Thursday, 6 November 2014

With friends like these..

With friends like this, who needs enemies? Jason Cowley has a pop in at the Labour leader in this week's New Statesman: "Miliband is very much an old-style Hampstead socialist. He doesn't really understand the lower middle class or material aspiration. He doesn't understand Essex Man or Woman." As Steve Swinford explains, it comes as a particular blow as the Statesman was the only publication to endorse Mr Miliband during his bid for the leadership.
Elsewhere, the Times reports that David Axelrod, Labour's American hire, is growing disgruntled with the Miliband campaign, feeling that he is having little impact in the campaign and that his advice is going unheeded. Mr Axelrod denies that, of course. But his reported irritation mirrors the experience of other outside consultants, from the community organiser Arnie Graf to the party's advertising and digital agencies, who have been left frustrated by the Byzantine and indecisive nature of Labour's central command. There is uncertainty as to where the responsibilities of the highly-rated Greg Beales - Director of Strategy - end and the duties of the campaign chief, Spencer Livermore, begin. 
Added to that is a growing fear around what you might call "the Miliband problem". As James Forsyth reveals in the Spectator, there are growing fears that criticism of Mr Miliband "has gone from being a political thing to a cultural meme". The stunning decline in Labour's vote share - from 36% at the beginning of October to 33% today - is also causing jitters. Today's YouGov poll for the Sun finds that 44% of the general public expect the PM to be in office after the next election against just 31% for Mr Miliband - figures that I'd estimate would be repeated in most surveys of the parliamentary Labour party. 
Can Mr Miliband turn it around? I'm told that his confidence is still shot after his disastrous Conference speech. Say what you like about the Labour leader, he usually turns in a bravura performance on such occasions and his sub-par showing was a shock to the system. There is now hope within Team Ed that the newly-refreshed Shadow Cabinet and next week's speech on the economy could reset the narrative and reintroduce the Leader of the Opposition to the public. But it now looks likely that the big question isn't what the Labour leader does between now and May, but what happens to Nigel Farage and his party. 

The Best of Britain's Political Cartoons 2014 is published today by Scribe at £12.99. You can order it here.    
Danny Alexander will warn petrol companies and supermarkets that they must pass on the benefits of falling oil prices to customers "as quickly as possible". It would be an "outrage" if the suspicion that prices "go up like a rocket" and "drift down like a feather" is confirmed, Mr Alexander will say. The Serious Fraud Office is carrying out an investigation into claims that oil companies are ripping off drivers. Previous investigations exonerated the companies in question.   "Pass on oil price cuts to drivers, firms told" is our splash.
Ed Miliband conducted a small but significant reshuffle in the wake of Jim Murphy's resignation from the Shadow Dfid brief. Mary Creagh has been moved from to Dfid, with Michael Dugher shifted from his role in the election campaign to Ms Creagh's previous role at Transport. Lucy Powell, who ran Mr Miliband's leadership campaign, takes Mr Dugher's old role with a beefed-up post in charge of the day-to-day running of the campaign, tasked with the all important management of the grid. Coupled with the promotion of Jon Trickett to the inner team, the elevation of Ms Powell marks a recall of of longstanding loyalists by the Labour leader. Moving Ms Creagh may have wider implications than just the composition of the Opposition frontbench. Mr Dugher is a close ally of Ed Balls, who has doubts about the costs of HS2, and it could signal a wider shift in Labour's policy towards the line.
Jean-Claude Juncker rounded on national leaders who had queried the EU's recalculated charges, saying he is "not the type who trembles in front of prime ministers", Bruno Waterfield reports. including the PM. "I don't have a problem with David Cameron. He has a problem with the other prime ministers," Mr Juncker tittered. He may not be wholly incorrect, as the FT reports. The PM is travelling to meet his Nordic allies today, but even his like-minded colleagues have little stomach for changes to the principle of free movement.  
A third of Conservative MPs are defying the PM's call to campaign in Rochester and Strood ahead of the Rochester & Strood by-election, Matt Holehouse reports. Michael Gove, the Chief Whip, is now "naming and shaming" the shirkers in a daily "Roll of Honour" email. Some say the tactic is "humiliating"and will backfire. But Michael Fabricant tells Lucy Fisher in the Times that "we should all show willing and be prepared to put ourselves out" for what will almost certainly be the last by-election of the parliament. 
Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat justice minister, has criticised the Conservatives for their "knee-jerk" policies on crime in an interview with Andy Grice in the Indy. Increasing the number of people in prison simply increases the number of criminals, Mr Hughes says, with 46% of all adults reoffending within a year of release. Reducing the prison population would not only reduce crime but also decrease the pressure on the Ministry of Justice's budget, Mr Hughes believes.
"Whatever people could say about Gaddafi, he didn't allow those boats to come across," Mark Reckless, Ukip's latest defector, quipped on the campaign trail in Rochester. 
More blue-on-blue briefing in today's papers. It's the Chief Whip who is in the PM's sights. Our cartoonist, Christian Adams, remembers a conversation with the PM:  "Why do you make me so fat? Look at Gove over there. He’s much fatter than I am and you draw him thin!” 
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 is available here.  
Conservatives 32% Labour 33% Liberal Democrats 8% Ukip 16% (Ashcroft-Populus-YouGov, 30.10.2014-06.11.2014)
YouGov: Conservatives 32%, Labour 33%, Liberal Democrats 8%, Ukip 15%
@CJTerry: "A leader in crisis, a party with nowhere to go" This line from Cameron could almost describe any of the parties...
From the Telegraph

Dan Hodges - Chuka Umunna is the only politician with the guts to take on Ukip
James Kirkup - Shouting about economic benefits of immigration isn't the way to persuade people
Christian Adams - My cartoons have politicians spitting mad or coughing up
From elsewhere

David Aaronovitch - Immigration: it's about fear, not jobs (Times)
Chris Giles - Cameron is writing an unhappy ending to his story of economic success (FT) 
1000 LEEDS: Nick Clegg attends summit.
1100 LONDON: Karren Brady to take her seat in the House of Lords. 
1115 LONDON: Energy Secretary Ed Davey's annual energy statement.
1200 LONDON: Bank of England decision on interest rates and quantitative easing programme. 
2130 ABERDEEN: Danny Alexander speech. 
Energy and Climate Change Questions.
A statement on the future business of the House.
Two backbench business debates: i) UK foreign policy towards Iran; ii) Promotion of the living wage.
A short debate on Sainsbury's roadworks in Belgrave.
Westminster Hall
1330: US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement.
Introductions of Baroness Brady and Lord Callanan.
A debate on women facing homelessness, domestic violence and social exclusion.
A short debate on the international response to Ebola.
A debate on how Government policies effect low income and vulnerable consumers.

A short debate on the European Union Committee Report on food waste