Boris extends his lead as preferred heir to Cameron…

BORIS blue and red“More Conservatives are turning to Boris Johnson as their choice to replace David Cameron amid calls for the party to adopt a more optimistic message to voters. The mayor of London, who has warned the Tories they must not “shrug their shoulders” at growing inequality, has seen his support increase by four points among party members since last month. It means he has extended a lead over his closest rival, Theresa May. He received the backing of 26 per cent of party members, according to the poll run by the grassroots website, ConservativeHome, putting him six points ahead of the home secretary.” – The Times (£)


…as the Prime Minister continues to woo wavering kippers with pitch to the Express…

“In a clear appeal to supporters of Nigel Farage’s party, the Prime Minister vowed that cutting annual net migration to the “tens of thousands” a year and delivering an in-or-out referendum on Britain’s ties to Brussels would be key priorities if he returns to Downing Street after the General Election. And he asked for the chance to build the strong and prosperous country that patriotic voters who have backed the anti-Brussels insurgency want to see.” – Daily Express

…and the Tories “switch to ‘campaign plan B’ “

Rosette shield“A senior cabinet minister told The Independent the moves were part of a plan to enter a “positive” phase in the campaign which will highlight the Conservatives’ vision for five more years in power. This will culminate in the Tories’ manifesto launch on Tuesday, which is expected to include at least one big new “retail” offering for voters. Strategists are hoping the change in approach will begin to turn the tide in the polls, which have seen Tory support edge downwards during a week dominated by Labour’s clampdown on “non-doms” and a row over personal attacks on Mr Miliband.” – The Independent

>Today: ToryDiary: It’s time for women


Tory Pledges 1) Over 75s will see GPs on the same day, promises Hunt

“Pensioners over the age of 75 will be guaranteed same-day access to a family doctor under Conservative plans for a “total revolution” of GP services in Britain. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, said that the Tories will deliver better care for the elderly population by committing to a minimum of £8billion of extra funding for the NHS every year by 2020. The money will pay for at least 5,000 new GPs to ensure that pensioners who require care will be able to see a doctor within hours.” – Daily Telegraph

Tory Pledges 2) Osborne vows to plug the NHS funding gap

NHS_Logo“Our absolute commitment to the NHS is supported by a strong economy so that it’s there, free at the point of use, for the future, able to cope with an ageing population, and able to offer the best healthcare in the world. That’s why we have a plan for the NHS, backed up by the funding it needs. We have made difficult decisions elsewhere in order to increase spending on the NHS in real terms every year. We have also achieved billions of pounds in efficiency savings, all of which went straight back into the frontline.” – The Guardian


Tory Pledges 3) Green Belt will be safe until 2020

“The Green Belt will be safe for another five years under a Conservative Government, David Cameron will pledge next week. The Prime Minister and Tory leader will say that the protected greenfield land around towns and cities will not get any smaller in its manifesto next week. The manifesto, details of which have bene seen by The Daily Telegraph, will commit a Conservative Government to “prioritise brownfield development”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • The Prime Minister shows the strain on the campaign trail – Daily Mail

Tory Pledges 4) Businesses attack volunteering leave

Building shield“The Conservatives’ plan for companies to give three additional days of paid annual leave for volunteering appeared to unravel yesterday as business groups attacked the idea. The Institute of Directors (IoD) and the British Chambers of Commerce, criticised the manifesto pledge, arguing it would increase red tape and put particular pressure on the public sector. Under the plan, every public sector worker and any employee in a company with at least 250 employees would be entitled to volunteering leave.” – The Times (£)

  • Working for trades unions will be specifically prohibited – The Independent
  • Our graphic shows how the markets favour a Tory win – Daily Telegraph


  • This Tory plan is a Labour-style blunder – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph


  • We must assess the manifestos on how they equip Britain for the modern age – The Times (£)
  • The party that leaves its comfort zone will win the election – Financial Times

Fabricant reveals cancer battle

“Conservative parliamentary candidate Michael Fabricant has urged people to be aware of how their bodies are changing after he was diagnosed with skin cancer. The Tory, who is defending the Lichfield seat he has held for 18 years, said he decided to announce his news on Twitter to raise awareness. He has been diagnosed with melanoma and basal cell carcinoma, but is feeling “optimistic” as the specialists believe they have caught it in time.” – Daily Telegraph

Matthew Parris: Panicking Tories need to calm down, dear

parris“I rather suspect that if the Tory campaign falters, there will be an attempt to scapegoat the hired help: Lynton Crosby. But his instinct to stick to a few broad themes that chime with people is right — and ministers’ incessant sub-machine-gun fire of footling little “policy initiatives” that go in one ear and out the other has actually undermined Crosby’s approach and ends up sounding panicky. Torn between initiative-itis and Tourette’s, the Conservatives risk looking like the challengers rather than the incumbents.” – The Times (£)

>Yesterday: Iain Dale’s column: Michael Fallon is a grown-up. The Conservatives should use him more often.

Miliband warns that the SNP will cut Scottish pensions…

“Labour used the visit to attack the SNP over its demand for full fiscal autonomy, after Nicola Sturgeon admitted that her MPs would be prepared to vote to cut financial ties with the rest of the UK and have the Scottish Parliament take full control of taxation within a year. According to the independent Institute of Fiscal Studies, the move would create a £7.6 billion gap in the Scottish economy. Mr Murphy called the policy “full fiscal austerity”, claiming it would mean a 12 per cent cut in all Scottish spending, including pensions and benefits.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Labour takes aim at fiscal autonomy bombshell – Financial Times
  • SNP could bring down a Labour government within a year – The Sun (£)
  • Miliband rushes to reinforce his Scottish front – The Independent
  • Labour ‘dead’ in Scotland as MPs call for Brown to front campaign – Daily Telegraph
  • Tactical Scots stand between Labour and total humiliation – The Times (£)
  • Millions of English voters would choose the SNP if they could – The Independent


…as he risks international split by announcing plan to recognise Palestine…

Palestinian Authority“Ed Miliband said yesterday he wants to recognise a Palestinian state if he becomes prime minister in a move that would throw him into conflict with the United States, France and Germany. This comes as Whitehall figures raise concerns about the impact of SNP involvement in a future administration as they work out the implications of Labour’s foreign policy, and what it might mean for relations with countries with large separatist movements, including Russia. “President Putin would doubtless try and use it: you can see him trying divide and rule tactics,” said one Whitehall source.” – The Times (£)

…and his minders shield him from the public gaze

“Panicking Labour bosses are keeping Ed Miliband hidden from view in case there is a repeat of his bacon butty gaffe, it was claimed last night. The party leader has posed for virtually no photographs as he tours the country trying to drum up support. Instead, he has delivered a succession of speeches from behind lecterns before vanishing from sight for the rest of the day. The latest example of Mr Miliband’s camera shyness came on Wednesday when journalists were banned from a visit.” – The Sun (£)

  • Constituencies tell Tory and Labour top brass to stay away – The Guardian
  • The most stage-managed campaign I have covered in 30 years – Andrew Grice, The Independent

Labour Candidates 1) What they really think of the deficit

Miliband Labour Left“Not a single Labour candidate questioned by a major polling company mentioned the deficit as being one of the biggest issues facing Britain. Ipsos Mori interviewed almost 100 candidates from the major parties, asking them what they thought the most important issues facing the country were. Not one Labour candidate listed the government spending or the deficit; compared to 35 per cent of Tory candidates.” – Daily Mail


Labour Candidates 2) Welsh candidate attacked England flag as banner of simpletons and racists

“According to Wales Online, he wrote: “It truly shows the degree our society has been infiltrated by incomers who are not ready to integrate. “Very often, from what I see, some flying English flags are young people, who have been brought up in Wales, but who are loyal to England. This raises questions about us as Welsh people as well. “It’s true that the parents are at fault, but it’s obvious that the education system has failed to create a Welsh Nationalism in these people, and I wonder also how many of us Welsh people, in our school days, tried to bring these people (aka chavs) into the Welsh circle.”” – Daily Telegraph

Alexander warns that leaving the EU is ‘crazy’

EU Exit“Labour election chief Douglas Alexander has angered voters by claiming that leaving the EU is “crazy”. Alexander said Britain should renew its relationship with the European Union for “peace” but failed to address the rising number of immigrants flooding the UK. The controversial comments came after ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair warned a referendum on Britain’s EU membership would cause “chaos”.” – Daily Express

Blair: I won’t retire until I’m 91

“Tony Blair has said he does not want to retire from until he is 91 and that he wants to create a “cadre” of “battle-hardened” former leaders to advise governments around the world. The former Prime Minister said that he finds it “odd” that people expect him to just retire and “play golf”, adding that if he wasn’t working it is likely he would “turn to drink”. He said that he hopes to emulate Shimon Peres, the ex-Israeli president who is still politically active at the age of 91.” – Daily Telegraph

Umunna called for the scrapping of Trident

Umunna on Marr“A senior Labour frontbencher tipped as a future party leader called for the scrapping of the Trident nuclear deterrent, it has emerged. Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, suggested that Trident should be “the first to go in the round of public spending cuts to come after the general election”, according to a 2010 interview with Brixton Blog. Mr Umunna was also heavily involved in left-wing think tank Compass while it campaigned against Trident both in the run-up to the 2010 election and after first becoming an MP.” – Daily Telegraph

Charles Moore: Security is central to this election, yet our leaders sit on their hands

“Since David Cameron became Prime Minister in 2010, overseas aid spending has risen by more than 50 per cent and the defence total has slightly declined. When you add the fact that, under him, the Trident budget was, for the first time, included in the overall defence totals, you will see that what we actually spend on our defence has fallen sharply. So what does the Government think? That security doesn’t matter? It cannot be that, because Mr Fallon, and indeed, Mr Cameron, says it matters more than anything else.” – Daily Telegraph

UKIP 1) Troops could abandon Tories over defence

Armed ForcesA failure by the Conservatives to commit 2 per cent of national income to defence over the next parliament risks losing the support of military voters to Ukip, defence sources warn. Nigel Farage this week made a pledge to keep British defence spending above the minimum Nato threshold of 2 per cent of GDP — a hugely popular move for members of the armed forces and something that none of the major parties is expected to do. One former army officer, a lifelong Tory, said he was “thinking hard” for the first time about defecting to Ukip after Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, refused to guarantee an enduring commitment to 2 per cent beyond the current financial year.” – The Times (£)

  • Farage locked in three-way battle for survival – Financial Times
  • Police investigate party candidate for bribing voters with sausage rolls – The Times (£)

UKIP 2) Immigration crackdown in ‘chaos’ over agricultural exemption

“UKIP plan to lift their five-year ban on unskilled immigrants coming to Britain – if they “pick fruit”. The party’s high profile immigration crackdown descended even deeper into chaos after comments by one of the party’s MEPs. Ukip has vowed to slap a five-year ban on unskilled immigrants in a bid to slash the numbers entering the country. But agricultural spokesman Stuart Agnew said the ban would not include the farming and food processing sectors.” – The Sun (£)

UKIP 3) Candidate apologises to HIV-positive Lib Dem over comments regarding ‘expensive’ treatment

UKIP glass“A Ukip parliamentary candidate has been forced to apologise after she hit out at an HIV-positive politician, arguing that free NHS care for his condition is “very costly” to taxpayers. Patricia Culligan, Ukip’s candidate in the target seat of Eastleigh, tweeted her comment alongside a link to a Daily Mail article about Paul Childs, the Liberal Democrat for the Liverpool Riverside seat. “2nd LibDem candidate reveals he deliberately became HIV positive yet free NHS care v costly,” she tweeted.” – The Independent

Clegg considers letting gay couples pay surrogates

“Nick Clegg has suggested that same-sex couples should be able to pay women to be surrogate mothers. The Liberal Democrat leader said that Britain needs to examine controversial laws in California, where commercial surrogacy has been legalised. British laws bar anyone from paying a woman to have a baby or from drawing up a binding contract. At present couples can only pay expenses – typically £7,500 to £15,000 – and agreements are entirely dependent on trust.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Five things we learned on the Lib Dem battle bus – Daily Telegraph
  • Married Lib Dem ‘feminist’ caught on camera at strip club – Daily Mail

Greens urge job-sharing MPs

green20party (1)“Allowing two people to job-share the role of an MP could open up politics to more women and people with disabilities, the Green Party have argued. The left-wing party had hoped to field two candidates in Basingstoke, who, elected, would then go on to share the job of representing the constituency. Sarah Cope, a mother with two young children, and Clare Phipps, who has a disability which prevents her working full time, would have a single vote in the Commons. The plan by the Green Party was dropped because there is no mechanism for a joint candidature.” – Daily Telegraph

BBC unveils new four-faced swingometer for the multiparty age

“Delighting psephologists and baffling many others in equal measures, the BBC’s swingometer looked as if it had an uncertain future in the Britain of multiparty politics. But Jeremy Vine revealed to The Independent that the broadcaster has developed a new four-faced device, modelled on Big Ben. The BBC’s election analyst said that the updated version followed much “stressing” about its future. The first face will show the traditional swing between the Conservatives and Labour, while the other three will outline the transfer between Tories and Lib Dems, Labour and the Lib Dems and Labour and the SNP.” – The Independent

News in Brief:

And finally… 1) Shapps faces challenge from his own pseudonym

SHAPPS Carla head“Grant Shapps’ campaign for re-election took a dramatic turn yesterday when it emerged he will be running against his business pseudonym, Michael Green, after a campaign by the online blog Political Scrapbook. The mystery candidate, who has changed his name to Mr Shapps’ former business pseudonym Michael Green via deed poll in order to stand, managed to gather the required number of signatures to run for MP in Welwyn Hatfield with 15 minutes before the deadline.” – The Independent

And finally… 2) Twitter launches general election ‘hashflags’

“Twitter has launched a new round of ‘hashflags’ to brighten up general election coverge on the social network. Users who post hastags representing one of the ten biggest parties will see a small emoji-like icon automatically appended to the end of the text of the tag. The social network announced the new feature in a tweet this morning.”  – The Independent

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