Thursday, 31 July 2014

A flash of ankle..

Ned Simons' profile of Nicky Morgan has reminded me of one of her more perceptive observations about politics: "It's 80% how you say something and only a tiny percentage is about what you actually say."
That is an important thing to remember this morning. The Conservatives are on the offensive today - "there are only two certainties in life - death and Labour putting up taxes", Grant Shapps writes in the Express this morning. Andy Burnham's loose talk about a "death tax" overshadowed Ed Balls' speech yesterday, and the fallout dominated the Shadow Chancellor's appearance on LBC Radio as well. In the Mail,Daniel Martin has got hold of recordings of two further Labour bigwigs - onetime Ed guru Lord Glasman and opposition frontbencher Lisa Nandy - voicing their support for an estates levy. "Tax the dead" is Lord Glasman's helpful gag - one can see why Ed prefers Thomas Piketty these days. (Take a look at Chris Mason's explainer on why secret tapes are playing an increasing prominent role in political news.)
Meanwhile, Dave has flashed a bit of ankle as far as the 40p rate is concerned, much to the excitement of Fleet Street. The PM would "love" to be able to raise the threshold on a band that is now catching an ever-growing number of middle-income earners in a tax band originally intended for the rich, he says, but he can't promise anything just yet. At last, our leader cheers, there is "clear blue water" between spendthrift Ed and tax-cutter Dave. 
The reality is that, for all Team Ed might prefer to grow the state while Team Dave's instinct is to spread the wealth, the parlous state of the public finances may well mean that there isn't the money for the tax cut that the PM craves, while the feared "death tax" is not going to become Labour policy, no matter what some of that party's frontbenchers may want. But tone, as Ms Morgan notes, matters: and the PM's flash of leg may end up doing him a power of good.  
In his column today, James Forsyth gives Dave the chilling reminder that he could yet end up on the scrapheap two years before he turns 50; even this notoriously relaxed PM can't help but be a little troubled by that prospect as he heads on his holiday. He should stay that way; as one Conservative bigwig remarks: "I have never known a Prime Minister more adept at getting out of scrapes. But I have never known a Prime Minister who got into so many scrapes." The scrap over Baroness Stowell was yet another example of Team Dave's tendency to drift into avoidable crises - Dave needs to shape up if he's to avoid the sad fate of a one-term PM. But, James reminds us, the battle in May 2015 is nothing to the struggle to save the Union. Charlie Kennedy is the latest heavyweight  to pitch in - who will issue a warning to rural Scots about the cost of independence in a speech in his constituency.
It's the fight of the century. Chris Grayling will warn that voters will be £5,500 a year worse off under Labour in a speech later today, Peter Dominiczak and Steven Swinford report"Red Len Plans Will Cost You £5,500" is the Sun's disappointingly straight take on the speech. It's all because Ed Miliband will agree to a "shopping list of demands" from Len McCluskey, which include tax rises and benefit hikes, according to Mr Grayling. Meanwhile, Labour's Emma Reynolds is next up to bat for Labour with a speech warning that homebuyers will need an average deposit of £72,000 after five more years of that man David Cameron.
Owen Jones has done a lovely interview with retiring Labour MP Frank Dobson that deserves rather better than the headlines it will get. (If you click one link today, etc.) Those headlines, though: Ed's inner circle are "not of sufficient quality and clarity", while Labour needs a message boiled down to "a few simple short sharp concepts and say them time and time and time again". Oh, and "it's no good thinking you can convince the public with a lecture that you might deliver to some postgraduate thing at All Souls". NO CHAIRS LEFT FOR AUNTIE
The hunt for a new chairman for the BBC Trust is a "mess", Greg Dyke says, as Michael Portillo and former Sony chief executive Sir Howard Stringer become the latest names to say "thanks but no thanks". The number of BBC refuseniks has now climbed to nine, Steven Swinford and Anita Singh report. It's because no-one expects that role to survive the Royal Charter review in 2016, Mr Dyke says. That the eventual candidate will now be seen as not just a second but a tenth-best option can't help much, either.
Ukip's parliamentary candidate for Wells, Jake Baynes, and his branch chairman, Graham Livings, have resigned from the party, claiming that the local party has been taken over by the "Glastonbury occult crowd". They've fallen out with local Ukip activists Glen and Colleen Tucker, who run the Angelic Guidance and Healing Centre in Glastonbury. Mrs Tucker, who is the county treasurer for Ukip, desribes herself as an "angelic reiki master, soul midwife and shaman", and says she works with the Archangel Michael. "If Ukip is trying to shake off this fruitcake image thing, we're not doing a good job of it," Mr Baynes told the GuardianThe Morning Briefing is written by Stephen Bush, who tweets as@stephenkb. Our cartoon is the work of Christian Adams; you can see his cartoons on Instagram.
POLL OF POLLS31.07.14Poll of polls 24th to 31st July, Labour lead of four points (ComRes-Populus-YouGov)
From the Telegraph

Tom Chivers - Please shut up and stop telling rape victims what kind of rape is the worst
Padraig Reidy - The 'right to be forgotten' is a disaster for human knowledge
Dan Hodges - Labour is mad to pick a fight with the Tories on tax
James Kirkup 
Bankers don't deserve our grapes of wrathBest of the Rest
Chris Mason - Why politicians keep falling foul of secret recordings (BBC)Ned Simons - Could an Education Secretary charged with winning hearts and minds make it to Number 10?
Owen Jones - Frank Dobson: Labour needs to be 'knocking lumps off' this government (Guardian)AGENDA
1000 LONDON: The Mayor of London visits a cancer charity in Croydon and a sobriety scheme in Sutton.
1200 NOTTINGHAM: Emma Reynolds delivers speech on housing.