Here are the five things you need to know on Friday 14 February 2014...
1) TORIES BEATEN BY UKIP - AGAIN
Yet another by-election blow for both coalition parties, this time in Wythenshawe and Sale East in south Manchester, where Labour held the seat with ease. Despite Nigel Farage complaining the campaign had been “as dirty as they come", Ukip surged from fifth place, in the 2010 general election, to second last night - pushing the Tories into an embarrassing third place. Meanwhile, the Lib Dems, trailing far behind in fourth place, lost their deposit - again. The BBC has the details:
"Labour has held onto its seat in the Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election with a comfortable majority while UKIP beat the Tories to second place. Michael Kane won with 13,261 votes, beating UKIP's John Bickley, with 4,301, in second. Rev Daniel Critchlow, for the Tories, came third on 3,479 votes, and Lib Dem Mary Di Mauro, came fourth on 1,176. The by-election was triggered by the death of Labour MP Paul Goggins, who had represented constituents from 1997."
Cue lots more wailing and hand-wringing from right-wing Tory backbenchers...
2) NO POUND? NO DEBT!
After 48 hours of warnings from George Osborne, Danny Alexander and Ed Balls that the UK would not allow an independent Scotland to form a currency union and keep the pound sterling, SNP leader Alex Salmond has - as expected - come out fighting. The Guardian reports:
"Alex Salmond has renewed his threat that Scotland could refuse to pay its share of the UK's debt as he bitterly attacked George Osborne's decision to veto any currency union after independence... Facing the most focused and significant challenge so far to his plans for independence, Salmond described the joint attack from the UK parties as 'a concerted bid by a Tory-led Westminster establishment to bully and intimidate'. Ignoring Osborne's jibe that to threaten a debt default was like threatening 'to burn my own house down in protest', Salmond warned that if there was no deal on sterling, there would be no deal on Scotland paying its share of the £1.6tn of national debt expected by 2016... and would leave the UK government having to pick up the entirety of UK debt."
So, come September and the referendum, will Scots vote No, worried about the future of their currency, or vote Yes, as an angry riposte to English 'bullying'?
3) RECALL AIN'T HAPPENING
From the Independent's splash:
"David Cameron has walked away from a pledge to allow voters to expel MPs who have lost the confidence of their electorate from Parliament, The Independent has learnt. The Prime Minister had previously backed the move to let voters 'recall' MPs who had been sent to prison or found guilty of 'serious wrongdoing' by their colleagues. The policy was first proposed after the expenses scandal. It was in the Conservative manifesto and formed part of the Coalition Agreement with the Liberal Democrats. But Mr Cameron and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, have refused to include the legislation needed for it to become law in the last Queen’s Speech before the election – in effect killing the policy."
Last night, Zac Goldsmith, the Tory backbencher who has been pushing for this policy since 2010, was reaching out to Lib Dem president Tim Farron on Twitter, suggesting the latter approach Clegg to persuade him to change his mind while he would handle "DC""...
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
To mark the return of 'House of Cards' on Netflix today (see thing '4', below), watch this trailer for the second season starring the brilliant Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.
4) THE NEW IRISH TERROR THREAT?
From the Times front page:
"Irish Republican militants may be responsible for a series of bombs sent to army recruitment centres, counterterrorism police believe. The crude but viable devices were packed into envelopes and posted to seven centres in the South East of England. They bore the 'hallmarks of Northern Ireland-related terrorism', a Downing Street spokeswoman said. It is understood that at least one of the packages was sent from the Republic of Ireland."
5) FRANK UNDERWOOD IS BACK
Forget Valentine's Day - today is the day the second season of the US version of 'House of Cards', which counts both Barack Obama and David Cameron among its fans, kicks off on Netflix. "It's the 'West Wing' for werewolves," explains Tory peer Michael Dobbs, who wrote the original novel on which the UK and US versions of the show are based. Dobbs has been speaking to my colleague Ned Simons:
"Does David Cameron watch the programme? "DC enjoys it very much," Dobbs says. Given the rebellious nature of the current crop of Conservative MPs, maybe "DC" needs a Stamper as well. "Is it necessary? Probably. Are they there? Well that’s a matter of opinion." He couldn't possibly comment. "I am going to save myself the embarrassment of dealing with my present colleagues.'"
Read the full interview here.
"The record rainfall and storm surges that have brought flooding across the UK are a clear sign that we are already experiencing the impacts of climate change." - Lord Stern, author of 2006 report on economics of climate change, writing in the Guardian.
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From the Sun/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 9
That would give Labour a majority of 78.
140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
@ZacGoldsmith Even by the shitty standards of dishonest UK politics, the LibDems really are revolting. I cannot understand why anyone supports them.
@chhcalling A cat from Daventry has drunk 10 large bowls of water in less than a minute, breaking the previous lap record.
@Ed_Miliband Delighted Labour's @MJPKane has been elected. He will be an excellent MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East
900 WORDS OR MORE
Philip Collins, writing in the Times, says: "Ed Miliband’s instincts on helping the little guy are right – but you don’t achieve this by forming committees."
Fraser Nelson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "When the storms have passed, we must start dredging the quangos."
Richard Benyon, writing in the Guardian, says: "Beware politicians trying to be armchair hydrologists."
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