Thursday, 30 October 2014

Cake or death...

And he's off! Jim Murphy has kicked off his campaign to lead Scottish Labour with an interview in this morning's Daily Record. He "has what Scottish Labour needs so badly: energy, no fear of the SNP and the ability to win elections" James Forsyth declares in the Spectator.  
"I am not going to shout at or about the SNP," Mr Murphy tells the Record, "I am going to talk to and listen to Scotland. The job I am applying for is to be First Minister of Scotland." If elected he will quit his Westminster seat to take office in Holyrood, rather like a little-known politician called Alex Salmond did in 2004.
Can he pull it off? Several pollsters are currently conducting detailed studies of the Scottish vote, with the first survey expected towards the end of the next week. The expectation is that they will show the SNP surging in Westminster and Holyrood, leaving Labour with a mountain to climb. But Mr Murphy turned one of the safest Conservative seats into his own fiefdom, so that barrier is by no means insurmountable. 
The struggle to win over Scottish Labour may be more difficult than it appears. As one of David Miliband's campaign managers in 2010 - "he did English, I did Maths", he said of the division of labour between himself and Douglas Alexander in that battle - Mr Murphy knows only too well that Labour's electoral college can do strange things sometimes. There is lingering resentment among Unite, the largest trade union and the Labour left about Mr Murphy' s role in the Falkirk scandal, his support for the nation of Israel and his obstinate refusal to lose elections. 

Neil Findlay MSP, who also announced yesterday, will adopt the SNP's argument that Scotland's different political culture means that Mr Murphy is too right-wing to win power at Holyrood. That appeal, and lingering resentment over the Falkirk scandal could exact a heavy price. One Labour staffer last night quipped to me that the battle between Mr Murphy, Mr Findlay and Sarah Boyack was "like the Eddie Izzard sketch: cake or death?" That's certainly an accurate reflection of Jim Murphy's qualities as a politician. But no-one ever went broke betting on Labour's appetite for choosing death.  

"Cutting taxes a moral duty, says Cameron" is the Times' splash. David Cameron is back on the offensive with a column in the Times, designed to put the focus back on Conservative tax cuts versus Labour profligacy. "Labour wants to put up taxes on people's homes, jobs, pensions - even their deaths," the PM declares. "Conservatives are committed to cutting your taxes." "He's raised taxes 24 times," splutters Labour's Chris Leslie. Senior government sources intend that the column form the beginning of a pivot away from the issues of Europe and immigration and towards the economy, Sam Coates explains in the Times.
Schools are struggling to cope with growing numbers of migrant children and need additional resources, Sir Michael Wilshaw has said.  "Teachers Battle To Cope With Influx Of Migrants" is the Mail's take. In the Sun,Simon Danczuk writes that immigration is "putting considerable pressure on [public] services that are already at breaking point". "Rochdale feels swamped already" is the headline.
The Greens have pushed the Liberal Democrats into fifth place for the first time in a YouGov poll for the Sun. (The numbers: Greens 7%, Liberals 6%) It's "well within the margin of error so don't get too excited,"Anthony Wells counsels. The interesting thing though, is that, with less than seven months ago, the much-expected Liberal recovery still looks elusive. 
Ed Miliband was denied his moment in the Sun at PMQs yesterday when David Cameron announced that, contra the Labour leader's words, the vote to renew the European Arrest Warrant will be held before, not after the Rochester & Strood by-election. It's likely to pass with relative ease thanks to the support of Labour and the Liberal Democrats, but, Steven Swinford explains, the expected rebellion of up to 100 Tory MPs will cause embarrassment for the PM. Would-be rebels should save their fire for 2017, our leader says: "The argument over sovereignty goes far wider than the EAW and should be saved for an in/out referendum. Yet the prospect of getting that referendum will be damaged, perhaps irreparably, by renewed civil war inside the only party that will deliver it." 
George Osborne told ITV that he believes Britain can reduce its £1.7 billion bill from the European Union. British taxpayers "expect a fair deal", the Chancellor said, "and that's exactly what I'm going to make sure they get". But any hope of getting something knocked off the bill was played down by Lord Hill, yesterday, who says that, it appears that, when all's said and done the recalculation will result in a smaller overall bill for Britain.
EDWARD OF YORK GAVE BATTLE IN VAIN?Polls are open in the South Yorkshire police commissioner by-election, where Ukip hope to gain their first PCC following the resignation of Labour's Shaun Wright due to his failures in the grooming scandal. Labour sources on the ground were pessimistic yesterday: they fear that the posts are so far down people's priorities that "only people angry with Europe, immigration and us" will bother to vote.

Norman Baker struck a confused note on the Today programme while discussing a Home Office study that suggests that a punitive approach to drug sentencing is failing to curb drug abuse in Britain. However, Downing Street say that the report does not support the Liberal policy of decriminalisation. "It's naked political posturing," Michael Ellis, a Conservative MP, said on the Today programme, before branding the Liberal Democrats' policy as "dangerous and irresponsible".
Maureen Lipman has abandoned her support for Ed Miliband's Labour Party over his support for Palestinian statehood, Matt Holehouse reports. In an article for Standpoint Magazine, Ms Lipman writes that Tony Blair did "great work to restore the party's fortunes", that she is still fond of Tony Benn's diaries, and that she is Alan Johnson's "number one fan". "But this lot? The Chuka Harman Burnham Hunt Balls brigade? I can't, in all seriousness, go into a booth and put my mark on any one of them."
Sir John Nott, Margaret Thatcher's Defence Secretary during the Falklands War, tells Ned Simons at the Huffington Post that he voted for Nigel Farage's party in the European elections, although he's not a fan of Ukip's immigration policy: "Though I don’t like their immigration policy. The Poles have saved this country. If you want a plumber, you have to find a Pole. And you can’t go anywhere in London without being served by a lovely Polish girl." Sir John will return to the Conservative fold next May, however.
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.
Conservatives 32% Labour 33% Liberal Democrats 8% Ukip 17%
YouGov: Conservatives 31%, Labour 34%, Liberal Democrats 6%, Ukip 17%, Greens 7%
@NickCohen4: Every morning I wake up full of good intentions, then Thought for the Day comes on and my mind turns to murder.
From the Telegraph

Robert Colvile - Our immigration problems are a result of Britain's success
James Kirkup - How often do we talk about immigration? Quite a lot, it turns out

Peter Oborne - Must we dance to the Saudi tune over the Muslim Brotherhood?
Allison Pearson - In Baby P's case, actions speak louder than words
From elsewhere

David Aaronovitch - A naked man isn't shocking. Locking him up is (Times)James Forsyth - Jim Murphy has what Scottish Labour needs: energy, fearlessness and the ability to win (Spectator)
George Eaton - The fall of the reluctant leader: the inside story of Scottish Labour's crisis (Statesman) AGENDA
0900: Call Clegg on LBC 97.3.
0900 MANCHESTER: National Children and Adult Services Conference, including speeches by Nicky Morgan, Eric Pickles and Jeremy Hunt.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Questions.
Church Commissioners, the Public Accounts Commission and the Speakers' Committee on the Electoral Commission Questions.
A statement on the future business of the House.
 Two backbench business debates:
 i) UK Drugs Policy
 ii) Sale of park homes.
A short debate on Coventry's general practices.
1330: A debate on the first joint report from the Committees on Arms Export Controls, Scrutiny of Arms Exports and Arms Controls and the Government's response.
Introduction of Lord Rose of Monewden.
A debate on the situation in the Middle East and North Africa.
A short debate on giving football fans a greater say in the running of clubs.
A short debate on combating slavery in supply chains.