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Sunday papers – 17 August 2014

Energy bills soar

The Independent reports that Labour is attacking the Coalition as the UK’s energy bills soar 21 per cent in three years

Britain’s household energy bills are rising faster than in most countries in the developed world, according to new research carried out by the House of Commons Library.

Based on figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and using energy data from the EU and members states of the International Energy Agency based in Paris, UK consumers have faced three years of energy price rises experienced by only a handful of other countries.

Only Ireland, with an electricity price rise of 24.7 per cent, is above the UK’s 23.5 per cent hike. With electricity prices actually falling in Norway and Hungary, down by 16.5 and 17.7 per cent respectively, only South Korea and Germany have had rises close to the UK figure.

Boris

Most of the papers feature London Mayor Boris Johnson who, according to the Independent, could easily win a seat in the Commons.

The Conservatives’ margin of victory in Uxbridge and South Ruislip would more than double if Boris Johnson were to be selected as the party’s candidate, according to a new poll.

The London mayor is thought to be considering the seat after finally confirming this month that he wants to return to the Commons at next year’s general election. Mr Johnson will step down as London Mayor in 2016.

The electoral magic that won him two terms is in evidence again in a survey by Lord Ashcroft. Lord Ashcroft, a Tory donor and former party vice-chairman, found in a poll of 1,000 constituents that the Tories would hold on to the seat vacated by John Randall by 42 per cent to 28 per cent over Labour if a general election were held tomorrow – a margin of 14 per cent. That margin would soar to 29 points if Mr Johnson were the candidate. Lord Ashcroft said: “The results show Boris’s unique ability both to galvanise Tories and appeal to supporters of other parties.”

Mr Johnson is widely thought to be manoeuvring himself into position to succeed David Cameron as party leader. If the Tories lose next year’s election, Mr Johnson needs to be an MP to fight the almost inevitable subsequent leadership battle.

Sky News has a similar story

More than half of voters in an area seen as a prime target for Boris Johnson would vote for him if he stood there in 2015, a poll has found.

A survey in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency suggests the London Mayor could add 10% to the Conservative party’s share of the vote if he stood there.

The poll of 1,000 people in the seat being vacated by former deputy chief whip John Randall was carried out by prominent Tory donor Lord Ashcroft.  Mr Randall held the seat with a 11,216 majority in 2010, making in an attractive option that would allow Mr Johnson to capitalise on his popularity with Londoners.

As does the Telegraph

 

Boris Johnson would almost certainly be elected as an MP if he is adopted by Tories in a prime London constituency, according to a poll.

More than half of voters in Uxbridge and South Ruislip would vote for the Mayor of London if he chose to stand there in May’s general election, according to survey by Lord Ashcroft.

The news came as a second survey by Ipsos Mori for The Sunday Telegraph found that more than half of voters think the Tories have a better chance of winning the general election with Mr Johnson as an MP.

Lord Ashcroft’s survey was conducted in Uxbridge and South Ruislip after the London Mayor confirmed his desire to return to Parliament showed he could significantly boost Tory support.

Lord Ashcroft’s poll found that a third of those who backed Mr Johnson said he should quit City Hall if elected – despite Mr Johnson insisting he could see out the final year of his term.

The poll of 1,000 people in the seat being vacated by former deputy chief whip John Randall was carried out for former Tory donor Lord Ashcroft.

And the Mail claims Mr Johnson has his eye on Theresa May’s Cabinet position.

Theresa May’s Cabinet role could be under threat from Boris Johnson if voters get their way when the London Mayor makes his anticipated Commons return next year.

Asked which Cabinet job David Cameron should give Mr Johnson, Mrs May’s Home Secretary role is the top choice in one of two polls that will boost the growing ‘Boris mania’ in the Conservative Party.

A second survey suggests he will double the Conservative majority if he stands in Uxbridge, Middlesex, where the party is seeking a candidate for next year’s General Election.

The Express reports a hypothetical poll that suggests if Mr Johnson is leader of the Conservative Party, it would win the General Election next year.

Voter support for the party surged six points to 39 per cent when people were asked how they would vote with the London Mayor in charge rather than David Cameron.

That would put a Commons majority within reach for the Tories.

Election experts warn distribution of votes means even 39 per cent might not be enough for victory over Labour.

But the Ipsos-MORI poll also indicated that Mr Johnson as leader could win over enough Lib Dem, UK Independence Party and even Labour supporters to clinch a win.

The finding is hypothetical, as, barring a by-election, he will not fulfil his wish, confirmed last week, to be re-elected an MP before next May’s election, meaning he cannot replace Mr Cameron before then even if the party wanted a new leader.

British ‘underclass’

In other news, the Sunday Times reports on the rise of a new underclass in Britain.

THE true scale of Britain’s ‘underclass’ has been revealed by a government initiative that has uncovered 500,000 problem families, estimated to be costing the taxpayer more than £30bn a year.

The staggering number of seriously troubled families, four times the previous estimate, has emerged in a three-year operation to confront those who are blighting neighbourhoods with their dysfunctional behaviour.

The depth of the malaise has been uncovered by Louise Casey, the troubleshooter entrusted by David Cameron with turning round 120,000 problem families after the urban riots of the summer of 2011. An additional 400,000 families are now to be targeted.

Europe’s economy ‘stagnant’

The Telegraph carries a report by Mats Persson, a director of Open Europe, who reports on the Eurozone’s stagnant economy

As a marriage counsellor might tell you, it’s one thing to avoid divorce – but quite another to restore your marriage to health.

This is the predicament the Eurozone has found itself in. The immediate risk of break-up has subsided, not least because the European Central Bank (ECB) has said it will do whatever it takes to keep it together. But the currency zone is still an awfully long way from becoming anything close to a healthy and vibrant economic bloc.

In the second quarter of 2014, even as Britain’s economy accelerated away, posting its best performance in more than six years, growth in the eurozone was precisely zero. Yes, there were signs of life in Portugal and Spain, but the single currency’s three largest economies performed embarrassingly badly. France had what was euphemistically described as “stable GDP”, aka no growth at all, while the German and Italian economies both shrank by 0.2 per cent.

Labour GE candidates

In the Telegraph, the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, claims that many Labour candidates have worked for pressure groups or trade unions but claim to be non-partisan.

If you read through the CVs of its candidates in 2015, a substantial proportion have worked for pressure groups and as trade union campaigners. It’s now the career route of choice: they can use that platform to attack this Government and make their name, lining up alongside former special advisers, MPs and councillors to argue for more spending, or to spread scare stories that are often exaggerated or wholly untrue.

As a politician, and even more so as a member of the Government, you get used to being at the sharp end of various campaigns. A few years ago, as employment minister, I was making every effort to find ways of helping young people find permanent jobs. Though perhaps not very imaginatively named, the Work Experience Scheme was about letting unemployed youngsters do some unpaid work, thereby gaining new skills without losing their benefits.

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