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10pm ToryDiary: Tory lead remains at 4%

Screen shot 2010-03-18 at 20.56.53 8.45pm ToryDiary: Hung parliament would be "catastophic", warns Ken Clarke

8.45pm Henry Featherstone on CentreRight: Trying to defend smoking is a dead end

Screen shot 2010-03-18 at 18.48.227pm WATCH: Derek Conway, Ann Widdecombe and Nick Winterton feature in a Channel 4 report on retiring MPs – Miss
Widdecombe compares the pursuit of MPs to a witch trial. Mr Conway says
allowances were wrongly seen by the public as expenses and predicts
that constituents will be less well served as a result of the furore.
Mr Winterton accuses the public of envy.

6.30pm Tim Montgomerie on CentreRight: North Korea executes failed finance minister

3.30pm Matt Sinclair on CentreRight: Policy Exchange's proposed increase in taxation of tobacco is unjustified, unfair and regressive

12.30pm Henry Featherstone on CentreRight: Tobacco taxation should be increased by 5% in the next Budget

DORRIES ON QT10am ToryDiary: In its campaign against Nadine Dorries; Has The Telegraph gone mad or bad?

ToryDiary: "We'll win this election if voters think that we're authentic – that we're the real thing."

Also on ToryDiary: New network for progressive conservatives is launched

Grant Shapps MP on Platform: After Labour's failure on housing, Conservatives have a wealth of ideas to smash the status quo

Laura Midgley on Local government: The Mayor of Doncaster's battle against Political Correctness must succeed

WATCH:

Yesterday's evening's polls produced Tory leads of 4% and 13%ToryDiary

Gordon Brown has made an embarrassing retreat over his support for the Armed ForcesTelegraph | Yesterday's video

Screen shot 2010-03-18 at 07.47.04 "General Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank said that Mr Brown’s admission
that he cut military spending in real terms — rather than increased it,
as he told the inquiry — demonstrated his antipathy towards the Armed
Forces. The admission vindicated former commanders, whose claims that
the cuts had cost lives were branded by Mr Brown as “disingenous” and
“wrong”." – Times

Tory MPs complain that Oliver Letwin's presentation of Tory policy is too complexTimes

Theresa Villiers was architect of yesterday's winning Cameron strategy at PMQs

"Gordon Brown was accused yesterday of lacking backbone after refusing FOUR TIMES to support brave BA workers who will defy union bullies and cross picket lines." – The Sun

VILLIERS THERESA NW "A little bird whispers in my ear that congratulations are due to Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers. It was apparently her idea for David Cameron to ask Gordon Brown whether he would encourage BA workers to break a picket line and keep the airline flying. The question caused him – as well as the Labour benches – great discomfort." – Iain Dale

"The Tory leader's more at home playing the union card than playing with huskies. It's Cameron not Labour or Britain that's going back to the 1970s, reverting to Tory union bashing. What next as Cameron retreats into his comfort zone – playing the race card? A lot of his unreconstructed party are urging him talk more about immigration and he may be tempted, particularly when Tory Towers is congratulating itself over the attacks on Unite." – Kevin Maguire in The Mirror

Start spending cuts now, EU tells Darling in fresh boost to ToriesDaily Mail

Whitehall reorganisation 'cost £780m in four years' – BBC

Theresa May attacks hidden joblessness

MAY-THERESA "The number of people unemployed fell by 33,000 to 2.45m in the three months to January, according to the Office for National Statistics – the biggest quarterly fall for almost three years… However, the fall has been achieved at the expense of large numbers of people leaving the labour force. The number of those classed as economically inactive jumped by 149,000 in the quarter to January to a record 8.16m… Theresa May, shadow work and pensions secretary, said the figures showed “hidden levels of unemployment emerging in the economy. It is simply unacceptable that one in five people of working age you meet won’t have a job”." – FT

The private/ public pay gap is widening

"Average total pay in the private sector was
£426 per week in January 2010 – zero growth on a year ago. However,
total pay in the public sector rose by 3.8 per cent on a year earlier
to £461. Even excluding the nationalised banks total public sector pay
rose by 2.6 per cent on a year earlier to £455, much higher still than
in the private sector. There is plenty of scope for the public sector
to make economies in the years ahead." – Allister Heath, City AM

Cameron vows to increase powers to prevent BNP members from becoming teachers

""Any good headteacher would not have a member of the BNP within a hundred miles of a school. They should be able to fire someone for that reason" – The London Evening Standard quoting David Cameron addressing a meeting of black voters in Peckham

> Yesterday's ToryDiary: Cameron promises national mentoring programme for black entrepreneurs in bid to deliver equality of opportunity for all

Under-16s who have sex should be prosecuted, says Tim Loughton MPDaily Mail

LOUGHTON TIM Mr Loughton's original quote appeared in yesterday's Guardian: ""We need a message that actually it is not a very good idea to become a
single mum at 14. [It is] against the law to get pregnant at 14. How
many kids get prosecuted for having underage sex? Virtually none. Where
are the consequences of breaking the law and having irresponsible
underage sex? There aren't any.""

"Former Conservative leader William Hague was kept informed about the negotiations of Lord Ashcroft's tax status, leaked papers have suggested."BBC

"Lord Ashcroft and William Hague will snub an inquiry into how the billionaire party donor was elevated to the House of Lords after the Conservatives said the event was biased. David Cameron approved the decision for all Tory parliamentarians to boycott a Commons hearing into what promises were made before the businessman became a peer." – Times

FSA chief, Hector Sants, attacks Conservative plans to disband watchdogGuardian

"Lehman's case shows how auditors accepted banks' machinations, instead of acting for the public good" – David Davis in The Guardian

Don't model yourself on Mr Blair, Mr Cameron – Stephen Glover in The Daily Mail

If Cameron loses the 'same old Tories' would be back – Matthew Parris in The Times

Labour's secret election plan revealed: tea on your sofa with Gordon Guardian

Lords defeats Labour's home care plans

"Gordon Brown's plans to offer free personal care at home to vulnerable elderly people were in ruins last night after the Government crashed to a series of embarrassing defeats in the House of Lords. Peers demanded a rethink of the £670m scheme amid heavy criticism over the speed with which Mr Brown was attempting to rush it through Parliament and questions over its cost." – Independent

Our real loss of sovereignty is not to Europe but to the US – Nick Clegg in The Independent

And finally… Did Michael Gove man a picket line in his youth?

"As for Michael Gove, the man deputed to attack the militant Whelan, in his youth the shadow schools secretary is said to have stood on the picket lines his leader so deplores. There are rumours of a photograph." – Michael White in The Guardian

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