Monday, 5 January 2015

Cry Havoc..

And we're off! The first poll of 2015 finds Labour on 33% and the Conservatives on 32% (thanks Opinium!) as battle is joined in earnest. Up North, Ed Miliband will kick off Labour's election effort with a vow to fight the contest "street by street". Down South, five Conservative Cabinet ministers will hold a joint press conference attacking the Opposition plans to spend billions more than Britain can afford. 

They will say that Treasury analysis suggests that Labour have made £20.7 billion worth of uncosted spending commitments. But the Opposition say that the Tories are cooking the books, and Ed Balls has written a stern letter to HMT's permanent secretary asking how the sums have been derived. "Tories use Treasury to attack Labour as election fight begins" is the Guardian's splash.

But it's David Cameron's appearance on Marr yesterday that dominates most of the coverage today. "An EU poll next year' as PM woos Ukip voters" is our splash and "Cameron woos Ukip with fast-track vote on Europe" is the Times. He's raised the prospect of moving the In-Out referendum to an earlier date than the planned 2017 affair. (As both the German Chancellor and the French President are up for re-election in 2017 re-negotiation will have to be concluded before then in any case.)

It all comes back to what Patrick Wintour today calls "the big task" of the election campaign for Dave and Ed: "to reverse the centrifugal forces that dominated UK politics in 2014". Can the Conservatives win over Ukip supporters, or will Labour staunch the flow of defectors to Ukip, the Greens and the SNP? Neither side has any interest in winning the old fashioned way, by getting voters off the other lot. That, more than anything, means the Liberal Democrats can still hope that Nick Clegg's offer - repeated later today at another press conference - to keep Labour frugal and the Conservatives humane will find a bigger audience in May than today's polls suggest.   


Jim Murphy is also on the campaign trail today. The Scottish Labour leader will deliver a speech in Edinburgh designed to win over 200,000 former Labour voters - mostly male and mostly supporters of a Yes last September - saying that the choice in May is "to vote Labour to get rid of the Tories and or to vote SNP and keep the status quo". David Maddox has the story in the Scotsman.  


A future Conservative government could cut defence spending to below the Nato target of 2% of GDP, the PM admitted on Marr yesterday. Rosa Prince has the story


Vacuum magnate and inventor Sir James Dyson has blasted Theresa May's plan to expel foreign graduates immediately after they finish their courses in an article for the Guardian. "Train 'em up. Kick 'em out. It's a bit shortsighted, isn't it?" sighs Sir James. John Bingham has the details


The National Health Service has "become the International Health Service", Nigel Farage told Murnaghan yesterday, before calling for doctors without an adequate grasp of English to be sacked. On the subject of healthcare, take a quarter of an hour to read my colleague Robert Colvile's excellent long read on the NHS today. 


John Mann urges Ed Miliband to "ignore the policy wonks and go for a ride in a Transit van" in the Sun. The Labour leader will commit his party to four million conversations with voters - double the contact rate in 2010 - in his speech today.


Political parties are being incentivised to govern Britain in the interests of the elderly, as the young don't vote, Sadiq Khan tells the Independent. "You look at any empirical analysis of this Government's policies and you can see they are going for the silver vote," Mr Khan says, "You have to ask that it is good for our country." 


The PM saw in the New Year at the country pile of Blur bassist Alex James, the Sun reveals.  "He seemed to be sipping on red wine throughout the night, although [he] wasn't drunk - which makes his dad dancing even less excusable," an onlooker tells Dan Wootton.

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.  


Opinium: Con 32% Labour 33% LD 8% Ukip 17% Green 4%


@paulsci: For several weeks every January, I always have the distinct feeling that we're somehow living in the future.


From the Telegraph 

Daniel Johnson - Vladimir Putin is a bigger threat than any number of EU migrants 

Boris Johnson - There are times when we have to dig deep to finance the future 

From elsewhere

Brian Monteith - Time for a Unionist Party? (Scotsman)

Andrew Rawnsley - There's a vacumn now in British politics. And it's Blair-shaped (Observer) 


1030 SALFORD: Labour leader Ed Miliband speech. 

1030 NORWICH: Trial of UKIP candidate accused of electoral fraud. Matthew Smith, 26, a Norfolk County councillor and former prospective parliamentary candidate for UKIP, has denied six counts of making a false statement in nomination papers and three of making a false instrument with intent. 

1045 BEXLEY: Boris Johnson will announce a new scheme which is set to help thousands with home ownership.

1130 LONDON: Nick Clegg's monthly press conference.

1200 LONDON: Conservative press conference with George Osborne, William Hague and Theresa May.



Home Office Questions. 

Serious Crime Bill - second reading. 

A short debate on the diagnosis of children on the autism spectrum in Hull.

Lords: In recess