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5.15pm ToryDiary: No2AV lead still in double figures as Yes campaign becomes more dishonest and more dirty

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3.45 Gallery: Greg Barker decks out Department for Energy and Climate Change with Royal Wedding bunting

3.15pm Michael Bull on Comment: Young people need to be engaged in the world of work and the world of politics

1.15pm Local government:

12.15pm ToryDiary: SIX TIMES as many voters think Conservatives are prepared to take tough decisions than Labour

LIBERAL-DEMOCRATSToryDiary: Why the Lib Dems won't pull the plug on the Coalition

Dr Teck Khong on Comment: It’s time to consider real changes to the Health and Social Care Bill

Also on Comment, Christopher Hall: How AV has been defeated in decades gone by

Alok
Alok Sharma MP in Local Government: How Council taxpayers have funded £35 million of Trade Union salaries over the past three years

Also in Local Government:

Parliament: New Tory peer Lord Popat uses his maiden speech to thank Britain for giving him refuge from Idi Amin's Uganda in the 1970s

WATCH: President Obama releases his birth certificate to scotch continued speculation about whether he was born in the US

Benedict Brogan: The pointless AV referendum has helped bring out David Cameron's inner Tory

Benedict Brogan "Something has happened to David Cameron in the past fortnight. Call it an Easter resurrection, but he appears revived, not as a politician, but as a Conservative. He has found a confident voice that connects with the concerns of voters… He suddenly seems more robust, less prepared to be politically polite to avoid trampling the feelings of the Liberal Democrats. He has spoken out against the damage of immigration, and defended middle-class internships. And his troops at Westminster have returned from their break feeling perkier than I have known them for a year. It may be the beneficial effect of a glorious English spring, but as we approach the first anniversary of the Coalition, those MPs who have wondered at times whose side he is on are rejoicing: “Finally, David is talking like a Tory.” – Benedict Brogan in the Daily Telegraph

New DWP figures show three quarters of Incapacity Benefit claimants are not entitled to the money

"Three-quarters of claimants who apply for sickness benefit are found fit to work or drop their claims before they are completed, according to official figures. Over a 22-month period, 887,300 of the 1,175,700 applicants for employment and support allowance (ESA) – the successor to to the old incapacity benefit – failed to qualify for any assistance. Of those 458,500 – 39% – were judged fit to work while a further 428,800 – 36% – abandoned their claim before their medical assessment had been completed." – Press Association

Chris Grayling 2010 square “Once again we have clear evidence of the need for change in our welfare system. We now know very clearly that the vast majority of new claimants for sickness benefits are in fact able to return to work. That’s why we are turning our attention to existing claimants, who are simply abandoned on benefits. That’s why we are reassessing all of those claimants and launching the Work Programme to provide specialist back-to- work support." – Employment Minister Chris Grayling quoted in the Daily Express

David Cameron's "Calm down, dear" jibe continues to provokes much comment

"David Cameron is facing demands for an apology after telling a female shadow cabinet minister to "calm down, dear" in furious exchanges at Prime Minister's Questions… But No 10 aides brushed off opposition demands for an apology, insisting it was clearly a humorous remark – echoing a well-known car insurance advert starring Michael Winner." – Press Association

Picture 3 "Michael Winner has described Harriet Harman and the Labour party as “politically correct lunatics” for calling David Cameron sexist following remarks made during Prime Minister’s Questions… Mr Winner, a film director, writer and producer, told the Daily Telegraph: “It’s ridiculous that people should talk about this seriously. It’s a comedy phrase that I wrote about ten years ago." – Daily Telegraph

"It’s a good job the Prime Minister is not a Bristolian or he might have invited Angela Eagle to “calm down, my lover” in which case po-faced Labour MPs would no doubt have become even more irate for even less reason." – Daily Express

> Yesterday on ConHome:

Cameron and Osborne welcome return to growth figures in new GDP figures

Cameron and Osborne "The UK economy grew by 0.5% in the first three months of the year, official figures have shown, reducing the risk of a double-dip recession. The chancellor welcomed the return to growth, which followed a contraction of 0.5% at the end of 2010… Chancellor George Osborne said: "It is good news that the British economy is growing. It is particularly good news that manufacturing is growing so strongly, when we have had such an unbalanced economy in recent years, and manufacturing has not done so well." – BBC

"Figures showing the economy avoided a double-dip recession by returning to growth were welcomed yesterday by David Cameron. He accused Labour of “talking the economy down’’ after the Opposition said it was “flat-lining”. He also said his Government’s market-reassuring policies had saved Britain from the crises suffered by nations like Portugal and Greece." – Daily Express

"Growth in the first quarter of 2011 was led by government spending, transport,  and financial and business services. These contributed 0.2%, 0.2% and 0.3% respectively to the GDP growth figure.  This was offset by a loss of 0.3% from construction, with 0.1% growth coming from others.  Whilst manufacturing continued some advance, mining and quarrying fell." – John Redwood analyses the figures

Allister Heath "It wasn’t the definitive result that was required to prove that the recovery has legs – but yesterday’s first-quarter growth estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) were encouraging nevertheless. They finally laid to rest the spectre of a double-dip recession and confirmed that the UK is undergoing a bumpy, muted yet very real private-sector led recovery." – Allister Heath in City AM

> Yesterday's on ConHome:

The Syrian ambassador is summoned to Foreign Office…

"The Foreign Office has summoned Syria's ambassador in London to reiterate its call for the violent crackdown on anti-government protesters there to stop. Officials said they had told Dr Sami Khiyami that the repression of demonstrators across the country was "unacceptable" and attacks must end." – BBC

…although he's still invited to the Royal Wedding

"Sami Khiyami, the ambassador to London, will be welcomed to Westminster Abbey despite fears that President Assad is preparing another violent crackdown after Friday prayers." – The Times (£)

> Paul Goodman on Comment yesterday: The dream that Syria's al-Assad could be lured away from Iran was always an illusion

Liam Fox under pressure over deploying troops to Libya

"Britain “may have to look at” deploying ground troops in the Libya campaign in order to establish safe havens for civilians, Liam Fox has said." – Daily Telegraph

Ministers blame 'courtier lunacy' for Royal Wedding snub to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown – Nick Watt of The Guardian

> Sunday's Leftwatch: Blair and Brown not invited to the Royal Wedding

Lib Dem Tim Farron on how First Past The Post promoted slavery

Tim Farron "To the list of ills blamed on Britain’s first-past-the-post voting system — lazy MPs, the expenses scandal, illegitimate government — was added a new shortcoming yesterday: slavery. Tim Farron MP, the Liberal Democrat president, argued that a different voting system would have protected Britons from the “organised wickedness” of the Thatcher era and also ended the slave trade… Kwasi Kwarteng, Tory MP for Spelthorne, took Mr Farron to task for his comments on slavery. He said: “It is an outrageous slur to suggest that our current voting system had anything to do with a hateful practice which Britain took the lead in abolishing. This latest attack shows how desperate the “yes” campaign has become.” – The Times (£)

> Yesterday's LeftWatch: Lib Dem President Tim Farron says Thatcherism amounted to "organised wickedness"

  • Patrick Wintour: Yes to AV campaign is bookended by leaders who are struggling or unpopular – The Guardian

National Audit Office finds that PFI schemes will cost every household nearly £400 next year

"In a scathing report, the spending watchdog warned the Government that PFI deals were no longer suitable for funding future projects given the spiralling costs of repaying bills over many decades. The price tag for repaying PFI firms will reach £8.6 billion next year alone, with the taxpayer owing a total of £121.4 billion on public projects which are worth only £52.9 billion." – Daily Telegraph

> Jesse Norman MP on Comment last December: Taxpayers deserve a rebate from Gordon Brown's costly Private Finance Initiatives

News in brief

  • David Cameron to campaign in North Wales today – BBC
  • Labour Welsh Assembly candidate in sick attack on Lady Thatcher – Daily Express
  • University campuses are 'hotbeds of Islamic extremism' – Daily Telegraph
  • European Court threat to stem cell research – Daily Express
  • UK and Malawi expel each other's diplomats – Reuters

And finally… Ann Widdecombe speaks about her regrets at never marrying and losing her first love

Ann Widdecombe 2010 "For decades, her no-nonsense approach and seeming indifference to the opposite sex have been some of Ann Widdecombe’s defining characteristics. Now the former Tory politician has revealed that one of her major regrets is not having children – adding that her first boyfriend Colin Maltby was ‘the love of her life’.  She compared Mr Maltby ending their romance to ‘losing a general election’." – Daily Mail

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