Last week, both parties were defeated by the weather, with the cold snap picking up more public attention than any of the big election themes.
It seems likely that Labour's wretched week will likely pass by just as unnoticed. The ongoing debate about the Opposition's relationship - or lack thereof - continues in today's papers. "Labour hasn't handled the issue well and it will, I suspect, be one of the many factors likely to lead to a deterioration in the Party's poll rating," former Blair adviser Matthew Taylor despairs on his blog.
In the FT, Jim Pickard has tracked down some of the 63 business people who signed a letter supporting Labour in 2005, with mixed results. It's Carphone Warehouse's Sir Charles Dunstone's comments that he is "frightened" of a Labour victory and that business feels "isolated" by Labour's shift ot the left that are picked up elsewhere, to the frustration of Labour spinners who note that Sir Charles - and for that matter, Sir Stuart Rose - are just as jittery about a European exit as they are about Ed Miliband's anti-business instincts.
Despite the fact that the polls and projections still make Ed Miliband the favourite to emerge as head of a Labour government of some shape or form - Populus and the public affairs firm Hanover are the latest on that particular scene,with a projection that shows that Mr Miliband is twice as likely to end up in Number 10 than David Cameron - the Opposition's mood is bleak while the Conservatives have a spring in their step. "The awful thing about PMQs," one Labour staffer observes, "wasn't anything Ed said; it was the way he clearly knew, and we all knew, that he had nothing behind him, while they were all having a great time." A historically-minded MP pointed out the grim precedents: "1955, 1983: we always lose worse the second time."
It comes back to the question James Kirkup posed at year's end: can the Tories' greater belief swing it for the PM? In the last set of coalition negotiations Labour fatalism contributed to what one MP describes as an "almost comical" lack of preparation for talks with the Liberal Democrats. If - as is still the most likely scenario - the next election is inconclusive, that lack of preparation on the Labour side, as much as the spirit-sapping row over business, may well be what keeps Mr Cameron in post.
US AND UK FROZEN OUT IN UKRAINE
The government will take over the running of Rotherham Council after a damning report into that local authority's failure to protect young women and girls from a grooming ring over a sixteen-year report heavily criticised the council's elected politicians and full-time officers for their response. "Rotherham: finally the truth behind the lies" is the Times' splash. The entire council will be up for re-election - Rotherham usually elects in thirds - in 2016, and Ukip will now have high hopes of taking control of the council and making a good run at the seat in May. (The Times has a photo of Ed Miliband and the council's disgraced former deputy leader, Jahangir Akhtar, that I suspect Nigel Farage's party will make a great deal of locally.) Martin Evans and Gordon Rayner have the details.
The Government's reforms to the NHS have been "disastrous" and have "distracted" from the real work of the health service, the King's Fund has said. "Historians will not be kind," Professor Chris Ham, the think tank's chief executive, says. But Labour come in for criticism too; they've been "crying wolf" over NHS privitisation. Denis Campbell has the story.
A DAMAGING FOLLY?
Efforts to enshrine the 0.7% target in law face another hurdle in the Lords today. An alliance of former Cabinet ministers from the Thatcher and Major governments have table amendments to water down the Government's commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on international aid, Chris Hope reports. Lord Lawson, Lord Lamont, Lord Macgregor and Lord Forsyth will seek to weaken the commitment, which Lord Lawson calls a "damaging folly".
The Disability Living Allowance Helpline, still has an 0845 number that costs up to 41p a minute to call more than a year after a Downing Street diktat to remove them, Tom Newton Dunn reveals in the Sun. 3.6 million calls were made to the line last year. A DWP spokesman says that the number has been kept as it is "cheaper for some people" than a 0345 number.
The Conservatives are spending over a £100,000 a month on Facebook and as much as £3,000 on individual campaigns, securing 341 thousand likes against Ukip's 332 thousand. (Nigel Farage's party spend around £100 a month on Facebook campaigns. Labour, who are third with 211 thousand likes, spend around £10,000.) Ross Hawkins has the story.
NEXT YEAR: HOLLYWOOD!
Mike Weatherley and Ian Swales are the latest in Rosa Prince's series of interviews with retiring MPs. Mr Weatherley, who stood down while battling cancer, has since recovered and confesses to a pang of regret about leaving the Commons. "I'm sure every MP standing down has regrets about doing it," says Mr Weatherley. He will return to his work in the film industry.
NEXT YEAR: DIVERSITY AWARENESS TRAINING
"I don't have a future here," Mr Swales tells Rosa Prince, "I'm the wrong gender, the wrong sexuality, the wrong colour [and] the wrong age." "Women still talk about glass ceilings," says Mr Swales, "I'd say it's the opposite."
NUN THE WISER
Tristram Hunt is under fire after appearing to belittle the teaching abilities of nuns on Question Time last night. The Telegraph's Cristina Odone praised the education she recieved from unqualified teachers and the "real values" they instilled in children. "These were all nuns, weren't they?" Mr Hunt replied, "There's a difference I think between a state education system having qulaifed teachers in the classroom.
In his column this week, George Eaton writes on the significant overlap between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, and the prospects of a coalition between the two after the next election. Also doing the same are the Labour-aligned Fabian Society and the Liberal-aligned Centre Forum, who have co-written a report into the possible areas of alignment between the two parties.
HE'S A BIT OF A FIXER-UPPER
The Mail's Matt Chorley sits down with David Cameron to talk A&E visits, boxsets and more. The PM prefers Game of Thrones to House of Cards, Wolf Hall to Downton Abbey, and believes Boris Johnson's hair is "a work of art and should be preserved for the nation". But he is beginning to tire of the Disney film Frozen: "I don't know all the words but I have listened to it being sung more times than I care to remember."
POLL OF POLLS
Conservatives 33% Labour 34% Liberal Democrat 8% Ukip 14% Greens 6% (Ashcroft-Opinium-Populus-YouGov)
YouGov: Labour 33% Conservatives 32% Ukip 13% Liberal Democrat 9% Green 5%
TOO MANY TWEETS...
@Kieran_C: Kickstarter to fund photoshop tuition for all political parties
From the Telegraph
Fraser Nelson - Isil's barbarism is modern, not medieval
Philip Collins - Miliband is just going through the motions(Times)
Philip Cowley - What's more important to voters, coherent policy or the chance to send a message? (Spectator)
0930 LONDON: Health Minster Jane Ellison and Home Office Minister Lynne Featherstone will host an event to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance towards Female Genital Mutilation.
1100 ROTHERHAM: UKIP leader Nigel Farage to visit Rotherham.
TODAY IN PARLIAMENT
LORDS - 1000:
International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill - Committee of the whole House.
Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Bill - Second reading.
Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Bill - Second reading.
Rufus Hound Posts May Conspiracy Theory
5 hours ago