The five things you need to know on Friday 18 October 2013...
1) BRITISH GAS JOINS THE LABOUR ELECTION CAMPAIGN
Ok, fine, they haven't. But, wittingly or unwittingly, they're doing everything they can to make Labour look decisive and Tory ministers look powerless - from the Mirror:
"Pensioners and the poor were last night warned they face a bleak winter after British Gas battered homes with crippling price rises.
"But as hard-up families are forced to choose between heating or eating, the fatcat boss of the profit-laden firm will be warm and well-fed as he rakes in up to £2million in bonuses.
"And despite the rises of 10% that could plunge millions of customers into poverty, the boss at parent firm Centrica running British Gas, Chris Weston, refused to waive his payout."
The Mirror points out:
"Rising energy bills will heap further pressure on the Government ahead of the 2015 election following Labour leader Ed Miliband's bold announcement last month that his party would freeze gas and electricity prices for 20 months if it was voted into power.
"Shadow Energy Secretary Caroline Flint said: 'These latest rises show clearer than ever why Labour's price freeze is needed.'"
Interestingly, a new poll suggests Miliband is up but Labour is down. From the Guardian:
"Ed Miliband's personal ratings among Labour supporters have reached the highest levels since 2010 following his crowd pleasing call to freeze energy prices during the Labour party conference.
"But Miliband's boost among party loyalists has not translated into a larger Labour lead with the Ipsos Mori poll now putting the two parties neck and neck on 35%.
"Satisfaction with Miliband's leadership has risen by 12 points — and by an impressive 21 points among Labour supporters, since he burnished his credentials among the left of the party. The poll also shows an increase in the number of voters who see him as leftwing or left of centre."
2) BRITAIN'S 'NATIONAL SHAME'
From the Telegraph:
"Hundreds of thousands of older people are ignored by society, Jeremy Hunt will say on Friday, describing the loneliness of the elderly as Britain’s 'national shame'.
"A 'forgotten million' older people are left lonely and without any regular social contact, the Health Secretary will say, adding that Britain has 'utterly failed' to confront the problem.
"In a speech to care groups, Mr Hunt will call for a change in social attitudes towards the old and urge younger people to change they way they treat their parents and grandparents."
The Guardian adds:
"The health secretary, whose wife is Chinese, is due to say in a speech on Friday that he is struck by the 'reverence and respect' for older people in Asian cultures, where it is expected that older grandparents will go to live with their children and grandchildren rather than enter a care home."
However, the Telegraph report also notes:
"Critics say that cuts in spending are contributing to poor care."
Good ol' austerity...
3) THE LIB DEM LEFT-WING SHOPPING TROLLEY
The Tories' favourite Lib Dem MP, Jeremy Browne, sacked from government by his party leader Nick Clegg last week, has hit back in an interview with the Times:
"Nick Clegg is in danger of being dragged from the centre by a Liberal Democrat 'shopping trolley that defaults to the left', an influential former minister warns today.
"In his first interview since being sacked in last week’s reshuffle, Jeremy Browne reveals that he has rebuffed overtures from senior Tories he suspects were seeking his defection.
"However, he makes clear his dismay at Lib Dem efforts to distance themselves from their coalition allies after Mr Clegg's party conference speech, which boasted about the 15 policies blocked by the junior party.. Comparing his party to a shopping trolley that 'left to its own devices defaults to the left and to being the party of protest', he adds: 'I saw my role, and continue to do so, as doing everything I can to accelerate the Lib Dems' Journey from a party of protest to a party of government.'"
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video of a kitten who plays fetch like a dog. You know you want to.
4) HOME OFFICE TO LEGAL IMMIGRANTS: 'GO HOME!'
Remember how ministers defended the Home Office's 'Go Home' van as a measure to tackle illegal immigrants? Well guess who the authorities have told to 'go home' now? You couldn't make it up. From the Independent:
"Less than two weeks since the Home Office anti-immigration vans were banned by the advertising watchdog for using 'misleading' statistics, the UK Border Agency has come under fire for telling an anti-racism campaigner and an immigration adviser to leave the country in a text.
"On behalf of UKBA, private contractor Capita sent leading campaigner Suresh Grover a text telling him he had no right to live here. The same text was sent to Bobby Chan, an Immigration Caseworker at Central London Community Law."
The report continues:
"Mr Grover rang the number on the text and got through to Capita. They told him that he was indeed the right recipient of the text. Despite explaining he had lived in Britain for 50 years, the woman on the other end of the line pressed for more information.
“'The more I talked to the woman the more angry I got,' Mr Grover said."
Do you blame him?
5) SWINSON'S SEXISM ROW
Lib Dem minister Jo Swinson is pregnant and due to give birth on Christmas Day. At PMQs on Wednesday, she was seen standing in the Commons chamber while none of the MPs sitting just a few feet away offered her a seat.
The Mail, which has a picture of Swinson on its front page, takes up the story:
"James Forsyth, political editor of The Spectator, wrote on Twitter: ‘Quite remarkable that no MP has offered Jo Swinson, who is seven months pregnant, a seat. Really shocking lack of manners and decency.’
"However aides to Miss Swinson claimed the idea that she was not capable of standing was 'sexist'.
"A source close to the minister said: ‘The suggestion somehow that people should be outraged on her behalf is ridiculous. The idea that just because she is seven months pregnant she has lost all ability to stand on her two feet or fend for herself is quite sexist."
Now the PM has waded in, too:
"Mr Cameron's official spokesman insisted the Prime Minister thought anyone should give up their seat for a pregnant woman.
"'Take the example of public transport - I think if you see someone who is in greater need of a seat than yourself I think offering that seat is a good thing to do... a decent thing to do,' the spokesman said.
"Asked if Mr Cameron would offer his seat to a pregnant woman if he was on a bus, the spokesman said: 'I'm sure he would.'"
Swinson herself distanced herself from the "source" in the Mail: "About to get on the tube - seat offers welcome & definitely not sexist :o) But I was happier standing at pmqs yesterday".
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From yesterday's Evening Standard/Ipsos Mori poll:
Lib Dems 9
That would produce a hung parliament with Labour 4 seats short of a majority.
From today's Sun/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 9
That would give Labour a majority of 78.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Fraser Nelson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "The young pay a heavy price for the support given to the elderly."
Simon Jenkins, writing in the Guardian, says: "The US shutdown crisis has shown us democracy red in tooth and claw."
Steve Richards, writing in the Independent, says: "The police have been exposed over plebgate. Now give Mitchell his job back."
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