It's David Cameron's big day: one last major address on immigration before the focus turns to the economy next week with the Autumn Statement. Migrants will face a four-year wait for benefits - both social security and in-work benefits - and will be expelled if they do not have a job in six months. Benefit outflows to children living abroad and other family benefits will also be curtailed.
It's a far cry from some of the more ambitious pledges on emergency brakes or moratoriums, neither of which would have been achievable while remaining within the European Union. It's a victory for the cautious heads around George Osborne, who were keen to avoid upsetting business - already jittery enough about the coming referendum as it is - although, as the PM will say, the exit door remains firmly ajar should things not go his way.
The odd thing is, it's hard to find many people who think that this speech will really change all that much. The PM seems to be giving a speech...because, well, that's what Prime Ministers do. While our European allies have been squared - a far cry from only a few weeks ago, when diplomats were privately despairing that Britain was on the verge of leaving - the speech doesn't, to my eyes, look to be enough to satisfy the hardline Outers within the Tory fold, let alone win back many Ukip voters.
It may be that the latter is impossible. In the Times, Lucy Fisher reports on research by the British Election Study showing that Nigel Farage's recruits are the most committed of all voters - just a quarter of its voters feel "not very strongly" committed to the party.
We know, of course, that the PM can give a bravura performance from the podium when he has to. That speech in Manchester - which, yes, mentioned immigration in passing, but ranged freely into traditional Labour territory as well as bringing out the greatest hits of popular Conservatism - did lasting damage to the Opposition's standing in the polls. Those are the applause lines that the Tories have to get back to if they're to overhaul Labour. But the PM's best lines - opportunity "no matter who you are, no matter where you're from", the party "of the first pay cheque, the first chance, the first home" - look distinctly less convincing once you add the rider "but not for Poles".
THE RILED THORNBERRYS
"My sister's no snob, says 'Red Van' Ben" is the splash of the Islington Tribune. Emily Thornberry's truck-driving builder brother Ben has come to his older sister's defence in an interview with her local paper. The fuss says more about the people making it, Mr Thornberry, "rather than the person who took a pic of a house that looks like the one they grew up in". Elsewhere, a survey for LabourList reveals a clear majority of its readers believe that Ms Thornberry should have kept her job by 53% to 44%.
The PM will push forward with his plans to introduce English votes for English laws, including the setting of English rates of income tax, in what Labour say is a breach of the deal struck by the Smith Commission.
The latest round of Lord Ashcroft's seat-by-seat polling finds that Nigel Farage has a fight on his hands if he is to enter Parliament next may. The Conservatives lead Ukip by five points with 34% to 29%, Georgia Graham reports. As I noted back when the Conservatives selected Craig Mackinlay as the candidate in Thanet South, it takes time for a third party to chip away at a majority, and Mr Farage's delay in declaring his intentions may hurt him, just as his ill-conceived attempt to take on John Bercow flopped in 2010.
HE FOUGHT THE LAW. THE LAW WON.
Andrew Mitchell has lost his libel cases against the Sun and PC Toby Rowland, with Mr Justice Missing ruling that "on the balance of probabilities" that Mr Mitchell "did speak the words alleged or something so close to them as to amount to the same, including the politically toxic word pleb", Martin Evans reports. "Right Said Pleb"is the Sun's splash.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH KARREN BRADY? Tory figures are wooing Jeremy Paxman to keep hold of City Hall in 2016, Sam Coates reports in the Times. But CCHQ has yet to throw its weight behind the efforts to recruit Mr Paxman. GIVE GRAMPS A HAND Working grandparents should be allowed to use their children's parental leave allowance to care for grandchildren, Bright Blue, a think-tank aligned with Conservative modernisers, has suggested in a wider report into what Tory priorities on welfare should be. Chris Hope has the story and the full report is available here.
THE WALKER DIET
Ed Balls sits down with Paul Waugh in the House Magazine. It's not the Autumn Statement, but his Grade 4 piano exam that's keeping the Shadow Chancellor up nights. And Mr Balls reveals something about how Labour - and he - are approaching the difficult task of cutting down. As far as departmental spending is concerned, it's "start from zero and justify every pound". His approach to his weight isn't quite as severe, but he reveals that he drew inspiration from a Telegraph diary item highlighting his, Ken Clarke and Eric Pickles' increased tums after the recess. "I've now lost over a stone on the Pickles diet, reading that diary story every day," Mr Balls says.
Eleven weeks of closed-door negotiations come to an end today with the publication of the Smith Commission's plans for further devolution of powers for Scotland. Control over air passenger duty, increased flexibility over disability and housing benefit payments, as well as the control of direct income tax will all be handed to Holyrood. Income taxes on savings and dividends will remain within the Treasury's control, as will the level of the personal allowance.
It's control over income tax - "Scotland granted income tax powers"is our Scottish splash and "Scotland to be given control of income tax" is the Guardian's- that is giving some Unionist MPs the jitters. Both government and opposition MPs fear that the devolution of income tax will undermine the sharing of risk and resources that keeps the Union together, while some Labour MPs fear that it will create two tiers of MPs, with dire implications for a Labour government with a small or a non-existent majority to get its measures through Parliament. (Gary Gibbon takes the temperatureof the parliamentary Labour party in his blog and finds it fairly chilly, to put it mildly.)
One senior Labour figure tells Sam Coates in the Times that there will be "fury" with Ed Miliband, who will have to explain why the party has committed to a transfer of major revenues without any real without any plan to help England. There's concern among some of the party's Northern MPs that the SNP will use its new powers to lower taxes, resulting in a movement of business over the border at the expense of the North. That the party's last two Chancellors have both warned that it will lead to the break-up of the Union understandably has some MPs rattled. Others are frustrated at Team Ed's flat-footed response to the English votes for English laws issue. But it was despair, not fury, that dominated my conversations yesterday. Labour MPs feel that they have walked into a trap - but they're not certain there was really anywhere else to go.
That nervousness could spell trouble for Jim Murphy's firewall among his parliamentary colleagues, which he will need to offset a heavy defeat in the affliates section of the electoral college. Mr Murphy, and others, agree with Ruth Davidson that direct control of income tax will strengthen Holyrood within the Union, not weaken it. As Alan Roden put in the Scottish Mail yesterday, all of the different groupings "care passionately about the Union...but they cannot all be right".
The reality is that no-one is really sure what the long-term consequences will be. It could be the trigger for a further weakening of the Union and greater triumphs to come for the SNP. Short term Tory glee at Labour's woes could yet give way to Unionist despair in that party as well. Equally, it could be that the changes will leave the United Kingdom changed but stronger. Only one thing is clear: far from putting the issue to bed, angst over the Union and its future looks set to be a dominant feature of British political life for the foreseeable future.
THE EMANCIPATION OF MILI-E
Ed Miliband, at least, has got his groove back. In this week's New Statesman, George Eaton says the Labour leader's strategy is "that of Ferdinand Foch, the French First World War general: "My centre is giving way, my right is retreating, situation excellent, I am attacking.". That refound confidence manifests itself in Tristram Hunt's attacks on schools, the doubling down on the mansion tax, and the return to the old theme of "predatory capitalism" in the shape of an attack on Sports Direct. But the refound sense of self-confidence doesn't appear to extend much further than Ed Miliband's inner circle. Ed Balls and Gloria De Piero will both be spending more time in their constituencies and less on national events as both are concerned for their narrow majorities, and they are by no means alone.
British-born jihadists are fraudulently claiming student loans in order to fund terrorism, Terri Nicholson of the Met's counter-terror unit, warned yesterday. Camera-shy parliamentarian Keith Vaz says he will question Theresa May about the "shocking" disclosures in the coming weeks. Mrs May has also been accused of delaying and manipulating bad news about Britain's asylum system by John Vine, the head of the Government's immigration watchdog. "Bad news on immigration buried by Theresa May" is the i's frontpage.
WE CAN DO WITHOUT EU A British exit from Europe would leave the EU "wounded, even amputated" says outgoing President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy, but, he adds, "it will survive." Without France however, "Europe, the European idea, would be dead." "We Don't Need EU" is the Sun's take. Peter Dominiczak and Bruno Waterfield's story is here. .
CROUCHING TONY, HIDDEN MIGRANT
Labour has rounded on the Express for its front page describing the children of immigrants as "hidden migrants". Stewart Wood has condemned the story in an open letter. "This is talking about me frankly," Chuka Umunna, whose father was born in Nigeria, told his monthly LBC programme, "I am one of those "hidden migrant millions". He warned that the rising anti-immigrant sentiment risked undermining the tolerance that "made Britain great". One thing that doesn't make Britain great, at least according to Mr Umunna, is endlessly raising taxes. "Taxes should be as low as possible," he said, "I didn't go into politics to tax people." Sounds almost...Blairish. Speaking of, the man himself has warned against trying to "out-Ukip Ukip" in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
POOR OLD SOL
Labour's planned mansion tax will penalise people who have "come from nothing", soccer ace turned anti-tax campaigner Sol Campbell has said. "Over the years I have spent millions in income tax and stamp duty but I am being punished for investing in a property portfolio," Mr Campbell sighed. Georgia Graham has the story.
David Aaronovitch - Crude populism will get you nowhere, Ed (Times) George Eaton - Ed Miliband has made his choice: to fight the election on his own terms (Statesman) Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett - So what if Angelina Jolie objects to the mansion tax? (Guardian) AGENDA 0845 LONDON: Prime Minister to give statement on Smith Commission report. 0930 LONDON: Ofsted statistics on early years inspections. 1000 LONDON: Boundary Commission bosses give evidence to Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee on future redrawing of constituency boundaries. 1000 LONDON: Former head of Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority Andrew McDonald gives evidence to committee on governance of the House of Commons. 1015 BRISTOL: Nick Clegg speech at cycling summit. 1245 LONDON: Jon Cruddas speech. Institute for Government. 1400 LONDON: Ruling in the Andrew Mitchell "plebgate" libel actions at the High Court. TODAY IN PARLIAMENT
Culture, Media and Sport Questions.
Women and Equalities Questions.
A statement on the future business of the House.
Two backbench business debates: i) Inequality ii) Progress of the historic child sex abuse inquiry.
A short debate on the capacity of the West Anglia Rail Line.
1330: i) A debate on the second report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee: Food Security and the Government response ii) A debate on the 11th report from the Environmental Audit Committee: Plastic Bags and the Government Response.
A debate on the role of religion and belief in British public life.
A short debate on the impact of the National Lottery in the UK on its 20th anniversary.
A debate on the case for arts education in schools.
A day of trials for the Shadow Chancellor(Hi Ed!). Jim Murphy sprung a surprise on him yesterday (of, which, more below) and now George Osborne has set a trap for him, in the shape of a vote to enshrine the pledge to eliminate the headline deficit by 2017-18 into law.
The Shadow Treasury team have set their faces to "not at all rattled, honestly". "We'll wait and see what George Osborne is proposing," is their line. The politics are tricky for Labour: vote against and they'll be branded profligate, vote for and they'll face a barracking from their own supporters. There may have to be a few arms twisted between now and the Autumn Statement, when the plan will be announced formally.
But as fraught as the politics may be for the Opposition, they could spell trouble for the Coalition as well. Mr Osborne's calculation is that putting the focus on Labour's plans for more spending, more borrowing and more debt highlights the "giving the keys back to the guys who crashed the car" problem. But remember how poorly his admirably candid speech at Tory party conference went down. The reaction was so bad that parts of the PM's speech had to be leaked early to prevent a horrow show in the press.
We know, too, that plenty of Conservative MPs are prone to what David Gauke calls "fiscal Nimbyism": Let fiscal restraint happen, but not in my constituency. It's worth re-reading former Brown spinner Damian McBride's blog on the danger posed to the Tory campaign should the scale of the cuts to come dominate public discussion. He knows a thing or two about running the Treasury - and the death of governments, too.
The Chancellor's calculation is that he'll be rewarded for his honesty and his rigour. I'm not so certain. This is a family e-mail so I won't channel Sid Vicious, but I'm not convinced that candour is as highly praised by the voters as some would like to think.Mr Osborne will have to tread very very carefully to make sure that the big hole in the ground he's just dug claims him and not Ed Balls.
HE'S NO JOHANN
Scottish Labour must accept full devolution of income tax, Jim Murphy said yesterday. That was expected in London, but he also threw in a surprise for the Eds. As First Minister, Mr Murphy would introduce a 50p rate of tax for Scots earning over £150,000, Simon Johnson reports. The Eds could read about it "in the papers like everyone else" Mr Murphy said, in a hint of the more independent tone he'll strike should he become leader on the 13th. Ballots are now open and the winner will be announced on Saturday 13th December.
Mark Beard, the headmaster of Tristram Hunt's old (private) school gives his former pupil's plans for the independent sector a very low mark indeed in an article for today's Telegraph. "Did you learn nothing from us, Tristram?" is the headline. "Isn't it time for Labour to come up with some helpful and forward-thinking initiatives, rather than espousing the old "them and us" propaganda?" Mr Beard sighs. The pasting continues in the Times: Mr Hunt is "playing the politics of division" is their leader's verdict. "Offensive bigotry" is the Mail's headline. Privately, Mr Hunt will be delighted at the coverage. His stock is low at the moment not only with the party's left but also with his traditional Blairite supporters and he will doubtless feel that a going-over in the press will be just what the doctor ordered.
UNIVERSALLY DISCREDITED Universal Credit latest: the DWP is "still not getting it right" and is "throwing good money after bad" in an effort to fix the problem, according to the head of the Public Accounts Committee. It's "wasted money, wasted time [and] wasted talent," Rachel Reeves said. But Iain Duncan Smith, who yesterday said that one in three JobCentres will run the troubled scheme by the spring, insists that the rollout is the "best" way for "all government programmes" to be introduced. Ben-Riley Smith has the story. J'ACCUSE, FACEBOOK The parliamentary report into the murder of Lee Rigby has blamed social media companies for not spotting or handing over information that could have prevented the death of Drummer Rigby, Holly Watt and Chris Hope report. The Sun takes its inspiration from the Rigby family's verdict on it all: "Blood On Their Hands" is their splash. "Web firms accused over Rigby" is the Guardian's take. "Facebook Kept Quiet About Rigby Killer's Plotting" is the Mail's splash. But Sir Ming Campbell feels the report is being used to justify further powers for the security services: "It's a remarkable coincidence, some might say, that the Home Secretary should have chose to make public her further proposals on the eve of the publication of the report".
"Hunt: I've taken my kids to A&E rather than wait for GP" roars the i. The Health Secretary admitted in the House yesterday that he has taken his children to A&E at weekends because he feared the wait for a GP, against official NHS advice. It's "highly problematic", says his opposite number Andy Burnham. But Mr Hunt says that it makes his case for increasing GP opening hours stronger. Laura Donnelly has the story.
A BONE TO PICK WITH EU
Pope Francis delivered a stinging attack on the EU in a speech to the European Parliament, Bruno Waterfield reports. The continent is "less and less a protagonist" in world affairs, treats men and women as "mere cogs in a machine", and the callousness that has allowed the Mediterranean to become "a vast cemetery" for migrants attempting to cross over to Europe.
THE PARTY OF IN?
Nick Clegg has given the green light to a Coalition crackdown on migrant benefits. He's written a column in today's FT. "Our aim must be to return freedom of movement to its original intention: a right to work".
HIP TO BE SQUARE
The Conservatives must win over young people who are "relaxed about drugs, sex and alcohol" former Conservative minister Damian Green will tell modernising think tank Bright Blue this evening, and will warn against aping Ukip's "appeal to the anxious and angry", saying that it will jeopardise the support of younger voters who "have decades of voting opportunities ahead of them". Chris Hope has the story.
MANSION TAX "CAUSES IMPOTENCE", STUDY FINDS
Labour's planned mansion tax could keep Hague bezzie Angelina Jolie from moving to the UK. "I'm quite responsible about money," the actress told Channel 4 News, who was reported to be considering a £25 million Marylebone penthouse, so the mansion tax "could put me off", Ms Jolie said. Keith Perry has the story.
Rafael Behr - Anti-EU forces are battle ready: the fightback must start now (Guardian) Daniel Finkelstein - Honesty is the last thing Ukippers want (Times) Garvan Walshe - How do you fight populism? Listen less and govern more (ConHome) AGENDA 0930 LONDON: Ofsted further education and skills director Lorna Fitzjohn giving evidence on apprenticeships and traineeships to the Common education select committee. 0930 LONDON: Royal Mail chief executive gives evidence to Commons Business Committee inquiry into postal sector competition. 0945 LONDON: Independent reviewer of counter-terror legislation David Anderson gives evidence to parliamentary Human Rights Committee. 1030 LONDON: Rachel Reeves speech on waste in welfare budgets. 1200 LONDON: Prime Minister's Questions. 1430 LONDON: Women's minister Nicky Morgan gives evidence to parliamentary Human Rights Committee on violence to women and girls. 1500 LONDON: Environment Secretary Liz Truss gives evidence to the Commons Environment Committee. 1600 LONDON: Civil Service chief executive John Manzoni gives evidence to Commons Public Accounts Committee. 1800 LONDON: All-Party Parliamentary Group on tackling terrorism meeting on home-grown jihadis. 1830: Green leader Natalie Bennett takes part in a Leaders Live show. 1900 LONDON: Damian Green speech to Bright Blue thinktank on "true modernisation". TODAY IN PARLIAMENT
Prime Minister's Questions.
A Ten Minute Rule Motion: Dogs (Registration).
An Opposition Day Debate.
A motion to approve a Statutory Instrument relating to terrorism.
A short debate on Stephen Jones and Unicom and mis-selling in the telecoms industry.
Consumer Rights Bill - Report stage (Day 3).
A short debate on the preservation of the Houses of Parliament as part of a World Heritage Site.
Populus has Labour ahead on 36% to the Conservatives on 31%. The weekly Ashcroft has the Opposition in the lead as well by 32% to 27%. And today's YouGov has a four-point Labour lead, at 34% to 30%. (It's put some daylight between the parties in our rolling poll too, with Labour ahead, 34% to 32%.
None of the three are different enough from recent polls for us to say with any certainty that it isn't just noise - it may the classic post-election bounce for Nigel Farage or it could be that the pattern - of Labour ahead by a whisker - remains unchanged on last week. Nevertheless, it's a reminder that for all Ed Miliband's much-advertised weaknesses - 59% of voters believe that David Cameron will still be PM this time next year - the Ukip factor remains very much in his favour.
It's what hasn't changed as much that should prey on Labour minds. Considering the ongoing difficulty around replacing Emily Thornberry as Shadow Attorney General - Andy Slaughter, a Miliband loyalist and a barrister, would be a natural fit but is from "that London" - that her careless tweeting appears to have passed most people by makes the sacking look unwise.
More important and more troubling, though, is the continuing buoyancy of the SNP. Populus have the Nationalists on 4%, YouGov has the combined score of the Plaids and the Nats at 5%, and Lord Ashcroft has the SNP at 5%. (Scotland's share of the UK population is around 8-9%.) The SNP haven't yet come down from the high to mid 40s showings that the more detailed Scotland-wide polls reported, while on the ground, one Scottish Labour organiser reports "the worst VoterID sheets I've ever seen". Nigel Farage may giveth, but Nicola Sturgeon can still taketh away.
A Labour government could strip private schools of up to £150 million a year in valuable tax breaks, potentially adding £200 a year to the cost of school fees, Holly Watt reports. In order to avoid losing their tax breaks, schools will have to comply to a stringent set of new standards, including providing qualified teachers in specialist subjects to state schools, shared expertise to help state school students into top universities, joint extra-curricular programmes and sponsoring new academy schools. Tristram Hunt, himself a product of private school, will give a speech on education later today and outlines his thinking in the Guardian.
TOMORROW BELONGS TO MAY
Harry Cole has a profile of the woman of the moment Theresa May in this month's Spectator Life. Among the highlights: there are some in the traditional right who still haven't forgiven Mrs May for her "nasty party" speech, "no matter how many terrorists she sends back or tough-sounding speeches she gives". But it's the report that "she doesn't rate Cameron any more" that catches James Chapman's eye in the Mail: "May has given up on 'incompetent' No 10, say friends" is their take. (Oh, and if you haven't listened to it yet, Mrs May's Desert Island Discs can be heard here.)
UNIVERSAL CREDIT The DWP's flagship benefits reform will be rolled out to one in three JobCentres by the spring, Iain Duncan Smith will announce today. Mr Duncan Smith will also attack Labour for having their "heads in the sand" over welfare. The Secretary of State insisted Ben Riley-Smith has the story.
LESS THAN ZERO
Labour have unveiled the early results of their zero-based spending review. If elected, they will save £250m by quadrupling the cost of a gun licence from £50 to £200 and scrapping police and crime commissioners. Daniel Martin has the details in the Mail.
Lord Rennard has queried whether the Liberal Democrats can still be considered a "major party" after the party finished fifth with less than 1% of the vote in the Rochester & Strood by-election, Daniel Martin reports in the Mail. Lord Rennard, who was suspended following allegations of making unwanted sexual advances on a series of women, is believed to be angling for a return to a role in the election campaign. It's not as farfetched as it may sounds: the peer is still respected as an election organiser by sections of the Liberal parliamentary party and activist base although Nick Clegg is, I'm told, set against the move.
MR COETZEE, PLEASE CALL YOUR OFFICE
The DPM has rounded on Emily Thornberry, calling her tweet "drippingly patronising". Maybe "that's what happens when you become the MP for Islington" spat man-of-the-streets Nick Clegg. It's come as something of a blow to Terry Stacy, the Liberal candidate hoping to overturn Ms Thornberry's 3,569 vote majority. "I don't know what's behind that comment," Mr Stacy told the Huffington Post. Georgia Graham has the story.
Chris Deerin - Ms Sturgeon, tear down this wall! (Mail) Rachel Sylvester - Ukip is cashing in on our obsession with class(Times) Jonathan Todd - Liverpool must back Rodgers and Labour must back Miliband (Uncut) AGENDA 0945 LONDON: Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt to make a speech on schools. 1000 LONDON: Bank of England governor Mark Carney appears before Commons Treasury Committee. 1030 LONDON: Combating modern slavery across Europe. A speech by Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, organised by the CSJ. 1630 LONDON: Commons committee takes evidence on governance of the House of Commons. 1630 LONDON: Theresa May speech on violence against women and girls. 1830 LONDON: Jon Cruddas at Progress "in conversation" event with Philip Collins of the Times. 1030 LONDON: Owen Paterson speech on Britain and the EU. 1100 LONDON: A legal dispute over letters the Prince of Wales wrote to government ministers reaches the UK's highest court. 1100 LONDON: Theresa May speech on counter-terrorism. 1145 LONDON: Nick Clegg press conference. 1200 LONDON: Boris Johnson to join some of world's best wheelchair tennis players as they demonstrate their skills ahead of the forthcoming NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters. 1630 LONDON: Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie give evidence to Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee. 1800 LONDON: Margaret Hodge speech on reconnecting politics with communities. 2235 LONDON: Grant Shapps, Germaine Greer and the Telegraph's Emma Barnett among the guests on ITV's The Agenda. TODAY IN PARLIAMENT
A Ten Minute Rule Motion: Parliamentary and Constitutional Reform.
Pension Schemes Bill - Report stage and third reading.
A motion to approve resolutions relating to the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Bill, the Local Government (Review of Decisions) Bill, the Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Bill and the Control of Horses Bill.
A short debate on secondary breast cancer and data collection.
1100: Bede Griffiths Trust and Southern India.
1430: Processing of Personal Independence Payment decisions.
1600: London transport zones and Croydon.
1630: Review of the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988.
National Insurance Contributions Bill - Second reading.
A debate on the UK's membership of the European Union.
A debate on working conditions in the care sector.