Party conference season is revving up, with Nigel Farage set to kick off Ukip’s gathering by “celebrating” – in his words – the EU referendum. The umbrella pro-Brexit group “Leave EU”, masterminded by Ukip donor Arron Banks, will be unveiled at the Doncaster conference as the party goes back to its raison d’etre: getting Britain out of the EU.
The Ukip leader has put in a typically bullish performance doing the media rounds this morning, insisting to Sky News that the party is not a “single-issue” force and will be fighting elections to come. However, the party is still adjusting to its decline in popularity over the last year. The latest Ipsos-MORI poll gave it 7% in the polls, whereas last year – when Douglas Carswell was set to become their first elected MP and Mark Reckless was soon to follow – they were on around 15%. The other parties were panicking at the time over whether to “out-Ukip Ukip”, but their panic has eased after the general election saw Ukip fall back to just 1 MP.
As Ukip prepares for the EU referendum, it faces the challenge of maintaining credibility and party unity. The Times reports that Express owner Richard Desmond was “furious” to discover part of his £1m donation to the party was used to pay back a six-figure loan, while the BBC reports that the Tories’ election guru Lynton Crosby turned down a £2m offer to work with a Ukip-linked pro-Brexit campaign.
Nearly four million voters backed Ukip and its flamboyant leader, often seen chuckling over a pint, in May. Farage initially was Ukip’s Heineken man, reaching parts of the electorate other parties couldn’t. But now Labour has its “craft ale” leader in place, Ukip has to remind voters why they liked their brew in the first place.
“We’ve got a national referendum on our membership of the union – something that Ukip has striven for for over two decades.”
Entente Gets More Cordiale
France has opened the door to full-blown treaty changes in a bid to keep Britain in the EU, warning that it would be grave mistake to disregard the legitimate demands of London.
It’ll Take Blood, Sweat And Beers
Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s “craft ale” leader offering “strong flavours” to voters (in the words of Liam Byrne), has become the first Labour leader to score a negative poll rating on his debut with Ipsos-MORI. This comes as Corbyn admitted to learning how to use an autocue in preparation for delivering his first leader’s conference speech, and that he still might snub the Queen when he is sworn in as one of her official advisers.
He also dismissed a suggestion from one of his frontbenchers of launching a campaign against eating meat. Meanwhile, Peter Mandelson has told allies that they need to wait for voters to turn against “loser” Corbyn before they can oust him.
Vlad: I’ll Ice Isil
Vladimir Putin is preparing to attack Isil in Syria amid growing signs that Western leaders may support a Russian plan to allow Bashar al-Assad to remain in power in the country.
All new models of diesel cars on sale in Britain face being retested, the Government announced last night as ministers launched their own probe into the Volkswagen scandal. This comes as other manufacturers face being dragged into the scandal, with a study finding that Volvo, Renault, and Hyundai could all fail future emission tests.
The Mail has published its final day of extracts from Lord Ashcroft’s unauthorised biography of David Cameron, which reports that some Tory MPs feel that coalition with the Liberal Democrats was “built on a lie”, and that the Prime Minister was told off for impersonating BBC’s Robert Peston at Tory party conference. Fraser Nelson is more concerned by the PM’s “lack of attention to detail and squandering of potential”, writing “while Cameron certainly has his flaws he is no villain”.
Eyes On The Prize
George Osborne has brushed off suggestions that his grand-scale tour of China at the head of a large delegation was designed to make him appear prime ministerial. Jeremy Warner fears that China could kill off Britain’s steel industry, writing in today’s paper: “It matters little to the Chinese high command if the casualties of this approach are in far away Redcar. George Osborne, the Chancellor, would do well to bear this in mind in his fawning quest for Chinese investment and friendship.”
The Sign Of Four
Ministers are considering a £1billion sell-off of Channel Four, it has emerged, a year after the plans were blocked by the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition.
We Didn’t Start the FOIA
Britain’s most senior civil servant, Jeremy Heywood, has defended a controversial review of Freedom of Information laws, saying it had to address a “chilling effect” on the way Whitehall operates.
A Question Of Balance
Jonathan Dimbleby has admitted some of the BBC’s audiences are politically biased but blamed government cost-cutting for leaving the corporation “cash strapped” and unable to afford help with vetting. “Does this problem pose a threat to the health of political discourse? If you think it does there is only one solution. Silence the audience,” writes Chris Birkett in today’s paper. “The politicians would welcome it, if no one else.”