Morning Briefing – The Telegraph

Good morning. He’s back! Alex Salmond announced yesterday that he will target a return to the House of Commons: the Liberal seat of Gordon is his chosen target. “I couldn’t stand on the sidelines a moment longer” is the National’s splash. (It was a long fortnight, to be fair.)
The bookies make Mr Salmond the 1/8 favourite in the seat and it should be fairly low-hanging fruit for the SNP and Mr Salmond in particular. The seat is broadly similar to Mr Salmond’s Aberdeenshire East constituency in the Scottish Parliament and although the Liberal candidate, Christine Jardine, has been working the seat hard the loss of the personal vote of Sir Malcolm Bruce, the longstanding local MP, will hit Liberal hopes hard. (Added to that, the polls, campaigners on the ground and the Scottish parliamentary elections all show that the Liberal collapse north of the border is largely to the benefit of the SNP.)

Can anyone stop the SNP? The winner of the Scottish Labour leadership election will be announced on the 13th of December, and it looks very likely to be Jim Murphy. That campaign is in better heart than they were when ballots were issued – their phone canvassing among the members has taken a favourable turn while the anger of MPs over Mr Murphy’s embrace of tax devolution has been dampened somewhat by the error-prone campaign of his rivals. Neil Findlay’s habit of sending press releases riddled with errors, texts beginning with “Hello name”, coupled with the equally hapless campaign run by his effective running mate, Katy Clark, have brought more members of the Scottish parliamentary parties round to Mr Murphy’s side.

Labour insiders are in rather better heart than they have been recently. They feel that Mr Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon have conceded the argument that the next election is a choice between Ed Miliband and David Cameron. It may be that the “same old fear campaign we always run” as one more cynical observer put it is not enough, however. For the moment, the SNP is monopolising the independence vote and holding onto its Unionist supporters. Scottish Labour’s new leader’s first task is to craft a narrative of optimism rather than a re-run of Labour’s 2010 campaign north of the border.

The Coalition row over the Autumn Statement rumbles on to another day. Danny Alexander has written an op-ed for the Telegraph saying that the Conservatives want “austerity forever”, are motivated by “pre-election panic” and would go “way beyond what is required to balance the books”. (Unless there is a sprinkling of Liberal Democrat to stop them, of course.) It’s all part of a period of “conscious uncoupling” was Norman Smith’s take on Today.

Nadine Dorries tells the i: “I would say that Labour are posher than us these days.” Dorries comments on disgraced Labour MP Emily Thornberry who was forced to resign as shadow Attorney General following a Twitter storm, during which Thornberry posted a captioned photo perceived to be disparaging towards the working class. Still, at a time when voter disenchantment is dangerously high, Dorries’ words shouldn’t be viewed simply as a swipe at Labour, but rather a timely reminder of how far Westminster in general has to come in being representative.


The Commons Environmental Audit Committee has rallied a call for a future ban on building schools, hospitals, and care homes near to air pollution black-spots in order to help cut the estimated 29,000 deaths a year in the UK that have been caused by poor air quality. The story leads the Indy and the i.

Political parties must recognise “the simple but devastating fact that hunger stalks this country”, a new report, funded by the Church of England and jointly led by Frank Field and the Archbishop of Canterbury, says. Voluntary groups are fighting a “social Dunkirk” without government assistance, the report – to be unveiled later today – argues. To tackle the problem, the report calls for a national network of state-backed food banks, the adoption of a fairer, speedier and less punitive benefits system, and a national living wage. Patrick Butler has the details in the Guardian – “Church v state rift over hunger” is their splash.


The Bank of England has said that the vast majority of mortgage borrowers could handle interest rate rises of up to 2%, suggesting that the Bank is close to changing policy on rates. 37% of households with mortgages would have to take action if rates rose, while 57% would do so voluntarily. “Middle classes facing ‘catastrophe’ of rate rise” is the Times splash. Szu Ping Chan has the details of the Bank’s report.


Douglas Alexander will call on the “quiet majority” of British businesses to speak up on the case for British membership of the European Union. He will cite the lessons of the Scottish campaign, when businesses were “reluctant to speak out” and had to be “jolted into action” by that YouGov poll. “Your voice must be heard, because if you wait, it could be too late,” Mr Alexander will warn.


Theresa May has emerged as the favourite from a poll conducted by Conservative Home yesterday regarding the party’s future leadership. The Home Secretary received 29% of the vote, pipping Boris Johnson who got 18%.


Nigel Farage suggests that he was late to attending an event in Wales on Friday because high levels of immigration had brought about a backlog the M4. On his tardiness, Farage said, “That is nothing to do with professionalism, what it does have to do with is a population that is going through the roof chiefly because of open-door immigration and the fact that the M4 is not as navigable as it used to be.”


Nigel Mills, the Tory MP for Amber Valley, Derbyshire is in hot water after The Sun released pictures of him playing the popular Candy Crush app on his i-Pad. The 40-year old, who was elected in 2010, but only has a majority of 536, was supposed to be listening to pensions experts give evidence at a meeting of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, of which he is a member.

Political Landslides Shake Europe

All along the Mediterranean and to the north, parties opposing the EU-mandated austerity policies are growing spectacularly.

The rise of tax-and-spend parties (or rather tax-other-countries-and-spend parties) reinforces the rise of parties such as UKIP in the north.

In the Netherlands, the anti-establishment Party for Freedom (PVV), of Geert Wilders, is currently the biggest party in the polls. Wilders has consistently opposed the bailing out of countries such as Greece and Spain with Dutch taxpayers’ money.


Turkey and the Kurds

For decades Turkey’s official policy was: There are no Kurds — so there is no problem.

“They wanted to send us a message through a beheading, a throat-cutting. This was an organized attack against our party. The [Turkish] state wanted to behead our party administrator in our party building. Behind this attack was the state itself.” — Selahattin Demirtas, co-Chairman of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP).


ISIS Threatens Europe’s Jews

PA Pundits - International

yak3A Dry Bones Cartoon ~

D14C07_1The Story:

Don’t want to come to the Middle East? Stay in Europe and “kill Jews,” says ISIS to aspiring Islamic terrorists
“In an article about a Muslim female teenager from the French town of Bethoncourt who disappeared in October, and was later discovered to have traveled to Syria via Turkey to join IS, the New York Times reported that “another 15-year-old girl, who was intercepted by French intelligence officers as she tried to go to Syria months ago, has since told the authorities that once her recruiters realized that she was unlikely to be able to leave the country anytime soon, they began pressing her to strike at home against Jews. She told them she had begun looking for weapons and targets.”-more

Read More by Yaakov Kirschen at Dry Bones .

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Poor going hungry because they can’t cook, says Tory peer

(No need for an apology, Baroness, as there is a lot of truth in what you say. Compulsory, government funded cooking lessons for those on benefits would be in the interests of everyone. OB)

Poor people are going hungry because they “do not know how cook”, a Tory peer has said.

Baroness Jenkin told the launch of a report into food poverty: “We have lost a lot of our cooking skills, and poor people don’t know how to cook.

“I had a large bowl of porridge today. It cost 4p. A large bowl of sugary cereal will cost 25p.”

She said she was “not all blaming” the poor but said the evidence gathered by the All Party Group on Hunger and Food Poverty found that poor people are often unable to produce nutritious meals from scratch for lack of basic skills.


My Mother-in-Law’s Legacy, Part II

Luanne Castle's Writer Site

Last week I wrote here about my mother-in-law’s painting in New York City in the 40s and 50s. If you haven’t read it, check it out to see samples of the murals of jazz celebrities Diana Dale painted for the Birdland club.

When my husband was in elementary school, his family moved from New York to Michigan.

Here is my MIL standing beside some of her art at the Art Fair at Bronson Park in Kalamazoo.

In Michigan, the subject of her paintings gradually changed. While she still occasionally painted portraits, she began to paint the architecture she found in and around Kalamazoo, Michigan. She also added the surname Castle to her professional name.

The above painting of the A.M. Todd factory was painted just before it was torn down.

In the first year I dated my husband, Diana sat in her “burnt orange” Opel, painting the bank building downtown…

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