Osborne “refuses to back inflation busting minimum wage rise plan”…

OSBORNE Blackberry“A cross-section of the governing party is pressing the chancellor and Downing Street to commit to a big rise in the minimum wage ahead of the 2015 election to debunk a perception that the Tories are the party of the rich. But the chancellor has so far refused to back the plan, fearing it could destabilise the labour market and damage the coalition’s record on job creation.  “I think David Cameron would like to do it but he is cautious and I think he would defer to the chancellor on it,” said one person involved in Downing Street’s policy unit.” – Financial Times

…But Halfon and Renewal’s David Skelton are keen on a rise.  Matthew Hancock has already forced through a bigger rise for apprentices…

“Many Tories now see the party’s opposition to the minimum wage’s introduction by Labour premier Tony Blair in 1999 as one of its biggest mistakes. Tory MP Rob Halfon, who has campaigned for a minimum wage boost, said: “We should be the workers party. If we support hard working people we should support fair wages for them too. “The minimum wage is still very low, and I’m pleased No10 are listening to our appeals.” Tory business minister Matt Hancock has already over-ruled the Low Pay Commission to force through a bigger hike to the minimum wage for apprentices.” – The Sun

…And guess who wants to bag any credit?

CABLE Dr Evil“The Liberal Democrats on Tuesday accused the Tories of “nicking” their ideas after Iain Duncan Smith joined forces with supporters of George Osborne to press for a noticeable increase in the national minimum wage. Vince Cable said he hopes the low pay commission will introduce “significant rises” to the minimum wage as Lib Dem sources described the Conservatives as “latching” on to their fairness agenda.” – The Guardian

 40 per cent of Brits expect the economy to improve this year as optimism hits a record high

“In a major boost for Chancellor George Osborne more than 40 per cent of voters expect the UK economy to improve this year, up 12 points in a year. A new survey shows 36 per cent also think the economy improved in the last three months, the highest figure since the question was first asked in October 2010. After years of flatlining since the 2007 crash, Britain’s economy started firing on all cylinders last year with the Office for Budget Responsibility expecting growth of 1.4 per cent in 2013.” – Daily Mail

  • UK car production will surpass record 1970s level by 2017 – The Guardian
  • Eurozone periphery borrowing costs fall – Financial Times
  • “The Conservative MP Richard Graham is right to warn that the annuities system could turn into the next big scandal for the financial services industry.” – Daily Express Editorial

> Today: The Deep End – Industrial policy is back, but watch out for the bad ideas that come with it

Electoral Commission report calls for voters to show proof of ID. It names Blackburn, Bradford, Tower Hamlets, Oldham, Peterborough and Birmingham

ballot_box“The Electoral Commission has called for a tightening of the rules in an attempt to end ballot-rigging and restore trust to the political system after reports of fraud in recent years.  The group asked for legislation to be in place by 2019 at the latest requiring voters in England, Scotland and Wales to produce proof of identity before they were issued with a ballot paper, bringing them in line with Northern Ireland. But Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, has vowed to resist the introduction of voter registration cards, saying the measure would be an illiberal intrusion into citizens’ lives.” – Financial Times

 “Rift” between the DWP and Cabinet Office over Universal Credit

“Friction between Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Cabinet Office overseen by Francis Maude is now causing “high-level” risks to the delivery of the project, according to minutes of a Whitehall meeting. Maude’s department, minutes of the government’s universal credit board confirm, has also accelerated the pullout of its elite team of IT experts from the project after what sources describe as serious tensions over the progress of the £2.4bn overhaul.” – The Guardian

> Today:

Once again, Owen Paterson rides to the defence of GM foods

PATERSON OWEN NW“The Environment Secretary accused those opposed to the development of GM foods as being ‘politically-motivated’ and said blocking the technology risked making the UK a ‘museum of farming’. Critics say that tampering with the genes in crops to create ‘Frankenstein foods’ could damage natural ecosystems or even affect human health.” – Daily Mail

  • Outgoing NFU President says Government mustn’t underestimate the risks that climate change poses to farmers – The Times (£)

Greening accused of political expediency over decision to end aid to India and South Africa

“The UK’s decision to end bilateral aid to India and South Africa by 2015 was “neither methodical nor transparent, but related to short-term political pressures”, a group of MPs has said. Justine Greening, the international development secretary, announced in November 2012 that Britain would end direct aid to India in 2015. Six months later, she said Britain’s development programme in South Africa would also come to an end in 2015, a decision that drew a rebuke from the South African government.” – The Guardian

Prime Minister’s hairdresser (MBE): Cameron is not going bald

Screen shot 2014-01-08 at 08.10.39“He is the man responsible for switching Cameron’s parting from the right to the left and also, say the mischievous, for skilfully disguising a suspected bald patch growing like a lily pad on the back of Cameron’s head…Lino begs to differ. ‘What rubbish! Mr Cameron is not going bald. Look, if I did this to your hair,’ he says, gently pulling it in both directions to  expose a ravine of scalp, ‘you would look bald, too.” – Daily Mail

  • Sensation as Cameron carries doll as he helps daughter Florence to school – Daily Mail
  • “Some might argue that successfully (almost) disguising the growing pinkish bald spot atop the head of Britain’s Prime Minister is contributing a service to us all worth honouring, never mind merely to hairdressing.” – Times Editorial (£)
  • Ffion Hague to chart ‘gay’ 18th century affair of poet Thomas Gray and Walpole’s son – Daily Mail

Boris says that we can stop child benefit being paid to migrant workers

“The Mayor of London said the UK had become a magnet for those from countries with ‘much, much less generous welfare systems’. He insisted there was ‘no reason at all’ why the UK could not stop paying child benefit to migrant workers, a move Downing Street insists would require an EU treaty change. Speaking on LBC radio, Mr Johnson said Britain was open to ‘talented, hard-working people’ but accused Labour of losing a grip on immigration when it was in power.” – Daily Mail

  • Conservative MP Earl Attlee says that Romanians and Bulgarians will pay more tax than natives – Daily Telegraph
  • I would rather Britain had fewer immigrants, even if it makes us poorer, says Farage – Daily Mail
  • UKIP leader wants five year ban on migrants – The Guardian

Sadiq Khan discovers that half of sex attackers, violent criminals and burglars avoid jail

KHAN Sadiq “Just 53 per cent of convicted paedophiles who abused children under the age of 13 were jailed in 2012, while half of drug dealers also escaped jail. Overall, just one in four criminals were sent to prison when lesser sentences were taken into account…Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary who obtained the statistics in a parliamentary answer, said that government cuts are undermining the justice system. He said: “Some of these crimes are so serious and violent that members of the public rightly expect them to lead to a prison sentence.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Labour messed up on gambling, says Tom Watson – Daily Mail
  • Jack Straw leads delegation of British politicians to Tehran, including Lord Lamont – Financial Times
  • Labour MP  Simon Danczuk says that Miliband’s One Nation mantra ‘turns off voters’ – Daily Mail

Daniel Finkelstein’s solution to the Government’s NHS problems: Keep the ring-fencing – but fund the service from a new health tax

“So here’s what I think David Cameron and George Osborne should do. They should renew their offer to ring-fence NHS spending in the next Parliament, but they should announce that it will be financed by a separate NHS tax. And they should pledge to keep that tax constant throughout the Parliament. A separate tax would make the costs of the NHS immediately obvious. It wouldn’t be possible for the proportion of national income devoted to healthcare simply to drift upwards, without anyone realising. As the proportion rose, it would require a tax rise directly caused by it, which would force a debate about whether the increase was something we really wanted to pay for.” – The Times (£)

> Yesterday:

John Rentoul: If cannabis is legal, more teenagers will smoke it – and that can’t be good

RENTOUL as Bowie“Legalisers sometimes say that it is jolly confusing that cannabis is illegal in theory but that the police tend to concentrate on more important things in practice. It’s a compromise. It is so sensible that it is the most common legal position all over the world: illegal but not stringently enforced for small amounts. It is intellectually unsatisfactory, but it is winning. The people who want to change it have to make a better case.” – The Independent

News in Brief

  • Sarah Vine (a.k.a Mrs Gove) says that “Prime Minister’s Questions looks like some battlefield from Lord Of The Rings”…All presided over by a small creature who looks remarkably like Gollum.” – Daily Mail

  • Men are told to wait before prostate treatment – The Times (£)
  • SNP childcare pledge – Scotsman
  • Government ‘buried’ release of key evidence on minimum alcohol price before policy U-turn – The Independent
  • Stop buying new appliances and cars and repair them instead, Government adviser says – Daily Telegraph
  • Facebook buys into India start-up scheme – Financial Times
  • Black Hawk crashes in Norfolk: four Americans dead – The Sun
  • Former Miss Venezuala shot dead – The Guardian
  • Snow is on the way – Daily Express

And finally: Robert Boscawen, the last holder of the Military Cross to sit in the Commons, has died

Screen shot 2014-01-08 at 08.16.28“Having already had three tanks “shot out from under him”, he was severely injured in a bloody tank battle and left permanently disfigured by burns…attempting to capture a bridge over a canal near Enschede “I found myself looking down the barrels of four [105mm heavy flak] guns beside the bridge, the place seething with Germans… I saw the shots flying up at me. There was a whoof and the turret was engulfed from below in a whirlwind of flame. I eventually broke free from the flames and stumbled back for some 200 yards to safety. The rest were either trapped or shot down.” His troop had set out after D-Day with 19 men. With casualties duly replaced, 13 of its men were killed and nine wounded before V-E Day.” – Daily Telegraph Obituary