6.30pm Seats and Candidates update: David Cameron says the Conservatives are "fighting very hard for every vote" in Oldham East and Saddleworth

5.45pm Local government: Chief Exec of Barnsley Council calls Eric Pickles "a clown"

4.30pm WATCH: David Cameron outlines the Government's plans for economic growth and defends the decision to raise VAT

3pm Comment: "Conservative politicians look better and their voters reward it"

2pm LeftWatch update: CCHQ issues detailed rebuttal of Ed Miliband's claims about dealing with the deficit

Welsh flag1.30pm Gazette: This year's Spring Forum is to take place in Cardiff during the Welsh Party Conference

1.15pm Seats and Candidates: David Cameron is the first Tory Prime Minister in nearly 50 years to campaign in a by-election

1pm WATCH: Michael Gove welcomes the growing rate at which schools are adopting academy status

11am LeftWatch: Ed Miliband is still in denial about Labour's spending binge

ToryDiary: The Government plans to replace control orders – but only 28% of Conservative members want to see them scrapped

Picture 6 Seats and Candidates: With a week to go until the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election, Kashif Ali needs and deserves all our help


Local Government:

WATCH: David Cameron says that control orders are imperfect and need to be replaced

Tory dissent over votes for prisoners swells as Labour claims more than 28,000 inmate will benefit

Prisoners votes "Labour has claimed 28,770 prisoners, including violent criminals and sex offenders, will be given the right to vote… The list of those allowed to vote includes nearly 6,000 violent criminals, almost 2,000 sex offenders, more than 4,000 burglars and in excess of 4,000 drug offenders." – Sky News

"Philip Hollobone said he is prepared to table amendments to the legislation to try to reduce the four year sentence limit to just one year – the cut-off for prisoner voting rights used in Malta. He added: ‘There will be a very concerted effort to stop this from happening. The public will be outraged about it. This is going to be one of the bigger rebellions. His colleague Philip Davies said: ‘As far as I’m concerned it’s completely and utterly unacceptable to allow some of these vile creatures to vote’." – Daily Mail

As fuel prices rocket, Cameron holds out hope for a revival of the fuel stabiliser…

David Cameron at PM Direct "David Cameron yesterday promised to look at ways of keeping petrol price rises to a minimum. He said the Government might revive the idea of the ‘fair fuel stabiliser’, whereby fuel tax would be cut when world oil prices soared. And the Premier insisted he understood how ‘painful and difficult’ the rises in VAT and fuel duty had been for drivers." – Daily Mail

…as he says banks have gone 'too far' in restricting mortgages

"The Prime Minister warned that the housing market was “stuck” and would not improve until banks and building societies got back to “respectable” lending. He vowed to get the market moving again. In his strongest comments yet on buyers being denied access to the housing market, Mr Cameron said the reaction to crash which exposed people on unsustainable mortgages had now gone too far." – Daily Telegraph

One in ten secondary schools has now converted into an academy

"Under the Coalition Government, the number of schools given new powers to break free of local council control has more than doubled to 407, figures show… Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said schools benefited from greater independence, insisting figures showed exam results among academies increased faster than the national average. "The Coalition believes that head teachers and teachers – not politicians and bureaucrats – know best how to run schools,” he said." – Daily Telegraph

  • Gove's school reforms approach a tipping point – Fraser Nelson of The Spectator

Boris Johnson calls for 50p tax rate to be scrapped

Boris Johnson 2010 "Boris Johnson has risked further damaging his relations with David Cameron and George Osborne by calling for the scrapping of the 50p higher rate tax. The Mayor said the band was harming the capital's economic prospects. “It is not right that an entrepreneurial city such as London should have a top tax rate higher than most of its competitors,” he said." – Yesterday's Evening Standard

George Osborne urges EU to sort out banking system

"Europe cannot repeat the same mistake again. It is now clear the new stress tests must be much tougher. They should cover a three-year period and look at liquidity as well as core tier 1 capital. We should look at ways of strengthening the credibility of these tests, including validation by bodies such as the International Monetary Fund. And where the tests show it to be necessary, banks must raise high-quality capital from either markets or, in extremis, national governments to secure their future." – George Osborne writing in the FT

Nick Clegg braves chill on Oldham campaign trail but gets the cold shoulder…

Nick Clegg 2010 "Nobody can say that Nick Clegg has given up trying. He braved grey skies, drizzle and temperatures close to freezing yesterday to go out without an overcoat or scarf and meet voters in the constituency that is to be the first political testing ground of 2011… The bad news for Mr Clegg, though, is that almost all the voters he spoke to in Oldham yesterday seemed reticent about saying they would vote Liberal Democrat." – The Independent

  • It would be better for Oldham and the country if the Liberal Democrats were to win – Times (£) editorial
  • Norman Tebbit: A Lib Dem win in Oldham would push the Coalition further Left. I hope they come fourth – Daily Telegraph
  • Mike Smithson: Is a by-election crackdown on postal voting going on? – Political Betting

…as he rules out future electoral pact with Tories

"Nick Clegg last night ruled out any electoral pact between the Lib Dems and the Tories as the two Coalition parties battled for votes in a crucial poll test for the Government. Hitting the campaign trail for next week’s by-election in Oldham and Saddleworth yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister dismissed speculation that his party was edging towards a closer link or even a merger with the Conservatives. “Let me be absolutely clear once and for all. The Liberal Democrats will fight the next election as we did the last – as an independent political party in every constituency in the country,” he said." – Daily Express

Steve Richards: The Tory right's fears about a Lib-Con pact can be allayed

Steve Richards "There will be no pact. Right-wing MPs worried about what one has termed the "purple plotters" can relax. It will not happen. A formal agreement with the Conservatives would contradict one of the few credible messages left for the Liberal Democrats at the next election. They hope to argue that coalitions can work as a matter of principle and that they have proved capable of governing. For this message to have any impact it must be delivered from a position of neutrality in respect to the other parties. If they form an electoral pact with the Conservatives, the message becomes an entirely different one." – Steve Richards in The Independent

MPs' expenses system may be overhauled after politicians protest

"The expenses watchdog is considering a major overhaul of the system introduced to stop MPs abusing taxpayers' money, which could see new rules abandoned in favour of a set of "less prescriptive" principles, following criticism from MPs. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority today launched a consultation suggesting radical changes to the MPs' expenses regime, with its chair, Sir Ian Kennedy, admitting it was "not perfect". It follows noisy criticisms across the Commons about slow payments, troublesome IT systems and unfair rules. David Cameron warned last month that it would have to reform by April or face being forced to change. – The Guardian

  • We thought the expenses monster was slain – now Mr Cameron is letting it rise again – Stephen Glover in the Daily Mail

Other political news in brief

  • Liam Fox praises British forces during first Afghanistan visit of 2011 – Ministry of Defence
  • Clegg pledges to expand freedom of information – Daily Mail
  • Anger as Ministry of Defence hides the costs of carriers contract – The Times (£)
  • Business supports Coalition's cuts – Daily Telegraph
  • Leading medics challenge GPs to fight Andrew Lansley over NHS reforms – The Guardian

Other Comment

  • Ben Brogan: Nick Clegg’s agonies over control orders show how far he has come – Daily Telegraph
  • It is time to fight for economic freedom – Allister Heath in City AM
  • For real growth, David Cameron must go much further – Daily Telegraph editorial

Miliband claims Labour is not responsible for Britain's debt

Ed Miliband 2010 "Ed Miliband insists today that Labour is not to blame for Britain’s debt mountain and accuses David Cameron of peddling a “great deceit” about the previous Government’s record to pursue a damaging programme of cuts. The Labour leader, writing in The Times, also warns that this week’s rise in VAT to 20 per cent risked both stoking inflation and squeezing living standards, setting the scene for a jobless recovery." – The Times (£)


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