Friday, 3 October 2014

Fins to the left, Fins to the right..

Party like it's 2012! For the first time since March of that year, the Conservatives have a poll lead. A YouGov poll for the Sun and Times has the Tories on 35% to Labour's 34. "Ed's Ukippered And Now Cam's Trout In Front" is the Sun's page 2 headline. "Tories seize poll lead after tax cut promises" is the Times' splash. 
As ever with a single poll, the results should be taken with a fairly large handful of salt. Labour's poll share is fairly consistent at 34-36%, while the Conservative share again, is largely static at 32-34%. Today's poll is at the bottom end of the Labour share and is unusually high for the Conservatives but it's probably just noise. There should be a Populus poll out by around noon today - link here -  that will probably show a small Labour lead.
The overall picture, however, is troubling for Ed Miliband. A Survation poll in today's Sun has underwhelming numbers in Heywood & Middleton.  Labour are on 50% to Ukip's 30%, confirming the fears on the ground that the party is set for an underwhelming victory in the by-election. According to Revolt on the Right, the set text on Ukip, the constiutency is only the 148th most Ukip-friendly seat. Labour got 40% of the vote here under Gordon Brown, so Ed Miliband's outfit really ought to win by a cricket score. (It's not all good news for Ukip, either. Heywood is not ideal territory but is a far less tricky enterprise than Rochester & Strood, the 271st most Ukip-friendly seat.)
Meanwhile in Scotland, the SNP's surge in membership - they've trebled since the referendum result - looks to be being accompanied by a bump in the polls for Westminster elections as well. Panelbase puts the Nationalists on 34% to Labour's 32%, a swing of 12% to the SNP. It could cost Labour up to 19 seats north of the border. 
Elsewhere, a new report by a former aide to Ed Miliband suggests that, far from helping Labour, Nigel Farage's party could further jeopardise that party's chances of winning power, Andy Grice reports in the Indy. Ukip could damage Tory prospects in just 13 Labour targets, while the People's Army could harm Labour in 39 Conservative-Labour marginals. (The number of seats where the two parties are at direct risk of a Ukip pick-up is tied at five each.) Small wonder that calls are growing for Labour to rip up the target list and start over - it's a "two-party strategy in a four-party world" says an article in this month's Progress Magazine, the journal of the Blairite-aligned think tank.
Labour looked very far from a party on the brink of taking power in Manchester and the Conservatives looked some distance away from one with any thoughts of relinquishing it. That impression looks all the clearer today before we head off to Glasgow and the party conference that still gives Labour hope of taking office: that of the flatlining Liberals. 

"A new British Bill of Rights" is our splash."End of Human Rights Farce"is the Mail's. The Express goes one further: "Human Rights Madness To End" is their take. "Rights Act In The Bin" cheers the Sun. The new law will reduce the powers of the European Court in Strasbourg to that of an advisory body, whose rulings will be subject to a vote of Parliament. The proposal "should have every Briton's full support" our leader roars.  Lord Howard certainly does, and he's laid out in his case in the pages of the Telegraph. Dominic Grieve, the former Attorney General, cut a frustrated figure on the Today programme this morning. "There is a misunderstanding about what the ECHR does," he wailed. As for Chris Grayling - who has penned an article for the Mail explaining the proposed law - his explanatory paper contains "a number of howlers", Mr Grieve says. However, the pledge is unlikely to form a red line in coalition negotiations, Mr Grayling appeared to concede on the Today programme: "Our position is we're going for a majority and if you want this, vote Conservative."
Nick Clegg has hit back at Theresa May's claims that his blocking of the "Snooper's Charter" has endangered the lives of children.  "This is a new low point in coalition relations," the DPM spluttered on his LBC radio show. Sources close to the Home Secretary were quick to respond, describing Nick Clegg using a word beginning with 'W' that I cannot repeat in the Briefing. Duncan Hames, a Liberal Democrat MP, has called for an official investigation, saying that the remarks breach the special adviser's code of conduct.
A Westminster phone line dubbed 'the harassment hotline', designed for staff and MPs to report allegations of bullying and harassment, has received just 31 calls since its launch earlier this year, Radhika Sanghani reports.  The real number is "likely much, much higher" says Harriet Maltby, a former parliamentary researcher, writes, "it's all so normalised we might think it's part of working here". "In my experience, if you raise your head above the parapet and complain, you’re not whistleblowing about that one MP, you’re essentially calling suicide on your political career," Bridget Harris, a former SpAd to Nick Clegg, explains. Elsewhere, in an interview with the House Magazine, Baroness Grender reveals that she was sexually harassed by an MP - now dead - when she first began working in Parliament her early 20s. 
"I have not that long to go," Margaret Thatcher told one of her closest aides, "My party won't want me to lead them into the next election - and I don't blame them." The year was 1983 and she had just won a second term in a landslide. She would remain in office until 1990. That's among the revelations from the latest stack of the former Prime Minister's papers, released under the 30-year rule. Edward Malnick details the key findings
The PM believes that the Financial Times is the most left-wing paper in Britain, according to Ephraim Hardcastle. Over at the FT, Comrade Kiran Stacey reports that the Opposition is rattled by the popularity of the PM's tax pledge. They hope that highlighting the black hole left by the tax cuts will make the promise less attractive and they've launched an online clockmarking the time between the pledge and any announcement as to how the £7bn will be found. 
Our cartoon is the work of Christian Adams; you can see his work onInstagram.  You can get in touch with me by hitting "reply", and via Twitter
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@tnewtondunn: There was a minister called Matt,
Who tweeted and looked quite a prat,
Sorry he said, and went quite red,
Who said too many tweets make a..?
Poll of polls 25th September to 2nd October (Opinium-Populus-YouGov), Labour lead of four points
YouGov: Conservatives 35% Labour 34% Liberal Democrats 6% Ukip 15%
From the Telegraph
Fraser Nelson - The PM's tax pledge won't break the bank, but his NHS one might
Raziye Akkoc  - On Twitter as in life, the PM is more popular than his party
Stephen Bush - Six Things We Learned at Conservative Party Conference 
From elsewhere 
Gaby Hinsliff -  There's one thing worse than coalition: opposition(Guardian)
Oliver Wright - Salami cuts won't save enough. Only a total rethink will(Independent)
Philip Collins - The biggest danger to Britain? Dave, not Ed (Times)
0900 MIDLOTHIAN: Vince Cable MP to unveil details of significant new investment to support the training and development of PhD students during a visit to the University of Edinburgh.  
1430 INVERNESS: Lord Ashdown and Danny Alexander to visit army museum