Friday, 30 January 2015

Labour halted..

A change in mood this week in Westminster, with the Conservatives on a high and Labour deflated. "Our worst week in the parliament," was one verdict yesterday. The big NHS gun has failed to fire. That take-home pay is lower in real terms than it was in 2001 -  "The great wages crash" is the Guardian's splash - according to the IFS has some in the Opposition still hopeful that a spirit of general disgruntlement may be enough to get them into office in May. 

But the wind has come out of Labour's sails - they appear to be slipping back somewhat in London from their blow-out victory last May, and stagnating in Wales, where they had their worst result in 2010 - something that Grant Shapps will take great glee in pointing out later today when he attacks "30 days of Labour chaos". 

Of course, it still isn't the Conservatives who are doing any real damage to Labour. (In fact, it's an interesting question whether it's Labour, who are losing votes everywhere, who should be more worried that the Tories, who don't seem to be able to pick up votes anywhere.) Small wonder that Alex Salmond, who has a must-read interview with BuzzFeed's Jamie Ross, is in a cheerful mood. (Spare a thought for the Liberal Democrats, who privately expect to lose nine of the 11 seats they hold in Scotland)  His one-liner that the last referendum was "a dry run...I was just testing the No side to see what arguments they would come up with" will haunt supporters of the Union, who "left everything out on the field [last time]" in the words of one. 

Publically, Jim Murphy is still in an ebullient mood - he's also been interviewed by what the PM calls "the Buzzfeed", and says he's been "surprised by their lack of energy, and the degree to which they're just a normal government" - and says he talks to Ed Miliband - who visited yesterday - most weeks. Despite everything, most Labour figures expect a degree of recovery between now and May (although John Curtice is unconvinced). 

"I think we'll end up back [in 2011, when Labour polled 31% to the SNP's 45% at Holyrood], which would be a triumph, considering everything," one organiser predicted recently. That that rout looks like good news now is a testament to the scale of their challenge. It's strange, but for the first time, the optimists are those who think it's a temporary consequence of Mr Miliband's lack of personal appeal or overarching message, while the pessimists are the ones who fear that Labour's Scottish problem may have decades left to run.


Young British jihadis are "not making it with girls, and so they turn to other forms of spiritual comfort," Boris Johnson tells the Sun's Tom Newton Dunn, "They are just young men who desperate need of self-esteem who do not have particular mission in life, who feel that they are losers and this thing makes them feel strong - like winners." Also in the interview: he's done no deal with the PM, and quite fancies a super-ministry in charge of infrastructure after 2016, says that Ed Miliband "despises people who are out to make money", and says that Mr Miliband and his Shadow Chancellor are "the Thelma and Louise of British politics". They "drove the car off the cliff last time". 


"Energy Fatcats Profits Up 1,000 Per Cent" is the Mirror's splash as it emerges that the Big Six will rake in bumper profits due to the cold weather and the low cost of energy. It's all the fault of the Coalition for not voting to give Ofgem the power to cut bills, says Caroline Flint. No! It's all the fault of Ed Miliband's energy price cap née freeze, thunders the Mail in its leader. "This quasi-Marxist does not have a clue how the markets work."  


Labour's reforming tendency is out in force. Liz Kendall and Steve Reed, two Opposition frontbenchers, have written a pamphlet calling for a massive devolution of power to people and localities to make public services better, in what Patrick Wntour describes as a "last-minute push to sharpen the Labour manifesto on devolution". The full pamphlet - which you can read here - frankly admits that many public services can and must do better. Elsewhere, Jon Cruddas has given a speech calling for Labour to embrace the politics of fraternity and to steal some of the PM's abandoned lines about the Big Society. It's all part of that party's New n' Blue mash-up that Rafael Behr blogs on here


Foreign-born voters could decide the result in up to 70 marginals. "March Of The Migrant Voters" is the Mail's splash, who focus on the two seats - East Ham and Brent North - where foreign born voters will make up the majority of voters. But it's the impact of anti-immigration rhetoric on Conservative electoral hopes that has caught the eye of the i. "Tories fear migrant voting power" is their frontpage, while the Indy goes for "Hard line on immigration could cost Tories election"


Dame Anne McGuire is the latest subject of Rosa Prince's excellent running series about the MPs who are standing down at the next election. She explains why she has never rebelled from the Labour whip in 18 years in Parliament: "I do think I am here on a party menu. I am not here as Anne McGuire...the people of Stirling, they elected me in the context of a Labour manifesto." "Sometimes," Dame Anne adds, "The easy route is to rebel."


Sajid Javid's 11-year-old daughter was distraught recently when her hamster went missing. The Culture Secretary placed foil on the floors and stayed up all night to listen for the pitter-patter of tiny feet. His lack of sleep paid off and the hamster was found. All that plus his reaction to opera and Mary Beard from Emily Ashton's profile of the rising hope of the Osborne tendency.  Have a lovely weekend.

I'm available by pressing reply or on Twitter - our cartoon is the work of Christian Adams- a gallery of his work is available here.


Conservatives 33% Labour 33% Liberal Democrat 7% Ukip 15% Greens 7% (Ashcroft-ComRes-Populus-Survation-YouGov 


YouGov: Conservatives 34% Labour 34% Ukip 15% Green 7% Liberal Democrat 6%


@TomHarris4MP: So… What's been happening while I've been away?


From the Telegraph

James Kirkup - What if London treated Britain like Germany treats the Eurozone?

Fraser Nelson - At last married couples get a tax break - will the PM be boasting?

From elsewhere

Philip Collins - A universal handout isn't such a bad idea (Times)

Philip Stephens - Greece should be a wake-up call for Europe's politicians (FT)


0915 LONDON: David Cameron attending memorial service for Sir Winston Churchill.

1030 LONDON: Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps speech on "30 days of Labour chaos". 

1030 LONDON: Costs hearing in Andrew Mitchell Plebgate libel action. 

1800 WESTMINSTER: Wreathlaying to commemorate the Rt Hon Sir Winston Churchill. 

2200: Nick Clegg live appearance on Channel 4's Last Leg programme.


Not sitting.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Straws in the wind..

Is Labour's NHS attack losing its sting? The British Social Attitudes Survey finds that just 15% of people are dissatisfied with the Health Service, a figure that has beaten just once - in 2010 - since records began in 1983. 

Elsewhere, an article by Professor Paul Corrigan, a former health adviser to Tony Blair, for the Blairite pressure group Progress, is picked up in the Telegraphthe Times and the Mail. Professor Corrigan suggests that there will be a two gap before the revenues for the mansion tax will become available for the NHS and that Andy Burnham's plans amount to yet another top-down reorganisation of the NHS.

The new row about whether NHS officials have been trying to keep bad news about the Health Service out of the headlines - "Don't Mention The Wards" is the Mirror's splash - will give Labour hope that there is still life left in the old "you can't trust the Tories with the NHS" line. But bluntly, until Labour finds a better response to the "weaponise" charge than "I can't remember what I said", the PM will maintain a whip hand over Ed Miliband as far as that debate is concerned. 

Intra-party sniping, so long suppressed under Ed Miliband, looks to be breaking out at last. John Prescott, ever one for a moderate phrase, has branded Alan Milburn and John Hutton "Tory collaborators" after questioning Labour's approach on the NHS, while Neil Kinnock has appealed for unity, but, oh, what's this? He's thrown in an aside about Blairites wanting to go back to "the day before yesterday". 

The matter still may not arise; Mr Miliband could still squeak it in May. But for Labour-watchers it is interesting to note that a handful of largely-retired Blairites have recieved a far angrier response than the 16 MPs from the party's left flank making similarly unhelpful noises at the start of the week. There's been a great deal of excitement recently about whether Liz Kendall - or Chuka Umunna, the subject of a glowing profile in Red Magazine today - might be the next Labour leader, or if a fusion of so-called "Blue" Labour with the old Third Way might be the way forward. That it is the once-all-conquering Blairites who are still in retreat internally suggests that Labour's short-term future probably lies to Mr Miliband's left, not his right. 


Mark Carney has attacked the Eurozone's hardline budgetary policies, saying that it must make rapid progress towards a fiscal union in order to transfer resources between richer and poorer members of the single currency, Larry Elliott reports in the Guardian. "It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that if the eurozone were a country, fiscal policy would be substantially more supportive," Mr Carney said, adding: "Europe needs a comprehensive, coherent plan to anchor expecations, build confidence and escape its debt trap."


James Forsyth argues in his column that Syriza's victory puts the PM in a better position for his renegotiation after the election. "The more anxious Merkel feels about the direction of the EU, the more reluctant she is to lose Britain as a member," he says, "The price she is prepared to keep us in the EU is now higher." 


"Could This Be Britain's First Black Prime Minister?" is Red's headline for Elizabeth Day's interview with Chuka Umunna. Mr Umunna gives a more than usually-detailed interview about his life outside Parliament: the early death of his father, his own hopes of becoming a father, the continuing sexism of Parliament and the question of whether or not he is "smooth". "When I was growing up my father said, 'When you go out, dress properly and look the part because, before you open your mouth, how you present yourself is important," Mr Umunna explains, "So, I don't understand all this 'smooth,' 'charming,' all this business, because it's like ... 'Should I be badly dressed and rude to people?'"" Rosa Prince has the details.


The prospects of a television debate have receded after the BBC refused to include the DUP in the debates, as the party does not compete with any of the mainland parties and it would require the other Northern Irish parties to be invited as well, Lord Hall explains. But it's a further barrier to any televised debates which now look to be in increasing jeopardy. 


People should report crime using the Internet where possible, to save police money and free up officers for frontline work, Theresa May has suggested. "Don't Dial 999" is the Mail's splash.


The new school league tables have been branded as "nonsense" by independent schools, as the phasing out of international GCSEs has left many respected private schools near the bottom of the table. Hannah Richardson and Katherine Sellgren have the details


Only Nick Clegg stood between Britian and a Greek crisis. That's according to uh, Nick Clegg on the Today programme. Also giving Mr Clegg the thumbs-up is Tim Montgomerie, who praises the DPM for securing a stable Coalition in today's Times.

I'm available 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 Democrat 7% Ukip 15% Greens 7% (Ashcroft-ComRes-Populus-Survation-YouGov 


YouGov: Conservatives 33% Labour 33% Ukip 15% Green 7% Liberal Democrat 6%


@gabyhinsliff: Shame the word 'grandee' only exists in politics. Do think we shd extend to, eg, ppl who used to be big in Eastenders in the 90s but left.


From the Telegraph

James Kirkup - Hey kids! Don't get angry, get voting

Dan Hodges - David Cameron is heading for victory

From elsewhere

George Eaton - The split Left could lose Labour the election. Can Milliband recover? (NS)

David Aaronovitch - Greece is just another false dawn for the left (Times)


0900: Nick Clegg on LBC radio. 

1020 MANCHESTER: Business Secretary Vince Cable to announce investment in Manchester.


Commons - 0930: 

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Questions. 

Church Commissioners, the Public Accounts Commission and the Speakers' Committee on the Electoral Commission Questions. 

A statement on the future business of the House. 

Two backbench business debates: i) Iraq Inquiry ii) Financial support for restoration of opencast coal sites. 

A short debate on the wreck of HMS Victory 1744. 

Westminster Hall: 

Debate on the second report from the Home Affairs Select Committee: Female Genital Mutilation: the Case for a National Action Plan, and the Government response. 

Debate on the second report from the Science and Technology Committee: After the Storm? UK blood Safety and Risk of Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, and the Government response. 

Lords -1000: 


A debate on support for British services. 

A debate on innovation in free schools. 

A debate on the progress of the Government's school reforms. 

A debate on recognising the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel. 


Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill - Committee of the whole House (Day 3)

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

1992 and all that..

Labour's latest offensive on the NHS has been blown off course. Former Health Secretary Alan Milburn isn't convinced by his party's plans, telling Wato that the Opposition risks being seen as more able to fund the NHS "but not necessarily put its foot to the floor when it comes to reforming". It's a "pale imitation of 1992, and maybe it will have the same outcome, I don't know," Mr Milburn warns. Another Blairite former minister, John, now Lord, Hutton, has also chimed in: saying the party "ought to win" the next election but mustn't avoid the "really difficult, hard choices". (In today's FT, the two men strike a more supportive note, calling for Labour to do more to defend the last Labour government's reputation for fiscal competence.) 

Elsewhere that word "weaponise" continues to cast a heavy shadow, with Ed Miliband tellling 5Live that he "can't remember" whether he used the word in question. The Labour leader has set tongues wagging by refusing to say whether Andy Burnham will be made Health Secretary if Labour formt he next government in and refusing to confirm whether he'll keep Andy Burnham in post after the election in an interview with the Health Service Journal. 

"Labour election chaos over NHS" is our splash, while "Labour NHS strategy will bring 'poll catastrophe" is the Times'. "Lightweight" is the Sun's verdict on page 2, with Ed Miliband's head photoshopped into a lightbulb ala Neil Kinnock in 1992. "The Sun was never a fan of Neil Kinnock," its leader thunders, "But against today's Labour leader the Welsh windbag looks like Churchill. Winston - not the nodding dog." 

Is it 1992 all over again? Mr Miliband can take some comfort from the fact that it was bad polling, not a sudden loss of support, that meant Lord Kinnock was unexpectedly defeated at that election and if the electorate in 1992 had looked like the one in 2015, the Conservatives would have been the largest party, but without a majority. But if 99 days from now David Cameron is still head of the largest grouping in the Commons then that will be a fairly thin comfort. 


Ukip will bring back smoking in pubs and introduce a 35p rate of tax, Lucy Fisher reports in the Times. But that the pledge is to introduce a 35p rate between £42,285 and £55,00, "taking many public sector workers out of the top rate of tax", suggests that Ukip is unaware that the top rate kicks in at £150,000. It's not just Nigel Farage who is het up over smoiking; up to 100 Conservative MPs will vote against the Government's plain packaging plans, Chris Hope reveals


Britain would be "a better, stronger country" if net migration fell to tens of thousands, David Cameron says. People recognise that immigration is "good for the UK" but feel it has not been "controlled properly", the PM told Radio 2. Steven Swinford has the story


The University of Essex will count many senior figures among the leading party in the new Greek government among its alumni, with Yanis Varoufakis, the finance minister, the most prominent. Tom Rowley speaks to one of his lecturers, Roy Bailey. "I wouldn't say he was always scoring top marks," Mr Bailey tells Tom, "You wouldn't say this is a stellar individual we should send to Harvard. But he shone when it came to independent thinking."   


In a letter to the Telegraph, 47 academics have warned that the amendment to the Serious Crime Bill to prevent gender-selective abortion would "undermine the professional integrity of those who work in an already overstretched abortion service", "risks encouraging doctors to enact some form of ethnic profiling" and seeks to erode women's reproductive rights through construing abortion "as an offence against the unborn child". 


The Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war has taken "longer than any of us expected would be necessary", Sir John Chilcot, who will be grilled by the Foreign Affairs Committee on the progress of the report next week, has said


Sir Steve Smith, the University of Exeter's Vice-Chancellor, has appealed to Ed Miliband to stop considering a £3k cut in fees as it subsidises the middle class and could put higher education funding in jeopardy, Greg Hurst reports in the Times. Also unhappy with the planned policy is Briefing alumnus Tim Wigmore, who rounds on the policy over at the New Statesman


Sinn Féin and the DUP are considering legal action in order to secure a place in the two televised election debates, Henry McDonald reports in the Guardian. Labour have held "secret talks" with Sinn Féin in order to secure that party's support in a hung parliament, Kevin Schofield reports in the Sun, although Labour spinners deny they are planning for anything other than a majority government. 


Douglas Carswell "lacks the backbone" to confront Nigel Farage and "has the charisma of a wet turd", Ukip founder Dr Alan Sked tells the Huffington Post's Asa Bennett. 


A character in the new Aardman Animations film bears a startling resemblance to Ed Miliband, the Mail reports. I'm told that Labour spinners did consider a party political broadcast with an Aardman-designed Ed Miliband using a freeze ray to keep energy bills under control some time ago, but the idea was mothballed. It may be that the design has been re-used by Aardman. Or it could be a coincidence. See the pictures for yourself 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 is available here.


Conservatives 32% Labour 33% Liberal Democrat 8% Ukip 15% Greens 7% (Ashcroft-ComRes-Ipsos-ICM-Populus-Survation-YouGov 


YouGov: Conservatives 34% Labour 33% Ukip 15% Liberal Democrat 7% Green 7%


@A_B_Evans: Hearing rumours that David Cameron will only participate in TV debates if Lord Lucan takes part as well. 


From the Telegraph

Mary Riddell - Why be silent about Britain's generosity to the world?

Iain Martin - The prospect of a Labour-SNP coalition could win the election for the Tories

From elsewhere

Rafael Behr - Ed Miliband's five-year slow shuffle was meant to bring unity not sclerosis (Guardian)

Matthew Parris - You read it here first: Greece will end in tears (Times)


0930 LONDON: Michael Fallon speech to Institute for Government. 

1000 LONDON: Home Secretary Theresa May speech to International Police and Crime Conference.

1030 LONDON: Trade minister at Business Select Committee hearing on TTIP. Lord Livingston will give evidence on the Transatlantic trade and investment partnership.

1200 LONDON: Prime Minister's Questions.

1345 LONDON: Nicola Sturgeon to outline SNP European vision. 

1415 LONDON: Justine Greening at International Development Committee. 

1515 LONDON: Charity Commission at Public Accounts Committee.

2000 LONDON: The Paddy Power Political Book Awards. Guests include Alan Johnson, Dennis Skinner, Tim Bell, Charles Clarke, Sheila Hancock, James Naughtie, Andrew Marr, John Bercow, Michael Dobbs and Andrew Mitchell.


Commons -1130: 

Northern Ireland Questions. 

Prime Minister's Questions. 

A Ten Minute Rule Motion: Private Rented Sector (Decent Homes Standard). 

An Opposition day debate: NHS funding.

A short debate on the funding for the hormone replacement therapy implant. 

Westminster Hall: 

0930: Progress on UNHCR report on Tamil people in Sri Lanka. 

1100: Commuter rail services from Chelmsford to London Liverpool Street. 

1430: SMEs and Government contracts. 

1600: Human rights in Mexico. 

1630: Rail services from Blackpool North. 

Lords - 1500: 


Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill - Committee of the whole House (Day 3)

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Everyday I love you less and less..

100 days to go until Polling Day and Peter Dominiczak has found David Cameron in an ebullient mood. He feels he's "being opposed by someone who has nothing left to say", while he has "a real record to stand on". Cuts all round is the message from the PM: tax cuts for working families and further reductions in the benefits cap, from £26,000 to £23,000. It's the latter which takes the headlines. "PM: I'll cut benefits cap to £23,000" is our splash, while "New Welfare Crackdown On Workshy" is the Mail's. (Read Peter's interview in full here.

The Labour leader is in Manchester today where he'll warnthat the NHS "faces its most perilous moment in a generation". Andy Burnham was out this morning preparing the ground and banging the drum for his plans to integrate health and social care.

It's the PM who will find more to be cheerful about in today's polls The Conservatives are ahead in ComRes' phone polls for the first time since 2011, on 31% to Labour's 30%, with YouGov on 34% to 33%, and Survation on 31% to 30%.  "Tories take lead with 100 days to go" is the i's frontpage. 

As ever, the usual rules about getting too bothered about a few polls here and there apply, and that the NHS continues to be at the forefront of voters' minds according to the latest Populus survey should dampen Tory enthusiasm. But it's Labour who really have reason to be worried. As James Kirkup explains, the final phase of the campaign wears hard on the Opposition: in all but one election, Labour have done worse in the final standings than the polls at this point in the campaign.

The scene is set for a fairly traditional campaign, despite the new entrants snapping at the heels of both parties. Tax cuts and welfare reductions from the Conservatives, lovebombing the NHS from Labour. The thing about a traditional campaign, as the only man to win a working majority for Labour in Ed Miliband's lifetime recently noted, is it tends to yield "a traditional result". 


The PM was less upbeat on the Today programme. The Eurozone's worries are the one remaining "warning light" on the dashboard and there needs to be a further £30bn reduction in spending; departmental spending, tax avoidance and welfare will make up the costs. On the debates: "Yes, I would like that to happen," David Cameron says. 


The Sun has laid out their "Sunifesto"; their programme for Britain in 2015. "Whichever party gets nearest to making it a reality will get our backing," they say. Their To-Do List: Clear the deficit, cut tax, "reward work" demand "a better deal" on immigration, reform the NHS, cut welfare, increase free schools, get fracking going, get fuel prices down, scrap the 0.7% target, cut jail terms for lesser offences, build more houses, strip down the BBC, "let spooks beat IS", and stand up to Twittermobs. 


Minsters have been accused on using taxpayers' money for electioneering, after it emerged that constituencies held by Coalition MPs recieved four-fifths of the Coastal Communities Fund, Chris Hope and Ben Riley-Smith report.  


The excellent Polling Matters team sat down with John Curtice.  He explains further the challenge facing Scottish Labour, and his take on how the general election will play out in Scotland. 


The Government has U-turned on fracking after a rebellion of its own MP forced it to accept a Labour amendment; areas of outstanding natural beauty will be protected while 13 new regulations will be applied to any fracking sites. Emily Gosden has the story, while Caroline Flint and Angela Eagle make their case in the Guardian.

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 Democrat 8% Ukip 15% Greens 7% (Ashcroft-ComRes-Ipsos-ICM-Populus-Survation-YouGov 


Ashcroft: Conservatives 32% Labour 32% Ukip 15% Liberal Democrat 9% Green 6%

ComRes: Conservatives 31% Labour 30% Ukip 17% Liberal Democrat 8% Green 7%

Populus: Conservatives 32% Labour 36% Liberal Democrat 9% Ukip 13% Green 6%

Survation: Conservatives 31% Labour 30% Ukip 23% Liberal Democrat 7%  Green 3%

YouGov: Conservatives 34% Labour 33% Liberal Democrat 6% Ukip 15% Green 7%


@stvharry: The only person now missing from the suggested Leaders' debate is Russell Brand; the circus will then come complete with a clown


From the Telegraph

James Kirkup - Unless something unexpected happens, the only way for Labour is down

Philip Johnston - Stop this madness over fracking, or the lights really will go out

From elsewhere

Matthew D'Ancona - Two tribes go to war over Labour's future (Times)

Janan Ganesh - Austerity will break a Labour government (FT)


0930 LONDON: Financial Conduct Authority chiefs appear before MPs.

0930 LONDON: Lord Chief Justice appears before MPs. Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd will give evidence to the Justice Select Committee on his annual report. 

0930 LONDON: Ofgem chief executive appears before MPs. Dermot Nolan appears in front of the Energy and Climate Change Committee. 

1000 MANCHESTER: Ed Miliband speech on Labour plans for health.

1400 WESTMINSTER: Prime Minister and Prince of Wales will meet Holocaust survivors at a reception in Westminster. 

1400 LONDON: The mother of Andrea Gada, five, who was killed after being hit by a car in Eastbourne, will deliver a petition to Downing Street asking for visas for relatives who want to attend her funeral. 

1515 LONDON: Hacked Off gives evidence to Lords Communications Committee. Joan Smith, Hacked Off's executive director, Hugh Tomlinson, the group's chairman and associate director Evan Harris will give evidence as part of the committee's inquiry into press regulation. 

1530 LONDON: Sir Jeremy Heywood at Public Administration Committee. 

1900 LONDON: Education Secretary Nicky Morgan speech to Politeia think tank. 


Commons - 1130: 

Treasury Questions. 

A Ten Minute Rule Motion: Voter Registration. 

Corporation Tax (Northern Ireland) Bill - Second reading. 

A backbench business debate: i) Accommodation for young people in care. 

A short debate on the performance of Durham Free School. 

Westminster Hall: 

0930: Employment in Wales. 

1100: Effect of London Bridge station redevelopment on rail services. 

1430: Commonwealth immigration and visas. 

1600: Confiscation of property from British nationals in Goa and corruption amongst government officials. 

1630: Sports Direct and USC Dundonald. 

Lords - 1430: 


Pension Schemes Bill - Report stage. 

A short debate on the recent events in Eritrea and Ethiopia and their impact on migration to Western Europe

Monday, 26 January 2015

Greece is the Word..

The election campaign has settled into a familiar if somewhat enervating routine. Major intervention on Monday, argument over the figures on Tuesday, hurry back to Westminster to pretend to be working Wednesday, out to the constituencies to prepare for government/look for jobs in the private sector on Thursdays and Fridays. Rinse, repeat. (It's the PM's turn this week, who will say later that Britain is experiencing a "tax moment" before pledging greater tax cuts and attacking the "enemies of aspiration" aka Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband.) 

But it's an election elsewhere in Europe that takes the headlines today. "Greek drama engulfs the Euro" is our splash. "Syriza's historic win puts Greece on collision course with Europe" is the Guardian's take. "Greek leftists' victory throws down challenge to Euro establishment" is the FT's tongue-twister. "Europe rocked by Greek revolt against austerity" says the Times' frontpage while the Indy goes for "Greece and EU on collision course after election win for left"

Alexis Tsipras' far-left party is projected to fall just two seats short of an absolute majority but will finish miles ahead of the governing centre-right party New Democracy. It appears that Syriza will form a coalition with the right-wing ANEL, suggesting that the incoming government is unlikely to "blink first" in negotiations with its Eurozone creditors. 

If there is a further crisis within the Eurozone, what will the consequences be for the election here? It may be that it encourages the electorate to rally round to the government. (Fact of the day via the excellent Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box: voters who described themselves as "scared" by the financial crisis were more likely to stick with Gordon Brown, while those calling themselves "angry" went with the Opposition.)

What will certainly happen, even if Mr Tsipiras goes the way of Francois Hollande, is an emboldened left flank within the Labour party. You can see the outlines of the argument: Labour in is retreat thanks to a party of the left - the SNP - in Scotland and its vote is being eroded by another party of the far-left - the Greens - in England. While there is a great deal to criticize around Ed Miliband's operation they have, for the most part, been pretty good at keeping the party's left quiet if not happy. (See the row-that-wasn't over the party's harder line on borrowing, for instance.) It seems likely that that silence will endure until after the election. But whether Ed Miliband is in retirement or in Downing Street without a majority after that, you can expect to hear a lot more about Mr Tsipiras' big win from Labour politicians, regardless of what happens next in Greece. 


Danny Alexander will seek to steal David Cameron's clothes with an announcement that more than eight million households will be £1330 better off thanks to the threshold raise, Francis Elliot reports in the Times. Mr Alexander has reminded people that the Conservatives dismissed the threshold raise during the leadership debates and that he and Nick Clegg have "fought tooth and nail" to secure rises in the allowance. It may take some of the limelight from the PM's taxation pledges. "We are the low-tax, tax-cutting party," Mr Cameron will say


Peter Mandelson tells Patrick Wintour that Labour must avoid repeating the mistake of 2010, when the party was poorly prepared for coalition negotiations. "It was all too makeshift," Lord Mandelson says of Labour's approach last time, which the then Business Secretary led, "If we had bene serious the talking should have started long before." 


The Government faces a tricky vote on the Infrastructure Bill today, as both Conservative and Liberal MPs are prepared to rebel, with a number of MPs tabling an amendment calling for a moratorium on fracking. Labour support will now be vital to get the Bill out of the committee stage, with the Opposition tabling their own amendment calling for tighter environmental regulations stopping short of a moratorium.The Government may end up being grateful to Len McCluskey; his Unite union, along with the GMB, have written to Labour MPs urging them not to close the door on fracking. Francis Elliot has the story in the Times


Nigel Farage has reacted angrily to Amjad Bashir MEP's defection to the Conservative Party. "He's not dumping me, I'm dumping him," he told Andrew Marr. (I paraphrase.) Mr Farage says that Ukip had become "increasingly alarmed" about allegations around Mr Bashir. Mr Bashir insists there is "not a shred of truth" to the allegations, and says its a "desperate attempt" to distract from the news of his defection.


Jim Murphy has added his voice to those urging Labour to make Trident a red line in coalition negotiations. The decision about the deterrent should not be about "Playing footsie about possible coalitions with other parties," Mr Murphy told the Sunday Politics, "It's about negotiations with other nuclear states to ensure the world is nuclear free." Simon Johnson has the story


A hoax caller pretended to be the GCHQ director Robert Hannigan and was succesfully put through to the PM, before ringing the Sun to brag about it. "I've just made complete monkeys out of GCHQ," he said, "What's more, I am off my fac eon booze and cocaine. I have some spliffs too." "Con Her Majesty's Secret Service" is their splash.

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.


Poll-of-Polls (Ashcroft-Populus-ICM-Ipsos-YouGov) Conservatives 32% Labour 33% Liberal Democrat 8% Ukip 15% Greens 8% 


Populus: Conservatives 32% Labour 36% Liberal Democrat 9% Ukip 13% Green 6%

YouGov: Conservatives 32% Labour 33% Liberal Democrat 7% Ukip 15% Green 7%


@labourpaul: The most important lesson for UK politicians from the Greek elections is that there isn't one.


From the Telegraph

Boris Johnson - The Kurds' cause is ours - let's help them fight the barbarians

Peter Oborne - Nothing will be solved by Syriza's empty promises

From elsewhere

Matthew D'Ancona - Ukip now resembles its enemies, just like Animal Farm's pigs (Guardian)

George Magnus - Who will blink now Syriza has won? (FT)


1030 LONDON: Boris Johnson joins Assembly to host Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony. 

1100 YORK: The Rev Libby Lane to be consecrated as the first female Church of England bishop. 

1230 LONDON: Vivienne Westwood and Bianca Jagger join protest and petition handover against fracking in Parliament Square.


COMMONS: 1430 

Work and Pensions Questions. 

Infrastructure Bill [HL] - Report stage and third reading. 

A short debate on UK support for Pakistan after the massacre in Peshawar. 

LORDS: 1430 


Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill - Committee of the whole House (Day 2). 

A short debate on the future of museums in regional areas.

Friday, 23 January 2015

No one puts Paisley in the corner..

Debate invitations are like buses - you wait for ages and then two come at once. The broadcasters have struck up a new deal to get David Cameron on board, and the Greens' Natalie Bennett will be involved after all. 

It's almost exactly what the PM asked for: two seven-way debates between the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, Ukip, the Greens, the SNP and Plaid Cymru and one between the two men who could be Prime Minister. The plans look "designed to call Cameron's bluff" is Nick Robinson's verdict. 

But they may have been too clever by half. The DUP, who have eight MPs, are wondering exactly why the SNP with six MPs, are invited, the Plaids, with three, are invited, but neither their overall leader, Peter Robinson, or their Westminster chief, Nigel Dodds, are in. (Mr Robinson has written to the broadcasters demanding an explanation) The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, aren't exactly thrilled to be relegated to second-tier. "Televised election debate plans in disarray" is our splash. 

Frankly no-one can say with any confidence how a seven-way debate will play out or even if it will happen at all. It feels increasingly unlikely that either David Cameron or Ed Miliband will be able to avoid a debate of one kind or another, although the format preferred by our digital debate, comprising the five national parties, may win out in the end. But if the 7-7-2 format does make it to our screens, my instinct is that the mass debates will be watched only by an eccentric few. (Tune in see at least one person you can't vote for debate at least one person you can't stand: LIVE!) That puts the focus on the one-on-one between the PM and the Labour leader. 

What happens there is anyone's guess. It certainly puts the focus where the Conservatives want it: on the contrast between Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband. Who benefits then depends on which Ed Miliband turns up. As Mr Miliband proved at last week's Fabian Society conference when he turns it on he can deliver a polished performance. If that Miliband turns up then the debates should go well for the Opposition. What happens if the other Miliband, who couldn't explain the difference between taxing a £2 million house and a glass of water, turns up instead?


European Central Bank president Mario Draghi has announced a €1.1 trillion programme of quantitative easing to stimulate the flagging Eurozone and to stave off deflation. The pound soared to a six-year high against the Euro after the ECB's announcement. While it will make British exports more expensive it's good news for imports and British holidaymakers. "Bonanza for Britain as cash floods into Europe" is the Times' splash. Bruno Waterfield and Peter Spence have the story


Labour's highly-rated health and social care spokesman Liz Kendall speaks to Paul Waugh and Daniel Bond in the House Magazine. Among the revelations: she mostly listens to rap, with Dr Dre, mid-Noughties Jay Z and Public Enemy her favourites. But it's her comments on NHS privitisation that have caught the eye of James Chapman in the Mail: "what matters is what works", Ms Kendall says, in an implicit rebuke to Andy Burnham. 


It's another one of Labour's new generation that has caught James Kirkup's eye. Dan Jarvis ends his tour of marginal seats today with campaign stops in Elmet & Rothwell, Pudsey and Great Grimsby. "In politics, as in sport, it's rarely a bad idea to do the thing your opponent least wants you to do," James muses, "How do you think the Conservatives would feel about a Jarvis-led Labour Party?" 


Nicola Sturgeon says that the further powers for Scotland don't go far enough and that David Cameron has broken his promise to the Scottish people in an article for the Guardian. She reiterated her opposition to supporting a Tory government in Westminster. But Fraser Nelson's not convinced. "Without a villian, Ms Sturgeon will not have much of a pantomime; so she needs Cameron". If the SNP are kingmakers, they will "likely set sky-high demands and then walk out of coalition talks". 


Lord Brittan, who as Leon Brittan was Home Secretary and Trade and Industry Secretary under Margaret Thatcher, has died. His last years were marked by allegations that he was involved in a cover-up of child sexual abuse in the 1980s. "Now Will We Ever Find Truth On Abuse Dossier?" is the Mail's splash. 


The New Labour years recieve the Peep Show treatement courtesy of Jon Laurence and his team. Have a lovely weekend. 

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.


Poll-of-Polls (Ashcroft-ComRes-Populus-Opinium-ICM-Ipsos-YouGov) Conservatives 32% Labour 33% Liberal Democrat 8% Ukip 15% Greens 7% 


YouGov: Conservatives 31% Labour 33% Liberal Democrat 7% Ukip 17% Green 8%


@hopisen: Having worked around parliament for several years, can say we need a campaign for clear demonstration enunciation. What do you want again?


From the Telegraph

James Kirkup - Meet the man who should lead Labour after Ed Miliband

Fraser Nelson - What the SNP really wants is Mr Cameron back in No 10

From elsewhere

Philip Collins - The mansion tax is typical of blinkered Labour (Times)

Gaby Hinsliff - The Sun's Page 3 cynicism isn't just about lust. It's about resentment and power (Guardian)


0930 LONDON: Retail sales figures for December are published by the Office for National Statistics. 


COMMONS - 0930: 

HS2 Funding Referendum Bill - Second reading. 

Overseas Voters Bill - Second reading. 

Working Time Directive (Limitation) Bill - Second reading. 

Political Party Policy Costings (Office for Budget Responsibility) Bill - Second reading. 

Housing (Affordability, Supply and Tenant Protection) Bill - Second reading. 

Under-occupancy Penalty (Exemptions) Bill - Second reading. 

Protective Headgear for Cyclists Aged Fourteen Years and Under (Research) Bill - Second reading. 

Zero-Hours Contracts Bill - Second reading (Day 2). 

Parliamentary and Constitutional Reform Bill - Second reading. 

Tenancies (Reform) Bill - Second reading (Day 2) . 

United Kingdom Parliament (Sovereignty and Jurisdiction over Borders) Bill - Second reading. 

Household Safety (Carbon Monoxide Detectors) Bill - Second reading (Day 2). 

Funeral Services Bill - Second reading. 

Off-Road Vehicles (Registration) Bill - Second reading. 

Women's Refuges (Provision and Eligibility) Bill - Second reading. 

House of Lords (Expulsion and Suspension) Bill (HL) - Second reading. 

A short debate on Coventry's economy and City Link. 

LORDS - 1000 

Specialist Printing Equipment and Materials (Offences) Bill - Second reading. 

International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill - Second reading. 

Medical Innovation Bill (HL) - Third reading.