David Cameron is meeting EU leaders in Riga today, where he will keep pushing for significant concessions from Brussels, pointing to his re-election as a clear mandate to argue for them. Part of the Prime Minister's message, or "song for Europe" as the Independent says, is the need for a crackdown on benefits for EU migrants, as well as - the Times reports - an acknowledgement that the Euro is not Europe's "single currency".
The Prime Minister is hoping to shrug off yesterday's immigration figures, which revealed that 318,000 more people had arrived in Britain last year than left, exposing how off-target he is with his pledge to get net migration below 100,000. Cameron is still sticking by the target, despite spending five years failing to hit it in the last Parliament, insisting on Thursday that he would not "cave in".
Cameron's speech had some blunt rhetoric, like "If you have uncontrolled immigration, you have uncontrolled pressure on public services". "Hmmmmm, now where did he get that line from then?" a Ukip official deadpanned to me. Nigel Farage, who often warns of "uncontrolled" immigration, picked up on "familiar echoes" in the speech, writing in the Telegraph: "[David Cameron] noticed that migrants were "using the NHS for free". Do you remember the squeals of outrage during the campaign when I sought to highlight that fact?" However, "the unsayable truth about immigration to Britain is that it has been a stunning success", Fraser Nelson points out.
The media wasn't bowled over by the Tory leader's address, which Politics.co.uk's Ian Dunt summarised as promising to "make illegal immigration illegal". "Cameron's great immigration con exposed," said the Daily Mirror. The Sun accused him of thinking voters were "gullible enough to swallow the message 'Don't worry, it's all under control", going on to bewail the "migrant tsunami", asking "why can't we stop the flood?" The Indie snorted at his "futile gestures", while the Times lambasted Cameron's "foolish" migration cap.
As Cameron faces down EU leaders, they'll be keener to do business now they know he'll be sticking around for a few years to deliver his referendum. Some think a "grand bargain" could be on the horizon.
In advance of the vote, Tory MP Michael Fabricant has issued a call to arms to fellow "outters", writing on the Telegraph website: "This is ours to lose if we're not very careful". Others, like Alex Salmond, have said they will campaign to remain part of the EU. Support for staying in the EU has been on the up, with 61% saying they would prefer to stay in, compared to 39% to stay out. We'll no doubt see this Europhilia over the weekend at the Eurovision finals.
Len McCluskey is attempting to "sabotage" the Labour leadership contest, Liz Kendall has said as she warned trade union bosses must not determine who wins, Ben Riley-Smith reports. The Labour health minister pledged to fight defence cuts, back free schools and give "radial devolution" to England if she became leader in an open pitch to Tory voters.
The Labour leadership contender made her remarks as she spoke to journalists at a press gallery lunch in Parliament. "She seems like something approaching a normal human being, which in modern politics is so unusual it makes me suspicious," our sketchwriter Michael Deacon said. "Come on. A party leader can't be normal."
The Scottish National Party's new MPs are behaving like "goons" whose "infantile" behaviour is undermining their reputation, Britain's longest serving MP has said. Labour's Sir Gerald Kaufman criticised their attempt at trying to unseat Dennis Skinner from his usual spot on the opposition front benches. Ben Riley-Smith has more.
Meanwhile, Camilla Turner reports on lingerie tycoon Michelle Mone announcing that she is leaving Scotland and denouncing "SNP muppets" as an "angry, hated, jealous lot". The founder of Ultimo, who was a fervent critic of Scottish independence, said she was moving due to "global biz commitments" and denied that she had "turned [her] back on Scotland".
CABINET AIR WAR
Theresa May's plan to introduce counter-extremism powers to vet British broadcasters' programmes before transmission was attacked by a Conservative cabinet colleague, a letter leaked to the Guardian has revealed. Sajid Javid described the Home Secretary's proposal to give Ofcom extra powers to weed out extremist content as a threat to freedom of speech and reducing the watchdog to the role of a censor.
LIGHTING UP AN ARGUMENT
Tobacco companies are preparing to launch what could be one of the biggest ever legal claims against the British Government for losses as a result of the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes, John Bingham reports. They are expected to begin lodging papers at the High Court as early as Friday, seeking a multi-billion compensation payout for being stripped of the right to use instantly recognisable brands.
WHERE ANGELS DON'T FEAR TO TREAD
Faith groups are now filling a "huge gap" in British life occupied by the state until the financial crisis and onset of austerity forced a rethink, according to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Most Rev Justin Welby said churches, mosques, temples synagogues and other religious organisations had stepped in "in a most extraordinary way" over the past seven years, John Bingham reports.
SWEET ON A FAT TAX
Sugary foods may have to be taxed to cover the costs of treating obesity, a health minister has warned. George Freeman, the life sciences minister, said that food companies should be aware that if they continued to produce food that could lead to poor lifestyles and ill health they would be penalised, Sarah Knapton reports.
Nicola Sturgeon has demanded that David Cameron give her a veto over cutting taxpayer subsidies for wind farms as experts warned MSPs that "over-egging" renewable energy will lead to increased consumer bills and intermittent supply, Simon Johnson reports. This comes as Scottish ministers have revealed that fewer criminals will have to tell prospective employers about their records, under measures unveiled to help rehabilitate them.
Meanwhile, Scotland's Education Minister has been accused of attempting to gloss over eight years of the SNP failing the country's pupils in a belated attempt to close the dreadful gap between the best and worst state schools. Here are more details.
IT'S NOT EASY BEING GREEN PT87
Green leader Natalie Bennett (no relation) insists her party's performance at the election was "excellent", although it heavily lost support during the campaign, ending up with just four per cent of votes cast – about half the level of support recorded by earlier opinion polls. This led Geoffrey Lean to ask "Would Britain be better off without the Greens?"
Now Zoe Hall, a former press officer at the Green Party, has waded in, writing on the Telegraph website that the Greens should ditch Bennett in favour of Caroline Lucas. "If the Greens are to kick on and add to their number in parliament in 2020, they need a leader capable of communicating their message," she warns.
TOO MANY TWEETS...
@JessicaElgot: Pollsters have offered us shy Tories and lazy Labour to avoid truth -normal people don't answer polling phone calls or join Internet surveys
From The Telegraph
Nigel Farage - We can't control our borders while remaining in the EU
Fraser Nelson - The unsayable truth about immigration: it's been a stunning success for Britain
Mark Steel - Finally, Labour and the Conservatives are agreeing on... everything!
Mark Wallace - Cameron is now more exposed on immigration than before
David Cameron in Riga for talks with EU leaders
12:45 Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock speaks at the Institute for Government in London on his vision for public sector reform
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