Here are the five things you need to know on Sunday 16 February 2014...
1) 'SLEEPWALKING INTO A NATIONAL SECURITY CRISIS ON CLIMATE CHANGE'
We've heard a lot about 'Red Ed' over the past three years but are we now seeing the rise of 'Green Ed'? The Labour leader, lest we forget, used to be the Climate Change Secretary in the Brown government and, according to the Observer's splash, he has some strong opinions on the cause of the floods:
"Britain is sleepwalking towards disaster because of a failure to recognise that climate change is causing the extreme weather that has blighted the country for more than a month, Ed Miliband has warned. The Labour leader says in an interview with the Observer that climate change is now an issue of national security that has the potential not only to destabilise and cause conflict between regions of the world, but to destroy the homes, livelihoods and businesses of millions of British people. Criticising David Cameron for appearing to backtrack on his commitment to the environmental cause, he calls on senior figures in all parties to unite behind the scientific evidence that climate change is a key factor in extreme weather. Failure to do so, he warns, will have catastrophic consequences."
Miliband tells the paper: "The science is clear. The public know there is a problem. But, because of political division in Westminster, we are sleepwalking into a national security crisis on climate change. The terrible events of the last few weeks should serve as a wake-up call for us all."
An Opinion poll for the Observer finds that 51% of people say Cameron responded badly to the floods, with 28% of these saying he reacted "very badly" and 23% "quite badly". On climate change, 51% of voters also agree with Miliband that it played a role in the recent floods and extreme weather. Another poll, by ComRes for the Independent on Sunday, finds six out of ten voters think the coalition has failed to get a grip on the flooding crisis, with just a quarter of people disagreeing.
Meanwhile, the climate change denialists are out in force in the right-wing papers - e.g. this headline to a Christopher Booker column in the Sunday Telegraph: "This weather is not as weird as warmists like to pretend."
2) HUG A BANKER
I do hope Miliband ignores these voices - from the Sunday Times front page:
"Labour leader Ed Miliband is facing dissent from his own party over his attacks on banks and big business and plan to raise tax for top earners, with Labour candidates warning that companies believe the party will treat them 'like an ATM'. Leaked recordings of a meeting attended by would-be MPs and MEPs reveal their fears that Labour is seen to "hate" those on high incomes and warnings that the party risks being 'categorised as anti-business'. One candidate warned that Labour needed to 'change its language on banking' and 'hug a banker' to build credibility in the City... The concerns were raised last Monday at a meeting of the Labour finance and industry group held at the offices of UBS bank in central London. The event was organised by Progress, the group associated with the party's Blairite wing."
Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, speaking on BBC1's Andrew Marr show this morning said he was still concerned about banker bonuses and wanted them to be deferred: "More deferral and for a longer period of time is the way to do it – that’s the core thing."
Meanwhile, for all the pessimists inside the Labour Party, check out this piece from the Sunday Mirror:
"Labour are on course for election victory after enjoying an uninterrupted lead over the Tories for TWO years, our poll reveals today. No party with an unbroken two-year lead has failed to win the following election in the past 40 years. Today's Sunday Mirror/ComRes survey puts Labour up two points on 37 per cent, the Tories also up two on 32 per cent, with the UK Independence Party down four on 15 per cent. The Lib Dems - up one point - trail in fourth place on nine per cent... The last time the Tories were ahead in our poll was February 2012 when they were on 39 per cent with Labour at 38 per cent, the Lib Dems on 10 per cent and UKIP at five per cent. ComRes expert Adam Ludlow said: 'Going back to 1970, no party has ever avoided going behind in the main polls for two years without going on to form a government after the following election.' The big losers are UKIP. Despite coming second behind Labour but ahead of the Tories in this week's Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election, their popularity has plunged by four points."
3) GOODBYE MARIA?
The MPs' expenses story never seems to go away. From the Mail on Sunday:
"Maria Miller’s political future was in doubt last night after expenses watchdogs found fault with the Culture Secretary’s £90,000 claims on a second home. This newspaper has learnt Mrs Miller is to be criticised by parliamentary standards officials over claiming the taxpayer-funded allowances on a home where her parents also lived. The move has sparked a row at Westminster, with some Tory MPs outraged at the report. It comes amid speculation that David Cameron is seeking to promote more women to his frontbench team as well as hold on to the female Ministers he already has."
Meanwhile, the Observer reports on its front page:
"The Labour party is on track for record numbers of women to win seats in Westminster and Brussels in forthcoming elections, party data shows. The findings will put more pressure on Conservatives after MP Anne McIntosh was deselected by her local association this month and announcements from three new Tory women MPs that they will step down next year. More than half of Labour's parliamentary candidates selected in 106 key target seats in next year's general election are women. Of the 57 chosen, 51 were from all-women shortlists... By contrast, fewer than three in 10 parliamentary candidates selected by the Conservative Party so far are women."
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch my 60-second, semi-serious take on the past week's top political stories, including Cameron's response to the floods and the French nonsense about Obama and Beyonce. #mehdisminute
4) BLOWBACK FROM SYRIA
Last week we discovered Britain's first suicide bomber in Syria, Abdul Waheed Majeed, was a 41-year-old dad from Crawley, West Sussex. The Sunday Times splashes on more bad news:
"The full scale of the terrorist threat to Britain can be revealed today with the disclosure that about 250 British-based jihadis who went to train and fight in Syria have returned home. Senior security officials say the high number of 'returnees' — five times the figure that has been previously reported — underlines the growing danger posed by 'extremist tourists' going to the war-torn region. MI5 and police have already thwarted one serious plot last autumn by a cell of 'returnee' jihadis who were allegedly preparing a Mumbai-style gun attack on civilians, probably in a crowded public place in London.
5) IS IT A BEDROOM OR A DINING ROOM?
Another blow to the government's unpopular bedroom tax (sorry, spare room subsidy) - from the Sunday People:
"Victims of the hated Bedroom Tax were last night urged to prepare a mass appeal after a tenant's legal victory over the Government. The man was spared the penalty by a tribunal judge who ruled that his flat was wrongly deemed to have two bedrooms. The judgment that his second 'bedroom' is a dining room could open the floodgates for thousands more claims. His case, supported by his local Citizens Advice Bureau, was that he has a living room, one bedroom - not the alleged two - and a dining room. And the judge at the Bedroom Tax tribunal in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, agreed with the man, unnamed for legal reasons. Judge O'Hara Lavery wrote in his findings: 'On the evidence I am persuaded he has always used the second room as a dining room and regards the property as one-bedroomed.' Labour MP Ian Lavery said: 'This judgment could set an important precedent. I want people in similar circumstances from Newcastle to London to take note and get their appeals ready.'"
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From the Sun/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 9
That would give Labour a majority of 86.
From the Sunday Mirror/Independent on Sunday/ComRes poll:
Lib Dems 9
That would give Labour a majority of 58.
140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
@politicshome Def Sec Philip Hammond on floods: "climate change is clearly happening; clearly a factor in the weather patterns that we’re seeing” #marr
@DanHannanMEP A friend involved (successfully) in flood defences tells me that sandbags, unless laid by experts, are of use only against flash floods.
@IsabelOakeshott Can't help feeling the COBRA brand is being diluted by overuse. Used to only meet for terror attacks. Now they discuss rail fair discounts
900 WORDS OR MORE
John Rentoul, writing in the Independent on Sunday, says: "Ukip has a sell-by date... and it's May 2015."
Matthew D'Ancona, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, says: "Meeting Ukip halfway would be a disaster for the Tories."
Boris Johnson, writing in the Sun on Sunday, says: "Forget UKIP 'cos you’ll end up with Red Ed."
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