David Cameron and George Osborne during a Q&A session at the construction company Skanska in Rickmansworth today. Photograph: Getty Images.
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The Tories are planning a defensive election strategy - and that's bad news for Labour

With little chance of winning an overall majority, the Conservatives are focused on remaining the largest single party. 

The news that the Tories have selected just 34 candidates in the 50 most marginal seats (compared to 48 for Labour) has led to renewed questions over the party's commitment to achieving a majority at the general election. It's worth noting, as ConservativeHome's Mark Wallace does, that the Tories have selected candidates in all 40 of their target seats (which are not the same as those with the smallest Labour or Lib Dem majority), but there is no doubt that the party has adopted a more defensive approach. 

The initial 40:40 strategy (aimed at winning 40 new seats and retaining the party's 40 most vulnerable) has been abandoned in favour of a 48:40 strategy weighted towards existing constituencies. It is these seats that the party is also focusing financial resources on

Some in Labour might be tempted to respond by deriding the party's lack of ambition but the Tories' reorientation could be bad news for the opposition. Aware that they have little hope of achieving an overall majority, owing to the rise of Ukip and the electoral bias towards Labour, the Conservatives are rightly focusing on the far more achievable goal of remaining the largest party in a hung parliament. By raising the local profile of its new MPs, the party hopes that it will benefit from the traditional first-time incumbency bonus (in 2010, it performed best in those seats it won in 2005), the factor that many Conservatives believe will tilt the election in their favour. 

As for Labour, it remains formally committed to targeting 106 seats but one source recently told me that the figure (adopted when Tom Watson was general election coordinator) was not "set in stone", suggesting only that the party was committed to seeking a majority (106 gains would give Labour a majority of 78). The greater the evidence of the Tories' defensive approach becomes, the more likely it is that Labour will dampen its ambitions too. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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How Theresa May is trying to trap her opponents over Brexit

An amendment calling on MPs to "respect" the referendum outcome is ammunition for the battles to come. 

Theresa May is making a habit of avoiding unnecessary defeats. In the Richmond Park by-election, where the Liberal Democrats triumphed, the Conservatives chose not to stand a candidate. In parliament, they today accepted a Labour motion calling on the government to publish a "plan for leaving the EU" before Article 50 is triggered. The Tories gave way after as many as 40 of their number threatened to vote with the opposition tomorrow. Labour's motion has no legal standing but May has avoided a symbolic defeat.

She has also done so at little cost. Labour's motion is sufficiently vague to allow the government to avoid publishing a full plan (and nothing close to a White Paper). Significantly, the Tories added an amendment stating that "this House will respect the wishes of the United Kingdom as expressed in the referendum on 23 June; and further calls on the Government to invoke Article 50 by 31 March 2017". 

For No.10, this is ammunition for the battles to come. If, as expected, the Supreme Court rules that parliament must vote on whether to trigger Article 50, Labour and others will table amendments to the resulting bill. Among other things, these would call for the government to seek full access to the single market. May, who has pledged to control EU immigration, has so far avoided this pledge. And with good reason. At the Christian Democrat conference in Germany today, Angela Merkel restated what has long been Europe's position: "We will not allow any cherry picking. The four basic freedoms must be safeguarded - freedom of movement for people, goods, services and financial market products. Only then can there be access to the single market."

There is no parliamentary majority for blocking Brexit (MPs will vote for Article 50 if the amendments fall). But there is one for single market membership. Remain supporters insist that the 23 June result imposed no conditions. But May, and most Leavers, assert that free movement must be controlled (as the Out campaign promised). 

At the moment of confrontation, the Conservatives will argue that respecting the result means not binding their hands. When MPs argue otherwise, expect them to point to tomorrow's vote. One senior Labour MP confessed that he would not vote for single market membership if it was framed as "disrespecting Brexit". The question for May is how many will prove more obstructive. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.