Ed Miliband speaks at the CBI conference in 2012 in London. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Labour is in danger of finishing third in the European elections

Were the opposition to be beaten by the Tories and Ukip, it would send shockwaves through the PLP. 

With the Tories in the lead for the first time since March 2012, it's the national polls that have attracted the most attention this morning. Lord Ashcroft's survey putting the Conservatives two points ahead (34-32) was followed by an ICM poll for the Guardian similarly putting the Tories two in front (33-31). But just as notable was the European section of the latter. 

For the first time since polling on the 22 May contest began, it showed Labour in third place on 24 per cent (down a remarkable 12 points since April), with Ukip in second on 26 per cent (up four) and the Tories in first on 27 per cent (up two). After Ukip's recent surge, few in Labour have expressed hope of winning the election but they must now contemplate a worse outcome: finishing third. 

Were the principal party of opposition to be beaten by the Tories and Ukip next week (as it was in 2009), it would send shockwaves through the PLP. Those inside and outside of the shadow cabinet who demanded that Ed Miliband promise an in/out EU referendum would claim vindication. As I've reported before, Miliband has no intention of changing his current stance: that a vote will only be held in the unlikely event of a further transfer of powers to Brussels. He (rightly) regards the issue of Europe as a distraction from the defining question of how to raise living standards and fears the consequences of being forced to hold a vote as prime minister. But he will encounter significant resistance if Labour is beaten by the eurosceptics and better off outers on 22 May. 

As I revealed yesterday, some shadow cabinet ministers are unhappy at his failure to talk more about how Labour would reform the EU, which they regarded as a quid pro quo for the non-referendum pledge (which a majority of members initially opposed). Unless Miliband shifts his emphasis soon, they will regard this promise as increasingly worthless. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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It's Gary Lineker 1, the Sun 0

The football hero has found himself at the heart of a Twitter storm over the refugee children debate.

The Mole wonders what sort of topsy-turvy universe we now live in where Gary Lineker is suddenly being called a “political activist” by a Conservative MP? Our favourite big-eared football pundit has found himself in a war of words with the Sun newspaper after wading into the controversy over the age of the refugee children granted entry into Britain from Calais.

Pictures published earlier this week in the right-wing press prompted speculation over the migrants' “true age”, and a Tory MP even went as far as suggesting that these children should have their age verified by dental X-rays. All of which leaves your poor Mole with a deeply furrowed brow. But luckily the British Dental Association was on hand to condemn the idea as unethical, inaccurate and inappropriate. Phew. Thank God for dentists.

Back to old Big Ears, sorry, Saint Gary, who on Wednesday tweeted his outrage over the Murdoch-owned newspaper’s scaremongering coverage of the story. He smacked down the ex-English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson, in a single tweet, calling him a “racist idiot”, and went on to defend his right to express his opinions freely on his feed.

The Sun hit back in traditional form, calling for Lineker to be ousted from his job as host of the BBC’s Match of the Day. The headline they chose? “Out on his ears”, of course, referring to the sporting hero’s most notable assets. In the article, the tabloid lays into Lineker, branding him a “leftie luvvie” and “jug-eared”. The article attacked him for describing those querying the age of the young migrants as “hideously racist” and suggested he had breached BBC guidelines on impartiality.

All of which has prompted calls for a boycott of the Sun and an outpouring of support for Lineker on Twitter. His fellow football hero Stan Collymore waded in, tweeting that he was on “Team Lineker”. Leading the charge against the Murdoch-owned title was the close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Channel 4 News economics editor, Paul Mason, who tweeted:

Lineker, who is not accustomed to finding himself at the centre of such highly politicised arguments on social media, responded with typical good humour, saying he had received a bit of a “spanking”.

All of which leaves the Mole with renewed respect for Lineker and an uncharacteristic desire to watch this weekend’s Match of the Day to see if any trace of his new activist persona might surface.


I'm a mole, innit.