It's started

The Labour fightback begins

A week is a long time in polling coverage, especially at the Guardian/Observer.

First, the Guardian -- which, along with the Sun, has declared that Labour cannot win under Gordon Brown -- managed rather awkwardly to present a poll showing a two-point fall for the Tories and a two-point bounce for Labour as a triumph for David Cameron.

Then, only days later, a poll in the Observer (carried out at the same time as the Guardian poll and published yesterday) showed that Labour has closed the gap to only 6 points, with 31 per cent against the Tories' 37.

It is the poll Gordon Brown has been waiting for.

Suddenly, and belatedly as usual, it has become the conventional wisdom to talk of a hung parliament. Now, some of us have been arguing for months that this is likely. My colleague Mehdi Hasan and I went into it in some detail back in June, when Mehdi was, if anything, surer. (I thought then and -- shock horror -- still think now, that a small overall majority for Labour is the most likely outcome.)

Indeed, yesterday's poll and the apparent trend reminded me that, after I dared to suggest in my New Year predictions (some wrong, some right), that the two main parties' positions in the polls would switch by the end of this year, Iain Dale, the amiable and popular partisan Conservative blogger, reacted with "cackling laughter" and said: "In your dreams, sunshine."

In fact, private polling commissioned by No 10 is today showing just that.

UPDATE: The right-wing blogosphere, often loose with the facts, is once again misinterpreting what I said. I did not say there is polling showing that Labour is now "ahead". I said, and you can see it above, that private polling is showing a trend that will show a reversal of the parties' fortunes by the end of the year. OK? I hope this is clear to those who cannot see the difference between the journalistic view that Labour could still win -- a view apparently shared by David Cameron, incidentally -- and supposed Labour "spin".


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James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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En français, s'il vous plaît! EU lead negotiator wants to talk Brexit in French

C'est très difficile. 

In November 2015, after the Paris attacks, Theresa May said: "Nous sommes solidaires avec vous, nous sommes tous ensemble." ("We are in solidarity with you, we are all together.")

But now the Prime Minister might have to brush up her French and take it to a much higher level.

Reuters reports the EU's lead Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, would like to hold the talks in French, not English (an EU spokeswoman said no official language had been agreed). 

As for the Home office? Aucun commentaire.

But on Twitter, British social media users are finding it all très amusant.

In the UK, foreign language teaching has suffered from years of neglect. The government may regret this now . . .

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.