Tuesday, 9 December 2014

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em..

He's back! Alex Salmond announced yesterday that he will target a return to the House of Commons: the Liberal seat of Gordon is his chosen target. "I couldn't stand on the sidelines a moment longer" is the National's splash. (It was a long fortnight, to be fair.) 
The bookies make Mr Salmond the 1/8 favourite in the seat and it should be fairly low-hanging fruit for the SNP and Mr Salmond in particular. The seat is broadly similar to Mr Salmond's Aberdeenshire East constituency in the Scottish Parliament and although the Liberal candidate, Christine Jardine, has been working the seat hard the loss of the personal vote of Sir Malcolm Bruce, the longstanding local MP, will hit Liberal hopes hard. (Added to that, the polls, campaigners on the ground and the Scottish parliamentary elections all show that the Liberal collapse north of the border is largely to the benefit of the SNP.)
Can anyone stop the SNP? The winner of the Scottish Labour leadership election will be announced on the 13th of December, and it looks very likely to be Jim Murphy. That campaign is in better heart than they were when ballots were issued - their phone canvassing among the members has taken a favourable turn while the anger of MPs over Mr Murphy's embrace of tax devolution has been dampened somewhat by the error-prone campaign of his rivals. Neil Findlay's habit of sending press releases riddled with errors, texts beginning with "Hello name", coupled with the equally hapless campaign run by his effective running mate, Katy Clark, have brought more members of the Scottish parliamentary parties round to Mr Murphy's side.
Labour insiders are in rather better heart than they have been recently. They feel that Mr Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon have conceded the argument that the next election is a choice between Ed Miliband and David Cameron. It may be that the "same old fear campaign we always run" as one more cynical observer put it is not enough, however. For the moment, the SNP is monopolising the independence vote and holding onto its Unionist supporters. Scottish Labour's new leader's first task is to craft a narrative of optimism rather than a re-run of Labour's 2010 campaign north of the border.

The Coalition row over the Autumn Statement rumbles on to another day. Danny Alexander has written an op-ed for the Telegraph saying that the Conservatives want "austerity forever", are motivated by "pre-election panic" and would go  "way beyond what is required to balance the books". (Unless there is a sprinkling of Liberal Democrat to stop them, of course.) It's all part of a period of "conscious uncoupling" was Norman Smith's take on Today.


Nadine Dorries tells the i: “I would say that Labour are posher than us these days.” Dorries comments on disgraced Labour MP Emily Thornberry who was forced to resign as shadow Attorney General following a Twitter storm, during which Thornberry posted a captioned photo perceived to be disparaging towards the working class. Still, at a time when voter disenchantment is dangerously high, Dorries’ words shouldn’t be viewed simply as a swipe at Labour, but rather a timely reminder of how far Westminster in general has to come in being representative.     
The Commons Environmental Audit Committee has rallied a call for a future ban on building schools, hospitals, and care homes near to air pollution black-spots in order to help cut the estimated 29,000 deaths a year in the UK that have been caused by poor air quality. The story leads the Indy and the i. 

Political parties must recognise "the simple but devastating fact that hunger stalks this country", a new report, funded by the Church of England and jointly led by Frank Field and the Archbishop of Canterbury, says. Voluntary groups are fighting a "social Dunkirk" without government assistance, the report - to be unveiled later today - argues. To tackle the problem, the report calls for a national network of state-backed food banks, the adoption of a fairer, speedier and less punitive benefits system, and a national living wage. Patrick Butler has the details in the Guardian - "Church v state rift over hunger" is their splash.

The Bank of England has said that the vast majority of mortgage borrowers could handle interest rate rises of up to 2%, suggesting that the Bank is close to changing policy on rates. 37% of households with mortgages would have to take action if rates rose, while 57% would do so voluntarily. "Middle classes facing 'catastrophe' of rate rise" is the Times splash. Szu Ping Chan has the details of the Bank's report. 
Douglas Alexander will call on the "quiet majority" of British businesses to speak up on the case for British membership of the European Union. He will cite the lessons of the Scottish campaign, when businesses were "reluctant to speak out" and had to be "jolted into action" by that YouGov poll. "Your voice must be heard, because if you wait, it could be too late," Mr Alexander will warn.
Theresa May has emerged as the favourite from a poll conducted by Conservative Home yesterday regarding the party’s future leadership. The Home Secretary received 29% of the vote, pipping Boris Johnson who got 18%.   


Nigel Farage suggests that he was late to attending an event in Wales on Friday because high levels of immigration had brought about a backlog the M4. On his tardiness, Farage said, “That is nothing to do with professionalism, what it does have to do with is a population that is going through the roof chiefly because of open-door immigration and the fact that the M4 is not as navigable as it used to be.” 
Nigel Mills, the Tory MP for Amber Valley, Derbyshire is in hot water after The Sun released pictures of him playing the popular Candy Crush app on his i-Pad. The 40-year old, who was elected in 2010, but only has a majority of 536, was supposed to be listening to pensions experts give evidence at a meeting of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, of which he is a member.

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 31% Labour 33% Liberal Democrats 8% Ukip 16% Green 6%  (Ashcroft-ComRes-Populus-TNS-YouGov, 27.11.2014-05.12.2014)


Opinium: Con 29% Lab 34% LD 6% Ukip 19% Green 6%
Populus: Con 33% Lab 35% Ukip 14% LD 9% Green 4%
YouGov: Con 32% Lab 32% LD 6% Ukip 15% Green 7%


@railtonrailton: Nigel Farage is the love child of Enoch Powell and Alan Partidge.


From the Telegraph

Boris Johnson - Sending Putin the Elgin Marbles is barmy, but it's what makes Britain great

From elsewhere

Chris Deerin - The night I met Sir Walter Scott (Mail)


0915 LONDON: Archbishop of Canterbury joins Frank Field MP to launch all-party parliamentary group report into hunger in the UK.
0930 LONDON: Resolution Foundation launch new research on affordability of housing.
1515 LONDON: Public Accounts Committee on tax avoidance. Hearing on role of large accountancy firms, witnesses including Kevin Nicholson, Head of Tax, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and Fearghus Carruthers, Head of Tax, Shire Pharmaceuticals.
1605 LONDON: Transport Minister Claire Perry appears before House of Commons Transport Committee on motoring of the future.
1715 LONDON: Downing Street Christmas lights to be switched on.
1730: Ed Miliband takes part in a Leaders Live show. The Labour leader takes part in the Bite the Ballot Leaders Live Q&A aimed at young voters. The Leaders Live show will be available online on YouTube.com/BiteNewsLeadersLive.co.uk and itv.com/news.
1730 LONDON: Lord Mandelson chairs Policy Network event with John Woodcock, Isabel Hardman, Rafael Behr and Liz Kendall. Panel discussion of Laying the Foundations for a Labour Century pamphlet.
1900: Harriet Harman LBC radio phone-in.
2235: Yvette Cooper among the guests on ITV's The Agenda.
Work and Pensions Questions.
Infrastructure Bill (Lords) - second reading.
A short debate on access to free cash withdrawals in less well-off communities.
Mutuals' Redeemable and Deferred Shares Bill (HL) - Report stage.
Consumer Rights Bill - Third reading.
Modern Slavery Bill - Committee of the whole House (Day 3).