Good morning. Does Ed Miliband know how bad things are? Today's YouGov poll brings a measure of respite as Labour return to a narrow lead (they're on 35% to the Conservatives' 32%). Even that should make grim reading for Team Miliband, though - just 19% of voters think that Ed Miliband would make the best Prime Minister. 95% of Conservative voters think that Dave would make the best PM - just 58% of Labour voters think the same of Mr Miliband.
But, as I blogged yesterday, Ed Miliband looks, sounds and behaves like a man at the top of his game and relishing the fray. But his situation, and Labour's, is terrible, and getting worse. His policies - rent controls, price freezes and Pfizer's bid for AstraZeneca - are short-term tactical stunts without credibility.
The party, however, is worried. The feud between Douglas Alexander and Ed Balls - never that far from the surface - has broken out again.The Times reports that David Axelrod is to give Ed Miliband a makeover to improve his appearances on television. It may already be too late. It appears that, even in Labour London, the party is paring back its ambitions. Sadiq Khan - who himself fears for his seat - has dropped Tory-held Barnet from Labour's list of targets. Parliamentary candidates further down the target list have long been sceptical of what one called the "36% strategy" - where Labour diehards and Liberal defectors are topped up by an extra percentage point of Tory defectors won on the doorstep - and are now finding resources are being pulled from their seats as the focus shifts from a Labour majority and towards being the largest party.
That is the backdrop to Medhi Hasan's article in this week's New Statesman; Labour has gone from arguing about how to win a majority to whether or not it should govern as a minority or with the help of the Liberal Democrats. All of which is to put the cart before a horse that may well have bolted.
HAPPY RECESS, WAR IS OVER?
Funny thing, politics. In fact, sometimes it's downright hilarious. Today offers a classic of the genre, a joint op-ed by Michael Gove and David Laws in the Times under the headline "We are not at war over free school lunches". No, wait, really. According to the p2 story, the article was "demanded" by Nick Clegg as a price for a truce brokered with David Cameron after several days of tit-for-tat leaks. Many will study this as evidence that Mr Cameron has sat on his friend Mr Gove. And as the head who appeared on Today earlier explained, there are genuine gaps in funding. But I can just imagine Dominic Cummings reading out extracts of the piece over the breakfast table and howling with laughter: "the policy that we are rumoured to be at loggerheads about" ha ha ha ha ha! "is that rarest of political treasures: a policy that has true cross party support." Stop! I can't bear it! "We are confident the policy will be delivered on time and on budget." Please! Ha ha! Too much! "Neither of us believe in policy making simply to secure headlines." Ho ho ho ho. "We are certainly both" - both! - "passionate advocates of this policy and, working together, we are determined to ensure its successful delivery". Chokes.
DAVE'S SCOTTISH SORTIE
David Cameron heads for Glasgow today for an overnight visit to Scotland. The Prime Minister is taking advice on his role from Better Together - as I wrote earlier in the week "he knows what he doesn't know about Scotland" - but is anxious to get stuck in to the referendum campaign. His involvement will step up after the Euros next week. He may not be popular as Tory leader but as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom he has a voice and Scots would find it odd if he stayed out. Indeed, it was his flying visit to Aberdeen that was held against him. This time he's there for longer, and has prepared the ground. There's a brief oped in the Sun: "Cam on…let's stick together". It's an upbeat message - "Scotland puts the Great into Great Britain" - which has been briefed across the papers. He makes a point of evoking the memory of John Smith, who died 20 years ago as the Telegraph reports. As the Mail puts it, he is the good cop to George Osborne's bad cop before the Scottish Affairs Committee yesterday, where he hammered the message about Scotland being stripped off the pound if it voted Yes. Alex Salmond has welcomed Mr Cameron by saying Scotland would "never elect people like him to govern people like us". Given that whiff of ethnic nastiness, the FT helpfully details the SNP leader's recent gaffes.
DENY FARAGE THREE TIMES, TORIES TOLD
It's all hands to the pump in Newark. Tory MPs have been told they must visit the market town at least three times in the run-up to the by-election on June 5. The aim is to hand Ukip a heavy defeat and put a quick end to any European blues. The really interesting thing, as I wrote yesterday, is what it reveals about the growing unity of purpose in the Conservative ranks.
NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWSThere won't be a hike in interest rates before the election. Mark Carney believes that the recovery is still too fragile to end the flow of cheap money quite yet. Meanwhile, the public are more optimistic about the economy than at any point in the last thirt-six years according to the Ipsos Mori's Economic Optimism Index. 53% of people surveyed expect the economy to get better over the year ahead compared with just 18% who expect it to get worse.
APRÈS MOI, LE DELUGE
The government's migration target is not on course, Anna Soubry told the World At One. The defence minister's remark will raise hackles at the Home Office, who will also notice that Yvette Cooper is on the warpath (she's written for the Mirror today). With so much good news, immigration remains one of the few items in the government's in-tray with the possibility to disrupt Conservative momentum.
UKIP'S COUNCILLORS, A YEAR ON
A year ago, Ukip won 139 seats and a quarter of the vote in the local election. Ukip's class of 2013 has the highest attendance rating of any party, but have also been the cause of controversy throughout the year.The Guardian looks into their first year in office. was so convinced he would win that he didn't turn up to the count and Andy Moore, the former Liberal Democrat who was censured for making a remark about Carina Trimingham's legs.
AUSTIN MITCHELL DIGS IN
Austin Mitchell's description of Pfizer as "rapists" has drawn an angry response. He's refused to apologise, and Nicky Morgan has written a letter asking Ed Miliband what he intends to do about the affair. Also asking questions of the Labour leader is LabourList editor Mark Ferguson, who has called for Mr Mitchell to apologise or lose the whip.
WHAT'S VINCE UP TO?
Vince Cable has urged for staff on zero-hours contracts to be given the right to request a fixed-hours contract. It puts Mr Cable into further alignment with the Labour leader and will set tongues wagging. It also puts the Business Secretary to the left of Nick Clegg shortly before what is expected to be a difficult few weeks for the DPM.The Morning Briefing is edited by Stephen Bush. You can followStephen on Twitter.
Latest YouGov poll.
Con 32%, Lab 35%, LD 10%, UKIP 13%TWEETS & TWITS
Last day before the recess and Kerry McCarthy is checking her favourites. Who says MPs don't know how to party?
@KerryMP: Just looking back through my Twitter 'favourites'. They're awesome,
In the Telegraph
Peter Oborne - British politics is broken - and only Nigel Farage is profiting
Allison Pearson - Girls everywhere need protecting from Islamists
Telegraph View - Glory in defeat
Best of the Rest
James Forsyth - War on Gove
David Aaronovitch - Free speech must trump the right to privacy
1100 LONDON: Electoral Commission releases regular party donations figures.
1800 LONDON: Sadiq Khan speech on tackling race inequality at Operation Black Vote.1330 LONDON: William Hague hosts Friends of Syria Meeting, attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry and representatives of Syrian opposition. Meeting opens at 0930. Press conference at 1415.