7.45pm LeftWatch: Nick Clegg first learnt of Lord Rennard concerns five years ago

3pm Local government: John Bald says Maths standards report is a  damning indictment of Labour's record

2.45pm WATCH: Vince Cable says he knew nothing of Lord Rennard allegations

1pm ToryDiary: George Osborne needs to develop an interest in boring spending cuts

9.45am ToryDiary: Afriyie targets "sneering" Osborne

ToryDiary: Party leaders fail to follow the equality rules they impose on others

MPsETC: Eastleigh byelection is showing UKIP to be an all-purpose protest party

Chris Skidmore MP on Comment: Mid-Staffs laid bare the cost in lives of Labour’s time in charge of the NHS

OsborneGeorge Osborne says he won't change course over credit rating downgrade..

"Only two major economies now have AAA ratings from all three major ratings agencies — Germany and Canada — and they have something important in common. In both countries, previous Governments used the good years to fix the roof when the sun was shining — reducing deficits and making their economies more competitive. .. Now we have no choice but to continue the hard work of putting our house in order. That’s the only way to win in the global race." – George Osborne The Sun on Sunday

  • "I think we've got a very clear message, a loud and clear message that
    Britain cannot let up in dealing with its debts, dealing with its
    problems, cannot let up in making sure that Britain can pay its way in the world. What is the message from the ratings agency? Britain's got a
    debt problem. I agree with that. I've been telling the country for years
    that we've got a debt problem, we've got to deal with it." – quoted in The Observer

Timesosb…but he is warned Sterling could slide to parity with euro… 

"George Osborne was on the defensive last night amid fears that Britain’s historic credit downgrade could spark turmoil in the markets. Experts warn there could be a major slide in sterling with the pound heading to parity with the euro for the first time since the financial crash of 2008-09." – Sunday Times

..he has with plenty of advice from left and and right

"In the budget, the government must urgently take action to kick-start our flatlining economy and realise that we need growth to get the deficit down." – Ed Balls BBC

  • "John Redwood, chairman of the party’s parliamentary economic affairs committee, said: "The markets have been saying for some time the government is borrowing too much and the strategy isn’t working . . .they need to promote more private sector growth and I think they have set tax rates that are too high to maximise revenue and they need to do something about that.” – Sunday Times
  •  "For all the union hysteria about “Tory cuts”, public spending is still rising, funded by borrowing we can’t afford. State bureaucracies have not been slashed. The overseas aid budget is going up, not down. The “bonfire of the quangos” never happened. Welfare savings have not gone deep enough.
    Meanwhile, high taxes hammer workers and drive away job-creating entrepreneurs while free mansions are handed to skivers." – The Sun Says

..but Boris says "Don't Panic"

"Last night Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, insisted there was no cause for alarm over the loss of triple-A status, saying it would be wrong to change course on the government’s deficit reduction programme. “There is no need to panic,” he declared." – Sunday Times

Forsythjames.. while James Forsyth says it doesn't matter


"Economically, though, I doubt that this will have much impact. In recent weeks, Britain’s debt has been trading more like that of France, which has lost its triple A rating, than Germany, which still has it. It is also worth noting that losing its triple A rating has had little impact on the US. Politically, Osborne will argue that Labour’s economic policy would only lead to further credit downgrades. " – James Forsyth Coffee House



Andrew Rawnsley predicts a dull budget..

"There is a argument around that, having now lost triple A status anyway, he could slightly relax fiscal austerity. That is emphatically not the Treasury view. Far from prompting him to ease towards a Plan
B, the chancellor will respond by redoubling his commitment to his current course. He has no scope to make the dramatic tax cuts urged on him by some in his party. As one Treasury figure puts it: "Any tax cuts will have to be paid for with tax rises elsewhere."  To use his own phrase, the best the Chancellor can probably hope for this year is to "avoid f***ing up" as badly as he did last year." – Andrew Rawnsley The Observer

….but Adam Afriyie says bold tax cuts are needed

"Our current system  acts as one long line of massive barriers to growth. These  barriers can be removed only by simplifying the tax regime…We should also introduce plans to gradually abolish employers’
National Insurance. New jobs are needed to secure the economic recovery. Why, then, retain a nonsensical tax on jobs?" Adam Afriyie Mail on Sunday

MariahutchConservatives four points ahead in Eastleigh byelection poll

"Support for the Tories is now 33 per cent in the poll conducted by Survation, with the Lib Dems breathing down their necks on 29. The survey also confirms reports of a strong finish by UKIP, with  the anti-Brussels party – which  has claimed it could create a ‘political earthquake’ in Eastleigh – now on 21 points. Labour is in fourth place on just 13 per cent. Prime Minister David Cameron holds a Q&A session in Eastleigh ahead of the by-election. In the last Survation poll in the constituency two weeks ago, the Tories were on 33 per cent, Lib Dems were on 36 per cent, UKIP were on 16 and Labour on 13." – Mail on Sunday

  • Labour's national lead increases to 12% in Opinium – Observer
  • Labour lead falls to 11% on YouGov – YouGov
  • "Addressing more than 200 party activists who had poured into Eastleigh on Friday, the Lib Dem deputy leader, Simon Hughes, said victory for his party in Thursday's byelection would "suddenly change British politics" and "encourage our troops phenomenally"." – The Observer
  • "The Eastleigh by-election could hand the UK Independence Party its first Westminster seat, according to early indications from the Hampshire constituency." – The Independent on Sunday


Ashcroft "pulls plug" on further donations – Sunday Times

Conservatives complain over BBC bias

"Senior Conservatives frustrated with the broadcaster include Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, and Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary. Grant Shapps, the party chairman, has also complained about coverage of the Coalition’s housing policy…. the Department for Work and Pensions has made more than 20 formal complaints to the BBC over the past year…Mr Duncan Smith has been particularly angered by the reporting of the housing benefit reforms referred to as “the bedroom tax”." – Sunday Telegraph

MoscleggLord Rennard allegations. Did Clegg know? The Mail on Sunday thinks he did..

"A former female party official, who worked in a senior  position at Lib Dem HQ at the time Ms Swinson investigated the claims, has given the Mail on Sunday a detailed account of conversations held at the time…She claims Ms Swinson told her: ‘Yes, Nick is aware of that but  we are pretty sure that none of the girls will talk."- Mail on Sunday

  • "One woman claimed that she was molested at a party for Nick Clegg’s victory as Lib Dem leader, and there were also claims that MPs knew that women were the targets of harassment. A former party worker claimed that it was “common knowledge” that Lord Rennard had tried to talk a young activist into bed, which was known in Lib Dem circles as the “Peterborough incident”." – Sunday Telegraph
  • "Separately, lawyers demanded yesterday that the party open a new investigation into whether Mike Hancock, one of its MPs, sexually assaulted a woman who suffers from a mental illness, and that it hand over any files it has on Cyril Smith, the late MP accused of a catalogue of sexual abuse of boys." – Sunday Telegraph
  • "It has been established that several members of Mr Clegg's office had been alerted to the allegations. His chief of staff, Jonny Oates, was told about complaints by women that were put to Lord Rennard by The Daily Telegraph in April 2010, a month before the election. Mr Clegg's deputy chief of staff, Alison Suttie, was also informed as early as 2008. This suggests that Mr Clegg either knew about the allegations himself but turned a blind eye or was not on top of events involving the most senior official in his party." – Independent on Sunday

…a Lib Dem spokesman claims he didn't…

"The Liberal Democrats have "categorically" denied claims leader Nick Clegg knew of allegations of misconduct against the party's former chief executive, Lord Rennard. The party launched two inquiries after Channel 4 News aired claims of sexual impropriety towards women by the peer. Aides to the deputy PM have insisted he only learned of the complaints after the broadcast." – BBC

…though the BBC did

"The BBC knew about the sex scandal surrounding Lord Rennard more than three months ago – but decided against running a news item on it. …A BBC spokeswoman last night insisted the Corporation had pursued the story from the beginning and was continuing  to pursue it. She said: ‘To suggest we did not pursue this story is untrue. We began investigating allegations  but we are unable to persuade the women to speak on camera." Mail on Sunday

LittlewoodMark Littlewood says the Lib Dems need to come clean

"Jo Swinson MP,  a rising star of the Lib Dems and a declared champion of women’s rights, and the party’s chief whip, Paul Burstow MP, had been directly approached with the details of serious allegations about Rennard’s conduct. The complainants did not want their concerns to become public, they wished to prevent extreme embarrassment to the party and feared for their own reputations  and future career prospects. Exactly what Swinson and Burstow did with this information remains unclear and urgently needs to be discovered – along with a swift, honest and unambiguous clarification about which other senior party figures knew what, when they knew it, and how they acted on it – including Nick Clegg." – Mark Littlewood Mail on Sunday

>Yesterday: LeftWatch: Ten women claim Lib Dems' campaign chief molested them. When did Nick Clegg know?


Clegg says Cameron stuck in the past for opposing Mansion Tax

"To the right, there are Conservative voices that now back a high-value property tax, ranging from Mark Reckless to Tim Montgomerie….The mansion tax is an idea whose time has come. The Conservatives and opponents of fairer taxes have a choice. They can dig their heels in and remain stuck in the past. Or they can join with the Liberal Democrats and the chorus of voices seeking to make our tax system fair. Far better, surely, to move with the times." – The Observer

>Yesterday: Mark Field MP on Comment: The deeper discontent beneath the mansion tax debate

..but Dominic Raab says simpler, lower taxes would reduce avoidance

"Talk of a mansion tax on £2m homes sounds reasonable until you remember how the frozen threshold for stamp duty has sucked more and more people into paying the tax as property prices have risen. At a
time when we need to encourage saving, it would become a tax on thrift. The Lib Dems also tout a wealth tax on the top 10% of earners. In reality, that means anyone earning £50,000 or more — not something their candidate in Eastleigh is boasting about. Once the deficit is dealt with, we should be cutting, not raising, taxes on the middle class." – Sunday Times (£)

The BBC and NHS are sacred cows

"In order to appreciate why it is completely acceptable for the people who run organisations that are National Treasures not to be susceptible to the same rules as lesser beings, one must understand the transcendental plane on which they exist. The BBC is not just another broadcasting outfit, fighting for survival in a hugely competitive, growing market of programme providers. Nor is the NHS simply one possible model for a health-care system whose outcomes and performance are not much to write home about at the best of times – and which is occasionally responsible for thousands of unnecessary deaths. Oh, no." Janet Daley Sunday Telegraph

Former Scottish Secretary Bruce Millan has diedBBC

Glasgow students vote against Scottish independenceThe Observer