Worst Politician Selfie Idea Yet

BRITAINS-EURO-ELECTION-NEWS-SOURCE

Ed Miliband, Matt Hancock and Michael Gove step aside, Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt has done his best to single-handedly ruin the selfie. He has set up aself-EU contest where entrants are encouraged to “send us your selfie, showing us where and how you enjoy the benefits of European integration”. The prize? “You could win a day with Guy Verhofstadt.”

Surely no one will be able to beat Guido’s entry:

Let us know when to pop round, Guy!

Winner From Manila

Last night’s much-coveted €100,000 IEA Brexit Prize went to Iain Mansfield, a 30 year old member of the diplomatic service based at the British Embassy in Manila. Which the FCO will love.

His winning pamphlet concluded that “in the event of an exit, there exists a scenario for an open, prosperous and globally engaged UK that is eminently achievable”. Also worth reading Lord Lawson, who presented the prize, tearing Clegg a new one in the Times today:

“Mr Clegg may have been trounced, and indeed humiliated, but his determination to strike fear in the minds of the public about the consequences of a British Exit – “Brexit” – was all too evident. In particular there was his absurd insistence that “three million jobs” depended on our membership of the EU, with the clear implication that they would disappear if we were to leave. This is complete nonsense.. The – in my view, beneficial – consequences of a Brexit need to be debated calmly and rationally. The IEA is to be congratulated for its initiative in launching this prize, as is Iain Mansfield for winning it.”

Even if – to the slight trepidation of the room – he doesn’t express an opinion on whether or not we should leave…

And how did David Cameron react to the pamphlet? He told the Commons he would be reading Nadine Dorries’ book instead.

UPDATE: To help Dave with that reading list the IEA have sent him a copy of both Mansfield’s pamphlet and Nads’ book:

Browne Totally at Odds With LibDems on Europe

Guido is greatly enjoying Jeremy Browne’s rallying call for right-wingers. Race Plan is actually very sound. As reported earlier, he only directly attacks Clegg once, but his position on Europe is completely at odds with his leader and party. In fact, it’s another direct example where Browne is totally in line with Cameron:

“So my support of British membership of the European Union is not blind or unconditional – quite the opposite. The terms of our membership, and the institutional architecture of the European Union as a whole, needs serious recalibration. The idea of “ever closer union”  – an always slightly sinister notion of being dragged further into an organisation that the rules at the time actually stated – is surely now redundant. Britain is not seeking to join the Euro, which would be the obvious manifestation so “ever closer union” and cannot therefore claim to want to be “at the heart of Europe”.

Come on Jezza, you don’t need those pinkos.

Race Plan  is available on Amazon for £10.

Clegg Using Taxpayer Funded SpAd for Secret Debate Trick

Desperate to draw blood tomorrow, Nick Clegg has cracked out the Student Debating Playbook. The Deputy Prime Minister’s taxpayer-funded Special Adviser Adam Pritchard is secretly approaching bosses from household name firms to try get them to sign this pre-drafted letter to be placed in a paper tomorrow morning:

Dear Sir,

Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage will this week hold their second debate on the question of Britain’s future in Europe. As leading transport companies representing all sectors, we are clear that the UK should remain in the European Union which has delivered unparalleled benefits for the British transport and freight sector by allowing our companies to cross borders and enter markets across Europe. The dismantling of trade barriers has been responsible for cheaper prices for consumers and a dramatic increase in the choice of destinations at the fingertips of holidaymakers across the country. 

It is crucial that we do not cut ourselves off from the rest of Europe and that we defend the future health of the transport sector and the hundreds of thousands (or millions?) of jobs it supports. Leaving the EU would take us from economic certainty to huge uncertainty with the potential for extra costs and burdensome barriers impeding freight flows and harming passengers, businesses and employees alike. 

The EU needs reform. The full potential of the single market is yet to be fully realised and we must break down the final barriers to transport and trade. However, to seize these opportunities, the UK needs to be in Europe leading reform, working with other countries and delivering the changes that will boost our trade within the EU and beyond.

Yours

Clegg will then brandish this letter from the podium as if he had nothing to do with it. Well that was the plan anyway…

Last week we had Clegg’s office admit that the DPM was being briefed by taxpayer funded civil servants for his robotic ‘fact’ barrage at Farage, now this week his taxpayer-funded gofers are attempting trickery. It’s as if Clegg is scared… 

How Farage Won Last Night’s Debate

The YouGov/Sun poll speaks for itself: Farage had a 12 point boost in his personal approval rating after last night, narrowly winning the debate on jobs and leaving the EU. Worth noting Clegg also saw a 4 point rise in the “positive impression” category. The LibDems are in full damage limitation mode this morning, claiming “the real winners are the voters” and “it’s a marathon not a sprint”. We’re getting closer to the finish line…

UPDATE: Blurt’s Twitter worm analysis confirms a narrow win for Farage:

 

Clegg Denies Inappropriate Use of Civil Service for Debate Prep

Has Nick Clegg been using civil service resources for party political preparation for tonight’s debate against Nigel Farage? He is not appearing at the LBC Debate in his capacity as Deputy Prime Minister rather, as a LibDem spokesman told Guido this morning: “Tonight is the leaders’ debate so Nick is appearing as the Leader of of the Liberal Democrat Party”. It’s a very political event…

As Deputy Prime Minister Clegg is allowed to request factual briefings on government policy whenever he likes, yet sources familiar with the situation have indicated to Guido that they believe he has strayed beyond this and into party political territory. “He’s asking for all sorts of things, beyond government policy on Europe”, one told Guido this morning. It is believed by some that the briefings have been prepared to back up attack lines on UKIP –  a big no, no for civil servants.

Nick Clegg’s spokesman denies that they have done anything wrong, but did confirm that civil servants have briefed the DPM for this specific political event:

“Nick Clegg is Deputy Prime Minister as well as Leader of the Liberal Democrats. He is regularly briefed on all aspects of Government policy, including Europe, before public appearances, such as DPMQs or Call Clegg on LBC. It is very likely that during the debates he be asked about Coalition Government policies and the relationship between the British Government, of which he is Deputy Prime Minister, and the European Union. To that end, he has been given factual briefings and facts and figures on Coalition Government policy and how the EU works in relation to Britain. But the briefings for the debates are being done by political advisers and HQ staff.”

Guido has requested a copy of all the debate preparation from the Cabinet Office under the Freedom of Information Act.

It is worth noting that the ‘General Principle’ of the Ministerial Code states:

“Facilities provided to Ministers at Government expense to enable them to carry out their official duties should not be used for Party or constituency work.”

Point 6.3 makes things a little clearer:

“Official facilities and resources may not be used for the dissemination of material which is essentially party political.”

Should it emerge that Clegg used civil servant briefings on issues beyond government policy on Europe to prepare for tonight’s debate then Guido cannot see how he has not fallen foul of this point. 

 

ComRes Indy/Mirror Euro Poll Puts UKIP 9% Ahead of Tories

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The UK Independence Party is on course to win the largest share of the vote in the European Parliament elections in May, according to a ComRes opinion poll for The Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror.

UKIP  30% (+3)
Lab  28% (+5)
Con  21% (0)
LD  8% (-10)
Green  6% (+2)
Other  7% (0)

This is the first poll to ask separate questions about the European elections for some time. The figures for European voting are based on the 38% who say they are “absolutely certain” to vote in those elections – roughly comparable to the 34% turnout in the last elections in 2009.

Labour React to Referendum Fudge

The more sensible Labour MPs don’t exactly sound delighted about having to explain Miliband’s yeah-but-no-but referendum position to voters.

Graham Stringer is most damning, telling Ed “I am very disappointed by this… shoddy compromise,” and that the fudge is “impossible to sell on the doorstep.”

Level-headed Kate Hoey adds “I think it’s meant to be a clever compromise, I don’t think it’s going to end up as one,” confirming that a referendum under a Labour government is now “almost impossible”.

John Mann wrote to Miliband just yesterday asking for an EU referendum so he was disappointed within hours. Mann says Labour’s announcement is “a significant move in the right direction but I would encourage him to go further than he’s gone today… Labour voters want to see their voice being heard. They want to be trusted.”

And Labour donor John Mills ain’t happy given he has campaigned for a referendum and now won’t be getting what he wanted for his money: “The growth of the EU’s influence over Britain warrants a referendum regardless of future events.”

Still at least Mandy’s happy. This all could have been avoided so easily…

Miliband Bottles EU Referendum

Back in 2011 Guido recommended that Miliband call for an in/out EU referendum. It would have helped him make an impact with ordinary, sensible voters, distanced himself from Brown and Blair and wounded “cast iron” Cameron over his failure to keep his own referendum promise. Today’s announcement confirms that an in/out referendum would be “unlikely” under a Labour government. Miliband is ruling out a vote unless “significant” treaty changes are proposed. The Labour leader had the chance to lead on this issue, to outflank the Tories and offer voters something clear and definitive. Instead he has given them a deliberately vague fudge. Miliband says this morning that “you can’t trust the Tories on Europe”. He is the man who doesn’t trust the people on Europe… 

MEPs Plot to Spike No.10's Choice for EU Commissioner

Despite Downing Street getting to choose the candidate for EU Commissioner, the European Parliament has to approve their pick. Guido understands Number 10 is preparing for the possibility that the PM’s first choice will be spiked by MEPs as revenge for the British vetoing the 2011 treaty. So Dave faces a dilemma. Does he put forward his first choice as normal and risk seeing them vetoed, or does he hold back who he actually wants at the risk of a decoy first nomination scraping through? Andrew Mitchell will be watching closely.

London Lobbyists Landed Millions in Filthy Ukrainian Lucre

Lobbyists and spinmeisters who coined it on the back of Viktor Yanukovych’s authoritarian Ukrainian regime are getting jumpy. Meet James Wilson, a leading light at city spin shop FIPRA (Finsbury International Policy & Regulatory Advisers) who looks after firm’s Ukrainian clients. Oddly enough Wilson’s work at FIPRA Ukraine is not declared on the EU Transparency register. That despite FIPRA’s own website confirming that he is in charge of spinning for the Federation of Employers of Ukraine, who are backed by Yanukovych ally Serhiy Kurchenko, one of only 18 Ukranian kleptocrats to be hit with an EU asset freeze and travel ban. Possibly to do with him defrauding the Ukraine’s coffers of more than $1 billion…

Wilson is listed as a representative of the innocuous sounding “EU Ukraine Business Council” set up to “promote trade, economic and business links between Ukraine and the EU and initiate projects that contribute to the development of Ukraine”. The Chamber, whose offices are located in Viktor Yanukovych’s powerbase of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine, holds regular conferences in the European Parliament, where it euphemistically claims to “help to solve market access difficulties”. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink…

Also among Wilson’s clients is shady pharma firm Alcon, who have been embroiled in several bribery scandals, to top it all, he also spins for the State Administration of Sevastopol – who have just declared independence from Kiev, backed up by Russian troops. Presumably they’re going to start paying him in roubles… 

You Cannot Bee Serious

Another reason to want the EU to buzz off. New figures revealed this morning show that DEFRA and the EU have stung the taxpayer with a £1 million bill… for looking at bees. The £1,009,861 funding from the bumbling European Commission has gone to “projects relating to bees” such as the National Bee Unit, the Bee Health Inspectorate and BeeBase, an IT system which catalogues information about bees.  Are they pollen our leg?

UPDATE:

EU've Got to Be Kidding Botched Spin Job Lets Cat Out of Bag

Well done Bjorn Kjellstrom, Head of the UK Office of the European Parliament, for helping the Eurosceptic cause no end. While berating British journalists in a letter for not correctly reporting EU matters, the grumpy Swede has let the cat out the bag: “not all citizens are aware that possibly a majority of the laws that have an impact on their daily lives are decided on by MEPs in the European Parliament.” Something swivel-eyed Europhiles always try to deny…

Via @jonwalker121

EU Spends £2 Million on Trolling Online Eurosceptics

This week Guido reported GCHQ’s sophisticated plans to infiltrate social media and blogs, presumably with the aim of fomenting revolution overseas. Now the EU is plotting something even more sinister, spending £2 million on internet trolls to subvert online Eurosceptic debate. According to the leaked document:

“[European] Parliament’s institutional communicators must have the ability to monitor public conversation and sentiment on the ground and in real time, to understand ‘trending topics’ and have the capacity to react quickly, in a targeted and relevant manner, to join in and influence the conversation, for example, by providing facts and figures to deconstructing myths. Particular attention needs to be paid to the countries that have experienced a surge in Euroscepticism.”

So if readers ever come across a Europhile in the comments, beware they may be a taxpayer-funded astroturfing EU troll…

Nick v Nigel

Clegg has decided to martyr himself for the European cause, challenging Farage to a debate on the EU on LBC this morning. Ironic that the LibDems are actually showing some principle for once and are only going to be punished for it…

It’s a win win for Farage, but will also help Nick’s differentiation strategy. If the event is high-profile enough, it could also help Downing Street’s goal of a one on one debate with Miliband at some point… 

UPDATE: UKIP have responded. Farage is not agreeing to a debate yet…

Marr: Boy George and Barroso

Dobbs Bemoans Lack of Whip Action Over EU Bill

As Lord Dobbs prepares for the launch of Season Two of House of Cards on Friday, Guido can report a Machiavellian plot worthy of his characters. The progress of the EU Referendum Bill came to a grinding halt when the Lords voted against it. The vote turnout was a surprisingly low 310 out of a potential 800, on a subject that really brings old Tory lords to life. Some 90 Tory Lords were missing during the vote. Dobbs led in the Lords for the Tories and has privately voiced his dismay to friends at the lack of effort put in by the Tory whips in the Lords. Cynical old hands suspect that it suits Dave only to be seen to be pushing for a referendum bill with opponents voting it down.

It highlights to the public that it is the Tories and not UKIP which can bring about a referendum and unites Tory MPs under one banner in an endless war. You might say that actually passing the Bill would mean the PM would be closer to actually having to do something about the EU. Guido couldn’t possibly comment.

Quote of the Day

EU Commission vice president Viviane Reding speaking in London:

“The most powerful parliament in Europe is the European Parliament. Seventy per cent of laws in this country are co-decided there. There will be no repatriation of EU powers.”

The War of Jenkin's Dear

The Times Diary is tipping Andrew Lansley for our next EU Commissioner, with Andrew Mitchell still owed a favour, however Guido hears another name is in the frame for the job. Staunch Tory Eurosceptic Bernard Jenkins’s reputation took a big hit after he mistakenly claimed 95 Tory MPs had signed a letter to the PM demanding powers be clawed back from Europe only for the letter not to arrive and dozens of the alleged signatories deny they had even put their names to it. Now revenge is in the air. Bernard Jenkins has been heard to openly opine on Cameron’s lack of female ministers and the “unconscious slights to women”. The joke doing the rounds is that Jenkin’s wife Anne, the Tory Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, could be made a government minister. Or better still replace Cathy Ashton…

US Assistant Secretary of State: "F**k the EU"

According to Kyiv Post, this is a leaked recording of US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt and US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland discussing a plan for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to help sort out the situation in the country:

Assistant Secretary of State Nuland: “That would be great I think to help glue this thing and have the UN help glue it and, you know, f**k the EU.”

Ambassador Pyatt: “Exactly.”

Always good to hear our transatlantic allies share our values…[…] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

Andrea Jenkyns accuses PM of acting in bad faith…

“I would not be surprised if we were promised that it would be looked at in the next stage to gain support but then be immediately dropped once the withdrawal agreement had gone through. The government needs to work on building up trust as many of us feel that we have been strung along.”

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