Friday, 20 June 2014

The Miliband problem..

The last two World Cups have been marked by changes of the guard in the Labour leadership - the 2006 coup that forced Tony Blair's resignation, the 2010 leadership election that saw Ed Miliband installed as party leader. The problem for Labour is that they are highly unlikely to make it a hat-trick in 2014.
Mr Miliband doesn't read the papers of course, but if he did, he would put the Times down awfully quickly today. "Miliband is not up to top job, say voters" is their splash.  A YouGov poll for Prospect finds that 60% of voters believe he is "not up to the job" of being Prime Minister. The voting intention figures will provide little comfort to the Labour leader - Conservatives 34%, Labour 38% are the key numbers. When you look at the figures from this day in 2009 - Conservatives 40% Labour 24% - you begin to understand why Labour MPs are starting to get the jitters. (One has gloomily forecast a Tory majority of 10 to 20 seats according to George Eaton)
The hope is that Ed Miliband's "Condition of Britain" speech will prove a shot in the arm to the party. What's been trailed - and makes pretty much all the papers - looks like movement in the right direction, with tougher language on welfare and the economy. But here's the thing - it looks suspiciously like the policy that was trailed in the Telegraph late last year and was swiftly ditched  in the wake of a hostile response from Labour's activist base. Ed Miliband will almost certainly be the Labour leader until the next election - whether today's policy announcements last past next week is an altogether stickier question.  

Travel light, and carry a smartphone. That's the advice issued to would-be-jihadists leaving Britain to join Isis via social media, the Times reveals. As we digest David Cameron's warning yesterday that the problems in Iraq will not stay there, James Forsyth makes a chilling point in today's Spectator: the same security services that were blindsided by the Isis surge in Iraq are the ones that are supposed to be monitoring the flow of British-born jihadis returning from Syria and Iraq. It suggests that our ability to monitor and prevent Isis fighters returning to Britain and carrying out as domestic terrorism is not as advanced or as foolproof as we might wish.
David Cameron struck a defiant note in the Commons yesterday, vowing to fight Jean-Claude Juncker's bid to become head of the European Commission "to the very end". Privately, Mr Cameron is furious that neither Matteo Renzi, Italy's box-fresh premier, or Angela Merkel, turned their private doubts about Mr Juncker into concrete action ("Merky dealings" is the Sun's rib-splitter), and he intends to make his feelings public by forcing a vote on the issue at the Brussels summit next week.  James Kirkup's take on  it all is that the PM knows he's going to lose, and figures that he might as well lose as publicly and noisily as possible, in the hopes that he'll get marks for effort if not outcome.

Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock's apology to a vulnerable constituent, "Annie", is everywhere today. Mr Hancock was suspended from the Liberal Democrats while the case was ongoing and I understand that while he will now be stripped of the whip permanently, he is unlikely to step down. Although the prospect of Mr Hancock continuing on in the Commons is one that few will relsih, the reality is that a by-election is in no-one's interest. Labour is nowhere in the constituency - they've finished third in every election there since 1983 - but it's another opportunity for them to embarrasses themselves. The seat is a Conservative target and the Tories were striking a predictably bullish tone last night, but don't forget that Ukip picked up six council seats in the local elections, and anything which throws up the opportunity for them to take the limelight again is bad news for Team Dave.

Ruh-oh! Trouble warning. In today's New Statesman, George Eaton reports a set-to between Harriet Harman and Douglas Alexander after Monday's meeting of the PLP. Ms Harman was heard to berate Mr Alexander over the deficit of women in Labour's inner circle. It's not the first time that the deputy leader has been heard voicing criticisms of Labour's campaign chief, but usually there's the an electoral disappointment to explain away. That hostilities are breaking out even in a relatively quiet period bodes ill for Labour's internal discipline.
Andy Haldane, the Bank of England's chief economist, has increased expectations of an early rise in interest rates. Making his first remarks on the issue in public during a speech in Scarborough, Mr Haldane suggested that an early rise would keep the Bank on "the front foot" rather than having to react "fast and furiously" in the event of a crisis -you can read the FT's take on it here - although the rest of the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee appeared united as the MPC confirmed its belief that there is a good chance of rate rise before the end of the year, subject to economic conditions. Vince Cable, however, fears that an an early rise in interest rates could put the recovery in jeopardy - "Cable: Don't raise interest rates" is the Telegraph's splash - while there are fears amongst some in the pro-Union side that a rate rise that suits London may imperil the Scottish economy, and hand a surprise victory to the Yes campaign.
Nigel Farage has seen off the Conservatives' attempt to dismantle his Freedom and Democracy group in the European Parliament. The Tories hoped to force Mr Farage to either forgo up to €14m in funding that comes with being part of a political group - hence their successful wooing of the True Finns and the Danish People's Party, who will now sit alongside Tory MEPs in the European Conservatives and Reformists group - but the Ukip leader has been able to rebuild his bloc's strength thanks in large part to the support of comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo and his Five Star Movement. It remains to be seen whether some of the odder members of Mr Farage's group - which now includes a Latvian farmers' representative and two far-right Swedes - may cause him any reputational harm over the next year.

The Morning Briefing is written by Stephen Bush. You can follow him on Twitter or Instagram.
Oh dear. It's all too much for the Telegraph's Irony-meter, this one:
@georgegalloway: Watching Paxo's last hurrah. Is Boris actually mad? How could such a preposterous popinjay be elected Mayor of a great city like London?
YouGov latest:
Con 34%, Lab 38%, LD 7%, UKIP 13%
In the Telegraph
Lord Powell - The West will pay for losing its backboneColin Freedman - Saddam is still the real villain, not Blair
Peter Oborne - There's a whiff of sleaze coming from Mr Hague's Foreign Office
David Blair - When the Iraq crisis passes, the Kurds will be the big winnersBest of the Rest
Tim Montgomerie - Maggie's disciples don't really understand her
George Eaton - Stuck on a burning platform, with no money to give away, Labour is turning radical
0930: Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) releases its gross mortgage lending figures for May.
1000 LONDON: Press conference ahead of June 21 People's Assembly march against austerity. Speakers include broadcaster and journalist Owen Jones, MP Jeremy Corbyn, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman and Lindsey German of Stop the War.
1030 LONDON: Ed Miliband speech at IPPR Condition of Britain book launch. Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6LA.
1100 LONDON: Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speech. Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, 10 St James's Square London, SW1Y 4LE.
1500 LONDON: David Cameron speeech to Global Dementia Legacy Event at the Guildhall.