- George Osborne: "Today's figures are an encouraging sign the economy is healing"
- Ed Balls: The Government "has got to change course"
4pm JP Floru on Comment: Is Angela Merkel the soundest voice in Europe?
3.30pm On ToryDiary, Tim Montgomerie notes that David Cameron is lowering the Downing Street drawbridge and inviting new voices into his bunker: "Many people are correctly crediting Lynton Crosby with improvements to the operation, but the real driving force of better personnel relations is John Hayes MP – appointed as the PM's parliamentary adviser a few days before Lady Thatcher's death."
3pm Chris Skidmore MP on Comment: We’re rewarding failure in the NHS. We need to reward good, efficient care
2.15pm LeftWatch: Poster wars, battle of the growth and borrowing figures
Noon ToryDiary: The (sort of) return of Steve Hilton
11am On Tuesday, on ConservativeHome, Emma Carr spoke out against it. This morning, Nick Clegg seems to have vetoed it in its current form. But now, on Comment, Michael Ellis MP says that we need a Communications Data Bill.
Daniel Hannan MEP writes this week's Culture Column: The Whig aesthetic that helped to create the virtues of the Anglosphere
On Comment, Christian Guy continues our series on Compassionate Conservatism: Saving lives will also save money. That's why Compassionate Conservatism has much to offer.
Also on Comment, Mark Reckless MP: Are you saying, Home Secretary, that Strasbourg is now supreme?
On MPsETC, Martin Callanan MEP's latest monthly letter to ConHome readers: Praise for Margaret Thatcher… in the European Parliament
A triple-bill of Local Government posts:
- Cllr Bill Borrett: The battle for Norfolk
- Setting the bar: What would be a good result for the Conservatives on May 2nd?
- Councils plead poverty while losing £2.4 billion in uncollected council tax
The Deep End: The staggering hypocrisy of America’s liberal elites
David Cameron brings more Tory backbenchers, including Jo Johnson, into the No.10 fold
"Jo Johnson, the MP for Orpington, will take charge of political strategy in No 10 in a dramatic shake-up modelled on the days of Margaret Thatcher. … In a further bid to satisfy disgruntled right-wingers, Mr Johnson – a former Financial Times journalist – will also lead a new Conservative Parliamentary Advisory Board designed to reflect different views across the party." – Daily Mail
- "Let’s make more leg room at the Cabinet table" – Sue Cameron, Daily Telegraph
As one backbencher, Adam Afriyie, builds support for a leadership bid
"Allies of Mr Afriyie have said their man, who has remained low key since news of his leadership ambitions became public earlier in the year, will break cover after what they expect to be dismal local election results on May 2. They say the backbencher has the backing of 40 colleagues." – Financial Times (£)
Mr Cameron urges the EU to crack down on tax evasion and avoidance
"David Cameron will today demand an EU-wide crackdown on tax evasion and avoidance in a bid to boost revenues amid fears the economy is flatlining. … In a letter to European Union president Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council president Herman van Rompuy, he calls for countries to share information on tax affairs and tough new laws to force companies to reveal where their profits go." – Daily Mail
- "Google's tiny tax bill shows how greedy and ruthless it really is" – Luke Johnson, Daily Mail
And promises to support public sector whistleblowers
"The PM was quizzed by MPs after three people were held for allegedly exposing the Cumbria Crime Commissioner’s costly limo trips. … The PM replied: 'I will look carefully at this case. In general we should support whistleblowers and what they do to help improve the provision of public services. I will have a look and get back to you.'" – The Sun
- "The Prime Minister said he would 'look carefully' at how the illegal trade in pesticides sold as weight loss aids can be stopped." – Daily Telegraph
> Yesterday's ConHome coverage of PMQs:
- ToryDiary: Andrew Gimson's first PMQs sketch: Miliband's neighbours looked unhappy. And Cameron's looked no happier.
- WATCH: Cameron to Miliband – Labour is the Welfare Party
"David Cameron endorsed a parliamentary report yesterday aimed at transforming Britain’s streets and encouraging a five-fold increase in cycling" – The Times (£)
- "Why I’m falling out of love with Boris Bikes" – Matthew Parris, The Times (£)
Abu Qatada triggers an intra-Coalition scrap
"Senior Liberal Democrats accused David Cameron and Theresa May of attempting to shore up Tory votes before local elections next week by floating the 'crackers' idea of temporarily withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). … The move also earned the scorn of Kenneth Clarke, the Tory Cabinet minister, who said that the convention did not have 'the faintest thing to do' with the repeated failures to deport Abu Qatada." – The Times (£)
- "…frustrated David Cameron is ready to ram a new law through to boot [Abu Qatada] out. … His 'nuclear option' will enrage the Lib Dems. Ken Clarke will probably blow a gasket too. Hopefully Ed Miliband will show some backbone and back the new law." – Sun editorial
- "Liberal Democrat ministers should be congratulated for holding the line and ensuring that the coalition stands by the rule of law rather than casting it aside." – Guardian editorial
- "If Parliament endorses the latest treaty – a process that will, sadly, take at least another year – it will be a constitutional outrage if the courts continue to thwart its wishes." – Daily Telegraph editorial
- "For all their rage, the Tories know Qatada is going nowhere fast" – John Rentoul, Independent
> Today, by Mark Reckless MP on Comment: Are you saying, Home Secretary, that Strasbourg is now supreme?
> Yesterday on Tory Diary: A plea to Downing Street over the ECHR. Please put up or shut up.
George Osborne under pressure over today's growth figures… but the FT's Chris Giles says we shouldn't get too excited
"The preliminary estimate of GDP is one of the least important official numbers. Since 2000, this initial figure has been revised by 0.4 percentage points on average. With the reading likely to be close to zero, the day’s headlines are probably wrong. All we can say is that the bumpy, but flat, period since mid-2010 continues." – Chris Giles, Financial Times
> Yesterday, by Andrew Lilico on Comment: Let's get a few things straight regarding "austerity"
As the Chancellor rescues his shares-for-rights scheme
"The government has rescued its flagship plans to create a new breed of workers who are bereft of basic employment rights but entitled to hold shares in a company, by offering new assurances to prevent exploitation. … The concessions were enough to satisfy the wide opposition from Lib Dem, Tory and independent benches [in the Lords], and the revised plan was passed by 275 to 168." – Guardian
- Myths surrounding George Osborne – Janan Ganesh, Financial Times
"A coal-fired power station in Yorkshire will partially be converted to run on biomass with the help of the Chancellor’s 'guarantee' scheme for infrastructure" – Financial Times
Helping parents to work is good for the economy, says Government
"Today the Prime Minister’s spokesman said the Government was committed to supporting 'all mums', regardless of whether they were working or caring for children at home. … But he added: 'One of the aspects of child care policy is supporting parents who do seek to work. … For them, high child care costs can be a significant obstacle and helping people tackle those obstacles, yes, that is good for the economy.'" – Daily Telegraph
- "Strong families should lead the war on poverty" - Samantha Callan, The Times (£)
Jeremy Hunt keeps up his criticism of the health establishment
"The failure of GPs to provide proper out-of-hours care has forced millions of extra patients to attend hospital accident and emergency departments, where they do not get the medicines, checks or support they need, the Health Secretary will warn on Thursday." – Daily Telegraph
- "Nurses shouldn’t carry the bedpan for the NHS crisis" – Allison Pearson, Daily Telegraph
Iain Duncan Smith: We will go further to tackle benefits culture
"We are determined to go even further in future. By bringing the resources and the rigour of the private and social enterprise sector to bear on tackling entrenched disadvantage, we can continue to make headway even in a financial climate that means Government spending is tight." – Iain Duncan Smith, Daily Telegraph
Eric Pickles attacked the councils that are failing to collect council tax
"Town hall bosses have been blasted for failing to collect £2.4 billion of council tax. … Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said that nine out of the ten councils with the worst record were Labour controlled." – The Sun
> Today on Local Government: Councils plead poverty while losing £2.4 billion in uncollected council tax
Philip Hammond's plan to outsource MoD procurement
"Philip Hammond, defence secretary, is to begin talks with business on an ambitious plan to outsource procurement of Britain’s military equipment to a new body operated by a private contractor. …by getting a private contractor to run the procurement process, ministers hope the MoD could prevent many of the financial problems that the equipment budget has encountered in recent years." – Financial Times
Douglas Carswell on Baroness Ashton: "She is a national embarrassment"
"The peer came under fire from the European Parliament which said her department, the European External Action Service, was indecisive and unresponsive to crises. … Tory MP Douglas Carswell said: ‘For the first time in as long as I can remember, someone in the European Parliament has said something sensible. … She is a national embarrassment.'" – Daily Mail
UKIP could take at least 6 per cent of the Tory vote at the next general election, say academics
"UKIP is set to be the 'most serious fourth party incursion in English politics' since the Second World War, election experts predicted yesterday. … The anti-EU party, with its campaign focus on immigration, could double its councillors in the county council elections on May 2 and scupper Tory chances in hundreds of other seats. … But a strong showing could lead to a more worrying result for David Cameron in the 2015 general election, when UKIP could take at least 6 per cent of the Tory vote, the academics suggested." – The Times (£)
- "Ukip has thrown British politics into the most marvellous chaos" – Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph
> Today on Local Government: Setting the bar: What would be a good result for the Conservatives on May 2nd?
Steve Richards: Reheating Thatcherism won’t save Cameron
"Unlike the 1980s, the private sector is seen as part of the problem rather than the solution as the banks are paralysed by fear and senior bankers are vilified. When little else is working, voters are looking to government for help. … For now the nearest the Conservatives have to an effective moderniser is Michael Heseltine, who never loses the chance to make a powerful centre-right case for an efficient, agile, enabling State." – Steve Richards, The Times (£)
> Yesterday on MPsETC: How Margaret Thatcher's name is being used as a code for loyalty
The Lib Dems are floating the idea of a tax on pensioners' perks
"Better off pensioners may have to pay tax on perks such as their winter fuel allowance or lose them completely under a plan to be considered during the Government's spending review. … Liberal Democrat ministers say that taxing or means-testing the special benefits for older people would not breach David Cameron’s pledge at the 2010 general election to maintain their winter fuel allowance, free TV licences and bus passes." – Independent
Len McCluskey's advice for Ed Miliband: ignore the Blairites, repudiate austerity
"'Ed Miliband must spend most of his waking hours grappling with what lies before him. If he is brave enough to go for something radical, he’ll be the next prime minister. If he gets seduced by the Jim Murphys and the Douglas Alexanders, then the truth is that he’ll be defeated and he’ll be cast into the dustbin of history.'" – from the New Statesman's interview with the Unite general secretary
- Ed Miliband hits back after union leaders "reprehensible" attack – Guardian
> Yesterday's Letter from a Treasury Minister: A question for Miliband. Will you stick to our spending plans or not?
As it emerges that half of Labour's candidates for 2015, so far, are from the unions
"Half of the parliamentary candidates picked so far by Labour for the 2015 general election are from the trade unions, a trend that will raise questions over Ed Miliband’s attempts to rebrand his party. … 'Unite are marching all over the selection process, they are the dominant force at the moment,' said one Labour insider." – Financial Times
MPs call for action against pension charges
"The ‘consultancy charges’ are made when a boss takes advice about signing up his workers to a pension scheme – but the worker, rather than the boss, will pick up the bill. … The report, from the influential Work and Pensions Committee, warns these charges can be ‘extremely high’ and have ‘the potential to cause serious consumer detriment.’" – Daily Mail
Scotland's independence debate is giving unionism a shot in the arm, says Martin Kettle
"The most remarkable thing of all is a paradox: the calling of the independence referendum, far from acting as a springboard for a much more confident and assertive nationalism, seems to have become the catalyst for some significant and welcome rethinking about the nature of unionism." – Martin Kettle, Guardian
> Yesterday, Henry Hill's Red, White and Blue Column: Scottish independence may mean no Scottish banknotes
And finally 1)… A Blessed petition
"It may not have been his most hostile confrontation of the day but it was probably the loudest. … David Cameron emerged from Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons yesterday to be bearded in Downing Street by foghorn-voiced actor Brian Blessed. … The larger-than-life star, 76, was at No 10 to deliver a petition calling on Mr Cameron to end the secrecy surrounding testing on animals for research." – Daily Mail
And finally 2)… Too cool for school
"Ed Miliband has revealed his alarm at discovering wife Justine was a school rebel – including jumping out of a window to avoid being caught wearing lipstick. … On a visit to her old school in Nottingham, the Labour leader admitted that his ‘troublemaker’ wife would have been ‘too cool’ for him." – Daily Mail
- "Can cool Justine make Mr Miliband look less of a dweeb?" – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
And finally 3)… How a £24 train ticket ended up costing the taxpayer £27,000
"In the end, [the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority] won its case. The judge decided that [Jim] McGovern [the Labour MP for Dundee West] was not entitled to claim the £24 fare, and each side was ordered to pay its own costs — with the taxpayer left to cover IPSA’s £27,000 legal bill. McGovern now has until the end of next month to decide whether to appeal again." – Daily Mail
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