In a broad sense, Grant Shapps’ speech to Policy Exchange this lunchtime is similar to Michael Gove’s fiery article for the Telegraph in May. Both make the personal political, as it were. Shapps attacks Eds Miliband and Balls directly and without remorse, but does so under cover of political difference. They’re not mad or sad or odd, those Labour folk. They just don’t have the right ideas for Britain. Whereas the Tories, the Tories have staved off a double-dip recession, encouraged private sector jobs, reduced crime, etc, etc.
But Shapps’s speech differs in one crucial way from Gove’s article. Whereas the latter suggested that Miliband had created a “vacuum” where policies should be, the former contends that Labour has too many ideas that would be dangerous for the country. The Tory chairman directs our imaginations towards the possibility of a Labour government after the next election. Some of his divinations are realistic (“the deficit quickly begins to grow again”). Some of them involve a bit of artistic license (he warns that incomplete and unconfirmed Labour plans to make benefits a human right “could allow prisoners … to be entitled to housing benefit”). But they all have one thing in common; they all say that too much Miliband would be bad for Britain’s health.
The politics of this attack are pretty straightforward. It makes sense, for instance, to start attacking Labour on its substance as more and more substance emerges ahead of 2015. But I suspect that Shapps’ ulterior motive is to win over any voters who are leaning towards UKIP, as well as to pacify any Tory backbenchers who might be thinking of causing trouble for Cameron. Carry on like that, he seems to be saying, and Miliband might end up in No.10 – and that wouldn’t be pretty.
By Tim Montgomerie
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Paul has already done a fine job of explaining the importance of George Osborne's determination to link Ed Balls to the economic failure of the Brown years.
Ed Balls was at Brown's right hand from the very beginning as his principal economic adviser.
Balls was there when Labour designed the failed tripartite system.
Balls was there when Brown raised taxes one hundred times.
Balls was there when the deficit was allowed to grow during good times - the very opposite advice of the Keynesian creed he supposedly follows.
Balls was there when Brown kept insisting that he'd abolished boom and bust.
Balls was also inside Brown's kitchen cabinet when Damian McBride was practising his dark arts.
It was perfectly legitimate last week when the Chancellor suggested that the man who wants his job had questions to answer about Labour's involvement in the Libor scandal. It may be that those questions will be answered with a clean bill of health for Ed Balls and Labour ministers. Time will tell. It's certainly too early for people like Andrea Leadsom and Lord Lamont to know for sure.
In the meantime all Tories should pause for thought. Labour would be united if the tables were turned. They'd be blackening the Tory brand for a decade if we'd left the country in the mess that they did. There are questions about George Osborne's competitiveness agenda but he's 100% right about going after Ed Balls. If that man ever got his hands on the Treasury levers again I can't bear to contemplate the consequences for our country.
By Matthew Barrett
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Midnight Boris' victory speech thanks to BBC London 94.9:
11.56pm BORIS HAS WON THE LONDON MAYORAL ELECTION
Boris has won.
By Matthew Barrett
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Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, gave a speech at the Durand Academy in Stockwell, South London, earlier this week. We're covering it a couple of days late, but it was an important speech, and I've highlighted below some sections that readers will be interested in:
Mr Gove warns of an "educational underclass" - those youngsters, "lost souls", churned out by the education system, suffering from a lack of ambition and discipline: "For all the advances we have made, and are making in education, we still, every year allow thousands more children to join an educational underclass – they are the lost souls our school system has failed. It is from that underclass that gangs draw their recruits, young offenders institutions find their inmates and prisons replenish their cells. These are young people who, whatever the material circumstances which surround them, grow up in the direst poverty - with a poverty of ambition, a poverty of discipline, a poverty of soul. I recognise that using a word like underclass has potentially controversial connotations. It can seem to divide society into them and us. But I believe there’s a merit in plain speaking."
By Matthew Barrett
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Figures released today by the Department of Education show that the introduction of the new English Baccalaureate is having an immediate impact - the proportion of pupils taking the core academic subjects at GCSE level has increased.
The English Baccalaureate, which was introduced in January this year, is achieved by pupils who obtain a GCSE grade "C" or better in English, Maths, a language, History or Geography, and two sciences.
The figures released today show that
Conservative Co-Chairman Baroness Warsi has just addressed the party's spring conference in Cardiff.
The most significant passage was a very strong call to join the campaign opposing the introduction of an AV electoral system, chiming with Paul Goodman's advice yesterday that winning the referendum must be the priority for the coming two months.
Here's what she had to say on the issue:
"I am passionate about First-Past-the-Post. Why? Because it’s based on a fundamental British belief: a belief that has been the beacon of British democracy for centuries; a principle that has inspired millions of democrats around the world and continues to do so; the idea that one person should get one vote and every vote should weigh the same.
"Let me tell you what’s wrong with AV. 'It is the stupidest, the least scientific and the most unreal' voting system. It means that elections 'will be determined by the most worthless votes given for the most worthless candidates.' Conference, not my words – the words of Winston Churchill eighty years ago.
"He knew then – like I know now – that AV is wrong for Britain. It’s wrong that candidates who come third can win elections. It’s wrong that your fifth choice can count as much as my first. And it’s absolutely wrong that elections can be decided by the eccentrics who vote for the Monster Raving Loony Party, or even worse, the extremists who vote for the BNP.
"We must win this referendum. But it is not going to be an easy fight. I need each and every one of you to join the campaign! Of course, on May 5th, I want you to defend the seats we hold. Of course, we’ve got to take the seats we can. But above all on May 5th, we need to win the one election which will affect every single general election to come."
On the matter of the local elections, she indulged in some understandable expectation management in terms of how the Conservatives will fare:
"Let’s remember where we're starting from. We hold almost half of all English seats, gaining many when Labour were rock bottom in the polls. So we have a high base to defend. And let me be absolutely clear: We are going to be fielding candidates in every corner of the country. And yes, against every party in this land. And our message is clear: Labour councils waste your money. Conservative councils deliver more for less."
Less than twelve months ago Labour suffered one of its worst ever defeats and it was no more than it deserved. Gordon Brown proved again that every Labour government eventually runs out of our money. They spend too much, tax too much, waste too much and borrow too much. Every Labour government raises taxes, debt and unemployment.
Since Labour's defeat we have had no apology for the reckless spending. No apology for the longest recession amongst the world’s biggest economies. No apology for the deepest economic contraction in Britain’s history. No apology for the biggest deficit in the developed world. No apology for the fact that it's the old, young and poor who suffer most from such failures.
Even now Labour won't play any constructive part in fixing the deficit. They offer no plan to cut spending but opportunistically attack every cut that the Coalition has been forced to make.
Ed Miliband's no-apologies-strategy might already be working. Some opinion polls have Labour 10% ahead and scoring more than 43% of the national vote. They won an easy victory in yesterday's Barnsley by-election. They expect big gains in May's local, Scottish and Welsh elections. It's as if the £175 billion deficit, one hundred extra stealth taxes, massive youth unemployment, uncontrolled immigration and defeat in Iraq had never happened.
How can the British people have forgiven Labour so quickly?
It is possible that they haven't, of course. Voters may be supporting Labour as a way of kicking the Coalition, rather than out of renewed conviction. The Tory leadership believes that when the British people face a choice between Ed Miliband and David Cameron and between a party that took tough choices and one that ducked them, that they will re-elect the Conservatives.
By Paul Goodman
Fun and games at Local Government House this morning, but with a serious underlying purpose. In the form of Sayeeda Warsi and Chris Huhne, the Coalition raised the curtain on what the former described as "a summer of scrutiny" on Labour - in other words, on a political push to pin the blame on Labour for the autumn spending scaleback to come.
Huhne chaired the joint press conference, but Warsi delivered the political punch. She's written to all ex-Labour Ministers - including the two Milibands, Ed Balls and Andy Burnham, four of the five Party leadership contenders - asking them to give up their severance pay as an apology for Labour's over-spending during the last government. Warsi also referred to a video on Labour's failure which she's launching today as Party Chairman and is viewable below.
She said -
"At a time when people across the country are being asked to tighten their belts because of Labour's wasteful legacy, it is simply unacceptable that the very people responsible for the mess are eligible to walk away with a £20,000 reward for failure."
The move will inevitably be denounced as a stunt, and invite questions about future Cabinet severance payments. But it's right for the Coalition to get on the front front and try to fix the blame for the deficit where it belongs. Huhne said that the Liberal Democrats don't want to make cuts, but that the present situation makes them necessary. Warsi jibed at Labour waste and Liam Byrne's note to his successor admitting that there's no money left.
Both repeated a mantra about one Party creating this mess...and two working together to clear it up. It wasn't clear why either should be leading the charge on waste - neither, after all, are at the Cabinet Office or the Treasury - but it looks as though we'll see more Conservative-Liberal Democrat double acts on the same theme as the summer continues. It's the kind of exercise that William Hague or Michael Gove would also carry off very well.
Huhne had perhaps the sharpest point, and one we'll surely hear again and again from the Coalition. Labour pencilled in £50 billion worth of cuts pre-election: so if they don't like the Government's savings, what ones would they make instead? Oh, and a footnote: asked by Andy Sparrow of the Guardian whether the Party would definitely contest Eastleigh at the next election, Warsi said only that she was responsible for "developing Conservative thinking" and that the next election will be fought on "the Coalition's record". The answer won't help to calm speculation about the two parties fighting the next election as a single force.
David Cameron has today launched one of his most hard-hitting attacks yet on the Government, comparing Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling and their handling of the economy to joy-riders "smashing up the neighbourhood".
Speaking to activists at CCHQ, he asserted that Labour have now "lost all right to govern" in the wake of the Pre-Budget Report, accusing them of "irresponsibility, basic deceit and a complete lack of moral principle".
"I think the Labour Party should be haunted for a decade by what we saw yesterday in terms of irresponsibility, basic deceit and complete lack of moral principle. If anyone needed one more reason to say we need to get rid of this bunch of Labour politicians running our country, yesterday gave every reason that was needed. This country is crying out for change now. We have got to bring that change about."
"Brown and Darling are like a couple of joy-riders in a car smashing up the neighbourhood, not caring what is going to happen and not caring about anyone who might have to take over the mess they have created... They showed no care for the risks they are running with interest rates, the risks they are running for future taxes, the risks they are running in terms of racking up debts for our children."
He said that "the most deceitful act of all" was "to say in your budget statement that you are increasing benefits for some of the most vulnerable people in our country like the disabled, without saying that you have a plan to cut those benefits the year after the election". IN that respect, he compared the Chancellor "some dodgy timeshare salesman who, if they behaved like that, would end up in court."
"At heart, I think there is a sacred trust that every politician should have, which is that if you are at the tiller and the crunch comes, you do the right thing for your country. You put aside personal considerations and political considerations and you do the right thing. Yesterday they did the wrong thing. Confronted with this budget deficit, confronted with the problems, they put their own political fortunes ahead of the fortunes of our country. We have got a few months to get rid of a bunch of politicians who I think have lost the right to govern."
> Earlier in the day the party launched a new poster highlighting the debt Labour has heaped upon everyone in the country, whilst Greg Hands has pointed out that Britain's economic position is now being mocked by the Germans.
> News also comes tonight of a new poll from Angus Reid Strategies for Political Betting which puts the Conservatives on 40%, 17 points ahead of Labour on 23% - the fieldwork for which began on Tuesday and continued until earlier today.
Scroll down for Monday update
The Mail on Sunday has an exclusive interview with Baroness Scotland's former housekeeper this morning.
Chris Grayling has issued this statement:
"This unedifying row just underlines why Baroness Scotland's position is now completely untenable. But it also raises huge question marks over the way the Home Office and the Prime Minister have handled the case. The Home Office rushed through an investigation without listening to all the evidence, and the Prime Minister exonerated Lady Scotland before the housekeeper had even been questioned. This is increasingly looking like an attempted whitewash that has gone badly wrong."
Conservatives are convinced that this story is highly damaging to Labour and cannot believe that Gordon Brown has allowed the row to rumble along into the start of Labour's Conference week. They believe that the combination of ministerial incompetence, illegal immigration and insight into a politicians' home life is very damaging for Labour.
Chris Grayling has today written to Home Secretary Alan Johnson demanding that the investigation into the matter be re-opened so that Baroness Scotland's former housekeeper can be interviewed. He said:
“The more we hear about what happened last week the clearer it becomes that this was an investigation rushed through under fierce political pressure and it has failed to do the job properly. The borders agency could not have possibly been in a position to mount a full investigation without interviewing Baroness Scotland’s housekeeper. It looks very likely that all of this was rushed through to avoid disrupting the Labour Party conference.”
And here is the text of his letter to Alan Johnson: