Monday, 7 July 2014

Spoiler alert..

Has Nigel Farage run out of time? Ukip's bandwagon was meant to rumble on for another year, eventually depositing Mr Farage - and hopefully one or two others - into the Commons as Ukip's first elected parliamentarians. (Don't forget that Dr Bob Spink briefly sat as a Ukip MP after defecting from the Conservatives in 2008.) 
Then the wheels fell off in Newark and now Mr Farage faces another obstacle. Craig Mackinlay (Ukip's leader in 1997 and deputy leader 1997-2000) has been selected in South Thanet as the Conservative Party candidate. The selection of a staunch Eurosceptic makes it harder for Mr Farage to justify putting his hat in the ring - although don't forget that European affairs don't excite Ukip's voters half as much as their activists. 
Mr Mackinlay, for his part, says that it would be "ridiculous" for Mr Farage to stand against him. Ukip figures, meanwhile, say it's unlikely to deter Mr Farage from fighting the Kent seat. There is a bigger concern for Mr Farage and the People's Army, though. Remember that this summer was meant to see the party weaning itself off its dependency on Mr Farage, with the likes of Diane James and Suzanne Evans given a bigger role. That hasn't, as yet, happened. 

More troublingly, for all the highfalutin talk of a "targeting strategy", the party seems not to have worked out where to focus its time and its money in 2015. Remember that Lord Ashdown was selected to fight Yeovil, the seat he would turn into a virtual one-party state, in 1976 - he didn't take it until 1983. Eleven months before the election, Ukip lacks standard-bearers, both on the national scene, where Mr Farage has all but vanished, and in the seats where the party must make in-roads if it is to play any meaningful role in British politics other than that of a spoiler.    

£2 billion a year will be given out to the regions in a series of "growth deals" invested in transport, housing and training across England, ministers will announce today in a series of public events. Better road links and faster broadband are among the promised innovations. Crucially, the funds have been proposed by local enterprise partnerships working with local businesses. It's some way short of the £15 billion proposed by Lord Heseltine, the FT observes.  But, Tories note, the schemes have been driven by local businesses and local enterprise, unlike Labour's  £6bn proposals -outlined by Ed Miliband in the Guardian - which are focussed strongly on town halls.NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH
Nick Clegg's promise of a free school lunch for all four- to seven-year-olds has run into difficulty, the Mail reports. Half of schools say they still need upgrades to their kitchens, serving or dining facilities in order to carry out the pledge. One in five primary schools say they will be unable to offer a traditional cooked lunch because they do not have proper kitchens and cannot afford them - they will instead have to use a microwave. Others are planning to begin staggered lunches from 11:30as their dining facilities are not big enough, while some schools will have to serve cold lunches.
Business leaders have been threatened with "retribution" should they speak out against Scottish independence, Auslan Cramb and Clare Newell report. The intimidation is alleged to come from the highest levels of the SNP's administration, including from Alex Salmond's office. Gavin Hewitt of the Scottish Whisky Association says that he believes that Angus Robertson, the SNP's leader in the Commons, was "trying to neuter business comment". The claims are made in a Dispatches documentary, The Great British Break Up?, which will be aired on Channel 4 tonight at 8pmSNOOPER'S CHARTER SEQUEL STUCK IN DEVELOPMENT HELL
Inter-party talks are being held in order to pass a law that allows the authorities to track phone usage ("Ministers push for law to track phone usage" is the Guardian's splash.) An ECJ ruling has invalidated the EU directive previously used to track calls, and the Conservatives appear to have secured support from their coalition partners and Labour for a new law - although both parties are adamant that the new law will not be a retread of the Communications Data Bill or "Snooper's Charter" that was ditched in 2013.
Patients will have to accept reduced services, tax rises, or charges at the point of use, a group of medical professionals and charitable groups has warned in a letter to the Times. They want a "national conversation" about the future of the NHS involving all parties and none.
Advice for Ed Miliband is ten-a-penny in today's papers. Lord Mandelson has warned in an interview with Progress Magazine, the Blairite journal, that Mr Miliband risks repeating the failed Labour strategy of the 1992 election. He argues that the centrist approach favoured by Tony Blair is more relevant than ever with partisan identification at an all time low - the interview is reported widely in the Guardian, Times, Mail and Telegraph. The Sun has a new poll showing that 45% of the voters would be more likely to back him if he adopted a tough line on reducing immigration.
The Labour Party has been accused of giving parents a "slap in the face" after Tristram Hunt refused to condemn striking teachers, Georgia Graham reports. Public sector strikes are planned for Thursday in response to the continuing public sector pay freeze; "Pay Cap Til 2018"is the Sun's headline. The Telegraph's leader's not best-pleased: "all these strikes will do is inconvenience and irritate the general public" is our take  - and the Conservatives feel that the low turnout in the strike ballot renders the industrial action illegitimate. There are plans to include legislation to further reduce the power to strike in the Tory manifesto, the Times reportsTHE UKIP OF THE LEFT?
The Greens are turning into "the Ukip of the left" thanks to the votes of disgruntled ex-Liberals, Sam Coates reports in the Times. The party is campaigning on a policy platform that has many similarities with the Liberal Democrats' 2005 manifesto. Although there is no real prospect of the Greens adding to their parliamentary tally, there are fears in Liberal circles that the Green vote may cost them badly in close contests.
Speaking of the Greens: there have been some questions as to why that party isn't included in our poll of polls. Not all the pollsters prompt for the Greens, which makes calculating their share essentially impossible.
The Morning Briefing is written by Stephen Bush, who tweets as@stephenkb. Our cartoon is the work of the Telegraph's excellent cartoonist Christian Adams; you can view sketches and recent Telegraph cartoons on his Instagram
Hashtag growth? Really?
@GregBarkerMP: Great to be in #Mumbai with @George_Osborne & @WilliamJHague in my role as minister for Business Engagement with #India #investment #Growth
Poll of polls 30th June to 7th July (ComRes-Opinium-Populus-YouGov) Labour lead by three points
In the Telegraph

Bruce Anderson - Have the Conservatives earned the permission to be radical?

Norman Tebbit - Purge those who've undermined democracy
Emma Barnett - Faith should offer answers, but not on the way to work
Martha Gill - I know climate change nuts are annoying, Lord Lawson. But sadly, they're right
Best of the Rest
Owen Jones - Celebrate the strikers this week - they are fighting for us all

Tim Montgomerie - Make it harder to strike. Even union members will benefit
AGENDA1000 CAMBRIDGE: Cambridge University opens up KGB files. KGB files from the famous Mitrokhin Archive are to be opened for the first time.
1030 LONDON: Yvette Cooper launches Labour Women's Safety Commission.
1515 LONDON: Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood gives evidence to Commons Public Administration Committee.
1530 LONDON: Home Secretary Theresa May delivers a Commons statement on allegations of organised child abuse at Westminster in the 1980s.
1815 LONDON: Vince Cable gives evidence to House of Lords EU Committee on women on boards.