Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Juncker bounce..

The latest Ashcroft poll is out - the numbers are Conservatives 33%, Labour 31%, Liberal Democrats 9% Ukip 15%.  Is Dave enjoying the benefits of a Juncker bounce? That's certainly what the papers that make up what Ed Miliband would doubtless call "the right-wing press" think. "Cam's EU Scrap Boost" says the Sun. "The Juncker bounce: Tories establish poll lead over Labour" is Peter Dominiczak's take in today's Telegraph. "The 'Juncker bounce'  has propelled the Tories ahead of Labour in the polls," says James Chapman in the Mail.
I'm not so sure. "The Juncker bounce" in today's Ashcroft survey amounts to a five point boost for the Tories, and I would be frankly astonished if 5% of the country know who Jean-Claude Juncker is. In any case, just as with the Survation poll on last Sunday showing a nine-point Labour lead - Conservatives 27%, Labour 36%, Liberals 7%, Ukip 22%  - these outlandish results appear from time to time, and they should be treated with great caution.
A better measure of the state of the parties is our poll of polls, updated to include new surveys from YouGov, Populus and Comres today.  Labour are down - the numbers are Conservatives 32%, Labour 36%, Liberals 8% and Ukip 17% - but I wouldn't put that down to M Juncker either. I'd suggest that the figures are rather better for the Conservatives, and more troubling for Labour, than that. 
Whether it's the Budget, or the Pfizer saga - during which, let's not forget, Labour made the political weather - when politics comes to the forefront, the Labour lead declines. That suggests that when people start to concentrate on the question of who they want running the country, they decide that it ain't Ed Miliband.  
Len McCluskey kicked off Unite's policy conference yesterday with a tub-thumping speech and a promise of further donations to bolster Labour's campaign warchest (James Kirkup has the story). "Lender Len's Struck Again!" is the Sun's tongue-twister. Mr McCluskey's wearisome rhetoric about bankers, City spivs, and the rest has, our leader notes, "entirely contradicted - and drowned out - Ed Balls' message". The Mail is similarly unimpressed. It raises the familiar question about Labour's media management - surely as broke as they are they can stump up the cash for an event planner? - and the sincerity of Ed Miliband's drive to convince business that he is on their side. And, troublingly for Labour, Unite hasn't made any specific commitments of just how much of its £12m campaign fund will actually go to the election effort - which could make the forthcoming negotiations over the party's manifesto even more fraught.   
"Voters turn away from a Scottish nation state" is the Times' splash this morning, as a new YouGov poll finds support for the Union has grown - the numbers are Yes 35%, No 54%, and Don't Know 9% - leaving Alex Salmond desperately searching for a game-changer. It won't come from shale, that's for sure; a British Geological Survey has found that Scotland's reserves of the stuff are merely "modest" compared to England. Also in the Times is a profile of Better Together, the at-times troubled cross-party effort to keep the United Kingdom together. They've been undermined by Gordon Brown, they've got through three different advertising agencies, and there's lingering hostility between not just the three Unionist parties, but also the London and Scotland branches of the Labour party. Still, their approach - derided by some as overly technocratic - may be just the ticket to win over the undecideds, who are overwhelmingly swayed by the economic argument, not the emotional case for the Union. Those same undecideds - the so-called "middle million" - are featured in today's Guardian
Lord Adonis will unveil proposals today to give new larger city or county regions the power to keep all growth in their business rates income, which they will be able to use to build infrastructure and new housing. Apprenticeships will be increased threefold, while more than a 100 new University Technical Colleges will be created, as will a new "Teach Next" organisation to encourage people in mid-career to teach science and maths, while around £6bn of funds will be devolved from Whitehall. The aim is to create "regional powerhouses", the Labour peer told the Today programme.   
Dave's celebrity soiree went off without a hitch last night - it also went off without many celebrities. Photographs of Tess Daly, Danielle Lineker and Cameron bezzie Helena Bonham Carter dominate much of the coverage - "Girls So Glam For Cam" is the Sun's take - but it's the Times' picture that tells the real story. "Who was invited" says one column, with pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch, Nicole Kidman and Emma Watson, next to "Who turned up": with Ronnie Corbett, flanked by Eliza Doolittle and Katherine Jenkins. 
PMQs should be shown live in the evenings and members of the public should be allowed to ask questions, Nick Clegg said yesterday, in order to improve the quality of political debate.
Mark Harper, the former immigration minister who resigned after discovering his cleaner was here illegally, says Tom Newton Dunn in the Sun. Mr Harper will be handed "a mid-ranking role", with the PM apparently keen to reward Mr Harper for owning up to his mistake and resigning honorably. Less likely to return to Cabinet is Maria Miller, who has been lobbying for a Cabinet job. "She doesn't have a chance - and she's deluded to think she has," says Tom's source. 
The Morning Briefing is written by Stephen Bush. You can follow him on Twitter or Instagram.
An iron curtain is falling over Wimbledon:
@tobyperkinsmp: Eastern bloc domination of Women's tennis illustrated by fact that Bouchard is only Quarter Finalist so far whose name doesn't end in 'ova !
Poll of polls 24th June to 1st June (ComRes-Populus-Survation-YouGov) Labour lead by four points
In the Telegraph

Shashank Joshi - The world's most wanted man

Mats Persson - Europe just became even more German
Telegraph View - Lurching Labour offers only mixed messages
Best of the Rest
Rachel Sylvester - Ed doesn't lack policies. He lacks character

Janan Ganesh - The Juncker imbroglio has not swayed Britain's fate
0900 LONDON: Age UK annual conference. Speakers include NHS England boss Simon Stevens, Health Minister Lord Howe and Pensions Minister Steve Webb.
0930 LONDON: British Gas, UK Power Networks, Citizens Advice Bureau and others give evidence to the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee on network costs. 
 0930 LONDON: Cabinet.
 0945 LEEDS: Ed Miliband and Lord Adonis launch Labour review on the economy. 
1030 LONDON: Channel 4 chairman Lord Burns and chief executive David Abraham give evidence to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee. 
1100 EDINBURGH: Lord McConnell speech for Better Together. The former Labour first minister will be joined by Advocate General Jim Wallace, who was his deputy first minister, as he makes his first speech for the cross-party pro-UK campaign group. 
1240 LONDON: The Leader of the House Andrew Lansley and shadow leader Angela Eagle give evidence to the Commons Standards Review Sub Committee. 
1615 LONDON: Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk MP to give evidence to Home Affairs Select Committee on historic child abuse. 
1830 LONDON: Scottish independence and its impact on the City of London will be the focus of a debate attended by over 160 senior finance and legal figures working in the Square Mile. 
2000 LONDON: Eight-day Tube strike due to start. Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union and Unite are due to walk out after the failure of last-ditch talks to resolve a row over pensions and working conditions.