Our apologies for a shortage of material yesterday, but most of our contributors were both taking stock of the situation and recharging their own batteries!

Local Elections

The mainstream media seems to be catching up with the reality of the rise of UKIP, particularly the impact on Labour, which the Telegraph focuses on with “Local elections 2014: surge by Ukip throws Labour into poll crisis

Ed Miliband’s hopes of winning next year’s general election were seriously undermined by the UK Independence Party’s surge in the local and European elections on Friday.

Nigel Farage proclaimed that Ukip had become a “serious player” in British politics after it managed to win council seats in traditional Labour strongholds – and areas which Mr Miliband must secure if he is to become prime minister.

Previously, Ukip’s major advances had largely been at the expense of the Conservatives, who also continued to suffer in the latest polls. The development saw Labour MPs openly attacking their leader with members of the shadow cabinet at odds over how to counter the emerging Ukip threat.

But the commentators Iain Martin and Dan Hodges in the same paper are still peddling a negative message about UKIP, on that very success which has Labour rattled.

The Guardian gives Ed the  softer treatment with “Ed Miliband told: raise your game”:

Ed Miliband has been put on notice that Labour faces a major battle if it is to secure an overall parliamentary majority next year after the local elections showed that the party is struggling to achieve the sort of breakthrough that would signal a Westminster victory.

The Independent puts on a very brave face, the online paper headline reading “Has Farage had the last laugh? Dismissed as ‘racists, fruitcakes and clowns’, Ukip tears up the political landscape on a remarkable day

Britain’s three main political parties are assessing the damage from local elections in which they were all hit by the “political earthquake” that Nigel Farage’s Ukip promised and delivered. Nick Clegg could become a casualty of the Ukip advance. The Independent has learnt that Liberal Democrat activists have launched an online petition, #libdems4change, demanding a leadership contest so the party can install a new leader this summer.

The Daily Mail sees it more as a problem for David Cameron with: “Cameron under pressure to strike deal with Ukip as jubilant Farage boasts he’s heading for Euro triumph

No pacts or deals will be done with Ukip, David Cameron told his backbenchers yesterday.  Nigel Farage’s showing in Thursday’s local elections prompted three Tory MPs to repeat their call for the two parties to come to a national agreement under which candidates would not fight each other at next year’s general election.

But the Prime Minister said: ‘We are the Conservative party. We don’t do pacts and deals. We are fighting all out for an all-out win at the next election. ‘I’m confident that in spite of the difficulties, this is a base from which we can go forward and win.’

Simon Heffer’s piece “For Essex man, the only way is Ukip, says SIMON HEFFER” is also illuminating.

The Express reports as well.

The Mirror gives a pretty upbeat report on the UKIP result, perhaps recognizing that a lot of their readers voted UKIP? “Local election results: Nigel Farage says UKIP are a ”serious player” after local election triumph”. Their report includes the graphic of a General Election poll, too:

Share of Vote Mirror Poll 23 May 14

Defence

This portfolio doesn’t seem to have made it into the news much lately, but now the alarm bells are going in the Telegraph with the two aircraft carriers: “Aircraft carriers given ‘red’ warning in Government audit

Two aircraft carriers costing taxpayers £6 billion are at risk of being late and over-budget, the Government has admitted. The delivery of the two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers was given a “red” rating by the Major Projects Authority (MPA) for the second year in a row.

It means the defence project, which has been heavily criticised, is at risk of failure unless action is taken. The MPA second annual report detailed the status of 199 schemes across Whitehall departments, rating them on a five tier traffic light system from green to red.

The Telegraph also reports that France now appears to be suffering the same kind of defence cuts that were inflicted on Britain nearly 4 years ago now: “French military heads threaten to resign over ‘grave’ defence cuts

France’s top four military chiefs have threatened to resign if the government makes more cuts to their budget, with the defence minister warning a further drop in spending would leave it “unable to conduct new operations” abroad.

The heads of France’s army, navy and air force, along with the military chief-of-staff, made the unprecedented threat at a meeting last week, according to defence sources.

Fracking

The argument over this valuable energy source rumbles on with “Fracking in Tory heartlands ‘in national interest’, says Michael Fallon as report reveals 4.4bn barrels of oil” as reported by the Telegraph:

Fracking should take place in Tory heartlands of south-east England “in the national interest”, energy minister Michael Fallon has said, despite expert warnings that there was not enough oil in the region to spark a “huge bonanza”.

A British Geological Survey study of the “Weald” basin revealed that 4.4bn barrels of shale oil was likely to lie in the area, primarily beneath Surrey, Sussex and Kent. But the BGS said that only a small fraction of the oil – potentially 5pc, the equivalent of less than six months’ UK oil demand – was likely to be recoverable through fracking.

The Independent takes a different tack on the same report with: “No gas found in the Weald basin: Does this spell the end of the Government’s dream of a fracking revolution?

The Government’s dream of kickstarting a fracking revolution has suffered a major setback after a survey of one of the UK’s great shale gas hopes found no evidence of gas in the area.

Ukraine and Russia

The Guardian reports on Putin’s reaction to the Ukranian poll in “Russia will recognise outcome of Ukraine poll, says Vladimir Putin”:

Vladimir Putin has given the strongest indication yet that Russia is defusing its policy towards Ukraine, saying that Moscow will “respect the choice of the Ukrainian people” and work with the country’s government after a new president is elected on Sunday.

Previously, the Kremlin had not made it clear whether it would recognise the vote amid the continuing violence in the east of the country, where pro-Moscow separatists have declared two independent statelets after questionable referendums held earlier this month.

The Independent also reports on topic this with: “Ukraine crisis: The people get their chance to vote – if they dare” referring to gunmen on the streets in the East.

Most of the papers also cover the Prince Charles “Hitler” debacle, the Express with this: “Moscow taunts the Royal Family over its ‘links’ to Hitler and the Nazis

THE Queen and Prince Philip were dragged ino the feud between Prince Charles and Vladimir Putin yesterday when a Kremlin mouthpiece highlighted Britain’s royal “links” with the Nazis.

A sarcastic broadcast by Anissa Naouai, a top political correspondent on Moscow-funded TV channel Russia Today, kept the controversy rumbling on. Refusing to move on from the row spatrked when Charles compared President Putin to Adolf Hitler, she presented viewers with a mock family tree connecting Buckingham Palace to the Nazis.

BBC

The Guardian also reports on the machinations at the BBC for a new Head of the BBC Trust: “Women dominate shortlist to succeed Lord Patten at BBC

Government officials are weighing up a shortlist of replacements for Lord Patten as chairman of the BBC Trust, including Sir Hayden Phillips, the former civil servant who helped reform the honours system.

Senior broadcasting figures have been asked for their opinions on a group of potential candidates, with Dame Marjorie Scardino, the former chief executive of the company behind the Financial Times, also on the list. Colette Bowe, the former chair of the broadcasting regulator Ofcom, and Dame Fiona Reynolds, who ran the National Trust, have also been mentioned, reflecting what is thought to be David Cameron’s preference for a woman to head the national broadcaster.

Universal Credit

The Independent reports that “Iain Duncan Smith is accused of hiding bad news on universal credit after damning report is hushed up” This is another of the “bad boy” projects reported by the MPA that included the aircraft carriers noted above.

Iain Duncan Smith has vetoed the publication of a damning internal assessment of universal credit that laid bare the problems facing his scheme, The Independent has learnt.  Today the Government published its annual review into the progress of around 200 projects representing £400bn of public spending – and rated each on a risk scale of green, red or amber.

The only project not to get a rating, as part of the Government’s drive to increase transparency, was universal credit. The Independent understands that the Major Project Authority (MPA) had rated universal credit as “red”, signifying that it is “unachievable within reasonable timescales and to a reasonable budget without urgent remedial action”.

Passports

Struggling to find a decent story in the Mail other than on the elections, there is this report: “Passport chaos threatens to ruin the half term getaway as overwhelmed staff struggle to issue documents in time

Thousands of families’ half-term holidays could be ruined next week due to mounting chaos at UK passport offices. Staff are so overwhelmed they are struggling to issue the travel documents in time. There are claims holidaymakers are being advised to pay up to £55.50 extra each to get passports fast-tracked, guaranteeing they arrive on time.

A whistleblower said customers were left waiting on the phone for up to an hour because HM Passport Office had just eight staff to take more than 1,000 calls a day. Unions said the agency was in crisis because job cuts and office closures had left it unable to handle the level of demand.

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