Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Pebbles now, boulders later..

One Labour Shadow Cabinet staffer enjoys collecting egregious examples of the word "top" or "senior". While not quite on a par with the use of the phrase "top Tory" to describe a petty local official, the defection of former NEC head Harriet Yeo will provide plenty of examples for his collection.

"Top Labour official quits party for Ukip over EU" is our take, "Miliband loses senior party figure to Ukip" is the Times' headline, "Former Labour chief quits to help Ukip" is the i's line, "Snookered! Ed's key aide defects to Ukip" is the Mail's take. "It's All Going To Pot For Ed" roars the Sun. Ms Yeo has explained her reasons for leaving in an article for the Telegraph: saying that she has become "disillusioned" with Labour's position on Europe and that half the Shadow Cabinet favours a referendum but has been told to keep quiet. 

In reality it looks as if this defection has a whiff of "You're not dumping me, I'm dumping you" to it. Ms Yeo had recently been deselected as leader of the Labour group on Ashford council and the position of NEC head is very much allocated on a principle of "Buggins' turn". That one Labourite confused Ms Yeo with the veteran left-winger who announced the Labour leadership results, Ann Black, is a measure of her lack of impact.

So the Opposition will find a way to stagger on sans Yeo, but it's worth examining that comment about the Shadow Cabinet's European intentions. "Half" seems wide of the mark to my eyes but a significant minority - including several senior members - does still favour an early poll. More importantly, a growing majority within the party recognise that a referendum is now an inevitability, either under a re-elected David Cameron or as part of the expediencies necessary to make a minority government work. "It buys votes and it's cheap," was one assessment. Pro-European MPs are being increasingly vocal in linking local developments with the EU funding that supports it, and Labour strategists are trying to find ways to light a fire under the flaccid campaign for In. 

But just as significant is the reawakening of Labour's Eurosceptic tendency, frozen in carbonite since the Kinnock years. Ms Yeo may be a relative pebble compared to the bigger figures lost to Ukip on the Conservative side. Don't rule out a couple of boulders later down the line. 


The bishops of Church of England has warned against a mood of political alienation and immiserating welfare cuts in an open letter. Centre-right think tanker Philip Blond says the letter is "prophetic and visionary", but not everyone is so convinced. The CofE has "revealed its hand as the religious wing of the Labour Party" the Sun sighs in its leader.  John Bingham and Ben Riley-Smith have the story


George Osborne has questions to answer about what he knew about the conduct of HSBC's Swiss subsidary and HMRC's decision to take a light-touch approach to seek prosecutions for those suspected of tax evasion, Ed Balls says. The Shadow Chancellor has laid out his five questions in a letter. Patrick Wintour has the story in the Guardian


Karie Murphy, the former Labour candidate for Falkirk who was forced to resign after becoming involved in the allegations over Unite's attempts to maniplulate selection processes in order to secure its candidates, may stand for selection in the Labour-held marginal of Halifax, Michael Savage and Laura Pitel reveal in the Times


"There is a hopelessness about the demand to bring back grammars on the assumption that this country will only ever be able to offer a decent education to a select few," David Cameron, 2007.


David Cameron has hinted that he supports the bid of a grammar school in Kent to expand. "I strongly support the right of all good schools to expand. I think that's very important and that should include grammar schools," the PM said. Ben Riley-Smith has the story.


Maria Eagle will mark the 10th anniversary of the fox-hunting ban by unveiling Labour's policies on animal welfare, including the end of the badger culls, a global campaign against animal cruelty, better treatment for circus animals, and the defence of the hunting ban. Laurence Dodds casts a critical eye over the controversial law and finds that it has been less effective than its supporters hoped. 


Who exactly are the people voting Green? James Dennison uncovers a series of surprising truths about the voters powering the Green surge on the LSE's excellent blog.


Labour are a "****ing waste of time", David Cameron spends too much time "trying to be your mate", while both he and Ed Miliband are "bozos" who "don't stand for anything", former Oasis star Noel Gallagher tells the Quietus.  He says of Tony Blair: "I really believed in Tony Blair, for right or wrong, and until al Qaeda flew those planes into those towers. Everyone seems to forget that things before that were f****** alright." Steven Swinford has the story.

You can get in touch with me by pressing "reply" or or on Twitter. Our cartoon is the work of Christian Adams, who is also on Twitter. A gallery of his work can be viewed here.  


Labour 34% Conservatives 33% Ukip 15% Liberal Democrat 8% Greens 7% (Ashcroft-IpsosMori-Opinium-Populus-YouGov) 


YouGov: Labour 34% Conservatives 33% Ukip 15% Green 7% Liberal Democrat 6% 


@owen_g: Party leaders seem to be giving one endless pre-election speech, with buzzwords and small businesses in the midlands inserted at random.


From the Telegraph

Mary Riddell - Will Ed Miliband's fate be decided in classrooms and on campuses?

Laurence Dodds - The hunting ban, ten years on

From elsewhere

Rafael Behr - An EU referendum is a nightmare for Britain, but it has to happen (Guardian)

Isabel Hardman - Typical. They're flying the fat people again (Times)


0930 LIVERPOOL: Attorney General visits Crown Prosecution Service programme in Liverpool. Jeremy Wright QC MP will attend Crown Court in Liverpool to observe a witness give evidence on camera as part of the section 28 pilot scheme. 

1300 LONDON: Launch of Labour pledge for animals, with Maria Eagle. 


In recess until 23rd February.