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Conservatives four points ahead of Labour in ComRes poll

Rosette shield“The Conservatives have tonight moved into their strongest poll position for almost five years. As David Cameron prepares to go to Buckingham Palace tomorrow to mark the formal start of the general election campaign, ending the long phoney war between the political parties, an exclusive ComRes poll for the Daily Mail and ITV News shows the Tories have opened up a four-point lead over Labour. Tory jitters about the party’s campaign will be eased by the survey, which suggests Labour has slipped back since last week’s bruising TV encounter between the two main party leaders and interviewer Jeremy Paxman.” – Daily Mail

>Today:

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Miliband’s poll position

Cameron kicks off campaign with warning on Labour’s tax plans…

“David Cameron will today launch the Conservative Party’s general election campaign by warning families that they face a £3,000 tax bombshell if Ed Miliband gets into Downing Street. The Prime Minister will warn voters that a Labour government would mean “higher taxes for every working family” in Britain. It comes amid growing Labour confusion over economic policy.” – Daily Telegraph

…as he hints at expansion of marriage tax break

140115 Cameron on Marr“Married couples could get a bigger cut in income tax after the election, David Cameron has signalled as he admitted he must do more to win back disgruntled Tories. The Prime Minister said he wanted to ‘expand’ the marriage tax allowance, which begins next month and is worth £212-a-year for some couples. He said some of his natural supporters had ‘drifted’ to other parties, as he vowed to stick to his promise to cut net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’, despite the number soaring to almost 300,000.” – Daily Mail

Comment:

Duncan Smith says Tories may not reveal planned welfare reductions…

“The Conservatives may not reveal details of plans to slash £12bn from the benefits bill before voters go to the polls on 7 May, Iain Duncan Smith has said. The welfare secretary said it may not be “relevant” to explain where the rest of the cuts will fall until after the election. His comments on Sunday came after the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) thinktank said the planned cuts will be difficult to achieve, involving “pretty dramatic” reductions in areas such as housing and disability benefits over the next three years.” – The Guardian

  • Tory reticence to spell out benefit cuts could be fatal – Tim Montgomerie, The Times (£)

…and claims Cameron cannot serve a full second term

Iain Duncan Smith“Asked if Mr Cameron has to “stand down at some point during the next Parliament” in order to allow a successor to be in place for the election, Mr Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions secretary, said: “He does. “But I have huge faith in the Prime Minister. I think, given the nature of the terrible circumstances we inherited, under his leadership he’s turned the economy around and taken some tough decisions.” Mr Duncan Smith added: “He will do what he says which is essentially to serve a full term if and when that date is fixed.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Quiet man turns blabbermouth – Ann Treneman’s sketch, The Times (£)

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Iain Duncan Smith says £12 billion of benefit cuts are achievable

Hunt announces that all babies will receive a jab for Meningitis B

“All babies will be offered an injection against deadly meningitis B – ending a year-long delay, the Health Secretary said yesterday. The vaccine costs £20 a time and is expected to be available on the NHS by the end of the year. Jeremy Hunt’s announcement follows growing pressure from charities, highlighted by the Mail, which warned that children were dying and suffering devastating injuries while wrangling about the cost continued.” – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Hugh Byrne in Comment: It’s time to tear down the cult of Bevan in the NHS

Webb counsels patience with pension liberalisation

MANIFESTO money“Steve Webb, the pensions minister, said that only those with a desperate need to access their cash should act immediately. He added that it would take time for the industry to respond to the changes and develop new products. “This is a whole new world. Somebody talked to me about a decade of innovation,” he told TheSunday Times. So the new products, the flexibilities — keep a bit of money invested, take a bit of cash, have an annuity at the end, all that kind of stuff — are evolving.”” – The Times (£)

Tyrie calls for empowered select committees

“The power of backbench MPs to hold the powerful to account must be strengthened in the next parliament, according to Andrew Tyrie, the chairman of the Commons Treasury committee. Mr Tyrie, one of a new breed of elected select committee chairman, wants MPs to have new powers to require witnesses to attend hearings and to present relevant papers. The move is one of a number of suggestions he made ahead of Monday’s dissolution of parliament, following a five-year term which saw the select committee system come of age.” – Financial Times

The Coalition: Post-mortem of a political marriage

Coalition Colours“The leaders attempted to pre-empt the problems of ruling together. The document’s 34 pages included no fewer than 27 policy review and three explicit agreements for the Lib Dems to abstain during votes – on nuclear power, tax breaks for married couples, and university funding. In reality, the detailed agreement could not head off every policy problem, while measures that appeared completely innocuous would prove to be the cause of conflict. There were some ideas that ministers simply came to believe should never have been included, while there were also notable successes.” – The Times (£)

Tom Tugendhat: A soldier’s deadliest enemy will soon be a judge

“Britain’s armed forces have often faced multiple enemies. Over the past decade this combination of threats has proliferated. But the most serious opponent — the one that could paralyse our military capability and leave us weakened — is the most unexpected: judicial imperialism. By applying human rights laws designed for the stable conditions of peaceful, postwar Europe to our forces operating in extremely violent and fast-moving combat situations, judges are damaging the fighting capability of the most accomplished military force in Europe. Victories abroad are being undermined by defeat after defeat before the benches of London and Strasbourg.” – The Times (£)

  • Report claims troops are crippled by human rights law – The Sun (£)
  • More Tories may switch to UKIP over defence spending – General Sir Richard Dannatt, Daily Telegraph

Miliband’s election chief admits Labour will not balance the budget

LABOUR holes“Labour yesterday admitted it will borrow billions more than the Tories – as experts warned the party’s plans would leave a £30billion black hole at the heart of the nation’s finances. Ed Miliband’s elections chief Lucy Powell confirmed the party ‘may use some investment borrowing’ to fund its manifesto if it wins the election. And the Institute for Fiscal Studies said Labour’s plans would potentially leave Britain with a permanent budget deficit – piling up massive debts for future generations.” – Daily Mail

  • IFS chief warns that Labour are happy to borrow £30bn a year – The Times (£)
  • Labour donor urges party to rethink economic stance – Daily Telegraph
  • Powell clashes with BBC host over zero hours contracts – The Sun (£)

Labour upsets its own MPs with mug trumpeting migration controls…

“The Labour party has upset its own MPs after selling mugs promising a control on immigration. The £5 souvenirs were supposed to drum up cash for the party’s election fighting fund. But they have sparked a storm of criticism, with prominent backbencher Diane Abbott branding them ‘shameful’. Labour released five mugs to coincide with the Launch of Ed Miliband’s five election pledges. Each red mug, sold through the party’s website, has one of the pledges written in white. But the one promising ‘controls on immigration’ has uspet some of the party faithful.” – Daily Mail

…as Miliband claims that Cameron ‘caving’ on Europe threatens business…

EU Exit“Ed Miliband is to accuse David Cameron of leaving British business in “clear and present danger” by playing “short term politics” with Europe. Mr Miliband is to claim the Prime Minister has caved in to demands from backbenchers over Britain’s membership in Europe, leaving a recipe for instability and chaos for businesses. He will seek to win over the business community ahead of May’s general election with a warning that a Conservative government holding a referendum on Britain’s EU membership posed a threat to jobs and prosperity.” – Daily Telegraph

…and seeks a way to stop him “squatting” in Number 10

“Labour is consulting constitutional and legal experts about fears that David Cameron could try to stay on in Downing Street even if the Conservatives have fewer MPs than Ed Miliband’s party after 7 May. The Labour team is worried that Mr Miliband could emerge from the election with enough votes in the Commons to command a majority with the informal support of the SNP, but that the Tories could then try to exploit the lack of a clear winner to remain in power for at least a month.” – The Independent

The agendas behind those pushing Jarvis for leader

Dan Jarvis“The current driving force behind the Jarvis campaign are Progress, the Blairite pressure group who helped put together and manage Jarvis’s recent “grand tour” of marginal Labour constituencies. Their motivation is threefold. Many Progress members have never forgiven Umunna’s youthful dalliance with rival Left-wing pressure group Compass. They also feel that after being marginalised under Ed Miliband, they need their own candidate to prove continuing influence. And they believe Jarvis’s lack of ideological baggage gives them an opportunity to shape his thinking and, by extension, the terms of Labour’s internal debate. But Compass are not alone in trying to exploit Dan Jarvis’s embryonic leadership ambitions. Opponents of the shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, sense an opportunity to undermine his “northern working-class boy made good” appeal to the unions, and Labour’s soft-Left activist base.” – Dan Hodges, Daily Telegraph

Boris Johnson: Regressive, sarcastic and pious – Britain under Labour and the SNP

“I watched Nicola Sturgeon on television at the weekend, and the SNP leader was making no bones about it. She made a clear and unambiguous commitment to support and to work with a minority Labour government; as well she might, since she wants to reassure those huge numbers of Labour-SNP switchers in Glasgow and elsewhere that they can have their cake and eat it: a more Left-leaning government in the whole of the UK, and more independence for Scotland. And her promise, alas, is in one sense entirely plausible. Salmond at Westminster would run rings round Miliband, and in any kind of Labour-SNP coalition it is all too easy to see how the Scottish tail would wag the English dog.” – Daily Telegraph

Scottish Nationalists would support Labour on 50p rate

Scottish flag“The SNP will back a minority Labour government’s plans to reintroduce a 50p top rate of income tax after the general election but will demand a veto over its Queen’s speeches, its deputy leader has said. Stewart Hosie increased the prospect of a post-election Budget deal between the SNP and Labour by confirming Nationalist MPs would back increasing the top rate of income tax for those earning more than £150,000. But he said the party would want Ed Miliband to clear his Queen’s speech with them in advance if he wanted SNP backing for a Labour minority government, even on a vote-by-vote basis.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Lab-Nat pact on the cards as SNP pledge to end ‘madness’ of austerity – The Independent
  • SNP would demand to be consulted by Labour even for bill-by-bill support – The Guardian
  • Nationalists target left-wing voters – Financial Times
  • New SNP MPs will vote on non-Scottish bills, Sturgeon confirms – The Sun (£)
  • Democratic Unionists say they are prepared to back Labour – Daily Telegraph

Salmond calls for Holyrood control of the BBC

“Alex Salmond yesterday issued a chilling demand for state control of the BBC in Scotland to further the nationalist cause. The former SNP leader, who is standing for Parliament in the election, was accused of a naked attempt to interfere with the Corporation’s independence after saying it had a ‘metropolitan bias’ that works against his party’s cause. In a clear threat, he said broadcasting should be placed ‘under the remit of our democratically-elected parliament in Scotland’.” – Daily Mail

  • Ex-leader demands control ‘to correct anti-SNP bias’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Salmond defies Sturgeon’s attempts to sideline him – Daily Telegraph

Clegg attacks use of archaic law to prosecute journalists

CLEGG Bird“Nick Clegg last night issued a damning critique of the use of ancient laws to prosecute journalists pursuing public interest stories. The Lib Dem leader said prosecutors were ‘relying on 13th century laws’ to put reporters on trial and condemned the lack of a defence for those ‘uncovering information in the interests of the public’. He is the most senior political figure to raise concerns about the multi-million pound police investigation into tabloid newspaper payments for information, which critics condemn as a ‘witch hunt’.” – Daily Mail

Disgraced ex-Lib Dem Hancock to stand as an independent

“Disgraced MP Mike Hancock is to stand for Parliament again, months after being forced out of the Lib Dems after a string of sex scandals. The veteran Portsmouth South MP resigned from Nick Clegg’s party after being forced publicly to apologise to a vulnerable woman constituent for making improper sexual advances. But he has now vowed to stand as an independent candidate, continuing a colourful political career, which has included an affair with a woman accused of being a Russian spy.” – Daily Mail

News in Brief:

  • The ‘Victorian’ by-laws blighting modern Britain – Daily Mail
  • Row erupts as RSPB claims pheasant shooting is good for wildlife – Daily Telegraph
  • Netanyahu rages over imminent nuclear deal – The Times (£)
  • Increase in innocent teachers quitting following false allegations by pupils – The Independent

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