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Dates for the Prime Minister’s Diary

Last Updated: Friday, March 11th, 2011

 

All Prime Ministers must try to keep one eye on the maelstrom of present events, and the other on the promise and threat of future ones.  Here are some crucial dates from David Cameron’s diary in the near future: considering them backwards in sequence reveals much about the hazards he faces.

Thursday May 5: The AV referendum and the local elections take place.  I’ve written previously in editions of this newsletter about the serious difficulties that the Prime Minister will face within his own party if the electorate votes for AV.  It’s important for him, therefore, that its members generally, and its MPs particularly, are in as good heart as possible as May 5 approaches.

Wednesday March 30
: David Cameron is due to address the 1922 Committee.  His MPs will be looking for good opinion poll news on AV, a positive voter response to the budget of the week before and – above all, perhaps – help from the Prime Minister over their “pay and rations”.  A day less than a week will have passed since the publication by IPSA of its plans for change.

Thursday March 24: On this day – the one after budget day – IPSA will release its proposals.  Many MPs are looking for a move from receipted claims to flat rate allowances – in order to save them from quarterly trawls through those receipts by their local papers.  The signs are that IPSA is unwilling to concede this.  Cameron thus has four working days in which to square the conflicting wishes of most voters (on the one hand) and his MPs (on the other).

Wednesday March 23: Budget Day.  The Prime Minister will be relying on one of his oldest allies, George Osborne, to deliver a budget which satisfies the markets that the Government’s unwavering in its determination to eliminate the structural deficit; sees off Ed Miliband (who will have to respond to it); placates media campaigns to help motorists, and cheers up his backbenchers with a few goodies for voters – not to mention delivering a clear agenda for growth.

Monday March 21
: The Commons votes on MPs pay.  An independent review has recommended that MPs receive a one per cent pay rise this year.  Cameron wants them to vote to freeze their pay for two years.  His front bench will do so – and the House probably will too.  Most MPs know that to vote to boost their pay while that of others is being frozen would be greeted with rage by the electorate.  But many will also hope for some good news from IPSA later in the week.

And, if not, from the Prime Minister the week after.  It’s true that one can get a sense of how the AV referendum, the budget, and MPs’ pay and expenses could mesh together to create a testing few weeks for Cameron without knowing the diary details.  But one can get a better sense of the scale of the challenge once one does.

 

Paul Goodman

 

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE LAST WEEK ON CONSERVATIVEHOME

42% of Tory members want David Davis as Party Chairman: “In the latest ConHome survey we asked members to choose between nine possible candidates for the job of Tory Chairman. David Davis was the overwhelming favourite (1. David Davis 42%. 2. Sayeeda Warsi 10%. 3. Ken Clarke 9%. 4. Chris Grayling 8%. 5. Jeremy Hunt 7% 6. Grant Shapps 6%. 7. Alan Duncan 6%. 8. Andrew Feldman 2%.)  It’s a very unlikely prospect, of course. Cameron has had very little contact with Mr Davis since he walked out of the shadow cabinet to fight a by-election on the issue of civil liberties. Since the Coalition was formed Mr Davis has been a regular critic of the government and successfully led the rebellion on votes for prisoners.” Tim Montgomerie. Read More: http://is.gd/fwScRH

We must not allow Labour to outflank us on defence:
“Although Jim Murphy is committed to bipartisanship over Afghanistan withdrawal, he is prepared to justify turning up the heat on the basis that cosy consensus at Westminster means the parties forget to keep the public onside…Through the fog of utter uselessness emitted by most of the top brass in Ed Miliband’s Labour party, the outline of a political strategy for defence is emerging…Certainly, the Prime Minister’s hints of a return to growth in defence spending need to be firmed up. For Conservatives to be outflanked by Labour on what should be a core strength would be disastrous, I believe. But it is not unthinkable.” Antonia Cox. Read More: http://is.gd/mpjBk0

Britain’s abortion laws currently leave vulnerable women without the most basic support and help to which they should be entitled: “Many women are damaged by the ‘abortion process’. This is because in the quest to make abortion swift and easily accessible, many women enter the process confused, without proper information, and unaware of any physical or mental health consequences. The words ‘bewildered’ and ‘out of control’ are often quoted in the emerging case studies of those women who now feel compelled to speak out at what they see as a process which seeks to conceal information and disempower them….Labour MP, Frank Field, and I will lay down an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill which aims to help and support these very women.” Nadine Dorries MP.  Read More:  http://is.gd/rSq2e5

A stark choice for universities: “A stark choice lies ahead: must they now concede that social mobility is more important than academic excellence? Or do they break free of government control, set their own fees and arrange their own funding?  As experience over the last fifteen years has shown, targets for public services lead to unintended consequences. The unintended consequence of OFFA’s targets could be the division of our university system into an independent, privately funded, world-class elite and a government-monitored “bog standard” state sector. What price social mobility then?” Jill Kirby.  Read More: http://is.gd/gQ4C7E

An open letter to soon-to-be BBC Trust Chairman, Chris Patten:“Think about the BBC’s coverage of the following issues from within a framework of what I’ve called “sympathy and support, however critically tempered, for liberal democratic virtues in their British cultural setting”.  I apologise, having written that the BBC’s about than politics, for returning to the subject – but probing the corporation’s public affairs coverage definitely is part of your remit. So, then: “cuts”.  America.  Religion.  The Environment.  The Middle East. I’ve picked these five topics more or less at random, but they point to a larger truth – namely, that it’s fair to say that the BBC’s default setting on nearly all of them tends to be closer to that of the Guardian than that of, say, the Times.  But neither has a monopoly of what I keep calling “liberal democratic virtue”.  So is there any intrinsic reason why the BBC should share the outlook of one rather than the other?” Paul Goodman.  Read More: http://is.gd/cVA0Qz

Another reason to vote NO2AV: AV is part of the “Europeanisation” of British politics: “We have alas not had the chance to vote in a referendum on a European question since before I was born, but voting No in the forthcoming referendum on Alternative Vote will allow us to show that we oppose the Europeanisation of our politics.  And before you accuse me of trying to bring matters European into an unrelated arena, I would ask you to consider the words of Chris Huhne, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary and now leading supporter of the Yes to AV campaign (despite having slated AV in the Guardian before the general election, in February 2010).  I have just discovered that the IPPR posted on the internet this recording of the seminar it hosted last October at which Huhne and others discussed the nature of the Coalition and its future prospects.” Jonathan Isaby.  Read More: http://is.gd/AfDYw3

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