POLITICS

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Balls Vs Big Business

27/01/2014 08:42 GMT | Updated 27/01/2014 08:59 GMT
Peter Macdiarmid via Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 04: Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls speaks at The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) annual conference on November 4, 2013 in London, England. The CBI is the leading lobby group for businesses in the United Kingdom (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Here are the five things you need to know on Monday 27 January 2014...

1) BALLS VS BIG BUSINESS

If you want to know how upset big business and its outriders in the press are over Ed Balls' pledge to bring back the 50p top rate of tax, check out the headlines on the front of this morning's papers:

"Businesses blast 50p tax plans by Labour" (Financial Times)

"Bosses blitz Labour's 50p tax rate" (Daily Telegraph)

"Labour civil war over 50p tax plan" (Daily Mail)

The Mail piece is amusing - it contains only two on-the-record quotes, from Lord Myners, the former City minister, and Lord Jones, the former trade minister, both of whom are cross-bench, not Labour, peers.

The Telegraph piece is based on a letter to the paper from 24 company bosses, including Sir Stuart Rose, the chairman of Ocado and Sir Ian Cheshire, the chief executive of the DIY group Kingfisher, who warn that the 50p rate "will have the effect of discouraging business investment in the UK" and would be a "backward step". Yet, as the New Statesman's George Eaton, points out, these business leaders, between them, gave £776,000 to the Tories. Convenient, eh?

Meanwhile, the polls, if not the press, show overwhelming public support for the 50p tax rate.

2) THE WAR ON RED TAPE

Forget big business, it's all about wooing small business. From the FT:

"David Cameron and Chuka Umunna, Labour's business spokesman, will today set out sharply divergent visions of how best to stimulate enterprise in separate speeches to small-business leaders. The prime minister will focus on the coalition's drive to get the government off the backs of small companies, claiming that more than 3,000 regulations will be scrapped, with savings to business of £850m a year. Mr Umunna will confirm Labour's instincts for focused state intervention with a promise to set up a Small Business Administration - along the lines of a US body of the same name - to promote the interests of entrepreneurs. Mr Cameron's presence at a Federation of Small Business conference - he is the first prime minister to attend such a national event in its 40-year history - confirms this as a fresh battleground for politicians."

Deregulation, deregulation, deregulation. That's the mantra. You'd think the 2008 crash had never happened.

Meanwhile, David Cameron has been speaking on the Today programme this morning, claiming Labour has "learned nothing" on the economy and praising his government's jobs record. He also called the much-delayed and much-criticised (by his own side!) immigration bill an "excellent bill".

3) THE GREAT MIGRATION

Where are all the jobs going? From the Press Association:

"The UK's economic recovery is widening the gap between London and other cities, with almost 10 times more jobs being created in the capital than the next best area, a new report has warned. Research by the Centre for Cities think tank revealed that London accounted for 80% of national private sector employment growth between 2010 and 2012. For every public sector job created in the capital, two have been lost in other cities, the study found. While London is 'booming', cities such as Bradford, Blackpool and Glasgow have seen jobs lost in private and public sectors, said the report."

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of Bill Gates dressed up in a chicken suit.

4) IT WASN'T ME

Michael Gove does Shaggy - from the Guardian:

"Michael Gove, the education secretary, has sharply denied any involvement with a campaign by political allies to weaken Ofsted or its chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, and threatened to sack any staff members who were. After Wilshaw reacted with blunt comments to suggestions that rightwing thinktanks were preparing critical reports regarding Ofsted – which is responsible for inspecting state-funded schools in England – Gove issued public backing for the chief inspector. 'Sir Michael Wilshaw is a superb professional and an outstanding chief inspector. He is making the changes Ofsted needs to help raise standards further,' Gove said in a statement issued by the Department for Education."

5) JAW JAW IN SYRIA

The Syria talks are still going on. That is an astonishing achievement in and of itself. From the BBC:

"The Syrian peace talks in Geneva are due to move on to wider political questions such as the divisive issue of transfer of power in the country. But discussions are also expected to continue on aid convoys reaching the besieged area of Homs. On Sunday, the Syrian government delegation said women and children may leave the city - but demanded a list of names of men who want to leave."

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From yesterday's Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 39

Conservatives 32

Ukip 13

Lib Dems 9

That would give Labour a majority of 86.

900 WORDS OR MORE

Boris Johnson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Bash the rich and you deprive us of what their taxes pay for."

Owen Jones, writing in the Independent, says: "We want a fairer society - and here's how we can achieve it."

Gaby Hinsliff, writing in the Times, says: "Until Balls says he was wrong, he’s a liability."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (mehdi.hasan@huffingtonpost.com) or Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol