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News, gossip and insight from PoliticsHome Editor Paul Waugh

They say cutbacks, Cam says fightback

The PM has launched a veritable media blitz today, appearing on the Today prog and being tailed by Nick Robinson for one of his 'day in the life' specials for the BBC 10 O'Clock News tonight.

Labour's Michael Dugher has dubbed this a 'relaunch' (though some would say that as an ex member of the Brown bunker, Dugher would know all about that) of the Coaltion. Downing Street would prefer to call it a Fightback, I suspect. 

Either way, it certainly feels like a 'rescue mission' (the PM's own phrase for his determination on the deficit) for the Tories' local election fortunes.

The best news story from Today* was the PM bending over backwards to placate his backbenchers - and his Tory Cabinet colleagues - over Lords reform.  By saying 'I don't rule out' a referendum (though making clear he personally wasn't persuaded), he tried to stem the tide of criticism from his own side.

Still, the political schizophrenia over Lords reform continues - even within Cam's own words. On the one hand, he took the Lib Dem approach that it was a 'sensible, reasonable, rational reform'. But on the other, he took the Tory approach that "it is not the most important thing we are doing".

Just as important was the PM's defence of his own approach to work-life balance (given the noises off about his Killing watching habit, his date nights and his taking his kids to school). He said it was possible to be a 'decent husband' and Prime Minister at the same time.

And as for the Omnishambles charge? Well, this was a man who wanted to stress that his Coalition was not all about cuts but was about a wider mission to get the nation on the right track.

"It's been a difficult month, governments have difficult months. This government came together to dig this country out of the huge economic mess that it's in... but we're not just a bunch of accountants dealing with the deficit. Everything we're doing, providing better schools, everything we're doing is about helping people who do the right thing."

"The British people know I'll get some things right and some things wrong. The key thing is that my average doesn't fall too low."

He was referring to his batting average I suspect, rather than his own poll ratings.

Tacking a little to the right on Lords reform may help in the short term. But yet again, Tory MPs will wonder if they can really trust what he says.

With Euroscepticism on the march even in France - where Cam's own nod for Sarko doesn't seemd to have helped - the PM should be alive to the threat of splitting his own vote this side of the Channel.

Let's see how the 10 O'Clock News item turns out. It is, after all, perfect Craig Oliver telly.

 

* FOOTNOTE. See the full write-up on PolHome's On Air section HERE.

 

UPDATE:  The PM didn't sound too comfortable on Qatada. Still, he did confirm something Theresa May refused to several times last week: the Home Office had been in touch with European Court officials ahead of the arrest last week.

But the PM also announced what seemed like a new fact: that Strasbourg had indeed confirmed our belief that Monday midnight was the deadline.

Here's his words:

"That is something they had checked with the [European] Court. I discussed this issue with the Home Secretary, and she set out the application in huge detail. The case was this. The Home Office believed – and checked during the process – that the date expired on the Monday night. They were told throughout the deadline expired on the Monday night."

Now, what is meant by 'they' in that last sentence? If he means the ECHR -  ie we kept telling Strasbourg what our judgement was - there's no real controversy:

However, if 'they' means the Home Office-  ie the Home Office was told by the ECHR that the Monday deadline applied - that's important.

(Of course, he could also have meant that the Home Office was told throughout by its own lawyers that the deadline was Monday, but that wouldn't be as noteworthy).

We just tried to clarify this at the Lobby briefing but not much clarity emerged. The PM's spokesman simply said:

"We were basing our judgement on a number of things. One of those was conversations we had had with the European Court. The Home Office had conversations with officials at the European Court where the purpose of those conversations was to check our view."

 

 

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