Salmond says stopping Scotland from keeping the pound would damage the UK…

scotsmansalmond“Alex Salmond has described Westminster claims that an independent Scotland could not share sterling and other UK-wide assets as “insulting” and “demeaning”. The First Minister claimed unionist attacks on plans for a currency union and future European Union membership had backfired. Scots were “sick and tired” of interventions by Westminster politicians, he said, insisting that an independent nation would have the same right to use the pound and be part of the EU as the UK does.” – The Scotsman

  • “Blocking an independent Scotland’s ability to share the pound could damage business in the rest of the UK, First Minister Alex Salmond has said. Mr Salmond said the UK Treasury could impose “hundreds of millions of pounds” in costs on firms if plans for a post-Yes currency union were rejected.” – BBC
  • “Responding, the Prime Minister said: “The point is that Alex Salmond is now a man without a plan. He told us that he wanted to have a currency union and that now looks under threat. He told us that he wanted Scotland as part of the European Union. That is under threat. He is making, I think, quite an empty and rather angry speech, but he hasn’t got a plan and I think people will see that he hasn’t got a plan.” Better Together campaign leader Alistair Darling repeated calls for Mr Salmond to come up with a plan B.” – The Herald
  • “It is Mr Salmond who wants to leave the UK. But he wants to make taxpayers left in the UK underwrite his banks and economy. And if we say no? Scotland will default on its debt. Remind me, who’s the bully?” – John McTernan The Times (£)
  • Billy Connolly to abstain – BBC

>Yesterday: MPsETC: Scotland’s first ever open primary selects John Lamont MSP to fight Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

…as Brown joins the fray with the message Keep Pensions British

“Gordon Brown will make a rare appearance on the front line of campaigning in the independence referendum today, claiming that six out of ten Scots want state pensions to continue to be paid from UK taxes. The former Prime Minister and two fellow Scottish Labour MPs will unveil a new campaign highlighting the importance of pensions to the independence debate. The Scottish government has already suggested that independence could mean a reduction in the state pension age north of the Border.” – The Times (£)

Plan to make young priority for lifesaving drugs

maildrugs“Patients who have had a ‘fair innings’ could be denied life-saving drugs under  proposed health reforms. The plans would mean experts taking into account whether there  is a ‘wider societal benefit’ to giving a patient crucial medicines. The NHS rationing body, Nice, fears the Department of Health proposals could see younger people deemed a higher priority for drug treatments because they have more years ahead of them – potentially contributing more to the economy – than the elderly.” – Daily Mail

  • Proposal is barbaric – Melissa Kite Daily Mail

Tories “failing to woo Asian voters”

“Ethnic minority voters believe that Conservatives are racist, one of the party’s parliamentary candidates has warned. Afzal Amin, who is the Tory hopeful in the target seat of Dudley North, said that the party’s strategy to woo black and Asian voters was failing. A Home Office campaign telling illegal migrants to “go home or face arrest” had been a “disaster”, he said, and voters saw a Muslim candidate like him as an aberration.” – The Times (£)

>Today: ToryDiary: What are we doing to win the 2030 General Election?

Downing Street to hold floods clear up summit…

“Downing Street is to hold a floods clear-up summit with insurance industry leaders on Tuesday amid signs that thousands of wealthy victims of rising waters in the Thames Valley and West Country are likely to face a £1,000 increase in their annual insurance premiums next year. The figures come from ministers’ cost assessment of the likely rise in premiums for homeowners paying the highest level of council tax in high-risk flood areas, all of whom will be excluded from the government’s new flood insurance scheme.” – The Guardian

…after storm hit constituencies include many Conservative and Lib Dem marginals

“David Cameron and Nick Clegg face serious electoral consequences if they are perceived to have mishandled the floods, according to an analysis of the constituencies that have suffered most from the freak weather….Perceptions that the 2001 Labour Government’s response to the foot-and-mouth outbreak was flat-footed, shortly before the general election, prompted unusually large swings to the Conservative Party in the worst-hit seats, say academic studies of that election.” – The Times (£)


Even poor Chinese pupils beat wealthy British ones

“British schoolchildren are lagging so far behind their peers in the Far East that even pupils from wealthy backgrounds are now performing worse in exams than the poorest students in China, an international study shows. The children of factory workers and cleaners in parts of the Far East are more than a year ahead of the offspring of British doctors and lawyers, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “A Minister is to visit Shanghai to find out why their kids are so much better at maths than those in the UK. Liz Truss will lead a delegation of experts on the fact-finding mission. Shanghai’s 15-year-olds came top in an international league table of maths performance in 2012. By contrast, pupils in England came a lowly 26th.” – The Sun (£)

Miliband calls for restriction on marketing properties overseas

“A future Labour government would ban developers of London housing from marketing new properties overseas until local people have had a chance to buy or rent, Ed Miliband has vowed. Mr Miliband said it was “scandalous” that entire blocks of new homes in sought-after areas were standing empty amid a “chronic” housing shortage.” – BBC

  • “Labour yesterday outlined controversial plans to create four new towns to plug the housing shortage in southern England. Ed Miliband, who has promised to build 200,000 new homes a year if his party wins the next election, made clear that new towns and garden cities were key to the plans. But he also attacked ‘home-blocking’ local authorities who refuse permission for new houses, promising to take action to force them to accept some new developments.” – Daily Mail

Labour “pouring resources” into Sheffield Hallam to try to unseat Clegg…

Clegg in PMQs“Labour has drawn up plans to ‘decapitate’ the Liberal Democrats by ousting Nick Clegg from Parliament at the next election. Ed Miliband yesterday issued a humiliating public rebuff to the Lib Dem leader after he hinted he would like to form a coalition with Labour after the next election. And a source on Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee told the Daily Mail the party was now ‘pouring resources’ into Mr Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam constituency in a bid to get him booted out by the voters next year.” – Daily Mail

  • “One Labour source said beating Mr Clegg would be a “Portillo moment” – a reference to when Tory Cabinet minister Michael Portillo unexpectedly lost his seat in the 1997 Labour landslide. The source said: “We are going to go after Clegg hard. We are already pouring resources in because although he’s got a big majority it is very soft. A lot of them are students and there is a huge amount of anger locally about the Coalition’s cuts.” – The Sun (£)

…as Lib Dems “stress test” their manifesto for coalition compatibility

“The Liberal Democrats are abandoning manifesto policies that would be opposed by both Labour and the Tories as they try to advertise their wares for a future coalition. Experts warned that Nick Clegg could end up presiding over a party “without a clear identity” as a senior Lib Dem aide said that the aim was to be “equidistant” from its two main rivals…David Laws, the Schools Minister who is drawing up the next Lib Dem manifesto, is doing his best to keep the prospect of a coalition alive by “stress-testing” the party’s policies to ensure that they fit with either Labour or the Conservatives and do not provoke the same debacle seen over tuition fees.” – The Times (£)

>Yesterday: LeftWatch: Today on the Jeremy Kyle Show “My coalition partner’s thinking of cheating on me…with my worst enemy!”

Maria Miller could make million pound profit on second home

MILLER Maria white Marr“The Cabinet minister at the centre of an expenses row about her property could be sitting on a £1million profit on its value, it has emerged. Maria Miller, the culture secretary, is being investigated for claiming £90,000 in taxpayer-funded allowances for a home where her parents also lived.” – Daily Mail

Bercow calls for an end to “orchestrated barracking”

“John Bercow has written to the leaders of the three main parties at Westminster to call for an end to “orchestrated barracking” at prime minister’s questions. The commons speaker, who complained about “yobbery and public school twittishness”, said he had decided to act after hearing from MPs that party whips have orchestrated a “wall of noise.” – The Guardian

  • “His private letter to the three main party leaders asks specifically for their comments on a recent Hansard Society report showing widespread public discontent at the weekly half-hour clashes and it seeks to open a public debate on whether PMQs can be reformed. The report, based on focus-group findings, says that 67 per cent of respondents felt “there is too much party political point scoring instead of answering the question” and only 12 per cent agreed that “PMQs makes me proud of Parliament”.” – The Independent
  • Interview with John Bercow – The Independent

Stop blaming immigration says EU Commissioner

Border“UK politicians should stop blaming immigration for the country’s difficulties, the EU justice commissioner has suggested. Instead, they should “work on the quality of education and welfare”, Viviane Reding said. In a speech at the University of Cambridge, she renewed her criticism of the “distorted” debate about the UK’s future in the European Union.” – BBC

Almost a third of councils plan Council Tax rises

“Dozens of Conservative councils will defy pleas from ministers and impose council tax rises on their residents in April, research reveals today. Across England almost a third of councils are planning to increase charges, many to the maximum level allowed without triggering a local referendum, despite a demand from Conservative ministers’ that they cut or freeze bills. Many of those councils who say they can no longer balance the books without increasing charges are Tory controlled – including local authorities covering the constituencies of David Cameron, William Hague and Michael Gove.” – The Independent

Conservative MP George Freeman welcomes NHS data sharing revolution

FREEMAN George smile“From the invention of the railways to the launch of the internet, the future has always seemed a threat to the present. But the simple question remains: who wants to live better for longer? With the proper precautions in place, this data revolution is a force for good. We should embrace it.” – George Freeman Daily Telegraph

Benefits Street: Residents hit back

” ‘White Dee’ has accused Channel 4 of an unfair portrayal of the residents of controversial documentary Benefits Street in a fiery televised debate. MPs, journalists from both ends of the political spectrum, residents of Birmingham and producers behind the wildly popular documentary gathered for an hour-long show called Benefits Britain: The Live Debate on Channel 4.” – Daily Mail

Guardian laments Co-op plan to ditch political activity

“It appears as if a secondary objective of the survey is to prepare the ground for the Co-op Group – made up of the bank, the stores and other businesses such as pharmacies and farms – to abandon the historic link with the Co-operative party, the embodiment of the commitment to a different way of organising the economy….in 1927 it formed an alliance with Labour and there are still 32 MPs under its banner, including the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls.The annual donation the party gets from the Co-op Group, last year worth £800,000, keeps it afloat. In turn the party keeps afloat in the political world the values of co-operation in ever growing forms of enterprise.” – Leader The Guardian

Use of police cells for mentally ill to be halved

Police helmet“The number of times police cells are used as a place of safety for people having a mental health crisis is intended to be halved under a far-reaching agreement between police, mental health trusts and paramedics.” – The Guardian

News in brief

  • Labour lead at seven – YouGov
  • Labour lead at five – Populus
  • 30 headteachers are earning more than the Prime Minister – Daily Mail
  • Tougher lobbying rules for peers – BBC
  • Anti alcohol lobby demand higher tax – The Guardian
  • Labour urge review of stop and search – The Sun(£)
  • Retailers call for new system of Business Rates – The Guardian

And finally…a grey man back in No 10

“When he entered office in May 2010 as the youngest prime minister in nearly 200 years, he had a mop of healthy-looking dark brown hair. Now the flooding crisis, rows within his party and the burden of steering the world’s sixth-largest economy seem to have taken their toll. David Cameron’s hair has greyed behind his ears and above his neck.” – Daily Telegraph

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