Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

David Cameron’s ‘grand plan’ to win back powers from the European Union was back in the headlines yesterday, with an in-depth article by Toby Helm, who suggested Cameron’s ‘winning’ plan had been thrown into doubt after ‘heavy weight’ countries like Germany said it would prefer to solve the euro zones problem without a European Treaty.

Cameron had pledged to renegotiate UK membership before calling an in/out referendum in 2017, as you will remember; but both Germany and France have said they would be against opening up the rulebook, and especially within the times scale outline by Cameron.

In a blow to the prime minister, who has pledged to renegotiate UK membership before calling an in/out referendum in 2017, both Germany and France are now coming out against opening up the EU rulebook again in the timescale envisaged by Cameron.

Clearly the two countries are frustrated by Cameron’s approach and have, in Helm’s words, ‘snubbed’ an offer to participate in an exchange of views with the foreign office on whether some EU powers should be returned to member states as part of a ‘review of competencies’-it emerged last week.

In addition to being complex and short sighted, it is now emerging-hardly surprisingly-that Cameron is likely to get very little support when he starts his next round of renegotiation rhetoric. You can read the article by Toby Helm in full, here.

Meanwhile, a couple of Saturdays ago Andrew Grice travelled with Labour leader Ed Miliband to Carlisle, where he observed a steady flow of passengers stop the Labour leader mid conversation with Grice in order to meet him. So struck by the general interest they had in him, Grice even pondered that these people had been planted by the party! They had not of course, but were genuinely interested in Miliband who sat in second class with other passengers.

Writes Grice, “They were genuinely interested in this politician in crowded standard class; some passengers even noted the contrast with George Osborne, whose staff had a well-publicised spat with a ticket inspector when he sat in first.

“A steady stream of passengers wanted their picture taken with the Labour leader on their phones – and of him with their children.

“Mr Miliband gave everyone time, even though he had work to do. I wondered if it was all an act but, as our three-hour journey to Carlisle progressed, it was clear that he really does like meeting people far from the Westminster bubble.”

This was a great few paragraphs, truly capturing a man who is on a mission to reach out to the public and to regain their trust. Miliband also described that the mission for Labour now is to ‘deliver real change.

 “There is a quiet revolution happening in the Labour Party. It is no longer about approving the minutes of the last meeting, or delivering leaflets. It is about delivering real change on the doorstep,” he said.

It was an intriguing insight into the Labour leader, capturing moments that many would overlook, but it’s small things such as taking time to speak to people-rather than paying them lip service that makes a real difference.

You can read the interview in full here.

As Miliband travelled up to Carlisle, so David Cameron rewarded his rich backers with a generous cut in their tax bills.

Vincent Moss covered this yesterday and said: “Three of the PM’s wealthiest cronies will have their tax bills cut by £500,000 a year, while ­millions of ordinary people endure a ­crippling benefits squeeze.”

You can read the full extent of their estimated savings here.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round Up

Labour Party

Although the week’s news was dominated by the minute-by- minute updates of alleged  Northumbrian murderer, Raoul Moat, the coalition government haven’t escaped the headlines entirely. Michael Gove remained in the spotlight after he failed to shake off the furore following his decision to cancel school building projects.

His announcement that some 700 school redevelopments would be scrapped in an effort to cut the deficit sparked outrage among members on all sides of the House.

Worse still, an almighty mix up followed with the Department of Education saying that some schools would be saved from the cuts, only to find out later this was a mistake and Gove was forced to apologise, again.

Even Conservative MPs are angered by this. Tory MP Philip Davies tabled a question asking why the projects in his constituency will be cut, and two dozen MPs have signed a motion condemning the ‘cavalier attitude towards pupils, parents and teachers.’

I don’t think I’ll have a chance to watch education questions tomorrow when Gove will be asked to offer a plan B for those schools hit by the controversial cuts, but I certainly hope he’s at home right now planning something to reinstate those education projects so badly needed across the country.

Gove isn’t the only minister currently facing the heat.  Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is also planning a £1bn attack on ‘bureaucracy’. He plans to reduce the number of health quangos There are disturbing rumours that the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which employs 2000 staff, will also be abolished.

It’s become terribly fashionable to bash the quangos, but they do a job and my concern is who will take on their role if they are abolished?

Many of the campaigns these organisations have been involved in have had a huge impact on our lives, in some cases proving to be life saving. Take the FSA campaign to reduce our salt intake or the saturated fat campaign, both of which have had a significant impact on how we as a nation think about food and our own personal health.

Other health quangos in the firing line are the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the NHS Blood and Transplant.  Both these organisations provide an essential service and they must not simply be done away with.

Both Lansley and Gove will face a huge backlash against their proposals. Is this an early warning of the tornados facing the government? Andrew Rawnsley asks just that in today’s Observer, which you can read here.

Meanwhile, on our side, Vincent Moss in today’s Sunday Mirror reveals that Peter Mandelson’s memoirs say Brown never got over losing his battle with Blair to become Labour leader in 1994. I hope there is something more compelling in Mandelson’s books than going over old stories that we have all heard time and time again.  If I decide to read it, I will want to know that there will be something a bit more insightful.  The full Sunday Mirror piece is here.

 Of course we still have Blair’s memoirs ‘The Journey’ to come out – due in September. Watch this space (and many others no doubt)…