Cabinet concern at Osborne’s £12 billion of extra welfare cuts

Scissors“George Osborne is facing a battle with the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, over his plan to impose an extra £12bn in welfare cuts after the next general election. … Conservative sources said Osborne’s intervention – a proposal that also prompted Nick Clegg to publicly warn that the chancellor is in danger of making a ‘monumental mistake’ – had highlighted stark differences of approach between the chancellor and Duncan Smith over how to reform Britain’s social security system.” – The Guardian

“George Osborne’s promise on Monday to cut the welfare bill by £12 billion triggered a furious Coalition row with Nick Clegg, who accused the Conservatives of attempting to ‘remorselessly pare back the state’ for ideological reasons.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “Well-off council house tenants are to be targeted in the next round of welfare cuts, as official figures show that up to 100,000 have household incomes in excess of £40,000.” – Daily Mail
  • “Householders face higher charges for parking, rubbish collection and pest control following the Chancellor’s decision to cut a further £13 billion from Whitehall spending.” – The Times (£)

And comment:

  • “Since the UK still borrows more than £100bn a year, continuing to reduce the deficit is a sensible direction of travel. A budget surplus would help to cut Britain’s large national debt, allowing the government to spend less on interest payments. However, it would be wrong to fetishise this target if the economy disappointed.” – Financial Times editorial
  • “The difference in treatment across the age divide has become extraordinary.” – Guardian editorial
  • “The Government is right to seek more cuts — but it is unfair to load the burden on to the young” – Times editorial (£)
  • “George Osborne’s pledge to cut the welfare bill by £12 billion may well help his party regain power at the next election. But it will also ensure that the first years of a new Conservative government will be far from peaceful” – James Kirkup, Daily Telegraph
  • “Cuts on the scale the chancellor is suggesting would be extreme – and they are not necessary” – Paul Johnson, The Guardian
  • “The problem is that we have come to regard the baby-boomer experience as somehow the natural way of things, a kind of British birthright that must be passed on to the next generation as a matter of ‘fairness’. … But that lifestyle was actually a historical aberration, the product of almost miraculously benign circumstances that are not going to repeat themselves.” – Janan Ganesh, Financial Times
  • “The next election may be a year away, but Osborne is on the campaign trail. It’s a risky strategy” – Steve Richards, The Independent

> Yesterday:

The Chancellor’s green levy cuts aren’t being passed on to consumers

“Five weeks ago, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor announced a change to green levies which they claimed would save bill payers £50. … However, only two of the ‘big six’ energy companies, British Gas and SSE, have said they will pass on the full reduction to all their customers.” – Daily Mail

Immigration 1) Poland’s foreign minister takes on Cameron

CAMERON EU fence“Poland’s foreign minister has lambasted David Cameron for saying European migrants should be banned from sending their child benefits back home. … Radoslaw Sikorski accused the Prime Minister of ‘stigmatising’ Poles by singling out the nation’s migrant workers in comments about his proposals to reform EU welfare rules.” – Daily Mail

  • “The taxpayer has spent £20million in four years on translators for foreigners on benefits, it emerged today.” – Daily Mail
  • “Ministers were panned for the shambles at Britain’s borders after it emerged asylum seekers and immigrants got £50million of legal aid last year.” – The Sun (£)

Immigration 2) Three-quarters of people want to see a cut in immigration

“A British Social Attitudes survey found that 56per cent of the population believe the number of migrants allowed into Britain should be cut by ‘a lot’, and a further 21 per cent feel it should be reduced ‘a little’. … However, fewer people now than in 2011 think immigration is bad for the economy – 47per cent in 2013 compared with 52per cent two years previously, the findings from NatCen Social Research have found.” – Daily Mail

  • “Pragmatic public wants immigration mended, not ended” – Sunder Katwala, The Independent
  • “If Britain wants to debate immigration, the Rivers of Blood speech is emphatically not the place to start” – Hugo Rifkind, The Times (£)
  • “Welfare payments to the parents of non-resident children fly in the face of logic” – Daily Telegraph editorial

Immigration 3) Cable doesn’t think the Tories will achieve the cut they aspire to

“David Cameron will fail to cut net migration to below 100,000 by the next election, Vince Cable has declared. … The Lib Dem Business Secretary said the target was ‘impractical’ and the Prime Minister ‘almost certainly won’t achieve’ it by 2015. … His intervention could spark a new round of Coalition bloodletting – and comes only weeks after he accused Mr Cameron of behaving like Enoch Powell.” – Daily Mail

Cameron and Boris rally to Gove’s side in his battle over the causes of the First World War…

GOVE, Michael blue sky“David Cameron and Boris Johnson rode to Michael Gove’s defence over his call to banish the ‘left-wing myths’ of the First World War depicted on shows like Blackadder. … Downing Street said the Education Secretary was right to blame German militarism for the outbreak of the war, while the London Mayor joined him in condemning the Left.” – Daily Mail

  • “Surely Baldrick’s answer, when asked by General Melchett if he was looking forward to the ‘big push’, sums up perfectly the mindset of the average soldier: ‘No, sir. I’m absolutely terrified.'” – Guardian editorial
  • “Michael Gove’s silliness reached a new peak in his comments on the First World War” – Steve Richards, The Independent
  • “Pupils know the difference between comedy and facts” – Alice Thomson, The Times (£)

…although other Tories aren’t quite so supportive

“The Education Secretary’s colleagues believe that Mr Gove’s spat with Labour is marring plans to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the war. … Mr Gove should ‘get back in his box’ and stay out of the debate over the war, a senior Conservative has said.” – Daily Telegraph

Paterson wants us to buy and cook British

“Families should buy British to cut down on food imports, the Environment Secretary will say today. … Owen Paterson believes a quarter of the food we now import should be produced domestically instead. … ‘We can’t grow mangoes or pineapples, but we can encourage UK consumers and businesses to buy Scottish raspberries or Kent apples,’ Mr Paterson will tell the Oxford Farming Conference.” – Daily Mail

  • “The Environment Secretary admitted on Monday that the response to warnings of the recent severe storms was ‘very patchy’ as the latest gales and downpours brought fresh flooding and travel chaos.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “‘Massive’ and ongoing cuts to the budget of the department of enviroment, food and rural affairs mean its ability to respond to emergencies such as flooding is in danger, according to a report by MPs published on Tuesday.” – The Guardian

> Yesterday: WATCH – Owen Paterson visits a flood relief scheme

Rachel Sylvester: Minimum wage rise could be a Tory winner

Rachel Sylvester“As Parliament returns this week after the Christmas break, the Prime Minister is being urged to find an eye-catching policy with ‘shock value’ — what Andrew Cooper, his former director of strategy, calls a ‘10,000 volt initiative’ — to reinvigorate the Conservative message. And the proposal winning support in an interestingly wide cross-section of the party is an above-inflation increase in the national minimum wage.” – Rachel Sylvester, The Times (£)

Benedict Brogan: Cameron’s plan for 2014 is to prove he’s a man of his word

“Few things are certain in politics, but we can be confident, I believe, that the Prime Minister will stick with those pledges that are identified with him personally. Benefits for pensioners is one, and the protection of the health and international development budgets another (a study of the archive may turn up a few more – I suspect, for example, that he feels he has made a personal commitment to blocking any kind of punitive taxes on property).” – Benedict Brogan, Daily Telegraph

Clegg wants to raise the income tax threshold further – and scrap the marriage tax break

CURSE OF CLEGG one“Tens of millions of workers could be handed an annual tax cut of £140 if the Conservatives abandon ‘pet project’ tax breaks for married couples and employee shareholders Nick Clegg has said. … The deputy Prime Minister is pressing George Osborne to increase the threshold at which people begin to pay income tax to £10,500 in his Budget on March 19, but said this could be raised even further, to £10,700, if the Conservatives were prepared to abandon other taxes.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “Nick Clegg has warned David Cameron not to use the rise of UKIP as an excuse to stop the televised leaders’ debates from taking place.” – The Times (£)
  • “Millions of hard-pressed families would miss out on the majority of any tax cuts promised at the next election, according to research that suggests that party leaders are likely unintentionally to mislead voters in 2015.” – The Times (£)

Defence committee: Cash concerns mustn’t rule over the military

“Britain’s influence in the world could be crippled if the armed forces are cut any further, MPs warn. … The powerful Commons defence committee insists the shape and size of the Army, Royal Navy and RAF must not be decided by cash concerns. … The siren warning comes as officials begin to prepare for the next defence review in 18 months time.” – The Sun (£)

An environmental speed limit on the M1

“The motorway speed limit in some areas will be cut to 60mph under government plans to limit air pollution near homes and schools. … The Highways Agency on Monday announced that it is planning to reduce the limit on a 32-mile stretch of the M1, amid fears that pollution levels are damaging the health of nearby residents. The proposals are part of an attempt to meet European Union targets for clean air.” – Daily Telegraph

Simon Hoggart, RIP

Simon Hoggart“Others in its history may have left more of a lasting mark on events, shifting the minds of statesmen, or promoting great national and international causes. But few in nearly two centuries of the Manchester Guardian and Guardian can have afforded more consistent pleasure to readers than Simon Hoggart, the paper’s parliamentary sketchwriter, who has died aged 67, after suffering from cancer.” – The Guardian

  • Simon Hoggart’s last Parliamentary sketch – The Guardian
  • The wit and wisdom of Hoggart – The Guardian
  • “The Guardian’s political correctness often drove him nuts. You should have heard what he said about the paper’s citrus-sucking sub-editorial sisterhood.” – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

> Today: ToryDiary – In praise of Simon Hoggart, a Leftie who understood Tories

News in brief

  • NHS Direct helpline faces £26 million deficit; hundreds could lose their jobs – Daily Mail
  • Trains to be banned from dumping sewage on the tracks – Daily Mail
  • Angela Merkel fractures her pelvis on a skiing holiday – The Sun (£)
  • Sturgeon appeals to Labour voters over Scottish independence – The Scotsman
  • Thousands of sick days are taken by NHS staff because of stress and anxiety – WalesOnline
  • “Is there a case for the legal system to turn to European-style justice?” – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph

And finally 1) The last portrait of Margaret Thatcher?

THATCHER resolute“Captured in its bold brush strokes are both Lady Thatcher’s steely strength of character and the vulnerability of a woman in the closing years of her life. … The portrait was painted in 2007 by Lorna May Wadsworth, a Left-wing artist who came to adore her subject. … Thought to be the last painted depiction from the life of Britain’s greatest modern peace-time prime minister, it has been kept hidden away until now.” – Daily Mail

And finally 2) Cameron, caught red-faced

“With his hands on his head and his cheeks puffed out, Prime Minister David Cameron took to the streets of Westminster for a jog, as his deputy Nick Clegg gave a press conference. … Instead of listening to what his coalition partner had to say, Mr Cameron set out on his morning run, returning rosy-cheeked and dressed in trainers, black shorts and a black polo shirt.” – Daily Mail

  • “…critics have questioned why Lino Carbosiero, the hairdresser responsible for the Prime Minister’s side parting, has been given an MBE.” – Daily Mail

And finally 3) Clegg’s paperwork travels in style

“Taxpayers have funded hundreds of car journeys just to carry ministerial paperwork. … And among the worst offenders when it comes to using ‘empty’ cars  is Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. … The figures showed that Mr Clegg had summoned a car containing his red box and ministerial papers 52 times in one year – once a week.” – Daily Mail