6.15pm ToryDiary: Is the pre-local election season really the right time to announce new garden towns?

5.15pm WATCH: Charles Moore – The EU v the nation state. Who's winning?

2.45pm MPsETC: Ben Gummer, Affordable Spending Hero

Screen shot 2013-03-05 at 13.29.26
1.30pm Greg Clark's Weekly Letter from a Treasury Minister: "A good Opposition should at least be able to engage with the
Government on a serious, intellectual level – challenging the ideas that
underpin government policy, proposing alternatives and, perhaps, in the
process of argument and counter-argument, advancing our common
understanding of the great issues of the day.
But there is no such engagement from Labour." Ed Balls's three rules of Opposition. Admit no mistakes. Avoid consistency. Propose nothing new.

11am The Andrew Lilico-Robert Halfon debate on income tax and the poor continues on Comment.  Lilico says that income tax isn't the right way to involve the poorest in spending decisions

10am LeftWatch: Labour lurches to the left over directors' pay

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ToryDiary: The next Conservative leadership election is under way

Lord Forsyth on Comment: Time for a touch on the tiller, George

Cllr Jonathan Glanz on Local Government: Who would pay the Mansion Tax for the £2 million council houses?

The Deep End: If you thought CCTV was an invasion of privacy, just wait for the drones

It's Cameron v the National Union of Ministers. Prime Minister rejects Hammond's calls for welfare cuts…

Screen shot 2013-03-05 at 04.58.43"The Prime Minister is to rebuff Conservative ministers who are pushing for more cuts to the welfare budget in an attempt to protect their own departments from the Chancellor’s axe. He will point out that £3.6bn has already been shaved off the benefits bill in 2015-16, and argue it is time for other ministers to keep the Government’s deficit-reduction strategy on track. One close ally of the Prime Minister said: “You cannot be a fiscal conservative and then say that does not apply in your own department.” – The Independent

…But IDS stands ready to make them, it is claimed…

“We put forward £10 billion of detailed cuts for the Autumn
Statement and the Liberal Democrats only agreed to £3.5 billion,” said a
source close to Mr Duncan Smith. The £3.5 billion saving comes from
uprating all benefits by 1 per cent instead of a full 2.2 per cent in
line with inflation. But the Liberal Democrats opposed the remaining
£6.5 billion of cuts, which would once again hit those of working age
while leaving pensioner benefits intact. They are said to include a
freeze rather than a 1 per cent uprating to all benefits, plus
reductions to housing benefit for the under 25s and benefit limits for
larger families." – The Times (£)

…So what's the problem? The Liberal Democrats. Vince Cable reiterates their position – though the junior Coalition partner is up for means-testing pensioner benefits

Cable Vince March 2011"Sources confirmed that Mr Cable is pushing for Chancellor George Osborne to inject billions more into infrastructure spending, funded largely by an increase in tax and borrowing. He is thought to be urging the Chancellor to reconsider plans for a so-called mansion tax on homes worth more than £2million, along with other taxes on the better off. He is also pressing for pensioner benefits, such as the winter fuel allowance, to be taxed." – Daily Mail

  • Police holding interviews with women about Lord Rennard claims – Daily Telegraph

> Today: Cllr Jonathan Glanz on Local Government: Who would pay the Mansion Tax for the £2 million council houses?

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – To Hell with the Lib Dems? Nope…

More identity checks…more contribution-based benefits…Ministers mull new barriers to Romanian and Bulgarian entrants

Screen shot 2013-03-05 at 08.18.47"A squeeze on access to the Health Service, taxpayer-subsidised housing and welfare is being considered as part of a package designed to limit the number of people who come from Bulgaria and Romania when controls are lifted at the end of this year. However, Number 10 confirmed that to comply with EU law, restrictions would have to apply at least in principle to UK citizens too – raising the prospect of people having to prove their eligibility to access services." – Daily Mail

  • Nick Clegg's Home Affairs Cabinet Committee will consider possible measures – The Guardian


  • "Lifelong British taxpayers who move from north to south of the UK in
    search of work may be given no greater right to social housing than
    migrants straight off the coach from Sofia or Bucharest." – Daily Mail
  • "The
    debate about Romanian and Bulgarian migrants is not, in fact, a debate
    about immigration so much as a debate about the wrong turn that the
    British welfare state has taken." – Times Editorial

Dominic Raab: Copy Germany to crack down on benefits tourists

Screen shot 2013-03-05 at 08.20.11"Spain
recently tried to tackle benefit tourism by imposing registration
requirements, but these look set to be challenged for discrimination on
grounds of nationality. Germany’s approach offers more hope. It relies
more than Britain on a system based on contributions for unemployment
and incapacity support and less on automatic or means-tested benefits.
As well as limiting the total bill, that model is less vulnerable to
legal challenge in Brussels." – The Times (£)

Other Comment:

  • Germany's interior minister interior minister threatens to use the
    German veto when European Union ministers discuss admitting the former
    Eastern Bloc nations this week – Daily Express
  • Cameron must get on with a migrant welfare crackdown – Ross Clark, Daily Express
  • Defy the EU and stamp out benefit tourism – Simon Heffer, Daily Mail

"For all the waffle at Westminster, no effective policy has ever been in place to persuade migrants to learn English."Sun Editorial

May set to tighten Brazilian visa rulesFinancial Times (£)

Almost 40% of voters would consider voting UKIPThe Sun

Britain's most senior judge warns over the deportation of terror suspects to states that practice tortureThe Guardian

Richard Littlejohn: The scandal of the police's six-month racism investigation into Tim Loughton after he described a constituent as "unkempt"

Tim Loughton 2010"The only ‘serious’ aspect is the outrageous decision of the police to treat a blameless Member of Parliament like a criminal and accuse him of ‘racism’ on the basis of a vexatious and malicious complaint from a serial grievance-monger. Maybe Sussex police had read about the Met officers who tried to fit up the former Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell recently and fancied a Tory scalp of their own. My guess would be that the Chief Constable thoroughly approves of the investigation, which is in line with the police’s ‘best practice’ on ‘diversity’." – Daily Mail

It's Clarke and Grieve V May and Grayling over Europe and human rights

"Mr Clarke signalled his disdain for the Home Secretary’s support for a promise to pull Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to be included in the next Tory manifesto. Chris Grayling, who succeeded Mr Clarke as Justice Secretary, has also reiterated his support for scrapping the Human Rights Act and has also refused to rule out withdrawal from the 60-year-old Convention. But the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, the Government’s senior law officer, is resisting pressure to abandon the ECHR." – The Independent

"Secret courts" rebels defeated in Commons

"Plans to allow more civil courts to sit in secret were pushed through the Commons last night in the face of protests from MPs of all parties that the moves would undermine basic principles of British justice. Ministers defeated two moves by Labour and coalition rebels to introduce extra safeguards into the system – each time by majorities of more than 70. Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie said the defeated amendments were about "whether people can get to hear the case made against them and whether we can keep legal safeguards we have had for generations"." – The Independent

  • "Usually, when lawyers get to work debating the law, you get a whole series of arcane, detailed, fusspotty points being made. They sound as if they are arguing with an invisible judge; Mr Clarke sounds as if he is in the pub, having a heated debate about whether that goal was offside." – Simon Hoggart, The Guardian
  • "It was in many ways a classic Clarke performance, full of gaseous bellows and the occasional pinking squeak." – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

> Yesterday: Anthony Peto QC on Comment – A very un-British Bill – my response to Robert Buckland MP

Theresa May: We must stop casual tolerance of violence against women

May Theresa in black"I am passionately committed to ending violence of all kinds against women — whether it is boys coercing girls, women being forced into marriage or prostitution, women and girls being abused in their homes or men killing women. One critical step is to end the casual toleration that our society shows for violence against women. Last week you could buy on Amazon T-shirts with slogans such as “Keep Calm And Hit Her”. Such slogans send a totally unacceptable message. We must make it clear that we cannot and will not tolerate any form of violence against women." – The Sun

Therese Coffey: The Conservative Party needs anti-sexism training

"Ms Coffey said that although some dismissed the training as “mumbo jumbo”, top firms such as Price-Waterhouse Coopers, Microsoft and Google were all converts. She said: “I’ll be recommending it to our Prime Minister for the Conservative Party. “This isn’t just about women, by the way, this is about all sorts of people and trying not to have mini-mes up and down our corporate boardrooms.” Mr Cameron has been accused of shutting out women from top jobs." – The Sun

Tory MPs to Osborne: Man up over tax and spending cuts

Screen shot 2013-03-05 at 08.15.12"Members of the Free Enterprise Group of Conservatives issued their
demands as the Chancellor prepares to deliver his Budget in just over
two weeks’ time. Kwasi Kwarteng, the MP for Spelthorne, said Mr Osborne
must take “big bold steps” to signal that Britain is serious about
cutting the deficit and encouraging businesses to grow. At a meeting
hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs in Westminster, he said it
was “mind boggling” that the government was still spending £120 billion
more than it received in taxes every year." – Daily Telegraph

  • High street stores boosted by best sales for three years – Daily Express

> Today: Lord Forsyth on Comment – Time for a touch on the tiller, George

Hunt still "angrier than any voter at NHS failures"

"Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, will today say that 30,000 people a year die too early because of the “shocking underperformance” of the NHS, which remains a “poor relative” of its European counterparts. These lives could be saved if the NHS focuses on the five biggest killers — heart disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory and liver disease — and improves detection and treatment, he will tell the Commons." – Daily Telegraph

  • Screen shot 2013-03-05 at 08.27.03Former Labour health secretaries come to Nicholson's defence as he prepares to face Health Select Committee – The Independent
  • Sir David Nicholson should be forced out over the NHS scandal – Sarah Wollaston MP, Daily Telegraph
  • Sir David Nicholson should not be forced out over the Mid-Staffs scandal – Nicholas Timmins, Financial Times (£)

Janan Ganesh: Leadership aspirants flex their muscles as Cameron's hand-to-mouth premiership lurches on

"It is not unthinkable that a party that once elected Iain Duncan Smith, the hapless former leader who is now secretary of state for work and pensions, might act rashly. And it would take a saint not to read personal ambition into recent nods to the right by the likes of Theresa May, home secretary, and Philip Hammond, defence secretary. When even loyal cabinet members are seen to spruce themselves up for a post-Cameron order, the narrative of prime ministerial mortality becomes irresistible." – Financial Times (£)

  • Tories must see the conservative in Cameron – Rachel Sylvester, The Times (£)

> Today: ToryDiary – The next Conservative leadership election is under way

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