Web Only: the best of the blogs

The five must-read blogs from today, on Michael Ashcroft, ethnic-minority MPs and the political Osca

1. Hague kept non-dom status from Cameron

While William Hague has known about Lord Ashcroft's non-dom status "for a few months", David Cameron found out only "within the last month". "What does this mean for relations between the pair?" asks Political Scrapbook.

2. MacShane goes for Lord A -- but what about Total Politics?

Meanwhile, Paul Waugh reports that Denis MacShane has used parliamentary privilege to attack Lord Ashcroft as "Lord Sleaze of Belize". But what does this mean for MacShane's place on the board of the Ashcroft-owned Total Politics?

3. Why the Lib Dems struggle with diversity in parliament -- and what to do about it

The reason the Liberal Democrats have few black and ethnic-minority MPs is that they rarely select non-white candidates for winnable seats, says Sunder Katwala.

4. Britain needs a 21-hour working week

Anna Coote of the New Economics Foundation writes a guest blog for Left Foot Forward in which she makes the case for a shorter working week.

5. Political Oscars 2010: the envelopes, please . . .

The Huffington Post gives out awards for both politics and entertainment in categories such as "Rewriting of History" and "Best Fantasy".

Sign up now to CommentPlus for the pick of the day's opinion, comment and analysis in your inbox at 8am.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

0800 7318496