This week saw an upgrading of the growth forecast for the UK economy and the largest fall in unemployment since the Norman Conquest. With a trip to Switzerland for the Prime Minister it has been a good week. However, where is the polling break through? Labour’s lead is smaller at times but remains. Last week saw Craig Oliver deliver a lecture to the Conservative Parliamentary Party telling them that message discipline was key. Will they keep going or will Europe, immigration and tax cuts return to the fore?
Government and rebels come to agreement over immigration Bill?
Today saw a return of the Government’s Immigration Bill. It was last seen coming out of Committee stage in mid-November. This morning [Michael this needs changing for the blog] saw the Leader of the House, Andrew Lansley MP, announce that Report stage in the Commons would happen next week. Two Tory backbenchers have tabled rebel amendments to the Bill over eastern european immigration. The Spectator reports that a number of backbenchers are likely to support one of the amendments which says that the Home Secretary should be able to limit EU migration if the Migration Advisory Committee says that migration is damaging the British economy.
This would set up the British Government with a clash with the European Commission, backed by other Member States. Several questions remain – would the Prime Minister mind such a clash ahead of the ballot in 2015? Would the issue reach such a crescendo if the MAC has to find that migration is damaging the economy? Current reports suggest that it is benefitting the economy. The politics of how this would be decided will be fiercely contested.
Are the Liberal Democrats too nice?
Some such as the BBC’s James Landale tread a line between saying they have been either too nice or too incompetent to get rid of Lord Rennard. Others in the party are not so sure, David Howarth suggests that, for all the rights and wrongs of Lord Rennard’s case, the suspension of the former party Chief Exec and campaign guru needs to follow rigorous due process. He also implies that the idea of being suspended for “bringing the party into disrepute” is nonsense and concentrates power in the hands of the leadership.
For the party’s electoral fortunes this needs to go away. However, there is no other political news. With the PM and Chancellor in Davos it is unlikely to be knocked off the front pages for sometime. Worse still a new sex scandal has hit the Lib Dems with all sorts of confusion over the Lib Dem MP for Portsmouth South accused of misdemeanours. This could have wider ramifications for the Lib Dems both nationally and in Portsmouth where they run the Council and where a whole swathe of jobs have been lost at the BAE shipyards.