9pm LeftWatch: 'Tories are cutting the NHS, not the deficit' claims new Labour poster

5pm Fiona Hodgson on Comment: The Conservative Policy Forum will be at Conference and wants to hear members' views

1.45pm VIDEO: Tim Montgomerie urges Cameron to be "tough and tender" at the same time

11.30am Tim Leunig on Comment: The best solution for business and for Londoners is a quieter Heathrow with more western runways

ToryDiary: How much government help do "strivers" want… and how much do they want government out of their way?

AshcroftLord Ashcroft on Comment: People need to hear that Conservatives will help them to succeed and won't leave them on their own

Also on ToryDiary: Where now for civil service reform?

Columnist Bruce Anderson: Expectations were so low for Miliband that mere signs of life are being heralded as the Second Coming

Also on Comment – Dalibor Rohac: Labour's policies would help create the next housing bubble

Local Government: New Homes Bonus helping to reduce the number of empty properties

The Deep End: Heresy of the week: Right and left are both wrong about economic growth

West coast mainline fiasco may claim further victims – and brings HS2 into question

"Civil servants at the crisis-ridden Department for Transport (DfT) are bracing themselves for further suspensions as the investigation into the west coast mainline franchising fiasco unfolds, amid fresh warnings that the true cost of the reversal could make the £40m compensation bill so far look like "small change"." – Guardian

Gillan Cheryl profile"Cheryl Gillan… claims that the bid process for the West Coast franchise was undermined by significant technical failings, including passenger number assumptions and engineering calculations. Mrs Gillan, a long-standing critic of the High Speed (HS2) London-to-Birmingham plan, said: “This will undoubtedly have had an effect on the HS2 project business case, which is based on similar passenger numbers and assumptions."" – Times (£)

  • Civil service says fiasco caused by a brain drain – City AM
  • Anyone But Branson: Rail-bid civil servants 'exchanged derogatory emails about tycoon' – Daily Mail
  • Transport official suspended over rail fiasco is ex-Goldman banker – Independent
  • Bungling officials who oversaw West Coast rail fiasco deserve a pay rise, says former Cabinet Secretary – Daily Mail
  • The process to reform the civil service has been driven by political pressures – Bernard Jenkin MP for the FT (£)
  • If ministers want fewer, better civil servants they must pay more – and cease hostilities – Peter Hoskin for the Times (£)

> Yesterday on ToryDiary: This could be the civil service's expenses-gate. Its Lehman moment. Its hacking crisis.

Cameron must win back the blue-collar voter: Only 20% of "suspicious strivers" support him

Cameron Rajoy presser"David Cameron is warned today that he must reverse a slump in support for the Conservatives among a key group of voters nicknamed ‘suspicious strivers’ if he wants to win the next election. … [A] poll suggests that although the party won comfortably among this group in 2010, Labour is now ahead. … Lord Ashcroft, who conducted the poll, said ‘suspicious strivers’ – the successors to the ‘C2’ blue-collar workers that Margaret Thatcher won from Labour in the 1980s – make up 15 per cent of the population and have many of the attitudes that the party might think would make them natural supporters." – Daily Mail

  • "The YouGov survey for The Sun found that a THIRD of the UK feel Mr Cameron has not lived up to expectations. About 55 per cent no longer know what Mr Cameron stands for. Only 13 per cent believe he has done well so far." – The Sun
  • George Osborne's strategic mind? Long may it continue to whirr – Polly Toynbee for the Guardian
  • David Cameron: the Ed Miliband effect is the least of his problems – Guardian

> From today:

Liam Fox: A metropolitan agenda aimed at winning new support has alienated the Conservative Party's traditional base

Fox Liam Apr11"Many [Conservative supporters] believe we are dominated by the political agenda of a metropolitan elite, and this sits uneasily with the social conservatism of much of the rest of the country. But it is nothing to the alienation that is being caused by the issue of Europe. Core Conservatives, and way beyond, believe we were sold a pup over Europe. We were promised a Common Market and instead got the kind of political interference that stops us extraditing security threats to our own people. In the past 10 years, we have imported business costs via EU regulations to the tune of £124 billion. We cannot afford the loss of global competitiveness it signals." – Liam Fox MP for the Daily Telegraph

Chris Grayling: Cameron must offer the grassroots more "veto moments" in order to win the next election

Grayling-Red-Tie"The Justice Secretary says that the Conservative leadership “has work to do” in winning back the support of the party’s natural supporters, suggesting more “bold statements” on issues including Europe. Mr Grayling is the most senior of several Right-wing Conservatives who are suggesting a change of direction by Mr Cameron on the eve of the party conference this weekend." – Daily Telegraph

  • "Portrayed as a no-nonsense right winger, will Chris Grayling yet spring a surprise in his new post as Secretary of State for Justice?" – Paul Waugh interviews Chris Grayling for The House

> From yesterday: 

Grayling 'rips up' Clarke's community punishment reforms

"Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, has put on hold a key crime and courts bill in order to "put some bite" into his predecessor Ken Clarke's proposals to reform community punishments. Grayling is to outline his new approach to community punishments in his Conservative party conference speech on Tuesday. He is also expected to indicate that he wants to accelerate the pace of prison and probation privatisation." –Guardian

David Davis says MPs out to unseat Cameron are "daft"

DAVIS DAVID"Conservative MPs calling for a ballot on David Cameron's leadership are "daft", former minister and leadership contender David Davis has said. It emerged last month that 14 MPs had written to officials urging a vote on Mr Cameron's position, well below the threshold needed to trigger one. Mr Davis, who Mr Cameron defeated to win the Tory leadership in 2005, said it was "no time for introspection"." - BBC

  • "A Tory backbencher whose every word should be watched, David Davis arrives in Birmingham with a harsh warning for his party on Europe and social mobility" – Davis interview in The House
  • Davis: Pleb rant Mitchell’s damaged – The Sun

Boris Johnson plumps for £80bn Stansted hub

Johnson Boris Red Background"Boris Johnson threw his weight behind an £80 billion four-runway hub at Stansted airport yesterday as he delivered a withering critique of the Government’s “complacent” aviation policy. A 24-hour super-Stansted or a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary offered the only long-term solution to Britain’s aviation needs, the Mayor of London claimed." – Times (£)

  • "The Mayor of London wants the Chancellor to give City Hall the proceeds of [stamp duty], which raised £1.3 billion in the city last year, to be used for housing and regeneration schemes." – Daily Telegraph
  • Boris Johnson urges ministers to let 'best and brightest' come to UK – Guardian
  • Boris has turned down five invitations to Chequers – The Sun

> From yesterday:

Tories plan a new constitutional settlement if Scotland rejects independence

Davidson Ruth"David Cameron and Ruth Davidson are backing the creation of a body charged with drawing up a new constitutional settlement for the entire UK should Scotland reject independence, the Daily Telegraph can disclose. It could mean power being transferred from Westminster to the English regions or new restrictions on Scottish MPs voting on domestic English issues." - Daily Telegraph

  • Robert Black: Free public services need 'revisiting' - BBC

Charities warn Government over Work Programme

"Charities have warned the Government that they may have to pull out of the Work Programme because they are getting so little business referred to them by the big contractors. … Iain Duncan Smith made clear at the time of the bidding process that charities had to be involved, and the companies that won the contacts promised they would refer on cases to the relevant voluntary organisations." Times (£)

Anne Main MP calls on Leveson to investigate BBC over Jimmy Savile allegations

"A Tory MP has written to Lord Justice Leveson to ask him to investigate the BBC’s conduct over the Jimmy Savile affair. Anne Main said the corporation has questions to answer over claims that senior figures were aware of allegations against the entertainer as far back as the 70s." – Daily Mail

Grant Shapps to be investigated by advertising watchdog

Shapps neil iv"The website founded by Grant Shapps is being investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority after complaints that it "misleadingly implied" that the Tory chairman's alter ego was a real person." - Guardian

  • Grant Shapps’s ‘get-rich-quick’ site investigated - Times (£)

We have too many unskilled migrants, says Miliband

Miliband  Ed trees"Ed Miliband has vowed to stem the flow of unskilled workers to Britain as part of a high-risk pitch to win the support of Tory voters. He warned yesterday that the level of cheap labour coming in from eastern Europe was “too high” as he sought to broaden his One Nation Labour theme." – Times (£)

  • Harman: ‘Labour can win next election’ – Times (£)
  • Don’t risk victory under false pretences, Ed – Philip Collins for the Times (£)

> From today - Columnist Bruce Anderson: Expectations were so low for Miliband that mere signs of life are being heralded as the Second Coming

> From yesterday:

Fraser Nelson: Miliband is on to something with his declaration of non-religious faith

Nelson Fraser Feb 2010"Even the Prince of Wales is preparing for the post-Anglican era, saying he does not want to be “defender of the faith” but “defender of faith”. To which Mr Miliband would say that, while not a man of religion, he is very much a man of faith – and that there are millions more like him. A generation ago, the idea of equating his political beliefs with a religion might have sounded like a monstrous vanity. But at a time when Britain has never been less religious, he may just be on to something." – Fraser Nelson for the Daily Telegraph

Teenage girl heckled at Labour Party conference for saying she enjoys going to an academy school - Daily Mail

> Yesterday on Local government: Schoolgirl heckled at Labour conference for attending an academy

ARMED FORCESBritain’s influence and security are threatened by cuts, former defence chiefs writeDaily Telegraph

  • After Mail appeal, Cameron WILL pay for Bomber Command tribute – Daily Mail

Half of voters think elected police chiefs will make no difference to crimeDaily Telegraph

Outside prime London, house prices are falling back to earth – Allister Heath for City AM

Life begins at 65: workers can now stay on if they wantIndependent

BBC told by MPs to make presenters pay fair share of taxGuardian

  • BBC’s freelance payments ‘give rise to tax suspicions’ – Times (£)
  • How Jeremy Paxman blew lid on BBC's complicity in tax avoidance pay deals for stars – Daily Telegraph


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