The five things you need to know on Sunday 29 September 2013...
1) 'I'M IN THIS TO WIN IT'
That's the message from a serious-looking David Cameron on the Andrew Marr show this morning, trying to regain the initiative from a populist Labour Party on his left and a populist Ukip on his right.
He didn't, of course, 'win it' in 2010 - which is a source of so many of his problems even now, more than three years later. And, as yesterday's Telegraph reported, disclosing details from Matthew D'Ancona's new book 'In It Together', the Prime Minister
"has held talks with Nick Clegg about forming a second coalition after 2015, amid growing concern in Downing Street that the Conservatives will not win the next election outright."
Cameron denied this claim on Marr, saying: "Everytime I talk to Nick Clegg about the next election, it starts with me telling him that my aim is to put him out of a job". (Does Nick ever say the same to Dave, I wonder?)
As the Conservative Party conference kicks off in Manchester, David Cameron has given interviews to the Sun on Sunday, the Sunday Telegraph and, yes, BBC1's Andrew Marr.
Speaking to Marr, Cameron hinted that he'd like the TV debates in 2015 "to start a bit earlier", and without Nigel Farage, and flatly ruled out a Labour/Lib Dem-style mansion tax on multimillion-pound properties. The PM wants to reminder voters that his aim is to make housing cheaper, not more expensive (without, however, increasing supply!).
From his Sun on Sunday interview:
"The PM [said]: 'I am impatient to help young people get on the housing ladder. The need is now. I have always wanted this to come in and, frankly, the earlier the better. What concerns me is you can't buy a house or a flat even if you are doing OK, you have got decent job prospects and good earnings. I am not prepared to be Prime Minister of a country with caps on aspiration.'
"The PM also declares his new task 'is to create 'a recovery for all, to make all the sacrifices the British people have had to make worthwhile'.
"In a pledge to unite the increasingly divided nation, he added: 'That has got to mean the north and the south, the rich and the poor, the black and the white'."
Cameron also goes after 'Red Ed' and reminds us how negative the Tory campaign will be come 2015:
"Drawing a purposeful comparison to Red Ed as the new Neil Kinnock, he said: 'I thought I was going back to 1992. I thought we saw off the idea of an anti-enterprise approach but it looks like we are going to have to do it all over again.'"
The Telegraph summarises the top lines of its interview with the PM, who...
"Describes the Labour Party leader Ed Miliband's plan to hit big companies with higher tax bills as 'nuts'. He warns that Mr Miliband's 'backward looking, anti-enterprise rhetoric' shows that while the economy is finally 'turning the corner', Labour could 'absolutely wreck it';
"Defends his tax break for marriage, which will apply to just one in three couples as higher-rate taxpayers are excluded, insisting it is a case of 'promise made, promise delivered'. It will be worth a saving of £200 to most of the couples who benefit. Mr Cameron says this is 'a very good thing' and 'better than what we said in the manifesto', which would have saved couples up to £150;
"Lays the groundwork for a radical immigration Bill, expected this autumn, to stop immigrants with no right to free public services entering Britain and claiming state support. 'Our system is being abused in terms of housing, in terms of health, in terms of legal aid. We need to crack down on every single one of those things,' he says. 'We are going to stop the idea of something for nothing.'"
2) TORIES AND UKIP SITTING IN A TREE...
The big question that the Tories have to answer in Manchester this week is: how do they tackle the growing threat from Ukip?
The Sunday Express reports:
"An eve-of-conference poll by ComRes reveals nearly a quarter of Tory councillors want to see an electoral pact with Ukip to prevent a split in the right-wing vote."
The Independent on Sunday splashes with:
"Fourteen individuals have switched support from the Conservatives to Nigel Farage's party in the three years since the 2010 election, donating £488,000 to Ukip. An analysis of Electoral Commission figures also shows that the number of individual donors to the Tories overall has halved since the election, while the average donation has decreased by £14,000."
There is no doubt that Ukip poses one of the biggest obstacles to a Tory majority in May 2015. Cameron's strategy to try and deflate their bubble was unveiled on Marr:
"If you want... an in/our referendum there is only way to get it and that is to put me back in Number 10 Downing Street so I can deliver on my promise. A vote for any other party including Ukip won't deliver that in/out referendum."
YouGov's Peter Kellner says in his column in the Sunday Times - headlined "All Rests On The Farage Factor" - that "if UKIP retains 10% support and the Conservative vote share is 34%, a Labour share of 35% would be just enough to give it more MPs than the Tories".
3) WE LOVE HS2. OR DO WE?
From the Observer:
"Abandoning plans to build the £42.6bn HS2 high-speed rail line would be a national disaster, the cabinet minister in charge of the project has said, as he admits for the first time that it will be more difficult to press ahead without the Labour party's support.
"In an interview with the Observer, the transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, insists that he, David Cameron and the chancellor, George Osborne, all remain fully committed to building the new line from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. He also says a fresh commitment to the project will be included in the Tories' manifesto for the 2015 general election.
In recent weeks, the CBI, the Institute of Directors and 21 Tory MPs, including former cabinet minister Cheryl Gillan, have expressed their concerns about HS2. Gillan thinks its all a Labour trap - from Ned Simons' interview with the former Tory Welsh secretary for HuffPost UK:
"Gillan is also concerned [HS2] leaves the Conservatives extremely vulnerable politically. 'That’s the problem with HS2, it was written on the back on a fag packet by [former Labour transport secretary Andrew] Adonis,' she almost sneers. 'We took it on and like lambs to the slaughter, fell for it. We thought there was some huge depth behind it but in fact was dreamt up because we were talking about high speed rail.'
"She adds: 'Adonis, I think, was particularly pleased to see a large number of Conservative constituencies affected by his plans.'"
So, will Dave make the case for HS2 in his big speech in Manchester this week? And, if so, in front of an audience of sceptical, nimbyish Tory activists, how forcefully will he do so? On Marr, the PM said, "There's a limit. We're not going to just spend any money on this," before adding: "HS2 is going to happen."
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video of a very dramatic and sad dog.
4) WAR ON DRUGS? DON'T BE SILLY
Yet ANOTHER senior member of Britain's criminal justice establishment says it's time to... yep, you guessed it... end the so-called 'war on drugs'.
From the Observer's splash:
"One of England's most senior police officers has called for class-A drugs to be decriminalised and for the policy of outright prohibition to be radically revised.
"In a dramatic move that will reignite the debate over the so-called war on drugs, Mike Barton, Durham's chief constable, has suggested that the NHS could supply drugs to addicts, breaking the monopoly and income stream of criminal gangs.
"Comparing drugs prohibition to the ban on alcohol in 1920s America that gave rise to Al Capone and the mafia, Barton argues that criminalising the trade in drugs has put billions of pounds into the pockets of criminal gangs."
But is anyone in Westminster (a) listening, (b) have the cojones to make the case, too?
5) THE MEMOIRS OF 'MISS WHIPLASH'
Watch out Gideon! From the Sunday Telegraph diary:
"Damian McBride's book was described as the 'literary equivalent of a suicide belt' that Gordon Brown's former righthand man detonated at the Labour Party conference. It is, however, the memoirs of a lesserknown figure that hang over the Tories' gathering in Manchester.
"Mandrake hears that a book has been completed by Natalie Rowe, the dominatrix once, memorably, pictured with George Osborne, the Chancellor.
"The former brothel-owner, known professionally as 'Miss Whiplash', is in 'advanced negotiations' with a leading publisher over their release, which is likely to be accompanied by a tabloid serialisation.
"'They are dynamite,' one of Rowe's friends tells me. 'They are full of sensational claims about her time as a dominatrix and she is prepared to name names.'"
"He doesn't need a towel to cover his modesty because he has not got any." - speaking to The Sun on Sunday, David Cameron reveals the retaliatory joke about Ed Balls that he considered including in his conference speech on Wednesday.
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From today's Sunday Times/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 9
That would give Labour a majority of 114.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Matthew D'Ancona, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, says: "David Cameron gears up to say hello again to Mondeo Man."
WIll Hutton, writing in the Observer, says: "Socialism has failed. Neoliberalism has failed. But Ed Miliband's new deal might just work."
John Rentoul, writing in the Independent on Sunday, says: "Populism? By Gove, I think they've got it."
Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Ned Simons (email@example.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol