Conservatives in crisis! The latest Populus has Labour ahead by 37% to 32%. But the new Ashcroft poll has that party on 28% to the Conservatives' 34%. Polling industry in crisis!
The figures aren't as strange as they seem. The continuing volatility of Lord Ashcroft's poll means that Labour will probably be back on top by a similar margin next week, while the movement in the latest Populus poll is within the margin of error. As Lewis Baston puts it, "watch the share, not the gap". It's all about the average share of the parties and the overall trend. We know that the Conservative poll share remains becalmed on 31-33%, while Labour mostly flit between the 32-34%. We also know that the Opposition are falling in the polls while the Conservatives are flatlining. Today's Poll of Polls sees the parties deadlocked on 33%. (Which, remember, would likely put Labour ahead in terms of seats if it were repeated at a general election.)
The important questions aren't about what happens in the odd Populus poll or even the ongoing debate over the reliability of Lord Ashcroft's figures. It's this: what is Labour's floor, and what is the Tory ceiling? At what point does the decline in Labour's vote bottom out, and is there any room for growth in the Conservative share? If Labour hit 28% as some Conservative ministers believe it will, then 32% of the vote would carry David Cameron back into Downing Street. Equally, if the Conservatives can find a way to get back to the 34, 35% mark, then anything below 32% becomes disastrous for Labour.
What seems most likely is that neither side will make a breakthrough, and that May 2015 will look a great deal like the European elections: the Conservative vote holding up better than expected, Labour doing well in London but poorly across most of England, Ukip maximising their vote among that section of the population that is Farage-inclined, the Liberals in heavy retreat everywhere. The difference between disappointment and disaster for Labour in that election came from Scotland. It's a reminder, if it were needed, that what Jim Murphy and Nicola Sturgeon do between now and May probably matters more than anything that happens south of the border.
A LOT OF IFS AND BUTS
The IFS' Paul Johnson has written a column for the Times on the fiscal choices of David Cameron and Ed Miliband. He says that Labour's plans could leave the national debt around £170 billion higher by the end of the 2020s than through a balanced budget. "Labour plan to borrow risks £170bn extra debt" is the Thunderer's splash. The figures and the headline are based on a "ludicrous assumption" about Labour's plans from 2020 onwards, Labour spinners say. Labour's policy wonks think that they can close the deficit partly through boosting wages - their analysis shows that if wages grow in line with the average over the course of this Parliament, rather than the historical norm, it will deprive the Treasury of over £100 billion in revenue, Patrick Wintour reports in the Guardian.
1992 had the War of Jennifer's Ear. We've got the Skirmish of Miliband's Mouth. The PM says Ed Miliband is"wriggling like an eel" over his alleged use of that word "weaponise" to describe his plans for the NHS. It reveals that he doesn't much care about the state of the NHS, the PM says.
LET FREEDOM RING (AND WE'LL TAP THE CALL)
"PM wants new internet spying powers" is the Guardian's splash. David Cameron wants British intelligence agencies to be given the power to breka into the encrypted communications of suspected terrorists. Nick Clegg's not impressed with the PM's swift switch from rallying for free speech and quickly moving to increase surveillance. "The irony appears lost on some politicians," Mr Clegg huffed.
ACTUALLY, YOUR MUM IS A CHICKEN!It's Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband who are scared of debates, the PM says. They're worried about the Green party's Natalie Bennett taking votes from the pair of them, he says. It's not just the Green leader who wants in on the debates and could spell trouble for Ed Miliband: Nicola Sturgeon and Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood make their case for involvement in the Guardian.
CLOONEY AND MILIBAND
Ed Miliband dined with the barrister Amal Clooney and her actor husband George, Matt Holehouse reveals. As a result, he may throw his weight behind a group of cross-party backbenchers who want to do more to sanction corrupt officials in Vladimir Putin's regime, although the Labour leader's spokesman has played down his interest in the law.
CAMERON GOES FOX-HUNTINGDavid Cameron has slapped down Steve Emerson, a self-described "terrorism expert" who told Fox News that the city of Birmingham was "totally Muslim" and that "non-Muslims simply don't go in" to the city. (Just 21% of the city's residents are Muslim.) "I choked on my porridge," the PM said, "The guy is clearly a complete idiot." Matt Holehouse has the story.
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 33% Labour 33% Liberal Democrat 8% Ukip 15% Greens 6%
Ashcroft: Conservatives 34% Labour 28% Liberal Democrat 8% Ukip 16% Green 8%
Populus: Conservatives 32% Labour 37% Liberal Democrat 10% Ukip 13% Green 4%
YouGov: Conservatives 32% Labour 33% Liberal Democrat 6% Ukip 17% Green 6%TOO MANY TWEETS...
@ConorPope: Nigel Farage blames Paris attacks on military intervention & immigration. I blame the people who murdered cartoonists
From the Telegraph
Bryony Gordon - Spare a moment for the victims that Twitter forgotToby Young - What do Americans really think it's like in Britain?
Grace Dent - Free speech means the right to be a complete fool (Independent)
Janan Ganesh - The blandness of UK politics is a good sign (FT)
1400 LONDON: Tony Blair to appear before a parliamentary inquiry into so-called On the Runs.
1430 LONDON: Hugo Swire at Foreign Affairs Committee on Hong Kong.
1530 LONDON: Lords Economic Affairs Committee hearing on HS2.
TODAY IN PARLIAMENT
A Ten Minute Rule Motion: Local Government (Planning Permission and Referendum).
A debate on a motion relating to the Charter for Budget Responsibility.
A debate on a motion relating to National Policy Statement on National Networks.
Criminal Justice and Courts Bill - Consideration of Lords amendments.
A motion to approve a carry-over extension on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.
A motion to approve a carry-over extension on the Deregulation Bill.
A short debate on the educational achievement of deaf students.
0930: Grammar school funding.
1100: Contribution of the care sector to the UK economy.
1430: Changes to the probation service.
1600: Governance of Network Rail.
1630: Contribution of the direct selling industry to the UK economy.
Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill - Second reading.