Here are the five things you need to know on Tuesday 18 February 2014...
1) WERE YOU UP FOR CLEGG?
Nick Clegg may be reaching out to Labour these days, suggesting a post-2015 Lib-Lab coalition, but Her Majesty's Opposition aren't interested in reciprocating. In fact, according to the Sun, Labour want to decapitate the Lib Dem leader in his own backyard:
"Nick Clegg faces a desperate battle to stay in Westminster as Labour launches a major bid to oust him from his seat at the next election. The party's ruling National Executive Committee is 'pouring resources' into his Sheffield Hallam constituency to try to overturn his 15,200 majority... Deputy PM Mr Clegg claimed the parties could work together if no one wins an overall majority, but senior Labour sources said they were determined to claim his scalp. Although he has a huge majority, his seat has a large student population and Labour hopes to capitalise on their anger at Mr Clegg's U-turn on tuition fees... And a source said beating Mr Clegg would be a 'Portillo moment' — a reference to when Tory minister Michael Portillo surprisingly lost his seat in the 1997 Labour landslide. The source added: 'We're going to go after Clegg hard.'"
Just to rub it in, Ed Miliband has done an on the record interview with the Mirror, which the paper has headlined "Ed: I won't do backroom deal with Lib Dems". The Mirror reports:
"Ed Miliband yesterday snubbed an offer by Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg to work together if there was another hung parliament. The Labour chief said he wanted an outright win in 2015 and was not interested in doing 'backroom deals'. His comments came after Mr Clegg raised the prospect of a Lib Lab pact, saying Labour had 'changed a lot'... But his olive branch was swiftly rebuffed by Mr Miliband. He said: 'I think what I'm looking for is a majority Labour government. There are such big issues that the country faces, I think Nick Clegg should be worried about the Liberal Democrats.' Pressed on whether he would consider a pact, he told ITV's Daybreak: 'Let's not get into that. I want a majority Labour government. That's what I'm going to work for. I'm not interested in all of that - backroom deals.'"
2) CLAIM TIME
From the BBC:
"Insurance bosses are to meet ministers at No 10 to discuss their response to the flooding, which has hit large parts of southern and south-west England. The meeting comes after David Cameron urged the industry to deal with flood claims as quickly as possible. Insurers say they have paid £14m to flood victims since December."
Meanwhile, a new ComRes poll for ITV News reveals nearly two thirds of Britons (63%) think the coalition is emerging from the current flooding situation with a worse reputation for crisis management. That's a pretty dangerous development given, as the Times reports, "of the 40 most marginal seats held by the Tories, 15 have been affected by the weather. Of the 20 most marginal Lib Dem seats, 12 have been hit by flooding." Luckily for Labour, only four of the opposition's 20 most vulnerable seats have been hit by flooding.
3) A RACIST PARTY?
Yesterday, the FT quoted, off the record, an unnamed Tory cabinet minister describing the party's lack of support from ethnic minority voters as the "biggest challenge" it faces in the run-up to 2015. But then a non-white Tory parliamentary candidate went much further in an on the record interview with my HuffPost colleague Ned Simons:
"The Conservative Party is still viewed as a 'racist party' by a large number ethnic minority voters, one of the party's Asian parliamentary candidates has said. Afzal Amin, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Dudley North, told The Huffington Post UK that securing the support of non-White Britons was 'critical' to ensuring the party won a majority in 2015. Amin is hoping to unseat Labour MP Ian Austin, who has a majority of just 649. Dudley North is number nine on the list of seats the Tories need to capture at the next election... Amin said that among ethnic minority voters in Dudley North 'the general perception is that the Conservative party is a racist party'. He highlighted the Home Office's 'Go Home' anti-illegal immigration vans... 'It communicates to British people who had come here after WWII that somewhere they weren’t welcome,' he said. 'That was a communications failure, it wasn’t a policy failure.'"
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video of US comedian and TV presenter Jimmy Fallon show us the evolution of hip hop dancing with movie star Will Smith. You won't regret it.
4) UNITED STATES OF EUROPE
The Daily Mail doesn't like EU Commissioner Viviane Reding - but she is nonetheless a gift to the paper. The Mail reports:
"David Cameron should get his own country in order instead of complaining about plans for a United States of Europe, a senior Brussels bureaucrat said last night. European Commission Vice President Viviane Reding said politicians need to ‘work on the quality of education and welfare’ in the UK rather than blaming EU rules for letting migrants come to Britain to seek work. She accused the Government of ‘distorting’ the facts about Europe and condemned Tory talk of ‘opt-outs, renegotiation and referenda’ for ‘holding back our Union as a whole.’ In a speech in Cambridge, Mrs Reding said she believed the Eurozone should become the United States of Europe, which would lead to treaty change in Brussels."
5) PRIME MINISTER'S QUESTIONS OR 'PUBLIC SCHOOL TWITTISHNESS'?
It isn't just Sally Bercow who knows how to grab headlines; so does her husband John. From the Independent's exclusive:
"Commons Speaker John Bercow has written to David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg seeking talks on how Prime Ministers’ Questions (PMQs) can be improved in the wake of mounting concern that its boisterous barracking and partisan exchanges are seriously alienating the public. His private letter to the three main party leaders asks specifically for their comments on a recent Hansard Society report showing widespread public discontent at the weekly half-hour clashes and it seeks to open a public debate on whether PMQs can be reformed. The report, based on focus-group findings, says that 67 per cent of respondents felt 'there is too much party political point scoring instead of answering the question' and only 12 per cent agreed that 'PMQs makes me proud of Parliament'. In an interview with The Independent, Mr Bercow said he is not expecting MPs to behave like 'Trappist monks' and he understood that frequently 'passions will be aroused' in the Commons. But he added: 'There are people who think culturally the atmosphere is very male, very testosterone-fuelled and, in the worst cases, of yobbery and public school twittishness'."
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From the Sun/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 9
That would give Labour a majority of 86.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Steve Richards, writing in the Independent, says: "Nick Clegg may be batting his eyelashes at Labour, but he won't turn a cold shoulder on the Tories."
Rachel Sylvester, writing in the Times, says: "Politicians can’t wade in to every problem."
Alan Cochrane, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Smart Alex Salmond has had a nasty run-in with reality."
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