NOT A WALK IN THE PARK
David Cameron wasn't exactly subtle yesterday, making a joint appearance with Nick Clegg to unveil a string of investment announcements - including rail electrification - to revive both the Coalition economy. Michael Deacon describes his sledgehammer hints: “‘We’re here to help the headline writers,’ began the Prime Minister, grinning stiffly and gesturing at the ranks of carriages to his right. ‘Sharing platforms… minding gaps… everything’s on track…’”
Sadly for Dave, not many would agree with that. The IMF has slashed Britain’s growth prospects to just 0.2 per cent, against the 0.8 per cent it had predicted in the spring. The Times splash says it all: “Coalition support plunges as grim economic news piles up”
The grisly poll shows that the Conservatives have suffered a double-digit flop in public support since the Budget (and George Osborne’s dire personal ratings will no doubt spark more reshuffle talk). Dave was talking tough yesterday, dismissing Tory backbench calls for the Coalition to be wound down. He said he was now “more committed than ever” to the Coalition, although Nick acknowledged that it's "not always a walk … in the Rose Garden".
Still, both men must be glad that today is the last day of the political season - well, the last day of formal House proceedings. Dave just has to cross his fingers and hope that Sir Mervyn King and G4S boss Nick Buckles, who appear before select committees today, don’t do anything to embarrass the Government even further.
The FT’s leader points out that this sort of rough patch is normal: “Most governments hit a rough patch in midterm, and David Cameron’s poll ratings are in fact not that bad compared with those experienced by past prime ministers at comparable moments in their premiership.” And given the flat-lining economy, it’s a wonder his ratings aren’t worse.
The Mail is less generous. It questions whether anyone believes they’ll hold it together. The Guardian shares that view: “After so many spats... Even the decision to talk trains suddenly looks like a way of avoiding the two parties' diverging”.
ED ROARS AHEAD
Ed Miliband is, of course, the chief beneficiary of all this. The Times’s poll shows that Labour is now seen as the most competent of the three main parties for the first time since the Coalition began. Mary Riddell says he’s off on a European holiday this summer, no doubt plotting how best to use this bounce. But Mary warns that he shouldn’t get too excited - a recent YouGov sounding gave the leader a minus 2.4 approval rating, which “hardly denotes an outbreak of Edmania”.
In the meantime, it looks like he’s gone in for a healthy dose of Blairism. He’s on a quest to bring businessmen and women into the Labour ranks (you can read more here). What will Len McCluskey think?
Out in the wider world of Britain, it turns out there are an awful lot of us. All the papers carry a story on last year’s Census data that shows a 3.7 million increase in our population in a decade (you can read more here). The Tories haven’t wasted a second; they’re already pointing the figure at Labour.
Damian Green says this is “firm evidence” that Labour let immigration run out of control. The question is what is he going to do about it?
Philip Johnson in his column today says this shows that the growing, aging population means that “More public services will need to be privatised, the burdens on taxpayers reduced and people encouraged to look after themselves and make provision for their own future.” That, or it’s swingeing tax rises all round.
And finally, the Sun reports that there is a new row between Forces chiefs and ministers over when to leave Afghanistan. MPs, led by Oliver Letwin and backed up by George Osborne, are keen to pull out a year ahead of schedule to save £3 billion. The generals are furious, claiming it would cost lives by leaving troops left behind more vulnerable.
Reportedly, Philip Hammond has sided with the military, and - characteristically - Dave is sitting on the fence. Look for this one to rumble on.
TWEETS AND TWITS
Tory MP Daniel Byles tweets:
"@danielbyles: Just leaving the office. Been along day."
Don't worry Daniel, you've got a 47-day holiday to look forward to now.
Latest YouGov/The Sun results: Conservatives 33%, Labour 44%, Lib Dems 9%, UKIP 8%
Overall government approval rating: -42
In The Telegraph
Mary Riddell: Is Ed Miliband, the Lazarus of politics, heading to Downing Street?
Philip Johnston: Census 2011: Why the numbers don’t add up
Jeremy Warner: World economy heads for another perfect storm
Leader: Immigration: a mature debate must start now
Best of the rest
Dominic Raab in the Financial Times: A Tory’s liberal proposals to save the coalition
Rachel Sylvester in the Times: Be nice to that shadow. It gives you substance
Polly Toynbee in the Guardian: After G4S, who still thinks that outsourcing works?
William Waldegrave in the Times: True Conservatives believe in a strong State
Today: Parliament rises for recess
Today: Steve Webb will respond to the latest consultation on pensions
9.15am: Boris Johnson and Justine Greening visit the Olympics Transport Co-ordination Centre
10am: Sir Mervyn King and Paul Tucker give evidence to the Commons Treasury Committee. Wilson Room, Portcullis House, London
11am: LOCOG/IOC daily briefing. Main Press Centre, Olympic Park
11.30am: Vince Cable gives evidence to the Commons Business Committee on bank lending and business growth. Thatcher Room, Portcullis House, London
12pm: Commons Home Affairs Committee takes evidence from G4S chief executive Nick Buckles on Olympic security. Committee Room 15, House of Commons, London
1.15pm: Andrew Lansley gives evidence to the Commons Health Committee on the social care white paper. Wilson Room, Portcullis House, London
2.30pm: Ed Davey gives evidence to the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee. Committee Room 6, House of Commons, London
2.30pm: Health Questions