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10.15pm ToryDiary: YouGov/Sun has Tory lead back at 4% (from 2%) in post-Budget tracker poll

10pm Seats and Candidates: The Prince of Wales endorses "remarkable work" of Conservative candidate (in a strictly non-political context, of course)

Picture 258.45pm ToryDiary: The Conservatives spell out their opposition to the 10% duty hike on traditional British cider

8pm WATCH: Alistair Darling's admission that Labour cuts will be "deeper and tougher" than those implemented by Margaret Thatcher

7.30pm LeftWatch: Labour's union paymasters now plan to close down the rail network for four days next month

7.15pm Parliament: Peter Lilley explains to the Commons how to reduce the deficit

6.45pm LeftWatch: Brown says Labour will go on spending; but Darling says Labour cuts will be "deeper and tougher" than Thatcher's

6.15pm ToryDiary: Tory HQ plays down the significance of the re-engagement of M&C Saatchi

Matthew Sinclair4.45pm Matthew Sinclair on CentreRight summarises the TaxPayers' Alliance post-Budget briefing

4.30pm WATCH: Tony Blackburn counts down some of the top twenty favourite political songs as drawn up by the New Statesman

3.30pm Jonathan Isaby on CentreRight: Lebedev buys The Independent – will he make Greg Dyke editor?

3pm Jim McConalogue on CentreRight: Alistair Darling on reducing the deficit

1.30pm Seats and Candidates: 35 MPs descend on Hampstead and Kilburn to support Chris Philp's campaign

1pm ToryDiary: New Ipsos Mori poll of key marginals still points to hung parliament

12.45pm WATCH: George Osborne tells BBC Breakfast that yesterday's Budget was an empty Budget bereft of energy and vision

12.30pm Charles Tannock MEP on CentreRight: Body scanners are not a panacea for airport security

Picture 10Noon Gazette: Baroness Park of Monmouth has died

11.30am Ed Vaizey MP on CentreRight: Another Budget U-turn you may have missed
shows again how Labour are following the Conservative lead on arts and
the creative industries

11.15am Seats and Candidates: UUP MP Sylvia Hermon quits party and confirms she will fight North Down as an Independent

10.45am Local government: Labour-run Knowsley Council tops Council Tax hikes with 4.8%

10am Simon Chapman on CentreRight: Betting the mortgage

9.15am LeftWatch update: Chris Grayling backs calls for "urgent review" of Labour's anti-terrorism laws

ToryDiary: ConHome expects Osborne to cancel Labour's NI increase as part of pre-election promises

FIELD MARK Mark Field MP on Platform: The appointment of peers has the potential to be the next parliamentary scandal in the making

LeftWatch: Labour's increasingly draconian anti-terrorism laws questioned by cross-party parliamentary committee

Local Government: The battle for Portsmouth

Parliament: Andrew Robathan casts doubt upon the value of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry

Louise Bagshawe on CentreRight: We're going to win this election. And I can't wait.

WATCH: David Cameron and Gordon Brown clash at the pre-Budget PMQs

Gazette: Happy 60th Birthday to Eric Ollerenshaw

The key points of yesterday's BudgetBBC

The Budget gets a thumbs-down from most of Fleet Street

Picture 9 "Chancellor Alistair Darling spent more time talking about potholes than black holes as he ignored our debts crisis to waffle about roads. This sham Budget bore all the hallmarks of Gordon Brown's politics of envy – cheap shots, class warfare and stolen Tory ideas. This was the Chancellor's last chance to start slashing his predecessor's terrifying debts. Instead, pressured by No10, he put party before country in a squalid attempt to save Labour votes." – Sun editorial

"Mr Darling's Budget statement smacked almost of boastful complacency, which is hard to credit given the ravaged state of the public finances. Time and again he asserted that the Government had "made the right choices", as if coping with some terrible economic catastrophe of which it was the innocent victim… A blizzard of inconsequential measures was spelt out in bottom-numbing detail, while the real thrust – spending up, taxes up, borrowing up, no change at all in the direction of travel for our wrecked economy – was swiftly passed over." – Telegraph editorial

"The Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke for an hour yesterday, but managed to say almost nothing. There was no vision for the future, no radical thinking, precious little courage and no indication of what a Labour fourth term might be for." – Times editorial

"It was always going to be a political Budget. And given that the first 20 minutes of Alistair Darling’s parliamentary address on Wednesday was devoted to government self-congratulation, the UK chancellor filled the brief. His broad message was simple: fiscal consolidation without pain. It may not be credible. But it certainly has political appeal." – FT editorial

Picture 8 "Labour has decided to base its campaign to be re-elected on the politics of envy. And it is not only the wealthiest who are being targeted. National insurance rises will punish anyone earning more than £20,000, while even those on the minimum wage will be hit by the failure to uprate personal allowances in line with inflation. The most telling divide in Labour’s Britain is, in truth, not between the rich and the poor, nor even between the many and the few. It is between those who strive for self-reliance and those who do not." – Express editorial

"You must hand it to Alistair Darling: to have to unveil a budget deficit of 11.8 per cent of GDP, roughly the same as Greece’s, would have destroyed a lesser politician. The fact that he was able to portray such an abysmal outcome as a triumph is the final proof that contemporary Britain is now firmly in denial about the state of its economy and society. The deficit is so huge that Darling will have to borrow more in 2009-10 and 2010-11 (£166.5bn and £163bn respectively) than his entire income tax take (expected to yield just £146bn next year)." – Allister Heath's Editor's letter in City AM

"By turns disingenuous, cynical and, let's be blunt, untruthful – the lies by omission in this Budget were simply awesome – yesterday was the moment that Alistair Darling lost his grip on posterity. Instead of an honest attempt to chart this country's route out of terrifying indebtedness, he delivered a Budget for his party and not his country." – Daily Mail editorial

Tories hit out at hidden stealth tax through frozen allowances

George Osborne on Marr 2 "The Tories yesterday accused the government of hiding a £2.2bn stealth tax in the small print of the Budget. The chancellor introduced a freeze on all income tax bands in his Budget instead of following normal practice and raising them in line with inflation. With retail inflation at 3.7 per cent, the tax-free personal allowance should have been increased from £6,475 to £6,715 – a rise of £240. At the 20 per cent basic rate, this means that a taxpayer will pay £48 extra this year, while a two-earner couple will be liable for an extra £96-a-year." – City AM

"Shadow chancellor George Osborne bitterly attacked the freeze on personal allowances – contained in the detailed figures in the Budget "red book". "Thirty million working people will be hit by this new Labour stealth tax. The Chancellor said nothing about the biggest tax rise in the Budget," he said. That tells you everything you need to know about Labour's cynical tricks and their priorities: the bill for Gordon Brown's economic mistakes is going to be paid by every working family." – Sky News

The Conservative policies Labour has hijacked

"Alistair Darling hailed the new £250,000 threshold for paying Stamp Duty as a boon for young people trying to get on the housing ladder. But when the Tories first came up with the notion Labour sneered that it was not "an effective use of public money"… The levy on high-strength cider announced yesterday was dismissed last year – when the Chancellor rubbished plans by the Tories for "smart taxes" as an "unworkable gimmick". The creation of new university places – also proposed by the Conservatives – was rejected by Labour only this month." – The Sun

David Cameron accuses Alistair Darling of ‘playing politics’

David Cameron Commons crop "David Cameron has accused Alistair Darling of ‘playing politics’ with a pre-election Budget which the Tory leader claimed lacked honesty about the state of the public finances. The visibly angry Conservative leader threw his notes on to the dispatch box after delivering a Budget response in which he said that the Chancellor should be “ashamed” of the £167 billion deficit. In a searing attack on Gordon Brown, he added: “No one has yet thought of a question to which the answer is five more years of this Prime Minister." – Daily Telegraph

Darling plays to the gallery with swipe at Ashcroft's homeland

"The biggest cheer during Alistair Darling's budget speech erupted when he announced that the UK has reached agreements with three overseas tax havens. Strange, it might seem, unless you knew that one of them was the Central American state of Belize – where the non-dom deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, Lord Ashcroft, has a lot of his fortune." – The Independent

Conservatives would keep Labour's 'rich taxes'

"A Conservative government would keep Labour's taxes targeting the rich, senior Tory sources have confirmed. The admission may dismay right-wing Tories, who believe the party should fight the party should fight the general election with clear pledges to reverse Labour’s “class war” tax plans. But instead of reversing taxes on wealthy individuals, George Osborne, the shadow Chancellor is understood to be focussing on plans to repeal at least part of next year’s planned National Insurance rises." – Daily Telegraph

Michael Brown: The Tories must up their game

Michael Brown 2009 "I have never doubted – until now – my long-held prediction that Mr Cameron will ultimately win an overall majority of around 30 seats on 6 May… The Tory website Conservative Home has suggested a way of relating the burgeoning deficit to individual families. They drafted a poster for the Tories suggesting that if things carry on as they are, borrowing rates will inevitably rise, causing mortgages to cost an average home-owner maybe an extra £1,440 a year. It is time for the Tories to stop talking in abstract terms about macroeconomics and put the spotlight instead onto household economics." – Michael Brown in The Independent

Does the red box deliver victory at the ballot box?The Independent

> All yesterday's Budget coverage on ConHome:

Tory lead down to 2% in YouGov daily trackerThe Sun | ToryDiary

Caroline Spelman points to doubling of council tax under Labour

SPELMAN CAROLINE NW "Council tax will cost the average family around £120 a month from April, with bills in England set to rise by 1.8 per cent… Caroline Spelman, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said council tax had more than doubled under Labour, and compared the rise in England to Scotland, where the tax has been frozen again." – Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday in Local Government: The first tax rise of Budget Day

Tories turn to M&C Saatchi

"The Conservative Party has drafted in its old ally M&C Saatchi to work alongside Euro RSCG on its advertising, less than two months before the General Election is expected to take place. Euro RSCG retains its lead agency status, but M&C Saatchi will now also work on briefs to ensure the Conservatives are getting their message right in the run-up to the election – widely expected to be held in early May." – Campaign

Phillip Blond: Why Cameron shouldn’t lurch to the right – Phillip Blond in Prospect

Straw poll shows three quarters of Buckingham voters backing Bercow

"John Bercow remains the people's favourite on the streets of the Buckingham constituency. People in Princes Risborough, Winslow and Buckingham, the three main towns in the battle for the parliamentary seat, have mixed views over their chosen candidate, but Mr Bercow came out tops." – Bucks Herald

Nato asks Geoff Hoon to step down as policy expert

Geoff Hoon "Geoff Hoon was yesterday asked to step down from his duties at Nato following his involvement in the "cash for access" scandal. Nato's secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, asked the former British Defence Secretary to withdraw from a group of 12 policy experts drafting the military alliance's new mission statement after he learnt of Mr Hoon's suspension from the Parliamentary Labour Party." – The Independent

Baroness Ashton secures key powers in Europe's new diplomatic service

"Baroness Ashton of Upholland, the EU's new foreign policy chief, has secured key powers over the world's biggest development budget, according to a blueprint for Europe's first common diplomatic service. Lady Ashton, the Labour peer, is to unveil her blueprint tomorrow for the ambitious diplomatic service which has been the object of a ferocious turf war in Brussels and EU capitals for weeks. The 13-page document, obtained by the Guardian, puts Ashton in charge of regional and country strategy in development policy, loosening the European commission's grip in this key area." – The Guardian

Gordon Brown and EU leaders head for two-day summit in BrusselsReuters

Stephen Glover: Is there now no area of our lives that the Nanny State won't poke its nose into?

Picture 7 "A group of the country's most eminent doctors is calling for a ban on smoking in cars and in public places where young people congregate, such as parks… And yet when you study the doctors' proposals you see they are not merely recommending banning smoking in cars in which children are passengers. They would like to ban all smoking in cars on the basis that children might be present… Whatever we think of smoking or smokers, it does seem presumptuous and probably dangerous for the State (for this is what the doctors would like) to say that we cannot indulge in what is still a legal activity when we are by ourselves and most unlikely to harm anyone else." – Stephen Glover in the Daily Mail

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