Monday, 1 December 2014

A road runs through it..

Just five months to go until the next election and three days before the 'Autumn' Statement. Among the announcements: the freeze in petrol duty extended until after the election, £1 billion worth of government land sold off, air passenger duty for the under-12s abolished, an extra £2 billion for the NHS and £15 billion to improve major roads.
It's the latter two that dominate the headlines this morning."Osborne's £15bn for new roads to boost poll hopes" is our splash."Osborne tees up roads plan in drive for good news around Autumn Statement" is the FT's take. The Coalition's big guns are around the country today announcing road improvements including a £1bn tunnel underneath Stonehenge. That some 42 of the 65 road improvements will run through Coalition constituencies has caught the eye of Chris Hope and Georgia Graham, with the seats of Nicola Blackwood, David Laws, and Ben Gummer among the beneficiaries. It's "another desperate pre-election con," rages Michael Dugher, the Shadow Transport Secretary. 
It's the row over that £2bn for the NHS that grabs the Guardian's interest: "Osborne under fire over £2bn NHS pledge" is their take. The Chancellor's announcement of an extra £2bn for the Health Service includes £750m of unspent money from the Department of Health: "spin" sighs Andy Burnham.
But it's the frontpages of the Indy and the i that sum up the problem. "Osborne's £75bn budget bombshell" is the Indy's splash, and "British borrowing to rise by £75bn" is the i's (£75bn is rendered in an alarming shade of red). The books are not balanced and there are further cuts to come, not least once the £7 billion of tax cuts are taken into account. That the jobs boost is not having the expected boost to revenues due to low pay and the threshold raise means that, far from signalling the end of belt-tightening, the best we can hope for is a slight pause. 
More than half  of the 41 police and crime commissioners have already been investigated by the policing watchdog, Fiona Hamiltonreports in the Times. New figures show that the Independent Police Complaints Commission has looked into more than 40 complaints of wrong-doing by 23 of the 41 elected commissioners. "This is a very disappointing total," says self-effacing lawmaker Keith Vaz. A "fiasco" is the Times' verdict in their leader. The IPPC must be strengthened and the right of recall must be extended to PCCs. "If there is one way to guarantee that elected police commissioners attract derision," the Thunderer argues, "it is to protect mediocrities in office." 
Politicians talk about immigration as "though it's some kind of disease that needs to be treated, rather than a fact of life that has to be coped with" Pat McFadden, Labour's new shadow Europe minister, tells this month's Progress Magazine, and warns that the PM is heading towards "Brexit by default". Patrick Wintour has the story in the Guardian.  
New First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has moved to damp down concerns about her administration's intentions towards business with an interview with Mure Dickie in the FT. Saying that business has "got nothing to fear from me", Ms Sturgeon continues"I am a social democrat, I believe in pursuing greater equality, and tackling social justice, but you can't do that unless you have got a strong economy". It comes as the Scottish Liberal Democrats have accused Ms Sturgeon of plotting to decrease the personal allowance for Scots. 
Maria Eagle fought a rearguard action to prevent abortion law being devolved to Holyrood amid fears that women's rights would be compromised by the move. Ms Eagle reportedly described the proposals as "outrageous", banging the table in anger, and described the Smith Commission as "a bunch of men deciding on women's rights to abortion". 
Alan Johnson has revealed that he turned down an offer from Ed Miliband to return to the Shadow Cabinet in an interview with GQ. Mr Johnson tells Alistair Campbell that he was reluctant to enter the Shadow Cabinet in the first place, but Mr Miliband's surprise offer of the post of Shadow Chancellor changed his mind: "I took it because I thought, what an extraordinary gesture that he wants me there...but my heart wasn't in it. I was not up for it. I did it for seven months but I didn't like the job." He would be happy to have a greater role in campaigning on the ground, however. Chris Hope has the story.
The Government's requirement that landlords and letting agents check the immigration status of their tenants will "drive discrimination", encouraging "otherwise fair-minded landlords" to let only to "white tenants with British-sounding names, just to reduce the likelihood of additional bureaucracy from the Home Office", Natalie Bennett and 17 others have argued in a letter to the Telegraph
Radio 4 listeners will be able to recover from their Christmas hangovers to the pleasant tones of John Bercow, who will be the Today programme's guest editor on Boxing Day. 
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 31% Labour 34% Liberal Democrats 8% Ukip 16% Green 6%  (Ashcroft-Populus-YouGov, 24.11.2014-01.12.2014)
YouGov: Con 32% Lab 34% LD 7% Ukip 15% Green 6%
@helenlewis: Hang on, have the Tories been on a year-long bet with their mates to get the phrase "long term economic plan" into every media appearance?
From the Telegraph
From elsewhere
Matthew Parris - Watch out! The mob will come for you next(Spectator) 
1515 LONDON: Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Business Secretary Vince Cable give evidence to the Commons Committees on Arms Export Controls.
1945 LONDON: Turner Prize winner announced. The ceremony begins at 1915 and the award will be announced by Chiwetel Ejiofor live on Channel 4 at 1945. 
2235: Danny Alexander among the guests on Tom Bradby's The Agenda.
Education Questions.
Criminal Justice and Courts Bill - Consideration of Lords amendments.
A short debate on the jurisdiction of the Serious Fraud Office and 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup bids.
Modern Slavery Bill - committee of the whole House.

A short debate on the report of the all party parliamentary inquiry into electoral conduct.