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Scottish Secretary warns that the nationalists are gaining momentum

Scottish flag“Scotland is in danger of sleepwalking into a split from Britain  unless the pro-UK campaign shows more ‘hunger’, a Cabinet minister has warned. … Alistair Carmichael, the Scottish Secretary, cautioned that the Yes campaign was gaining momentum and could win the 18 September referendum. … His warning came after a weekend when the No camp was thrown into self-inflicted turmoil on the key issue of whether an independent Scotland could keep the Pound.” – Daily Mail

  • “The First Minister said reports that a Coalition figure believes the UK would enter a currency union after separation was a ‘very important demolition’ of Westminster’s argument which would have ‘severe’ political consequences.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “Downing Street was last night hunting for the UK minister whose unguarded remarks risk jeopardising the No campaign.” – The Scotsman
  • “Almost half of small business owners in Scotland think independence would be bad for their company, a new survey has revealed.” – The Scotsman

And comment:

  • “By advocating a range of lower personal taxes that would give Scotland a competitive advantage, Ruth Davidson could show how devolution can be more radical than Alex Salmond’s supposedly independent Scotland before the referendum is held.” – Brian Monteith, The Scotsman
  • “Don’t replace Alistair Darling – put him in charge” – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph
  • “…you have to say that a campaign slogan of ‘you’re too wee, too poor and too stupid to cope’ never had much going for it in the empathy stakes.” – Ruth Wishart, The Guardian
  • “Pro-independence Scots are misguided in wanting to retain the British pound” – Independent editorial
  • “Negative campaign is a gift to Alex Salmond” – Daily Mail editorial

> Today: ToryDiary – One in five Party members want Scotland to leave the United Kingdom

Osborne: The Conservatives are the party of job creation

OSBORNE SWORD“George Osborne will today put job creation at the heart of the Tories’ election drive as he says our economy can ‘walk tall in the world again’. … The Chancellor will say that a broad package of tax cuts and welfare changes introduced in the coming days will boost job creation and make work pay. … In a highly political speech, he will contrast this approach with what he says is increasingly anti-business rhetoric from Labour’s high command.” – Daily Mail

  • “The number of Romanians applying for jobs in Britain has doubled since European Union labour restrictions were lifted at the beginning of the year, according to latest figures.” – The Times (£)
  • “More than 670,000 of the poorest households in England will face an increase in council tax of £120 a year on average from Tuesday as the government withdraws a benefits safety net, a survey of local authorities has revealed.” – The Guardian
  • “Britain’s public finances are experiencing an economic recovery that is unusually light in revenues, with Financial Times calculations showing less tax than forecast flowing into the exchequer.” – Financial Times
  • “Two thirds of people living in Wales would like the government elected after next year’s general election to impose no public spending cuts at all, or to impose cuts that are less severe.” – WalesOnline

And comment:

  • “But between now and the next general election, the parties need to make much clearer where the axe in spending will fall and what the consequences will be for the country’s place in the world.” – Financial Times editorial

Impose a mortgage cap, suggests Lord Heseltine

“A cap on the size of the mortgages householders can secure should be considered to prevent a new housing bubble, a senior Tory has warned. … Lord Heseltine, the former deputy Prime Minister, said that allowing householders to take out huge loans would create a ‘dangerous situation’ when interest rates began to rise from their record low levels.” – The Times (£)

  • “Planning ‘champions’ should be appointed in every community in the country to oppose to fight unsightly unpopular developments, an independent report for the Government says today.” – Daily Telegraph

The Government plans to legislate against uncaring parents

Wicked Stepmpther“Parents who starve their children of love and affection face prosecution under a ‘Cinderella Law’, The Telegraph can disclose. … Changes to the child neglect laws will make “emotional cruelty” a crime for the first time, alongside physical or sexual abuse. … The Government will introduce the change in the Queen’s Speech in early June to enforce he protection of children’s emotional, social and behavioural well-being.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “The Cinderella law will help us jail the Wicked Stepmothers” – Robert Buckland MP, Daily Telegraph

> Today: Charlotte Leslie MP on Comment – Why it’s wrong to look down on stay-at-home mothers

Grayling leads a crackdown on nuisance calls

“The Ministry of Justice will today launch a consultation on whether firms that break Claims Management Regulation Unit rules should face fines of up to 20 per cent of their annual turnover. … Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, said: ‘The Claims Management Regulator already takes tough action against companies which break the rules, suspending and closing down rogue firms, but now these fines will give us an extra weapon to drive bad behaviour out of the industry.'” – Daily Mail

  • “Greedy firms that rip off Britain’s poorest people by forcing them to pay more for vital services are today exposed by a Sun campaign.” – The Sun (£)

Public money for an Islamic hardliner’s school? The Department for Education investigates

“An Islamic school set  up by a hardliner  who trained the ringleader of the 7/7 bombings is receiving money from the taxpayer, it emerged yesterday. … the fee-paying school’s prospectus reveals that it claims nursery education grants … Last night the Department for Education said it was ‘urgently’ investigating the latest claims at Ad-Deen Primary in Ilford.” – Daily Mail

  • “Don’t let terror begin at school” – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun (£)
  • “Finally, a test to recognise the best teachers” – Libby Purves, The Times (£)

The war against Afghanistan’s opium trade will last decades, admits Robertson

ROBERTSON Hugh“The war on Afghanistan’s opium trade will last decades, a Minister has admitted. .. More of the crop than ever is being grown — despite massive UK spending to try to destroy poppy fields. … Tory Hugh Robertson’s acknowledgement is the closest the Government has yet come to confessing the anti-drugs crusade was a disaster.” – The Sun (£)

  • “…in a report published on Monday, the Commons foreign affairs committee says it has ‘had clear differences with the BBC’ on how the [World Service] will be governed.” – Financial Times

Government to award £7 billion nuclear decommissioning contract

“A private sector consortium will be told on Monday it has won the £7bn job of decommissioning Britain’s oldest nuclear power plants. … The work is one of the largest and most sensitive public sector contracts to be awarded in the UK so far. … The reactors, built in the 1960s originally to produce plutonium to make nuclear weapons, include those at Sizewell, Hinkley and Dungeness.” – Financial Times

A vote on fox hunting is unlikely before 2015, confesses Baldwin

“The coalition agreement drawn up by the Tories and Lib Dems stated that MPs would have a free vote on repealing the 2004 Hunting Act before 2015. However, Harriett Baldwin, a government whip, told a constituent earlier this month that she would be “extremely surprised” if the vote were included in the next Queen’s Speech – the last government programme to be unveiled before the election.” – The Times (£)

Tory MPs attack climate report…

Wind turbine“British officials were last night accused of ‘political interference’ in a crucial report on international climate change. … The economic impact of global warming was ramped up in the final draft by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). … Tory MP Peter Bone said: ‘It is always the same with climate change. If the facts don’t suit them, they change it to suit them.’” – Daily Mail

“Britain faces food price rises and water shortages as well as floods and deadly heatwaves as a result of climate change, a major report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds on Monday.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “Recycling targets blamed for the death of the weekly bin round are being routinely ignored across Europe, a major study shows. … While Britain is on course to meet the controversial goal of recycling half of all household waste by 2020, many other countries are barely out of the starting blocks.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “Climate change: smell the coffee while you can” – Guardian editorial
  • “The climate debate needs more than alarmism” – Daily Telegraph editorial

…as the Big Six admit to some of their failures

“Energy bosses have admitted that their customer service has been poor, bills have been confusing and complaints badly handled in an extraordinary indictment of industry practice. … Senior executives from among the ‘Big Six’ suppliers concede for the first time that their treatment of consumers has made them vulnerable to attacks by politicians, in a frank assessment of failures that has been seen by The Times.” – The Times (£)

  • “Electricity bills could fall by £13 for every household under plans by energy companies to build new pipelines to connect the UK to the Continent” – Daily Telegraph
  • “Scientists have discovered vast deposits of coal lying under the North Sea, which could provide enough energy to power Britain for centuries. … Experts believe there is between three trillion and 23 trillion tonnes of coal buried in the seabed starting from the northeast coast and stretching far out under the sea.” – Daily Mail
  • “Plans for an off-shore wind farm that could dwarf Europe’s largest off-shore green energy scheme will be unveiled today.” – WalesOnline
  • “Anti-fracking campaigner Vivienne Westwood has links to a firm that urges investors to back fracking.” – The Sun (£)

Hammond advises opponents of gay marriage to “move on”

Philip Hammond looking left“Critics of the Government’s decision to legalise same sex marriage should get used to it and ‘move on’, according to a Cabinet minister who fought the reforms. … Philip Hammond said that his concerns about allowing homosexuals to marry were now history and the party had to get used to the new status quo.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “As gay people celebrate, the treatment of the disabled just gets worse” – Ian Birrell, The Independent

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – Good manners and same sex marriage

The Independent on the Menzies story

“Still more depressing was the way the gay aspect of Mr Menzies’s alleged behaviour was dwelt upon. It was as if for a brief time the press had hired a Tardis and returned to the golden days of the 1980s and 1990s when the words ‘gay’ and ‘MP’ in the same headline would guarantee political destruction for the individual and a ‘sleaze’ crisis for the Cabinet.” – The Independent

Boris: Here’s why faith in the police is rising

“Because crime is falling, my friend. It is falling across the country, and in London it has fallen about 7 per cent in one year. Burglary, car theft, violence, knife crime – you name it: virtually every type of crime is well down. Murders in London are running at about 100 a year – almost 50 per cent down on six years ago – and an amazingly low rate for a city of 8.2 million.” – Boris Johnson, Daily Telegraph

Alexander denies claims of Labour infighting – but he would, wouldn’t he?

LABOUR dead rose“Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary and the party’s chief election strategist has been accused of being ‘impossible’ to work with. … Mr Balls is believed to have snubbed Mr Alexander at a crisis meeting chaired by the Labour leader, who insiders said was too weak to intervene. … Yesterday, Mr Alexander denied claims of a feud in Labour’s high command.” – Daily Mail

  • “Labour will pledge in its next manifesto to scrap £9,000-a-year tuition fees and introduce a new system with lower charges. … Douglas Alexander, the party’s election co-ordinator, said the current system was ‘simply not working’ and would be axed under a Labour government.” – Daily Mail
  • “Ed Balls was yesterday named on a hit list of MPs warned they face losing their seats in parliament if they neglect private home renters.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “Bruiser Balls is running out of comrades” – Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail
  • “University education is vital for the nation’s future prosperity, but it is not cheap; those who benefit must bear most of the burden” – Times editorial (£)

Labour peer aims to strip Prince Charles of legal privileges

“A radical bill is to be put before the House of Lords proposing to remove special treatment of the prince and the Duchy of Cornwall, his inherited £800m estate that provides him with a £19m a year private income. … The move, by the old-Etonian Labour peer Lord Berkeley, also exposes little-known exemptions from laws enforced on everyone else by at least eight acts of parliament.” – The Guardian

Former Labour health minister calls for a new system of NHS charges

NHS“Everyone should pay a £10-a-month fee to use the NHS, according to a former Labour health minister. … Lord Warner called for the levy to be paid before anyone could benefit from free treatment. … Patients should also be charged £20 for every night they stay in hospital, he added.” – Daily Mail

  • “We have to escape the constraints of general taxation if we want a decent system.” – Norman Warner and Jack O’Sullivan, The Guardian
  • “Britain is going backwards on violence against women” – Owen Jones, The Guardian

> Today: Andrew Haldenby on Comment – It’s time for radical reform of the health service

Farage: I admire Putin

“Nigel Farage today names Vladimir Putin as a political hero, saying his handling of the brutal civil war in Syria has been ‘brilliant’. … In an extraordinary intervention, Mr Farage praised the thuggish Russian President as a superb ‘operator’ who had succeeded in outwitting the West. … Asked which current world leader he most admired, Mr Farage told GQ magazine: ‘As an operator, but not as a human being, I would say Putin.” – Daily Mail

  • “Moscow had created a climate of ‘fear and intimidation’ in Ukraine, US secretary of state John Kerry said after talks in Paris on Sunday night with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov” – Financial Times

And comment:

  • “Farage lacks Thatcher’s democratic bottle” – David Aaronovitch, The Times (£)
  • “Nigel Farage’s vision of a better yesterday will fade in a brighter future” – Chris Huhne, The Guardian

> Today: Sunder Katwala on Comment – The Euro-elections are the Eurosceptic cup final, but most voters don’t watch the match

BNP accused of using food bank-style handouts to win support

“British National Party activists are going door to door with mobile food banks in a bid to win support ahead of the local and European elections, The Independent can reveal. … The far-right party has even produced a YouTube instruction video to teach volunteers how to build trust with voters in deprived areas by offering soup, teabags and washing powder on the doorstep.” – The Independent

UK exports to the EU are worth £211 billion, claims study

EU FLag“Exports to EU countries help to support 4.2m UK jobs and are worth £211bn to the economy, according to new research … The study – published on Monday by the Centre for Economic and Business Research – comes days after Nigel Farage, the leader of the anti-Europe UK Independence party, and Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, clashed over the number of EU-linked jobs in a televised debate on Europe.” – Financial Times

  • “The North and Midlands would be hit hardest by Britain quitting the European Union, according to an economic analysis which revealed that the number of jobs which are dependent on trade links with the bloc now exceeds 4 million.” – The Independent

And comment:

  • “Why would we want to leave a European club where many members are better off than we are?” – David Blanchflower, The Independent
  • “The world will buy British when the pound is cheaper” – John Mills, The Times (£)

Heightened tension between South and North Korea

“South Korea on Monday returned fire into North Korean waters after shells from a North Korean live-fire drill fell south of the rivals’ disputed western sea boundary, a South Korean military official said. … Residents on a nearby South-controlled island were evacuated to shelters as a precaution. … No shells from either side were fired at any land or military installations, an official with South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said.” – The Guardian

News in brief

  • Erdogan claims victory in Turkey’s polls… – Financial Times
  • … whilst Hollande reacts to defeat in France’s local elections – Financial Times
  • Paris gains its first female mayor – The Guardian
  • The US stock market is rigged, claims new book – The Guardian
  • MI6 and the CIA are investigating the disappearance of Flight MH370 – The Independent
  • The number of women giving birth over 50 doubles in 5 years – Daily Mail
  • Network Rail boss apologises for the company’s poor performance – Daily Mail
  • New campaign aims to improve adult literacy – The Sun (£)

30 comments for: Newslinks for Wednesday 31st March 2014

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