Friday, 4 April 2014

Cameron and Miliband are frightened by Farage..

Good morning! Are you excited? I'm excited. Today is Phone Farage day here at the Telegraph. Phone Farage will be hosted by the inimitable Tim Stanley.
The leader of the People's Army himself, the Lion of Kent, the Slayer of Cleggs, the Master Von Rompuy, the Terror of the Cinque Ports, the Admirer of Vlad, the Pain in PM's Neck will be here at 1pm today to take calls from readers. Fresh from his triumph against the deputy PM in Wednesday night's debate, the leader of the UK Independence Party, who fancies himself as a bit of a shock jock, will be manning the telephones - from 1pm, write it down - to talk about Europe, immigration, gay marriage, Russia and all the other issues that preoccupy him. It's a bit of a first, but I am assured that all is ready, the technology is in place, the coffee (strong, black, obvs) is brewing, and we are almost ready to go.
You may want to talk to him about Wednesday night and what it means for him and British politics. The papers carry quite a bit of of post-match analysis. The Mail focus on the travails of Madame Fifi - their term of endearment for Mr Clegg: "Blow by blow, how Ukip chief humiliated foundering Nick Clegg" (the summary: Farage 23 stars, Clegg 16 stars - not as dire as you'd suppose). Its leader -"Madame Fifi and a very public humbling" - lays in to the Tories by pointing out that unless they get their fingers out, we'll end up with another five years of "the duplicitous" Mr Clegg in government "and that is a punishment the country simply doesn't deserve". Elsewhere, Mr Farage's claim to be leading a "People's Army" gets coverage.
There's also a fair bit on the future of the leader debates at the general election. "Keep Farage out of elections debates, Miliband demands" says the Times, recording the Labour leader's point that he wants the debates to carry on as in 2010 - without the Ukip leader. The Mail records Mr Farage's point: that Tories and Labour are scared of a debate with him. How true. The likelihood must be that Mr Cameron, who isn't keen on the debates anyway, watchedWednesday night and thought the prospect of facing Mr Farage is politically dangerous and best avoided. We should expect that Mr Farage will be excluded, however much he entertains us now. He has no MPs, and they will use Ukip's showing in 2010 as a benchmark. Mr Farage will argue that it's his showing now and at the Europeans that matter, but he can go whistle, I suspect. Still, give him a call today and let him know what you think. Full details of how to take part in Phone Farage are here.
Phone Farage will be hosted by the inimitable Tim Stanley. To take part email with your question, or tweet with the hashtag #phonefarage.
The papers are full of anger at Maria Miller and the way Dave let her off the hook. "This insult to Parliament", says the Mail over a spread. It reproduces her 72-word, 32 second "apology". The Telegraph leads with "MPs conspire to save Miller", which underscores the key point: this was a stitch-up by the politicians to help one of their own avoid the conclusions of the Standards Commissioner. Our leader concludes: "Five years on from the scandal that rocked the last parliament, this latest saga suggests that MPs still fail to understand why voters remain so cynical about what Nigel Farage, Ukip's leader, call "the political class". "Culture of Contempt" says the Sun, but without much energy behind it. The Times leads with "Fury grows as expenses row minister clings to job". Mr Cameron decided to put a protective arm around Mrs Miller. Quite why is a curiosity. The consensus at Westminster is that she is a terrible minister, rude to colleagues and staff, temperamental, indecisive, and out of her depth. Even those in No10 admit it. But Mr Cameron has a loyal streak - which in many ways is to his credit - and he has resolved that he will never give in to the hue and cry. Great, except he's now stuck with the headlines we read today. There wasn't much enthusiasm for Mrs Miller on the Tory benches: no "hear hears", no shows of affection. And the rumour is that she will be rewarded by being sent to Wales at the reshuffle.
The Labour leader visited the Guardian yesterday, autographed copies, and also posed for a selfie with various groovy Labour types including Emma Thompson. He said the general election was Labour's to win, and would be close. He has been unsettled by Steve Richards' revelation in the New Statesman that Mr Miliband's staff are trying to keep his morale up by applauding him when he comes back from his speeches. Ed Balls meanwhile is leading the fightback: ahead of this weekend's extension of the personal allowance - George Osborne's tax cut (or was it Nick Clegg's?) for millions of people - the shadow chancellor is presenting figures to show that the average family will in fact be £974 a year worse off by the next election.
The cigarette packaging ban caused a lot of anger on the Tory benches. It's reflected across the papers. Conservative MPs can't stand the suggestion that the party of freedom is stopping people killing themselves. It may seem a trivial issue - the Telegraph suggests that along with dumping the badger cull and selling off NHS data it was an announcement deliberately buried by Mrs Miller's announcement - but these things have a way of producing a delayed reaction. In Tory terms, pity Jeremy Hunt: ministers were quick to point out discreetly yesterday that there is now smoke coming out of his leadership ambitions - some Tories will remember that he did an un-Tory thing. WHOSE SIDE IS THE TREASURY ON?
George Osborne has laid into the FCA for its handling of the inquiry into the insurance industry announcement. The Telegraph broke the story, the markets panicked, the insurance companies complained they were blind-sided, and now the Chancellor is cross.Our leader suggests he should worry less about process than public anger, and the FCA shouldn't allow itself "to be browbeaten" before its work has begun. And what's this on p3 of the FT? "Trade body was briefed on probe". Sam Fleming reveals that, far from being in the dark, the insurance industry - specifically its trade body - was briefed by the FCA on the planned review weeks before the Telegraph's report.LABOUR'S PLANS FOR THE TRAINS
Would an Ed Miliband government renationalise the railways? The Labour leader certainly sounded open to the prospect when he called for "innovative solutions when it comes to the railways" yesterday, attacking the Coalition for "dogmatically wanting to privatise East Coast", as the Guardian records. Mr Miliband also had praise for Sir David Higgins, and reaffirmed that Labour would support the hybrid bill for the construction of the first stage of HS2.
Jeremiah Cable's warnings about an imminent housing bubble make the front page of The Indy. In an interview with the paper, Vince says that home ownership has become "unaffordable" to those on middle incomes and another bubble could be brewing - "A recovering mortgage market is just fuelling demand again." The Business Secretary also picks a fight with another Coalition colleague: "I do not agree with Kris Hopkins that rising house prices are a good thing", he says. "If you are a young family trying to get into the housing market and it is unaffordable, it is an extremely bad thing". Tory ministers would be annoyed but, for many, it has reached the stage where no intervention from Vince is capable of surprise.
We wish the very best of luck to Ed Balls who, as The Times diary records, sat his Grade 3 piano exam yesterday. How'd it go? "The sight-reading test was hard," the Shadow Chancellor said. But Mr Balls has another nervous wait, too: the Indy reports that Robert Chote says time is running out for the OBR to audit Labour's manifesto before the general election. "My current expectation is that window [of opportunity] is likely to shut before there is agreement simply on the basis of where the parties are at the moment," Mr Chote says. The full interview with him is here.
The Morning Briefing is edited by Tim WigmoreFollow Tim on Twitter  
The end of the budget bounce?
Latest YouGov poll: Con 32%, Lab 38%, Ukip 13%; Lib Dems 10%
All in a night's work:
@chhcalling: The grim reaper came for me last night, but I fought his off with a vacuum cleaner. Talk about Dyson with death! 
In the Telegraph
Fraser Nelson - The British Muslim is truly one among us – and proud to be so
Jeremy Warner - Don’t blame the wealth gap on market forces
David Blair - To prevent another Rwanda, all it takes is a few well-trained troops
Telegraph View - Maria Miller should say sorry to taxpayers
Best of the rest
Philip Collins - You can read this. Everyone should be able to
Simon Jenkins - Nigel Farage – a natural Tory on course to drive the Tories from power
Daily Mail leader - Madame Fifi and a very public humbling
Steve Richards - The mood around Ed Miliband is one of paranoia and suspicion. It’s time to clear the air
30th anniversary of eviction of Greenham Common peace women. 
Prince Harry to visit the new Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park with Boris.
Ukip councillor due in court over electoral malpractice allegations, Norwich.
9.30am Reopening of storm-damaged rail line at Dawlish in Devon.
11.45am Comedian Eddie Izzard hosts press conference on his campaign to keep Scotland in the UK. He will be joined by Better Together leader Alistair Darling to launch "Scotland, Please Don't Go".