Friday, 19 December 2014

The ghost of Christmas future..

Christmas Day is still five days away but the European Court of Justice has allowed the Sun to open its presents early. Obesity can be considered a disability, the ECJ has ruled"Flab-bergasted!" is the Sun's take. The ECJ has ruled that the British government is unable to prevent Sean McCarthy, a British citizen, from bringing his Colombian wife, to the United Kingdom. (Mr McCarthy and his wife, Patricia Mccarthy Rodriguez, have two children, both of whom are British citizens.) "UK faces fresh wave of migrants after visa ruling by Euro judges" is the Mail's take. 

 "No wonder there is so much anti-EU outrage when you consider two insane decisions foisted on Britain in one day," the Sun growls in its leader. "A referendum in 2017 is the only way out. And only one party will offer it." 

About that referendum. Let's say that, when the dust settles, David Cameron is able to cobble together either a coalition or a workable minority and with it an In-Out referendum. You can make strong arguments that an EU citizen should be able to bring the mother of their children into the country with them, or that chronic obesity should be considered a disability - although in the latter case, the man at the centre of the dispute doesn't believe that his weight should be seen like that - but it's difficult to imagine a worse backdrop for the In campaign than this; even assuming that the PM is able to win the necessary concessions for renegotiation. We've heard lots this year from members of the putative Out campaign who fear they'll be defeated just as the change option in the AV and independence referendums were. But today's papers are a reminder than the pro-European side has as much, if not more, to fear from a referendum campaign as those who favour Brexit.


British job seekers will be the first to see tens of thousands of new vacancies after ministers demanded an end to blanket advertising across the EU. Previous Brussels rules had meant that any jobs posted by the Government on its Universal Jobmatch site would have to be cross-advertised on an EU site too. However, member states have agreed that that now domestic jobswill only be advertised outside of the UK if the employer themselves requests it. Read more here.  


Councils have warned that libraries will close and roads will degrade after the Government revealed its latest round of spending cuts. Local authorities will have to slash more than £2.5 billion from their budgets for next year, pushing many to "breaking point." Georgia Graham has the story"Will your bins now be collected once every FOUR weeks?" the Mail asks.


The Conservative Party are preparing a contingency plan in case of a second general election next year. With a hung parliament looking increasingly likely with every opinion poll, the Tories will launch extra fundraising to try and avoid another coalition. The Guardian reports


Ivan Lewis is on the warpath. David Cameron's "abrupt departure" from Northern Ireland talks "made a bad situation worse", the Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary says. Mr Lewis believes that the PM's swift exit could have been something to do with the Ibiza-themed rave that the PM held at Chequers to celebrate Samantha Cameron's 40th birthday, but Downing Street is denying the connection. Ben Glaze has the story in the Mirror. 


Nigel Morris interviews Alex Salmond in the Indy; "Salmond hints at Scottish votes for English laws" is their splash. The SNP would be prepared to rethink their normal practice of abstaining in English-only legislation in order to help support a minority Labour government, Mr Salmond suggested. 


The police have called for witnesses in their ongoing investigation into allegations of a paedophile ring in the 1970s and 1980s, including the alleged murder of three young boys. Martin Evans has the story.


The North Sea oil industry is "close to collapse", warns Robin Allan, chairman of the independent explorers' association, Brindex. His bleak prognosis comes after a volatile day of trading for crude, with oil prices down to around $60 per barrell. Kezia Dugdale, standing in Jim Murphy, during First Minister's Questions, accused the Scottish government of walking into the crisis due to "wishful thinking" around the oil price and its impact on independence generally. Simon Johnson has the story


If it's not one thing, it's the other. Tough immigration rules designed to prevent abuse of the EU's free movement laws by migrants from elsewhere must be changed, European judges ruled yesterday. In a bitter blow to government plans to try and curb free movement, the EU ruled that Britain cannot block non-EU family members who have settled in another member state entering the country without a travel permit. Richard Ford reports for The Times. 


Pension funds and other investments will suffer if Ukip continue their rise, according to a leading City firm. Panmure Gordon suggests that the party could stigmatize the British market as unstable, while opinion polls show that Nigel Farage is as unpopular as David Cameron. James Kirkup has the story.   


The bill for government SpAds has risen 17% to £8.4 million despite a Coalition pledge to reduce their numbers. Figures revealed yesterday show that there are now 107 SpAds; Nick Clegg has 20 alone, up from just four in 2010. "The Sick of It" is The Sun's take. It's George Osborne's chief of staff, Rupert Harrison, who is in the Mirror's sights. "Osborne Gives Mate 19% Pay Rise" is their splash. 


Nick Timothy, one of Theresa May's SpAds, has accused the Conservative Party of being "misleading" after he was blocked from standing to become a Tory MP. Grant Shapps says that Mr Timothy was removed from the Approved Candidates Listbecause he had failed to campaign in the Rochester and Strood by-election. But Mr Timothy, and another May SpAd, Richard Parkinson, who is in a similar predicament, say that to do so would have been in contravention of government regulations. The Cabinet Office say that backroom activity in personal time would not have had the same effect. Suspicons linger, however, that the decision might have more to do with the ongoing rift between Theresa May and Downing Street. Ben Riley-Smith has the story


I'll be back on the 5th. Justine Greening used the last Dfid questions of the year to encourage donations to support children orphaned by the Aids and Ebola epidemics, you can so here. Also helping to combat the spread of Ebola is the Masanga Mentor Ebola Initiative, one of the three charities the Telegraph Appeal is helping this year. You can learn about the others and donate to them here. A very happy Christmas to those of you that celebrate it. 

You can get in touch with me by pressing "reply" or on Twitter. Our cartoon is the work of Christian Adams - a gallery of his work is available here.  



Ipsos Mori: Con 32% Labour 29% LD 9% Ukip 13% Green 9%

YouGov: Con 30% Lab 35% LD 6% Ukip 16% Green 8% 


@CairneyPaul: Aaron Sorkin should do universities next. It would be nice to think we were noble for one hour per week. 


From the Telegraph 

Dan Hodges - Nick Clegg has been a force for good in British Politics

James Kirkup - Sony vs North Korea: some companies are bigger than countries. So what? 

From elsewhere

Gaby Hinsliff - The Sony leak unearthed juicy gossip, but the blackmailers must not win (The Guardian) 

Phillip Collins - Welfare in Britain isn't fair, as Ukip knows (The Times) 


0815 BRUSSELS: David Cameron at European Council summit. Schedule (UK times): 0815: Leaders' arrival 0900: Working session Around lunchtime, press conferences, including by David Cameron. 

0930 LONDON: Public sector borrowing figures for November are published by the Office for National Statistics.

1000 LONDON: PCMH for David Cameron's former special adviser accused of making and possessing indecent images of children. Patrick Rock, 63, is charged with three offences of making indecent images of children and one offence of possession of 59 indecent images of children. Preliminary hearing. 

1230 LONDON: Stephen Greenhalgh launches bid to become London mayor - Interview and photo opportunity. Stephen Greenhalgh - Boris Johnson's deputy mayor for policing and crime has confirmed that he will be campaigning to secure the Conservative Party's nomination to become the next mayor of London

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Let's do the time warp..

That there, in 10 minutes, was the entire general election campaign," is John Rentoul's verdict on the last PMQs of the year: "Wake me up on 7 May in time to go to the polls." 

"Cameron won the exchanges," declares James Forsyth in the Spectator, "But Labour clearly feels that this 1930s gambit is working for it." The OBR's line about a return to 1930s-levels of spending has certainly put a spring in Labour steps and Ed Miliband was in confident form in the Chamber yesterday. 

I thought that confidence was enough for Mr Miliband to get the better of the PM yesterday, but I'm not convinced that the 1930s line really works as well as some Labour MPs think. It would be interesting to find out which parts of the welfare state people think existed in 1929; my hunch is that most of us imagine a significantly larger state was in place than Labour strategists might like. It feels a little like George Osborne's fiendish "trap", the Charter for Budget Responsibility: a tactic for the bubble.
And there's the added dimension of setting up a Labour government - should one emerge - up for the mother of all betrayal narratives. As one Conservative MP observed recently: "Our problem is that we are seen as the party of cuts. Labour's is the opposite." When Ed Balls gets up to unveil his programme of spending retrenchment, people may feel entitled to be a little anger. Still, that's a problem for 2017. And as James Kirkup notes of the PM's similarly tricky pledge on tax rises, they "may well think of it as a very good problem to have". 


New figures reveal that Ukip spent almost as much as the Tories fighting the European election campaign earlier this year.  The party's growing financial muscle is thanks to a booming donor base, including a number of former Tory investors. Ben Riley-Smith reports.  


Mark Reckless is facing legal action from his former Conservative association over thousands of pounds spent on wasted campaign literature prior to his defection to Ukip.  Chris Hope has the story


The estimated number of migrants who have overstayed their visas and whose whereabouts are unknown has soared. The discovery of thousands of unopened files at the Home Office means there is little way of telling who exactly is in the country legally or the location of those who aren't. "UK has over 300,000 missing visa overstayers, lost papers show" is the Guardian's take.  


New Scottish Labour deputy leader Kezia Dugdale who will assume the responsibility of taking on Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister's Questions for the first time today, and will do until Jim Murphy can trade his Westminster seat for a berth in Holyrood. Paul Hutcheon runs down the options being considered to get Mr Murphy into the Scottish Parliament here.


Theresa May will unveil new restrictions on bail windows for criminal suspects today as part of an overhaul of sweeping police power. It will put an end to the practice of making a high profile arrest on little evidence before leaving the unfortunate subject twisting in the wind for years, often without charges being made at all.   "Saved by the Bail" is The Sun's take. 


Winston McKenzie has compared Nigel Farage to Jesus Christ. The outspoken former boxer and perennial parliamentary candidate known for his outrageous claims, told Chat Politics,"Jesus was one man, we're his army. Farage is one man, and we're his army and that's what it's all about." 

You can get in touch with me by pressing "reply" or on Twitter. Our cartoon is the work of Christian Adams - a gallery of his work is available here.  




ICM: Con 28% Labour 33% Liberal Democrat 14% Green 5%

YouGov: Con 33% Lab 33% LD 8% Ukip 14% Green 7% 


@montie: I've always wanted a shorter word for pusillanimous. Now I have one: #Sony 


From the Telegraph 

Peter Oborne - This infatuation with Blair will damage Cameron's reputation

James Kirkup - David Cameron has a very good tax problem 

From elsewhere

George Eaton - In 2014, Labour and the Tories learned they could both lose (New Statesman)

Tim Montgomerie - The splintering of the left is the big Tory hope(The Times) 


1145 EDINBURGH: Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael in Amnesty event visit to school. Pupils are taking part in the Write for Rights Amnesty International campaign. 

1400 BRUSSELS: David Cameron at European Council summit. Schedule (UK times): 1400: Leaders' arrival 1500: Exchange of views with European Parliament President 1530: Family photo 1545: Working session (topic: investment/economy) 1900: Working dinner (topic: Russia/Ukraine) Followed by press conference by Jean Claude Juncker. 

1500 EDINBURGH: First meeting of Scottish Labour's new shadow cabinet. Recently elected Scottish leader Jim Murphy will chair the first meeting of his new frontbench team.



Energy and Climate Change Questions.

A statement on the future business of the House.

A select committee statement on the publication of the communities and local government committee report Operation of the National Planning Policy Framework.

A backbench business debate on matters to be raised before the forthcoming adjournment.

A short debate on jobseeker's allowance sanctions.

Westminster Hall 

1330: i) Business investment in outer city estates ii) Future of Carnforth Station.


In recess.

:: At the end of business, the House of Commons will rise for the Christmas recess and will next meet on Monday January 5

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

The banality of EVEL..

Party like it's 1999! The Conservatives are becalmed on a third of the vote and William Hague is talking about English votes for English laws. (Chris Hope and Steven Swinford set out the various forms this could take here.)

It would be inappropriate to call the plan's a "a dog's breakfast", Sir Gerald Kaufman fumed in the House yesterday, " because any sensible dog would turn up its nose at it". ("Zoologists have long observed that dogs display an instinctive hostility to legislation that threatens the interests of the Labour Party," Michael Deacon quips.) 

It certainly threatens to put the Opposition on the wrong side of public opinion, at least according to a ComRes poll for ITV, which finds that 53% of people would support barring Scottish MPs from voting on issues that do not impact on Scotland. (It doesn't ask how much they care. I suspect the Labour MP yesterday who said that their constituents "don't give a chuff" about the issue was close to the mark. Or at least, I think they said "chuff".)

But here's the question that no Labour MP thought to ask yesterday: why don't the Government's plans extend to the DUP? Could it be because no party wants to rule about being able to call on the votes of Irish MPs to get their business through the Commons after the next election? I wonder.  

Taken in a vacuum, the Conservatives certainly have right on their side, and public support, however lukewarm and disinterested that support might be. But as well as putting Labour in a jam, it plays to the SNP's preferred narrative of Westminster as something that England does and the Union as a historical curiosity rather than a living affair. That might be good for the Conservative and Unionist Party in the short term. It certainly isn't much good for conservative or unionist principles. 

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 08.28.21


Politicians were unable to hold generals to account over strategy in Afghanistan due to their ignorance of military affairs, according to reports.  Ministers were 'deluded' over Afghanistan writes Ben Farmer. 


Draft reports of the official inquiry into the Iraq war have caused a stir throughout Whitehall, with key figures attempting to play down or even delete the criticism contained within them. Extracts from the much delayed report by Sir John Chilcot  have been sent in recent weeks to those criticised for their conduct in order to give them a chance to respond before the final draft is published. "Whitehall shockwaves over Chilcot draft report" leads the Times.


David Cameron says he is fed up with onshore wind -farms and that the country does not need any more subsidised turbines on land now that the energy source is able to provide 10% of UK energy. Patrick Wintour writes in the Guardian.  


Nick Clegg refused yesterday to pledge to scrap university tuition fees, saying that he had "learned his lesson" about making promises on the subject in the past. "My tuition fees policy was a pipe dream, admits Clegg" is the i's take after the deputy prime minister told the audience of last night's Bite the Ballot Leaders Live series that reneging on one of the Lib Dem's flagship policies was a result of inevitable compromise, given that the party only held 9% of the MPs in the Commons. Clegg conceded that he "probably should have realised that, with hindsight."   


The Russian Rouble fell to a record low yesterday, as the country's economic crisis deepened. "Russia rocked by 'full blown crisis'" is the Mail's splash, as Vladimir Putin faces the most difficult point of his tenure.  


Kerry Smith, who resigned as Ukip's candidate for South Basildon earlier this week following a series of offensive comments he made about gay and poor people, has defended his choice words as no worse than what you would hear from Del Boy. Don't worry, this time next year, he'll be a millionaire.  

You can get in touch with me by pressing "reply" or on Twitter. Our cartoon is the work of Christian Adams - a gallery of his work is available here.  



 YouGov: Con 32% Lab 34% LD 6% Ukip 16% Green 7% 


Political dynasties are the Pitts. 


From the Telegraph 

Edward Lucas -Putin's lies over Russia have been dangerously exposed

From elsewhere

Alice Thomson - Preserve the Union. Give the Scots home rule (The Times)


0815 LONDON: Al Sweady inquiry due to report. The Chairman of the Al-Sweady Public Inquiry, Sir Thayne Forbes, will publish his report and make a public statement on findings at 1100. The report will be available on the inquiry website and the statement will be transmitted live through a pool facility.

0930 LONDON: Education minister Nick Gibb gives evidence on sex and relationship education to Commons Education Committee. 

0930 LONDON: Unemployment figures. Latest unemployment figures published by the Office for National Statistics. 

1000 LONDON: Report of House of Commons Governance Committee published. 

1245 LONDON: PM to visit a small business in London. Prime Minister will visit a small business in London. The PM will have a tour of the site and meet employees. 

1405 LONDON: Bosses of air traffic control company Nats and the Civil Aviation Authority appear before House of Commons Transport Committee over last week's flight chaos.

1430 LONDON: Defence Secretary Michael Fallon gives evidence on Future Force 2020 to the Commons Defence Committee. 

1445 LONDON: George Osborne gives evidence on Autumn Statement and UK contributions to EU budget to Commons Treasury Committee. 

1500 LONDON: Campaigners call for the Prime Minister to demand the release of the last British resident being held in Guantanamo Bay. MPs Caroline Lucas and John McDonnell, human rights activist Peter Tatchell and We Stand With Shaker campaigners deliver giant birthday card for Shaker Aamer. Mr Aamer's 48th birthday is on December 21 and campaigners hope David Cameron will use the card to welcome him back to the UK. 

1745 LONDON: Annual RUSI lecture by the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nicholas Houghton. 



International Development Questions.

Prime Minister's Questions.

A Ten Minute Rule Motion: Women's Refuges (Provision and Eligibility).

Two Opposition day debates: i) The immediate abolition of the bedroom tax ii) Subject to be announced.

A short debate on the 1100th anniversary of the town of Warwick.

Westminster Hall

0930: Tax treatment of BMI pension fund compensation.

1100: Under-occupancy penalty.

1430: Post Office mediation scheme.

1600: International money transfer charges.

1630: Greyhound welfare.



Recall of MPs Bill - Second reading.

A motion relating to the Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2014.

A motion relating to the Draft Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business (Names and Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2014.

At the end of business, the House of Lords will rise for the Christmas recess and will next meet on Tuesday, January 6.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Get Lucy..

The knives are out for Lucy Powell - Ben Riley-Smith reports that the Shadow Cabinet are said to be "incandescent" over the contents of a leaked report into the Ukip threat, while Ed Miliband yesterday said the report contained "not very well drafted language", while Yvette Cooper went one further on Wato, saying that the report was "wrong", and, what's more, she hadn't seen it. 

That claim is contested, to put it mildly. One member of the Shadow Cabinet told me yesterday that the "I didn't see nuffin guv" line coming from Mr Miliband and Ms Cooper didn't fit the facts. ("Bollocks" was the slightly more pointed response from one Labour staffer.) 

One member of Labour's election team conceded that "there may have been some language in there that I personally would have altered slightly, but the overall thrust was good". Others fear that a good report - one that some Conservative MPs are, privately, looking on with envious eyes - has been cremated after just a day's hostile courage. "We needed to show more bravery today," is their verdict.

It all comes back to the two big faultlines under Ed Miliband's Labour Party: the generational divide between Ed Miliband's younger recruits - the "Shinies" as some call them - and those veterans who either feel passed over ignored. But even more toxic than that is the central division over immigration. Some feel that the party will never get anything other than a hiding if they try to go toe-to-toe with the PM on immigration. Others want a complete rethink of Britain's relationship with the EU, the principle of free movement and a radical alteration on migration and what Labour does about it. What this row tells us is that the rancour caused by those divisions is now sufficiently high for MPs to resort to damaging leaks and negative briefing this close to the election. 


Schools and hospitals will face cuts under Labour, the PM said yesterday. The Eds' financial plans will lead to the national debt growing "every year, forever", Mr Cameron warned, meaning that debt interest will take an increasingly large share of government spending, while Ed Miliband's refusal to cut the welfare budget or spell out where he would make cuts more broadly mean that a double whammy of tax rises and cuts to core services are on their way, the PM continued. Matt Holehouse has the story. 


Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood and Natalie Bennett, the leaders of the SNP, the Plaids and the Greens respectively, pressed their claims for a part in the television debates yesterday, and, Kiran Stacey reports in the FT, laid out their conditions for coalition. Ms Bennett and Ms Sturgeon would both prefer to support a minority administration, while the First Minister reiterated that Trident's future would be a "red line" in SNP-Labour coalition negotiations. 


UKIP's long list of race-rows has just got a little longer, with a picture emerging of Neil Hamilton speaking as the guest of honour to an expatriate club in 1998. "Neil Hamilton and the club that wants 'civilised rule' restored in South Africa" features in both the Indy and the i.  


David Cameron ignored advice from Alistair Darling in the immediate aftermath of the Scottish referendum not to reveal his plans to restrict the voting rights of Scottish MPs. The Guardian reports that Darling warned Cameron that to doing so could allow the SNP a lifeline. Despite the warning, Cameron went ahead with his statement just two hours after the Scottish referendum result, subsequently  reneging on the "vow" issued by the leaders of the three main UK parties, during the Better Together campaign. 


A majority of people do not support George Osborne's plan to continue cutting public spending once he has balanced the nation's books, according to a new poll for the Indy. ComRes finds that some 30% of the of people agree with the chancellor's strategy to reduce spending faster until the deficit is cleared and the budget is in surplus, even if this affects public services, but 66% do not share this view. 


Nigel Farage isn't perfect. Disclosing his "big regret" from a life in politics during a booze-laden interview with Steph and Dom Parker, better known as the "posh couple" on Channel 4's Gogglebox, the UKIP leader opened up about not spending enough time with his daughters. 

You can get in touch with me by pressing "reply" or on Twitter. Our cartoon is the work of Christian Adams - a gallery of his work is available here.   


Conservatives 32% Labour 33% Liberal Democrats 8% Ukip 16% Green 6%  (Ashcroft-Populus-YouGov, 04.12.2014-11.12.2014) 


ComRes: Con 29% Labour 32% LD 12% Ukip 16% Green 5%  

Populus: Con 34% Labour 36% LD 10% Ukip 12% Green 5%

YouGov: Con 32% Lab 34% LD 7% Ukip 16% Green 7% 


@DanHannanMEP: My predictive text just tried to write 'rouble' as 'rubble'. Predictive indeed.


From the Telegraph 

Iain Stewart - We don't know what we're talking about on the Barnett formula
Dan Hodges - Labour's immigration policy is an incoherent shambles

From elsewhere

Kim Sengupta  - 'Lone wolf' attackers like Man Haron Monis will always remain a security nightmare (Indy)

Janan Ganesh - Forget immigration. It's still the economy, stupid(FT) 


0900 LONDON: One-day conference hosted by Kings Fund to discuss the challenges facing urgent and emergency care services. Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, National Medical Director and Professor Keith Willett, Director for Acute Episodes of Care, NHS England will update on NHS England's emergency care review.

0930 LONDON: Inflation figures for November are published by the Office for National Statistics. 

1000 LONDON: Commons Defence Committee takes evidence from former diplomats and military officers on decision making in defence policy.

1100 LONDON: Gemma Arterton and cast of Made in Dagenham photo-call with original Dagenham ladies outside Parliament to mark tabling of motion on equal pay.

1230 LONDON: Steve Webb oral statement to MPs on Post Office card accounts. 

1515 LONDON: Alistair Carmichael gives evidence to the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee on the Smith Commission.

1615 LONDON: Eric Pickles gives evidence to the Commons Communities and Local Government Committee.

1730 LONDON: The Mayor of London Boris Johnson to join members of the Jewish community and other Londoners for the annual celebrations to mark Chanukah, the Jewish festival of lights.   

1900: Nick Clegg takes part in the Leaders Live show.    

1900: Call Chuka on LBC.



Justice Questions.

A Ten Minute Rule Motion: Equal Pay (Transparency).

Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill - Committee of the whole House (Day 3).

A motion to approve a money resolution relating to the Local Government (Religious etc. Observances) Bill.

A short debate on the commemoration of the centenary of the bombardment of the Hartlepools.

Westminster Hall

0930: Human right abuses in the overseas supply chains of UK companies.

1100: Tax relief on UK film investment.

1430: Funding for Kew Gardens.

1600: Future of the Barnett Formula.

1630: Level of the National Minimum Wage.



Mutuals' Redeemable and Deferred Shares Bill [HL] - Third reading.

Pension Schemes Bill - Second reading.

Taxation of Pensions Bill - All stages

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

he said, she said..

It’s a case of ‘he said, she said’ in the Natasha Bolter and Roger Bird melodrama, with the latter producing a series of demonstrative text messages in a bid to clear his name. “Ukip's sex scandal: party chief reveals ‘love texts’” is our take. 
Mr Bird has been suspended as general secretary pending an investigation, but insists that he and Ms Bolter were in a consensual sexual relationship and much like a teenager in the schoolyard, has the texts to prove it. “There are plenty of emails and text messages between us which shows how it was a consensual relationship with interest on both sides,” he says. 
Ms Bolter’s not having any of it though, and says in the Indy that the messages were simply her being “friendly.” “I love u bird and wish u let me look after u. Hope u feel better xx,” said one.  
Who to believe? The recruitment of Ms Bolter - a woman from a minority background and a Labour supporter to boot - was a coup for Nigel Farage's party because it appeared to address various fears around Ukip. The question of Ms Boulter versus Mr Bird - and what Ukip does about it all, one way or another, will either go some way to allaying or confirming those same fears. 

The PM has confirmed his continuing support for Turkey’s EU membership bid, saying that the EU will be “stronger, not weaker” if Turkey’s membership is granted.  and saying the UK and Turkey would work “hand in glove” to share vital intelligence regarding anyone involved in terrorism –  “Turkey Jihadi No-Go Deal” is The Sun’s splash. 
The PM has pledged an extra £30 million to support British veterans, Tom Newton Dunn reveals in the Sun. £20 million will go to childcare facilities and the remainder will be used to expand a centre for wounded, traumatised and homeless veterans.
Further details of the Luxembourg tax scandal have come to light in today's Guardian, with Disney, Skype and the Koch brothers among those named. It's increasing the pressure on Jean-Claude Juncker, with his 2005 comments on "the favourable fiscal environment we've created here in Luxembourg" ageing particularly badly. 
Improvements to English schools have "stalled", Sir Michael Wilshaw will warn today as he presents Ofsted's annual report, which is expected to report that 29% of schools are rated as "requiring improvement" or inadequate. Graeme Paton has the story
"If you are not on this," Jim Messina told a Conservative MPs while holding his iPhone aloft, "You're not in the game." "He swept me off my feet," one MP tells Elizabeth Rigby, who profiles Mr Messina in the FT.  Labour are less pleased with their guru, that man David Axelrod, Jim Pickard reports. "We haven't seen hide or hair of him since the summer," one Shadow Cabinet minister sighs. 

Labour’s head of strategy, Greg Cook, concedes that the party would be "highly unlikely" to hold on to power if it tried to form a minority government and would probably be forced into a second general election very quickly unless Labour fromed a coalition, Sam Coates reports in the Times. It puts Mr Cook at odds with those in his party, particularly the trade unions, who are opposed to a coalition with other parties.
Chuka Umunna says he is "not naffed" where David Cameron went to school, that our politics is "too adversarial" and that it was a mistake to ever consider joining the Euro. He'd "never sanction"that now. He made the remarks in conversation with John Rentoul - the full recording is here
Rowan Williams has added his name to the list of supporters of the UK’s EU membership, warning that withdrawal from the international body could leave the UK “dangerously dependent” on the City. The former Archbishop of Canterbury says that leaving the EU would be a “deeply regressive” step and that Britain would struggle to offer anything “distinctive” outside of the financial sector. 
"The Tories are a party of men for men," Harriet Harman tells the Guardian, who will face Nick Clegg at the battle of the stand-in leaders this afternoon. Labour, however, are "women and men". 

You can get in touch with me by pressing "reply" or on Twitter. Our cartoon is the work of Christian Adams - a gallery of his work is available here.  


Conservatives 32% Labour 33% Liberal Democrats 8% Ukip 16% Green 6%  (Ashcroft-Populus-YouGov, 03.12.2014-10.12.2014)

YouGov: Con 32% Lab 32% LD 8% Ukip 15% Green 7%


@EdBallsMP: Errr.. Hang on.. Pots? Kettles? RT @SarahVine@agendaitv How did Ed Balls ever bag Yvette? That is the real question of the night


From the Telegraph

Mary Riddell - The future looks brutal, but where are the howls of protest?

James Kirkup - Nigel Farage knows exactly what he's doing
From elsewhere

Tim Bale - As far as immigration goes, it's time for the Tories to stop following and start leading (Bright Blue)

Rafael Behr - Why Cameron and Miliband fear the smaller parties(Guardian)


0915 LONDON: Global summit to tackle online child sexual exploitation. The Home Secretary, director general of the National Crime Agency (NCA), Keith Bristow, the Prime Minister's digital economy advisor Joanna Shields and the secretary general of Interpol, Jurgen Stock, will address the summit.
0930 LONDON: Launch of Ofsted's 2013/14 annual report.
0930 LONDON: Tibet and Freedom of Expression to be debated in UK Parliament. The debate will be opened by Fabian Hamilton MP. This is the first debate to be had on Tibet since December 2011.
1000 LONDON: Office for Budget Responsibility gives evidence to MPs on Autumn Statement. Chairman Robert Chote appearing before Treasury Select Committee.
1200: Nick Clegg standing in for David Cameron at Prime Minister's Questions.
1230 LONDON: Lord Mandelson speech on Europe. Former Cabinet minister addresses IPPR conference on European Commission policy priorities.
1415 LONDON: MPs take evidence on Universal Credit progress.
Northern Ireland Questions.
Prime Minister's Questions.
A Ten Minute Rule Motion: Planning Consent Applications (Contracts).
Stamp Duty Land Tax Bill - Second reading.
A short debate on work-related stress and prison officers.
Westminster Hall
0930: Tibet and freedom of expression.
1100: Sickle cell anaemia.
1430: Accountability of Ofsted.
1600: Mental health and the Cambridgeshire health economy.
1630: Energy policy and living standards.
Modern Slavery Bill - committee of the whole House (Day 4).

A short debate on the report of the Communications Committee on media plurality. 

Ain't no party like a UKIP party..

What's the Ukip effect? Does it help Ed Miliband, as some of his supporters suggest? Or, as the more jittery members of that party believe, will it ultimately hurt Mr Miliband just as much as David Cameron. Research based on the British Electoral Study sheds further light. One in five of the 10 million who supported the Conservatives in 2010 are on the verge of defecting to Ukip, as Labour look set to lose 500,000 votes of their own.  
 “Millions of Tory voters to pick Ukip” is our splash; “Ukip ‘twice as dangerous’ to Tory election prospects as to Labour’s” reports Andy Grice for the i. The Guardian, meanwhile, lends its focus to the potential Lib Dem wipeout instead: the data indicates that the Coalition's second party could be reduced to under 20 seats, far below most estimates. 
The study suggests that the Ukip surge is largely down to the main parties’ movement towards the middle ground. Labour, they suggest, had already lost out the voters of its supposed "core" during their years in office, now it is the Conservatives who are shedding votes to Ukip.
Nigel Farage likes to trot out the idea that there's little to choose between David Cameron and Ed Miliband. The concerning thing for the PM is that today's research suggests the voters may well agree. 
Natasha Bolter, a Labour defector who made a star turn at Ukip's conference in Doncaster, has quit Nigel Frage's party, claiming that she was sexually harassed by its general secretary, Steve Bird, and reporting that her complaints about sexism and racism were ignored by the party. "Ukip's star woman quits after sex claims" is the Times' splash. Our take is here.

David Cameron flies to Turkey today for talks with the country's Prime Minister and President about the "shared threat" of returning Islamic State fighters. Turkey must provide a better early warning system about British jihadis, the PM will say. Chris Hope is in Turkey with the story.

Lord Mandelson has warned Labour that it must reach "beyond our core" if it is to win the election in five months. Calling the election a "six party race", Lord Mandelson said: "There is no point in just talking to Labour voters, because, put simply, there are not eough of them to win an election by depending on our current Labour voters alone." The Labour grandee made the remarks at a Policy Network event - the Huffington Post's Ned Simons was in the audience.
Baroness Jenkin is under fire after appearing to suggest that poor people fall into food poverty because they "do not know how to cook", Matt Holehouse reports. "I had a large bowl of porridge today. It cost 4p," the peer said, "A large bowl of sugary cereal will cost 25p". "Let them eat porridge!" is the Indy's splash. "Sweeping and clumsy," says the Sun's leader, "But not heartless." "Too many families across the whole social spectrum lack those skills. That's all the peer was saying." The Baroness has since apologised.

Jean-Claude Juncker must push the European Union to investigate the scandal around tax deals for big firms, 41 journalists including the editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Rachel Olldroyd, have argued in a letter to the Guardian.

The Coalition looks likely to suffer its 100th defeat in the Lords today as the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill returns to the Lords today, with the crossbench peer and QC Lord Pannick flying back from Russia late last night for the occasion. 
The Candy Crush saga rolls on for another day, as Parliamentary officials opened an investigation...into a breach of filming rules in Commons committee rooms.  "Candy Crass" is the Sun's take.

You can get in touch with me by pressing "reply" or on Twitter. Our cartoon is the work of Christian Adams - a gallery of his work is available here.  


Conservatives 32% Labour 33% Liberal Democrats 7% Ukip 17% Green 6%  (Ashcroft-ComRes-Populus-YouGov, 02.12.2014-09.12.2014)


Ashcroft: Con 31% Lab 30% LD 8% Ukip 19% Green 5%
Populus: Con 33% Lab 36% Ukip 14% LD 9% Green 4%
YouGov: Con 33% Lab 34% LD 6% Ukip 15% Green 6%


@stephentall: I have never played Candy Crush. I am the 1%.


From the Telegraph

Philip Johnston - The Coalition flunked its great opportunity to rethink the state

James Kirkup - The missing piece from our foodbank debate
From elsewhere

Rachel Sylvester - This is Tory civil war, not a rift with the church(Times)

Seb Payne - Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage are pursuing the same electoral strategy (Spectator)


0900 LONDON: MPs take evidence on electricity market reform.
0930 LONDON: MPs hear evidence on Whitehall's capacity to meet future challenges. Witnesses at Public Administration Committee include Jon Day, Head, Joint Intelligence Committee, Dr Campbell McCafferty OBE, Director, Civil Contingencies Secretariat, and Professor David Walker, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England.
0945 LONDON: Boris Johnson and Met Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe walkabout to make announcement on future of New Scotland Yard.
1000 LONDON: "Britain against cancer" conference hosted by All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer. Speakers will include APPG chair John Baron launching its new report  NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens, Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt and the Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham.
1100 LONDON: Boris Johnson to launch new initiative to increase ethnic minority applicants to the Met.
1430 LONDON: Jeremy Hunt gives evidence to MPs on health and social care expenditure.
1535 LONDON: Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin appears before House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee on HS2.
1830 LONDON: Chuka Umunna at Progress in conversation event. The shadow business secretary will be in conversation with John Rentoul of the Independent on Sunday. 
Treasury Questions.
A Ten Minute Rule Motion: Funeral Services.
Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill - Committee of the whole House.
A short debate on patient safety and medical innovation.
Westminster Hall
0930: Education of children with cerebral palsy.
1100: Performance of General Dental Council.
1430: Anti-Semitism.
1600: Secondary education in Skelmersdale.
1630: Power cuts in North Finchley.
Criminal Justice and Courts Bill - Consideration of Commons amendments.

Childcare Payments Bill - Second reading, committee of the whole House, report stage and third reading.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em..

He's back! Alex Salmond announced yesterday that he will target a return to the House of Commons: the Liberal seat of Gordon is his chosen target. "I couldn't stand on the sidelines a moment longer" is the National's splash. (It was a long fortnight, to be fair.) 
The bookies make Mr Salmond the 1/8 favourite in the seat and it should be fairly low-hanging fruit for the SNP and Mr Salmond in particular. The seat is broadly similar to Mr Salmond's Aberdeenshire East constituency in the Scottish Parliament and although the Liberal candidate, Christine Jardine, has been working the seat hard the loss of the personal vote of Sir Malcolm Bruce, the longstanding local MP, will hit Liberal hopes hard. (Added to that, the polls, campaigners on the ground and the Scottish parliamentary elections all show that the Liberal collapse north of the border is largely to the benefit of the SNP.)
Can anyone stop the SNP? The winner of the Scottish Labour leadership election will be announced on the 13th of December, and it looks very likely to be Jim Murphy. That campaign is in better heart than they were when ballots were issued - their phone canvassing among the members has taken a favourable turn while the anger of MPs over Mr Murphy's embrace of tax devolution has been dampened somewhat by the error-prone campaign of his rivals. Neil Findlay's habit of sending press releases riddled with errors, texts beginning with "Hello name", coupled with the equally hapless campaign run by his effective running mate, Katy Clark, have brought more members of the Scottish parliamentary parties round to Mr Murphy's side.
Labour insiders are in rather better heart than they have been recently. They feel that Mr Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon have conceded the argument that the next election is a choice between Ed Miliband and David Cameron. It may be that the "same old fear campaign we always run" as one more cynical observer put it is not enough, however. For the moment, the SNP is monopolising the independence vote and holding onto its Unionist supporters. Scottish Labour's new leader's first task is to craft a narrative of optimism rather than a re-run of Labour's 2010 campaign north of the border.

The Coalition row over the Autumn Statement rumbles on to another day. Danny Alexander has written an op-ed for the Telegraph saying that the Conservatives want "austerity forever", are motivated by "pre-election panic" and would go  "way beyond what is required to balance the books". (Unless there is a sprinkling of Liberal Democrat to stop them, of course.) It's all part of a period of "conscious uncoupling" was Norman Smith's take on Today.


Nadine Dorries tells the i: “I would say that Labour are posher than us these days.” Dorries comments on disgraced Labour MP Emily Thornberry who was forced to resign as shadow Attorney General following a Twitter storm, during which Thornberry posted a captioned photo perceived to be disparaging towards the working class. Still, at a time when voter disenchantment is dangerously high, Dorries’ words shouldn’t be viewed simply as a swipe at Labour, but rather a timely reminder of how far Westminster in general has to come in being representative.     
The Commons Environmental Audit Committee has rallied a call for a future ban on building schools, hospitals, and care homes near to air pollution black-spots in order to help cut the estimated 29,000 deaths a year in the UK that have been caused by poor air quality. The story leads the Indy and the i. 

Political parties must recognise "the simple but devastating fact that hunger stalks this country", a new report, funded by the Church of England and jointly led by Frank Field and the Archbishop of Canterbury, says. Voluntary groups are fighting a "social Dunkirk" without government assistance, the report - to be unveiled later today - argues. To tackle the problem, the report calls for a national network of state-backed food banks, the adoption of a fairer, speedier and less punitive benefits system, and a national living wage. Patrick Butler has the details in the Guardian - "Church v state rift over hunger" is their splash.

The Bank of England has said that the vast majority of mortgage borrowers could handle interest rate rises of up to 2%, suggesting that the Bank is close to changing policy on rates. 37% of households with mortgages would have to take action if rates rose, while 57% would do so voluntarily. "Middle classes facing 'catastrophe' of rate rise" is the Times splash. Szu Ping Chan has the details of the Bank's report. 
Douglas Alexander will call on the "quiet majority" of British businesses to speak up on the case for British membership of the European Union. He will cite the lessons of the Scottish campaign, when businesses were "reluctant to speak out" and had to be "jolted into action" by that YouGov poll. "Your voice must be heard, because if you wait, it could be too late," Mr Alexander will warn.
Theresa May has emerged as the favourite from a poll conducted by Conservative Home yesterday regarding the party’s future leadership. The Home Secretary received 29% of the vote, pipping Boris Johnson who got 18%.   


Nigel Farage suggests that he was late to attending an event in Wales on Friday because high levels of immigration had brought about a backlog the M4. On his tardiness, Farage said, “That is nothing to do with professionalism, what it does have to do with is a population that is going through the roof chiefly because of open-door immigration and the fact that the M4 is not as navigable as it used to be.” 
Nigel Mills, the Tory MP for Amber Valley, Derbyshire is in hot water after The Sun released pictures of him playing the popular Candy Crush app on his i-Pad. The 40-year old, who was elected in 2010, but only has a majority of 536, was supposed to be listening to pensions experts give evidence at a meeting of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, of which he is a member.

You can get in touch with me by pressing "reply" or on Twitter. Our cartoon is the work of Christian Adams - a gallery of his work is available here.  


Conservatives 31% Labour 33% Liberal Democrats 8% Ukip 16% Green 6%  (Ashcroft-ComRes-Populus-TNS-YouGov, 27.11.2014-05.12.2014)


Opinium: Con 29% Lab 34% LD 6% Ukip 19% Green 6%
Populus: Con 33% Lab 35% Ukip 14% LD 9% Green 4%
YouGov: Con 32% Lab 32% LD 6% Ukip 15% Green 7%


@railtonrailton: Nigel Farage is the love child of Enoch Powell and Alan Partidge.


From the Telegraph

Boris Johnson - Sending Putin the Elgin Marbles is barmy, but it's what makes Britain great

From elsewhere

Chris Deerin - The night I met Sir Walter Scott (Mail)


0915 LONDON: Archbishop of Canterbury joins Frank Field MP to launch all-party parliamentary group report into hunger in the UK.
0930 LONDON: Resolution Foundation launch new research on affordability of housing.
1515 LONDON: Public Accounts Committee on tax avoidance. Hearing on role of large accountancy firms, witnesses including Kevin Nicholson, Head of Tax, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and Fearghus Carruthers, Head of Tax, Shire Pharmaceuticals.
1605 LONDON: Transport Minister Claire Perry appears before House of Commons Transport Committee on motoring of the future.
1715 LONDON: Downing Street Christmas lights to be switched on.
1730: Ed Miliband takes part in a Leaders Live show. The Labour leader takes part in the Bite the Ballot Leaders Live Q&A aimed at young voters. The Leaders Live show will be available online on and
1730 LONDON: Lord Mandelson chairs Policy Network event with John Woodcock, Isabel Hardman, Rafael Behr and Liz Kendall. Panel discussion of Laying the Foundations for a Labour Century pamphlet.
1900: Harriet Harman LBC radio phone-in.
2235: Yvette Cooper among the guests on ITV's The Agenda.
Work and Pensions Questions.
Infrastructure Bill (Lords) - second reading.
A short debate on access to free cash withdrawals in less well-off communities.
Mutuals' Redeemable and Deferred Shares Bill (HL) - Report stage.
Consumer Rights Bill - Third reading.
Modern Slavery Bill - Committee of the whole House (Day 3).