Thursday, 12 September 2013

Labour's not working..

Good morning. There are a few polls this morning which will provide serious concern for Labour. A new Ipsos MORI survey puts Ed Miliband's overall satisfacting rating at -36 per cent – his lowest ever since he became leader – and in the region of Iain Duncan-Smith and William Hague. Almost twice as many people think David Cameron is a capable leader compared to Mr Miliband. And things are no better in the YouGov poll in The Times (£) -  Mr Cameron has a 17-point advantage over Mr Miliband when voters were asked who would make the best Prime Minister. While Labour lead by six points, when asked “If you had to choose, which would you prefer to see after the next election, a Conservative government led by David Cameron or a Labour government led by Ed Miliband?”, 41 per cent chose the Tory option and 40 per cent Labour. But there is no doubt what Tim Farron would prefer, telling the New Statesman, "I really like Ed Miliband, so I don’t want to diss him. I don’t want join in with the Tories who compare him to Kinnock." 
None of the findings about Mr Miliband are startling. Labour's team have long accepted that the "Ed problem" is the most acute one they face. One partial solution is to get more of the Labour frontbench to put in the hard yards against the Coalition. A difficulty for Labour is that the two names that register most with the public - Mr Miliband and Ed Balls - have poor personal ratings (one reason why whispers about Mr Balls' future won't quite go away). There is no sense of Mr Miliband's position being under any threat - it is certain that he will lead Labour into the next election. But his team is right to recognise that the status quo isn't working for Labour. Expect plenty of ideas on how to resurrect Team Ed at Labour Conference which, after the underwhelming reaction to Mr Miliband's TUC speech, looks increasingly significant. Matthew d'Ancoca, writing in the Standard yesterday, doesn't share the gloom, and believes that last year's 'One Nation Labour' Conference speech still provides the framework for Labour to develop its challenge.   
The battle between ministers and their civil servants rumbles on with Robert Devereux, permanent secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions, grilled by MPs on Wednesday. Where it was once considered cowardice to attribute departmental problems to faceless civil servants, now they offer an easy scapegoat for any woes. The FT (£) has a useful summary of the state of play of the civil service, with the "conspiracy of silence" when things are going wrong and overly-rigid hierarchies among the problems. Sue Cameron turns her shrewd eye to Australia, where ministers have the formal power to replace officials, but there is no tradition of naming and shaming ministers when policies are in trouble.  As Sue writes, "If the PM is to push ahead with some of the worthwhile changes under way in the Civil Service – cutting numbers, improving skills – he must ensure that all his ministers understand that they and their officials are in it together, just as they do in Australia."   

The Government are on course with plans to sell a majority of the postal service. Vince Cable yesterday briefed the cabinet on the plans, reports the FT (£), which have eluded governments over the last 20 years. Michael Fallon was on the airwaves this morning, insisting that there was "no reason" that jobs would be at risk and that "The queen's head is protected in law". Chuka Umunna has already spoken this morning about a "politically-motivated fire sale", complaining that "The Government has not addressed the huge concerns which remain on the impact the Royal Mail sale will have on consumers, businesses and communities".

The UN housing czar's attack on the bedroom tax bemused many, but Grant Shapps wasn't shy about making his feelings known. "It is pretty outrageous. She has done this all under the wire. The government was not asked or consulted. There was no official consultation", said Mr Shapps. "I think the UN has got this totally wrong. I think she is in trouble with this. The General Secretary will have to come back with a full response." Stewart Jackson also took to Twitter to brand Raquel Rolnik a "loopy Brazilian leftie". As the Mail reports, Miss Rolnik also has a history of dabbling in witchcraft.

While the Conservative Chairman takes on the UN, the PM is busy taking on the EU. José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission and not renowned as an expert in British psephology, said that, "Your party is looking like Ukip. I have some doubts whether you are going to be elected in Britain or if it is not Ukip that will be the first force in British elections". But - fear not Dave - Mr Barroso explained that "I don't say this with any kind of satisfaction because although we have our differences we have worked together in many areas with the Conservatives." Dave's official spokesman calmly responded: "Rather than trying to second guess where the British electorate might come out, the right thing to do is to focus on the need for fundamental change to a more flexible, adaptable and open European Union." But Dave won't have been best pleased by the intervention of John Redwood in The Times (£), who described the review into the EU balance of competences as "a whitewash".

There's some welcome cheer on the jobs front, with 80,000 jobs being created in the three months to April and the unemployment rate nudging down to 7.7 per cent. These figures - together with the fall  in the claimant count for jobseeker’s allowance by 68,900 in July and August - are lauded by the Mail, who note that the growing North-South divide means that "the case for regional pay bargaining in the public sector, to reflect local living costs and attract jobs to the areas that need them most, becomes more unanswerable by the day."

Nick Boles's determination to loosen planning regulations to facilitate house-building has taken him to the  National Parks, as we report. The Planning Minister said these should not be protected "wildernesses" and that new development should be allowed, warning about “the danger of making rural communities into museum pieces where they are not so much protected as embalmed." Similar plans were abandoned last year and opponents of Mr Boles are in no mood to be any more compliant this time. 

Stewart Jackson isn't too pleased with the UN:

@SJacksonMP: Loopy Brazilian Leftie with no evidence on bedroom tax (sic) masquerading as serious UN official on @BBCr4today demolished by @grantshapps 
In the Telegraph 
Peter Oborne - Nick Clegg has served his party well and deserves to survive

Sue Cameron - Ministers and mandarins are in it together

Best of the rest

David Aaronovitch in the Times (£) - We can't stop the world we can't get off 

John Redwood in the Times (£) - Is the Foreign office fighting for Britain?
John Gapper in the Financial Times (£) - Politicians to blame for BBC infighting

0900 Launch of cross-party report on early intervention. With Frank Field MP for Labour, Paul Burstow MP for Liberal Democrats, Caroline Lucas MP for Greens, Andrea Leadsom MP for Conservatives. Grimond Room, Portcullis House.

0930 Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) releases its lending breakdown figures for July.

1000 Bank of England Governor Mark Carney at Treasury Select Committee.

1000 Launch of IISS Strategic Survey 2013: The Anual Review of World Affairs.

TBC David Cameron to announce plans to further support enterprise in the UK.