Ukraine plunged into violence…

Timeskiev“Europe lurched towards its first civil war this century last night after police snipers killed scores of protesters in central Kiev in a sharp escalation of the violence threatening to split Ukraine. In three hours, more than 60 demonstrators were shot dead and hundreds wounded by volleys of rooftop fire, doctors sympathetic to the protests claimed. It was the largest violent loss of life in a single day on European soil since the Madrid train bombings in 2004.” – The Times(£)

…EU imposes sanctions

“The EU has agreed to impose sanctions on Ukrainian officials “responsible for violence and excessive force” after the bloodiest day of clashes in Kiev. In a statement, EU foreign ministers said targeted sanctions including asset freezes and visa bans would be introduced “as a matter of urgency”.” – BBC

  • “Faced with being unable to chart a sane national course in any direction, and having a ruling establishment that can’t deliver stable, sensible economic policies, the Ukrainian regions may feel they have no choice but to start to pull apart and edge the country towards full disintegration. That would be a really dangerous development for European security.” – Charles Crawford Daily Telegraph

Met Office forecast a dry winter – especially in the west country…

mailmet“The Met Office’s ‘pitiful’ forecasts were under fire last night after it was revealed it told councils in November to expect ‘drier than usual’ conditions this winter. In the worst weather prediction since Michael Fish reassured the nation in October 1987 that there was no hurricane on the way, forecasters said the Somerset Levels – still under water after more than two months of flooding – and the rest of the West Country would be especially dry. Last night, it was confirmed the UK had instead suffered the wettest winter since records began.” – Daily Mail

  • £40 for flood victims to rebuild their lives – The Times(£)

Critics of NHS database “scaremongering”

“Opponents of the plan to share medical records on a giant database are “peddling scaremongering myths”, medical research organisations say. The warning by Patients4Data, an umbrella group for more than 70 bodies, comes after the launch of was delayed this week to the autumn. Patients4Data said the opponents were risking patients benefiting from a revolution in modern medicine.” – BBC

Clegg defends welfare reform after attack by bishops…

CLEGG Bird“Mr Clegg, speaking on his weekly phone-in show on LBC, hit back, saying the government had to deal with a “massive black hole in our public finances” and there was “nothing fair about simply saying we are not going to deal with our debts, we are going to let our children and our grandchildren do it”. He added: “You inevitably can’t duck the fact that some of those savings come from a quarter of total public spending [on welfare].” – BBC

  • Their claims, the reality – Daily Mail
  • “The Catholic Church especially, with its admirable reverence for family life, should also ask itself whether it should endorse a welfare state that still supports endemic single parenthood, incentivises fathers to desert their wives (or partners) and children, and allows younger people to leave someone else to care for their elderly relatives.” Simon Heffer Daily Mail
  • Clegg demands tougher rules on benefits for EU migrants – The Times(£)
  • Families turn to food banks as last resort – The Guardian

…while the Bishop of London’s aide says the attack was wrong

“An aide to the Bishop of London has broken ranks with church leaders to defend the Government’s welfare reforms and criticise the bishops who have joined forces to attack them. The Rev Stephen Heard, assistant priest at St Mark’s Church, Enfield, and parliamentary chaplain to Richard Chartres…said he had just returned from France, where there had been no comparable reforms: “Food bank use has risen there sharply over the last few years.” – The Times(£)

Clegg challenges Farage to Euro Elections debate

“Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, was today challenged by Nick Clegg to a live debate over Britain’s membership of the European Union. The Liberal Democrat leader called for the televised clash to take place ahead of the European Parliamentary elections in May. Several broadcasters are understood to have already expressed their interest in hosting the confrontation.” – The Independent

> Yesterday:ToryDiary: Clegg has challenged Farage. How Hague should challenge Clegg.

Get fracking to cut carbon emissions says Osborne

“The Chancellor called for the “right mix” of technology to limit the impact of climate change, adding that the Government was pushing ahead with a new generation of civil nuclear power stations which include a tie-up with China. He added: “Equally with shale gas, let’s see more development of fracking in the UK and the US, as that will help reduce carbon emissions.” Mr Osborne has offered tax breaks to encourage exploratory shale gas wells.” – The Times(£)

  • Balls challenges Osborne to run Marathon – The Sun(£)

Labour’s price freeze “risks blackout”

telegraphflood“The lights could go out in Britain in 2016 because Labour’s pledge to freeze energy prices is deterring investment in new power plants, Britain’s biggest energy supplier has warned. Rick Haythornthwaite, chairman of British Gas owner Centrica, said that the current “political debate” over energy – which has also seen the company come under attack from the government – was “immensely damaging not just for Centrica but for the nation”.” – Daily Telegraph

Hazel Blears to stand down

“Former government minister Hazel Blears, is to step down at the next general election. The 57-year-old Labour MP, who was elected in 1997, informed her Salford and Eccles constituency members at a meeting earlier. Ms Blears said she had taken the decision with a “heavy heart”.” – BBC

Demand for Harman to apologise over past defence for paedophile group

“A leading child abuse charity yesterday demanded that three senior Labour figures apologise for their ‘inexcusable’ support of a vile paedophile group. Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, her husband, home affairs spokesman Jack Dromey and former Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt were key figures in the National Council for Civil Liberties when it forged extraordinary links with the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange.” – Daily Mail

  • “I’m with the Mail on this. On the basis of the paper’s evidence, I think Harman, Dromey and Hewitt do need to address this matter seriously. It isn’t good enough to say the world was different then (as some have been suggesting in relation to the recent crop of historic sex abuse court cases) because there has never been a time when it has been all right to advocate sex with a child.” – Roy Greenslade The Guardian

Wales NHS bosses ignored warning email about death rates and waiting times

NHS“Health bosses have been accused of trying to cover up high death rates and alarming waiting times in the NHS in Wales. The medical director in England Professor Sir Bruce Keogh urged officials three months ago to launch a series of investigations into six hospitals after being alerted to the figures by a Welsh Labour MP. He also pointed out that waiting times in Wales were ‘persistently higher’ than in England, with up to 80 per cent of patients waiting more than six weeks for key diagnostic tests for diseases such as cancer.” – Daily Mail

  • “The NHS is under pressure to investigate a “Welsh Mid Staffs” scandal amid concerns that the health service has failed to tackle poor care. Relatives of patients who died in “harrowing” circumstances say there is a “sinister pattern” of neglect, which health chiefs have failed to take seriously. Senior medical figures in England suggest there is a “sense of complacency” in the Welsh NHS.” – The Times(£)

> Today:ToryDiary: The Tories will talk a lot about Wales in the election campaign

Increased support for Scottish independence

“The row over Scotland keeping the pound has led to a boost in support for Scottish independence, according to the latest polling evidence. The gap between the Yes and No camps is down to nine points, with the independence campaign on 38 points, while the pro-Union side is on 47 per cent, according to the poll by Survation. The narrowing gap is down from 20 points in a survey by the same pollster last month. It is the first survey of opinion since Chancellor George Osborne, along with Labour and the Liberal Democrats, warned that Scotland could not share sterling after a Yes vote in the referendum.” – The Scotsman

Dimblebly beats Edwards to present election night coverage

dimbleby“David Dimbleby will lead the BBC’s election night coverage in May next year, for the ninth time, after winning a power struggle with Huw Edwards. Edwards, the lead presenter of BBC One’s News at Ten, had been assured by Mark Thompson, the former Director-General, that he would take over as the main presenter for the next general election. The guarantee was in his contract, according to BBC sources. However, Dimbleby fought to retain the role for another election and is understood to have won the support of James Harding, the BBC’s new director of news. The BBC had to renegotiate Edwards’s contract.” – The Times(£)

Proposals for courts inside police stations

“Criminals would face on-the-spot justice from courts set up in police stations, under a plan to speed up prosecutions being proposed today. Offenders would be punished instantly by magistrates sitting in “police courts” at peak times, including evenings and Saturdays. Magistrates should also take charge of the 20 per cent of cases now dealt with out of court through fixed penalties and fines, according to a report from Policy Exchange, the right-of-centre think-tank, which suggests that police stations with larger custody suites would provide room for police courts.” – The Times(£)

Labour propose voter registration on election day

“Labour is looking at bringing in a US-style system of allowing voters to register on election day amid growing fears that millions of people are about to drop off the official register in a “disaster for democracy”. In a radical move, the party is considering allowing same-day registration, which is credited with boosting turn-out from around 59% to 71% in some American states, according to the Demos think-tank. Supporters of the system say it helps people who have simply forgotten to register, those who did not know they had to sign up and others who frequently move, such as students.” – The Guardian

Failing school turned round after head takes on union militants

“A SCHOOL has gone from failing to being one of the best in the country in just two years after a trailblazing headteacher went to war with union militants. At one point more than FIFTY teachers went on strike in protest at John Townsley’s attempts to drive up standards. But he still managed to dramatically improve pupils’ exam results and the school has now been ranked “outstanding” by watchdogs. Mr Townsley was appointed consultant head at Farnley Park Maths and Computing College in Leeds shortly before Ofsted classed it as “inadequate”.” – The Sun(£)

Heath: Liberalise the housing market to get the homes we need

Allister_Heath__Mail__bigger“Even during the “good” years for UK housing, planners ensured the “wrong” homes were built – too few family houses with gardens, too many tiny flats. The share of houses collapsed from over 80 per cent to just 50 per cent across the UK between 2001-02 and 2007-08; two-thirds of completions were houses last year but the proportion in and around London remains tiny. In any case, the “good” years were pretty pathetic: in 1934-5, when far fewer people lives in the UK and the industry was still deregulated, the private sector built 293,000 homes, mostly semis. That is the sort of housebuilding we should be seeing today. The government needs to stop boasting, and start liberalising.” – Allister Heath City AM

News in brief

  • Young lack interest in politics – BBC
  • Somerset Council boss quits – The Times(£)
  • RMT owns £18.6 million of shares – The Sun(£)
  • Women should try cheerleading, ballet and gymnastics says Sports Minister – The Guardian
  • Anti slavery squads at airports – The Sun(£)

And finally…Philip Hammond’s women trouble

“The Defence Secretary was rebuked by a Labour frontbencher last night after repeatedly confusing her with a female colleague. Philip Hammond mixed up the shadow health minister, Liz Kendall, with the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves during last night’s edition of BBC Question Time. Ms Kendall, who is the MP for for Leicester West, was forced to correct Mr Hammond, telling him: “I know we all look the same.” – The Times(£)


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