Good morning. Another Coalition row – stage-managed though it may be – has broken out, and immigration is the reason why. Our front page – “Middle class blamed for migration” – gives a preview of James Brokenshire’s speech today. The new immigration minister will say that a “wealthy metropolitan elite” of middle-class households has supported mass immigration to Britain by demanding cheap labour and services but “ordinary, hard-working people” have not benefited. People will ask whether Mr Brokenshire is having a go at Mark Harper. But it’s also another attempt to rebrand the Conservatives as the “workers’ party”. As ever, Ukip is central to Tory thinking: polls show that Nigel Farage’s party has been especially good at attracting elderely male working-class voters away from the Tories. Mr Brokenshire will express his dismay over the recent increase in net migration to above 200,000: “Some have tried to claim that this rapid increase is somehow ‘good’ for the country. Well, just like the Home Secretary, I disagree.” The trouble is there are several in the Cabinet – and not only Lib Dems – who think differently. Immigration is seen as facilitating growth rather than undermining it; in clash between immigration and growth, the latter wins out. Blaming the middle class, as Mr Brokenshire does, can’t get round the reality that there is no chance of Dave’s “tens of thousands” net migration target being met. Harping on about it risks drawing attention to this failure.
As ever now, differentiation lurks just beneath the surface; The Times report notes that “The public row over immigration is one of the clearest signs to date that the Lib Dems and the Tories are attempting to appeal to their traditional supporters before the European elections in May.” In a neat coincidence, Vince Cable is also giving a speech on immigration today. Mr Cable naturally takes a different view, and will say that he is “intensely relaxed” about large-scale migration, as long as “they pay their taxes and pay their way”. Mr Cable warns: “Bear down on immigrants, and you lose some of the most dynamic, innovative and imaginative workers in your economy.”
CLEGG v FARAGE
It’s definitely on. Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage will have an hour-long debate on Britain’s future in Europe at 7pm on Wednesday, 2 April, live on BBC Two; the clash will be hosted by David Dimbleby. “Clash of the middleweights” we call it. The BBC says that it will employ opinion pollsters to select a “demographically representative” sample of the population for the live audience. Expect grumblings over the method of selecting the studio audience, who will be allowed to put questions to the leaders. The FT analyses why the two are debating: “By unashamedly campaigning as a pro-European party, albeit with a reform agenda, Mr Clegg’s team hopes he can attract the votes of some of the 35-40 per cent of the electorate who say they want to stay in the EU.” The Tories will be cheering Mr Clegg on, hoping that a good performance may peel votes away from Labour, and held to persuade Tories who have deserted to Ukip to return to the Conservative fold. Ladbrokes makes Mr Clegg 8/11 favourite to win the debate. There is also another, more lightly moderated, debate that will be held on LBC Radio.
SHELL WANTS UNION TO LAST
Another business voice is warning of the risks of Scottish independence. Shell have said that they want Scotland to remain in the UK, with CEO Ben van Beurden saying that he valued the “continuity and stability” of the UK. Mr van Beurden also said that he wanted the UK to stay “inside the EU”. Are those who support the Union but oppose EU membership storing up problems by relying on business voices to make the case for Scotland rejecting independence?
LABOUR’S CASH CRISIS
This is why Labour is in such need of Mr Tony’s cash. Unite has slashed its funding to Labour by 50%, a fall of £1.5 million, according to the Mail. The Tories are now seizing on the suggestion that Len McCluskey’s power could be increasing, with the remainder of Unite’s political fund now in the hands of “union barons” like Mr McCluskey, as Grant Shapps said.
SAMANTHA TURNS UP AT PMQS
The parliamentary sketch writers pick up on Samantha Cameron’s appearance in the small downstairs VIP gallery during PMQs – only the second time that she has been in attendance since Dave became PM. Quentin Letts recounts the moment when Dave spotted her: “His eyes scoured the distance. Spotting her – strike up the theme to Love Story – he fought his way through the throng to go and devour her with his eyes. It was like when Pat Cash won Wimbledon.” If there is a wider significance, it’s perhaps that CCHQ recognise that Mrs Cameron is an asset to her husband, especially with female voters.
WEEKLY BIN COLLECTIONS AREN’T COMING BACK
Eric Pickles yesterday admitted defeat in his attempts to bring back weekly bin collections. Mr Pickles once described these as a “fundamental right” but admitted that “It is a matter for local authorities.” The Mail isn’t impressed, noting that “the proportion of councils operating collections every other week has increased from 57 per cent in 2010 to 69 per cent last year.”
DAVE AND HIS CHUMOCRACY
Mercifully for the Tories, the coverage of Patrick Rock is kept well away from the front pages: it’s on page 19 of The Times, for insance. But the article raises some awkward questions, with a parlianentary aide by Francis Maude last November revealing that five formal harassment complaints had been submitted over the previous five years, but none had resuled in disciplinary action. Sue Cameron explains that the accusations of a cover-up over Mr Rock touch on Dave’s reliance on his “chumocracy”: “The trouble for those in No 10 is that they have become so close to each other that they don’t realise the impression they will make on the outside world. In Mr Rock’s case, a separate complaint from a civil servant was dealt with by Ed Llewellyn, Mr Cameron’s chief of staff and another Old Etonian chum. Again, there is no reason to think it wasn’t all above board, but it looks bad.”
The Morning Briefing is edited by Tim Wigmore. Follow Tim on Twitter
Latest YouGov poll: Con 34%, Lab 37%, Ukip 11%; Lib Dems 10%
TWEETS AND TWITS
@Mike_Fabricant: Shock! From 7pm until 11pm I was out of contact. The battery on my BlackBerry went flat and I wasn’t near my PC or iPad. I felt naked!
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1100 James Brokenshire gives his first big speech since becoming immigration minister
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