5.30pm WATCH: Britain in the global race. Latest Conservative PPB

5pm Local Government: Pickles warns that councillors should not take payments to lobby their own councils

4.15pm WATCH: Martin Callanan MEP backs cut in EU budget

4pm David Burrowes MP on Comment: We need a social recovery not just an economic recovery

2.45pm WATCH: Michael Gove trounces his critics at the Education Select Committee

2.15pm Mark Florman on Comment: Employee-shareholder policy could restore our winning entrepreneurial zeal again.

1.15pm ToryDiary: PMQs: Ed Milband steals the show with brewery joke

11.45am ToryDiary: "The 2005 campaign looks like the model
that will apply ten years on from that election.  Shapps will be the
voice of the campaign (or one of them) and Crosby will be the hands: Who will run the 2015 election campaign?

10.30am Mark Reckless MP on Comment: Crunch Time for Theresa May

10am ToryDiary: Go on, Mr Cameron – scrap PMQs

9.45am MPsETC: Lord Lawson says that Osborne has no "growth button" to press

ToryDiary: Dropping plan for minimum alcohol pricing is sensible

AshcroftpicLord Ashcroft on Comment: End the ringfence for international aid

Also on Comment: Luke de Pulford: Why we all should care about this papal election

Columnist Stephan Shakespeare: A courageous confrontation with powerful elites may yet save the Conservative Party

Majority Conservatism: Andrea Leadsom MP offers Three ideas to improve Tory support amongst Britain's women

Local government: Cllr David Burbage on Improving the performance of the Whitehall/Town Hall machine

The Deep End: David Cameron is wrong – there is a magic money tree, but it only grows in the gardens of the rich

TimesalcCameron forced to abandon minimum alcohol plan

"Labour has accused the government of "weak leadership" after it emerged plans for minimum pricing of alcohol in England and Wales may be dropped. Conservative ministers are understood to be split over a proposed 45p per unit price to tackle problem drinking. Tory former GP Sarah Wollaston said: "To ditch this evidence-based measure would be a real tragedy." Labour said it would be a "humiliating climb-down"- BBC

  • "Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is among ministers to have voiced concerns about the plan. Several others in the Cabinet have claimed that it will hit those who drink responsibly. Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, and Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, are also understood to have been sceptical. Andrew Lansley, the Commons leader and former Health Secretary, said that the proposal would be “more likely to have a bigger proportionate impact on responsible drinkers who happen to be low-income households." – The Times (£)
  • "The government has been consulting on a price of 45p per unit, and the proposal appeared to have the support of David Cameron. The government has argued that introducing a minimum unit price would help reduce the levels of ill-health and crime related to alcohol and prevent practices such as "pre-loading", where people binge-drink before going out." – The Guardian
  • "The minimum price was also opposed by the Treasury, where officials argued that it would reduce tax revenues at a time when the public finances remain strained. One Treasury source described the Prime Minister’s plan as “a remarkably stupid idea”. Government insiders suggested the Chancellor is considering using the Budget to impose higher taxes on some drinks and argue that doing so will address problem drinking." – Daily Telegraph
  • "It was always a misguided solution to alcohol abuse. It is not the job of Governments to set shop prices. Problem drinkers should be dealt with through better health education and drunken yobs slung in jail. A quick one after work is all that is keeping many of us going as the never-ending recession grinds along." – The Sun Says

IdsIDS announces that foster carers and armed services to keep spare room subsidy

"In a written ministerial statement Mr Duncan Smith said foster parents would be allowed to have one spare room, whether or not a child has been placed with them, so long as they had fostered a child or had
been approved to do so within the past 12 months. Members of the armed forces living with their parents will also be regarded as still occupying their rooms while they are away on operations." – The Times (£)

  • "Foster carers and families of armed services personnel will be exempt from controversial changes to housing benefit, ministers have said. They will not face deductions in rental support as part of plans to clamp down on under-occupied properties." – BBC
  • "Parents with severely disabled children who are unable to share a room with their siblings are to be exempt from the Government’s under-occupation penalty, or so-called bedroom tax." – Independent
  • "The principle is simple. Housing benefit should not be more generous for social housing tenants than private tenants, who don’t get handouts for rooms that aren’t occupied. Why is that unfair?
    Half the Government’s trouble at the moment is that it is failing to get its message across even when it is acting perfectly sensibly." The Sun Says

>Yesterday: Nick de Bois MP on Comment: The bishops may be vocal on benefits, but why were they silent about 90% tax rates on the poor?

Osborne faces triple dip

"The Government’s economic woes worsened only days before the annual Budget as dire manufacturing figures suggested that Britain had entered a triple-dip recession. The pound tumbled in early trading against the dollar after the Office for National Statistics reported the steepest monthly drop in manufacturing output since last summer." The Times (£)

  • "On planet Osborne, failure is success" – Simon Hoggart Guardian

CrosbyTory MPs told not to talk down election prospects on Twitter

"Tory MPs were told to stop using Twitter to criticise David Cameron and the party’s future election prospects after a spate of embarrassing tweets. Lynton Crosby, the strategist brought in to help with the Tories’ 2015 general election campaign, instructed MPs yesterday to stick to highlighting the Government’s successes to ensure they put out a unified message….the directive emphasised that they should remember that they are “participants not commentators”." – The Times (£)

GovemGove criticises May's ConHome speech…

"Michael Gove challenged Theresa May to stop undermining David Cameron when he spoke out at a meeting on Tuesday of the Conservative political cabinet against prominent Tories who are promoting their leadership credentials…. The intervention by Gove was dismissed by allies of May who pointed out that the prime minister had approved her speech to a conference organised by the ConservativeHome website at 5pm on Friday. Cameron suggested some changes that were incorporated by the home secretary. . The home secretary accepted the invitation to speak at the conference last November." – The Guardian

Boris…as Boris burnishes his own leadership credentials

"Asked whether he could ever attempt to become the Prime Minister, Mr Johnson reaffirmed his commitment to his current role and said: “It would be completely wrong of me to abandon my post.” However, he added: “After 2016 who knows what will happen. But I'm very, very happy with the job of Mayor of London. "There are very few jobs in politics as interesting as being Mayor of London."" – Daily Telegraph

PicklesnewPickles tells councils to stop spending £20 million translating documents….

"Communities Secretary Eric Pickles yesterday told councils to cut back on translating basic documents into languages intended to help migrants. He said providing information in foreign languages wastes council taxpayers money and reduces the incentive for migrants to learn English." – The Times (£)

….and to stop councillors being paid to lobby their own council on planning applications

"In the wake of a Telegraph investigation, Eric Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, said councils must tighten their ethics codes and act against anyone who may have done something illegal. He urged the Liberal Democrats to take “any necessary action to suspend” a councillor identified by this newspaper for saying he could use “a bit of cunning” to get planning applications through. In a letter to Hilary Benn, the shadow communities secretary, Mr Pickles said it is unacceptable for councillors to receive any payment for lobbying their councils." – Daily Telegraph

Cameron may veto EU arms embargo

"David Cameron has said the UK would consider vetoing any extension to the European Union's arms embargo on Syria. The embargo is due to be renewed in May, but the prime minister said it was "not out of the question we may have to do things in our own way."- BBC

  • "Cameron, who was appearing before the liaison committee of senior MPs, indicated that the government might be prepared to do more when he reminded MPs, in response to questions about the EU arms embargo on Syria, that Britain has an independent foreign policy." – The Guardian
  • "Syria: Don't fan the flames of conflict" – Douglas Alexander The Guardian

RedwoodjRedwood says Tory MPs want tax cuts

"The email, sent by John Redwood, the chairman of the Conservative Party’s backbench economic affairs committee, makes clear that Tories also want the Coalition to squeeze public spending further… “The top running ideas are all proposals to offer tax cuts to stimulate greater confidence, more enterprise, and to relieve some of the squeeze on the private sector,” Mr Redwood wrote….A short-term cut in CGT to perhaps 10 per cent “could release more investment and spending, and may even stimulate more revenue”. – Daily Telegraph

  •  "The fact that public spending went up, not down, in the UK last year – from 48.6 to 49 per cent of GDP, the OECD says – is explained as the product of growth-destroying austerity, rather than evidence that “stimulus” doesn’t work. It’s a case of tails the pop Keynesian wins and heads you lose. Many pop Keynesians always want more spending, and are merely rationalising their desire for social democratic policies. Few were calling for massive spending cuts when the economy was booming and yet Gordon Brown was still running a budget deficit." Allister Heath City AM

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Big spending cuts are needed but not salami slicing

FalklandsArgentina warned to respect Falklands vote

"David Cameron has called on Argentina to respect the wishes of the people of the Falkland Islands to remain British. The prime minister said the almost unanimous vote in favour of staying a British overseas territory was the "clearest possible result". He said Argentina should take "careful note" of the referendum, and Britain would always defend the islands." – BBC

  • "This isn't self-determination. It's a Ruritanian colonial relic" – Seumas Milne The Guardian

Mansion Tax call rejected

"MPs have rejected Labour calls for a "mansion tax" on properties
worth more than £2m to be introduced before the next general election.
Conservative and Lib Dem MPs joined forces to defeat the move by 63 votes after a Commons debate." – BBC

>Yesterday LeftWatch: New Tory leaflet warns that a mansions tax would result in "government snoopers" revaluing your home

DUP and OUP discussed merger

"The talks failed, but helped fuel a continuing internal debate about co-operation between the parties. The parties and the TUV agreed to support a single unionist candidate in last week's Mid Ulster by-election. "- BBC

EulogoBritain asked to move EU elections to a Sunday
The Times (£)

  • "Sunday is meant to be a day of rest – but there is no rest from the sinister schemes of the Eurocrats. They want to move the European elections to the weekend in order to create a pan-continental democratic extravaganza, a fiesta of political fellow-feeling among the union’s disparate nations. It would be easy to condemn this as unwarranted interference, as well as an insult to those who prefer to keep the Sabbath. But in truth, the more appropriate response is pity." – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday ToryDiary: The Guardian discovers that "right-wing" views on Europe and immigration are quite popular

Miliband tries to hide union meetings

"Unite, the trade union, has given Labour more than £7 million in donations since 2010, making it the party’s biggest financial backer. Mr Miliband suggested last year that he met Len McCluskey, Unite’s
general secretary, “every three or four weeks”. However, a list of meetings released by the Labour Party failed to mention any meeting between Mr Miliband, the Labour leader, and Mr McCluskey." – Daily Telegraph

In one day Labour's lead on YouGov rises from 8% to 14% – YouGov

Bill to allow 16 and 17-year-olds vote in Scottish independence referendumBBC

Euro MPs in new EU budget battleBBC

TUC report says most British children will soon grow up "below the breadline" The Independent

MPs to vote on civil partnerships for straight couplesDaily Telegraph

And finally…Monbiot to undertake charity work to settle McAlpine libel claim

"Guardian columnist George Monbiot has agreed to carry out three years of charity work to settle a libel action brought by former Conservative Party chairman Lord McAlpine." – BBC


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