The five things you need to know on Thursday March 31, 2016…
Paul is on holiday. So this morning's WaughZone is written by Owen Bennett.
1) EVERYTHING MUST GO
‘Chaotic’, ‘disarray’, ‘crisis’ – some of the words on the front pages of the papers this morning as the Government’s handling of the steel industry is called into question.
David Cameron will this morning chair a meeting of key ministers in Downing Street to decide what action to take to try to save an industry which an estimated 40,000 jobs rely on.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid is flying back to the UK from Australia, but before he got on the plane he managed to add confusion to the claims of incompetence by pulling nationalisation off the table – despite his junior minister Anna Soubry just hours before saying all the options were being looked at.
Questions are also being asked about why the Government is still blocking an EU plan to impose greater tariffs on Chinese steel. Last month Javid claimed such a measure would be damaging for the UK economy as a whole as it could drive up the cost of projects for steel consumers.
The Guardian report on a Tata source saying the value of its British division is worth “almost zero”, and that it needs £4billion to get the businesses back on track. The paper also reports Government officials believe renationalisation would cost £1.5billion a year.
Of course any kind of state aid would have to comply with EU regulations, which are designed to stop governments giving an advantage to industries in the Single Market. Brussels is already investigating the €2billion aid package the Italians gave to its country’s steel maker, Ilva.
And here lies the problem for Cameron. If he says: ‘Well of course I would love to bail out the steel industry but the EU won’t let me’, the Brexiters would plaster that on every piece of campaigning literature from now to June 23.
Alternatively, if he says: ‘The industry clearly isn’t viable and we shouldn’t waste Government cash on it’, Labour has its attack lines sorted for the upcoming local elections.
2) SECOND COMING
While the Tories are struggling to get their ministers in the same country, let alone the same room, Labour are proving to be much more effective with their response to the crisis.
Jeremy Corbyn cut short his holiday to Devon (where he had lemon drizzle cake for breakfast one morning apparently) to travel to Port Talbot to meet steel workers.
After David Cameron turned down his suggestion for Parliament to be recalled, the Labour leader launched a petition on Parliament’s website (although Parliament would need to be recalled to consider the petition about whether Parliament should be recalled…)
Shadow Business Secretary Angela Eagle is making sure that while her Government equivalent is stuck in the air she is getting as much media time as possible, and the Mirror splashes with her line that ‘George Osborne is more interested in kowtowing to China’ than protecting UK steel.
Stephen Kinnock, who was over in Mumbai to put pressure on the Tata board ahead of their meeting, repeats the attack in a blog for Labour List.
It is not just Labour calling on the Government to bankroll the steel industry – Tory MP Tom Pursglove yesterday wrote a letter to Cameron asking for a “short-period of public-ownership” while a buyer is found.
Pursglove (who told me in an interview last year he is a “child of Thatcher”) has a majority in Corby of 2,412.
3) DEFINITELY MAY-BE
At a press gallery lunch last year, Sajid Javid made a joke about standing to be the next leader of the Tories. That sentence is probably the last time you’ll read the words ‘Sajid Javid’ and ‘next leader of the Tories’ together.
A survey on who should be the next Tory leader carried out for the Independent puts the Business Secretary on just five per cent with the public – and two per cent with Tory members.
Way out in front is Boris Johnson, with the support of 38% of the public and crucially – seeing as they are the selectorate after all – 42% with the party faithful.
So far, so predictable – but what is interesting is the rise of Theresa May, who finds herself in second place, ahead of old Omnishambles Osborne.
When May backed Remain in January, many felt she had dealt herself out of the leadership race to succeed Dave. But with Osborne crashing and burning, she could still emerge as the main rival to Boris and find herself in the final two to face party members.
If she does, she might just stand a better chance at beating Boris than Osborne. May is known for working the constituency associations up and down the country, and as a result is a popular figure among activists.
Should Boris fail to deliver Brexit – and it could well be painted out as HIS failure – the pragmatic, unflashy Theresa May might be a lot more appealing to those who vote in the leadership election.
4) THE GOOD WILL OUT
The Mail is one of the few papers not to splash on steel this morning, instead leading with a report which reveals some uncomfortable truths about end-of-life care in hospitals.
According to the Royal College of Physicians, half of patients had not been helped to drink in their final 24 hours, two thirds had not been helped to eat and one in six had Do Not Resuscitate orders issued without discussion with either them or their families.
One nurse said her colleagues mustn’t adopt a cross-the-road mentality when it comes to dealing with those close to death.
The Mirror’s take on the report focuses on the lack of 24-hour palliative care in nine out ten hospitals surveyed.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR:This little boy decides violence is not the answer when confronted with a pinata. Prepare to go 'awwwwww'.
5) MODERN LIFE IS RUBBISH
It’s a little known fact (that I always mention on Twitter) that I once followed Nigel Farage around for a bit and wrote about him. How I wish I was American and Donald Trump was my muse.
Everyday, he manages to bring a new slice of fear and loathing to his campaign trail.
His latest outburst involved him saying that women should suffer “some sort of punishment” for having an abortion if the procedure was banned in the States.
Republicans and Democrats criticised the remarks, which prompted a rare u-turn from Trumpety-Trump.
In a statement he said those who carried out the procedure should be punished, and added: “The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb.”
This is not the first time a Republican has stumbled on the issue of gender rights. In 2012, Republican Senate nominee Todd Akin said that in instances of “legitimate rape” the body manages to block unwanted pregnancies.
The book really would write itself.