The Liberal Democrats' newfound mission of Ukip-bashing is a good idea in general. But attacking Nigel Farage and his party's MEPs for laziness in Strasbourg risks backfiring.
Nick Clegg will use a speech at the Centre for European Reform thinktank today to accuse Ukip's MEPs of being "lazy". His beef is that they "refuse to roll up their sleeves and get down to work".
"Nigel Farage and deputy leader Paul Nuttall rarely turn up to vote in the European parliament, despite being happy to take their tax-payer-funded salaries," Clegg will say.
The evidence for this accusation is that Farage hasn't tabled an amendment on any EU legislation since July 2009. Ukip's voting and turnout records, the Lib Dems say, are worse than any other party in the European parliament.
These criticisms would be damaging to politicians belonging to Britain's mainstream political parties. But they are unlikely to be vote-losers for Ukip's core support. "Our objective is not to spend time voting endlessly for more European legislation," Farage pointed out on the Today programme this morning. When you're a eurosceptic in a parliament despised and reviled in equal measure, laziness can actually be presented as a virtue.
Farage's response to Clegg's line of attack – a dry run ahead of their high-profile debate ahead of this May's elections – is just as flawed. The Ukip leader should spend more time being supremely dismissive of the European parliament and less time on instant-rebuttal mode.
Farage is making a mistake in instinctively going on the defensive against these claims. As president of a pan-European group of dubious right-wing eurosceptics, claims credit for every amendment tables by his groups. He is also on the back foot on the issue of MEPs' pay. It's been a Ukip weak spot for years, but the party is too equivocal in its response.
They might be making errors against each other, but the great battle of the minnows in the debate to come is going to help both parties. Labour is also guilty of having an equivocal attitude to Europe, a reflection of divisions within the party. The Conservatives have united behind their EU referendum strategy, but are hampered by backbenchers' barely concealed suspicion that their party leader is a closet Europhile. That leaves two unashamedly pro- and anti-European parties to grab the headlines. When they clash on policy, the results are bound to be fruitful.
That's why the most interesting part of Clegg's speech today is the section on his shopping list for reform.
"Where the EU has become intrusive, it needs to be pushed back," he's expected to say.
"We want to keep the UK opted out of rules we believe are damaging, like the 48-hour cap on the working week in the Working Time Directive.
"Working with our allies, the UK is already taking action to cut excessive EU red tape, saving thousands of pounds for thousands of small business across Britain."
He'll also demand an end to the "wasteful second seat in Strasbourg" and a completion of the single market in services and the digital economy.
These Lib Dem proposals matter because they will muddy the water in areas where their main competition is the Tories. Both parties will realise, though, that bickering over the extent of European reform will not do anything to win over the legions of disenchanted Eurosceptic voters preparing to back Ukip at the polls this spring.
Instead many of the minorities that live in Britain were on the receiving end.
Comedian Paul Eastwood chanted an Islamic call to prayer, calling it a "traditional Midlands folk song".
He suggested the Polish medal haul from the Winter Olympics included "bronze, silver, gold, lead, copper – anything they could get their hands on".
And he mocked three Asian women at the party, telling them that they "looked a bit lost".
Humour has its place in politics, of course it does. Any half-decent politician is capable of deploying a gag to improve their position. And it doesn't even have to be funny; for some reason the very idea of a serious-minded politician attempting to crack a joke seems to mean there's a very low bar in the Commons chamber for what deserves a laugh
Those terrible one-liners at PMQs are one thing – they are all part of the bear pit and harmless enough. Internal party gatherings don't have to be offensive either, though.
I went to a Stand Up For Labour event at the party's autumn conference in Manchester last year. Lots of the jokes were heavily barbed against the Tories, as you'd expect. There were one or two jokes targeting internal Labour divisions which prompted some pretty sharp intakes of breath, too. But the overall tone was one of good humour. Critically, the comedians on stage didn't target any non-politicians.
That's what makes the Ukip equivalent so unpleasant. When it becomes one group of people (say a bunch of right-wing grumblers who teeter on the brink of political acceptability) laughing at another group of people (say an ethnic minority), very dangerous territory is being entered into.
This matters because there remains a huge question-mark over how right-wing Ukip's soul really is.
Political humour is inherently ambiguous. Often it can be a way of communicating a serious meaning in a way that wouldn't be allowed otherwise. 'It's funny because it's true', when talking about the behaviour or characteristics of any ethnic minority, becomes loaded with extra meaning.
That's why these jokes, which Nigel Farage reportedly laughed at along with everyone else in the room, deserve public attention.
They reveal a side of Ukip you won't see elsewhere - and it's not a very pleasant one.
William Hague is in Brazil this week. He's visited Manaus, where England will play its opening game of the 2014 World Cup against Italy. And the Foreign Office has put out some comments from him.
These paragraphs are the usual dry fodder, but conceal hidden depths of meaning. Here's what Hague is saying - and what he really means...
"I am here in Manaus to discuss the preparations for hosting the England team. I know that British fans will get a great welcome here."
I am trying to persuade the Brazilian government not to keep backing Argentina over the Falklands dispute. But seeing as I'm here, I may as well address the football issue...
"Many people may not know that looking after British nationals abroad is one of the main responsibilities of the Foreign Office."
We have no money left to do anything other than basic consular work these days.
"We help tens of thousands of people each year who get into some form of difficulty overseas."
The British people are more or less incapable of looking after themselves abroad, so we have institutionalised a way of looking after them.
"In four months' time thousands of British nationals will travel to Brazil for the World Cup - possibly the largest number of British people to ever visit Brazil at one time."
The Brazilians won't know what hit them.
"I have no doubt that Brazil will host a fantastic World Cup, and we expect the vast majority of British visitors to have a trouble-free visit."
There's always one, or two, or several hundred...
"But we will leave nothing to chance in the Foreign Office. Brazil is seven times the size of South Africa, the last country to host the World Cup. So we will have Foreign Office teams on the ground in every city where England has a game; we are reinforcing our Embassy staff with consular colleagues from around the region and have further staff on standby, including from our Embassy in Portugal; we have an excellent website providing World Cup Travel advice; we will be using social media to provide instantaneous advice and respond to queries; and we will work with the FA and the Football Supporters Federation to provide information on travelling in Brazil."
We are expecting to have to deal with hordes of drunken, semi-depressed football fans. Some will get dehydrated and fall ill. Others will find themselves the victims of crime. Some will just lost their passports. But we're ready to tell them not to on Twitter.
"We want to help visitors prepare, so that they can enjoy their visit to this marvellous country and hopefully see England perform brilliantly as well."
An England World Cup win would be great for national morale. Here's hoping...
To finish, some fun facts about the prospects for England fans in 2014:
You'll probably be able to get a ticket. Unlike in previous major tournaments, the high costs of travelling to Brazil are putting many England fans off making the trip. Hundreds of tickets which had been allocated to England fans were unsold.
On the flight out, you can expect to watch a short film warning about the dangers of having paid-for sex with children under 17
In Manaus, the local mayor is displeased with England - because Hodgson complained about the heat and the humidity there. The Foreign Office is hoping to counteract this - by flagging up its credentials as the biodiversity capital of the world.
Ed Miliband's vision of a new mass membership organisation is nothing more than a dream. The reality, as the hard data from today's British Social Attitudes survey shows, is that the party system in Britain is dying a long, drawn-out, painful death.
The intense national squawking about the royal baby has turned us into a nation of flapping mother-in-laws. We seem to have forgotten that this little bundle of joy will make next to no difference to any of our day-to-day lives.