It’s Labour versus business. Ed Miliband used his appearance on Sky’s Ask the Leaders event yesterday to have a pop at Stefano Pessina. He’s part of an “unholy alliance” between the Conservatives party “and people like [Mr Pessina] who are actually saying that a country can’t change”, Mr Miliband says.
Now business leaders have fired back. Leading industrialist Sir Nigel Rudd says says the attack “stifled debate”, while Sir Ian Cheshire, the departing CEO of B&Q owner Kingfisher, has defended Mr Pessina’s right to express his opinions, and added: “frankly, personal attacks are pretty unattractive”.
“Business chiefs hit back at Miliband” is our splash. The founder of Pizza Express, Luke Johnson, wades into the row in the Sun. It would be a “disaster” if Labour won power as they “are ignorant of the way markets and capitalism works”, Mr Johnson says. “Pizza Boss: Ed Is Half-Baked” is the Sun’s page 2 story. In the Mail, Lord Rose, who as Stuart Rose turned around Marks and Spencer’s, has written a column in which he warns that a Labour government would lead to “shuttered shop fronts, empty High Streets and lengthening dole queues”. “Man Who Saved M&S Savages Ed” screams the Mail’s frontpage.
Senior Labour sources say that they regard the whole row as helpful, a “clarifying row” that reminds voters of Mr Miliband’s greatest hits. I’m not so sure. The policy formerly known as the energy price freeze attacked a group of companies who, fairly or unfairly, are widely disliked. For all, as Labour spinners point out, Pizza Express and Boots may deserve a similarly dire reputation, these high street names command a great deal of public affection. They are significantly more popular and trusted than Ed Miliband – or David Cameron, for that matter. A “clarifying” row? Perhaps, but not in the way that Labour would wish.
A CHILLY RESPONSE
Speaking of the energy companies…Ofgem is under fire after issuing a list of recomendations for consumers to save money in order to pay their energy bills, rather than condemning the energy companies. “This is patronising rubbish,” says Labour’s Caroline Flint. “Save Cash For Fuel Bills By Eating Packed Lunch” is the Mirror’s splash.
SCHOOL’S OUT FOREVER
A future Conservative government would freeze per-pupil spending, rather than a real-terms ringfence like the one that has operated throughout the Parliament, the Prime Minister said yesterday. “Budget for schools will face cuts, Tories admit” is the Guardian’s lead. Steven Swinford has the details.
IT’S NOT DARK YET, BUT IT’S GETTING THERE
It seems increasingly clear that there has been no recovery in Labour’s fortunes in Scotland. The latest detailed survey of Scottish opinion for YouGov has the SNP still way ahead on 48% to 27%. “Nationalists on course to grab 30 Labour seats” is the splash to the Times’ Scottish edition, while, “Labour set to lose 30 seats in Scotland” is their page one lead in England and Wales.
ALEXANDER: I WILL MAKE IT UP TO EU
Other EU nations increasingly see Britain as “a potential problem or adversary” rather than a “leader or contributor”, Douglas Alexander told listeners at Chatham House yesterday. Britain needs “a post-Cameron foreign policy,” Mr Alexander continued, which will set itself to “review, repairing and resetting” Britain’s relationship with Europe. Elsewhere, a survey on the ConHome website finds that 58% of Conservative activists want to leave the EU while a third want to stay. Beth Rigby has the story in the FT.
William Hague has set out the Conservative plans for English votes for English laws in greater detail, with a “Grand Committee” of English and Welsh MPs to vote on English-only issues like income tax and air passenger duty. Peter Dominiczak and Ben-Riley Smith have the details. It solves the problem of creating laws that are passed “against the will of England”, William Hague told the Today programme.
The Conservative Party “doesn’t understand Britain” anymore, Sir Alan Duncan tells Mehdi Hasan in an interview for the Huffington Post. “We’ve only got one MP in Scotland. We understand our cities, particularly our northern cities, less and less,” Sir Alan says. He has a word of praise for Ed Miliband too: “I’ve always thought he was by far the more normal of the two brothers”. The full interview is here.
LARGE AND LITHE
Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is visiting the UK, will meet with George Osborne later today. The Chancellor visited the Governor in Trenton late in 2013; the visit visit will be a both a boost to Governor Christie’s foreign policy chops ahead of the Presidential primaries and is a symbol, perhaps of the bullishness of foreign pols about the Conservatives’ chances in May. Mr Christie is unlikely to dress as divertingly as newly-minted Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis did yesterday, however.
The team at ConHome have cast their eye over the 25 new candidates in the seats that the Tories held in 2005 (ie. their safe seats). The number of women is up by a fifth from 2010 to make up a quarter of the intake, while BME candidates also make up a quarter of the new crop. Around half of the new intake were educated in state schools. But the new Conservatism doesn’t extend all the way. Four-fifths work the traditional Conservative occupanies of business or the law.
HS3, 4, 5, 6 AND 7?
Ed Balls will today announce that a Labour government will legislate to create a National Infrastructure Commission in its first Queen’s Speech, to prevent long-term decisions being kicked into touch.
HELP FOR ABERDEEN
Aberdeen’s council leaders are calling for a “City Deal” package in order to allow the city to weather falling wages, jobs and investment as the oil price slump hits home. Mure Dickie has the story in the FT.
MAYBE SHE’LL REACH THE TOP?
Theresa May briefly considered referring to the Conservatives as “the Millwall of politics: no-one likes us and we don’t care” rather than “the nasty party” in her unforgettable 2002 speech. “The problem is, we do care,” one Conservative reflects. That’s among the details in Gaby Hinsliff’s profile of Theresa.
Every time she goes out on her balcony to catch a bit of sun while wearing her bikini, this Peeping Tom looks over from his balcony as soon as she removes her top, and stares at her…
She has complained to the superintendent, but he says she must show positive proof before he can do a thing —
She FINALLY got a picture of him while he was staring at her…