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Politics live blog: David Cameron’s Commons statement on EU summit

Rolling coverage of all the day’s political developments as they happen, including David Cameron’s Commons statement on the outcome of the EU summit

11.18am: At the last election the Conservatives formed a pact with the Ulster Unionists in Northern Ireland. It didn’t work out. The UUP’s only MP, Sylvia Hermon, walked out because she did not agree with the alliance – she was re-elected as an independent – and all the Conservative/UUP candidates were defeated.

Now the Tories are having another go at organising in Northern Ireland. They are launching a new “Conservative and Unionist Party of Northern Ireland” which will be linked to the Conservative party but which will enjoy considerable autonomy.

Here’s the news release about the initiative.
And here’s a statement from Lord Feldman, the Conservative co-chairman.

For too long politics in Northern Ireland have been built around sectarianism and division. We want to move past the politics of the peace process to a more normal state of affairs where everyone in Northern Ireland has the opportunity to vote for a modern, centre-right, pro-Union party.

This new political party won’t be encumbered by the conflict and divisions of Northern Ireland’s past. We want to reach out to everybody in Northern Ireland, regardless of their background.

11.05am: You can read all today’s Guardian politics stories here. And all the politics stories filed yesterday, including some in today’s paper, are here.

As for the rest of the papers, here are some stories and articles that are particularly interesting.

• Rachel Sylvester in the Times (paywall) says the most interesting divide in the government is not between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, but between “the reactionaries and the revolutionaries within both parties”.

The most interesting divide in the Government at the moment is not between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats but between what could be called the reactionaries and the revolutionaries within both parties. It is a clash of those who instinctively favour big business and those who would prefer to support small start-ups and entrepreneurs.

One No 10 adviser describes a distinction between the private sector “bureaucrats” — who manage multi- million-pound corporate machines — and the “insurgents” who risk everything to set up their own companies. “We should be on the side of the insurgents,” he says. “If someone starts the next Facebook and makes £10 billion they should be rewarded and allowed to keep that money. But Stephen Hester is a quintessential example of a bureaucrat. He has never gone a day without earning a salary. He’s never mortgaged his house to get a business off the ground.” The machines at the Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills are, however, set up to favour existing corporate success stories over potential future winners. “Big bureaucracies are comfortable dealing with big business bureaucracies,” according to the Downing Street official.

• Philip Stephens in the Financial Times (subscription) says it was a mistake for David Cameron to lecture the Germans at Davos last week.

Sometimes humility does not go amiss. Britain’s politicians once understood the worth of self-deprecation. This thought came to mind the other day when David Cameron tipped up in Davos to tell Angela Merkel how to run her economy. Did Mr Cameron really imagine that the German chancellor was ready to be lectured by a British prime minister?

A smidgen of self-awareness might have suggested otherwise. Britain’s politicians – Tory and Labour alike – are fond of reminding the world how clever they were to stay out of the single currency. The implication is that Britain boasts an economic performance to put the eurozone to shame …

Telling Germans to work less, to borrow more, and to produce shoddy cars and machine tools is not the answer. Does it ever occur to Mr Cameron’s Treasury advisers, I wonder, that they could learn something from Germany about economic management?

• Sir Roger Carr, president of the CBI, says in an article in the Times (paywall) that the row over Stephen Hester’s bonus will deter people from public service.

The media storm over Stephen Hester’s bonus has both captured and fuelled the public mood over bankers’ bonuses. Sadly little distinction has been made between those who created the problem at RBS and those recruited to resolve it. The row has ignored the fact that a talented man with many opportunities for personal enrichment has chosen to accept a job that few were capable of doing and even fewer had the appetite to undertake. In the end political pressure forced the surrender of a bonus that an independent board had deemed was deserved.

For those who focus on the size of the bonus rather than the magnitude of the task, Mr Hester’s decision is a victory. For those with a broader perspective, the outcome is more dubious. The chances of enticing others to take on difficult tasks of national importance have undoubtedly been jeopardised. Not by the remuneration he didn’t receive but for the vilification he did. This cannot be in the long-term public interest.

• Gillian Tett in the Financial Times (subscription) says bankers’ pay is going down.

The consensus among bank executives in Davos last week was that total compensation for mid- to senior-level employees in 2011 was about 30 per cent lower than 2010 – and perhaps 60 per cent below the 2007 peak. “There is a big change now,” claims one Wall Street CEO.

Now, this decline is still far too small to pacify critics. And it remains tough to calculate the precise squeeze, since banks pay their employees in different ways and – crucially – many financiers are leaving regulated banks for work in shadow banks, where pay is even more opaque.

But, what is clear is that the squeeze almost certainly has further to go, as regulation bites, deleveraging takes hold and western economies ail. It probably will not take the pay ratio to 1950s levels; technology now enables financiers to hop across borders and around rules, skimming fees in opaque ways. But – just as 70 years ago – a cycle has turned; albeit slowly. By 2017, bank pay could look very different from 2007; and modern capitalism will look all the better for it.

• Robert Winnett in the Daily Telegraph says an analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies says the government’s public sector pension reforms will make little difference to the cost to the taxpayer.

Public sector workers will be “dramatically” better off in retirement and receive significantly higher wages than those in the private sector despite government attempts to scale back the generosity of their pay and pensions, ministers have been warned.

The months of negotiations over the reform of public sector pensions will make “little or no difference” to the multi-billion-pound cost to taxpayers, according to a detailed analysis published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Millions of lower-paid public sector workers will receive higher pensions as a result of a recent government deal, which led to widespread strikes, claims the economic forecaster.

They will also continue to earn significantly higher salaries than their private sector counterparts throughout this Parliament — with wages up to a fifth higher in some parts of the country.


• Angus Macleod in the Times (paywall) says a new poll suggests that the wording that Alex Salmond wants for the question in the Scottish independence referendum would not lead to a surge in support for the yes vote.

The Ipsos MORI poll of more than 1,000 Scots for The Times shows that when Scots are asked “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?”, backing remains at a virtual standstill at 39 per cent of those certain to vote, up by only 1 per cent on a poll by the same organisation two months ago.

However, the poll, the most authoritative since Mr Salmond, the First Minister, revealed his chosen question last week, indicates better news for him because his favoured question also produces a sharp fall in support for the Union, down from 57 per cent two months ago to 50 per cent.

The most likely explanation is a rise in previously pro-Union voters who are now undecided — up from 5 per cent in December to 11 per cent now.


• Murray Wardrop in the Daily Telegraph says Peter Capaldi has revealed that, contrary to widespread belief, Alastair Campbell was not the model for Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It.

In an interview with Radio Times, Capaldi, 53, said: “The only people that I had witnessed personally behaving in the way that Malcolm does were American agents or producers.

“You could see people at ICM in Los Angeles – malevolent forces in Armani suits – barking the foulest and most terrifying of obscenities down the phone at people.

“The producers, too. Harvey Weinstein and the team at Miramax were long celebrated for Malcolm-like behaviour, so in fact they were the people I thought about. That was the model I took, rather than Alastair Campbell, as I didn’t know him. Alastair might be a bit disappointed to know this.”

10.46am: Mark Reckless, a Conservative Eurosceptic, has just told Sky that the outcome of yesterday’s EU summit highlighted the need for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. He said he was supporting the People’s Pledge campaign for a referendum, which is going to kick off with a postal ballot in a single constituency in April.

10.44am: Here’s the Guardian video of David Cameron speaking at the end of yesterday’s EU summit.

He stressed that a resolution to the eurozone crisis was in Britain’s interests.

10.28am: Liam Byrne, the shadow work and pensions secretary and the chair of Ed Miliband’s policy review, has written a pamphlet for Progress saying that Labour must stick to the centre ground. There’s a summary of his argument at Progressonline. Here’s an extract.

That is why, after the third way, we need a new way back to a new centre-ground. Let’s keep the insights of the 1990s but build on them for a different era. Let’s keep the best of New Labour, not least the late Philip Gould’s basic insight: ‘What most voters want is over time and without greed to advance and improve their lives. In short, to become better off.’

Let’s keep the insight that elections are won in the centre-ground by building an alliance around the values – aspiration, responsibility and community – that unite traditional supporters with footloose voters who change sides.

What does that centre-ground look like? It is bigger than before. More voters are more likely to switch sides. Look at Scotland. No one can win elections trading on old loyalties. That is true for social democrats everywhere. Attitudes have changed too. Take the latest British Social Attitudes Survey which found that support for tax increases to spend more on public services has halved from nine years ago and only a third now say that government should redistribute wealth.

This is no counsel of despair. Neither opinion polls nor by-elections point to any return to Maggie-mania. As Deborah Mattinson puts it: ‘When things get really hard the instinct to put nearest and dearest first is, understandably, paramount.’

This is why Labour’s leader is placing our party firmly in the centre-ground with new ideas not old attitudes. Globally, social democrats are pinpointing five basic principles that can deliver our values in tough times. But Labour is leading the way.

10.08am: The National Union of Teachers has published the results of a survey showing its members strongly opposed to the government’s proposed public sector pension reforms. Some 93% of those who responded said the NUT should continue to oppose the plans.

This is from Christine Blower, the NUT general secretary.

This survey shows that NUT members do not accept the government’s arguments for reducing teachers’ pensions. They do not accept this race to the bottom, cutting public sector pensions in the same way as private sector pensions have already been cut. The NUT will continue to campaign for teachers’ pensions and a fair pension for all.

9.58am: The mother of Richard O’Dwyer, the British student who faces being extradited to the US over alleged copyright infringement, has had the chance to raise his case with Barack Obama via YouTube. Here’s an extract from the Press Association story about the exchange.

The mother of a British student accused of breaking American copyright laws called on Barack Obama to halt “appallingly harsh” attempts to extradite her son as the US President faced a grilling over his plight.
Richard O’Dwyer, 23, allegedly earned thousands of pounds through the TVShack website he created, which enabled users to watch films and television shows for free.
His case topped a list of subjects that American voters put to their leader during an online question-and-answer session yesterday.
O’Dwyer’s mother, Julia, 55, welcomed the US interest in her son’s case today.
“It’s tremendous that questions have reached Obama because at least it will raise a bit of awareness over there,” she said.
“Now even Americans have woken up to the US administration’s excessive use of the extradition laws between our countries.
“Given our Government won’t protect its own citizens, it’s up to Mr Obama to put a stop to the ridiculous and appallingly harsh attempts to extradite Richard, and others facing similarly unnecessary treatment.”
During the web discussion, Obama told listeners that he was not personally involved in O’Dwyer’s case but insisted the US administration wanted to ensure that intellectual property was protected “in a way that’s consistent with internet freedom”.
O’Dwyer, a Sheffield Hallam University undergraduate, faces jail if convicted of the allegations.
His lawyers say he would be the first British citizen to be extradited for such an offence and would effectively become a “guinea pig” for copyright law in the US …
Obama appeared in a live video chat room known as a “Hangout”, part of online search giant Google’s social networking site Google Plus. He answered questions submitted via YouTube.

9.51am: For the record, here are the latest YouGov GB polling figures.

Conservatives: 40% (up 1 since Sunday)
Labour: 38% (down 2)
Lib Dems: 10% (up 2)

Conservative lead: 2 points

Government approval: -16

9.17am: And here’s more from Ed Miliband. I’ve already quoted the line in his ITV Daybreak interview about David Cameron selling people “down the river” (see 8.50am), but he’s also been on Sky and BBC News. Here are some more of the points he’s been making. I’ve taken the quotes from PoliticsHome.

• Miliband described Cameron’s “veto” as a “phantom veto”. “I say it’s a phantom veto and, frankly, he’s completely mishandled these negotiations,” Miliband said.

• He accused Cameron of failing to protect the interests of the City of London.

[Cameron] went into those talks saying his real worry was about financial services and how that would be affected if other countries went ahead. He’s secured no extra protections for financial services. The one claim he made was ‘Well, look, OK, I may not have secured any extra protections, but at least it’s not a fully-fledged European treaty, using those European institutions, with the wieght of the commission, the court of justice, behind it. We’ll see what he says in the Commons today, but everything I’m reading and hearing suggests that that turns out not to be the case.

• He urged bankers to show “restraint” when it came to awarding and accepting bonuses. He also renewed his call for a tax on bonuses.

9.09am: I’ve already quoted what Ed Miliband has been saying this morning about David Cameron‘s decision to allow the eurozone countries to use EU institutions to police the new fiscal union. This is what Cameron said about the matter himself at his press conference last night. I’ve taken the quotes from PoliticsHome.

The eurozone members have today agreed a new treaty focused on tighter fiscal discipline, which we understand is important. This is a totally separate treaty because we vetoed an EU treaty in December. We are not signing this treaty, we will not be ratifying this treaty and it places no obligations on the UK.

As I said in December this is new territory and is yet to be ratified or implemented. There are a number of legal concerns on the use of EU institutions. We don’t want to hold up the eurozone doing what is necessary to solve the crisis, as long as it doesn’t damage our national interest. It is good that the new treaty is explicit and clear that it cannot encroach on the competencies of the EU, and they must not take measures that in any way undermine the EU single market. We will watch this closely, and if necessary we are able to take action if our national interests are threatened.

8.50am: David Cameron has got some explaining to do. He will be makling a statement in the Commons at 3.30pm about yesterday’s EU summit and his decision to drop his objection to the eurozone countries using the EU institutions to police their new fiscal union, and he’s going to have to find a way of dealing with the Conservative Eurosceptics who feel that he’s abandoned the “veto” that he deployed to their delight at the last EU summit. It’s not quite clear yet how serious this revolt will be, although Number 10 will not be happy with today’s Daily Mail story headlined: “Cameron compared to John Major after he agrees to EU treaty he vetoed last year.” (In Conservative iconography, Major is an emblem for uselesseness, although in reality he was probably the one leader who did more than any other to keep Britain out of the single currency.) Interestingly, Ed Miliband has lined up with the Eurosceptics to deliver a kicking to Cameron on this issue. This is what Milband told ITV’s Daybreak this morning.

I’m very concerned about what David Cameron has done because he trumpeted last December that he got a great deal for Britain, he’d protected us and everything and the way that Europe was going to go about this treaty that they were going to do wasn’t going to affect Britain. Now he seems to have sold us down the river on a lot of things so I’m going to be asking him in the House of Commons today what exactly has he agreed to, what protections has he got for Britain.

I take a simple view – he would have been better off staying at the table and negotiating for Britain, rather than actually pretending that he had made great progress and then failing to do so.

I’ll post more from the interview later.

Otherwise, here’s the full agenda for the day.

9.30am:
Michael Gove, the education secretary, gives evidence to the Commons education committee.

9.30am: Nick Herbert, the policing minister, makes an announcment on crime maps.

10am: Lord Hunt of Wirral, the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, gives evidence to the Leveson Inquiry. The other witnesses are former PCC chairman Sir Christopher Meyer and former BBC and ITV chairman Lord Grade, a PCC member.

10.30am:
Sir Philip Mawer, the prime minister’s independent adviser on ministerial interests, gives evidence to the Commons public administration committee about his role.

1pm: General Sir Peter Wall, head of the army, gives a speech to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

1.15pm:
Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, gives a speech on mental health reform to the Centre for Social Justice.

3.30pm: David Cameron makes a statement in the Commons about yesterday’s EU summit. As Nicholas Watt reports, he faces a clash with Eurosceptics over his decision to drop his objection to the eurozone countries using the European court of justice to enforce their new fiscal union.

As usual, I’ll be covering all the breaking political news, as well as looking at the papers and bringing you the best politics from the web. I’ll post a lunchtime summary at around 1pm and another after Cameron has finished.

If you want to follow me on Twitter, I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

And if you’re a hardcore fan, you can follow @gdnpoliticslive. It’s an automated feed that tweets the start of every new post that I put on the blog.

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