It's the economy, stupid, and the latest economic news is a pre-election gift for the Tories. Shares are up, inflation is down and former critics are being nice about Coalition economic policy
Our splash is "FTSE 100 hits an all-time high" while The Daily Express splashes with "Shares rocket to record high", and the Times says "FTSE soars to new high as recovery gathers pace" on page one, too. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/economics/article4364716.ece The Financial Times has the story on page one, but warns about getting too optimistic: "Footsie record return to tech bubble highs – but keep the champagne on ice" is their headline.
Angel Gurria, head of the OECD has described the Chancellor's policies as a "text book" example for other countries. He said Britain deserved a "pat on the back" and now needs to "finish the job".
This is surely good news for the Tories. Pensioners are a key demographic. They save. They like rising shares and they dislike inflation. And they vote. Tories are hoping that good economic news could even lure some older voters back from Ukip. And the economy remains the best Tory weapon against Labour. Now, let's see if the economic good news can lift the Conservative poll number out of the 32 per cent quagmire where it's been stuck for quite some time.
RIFKIND STEPS DOWN
Sir Malcolm Rifkind ended his 40-year parliamentary career yesterday after he was cut-off by No.10 and disowned by fellow MPs. It was a pitiful end. While insisting he had done nothing wrong, he admitted he may have made "errors of judgement", adding "we are all human beings in that sense." The FT report that he may be in line for a peerage following his swift exit. One Tory minister told the paper: "If he is exonerated, of course a position in the House of Lords is on the cards."
TV STARS IN LINE TO REPLACE RIFKIND?
Local Conservative members in Kensington will be given three candidates to choose from by the Conservative Central Office. James Cracknell, the Olympic rowing gold medallist and Jeremy Paxman are just a few of the names being bandied about, reports Christopher Hope. While the Sun says TV historian Dan Snow is being "pushed" by Downing Street to stand. TV personality Kirstie Allsop ruled herself out despite Twitter speculation she would stand. The Deputy Mayor of London, Victoria Borwick, is also said to be in the frame. It would certainly be a boost for the party's image to back a woman in such a safe seat.
CAM VS VLAD
The Guardian splashes on "PM deploys troops to Ukraine" This story also makes our page one and the Times. David Cameron's decision to deploy British troops to Ukraine to support government-backed soldiers came as a surprise. He warned not standing up to Vladimir Putin would have "deeply damaging" consequences for Europe. It is very unlikely that this move will have a decisive impact on the conflict, but it is symbolic. The troubling question is what happens next if Putin escalates Russia's involvement to a Nato member on the Baltic? Does the rest of the alliance really have the willingness to invoke its Article Five promise of collective defence?
BOJO TO THE RESCUE
The Times splashes on "Tories call for Boris to rescue their campaign". It reports that some in the party are worried that they need a more positive message and senior Tories believe placing Boris Johnson centre-stage in the election campaign would help lift them out of that 32 per cent quagmire I mentioned. YouGov polling for the newspaper confirms Johnson's status as one of one of Britain's most popular politicians.
ORGANIC BRAIN FADES
The Guardian run Natalie Bennet's apology for her LBC car crash interview on page one. The interview - which was timed to coincide with the Green's 2015 campaign launch - makes for painful listening. She attributed her excruciating performance to a "mental brain fade". Arguably it is a delight for Labour. Stephen Bush, formerly of this parish, writes in the New Statesman that Labour strategists see the Green leader as their secret weapon. However, it remains to be seen how much harm it will do to the Greens come May. There may be some movement among voters alarmed at her grasp of policy. But for many Greens it may not be a problem. The interview demonstrated that their leader isn't a polished career politician, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in their eyes (and indeed the eyes of other voters). It is possible, therefore, that disillusioned Labour voters who were planning to vote Greens will not be that bothered by the interview. Whatever the case, Michael Deacon's sketch on Bennett and the Greens today is glorious.
UKIP NOT FADE AWAY?
It has been a bad week for UKIP. First, the airing of the BBC documentary Meet the Ukippers in which former councillor Rozanne Duncan said she had "a problem with people with negroid features." Now, according to an exclusive YouGov poll conducted for the Huffington Post, people think that the party is just a flash in the pan and won't be around in ten years. With polls suggesting Ukip support is dropping slowly, is the Farage bandwagon finally starting to slow?
POLL OF POLLS
TOO MANY TWEETS…
@KirstieMAllsopp: Oh bugger it, I might as well say it - Malcolm Rifkind is my local MP & I doubt very much they'll manage to replace him with someone better.
From The Telegraph
Graeme Archer - Natalie Bennett car-crash LBC interview: She had it coming
Toby Young - Douglas Carswell is on manoeuvres. But will his pro-immigration rhetoric sink Ukip?
Daniel Finkelstein - 71 days to go and Ed has no campaign in sight
Rafael Behr - British politics isn't so much rotten as past its use-by date
0930 BIS committee hears from Vince Cable
1200 PMQs ahead of an opposition day debate on MPs holding second jobs
1415 HSBC chairman Douglas Flint and chief exec Stuart Gulliver are to give evidence to the Treasury Committee on alleged tax evasion at HSBC's Swiss Private Bank
1415 Public accounts committee hears from BBC director-general Lord Hall
1630 Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is to appear before the Public Administration Committee. He will be questioned on NHS complaints and clinical failure
1800 Nicola Sturgeon to give a speech about the future of Scotland at the David Hume Institute in Edinburgh
TODAY IN PARLIAMENT
HOUSE OF COMMONS
1130 Oral Questions: Scotland
1200 Prime Minister's Question Time
Ten Minute Rule Motion: Employment of People with Disabilities (Reporting) - Debbie Abrahams
Debate: Opposition Day debate (18th allotted day) - Subject to be announced
Adjournment: Care for childhood cancers - Nicola Blackwood
0905 Science and Technology: Future of the Food and Environment Research Agency. Room 15, Palace of Westminster
0930 High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill: High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill. Room 5, Palace of Westminster
0930 Business, Innovation and Skills: Work of the Department. Room 8, Palace of Westminster
0930 Health: Impact of physical activity and diet on health. The Thatcher Room, Portcullis House
0945 Human Rights: The UK's compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
1400 High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill: High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill. Room 5, Palace of Westminster
1410 Environmental Audit: A 2010-15 progress report. Room 6, Palace of Westminster
1415 Public Accounts: BBC estate. Room 15, Palace of Westminster
1415 Treasury: HM Revenue and Customs and HSBC. Room 8, Palace of Westminster
1430 European Scrutiny: EU document scrutiny. Room 19, Palace of Westminster
1500 Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Work of the Committee 2010-15. Room 16, Palace of Westminster
1630 Public Administration: NHS Complaints and Clinical Failure. The Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House
HOUSE OF LORDS
1500 Oral Questions
Access to finance for small businesses
Assessment of broadband services in rural areas and city technology hubs in the UK
Whether soils in England will sustain long-term food production
Leisure industry support for turban-wearing members of the Sikh community
Legislation: Modern Slavery Bill - Report stage (Day 2) - Lord Bates
Short Debate: Mental health services
1000 Extradition Law: Private meeting. Committee Room 4, Palace of Westminster
1030 Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment and Energy (EU Sub-Committee D): Private meeting. Committee Room 2, Palace of Westminster
1600 Justice, Institutions and Consumer Protection (EU Sub-Committee E): Private meeting. Committee Room 1, Palace of Westminster