Monday, 16 April 2012

First day of term, no signs of panic

Everyone back to school today. The Westminster term starts with Cameron, Clegg and looking as if they should be in trouble, but remaining remarkably untroubled.

Pasty tax, Granny Tax, Charity tax, you name it the government are still all over the shop after the car crash budget. The press is hostile, even the right wing press, backbenchers are restive, but the polls don't really show Ed Miliband capitalising on the Coalition woes.

The last poll I saw on the weekend had Labour on 39 per cent, when the opposition should be in the mid to high 40s to have any prospect of being taken seriously as an alternative government.

The latest Yougov poll in key constituencies (in the Sun) shows that the Lib Dems would be left without a single mainland seat in Scotland.

I can't quite believe that Charles Kennedy, the only vocal Lib Dem resistance to the Coalition, would suffer the same fate that Danny Alexander seems to have all but accepted, but them's the figures.

Question is, which party is best placing itself to benefit from the decline of the Lib Dems in rural Scotland?

Highlight of the day on a sunny but chilly Thames will not be the SNP's attempt to stop the Budget in its tracks with an amendment refusing a second reading of the bill on the grounds that the Budget did nothing to help tackle high fuel costs.

That has as much chance of success as Labour's amendments on 50p tax rate later in the week, although an amendment on the charities tax will generate heat if not light.

A moment of colour will come after departmental questions when new MP George Galloway takes his oath of allegiance. Nothing is ever simple with Mr Galloway but he seems to have wrangled the father of the House, Tory MP Sir Peter Tapsell, into being one of his sponsors. The two go back some way, but I hear Galloway was having trouble finding an opposition sponsor.

Some left-wingers were on standby but Galloway approached former Labour whip Nick Brown with the conundrum. Only slightly more politically astute than Galloway himself, Brown sidestepped the invitation and said it would be far more politic for another Bradford MP to be at Galloway's side.

Step forward Labour MP for Bradford South Gerry Sutcliffe to do the honours, letting Nick Brown off the hook and making the symbolic gesture that Labour would not deny Bradford West a voice in parliament (and what a voice it is).

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