Perhaps the least prescient line from the script. pic.twitter.com/xrXZ3tsaW3
From Adam Bienkov at politics.co.uk
The prime minister has suppressed a report on EU migration after it found overwhelming evidence that immigration has been good for the British economy.
The report, commissioned by Theresa May, was due to be published at the end of last year but was shelved “indefinitely” by David Cameron after it failed to find evidence to support cutting immigration.
Officials say they were inundated with evidence from experts and businesses arguing that EU migration has been positive for the UK.
“They can’t bring themselves to publish the report before the European elections because they would have to admit that freedom of movement is a good thing,” one official told the Financial Times.
Civil servants complained that the central claims of the report were not backed up by the evidence within it.
Conservative sources also pointed the finger at the Liberal Democrats for trying to block the report.
The revelation follows an intervention by the Office for Budget Responsibility yesterday claiming that the coalition’s immigration cap would make it much harder to cut Britain’s budget deficit.
“Because [immigrants] are more likely to be working age, they’re more likely to be paying taxes and less likely to have relatively large sums of money spent on them for education, for long-term care, for healthcare, for pension expenditure,” OBR chairman Robert Chote told MPs.
Higher net migration allowed a “more beneficial picture” for public finances than would otherwise be the case, he added.
The revelation also comes as chancellor George Osborne addresses eurosceptic groups within his party, who are putting pressure on the government to restrict free movement within the EU.
“The biggest economic risk facing Europe doesn’t come from those who want reform and renegotiation,” he will tell the Fresh Start group of MPs.
“It comes from a failure to reform and renegotiate.”
A Downing Street spokesperson said the government’s report on the impact of EU migration was “ongoing”.
“We will publish it when it is ready,” they added.
Today’s Times carries an obituary of Peter Griffiths, who died on November 20th, aged 85. I was astonished to learn that this vile creature lived until so recently, and though he lost his Smethwick seat in 1966, returned as an MP (for Portsmouth North) from 1979 until 1997. Presumably, he remained a Tory to the end. I reproduce the obituary for the benefit, in particular, of readers unfamiliar with the 1964 Smethwick election and the events that followed:
Above: Peter Griffiths at the time of the Smethwick election
In a parliamentary row that galvanised Westminster in in the opening days of the return of Labour to office in 1964 after 13 years in opposition, the newly elected Conservative MP for Smethwick, Peter Griffiths was branded a “parliamentary leper” by the incoming Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. It happened in an astonishing series of exchanges that prefigured the violent language of the race debate conducted by Enoch Powell later in the decade.
Wilson was furious that his intended Foreign Secretary, the scholarly and liberal-minded Patrick Gordon Walker, had been defeated in his Smethwick constituency after a campaign in which Griffiths had shrewdly exploited local tensions over immigration and the housing shortage in the West Midlands.
Griffiths always denied ever using the electioneering slogan “If you want a n***** for a neighbour, Vote Labour”. It was pointed out that he had done nothing to repudiate, much less ban, placards carried by his supporters bearing the offensive electioneering slogan.
In Parliament, in some of the most extraordinary scenes ever witnessed during a Queen’s Speech debate, the Prime Minister upbraided the leader of the Opposition, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, for refusing to disown Griffiths. Castigating the new MP for having run an “utterly squalid” campaign, Wilson told the House: “If Sir Alec does not take what I am sure is the right course, Smethwick Conservatives will have the satisfaction of having sent a member who, until another election returns him to oblivion, will serve his time as a parliamentary leper.”
There was uproar. The Speaker, Sir Harry Hylton-Foster, was urged by the opposition benches to make the Prime Minister retract his remarks. Hylton-Foster declined to do so, although admitting that he deplored Wilson’s comments. Uproar continued for ten minutes and a score of Tory MPs had walked out of the chamber before order was restored.
In the event, Wilson was prescient. At the general election in 1966 Griffiths lost his Smethwick seat to the actor and Labour candidate Andrew Faulds. He did not return to Parliament until 1979, at Portsmouth North. He was never to be such a conspicuous figure in Parliament again.
Griffiths did not count himself among far Right Tories. Yet he supported Smethwick council, of which he had been a member since 1955, when it tried to buy up a row of houses to let exclusively to white families. The purchase was blocked by the Labour Housing Minister Richard Crossman.
After his defeat at Smethwick in 1966, Griffiths returned to teaching. He had been head-master of a primary school, Hall Green Road, West Bromwich, at the time of the election. In 1967 he became a lecturer in economics at Portsmouth College of Technology where he spent the next dozen years. In the meantime he had published A Question of Colour? (1966) in which he claimed “no colour prejudice”. The book blamed the spread of disease on immigrants and praised South Africa as a “model of democracy”.
Griffiths unsuccessfully contested Portsmouth North in the February 1974 election which returned a minority Labour administration to office.
In the general election of 1979 which propelled the Tories back to power under Margaret Thatcher, Griffiths captured the seat with a large majority. For the next 18 years he was an assiduous backbencher, making his opposition clear to his constituents and the government on such issues as defence cuts as they might affect Portsmouth Dockyard. In the general election of 1997 which brought Labour to power under Tony Blair he lost his seat.
We don’t, as they say, have a dog in this fight…
…but we can’t improve on the following. Which is odd, because:
1/ It’s by Mehdi Hasan (not our favourite pundit)
2/ He wrote it in in December 2012.
But note Mehdi’s words:
“Might Mitchell now be able return to government in the next reshuffle? It could be difficult: he did, after all, admit to swearing at the police, plus it was Downing Street that seems to have orchestrated his apology – and resignation.”
Above: Tory scum in foreground; corrupt, lying cops in background
Amusing to see how the Tories are falling over each other to declare their shock and horror – shock! horror! – that the police might not be the paragons of virtue, probity and honesty that they have always assumed them to be. Shocked Tory MPs should, perhaps, have a word with the victims of Hillsborough and the family of Jean Charles de Menezes…
“The row between the Conservatives and the police over Andrew Mitchell deepened yesterday when MPs questioned the credibility of the officers’ log at the centre of the “Plebgate” saga.
“David Davis, a senior Tory MP, said that the official record of the former Chief Whip’s brush with police officers in Downing Street contained a falsehood that would not stand up in court. The account was tainted because CCTV footage challenged its assertion that there were shocked witnesses, he added.
“The Tories also seized on the timing of a now discredited e-mail that helped to bring down Mr Mitchell as pointing to police collusion. The e-mail was sent by an officer posing as a passer-by before the police claims that Mr Mitchell had called them “f***ing plebs” became public.
“… Scotland Yard suggested that the 30 officers conducting a “large scale and complex investigation” would take well into the new year before they reached conclusions.”
Might Mitchell now be able return to government in the next reshuffle? It could be difficult: he did, after all, admit to swearing at the police, plus it was Downing Street that seems to have orchestrated his apology – and resignation.
Then again, if expenses cheat David Laws can come back, anyone can come back…
Shiraz Socialist‘s crack team of high-price legal eagles tell me I have to be careful about what I write about Lynton Crosby, David Cameron and tobacco packaging.
So I’ll start by simply welcoming Andrew Marr back to our screens:
Marr asks Cameron about Crosby at 06.15
For months Cameron has been evading questions about Crosby’s influence over tobacco policy, repeating the mantra that he’s never been “lobbied” by Crosby. On the Marr show on 21 July (above) he continues the evasion, repeatedly refusing to say whether he’s discussed plain cigarette packaging with Crosby, instead denying that Crosby had “intervened” on tobacco policy.
On Monday Sheila Gunn, John Major’s former press secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, “Lynton’s job is to go through all different policies with David Cameron and advise him whether or [not] they are going to be vote winners or losers … But the choice of verb ‘intervene’ – just like at prime minister’s question time last week he said he hadn’t been lobbied by Lynton on this. The fact that he wouldn’t expand on whether or not they’d talked about it and his body language – he just looked very uncomfortable.”
On Tuesday Crosby himself issued a statement denying that he had ever “discussed” tobacco packaging with Cameron – a word (“discussed”) that Cameron had spent months avoiding using.
Then, immediately following Crosby’s statement, Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood, rejecting Ed Miliband’s call for an enquiry, stated that the Conservative Party had drawn up “principles of engagement” with Crosby: “Against this background I do not see what purpose would be served by the enquiry that you propose,” Heyward wrote to Miliband.
But it turns out that the “principles of engagement” is an undated document that has simply appeared out of the blue sans provenance, just as the heat is being turned up on Cameron. Jon Trickett, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office has now written a searching letter to Heywood, politely but firmly asking for some answers:
Dear Sir Jeremy,
Thank you for your letter of 23 July in response to letters from me and from Ed Miliband, which I think you will acknowledge leaves a number of questions unanswered. It is notable that you have chosen not to give your own judgement on any of the substantive issues raised with you.
Significantly, you do not say – just as the Prime Minister has not said – that the tobacco lobbyist Lynton Crosby has had no discussions with the Prime Minister about tobacco policy. Nor do you say that there is no conflict of interests between Mr Crosby’s role advising the Conservative Party and his role advising a number of commercial organisations who have an interest in Government policy.
Thank you also for passing on “the principles of engagement between Lynton Crosby and the Conservative Party” – which are undated. The journalist Michael Crick has quoted a Conservative Party source as saying “The principles of engagement capture what was agreed at the time Lynton was hired… verbal agreement on the principles of engagement was made at the time Lynton was hired. This was written down in the last couple of days and published today.” It therefore appears that this was not properly drawn up by civil servants in order to avoid conflicts of interest in Government, but hastily cobbled together after Mr Crosby had become a political embarrassment to the Conservative Party.
In addition, there remains a significant lack of clarity over who Lynton Crosby’s clients are, and whether either the Government or the Conservative Party have any idea who they are.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman reportedly “said that he had been unaware that Mr Crosby’s British company had Philip Morris Ltd, whose brands include Marlboro, as a client” (The Times, 13 July 2013). And on BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme last Wednesday, the Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps said that “It is a matter for Lynton Crosby who his clients within the company are”. Yet on BBC 2’s Newsnight last Tuesday, the Health Secretary suggested that he was privy to details of Mr Crosby’s clients when he said that public health was an area Lynton Crosby never advised the Prime Minister on “because his company has clients in that area”.
Clearly, if the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party are unaware of who Mr Crosby’s clients are – which is what the Chairman of the Conservative Party says is the case – then you will agree that the principles of engagement are unenforceable and worthless. In the interests of transparency Mr Crosby’s company’s full client list should be published immediately.
I would be grateful if you would answer the questions below.
• Were you or any civil servants involved in any way in the drawing up of the terms of engagement published yesterday?
• Did you know that the principles of engagement which you sent me had only been “written down in the last couple of days”?
• Did you know about them before this week, and when did you first see them?
• Do you have any evidence at all that these principles have been followed?
• Are you personally satisfied that Lynton Crosby has had no discussions with the Prime Minister or other Ministers about tobacco policy, alcohol policy, NHS policy or fracking policy?
• Are you personally satisfied that there is no possibility of a conflict of interests between Mr Crosby’s roles as an adviser to the Conservative Party and an adviser to commercial organisations?
• Do you know who Mr Crosby’s commercial clients are, and in the interests of transparency will you ensure that a full list is published immediately?
Given the continued public interest in these matters I am releasing this letter to the press.
Jon Trickett MP
Readers will notice that I’ve completed this post without once using the word “liar.” Our legal eagles should be proud of me – JD
On the day that Cameron finally capitulated to the little Englanders, xenophobes and closet racists of the anti-EU movement (within and without the Tory Party), and promised them the “in-out” referendum that they believe will take Britain out once and for all, we examine his stated position – achieving some sort of semi-autonomous EU membership.
The incoherence and sheer pointlessness of Cameron’s stance was excellently explained in a recent Times article by Matthew Parris. Now I am well aware that Parris is a former Tory MP and no friend of the working class. His article is written from a bourgeois perspective that Shiraz Socialist self-evidently does not share. Neverthelss, it’s a brilliant demolition of Cameron’s position and might just give pause for thought to some of those on the “left” who think there’s something “progressive” about campaigning against the EU. The article has been edited by me – JD:
As a hard light shines on the Eurosceptics’ glib prospectus of an association with the EU from which we get all the benefits but none of the costs, the conjecture will be revealed as the Never Never Land it always was.
Consider how easily the case against second-tier membership is made: “I don’t think it’s right”‘ David Cameron said earlier this month, “to aim for a status like Norway or Switzerland, where basically you have to obay the rules of the single market but you don’t have a say over what they are.” This is a strong argument and — just as important — it sounds like a strong argument…
…British Euosceptics believe that our present EU membership imposes big burdens on British business. If that’s true, then seeking a new kind of membership would involve lifting those burdens. And if that’s true, then British business would acquire a significant advantage over its continental competitors. And if that’s what we demand, why won’t the rest of Europe reply that a single market means a level playing field, so we must accept the same rules for our businesses as they impose on theirs?
Ask any fair-minded person to assess the following request: “We British want unimpeded and tariff-free access for our widget exports to your widget-buying customers — but, oh, by the way, we’re not going to impose on our employers the employment laws, the product specifications, the limited working week, the workers’ rights, that you impose on yours.”
We’re on to a loser here. How well I remember, from when I was an MP, the fury of British producers and unions at what they felt was “unfair competition” from abroad. We’d be mad to think that the French (for example) woud resist behaving similarly.
There’s only one possible Eurosceptic answer to this. “In logic,” they could say (and do), “you may be right. But Europe needs access to our market even more than we do theirs. We’d have them over a barrel.”
I don’t quite share that confidence: one should never underestimate people’s propensity to cut off noses to spite faces. But let’s say it’s true, and we really do have continental Europe over a barrel. In which case why mess about with any kind of EU membership at all? We could quit completely and say: “Right: give us access to your market in return for access to ours.”
The problem with the case for joining a European Economic Area-style “second tier” is that it is too strong. If we really do have the clout to name our terms of trade with our European neighbours, we don’t need to be in any club. The case for second-class membership (with burdens and costs) becomes, a fortiori, the case for quitting.
It was instructive to follow online responses recently to a Times report on “second class” EU status. A great many readers took the view that despite that pejorative terminology, associate membership sounded like a helpful suggestion. So, I notice, did the arch-Eurosceptic Tory MP John Redwood in his blog: a response I think he’ll come to revise. The balance of The Daily Telegraph‘s online response was more hostile, a common view being that Britain shouldn’t waste time with second-tier membership, but simply quit. I predict that the bulk of British Eurosceptic opinion will in time swing behind the Telegraph readers’ view.
For that, I predict, will be the final effect of proposals for the middle way of a “trade only” second-class membership. Examined in detail, it will lose its allure. Before the next geneal electon, therefore, the debate will polarise towards a simple choice between staying as a full member and leaving.
The new deal that Mr Cameron negotiates will be prety thin and won’t satisfy or evn calm his anti-European critics. Nevertheless, when e holds his referendum he will win it, so long as Labour, too, recommends acceptance. I honestly don’t know which way I would vote in an in-out referendum.
But Eurosceptics will not accept the result and will switch from having urged the PM to stop ducking a referendum to complaining that he held it too early while the eurozone was in the middle of vast internal changes; and so the referendum result won’t count; it will be only interim.
Which of course will be true. But so long as Germany wants us, we’ll carry on as a full member, grumbling and dragging our feet; and old Eurosceptics will die and new ones will be born. And only this is certain — Mr Cameron’s speech will settle nothing. Hey ho.
-Matthew Parris, The Times, Jan 5, 2012.
From Conservative Home
The Fresh Start Group calls for four “significant” EU treaty revisions. Will Cameron back them on Friday?
By Paul Goodman
The Editors of this site wrote yesterday about David Cameron’s coming EU speech on Friday and what he should say about a referendum.
No less important is what he should say about the repatriation of powers, given that party opinion is coalescing around the option of “Common Market or Out”.
The Daily Telegraph this morning previews today’s launch of the Fresh Start’s “Manifesto for Change. The paper reports that it contains four proposed “significant revisions” of EU treaties:
• The repatriation of all social and employment law, such as the Working Time Directive;
• An opt-out from all existing policing and criminal justice measures;
• An “emergency brake” on any new legislation that affects financial services;
• An end to the European Parliament’s costly monthly move from Brussels to Strasbourg.
The Fresh Start document also calls for agriculture, fishing policy and regional policy to be repatriated and makes proposals to limit the free movement of people across the EU.
It’s not “Common Market or out” (Douglas Carswell reminded readers of the Financial Times yesterday of the difference between a common market and the Single Market).
None the less, the proposals are wide-ranging and raise the question of how they would be achieved, given occupied field and the role of the Court. We will find out more later.
William Hague writes a foreword to the document. The Foreign Office’s door is open to Fresh Start – the Foreign Secretary has been hugging the group close – but his words are cautious:
“Many of the proposals are already government policy, some could well become future government or Conservative Party policy and some may require further thought.”
Which raises another question – namely, which idea falls into which category as far as the Governent is concerned. We may discover more on Friday.
George Eustice is quoted as saying that although it’s too early for the Prime Minister to set out proposals for negotiation, the group’s ideas are intended to stimulate debate.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013 in Europe | Permalink
Jeremy Hunt, the new health secretary allegedly objected (as culture secretary) to the scenes in Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening pageant that celebrated the NHS. The allegation has been made by Labour’s Andy Burnham and I have no way of verifying it. What is a matter of record is that Hunt is listed as one of the co-authors” of the book Direct Democracy: An Agenda for a New Model Party, which contained the follolwing passage:
“Our ambition should be to break down the barriers between private and public provision, in effect denationalising the provision of healthcare in Britain, so extending to all the choices currently available only to the minority who opt for private care.”
Also on the record is the fact that in 2007 Hunt signed an early day motion supporting homeopathy. This is pretty close to believing in magic, as Sir John Krebs told the Guardian: “There is overwhelming evidence that homeopathetic medicine is not effective. It would be a real blow for those who want mewdicine to be science-based if the secretary of state were to promote homeopathy because of his personal beliefs.”
The overwhelming, unanswerable case aginst homeopathy is most effectively (and entertainingly) explained to the layperson by Ben Goldacre in his Bad Science blog here and also in his excellent 2008 book of the same name. here’s just a small part of the book’s chapter on homeopathy, dealing with ‘The dilution problem’:
“Most people know that homeopathic remedies are diluted to such an extent that there will be no molecules of it left in the dose you get. What you might not know is just how far these remedies are diluted. The typical homeopathic dilution is 30C: this means that the original substance has been diluted by one drop in a hundred, thirty times over. In the ‘What is homeopathy?’ section on the Society of Homeopath’s website, the single largest organisation for homeopaths in the UK wil tell you that ’30C contains less than one part per million of the original substance.’
“‘Less than one part in a million’ is, I would say, something of an understatement: a 30C homeopathic preperation is a dilution of one in 1 in 100^30, or rather 1 in 10^60, which means a 1 followed by sixty zeroes, or – let’s be absolutely clear – a dilution of 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000, or to phrase it in the Society of Homeopaths’ terms, ‘one part per million million million million million million million million million million’. This is definitely ‘less than one part per million of the original substance’.
“For perspective, there are only around 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Imagine a sphere of water with a diameter of 150 million kilometers (the distance from the earth to the sun). It takes light eight minutes to travel. Picture a sphere of water that size, with one molecule of a substance in it: that’s a 30C dilution.”
Is a man who believes in such patent nonsense a fit and proper person to be in charge of the nation’s health?
All the more reason to support this…
This really is a very big deal (adapted from the BBC website):
Labour calls for independent inquiry into Cruddas boast
Labour is demanding an independent inquiry into a Tory treasurer’s boast that large donations to the party could secure access to the prime minister.
Peter Cruddas quit as Tory co-treasurer after his claims, filmed by undercover Sunday Times reporters, were published.
David Cameron has pledged to hold a party inquiry into the claims, which he described as “completely unacceptable”.
But Labour leader Ed Miliband said that that was not good enough and a “proper independent investigation” was needed.
Mr Miliband said it would be right for the prime minister to make a statement to Parliament on the issue.
Mr Cruddas was secretly filmed saying that a donation of £250,000 gave “premier league” access to party leaders, including private dinners with Mr Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne, and with any feedback on policy shared with Downing Street staff.
Party funding and lobbying can be two of the most toxic areas of modern politics. But when they combine (as in the case of the Cruddas episode) the results can be even more poisonous.
That’s why Cruddas resigned so quickly and politicians on all sides have issued swift and strong condemnation. David Cameron is stamping on any suggestion that the party’s rich friends in finance can buy influence or shape policy.
But it’ll be hard to draw a line under this affair. Labour says questions remain. How many donors have been invited to cosy dinners or drinks in Downing Street and Chequers? Did any of them happen to mention their views on big policy decisions – like the reduction in the 50p tax rate?
A trawl begins today for any evidence that donors shaped policy, and the can of worms that is party funding reform will be opened once again.
He was heard initially saying that it was not possible to buy access to the prime minister.
But he then went on to discuss what access different size donations would get.
He was speaking to the reporters posing as staff from a fake wealth fund based in Liechtenstein who were interested in doing business in the UK.
He told them: “Two hundred grand to 250 is premier league… what you would get is, when we talk about your donations the first thing we want to do is get you at the Cameron/Osborne dinners.”
He said they would be able to ask Mr Cameron “practically any question you want”.
“If you’re unhappy about something, we will listen to you and put it into the policy committee at number 10 – we feed all feedback to the policy committee.”
Mr Miliband told the BBC that the claims were “very disturbing”.
“These allegations can’t be swept under the carpet – there needs to be a proper independent investigation into what influence was sought, what influence was gained and what impact it had,” he said.
“We need to know what happened, who paid money, what interaction there was between the prime minister and the chancellor and the people who paid money.”
“I think people are bound to ask questions about whether policy is being made in the national interest or in relation to the Conservative Party interest,” he said.
Mr Cameron said the incident should not have taken place.
“This is not the way we raise money in the Conservative Party. It shouldn’t have happened.
“It’s quite right that Peter Cruddas has resigned. I will make sure there is a proper party inquiry to make sure this can’t happen again.”
‘Impression of impropriety’
In his resignation statement, Mr Cruddas said: “I deeply regret any impression of impropriety arising from my bluster in that conversation.
“Clearly there is no question of donors being able to influence policy or gain undue access to politicians.
“Specifically, it was categorically not the case that I could offer, or that David Cameron would consider, any access as a result of a donation. Similarly, I have never knowingly even met anyone from the Number 10 policy unit.”
The Conservative Party currently has several levels of donation, with the top one being the Leader’s Group, where for an annual donation of £50,000 donors can be invited to join Mr Cameron and other senior figures from the Conservative Party at dinners, post-Prime Minister’s Questions lunches, drinks receptions, election result events and important campaign launches.
Transparency is, the prime minister once said, the best disinfectant. ”
Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said “reform” of funding system was necessary.
He said there was a “perception that people who make large donations – be they wealthy people from the city or trade unions – have influence. They should not have that influence, nor the perception of that influence.”
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said the Conservative Party would continue to make clear to donors that there was “no question of people being able to influence policy through making donations”.
Mr Cruddas had been involved in fundraising for the Conservative Party since June last year, and took over as the party’s principal fundraiser earlier this month.
Lord Fink will now return as principal treasurer, the party announced on Sunday morning, with Michael Farmer acting as co-treasurer