Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Last week, news was dominated by ‘that speech’ it was to become a defining moment in his leadership, and signalled to the country – even his harshest critics that Ed Miliband is ready to lead a government.

One commentator said the speech had its “real strength in its authenticity and the raw, at times poignant, emotion.” While others suggested that his last speech showed he could lead with conviction. You can read a full analysis from both left and right commentators on the Guardian’s Comment is Free site here. The performance, the delivery, the content were all rich- this was a leader telling us he was ready.

Meanwhile, it was an embarrassing week for the Government after the controversial West Coast train line deal, which had already received much unwanted media attention, fell through.

The shambolic deal had, what Virgin boss Richard Branson, called “significant flaws” from the start which, the then transport minister, Justine Greening should have recognised.

Three civil servants in questions have been suspended and a full investigation which could cost the tax payer (an estimated) £40mn will begin.

A thorough investigation will begin after the department failed to analyse the plans in great detail of FirstGroup who was awarded the franchise.

As Branson said these were completely unacceptable mistakes. A guardian poll of its readers showed Greening should go over the fiasco – 89% said in a poll that she should resign. You can read more here.

David Cameron is due to set out his agenda this week at the Conservative Party Conference. But by Sunday Cameron’s ‘scatter gun approach’ to Europe was already being attacked.

During an interview with Andrew Marr on Sunday Cameron said he was prepared to veto the next EU budget.

But the Guardian’s political editor Patrick Wintour was quick to point out in his blog that “David Cameron’s scattergun approach on EU risks UK national interest.”

His promise to adopt a ‘tough approach’ to Europe completely undermines British interests.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, told the Sunday Times “that Britain is interested in imposing restrictions on the free movement of people around the EU.”

Again the problem with May’s unwise words is that they fail to acknowledge the interests of the UK. Wintour rightly points out that over the coming months Cameron must 1. Preserve Britain’s rebate in the budget negotiations and 2. Guarantee the integrity of the EU single market when the rules of the Eurozone are rewritten.

Wintour says: “Every word uttered by every minister over the coming months should be directed at achieving those two goals. By tabling a series of other demands the government will complicate the picture and strengthen the hand of opponents (France) that would dearly love to end Britain’s budget rebate and ensure that the single market is run by the 17 members of the Eurozone rather than by all 27 members of the EU.

“The prime minister also needs to be careful about pledging things he cannot deliver.”

Wintour goes on to give several examples of the consequences of reconfiguring the UKs relationship with Europe, such as:

• Theresa May’s idea of limiting the free movement of people through the EU can only be achieved in full by rewriting the 1957 Treaty of Rome, the founding treaty. This had at its heart the four pillars of what is now the EU – the free movement of labour, capital, goods and services.

In the highly unlikely event that Britain succeeded in curbing the free movement of people, France would probably demand an end to the free movement of services – a vital UK interest. So May’s idea will probably mean Britain will press for more modest measures such as imposing restrictions on the movement of citizens from new member states. So tiny Croatia will suffer, as will Turkey if it ever joins. How will this fit with another British aim – full Turkish membership of the EU?

This is something I have been addressing for many months. Cameron’s treading a dangerous path, perhaps he doesn’t understand the consequences of such reckless actions, and if this is correct then it’s even more worrying. You can read the blog in full here.

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