Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Black Holes..

Labour had three good campaigns yesterday - but the combined effect was rather less impressive. 

Ed Miliband kicked off the day with a speech comparing the Hogarthian Britain of David Cameron with Labour's sunlit uplands. Ed Balls and co were out and about rebutting Conservative claims that a Labour government would open up a £20.7 billion "black hole" in the public finances. That the Guardian's splash is "Labour signals squeeze on pay" and the words "black hole" are nowhere to be seen in today's papers is a win for the Opposition's rebuttal team. (And also a defeat for Prince Andrew.)  

The problem, though, as George Eaton notes, is it leaves Labour making the following case: "We didn't like the cuts, we attacked the cuts, but we're going to have to keep them." It's uninspiring fodder for the activists who must rack up close to 4 million conversations between now and May in order to get Ed Miliband into Downing Street.

But the contradiction between the Eds has been largely overshadowed by Mr Miliband's Scottish counterpart. Jim Murphy's announcement of a 1000 extra nurses in Scotland that has taken the headlines on both sides of the border. "Labour tax on 'wealthy English' to fund Scots nurses" is our splash. "Mansion tax to fund nursing in Scotland" is the Times' take, and "Murphy makes 1,000 extra nurses pledge" is the Scotsman's. It feeds into the impression many people in England have that "Labour dislikes them", in Maurice Glasman's phrase, and it's taken the attention off the Eds. 

It all comes back to the black hole that should really worry Labour: the big empty void where their grid should be. 


The PM's renegotiation will suffer a blow today when the European Commission reports that his central demand on migration is incompatible with the founding principle of free movement of people, Nick Watt reports in the Guardian. It may make for a subdued atmosphere during Angela Merkel's talks with David Cameron in Downing Street on Wednesday. 


More good news for the Government's export drive and flourishing higher education sector. 600,000 foreign students will study in the UK by the 2020s, Theresa May has announced


In a major security breach, an illegal immigrant has been found working in the House of Commons catering staff, Laura Pitel reveals in the Times. Although  casual workers are theoretically required to be escorted at all times on the parliamentary estate, it is claimed that she was able to roam freely by using a pass owned by a permanent staff member. The revelation is "deeply disappointing" sighs self-effacing MP Keith Vaz. 


Conservative frontbenchers have been told to dodge questions about cuts to the education budget, a photographed briefing note from yesterday's attack on Labour's profligacy has revealed. Ben Riley-Smith has the story.


David Miliband misses Britain, the former Foreign Secretary tells Vogue, but admires straight-talking New Yorkers. "You know how people in London say: 'Oh, you must come for dinner' and don't always mean it? Well, there's a sincerity in New York which I'm struck by." Kunal Dutta has the story in the Indy.


Ed Balls has hit back at Russell Brand after the comedian turned Zaphod Beeblebrox impersonator branded the Shadow Chancellor a "clicky-wristed...snidey c***". Mr Brand is just "a pound shop Ben Elton", Mr Balls responded, and "Jo Brand is a rather better political commentator". (Ms Brand was one of the loyal few celebrities to endorse Labour in 2010, along with Sir Alex Ferguson and Ross Kemp.) 

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. 


Populus:Conservatives 34% Labour 36% Liberal Democrat 9% Ukip 12% Green 5%

YouGov:  Conservatives 31% Labour 34% Liberal Democrat 7% Ukip 14% Green 8%


@campaigner: I for one cannot wait for 122 more days of people pointing out that the ROAD IS IN GERMANY. #GE2015


From the Telegraph 

Philip Johnston - Fixed-term parliaments are fine; they just need to be shorter

Bonnie Greer - I'm sorry, Mr Cameron, but 'bro' left the hood long ago

From elsewhere

Rachel Sylvester - Voters want more than the two nasty parties (Times)

Janan Ganesh - We are all impoverished by the politics of negativity (FT)


0930: Bank of England releases its credit conditions survey for the fourth quarter of 2014.



Deputy Prime Minister's Questions. 

Attorney General Questions. 

A ten minute rule motion: Internet Communications (Regulation). 

Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill - report stage. 

A short debate on the mobile phone signal in Fownhope.

Westminster Hall:

0930: Effect of the CfD allocation process on offshore wind developments. 

1100: Government policy on treatment and management of late stage hepatitis C. 

1430: Economic growth and coastal towns. 

1600: Phone and broadband coverage in Herefordshire. 

1630: Carbon price support and incentives to land reclamation.

LORDS: 1430


Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill - third reading.

National Insurance Contributions Bill - report stage. A debate on reducing the number of peers attending the House of Lords each day.