5.30pm WATCH: Greg Clark – New planning rules will create a "presumption in favour of sustainable development"

3.15pm MPsETC: Seven Conservative MPs cited as having abstained on child benefit vote

2.45pm Local Government: Government publish their planning reforms

Noon ConHomeUSA: Rick Santorum takes his campaign to the Supreme Court to protest Obamacare

Screen shot 2012-03-27 at 11.03.2211am Alex Fergusson MSP on Comment: Why Conservatives should support Devo Plus

ToryDiary: When bad polls are good news for governments

Columnist Stephan Shakespeare: The logic of the electoral map suggests that Cameron will prioritise a renewed coalition, not a Tory majority

Columnist Nadine Dorries: The three measures the Government should take to restore confidence on abortion

Charlie Elphicke MP and Priti Patel MP on Comment: We need a £50,000 cap on donations now

Local Government:

LeftWatch: Labour fail to vote against a cut in the 50p rate

WATCH: ‪Dominique Strauss-Kahn faces charges

Cruddas-gate: two donor climbdowns in a day.  Downing Street releases Downing Street details.  Then Chequers details.  Maude flounders on Today and fights back in Parliament.  Cameron absent from the chamber.

Screen shot 2012-03-27 at 01.43.35"The Tories released a list of 12 donors who were invited with their wives and partners to four dinners in Downing Street since Mr Cameron's election in 2010. A second list of five donors invited for informal lunches at the PM's country residence Chequers was released later…Today Mr Cameron – who sometimes cooks at the dinner parties – pledged to publish a quarterly register of any future meals at official residences with people who have given more than £50,000 to the Tories." – Daily Mail

Guest list includes Number 10 flat details

"Details of the dinners showed that Mr Cameron entertained property tycoon David Rowland, Tory co-chairman Lord Feldman and their wives at the flat above 11 Downing Street in February last year…Later yesterday, officials released a list of party donors to have visited Chequers showing that Mr Rowland and his wife had lunch with Mr Cameron there in August 2010…Aides insisted the guests had long-standing relationships with the Prime Minister and that the events were not held to raise funds." – Daily Express

  • Anaylsis of Chequers and Downing Street guests.  The Mail somehow finds space to report that the Telegraph Media Group gave some £24,000 to the Conservatives – Daily Mail

Miliband shouts and Maude shouts back 

Screen shot 2012-03-27 at 07.50.48
"Amid rowdy scenes, Ed Miliband accused Mr Cameron of showing "utter contempt" for the Commons by failing to attend. "I think we all know why," the Labour leader said. "He has got something to hide." He called for an inquiry. Mr Maude was almost drowned out by Labour shouts of "Where's Cameron?" He said Conservatives were ready to accept a cap on donations, but only if it applied not only to individuals and companies but to trade unions too – which Labour has resisted." – The Independent

  • "Mr Maude, normally mild-mannered, erupted at Labour’s Whip-organised heckling…It was like seeing a bowler-hatted commuter lose it totally on the 8.39 from Weybridge." Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

> Yesterday: WATCH – Francis Maude: For 13 years Labour had the chance to reform party funding, but did nothing

When in doubt, call an inquiry and offer talks.  Cameron does so.

CAMERON-PENSIVE"Mr Cameron pledged an internal Tory party inquiry into the affair led by Lord Gold, one of the party’s members in the House of Lords. But he resisted Labour calls to hold a wider independent investigation by Sir Alex Allan, the former mandarin who is now an independent adviser on MPs’ interests.  While offering to reopen cross-party talks on funding reform, the prime minister ruled out Sir Christopher Kelly’s recommendation that there should be a £10,000 cap on party donations." – Financial Times (£)

The donors get the jitters

"As delighted as many of these donors were by the chancellor’s cut to top-rate income tax, they are equally unhappy about being thrust again into the limelight. The latest controversy comes just months after many of them endured sustained scrutiny during the scandal over who was funding Adam Werritty, an unofficial adviser to Liam Fox, the former defence secretary…One donor added: “They have to get the choice of the next treasurer right. There is a lot riding on it." – Financial Times (£)

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – The victims of Cruddas-gate aren't the voters. They're the donors.

Screen shot 2012-03-27 at 07.44.56The knives come out for Andrew Feldman, "Cameron's Oxford chum", who is blamed for the appointments of Rowland and Cruddas Daily Mail

  • Feather-smoothing letter from new Conservative Treasurer Lord Fink sent to donors – Guido Fawkes

> Yesterday:

And the Prime Minister's dementia speech?  Drowned out in the furore. He announces the doubling of money for research

"We need an all-out fight-back against this disease; one that cuts across society. We did it with  cancer in the 70s, with HIV in the 80s and 90s. We fought the stigma, stepped up to the challenge and made massive in-roads into fighting these killers." – Daily Mail

> Yesterday: WATCH – David Cameron: "One of the great challenges of our time" is the "quiet crisis" of dementia

First post-Cruddas polls appear: Argh! Comres gives Labour a ten-point lead – its biggest for seven years…

Screen shot 2012-03-27 at 08.08.10
"The polling gives Labour a 10-point lead over the Tories, the highest in a ComRes survey for seven years. But, significantly, in interviews conducted since the affair emerged on Sunday, Labour was a remarkable 17 points ahead…in the 350 interviews that took place on Sunday and yesterday, after the disclosures, Labour was 17 points ahead. Labour was on 47 per cent, the Tories on 30 per cent and the Liberal Democrats on 11 per cent." – The Independent 

…But YouGov gives the lead as seven…

"YouGov in the Sun has topline figures of CON 35%, LAB 42%, LDEM 9%." – Anthony Wells, UK Polling Report

…And Populus as four

"Some 60 per cent picked the coalition team to “manage the economy in the best interests of Britain”, down from 66 per cent in September, while 40 per cent picked Labour’s team, up from 34 per cent in September. Voters also still think the Tories are the best party to steer the economy through difficult times while the number saying the Tories represent ordinary people, “not just the better off”, stayed constant at 31 per cent, suggesting the abolition of the 50p top rate has not further dented the party’s image in this area." – The Times (£)

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – Labour take 10% lead in ComRes poll for the first time since the election

Editorial comment:

  • "The first step [in cleaning up party funding] must be a firm cap on donations from individuals, companies or trade unions, so nobody can be seen to be buying undue influence." – Daily Mail Editorial
  • "Cameron's evasion has added to the stink. A short statement, with no questions. Then a no-show in the Commons." – Sun Editorial
  • "Politicians are using this row to call again for state funding. This must be resisted: forcing taxpayers to pay for party politics risks making politicians lazy and out of touch." – Daily Telegraph Editorial
  • Voluntary party funding is preferable to asking the taxpayer for the money – Times Editorial

Paul Goodman: Cameron – if you tickle him, does he not laugh?  If you prick him, does he not bleed?

CameronUnhappy"To be a politician more on view than others is a choice that Cameron has made, so he can scarcely complain. But he doubtless did so when advised to publish the list of donors he has entertained – to the point where he became incapable of seeing the difference between the state’s property and his own. He must surely have expostulated: can a man not be left in peace to have dinner with his friends? His enemies would claim that his sense of entitlement – of being born to rule – is part of the explanation, too." – Daily Telegraph

More comment:

  • On funding, the parties are trapped in a posture of mutually assured destruction – Rachel Sylvester, The Times (£)
  • Just why is Cameron such a terrible judge of character? – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • Fundraising is humiliating but party leaders see no option – Steve Richards, The Independent
  • Cameron is on the ropes!  This is Labour's chance! (Yawn) – Polly Toynbee, The Guardian

Dominic Lawson: Do we really want to give politicians more money to waste?

Screen shot 2012-03-27 at 08.19.28"Look at it this way. If you think it is a good thing for taxpayers to fund the vast amount of the spending of political parties, that implies that the provision of such money is a public good. So, if it is a public good, why would it be perverse to give honours to those saving the public from coughing up all the money themselves (any more than it is perverse to give honours to those who support the arts, for example)? But if it isn't a public good, why should taxpayers be required to be charged a penny for such activities?" – The Independent

And now Britain faces a petrol tanker strike

"Britain faces being crippled by panic buying and empty petrol pumps after tanker drivers voted for strike action yesterday. More than 9 in 10 of the UK’s forecourts – around 7,900 – are expected to close after the 2,000 drivers who earn about £45,000 a year agreed to walkouts.  Fuel prices could rocket by 10 pence a litre – meaning it would cost around £80 to fill an average family car – and drivers face hours of queues at those garages still open." – Daily Express

  • Boris urges voters to give him a mandate to change national strike laws as he reveals plans for driverless tubes – The Guardian

Cut The 50p rate: yes or no?  Labour's view? Yes but no but yes but…The party fails to vote in the Commons against the cut to 45p

Screen shot 2012-03-27 at 08.23.45
"Labour faced claims it had capitulated over the Government's plan to cut the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p after their MPs failed to vote against the measure in the Commons. The SNP and Plaid Cymru forced an unexpected vote on the issue as the Government began pushing its Budget resolutions through the House of Commons. Despite vocal opposition and several pledges from shadow chancellor Ed Balls to vote against the measure, in a potentially embarrassing no-show Labour MPs did not file through the No lobbies when the vote was called. The Government won the vote on the 45p rate by 319 to 22, a majority of 297." – Press Association

Spelman to say that company greenhouse gas declarations could be scrapped

"Plans to force companies to declare the size of their greenhouse gas emissions have been put on hold and could even be abolished, the environment secretary will tell parliament this week, raising fresh questions over the government’s commitment to fighting climate change. Caroline Spelman will say she has not made a decision on whether to introduce mandatory reporting requirements on companies’ carbon emissions, missing a deadline that has been in place for the last four years." – Financial Times (£)

Revised planning guidelines to be launched by Greg Clark

CLARK GREG"Ministers will give the go ahead today for reforms to speed up development and cut through planning red tape. But after a heated dispute between the Treasury and other government departments the new document will include several concessions to protect the environment and green belt land. Councils are also expected to get up to a year to draw up their own development plans, taking into account local issues, which will anger developers." – The Times (£)

Clarke to open probation service to competition

"Ken Clarke is to propose that the £820m-a-year probation service should be opened to competition from private and third sectors in an effort to bring new skills to the government’s “revolution” in reoffending. The justice secretary is expected to announce a consultation on Tuesday, alongside a call for evidence on plans to strengthen non-custodial sentences with tougher community payback schemes and more advanced electronic tagging of offenders." – Financial Times (£)

"The west has lost in Afghanistan, and is losing in Pakistan"

"In the rush to get western troops out of Afghanistan, however, the Pakistani problem is in danger of being neglected. That too is a mistake, because the situation in Pakistan is just as frightening as when Mr Obama took power…The idea that the US is plotting to seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons has become an obsession, both for the Pakistani media and for much of the country’s ruling class. In response, Pakistan is cranking up the production of nuclear weapons and distributing them all over the country. Given the radicalisation of opinion in the country and the amount of fissile material it is producing, the American nightmare of “loose nukes” is looking uncomfortably realistic." – Gideon Rachman, Financial Times (£)

  • Heroes shot dead by traitor at gate – The Sun

Osborne buried budget tax break for non-domsThe Guardian

Up to 50,000 migrants "exploited student visa flaw to work in UK"BBC

Sir Malcolm Rifkind says secret trial plans are too widely drawnThe Times (£)

Eurozone firewall talk fails to quell fearsFinancial Times (£)

Lord Newton, Cabinet Minister under John Major, diesDaily Mail

Screen shot 2012-03-27 at 08.33.49
Daily Telegraph

And finally…Don't ask William Hague, ask William Hill: Treasury forecasters rely on odds calculated by bookmaker to assess the likelihood of another economic collapse

"In a candid admission to MPs, Professor Steve Nickell said he turned to the betting shop to find out whether Euro is likely to fail in the course of his work at the Office of Budget Responsibility…Asked whether he thought the euro was likely to fail, he told the Treasury Select Committee the department itself did not "attach probabilities". “I go and look at William Hill and they actually have the odds of these sorts of things," he said. “Last time I looked, the odds of Greece not using the euro by the end of the year were of the order of 40 per cent.” – Daily Telegraph

P.S: "Andrea Leadsom, a member of the committee, had to double check she had heard the economist correctly “Are you saying we should use the Office of Budget Responsibility and William Hill when checking the economic forecasts?” she asked. Andrew Tyrie, the chairman of the committee, was sceptical about the idea that the odds would be illuminating. “It certainly tells you what the group think is,” he said."


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