Also on LeftWatch: Labour officials prepare to smear Samantha Cameron as "lazy"
- George Osborne promises to build a 'new economy', built on savings and investment
- Nigel Farage compares Herman van Rompuy, new EU President, to "damp rag" and "low-grade bank clerk"
David Willetts plans an all-age careers service to advise teenagers at school and people throughout their working lives – FT
Tim Loughton pledges to sweep away bureaucracy to free up frontline social workers to concentrate on protecting vulnerable children – Express
"Shadow chancellor George Osborne has promised that a Conservative government would work "flat out" to deal with the UK's budget deficit." – BBC
"[George Osborne's] Mais Lecture was 16 pages of sanity compared to the economic green ink brigade. Anyway, it's essential for the gilts market to hear Osborne say "we will make an early start" and then go on to confirm action for the first 100 days of a Tory government, which will include details of pay cuts across Whitehall departments, pay freezes for public sector workers, changes to public sector pensions including the pension age and then some in-year cuts, including reducing benefits for the better off, such as child tax credits." – Damian Reece in The Telegraph
"Mr Osborne is right to stick to his guns on the deficit. If only he could show similar boldness in making the moral case for lower taxes. The Tories have set out the right direction of travel on tax but need to display greater clarity of purpose. Their timidity could cost them dear." – Telegraph leader
In City AM, Allister Heath reminds us that benefits are at the heart of the deficit problem: "Michael Saunders of Citigroup reminds us that spending on benefits accounts for 13 per cent of GDP and 28 per cent of public spending, close to the peaks of the last 50 years. There are two main reasons: millions of middle class voters pay a lot of tax and get a lot of benefits; it would make more sense to cut both. And around 6m adults are on out-of-work benefits, a scandalous waste of resources for a supposedly civilised society. Any proper long-term plan to shrink the size of the state will have to find a way of moving millions of people stuck on welfare back into work. We desperately need to revolutionise the welfare state – as the next government will soon find out, cutting waste and freezing public sector pay simply won’t be enough."
The Conservatives and Ulster Unionist Party have agreed on nine of their joint General Election candidates – BBC
Benedict Brogan previews Tory energy plans
"Just as cash machines nearly stopped giving out cash, so we face a time when no electricity will come out of the socket. Unless the next government takes rapid, decisive and far-sighted action, the result will be catastrophic. As with the banks, we can see the disaster coming. Energy is too big to fail." – Benedict Brogan in The Telegraph
Unless the energy bill mandates tighter emissions standards for coal-fired power stations, the UK will miss its carbon-cut targets – Tim Yeo in The Guardian
The FT continues its profile of David Cameron with a focus on his time as 'spin doctor' for Carlton Communications
"“He did learn the ultimate politician’s trick, which is ubiquitous: they know how to bully. He learned from his time with Michael Howard, I think, and he wasn’t averse to using a little bit of muscle on journalists from time to time and sometimes, obviously, that’s counterproductive."" – FT
"Ian King, then business editor of The Sun, in an article in 2005 called Mr Cameron “a mendacious little creep”, but in a recent interview with the Financial Times he said: “I suppose the question is whether he is really the man I knew then or the one we see now. I am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.”" – FT
The Guardian continues its questioning of Andy Coulson
"David Cameron's communications director, Andy Coulson, will come under fresh pressure to defend his editorship of the News of the World and his knowledge about the illegal activities of his journalists amid new allegations about the paper's involvement with private detectives who broke the law." – Guardian
Coulson could become a Tory liability – Alastair Campbell in The Guardian
The Conservatives have arranged to borrow up to £5 million from Arbuthnot Latham & Co – Times
> Yesterday's ToryDiary: Conservatives raised more than twice as much money as Labour in the final quarter of 2009
Brown has failed not on character but on credibility – Nick Clegg in The Independent
Gordon Brown shouted 'you ruined my life' at Tony Blair – Guardian
Complaint over fundraising letter from ‘Friends of Speaker Bercow’ – Times
Matthew Parris explains how Nadhim Zahawi, new Tory candidate for Stratford on Avon, got the better of him – Times
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