspects of Nicky Morgan's new role as minister for women.

Here's the text.

Dear Prime Minister,

Following today's announcement that Nicky Morgan MP will be replacing Mrs Miller as Minister for Women in an 'attending Cabinet' role and Sajid Javid MP will be responsible for Equalities as Secretary of State for Culture I write to ask clarification on the following points:

2.49pm BST

Juliette Garside, the Guardian's telecoms correspondent, has summed up some of the issued in Sajid Javid's in-tray as the new culture secretary.

Top of Sajid Javid's intray on the telecoms side will keeping the rural broadband project on track. While the cost is modest compared with the billions being spent on rail with HS2, the government funded plan to plug remote villages into the world wide web could arguably do more for the economy. But it has come under fire from Margaret Hodge's public accounts committee for handing all the contracts to BT, and from rural campaigners for delays and lack of ambition. Olympic games organiser Chris Townsend has been brought in to DCMS to turn things around, but he will need Javid's backing to ensure the government gets its money's worth from BT.

Javid, like his predecessor, will need to maintain a careful balancing act between policing and enfranchising the web. Under Miller, broadband providers agreed to offer all new customers the choice of using a filter for pornography and other unsavoury content. Miller also acted on child pornography, but there has been talk, from David Cameron himself, of action against websites publishing extremist content. Operating a blacklist of extremist material will not sit comfortably with broadband providers.

2.21pm BST

David Cameron has offered cross-party talks on the future of regulation of MPs following the resignation of Maria Miller as culture secretary. Speaking at PMQs, he said he understood that the public was still very angry about MPs' expenses.

The biggest lesson I learned is that that that anger is still very raw and it needs to be acted on.

If it had happened in any other business, there would have been no question about her staying in her job. Why were you the last person in the country to realise her position was untenable?

You seem to be, in my view ,the first Leader of the Opposition, probably in history, to come to this House and make the first suggestion that someone should resign after they have already resigned ...

I have to say, it is rather extraordinary for you to now come here, having not said that she should have resigned, and now saying she should have resigned. I think it shows all the signs of someone seeing a political bandwagon and wanting to jump on it. You are jumping on this bandwagon after the whole circus has left town.

I hope that one lesson that won't be learned is that the right thing to do as soon as someone has to answer allegations is just to instantly remove them, rather than give them a chance to clear their name and get on with their job.

If people clear themselves of a serious offence, you let them get on with their job, you let them try to do their job. That is actually the right thing to do. Firing someone at the first sign of trouble, that is not actually leadership, that is weakness.

David Cameron's decision to replace Maria Miller with Sajid Javid means that there is now no full member of the cabinet speaking for women. There are now just three women running Government departments out of a possible 22, demonstrating that when it comes to women, it's out of sight, out of mind for this out-of-touch government.

It is unfortunate that the new Minister for Women opposes the rights of some women, lesbians, to have the right to marry. I hope that in her new role, Nicky Morgan will represent all women regardless of the gender of the person they love.

Andrea Leadsom MP is the new Economic Secretary to the Treasury.

1.54pm BST

My colleague Rowena Mason has a good article about Maria Miller's eight political mistake.

(I'm impressed that Rowena has missed the temptation to bump it up to 10.)

1.51pm BST

And here are two blogs with a verdict on PMQs.

George Eaton at the Staggers says Ed Miliband beat David Cameron, but that Miliband missed an opportunity.

Yet while he got the better of the PM in the House, Miliband missed the chance to seize the initiative and make a wider case for reform. As he noted, the Miller affair has "undermined trust not only in his government, but in politics". If any party benefits from the row, it will likely be UKIP, an outfit without a single MP. But it was Cameron, not Miliband, who raised the prospect of cross-party talks on reforming the system. Had Miliband been bolder, he would have demanded an end to the right of MPs to police their own expenses through the discredited standards committee and the introduction of a right to recall (perhaps noting that one Maria Miller signed a letter in support of the proposal in 2008) for miscreants. By focusing on needling Cameron, he missed the chance to offer answers to the crisis of trust in all parties.

Did you ask her to resign Prime Minister? Was she asked to go Prime Minister? Did you sack her Prime Minister?

Unfortunately, it was not Ed Miliband who had pushed this point, and forced non-denials from the PM, it was those sat behind him. Miliband had instead sought to ask what on earth had taken so long, whilst accepting that he had at no stage called for Miller to go. There are reasons for such an approach as I outlined this morning but that didnt make it any easier for Miliband. It did, however, lead to the only significant trading of zingers across the dispatch box this year. Whilst cameron believed Miliband to be the first person to call for someone to be sacked after theyd gone, Miliband snapped back that he was surprised it was now his responsibility to sack Camerons Ministers. Advantage seemed set to swing towards Miliband.

1.36pm BST

And here is what journalists are saying about PMQs.

Verdicts are mixed.

Miliband is in serious danger of losing this mini-battle. He certainly ain't won it. #PMQs #Miller

Ed Miliband has been reasonably impressive in PMQs this year, but he faced an open goal today and, honestly, failed to score.

Cameron shows strong, principled leadership in not instantly sacking a minister and at PMQs daring to defend integrity of this Parliament.

A bad week for @David_Cameron just got worse - our #PMQs verdict hands @Ed_Miliband a 5-1 win http://t.co/ItoQL3JSqm pic.twitter.com/mnoIenjZn9

Not sure Cameron handled that very well. But EdMili had an open goal - and I don't think he hit the back of the net #pmqs

EdM good at #PMQs today. Cam promised to be an apostle for better standards, became apologist for unacceptable behaviour.

But Cam better. Firing someone at the first sign of trouble is not leadership it's weakness. #PMQs

Esther McVey standing at Bar of House for PMQs. Dressed all in black. Looks a little disappointed. Don't worry, Esther. Promotion will come!

Best EdM comeback in a while at PMQs :"It's my job to fire ministers in his Cabinet?". Even Tory Mps looked uneasy at that one

New Culture Secretary @sajidjavid on the front bench - a few seats down from PM #pmqs

Cameron just about avoids saying Miller did nothing wrong #pmqs I'm told Osborne had a major role in Miller going and choosing replacement

As ever, hard to think of a worse advert for British democracy than this atrocious willy-waving. #PMQs

Cameron accusing Miliband of playing politics over Miller takes the biscuit. Both do that every day :-) #pmqs

Judging by the tone of these exchanges, cross-party talks aren't going to get very far. #pmqs

Problem for Ed Miliband is that it took him over 5 days to speak publicly about Maria Miller #pmqs

Cameron has dodged question of whether an 'emissary' told Maria Miller the game was up several times now #pmqs

1.12pm BST

Labour says the party was calling for Maria Miller to resign last week.

Labour says PM has got his facts wrong on call for Miller to go. Frontbencher Thomas Docherty called for her to go on Friday.

1.10pm BST

The appointment of Nicky Morgan is coming under fire.

Nicky Morgan's appointment means the Women's Minister will have a male boss (Sajid Javid) for the 1st time (ht @nicholaswatt). Oops.

The government now has an Equalities Minister (Nicky Morgan) who voted against equal marriage. They still can't even do the political basics

Why Nicky Morgan is minister for women (but not equalities) PM spokesman says there's been a 'beefing up of responsibilities in this area'

12.57pm BST

PMQs Verdict: On Twitter I've seen at least one post suggesting that Ed Miliband faced an open goal and missed it. For reasons I set out at 11.53am, actually he faced a rather tricky challenge. That explains why David Cameron was able to see him off.

Miliband devoted all six of his questions to the Miller affair. He started with an open question about the lessons Cameron has learnt from the affair, but then he focused on attacking Cameron for his decision to support Miller after the report came out last week. Predictably, Cameron said Miliband himself was not calling for Miller to resign. Miliband had a smart reply:

Ive heard everything its my job to fire members of his cabinet.

I think it shows all the signs of someone seeing a political bandwagon and wanting to jump on it. You are jumping on this bandwagon after the whole circus has left town.

12.40pm BST

Andrea Leadsom is being appointed to the Treasury to replace Nicky Morgan, according to Mark Garnier.

Absolutely fantastic news Andrea Leadsome is promoted to the Treasury. Well deserved: long overdue!

12.37pm BST

At PMQs David Cameron refused to deny that pressure was put on Maria Miller to resign.

On the Daily Politics just now Grant Shapps, the Conservative chairman, told Andrew Neil that his understanding was that no one went to see Miller to tell her she should go.

12.33pm BST

David Nuttall says Cameron should read the winner of the IEA's Brexit competition. Will he accept that should be part of the long-term economic plan?

Cameron says he disagrees with Nuttall on this. But he will consider the IEA pamphlet for his holiday reading, alongside Nadine Dorries's new novel.

12.31pm BST

The Plaid Cymru MP Elfyn Llwyd says the scheme to safeguard those who have lost legal aid is not working.

Cameron says the legal aid system is more generous than in other countries. It needs to be reformed.

12.30pm BST

Labour's David Lammy says one of his constituents was shot five years ago outside a barracks in Northern Ireland. His family are still awaiting justice.

Cameron says this was a dreadful case. In 2015 consideration will be given as to whether to renew the use of Diplock courts in Northern Ireland for terrorist cases.

12.28pm BST

Alun Cairns, a Conservative, asks about the impact of longer NHS waiting times on soldiers in Wales.

Cameron says the NHS budget has been cut by 8% in Wales. Waiting targets are not being med. There is a "truly dreadful record" when it comes to the NHS in Labour-run Wales, he says.

12.27pm BST

Labour's Jenny Chapman asks if any members of the cabinet asked Miller to resign.

Cameron says Miller explained her decision in a letter. It was her decision.

12.25pm BST

Mark Pritchard, a Conservative, asks if Cameron supports reducing the abortion limit to 22 weeks.

Cameron says he has made his views clear in the past. MPs have had a chance to vote recently.

12.24pm BST

Labour's Paul Flynn says more than 2,000 jobs have been lost, including more than 500 in his Newport constituency, because of "vulture" capitalists buying firms and closing them.

Cameron says he will look at this case. But, overall, employment is growing, he says.

12.23pm BST

Mike Thornton, the Lib Dem MP, asks about the ethnic cleansing of a community in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Cameron says the UK wants Afghanistan to be multi-ethnic.

12.22pm BST

Jason McCartney, a Conservative, asks Cameron to congratulate all those MPs running in the London marathon.

Cameron says he is full of admiration. He could not manage 26 miles himself, he says.

12.21pm BST

Naomi Long, the Alliance MP, asks Cameron to condemn those involved in the "politics of fear" in Northern Ireland.

Cameron says anyone who believes that change is not possible in Northern Ireland would have been surprised to see Martin McGuinness toasting the Queen last night at the Windsor Castle banquet.

12.19pm BST

James Morris, a Conservative, asks about investing in skills.

Cameron says there are now 1.6m apprenticeships starts. The government is on target for its goal of 2m.

12.19pm BST

Cameron says universal credit will stop people facing marginal tax rates of more than 100%.

12.18pm BST

Rehman Chishti asks if Cameron will push for reforms of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan.

Cameron says he will raise that with the Pakistani prime minister when he visits the UK.

12.17pm BST

Simon Danzcuk, a Labour MP, asks about a "solicitor from hell" in his constituency. Will Cameron investigate?

Cameron says the legal regulators are independent of government. He will arrange for a meeting with a justice minister.

12.16pm BST

John Glen, a Conservative, asks about youth unemployment.

Cameron says the long-term youth claimant count has come down by 37% in the last year.

12.15pm BST

Labour's Andy Slaughter asks if Cameron, or any of his staff, asked Miller to resign.

Cameron says Miller set out her reasons for resigning in a letter today. He has already set out his attitude to allowing colleagues to get on with their jobs.

12.14pm BST

Cameron says he wants to see more women in science.

12.13pm BST

Snap PMQs Verdict: Cameron got the better of Miliband because the Miliband charge about Cameron not "getting it" did not stick but Cameron's claim about Miliband being opportunistic did.

12.10pm BST

Miliband says the public expect higher standards.

Cameron says this is transparent. Miliband came her determined to play politics. Since 2010 a lot of changes have been made. But there is more to do. If Miliband is serious, he will sit down with other leaders and discuss ways of showing this is a good and honest parliament.

12.08pm BST

Miliband says it will be unclear to the public why she resigned. Yet she refused to cooperate with the inquiry, and she refused to give a proper apology. Supporting here was a terrible error of judgement.

Cameron asks, if that was the case, why didn't Miliband ask for her to resign? Miliband must be the first leader of the opposition to demand a resignation after it has taken place.

12.04pm BST

Ed Miliband says the events of the last week have angered the public. What lessons has the PM learnt?

Cameron says he agrees there is still deep concern. That anger needs to be acted upon. He hopes that the lesson that won't be learnt will be that, if someone is in toruble, you should just remove them.

12.02pm BST

Tracey Crouch, a Conservative, asks about the dementia strategy. Will it be extended?

Yes, says Cameron.

12.01pm BST

Labour's Nia Griffith says Cameron promised to reduce net annual migration to the UK to below 100,000. Will that be met?

Cameron says he has got it down by around one fifth.

11.59am BST

Obviously a memo has gone out to make sure there are plenty of women on Tory frontbench for #pmqs to try & hide Cameron's problem with women

11.58am BST

Cheers, jeers & murmurs for David Cameron as he enters chamber for PMQs. Immediately puts specs on & studies his notes. As well he might!

11.53am BST

PMQs is starting in about 10 minutes.

Ministerial resignations are normally seen as very negative events for a government. And they are. But they also have the effect of "lancing the boil" and it won't necessarily be easy for Ed Miliband to exploit it at PMQs. He has three options. But they are all problematic.

There are few in the Labour leader's office that think the misjudgments by Downing Street will leave them the beneficiary. The Miliband office was uncertain about whether to call for Miller resignation, not because they had any doubt she should go, but because they felt the only beneficiaries of the public anger were the anti-politicians.

11.41am BST

Simon Tait at the Guardian's Cultural Professions Network has written a post on the impact that Maria Miller had on arts and culture.

His verdict? It was minimal.

Will she be missed? Er, not really, either in or out of DCMS. Although she has kept the damage to subsidy to a minimum after the depredations of her predecessor, it has been noted that throughout the whole of Derry-Londonderry's year as the first UK city of culture in 2013, the culture secretary couldn't find the time to visit the city once. She was attacked in the press for underperforming and in the Daily Mail Quentin Letts found her convicted of the worst of political crimes, that of being boring.

11.36am BST

This is not untrue.

In politics resign is a transitive verb, as in: 'David Cameron resigned Maria Miller.'

11.34am BST

Here is some reaction to Sajid Javid's appointment from Tories.

Great news as Sajid Javid goes into Cabinet. A New Model Conservative for our times whose done great work at Treasury.

: @sajidjavid - congratulations and well deserved.....

Congratulations to @sajidjavid on his promotion to the cabinet. An intelligent man who proved as FST that he has real political talent.

The son of a bus driver, comp school educated, and hugely impressive @sajidjavid promotion means now 2 muslims around the Cabinet table.

Delighted @sajidjavid has been made Culture Secretary - he will bring a huge amount to the job and to the cabinet table

Great promotions for the exceptional @sajidjavid and @NickyMorgan01 - spot on choices

11.29am BST

My colleague Nicholas Watt points out that the reshuffle has George Osborne's fingerprints all over it.

PM would have called @George_Osborne + said I have a problem. GO would have said I have an answer - @sajidjavid + @NickyMorgan01

11.22am BST

Sajid Javid has an interesting essay about his background in this set of essays published by Renewal, the group campaigning to widen the Conservative party's appeal to northern and working-class voters.

And a great piece by newest Cabinet minister @sajidjavid the archetype of the British Dream http://t.co/bDgtnoQlMQ

Terrific pic of a schoolboy Sajid Javid in set of essays penned by working-class Tories published today by Renewal pic.twitter.com/GxxRmAGJ59

Abdul-Ghani Javid (or, as he was known to me,Dad) arrived in the UK in 1961 at 23 years of age. His family lost everything during the partition of India and their move to Pakistan, so my fathers motivation was quite simple he wanted to work in Britain and provide the means for his brothers back in Pakistan to be educated.

Disembarking at Heathrow with a £1 note in his pocket (which his father, touchingly but mistakenly, had said would see him through his first month in the UK), my father made his way up north and found a job in a Rochdale cotton mill.

11.14am BST

My Bloomberg colleague Rob Hutton has a wonderful fact about Sajid Javid.

Sajid Javid, 1st member of 2010 intake to reach Cabinet, took estimated 98% pay cut to enter politics. Interview: http://t.co/ktoqYX7zlB

11.10am BST

Nicky Morgan, a Treasury minister, will move up to take over Sajid Javid's post.

And she will also attend cabinet as minister for women.

Nicky Morgan MP is the new Financial Secretary to the Treasury. She'll also be Minister for Women and will attend Cabinet in that role.

11.07am BST

Nigel Farage is not standing as Ukip's candidate in Basingstoke. Patrick O'Flynn, Ukip's communications director, has clarifed that in the light of his earlier tweet. (See 10.06am.)

@AndrewSparrow Basingstoke PPC is a local businessman named Alan Stone (chk spell) being unveiled tonight as in introduced to the public.

11.03am BST

Here's a quick Sajid Javid reading list.

A Simon Walters interview in last month's Mail on Sunday

As the attendant press officers urge us to wind things up, I ask Javid where he sees his career ending up. He responds by musing about his retirement. He says that when hes sitting on the porch in a rocking chair, he wants to know that hes done everything he can to try and help my country give those opportunities that I have had to other generations. Where that means I go between now and my late seventies, I dont know. But thats what I want to feel that Ive achieved. In other words: he knows precisely where that means he needs to go, but is too savvy to say.

Javid could have earned millions had he stayed in the career where he was doing so well he was in Singapore running Deutsche Banks credit trading division when he decided to go into politics. And why? Because he was mindful of the opportunities he enjoyed, and felt he had a duty to something to help more people enjoy these opportunities.

10.53am BST

Sajid Javid is the new culture secretary.

Sajid Javid MP is the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media, Sport and Equalities.

10.48am BST

Here is a summary of the main points in Maria Miller's post-resignation interview.

Miller played down, but did not not deny outright, the suggestion that she was forced out by Downing Street. Asked if it was her decision to resign, or whether she was pushed, she said:

I take full responsibility for my decision to resign. I think it's the right thing to do.

I take full responsibility for the situation. I fully accept the findings in the parliamentary standards report. This is about that.

I have made it clear, and apologised unreservedly to the House of Commons, and made sure that it was clear to everybody that I took full responsibility for those findings.

This has been a really difficult 16 month. Because I was cleared of the central allegation made about me by a Labour member of parliament I hoped that I could stay. And it has become clear to me over the last few days that this this has become an enormous distraction and it's not right that I'm distracting from the incredible achievements of this government.

10.24am BST

Here's the Maria Miller interview.

It was a pooled interview with Sky's Sophy Ridge.

10.17am BST

Maria Miller has been giving an interview. The Press Association has snapped this line from it.

Maria Miller today said she took "full responsibility" for her decision to resign as Culture Secretary, adding that she was standing down to avoid becoming a "distraction" from the achievements of the government.

10.15am BST

At an event this morning Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, was asked about Maria Miller's resignation. He would not comment on that, but he did say her replacement should be "somebody who can articulate why the cultural institutions are such a central part of what Britain means to itself and to the world. That the British institutions are such an extraordinary part of our national identity."

10.09am BST

And this is what Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, told LBC about the Miller affair.

In every political party, every company and perhaps most families, you get somebody that does things they ought not to do, and the question is how do you deal with it? I think throughout this whole Maria Miller saga, what we've seen is a Prime Minister, who clearly is totally disconnected with how the voters in Britain feel about MPs' expenses.

Let's not forget that taxpayers' money helped this woman to make a profit of £1m, it's a truly astonishing situation. To try and pretend that frankly she didn't really know where she lived simply isn't good enough, and I think had Cameron sacked her a week ago, people would have said 'right, Dave's taken control, he's showed us the kind of administration and the kind of regime that he wants in parliament'. The fact that it has been left her, a week on, to resign I think reflects very badly indeed.

10.06am BST

This is interesting.

UKIP meeting 8pm tonight in Old Basing Village Hall, Basingstoke. Our PPC will be unveiled and Nigel Farage will be the keynote speaker!

9.58am BST

According to Channel 4 News's political editor, Gary Gibbon, Maria Miller did not resign of her own accord. He explains what he's been told on his blog. Here's an excerpt.

There was a personal visit to Maria Miller last night in which someone close to the prime minister told her the game was up.

The decision was made late yesterday afternoon to get rid of her, a government source told me.

9.55am BST

There will now have to be substantial reform of the way MPs regulate their conduct, my colleague Patrick Wintour writes in an excellent analysis of the Maria Miller affair, and of how David Cameron got it "spectacularly wrong".

The standards committee, arguably the pre-eminent committee of parliament, also failed in its duty. It may have three lay members looking on, entitled to offer comment, but the committee's decision to overrule the findings of the parliamentary commissioner showed a sympathy to Miller that looked to an outsider like a smug club protecting one of its own.

That mistake will spell the end of self-regulation, regardless of the consequences for parliamentary privilege and the sovereignty of parliament. How this will be done, no one quite knows, but the issue can no longer be left to a procedure committee or a joint committee on parliamentary privilege, the only forums in which the issue has been discussed over the past two years.

9.26am BST

Here's a summary of today's events so far.

* David Cameron has said that he is "sad" about Maria Miller's decision to resign and that he hopes she will be able to serve on the government frontbench again in the future. Miller told Cameron late last night that she was resigning, having endured relentless criticism in the press since she responded to Commons standards committee report about her expenses on Thursday last week with a perfunctory, 32-second apology. Miller said she was resigning because her continuing presence in government was "a distraction". Neither Miller nor Cameron accepted, in the letters they released this morning, that Miller had done anything wrong.

It goes beyond simply a technical fix to this or that committee. The political class do need to recognise that the level of public feeling about these issues is still very raw. We do need to appreciate that and reflect on it.

My take on these things is that this is a judgment on the political class overall in Westminster and it is a warning to us to take these issues incredibly seriously and to recognise that there is a question of public trust in the political process and the capacity for politicians to police themselves which requires to be addressed. That seems to be the most important thing.

I would like to see David Cameron announce today at Prime Minister's Questions that that system is going to go immediately and there will be no more self-regulation of MPs by MPs.

8.59am BST

I have not seen many Conservative MPs defending Maria Miller on Twitter.

But this, from the planning minister Nick Boles, is warm and generous.

Through reasonable argument and calm persuasion Maria Miller made it possible for me and thousands like me to get married. Thank you Maria.

8.50am BST

Here's some more comment on Miller's resignation from journalists and commentators on Twitter.

Maria Miller QUITS - her resignation letter rather longer than the non-apology that cost her her job http://t.co/dWxdZX8BXj

The real reason Maria Miller thought it may be time to quit pic.twitter.com/t8Ej4olNYM

No wide reshuffle post Maria Miller today, Downing St sources say. Just replacements.

Was told yesterday that Craig Oliver was determined to face down media over Miller lest the media get the whip hand over government. Oops.

No tears in Derry/Londonderry for Maria Miller - the Culture Secretary who couldn't find time to visit the UK's first ever City of Culture.

WoooHooo. Gove works in "long-term economic plan" even while talking about Miller!!!

Very impressive Maria Miller mopping up job by Michael Gove on #r4today, and with almost zero notice. Conciliatory rather than angry.

Problem for #MariaMiller at election - thousands commute from Basingstoke to London every day and won't understand her 2nd pad in Wimbledon.

I don't think Maria Miller will be the Conservative candidate for Basingstoke at the general election. That would be UKIP GAIN.

Something quite strategically brilliant about the evident Tory ploy to make Miller's resignation not about them but about ALL MPs.

Maria Miller might be Ukip's most effective campaigner at the European elections

Strange timing on miller resignation - did PM really not know she was goner last night? Could have avoided a further negative news cycle

MIchael Gove sounding thoughtful, civilised and humane about Miller and public anger over expenses. #r4today

Newspapers more in touch with the public on Maria Miller than those attacking papers for criticising her expenses. End of

Maria Miller gets to keep practically all her dosh and knows she'll be back on the frontbench. More of a sabbatical than a resignation

8.46am BST

I mentioned some possible Maria Miller replacements earlier (see 8am), but Coffee House has now produced a more detailed list. It's is very thorough, even listing the number of Tory members of the government who are mothers (nine).

8.33am BST

Here's a statement from the Labour party about Maria Miller's resignation.

It is welcome that Maria Miller has finally done the right thing. By resigning she has recognised that the public expect and deserve the highest standards from politicians.

Labour said all along that you cannot have one rule for a Cabinet minister and one rule for everybody else.

8.30am BST

Nick Robinson says he has been told that yesterday afternoon David Cameron was preparing to defend Maria Miller at PMQs.

But, when he returned from the state dinner for the Irish president at Windsor Castle, he got a call from Maria Miller saying she would resign.

8.26am BST

Q: The commissioner says Miller should pay back £45,000. MPs said she should only pay back £5,000. That's wrong, isn't it.

Gove says he accepts that looks wrong. He could get into a discussion about how the system has changed. But the public need to know that politicians "get it". Nit-picking about the facts of this case does not give that impression.

8.22am BST

Q: Doesn't this show MPs still don't get it about expenses?

Gove says he thinks that's right. There are details about Miller's case; she was cleared, he says. But there is still a degree of public distrust about the political class.

8.20am BST

Q: Cameron showed, at best, indecisiveness, he says. He says Miller's apology, he saw the reaction, and yet he gave her his warm support. Doesn't this cast doubt on his judgment?

Gove says human decency is a virtue.

8.17am BST

Q: Have you spoken to the prime minister?

Very briefly this morning, Gove says. He says David Cameron said it was Miller's decision to resign. He is very loyal to his team, Gove says.

8.13am BST

John Humphrys is interviewing Michael Gove, the education secretary.

Q: Yesterday I imagine you thought you would be defending Maria Miller today.

8.09am BST

And her is some political reaction to Maria Miller's resignation.

Maria Miller resigned. Expenses HAVE to be abolished and recall introduced. Public has no stomach for reform the word expenses is toxic

Miller Resignation: Inevitable, sadly, from Monday, when the focus shifted to second home designation, profits on sale & CGT.

Maria Miller resigns. Inevitable. PMQ's would have been a bloodbath.

So much for the idea that PMQs is a pointless pantomime - striking how often resignations occur on Wednesdays #MariaMiller

Maria Miller thrown overboard. Cam's judgement looking disastrous.

8.06am BST

And Isabel Hardman has posted her verdict at Coffee House. Here's an excerpt.

As Miller says in her letter, the present situation has become a distraction from the vital work this Government is doing to turn our country around: yesterday the IMF upgraded the UKs growth forecast, but this further evidence that George Osborne had survived his own 364 economists moment was largely ignored .

8.04am BST

Fraser Nelson at Coffee House has written a powerful post describing the Maria Miller saga as a Tory shambles. Here's an excerpt.

The blame starts with the Prime Minister. He should need no telling about expenses scandals. Not so long ago, he dealt quickly and forcefully with Tory MPs who had been exposed by the Daily Telegraphs investigation in stark contrast with the stunned Gordon Brown. Now it seems it was Mr Camerons turn to see all this chiefly as a battle with the press, of resisting a witch-hunt, rather than as a simple matter of probity ...

Having chosen the fight, No10 seem to have had no plan for winning it. Normally, the drill is to line up Ministers and MPs who can go out to defend the embattled minister. No such arrangements were made. Ive spoken to MPs who have been stunned at the sheer disorder in No10, the utter absence of a political operation of the ability to even guess how all this would play out. The Cabinet has been noticeable by its silence aware of just how toxic it is to be seen defending someone found to have been on the hey-diddle-diddle. Normally, a Prime Minister either drops the minister or mounts a proper operation to defend the minister. In this case, neither happened.

8.00am BST

Here is some snap reaction to Maria Miller's resignation on Twitter from journalists and commentators.

So, the Maria Miller situation is resolved before PMQs

Maria Miller resigning to spend more time in her £1.2m Tudor barn leaves Cameron in the lurch. Her judgement better than his

Maria Miller resigns - but political damage now is greater than had she gone in the first place. Who now for Culture, Media and Sport?

It was survivable for Miller, but a difficult manner and badly judged apology did for her.

Maria Miller demise says a lot about power of backbench Tories. On Monday, No 10 said: "It is the PM to choose his Cabinet, not MPs."

There WILL be a statement from Maria Miller herself this morning before #pmqs

Attitude of Tory MPs in marginal seats was particularly important. And they were v unhappy at Maria Miller saga.

Spare a thought for Andrew Lansley - sent to Newsnight last night to make the government's case for Maria Miller. Beaten up for nothing.

Will smiling assassin Ester McVey win promotion after knifing Miller?

Big question today: would Maria Miller still be in her job had she spoke for more than a minute in Commons last week?

The Telegraph yesterday spoke to 23 MPs in the UK's most marginal seats - none backed Maria Miller to stay in her job.

John Peinaar tells us a more extensive re-shuffle is expected than merely replacing Maria Miller

7.48am BST

John Mann, the Labour MP who submitted the original complaint about Maria Miller, has just been on the Today programme. Here are the key points he made.

* Mann welcomed Miller's resignation. "About time too", he said.

7.36am BST

And here's David Cameron's reply.

Dear Maria,

Thank you for your letter. I was very sorry to receive it.

7.33am BST

Maria Miller, the culture secretary, has resigned.

Here's here letter to the prime minister.

Dear Prime Minister,

It is with great regret that I have decided that I should tender my resignation as a member of the Cabinet.

Continue reading...

Maria Miller - MPs' self-regulation system criticised: Politics live blog

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 11:58

Ed Miliband's speech - Summary

Report from lay members of the Commons standards committee - Summary

Lunchtime summary

Afternoon summary

4.11pm BST

Mary Macleod, Maria Miller's parliamentary private secretary, has accused the media of attacking Miller because they are angry about her support for gay marriage and the Leveson-backed royal charter on press regulation.

MacLeod on camera: think this is a witch hunt by the media angry about Leveson & equal marriage & taking it out on Maria

MacLeod: : "We can't just let the media do whatever they want and hound someone where allegations have been dismissed"

No.10 stonewalling re Miller. Asked if Mary Macleod speaks for Govt, refuses to comment directly.

I know some of you have described what has happened as 'venting the spleen' exercises or 'a little bit of bloodletting' but it is simply wrong and is not how we should treat colleagues or indeed as I like to think of many of you, a friend.

We are all rightly entitled to our opinion but as professional police officers and federation officials, it is how we express those opinions that matter. Whilst accepting emotions are running high in the advent of inevitable change, at times I have genuinely felt that I have been gratuitously and cruelly bullied and humiliated.

3.57pm BST

Isabel Hardman at Coffee House has a good audioBoo selection of Tory MPs ( Mark Field, Zac Goldsmith and Matthew Offord) having a go at Maria Miller.

3.50pm BST

The Telegraph's Holly Watt has hit back at Maria Miller's PPS, Mary Macleod. (See 3.25pm.)

It is offensive to suggest Miller story is in any way about equal marriage & only person who mentioned Leveson was DCMS spad

3.43pm BST

During the urgent question Sir Kevin Barron, the chair of the Commons standards committee, said the committee met this morning and authorised him to issue a statement defending their report into Maria Miller.

Here it is.

At our meeting today the committee authorised me to say that it continues to believe that its individual adjudications are impartial, non partisan and fair. It is extremely important that those who express opinions on these cases both within this House and outside it should have read closely the carefully reasoned and evidence based conclusions set out in each report. The committee will continue to work closely and cooperatively with the commissioner to reach objective non partisan and fair adjudications.

3.39pm BST

Here's the Sun's "Miller must quit" banner. (See 10.40am.)

In the words of her special advisor Jo Hindley, @TheSunNewspaper's message to Maria Miller today; pic.twitter.com/czG9qEI97F

3.25pm BST

The Conservative MP Mary Macleod has been tweeting support for Mary Miller.

Full support for @maria_millermp as she has been cleared of allegations but still hounded by media. She is an excellent Culture Secretary.

2.58pm BST

Maria Miller, the embattled culture secretary, has come under fresh pressure from her Conservative colleagues to resign. Mark Field, the MP for Cities of London and Westminster, told the World at One that her apology last week was "unacceptably perfunctory". He said MPs who entered the Commons in 2010 felt particularly strongly about this.

They of course felt when they were elected four years ago that they were untainted by the expenses scandal of 2009, yet they of course have now also felt the real backlash from their constituents over recent days ...

There is this whole public perception here that, rightly or wrongly, the standards committee as it is currently constituted is somehow open to being nobbled by senior government members. In many ways it is that public perception that is so damaging here.

Whether [Miller] resigns is a matter for her but obviously the whole thing is extremely damaging for the Conservative party, it's damaging for parliament as a whole and politicians - we all get tarnished by the same brush. It's damaging for the government, for the prime minister. The sooner the matter is resolved, the better.

For a wholly external body to consider complaints relating to the conduct of members in this House - for example on participation in debates and the registration of financial interests - risks undermining parliamentary privilege.

If we were to seek, for example, to make the standards committee or the commissioner wholly independent, the position we would end up with would be the commissioner for standards would no longer have access to parliamentary privilege in relation to her investigations.

Presently she does, by virtue of her investigation being part of the proceeding of the standards committee of this House. Her role would be much more difficult to fulfil in the way she does.

This is is not so much a failure of the system but a complete and abject failure of the media properly to report these matters objectively, the result of which is many of our constituents have failed completely to understand exactly what has been the case in a recent report and it is time the media should pay proper consideration to Parliamentary reports rather than seeking to engage in witch hunts.

You can aspire to be a great nation, without desiring to be a great power. The USA is both but most nations can't be, and they reduce their chance to be a great nation if they pretend to be a great power

For most countries, greatness can only come from influence, not force; from soft, not hard power; from enlightened self-interest, not self-interest alone.

2.03pm BST

The report from the three lay members of the Commons standards committee - Sharon Darcy, Peter Jinman and Walter Rader - only runs to 12 pages (pdf). It is written in cautious, neutral language, and it is (generally) devoid of any juicy revelations.

But it is also, in a quiet, understated way, rather devastating.

A fundamental rewrite of The Code of Conduct and The Guide to the Rules, with close attention given to the way in which these are presented and communicated, would, in our opinion, help ensure that these important documents are both seen to be fit for purpose and future proofed for the digital world and for the next Parliament.

Several of those we have met have said that Elected Members were often too busy to spend much time on standards.

If the House is to show that it is not just paying lip service to the importance of high standards then, in our view, more needs to be done to ensure that leadership (one of the seven principles of public life), is shown in this area. We observe that the extent to which the Committee on Standards should lead in this area, and be at the forefront of championing wider cultural change, would be worth exploring.

Once the high level core purpose of an Elected Members role has been described / clarified, setting and assessing the standards of conduct which Members should meet can become more focused.

Over the last twelve months, the Lay Members have observed that the fragmentation of the current standards system has enabled some to say that the conduct which is expected from them is unclear. The opaqueness of the letter of the law has the potential to enable those so minded to ignore the spirit of the law, as encapsulated in the seven principles of public life. In our view, even once the Guide to the Rules is tightened up, this will remain a risk unless it is made clear that behavior will always be interpreted within the context of the spirit of the law.

From the public point of view, Elected Members set the rules / laws that the rest of the population live by. The Lay Members note that some of the rules that have been set for both public facing organisations and private corporations (e.g. expectations of behavior, commitment to openness and transparency or staff disciplinary procedures) do not appear to be fully followed by the House itself.

When Elected Members decide that different standards of behaviour are acceptable from them, as compared to other external public figures, we are of the view that a clear evidence base should always be used, and communicated, to publicly explain the reasons for this decision.

Over the last year we have observed the heavy and demanding workloads required of Elected Members [of the standards committee]. Many will frequently be scheduled to be in one or more meetings at the same time that the Standards Committee is meeting, as well as having to prepare for debates and deal with mounting constituency business. On one occasion this led to a situation where only the Lay Members were present with the Chair and the Clerk at a Committee meeting, although we were assured that this had not happened previously. This rendered the Committee non-quorate and must be considered unacceptable given the cost to the public purse.

It is also currently unclear who is in the strategic driving seat in the Committee. Is it the Committee Chair, the Committee as a whole, the Commissioner or indeed even the Lay Members?

1.19pm BST

Here is the report from lay members of the Commons standards committee (pdf) mentioned earlier. (See 12.49pm and 1.11pm.)

I will post a summary of it soon.

1.14pm BST

Labour's Thomas Docherty asks why David Cameron wants to end self-regulation for the press, but not for MPs.

Lansley says having lay members on the standards committee was intended to introduce a system akin to a body like the Bar Council. But there are issues of privilege to be taken into account, he says.

1.12pm BST

Bob Blackman, a Conservative, asks how many "legacy cases" there are (ie, unresolved expenses complaints relating to before 2010.)

Lansley says he does not know the number. He hopes there are relatively few. But he cannot say there are none.

1.11pm BST

My colleague Patrick Wintour has been looking at what the lay members of the standards committee have been saying in the report Sir Kevin Barron mentioned earlier.

Lay members of standards committee have risen up - want new code of conduct, and tell MPs to stop paying lip service to higher standards.

1.10pm BST

Matthew Offord, a Conservative, says people did raise expenses with him when he knocked on doors at the weekend. He says people think the situation has not changed.

Lansley says MPs should tell people that the situation has changed.

1.09pm BST

Labour's Sheila Gilmore asks if Lansley is really unwilling to consider reform proposals.

Lansley says that is not his position. He would consider changes.

1.08pm BST

Peter Bone, a Conservative, says he has been doorstepping and telephone canvassing in recent days. Only one issue came up - immigration. The Miller case was only mentioned once, he says.

He says they should have recall - and "pure recall" (ie, a system that does not rely on the standards committee approving a recall ballot).

1.06pm BST

Labour's Chris Bryant says there is no point complaining about the media on this issue. The system of self-regulation for MPs has been on trial for some time. And it has been found wanting, he says.

There is "as much dodginess" in the Lords as there is in the Commons too, he says.

1.02pm BST

Labour's Paul Flynn says the expenses system should be replaced with a system of allowances. Isn't Ipsa an idea whose time has gone?

Lansley says none of the recent cases imply Ipsa has been at fault, because they do not relate to cases since 2010.

1.01pm BST

Lansley says there was a concern that giving lay members voting rights on a committee could led to that committee losing its parliamentary privilege in the eyes of a court.

1.00pm BST

Therese Coffey, a Conservative, says a green paper on parliamentary privilege two years ago led to the introduction of lay members.

She says it was the standards committee that decided to reopen an investigation into a former member (Denis MacShane) that led to him being jailed. So it is independent, she says.

12.59pm BST

Labour's Ben Bradshaw says he thought self-regulation had gone. What can Lansley say to assure people that reform has not stopped.

Lansley says the public are concerned about expenses. There are some "legacy cases" relating to the past. But the rules have changed, and Ipsa have created a situation that should command public respect.

12.57pm BST

Back in the chamber, Lansley says he does not see how it would be acceptable to allow an external body to take a decision to expel an MP from the House.

12.57pm BST

Outside the chamber another Conservative MP has admitted that the Miller affair is damaging the party.

Tory MP .@PhilipDaviesMP on Maria Miller expenses: "Obviously the whole thing is extremely damaging for the Conservative party" #bbcdp

12.56pm BST

Labour's David Winnick says he does not accept the idea that this was all "got up" by the media. Mistakes have been made, he says. The system has to satisfy the public. At the moment they think there are double standards, he says.

Lansley says he is not being complacent.

12.55pm BST

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Conservative, says he wants parliament to retain control over regulation of MPs. But there should either be a proper power of recall, he says, or disciplinary decisions should be taken by the Commons as a whole.

Lansley says the government is committed to recall legislation.

12.53pm BST

Labour's Peter Hain, a former leader of the Commons, says the public think there is one rule of them, and one rule for MPs.

Lansley says if the parliamentary commissioner for standards were independent, she would not be covered by parliamentary privilege. Her investigations would be subject to legal challenge, he says.

12.51pm BST

Sir Peter Bottomley, a Conservative, says he resigned from the standards committee when the House authorities, and at least one party, trashed Elizabeth Filkin, a previous parliamentary commissioner for standards. He is referring to Labour.

The media should read the committee's reports, he says.

12.49pm BST

Sir Kevin Barron, chair of the committee, says the lay members of the committee recently submitted a report on their reflections on their first year on the committee.

That paper is on the committee's website, he says.

12.47pm BST

Sir Nick Harvey, a Lib Dem MP, says he is on the standards committee. Until recently he did not realise they did not have a vote. That's because they don't need one. They contribute greatly to its discussions, he says. They have brought a great deal of expertise to the system. It should carry on as it is.

Lansley says that, if the lay members were to dissent from a committee report, that would have a powerful effect.

12.45pm BST

John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, says MPs should not be debating Miller. MPs can only debate the conduct of an MP if there is a substantive motion, he says.

12.45pm BST

Angela Eagle, the shadow leader of the Commons, says this affair has cast doubt on the conduct of Miller, and the judgment of the prime minister.

Will the government remove the government majority on the standards committee? And will it give lay members voting rights?

12.41pm BST

Sir Gerald Howarth, a Conservative, backs Lansley.

He accuses the media of misrepresenting the standards committee's report.

12.40pm BST

Lansley is replying to Mann.

He says Ipsa is "wholly independent" of the Commons.

12.39pm BST

John Mann says Lansley has probably not spent much time on doorsteps recently.

If he had, he would know how unhappy the public are.

12.37pm BST

Andrew Lansley describes the role of the standards committee and Ipsa.

As of now, Ipsa is wholly independent, he says, and it considers expenses complaints. It can demand repayment and impose a fine.

12.34pm BST

John Mann asks for a statement on the possible changes suggested by David Cameron yesterday to the Commons disciplinary committees.

12.33pm BST

Here's the latest from Number 10 on Maria Miller.

Asked if Maria Miller has offered resignation, No 10 says "matter has not arisen". You could fall into the space left open there

12.31pm BST

Andrew Lansley, the leader of the Commons, is about to answer an urgent question on Commons standards.

One Urgent Question today from @JohnMannMP on regulating complaints about fellow #MPs. More details to follow.

Andrew Lansley leader of house 3 months ago rejected plans to pass legislation to give decisions of committees with lay members privilege.

12.23pm BST

That expression of support didn't last long. (See 8.41am.) Boris Johnson is now cracking jokes at the expense of Maria Miller.

'If things were to go wrong for Maria there's plenty of jobs in life sciences' - Boris' Miller solution at the MedCity launch

12.15pm BST

This morning Ed Miliband has delivered a speech on the cost of living crisis. On a normal day it would probably get some coverage on 24 hours news, but the BBC and Sky are obsessed with Oscar Pistorius giving evidence in his trial.

The full text of Miliband's speech is now available. And here is Patrick Wintour's preview story summarising the key announcement.

The country that once built its prosperity on the great towns and cities, like Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff, has become a country which doesnt do enough to build prosperity in England outside one great capital city: London ...

London and the South-East of England was responsible for 37 per cent of the UK's growth in the decade before the financial crisis.

Governments of both parties have not done nearly enough to give the tools to the brilliant people, talented individuals, dynamic businesses of our great towns and cities to do the job they want to do.

Lord Heseltines review called for massive funding to be devolved to Britains cities.

And they flunked the test.

Ed Miliband and Ed Balls are today writing to all local authorities, universities and LEPs [local enterprise partnership] setting out this road map and inviting them to prepare plans meeting the conditions which could be brought forward early in the next Parliament.

Authorities which bring forward plans in the first nine months of the next Parliament will in return receive a devolution deal finalised in the first spending review period of a Labour Government.

1. Putting in place stronger political governance to drive economic leadership and decision-taking at city-region and county-region level.

2. Properly integrating a single Local Enterprise Partnership working closely with, but entirely independent of, the combined authority so that businesses are fully engaged in decision making and signed up to the local blueprint.

In the last few years, weve seen employment in low paid sectors rise twice as fast as in higher paid sectors.

George Osborne thinks that creating more and more insecure, low paid, low skilled jobs is good enough as an answer to our countrys cost-of-living crisis.

Now, I welcome the chancellors apparent conversion to the cause of full employment.

It is 70 years after a British government first dedicated itself to it.

Because they tell us that very soon, on one measure, average wage rises will overtake the level of inflation.

I hope that happens as soon as possible.

11.45am BST

Ed Miliband has been taking questions about the Maria Miller affair at his speech in Birmingham. He is not calling for her to resign.

. @Ed_Miliband: David Cameron has 'some serious questions to answer' over Maria Miller's approach to expenses probe and'perfunctory' apology

Ed Miliband, asked whether Maria Miller should resign: "I'm not calling for that today." Tomorrow? Thursday? Easter Monday?

Ed Miliband says right to reform MPs expenses but miller case raise issues about how decisions are made 'but not in a knee jerk way'

Ed Miliband not calling for Maria Miller to resign - Labour's had too many expenses problems of its own

11.20am BST

We're going to get an urgent question on parliamentary standards at 12.30pm.

Urgent question on Parliamentary Standards 1230 in Commons

11.04am BST

Guido Fawkes has posted on Twitter more details of the Survation poll I mentioned earlier. (See 10.02am.)

55% say Miller is the worst expenses cheat since 2009 http://t.co/Y1qkZ2OllS pic.twitter.com/4oSbEgnak9

10.49am BST

Alastair Campbell is the man credited with saying that a political crisis cannot go on for nine days (or 13, or 11, or seven - no one is quite sure) without someone having to resign.

At the BBC they're counting. This morning's radio news reports made the point that this was Miller's sixth day in the headlines. (They're starting from Thursday last week.)

Whatever my rule was, Maria Miller is breaking it.Trouble is Dave likes to have fights not worth having so he can avoid the ones that matter

10.40am BST

Sometimes tabloid papers coin a nickname that brilliantly encapsulates a figure they either love or loathe.

And sometimes they don't quite pull it off. The Sun's decision to christen Maria Miller "the Millerpede" probably comes into the category.

There is currently a Sun newspaper "Millerpede" banner being photographed outside Parliament.

All will be revealed soon; MT @christopherhope It looks like The Sun is photographing a "Miller-pede" banner pic.twitter.com/2who4l9eTA

10.32am BST

You can read all todays Guardian politics stories here. And all the politics stories filed yesterday, including some in todays paper, are here.

As for the rest of the papers, heres the PoliticsHome list of top 10 must-reads, heres the ConservativeHome round-up of the politics stories in todays papers and heres the New Statesmans list of top 10 comment articles.

Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs, met the Prime Minister on Monday to tell him that MPs from across the party were calling for Mrs Miller to go ...

A source said senior members of the 1922 Committee were in no doubt that this is absolutely toxic for the party. Mr Brady would make that very clear to Mr Cameron ...

A former colleague of Mrs Millers has also disputed a key justification for her expense claim also challenged by the independent watchdog that her main home was in her Hampshire constituency, allowing her to claim mortgage costs on her London house.

Mrs Miller claimed parliamentary allowances for her Victorian terrace property in Wimbledon on the basis that it was her second home. In her evidence to the watchdog, she repeatedly insisted that she spent more nights in her constituency residence than in her larger home in Wimbledon.

One [backbencher] said: "He's looking after his own and it's going to cost us vote. Whatever happens now we have lost credibility."

Maria Miller should resign. If she does not appreciate the need, the Prime Minister should make it clear to her. It seems at the moment as if she and those who work in Downing Street are almost the only people in the country who do not recognise that it is time for her to go. In both cases, obstinacy is getting in the way of good judgment.

As for David Cameron, at last he seems to acknowledge that there may be a case for toughening up Parliaments regulatory regime. But still he stands by Mrs Miller.

The longer this affair drags on, the more toxic it becomes for the Tories. This paper cannot see the story dying of its own accord.

David Cameron' s misplaced loyalty to Maria Miller is costing him votes with ever hour that ticks by.

People won't fall for it, Dave. They think Miller should go. The longer you defend the indefensible the more out of touch you become.

10.19am BST

Zac Goldsmith has told Radio 5 Live this morning he's "surprised" Maria Miller hasn't already resigned.

10am: Conservative MP @ZacGoldsmith tells me he's "surprised" #MariaMiller hasn't resigned ..full interview after 10 on @bbc5live #expenses

10.02am BST

And here's another Maria Miller poll. A Survation survey for Breitbart London (a rightwing, libertarian website) and Conservative Grassroots says that 34% of those who voted Conservative in 2010 say they would reconsider how they vote on the basis of Miller's conduct and David Cameron's response to it.

(Polls like this need to be treated with even more caution than normal ones. It's based on a leading question, because you are unlikely to want to admit that the conduct of a minister is something that you will just ignore, and in practice single controversies of this kind, on their own, tend not to have much impact on voting intention.)

9.46am BST

Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative MP, has written a piece for ConservativeHome saying the Maria Miller affair underlines the need for a proper "recall" law giving the voters the opportunity to force an MP to stand again in a byelection if they are unhappy with his or her conduct.

The government is promising to legislate for recall in the final session of parliament. But, as Goldsmith points out, under Nick Clegg's plan (he's in charge of this legislation), the committee that would decide whether or not to allow a recall would be the same one, the standards committee, that watered down the report saying Miller should pay back £45,000.

When it comes to the technicalities of financial wrongdoing, it probably makes sense for a specialised independent body to lay out the facts, and make recommendations.

But what seems to have slipped the net in recent debates is the fact that we already have an independent body, capable and uniquely qualified to pass judgment on MPs. Its called the electorate. The only difficulty, for now, is that they dont have the powers to do so.

9.25am BST

According to a ComRes poll of Conservative supporters, 69% of them think Maria Miller should resign.

9.03am BST

I'm told there's no need to get excited about the idea of Maria Miller going into Number 10 early today. She was there for a political cabinet meeting starting at 8.30am. The full cabinet starts at 9.30am. A Number 10 source says that the suggestion that Miller was turning up early for a special meeting with Cameron was "total nonsense" and that she still has Cameron's "strong backing".

8.41am BST

It's another tricky day for Maria Miller. Today the Daily Telegraph and the Times - the two leading Tory "broadsheets" - are leading on stories saying Conservative MPs want her to be sacked.

And here are this morning's developments.

Maria Miller has just done possibly the quickest EVER entry into No10. Drove up in car, back to cameras, no response to shouted questions

She is staying. I don't know the facts of the case in great detail but it seems to me she is being hounded quite a lot and I suppose my natural sympathies go out to people being in a hounded situation. How about that?

She's another member of the government and of course she has my support, just as she has the prime minister's, which is the support that really counts. I'm just junior minister. It's the view of the prime minister and the view of the standards committee that really counts.

Continue reading...

Maria Miller's expenses controversy - latest developments: Politics live blog

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 11:16

No 10 lobby briefing - Summary

Lunchtime summary

Afternoon summary

This blog is closed: For the latest Maria Miller developments, follow Tuesday's live blog

4.12pm BST

John Bercow, the Commons speaker, has told MPs that concerns about the way they regulate themselves are "widely shared by our constituents". He was speaking after Labour MPs used points of order to call for a debate on this matter. Bercow said he was "very open" to the idea of a debate in the Commons.

Dominic Grieve, the attorney general, has indicated that he would be concerned about any attempt to radically reform the system of self-regulation used for MPs. This is what he told the World at One.

There has always been a tension between maintaining Parliament's independence and placing it under somebody else's scrutiny. I don't think that it needs me to explain that there is quite an interesting constitutional issue here. It's one which I think we've been wrestling with.

In setting up Ipsa, Parliament moved very substantially away from the earlier model of its regulation. It's very much a matter for my parliamentary colleagues if they think that further change is going to be needed. I think that we need to evaluate that further change probably on how the system is working today, and not necessarily with reference to events that are 10 years old.

I will be in Basingstoke tomorrow evening to meet local residents outraged at Maria Miller's behaviour and discuss how to regulate MPs

As I will be able to leave the House of Commons and be in Basingstoke in an hour, there will be no need for overnight accommodation

3.47pm BST

Nadine Dorries, the Conservative MP, has suggested that John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, may have had a hand in persuading Maria Miller to keep her apology short.

Just interviewed Nadine Dorrries, who says Speaker ordered her to shorten her personal HoC statement & may have done same with Maria Miller.

3.39pm BST

In the Commons just now Labour MPs John Mann and David Winnick have both used points of order to call for a debate on the system of self-regulation for MPs. John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, said he was open to the idea of a general debate on this principle and that MPs might have opportunities to raise this issue in the coming days.

3.30pm BST

This is interesting from James Forsyth on Maria Miller.

Tory MPs splitting along generational lines on Maria Miller. 2010 intake generally want her gone, previous intakes more sympathetic

3.29pm BST

In a speech in the Commons last Thursday Michael Meacher, the Labour former minister, delivered a damning verdict on the way sanctions are now imposed in the welfare system.

This afternoon, in a speech to Business for Britain, Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pension secretary, gave an entirely different take on the government's new "conditionality" regime (the rules that apply as a condition for people getting benefits). It's not a speech that unveils new policy, but it is one that explains Duncan Smith's thinking, and it complements the one that George Osborne gave last week setting "full employment" as a Tory goal.

The incentive structure in the welfare system that I inherited was wrong. The old benefit system too often rewarded the decision to turn down work and for too many, the decision to move into work left them worse off. To take a job was not the logical choice.

Our conditionality system is designed to send a clear message that we expect every effort to be made to find and take work.

We have set clear requirements in return for state support, and are making sure that if someone fails to meet their responsibilities, they face the consequences getting the balance right again in the welfare system, just as for those in work.

Whilst our critics persist in arguing that a minimum wage job is stepping into a hole, I believe, quite the contrary, that it can be the first step on the ladder to an independent life.

Under Labour, millions of people were stuck on out of work benefits a million for a decade or more.

Unemployment had risen by half a million, and youth unemployment by nearly half.

In just 5 years between 2005 and 2010, the number of British people in jobs fell by over 300,000, while the number of foreigners in British jobs soared by more than 650,000 ...

When British business found British people were unwilling or unable to work in the UK, they quickly looked elsewhere.

Inactivity is at its lowest on record excluding those in education, down by nearly half a million since 2010 ... driven by falling numbers claiming inactive benefits down by 350,000, and falling in every single local area of Britain.

There are a lower proportion of workless households than at any time on record, down 450,000 since 2010.

2.46pm BST

The Evening Standard says David Cameron's proposal to reform the system of self-regulation for MPs has not stopped some Tories saying Maria Miller should be sacked.

One senior Tory accused the Prime Minister of scrabbling around for a line to take to avoid having to confront Maria Miller. He said Mr Cameron should draw a line under the affair by sacking the Culture Secretary, who last week repaid £5,800 and apologised for failing to co-operate with an official watchdog.

Conservative MP Nicola Blackwood told BBC local radio that Mrs Miller faced most serious questions about her expenses. Another senior Tory MP said: Its ghastly, its just making us look all the same. It is setting back the reputation of Parliament and MPs. He said he had nothing positive to say about Mrs Miller.

2.13pm BST

Here's the Guardian video of David Cameron defending Maria Miller during his visit to Asda this morning.

2.01pm BST

David Cameron has said that he is "very open" to the idea of making further changes to the system of self-regulation for MPs. This emerged as Cameron himself, in a clip with broadcasters, and his official spokesman, at the Number 10 lobby briefing, defended Maria Miller in the face of continuing demands for her to be sacked over her expenses, and the perfunctory apology she delivered in the Commons last week after being criticised by standards committee report. However, Number 10 sources suggest that the changes to current system of parliamentary self-regulation favoured by Cameron are minimalist. Allowing the three lay members of the standards committee to have a vote, as well as the 10 MP members, seems to be the main change that Cameron is envisaging. The standards committee is the body that recommends what punishments MPs should face if they break the Commons rules. (See 12.58pm and 1.26pm.)

Miller has indicated that she will pay some capital gains tax on the sale of her home in Wimbledon. For a period the home was funded by her parliamentary expenses, because Miller regarded it as her second home. According to the Press Association, "an estimated profit of £1.2 million on the London property could leave her owing around £70,000 to HMRC for the four year period in which she claimed expenses - although other allowances are likely to reduce that figure. (See 12.01pm.)

1.35pm BST

Therese Coffey, the Conservative MP, was defending Maria Miller on the Daily Politics. She said rejected suggestions that Miller was only keeping her job because she was a woman and she dismissed Lord Tebbit's call for Miller to resign. (See 9.16am.)

Maria Miller has taken two very tricky pieces of legislation through the House, competently. And frankly Norman Tebbit two weeks ago was calling on Conservative backbenchers to unseat David Cameron, he's not in touch with the parliamentary party and he's certainly not in touch with members on that anymore.

1.26pm BST

This is what David Cameron say about Maria Miller during his visit to Asda earlier.

What matters is doing the right thing. I think Maria has done the right thing by repaying the money, making an apology and now getting on with her job. We ought to remember she was found innocent of the claim that was levelled at her at the start of this process. I think that is important to bear in mind.

Theres a big change coming, which is that all expenses cases after 2010 will be dealt with in a totally new way; theyll be dealt with by Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, IPSA, and that will be done without reference to MPs, so its a very important change. But if there are further changes that people think are appropriate, Im very open to suggestions.

12.58pm BST

Here is a full summary of what was said at the Number 10 lobby briefing, about Maria Miller and about other matters.

The prime minister has full confidence in her and the way that she does her job.

Talking to Ange at @Asda, a company announcing 12,000 new jobs and helping show our #LongTermEconomicPlan is working. pic.twitter.com/yTtXvma1P9

12.39pm BST

At one point during the Number 10 lobby briefing the prime minister's spokesman said: "The prime minister always stands by his words".

But the Telegraph's James Kirkup suggests this does not tell the full story.

Maria Miller news. On Sunday, No 10 said PM supports current Commons standards system; no need for reform. Today, PM "open" to reform.

12.26pm BST

John Mann has failed to get his urgent question on the Miller affair (which isn't a surprise - see 9.16am).

No statements or urgents questions today in @HouseofCommons

12.01pm BST

Maria Miller's office is now suggesting that she will pay capital gains tax on the sale of her Wimbledon home.

This is from the Press Association.

A spokeswoman for the Culture Secretary dismissed suggestions that she would attempt to avoid a capital gains tax (CGT) bill by arguing that it had been her main home throughout the period.

The aide said it was "common knowledge" that the London house had been Mrs Miller's second home between 2005 and 2009.

11.54am BST

While the Number 10 briefing was taking place, the Labour party issued a call for Maria Miller to deliver a second, proper apology to the Commons.

It came in the form of a letter from the Labour MP Sheila Gilmore to Sir Kevin Barron, the chair of the Commons standards committee. Here's an extract.

Following the focus on Members expenses and subsequent reform to the system in 2009 there is now a higher bar for all Members to demonstrate the integrity of their conduct in public life. We must act at all times within the spirit as well as the letter of existing guidelines. It is clear that Mrs Miller fell foul of this not just in her conduct during the inquiry but in her apology to the House.

Rather than meaningfully address the arrogant and evasive attitude that characterised her behaviour during the inquiry, she chose to reinforce it in the House of Commons, revealing Mrs Miller to not be apologetic at all.

11.45am BST

I'm just back from the Number 10 lobby briefing.

Here's a snap summary of the key points.

10.57am BST

Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, is giving a speech on welfare reform at 1.30pm. He will be outlining measures coming into force this month ensuring that jobseeker's allowance claimants have to do more to show that they are looking for work (such as preparing a CV before they meet a Jobcentre Plus adviser) and arguing that his policies are addressing welfare dependency.

Here's an extract released in advance.

In too many cases, a combination of the welfare system trapping people in dependency and removing the drive to go to work ... and the open door immigration policy meant British people were so easily replaced by foreign workers coming in.Taxpayers paid a financial cost for rising welfare payments, and society paid the cost as well with too many of our own fellow citizens falling into dependency, hopelessness, and despair.

10.38am BST

The Ukip MEP Roger Helmer says it would be churlish to gloat about Maria Miller's predicament. But I'm not sure he's been able to resist the temptation.

It would be churlish to gloat over Maria Miller's expenses trauma. But electorally, it comes at a bad time for the Tories.

My prediction for what it's worth is that Cam will throw Miller overboard soon despite publicly backing her. A weak PM lacking principles.

10.34am BST

Here are three interesting blogs about the Miller case around this morning.

Andrew Gimson at ConservativeHome is delighted that David Cameron is defending Miller.

If one opposes mob rule, and is dismayed by bullying, one cannot go along with these cheapskate moralists and their cost-free denunciations. The treatment of Miller has got completely out of hand. I am delighted that David Cameron has so far stood by her. The Prime Minister cannot govern by yielding to whichever moral spasm is currently convulsing the press. He has to take a wider and more balanced view. What woman with children would contemplate trying to become a Conservative MP if he throws Miller to the wolves?

The Miller row does bear a number of striking similarities to the early days of the Andrew Mitchell saga. The Prime Minister was then quick to back his chief whip, then called for the media to move on. But colleagues within the party started to stoke the story by briefing against Mitchell and support among MPs began to ebb away, forcing him out. We are not at that final stage. But MPs who I spoke to over the weekend who are currently supportive of Miller feel that this weeks 1922 Committee meeting will as was the case with Andrew Mitchell be crucial in determining whether this row quietens down or whether it becomes a great deal more serious.

10.21am BST

Journalists are already speculating on Maria Miller's successor.

Esther Mcvey, Priti Patel and Liz Truss tipped as poss Miller replacements in cabinet by @IsabelHardman and @helenlewis on Woman's Hour.

10.16am BST

Roy Greenslade thinks Maria Miller will have to go. (See 9.52am.) In his morning briefing email, the Telegraph's Benedict Brogan tries to explain why David Cameron is hanging on to her - although he too thinks here days could be numbered.

So the puzzle is this: why doesn't Dave get rid of her? Partly, of course, it's because of the women problem, although it surely runs deeper than that: the PM could replace her with one of the many able women lower in the ranks. The issue seems more fundamental: Dave decided, very early on, that she wouldn't be going. In the process, he has turned this into a test of political will. There are no shortage of Tories who will be furious about political capital being spent keeping an unpopular, rude minister - and one reckoned to not be very good at her job - in position six weeks before the European elections. The point is fast approaching at which Mr Cameron may have to decide whether to cut his losses.

9.52am BST

On his blog my colleague Roy Greenslade has been looking at what the papers have been saying about the Maria Miller story. Ever the professional, he's even steeled himself to have a look at the comments on Mail Online. His conclusion: Miller is toast.

Here's an excerpt.

Andrew Marr is a shrewd analyst of the relationship between the press and parliament. But he was wrong to suggest, on his TV show yesterday morning, that Maria Miller will hold on to her cabinet post simply because the prime minister has the power to defy calls to fire her.

In fact, in offering his support to Miller, David Cameron has defended the indefensible. He may think he can see off the press, which is united against Miller continuing as the culture, media and sport minister, but he cannot afford to fly in the face of the public, especially his own voters.

9.46am BST

My colleague Tom Clark poses a good question about Maria Miller's response to the Telegraph story. (See 9.30am.)

Miller saying she stopped claiming on house before getting letter re CGT. Next Q: 'was it a coincidence that the letter was abt to arrive'

9.42am BST

Conservative MP Nicola Blackwood has said that Maria Miller faces serious questions about her expenses.

Cons MP Nicola Blackwood tells BBC Radio Oxford Miller faces "most serious" qs about her exes & she'd be "really quite worried"

Cons MP Nicola Blackwood on Miller: "clearly it's very unhelpful for this to drag on in the way that it is"

9.30am BST

As I mentioned earlier, the Daily Telegraph claims in its splash today that Maria Miller stopped claiming expenses on her "second home" after being asked to agree that she would pay capital gains tax if she sold it.

Miller denies this. A spokesman for the culture secretary said that she stopped claiming expenses for the property in April 2009, and that it was not until May 2009 that the Commons authorities sent out the first of three letters to her and other MPs asking them to sign a declaration that they would pay capital gains tax if they sold a property designated for parliamentary expenses purposes as a second home.

9.16am BST

Alastair Campbell is credited with inventing a rule saying that no minister can survive a controversy if it continues to dominate the headlines for nine days. Or perhaps it was 13 days? Or perhaps 11? Or perhaps a week? No one seems quite sure, not least Campbell himself.

Maria Miller is now on her fourth day in the Fleet Street gunge tank. If she is being worried about being forced out this within the next few days, she will take comfort from the fact that a) David Cameron has supported her strongly in public and b) today she is no longer on the tabloid front pages.

Most members of the Commons must have hoped that the scandals over fiddled expenses had at least calmed down, even if not gone away.

Now Mrs Miller has not just re-ignited the flames but, by the arrogance of her response to the scandal, poured petrol on the fire.

The standards committee's recent decision to overrule the conclusions made by the independent commissioner for standards, Kathryn Hudson, in the case of Maria Miller has highlighted the problem of MPs regulating their own expenses. Public trust in Parliament and in the expenses system has now completely eroded, and we need a new, transparent regulatory system.

The standards committee should have its power to rule on MPs' expenses abolished, and more power should be given to the independent commissioner. We have to stop the practice of MPs regulating themselves.

Continue reading...

Politics Live - readers' edition: Friday 4 April

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 03:07

Share breaking news, leave links to interesting articles online and chat about the weeks political events in our open thread

8.07am BST

Im not writing my usual Politics Live blog today, but, as an alternative, heres Politics Live: readers edition. Its intended to be a place where you can catch up with the latest news and find links to good politics blogs and articles on the web.

Please feel free to use this as somewhere you can comment on any of the days political stories - just as you do when Im writing the daily blog.

Continue reading...

Maria Miller apologises to MPs over her response to expenses inquiry: Politics live blog

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 10:51

Maria Miller ordered to apologise to Commons over her response to expenses probe

Lunchtime summary

Afternoon summary

3.39pm BST

Ed Miliband has said that Nigel Farage should be excluded from the television debates before the general election next year.

Michael Meacher, the Labour former minister, has said that thousands of people are being "driven into destitution" by the "sanctions first, think later" approach taken by Jobcentre Plus staff. Opening a Commons debate on a backbench motion calling for a review of the benefit sanctions regime, he said that even the rightwing thinktank Policy Exchange says 8% of sanctions are unjustified.

I accept - and I presume everybody does - that there have to be fallback sanctions in extreme cases where there is deliberate and real non-cooperation with the obligation to try and find work. But also that those sanctions should be proportionate and reasonable and not exercised punitively.

A security guard at a job centre turned away a man with learning difficulties who had arrived 20 minutes early to sign on; he then arrived two minutes late to sign on and had his Jobseekers' Allowance (JSA) sanctioned for four weeks.

A woman claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) had been diagnosed with cervical cancer and had given the back-to-work scheme provider a list of her hospital appointments; she was sanctioned for failing to attend an appointment on the middle day of her three-day hospital stay. The woman had two daughters and her ESA was reduced to £28 a week. She asked for reconsideration, but had heard nothing five weeks later.

Brilliant speeches by @MaeveSherlock #bedroomtax but lost votes - too few brave LibDems prepared to walk the walk as well as talk the talk

In the last 10 years air pollution has contributed to nearly 300,000 deaths in the UK, thats the equivalent of the amount of people living in a city the size of Newcastle.

Yet, despite the ongoing threat of air pollution and the fact that the EU is taking legal proceedings against the UK on this issue, the prime minister has the audacity to lay the entire blame for the smog on Saharan dust.

3.16pm BST

Here's a very short afternoon reading list.

Daniel Hannan at the Telegraph says the debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage was game-changing.

Clegg, remember, was defending the position taken by every party represented in the House of Commons and by every newspaper except the Daily Express. Yet he lost by more than two to one. More than two to one, for Heaven's sake.

Euro-enthusiasts will no doubt be trying to console themselves with the thought that it was a clash between two politicians, not the In/Out referendum itself. But why should that campaign play out significantly differently? What we saw over the two televised clashes is what we usually see when the EU is debated. Euro-enthusiasts almost always argue as Clegg did, calling their opponents names, flaunting their supposed expertise, implying that anyone who disagrees with them is a bigot. It didn't work for Clegg, and it won't work during the referendum.

2.14pm BST

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has put out this statement about the Maria Miller case.

The discussion of MPs past expense claims, and in particular of the vexed issue of MPs claiming for their mortgage interest, serves as a timely reminder of the reasons why IPSAs sweeping reforms of the old expenses system was so important. This case came about before IPSA was created. We have since introduced a ban on MPs claiming for mortgage interest to make sure that this issue cannot rumble on or be replicated in the future.

2.05pm BST

Two of the firms that carried out polling on last night's Europe debate with Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage have today published details of their findings.

YouGov released its headline findings, showing Farage winning by 68% to 27%, last night. Peter Kellner has now written a post with more details of the findings. They provide further proof that Farage did much better last night than he did last week.

1.38pm BST

The Labour MP John Mann has called for Maria Miller to resign following the publication of a report criticising her response to an inquiry into her expenses. The Commons standards committee said that Miller should repay £5,800 that she had over-claimed and that she should apologise to the Commons. Miller has apologised, in a perfunctory, 32-second statement. David Cameron has defended Miller. But the committee's report reveals that Kathryn Hudson, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, concluded that Miller over-claimed by more than £40,000. The committee did not accept this finding.

Nick Clegg has said he fully expected to lose his debates on Europe with Nigel Farage, arguing that it was extremely difficult to dispel decades of "myth-making" on the subject and counter what he described as the simplistic and populist views of the Ukip leader.

1.20pm BST

Here's the statement from Labour MP John Mann on Maria Miller.

Maria Miller was today found to have acted in a way that is completely unacceptable for a minister.

Not only must she now repay her expenses 'overclaim' but she was also forced to apologise to the House of Commons for showing a completely inappropriate attitude to the inquiry. It is as though she does not take the issue at all seriously.

1.10pm BST

And here is the Guardian video of Maria Miller's apology.

1.08pm BST

John Mann, the Labour MP who submitted the original complaint about Maria Miller, has said she should resign.

Theats and evasion over expenses show Maria Miller not fit to be responsible for the press says John Mann

The Labour MP John Mann who made the original complaint about Maria Miller has said she should be sacked.

12.39pm BST

And here's what David Cameron told Sky News a few minutes ago about Maria Miller.

Maria Millers doing an excellent job as culture secretary and will continue to do that. If we look at this report, yes, of course these issues do matter but she was cleared of the original allegation made against her. An overpayment was found, which she is going to pay back, and she will make a full apology and I think people should leave it at that.

What Maria said is that shes going to apologise in front of the House of Commons and make clear that apology. But in terms of what the report found, it actually cleared her of the original allegation made against her. It did find an overpayment, which it refers to as an administrative error and its important Maria repays that money and thats exactly what shes going to do. That is what this committee and remember, this committee now includes independent people, non-politicians thats what theyve recommended, thats what shell do and I think people should leave it at that.

12.37pm BST

The news keeps coming today.

JUST IN: Massive climbdown as Owen Paterson says badger cull won't roll out nationwide in England: http://t.co/VcPJHYK6fG

12.35pm BST

Here's Maria Miller's apology in full.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal statement in relation to todays report. The report resulted from an allegation made by the member for Bassetlaw [John Mann.] The committee has dismissed his allegation. The committee has recommended that I apologise to the House for my attitude to the commissioners inquiries and I of course unreservedly apologise. I fully accept the recommendations of the committee and thank them for bringing this matter to an end.

12.29pm BST

Maria Miller's apology has not impressed my colleagues in the press gallery.

No contrition from Maria Miller in 27-second "apology" in Commons that was over before it started

Miller is speaking from backbenchers. All over. Accepts committee recommendations. That must be one of the shortest statement ever

You could probably get the entire Maria Miller apology into 140 characters

Miller's personal statement re her MPs exes certainly seemed faster than superfast broadband arrival across UK. 30 seconds flat

That was hardly contrite from Maria Miller, no attempt to throw herself on the mercy of the House. Clearly determined to just KBO

'Speedy' Miller's 34 sec apology, flanked by Hunt and Chief Whip, with full Dave support, should raise Qs about role of Standards watchdog

i am giving maria miller respect: she has taken the non-apology apology to new heights (or perhaps depths)

12.27pm BST

And James Forsyth has this detail.

Jeremy Hunt springs off the frontbench to go and support Maria Miller on the backbench

12.25pm BST

According to the Mirror's Tom McTague, Sir George Young, the Tory chief whip, was trying to get MPs to sit near Maria Miller to support her when she was making her apology.

Sir George Young is demanding MPs sit around Miller for TV support. Gesturing at Mark Harper. He's shaking his head. Hmm.

12.24pm BST

The Sun's Steve Hawkes had a stopwatch on the Maria Miller apology.

It's Official - ITV say Maria Miller apology 32 seconds ( or as George would say 'Buckle My Shoe' )

12.20pm BST

The complaint about Maria Miller was submitted by the Labour MP John Mann. Essentially, he complained that she claimed expenses between 2005 and 2009 for a second home where her parents were living, and that she claimed excessive amounts for mortgage interest.

Complaints of this kind are investigated by the parliamentary commissioner for standards, Kathryn Hudson. The commissioner then submits a report to the Commons standards committee. It is published as an annex to the committee's report. It is for the committee to decide what "punishment" should be imposed on the offending MP

In my view Mrs Miller's London home would have been maintained in any case, even had she not been an MP.The statement provided by Mrs Miller's legal advisersaid that she had to have a second home"exclusively and necessarily for herparliamentary duties". It cannot be said that her London home was established or maintained"exclusively and necessarily for her parliamentary duties". I consider it more likely than not that Mrs Miller's London home was her main home, as a matter of fact, and that the expenses which she incurred on staying away from her main home in order to perform her parliamentary duties were those associated with the Basingstoke properties.

We agree with the Commissioner that Mrs Miller should properly have designated London as her main home rather than Basingstoke. Nonetheless, we consider that Mrs Miller's designation was reasonable in the light of the guidance available at the time, given that the matter was finely balanced. Accordingly we make no criticism of Mrs Miller for her error.

In particular I find it difficult to believe that Mrs Miller genuinely thought she was entitled to make the additional claim for her extended mortgage in 2007 without any consultation with the House authorities or agreement from them. If the Committee agrees with my interpretation of the rules, the total amount by which Mrs Miller has over-claimed in relation to her mortgage interest would be around £44,000[167], to which should be added a further £1,000 to take account of the reduction which she should have made to her claims for council tax to take account of her parents' presence in the home. Her apparent misuse of the allowances system continued for four years from May 2005 to the end of April 2009 and seems to have been brought to an end only by the expenses scandal of 2009-10 when she abruptly ceased to claim.

As Mrs Miller pointed out, no attempt was made to ensure that newly elected Members only made claims against the original purchase price of the property. In these circumstances, imposing a strict interpretation of the rule would not be appropriate. Whatever the strict construction of the rule, it was reasonable for Mrs Miller to claim the interest on her mortgage as it was when she entered the House, rather than as it was when she first purchased the property ....

Mrs Miller considers that she overclaimed on her mortgage by £5,800 in 2008-09. We have examined the figures carefully and accept that that is a reasonable assessment of the amount that she overclaimed. We recommend this sum should be repaid.

12.18pm BST

That was it. It was very short, and perfunctory.

I will post a full transcript later.

12.18pm BST

Maria Miller is making a personal statement now.

She says the report was prompted by complaint from John Mann. The complaint was rejected, she says.

11.32am BST

Downing Street is supporting Maria Miller.

The PM offers his "warm support" to Maria Miller, says No.10 official spokesman.. This is going to be one hell of a day

No10: PM spoke by phone to Miller. She'll apologise to House[for failing to assist inquiry into her expenses]& that is the right thing to do

PM spoke to Maria Miller re her expenses this morning + offered her 'warm support'. Q of resignation 'doesn't arise'

11.26am BST

The Commons standards committee report into Maria Miller, the culture secretary, and the complaint about her expenses is out. You can read the whole 113-page report here.

Miller has been ordered to apologise to MPs for the way she responded to the inquiry into the complaint.

We are concerned that Mrs Miller did not pay as close attention to the rules of the House as she should have done. As we have seen, after her election she increased the facility on her mortgage on at least two occasions without consulting the House, despite the fact that in both the 2005 and 2006 Green Book the advice given to those who wished to change their mortgage was: "Please consult us in advance. There are strict rules on the costs that can be claimed, and you may need to change the nomination of your main home".[69] While Mrs Miller has consistently told us that she never intended to claim the interest on the £50,000 mortgage increase revealed by the Commissioner's initial investigation, there is no documentation as to how she apportioned her claims, and towards the end of the period in some months she not only claimed for the entire mortgage interest charged, but appears to have claimed slightly more than that interest. There is no indication that she considered whether or not her variable mortgage or the increase clearly shown in the RBS documentation from a facility of £425,000 to £525,000 might have engaged the prohibition against additional mortgages.

The documentation that is available of Mrs Miller's interactions with the House tends to show a pattern in which officials would press her for information and the information that was provided appears to have been the minimum necessary.[70] This pattern was repeated in both the Commissioner's inquiry, and our own investigation.That said, Mrs Miller did not subsidise her parents' living costs from public funds. Her claims up until 2008-09 did not include claims for mortgage interest on any increase above the facility when she entered the House. Indeed, for much of that period her claims were significantly below that figure, although close to the overall cap on expenses. We accept Mrs Miller's contention that her overclaim in 2008-09 was inadvertent and caused by the rapid reduction in interest rates. The Code of Conduct from 2002 stipulated that: "No improper use shall be made of any payment or allowance made to Members for public purposes".[71] We have seen no evidence to suggest that Mrs Miller failed to abide by this part of the Code. The 2002 rule had a second part stipulating that "the administrative rules which apply to such payments and allowances must be strictly observed".[72] Mrs Miller failed to observe this.

11.13am BST

Labour's Pat McFadden goes next.

Q: Are you worried that by writing publicly to the FCA about the release of information about the insurance inquiry last week, you could be undermining it?

11.10am BST

Q: Haven't you said people are better placed to look after their money than pension funds? And doesn't that undermine auto-enrolment?

Osborne says he wants people to save for their retirement.

11.07am BST

Q: What impact will this policy have on investment in infrastructure [because there could be less money in pension funds]?

Osborne says this policy was so commercially sensitive that he could not consult in advance with industry.

11.05am BST

Labour's Teresa Pearce goes next.

Q: When did you tell the FCA of your pension reforms?

11.00am BST

Q: What are the main indicators of a house price bubble?

Osborne says you would look at headline house prices, and try to separate out the central London problem from what is happening there than from what is happening in the rest of the country.

10.56am BST

David Ruffley, a Conservative, goes next.

Q: Are you concerned about house price rises?

10.52am BST

Q: Of the 34 categories of tax take, which one goes down?

Osborne suggests Mann tells him.

10.48am BST

Labour's John Mann is asking the question now.

Q: How many new immigrants will enter the labour market between now and 2019.

10.44am BST

Mark Garnier, a Conservative, goes next.

Q: Are you not worried about debt?

10.36am BST

Q: Are you concerned that household debt will rise?

Osborne says household debt as a proportion of income has fallen from 170% to 130%.

10.35am BST

Q: What do you say to people who think that, although you want people to save, you need them to consume?

Osborne says he does not agree with those who say "forget about the savers, just go for consumption".

10.30am BST

Labour's Andy Love goes next.

Q: Are you worried that the savings ratio is set to fall?

10.28am BST

Osborne says William Hague has done a brilliant job at making the Foreign Office more trade focused.

10.27am BST

Q: Exports have been disappointing. Is that just because of the Eurozone situation?

Osborne says Britain's export performance has been "disappointing". Some of that is down to the situation in Europe. Exports to non-European markets are up a quarter. The UK found itself over-dependent on mature markets. It was not connected in to new markets, like China and Brazil. That was a huge error made over the last 15 years.

10.22am BST

Andrea Leadsom, a Conservative, goes next.

Q: An extremely capable woman has been appointed to the Bank of England, Nemat Shafik. Would you encourage them to appoint more women?

10.18am BST

Jesse Norman, a Conservative, is asking questions now.

He says his constituents particularly welcomed the money in the budget for dealing with potholes.

10.12am BST

Q: Do you agree there has to be an independent inquiry into the release of information to the Telegraph about the planned inquiry into the insurance industry by the Financial Conduct Authority?

Osborne says there will be an independent inquiry.

10.06am BST

George Osborne, the chancellor, has just started giving evidence to the Commons Treasury committee about the budget.

Opening the questions, Andrew Tyrie, the committee chairman, told Osborne that the budget had been very well received. Was the because it was not leaked in advance?

9.54am BST

Here are the Opinium polling figures on the debate.

Post debate study: Winner: Farage54%, Clegg25%, Draw21% (1,041 UK adults who watched + weighted nat-rep) More stats on the way #NickvNigel

9.47am BST

This has not been a very good morning for coalition relations. It's not even 10am, and already we've had David Cameron calling Nick Clegg an extremist on Europe, and now Clegg is saying that Cameron's EU renegotiation is a nonsense.

Well, that's more or less what Clegg said just now. Here's a summary.

David Cameron's renegotiation - I still don't quite understand what it is supposed to be all about. To be honest, the more I've heard, or at least what I've read in the newspapers about Conservative plans, it's a little tweak here, a little tweak there. I don't think it will satisfy anybody within the Conservative party, many of whom agree with Nigel Farage that they want to leave the European Union altogether ....

I believe in reform. What I don't beleive is a realistic prospect is to do what I think David Cameron initially suggested, which is to repatriate a bunch of powers; in other words to say we will only keep the good bits, we will let everyone else in the European Union keep the bad bits. I've never thought that's a realistic proposition.

I dont feel bruised at all. Im absolutely delighted we had this debate, the debate has now finally started.

9.31am BST

Call Clegg is now over.

I'll post a summary shortly.

9.30am BST

Q: David Cameron says he shops in Waitrose and likes the customers there. Where do you shop?

Clegg says he uses different supermarkets. People are friendly to him. Lots of people want to take selfies.

9.29am BST

Q: How come it took almost a decade to get Abu Qatada out of the country, while in the case of Yashika Bageerathi, the Mauritian student, she was deported overnight.

Clegg says Qatada fought extradition. With regard to Yashika, she is clearly a lovely girl, he says. But the rules have to be applied.

9.26am BST

Q: What do you think of charging people a £10 monthly fee to use the NHS?

Clegg says he is totally opposed to this idea.

9.23am BST

Q: The Tories want to raise the inheritance tax threshold. But a Conservative minster has written saying the rate will stay where it is until 2018.

Clegg says whoever is in government next will not have much money to spend.

9.18am BST

Q: How do you rate Farage as a debater?

Clegg says Farage is a good debater.

9.15am BST

Q: Why do you think you lost the debate?

Clegg says he is trying to reverse 20 years' of myth-making. You cannot do that in two hours.

9.13am BST

The next caller offers commiseration for the debate.

Clegg says he enjoyed it.

9.07am BST

Q: Why do you favour sanctions on Putin when he has probably prevented a civil war in Ukraine?

Because he has annexed part of a country, says Clegg.

9.04am BST

The first caller congratulates Nick Clegg on his performance last night.

Q: What three things would you do to make the EU better?

8.58am BST

Here are three of the most interesting articles on the debate I've seen this morning.

Benedict Brogan in his Telegraph morning briefing says Nick Clegg won't be regretting taking part in the debate.

So will Mr Clegg be regretting his challenge to Mr Farage? Surely not. Ukip are taking votes off the Lib Dems - 400,000 since the last election - but they're a much bigger threat to the Conservatives. 38 of the Lib Dems' 57 seats are in seats when they face a Tory challenger. A senior Lib Dem MP in a marginal Con-Lib seat reckons that, thanks to Ukip, he could lose one-fifth of his 2010 vote share and still be returned to Parliament. If anyone should worry about Mr Farage's success, it's David Cameron. The other Lib Dem hope, as Tim Wigmore explained, is Ukip sticking around will encourage the Tories to shift to the Right and leave space for the Lib Dems in the centre. If the debates help to ensure that Ukip is here to stay, that's brilliant news for the Lib Dems. Perhaps Mr Clegg should be getting a little more credit.

Farage accused Clegg of being part of an elite club of career politicians" in hock to "big business. He offered his audience an invitation to join the peoples army and topple the Establishment. And he got away with it. Clegg let him off the hook. This should cause alarm among those who believe in pragmatic engagement in Europe and those who take a liberal, open-minded, cosmopolitan view of the kind of place Britain should aspire to be. Perhaps Clegg was the wrong messenger. Perhaps under the circumstances he did well to get that case across at all. But it is hard to avoid the feeling that important arguments about Britain's cultural and economic future were stress-tested tonight and yielded too easily.

Farages profile will have been elevated the most. In the first debate, he was sweaty and shouty. In this one, he was cool and in command and looked in American presidential language like the incumbent. What the visuals confirm is that Ukip is capturing an important part of the political zeitgeist. On the European issue, it is no longer a party of single-issue fruitcakes but instead the argument to beat. This is a revolutionary change from just four years ago.

8.40am BST

So, Nick Clegg lost last night's debate with Nigel Farage on Europe.

We'll find out what he has to say about that at 9pm. But David Cameron has already been giving his take on BBC Breakfast. Here are the main points he's been making.

I didnt have a dog in the fight, as it were. The problem with this debate is both of the people taking part actually have quite extreme views. Nick thinks theres nothing wrong with Europe and we shouldnt have a referendum; Nigel thinks theres nothing right with Europe and we should just get out and leave. Theyre both wrong. The right answer is to be tough for Britain, renegotiate, get a better deal and then give people the choice in an in/out referendum. And that is what I will do, if Im prime minister after the next election, before the end of 2017.

[Clegg losing] doesnt concern me because on this one I do not agree with Nick. I have a very different view about Europe: I want real change in Europe; I want us to change our relationship, I want a renegotiation and then I want an in/out referendum.

The problem with the UKIP is its sort of stop the world, I want to get off, Britain cant succeed. Its deeply pessimistic. Im very optimistic. We can, if we take the right decisions, secure a really strong and stable future for the families of our country, but that means being strong for Britain, not saying no change in Europe, saying yes, we need change and when we get that change, well give you, the British people, a choice.

Continue reading...

Lib Dem spring conference - Clegg's speech and debate on internet surveillance: Politics live blog

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 21:31

Nick Cleggs speech - My verdict

1.42pm GMT

Nick Clegg has closed the Lib Dem conference with a speech stressing his love for Britain and its open-minded, liberal qualities. He did not announce any new policies in the speech, but he reaffirmed his determination to fight the European elections on a resolutely pro-EU platform and he said the Lib Dems would represent all of the liberal-minded, liberal-hearted men and women who love the Britain we love and who want a party prepared to fight for it.

We will live up to our greatest traditions by keeping Britain engaged, outward facing, a heavyweight in Europe and a leader in the world.

If this sounds like the Britain you want, the Liberal Democrats are the party for you.

Our entire focus is on delivering Liberal Democrat priorities in government and then getting Liberal Democrats back in government in 2015 as the only party capable of building a stronger economy and a fairer society.

Nick Clegg is very much enjoying his role as both Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats. He is only 47.

1.21pm GMT

It was the Love Actually speech, with Nick Clegg playing Hugh Grant. Rarely can a party leader have delivered a speech with so little in terms of new policy content - rather, it contained nothing, to be precise - but an otherwise humdrum piece of Lib Dem boilerplate was transformed into something really rather effective by Cleggs sustained, eclectic and very sincere-sounding love letter to Britain near the start of the speech. Okay, David Beckhams left foot did not get a mention, but virtually everything else did, including queuing, cups of tea and the shipping forecast. Hes not the first politician channel Hugh Grant in this way - remember David Cameron in Russia - but I cant recall a leader going into patriotism overdrive in such a quirky way in a party conference speech.

What made it work, though, was that Clegg managed to link his all-encompassing, National Trust tea towel pro-Britishness with a wider argument about liberalism and open-looking economies.

There are few nations as open-minded and warm-hearted as ours. Smart, funny, compassionate Britain. Always changing, always evolving Britain. Humble enough to understand that we must work with others. Confident enough to lead.

For me it is these qualities that make this nation great these great liberal qualities. Not some sepia-tinted memory of Empire. Not some stuffy parochialism dressed up as patriotism.

12.45pm GMT

Clegg is winding up now.

If you have faith in this country, if you believe in Britains values, if you still want this incredible island of ours to keep punching above our weight and shaping the world so that it is a better place, put the Liberal Democrats back in government again let us protect the Britain you love.

12.44pm GMT

Clegg says the Lib Dems want an education system that allows all children to do as well as they can, more power devolved to cities and communities, and Britain to play its part in the fight against climate change.

If this sounds like the Britain you want, the Liberal Democrats are the party for you.

Between now and the election my aim our aim is to build a coalition bringing together all of the liberal-minded, liberal-hearted men and women who love the Britain we love and who want a party prepared to fight for it. Thats the coalition I care about.

A coalition of all the people who want to keep this nation open, tolerant, compassionate and strong.

So to the people out there who may not have voted for us before: it doesnt matter, thats the past. What matters now is the kind of country you want to live in. The kind of nation you want us to be.

12.42pm GMT

Clegg says the Lib Dems will continue to ensure banks are the servants, not the masters; that growth is sustainable; that the books are balance, but fairly.

And, yes, that means that in the coming Budget Danny Alexander and I are pushing to take the Liberal Democrat income tax cut even further than we had originally planned in this parliament.

We are about to hit the target that was on the front page of our manifesto: raising the personal allowance so that no one pays a penny of income tax on the first £10,000 they earn, saving over 20 million people £700. Now we want to go beyond that, taking the total tax cut to £800.

12.40pm GMT

Lib Dems need to think of this when they are campaigning, he says.

When I tell you that we need to get back into government again protecting Britain from one party rule this is why:

Because we are the guardians of a modern, open and tolerant Britain.

12.39pm GMT

Clegg says we have lived through a choice of weak economy or unfair society before.

Two parties encumbered by the same old prejudices; straitjacketed by the same old ideologies. And whichever way you look at it, left or right, if either of them get into government on their own, they will drag Britain in the same direction: backwards.

No. Thats not my Britain. Thats not the Britain I love. And I am not going to sit back while either of them sweep in and leave this nation diminished and divided because they still dont understand what makes our country great.

12.38pm GMT

And now he turns to the Conservatives.

Or how about widening inequality. A remorseless shrinking of our public services. A party that claims were all in it together and yet refuses to ask the wealthy to pay even a penny more in tax towards the on-going fiscal effort. A party which will instead single out one group the working age poor for especially tough sacrifices. £12bn worth of especially tough sacrifices, from people who are trying to work their way out of poverty and who we should be helping stand on their own two feet.

12.37pm GMT

Clegg attacks Labour.

Profligacy. Economic incompetence. A bloated and cumbersome state. Politicians who think that all they need to do to prove themselves is posture against business. A leadership desperate but unable to break free from the grip of its Union paymasters. A party that cannot be relied upon to keep the economy safe; that wants us to put them back behind the wheel even though they still wont admit how badly they got it wrong.

12.37pm GMT

Clegg says the real test will come in the next parliament.

In this coalition we have begun to turn the page, but the real test will come in the next parliament when government will have to show whether or not we have really, genuinely, learnt from the mistakes of the past.

And I simply do not believe that our opponents have. I simply do not believe that they are up to this task.

12.36pm GMT

Clegg says the future must be different.

Successive governments relying on an overheated financial sector; presiding over a wildly imbalanced economy where the gap between rich and poor grew; where the North fell further and further behind the South.

Successive administrations jumping from one set of public service reforms to the next and Whitehall just seemed to carry on regardless as more and more power was sucked up to the centre.

12.35pm GMT

Clegg says the Lib Dems have ensured the governments economic policy was not just about cuts.

He mentions investment in road and rail, the Green Investment Bank, support for business and the apprenticeship programme.

Dont let anyone airbrush out our role. Thanks to the heroic efforts and sacrifices of millions of people we have been able to pull this country back from the brink.

12.33pm GMT

Clegg says this is what the Lib Dems have been trying to deliver in government.

There is still a long way to go and many people are still feeling the squeeze. But after a period of grave uncertainty, the British people can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I hope that makes each and every one of you feel proud: there would be no recovery without the Liberal Democrats.

12.32pm GMT

The Lib Dems can offer hope, he says.

And that, Liberal Democrats, is what it all comes down to. Hope. Its the oldest dividing line in politics hope versus fear and its back.

12.32pm GMT

Clegg says the Lib Dems should not assume the Eurosceptics will always win.

Forget the lazy assumption that, in the court of public opinion, the eurosceptics will automatically win. There is nothing automatic about election results. A few months ago, when I asked people to take to Twitter to tell me why theyre IN, they did so in their thousands. It was our most successful online campaign ever.

There are plenty of people out there who dont want anger. They dont want bile. They want jobs. They want our country to have influence. They want opportunities. Ultimately they want hope.

12.31pm GMT

Clegg says being part of the EU gives Britain greater clout.

How else would we, right now, be making our presence felt against Vladimir Putins Cold War aggression in the Ukraine?

The EU is a global economic superpower. By standing shoulder to shoulder with our European partners we have the clout to defend not just our own interests, but the interests of our continent as a whole.

12.31pm GMT

Clegg talks about some of the advantages of EU membership.

This isnt about some starry eyed affection for the EU of course it needs reform. But you cant change it with one foot out the door. You change it by taking your place at the table which is where you protect Britains national interest and promote our values too.

12.30pm GMT

Clegg says Ukip wants out, the Conservatives are flirting with exit, and Labour are saying nothing at all.

The Lib Dems are the only party of in, he says.

12.29pm GMT

Clegg says the same kind of extremism does not exist in the UK.

But there is a fight for our future too.

An ungenerous, backwards looking politics has emerged in Britain. The politics of blame has found an acceptable face: it wears a big smile and looks like someone you could have a pint with down the pub. So Im drawing a line in the sand. I am going to defend the tolerant and modern Britain we love, and I am going to start by showing people whats at stake at the upcoming European elections: do you want Britain in Europe, or out?

12.28pm GMT

Clegg says these problems have led to a rise in extremism around Europe.

Taken together, in societies across the Western world, these experiences have created an entirely understandable but dangerous urge to turn inwards. An urge to reject the new or unfamiliar and to shun the outside world.

If anyone doesnt believe it, just glance across the Channel at our European neighbours, where a number of extremist parties are on the rise.

12.26pm GMT

Clegg says one of the big questions of the time is how to protect the nations liberal values.

Six years ago Britain suffered an economic cardiac arrest.

Global power, money and influence have been shifting from West to East and from North to South for years. The previously fashionable view that the world would automatically slide towards greater freedom and democracy now feels presumptuous and naïve. Within our lifetimes America will no longer be the worlds biggest economy. It will be China: an authoritarian state.

12.24pm GMT

Clegg says this open-mindedness is what makes Britain great.

For me it is these qualities that make this nation great these great liberal qualities. Not some sepia-tinted memory of Empire. Not some stuffy parochialism dressed up as patriotism.

In the 21st Century, in a highly competitive, fluid and fast-moving world we hold our own because of our ability to embrace the future rather than cling to the past. It is our ability to look forward and outward and our capacity for reinvention in other words our liberalism that ensures this small island remains a giant on the world stage.

12.24pm GMT

The family story goes on.

Years later he married a woman who had herself come here to avoid conflict and revolution: my grandmother. She escaped Russia during the revolution, crossing Europe with her family and eventually settling in London. For her Britain offered a place of stability and safety. At a moment of great upheaval, this country welcomed her in and let her call it home.

There are few nations as open-minded and warm-hearted as ours. Smart, funny, compassionate Britain. Always changing, always evolving Britain. Humble enough to understand that we must work with others. Confident enough to lead.

12.23pm GMT

Clegg says this is the 100th anniversary of the first world war.

His grandfather remembers watching the soldiers come home. He told Clegg that he was upset he could not fight because he passionately believed that to be a British soldier, defending our values of liberty and peace, was the most noble thing you could be.

12.22pm GMT

And he loves Britains internationalism.

Above all I love that, while we may be an island, we have always looked beyond our shores. Throughout our history, when we have seen trouble in the world we havent just looked the other way; we havent just crossed to the other side of the street; Britain doesnt peer out at the rest of the world and shrug its shoulders. We are always at our best when we play our part.

12.22pm GMT

Clegg contrast the Uk with Russia.

I look at whats happening in places like Russia, where the government is effectively criminalising homosexuality [someone shouts shame], and I love that Britain is a place where you can be gay and proud and now you can get married too.

12.21pm GMT

The love goes on.

I love that we do respond the cliché is true to every problem no matter how big or small with the same thing: a cup of tea.

I love that, wherever you go in the world, youll find football fans obsessed with the Premier League.

12.20pm GMT

And now hes getting more political.

I love living in a country synonymous with human rights and the rule of law.

I love that it was British lawyers who drafted the European Convention on Human Rights and a British Prime Minister who helped launch the Single Market. And I enjoy reminding my Coalition partners that it was a Prime Minister from their party at that.

12.20pm GMT

Its not quite Hugh Grant in Love Actually yet, but he is just getting into his stride.

I love that a country capable of extraordinary pomp and ceremony can still retain a spiky irreverence towards its establishment. A country where we line the streets waving our Union Jacks wildly to welcome the arrival of Prince George, and the next moment were chuckling at Private Eyes front page: Woman Has Baby.

I love that we insist on queuing when we go abroad, even when the locals dont.

12.19pm GMT

Clegg is talking about his love for Britain.

I love Britain.

I love it for all its contradictions.

12.17pm GMT

Clegg says, in Mexaco, Britain is remembered as the first country to recognise it after independence.

In Colombia Britain is know as the country that built their railways.

So wherever you go one thing is clear: people dont listen to our country out of some nostalgic deference to an old power. They listen because of who we are. Because of the things weve done. Because of the leadership we continue to show. And that makes me incredibly proud.

12.16pm GMT

Clegg starts by saying he has been able to visit other countries in his role as deputy prime minister.

There is a threat that runs through each trip.

You get to see Britain through other peoples eyes.

Everywhere I have been every nation around the planet has its own story about Britain.

12.15pm GMT

Clegg is coming on stage now. (The music does seem excessively loud.)

12.13pm GMT

The Nick Clegg speeches starts with a video showing Clegg saying people should vote for the Lib Dems because they are the party of in - in Europe, and in work (because the EU guarantees employment).

12.09pm GMT

Thankfully, Lorely Burt has now taken the Farage mask off. (Rory Bremners job is safe.)

12.06pm GMT

While stewards go round the hall with buckets collecting donations, Lorely Burt is on stage wearing a Nigel Farage mask pretending to be Nige looking for Nick Clegg to debate.

12.04pm GMT

Lord Wrigglesworth is doing a fundraising appeal.

He says that, for 16 of the last 18 quarters, the Lib Dems have beaten Labour in terms of getting donations from private donors.

12.00pm GMT

Farron says the Lib Dems have had the first increase in membership for a governing party for as long as anyone can remember.

11.57am GMT

Nick Clegg will be starting his speech shortly.

Tim Farron is introducing him.

11.52am GMT

The conference has just voted.

Delegates rejected Martin Horwoods call for the line saying the government should not engage in the bulk collection of data to be taken out of the motion. There was a show of hands, and Horwood was defeated quite easily.

11.47am GMT

Julian Huppert, the Cambridge MP, is summing up the debate.

The internet age brings great possibilities, he says. But it brings great risks too.

11.42am GMT

Susan Juned from Stratford upon Avon says the Lib Dems should not sleepwalk into a situation where the routine harvesting of bulk information is okay.

The right to privacy can only be limited in a democratic society where it is absolutely necessary. And it should be proportionate, she says.

11.37am GMT

Evan Harris, the former MP, says hes the campaign director of Hacked Off. But today he wants to speak in favour of the newspapers, or some of them, he says.

The Guardian has acted responsibly, with the public interest foremost in its concern.

11.33am GMT

Sarah Noble from Calderdale says she joined the Lib Dems on the issue of internet freedom in 2009.

Why cannot trust GCHQ and other spy agencies not to spy on law-abiding citizens, she says.

11.30am GMT

Mark Pack from Islington, a member of the federal policy committee and a Lib Dem blogger, says the intelligence services commissioner has only one member of staff. That is not enough to scrutinise all the things he is supposed to scrutinise.

When the New York Times published a story about phone hacking, it implied that the law had been broken. But the interception of communications commissioner did nothing.

11.26am GMT

Jenny Woods, from Greater Reading, says she recently met Martin Horwood at a constituency event. But she is in favour of the ban on the bulk collection of data. She helped to write the motion, she says.

She supports the work of GCHQ. They defend democracy. But they must operate within the law, she says.

11.20am GMT

Martin Horwood, the MP for Cheltenham, says thousands of his constituents work at GCHQ. His parents both worked there. And, before that, they worked at Bletchley Park.

He says the implication that GCHQ try to get round the law is deeply resented, he says. A friend told him that senior management is very scrupulous about operating within the law.

11.14am GMT

Greg Judge from Coventry says, when mass data collection takes place, all the data may not be read. But it is still there. Leaks could happen.

11.03am GMT

Farron sums up the motion.

The time has come for us to establish a digital bill of rights. The 1689 Bill of Rights codified the basic freedoms which we still enjoy today. As we live more of our lives online, we deserve to know that we also enjoy a similar level of freedom in what we do in cyberspace.

The motion before you seeks to address the untrammelled power of the state to roam through your digital life. We need to establish a commission of experts to review the powers the state currently holds. America has already vastly outpaced us in their reaction to this information. The time has come for Britain to catch up.

Listening to @timfarron proposing #digitalbillofrights motion at #ldconf pic.twitter.com/WDEBdi6wsX

11.03am GMT

Farron says blanket surveillance of any kind is not the answer to combating terrorism.

I do not value someones electronic conversations as any less private than their letters or phone calls. We should revise and extend our current legal safeguards to electronic communications as well.

For too long, human rights and civil liberties have been denigrated concepts in this country our challenge in winning the debate for freedom on this issue, is also a massive opportunity.

And if we are going to win the battle, it will be Liberal Democrats who win it. We cant rely on Tories who have prevented a proper Government response to the Snowden leaks.And we cant rely on the Labour party if theyd been in power today, wed have ID cards, 28 days detention without trial, the imprisonment of the children of asylum seekers, control orders, Gary McKinnon would now be rotting in a US jail, and digital freedoms would have been contemptuously dismissed.

No, if you want liberal policies, youre going to have to support liberals! And, despite a difficult four years in our relationship, I respectfully say that to the Guardian in particular!

10.59am GMT

But, Farron says, the laws governing this activity are out of date, he says.

And Labour ignored concerns about this area when they were in power.

So we will take Yvette Cooper seriously on this matter when she apologises for Labours appallingly authoritarian instincts that got us into this mess.

Conference, we should be clear that Britain does face threats. There are groups who seek to target our society, our values and our way of life. The motion before you does not seek to stop our intelligence services from ensuring we are safe to go about our daily lives.

It would be easy to denigrate or belittle their efforts, when they are unable to respond. But liberty and security should not be competitors, but two sides of the same coin. We should be strong in the defence of our liberal values, we should be equally strong in our praise of those in the security services who allow us to continue to hold those values and to hold this debate today.

In America, Senators and Representatives from both parties have worked together to challenge the overwhelming power of state surveillance. The White House commissioned a report into its surveillance powers and the resulting document offered 40 recommendations on how the intelligence services can operate in a more transparent manner.

In the UK, we have had to endure the sight of senior politicians attacking the Guardian for having the temerity to try and inform the public of what is done in our name.

For a Prime Minister who pretends to be so concerned with ensuring the freedom of the press, he has a funny way of showing it. Fellow media outlets have even lambasted the Guardian for their brave revelations. They should be ashamed of themselves.

10.55am GMT

Farron talks about the impact of the Edward Snowden revelations.

It will soon be almost a year since the world first heard the name Edward Snowden. In the months that have followed, we have slowly built up a picture of the full extent and scale of the states ability to intercept our every electronic utterance.

Every email. Every tweet. Every facebook post.

10.52am GMT

Tim Farron, the Lib Dem president, is opening the debate.

He starts with a joke about the power of the internet.

When I was messing around on Facebook, instead of getting on and writing this speech, one of my friends posted up a question. They asked: If someone from the 1950s were to travel through time to the present day, what is the most astonishing thing you could say to them?

And the answer? Well, how about In my pocket, I have a device capable of accessing the sum of all human knowledge in seconds.And I use it to get into arguments with strangers and look at funny pictures of cats.

10.50am GMT

The Lib Dems are now about to start the debate on internet surveillance.

Here are extracts from the Lib Dem motion on a digital bill of rights.

Conference believes:

i) Monitoring or surveilling people without suspicion is alien to our traditional British values.

10.45am GMT

Simon Hughes, the justice minister, says the Lib Dems need to speak up more for the European court of human rights.

He says he hears siren voices in the Ministry of Justice (ie, Chris Grayling) suggesting Britain should abandon its commitments under the European convention on human rights. But that would be a mistake.

10.40am GMT

William Wallace (Lord Wallace of Saltaire) says he has been the Lib Dem minister leading on the governments balance of compentencies review of EU powers.

The evidence overwhelmingly supports the current arrangements, he says.

10.21am GMT

For the record, here todays YouGov GB polling figures.

Labour: 39% (down 1 point from YouGov on Friday)

10.11am GMT

Neville Hunnings says he is speaking against the motion.

(Thats surprising, because, in Lib Dem terms, it seems very uncontentious. You can read it in the agenda paper here - pdf.)

9.53am GMT

Martin Horwood MP is now opening the debate on Europe.

He says recently Lib Dem MPs were shown some research about the popularity of Lib Dem policy ideas. The one that came out on top was using the European arrest warrant to catch criminals.

.@MartinChelt moving #ldconf Europe motion: In Europe, In Work.Europe essential to a #StrongerEconomy #FairerSociety pic.twitter.com/cTSYbW4ekk

9.43am GMT

In the Ukraine debate, Spencer Hagard says he has taken a keen interest in Ukraine because his grandparents were from Hungary. His first memories are of the death of Stalin and the Russian invasion of Hungary in 1956. He says the people of Crimea should be able to decide their future in a free and fair referendum. But that cannot happen next Sunday under the dark cloud of Russian arms.

He also says that the European Union should bind countries like Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania more closely into the EU by making Russian an official EU language.

9.30am GMT

Here are some of the main Lib Dem stories and articles in the Sunday papers.

Simon Walters and Brendan Carlin in the Mail on Sunday says Danny Alexander is engaged in a power struggle with Vince Cable.

Liberal Democrat Cabinet Minister Danny Alexander was accused last night of positioning himself to succeed Nick Clegg after he appeared to initiate a power struggle with Vince Cable.

Business Secretary Mr Cable is furious that Treasury Chief Secretary Mr Alexander is demanding to be the partys main economic spokesman at next years General Election.

Nick Cleggs plans for this weekends Liberal Democrat spring party conference in York risk being derailed by a rebellion from his northern MPs, peers and council leaders, who have made public their anger at the coalitions failure to deal with the north-south economic divide.

All parties should consider pledging free childcare for one-year-olds in their general election manifestos to help encourage women to resume their careers, the minister for employment has said.

In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, Jenny Willott, who is also minister for women, said extending childcare to babies would be expensive but it may well be that its the right thing to do.

Nick Clegg wants to enshrine in law Britains commitment to devote 7p of every £10 of national income to providing foreign aid.

The deputy prime minister is pressing for a bill in the next session of parliament to make the provision of 0.7% of gross national income to the international development budget legally binding.

Connoisseurs of American professional wrestling know that it is an essential prerequisite for enjoying the spectacle that you can suspend disbelief. A move such as the piledriver would, if for real, render its victim a quadriplegic. And yet the contestants nearly always bounce back to life to hurl themselves around the ring and into the next clinch. It is only by accident that anyone genuinely gets hurt.

It was a senior aide to David Cameron who recently introduced me to this way of thinking about the coalition when we were having a conversation about the clashes between the Tories and the Lib Dems. There are many play fights between them, which are as stagey as those in American wrestling and amount to choreographed displays of their disagreements. Quite often, when the media reports a coalition row between the Tories and the Lib Dems, it has been confected by one or both of them because someone thinks it suits them to be seen on opposing sides of an issue.

Just took a selfie with our @LiberalYouth members at #ldconf. pic.twitter.com/acb7EyH5Za

9.26am GMT

In the Ukraine debate Scott Walker says he knows Ukraine well. The people of Crimea do not think of themselves as Russian or Ukrainian, he says. They think of themselves as Crimean. They favour autonomy.

The Ukrainian government should accept self-determination for Crimea, he says. But any referendum must be free and fair.

9.23am GMT

Simon Hughes, the justice minister, is speaking in the Ukraine debate.

He says he has taken an interest in Ukraine for years. He has been there for work reasons, and on holiday.

9.07am GMT

Nick Clegg wraps up the Lib Dem spring conference this morning with a speech just before lunchtime. And before that there are three debates.

According to the excerpts from the speech released in advance, Clegg will focus on the European elections, and attack Ukips backwards-looking politics.

An ungenerous, backwards-looking politics has emerged in Britain. The politics of blame has found an acceptable face: it wears a big smile and looks like someone you could have a pint with down the pub.

So Im drawing a line in the sand. I am going to defend the tolerant and modern Britain we love, and I am going to start by showing people whats at stake at the upcoming European elections: do you want Britain in Europe, or out?

Farage v Clegg - the debate for Europe: Politics live blog

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 17:29

Guardian ICM poll says 69% say Farage won, 31% Clegg

YouGov says 68% say Farage won, 27% Clegg

Summary - and six things we've learnt

10.18pm BST

Here's a news summary.

Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, has for the second time decisively won a debate with Nick Clegg on whether Britain should leave the EU. Two separate snap for reliable polling organisations, ICM and YouGov, said that Farage won by a margin of two to one. The viewers gave the Lib Dem leader and deputy prime minister the thumbs down despite (or perhaps because of - see below) Clegg adopting a more aggressive, combative performance. Worryingly for Clegg, the ICM figures suggest that 43% of those who watched are less likely to vote Lib Dem in the European elections, and only 7% are more likely. (Admittedly, few people are currently backing the Lib Dems anyway, according to the polls.) But ICM found 38% of viewers saying they were now more likely to vote Ukip.

9.47pm BST

James Forsyth at Coffee House says there may be a consolation for David Cameron in tonight's result.

A strong Ukip performance in the European Elections would send the Tory party into a frenzy. But the consolation for David Cameron from tonights debate was how Clegg seems to be accepting more and more of his renegotiation agenda. Indeed, Clegg was positively boasting about how the government had tightened up the benefit rules for EU migrants. It all left me thinking that Camerons pledge of an EU renegotiation is not as much of an obstacle to a second coalition with Clegg as Westminster thinks that it is.

9.41pm BST

You can read the full Demos analysis of the Twitter comment on the debate here.

Here's an extract.

It was a race to the bottom for both party leaders with overwhelmingly more boos than cheers from Twitter. Overall there were over eight times as many tweets that were negative about Clegg or Farage people struggled to find something positive to say.

- Total negative tweets about Farage: 10,946

9.36pm BST

And here's my colleague Tom Clark's take on the Guardian ICM poll.

1) Rare to see such consistency in a poll across Qs and pop groups as tonight's Gdn/ICM. *Seeming* disaster for Clegg. BUT ....

2) since Clegg starts out unpopular, support by even a smallish minority cld still justify the exposure. Maybe it was worth doing

9.33pm BST

And here are the key points from those statistics.

Clegg only won among one group - Lib Dem supporters. But he was virtually equal with Farage amongst the under 25s.

9.28pm BST

And here is some more detail of how the Guardian ICM figures for "who won" broke down.

The headline figures, excluding don't knows, were:

9.17pm BST

And here are more Guardian clips from the debate.

On EU foreign policy

9.07pm BST

Here is more from the Guardian ICM poll.

Would you vote to leave the EU?

8.59pm BST

Here's some more Twitter comment on the debate from journalists and commentators.

All told #NickvNigel was good for Farage, mixed for Clegg and pretty terrible for the pro-European cause.

Trouble with Clegg tonight is that lot of what he said had b-all to do with EU; syria, gay marraige, wg grace. I fear audience will notice

Maybe Clegg's Mr Angry Tabloid backfired tonite. Salutory lesson for TV debates? As every kids movie tells you 'just be yourself'

Clegg did pro-EU cause service by stress-testing arguments. Sadly, they seem to withstand stress poorly.

And Clegg lost by trying to act like Farage: passion and populism aren't his natural thing. Voters can spot inauthentic approach.

Think Farage came out stronger in polls this time because he did better in second half - which people remember. Clegg flailed at the end.

Lib Dems' only brightside, despite the even bigger thumping: "We've had an hour's prime time telly," says Clegg spinner #europedebate

Interesting analysis from Peter Kellner from YouGov - more Labour supporters sided with UKIP tonight, last week they went for Clegg...

Key lesson for @nick_clegg after heavy loss in #NickvNigel: if you insult @Nigel_Farage you insult a lot of voters

The most nervous person after @nick_clegg loss in #NickvNigel? @David_Cameron who now knows he will need major EU reform to win referendum

The biggest sign of how much politics have changed, it was Clegg was playing the challenger and Farage the incumbent http://t.co/xwYfFy03La

Two polls call it 2:1 for Farage. Huge boon for UKIP into Euro elections. Lib Dems must now ask themselves whether debates wise #NickvNigel

Having listened to every word of the EU in-out debate I am surprised by the scale of victory for @Nigel_Farage

You know things are weird when the guy who wants to smash the system is a toff called Nigel who spent 20 yrs working as a commodities broker

8.42pm BST

Here's the Conservative MP John Redwood on the result.

The debate was very bad today. I thought they shouted over each other particularly Mr Clegg over Mr Farage. These are two men who no one thinks can form a majority. Mr Clegg changes his mind quite a bit because he believes in coalitions with the prevailing party at the time. Mr Farage says he wants a referendum but can't bring that about.

8.41pm BST

The Guardian ICM figures do not include don't knows.

If they are included, the "who won?" figures are:

8.36pm BST

My colleague Rowena Mason has sent me this from the spin room.

Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the treasury, said Clegg has put his points across "incredibly successfully and powerfully" despite poll results.

He said Farage's views about admiring Putin and Syrian rebels being responsible for chemical weapons were "pretty extraordinary" and a sign the Ukip leader was prepared to "peddle fictions" to further his anti-EU arguments.

8.33pm BST

We've got more from the Guardian ICM poll.

Who had the more appealing personality?

8.30pm BST

Here's the Guardian video of the opening statements.

8.29pm BST

We've now got the sample size for the Guardian's ICM poll. It was 1,458.

8.28pm BST

Here's the Blurrt worm showing minute by minute what the Twitter verdict was on the debate.

8.22pm BST

The Twitter commentariat are giving it to Nigel Farage. (I'm on my own on this one.)

Resounding victory for Farage with Clegg shouty and bad tempered as he realised he was drowning.

Hmm. Suspect Farage will be judged to have won that. Clegg didn't really knock him off his stride.

My impression: think Clegg started off strong and hit hard on foreign policy, but Farage edged ahead halfway through. 60-40 to Farage again

Clegg started well but Farage finished much stronger. And yet again, just by turning up to a debate with the DPM, he wins. #europedebate

Farage's only weak moment came over Putin - and most voters share his isolationism. Polls will give him another big win. #europedebate

I am struggling to think of something sensible to say about that. Nigel did better, but his support of Putin is weird. Nick shouted more.

I thought Farage won that. He'is just a much more attractive public personality and politician than Clegg - even to UKIP opposers like me

8.18pm BST

And here are the YouGov figures.

BREAKING: FARAGE WINS: Farage, 68%; Nick Clegg, 27%. Dont know, 5%. #europedebate http://t.co/hCT65lEY2U pic.twitter.com/pzXG160W8T

8.14pm BST

Here are the headline Guardian ICM figures.

Who won?

8.10pm BST

And the Demos Twitter analysis seems to be coming out against Clegg.

STAT: only 60 tweets of 14,000 sent so far have backed Clegg in #EuropeDebate finds @Demos/@IpsosMORI analysis - 8,781 against him

8.09pm BST

The Blurtt worm has given it to Nigel Farage.

.@BlurrtUK Twitter worm verdict - Nigel Farage victory. @david_taylor says: "Clegg started stronger than last week but couldnt sustain it".

8.04pm BST

Snap Verdict: It was much closer than last time and, in a contrast to last week, Nick Clegg dominated in the early exchanges. He was more combative and aggressive, and, to my ear, he probably won more of the exchanges than Farage did. But Farage got through the Putin/Ukraine storm quite easily, and his Stop the War isolationist popularism will have resonated with many voters. To my mind, Clegg was narrowly ahead. (Last time I was sure that Farage won.) But when the polls come in, I still expect them to give it to Farage - but probably by a narrow margin than last time.

7.58pm BST

They are on final statement.

Farage says the UK is a great country. It can prosper on its own. Come and join the people's army, and let's topple the establishment who got us into this mess.

7.56pm BST

Q: What will the EU look like in 10 years' time?

Clegg says it will be much the same as it is now. The case for staying in, based on jobs, will be as strong now.

7.52pm BST

Q: Why shouldn't the people have a say on Europe?

Farage says Clegg told him to "read the small print" when he produced a leaflet last week in which Clegg promised a referendum. He has read it. And there are no qualifications.

7.48pm BST

Q: How much power do we have at elections if we are in the EU?

Clegg says that's why we have to be in the EU - to influence decisions.

7.43pm BST

Q: What influence would we have negotiating trade deals outside the EU?

Farage says Britain has no influence anyway on trade deals. The British person is not allowed in the room,.

7.37pm BST

Farage says Clegg did not mention wind energy.

Wind energy benefits the rich, he says.

7.34pm BST

Q: How can we stop environmental regulations damaging business?

Clegg says you can only amend regulations if you are part of the EU.

7.31pm BST

Q: Does immigration have an impact on cohesion?

Farage says it does. The white working class have been left out. There is a danger of an underclass being created.

7.28pm BST

Farage says: "I'm sorry, Nick."

(He is doing a good tone in condescension today.)

7.24pm BST

Clegg produces a leaflet from Ukip.

It features a picture of a native American. It says: "He used to ignore immigration. Now he is living on a reservation."

7.21pm BST

Q: How can we manage immigration?

Clegg says we need proper exit checks. He mentions other measures to control immigration. But he also talks of immigrants creating jobs.

7.19pm BST

Farage says the EU now wants an army and navy.

This country has had enough of endless foreign wars. And there is no evidence our military intervention is making these countries better.

7.15pm BST

Farage says that Clegg also supported military intervention in Libya. Now Libya is worse than it was.

People do not want constant wars, he says.

7.11pm BST

Q: How can we face up to Russia if we are not part of the EU?

Farage says an elected leader was topped in Ukraine. He cannot support what the EU has done.

7.09pm BST

Clegg asks how you can reform the EU if you are not in it.

Tomorrow there will be a vote on roaming charges. But will Ukip vote for it?

7.08pm BST

Q: What principles will drive your decisions"?

(Good question)

7.05pm BST

Nick Clegg says if something sounds too good to be true, it is.

Farage says we can have all the good things about being in Europe, without being in. That is a "con", he says. We should work with others and lead. There is strength in numbers.

7.03pm BST

David Dimbleby says each man will make an opening statement.

He says they drew straws earlier. Nigel Farage is starting.

7.00pm BST

It's starting now.

6.59pm BST

And, on that theme, Adam Boulton has posted this.

@europedebates 1974 Roy Jenkins and Tony Benn, today Farage and Clegg, who will David Dimbleby be hosting in 40 years time?

6.58pm BST

David Dimbleby is chairing the debate for the BBC tonight.

Earlier he was talking about chairing a debate on Europe during the 1975 referendum campaign. The BBC showed some footage, including a very youthful looking Tony Benn. Dimbleby said he had been rereading the transcript, and that what was interesting was how similar the arguments were almost 40 years ago.

6.54pm BST

This is interesting.

YouGov: of 200,000 people only 482 share Farage's admiration for Putin and say they 'like' or 'really like' the Russian leader #NickvNigel

6.53pm BST

Oh dear. Newsnight's coverage could be a bit patchy tonight.

well this will be interesting #nickvnigel Our entire recording system has crashed in the BBC edit suites. So we may have brilliance. or ....

6.50pm BST

As I said earlier, my colleague Rowena Mason is in the spin room. It looks as if she got the plum assignment.

The Spin Room for the #europedebate is well stocked... But who will be cracking open the champers in celebration? pic.twitter.com/FdVCmocXU3

6.48pm BST

My colleague Patrick Wintour has dug out this, listing some of the evidence for the case that President Assad was responsible for the use of sarin gas in Syria.

6.44pm BST

On BBC News just now Tim Aker, Ukip's head of policy, was asked to justify Nigel Farage's claim that it was probably the rebels who used sarin gas in Syria, not President Assad. Aker sidestepped the question, saying there was a debate to be had about this.

6.42pm BST

An hour before the debate started, MailOnline launched a story with the headline: Revealed: How Nigel Farage uses his firm Thorn In The Side Ltd to halve the tax bill on £45,000 in extra earnings.

6.41pm BST

My colleague Rowena Mason is in the debate spin room.

Spin room pre Nick v Nigel 2 much emptier than last week. Lib Dem Danny Alexander cosily sharing table w/Ukip's Paul Nuttall ahead of match

6.36pm BST

In Westminster most commentators assume Nigel Farage's support for Vladimir Putin will cost him support with viewers.

But Lord Ashcroft is not so sure.

Farage could gain votes tonight with his comments on Putin. #tricky

6.32pm BST

Earlier Nigel Farage told the BBC that he thought the Syrian rebels, rather than President Assad, were responsible for the chemical gas attack last year that almost prompted international military intervention. This is what he said.

Everybody in London and Brussels and Washington assumed [the sarin gas] had been used by Assad. And Putin said, 'Hang on a second, don't be so sure.' It turns out it's more than likely it's the rebels that used the gas. If Putin had not intervened, we would now be at war in Syria.

6.26pm BST

"Who won?" isn't the only question that matters tonight. In fact, there is a very good case for saying that both men will gain from taking part, even if it is widely agreed that they have lost. Ukip can say that, just by being here, Nigel Farage has put the case of leaving the EU on the national agenda, as their communications director has just tweeted.

Mounting excitement at UKIP HQ. Tonight Nigel is the standard bearer for the Eurosceptic majority. Been a long road to get here. #ukip

Nick leads the Party of IN, Farage leads the Party of OUT. Cameron & Miliband are missing in action #europedebate pic.twitter.com/41eUNLRxPH

Putting aside your own party preference and only basing your answer on what you saw or heard during the debate, as far as you are concerned which one of the two leaders do you think won the debate?

Leaving aside you own party preference, who do you think performed best overall in tonight's debate?

6.04pm BST

Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg do not go into the contest as equals. There are various measures that you can use to assess their popularity. In my debate blog last week I posted data on five benchmarks that you can use to measure their respective popularity, and most of them clearly favour Farage.

This poll for ComRes published earlier this week also has some interesting data on how the two men are perceived.

5.52pm BST

Nigel Farage has written the diary for this week's Spectator. He says the reaction to last week's debate showed how little the Westminster commentariat understand about Ukip's popularity.

Perhaps the biggest surprise to me in these debates has been the realisation that it isnt just the political classes we are up against, its virtually the entire commentariat, too. In the spin room, it was clear to my press team that most of the media were desperate to write up a Clegg win even those working on newspapers that are supposedly hostile to the Lib Dems. Journalists were itching to start tweeting that Clegg had trounced me, even after it was quite clear he hadnt. But why? It just goes to show that the Westminster bubble press and politicians alike floats further away every day from the people they claim to speak for and to.

The day after the first debate I gave a speech in Cologne, organised by the youth wing of the Alliance for Deutschland, Germanys fast-growing Eurosceptic party and, to my surprise, it was a sell-out. In the audience were Rhineland Germans holding Ukip placards. The Ukip brand clearly is broadening.

5.48pm BST

Nick Clegg is going to attack Nigel Farage for his comments about Russia and Ukraine. As a reminder, this is what Farage said on the subject in the debate last week.

We have given a false series of hopes to a group of people in the western Ukraine and so geed up were they that they actually toppled their own elected leader. That provoked Mr Putin and I think the European Union, frankly, does have blood on its hands in the Ukraine.

I don't want a European army, navy, air force or a European foreign policy. It has not been a thing for good in the Ukraine.

5.33pm BST

Last week Nigel Farage was deemed the clear winner after his first Europe debate with Nick Clegg. Tonight we've got the second debate, the rematch, and there's intense interest in whether Clegg can make up for lost ground.

A YouGov poll conducted after last week's LBC contest suggested that the debate had little influence on what those who were watching think about the big matter of whether or not Britain should leave the EU. There's no reason to think that tonight's debate will be much different.

Nigel Farage is part of a group of people who have been pumping out misinformation for year after year after year. Thats not going to be reversed in one or even two hours of debate, but since no one else is prepared to actually tell the truth, spell it out like it is, that it makes no sense to be isolated in this world, that weve got to work with others to keep ourselves safe, to keep the economy strong, Im going to continue to do that.

Theyre going to have a go at me over Putin because Ive been wildly misquoted over that. I was asked a couple of months ago which world leader did I admire and I said Vladimir Putin as an operator, particularly the way he managed to stop the West getting militarily involved in Syria, but I dont like him, I wouldnt want to live there and I dont like him as a human being. But Im sure there will be a ding-dong over that.

Continue reading...

Lib Dem spring conference - Clegg wins vote on new immigration policy: Politics live blog

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 12:08

Clegg wins vote on new immigration policy

Lunchtime summary

Cleggs Q&A - Summary

Afternoon summary

5.56pm GMT

Nick Clegg has heightened his rhetorical attack on the Conservativess stance on immigration, describing it as almost ugly. He made the comment in a wide-ranging Q&A with party members. (See 5.02pm.)

Clegg has said he would be concerned about any proposal to water down the law on paying the BBC licence fee. Referring to Conservative suggestions that non-payment of the licence fee should be made a civil offence, not a criminal offence, he said he would be concerned about any move which would lessen the signal that people should pay the fee.

You need to be aware that if you have a 1% drop in the payment of the licence fee, that would lose you money which at the moment would cover the money for 10 local radio stations. So its important that people do pay their licence fee and I dont want to see any relaxation of that because Im a great fan of the BBC. I think a lot of people rely on the BBC locally and nationally for their news and for a lot else besides.

5.36pm GMT

Simon Hughes, the justice minister, has told a fringe meeting that he would like state marriage services and religious ones to be separated.

I still hope that we can win that argument, and I say this as a supporter of disestablishment from the church, and Im a member of the Church, to separate, even in those churches where they have current powers for weddings, the civil from the faith ceremony.

I think we have got into a terrible muddle legally by putting them together, as is the case in the Anglican church and many other churches and some synagogues.

5.31pm GMT

The Lib Dem motion on power to the people has been passed. It supports the proposals in the power to the people policy paper (pdf).

An attempt to take out the lines backing job-sharing MPs was defeated.

5.02pm GMT

Clegg said that the stance of the Conservative and Labour parties on immigration was truly dispiriting. In a reference to James Brokenshires immigration speech (delivered on Thursday), Clegg said that an almost ugly side of the debate had emerged in the last 48 hours. The Tories would no longer support the business case for immigration, he said. But he was almost more critical of Labour.

Labour ... wont stand up against xenophobia. Instead of trying to actually reduce the temperature of the debate, they try and stoke it. In many ways, it is a measure of whats happened to the Labour party that, on the big issues of the day, Europe and immigration, their leadership is almost entirely silent. They have completely lost the courage of their convictions and they have lost touch with some of their finest traditions. Its dismal day for Labour.

And, by the way, for those who say - theres a bit of a debate about this, commentators and others saying Ah, there are other ways of helping [the very poor] - well, self-evidently raising the allowance doesnt help people who dont pay income tax ... To suggest to someone on £12,500, who under our plans would be £700 better off, that they dont deserve a tax break is just a ludicrous thing to say. Someone on £12,500 doesnt feel rich. We should be proud of the fact we are helping people on low and middle incomes, millions and millions of whom desperately need help, rather than, it seems to me, potentially snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by saying we should be doing something completely different.

In this subsection, we consider the effects of increasing both the personal allowance and the employee NICs threshold to £11,000 in 201415. This would cost the same (about £12 billion per year) as increasing the personal allowance alone to £12,500. It would take 1.8 million people out of direct tax altogether.37 The alignment of the two thresholds would, in itself, be advantageous because it would slightly simplify the overall structure of the direct tax system that workers face ...

Aligning the employee NICs threshold and the personal allowance represents a better way to help the low paid than further increases in the personal allowance alone. First, there is a group of low-paid individuals who already pay no income tax, but whose tax burden can be reduced through cuts to NICs. Second, because cuts to NICs reduce taxes only on earned income, the gains for workers are larger at a given exchequer cost than the gains from increasing the personal allowance. For the same reasons, it is a better to way strengthen the work incentives of those with low earnings IFS Green Budget (or potential earnings) as well. The alignment of the employee NICs threshold and the personal allowance also has the advantage of simplifying the marginal tax rate schedule that workers face, eliminating a small (but growing) 12% marginal rate band.

This is something which finally has been associated with us, its progressive, its big, its bold, its popular and we should stick with it.

I dont think anyone believes the Conservatives say when they claim now, latterly and somewhat belatedly, that they wanted this allowance increased all along. I know for a fact they didnt.

Europe, as an economic superpower - which is what it is, the worlds largest borderless single market - needs to match its economic clout with greater political clout. It is a source of endless frustration to me that we dont use our economic clout as a club to greater effect, for instance in the Middle East peace process where constantly we wait for Washington to make the first move, rather, than for Paris, Berlin and London to work together. We could do. We could deliver much greater clout as the European Union in the region if we were prepared to translate our economic muscle into collective political muscle in the region.

I want to see that city deal approach basically expanded across the whole country, whether it is cities or rural areas or urban areas. That bottom up approach to decentralisation, I think, is a better way of actually promoting decentralisation, rather than waiting for some crazy constitutional blueprint to have every t crossed and every i dotted. My ambition in government has just been to push decentralisation constantly, at every opportunity.

3.48pm GMT

Q: Can we campaign to form the next government alone? Under first past the past, people cannot vote for a coalition.

Clegg says he would love to be prime minister.

3.44pm GMT

Q: People dont care about the EU. How can we make them care?

Clegg says people worry about jobs, crime, the environment and climate change. Yet the government cannot do anything about these issues unless it acts through Europe.

3.41pm GMT

Q: Will the Lib Dems continue to make reducing the burden for people on low and middle incomes the priority for Lib Dem tax policy?

Clegg says that this has been the priority for the Lib Dems. The tax allowance has been lifted. This has been one of the biggest changes to the tax system for a generation. It is a big achievement for the party, he says.

3.35pm GMT

Q: Some people doing apprenticeships complain they are not paid fairly. What can be done about this?

Clegg says he is glad the government is promoting apprenticeships. He says the Lib Dem MP Gordon Birtwistle has done as much as anyone to promote them.

3.32pm GMT

Q: [From a student studying in York] What can the Lib Dems do to encourage paid internships? Lots of them are in London. But that is hard for people outside London. And shouldnt MPs take on more interns?

Clegg says he is 47. When he was a student, internships did not matter so much. Now they are more important.

3.24pm GMT

Q: What will we do to support people in their 30s still in debt?

Clegg says, first, the government must create job opportunities.

3.17pm GMT

Q: Can we have a seaside deal?

Clegg says the government is setting up local growth funds, as recommended by Lord Heseltine in his report.

3.15pm GMT

Q: Should city deals be matched by rural deals for rural areas?

Clegg says this government has presided over more economic and fiscal devolution than any government for a long time. Measures include decentralisation of business rates, more borrowing powers for councils and city deals.

3.10pm GMT

Clegg says America is increasingly focusing on the Pacific.

Some people think will then concentrate less on the Middle East.

3.06pm GMT

Q: Why have Labour and the Tories left it up to you to fight Ukip?

Clegg says the Conservative party is split. One part wants to leave the EU. Another part does not want to leave, but has not stood up to the other faction. That is why there is a profound split.

3.02pm GMT

Q: Can you say more about the decision to take Syrian regfugees?

Clegg says he became persuaded over time that accepting some Syrian refugees would be a good thing.

2.58pm GMT

Nick Clegg starts by praising Jenny Willott, the business minister who gave a speech a moment ago.

Willott spoke about how the Department for Business is working to get more women onto company boards. Clegg said this was particularly important.

2.55pm GMT

Nick Clegg is about to hold his Q&A session with members.

2.44pm GMT

At a fringe meeting at lunchtime Simon Hughes, the Lib Dem justice minister, admitted that the legal aid cuts that triggered a walkout by lawyers on Friday were harsh. But he said that, since becoming a minister, he had tried to win some concessions.

There will be reductions in pay for members of the Bar and solicitors dealing with legal aid work, and there will be areas of work that now will not have legal aid. Unarguably thats the case.

What I have tried to do on arrival was make sure that where there were things that were still open to decision, where I had expressed a view ... that I could influence that.

2.36pm GMT

The subject of the emergency motion tomorrow morning will Ukraine, it has just been announced.

1.40pm GMT

The Lib Dems have overwhelmingly voted to accept a new package of policies on immigration. The plans, which will replace the call for an amnesty for illegal immigrants which damaged the party during the 2010 election campaign, include a proposal for elderly relatives to be allowed to join migrant families in the UK provided they can pay a levy to cover their potential healthcare costs and extending to six months the amount of time EU migrants have to wait until they can claim benefits. (See 11.50am.)

Danny Alexander has rejected claims that that Lib Dem commitment to increasing the income tax allowance does not particularly help the poor. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that many of those who benefit are middle class, and that raising the tax allowance does not help the very poor at all. Alexander was asked about this on the Today programme, ahead of a speech to the conference where he confirmed that raising the tax allowance to £12,5000 would be a key priority for the next parliament. He replied:

It is quite right to say that this policy benefits people who are paying tax at the basic rate, who are earning £15,000 or £20,000 or £25,000, as well as the people earning £11,000. I think those are all people who are working incredibly hard. Those are the people who powering our economic recovery forward, who have been hit hard by the mess that Labour made of our economy ..

What the analysis that you referred to ignores is the effect this policy has on work incentives. Because one of the things that we have tried very hard to ensure, through our work in this coalition government, is that there are much better incentives for people to get off benefit and into work.

Further increases to the income tax personal allowance would not be particularly effective in helping the low paid. The lowest-income 17% of workers will pay no income tax in 201415 anyway. A large majority of the giveaway would go to families in the top half of the income distribution, or with no one in work (mostly pensioners). And many of the lower-income gainers would gain only partially as their universal credit and/or council tax support would be automatically reduced.

Danny Alexander can make all the manifesto promises he likes but nobody will believe a word the Lib Dems say.

They backed the Tories in giving a huge tax cut to millionaires while breaking their promise not to raise VAT on everybody else.

We use a brilliant British childminder and a Portuguese lady occasionally comes in to clean our home. It is a sorry position where we have got to be asking those sorts of questions because it is based on an assumption that somehow a business or an individual who is employing someone from another European country is doing something wrong ...

As a country, our reputation for tolerance, our reputation for being open-minded, is incredibly important to us and when you get to a position where people and businesses who employ people from other countries are criticised just for that, I think that is getting to a pretty poisonous position.

The government has now commissioned independent research being done by Ipsos MORI into the implementation aspects of this policy. And we will get an interim report this summer, with a full report coming next year.

12.48pm GMT

Here are the key points from Danny Alexanders speech.

Alexander suggested that the income tax allowance will rise to at least £10,500 in the budget.

Just 4 weeks from now, over 25 million working people have will have benefitted from being able to earn their first £10,000 tax free.

That is a tax cut of £700 for over 25 million workers.

A top priority in any negotiation will be our aspiration to raise the personal allowance dramatically again in the next parliament.

To raise it to £12,500.

In 2010 the Conservatives wanted inheritance tax cuts for millionaires, we fought for and delivered tax cuts for working people.

In 2011 the Conservatives wanted shares for rights, we fought for and delivered tax cuts for working people.

A Danny Alexander triptych. I spoil you, I really do. #ldconf pic.twitter.com/q3PNtsjzKX

12.23pm GMT

Outside the conference hall there has been a union protest.

Care UK strikers lead @YorkProtest8Mar #betterwaydemo #solidarity #ldconf pic.twitter.com/Dk75o5jmDo

Watching the UNISON organised protest march outside #ldconf this morning... pic.twitter.com/cGtH6OVIWc

#ldconf #betterwaydemo pic.twitter.com/pyLnpZbGdN

12.19pm GMT

DannyAlexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, is speaking now.

Parts of his speech have been trailed in advance.

12.18pm GMT

The Lib Dems have now passed their motion on planning.

Essentially, it is proposing more localism. But it also reaffirms the partys commitment to building 300,000 new homes a year.

12.07pm GMT

On the the Lib Dem immigration proposals is for students to be excluded from the net migration figures.

James Brokenshire, the Conservative immigration minister, specifically addressed this point in his speech on the subject on Thursday. This is what he said on the subject.

The latest figures show that while 124,000 non-EU students came to Britain in the last year, only 49,000 left the country. Foreign students, [Vince Cable] says, are not immigrants but they are defined as such because they are here for more than a year. But does he think all students return home after their studies?

Thats the very simple reason foreign students must be counted as immigrants, and Vince knows it.

11.50am GMT

At the last general election the Lib Dems proposed an amnesty for illegal immigrants. As one speaker argued during the debate, that policy turned out to be an electoral disaster.

Today Nick Clegg has firmly put that behind him. The party has now overhauled its policy on immigration, and adopted a new raft of policy. Heres a summary

It was never more necessary to have a party that was willing to stand up on this toxic issue and address it from the point of view of realism and evidence and fact.

The Labour Party will always hide in a bunker when difficult issues like this come along and the Tories tend to fan the flames of prejudice and then they panic when it gets out of control and parties even further to the right take over.

And the Tories are genuinely scared - not of immigrants, but of Ukip. They are desperate to stop Ukip taking away their hard-earned nasty party tag. And so the Tories pander. So much so that there were more Tory MPs who signed an amendment to stop the flood of Romanians and Bulgarians coming into our country after 1 January than there were Romanians and Bulgarians who actually came into the country after 1 January.

There are lines in this motion that absolutely outrage me. For example, allowing elderly relatives to join their family where they can be supported on condition of a levy to cover their likely health costs. Have you got any idea of the health costs of an elderly person? ... Its a throwaway line, but its completely unworkable ...

Weve lobbed the whole lot together [EU migrants and other migrants], weve fudged it all, it is not good enough, and it will be used against.

11.19am GMT

Here are some tweets from the debate.

#ldconf Speaker Ruwan has just said 'No-one in this room does not come from an immigrant background' - must be strictly true for 99%

Indefinite detention for asylum seekers is inhumane; abolishing it is doing what is right says @laylamoran #ldconf pic.twitter.com/soeuhrez8r

So, I had a bit of a rant about the unfairness of the minimum income requirement for non EU spouses. It's wrong & splits families #ldconf

In other news, @nick_clegg, in jeans, is in the hall. #ldconf

Great speech by @Dawn_Barnes on why English speaking provision is so important for especially women #ldconf #InternationalWomensDay

Not sure I'd agree with Jane Dodds description of this migration motion being "thrilling", but maybe that's just me #ldconf

11.14am GMT

The motion has now been passed. The two attempts to overturn it were defeated.

I will post a summary in a moment summarising what the Lib Dems have decided.

11.12am GMT

Sir Andrew Stunell MP, who chaired the group that drew up the immigration paper, is winding up the debate.

He says he is not proposing amendments to the immigration bill. The paper sets out the Lib Dems programme for government, he says.

10.57am GMT

Lord Roger Roberts says that in 1938 the Daily Express used to complain about German Jews coming to the UK. Many of them went to the South Wales Valleys. There was massive unemployment there. But the German Jews helped to set up businesses and create jobs.

He also says he has raised in the House of Lords the claim that Welsh speakers from Patagonia should be exempt from English-language requirements for migrants. (This is the point Paul Halliday was getting at earlier - see 10.19am.)

10.47am GMT

Heres an extract from Julian Hupperts speech opening the debate. (See 10.05am.)

Ukip scaremonger. They paint all of the ills of the world on the other, the xenophobic approach to politics. They want people to be scared of foreigners.

And the Tories are genuinely scared - not of immigrants, but of Ukip. They are desperate to stop Ukip taking away their hard-earned nasty party tag. And so the Tories pander. So much so that there were more Tory MPs who signed an amendment to stop the flood of Romanians and Bulgarians coming into our country after 1 January than there were Romanians and Bulgarians who actually came into the country after 1 January.

10.42am GMT

Caron Lindsay says it breaks her heart to have to vote against a Lib Dem immigration policy. But she will vote against this motion because it supports the horribly unfair minimum income requirement for people coming to the UK to join their families. These immigrants are not entitled to claim benefits anyway, she says, so this is unnecessary.

10.38am GMT

Shas Sheehan says the Lib Dem policy on immigration at the last election (proposing an amnesty) was a disaster. Todays motion is an improvement.

But she says she is opposed to the idea that elderly relatives should be allowed to join their family in the UK on condition of a levy to cover their likely health costs. This would only affect a small number of people, she says. But it could pave the way for the privatisation of the NHS, she says.

10.33am GMT

The motion says parliament should have an annual vote on migration.

Jane Dodds says she disagrees with this proposal. That would only pander to those raising concerns, she says.

10.29am GMT

Chris White, deputy leader of the Lib Dem group in the Local Government Association, says that at the end of December he read in the Daily Mail that there was about to be a massive influx of immigration from Bulgaria and Romania. The papers said the flights were full. But he checked for himself, and found he could book himself on a flight to London from Sofia. So the papers were wrong. He tweeted this. But then someone replied: They are coming on coaches.

Migration has been good for this country, he says. He supports the motion.

10.23am GMT

The Lib Dem motion says people claiming jobseekers allowance with poor English skills should be made to attend state-funded language courses. Dawn Barnes from Haringey is defending this, saying it is particularly important for female immigrants to learn English.

10.19am GMT

Paul Halliday from Newport is criticising the motion because he says it denigrates native languages (Welsh).

10.14am GMT

Vince Cable is speaking in the immigration debate now.

He says it is important for the Lib Dems to stand up for the facts on immigration. Labour hide in a bunker, and the Tories panic.

Interesting debate on migration with @vincecable #ldconf pic.twitter.com/dAQJM71wiJ

10.06am GMT

The Lib Dem migration proposals are set out in this migration policy paper (pdf).

10.05am GMT

Julian Huppert MP opened the immigration debate, with a good speech saying that the number of Tory MPs signing a motion opposing immigration from Bulgaria and Romania was larger than the number of immigrants actually coming from those countries. I will post some quotes from his speech shortly.

But the motion is attracting some strong opposition. Jill Hope has just urged the conference to vote against the motion altogether. She said there were too many elements of the motion that were indefensible, including the proposal that elderly relatives should be allowed to join their families in the UK on condition of a levy to cover their likely health costs.

9.59am GMT

The Lib Dems have approved the motion on large pub companies. Among other things, it said they should be covered by a statutory code of conduct, including a market-only rent option for tenanted/leased pubs for all pubcos owning 500 pubs or more.

Breaking news from #York @LibDemConf: the @LibDems adopt @camra_official #planning reforms to close loopholes re #pubs as party policy.

9.43am GMT

Im in York, at the Barbican Centre, and, as I write, Julian Huppert MP has just finished a short speech at the podium on a report from the federal policy committee. It is Saturday, and not yet 10am, but there must be about 100 people in the hall listening. Yup, its Lib Dem conference time again.

The glory of democracy in action - #ld once at 9.15am pic.twitter.com/wuUPGN9Ddi

Cameron and Miliband at PMQs: Politics live blog

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 09:20

My PMQs verdict

This blog is now closed. For live coverage of the Farage v Clegg debate, follow our debate live blog.

2.20pm BST

David Cameron has falsely claimed the Labour party pledged to privatise Royal Mail in its manifesto for the 2010 general election. As Nicholas Watt reports, as he faced intense pressure from Ed Miliband, who branded the prime minister the "dunce of Downing Street" after a National Audit Office (NAO) report said the government had dramatically under-valued Royal Mail, Cameron dismissed the attacks by wrongly claiming that Labour had called for privatisation in its manfesto. The prime minister picked up on Miliband's claim that the privatisation of Royal Mail was a "sale nobody wanted and nobody voted for". Cameron said: "It was in his manifesto. It was a commitment of the last government. They are shaking. They failed to do it but this coalition government privatised the Royal Mail, created thousands of new shareholders and have a great business working for Britain."The prime minister's remarks are directly contradicted by the Labour manifesto, which called for extra investment for Royal Mail within the public sector.

Cameron has given his backing to calls for a "rethink" of the £90 price tag on a new replica England football shirt.

1.44pm BST

I thought Ed Miliband won PMQs quite easily. But the verdict from journalists who have been commenting on Twitter has been mixed. (That may be because some people were pronouncing on Twitter before the full scale of David Cameron's privatisation gaffe became clear.)

Good #pmqs for Ed M on Royal Mail. When Cam is wibbling off topic about unions it's usually a sign that he's lost the argument.

Cameron had mail mare: Wrong on Lab manifesto, lost rag yelling "muppets" & went red defending lost £1.4bn & City banksters #pmqs

This week's rowdy #PMQs hands @Ed_Miliband a 4-2 win over @David_Cameron http://t.co/ItoQL3JSqm pic.twitter.com/PKvi96hsdZ

Weak muppets, paid for by trade unions, who wanted to sell Royal Mail but instead sold off the gold cheap. Dave seems to be enjoying #pmqs

Despite a very embarrassing Royal Mail botch job the PM took Ed M to the cleaners there ..#pmqs

#PMQs @David_Cameron 3: @Ed_Miliband 1 today

PM really come out fighting on Royal Mail... Backbenchers will love this passionate pro privatisation rhetoric. #pmqs

I wouldn't be surprised if Ed's new head of broadcasting sorts out the pointy finger thing he does as the despatch box. #pmqs

'He's gone as red as a postbox'. Great line from EdM in punchiest #pmqs for ages

......got to admit: "You're as red as a postbox" (Miliband) made me laugh #PMQs

Not sure dunces or muppets is parliamentary language but here's what the old boys may have thought of #pmqs pic.twitter.com/UQm6MoxMSH

A somewhat unedifying spectacle but proper politics on both sides, red in tooth and claw. Deep ideological difference. Best PMQs in ages

Lab didn't put Royal Mail privatisation in its manifesto, but did try to start it while in power. Ed's case on price was stronger. #PMQs

#PMQs 'Mate's Rate' may have more traction than 'Dunce of Downing Street'.

1.22pm BST

PMQs Verdict: Twitter is alight with comment - and glee - about David Cameron's Royal Mail gaffe. In what sounded at the time as a rather clever come-back, he responded to Ed Miliband's charge that no one wanted the privatisation of the Royal Mail by saying that it was in Labour's 2010 manifesto (which Miliband wrote). Yet, as we all know now, that's not the case. This is what the manifesto actually said:

For the future, continuing modernisation and investment will be needed by the Royal Mail in the public sector.

Post PMQs, No10 political spksman also says Lab manifesto language "v similar" to Mandelson 2009 plan re 30% sale while within public sector

12.35pm BST

Andrew Selous, a Conservative, says Dunstable is the "crumpet capital of Britain".

Cameron says he's glad to here it.

12.34pm BST

Labour's Paul Farrelly asks what plans Cameron has to reform student loans.

Cameron says the biggest plan the government has is to expand the number of students going to universities.

12.32pm BST

Labour's Ian Murray, MP for Edinburgh South, asks Cameron to send condolences to the family of the schoolgirl killed by a wall in Edinburgh yesterday.

Cameron says the whole House will want to send their condolences. Lessons will have to be learnt.

12.30pm BST

Labour's Nick Smith asks why it has taken four years to recruit just 41 teachers into the Troops to Teachers programme.

Cameron says he will look at this.

12.29pm BST

Guy Opperman, a Conservative, asks about air ambulances, but manages a reference to the government's long-term economic plan.

Cameron agrees with him.

12.29pm BST

A Labour MP asks Cameron to apologise for the introduction of the poll tax 25 years ago in Scotland.

Cameron says he has made his views on this well known. He thinks council tax is a much better tax.

12.28pm BST

Cameron says what is happening to the NHS in Wales is a scandal. He admonishes Ed Miliband for laughing. If Miliband had any gumption, he would ring the first minister in Wales about this, he says.

12.27pm BST

Asks if he will rule out a £4m bonus to those who advised the government on the Royal Mail flotation, Cameron refuses to give that assurance, and says the public is better off with the firm in private hands.

12.26pm BST

Cameron says the government has asked BT to give more details about which homes and areas will get broadband in their roll-out plans.

He says he does not agree with those who think BT have not been "putting their shoulder to the wheel". There is a massive effort underway.

12.25pm BST

Labour's Siobhain McDonagh says three months ago she asked about the £1,000 "bobby tax" that police recruits have to pay. (It's a professional body membership fee of some kind.) It is putting off recruits. Will it be abolished?

Cameron says it is not a tax or a barrier for recruitment. Recruitment is taking place. And the Met are confident they will be able to get good recruits.

12.23pm BST

Labour's Geraint Davies asks Cameron to congratulate Unite on what it has done to get a fair deal for pensioners from Ford.

Cameron agrees. Unite deserve credit for the work they have done to get justice for pensioners in this case, he says.

12.22pm BST

Labour's Jim Dobbin asks if the government will ratify the child sexual exploitation convention.

Cameron says this is an abhorrent crime. The government has signed this convention. A small amount of work needs to be done before it can ratify it, he says.

12.20pm BST

Labour are rebutting Cameron on Twitter over the Royal Mail.

Cameron just wrong that 2010 Labour manifesto included commitment to sell off Royal Mail. Here's what it said. #PMQs pic.twitter.com/PH9hgZh2dL

12.20pm BST

Labour's Kate Hoey says millions of people love their Post Office card account. Will Cameron ensure that pensioners will be able to continue to ensure that they can get their pension from the Post Office?

Cameron says there are changes to this underway. But he understands the concern, and will write to Hoey about this.

12.18pm BST

Martin Vickers, a Conservative, asks Cameron if he agrees on the need to turn the Humber into the green energy capital of the UK.

Cameron says he does agree.

12.16pm BST

A colleague tells me that Cameron was wrong about privatising the Royal Mail being in its manifesto. It sounded good at the time. (See 12.13pm.) But, not for the first time, Cameron has a shaky grasp of the facts (to put it politely.) Labour's manifesto in 2010 proposed keeping the Royal Mail in the public sector.

12.13pm BST

Snap PMQs Verdict: A good fightback by Cameron with his last question, but it did not prevent that being a fairly painful drubbing for him at the hands of Miliband, who won quite clearly. More later ....

12.12pm BST

Miliband asks again about what happened to the gentleman's agreement.

Cameron says what happened is that the taxpayer is £2bn better off. He repeats the point about Labour wanting to privatise the Royal Mail. The firm is in the private sector. That is a sign of success. Labour are anti-business. No wonder they are adverstising for someone to bring fresh ideas. They have a leader who has not got a clue.

12.09pm BST

Miliband says Cameron cannot answer the question because it is so embarrassing. The shares are now trading for 563p. It is not so much the Wolf of Wall Street, but the Dunce of Downing Street.

Cameron says he won't take advice on this from the two "muppets" who advised Gordon Brown on the sale of gold.

12.06pm BST

Ed Miliband asks what Cameron's excuse is for the Royal Mail fiasco.

Cameron says taxpayers benefited from the £2bn sale. Labour never achieved that.

12.03pm BST

Stephen Dorrell, a Conservative, says no Labour government in history left office with unemployment lower than when it took office.

Cameron says this is factually correct. There are 1.7m more people employed in the private sector, and 1.3m more people employed overall.

12.02pm BST

Labour's Jeremy Corbyn asks David Cameron if he is aware that 3.9m people are in the private rented sector. Isn't it time to end the "social cleansing" of inner city Britain by bringing in proper regulation of this sector?

Cameron says he thinks full-on rent controls would destroy the private rented sector.

11.57am BST

Given how strong yesterday's NAO report was, Ed Miliband may be tempted to ask about the Royal Mail flotation.

And it's hard to imagine David Cameron getting through PMQs without mentioning Len McCluskey and his comments to the press gallery yesterday.

11.46am BST

PMQs starts in 15 minutes.

Here's the order paper showing which MPs will be asking questions (pdf).

11.43am BST

You can read all todays Guardian politics stories here. And all the politics stories filed yesterday, including some in todays paper, are here.

As for the rest of the papers, heres the PoliticsHome list of top 10 must-reads, and heres the ConservativeHome round-up of the politics stories in todays papers.

A recurring debate within Ukip is whether the party should be merely an anti-EU pressure group or develop as a proper party.

As you will recall, your predecessor as leader, Lord Pearson, backed Tory candidates if they were outspoken opponents of the EU. This caused dismay among many Ukip members and a public row.

Euroscepticism is making a serious and responsible contribution to the vital debate about the future of Europe. That debate should, of course, be conducted with passion as well as reason, but it should never descend into childish abuse. All European prime ministers and presidents in the European Union have been democratically, and freely, elected by their own people. That should be respected. Farage might start by acknowledging that he has never been elected by anyone outside his own party.

If he continues with his own personal brand of unpleasant, exaggerated and immature demagoguery, he will become a liability rather than an asset in this debate.

Asked if he believed Mr Farage was intelligent, Mr Bloom replied: "In what way?"

By contrast, Mr Bloom said there were many "bright young people" waiting in the wings of Ukip but that Mr Farage was blocking their chances of coming "to the surface" of the party.

11.21am BST

There will be a vote in the Lords tomorrow on the bedroom tax. It is on the government regulations closing the loophole that meant people who had been in the same social housing since 1996 were exempt.

Labour will vote against the regulations. Lady Royall, the Labour leader in the Lords, says the Lib Dems will have a chance to show whether they agree with Tim Farron on this.

Tomorrow LibDems have opportunity with Lords vote to show if they really have changed policy on bedroom tax. Rhetoric or reality?

11.15am BST

Some charities have warmly welcomed the work and pensions committee's report.

Here are some of the statements they have been putting out.

The government itself said that cuts must not be made at the expense of the most vulnerable. Yet todays select committee report is clear that housing benefit cuts are hitting the most vulnerable members of society hardest. They are forcing more people into poor quality accommodation and leaving them at greater risk of homelessness.

The government must listen to this verdict from MPs across the political spectrum and rethink its cuts to housing benefit, particularly for those who cannot change their circumstances by working or who are struggling in low paid jobs. Without prompt action, the government risks driving homelessness still higher.

This report is yet more evidence that carers and disabled people are amongst the hardest hit by the governments cuts to support with housing costs. Carers UKs evidence shows that the governments protection mechanisms are failing and families who were already struggling with the costs of disability are being left unable to pay their rent or basic household bills.

MPs on the Committee from all parties have come together to urge the government to implement new protections for carers and disabled people. The government must listen and act urgently by exempting carers and their families from cuts to essential support with their rent and council tax and ensuring no carer is hit by a benefit cap designed to push people into work.

The bedroom tax has been in place for a year now and it has been clear for some time that this policy is causing hardship and suffering for thousands of people across Great Britain. It's not fair, it doesn't work and we believe it should be scrapped. However, the select committee's recommendation would help a significant proportion of those most unfairly affected by the bedroom tax - around one third of all people currently affected.

The findings of the work and pensions select committee have made it crystal clear that the bedroom tax has unfairly targeted disabled people, causing them undue hardship and risks marginalising them from society. We are urgently calling on the Government to reconsider this unfair policy and to prevent disabled people from suffering financially as a result of their disability.

10.31am BST

Tim Farron is the Lib Dem president, but what weight exactly do his words have when he says the party "cannot continue to support" the bedroom tax? Is that just a personal view, or does it mean that the party has shifted its stance?

I called Lib Dem HQ for an answer. A spokesman told me this:

[Tim] has expressed a personal view that is broadly in line with our party policy on this issue. We debated this at our conference. We recognise the problem of under-occupancy in social housing and the principle of a spare room subsidy as an approach to tackling it. We welcome the measures that the Lib Dems have taken [in government] to mitigate its impact on the most vulnerable. And we will review the policy and look at its impact on the most vulnerable.

10.10am BST

In the comments kb4355 has posted this.

The Committee's Report on Maria Miller is to be published at 11.00 a.m. on Thursday 3 April. The Committee Members and Committee staff will not respond to press enquiries.

9.56am BST

The work and pensions committee report does not just cover the bedroom tax. But here are its recommendations in relation to the bedroom tax, or the social sector size criteria (SSSC), the government's official term for the measure, which the committee also uses. I've used bold to highlight the most important recommendation.

We understand the Government's wish to use social housing stock more efficiently and to reduce overcrowding. However, the SSSC so far seems to be a blunt instrument for achieving this. In many areas there is insufficient smaller social housing stock to which affected tenants can move, meaning that they remain in housing deemed to be too large and pay the SSSC. This is likely to be causing financial hardship to a significant number of households. We recommend that the Government carries out a detailed assessment of the available social housing stock in each local authority area. If there is clear evidence that there is insufficient smaller housing stock and that those who are willing to move cannot do so, the Government should consider allowing affected households more time to find ways of adjusting to the SSSC before the reduction in benefit is applied. Where a household is under-occupying but there is no suitable, reasonable alternative available, the SSSC reduction in benefit should not be applied.

To support the policy intent of better and more innovative use of social housing stock, and as a further measure to ease the burden on affected tenants and providers, we recommend that the Government allocate funding to a national scheme in which all providers of social housing can share information about their available housing stock; the stock needed by tenants on housing waiting lists; and those households interested in mutual exchange. (Paragraph 65)

9.34am BST

The Labour party and its MPs are not impressed by Tim Farron's new stance on the bedroom tax.

I despair of the lib Dems. @timfarron wants credit for now abandoning support for #bedroomtax but they voted it in! And kept voting for it!

LibDem Pres "withdraws support" for Bedroom Tax after they voted for it > so that's alright then > http://t.co/fv8nHjlIYh #LibDembetrayal

Lib Dems to change position on the bedroom tax? The damage is done @timfarron. http://t.co/ANVmvIWM7P

will some one please tell tim farron mp bedroom tax is only there because the libs voted for it http://t.co/WHV6pv93Ns via @guardian

Breathtaking hypocrisy from the Lib Dems on the Bedroom Tax. It's as much their tax as Cameron's. Nobody will belive them.

LibDems vote for cruel #bedroomtax then tell us they oppose it. They must think voters are stupid http://t.co/o79MX4V1zN

9.30am BST

Tim Farron is going to say that the Lib Dems cannot continue to support the bedroom tax in a speech on housing policy to the Centre for Social Justice this afternoon.

Here's the full quote.

The onslaught of divisive rhetoric that demonises the poor can never help us create a fairer society. We believe in a welfare state that enables, that treats people as individuals rather than problems, that is unafraid of joining up the dots between housing, health and jobs. This is not only right and fair, it often makes economic sense preventing a descent into chaos rather than just treating the symptoms of poverty.

So we have protected housing benefit for under 25s, we have fought off further welfare cuts and going into the next election will continue to fight for a fairer society built on a stronger economy. The bedroom tax causes huge social problems and distorts the market we as a party cannot continue to support this.

8.55am BST

Today's main event will be the second debate between Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg on Europe. But that does not take place until 7pm, and I will be covering it on a separate live blog, which I will launch late this afternoon.

This blog will focus on PMQs. But, before that starts, there is time to focus on two new developments in the bedroom tax saga.

The government has reformed the housing cost support system with the aim of reducing benefit expenditure and incentivising people to enter work. But vulnerable groups, who were not the intended targets of the reforms and are not able to respond by moving house or finding a job, are suffering as a result.

The governments reforms are causing severe financial hardship and distress to vulnerable groups, including disabled people. Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs), which local authorities can award to people facing hardship in paying their rent, are not a solution for many claimants. They are temporary, not permanent, and whether or not a claimant is awarded DHP is heavily dependent on where they live because different local authorities apply different eligibility rules.

The onslaught of divisive rhetoric that demonises the poor can never help us to create a fairer society. The bedroom tax causes huge social problems and distorts the market we as a party cannot support this.

Continue reading...

Politics Live - readers' edition: Friday 7 March

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 01:29

Share breaking news, leave links to interesting articles online and chat about the weeks political events in our open thread

7.57am GMT

Im not writing my usual Politics Live blog today, but, as an alternative, heres Politics Live: readers edition. Its intended to be a place where you can catch up with the latest news and find links to good politics blogs and articles on the web.

Please feel free to use this as somewhere you can comment on any of the days political stories - just as you do when Im writing the daily blog.

David Cameron's press conference: Politics live blog

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 11:17

Boris Johnson's LBC phone-in - Summary

Cable refused to apologise for Royal Mail flotation

Lunchtime summary

Afternoon summary

4.17pm BST

Len McCluskey, the Unite general secretary, has said that his union could stop backing Labour if Labour were to lose the next election. (See 3.58pm.)

David Cameron has explained his decision to order an inquiry into the work of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK and abroad. This is what he said when asked about it at a press conference with his Italian counterpart in Downing Street.

What I think is important about the Muslim Brotherhood is to make sure we fully understand what this organisation is, what it stands for, what its links are, what its beliefs are in terms of both extremism and violent extremism, what its connections are with other groups, what its presence is here in the United Kingdom.

Our policies should be informed by a complete picture of that knowledge and thats why Ive commissioned this piece of work by a very experienced and senior ambassador, John Jenkins, whos our ambassador in Saudi Arabia. And I think its an important piece of work because well only get our policy right if we fully understand the true nature of the organisation that were dealing with.

3.58pm BST

This is what Len McCluskey, the Unite general secretary, said at the press gallery lunch about Unite possibly no longer backing Labour after the 2015 election.

Can I even envisage a rule conference voting to disaffiliate from Labour?

I can do. That is a challenge to Ed Miliband because I believe the Labour party is at a crossroads.

3.49pm BST

Here's a politics afternoon reading list.

Stephen Bush at Progress Online says, if the Ukip vote falls after the European eletions, Labour could be in trouble.

A higher profile is a double-edged sword; and just as Cleggmania waned under the spotlight, so too will Faragism.

But what then would happen to Labour? After a torrid fortnight, the party has retained a narrow lead, with Ukip at around 15 per cent in the polls. Reduce their vote share even to eight per cent (assume for a moment that one percent of that ends up voting Labour, two per cent stays home and watches TV, and the remainder goes for David Cameron) and suddenly, Labour is behind. And that is before the Liberal Democrats try and take votes off Labour. That is before you factor out any voters who will either be drawn from Labour to Tory by Lynton Crosby; or simply put off voting entirely.

[Stevens] is scathing about the way that almost all NHS reorganisations focus on rearranging the administrative deckchairs rather than transforming patient care. As he puts it: How can a quarter of NHS trusts get away with having their value for money accounts qualified by their auditors? How can a fifth of hospitals treat their older patients without dignity or compassion? And how is it that a single hospital in mid-Staffordshire could have been responsible for killing its patients at a level equivalent to two or more Lockerbie air crashes, yet apparently no one noticed or did anything?

Stevenss passion is transparency. He wants patients to have access to the same knowledge as their doctors. At UnitedHealth, he developed a system for ranking 250,000 doctors against national standards of care, and then ranking them again on value for money. This meant, in effect, listing the best doctors by price. Such transparency makes NHS bureaucrats recoil in horror but it works. This system, applied to organ transplants, has led to a 5 per cent improvement in outcomes and halved costs. As he puts it: a good health system requires transparency, the sharing of data and empowered patients.

3.09pm BST

Here's a snap summary of the main points of Len McCluskey's speech to the Commons press gallery, based on reports from colleagues on Twitter.

McCluskey said he could imagine Unite changing its relationship with Labour. If Labour loses in 2015, the union could reconsider its stance on donations, he said. (If Unite were to support another party, it would be thrown out of Labour. That's what happened to the RMT.)

3.01pm BST

And this might not be one of the most newsy revelations, but it's one of the most intriguing.

Len jokes that he and Miliband "go walking on Sundays and it's very, very pleasant"

2.58pm BST

McCluskey said Labour is at a crossroads and if it loses next May then he can see his union voting to change its rules on donations.

McCluskey says he "walks a tightrope" wanting to speak for the "progressive left" without handing ammunition to the Tories.

2.56pm BST

As so often happens, the best lines often come out at the end.

Len Mccluskey lunch: "They (Labour leadership) come up with ideas but no one seems to be pulling them together in a coherent way."

Unite's Len McCluskey says he can envisage the union splitting from Labour. Says the party and Miliband are at a crossroads. Big statement

Len McCluskey says he "can envisage" Unite giving money to parties other than Labour. "I fear for the future of the Labour Party"

2.51pm BST

"Red Len" McCluskey becomes 1st union gen sec at Press Gallery lunch. Begins with funny "working class joke" with F-word about brass band.

McCluskey tells Press Gallery Govt's Carr review on unions distraction. Says Unite has launched leverage campaign against NHS privatisation.

Len McCluskey says "democracy needs real choices & real alternatives". "Variations of austerity will not excite" voters. Who could he mean?

Len McC tells me Unite will stay neutral in Scots ref debate. "If the union came out against ind it would split our union down the middle."

Len McC says 40% of Unite members in Scotland voted SNP in Scots Pt elections. Usually 80% Labour. Alex Salmond "charging up Lab left wing".

Len McC says Labour MPs grumbling because "there's no cohesive vision emerging". "If it's a pale shade of austerity Lab will be defeated."

Len McCluskey says Labour voting for the welfare cap is *not* the way to reconnect with 'ordinary people'. #pressgallerylunch

Len adds that No campaign on #indyref is in danger of being too negative.

Len McCluskey says he wouldn't stand for Labour as an MP...unless Ed Miliband personally knocked on his door and asked him

Len McCluskey says if PR ever existed in UK and a workers party stood, he may well vote for it rather than Labour.

Unite's Len McCluskey makes good point if unions not banksters created the economic calamity he'd be in Wormwood Scrubs

Greedy capitalists have captured every political party to some degree says Unite's Len McCluskey in dig at Miliband & Labour

Now Len McCluskey says Miliband should be proud of the Labour-union link instead of letting Cons push him around

Len McCluskey says Ed Miliband should 'stand up and be proud' about being a member of Unite 'and not run away from it' #pressgallerylunch

Len McCluskey says he used to be against PR. "I have now given up on a socialist Valhalla, so I'm rethinking my position on PR," he says.

Asked if he has full confidence in Douglas Alexander, Len McCluskey says, cryptically, "Yeah, he's our leader"

2.37pm BST

That's probably all I'm going to get from the press conference. BBC News and Sky have given up their live coverage.

Len McCluskey is speaking at a press gallery lunch now. I will post the highlights from Twitter.

2.36pm BST

Q: [To Cameron] What is your issue with the Muslim Brotherhood? (See 9.40am.)

Cameron says the government is opposed to violent extremism, but also extremism. It wants to challenge the narrative some extremist groups have put out.

2.29pm BST

They are now taking quesgions.

Q: [To Renzi] Do you agree with Cameron about wanting to repatriate powers from the EU.

2.21pm BST

Matteo Renzi says having the UK in Europe is "essential".

2.20pm BST

David Cameron ends by saying prime ministers seem to be getting younger all the time. (Matteo Renzi is only 39.)

Renzi starts in English, saying how pleased he was to be in the UK. He switches to Italian, but goes back to English when he emphasises he desire for a better Europe, not a bigger Europe.

2.16pm BST

David Cameron is opening the press conference.

He says he wants to strengthen ties with Italy.

2.11pm BST

David Cameron will be holding his press conference with the Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, shortly.

Italian Prime Minister @matteorenzi has arrived at No 10 for a meeting with David Cameron pic.twitter.com/uL4tZ2iCAM

2.07pm BST

Vince Cable, the business secretary, has refused to apologise for his handling of the Royal Mail privatisation. Responding to an urgent question from Labour about today's NAO report criticising the flotation, he conceded that some lessons could be learnt about the technical aspects of the sell-off (see 1.08pm), but he also insisted that trying to sell the shares for a higher price could have led to the whole flotation failing.

A more aggressive approach to pricing would have introduced significantly greater risk and the advice that we received in this respect was unambiguous. There was no confidence that a sufficient number of buyers would offer a significantly higher price, a failed transaction and retention of the Royal Mail in public ownership would have been a very poor outcome for the taxpayer as the NAO report confirms.

You know it's April Fool's Day when a report is published by the National Audit Office saying 'the department could have achieved better value for the taxpayer' and then ministers go out on to the media and then come to this House and then declare their privatisation a success. They must think we're all fools. What planet are they living on? There are no two ways about it - this report delivers a damaging verdict on the government's botched privatisation and it has left taxpayers disgracefully short-changed to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds.

The economic plans we're implementing mean the Conservatives are now the real party of labour.

A national meeting of senior lay representatives unanimously agreed to consult our 220,000 on the offer. The meeting agreed to recommend that members reject this offer and that they be asked if they will support industrial action. Council staff have had only a 1% pay rise in the last five years and it is a terrible indictment that the national minimum wage has caught up with them.

Many of us felt hugely hopeful about the government's ability to initiate innovation but I wonder whether that's going to be matched by the Government's ability to tell the truth. If you look at this report from the NSPCC, the most alarming aspect of what they present is the huge discrepancy between the figures of children who are classified as needing support and potentially what those figures could be. The reason they [local councils] don't give it to you is because if they declared the real numbers they would go bankrupt.

1.22pm BST

Labour's Tom Blenkinsop asks about the table on page 48 of the report (pdf).

It's this one, showing how many of the "priority investors" sold their shares soon after flotation. "Priority investors" who became net sellers of shares in the first few weeks of trading are on the left, in purple, and net buyers are on the right, in green.

1.14pm BST

Labour's Steve McCabe asks if Cable regards this as a personal triumph.

Cable says the flotation was a success.

1.13pm BST

Labour's Nia Griffith asks for an assurance that the government will not sell the Land Registry.

Cable says the government is looking at this at the moment. There are arguments for and against bringing in private partners.

1.12pm BST

Labour's Nick Smith says the Royal Mail's property portfolio has turned into a goldmine for speculators.

Cable says that the Royal Mail's property portfolio was independently valued before the sale.

1.11pm BST

Emily Thornberry, a Labour MP, asks Cable to condemn the way the Mount Pleasant Royal Mail site in London has been sold off, with very little space allocated for social housing.

Cable says that planning decision was not for him.

1.10pm BST

Philip Hollobone, a Conservative, asks what the average stake that "posties" have in Royal Mail is worth.

Cable says the average stake is worth £4,000.

1.09pm BST

Richard Fuller, a Conservative, asks about the conditions for workers.

Cable says the CWU union reached a good deal with the Royal Mail. There were many job losses when it was in state hands, he says.

1.08pm BST

Labour's Andrew Love asks Cable to order a review of what happened.

Cable says there were many positive aspects of this. But there are lessons to be learnt from the technical aspects of the flotation, he says. The government will look at those.

1.07pm BST

Labour's David Hanson asks Cable if he can understand why people who don't own Royal Mail shares feel ripped off?

Cable says many of those without shares actually do own shares through pension companies. So the benefits are being spread, he says.

1.05pm BST

Sir Peter Luff, a Conservative, says the privatisation of Royal Mail will enable it to compete more successfully.

Cable agrees.

1.04pm BST

Labour's Pat Glass says the price of a first class stamp has risen by more than inflation. What will the government do to protect consumers?

Cable says stamp prices are regulated by Postcomm.

1.03pm BST

Kevin Brennan, the Labour MP, says 70% of shares went to hedge funds. And they give £3m to the Tories.

Cable says only one hedge fund took a significant stake in the Royal Mail. And now it has sold most of its shares, he says.

1.02pm BST

Labour's Ann McKechin asks Cable to rule out any bonuses to Goldman Sachs. They made money from selling Royal Mail shares, as well as from advising the government. That was a gross conflict of interest, she says.

Cable says no bonuses are being paid.

1.01pm BST

Labour's Jeremy Corbyn asks what the loss of profits to the taxpayer has been from the privatisation.

Cable says the NAO does not say this. It says that the Royal Mail would have been worth less if it had remained in state hands.

12.59pm BST

Ben Wallace, a Conservative, says he used to work for Qinetic. Labour should apologise for that privatisation.

Cable says that privatisation was "an utter scandal".

12.57pm BST

Ben Bradshaw, the Labour former culture secretary, says anyone accused of such "ruinous incompetence" should consider resignation. Has Cable?

No, says Cable. The NAO confirms the flotation was a success, he says.

12.57pm BST

Cable says the threat of industrial action had a "depressive" effect on the Royal Mail share price.

12.56pm BST

Back in the Commons, the SNP Pete Wishart says the Scots opposed Royal Mail privatisation. What can they do to get the postal services they want?

Vince Cable says the SNP is committed to renationalising the Royal Mail if Scotland gets independence. But it has not said how it would pay for it, he says.

12.54pm BST

Here are the main points from Cable's statement.

Cable refused to apologise for the Royal Mail flotation.

12.49pm BST

Vince Cable is still replying.

He turns to the valuation.

12.45pm BST

Vince Cable says the last thing he will do is apologise.

He quotes from what the report said about the government achieving its primary objectives, and about the privatisation leading to less chance of the Royal Mail needing taxpayer support in future.

12.39pm BST

Chuka Umunna says you know it's April Fool's Day when the NAO criticises a sell-off, and ministers say its a success.

You can always sell shares, he says.

12.37pm BST

Some MPs should "disgrace" following Cable's statement.

12.37pm BST

Vince Cable says the NAO report confirms that the government achieved its primary purpose of achieving a successful sale.

This has resulted in the taxpayer no longer being responsible for the Royal Mail, he says.

12.35pm BST

Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, asks Vince Cable to make a statement about the Royal Mail privatisation in the light of today's NAO report.

12.34pm BST

And here is what two Labour MPs are saying about Vince Cable ahead of the UQ.

Best April Fool : Vince Cable saying Royal Mail sale was good vfm!

@ChukaUmunna @LBC973 Royal Mail privatisation was a bad idea, badly handled. Cable should hang his head in shame.

12.29pm BST

David Leigh summarises the case against Vince Cable in five words.

"Mr Cable, you were had". Royal Mail sell-off: Chuka Umunna granted urgent Commons question http://t.co/ppttCSFBYP

12.23pm BST

The Royal Mail UQ (urgent question) is at 12.30pm.

Before it starts, here's some background reading.

The government's desperation to sell Royal Mail cost taxpayers £750m in a single day, the National Audit Office has said in a scathing report into the privatisation of the 500-year-old national institution.

The public spending watchdog says the business secretary Vince Cable ploughed ahead with plans to float Royal Mail at a maximum price of 330p-a-share despite repeated warnings from City experts that the government had vastly undervalued the company.

By floating Royal Mail on the Stock Exchange within this Parliament, the Government achieved its primary objective, according to the National Audit Office.

The spending watchdog considers, however, that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills took a cautious approach to a number of issues which together resulted in the shares being priced at a level substantially below that at which they started trading. On the first day of trading, Royal Mails shares closed at 455 pence, 38 per cent higher than their sale price. This represented a first day increase in value of £750 million for the new shareholders. Five months later, the shares were worth 72 per cent more than the sale price and have traded in the range of 455 pence to 615 pence.

12.17pm BST

Vince Cable, the business secretary, will be responding to the urgent question at 12.30pm about the Royal Mail sell-off.

12.13pm BST

Ed Balls has delivered his speech to the British Chambers of Commerce conference.

MP Ed Balls: 'Vocational education should be a first class part of our curriculum' #BCCConf @edballsmp pic.twitter.com/S4LZ5xV6OG

Only by backing entrepreneurs and supporting wealth creation can we generate the profits to finance investment and win the confidence of investors from round the world.

But at a time when most people in our country are seeing their living standards falling year on year, we cannot take public support for this open, global vision of a dynamic market economy for granted.

11.49am BST

It turns out that Boris Johnson was quoting Virgil when replied to a caller in Latin who said that he should be prime minister. (See 9.08am.)

This is from RClayton in the comments.

With a bit of replaying from the video stream, I think Boris' Latin tag was

Non tali auxilio nec defensoribus istis

Not such aid nor such defenders does the time require

11.24am BST

There is an urgent question on the Royal Mail sell-off at 12.30pm.

Urgent Question granted to @ChukaUmunna at 1230 the price at which Royal Mail was privatised following NAO report

11.00am BST

And while we're on polls, here are today's YouGov GB polling figures.

Labour: 37% (down 3 points from YouGov in the Sunday Times)

10.33am BST

Neither Nick Clegg nor Nigel Farage will be happy with a ComRes poll for MailOnline that has come out this morning.

It was conducted after last week's debate and it contains findings that both men should find worrying.

10.11am BST

Here are the main points from Boris Johnson's LBC phone-in.

Johnson said he had reservations about Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe's call for the Metropolitan police to use a 50:50 quota system to increase the number of black recruits it takes on. Johnson said he would consider the idea, and that he recognised that this approach had helped in Northern Ireland (in relation to Catholics), but that he had concerns about quotas leading to claims that officers were not being recruited on merit.

9.51am BST

Nick Ferrari reminds Johnson that last month he said he might be able to help provide funds for a memorial for those killed in the Bethnal Green tube disaster during the second world war. It was the worst civilian disaster of the war.

Johnson says he can announced that the mayoralty will provide £10,000 towards the cost of the memorial.

9.47am BST

Q: How will having body cameras on police officers work?

Johnson says he has seen the pilots for this. He thinks this initiative will work.

9.44am BST

Q: What went wrong with the £1m start-up competition?

Nothing, says Johnson.

9.42am BST

Q: Do you agree that retailers should have to supply a copy of the Highway Code with every bicycle sold?

Johnson says that is an interesting idea. He is instinctively opposed to regulation. But he will think about this.

9.41am BST

Johnson says many people in London are deciding that they don't need car.

Car usage is starting to fall, he says. That's a good thing.

9.40am BST

Q: What do you think of the Times story today suggesting the Muslim Brotherhood are planning extremist activities in the UK.

Here's an excerpt from the Times story (paywall).

David Cameron has ordered an urgent investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood amid fears that the Islamist organisation is planning extremist activities from Britain ...

MI5, Britains domestic intelligence agency, will also be asked to investigate how many senior leaders are based in this country after last years military coup in Egypt, which deposed Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who was elected president ...

9.34am BST

Q: Will you expand charging points for electric cars?

Johnson says he thinks there are 1,700 already.

9.30am BST

Q: If you built an airport in the Thames estuary, wouldn't it often be closed by fog?

Johnson says that there is no evidence that fog at a Thames estuary airport would be any worse than fog at Heathrow.

9.27am BST

Johnson says that, if a new bridge is built across the Thames in east London, it will have to be toll bridge.

9.23am BST

Q: Do you agree that the shredding of police documents relating to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry was chaotic?

Johnson says this did not happen when Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe was in charge.

9.20am BST

Q: What do you think of the idea of the Met having a 50/50 quota for recruiting white officers and black and ethnic minority officers?

Johnson says he has huge respect for Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Met commissioner.

9.16am BST

The next caller asks about a row between Johnson and London councils about affordable housing.

Johnson says the councils wanted to set a rate for affordable housing that would have meant developments not going ahead.

9.11am BST

Boris Johnson asks Nick Ferrari if he will stand for London mayor. Ferrari does not reply. Johnson says that Ferrari has been reduced to "infantile aphasia".

(Covering Boris is always good for your vocabulary.)

9.08am BST

The first question is about last week's debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage.

Q: Nigel Farage wants you to be leader of the Conservative party.

8.49am BST

It's a bit patchy today. It's not exactly quiet, but it is hard to see what will turn out to be the best political story of the day.

Still, we've got 45 minutes of Boris Johnson, which is better than nothing. I tend to cover Johnson's LBC phone-ins on the grounds that's he's a very significant figure in Conservative politics who could end up prime minister. Interestingly, YouGov's Peter Kellner has just published some research suggesting that it might be time to start selling shares in Johnson. Here's an extract.

Eighteen months ago, YouGov provoked much of the talk about Boriss nationwide appeal with a poll showing that the Tories would be doing far better with him as their leader. When we asked people how they would vote in a general election with the current party leaders, Labour (40%) enjoyed a six point lead over the Conservatives (34%). But when the same people were basked how they would vote were Boris the Tory leader, Labours lead fell to just a single point, 38-37%.

That poll, however, was conducted during the Olympic Games, for which Boris claimed much of the credit and secured acres of publicity. We have recently repeated the exercise. This time the Boris bounce virtually disappears: the Conservatives (32%) lag five points behind Labour (37%) under Cameron and four points (33-37%) under Boris. Instead of an athletic bounce, we have a statistically trivial twitch.

Continue reading...

George Osborne sets "full employment" as a goal: Politics live blog

Mon, 03/31/2014 - 11:14

Osborne sets "full employment" as a goal

Lunchtime summary

Afternoon summary

4.14pm BST

Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, has rejected criticism of his praise of Vladimir Putin, saying the Russian president deserves more respect than David Cameron. Farage was criticised after it emerged that he had told GQ magazine in an interview that Putin's handling of the Syria crisis had been "brilliant". Speaking at an event at lunchtime, Farage says he conducted the interview with GQ time ago.

I said it just after parliament had voted not to go to war in Syria, thank God. I think one or two of the things that Putin said did actually change the debate in this country. I said I don't like him, I wouldn't trust him, wouldn't want to live in his country. But compared with the kids who run foreign policy in this country I have got more respect for him than our lot.

I just think it is utterly grotesque that Nigel Farage apparently admires - and that was the question to him, 'Who do you admire?' - admires someone, Vladimir Putin, who has been the chief sponsor and protector of one of the most brutal dictators on the face of the planet, President Assad.

And to then express his admiration by saying that he thinks that Vladimir Putin has played it all as if it's a game. This isn't a game. This is thousands upon thousands of people being killed and brutalised and murdered and chased from their homes who we are now taking into our country. Women and children who have been sexually abused, who have been physically abused, and we are thankfully acting in a generous-hearted way to provide them refuge. And he admires the man who has allowed, more than almost any other world leaders, that to happen?

Controversies and revelations of a serious and negative nature in relation to the conduct of some police officers, both past and present, have hurt public confidence in the police, and the morale of the very great majority of honest, hardworking, committed and brave police officers has suffered as a consequence. The police service has been damaged, but it is certainly not broken. It is primarily the responsibility of the leadership of the police to repair the damage which has been done, through an intensification of its commitment in deeds as well as words to the highest standards of professional conduct, to the vigorous and uncompromising establishment (with others) of the truth, and the firm treatment of those found to have violated the high standards by which police officers and police staff are bound, and to which so very many adhere every day.

Thirty thousand people who were in overcrowded accommodation have now had the opportunity for the first time to move into houses where they're not overcrowded any more. And the reality is that [Labour] left us with 250,000 people [in overcrowded accommodation] - so now in 10 months, over 10% have had the opportunity to move. And we're saving over £1m a day. I call that a success.

And it's worth saying that before the last government came to power, payday lending did not exist. And it spiralled to £1bn's worth under them.

The reality is that they systems that [Labour} implemented were failures. This will succeed and change many people's lives.

3.36pm BST

Here's the Guardian video of George Osborne delivering his "full employment" speech

3.10pm BST

Here's Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, on George Osborne's speech.

High levels of employment will only be achieved, and sustained, by creating an environment in which business can thrive, not by the state increasing spending to guarantee jobs. The coalition have made a positive start on giving the UK a more competitive tax system, but there is still much work to be done. The IoD remains concerned by the low starting threshold for the 40p income tax rate, which will continue to drag in ever more people who are not on high salaries, while our members would also like to have seen the chancellor freeze business rates at the Budget, until the revaluation in 2017.

2.50pm BST

Here are some of the most interesting blogs that I've seen on George Osborne's speech.

Nick Robinson on his BBC blog explains what Osborne was up to with his speech today.

His aim was to identify an economic ambition which people can connect with emotionally; one which is forward looking and which highlights the surprise success of the British economy since the banks crashed - namely job creation ...

The Conservatives know that talking about the deficit alone risks a conversation which is more about statistics than people and highlights the fact that they are almost as far away from meeting their target as they were at the last election.

And when, in the 1970s, that post-war Keynesian settlement frayed amid cripplingly high inflation rates, the Conservative party swiftly washed its hands of the full employment policy altogether. Though Margaret Thatcher continued to carry round her own annotated copy of the 1944 White Paper in her handbag, the Tories had broken with it, as Nigel Lawson wrote in his memoirs.

The twofold error of previous Governments, he wrote, had been the commitment to full employment, come what may, and the false teaching of the neo-Keynesian economic establishment that the route to full employment was ever more monetary (and fiscal) expansion" ...

2.09pm BST

Here's Frances O'Grady, the TUC general secretary, on George Osborne's "full employment" goal.

The 2.3 million people currently without work across the UK will be heartened to learn that the chancellor is committed to the goal of full employment and making work pay.

But if George Osborne wants to achieve these important objectives he needs to address the living standards crisis and secure fairer wages, especially for low-paid workers, not cut their tax credits. Benefit cuts are not the route to full employment.

1.30pm BST

George Osborne has moved to bury one of the most toxic Tory legacies from the Thatcher and Major eras by pledging to create full employment in Britain. As Nicholas Watt reports, in a speech at Tilbury Port, hailing tax changes in the budget, the chancellor said that he would like to ensure that Britain had more people in work as a proportion of the population than any other G7 country. The chancellor repudiated the famous declaration by Norman Lamont in 1991 that unemployment was a price "well worth paying" to bring down inflation. Osborne said: "Jobs matter mass unemployment is never a price worth paying."

Alistair Darling, the leader of the Scottish Better Together campaign, has said the Westminster political parties would almost certainly have a manifesto commitment to oppose an independent Scotland forming a currency union with England.

The Reform report needs to be kicked out completely. If such a proposal were ever adopted, it would be the death knell for the NHS. It would be the end of a health service free at the point of delivery for all those in need.

It would be very discriminatory against the poor who would struggle to pay such a charge. It would create a two-tier NHS in favour of the well-off. It would fundamentally undermine the principles and ethos of the NHS.

1.01pm BST

And here is some more reaction to George Osborne's announcement from Twitter.

From Spencer Thompson, a economist at the IPPR thinktank

@JobsEconomist @AndrewSparrow G7 is too easy a target - IPPR has argued for OECD (much tougher, includes N. Europe): http://t.co/q5sQc5Ql5Z

@AndrewSparrow "Full employment" is now a relatively easy target for UK, key issue is how to combine this with high productivity

An admirable new goal of 'full employment' set by @George_Osborne. Yet will ring hollow if he has zero new policies to achieve it...

Osborne's commits to full employment - defined as higher employment than rest of G7. Labour Govt target was 80 % of working age population.

Key political message from Osborne commitment to full employment is rejection of Norman Lamont remark unemployment is a price worth paying.

George Osborne is desperate to talk about anything other than his record - the one that forces 1 in 5 young people to languish on the dole

By promising full employment, Osborne invites a monthly verdict on his performance. Risky

12.56pm BST

According to the Treasury (see 12.13pm), the UK has the fourth highest employment rate in the G7.

But Sky's Ed Conway has produced these figures showing the UK already in joint second place in the G7 on this measure.

Osborne's actual pledge is to have highest employment in G7. But UK is almost there already. Only Germany is higher pic.twitter.com/pi7go3fkhO

12.40pm BST

Here's Nick Clegg on George Osborne's "full employment" goal.

Clegg on "Full Employment": "Lots of people have got different definitions. All I want is the maximum number of people to be employed."

12.38pm BST

The FT's Chris Giles is no slouch. He's already knocked off a blog explaining what the various definitions of "full employment" could be.

12.34pm BST

Chris Leslie, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, has just told the BBC that, although George Osborne's "full employment" pledge is welcome, the chancellor's policies do not support his rhetoric.

We should have had this many, many years ago. A lot of this rhetoric from the chancellor doesn't match the reality. He should tell it to the 900,000 young people who have been out of work for more than 12 months or more. Long-term youth unemployment has doubled under his watch. So, actually, it's an apology he should have given.

We've got a change in the labour market where people are more insecure than ever before. We've got this burgeoning number of zero-hours contracts, and people really finding that they are struggling to make ends meet because they do not know where the next pay cheque is coming from.

Ultimately you have got to get to a situation where a government does not rest until it has made sure that it has tackled those key, fundamental scars on society, and long-term unemployment.

12.13pm BST

According to the Treasury, Germany has the highest employment rate in the G7. It is currently 73.3% (employment rate as a proportion of the working-age population).

Canada comes second, Japan third, and the UK is in fourth place, with an employment rate of 70.8%.

12.01pm BST

Earlier I summarised the extracts from the George Osborne speech released overnight. (See 9.53am.) The full text of the speech is now on the Treasury website and, of the new material, much of it is just a detailed account of the tax cuts and benefit changes coming into force in April.

The new material comes towards the end, where Osborne fleshes out what he means by his "full employment" pledge.

Today Im making a new commitment.

A commitment to fight for Full Employment in Britain.

Seventy years ago this year; during the second world war, when Winston Churchill was Prime Minister of a Coalition Government; they set the first commitment to full employment.

In those days they thought government could micro-manage the economy and guarantee a job for everyone.

We are taking a different approach [to the one tried in the past - see the quote above.]

And let me be clear

A modern approach to full employment means backing business.

It means cutting the tax on jobs and reforming welfare.

Of course, there will always be people in between jobs; people unable to work.

And there are those with important caring responsibilities to their families and others not seeking work. They will never be included in a drive for full employment.

11.38am BST

The full text of George Osborne's speech is now on the Treasury's website.

I will post a summary shortly.

11.37am BST

The Telegraph's James Kirkup points out that full employment could be inflationary.

George Osborne commits himself to seek full employment. Any economist tweeters able to point to decent estimate of UK NAIRU?

11.35am BST

ITV's Chris Ship has this clarification of Osborne's "full employment" goal.

Osborne's "full employment" commitment actually means UK having the "highest employment rate of any of the major economies in the world"

11.30am BST

The BBC has a good feature here about the history of full employment as a policy goal.

Here's an extract.

So has genuine full employment ever been achieved in the post industrial world? "Of course we've had it," says the economist Lord Skidelsky. "Between 1950 and 1973 unemployment averaged 2% and was always well under one million."

This was the golden age for jobs in Britain. The high point came in July 1955 - shortly after Anthony Eden had taken over from Winston Churchill as prime minister - when unemployment reached a post-war low of 215,800, a mere 1%.

11.29am BST

We still have not got any detail on George Osborne's "full employment" ambition, but on Twitter there is already some reaction and comment.

Osborne's full employment ideal was pushed a year ago by @TimMontgomerie on @ConHome #HomesJobsSavings

A commitment for full employment from Osborne. A pitch for the blue collar vote

Osborne: Commitment to fight for full employment in Britain making jobs a central goal of economic plan

(this is Osborne going on attack re Labour's jobs guarantee)

11.17am BST

And this seems to be the story from the speech.

Osborne says he is "working to build an economy that supports full employment"

Full employment = "Ambitious new goal" set by @George_Osborne. What - in practice - does it mean?

11.11am BST

And here's John Kent, the Labour leader of Thurrock council, on Osborne.

Waiting for George Osborne to speak at the Port of Tilbury. I wonder if he will address his cost of living crisis - not holding my breath.

11.05am BST

Here's some more from Tilbury docks, where George Osborne is speaking.

Sitting in Tilbury docks waiting for speech by @George_Osborne I learn that Gandhi & Cliff Richard had their first sight of Britain here

Thought Osborne was a sceptic on IDS & Universal Credit? He's about to give a speech in front of sign proclaiming how great UC is

11.03am BST

George Osborne's speech should be starting about now, the Treasury say.

The tax rises are for you too: Tilbury dock workers given morning off to sit in prime position at Osborne speech pic.twitter.com/bTGyASYCV2

10.53am BST

Many observers believe that Boris Johnson's hopes of getting the government to approve a new "Boris airport" in the Thames estuary, east of London, are already dead in the water. But the London mayor has not given up. Today he has published a report intended to show that closing Heathrow would not be an economic catastrophe for the area. It highlights three redevelopment proposals for the site, in the event of Heathrow closing in 2030. In a statement, Johnson said:

I believe there is no question that the best option for increasing our aviation capacity is now to the east of London, just as there is no question that Heathrow would then present a unique, once in a lifetime opportunity to create a new town within the capital that would supply thousands more homes and jobs. Relocating Heathrow would bring benefits to both east and west London and it is impossible to get one without the other. This report is about clearing away the smoke screen put up by people whose loyalty is to their shareholders, not to Londoners; and prompting a genuine, honest discussion about what London could achieve in a world post Heathrow airport.

10.31am BST

You can read all todays Guardian politics stories here. And all the politics stories filed yesterday, including some in todays paper, are here.

As for the rest of the papers, heres the PoliticsHome list of top 10 must-reads, heres the ConservativeHome round-up of the politics stories in todays papers and heres the New Statesmans list of top 10 comment articles.

Britains public finances are experiencing an economic recovery that is unusually light in revenues, with Financial Times calculations showing less tax than forecast flowing into the exchequer.

With the country starting a new tax year on April 6, George Osborne will on Monday stress what he calls the biggest cuts to personal and business taxes in a generation.

[Clegg] said: They are trying to steal credit for it because they know it is a big popular progressive measure that benefits millions of people, and they know that they as a party have a problem in that they appear to be too preoccupied with the fortunes of those at the very top of society.

Mr Clegg also suggested that the Tories were not being honest in their claims to support the higher tax threshold.

The North and Midlands would be hit hardest by Britain quitting the European Union, according to an economic analysis which revealed that the number of jobs which are dependent on trade links with the bloc now exceeds 4 million ...

A previous estimate suggested that between 3 million and 3.5 million British jobs are linked to exports to the EU, the worlds largest trading group.

I have been at umpteen private functions over the past year where all three Unionist parties have impressed business leaders enormously by showing that they can work in unison against the Nats and where Mr Darling has banged the drum most effectively for the Union. In fact, Ive sometime felt embarrassed for him as hes had to plead for financial support to counter the enormous sums that Alex Salmond has at his disposal.

However, I wonder if this campaign-by-committee is now BTs major weakness. The separatist effort is run on a one-man, one-vote system and Alex Salmond is the one man with that one vote. What he says, goes. No questions. No arguments. The SNP leader takes no notice whatsoever of the official Yes campaign; it is simply a conduit for spending the huge sums handed over to the Nats by, among others, its lottery-millionaire supporters.

10.11am BST

George Osborne has been opening an academy on his visit to Essex.

George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, is visiting the Port of Tilbury today. He's opening a new Logistics Academy here.

George Osborne opening the Academy in #Tilbury: "Right here we're at the centre of the global economy." pic.twitter.com/JPTom8xXL9

10.03am BST

The Telegraph's Michael Deacon has ventured down to Essex for the George Osborne speech.

In Essex for Osborne speech. In case he forgets any of his slogans they've stuck this massive cheat-sheet behind him pic.twitter.com/ImbmgISEPG

On this board behind Osborne's lectern, "for hardworking people" has a #. Just trying to work out how to click on it pic.twitter.com/E58ecHbI5E

9.53am BST

The Treasury still aren't releasing a text of George Osborne's speech, even though he was scheduled to be speaking at 9am this morning, at a venue in Essex.

But here are some of the extracts released in advance.

Were all here at the start of the most important week of changes to our tax system for a generation.

These are the biggest cuts to personal and business taxes for two decades, and were making our benefit system more affordable and fairer too.

Stability is returning; and with it, confidence.

Companies are moving here; investment is happening here.

Even now there are those who want to give up, spend more, borrow more, attack business and put up taxes, and go back to square one.

Back to economic chaos. Back to no new jobs.

From this Sunday people can keep the first £10,000 of what they earn before they pay any income tax.

Its a big moment in the history of our countrys tax system.

We inherited a welfare system that didnt work There was not enough help for those looking for a job - people were just parked on benefits.

Frankly, there was not enough pressure to get a job - some people could just sign on and get almost as much money staying at home as going out to work.

9.25am BST

I have not seen the text of the George Osborne speech yet. But here's the response that Labour's Chris Leslie, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, issued last night on the basis of the extracts released in advance.

Working people facing a cost-of-living crisis are £1,600 a year worse off under George Osborne because wages have fallen in real terms.

On tax George Osborne is giving with one hand, but taking away much more with the other. Analysis of figures from the IFS shows that households are already £900 a year worse off because of all tax and benefit changes since 2010.

9.20am BST

The Labour party has firmly ruled out the proposal from Lord Warner, a former Labour health minister, for NHS users to pay £10 a month as a "membership charge".

This morning a party spokesman said:

This will not be Labour party policy. This is not an idea we are even considering.

8.54am BST

April brings the start of the new financial year and in a speech this morning George Osborne, the chancellor, will say that measures about to come into effect amount to "the biggest cuts to personal and business taxes for two decades". He will also be talking about changes to the welfare system. The Treasury has released some excerpts in advance, and here's an extract from Patrick Wintour's preview story.

In a major speech attempting to drill home the coalition's polling advantage on the economy, Osborne will hail the Conservative plan as "the only plan in town".

He will say the government has already created more than 1.3m jobs and that its reforms are set to lead to 3m new jobs in the private sector from 2011 to 2018. For the first time in 35 years, a greater proportion of people in Britain are in work than in the US.

Continue reading...