5.45pm ToryDiary: The OBR has upbraided David Cameron? Good – that’s kinda why George Osborne set it up

1.30pm MPsETC: Robert Halfon MP attacks Labour’s “welfare tax”

10am J P Floru on Local Government: The City of Westminster keeps on cutting council tax in real terms – why don't other councils follow suit?

ToryDiary: Whack! Nigel Farage gives the wedge between the Tory leadership and its base another hit

BorisPaul Abbott writes this week's Culture Column: What Conservatives can learn from comic books

Lord Ashcroft on Comment: Despite everything, there is still a strong sense that Lib Dems stand for fairness and ordinary people

Two articles for International Women's Day:

Brandon Lewis MP on Local Government: Derbyshire and Gloucestershire are the Councils of the Week

The Deep End's Heresy of the Week: Our banks don’t take enough risks

Coverage of David Cameron's "There is no alternative" speech…

Cameron"David Cameron invoked Margaret Thatcher yesterday as he slapped down calls for increased Government borrowing on the Left and unfunded tax cuts on the Right, insisting there was ‘no magic money tree’. … He said: ‘This month’s Budget will be about sticking to the course. Because there is no alternative that will secure our country’s future.’" – Daily Mail

> Yesterday: 

…and reaction, too

  • Times"This newspaper agrees that the Government should stick to its broad strategy for repairing the public finances. The coalition has failed, however, to implement the strategy with the determination and political courage showed by Lady Thatcher in the 1980s. It is those failures that George Osborne should address in the Budget in two weeks’ time." – Times editorial (£)

  • "…Mr Cameron’s decision to shoot down backbench calls for more tax cuts will disappoint ordinary people who are hungry for economic growth. He asserted that Britain cannot afford them. Yet, given that the economy is slowly gearing up, it would make sense to embrace policies that would speed our desperately needed recovery: reduce corporation tax faster, give more relief to middle-income taxpayers, and even consider abolishing capital gains tax." – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • "The Prime Minister likes to talk of tough choices. He did so again yesterday. It is time he made one. Britain needs more than the long-term competitiveness and short-term monetary tweaks that his speech suggests will be the heart of the Budget. The flatlining economy needs a jolt, and it needs it now. There is money there; the question is how we choose to spend it." – Independent editorial
  • "If this plan is working, what would a failing one look like? The GDP outcome is far worse than expected, as is the fiscal outcome. Yes, interest rates are ultra-low. But this is overwhelmingly due to the slump. If the plan was right in June 2010, how likely is it still to be the right one?" – Martin Wolf, Financial Times (£)
  • "David Cameron and Vince Cable are both wrong. Infrastructure isn't the answer and nor is QE – money in pockets is" – Simon Jenkins, Guardian

Fraser Nelson: The Coalition is being torn apart by the post-Budget Public Spending Review

FN"Osborne’s Budget will be announced in 12 days’ time, but deciding its contents has been relatively straightforward. How to divide the shrinking spending budgets is another battle entirely, and that has now taken on Bosnian complexity. Everybody seems to be at war. The battle pits Tory modernisers against traditionalists, Lib Dem rebels against Coalition loyalists and leadership hopefuls against each other." – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph

  • "The Government needs to learn to love our wealth creators" – Adam Afriyie, Daily Telegraph

And some pre-Budget titbits

  • "A £225m project to convert half of Britain’s biggest coal-fired power station into a biomass plant is to receive a government guarantee as part of George Osborne’s push for investment in infrastructure." – Financial Times (£)
  • "Struggling pubs last night called for a massive cut in VAT in this month’s Budget to help create thousands of jobs." – The Sun

> Yesterday:

A pact between the Tories and Ukip? Nigel Farage sounds up for it – but only if Mr Cameron steps down

Farage"[Rupert Murdoch] invited Mr Farage to a dinner at his central London flat on Tuesday evening in the wake of Ukip’s strong performance at the Eastleigh by-election. … It was the pair’s first meeting and underlines the growing political influence of the fringe party. The Ukip leader is understood to have told Mr Murdoch that he hopes to win half of the seats in next year’s European election. … He said he will then set out plans to join forces with the Conservatives to fight Labour in the 2015 general election, but only if David Cameron agrees to step down as the party leader, well-placed sources said." – Daily Telegraph

> Today on ToryDiary: Whack! Nigel Farage gives the wedge between the Tory leadership and its base another hit

The Guardian goes big on Ukip, starting with new allegations being levelled at Mr Farage

"Nigel Farage has been accused of putting pressure on two MEPs to break European rules as he sought to gain tens of thousands of pounds in taxpayers' money for the UK Independence party. … A Ukip spokesman told the Guardian: 'We do not respond to vexatious allegations of this kind from our political opponents.'" - Guardian

  • Buoyant Ukip battles to contain party's most extreme elements - Guardian
  • What would a Ukip Britain look like? - Guardian

May"So, in answer to the question, 'is the Tory party ready for another woman?', I would say yes, but only a woman like May"
 - Melissa Kite, Guardian

  • "Conservative Cabinet ministers will not dare to move against David Cameron because they know they would plunge the party back into the turmoil of the 1990s, the Prime Minister's allies have said." – Daily Telegraph

Jeremy Hunt to hospital bosses: "Coasting can kill"

"…Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, tells hospital bosses that too many of them are complacent about being 'not bad' and warns them that 'coasting can kill'. … In a speech today Mr Hunt compares NHS hospitals to the failing British Olympic team of years past, when they did not aim to win but were content not to come last." – The Times (£)

  • "Today most of those who work in child heart surgery believe the service should be concentrated into fewer, properly staffed specialist units that do enough operations to ensure excellence and train future surgeons. But no one wants their own unit to close." – Dr Phil Hammond, The Times (£)

The military vs Francis Maude's transparency drive

FM"The Armed Forces have warned of the risks of WikiLeak-style security breaches after government plans to declassify sensitive documents and reduce vetting procedures. … Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, has proposed an overhaul of the way secret e-mails are graded. He also plans to streamline security vetting so fewer people are subjected to the highest level of background checks." – The Times (£)

  • "Advertising agencies are furious at the Cabinet Office’s handling of its Communications Roster, after a company formerly chaired by Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude won two prized places on the shortlist." – Independent

Ministers decline to publish a list linking immigrant communities and abortion

"Officials at the Department of Health have compiled a list of nationalities whose mothers tend to have far more boys than girls, a sign of illegal sex-specific terminations. … But they say that it would ‘not be in the public interest’ to publish the list." – Daily Mail

  • "It’s a myth that lazy foreigners are sponging off our welfare state. Our leaders ought to be straight with us" – Philip Collins, The Times (£)

Robert Halfon speaks out against Labour's "welfare tax"

RH"A fifth of income tax goes straight to funding Britain’s vast benefits bill … Tory MP Rob Halfon, who obtained the figures, told MailOnline, said: ‘These figures from the government show the astonishing amount of tax low earners are paying for welfare benefits. … The Labour party want to impose a further welfare tax on low earners by spending billions more on benefits and oppose every measure the government takes to try to cut low earners’ tax bills.'" – Daily Mail

"More than a pound in every five of our taxes is spent on benefits, Treasury figures reveal"Daily Mail

Boris's "Crossrail for bikes"

Boris Bike"London is to get a 'Crossrail for bikes' as part of a £913m investment plan in cycling, the mayor announced. … The route is expected to open in 2016 and could run for more than 15 miles (24km) through the western suburbs, central London and Barking." – BBC

Boris Johnson plans to give police electric bikes that "can climb stairs" – Daily Telegraph

  • "Mr Johnson’s initiative is … to be applauded. Even more so if it proves a model for elsewhere in the country. London may never be an Amsterdam. But we are pedalling hard in the right direction." – Independent editorial

Lord Ashcroft met with Douglas Alexander to discuss Labour's election strategy, according to reports

LA"The Tories’ biggest donor of the last decade has held an extraordinary private meeting with Labour to discuss its election strategy. … Lord Ashcroft, a hate figure for most Labour MPs, held talks with Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, one of the architects of the party’s 2015 campaign." – Daily Mail

  • Lord Ashcroft's latest poll: fewer than a third of people who voted Lib Dem at the last election plan to vote for the party again - Daily Mail

> Today, by Lord Ashcroft on Comment: Despite everything, there is still a strong sense that Lib Dems stand for fairness and ordinary people

Vicky Pryce found guilty – what did the Lib Dem leadership know about Chris Huhne's misdemeanours, and when?

"Senior Liberal Democrats were dragged into the Chris Huhne scandal last night amid sensational claims that his ex-wife Vicky Pryce confided in them two years ago. … In a nightmare for a party still reeling from sexual harassment allegations, Pryce claimed in previously undisclosed emails that she told key figures of a looming scandal involving her husband." - Daily Mail

  • "Sadly, I have been where Chris Huhne will be standing in a few days’ time — in the dock, waiting to receive an expected jail sentence for lies and follies on a career-wrecking scale." – Jonathan Aitken, Daily Mail

CleggNick Clegg doesn't know the price of diesel
The Times (£)

  • "How can the Government be persuaded to cut fuel tax if senior members don’t have a clue how much fuel costs?" – Sun editorial

And he faces economic pressure from "allies of Vince Cable"

"Nick Clegg is facing a revolt over the Coalition’s economic policy by allies of Vince Cable, who oppose further spending cuts and are calling for the building of 100,000 houses a year to kickstart the economy." – Independent

> Yesterday on LeftWatch: Cable urges Osborne to do things differently

Jeremy Browne is to investigate the “benefits and consequences” of drugs laws abroadDaily Telegraph

Coverage of Yvette Cooper's speech on immigration

"The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, has outlined a package of measures to restrict immediate access to welfare benefits for new European migrants coming to Britain that could be swiftly implemented. … In a major speech outlining Labour's new approach to immigration, Cooper said the government was right to look at the area but says that specific practical proposals are needed instead of the current 'frenzy of briefing and rhetoric' by ministers." – Guardian

  • "Yvette Cooper takes a lesson from Tony Blair on immigration" – Alan Travis, Guardian

MPs attack the Charity Commission over its investigation into a tax avoidance schemeFinancial Times (£)

Lord Phillips is setting up a group to help establish a new press regulatorDaily Mail 

SYScotland Yard has shelved its inquiry into the student riot attack on Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla
Daily Mail 

Sir Peter Bazalgette: Local authorities must think creatively to maintain their cultural services – Peter Bazalgette, The Times (£)

"The number of single-parent families has trebled in the last 40 years, a landmark report has revealed"The Sun

  • "Heavy drinking is in sharp decline, according to a large-scale survey"Daily Mail

Women opt to work longer as pension age risesFinancial Times (£)

Summer-born children are at an educational disadvantage, suggests report – Guardian

Milton Keynes could become the first town in Britain to ban chewing gumThe Sun

And finally 1)… Grantham is finally to have a statue of Lady Thatcher

"After years of wrangling over the issue, a £200,000 fund-raising project is to begin, half of which will pay for the statue and half for the renovation of the Grantham Museum in Lincolnshire … By taking the decision out of the hands of local politicians, who have spent decades arguing over whether to have a statue, the museum staff hope to unite the town’s residents behind the project." – Daily Telegraph

And finally 2)… The Fresh Prince of Brixton

Will Smith"Will Smith made a surprise appearance in Brixton today with local MPs Tessa Jowell and Chuka Umunna. … It emerged the Fresh Prince of Bel Air star wanted to stay true to his character’s roots and see the 'real London'." – Independent


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