4.30pm Christopher Howarth on Comment: Cameron is risking his reputation with his hints of an EU bill

Screen shot 2013-05-02 at 16.32.111pm WATCH: "The average Londoner produces 60% more than a worker in the North East…Five London Boroughs pay more stamp duty than the rest of the nation put together." Kelvin Mackenzie declares that it's time for a Southern Party

11.15am David Amess MP on Comment: The Edited Electoral Register – don’t edit it out of existence

It's Local Elections Day (if you didn't know already)

In this week's Culture Column, it's booze, swearing, MPs on hospital trolleys, a hung Parliament – and friendship across the political divide. Paul Goodman reviews "This House" at the Olivier Theatre: Colleague Harrison and Comrade Weatherhill

Local Government: Labour hypocrisy on mutuals in the fire brigade

The Deep End: Let’s hope the Chinese discover shale gas and plenty of it

As the polls open, the spin wars begin. Downing Street warns 700 seats could fall…

“David Cameron is preparing for a “very difficult few days” amid fears
in Downing Street that Conservative losses in Thursday’s local elections could
be far worse than many had predicted. The prime minister’s team expect renewed
Tory criticism of him after polling, which is expected to see the UK
Independence party make big gains. – Financial

  • All six Old
    Etonians are in my team on merit, claims Cameron – The Times (£)
  • Cameron’s new
    team may find their loyalties divided between the Commons and Number 10 – Sue Cameron,
  • Voter’s guide to the local elections – The Times (£)
  • New councils
    will have to take tough spending decisions –The Times (£)

…As a rampant UKIP plans to blow open British politics…

Farage Nigel March 2012“UKIP hope that this week’s county council elections are just the
fireworks display before the big bang. In 2014 they think they can blow open
British politics by winning a nationwide election. If they can succeed in doing
that, they would almost certainly force Labour into matching the Tories’ pledge
to hold a referendum on the EU after the next general election. This would
guarantee the public its first vote on Britain’s EU membership in 40 years” –
James Forsyth, The Spectator

  • Curse of Osborne strikes Farage: he parks in a disabled bay – The Sun
  • UKIP leader defends candidate who made nazi-type salute – The Independent

…in Labour areas as well as Conservative ones. Farage's party is surging in today's South Shields by-election.

Miliband Red"Amid growing fears among senior Labour figures that Ukip could
achieve its strongest ever byelection showing in South Shields – and
possibly even capture the seat – Ukip sources said they are winning
support from the "bloody infantry" hit by Britain's main parties. One Ukip source said: "We expect at the very least to give Labour a bloody nose in South Shields while giving the Conservatives a bloody nose in the rural leafy shires of England." – The Guardian

  • Ed Miliband’s
    localist debt to Arnie Graf – Mary Riddell, Daily
  • Labour targets pensioners' benefits – Daily Express
  • Miliband’s turn as a street preacher is hampered by his lack of disciples – Rafael Behr, New Statesman

> Yesterday: Local Government – Most Labour councils are implementing the cut in the spare room subsidy

"UKIP stands for
devolving power to the people"

“The Establishment is rattled by UKIP; perhaps that is at the core of
why voters want to take a punt on us. The thing about these so-called “protest
voters” is that they are a different sort of protest voters than those the
Liberal Democrats used to attract. I’ve been a political anorak for 20 years
and I still don’t know what the Lib Dems are for, apart from being vaguely nice
and inoffensive. However, anybody who votes for UKIP is well aware of the
general thrust of what we are about” – Diane James, UKIP councillor, The

Cameron's response 1) He hints at
changing law to guarantee EU referendum

Cameron Union Jack“With anti-EU party UKIP set to make a significant breakthrough today,
David Cameron has reinforced his commitment to hold a referendum on Britain’s
future in Europe. The Prime Minister said yesterday he was prepared to consider
legislation that would guarantee an in/out referendum if he wins the general
election in 2015. More than 100 Conservative MPs have urged Mr Cameron to back legislation
on a referendum in this Parliament – even if Labour and the Liberal Democrats
conspire to vote it down…One poll yesterday suggested UKIP could take as much
as 22 per cent of the vote in local elections and significantly limit the
progress made by Labour” – Daily

Cameron's response 2) He pledges action in the coming weeks over benefits and health service access for immigrants

"The prime minister admitted that many Britons were still waiting for action on immigrants’ access to public services, but reeled off a list of changes he had made, from cutting net migration by a third to closing bogus colleges…He said that in “coming weeks”, the government would introduce rules “to make sure that when people come here they are not coming for the health service or the benefit system or anything else”." – Financial Times

Clegg claims UKIP is dragging the Prime Minister to the Right

“Interviewed on the eve of the local elections, and facing
the prospect of coming fourth in terms of share of the vote behind UKIP, the
Liberal Democrat leader and deputy prime minister vowed to ‘dig in my heels and
make sure the centre of gravity of the government as a whole does not get
pulled rightwards due to the internal dynamics of the Conservative party’.
Clegg cited Conservative policies on welfare, Europe and climate change as the
three pre-eminent examples of Cameron being pulled right, and conceded that his
coalition partner was no longer the same political animal as presented before
the 2010 general election” – Guardian

The Sun fires a shot across Cameron's bows. It won't support the Conservatives today…

Screen shot 2013-05-02 at 08.27.18
"From our very first paper, 44 years ago, we have always remained politically
independent. We have never served any set party — and we never will. Sometimes we endorsed Labour or the Tories at election times. But today, as 18 million people have the chance to elect new local councils,
none of the big four deserves our support." – Sun Editorial

  • "A wild fling with raffish Nigel Farage might be fun for a while but the
    long-term consequences are unpredictable" – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun

…But Peter Oborne says that the Prime Minister is the successor to the victor of Waterloo

Screen shot 2013-05-02 at 08.31.09“Lord Tebbit’s declaration that he would not blame Tory
voters for turning to Ukip ‘as the party which comes closest to a traditional
Conservative agenda’… is rubbish of such a high order that it suggests he does
not understand the Tory party at all, and perhaps never has. One need do no
more than cast one’s eye back over every Conservative government that has ever
existed, from the Duke of Wellington’s in the 1830s to John Major’s, to grasp
what total bilge his lordship is talking” – Daily

> Today:

Meanwhile, back in the real world, there are signs of better economic news

hope of a rise in manufacturing exports was offered on Wednesday after
the purchasing managers’ index rose to a four-month high of 49.8 in
April, up from 48.6 in March and just below the 50 mark that separates
contraction from expansion.
The jump in the reading for new export orders, from 48.9 to 52.6, was the biggest since July 2011."  – Financial

  • Double dip may never have happened – Daily Express
  • Osborne allies ready to sell bank stakes before general election – Financial
  • Austerity is not the only answer to a debt problem – Kenneth Rogoff and
    Carmen Reinhart, Financial
  • The free market isn’t a licence to con people – Laura Sandys, The

> Yesterday:

Come on in, boys! Help yourselves! Fill your boots! Hague and Hammond raid Greening's aid budget

Greening Justine Feb 2012"The
Prime Minister signalled he would let some of Britain’s international
aid budget be switched to the Ministry of Defence. The Foreign Office,
the Department for Education, the Department for Business, Innovation
and Skills, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
could also benefit." – Daily

  • Aid budget has grown by 31.9 per cent in a year but you wouldn’t know it
  • Is the penny finally beginning to drop that…it is morally unsustainable
    to lavish extra billions on overseas aid? – Daily

Grayling orders review of Court of Protection

"The Justice Secretary last night asked one of the country’s most senior judges to consider steps to increase the transparency of the shadowy Court of Protection. Set up in 2007 under Labour’s Mental Capacity Act, it gave the state draconian powers to intervene in the lives of those deemed unfit to look after their own affairs." – Daily Mail

News in Brief

  • Government backs down on cigarettes plain packets ban – The Sun
  • John Whittingale MP says that his mother should pay for her free TV licence – Daily Telegraph
  • Three soldiers
    killed: is Mastiff armoured vehicle good enough? – Independent
  • Private hospital "putting patients' lives at risk" – The Times (£)
  • Schools failing on sex education – The Guardian
  • Coronation Street star Bill Roache on rape
    charge – Daily
  • Sunshine to bring glorious Bank Holiday – Daily Express


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