Picture 13 7.30pm WATCH: George Osborne hints at cut in fuel tax as he promises he is listening to families' concerns

6.15pm WATCH: Ed Miliband claims the Coalition Government is "assaulting everybody on lower and middles incomes"

6pm ToryDiary: Half of Tory Associations don't respond to new member requests

5.45pm Seats and Candidates: A by-election is now due to take place in Leicester South

5.30pm Gazette: Results of the National Conservative Convention elections

3.30pm ToryDiary: The growing reputation of George Osborne

2.15pm Paul Goodman on Comment writes that Matthew Goodwin's article this morning had virtues and faults in more or less equal measure

1pm ToryDiary: Baroness Warsi tells Tory activists that defeating AV is their most important task on May 5th

11.30am Parliament: Chris Chope introduces Bill to force universities to award places on merit alone

Picture 9ToryDiary: CCHQ needs a plan to destroy Labour's brand

Matthew Goodwin on Comment: Why Baroness Warsi was right to highlight the growing problem of anti-Muslim sentiment in modern Britain

Also on Comment: Antonia Cox: We must not allow Labour to outflank us on defence

Local Government:

Gazette: Daniel Hamilton appointed Director of Big Brother Watch

WATCH: Welsh referendum gives an overwhelming Yes to full law-making powers for the Assembly

George Osborne to announce low tax enterprise zones to boost growth

George Osborne 2010 Chancellors debate "At least 10 "enterprise zones" will be set up by the Government as it seeks to reassure people and business leaders that it has a "growth strategy" as well as a "cuts strategy". The £100m job-creation drive, to be confirmed in the Budget on 23 March, will be trailed by George Osborne, the Chancellor, in his speech to the Conservative Party's spring conference in Cardiff today. Firms starting up in the zones will benefit from simpler planning rules and reduced business rates, with incentives tailored to the needs of each local economy." – The Independent

Restless activists await David Cameron in Cardiff

"When David Cameron addresses his party’s spring conference in Cardiff on Sunday he will face MPs and activists in a far more febrile mood than six months ago when the grassroots heartily cheered their prime minister and his economic action plan… The looming reductions in frontline services in local councils are alarming local activists who must sell them on the doorstep as they campaign for the May 5 local elections… Mr Cameron, who used his last conference speech to press the case for coalition, will again seek to keep his party’s eyes on the horizon as he outlines his vision for growth ahead of the budget this month." – FT (£)

Baroness Warsi predicts "bad" local election results…

Sayeeda Warsi in car "Baroness Warsi is resigned to several years of electoral meltdowns before her job becomes easier – hopefully in time for the next general election in 2015… “We will do badly in the local elections and Labour should do very well because of where we are in the electoral cycle,” Baroness Warsi said." – Daily Telegraph

…as she insists she gets a "huge sense of warmth" from the party grassroots…

“I take approval ratings from the grassroots every week. I don’t sit in an office in Westminster and do it. I don’t sit in London. I don’t have dinner table discussions with intelligentsia and commentariat in the City to do it. I actually get out there." – FT (£)

…and suggests that she would die for her beliefs

“Why go into politics if you are not going to be brave? If you want to stand on the sidelines and not stand up for what you believe in, politics is the wrong game to be in. “It worries my parents and it worries my husband and it worries my kids and they obviously don’t like it when I hold this approach. If that means you have a short but productive life, that is worth doing, than having a long but play-it-safe life. I believe that there are things that are far more important." – Baroness Warsi speaking to the Daily Telegraph

Town hall fat cats should be ashamed of their bloated pay packets, says Eric Pickles

Eric Pickles cheerful "Town hall bosses who refuse to take a pay cut while implementing savage cuts to front-line services should be ashamed of themselves, says Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles… At this weekend’s Conservative spring conference in Cardiff, Mr Pickles is due to launch the strongest attack to date from the Government on Labour council bosses, whom he accuses of trying to drag Britain ‘back to the 1980s’ with politically-motivated cuts." – Daily Mail

Mail: The Coalition must focus on saving Britain

"With only a few honourable exceptions, such as welfare reform and the drive to restore school standards, policy seems to be losing all sense of direction. So let the Mail remind the Coalition of its purpose: above all, it is to rescue Britain from an economic disaster that threatens to plunge us from the first rank of nations into the third. Only a revival in the private sector can ensure that recovery. And this in turn will not come about unless the Coalition swiftly enacts a meaningful strategy for business. That means lifting the monstrous burden of the state, with all its paraphernalia of red tape, workers’ rights and employment litigation." – Daily Mail editorial

Alan Duncan warns of petrol at £2 a litre if "recklessness" leads to further instability in the Middle East

DUNCAN ALAN "Petrol prices could soar to as much as £2 a litre if the situation in Libya and its neighbours deteriorates, a government minister warns today. Alan Duncan, a former oil trader with 30 years of business experience in the Gulf, becomes the first minister to talk publicly about the price of a barrel of crude topping $200, well above the current record of $147 in July 2008… “I’ve been saying in Government for two months that if this does go wrong, £1.30 at the pump could look like a luxury,” Mr Duncan says in an interview with The Times. “$200 is on the cards if … anyone is reckless and foments unrest.” – The Times (£)

  • British Army ready for Libyan mission at 24 hours’ notice – Daily Telegraph
  • Britain freezes assets of 20 of Gaddafi’s security chiefs – Daily Mail
  • Mandelson struck deal for British universities to twin with Libya – The Times (£)

Patrick O'Flynn: The Clegg/Cameron love-in is over

"Like a honeymooning couple they joshed and beamed and cooed. It was almost enough to make their political families forget that it had been a shotgun wedding. How different things are now. This week Nick Clegg was not present for Prime Minister’s Questions, the week before he looked uncomfortable and offered David Cameron no vocal support. And he will no longer defend Cameron’s Big Society idea, despite having once done so in the Commons." – Patrick O'Flynn in the Daily Express

Clegg to hold crisis talks after Barnsley by-election 'kicking'…

Nick Clegg 2011 petrified "Nick Clegg is to hold crisis talks with senior Liberal Democrats following their party’s sixth-place  ‘kicking’ in the Barnsley by-election. Party chiefs believe they face two years of deep unpopularity and even the prospect of a wipeout in May’s local elections. There are increasing signs that the Deputy Prime Minister will not only lose his flagship Alternative Vote referendum on May 5, but also control of councils such as Newcastle and Sheffield." – Daily Mail

  • Don't write us off pleads Clegg, as Lib Dems crash at polls – Daily Express
  • Barnsley was bad, but we'll turn it around – Lib Dem President Tim Farron MP in The Guardian
  • Lib Dem activists to challenge Clegg over strategy after by-election – The Times (£)
  • Clegg warned to expect leadership challenge as Lib Dems get worst poll kicking for 35 years – Daily Mirror
  • Lib Dem rebels to challenge Clegg over 'damaging' NHS reforms – The Guardian

…as one commentator suggests that the result was also "surprisingly discomfiting for the Conservatives"

"Ukip recorded a 7.5-point increase in its support, sufficient for it to overtake the Tories and register its best by-election performance yet. Barnsley could well prove a warning to the Conservatives that, with the party now in league with the Liberal Democrats, Ukip may become the protest vehicle of choice for disaffected Tories. The last thing David Cameron needs is trouble on his Eurosceptic right." – Prof John Curtice in The Independent

> Yesterday's by-election coverage on ConHome:

Wales ‘comes of age’ as voters back more powers for Assembly

"Wales has voted overwhelmingly in favour of extra powers for the Welsh Assembly in the first referendum on the issue since the narrow vote for devolution 14 years ago. The Assembly will be able to pass laws without needing ratification by Westminster. Unlike legislation passed in Scotland and Northern Ireland, laws passed by the Assembly had needed a Legislative Competence Order confirming the necessary authority." – The Times (£)

BOURNE NICK "Welsh Conservative leader Nick Bourne, whose party is the main opposition in the Senedd, said Wales had now been given the tools to do the job. Mr Bourne, who was among devolution's fiercest critics back in 1997, said: 'I would have not imagined to be in this position 10 to 13 years ago, but I admitted that I got it wrong about the Assembly and have seen the good it can do. We now have the tools to do the job, but we must deliver'." – Daily Mail

> Yesterday's ToryDiary: Wales votes Yes to give Assembly full law-making powers

Labour set to lose out in boundary revamp

"Labour's political heartlands are set to be trimmed in a constituency boundary shake-up designed to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600, it emerged last night. The independent Boundary Commission said yesterday that England will lose 31 MPs, Wales 10, Scotland seven and Northern Ireland two. Figures suggest Labour will be the biggest loser, with a string of safe seats in the North of England and the Midlands set to disappear." – Daily Express

> Yesterday in Seats and Candidates: Boundary Commission confirms that seat reductions will be greater in Labour-dominated regions

Political news in brief

  • Gold-plated public sector pensions to lose their shine – Daily Telegraph
  • Magistrates criticise Ken Clarke's bail plans – BBC
  • Britain at risk of another financial crisis, warns Mervyn King – Daily Telegraph
  • Queen to make historic visit to Ireland – Reuters
  • Lembit Opik launches bid to be London mayor… despite his party not selecting him – Daily Mail

And finally… Florence Cameron was christened yesterday

Picture 8 "David and Samantha Cameron's daughter Florence has been christened in front of family and friends. The 45-minute ceremony took place at St Mary Abbots Church in Kensington, west London – a short trip from the Prime Minister's residence in Downing Street. Around 90 guests attended the private event for the six-month-old. Florence Rose Endellion was born during a family holiday last August, and was named in honour of the village of St Endellion near where the Camerons were staying in Cornwall." – Press Association