Picture 7 8.45pm WATCH: Annabel Goldie fronts the first broadcast of the Conservative campaign for the Scottish Parliament election

6.45pm WATCH: Ex-Labour Minister Elliot Morley pleads guilty to dishonestly claiming £32,000 in parliamentary expenses

5pm Local Government: Conservatives are standing thousands more council candidates than Labour and the Lib Dems at next month's elections

4pm LeftWatch: Labour Shadow Cabinet member standing in local council elections

3.15pm LeftWatch: As he seemingly U-turns on the Congestion Charge extension, Ken Livingstone proves again that he simply cannot be trusted

Picture 132pm WATCH: George Osborne explains that Portugal's demand for a bailout demonstrates why he is right to be urgently reducing Britain's deficit 

1pm Two takes on Comment on the anticipated Portuguese bailout:

12.15pm Robert Leitch on Comment: Why the West must be cautious about lecturing African countries about the tolerance of homosexuality

Picture 12
10.45am ToryDiary: David Cameron commits the Government to reducing the overall burden of regulation, inviting you to identify red tape which needs to be abolished

ToryDiary: Cameron should stop worrying about Clegg and start governing

John Baron MP on Comment: Cameron’s AV gamble – "legged-over" or astute political move?

Also in Comment, Mark Field MP: Conservatives should protect the interests of the consumer by standing up against monopoly power

Picture 3 Grant Shapps MP in Local Government explains: How our Tenant Cashback scheme will reward social tenants who sort out their own home repairs and maintenance

Also in Local Government: Hammersmith & Fulham Council bring in transparency on staffing

ThinkTankCentral: Douglas Murray and staff from the Centre for Social Cohesion join the Henry Jackson Society


Portugal demands emergency EU bailout

Picture 7 "Portugal bowed to months of pressure yesterday and confirmed that it would seek a European bailout, meaning that Britain will be called on to offer multibillion-pound guarantees to shore up the troubled nation… Britain will still be liable under the pan-European “Financial Stability Mechanism”, a crisis arrangement that Alistair Darling, the last Chancellor, signed Britain up to during the interregnum after the election. Under this scheme, Britain will provide guarantees of up to £4 billion, although it would not actually pay out unless the Lisbon Government defaulted on its debt." – The Times (£)

  • Britain could face £6 billion bill for Portuguese rescue – Daily Mail
  • If Spain fails, it will be too expensive to save – Sean O'Grady in The Independent

> Martin Callanan, Leader of the Conservative MEPs, wrote on Comment last week: The UK should refuse to participate in a Portuguese bailout

Cameron, Clegg and Lansley launch NHS listening exercise…

"Mr Cameron told an audience of about 100 staff at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey, at a joint event with Nick Clegg and Andrew Lansley: “The NHS is so precious that you don’t charge ahead if you can’t garner professional and public support for what you’re doing.” He added: “We’re taking this time to pause, listen, reflect on and improve our NHS modernisation plans. Where there are good suggestions to improve the legislation, those changes will be made.” – Daily Telegraph

… but questions are asked about whether the Government will act

Simon Burns "Simon Burns, the Health Minister and Mr Lansley's deputy, refused to accept there would be substantive changes, saying there were "misconceptions" and "misrepresentations" about the reforms. "It would be inappropriate of me at the beginning of an independent process… to start saying categorically what we are definitely going to do," he told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme." – The Independent

"A two-month "listening exercise" in which medical professionals will be asked to contribute to a review of changes to the NHS has been thrown into doubt by a confidential memo highlighting a series of government red lines that must be maintained… The memo by NHS chief executive David Nicholson indicated there may be little room for manoeuvre in reworking the health and social care bill." – The Guardian

  • NHS cancer network cuts put patients at risk, campaigners suggest – The Times (£)

> Nick de Bois MP on Comment yesterday: NHS reform – let's press on and do the right thing

Libyan rebels should receive training funded by Arab countries, says Britain…

"Britain is to urge Arab countries to train the disorganised Libyan rebels, and so strengthen their position on the battlefield before negotiations on a ceasefire, senior British defence sources have indicated. The sources said they were also looking at hiring private security companies, some of which draw on former SAS members, to aid the rebels. These private soldiers could be paid by Arab countries to train the unstructured rebel army." – The Guardian

…as military adviser suggests Libya crisis casts doubt on defence cuts

"The Libyan crisis has raised doubts about the Coalition’s defence review and could force ministers to reverse cuts including the scrapping of Britain’s Harrier jump jets, a senior military adviser has said. Andrew Dorman, of the Ministry of Defence’s Joint Services Command and Staff College in Shrivenham, Wilts, said ministers should be “brave” and revisit some defence cuts." – Daily Telegraph

 Ministers to promise a 'red tape revolution' to get rid of pointless rules and regulations

Picture 8 "David Cameron and Vince Cable will today invite people to rip up thousands of ‘pointless’ rules and regulations holding back enterprise. The pair will promise a ‘red tape revolution’ in favour of small business, arguing regulations brought in over the last decade are costing as much as five per cent of national income. Members of the public, businesses and voluntary organisations are being invited to tear up some of the 21,000 existing rules that are getting in their way." – Daily Mail

Ken Clarke's sentencing plans criticised by leading judges

Ken Clarke square "Top judges last night blasted Ken Clarke's soft-touch plans to halve the time some criminals serve in prison. They warned confidence in the justice system would plummet when the public saw rapists sentenced to five years walking free after just 15 months. Their criticism is a huge blow to beleaguered Mr Clarke and a major boost to The Sun's campaign against soft justice." – The Sun

Lib Dems to field fewer candidates in council elections

"Figures compiled by the Conservatives and broadly endorsed by Labour, suggest the Tories could be fielding candidates in just over 90 per cent of wards in English councils compared with about 94 per cent in 2007. Meanwhile Labour, which suffered a drubbing in 2007 at the fag end of Tony Blair’s premiership, is expected to be contesting about 70 per cent of wards, sharply up on the party’s previous performance. However, Tory and Labour insiders say they expect the Liberal Democrats to be fielding candidates in about 58-60 per cent of seats, compared with 64 per cent last time." – FT (£)

Nick Clegg shows his human and vulnerable side

Nick Clegg 2011 crestfallen "I'm a human being, I'm not a punchbag – I've got feelings," Clegg tells Jemima Khan in a revealing interview in the latest edition of the New Statesman. "The curious thing is that the more you become a subject of admiration or loathing, the distance seems to open up between who you really are and the portrayals that people impose on you"… Talking about his family, he tells Khan: "What I am doing in my work impacts on them emotionally, because my nine-year-old is starting to sense things and I'm having to explain things. Like he asks: 'Why are the students angry with you, Papa?'" – The Guardian

AV will lead to more spoilt ballot papers and lower turnout, claims No campaign

"Research published by the No to AV group suggested the relative complexity of AV could have a "damaging" effect compared to the current first-past-the-post system. More papers were accidentally spoilt and the turnout was lower when AV was used, the group claimed." – Sky News

Bercow faces criticism over increase in Speaker's office budget

"The Commons Speaker is facing a new backbench rebellion over plans, seen by the Guardian, to increase the budget for his office by 6% this year at the same time as the House is beginning a four-year economy drive to reduce its costs by 17%… Douglas Carswell, the Conservative MP for Clacton, said, however, that he was a fan of the Speaker and that the House's opinion was turning. "It is worth paying this for having a Speaker who lifts us off our knees," he said." – The Guardian

Jill Kirby: Don’t tell us debt is bad then treat savers like mugs

Kirby-Jill "There is a moral righteousness implicit in the Treasury’s message: “deficit deniers” in the Opposition were feckless in running up debt and are now irresponsible in not spelling out a remedy. So far, so straightforward. On the question of personal and household debt, however, the message is much less clear — and the morality gets muddy. The Office for Budget Responsibility’s revision to its household-debt forecasts has revealed the Government’s conflicting goals and expectations." – Jill Kirby writing in The Times

Other Comment

  • Max Hastings: Do stop apologising, Dave: How the PM feels compelled to knock Britain abroad – Daily Mail
  • Neil O'Brien: Let the market decide the price of a degree – Daily Telegraph
  • Steve Richards: This loathing of politicians must end – The Independent

Other political news in brief

  • Owen Paterson among the mourners at funeral of murdered policeman… – Belfast Telegraph
  • …as man is arrested in Scotland over car bomb death – Sky News
  • Heroic police and firefighters protected from health and safety laws, says Crown Prosecution Service – Daily Telegraph
  • Bank of England set to keep interest rates at record low – Reuters
  • Public Accounts Committee slams BBC over delayed digital media scheme – BBC
  • Paid internships scheme axed the week before Clegg’s appeal – The Times (£)
  • Sickest patients are being neglected as doctors focus on waiting list targets – Daily Telegraph
  • Tea Party budget demands could force US government shutdown – The Independent

And finally… Steve Hilton reportedly has ambitions to run for London Mayor

Steve Hilton adn Cameron "In a sign of just how mayor-orientated the Cameron circle is, the prime minister's chief adviser, Steve Hilton, has ambitions to run for City Hall one day. Both blue and yellow parties dream the dream – localism is the Kool-Aid in Whitehall's watercoolers." – Allegra Stratton in The Guardian


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