The electoral motive behind the Tories' benefit cap

The benefit cap will force poor families out of marginal London seats.

With the media focused on the child benefit cuts, there's a danger that George Osborne's hugely significant decision to introduce a cap on welfare payments won't receive the attention it deserves.

As homeless charities and other groups have pointed out, the decision to cap the benefits of workless families at £500 per week will trigger the largest population movement for generations. The poor will be forced out of inner London and pushed into the suburbs, where rents are cheaper, inflicting huge pressure on public services.

One senior housing official said:

I have been in housing for 30 years and I have never seen anything like this in terms of projected population movements. London is going to be a bit like Paris, with the poor living on the periphery. In many boroughs in inner London in three or four years there will be no poor people living in the private rented sector ... it is like something from the 19th century.

While it's far from the only motive at work, this is, among other things, an act of political engineering that would make Dame Shirley Porter blush. The Tories believe that the flight of poor, mainly Labour-voting families from inner London will allow hitherto unwinnable seats to fall into their lap. Many in the party are still aggrieved over their failure to win constituencies such as Westminster North (Joanne Cash) and Hammersmith (Shaun Bailey) -- seats they felt were there for the taking.

Taken together with the coalition's proposed boundary changes and their decision to target middle-class benefits (an attempt to erode Gordon Brown's "client state"), these measures amount to a conscious attempt to construct a majority in time for the next election. The fact the Tories failed to win the last election is still a sore point among Cameron's team. They're determined to avoid a repeat.

George Eaton is political editor of 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.