5.45pm WATCH: William Hague says that while Nato has saved thousands of lives in Libya, it should be sorry for accidentally killing rebels

Big Brother Watch4pm On Comment: Daniel Hamilton of BigBrotherWatch calls on Theresa May to think again on the Passenger Name Records Database: "A government elected on a promise to scale back the database state should be an opponent of this type of policy, not its biggest cheerleader."

2pm Patrick Nolan on Comment: How to stop spending too much in the good times

1.15pm Bill Cash MP on Coment: The Portuguese crisis is symptomatic of a systemic failure in the European project

12.30pm LeftWatch: NUT boss refuses to acknowledge that teachers themselves want to make it easier for incompetent colleagues to be fired

11am WATCH: Jeremy Hunt accuses Caroline Flint of chutzpah on BBC's Question Time after she says that "too much austerity sucks"

Scottish Conservative logoToryDiary: The Scottish Conservatives fight again to maximise their presence at Holyrood

Also on ToryDiary: UKIP gets second preference of one third of Tory members

Andrea Leadsom MP on Comment: High Speed Rail 2 is flawed – There are better ways of delivering improved transport links at a lower cost

Also on Comment, Lord Ashcroft draws on an Australian example to highlight the folly of AV: 'Fairer votes'? Remember Tiger Hewson!

Local Government: The battle for Bath & North East Somerset


WATCH: Meet Mrs Bone – Jennie, the one-woman focus group and wife of Tory MP Peter Bone

Portugal debt crisis proves need for cuts, says George Osborne…

"George Osborne used Portugal's plea for a €90bn (£79bn) rescue package to justify the government's austerity plans and warned that those who denied the need to deal with the budget deficit were "playing Russian roulette with Britain's national sovereignty". The chancellor will join other EU finance ministers in Budapest to work out the tough terms of a bailout for Portugal after the eurozone's debt crisis claimed its third victim within a year. But he was accused by his Labour shadow, Ed Balls, of "scaremongering" after stressing that the deepening problems of the single currency had a domestic significance." – The Guardian

…as Martin Callanan reiterates call for Britain not to participate in a Portuguese bailout

Martin Callanan 2011 "Britain's top Tory MEP has told Sky News that a plan to use billions of pounds of UK money to bail out Portugal is 'illegal'. Speaking on Jeff Randall Live, Martin Callanan, the leader of the UK's Conservative MEPs, argued that the Government should block proposals to help rescue the debt-ridden nation with cash held under Article 122 of the Lisbon Treaty." – Sky News

"Last week, Mr Callanan set out his reasoning on the Conservative Grassroots website Conservativehome. He said that the Portuguese situation was very different from Ireland's because of clear British interests in Ireland, and he also pointed out that Portugal's situation has come about largely because of its government's poor fiscal and economic policies and a failure to liberalise its markets." – Daily Telegraph

  • UK liable to pay at least £3bn towards rescue – The Independent
  • Spain denies need for EU bailout – Metro
  • Peter Oborne: George Osborne must act before Britain is sucked into the euro whirlpool – Daily Telegraph
  • Ruth Lea: Another bailout? Not until we have an EU referendum – The Times (£)

> Bailout coverage on ConHome:

Libya shortages prompt Cameron to have a rethink on defence cuts

David Cameron Afghanistan troops "Downing Street is having second thoughts about the scale of defence cuts amid jitters that the military action in Libya has exposed a lack of British firepower… The alarm has made David Cameron signal a change of tack by suggesting that he is open to change, despite months of insisting that the Ministry of Defence must accept the cuts." – The Times (£)

"Plans to plug a £1billion black hole in this year’s budget by axing more kit and personnel have been shelved after David Cameron brokered a new deal between the Ministry of Defence and the Treasury. Now some of the cuts announced last October in the Strategic Defence and Security Review are being looked at again after Britain’s top commanders warned the Prime Minister that the loss of key capabilities means they will not be able to fight further wars before 2020." – Daily Mail

Osborne promotes business development with second growth review

"George Osborne has effectively acknowledged that the Government must do more to encourage business development, with the announcement of a second growth review. The Chancellor told business leaders that the updated growth strategy will be published at the time of the Autumn Statement, which has replaced the pre-Budget review as the main Treasury event of autumn. Mr Osborne told the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) conference that it would look at “new issues and new sectors” and would follow a cross-government drive to remove large numbers of existing regulations." – The Times (£)

Theresa May pushes for air passenger data storing to be expanded

Theresa May Home Secretary "Britain is trying to set up an EU-wide network of travel databases to record the movements and personal details of millions of air passengers within Europe. The home secretary, Theresa May, is hoping that, when they meet on Monday, European justice and home affairs ministers will back a massive expansion of EU proposals, which as they stand would apply only to flights in and out of Europe and see travellers' details anonymised after 30 days." – The Guardian

Iain Duncan Smith lobbies Government against local hospital closure

"Iain Duncan Smith has taken the unusual step of warning a Tory Cabinet colleague against closures at his local hospital, in an early sign that controversial NHS reforms will create tensions at the top of Government… He signed a petition on the doorstep of No 10 Downing Street opposing the closure of A&E and maternity units at a hospital in his east London constituency, and warned the beleaguered Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, that his final decision on the wards could “seriously damage” local health services." – Daily Telegraph

Stephen Dorrell sounds warning over NHS reforms

"The way GP consortiums are set to be constituted “sounds like sofa government”, according to Stephen Dorrell, Conservative chair of the Commons health select committee… The new NHS commissioners, he says, will have budgets much bigger than any district council and will be taking much more sensitive decisions. “Would we contemplate district councils meeting in private without public access to papers and proper minutes and declarations of interest? Of course not. It is self-evident that there has to be proper governance.” – FT (£)

Number of academies has trebled over last year The Guardian

Lib Dems struggle to find candidates for local elections

BALLOT BOX 1 "The Liberal Democrats have blamed a drop in the number of their members fighting council seats in English local elections on being a "party of power". Initial figures suggest 59% of places taking part on 5 May will have a Lib Dem candidate, down from 63% in 2007. Their Tory coalition partners will contest 93.6% – up from 88.3%. Labour also claimed an increase in candidates – notably in the south of the country – from around 60% to more than 71%." – BBC

"The pattern of dwindling candidates becomes even starker in the North where the Lib Dems are contesting less than 48 per cent of seats. The trend will worry the party’s leadership. They are preparing themselves for a disappointing result" – The Times (£)

"The Tories said 250 of their candidates had already been returned unopposed after the two other main parties failed to stand. Labour had only seven candidates with no opposition and the Liberal Democrats five. Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the Tory chairman, said: “The Conservatives are the only party fighting for every part of England. This is in stark contrast to Labour, which can’t find candidates in three out of 10 seats. So much for Ed Miliband’s promise of a new generation in politics – he can’t even beat New Labour.” – The Independent

> Yesterday's coverage on ConHome:

Cable prepares to relaunch his career with new war on bankers

Picture 8 "Nick Clegg and Vince Cable will demand major reforms of the banks as the Liberal Democrats flex their muscles and adopt a more "arms length" policy from the Conservatives. After tensions between Liberal Democrat and Tory ministers over the proposed NHS reorganisation and next month's referendum on the voting system, the structure of the banks could be the next battleground between the Coalition Government partners." – The Independent

Further commentary on the Lib Dems

  • Nick Clegg, you chose to be coalition arm-candy, so accept being a punchbag – Simon Jenkins in The Guardian
  • Clegg-bashing is a bit like clubbing baby seals – he even rivals dear old Prince Charles for self-pity – Tom Utley in the Daily Mail
  • Scotland will tell if Lib Dems face just disaster – or oblivion – Martin Kettle in The Guardian

"New EU Tax Bombshell"

"Britain could face a swingeing rise in VAT and a punishing “green” tax on energy bills under a new EU funding plan, it emerged last night. The proposed shake-up would give Eurocrats sweeping powers to slap indirect taxes on Europe’s 500 million citizens to raise more cash for Brussels coffers." – Daily Express

  • Prime Minister can deny prisoners the vote says senior judge – Daily Mail

Elliot Morley faces longest jail term after pleading guilty to dishonestly claiming £32,000

Picture 7 "Elliot Morley, the former environment minister who has admitted fiddling his expenses by £32,000, is facing the longest prison sentence of all the MPs caught up in the scandal. The former Labour MP is likely to receive the most severe punishment because he fraudulently claimed so much more than anyone else… Jim Sturman QC, representing Morley, said his client knew he was going to jail and “that unless something extraordinary happens, it is only a question of how long, not if”. – Daily Telegraph

> WATCH: Ex-Labour Minister Elliot Morley pleads guilty to dishonestly claiming £32,000 in parliamentary expenses

Today's other MPs' expenses stories

  • MPs handed £3.2m in expenses at end of 2010, taking total to £10m in just eight months – Daily Mail
  • Coalition ministers spend £40,000 on potted plants – The Independent
  • Denis MacShane claimed £11,000 in expenses within days of being referred to police over questionable claims – Daily Telegraph
  • Gordon Brown’s £4k exes in just two months – The Sun
  • £450,000 bill for MPs' foreign trips – Daily Express

Political news in brief

  • David and Samantha Cameron fly easyJet to Spain for short break – Daily Telegraph
  • Moussa Koussa interviewed by Scottish police over Lockerbie – BBC
  • Nato 'apologises for hitting Libya rebels' – BBC
  • Royal wedding planners powerless to evict Parliament Square protesters – The Guardian
  • School leavers unfit for work, says outgoing BCC boss – Daily Mail
  • Ed Miliband calls for bold banking reform – Reuters
  • US Congress puts staff on notice as government nears shutdown – The Guardian

And finally… The Government is recruiting a Twitter Tsar (or rather, "Executive Director of Digital")

"The Government is to hire a "Twitter Tsar" on an annual salary of £142,000, making the successful candidate one of the best paid civil servants in Whitehall. The job vacancy, which appropriately was posted on the website of the Civil Service, is for "the new and exciting role of Executive Director of Digital"… Much of the job will involve ensuring any Government initiative is easily and clearly understood by the public when they search for information on the internet. However, the job description lacked a certain amount of clarity, using a combination of civil servant parlance and technology jargon." – Daily Telegraph


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