Friday, 7 November 2014

Things can only get better..

 Westminster - and today's papers - are awash with rumours of plots. "Back me: Miliband's plea to plotters" is our splash."Miliband fights for his political life" is the Indy's take. "Miliband bid to disarm his party critics" is the Guardian's line. "Miliband fights off Labour coup" says the i. "Bonfire Night Plot To Oust Ed" roars the Mail. "Secret plan for end of Miliband" is the Times' take.

The reality is that no-one really knows what is going on. "Everyone is angry - not sure if anyone's organised," one MP told me last night. If there is an organised coup of any kind underway it will be an alliance decided by region and generation rather than faction - MPs facing a Ukip in the Midlands and North, Scottish parliamentarians spooked by the Scottish surge, and members of the 2005 intake that feels largely bypassed in favour of "the Shinies" aka the 2010 generation. (See, for instance, Ian Austin, one of two MPs named in Westminster last night as having called for Ed Miliband to go, faces the risk of losing his Dudley seat and is one of the 2005ers who is going nowhere under the current leadership, while the Mail reports that the regular gathering of the party's North-West MPs turned into a bloodletting session.) 
But whether there's any real organisation - one source last night described many of the complainers as "lazy f----rs with big majorities in the North...they can moan but they can't pull their sleeves up" - or not, how much trouble is Ed Miliband in? The reality is that it's very difficult to displace a Labour leader and that is still the case today, absent a ruthlessly well-organised and unassailable frontrunner, and there isn't one. (Matt Holehouse profiles the runners and riders here.) 

Talk of a deal between Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper in the Times has been furiously denied by both camps. As the two are not politically close and are of similar age (Mr Burnham is 44, Ms Cooper 45) a deal, whether now or in the future, looks unlikely, perhaps impossible. Most importantly, the 2010 generation, the closest thing that Mr Miliband has to a Praetorian guard, remain largely on side. 
Labour's current position was best expressed by the Fabian Society's Andy Harrop on the World at One yesterday. They know that Mr Miliband is a "hindrance" at the next election. They know that their best hope of taking office is still Nigel Farage. But they also feel that there is "no one else to do the job", for one reason or another.

CHEQUE PLEASEDavid Cameron warned European leaders in Helsinki - over a meal of reindeer, Sam Coates reveals in the Times - yesterday that that the £1.7 billion bill is driving Britain towards the exit. George Osborne will be told today that Brussels will not negotiate on the size of the bill, and the PM is likely to turn down the offer to pay the bill in interest-free installments, Peter Dominiczak reports from Helsinki. Ken Clarke helpfully waded into the fray on Today, pointing out that Britain would never accept that it should pay more were the boot on the other foot. Ed Balls and Douglas Alexander have called on the Government to do more to build allies on the Continent - while preparing a brief to take the Commission to the European Court of Justice, if need be, the two men argue in the Guardian.
Hospital trusts are forecasting a £500 million pound loss this year, according to the National Audit Office, with "overambitious planning assumptions" on the part of the Government and a reorganisation that commissioners and providers feel is "fragmented, particularly regionally" Jason Beattie reports in the Mirror.
Senior Liberal Democrats are discussing asking for complete control over three departments if they enter into a new coalition after the next election, Nigel Morris reports in the Indy. Transport, BIS and DECC are the mooted departments, with another Liberal Democrat operating out of the Cabinet Office. The Liberal expectation is that coalition talks could take longer next time. "We won't have the bond markets screaming for a deal [next time]," one senior Liberal told me, which they believe, will give them a better hand in negotiations. Elsewhere, there is a feeling that by having MPs across each department the party became subsumed into the Conservative agenda. 
Theresa May has backed the possibility of a new grammar school in her Maidenhead constituency, saying that she will support a local study into opening a "satellite" grammar school joined to an existing grammar school in a nearby borough, the Times reports. It's unlikely to signal an embrace for grammar schools by the DfE at least in the short term, however.
The PM has added his support to the campaign to preserve the poppy memorial outside the Tower of London past the 11th of November so that more people can visit it. If you can't make it, a timelapse video of the installation from dawn to dusk can be viewed here.

You can get in touch with me by pressing "reply" or on Twitter. Our cartoon is the work of Christian Adams - a gallery of his work isavailable here.  
Conservatives 32% Labour 33% Liberal Democrats 8% Ukip 16% (Ashcroft-Populus-Survation-YouGov, 31.10.2014-07.11.2014)
Survation: Conservatives 27%, Labour 31%, Liberal Democrats 9%, Ukip 24%
YouGov: Conservatives 32%, Labour 33%, Liberal Democrats 8%, Ukip 15% Green 7%
@ConorPope: People wondering why Miliband has stuck to his buses speech: buses are like anonymous briefings. Wait ages for one then two come at once.
From the Telegraph

Joe Haines - The party's big beasts must act to remove Miliband now
Sophy Ridge - The painful truth about the next generation of MPs
From elsewhere

Philip Collins - Yes he could. Obama is a truly great president (Times)Niki Adams - Listen to sex workers; we can explain what decriminalisation would mean (Guardian)
0900: Nigel Farage phone-in on LBC.
1030 LONDON: London Mayor Boris Johnson to attend the Greater London Authority Annual Service of Remembrance for London's war dead.
1100 LONDON: CBI launches report Better Off Britain, setting out businesses' views on how to tackle the living standards challenge.
Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Bill - Second reading.
Off-patent Drugs Bill - Second reading.
School Admissions Bill - Second reading.
Football Governance Bill - Second reading.
Road Traffic Regulation (Temporary Closure for Filming) Bill - Second reading.
Illegal Immigrants (Criminal Sanctions) Bill - Second reading (Day 2).
House of Lords (Maximum Membership) Bill - Second reading.
EU Membership (Audit of Costs and Benefits) Bill - Second reading.
Wild Animals in Circuses Bill - Second reading.
A short debate on services at Stafford Hospital.
Assisted Dying Bill (HL) - Committee of the whole House