Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Don't shoot the messenger..

Ed Miliband's policies are "a steaming pile of fudge". His leadership is "totally dysfunctional", he "has managed to blend the worst of Blair's 'me against the world' isolation with the worst of Brown's 'they're out to get me' paranoia". His team lurch from one ill-advised photo op to another, "and when that doesn't work, worst of all, Ed is wheeled out to deny that any of this image-manipulation is taking place; saying that he's not interested in PR or photo opportunities. This is a colossal mistake." It can only mean one thing: that man Damian McBride is back, with an exclusive extract from the paperback edition of his tell-all memoir in the Mail, and this time, he's pulled no punches as far as the Labour leadership is concerned.
As you would expect, Labour is spitting blood, in private as well as in public. Those who feel that Ed's office requires an injection of talent if Labour is to prevail next year are, if anything, even crosser than the "steady as she goes" brigade. There's little chance of change now, particularly because the extract appears in the hated Mail. And as ever with Mr McBride's public interventions, one gets the unmistakable sense of him sitting in a darkened room somewhere, gently scratching names off an enemies' list. 
But ignore the messenger and focus on the message - does he have a point? Ed Miliband's policies are popular enough, says Mr McBride,  but they "rarely stand up to scrutiny". And it's true that when the cheering stops after one of Ed's announcements, what's left is a frowning wonk and a grinning lawyer. Meanwhile, Ed Balls' plans pass the "FT test", but go "entirely unnoticed in the pub". And it's difficult to find many people in, say, Swindon North, who are waxing lyrical over the benefits of a National Infrastructure Commission, despite all the approval they might attract from elite opinion.
And as for that "colossal mistake" AKA last Friday's speech? To the extent that it's changed the conversation at all, it seems to have had the effect that every critique of him now begins with some variation on "Ed Miliband thinks his problem is that he's a weirdo. Actually his problem is..." (Hugo RifkindSteve Richards and Janan Ganesh all have good entries in that emerging genre this morning) 
A traitor? Possibly. Desperately unhelpful? Most definitely. But the trouble for Labour is that there's a distinct possibility that Damian McBride is right.  

David Cameron has announced further reductions to the ability of EU migrants to claim out-of-work benefits in an article for today's Telegraph. In addition to the three-month wait before European migrants can claim out-of-work benefits, the PM has announced that they will only be able to claim for three months before those benefits are cut off,  "unless they had very clear job prospects". It's widely reported -"Cameron's immigration crackdown" is our splash. What took you so long, asks Yvette Cooper "It's been almost a year and a half since Labour called for benefit restrictions," she says, adding, "the government should get a grip and finally implement Labour's proposals."
The European Union has reached agreement on tougher - so-called 'Tier 3' - sanctions against Vladimir Putin's Russia in the wake of the MH17 crash. It's widely reported and is being seen as a sign that the EU is finally getting a grip. But hang about, says our leader. These sanctions seem to fall awfully heavily on the City of London, hurting Britain while leaving the Russian energy trade that underpins their supremacy: "Europe needs to spell out what its objectives are, while avoiding steps that lead to a new Cold War, or worse. That means talking directly and firmly to Putin with a clear goal in sight – and without the strident grandstanding that ends up punishing us more than him." THE SIGNAL AND THE NOISE
"Labour heading for election win - in spite of Miliband's unpopularity"says Andy Grice in the Indy.  Their new ComRes poll has the Tories on 27% and Labour on 33%. But what's this? "Labour lead over Tories cut to just two per cent" is Chris Hope's story in the Telegraph. Lord Ashcroft's latest has the Conservatives on 32% and Labour on 34%. Times' splash. Remember Twyman's Law: if a poll is interesting, it's probably wrong. Note too the continuing unreliability of the Ashcroft polls - while the ComRes result looks more freakish it's actually just the result of a 3% drop in Tory support and a 1% uptick in the Labour vote - both within the margin of error. The latest from Lord Ashcroft shows a 5% increase in the Tory vote from last week. It's the shares, not the gap, that tell the real story of a poll - and Lord Ashcroft's are still all over the place.
Uh-oh! The House of Lords isn't happy that Baroness Stowell, the new Leader of the Lords, hasn't been accorded the status of a full Cabinet minister - they say it devalues the status of the House, as she won't have a vote in Cabinet. (How frequently are matters of government decided by votes in Cabinet exactly?) The Baroness says that she doesn't need a pay rise to stand up for the peers: "I'm an independent woman and a single lady. My noble Lords might want to think of me as the Beyonce of your Lordships' House."
Ukip's coffers have been boosted by sales of Ukip umbrellas, silk ties, pewter necklaces in the shape of a pound sign, cufflinks, and, inevitably, tote bags, Georgia Graham reports.
Labour's summer offensive continues. Andy Burnham will call for a moratorium on all new contracts between hospitals and the private sector until after the election, the Indy reports. "NHS spending on private and other providers has gone through the £10 billion barrier for the first time," he will say, "When did the British public ever give their consent for this?"
The hunt for a new BBC chairman goes on. Lord Coe has ruled himself out, the Sun reports.
The Conservatives have launched a new website this morning -justnotuptoit.com. It's an interactive map of various locations where Labour grandees have slagged off that man Miliband or his message. Will all this Ed-bashing just make them look mean? That said, I thought the same thing about the treatment of John Kerry in the 2004 presidential elections, and Dubya won.  The 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 POLLS29.07.14     Poll of polls 22nd to 29th July, Labour lead of four points (ComRes-Populus-YouGov)
Don't mess with the Lords:
@StevetheQuip: This evening wasn't just a defeat for PM, it was a humiliation. Good though to hear plenty of support for the incumbent leader Bns Stowell.
From the Telegraph
David Cameron - We're building an immigration system that puts Britain first
Cathy Newman - What Yvette Cooper should have said
Tim Bale - The recovery might not deliver David Cameron a majority in 2015. Here's whyJames Kirkup - The flight of the political bumblebeesBest of the Rest
Hugo Rifkind - It's not how you look, Ed. It's how you think (Times)Janan Ganesh - Ed Miliband's talk of big ideas makes for risky politics (FT)
0900: Andy Burnham speech on the NHS.
0930: Bank of England releases its Money and Credit report for June.
1400 LONDON: Launch of ResPublica report on banking. Virtuous Banking: Placing ethos and purpose at the heart of banking.
1530 LONDON: - The Mayor of London attends the Safer Lorries Consultation Launch.
1830 LONDON:  The Mayor of London delivers a speech on air quality at the AQ awards 2014.