Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Is Ukip slipping..

BREAKING: David Cameron has just finished speaking on the Today programme. There are unlikely to be many headlines so the PM will consider it job done. His pledge to do more on extradition times will play well with the faithful. His robust defence of Help to Buy - "for people who can make mortgage payments but not afford a deposit" - went well. He cast it as the heir to Margaret Thatcher's right to buy. The DPM had thoughtfully left a bear trap with his remarks about Eurosceptics as patriots, but that went off without anything that will set the cat amongst the pigeons. Then came the question of whether or not he should resign in the event of a Yes vote. Dave ruled it out - "the vote's about one thing" he said, and he described resisting or delaying a referendum as potentially "disastrous" for the United Kingdom.  

Good morning. The pounding of Ukip continues, and Tories will say that it is having an effect. YouGov in the Sun has the party down to second place behind Labour - the numbers are C21, L28, LD10, Ukip24, Green12. That said, the same poll gives Ukip 11pc at Westminster, which is uncomfortable for the Tories. But what CCHQ will want to know is whether there is a chance Ukip might not come first when results are announced on Sunday night, which would be a triumph of expectation management (for the Tories) and a disaster for Nigel Farage, who can't rely on just beating the Conservatives - he has to top the poll. CCHQ will also study the numbers for evidence that the sustained attack on Ukip is having an effect. We should point out that an Opinium poll in the Mail puts Ukip first - C20 L29 LD5 Ukip31 Green5.

It would be surprising if the pounding wasn't having an effect. Look across the papers today: Roger Helmer "attacking" a disabled man in Newark is there, complete with pictures in the Mail and Times; David Lammy leading various Labour luminaries in accusing Ukip of racism gets coverage; the Sun reproduces its Two Face Farage image, and carries a story accusing Ukip of "Exploiting our heroes" by using images of war graves on its leaflets (its leader reveals Mr Farage "is no longer talking to us - we're not sure why". Lemme guess...). The FT meanwhile reports on a Scotsman poll that suggests the Yes vote would benefit if England votes for Ukip. Best line though is from David Cameron himself, who has told the Mail that Ukip's candidates and donors hold "appalling" views and are "frankly unpleasant".  

In my column I've picked up on Mr Cameron's point about the "politics of anger". Defying the collective pessimism that Mr Farage trades on is the biggest challenge politicians face. Voter anger is blinding them to what's working, and the inescapable fact that the United Kingdom remains a remarkable success. Ukip supporters are furious at the way Mr Farage is being targeted. The party's activists complain they are being unfairly traduced. What we can't know yet is whether undecided voters who see the unflattering reports of Ukip's views and personalities will conclude that the party is not for them, or, encouraged by a general disillusionment with politics, will start to think that Ukip are the underdogs, in need of support.

Page 4 of the FT has that rare thing; a second day story for a Labour policy announcement. But what's this? "Business unhappy with Miliband's wage pledge"is the headline. The British Chambers of Commerce, IOD director-general Simon Walker, the Federation of Small Businesses, the EEF Manufacturers Association and the CBI's Katja Hall have all voiced their opposition to the move. Vince Cable has a different take:"Labour is advocating what we're already doing.". The Mail's leader points out that under Ed Miliband, the minimum wage would actually be lower than it is at present. Our leader describes it as a classic of the Miliband playbook: identify a problem, devise a populist solution, and hand someone else the bill. "But," we add, "if anything, his plans have grown less convincing.". The Labour leader may shrug off this comment from the right wing press as par for the course, but there's more woe in the Indy. A ComRes poll finds that 40% of voters say that Mr Miliband makes them less likely to vote Labour; more worrying than the 28% of Labour voters who agree are the two out of five Lib Dem switchers who say they are supporting Labour in spite of its leader. The 35% strategy may need some work.
Not all Liberal Democrats yearn for a second coalition.  Tim Farron has put himself on a collision course with Nick Clegg, who has previously rejected calls for the Liberals to seek a confidence and supply arrangement, by suggesting that the DPM should keep his options open. Ruling out minority government, Mr Farron says, is like "lying on the floor with jam and butter on ourselves, saying 'butter me up!'". 

The "wagons are beginning to circle", one senior figure tells the Guardian's Nicholas Watt. The good news is, they're circling protectively. As I blogged last week, even the previously implacable anti-Cameroons are coming on side as the good economic news, the promise of an In/Out referendum,  and the narrowing polls all contribute to a renewed good feeling in the Tory camp. It's not all clear skies: many of the troublemakers say they are simply keeping their powder dry until 2017. 

AstraZeneca's rejection of the Pfizer bid has come at a heavy price - close to £7bn and a number of shareholders have their noses bent out of shape - but it's good news for Downing Street. The mooted takeover would have taken at least a year to complete and any negative consequences would have been laid squarely at Dave's door. The collapse of Pfizer's proposal has spiked Chuka Umunna's guns - and it might give Labour cause to consider that mostly, shareholders have a pretty good idea of what's best for their businesss.
The Greens are on the march in Europe. It's because of fracking, says their leader, Natalie Bennett, in today's FT. Maybe, maybe not: but if the Greens do finish above the Liberals, the "green cr*p" could make its way back onto the Coalition's agenda.
A Scot is back in Number 10.  Dave has hired a Scottish nanny after the departure of his long-serving Nepalese nanny, Gita Lima, on maternity leave. The hope is that it will show how important the Union is to the PM - but the image of a Scot serving Mr Cameron may not have the resonance Downing Street hopes.

Morning Briefing is edited by Stephen Bush. You can follow him on Twitter here. 
Latest YouGov poll:
Con 33%, Lab 37%, LD 9%, UKIP 11%

Out on the doorstep, Karl McCartney is already looking forward to the end of the day: 
@KarlMcCartney: Post deliveries good to see many candidates in Sth of City out canvassing before meeting up with @RupertMatthews for BBQ and catch-up+drink!

In the Telegraph
Best of the Rest
0930 LONDON: ONS announces inflation figures for April.
0930 LONDON: Exams regulator Ofqual to publish statistics on entries for this year's GCSEs and iGCSESs.