Plebgate policeman admits he lied

Andrew Mitchell talking to press“In what was described as ‘a black day for the Met’, PC Keith Wallis – who falsely claimed to have witnessed the infamous row between a colleague and Mr Mitchell – pleaded guilty to misconduct in public office. … The former Chief Whip said he was ‘pleased that justice had been done’ but said ‘serious questions remained’ over the conduct of the police. … The Prime Minister quickly rallied to support him, raising the prospect that Mr Mitchell could eventually return to frontline politics.” – Daily Mail

  • “Scotland Yard announced the world’s biggest trial of body-worn video cameras last night in a bid to change the face of modern policing. … Commanders hope the footage will help restore trust in the force and give an ‘objective’ account of the most controversial confrontations.” – Daily Mail
  • “Corrupt cops sabotaged four gangland murder investigations, an explosive secret police report has revealed. … The Operation Tiberius document — suppressed by the Met Police for more than a decade — identified 34 then-serving officers linked to some of Britain’s most ruthless villains.” – The Sun (£)

And comment:

  • “What is apparent in our culture, as it is across the Channel, is mental confusion and weakness. … The rage of the unfortunate gangster [Mark Duggan]’s family was presented – especially on the BBC – almost as automatically righteous. The Establishment, from the Prime Minister down, heaped praise on the Duggan clan when they finally warned against violence, as if that was exceptionally decent of them.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph
  • “Is it any wonder that middle-class trust in the police has dwindled?” – Graeme Archer, Daily Telegraph

> Today: ToryDiary – Mitchell in numbers

Intra-Coalition scrap 1) The garden cities report

Lib Dem Bird Tory“A secret Whitehall report recommending that two new cities are built in southern England to combat the housing shortage is being suppressed by David Cameron, The Telegraph can disclose. … On Friday night, Mr Cameron was accused by senior Liberal Democrats of suppressing the report and displaying a ‘Nimby attitude’ through fear of a backlash in Tory heartlands ahead of the general election. … Conservatives are also understood to be concerned that the creation of new cities could lead to Labour voters moving into safe shire constituencies, diluting traditional Tory support.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “A planning loophole will let builders swamp the countryside with developments unless ministers act” – Geoffrey Lean, Daily Telegraph

Intra-Coalition scrap 2) The PM’s online safety plan

“Liberal Democrats have triggered fury by vowing to overturn David Cameron’s plans for internet porn filters. … Child safety experts and MPs called the move ‘irresponsible’ and warned it would undermine attempts to protect children from hardcore pornography. … Lib Dem party president Tim Farron said the Government should enshrine the ‘digital rights of the citizen’ and halt requirement for ‘filters, lists or controls on legal material’.” – Daily Mail

Matthew Parris: Cameron must play to his strengths

“You cannot market a Cameron “vision” for Britain (except of the fuzziest kind) because there isn’t one. If he comes up with a big dream now, it’s just going to look like he hired himself a new speechwriter. Our PM isn’t that kind of politician; and he doesn’t trust that kind of politics. … He must run with his strengths. Despite an irascibility that sometimes breaks through, he’s a tolerant man with a fundamentally generous view of his country, who dislikes scrapping, fights his corner toughly but only if he has to, prefers shrewdly muddling through, and feels gently optimistic about the possibilities for Britain. Full stop.” – Matthew Parris, The Times (£)

Tory MPs take on the European Commissioner who attacked Cameron’s EU policy…

EU FLag“Furious Tory MPs last night rounded on European Commissioner Viviane Reding who accused David Cameron of deliberately spreading ‘populist myths’ about immigration and benefits tourism. … Mrs Reding accused the PM of raising the issue deliberately to distract from the ‘real subjects’ of concern to British people. She said Mr Cameron’s actions were ‘destroying the future’ of Britain. … Her comments were condemned as ‘unbelievable’ and ‘utter nonsense’ by Tory backbenchers, who accused her of being out of touch.” – Daily Mail

  • “Germany and Brussels are locked in a legal battle over benefits for migrants. … EU mandarins have backed the case of a Romanian who was refused some payments because she had not been in the country long and was not seeking work. … But German politicians say this encourages benefit tourism and risks turning their country into a ‘self-service store’ for migrants.” – Daily Mail

…and the Lords who are trying to block Wharton’s Referendum Bill

“Labour grandees were accused of showing contempt for the public last night after they dismissed calls for an EU referendum. … Arch-Europhiles, some in the pay of Brussels, rejected calls for a vote as the House of Lords debated plans to enshrine in law David Cameron’s pledge to hold a referendum in 2017. … Peter Bone, Tory MP for Wellingborough, said: ‘Peter Mandelson thinks that the British people can’t be trusted. He believes the European political elites know best.’” – Daily Mail

  • “Do not mistake this for principle. … If Britain was fond of Europe, Mandelson would want a vote this afternoon.” – Sun editorial (£)
  • “EU rules are stifling a golden age of biotechnology” – George Freeman, The Times (£)

> Yesterday: LeftWatch – Lord Mandelson’s four spurious arguments against an EU referendum

Ministers look towards two-generation mortgages

“Forty-year mortgages that may take two generations to pay off could become the norm, ministers believe. … Rising house prices will prompt more homebuyers to abandon traditional 25-year loans and opt for ever longer repayment terms, they say. … Cabinet ministers who discussed claims of a new property ‘bubble’ this week believe a cultural shift is under way which means people are increasingly comfortable with extended loans.” – Daily Mail

  • “The number of people moving up the housing ladder reached a three-year high last year as rising house prices boosted the amount of cash they had tied up in their existing property, a study reveals.” – Daily Mail

Pickles plans to squeeze democracy-dodging councils – but May isn’t happy

PICKLES Eric smiling“Ministers are proposing to reduce to 1.5% the amount by which councils can increase council tax without seeking approval from residents, putting a further squeeze on the autonomy of local government and causing a clash with the Home Office over potential cuts to the police. … His plans have faced protests from the home secretary, Theresa May, who warned in the cabinet exchanges that police forces needed greater flexibility in funding or they would suffer cuts that could endanger services.” – The Guardian

Grayling wants fewer former troops in jail…

“Around one in 30 lags are former service personnel. … Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said more must be done to help them adapt to civvy street and get away from a life of crime. … He has set up a review of the way former squaddies are rehabilitated so that fewer of them end up behind bars.” – The Sun (£)

…whilst terror trainees could be placed behind bars for life

“Terror fanatics who join training camps are to face life jail, the Government has announced. … At present the maximum sentence is 14 years. … But new guidelines being drawn up would allow judges to impose life terms – with fanatics monitored after their eventual release.” – The Sun (£)

  • Private jails in dock over delivery of public service – Financial Times

Halfon rails against another energy rip-off

“Greedy energy firms are hitting families for £114 a year — for not paying by direct debit. … Hard-up customers — many vulnerable pensioners — are being punished for choosing to pay by cash or cheque. … The scandal was uncovered by crusading Tory MP Rob Halfon, who branded it the ‘great utility rip-off’.” – The Sun (£)

  • “Climate scientists have endorsed comments made by the Prime Minister linking an increase in ‘abnormal’ weather events with climate change.” – The Times (£)
  • “The man who masterminded London’s highly successful Olympic Games has said power blackouts would be ‘the best possible thing’ because they would force politicians to confront the looming energy crisis.” – The Guardian
  • “Britain will be free to generate more of its energy from nuclear power and build fewer wind and solar farms after the European Commission rejected calls for a legally binding renewable energy target for 2030.” – The Times (£)

> Today: Robert Halfon MP on Comment – The scandal of hidden utility bill charges

Simon Heffer: “Raising the minimum wage is a cynical ploy sure to backfire”

pound-coin“We are told that the idea is based on sound economic sense. … But the real reason, I suspect, is more cynical. The Tories want to convince the poorest in society that they are on their side. … The truth, though, is that the policy is deeply flawed because minimum wages drive up the cost of employing staff and are therefore instrumental in keeping other people on the dole.” – Simon Heffer, Daily Mail

  • “The Government would do better to focus on policies designed expressly to help grow the economy. If an idea will help, then implement it. If it won’t help – a jobs-destroying hike in the minimum wage, for instance – then best to avoid it.” – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • “George Osborne has developed a ‘phobia’, according to Cabinet colleagues. ‘He will not talk about any tax rises; it is a total no-go area,’ one explained.” – Andrew Grice, The Independent

The Labour leadership backs away from Umunna’s immigration posturing

“The opposition Labour leadership disowned Chuka Umunna’s remarks criticising the right of EU workers to travel to another member state to seek a job. … Mr Umunna’s comments go beyond party policy and would require an unlikely rewriting of the EU’s fundamental principles. Allies of Ed Miliband, Labour leader, said the business spokesman had ‘made a mistake’.” – Financial Times

Labour plans to introduce a new teaching licence

“Teachers will have to be licensed and will face the sack if they fail tough new checks on their abilities under plans drawn up by Labour. … They will need to show that they are teaching to a high standard and have refreshed their subject knowledge and skills through training. Those unable to demonstrate they had done so would be refused a new licence and effectively struck off from the profession, Tristram Hunt, the Shadow Education Secretary, has told The Times.” – The Times (£)

  • “Tristram Hunt’s proposal that teachers should be subject to regular assessment is both courageous and correct” – Times editorial (£)

Burnham accuses Hunt of wanting to run down the NHS

HUNT Doctor Carla Millar“Jeremy Hunt has been on a “mission to run down the National Health Service” to serve “a privatisation agenda” that will lead to the end of free, universal health care in the UK, the shadow Health Secretary has said in an explosive attack on the Coalition’s record on the NHS. … In an exclusive interview with The Independent, Andy Burnham accused the Coalition of crippling the NHS with competition law and setting it on a path towards charging patients for their care.” – The Independent

Wow! Brown speaks! He calls for a stronger Scottish Parliament in the UK

“Constitutional reforms should be made to create a ‘union for social justice’ in which the UK can pool and share resources for the benefit of all, according to former prime minister Gordon Brown. … Brown said Scotland would be strengthened by his proposed constitutional changes while remaining within the union. The Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP wants the Scottish parliament to be made irreversible, with ‘maximum devolution of powers in training, transport, health, the Crown Estates Commission and the running of elections’.” – The Guardian

Stephen Glover: “How Red Ed’s chum is killing France”

“France may not yet be a basket case. Indeed, her economy is nominally still bigger than Britain’s, though a recent study by the London-based Centre For Economics And Business Research predicted that Britain will have overtaken France by 2018, and by 2028 have left her far behind. … Such star-gazing, though, makes an assumption: that Britain won’t be ruled by politicians who will follow the example of Francois Hollande in increasing taxes and letting public expenditure rip. With Ed Miliband and Ed Balls waiting in the wings, we can’t be sure.” – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail

  • “As if he did not have enough troubles battling a weak economy and record low approval ratings, French president François Hollande was forced to react publicly on Friday to allegations that he was having an affair with an actress.” – Financial Times
  • “François Hollande’s personal life could be private if he weren’t President of France” – Times editorial (£)

John Harris on what the party leaders can learn from Farage

“Real people, by contrast, care more about their jobs, where they live, and the fuzzy stuff of security, happiness and a sense of belonging. Politicians affect to understand, but mostly don’t. Particularly on the left, to borrow a line from Drew Westen’s book The Political Brain, too many people “thrive on policy debates, arguments, statistics, and getting the facts right”. A shared fixation with growth figures and national competitiveness is of a piece: more human considerations must be set to one side, lest we fall even further behind the Chinese.” – John Harris, The Guardian

Mark Wallace: “First tobacco, now sugar – next they’ll be regulating our trousers”

“A few years ago, libertarians who warned that the advocates of punitive taxes and restrictions on smokers would only move on to bully others were dismissed as alarmists. And yet here we are, with another campaign aiming to extend taxation and regulation into another part of our lives – this time explicitly opposing free choice, rather than making a case about reducing passive harm.” – Mark Wallace, Comment is Free

  • “World hunger has dropped greatly – but what do we do about the planet’s expanding waistline?” – Ian Birrell, The Independent
  • “We are too sweet on sugar to give it up easily” – Janice Turner, The Times (£)

The world’s most admired people? Bill Gates, the Pope and, er, Putin

“In only two countries of the 13 surveyed did no local politician make it into the top ten — Australia and the UK. The omission was most striking in Britain where Nigel Farage, the top politician, was in 16th place. David Cameron received the ‘most admired’ accolade from only two people in a thousand. In Germany, Angela Merkel scored 65 times higher at 13 per cent, second only to the Pope. Vladimir Putin topped the Russian poll with a whopping 24 per cent…” – Stephan Shakespeare, The Times (£)

News in brief

  • Woman who took her own life over bedroom tax would have been exempt – The Guardian
  • Stop using “flowery language” to describe works of art, Arts Council chief tells experts – Daily Telegraph
  • 3.2 million think there is “no point” saving for old age as it will be swallowed by care bills – Daily Telegraph
  • “Neutral” charity gives Liberal Democrat MP £36,000 – Daily Telegraph

And finally 1) NICE for some

Champagne“Officials at NICE – which has been criticised for restricting life-saving treatments on the grounds of cost – racked up £115,000 on taxpayer-funded credit cards in the past two and a half years, including £5,000 on luxury hotels. … Other splurges include £3,800 on camcorders, £620 on furniture and  gardenware and £3,346 at Searcy’s, a chain of champagne bars in London.” – Daily Mail

And finally 2) Come fly with Mili

“Ed Miliband was slammed last night for accepting free first class upgrades on British Airways flights worth up to nearly £6,000. … The Labour leader and his wife Justine enjoyed the perk when they visited South Africa last month for Nelson Mandela’s memorial service. … Tory MP Charlie Elphicke last night blasted Miliband for portraying himself as a man of the people.” – The Sun (£)

And finally 3) It’s not just spending that’s being cut

“Nick Clegg proudly told listeners to his LBC radio show that his sets him back £20, prompting Commons Leader Andrew Lansley to reveal his own cost (£15), and Labour’s shadow Work & Pensions minister Chris Bryant to tweet about his £13 trim. … The bizarre race to the bottom was sparked by reports that Mr Cameron’s haircut costs £90, a figure that surfaced after his stylist, Lino Carbosiero was made an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list.” – The Independent