POLITICS

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Watch Out Ed, Nigel's Behind You

28/04/2014 08:21 BST | Updated 28/04/2014 08:59 BST
Ian Forsyth via Getty Images
YARM, ENGLAND - APRIL 23: UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage is photographed during a press call as he meets locals and party officials during a visit on April 23, 2014 in Yarm, England. Nigel Farage visits Yarm as part of a North-east tour ahead of next month's European elections. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

Here are the five things you need to know on Monday 28 April 2014...

1) WATCH OUT ED, NIGEL'S BEHIND YOU

Is Ukip gunning for Labour's core vote? And is Labour too 'middle class' to put up any resistance? That's the suggestion from former Miliband 'guru' Lord Glasman. From the Times splash:

"Labour voters are defecting to Ukip because the party has become too 'middle class', a leading ally of Ed Miliband has warned. Lord Glasman, a policy guru who was ennobled by Mr Miliband, said that the rise of Ukip would hit Labour 'in the heartlands'. He urged the party to adopt a series of measures to win back working-class support. In an interview with The Times, he said that Labour needed to address concerns about immigration and welfare to stop voters from abandoning the party permanently. 'That is the dilemma at the heart of the party's strategy — is it possible to address these economic, political and cultural concerns when the party is becoming, in many ways, very middle class? What I mean by that is liberal and progressive in its sensibility,' he said."

2) WAR ON WELFARE, PART 252

From the Independent's splash:

"Harsh rules to drive the long-term unemployed into work come into force today, which state they will only receive their benefits if they either show up at a jobcentre every day or commit to six months of voluntary work. Those who fail to comply with the rules, which also offer signing up to a training scheme as a third option, will have their jobseeker’s allowance docked for four weeks for the first offence, and 13 weeks for the second. Under the previous system, people were only required to attend a jobcentre once a fortnight so the move is likely to see long queues of people lining up to sign on every day."

Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports on its front page that "long-term unemployed people are to be told to clean war memorials, restore historic monuments and look after animals at city farms to keep their benefits. The Government's Help to Work scheme begins today. It is aimed specifically at 200,000 people who have been unemployed, or unable to hold down a job, for three years."

Leading charities have refused to sign up to the scheme, pointing out, according to the Indy, "that the maximum community service order that someone might receive if they were found guilty of drink-driving or assault is 300 hours, but claimants on six-month workfare schemes will have to work without pay for more than double this time".

"It is absolutely not about punishment," said employment minister Esther McVey on the Today programme this morning.

3) DEBATE ME PLEASE

Nick Clegg really likes TV debates. From the Financial Times:

"Nick Clegg is considering a legal challenge if David Cameron tries to exclude him from televised leaders' debates at the next election, amid claims the prime minister is trying to find an excuse not to participate. With just over a year until the general election, both Mr Clegg and Ed Miliband, Labour leader, are stepping up pressure on Mr Cameron to agree to three debates between the main party leaders in the run-up to polling day in May 2015... The Liberal Democrat leader fears the prime minister may try to shut him out altogether, preferring instead to go head-to-head with Mr Miliband... Mr Clegg's allies note that broadcasters have to stick to rigid impartiality rules concerning elections and that the party would ensure that laws were enforced in the case of any debates. 'We believe that to exclude a serving party leader when he took part in the debates last time would be to breach those rules,' said one aide. Asked about the possibility of legal action the aide said: 'We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.'"

Don't mess with the Cleggster, Dave...

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of cats wearing sunglasses. You know you want to.

4) BRING ON HIGH SPEED RAIL

From the Guardian:

"HS2 will come a step closer to construction today with the second reading of the hybrid bill for the first phase of the highspeed network expected to be passed overwhelmingly by MPs. Some MPs will defy the three major parties' whips to vote against the bill or ally themselves with rebel motions from anti-HS2 Tory MPs Cheryl Gillan and Michael Fabricant. But HS2's backers are confident of a resounding endorsement in a critical vote on the principle of building the line. MPs will also ratify the recommendation of David Higgins, the incoming chairman of HS2, to drop the planned link between it and the existing high-speed line to the Channel tunnel."

5) COME BACK BORIS

Will the speculation over the London Mayor's parliamentary future ever cease? When o when will he make up his mind? From the Daily Mail:

"Boris Johnson is under increased pressure to declare a return to the Commons after a Cabinet minister yesterday said it would be 'wonderful' to have the Mayor of London back as an MP... Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, asked if Mr Johnson could return to the Commons to lead the Tories, told the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1: 'That would be wonderful.' A source close to Mr Hunt insisted he had misheard the question and was welcoming the prospect of Mr Johnson coming back to Parliament rather than speculating on him replacing David Cameron. Foreign Secretary William Hague hailed Mr Johnson as 'one of the great figures of our party' and said he would welcome his return to Parliament, but signalled on Sky's Murnaghan show that he would expect Mr Johnson to abide by his pledge to focus on being mayor. Mr Johnson is expected to say this summer if he will stand in 2015."

QUOTE UNQUOTE

"At the start of 2007, China didn't have a single high speed rail line. Today it has over 6,000 miles in service. By 2015 that will be 11,000 miles, while we have just 67 miles." - Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From yesterday's Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 36

Conservatives 31

Ukip 15

Lib Dems 9

That would give Labour a majority of 58.

900 WORDS OR MORE

Boris Johnson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "There’s a simple solution to this Euro-elections sham."

Owen Jones, writing in the Guardian, says: "Stand with Lenny Henry, not just against Ukip's bigots."

John McTernan, writing in the Times, says: "Don’t lose heart. There are ways of defeating Ukip."

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