Some superficial efforts have been made to observe the diplomatic niceties. But over the past couple of days government ministers have started to turn some heavy fire on the man that they believe is dragging Ukraine and Europe towards the abyss. That man is the infamous international pariah known as Ed Miliband.
The supporters of the Palestinians think that by alleging a higher per capita use of water in Israel they are accusing Israel, but instead they are emphasizing the failures of the PA (here as in many fields). And while the Israeli spokesman thinks that he is defending Israel with his lower per capita figure, he is actually defending the PA against the charge of incompetence.
The obligation upon Israel to supply water to the PA from aquifers in Israel has nothing to do with whether the Palestinian population is two million or four million or a hundred million, if that is what the Palestinians want. That obligation derives from the amount of rainfall in the mountains of the West Bank, and from nothing else.
Good morning. Boris Johnson addressed Tory MPs and candidates in London last night, at the invitation of Grant Shapps. His pep talk urged them to campaign hard in the May elections. He talked of Wellington at Waterloo – appropriately, for next year, that near run thing – and urged them to “join me on the barricades for an outright victory in 2015″. His rallying cry referenced all the messages Downing Street is pushing – Miliband is a return to old Labour, no mansion tax, a vote for Ukip is a vote for Miliband. Given that David Cameron and George Osborne want Boris back for the big push next year, it was appropriate that he was doing what he does best. Come to think of it, It might be worth finding out what those present thought of him. Did they see a future leader, I wonder?
Boris is in the news because No10 and No11 have put him there, for reasons that aren’t immediately obvious. I’ve written about what it all means in my column. The story kicked off in the Times on Saturday and ramped up by the MoS splash rumbles on in several papers. Boris’ appearance on LBC yesterday kept it going: he left open the possibility that he will stand for a seat next year (I believe he will) but said “he was going to expire” if the speculation continued much more. From the conversations I had yesterday it’s clear Cabinet ministers are uneasy about what they suspect is mischief orchestrated by George Osborne and Michael Gove. It’s seen to be part of manoeuvrings by the Chancellor to promote his chances of succeeding David Cameron. MPs are discussing, for example, a meeting organised by the No10 adviser John Hayes during which Mr Osborne made a point of singling out his various proteges who have been appointed to ministerial jobs – “the implication was that he can reward those who help him”, one of those present tells me. Of course, Team Boris are just s capable of naughtiness – they have been suggesting, for example, the Mr Osborne has taken to colouring his hair to over an incipient bald patch. Honestly…
Where does all this leave things? Don’t underestimate the possibility that a friendly rivalry at the top of the party could become bad tempered and quite nasty. The weekend’s events have left the Boris camp bruised and frustrated because they believe their man has been on best behaviour and has done nothing to justify being targeted by Mr Osborne. They are particularly angry with Michael Gove for briefing the Murdoch papers against Boris. How angry? One compared the Osborne/Gove combine to Gordon Brown and Damian McBride. “George is becoming increasingly like Brown, using his power to attack anyone in his way,” I was told. That’s strong stuff, and bodes ill for the next 15 months. Instead of concentrating on winning the next election, there is a chance that the party high-ups could find themselves in an unedifying scrap for control of the party after a defeat.
UKRAINE CRISIS LATEST
The Ukraine crisis has understandably been dominating the airwaves this morning. In the papers, the Mail’s focus is on Hugh Powell’s blunder, as the deputy national security adviser unintentionally revealed that Britain will not impose economic sanctions or impose military action against Russia: it’s an embarrassment the Government can ill afford. The Guardian examines the economic dimension to this all: “Like other EU countries, and especially Germany, which obtains almost 40% of its gas and oil from Russia, the UK is reluctant to adopt measures that could damage its still fragile economic recovery.” In the FT, the Government denies putting the City at risk through its actions. But Liam Halligan warns that Vladimir Putin won’t be worried by the threat of sanctions. Lord Ashdown yesterday warned that the situation is “very dangerous” and “a mistake away from conflict”, as you can watch in our video.
TORY AIDE RESIGNS
Patrick Rock, who has known David Cameron for 20 years, has resigned as a special adviser after being arrested by the police on suspicion of offences relating to child pornography. Mr Rock, 62, has worked for the Conservatives since the days of Margaret Thatcher. He famously coined the phrase “cows moo, dogs bark, Labour puts up taxes”. And on the day John Smith died he went for a pint in the Two Chairmen with the other special adviser at the Home Office, and recalled later, “We both agreed that Blair coming meant that we [Conservatives] would be f****d.” Here’s what I wrote when he returned to No10 in 2011.
DAVE THE TAX-CUTTER
The Prime Minister’s desire to return “every penny” that can be put from public services to the voters through tax cuts makes our front page. In a speech in the West Midlands today, Mr Cameron will try to link his tax-cutting aims to a moral policy: “Do we really want to be the ones who responded to a crisis by putting off tomorrow what we had to do today? Can we really teach our children the importance of being responsible and at the same time shirk the most fundamental responsibility of all?” It can be seen as part of the long general election campaign. The Conservative hope is that promising tax cuts will pressurise Labour to sketch out their position, leaving them vulnerable to being attacked for promising to borrow more – or, if they match the Tory plans, face a revolt on the Left.
NICK PREPARES FOR COALITION, MK 2
The Indy has a useful piece on Nick Clegg’s plans for a second coalition government. It reports: “Danny Alexander, the Chief Treasury Secretary, will head the team planning talks with other parties in a ‘balanced parliament’. The other members are David Laws, the Schools Minister who is in charge of the Lib Dem manifesto; Baroness (Sal) Brinton; Lynne Featherstone, the International Development Minister and Steve Webb, the Pensions Minister.” Will the presence of both Mr Alexander and Mr Laws, lead to Lib Dems murmuring that the team appears ideologically closer to the Tories than Labour?
OFCOM BACKS UKIP
A quietly significant story: OfCom has said that Ukip should be treated as a “major party” in the run-up to the European elections. This means that Ukip will be granted the same number of party election broadcasts as Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, and its views should be given “due weight” in news programmes. It amounts to a significant boost for Ukip ahead of the European elections. The really significant question remains: will Ukip be included in any TV debates before the general election? OfCom’s ruling makes that more likely.
GOVE GOES DOWN STATE SCHOOL ROUTE
Michael Gove’s daughter Beatrice will attend a state secondary school. Beatrice,10, has secured a place at Grey Coat Hospital School which is a short walk from the Palace of Westminster. It is said Mr Gove is the first Tory education secretary to send a child to a state secondary. Next year the focus will fall on David Cameron and his choice for his daughter – just in time for the election.
UMUNNA’S 2030 VISION
Chuka Umunna is giving a speech to 8.30 this evening to launch Labour’s Agenda 2030, a plan for long-term balanced growth. Much of the emphasis is on skills – Mr Umunna will argue that young people should study maths and English to the age of 18 and that all apprenticeships last for two years and are at level three. There are also calls for a cross-government industrial strategy and the creation of a British Small Business Administration.
LABOUR’S WELSH QUESTIONS
Worth noting Charlotte Leslie’s piece for Coffee House. As shown by Ms Leslie’s question about the NHS in Wales at PMQs last week, the Conservatives plan to make attacking Labour’s record in Wales a big part of the general election campaign. The question is: why does this task seem to have been assigned to Ms Leslie, the MP for Bristol North West, rather than one of the Tories’ eight Welsh MPs?
Latest YouGov poll: Con 32%, Lab 41%, Ukip 12%; Lib Dems 8%
TWEETS AND TWITS
@stellacreasy: Walking to work & go past neighbours kid-says having 5 pancakes & chocolate spread today & I am not invited. Some things never change..
In the Telegraph
Benedict Brogan – George Osborne’s intrigues against Boris are a sign of Tory panic
Elizabeth Truss – Britain’s schools need a Chinese lesson
Liam Halligan – Ukraine crisis: sanctions won’t worry Vladimir Putin
Telegraph View – Pray it again, taxman
Best of the rest
Rachel Sylvester – Exit Mayor. Enter Labour’s own female Boris
Janan Ganesh - Resentment of migrants is about feelings
0930: Bank of England deputy governor Sir Jon Cunliffe gives evidence to House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee.
1015 London: EEF Manufacturing Conference, with speeches by Vince Cable and Kenneth Clarke.
Lunchtime West Midlands: David Cameron speech on the economy
Breaking News: William Hague has been speaking on the Today programme about the crisis in the Ukraine, which the Foreign Secretary described as “certainly the biggest crisis in Europe in the 21st Century.”
Mr Hague said that “If Russia continues on this course, we have to be clear this is not an acceptable way to conduct international relations” and that “This clearly is a violation of the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine.” The Foreign Secretary added that “Ukraine presents no threat to its neighbours. There is no justification whatsoever for the action that has been taken” and said “I won’t accept comparisons with Iraq.”
IS BRITAIN NOW A BYSTANDER ON THE WORLD STAGE?
Good morning. The prospect of war in Ukraine dominates politics today. It’s across all the front pages, including the red tops. “New Cold War” for The Mirror, while The Sun has “Come ‘n have a go if EU think you’re hard enough” next to a picture of a topless Putin. Two overnight developments to highlight: the Americans confirm that what the FT calls the “creeping invasion” is complete – Russia now controls the Crimean peninsula; and the markets hate it: in Moscow stocks have slumped 10pc, and so has the rouble, prompting the Russian central bank to jack up interest rates. John Kerry, along with William Hague, will be pursuing diplomacy in Kiev. Will they go on to Moscow?
To understand what’s going on, start with our own David Blair, who has been tracking the story from Kiev. His take is that the partition of Ukraine is the unintended consequence of a popular uprising for democracy. Our leader calls for governments to stand up to “Putin the bully”. Dominic Lawson too has a coruscating column in the Mail on Putin’s bluster, and urges economic punishment as the most effective weapon (the reaction of the markets in Moscow proves his point). Also in the Mail Ed Lucas, who is consistent critic of Mr Putin, looks at Crimea’s “blood soaked” history. The Guardian and others record that David Cameron has ruled that ministers – and the Earl of Wessex – will not attend the paralympics in Sochi, while preparations for the G8 have been put on hold. The Mail has zeroed in on the row over comments from Sajid Javid, the Treasury minisster, who said there was “a direct link between Miliband’s cynical vote against [the] Syria motion and Russia’s actions on Ukraine”. Labour have gone tonto in reply, as you’d expect. But the point is an interesting one: to what extent has western, and specifically British, appeasement strengthened Putin’s hand?
It’s worth considering the history. Britain fell out with Moscow over the murder by polonium of Litvinenko. That was blamed on the FSB, Mr Putin’s old employers. For several years relations were in the deep freeze. Mr Cameron picked up the theme when he publicly backed Georgia against the Russians during that brief war. But since then, and in particular in the past year, London has been much more accommodating to Mr Putin, prompting some to suspect that the Government’s policy of seeking foreign cash to invest in the UK is leading it, as with China, to look the other way when it comes to dealing with dictators. It remains telling, however eloquent Mr Hague is today, that Britain is largely absent from this crisis. The US, France and Germany have been more active. Ukraine is ominous, but even more troubling is the impression that Britain is increasingly a bystander on the world stage. Expect that question to be asked with ever greater frequency.
BORIS v GEORGE
The battle to succeed Dave is stepping up, after claims that George Osborne was engaged in a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign to thwart Boris Johnson’s hopes of becoming Tory leader; the Mayor of London allegedly responded to claims that Mr Osborne had approached him about standing as a parliamentary candidate with the words: “Bull****! There has been no such conversation. They are trying to tie me in.” Mr Johnson’s team deny the words attributed to him, and the claims of a dispute with the Chancellor.
By offering the Mayor a prominent role in the Tory election campaign, the thinking is that Boris would sink or swim with the success of it; so if the Conservatives lost, Boris would be weakened as much as Mr Osborne. Tim Montgomerie analyses the developments in his column, and highlights the role the Mr Osborne “most loyal lieutenant” Michael Gove could play in the succession: “The Education Secretary is honest when he says he does not want to be leader himself but one notion is that he becomes Osborne’s running mate. He is already using private gatherings to big up the Chancellor and talk down London’s Mayor.” Peter McKay has some advice for Boris: “They’re expecting him to scheme for the leadership wherever he goes. So jump back into the fray now.”
In the current mood every Boris column will be scrutinised for every word; he writes in the Telegraph that “we must be firm to the point of ruthlessness in opposing behaviour that undermines our values. Paedophilia, FGM, Islamic radicalisation – to some extent, at some stage, we have tiptoed round them all for fear of offending this or that minority. It is children who have suffered.” Amid all the excitement, the serious point is that the Conservatives cannot afford a leadership campaign to be played out against the backdrop of a general election.
WHO ARE UKIP’S SUPPORTERS?
Nigel Farage has been forced to defend a series of gags about foreigners and Muslims made by the comedian Paul Eastwood at a gala dinner at the end of Ukip’s spring conference. The jokes included the performance of Poland at the Olympics – “They took home bronze, silver, gold, lead, copper – anything they could get their hands on”; Somalian pirates – “Team Somalia – they did well, didn’t they? They had to apologise. Didn’t realise sailing and shooting were two different events”; and telling three Asian women they “looked a little bit lost.” Meanwhile the FT has a good insight into Ukip support, explaining that “Ukip voters are much more likely than supporters of other parties and than Britain overall to have finished education at secondary school level; the proportion of Ukip voters with higher degrees is half the national average.” Perhaps ominously for the Tories, Ukip supporters are over-represented in the Midlands, one of the critical battlegrounds in 2015.
TORIES v FISCAL CREEP
George Osborne is under growing pressure to reverse creep and lift people out of the 40p tax threshold, with the suggestion that the starting rate could be raised from £41,450 to £44,000. David Ruffley, a member of the Treasury select committee, says that it could prove a “game changer” for the Conservatives ahead of the general election. Other supporters include Bernard Jenkin, Philip Davies, who described the threshold as “grotesquely unfair”, Gerald Howarth, John Redwood and Nick de Bois. In our leader, we say that “The Tories’ compassion towards the low-paid does them credit; but they must also help the already squeezed middle-income families who are being dragged ever further into the taxman’s net.”
LABOUR WANTS CONTROL OF INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES OVERHAULED
Yvette Cooper will today call for changes to the oversight of British intelligence agencies. In a speech at Demos at 3pm, Ms Cooper will say that “we need major reforms to oversight and a thorough review of the legal framework to keep up with changing technology” and will propose a new strategy to tackle online fraud and stronger action against online child pornography. Ms Cooper is expected to say that there are “fundamental questions about how we sustain both liberty and security in a digital age.”
HOLLYWOOD TO FILM IN WESTMINSTER
MPs have given permission for Parliament to be used as a set in a Hollywood film for the first time. The Sun reports that Suffragette, starring Meryl Streep, will be shot inside the Palace of Westminster. Given how quiet Commons business is at the moment, finding time for the filming shouldn’t be too tricky.
HAIN WANTS BLOODY SUNDAY AMNESTY
Peter Hain wants British troops involved in the Bloody Sunday killings to be granted amnesty from prosecution. In a piece for The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Hain insists that he has “nothing to hide” and says that “If we are going to draw a line on historic and in all probability fruitless investigations, that must include the pursuit of soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday.” But Ruth Dudley Edwards is sceptical, and says that “there’s a stench around the secret deal that has been uncovered.”
LABOUR’S DASH FOR CASH
Lord Levy has warned that Labour has no choice but to pursue private donors to plug its funding gap. In an intervew with The Times, ‘Lord Cashpoint’ says that “Does Labour want to do it? I don’t think they’ve got any option. Is it something Ed Miliband is in love with? No, I don’t think it is. Will he have to do it? Yes, I think he will.” Lord Levy warns that the Obama-style ambition to get more small-scale donations “has failed and the more stories that come out about politicians and expenses, frankly the less likely it is that members of the public would want to contribute to political parties.” On Saturday, the reforms in Labour’s relationship with the trade unions passed rather smoothly – indeed, as The Times notes, the changes “seemed to please everyone involved, including the trade unions whose power had apparently been clipped.”
It would have been much easier to admit defeat, with net migration having risen above 200,000, but Grant Shapps told Marr that there was “still time” for the notorious “tens of thousands” net migration figure to be met. “The pledge is for the end of the Parliament – we are only part way through,” Mr Shapps said. “That is still our goal – to bring the numbers down.” By denying the now inevitable failure to meet the target, the Conservatives risk it becoming an even bigger issue at the general election.
Latest YouGov poll: Con 34%, Lab 38%, Ukip 12%; Lib Dems 9%
TWEETS AND TWITS
Better late than never:
@IrrancaDaviesMP: Watching Erin Brockovich for the first time … what a brilliant film. How did I miss it all these years?
In the Telegraph
Boris Johnson – The children taught at home about murder and bombings
David Blair – Ukraine: From triumph to torment
Telegraph View – Help the middle class
Best of the rest
Tim Montgomerie – George Osborne or Boris Johnson? Let the battle begin
Peter McKay – Can Boris outsmart scheming George?
Ruth Dudley Edwards - Team Blair and the stench of amorality
Edward Luce – Putin cooks up Obama’s chicken Kiev moment
LIVERPOOL: Green Party conference. St George’s Hall
0930 LONDON: Ahead of the 2014 Budget, Conservative MPs from the Free Enterprise Group and experts from the Institute of Economic Affairs and elsewhere will be presenting their ideas on how to consolidate the economic recovery. Speakers include Mark Littlewood, Dr Philip Lee and Kwasi Kwarteng. Institute of Economic Affairs, 2 Lord North Street, Westminster
1500 LONDON: Yvette Cooper speech to Demos thinktank on digital security and privacy. Napier Room, Institute of Mechanical Engineers, One Birdcage Walk
1600 LONDON: London mayor Boris Johnson gives evidence to Commons Communities Committee on fiscal devolution to cities. Wilson Room, Portcullis House
The situation might have been different if in April 2008 the West had extended NATO membership to Ukraine and Georgia. Russia would never have dared to deploy troops on NATO territory.
Give that Europe opposed the admission of Ukraine to NATO, it should not then have tempted the Ukrainians with EU membership, exacerbating the divisions between the Ukrainians and their ethnic Russian minority.
In the city of Bradford, the local Reform synagogue was about to close its doors when members of a nearby mosque and some Muslim businessmen stepped in with money and advice — and the synagogue has been saved. The two sides have started what they hope will become a tradition.
Mass immigration has left Britain an “unrecognisable” country that many people would not want to leave to their children and grandchildren, Nigel Farage has said.
In one of his strongest attacks on immigration policy, he said the arrival of migrants has some British people feeling that parts of the country are now alien to them.
The UK Independence Party leader said parts of the country had been “taken over” by foreigners and told how he caught a recent commuter train from London to Kent and had to wait for several stops before he heard English being spoken.
Families of two Kurdish political prisoners, Ali and Habib Afshari said their death sentence has been confirmed. Their brother, Rashid Afshari, said: “My sister visited them on 15 February and was informed about the fact.”
I still can’t quite believe it. But here’s the evidence in black and white. In 1976, the NCCL put out a press release proposing that the age of consent be lowered to 14 “with special provisions for situations where the partners are close in age, or where consent of a child over ten can be proved”. So let me get this straight. If the NCCL had had its way, a paedophile could induce a 10-year-old child to have sex with him and, provided he could “prove” he or she had consented, that child’s parents would have no legal redress?
Good morning. She came, she saw, she conquered. The German chancellor impressed Westminster, even as she delivered – in English – the bad news: those hoping for a promise of major EU reforms were to be disappointed. ‘Nein nein nein’ is the Mirror’s headline, ‘Merkel dampens Dave’s EU dream’ is the Mail’s. The pictures combine flirty shots of Dave and Angela with monoglot Brit politicians relying on headphones to understand her. Quentin Letts heard the “murmuring, purring pleasure of Westminster’s massed Europhiles”. I was particularly taken by the extracts from the German coverage in the Times, not least the unnamed source who told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung “Cameron’s policy can be summed up in three words, says an observer, ‘Kissing Merkel’s Ass’.” Downing Street has not lost its optimism, however, and yesterday was texting people like me with extracts form her speech – “it’s doable”, “where there’s a will there’s a way”, “one can find solutions”.
It’s fair to say that Mrs Merkel was more accommodating than the briefing had suggested. She accepts the need for a new treaty and changes. She specifically said free movement could be looked at, to deal with benefit tourism. But as the dire/normal (strike out as your outlook dictates) immigration numbers showed yesterday, benefit tourism is not the issue: our fellow European citizens are making use of their right under EU law (to which we are party) to travel to the UK to find work. And you can bet your leiderhosen that not just Mrs Merkel, but none of the other EU member states, will countenance a watering down of that principle.
What happens now? Should Mr Cameron adjust his sights to manage expectations on his own side? Or should he bet large, demand loads and hope for the best after 2015? We should keep reminding ourselves that any renegotiation, and subsequent referendum, will only happen if Dave is returned with a majority. It could be said that everything he says now, every pose he adopts, has the general election in mind. Tough talk, he hopes, will bolster him against Ukip and those on his own side who will never be satisfied with whatever deal he strikes. I wonder if one day we will look back at today as a great example of delusion built on optimism. The delusion is that the EU will give Mr Cameron a deal that remotely satisfies his backbench fans; the optimism is that the Tories will win next year and put him in a position to negotiate. Still, we can’t fault Mr Cameron for trying. He pulled out all the stops yesterday short of, well, you know, and it seems to be delivering results. This is a long slog and it would be wrong to make bets on the outcome now.
HEAT ON CAMERON AND MAY AFTER IMMIGRATION RISE
The fallout to yesterday’s immigration statistics – showing a 58,000 net rise in net migration to 212,000 – plays out in today’s papers. Dave’s target to get net migration down towards “tens of thousands” has never seemed further off – but that’s a “good thing”, Vince Cable provocatively says on the front page of the Mail. The Business Secretary, in words designed to antagonise Dave, says that “those figures are good news because the reason net immigration is going up is because fewer British people are emigrating and surely that’s a good thing – people are getting jobs here.” While none of the headlines are good for the PM – “200,000 more flood into UK”, says The Sun – the Guardian focuses on the Home Secretary: “May’s target in tatters after surprise jump in migration to Britain from EU”. It even warns that “If the upward trend continues she may leave office with a higher net migration figure than the 244,000 estimated when she became home secretary in 2010.” That would be great news for Ukip – but terrible for the Home Secretary’s chances of cultivating enough support in the party to be a viable contender to replace Dave as leader.
TORIES: DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO STOP MILIBAND
A YouGov poll in The Times today suggests mixed feelings for the suggestion that David Cameron would prefer a minority government to another coalition deal. Tory voters narrowly prefer a minority government to a second coalition deal – but 87% of Tories would prefer another coalition to the prospect of Ed Miliband becoming PM. And the electorate seems sick of coalition: only 17% say either a Lib-Lab or Con-Lib coalition would be their preferred choice after the next election.
NORTHERN IRELAND ASSEMBLY RECALLED
The Northern Ireland Assembly is today recalled for an emergency meeting on the handling of on-the-run Republican suspects, though Peter Robinson has said that he welcomes the inquiry into the secret letters and has withdrawn his threat to resign as First Minister. In The Times, Jonathan Powell writes that “John Downey’s release has nothing to do with an amnesty or a secret deal and everything to do with a cock-up” and says that “it was no secret” that the Labour Government had dealt with paramilitary suspects as parts of negotiations with Sinn Féin. Speaking on Today, Theresa Villiers said that “Everyone who’s received a letter should be well aware that they do not confer immunity from prosecution.”
WHAT DOES HARMAN DO NEXT?
There’s trouble simmering for Labour this morning. The Sun’s front page – “Labour chiefs: It’s OK to have sex with 10-year-olds” – is devoted to exposing that Patricia Hewitt and Jack Dromey were members of an NCCL committee advocating transforming under-age sex laws. Miss Hewitt has apologised, saying that the NCCL was “naive and wrong” to affiliate with the Paedophile Information Exchange and sayd that “I take responsibility for the mistakes we made.” The question now is: does Harriet Harman do the same?
McCLUSKEY’S WARNING TO LABOUR
Further trouble for Labour comes with Len McCluskey warning that “there are some people internally in the Labour party that are beginning to panic” because of Unite’s decision to consider a £1.5m cut in its annual affiliation fees. Labour’s special conference will meet tomorrow to agree reforms in the party’s relationship with the unions, with insiders adamant that this will be a far more significant reform than Clause 4.
FARAGE AIMING SKY HIGH
It’s Ukip Spring Conference time (they’re off to Torquay), but Nigel Farage isn’t trying to dampen expectations: he describes the European and local elections in May as “the moment we have been waiting for” and will be “the biggest political shock in modern British history”. As I’ve noted before, Mr Farage risks creating a rod for his own back. If Ukip fail to come top then, no matter how many votes they get, it will be regarded as a failure. In the Guardian, Mr Farage says that “We’re whistling in the wind if we think we can implement a Eurosceptic agenda from within the European parliament.” Meanwhile Anna Soubry claims that she “wobbled” the Ukip leader when she took him on in Question Time a few months ago – and admits that “In my patch if people vote UKIP, I ain’t coming back here because they will let the Labour guy in.”
IDS LAYS INTO ‘CRIMINAL’ OSBORNE
The Osborne-IDS row continues. Allies of Mr Duncan Smith describe reports of Mr Osborne “declaring victory” in the skirmish over child poverty as “pretty criminal”. They add that the battle “was about personalities rather than policies.” If Mr Cameron wins a second term, is there any way that Mr Osborne and Mr Duncan Smith could work together for another five years?
BURNHAM WANTS LABOUR TO REGAIN ITS NORTHEN SOUL
In an interview with Total Politics, Andy Burnham calls on Labour to regain its Northern Soul: “There is a sense to a lot of people that the kind of ‘London set’ slightly pushes people with Northern voices out a little bit. That’s probably always been the way, but it’s still a bit of a shame. If you look at the House of Lords, oh God, it’s so London-dominated, it’s unbelievable. I think it’s quite frightening to be honest. It’s still quite rare isn’t it to hear Northern accents on frontbenches?” Mr Burnham is trying to paint himself as the true representative of Labour’s working-class history – and, perhaps, reminding his party of the pitfalls of parachuting spads into safe seats that they have no connection with.
Latest YouGov poll: Con 34%, Lab 39%, Ukip 11%; Lib Dems 12%
TWEETS AND TWITS
This # will never take off:
@GregMulholland1: A proper #frost this morning! Gloves & hats required!
In the Telegraph
Fraser Nelson – Free schools will stumble – the test is how well they recover
Jeremy Warner – Our economy’s getting bigger, but not better
Isabel Hardman – Labour and Ed Miliband disagree about party prospects
Telegraph View – Missing the immigration target
Best of the rest
Philip Collins – A symptom of broken Britain is fixed at last
Jonathan Powell – There was no conspiracy. It was a cock-up
Simon Jenkins - Politics, not law, has become the master of British justice
40th anniversary of snap General Election that ousted Edward Heath
Foreign Secretary William Hague hosting UK-China strategic dialogue meeting.
Green Party conference. St George’s Hall, St George’s Place, L1 1JJ
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announcement on dementia care.
Ukip spring conference, Torquay. Nigel Farage speaks at 12pm.