s Labour fighting on too many fronts? In the traditional head-to-head battle, the PM heads north today where he and George Osborne will hope that their call to end the "decades old divide" between North and South, as well as a guarantee of 100,000 new jobs in Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire, will be rewarded in northern seats at the polls.
Elsewhere, that "clarifying row" with business still rumbles on. The Mirror have an op-ed from Lord Allen, a British businessman and chair of the Labour Party's executive board in which he throws his weight behind the Opposition's plans for Britain in 2015 and warns about the threat of a EU exit in 2017. But the Times has spoken to Assem Allam, who has given £210,000 to Labour since 2010, and found him in a less than rosy mood. Ed Miliband's party treats businessmen as if "they should go away and die", Dr Allam says, while the reintroduction of the 50p rate will "drive brains out of the country".
The Labour leadership may be intensely relaxed about all that if it crystallises attitudes towards Mr Miliband as standing up to vested interests, but the latest analysis from YouGov suggests that the Opposition is recieving little benefit from its war of words. 31% of people think that Labour's policies will be good for people who are employed by big business, against 39% who think the same of the Conservatives. On the economy as a whole, 42% of people think that the Opposition will be bad for the economy as a whole, against 33% who believe the Conservatives will be.
That said, for all these numbers - and the latest polls from Scotland - are dispiriting for Labour, there's still little to account for the mood of Tory optimism around the place. As Helen Lewis points out in her NS column, Labour's much-advertised weaknesses don't yet seem to be translating into a Conservative lead. Yes, the SNP surge is bad for Labour if it endures until Polling Day. But it highlights that in 2015 the best that Tories can hope for in Scotland - don't forget, that country sent 12 Conservative MPs to Westminster in 1992 - is that those seats fall into the hands of the Nationalists. Lord Glasman's less-than-glowing aside in an interview with Holyrood magazine that Mr Miliband is "the leader we have" is the one drawing the attention, but his wider message, that a Labour party with a compelling offer in England and Wales can do without those 41 seats in Scotland, is broadly correct. Frankly, if the Conservatives - led by the most popular of the three leaders, with an economy that is beginning to grow properly at last - can't find a path to a majority against an Opposition that is fraying at the seams and led by a widely-disliked leader, when will they?
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.
TO THE WORKER HIS DUE
A Labour government would set itself the task of eliminating housing benefit entirely through raising wages, Rachel Reeves said yesterday. The failure to get wages up and to close the deficit are "two sides of the same coin", Ms Reeves says, and on current trends a million more workers will be dependent on some form of in-work benefits by 2025. Bloomberg's Alex Morales and Rob Hutton have the story.
The Commons defence committee has lambasted Britain's non-existent plan to tackle the Islamic State, Kim Sengupta reports in the i. A report into the UK's aims and strategy for Iraq and the wider region attacked "the inability or unwillingness" of Service chiefs to provide a sense of what the UK's "objectives or strategic plan in Iraq" were.
CLOGGS FOR CLEGG?
A Survation poll commissioned by the trade union Unite shows Nick Clegg losing his seat to Labour in May. The numbers are: Labour 33%, Liberal Democrat 23%, Conservatives 22%. (It's not clear whether the full poll prompted for the candidates.) "Clegg and Buried" is the Mirror's take.
DEATH AND TAXES
David Blunkett has called on the Labour Party to readopt an estates levy to pay for social care. "Why shoudl their sons and daughters or nephews and nieces win the lottery when they die?" Mr Blunkett told Policy Exchange. Ben Riley-Smith was in the audience. In the Sun, Tom Newton Dunn reports that Mr Blunkett also endorsed making benefits conditional on good behaviour, a policy which, Tom says, Labour's policy chief was forced to row back from for fear of upsetting that party's activists.
THIRD TIME LUCKY?
Justice Lowell Goddard, a New Zealand judge will chair the troubled Woolf (formerly Butler-Sloss) inquiry into historic allegations of child sexual abuse. David Barrett has the story.
THAT WHICH IS CAESAR'S...
The Archbishop of Cantebruy has entered the row over corporate tax avoidance, John Bingham reports. "Wealth creators are a good thing", Justin Welby says, but "if you earn the money in a country, the revenue serivice of that country needs to get a fair share of what you have earned". "Jesus Christ spoke of the importance of people paying what's due," the Archbishop continued, "The Bible speaks of it endlessly." "Archbishop takes on the tax dodgers" cheers the i's frontpage.
THE RISE OF THE MERITOCRACY?
A new report by the Sutton Trust finds that 31% of candidates in winnable seats were privately-educated, against just 7% of the country as a whole. The number of Labour candidates from private schools, at 19%, is almost double th number of current Labour MPs who are privately educated (10%), while the Conservative share is down slightly at 49% from 52%. The survey also showed that 55% went to Russell Group universities with 19% attending Oxford or Cambrdge. Ukip are the only party to buck the trend with just one candidate from Oxbridge and 35% of its PPCs not attending university at all against just 17% from the overall pool. "Private education, private education, private education" is the Indy's splash.
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.
ON THAT NOTE...
Simon Hoggart and Alistair Michie's 1978 study of the last period of Labour and Liberal "coalition" will be reissued by Faber & Faber in March; I've written the preface, and you can order your copy here.
POLL OF POLLS
Conservatives 33% Labour 34% Liberal Democrat 7% Ukip 14% Greens 7% (Ashcroft-Opinium-Populus-YouGov)
TNS-BMRB: Labour 33% Conservatives 27% Ukip 18% Green 8% Liberal Democrat 6%
YouGov: Conservatives 34% Labour 33% Ukip 13% Green 7% Liberal Democrat 6%
TOO MANY TWEETS...
@KevinMFeeney: I think we can all agree that the main lesson of the current major shifts in the UK political landscape is that Plaid must really suck
From the Telegraph
Allister Heath- Europe could be torn apart by the wrong sort of Eurosceptic
Padraig Reidy - Will anyone stand up and say: Je suis Dieudonne?
Helen Lewis - Memo to the right: if Ed's as rubbish as you say, why aren't you winning? (NS)
John Rentoul - We've all forgotten a name from time to time, but we're not all Shadow Chancellor(Independent)
0945 WOLVERHAMPTON: Greg Clark to sign £138 million growth deal for the black country local enterprise partnership.
1030 LONDON: Nick Clegg sets out the Liberal Democrats' fiscal plans for the next parliament.
1130 LEEDS: Prime Minister and Chancellor delivering speeches on the long-term economic plan for Yorkshire.
1200 LONDON: Bank of England decision on interest rates and quantitative easing programme.
1430: Publication of biography of Prince of Wales by Time magazine editor at large Catherine Mayer.
1830 LONDON: Michael Gove speech to Policy Exchange.
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.
TODAY IN PARLIAMENT
COMMONS - 0930:
Energy and Climate Change Questions.
A statement on the future business of the House.
Two backbench business debates: i) Building sustainable GP services ii) Improving cancer outcomes.
A short debate on beer duty.
1330: i) A debate on the report from the Political And Constitutional Reform Committee: Voter engagement in the UK, and the Government response and ii) A debate on the report from the Work And Pensions Committee: Employment And Support Allowance And Work Capability Assessments, and the Government response.
LORDS - 1000
Pension Schemes Bill - Third reading.
Deregulation Bill - Report stage (Day 2).
A short debate on the improvement of maternity care and training of maternity staff.
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