A change in mood this week in Westminster, with the Conservatives on a high and Labour deflated. “Our worst week in the parliament,” was one verdict yesterday. The big NHS gun has failed to fire. That take-home pay is lower in real terms than it was in 2001 – “The great wages crash” is the Guardian’s splash – according to the IFS has some in the Opposition still hopeful that a spirit of general disgruntlement may be enough to get them into office in May.
But the wind has come out of Labour’s sails – they appear to be slipping back somewhat in London from their blow-out victory last May, and stagnating in Wales, where they had their worst result in 2010 – something that Grant Shapps will take great glee in pointing out later today when he attacks “30 days of Labour chaos”.
Of course, it still isn’t the Conservatives who are doing any real damage to Labour. (In fact, it’s an interesting question whether it’s Labour, who are losing votes everywhere, who should be more worried that the Tories, who don’t seem to be able to pick up votes anywhere.) Small wonder that Alex Salmond, who has a must-read interview with BuzzFeed’s Jamie Ross, is in a cheerful mood. (Spare a thought for the Liberal Democrats, who privately expect to lose nine of the 11 seats they hold in Scotland) His one-liner that the last referendum was “a dry run…I was just testing the No side to see what arguments they would come up with” will haunt supporters of the Union, who “left everything out on the field [last time]” in the words of one.
Publically, Jim Murphy is still in an ebullient mood – he’s also been interviewed by what the PM calls “the Buzzfeed”, and says he’s been “surprised by their lack of energy, and the degree to which they’re just a normal government” – and says he talks to Ed Miliband – who visited yesterday – most weeks. Despite everything, most Labour figures expect a degree of recovery between now and May (although John Curtice is unconvinced).
“I think we’ll end up back [in 2011, when Labour polled 31% to the SNP’s 45% at Holyrood], which would be a triumph, considering everything,” one organiser predicted recently. That that rout looks like good news now is a testament to the scale of their challenge. It’s strange, but for the first time, the optimists are those who think it’s a temporary consequence of Mr Miliband’s lack of personal appeal or overarching message, while the pessimists are the ones who fear that Labour’s Scottish problem may have decades left to run.
BORIS JOHNSON, POTTYMOUTH
Young British jihadis are “not making it with girls, and so they turn to other forms of spiritual comfort,” Boris Johnson tells the Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn, “They are just young men who desperate need of self-esteem who do not have particular mission in life, who feel that they are losers and this thing makes them feel strong – like winners.” Also in the interview: he’s done no deal with the PM, and quite fancies a super-ministry in charge of infrastructure after 2016, says that Ed Miliband “despises people who are out to make money”, and says that Mr Miliband and his Shadow Chancellor are “the Thelma and Louise of British politics”. They “drove the car off the cliff last time”.
THE ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES OF MR MILIBAND
“Energy Fatcats Profits Up 1,000 Per Cent” is the Mirror’s splash as it emerges that the Big Six will rake in bumper profits due to the cold weather and the low cost of energy. It’s all the fault of the Coalition for not voting to give Ofgem the power to cut bills, says Caroline Flint. No! It’s all the fault of Ed Miliband’s energy price cap née freeze, thunders the Mail in its leader. “This quasi-Marxist does not have a clue how the markets work.”
THE TARGETS NEVER BOTHERED ME ANYWAY
Labour’s reforming tendency is out in force. Liz Kendall and Steve Reed, two Opposition frontbenchers, have written a pamphlet calling for a massive devolution of power to people and localities to make public services better, in what Patrick Wntour describes as a “last-minute push to sharpen the Labour manifesto on devolution”. The full pamphlet frankly admits that many public services can and must do better. Elsewhere, Jon Cruddas has given a speech calling for Labour to embrace the politics of fraternity and to steal some of the PM’s abandoned lines about the Big Society. It’s all part of that party’s New n’ Blue mash-up that Rafael Behr blogs on.
COMING HERE, DECIDING OUR ELECTIONS
Foreign-born voters could decide the result in up to 70 marginals. “March Of The Migrant Voters” is the Mail’s splash, who focus on the two seats – East Ham and Brent North – where foreign born voters will make up the majority of voters. But it’s the impact of anti-immigration rhetoric on Conservative electoral hopes that has caught the eye of the i. “Tories fear migrant voting power” is their front page, while the Indy goes for “Hard line on immigration could cost Tories election”.
MUST YOU GO?
Dame Anne McGuire is the latest subject of Rosa Prince’s excellent running series about the MPs who are standing down at the next election. She explains why she has never rebelled from the Labour whip in 18 years in Parliament: “I do think I am here on a party menu. I am not here as Anne McGuire…the people of Stirling, they elected me in the context of a Labour manifesto.” “Sometimes,” Dame Anne adds, “The easy route is to rebel.”
FORGET SAVING THE HAMSTER, BRING BACK THE DINOSAUR, SAJID
Sajid Javid’s 11-year-old daughter was distraught recently when her hamster went missing. The Culture Secretary placed foil on the floors and stayed up all night to listen for the pitter-patter of tiny feet. His lack of sleep paid off and the hamster was found. All that plus his reaction to opera and Mary Beard from Emily Ashton’s profile of the rising hope of the Osborne tendency. Have a lovely weekend.