The five things you need to know on Monday June 15, 2015...
1) QUESTION OR NOMINATE
Nominations for the Labour leadership close at noon and all eyes will be on the late flurry of MPs handing in papers to the PLP’s Commons offices. Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall are all on the ballot paper, but will Jeremy Corbyn get the required 35? As of this morning, I’m told he has 25 (thanks to late backing from Sadiq Khan and Huw Irranca-Davies).
Some suspect that Andy Burnham will use some of his considerable PLP backing to help Corbyn get over the line, not least because having a left-winger in the race helps Burnham shrug off his own ‘left-wing’ tag. Given that this is a preferential voting system, there’s also no question of Corbyn ‘splitting’ the vote.
Yet for all the talk of this being a contest that could be swung by the unions (and by talk of Burnham wooing trade union votes), it seems that just 2,500 extra trade unionists have signed up to vote. Yes, that’s out of a possible 4 million. Unison's Dave Prentis warns his union could end its support if Labour moves 'to the right'. But could it be that union members are already voting with their feet and abandoning the party? That may be a political gift for Blairites, but they'll have to find some funding from somewhere.
Arch Blairite Jim Murphy ensured this weekend that at least the Scottish Labour party has abandoned its electoral college so that never again can unions “hand-pick their favoured son” (a less than veiled dig at Ed Miliband). Murphy has a big speech at Policy Exchange today and he was on the Today programme this morning warning that ‘the voters are never wrong’. He also said that it was time for Labour to pitch not just to its own core but to “moderate One Nation Conservatives”. Murphy admitted too that at times he felt he was up against the SNP’s “quasi religious rock concert”.
But supporters of Burnham and Cooper (who both have speeches today) are determined that there’s no lurch back to Blairism, with some telling the Telegraph that Liz Kendall’s “new Labour Taliban” isn’t in tune with the party today. In an article for the Sunday Times yesterday Liam Byrne had what looked to some like a dig at Burnham: “We had almost nothing to say to older voters beyond our warnings about the imminent collapse of the NHS.”
Frank Field and Margaret Hodge want a Tory-style ‘trapdoor mechanism’ to allow Labour MPs to trigger a vote of no confidence in their leader. Which you could argue is itself a vote of no confidence in the current crop of contenders.
And the wounds of defeat are still sore. In the Times, the alleged brains behind the EdStone - Torsten Henricson-Bell - is causing upset by not clearing off like many of the Miliband staffers (he still chairs weekly meetings of political advisers). A Labour MP says: “It can’t be right that any architect of one of the most disastrous election results should be sticking around on the payroll.”
There is some hope for Labour. A Policy Exchange report out today finds that in key marginals the “just about managing” classes identified Labour as holding values closer to their own than the Tories. The Labour party was seen to stand for equality, fairness and family. Only problem was, these key voters didn’t vote Labour in 2015.
2) PURDAH, HE WROTE
The Prime Minister’s main preoccupation today is attending - along with the Queen and Archbishop of Canterbury- the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta in Runnymede. The PM has written a piece for The Sun declaring ‘human rights weren’t invented with Labour’s Human Rights Act’.
But many Eurosceptics think their ancient birthrights are being as threatened by Brussels as by Strasbourg. With Steve Baker’s Conservatives for Britain group growing to 112 MPs now (including some in the Cabinet), on the issue of purdah an the EU referendum some backbenchers see themselves as the ‘barons’ trying to limit the powers of their own King Dave.
The area of compromise being hammered out in Whitehall is around David Lidington’s pledge last week for ‘the right framework so that [the issue of purdah] will be given proper effect’. This is unlikely to satisfy hardliners who will back Bill Cash’s amendment restoring full purdah tomorrow. But Labour’s decision to table its own amendment means it’s unlikely we will see any Maastricht-style alliance between the Opposition and Euroscep Tories. So, expect the PM to survive the vote. The real question is how much he can repair the damage done to relations with his backbenches.
3) CLASS ACTION
Class is back. Alan Milburn’s social mobility taskforce has found that bright working class kids face a ‘poshness test’ when applying for jobs in finance, law and accountancy. His Commission on Social Mobility and Child Poverty conducted extensive interviews with staff from thirteen of the UK’s top firms. In the Telegraph, ex Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy says it’s time British companies broke the ‘glass ceiling’.
Sajid Javid yesterday unveiled moves to legislate to give apprenticeships the same status as degrees. Today, Andy Burnham is using a speech in Crewe to push his own plan for a UCAS-style system for apprentices to allow them to move across the country for the best places. He’ll say “For too long, education policy in this country has been stuck inside the Westminster bubble, where the vast majority of people went to private schools and university.”
And on that theme of education and social mobility, Michelle Obama arrives in town today and will visit a girls school in Tower Hamlets.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR...
Check out some pix of Prince George climbing up and down a hillock
4) SOARING TEMPS
The Telegraph has splashed on another of its NHS investigations, this time into the temporary managers. It has found that a temporary financial administrator at Barts in London is being paid a cool £47k a month. Barts NHS trust, which has the highest bill for agency doctors and nurses and is forecasting the greatest deficit in the history of the NHS, is paying rates equivalent to an annual salary of £561,000. Go figure that connection.
In a private letter to the heads of all NHS trusts, Jeremy Hunt has ordered a clamping down on the practice which allows ‘roving’ NHS execs to earn up to £600,000 a year. Some senior managers have earned up to £3,000 a day.
It’s the Lib Dem leadership hustings tonight. Ahead of the event, Norman Lamb has written a blog for The Huffington Post UK (due up at 9am) in which he says he wants to reconnect the party to its core beliefs and a ‘clear set of liberal principles’.
One such belief is that prison just doesn’t work for many - from those with mental illness to others more suited to community sentences - and today he calls for a new Ministry of Justice target to halve the prison population by 2025. That’s certainly bold.
Lamb also points out that the Head of the National Counter Terrorism Security Office says our oversized and poorly staffed jails are becoming breeding grounds for Islamic extremism. “With more and more people behind bars, it is becoming harder for staff to monitor extremists,” he says.
COMING UP LATER
Dewsbury is coming to terms with the claims that Talha Asmal, 17, was an Islamic State suicide bomber. Local councillor Masood Ahmed said Asmal was ‘just a typical teenager’.
Jeb Bush is due to declare his candidacy for the US Presidency
It’s Education Questions at 2.30pm, then the first day of Committee Stage of the Scotland Bill.
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