Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Forces of Conservatism

It's Labour versus business. Ed Miliband used his appearance on Sky's Ask the Leaders event yesterday to have a pop at Stefano Pessina. He's part of an "unholy alliance" between the Conservatives party "and people like [Mr Pessina] who are actually saying that a country can't change", Mr Miliband says. 
Now business leaders have fired back. Leading industrialist Sir Nigel Rudd says says the attack "stifled debate", while Sir Ian Cheshire, the departing CEO of B&Q owner Kingfisher, has defended Mr Pessina's right to express his opinions, and added: "frankly, personal attacks are pretty unattractive". 
"Business chiefs hit back at Miliband" is our splash. The founder of Pizza Express, Luke Johnson, wades into the row in the Sun. It would be a "disaster" if Labour won power as they "are ignorant of the way markets and capitalism works", Mr Johnson says. "Pizza Boss: Ed Is Half-Baked" is the Sun's page 2 story. In the Mail, Lord Rose, who as Stuart Rose turned around Marks and Spencer's, has written a column in which he warns that a Labour government would lead to "shuttered shop fronts, empty High Streets and lengthening dole queues". "Man Who Saved M&S Savages Ed" screams the Mail's frontpage. 
Senior Labour sources say that they regard the whole row as helpful, a "clarifying row" that reminds voters of Mr Miliband's greatest hits. I'm not so sure. The policy formerly known as the energy price freeze attacked a group of companies who, fairly or unfairly, are widely disliked. For all, as Labour spinners point out, Pizza Express and Boots may deserve a similarly dire reputation, these high street names command a great deal of public affection. They are significantly more popular and trusted than Ed Miliband - or David Cameron, for that matter. A "clarifying" row? Perhaps, but not in the way that Labour would wish. 

Speaking of the energy companies...Ofgem is under fire after issuing a list of reccomendations for consumers to save money in order to pay their energy bills, rather than condemning the energy companies. "This is patronising rubbish," says Labour's Caroline Flint. "Save Cash For Fuel Bills By Eating Packed Lunch" is the Mirror's splash. 
A future Conservative government would freeze per-pupil spending, rather than a real-terms ringfence like the one that has operated throughout the Parliament, the Prime Minister said yesterday. "Budget for schools will face cuts, Tories admit" is the Guardian's lead. Steven Swinford has the details.
It seems increasingly clear that there has been no recovery in Labour's fortunes in Scotland. The latest detailed survey of Scottish opinion for YouGov has the SNP still way ahead on 48% to 27%. "Nationalists on course to grab 30 Labour seats"is the splash to the Times' Scottish edition, while, "Labour set to lose 30 seats in Scotland" is their page one lead in England and Wales. 
Other EU nations increasingly see Britain as "a potential problem or adversary" rather than a "leader or contributor", Douglas Alexander told listeners at Chatham House yesterday. Britain needs "a post-Cameron foreign policy," Mr Alexander continued, which will set itself to "review, repairing and resetting" Britain's relationship with Europe. Elsewhere, a survey on the ConHome website finds that 58% of Conservative activists want to leave the EU while a third want to stay. Beth Rigby has the story in the FT.
William Hague has set out the Conservative plans for English votes for English laws in greater detail, with a "Grand Committee" of English and Welsh MPs to vote on English-only issues like income tax and air passenger duty. Peter Dominiczak and Ben-Riley Smith have the details. It solves the problem of creating laws that are passed "against the will of England", William Hague told the Today programme. 
The Conservative Party "doesn't understand Britain" anymore, Sir Alan Duncan tells Mehdi Hasan in an interview for the Huffington Post. "We've only got one MP in Scotland. We understand our cities, particularly our northern cities, less and less," Sir Alan says. He has a word of praise for Ed Miliband too: "I've always thought he was by far the more normal of the two brothers". The full interview is here
Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is visiting the UK, will meet with George Osborne later today. The Chancellor visited the Governor in Trenton late in 2013; the visit visit will be a both a boost to Governor Christie's foreign policy chops ahead of the Presidential primaries and is a symbol, perhaps of the bullishness of foreign pols about the Conservatives' chances in May. Mr Christie is unlikely to dress as divertingly as newly-minted Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis did yesterday, however.
The team at ConHome have cast their eye over the 25 new candidates in the seats that the Tories held in 2005 (ie. their safe seats). The number of women is up by a fifth from 2010 to make up a quarter of the intake, while BME candidates also make up a quarter of the new crop. Around half of the new intake were educated in state schools. But the new Conservatism doesn't extend all the way. Four-fifths work the traditional Conservative occupanies of business or the law. 
HS3, 4, 5, 6 AND 7?
Ed Balls will today announce that a Labour government will legislate to create a National Infrastructure Commission in its first Queen's Speech, to prevent long-term decisions being kicked into touch. 
Aberdeen's council leaders are calling for a "City Deal" package in order to allow the city to weather falling wages, jobs and investment as the oil price slump hits home. Mure Dickie has the story in the FT
Theresa May briefly considered referring to the Conservatives as "the Millwall of politics: no-one likes us and we don't care" rather than "the nasty party" in her unforgettable 2002 speech. "The problem is, we do care," one Conservative reflects. That's among the details in Gaby Hinsliff's profile of Theresa.

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 34% Liberal Democrat 7% Ukip 15% Greens 7% (Ashcroft-Opinium-Populus-YouGov)
You can get in touch with me via email or on Twitter . Our cartoon is the work of Bob Moran, who you can also follow on Twitter or on his website.  our cartoon is the work of Christian Adams- a gallery of his work is available here.
Ashcroft: Labour 31% Conservatives 31% Ukip 15% Green 9% Liberal Democrat 8%
Populus: Labour 34% Conservatives 31% Ukip 14% Liberal Democrat 8% Green 5%
YouGov:  Labour 35% Conservatives 33%  Ukip 14% Liberal Democrat 7% Green 6% 
@PatrickWintour: Cameron refuses on TV to say what is 9 x 8. He is right to do so. But the answer is the number of leaders he wants in the TV debates.
From the Telegraph
Dan Hodges - Ed Miliband wanted a fight with business. Now he must face the consequences
James Kirkup - Are Labour MPs trying to kill Ed Miliband with kindness?
From elsewhere
Gaby Hinsliff - Can Theresa May make it to the top? (Guardian)
Rachel Sylvester - Dave and Ed are pitting old and young against each other (Times)
0900: Boris Johnson on LBC radio. 
0900 LONDON: Ed Balls and Lord Adonis discuss recommendations of Armitt review on infrastructure investment.
0900 STRASBOURG: European Court of Human Rights judgment on whole-life sentences. Judges will rule on an appeal by triple-killer and rapist Arthur Hutchinson, who was jailed for life with minimum of 18 years in 1984 but then given a whole-life order by Home Secretary Michael Howard in 1994. 
1230 LONDON: Sir Nick Harvey launches report on the experience of coalition, with response from David Willetts. 
1000 LONDON: Tower Hamlets election petition trial starts. The petition, which seeks a re-run of last May's mayoral contest in the borough, has been brought by four residents against Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman and returning officer John Williams. 
1300 LONDON: Tristram Hunt school visit with Coronation Street actor Charlie Condou.
1400 LONDON: Cross-party group of politicians to hand a letter to Number 10. Residents of Heathrow villages will have their homes demolished if a new third runway is built. 
1430 LONDON: Alistair Carmichael appears before the Scottish Affairs committee.
1830 LONDON: BBC Trust chairman speaks at the Royal Television Society.
COMMONS - 1130: 
Justice Questions. 
A Ten Minute Rule Motion: Living Wage (Reporting). 
Insurance Bill (HL) - Committee of the whole House and remaining stages. 
A money resolution motion to approve a money resolution relating to the National Insurance Contributions Bill. 
National Insurance Contributions Bill - Consideration of Lords amendments. 
A motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to mitochondrial donation. 
A backbench business debate: Rural phone and broadband connectivity. 
A short debate on CCTV in slaughterhouses. 
Westminster Hall: 
0930: Compensation for victims of badly installed cavity wall installation. 
1100: Work-related activity group. 
1430: Respiratory health. 
1600: Effect of housing targets on Pudsey constituency. 
1630: Time stamping of foreign exchange transactions. 
LORDS - 1430: 
Deregulation Bill - Report stage. 
A short debate on the growth of small businesses in the UK.