Stephen Lawrence 1) Hogan-Howe vows to restore trust in the police

Police helmet“The head of the Metropolitan Police has vowed to win back the public’s trust after a damning report found officers spied on the family of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence. … Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said the report, which has prompted an inquiry into undercover policing, was ‘devastating’. … He said a new independent probe into police records would be commissioned.” – BBC

  • “Is Sir Bernard the right man to fix corruption in force?” – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun (£)
  • “Hit with another judicial inquiry into its handling of the Stephen Lawrence case, Scotland Yard has lost its reputation as the country’s elite force” – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph
  • “…after the events of the past week, surely even Leveson’s most deluded cheerleaders might finally see just how naively misguided and dangerous it was for him to try to stop both whistleblowers and police speaking to the Press.” – Daily Mail editorial

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – It’s time to scale back stop and search

Stephen Lawrence 2) The first suspension

“The head of Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command yesterday became the first casualty of the damning new report into the Stephen Lawrence case. … Commander Richard Walton was ‘temporarily moved’ from his post as head of SO15 to a non-operational role following the Ellison review. … He was also referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which will assess whether it should launch a full inquiry into his conduct.” – Daily Mail

  • Stephen Lawrence“The Stephen Lawrence murder cop accused of corruption features in two more of Scotland Yard’s most notorious cases, The Sun can reveal today. … Davidson was nicknamed OJ — standing for Obnoxious Jock. He retired on health grounds and now lives in Menorca.” – The Sun (£)
  • “A relative of a ‘corrupt’ police officer at the heart of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry worked at Scotland Yard, it has emerged, prompting fresh questions about the force’s handling of the affair.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “A former detective facing investigation over alleged corruption in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry has boasted ‘They’ll never lay a finger on me’, it was claimed yesterday.” – Daily Mail

Stephen Lawrence 3) Compensation payouts could run into the £millions

“The taxpayer faces a compensation bill running into the tens of millions of pounds from miscarriages of justice linked to a secret undercover police unit. … Hundreds of animal rights activists, neo-Nazi groups, campaigners for black justice and other campaigners who, unknowingly, were spied on by the Special Demonstration Squad could have their convictions overturned.” – Daily Mail

Putin claims he doesn’t want another Cold War – but could cut off energy supplies

Russian flag“Vladimir Putin has mocked diplomatic efforts to end the Ukraine crisis as Russia threatened to disrupt European gas supplies by cutting off sales to Kiev over its unpaid debts. … The Russian president said through his official spokesman that, despite deep disagreements with the West, he did not want a confrontation over Ukraine to spiral into a ‘new cold war’.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “Russian troops attempted to storm a Ukrainian missile base in Sevastopol on Friday night but were thwarted when the defenders barricaded themselves inside.” – The Independent
  • “Ukraine defiantly sent just a single flag bearer to represent its team as Russian leader Vladimir Putin presided over the opening of the Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia, last night.” – Daily Mail
  • “Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Crimea was last night sensationally praised – by Syria’s tyrant President Bashar al-Assad.” – The Sun (£)

And comment:

  • “As the Ukraine debate rages, both sides are getting it wrong” – Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian
  • “The two-faced Germans are letting Putin wreak havoc” – Simon Heffer, Daily Mail
  • “The West is divided over sanctions because it needs Russian gas. The US must use its energy boom to break Putin’s hold” – Times editorial (£)

> Today: ToryDiary – We should aim to cool, not heat, the quarrel with Russia

Clegg hints at a compromise over Crimea

“Britain believes Crimea is in a different category to the rest of Ukraine and could be afforded special treatment if Vladimir Putin abandons his ‘KGB mentality’, according to Nick Clegg. … In an interview with the Guardian, the deputy prime minister acknowledged that Russia had a ‘very pronounced imprint’ on the peninsula, a sign of how Britain and the rest of the EU acknowledge that Moscow will play a central role in determining the constitutional future of Crimea.” – The Guardian

  • “A robust campaign to tell the truth about Crimea is needed to counter Moscow’s lies” – Anne Applebaum, Daily Telegraph

Cameron to host summit aimed at tackling FGM and forced marriage

CAMERON byline photo“David Cameron will play host to Britain’s first Girls’ Summit this summer to galvanise efforts to end female genital mutilation and forced marriage. … The Prime Minister will convene the meeting in July, which will focus on tackling the abuse and oppression of women that is embedded in certain cultures, at home and abroad.” – The Times (£)

May is dragged deeper into the immigration row…

“The Tories faced fresh embarrassment over immigration last night when it emerged that Home Secretary Theresa May uses a Brazilian-born cleaner. … A day after Immigration Minister James Brokenshire condemned the ‘wealthy metropolitan elite’ for using cheap labour from migrants, his boss confirmed that she employs a female home help who was born abroad.” – Daily Mail

  • “…the Tories’ tougher tone on immigration is seen by pollsters as an attempt to counter the danger posed by Nigel Farage’s UK Independence party ahead of May’s European and local elections, not least because net immigration is rising.” – Financial Times
  • “Immigrants should be allowed to move their extended families to the UK more easily, the Liberal Democrats will say. … They are to propose that rules should be changed so that it is less difficult for the spouses and elderly grandparents of migrants to move to Britain.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “It is time for Mr Cameron and the Conservatives to rethink their crude immigration strategy. They should replace the failing target on net migration with a system focused on attracting the skilled immigrants that the UK urgently needs.” – Financial Times editorial
  • “Migrants bring more benefits than our leaders will admit” – Independent editorial
  • “Don’t bother with the Brokenshire speech. I’ve read it in full. It’s half-witted, disjointed, cliché-ridden nonsense.” – Matthew Parris, The Times (£)

…and so is Sam Cam

“Samantha Cameron, the wife of the Prime Minister, was involved in the family’s foreign-born nanny securing British citizenship while she was working for the Prime Minister. … Mrs Cameron allowed her name to be entered on an application form for British citizenship for her long-term nanny Gina Lima four years ago.” – Daily Telegraph

Hunt pledges to protect whistleblowers, as an NHS chief comes under investigation

Hunt Jeremy 15“The NHS boss threatening to sack a whistleblower has spent more than £6million of taxpayers’ money getting rid of staff who raised the alarm about poor care in his hospitals. … Last night, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt vowed to support whistleblowers … ‘An independent review will now establish the facts in this case. We need an open culture in the NHS where staff feel supported to raise concerns. Anything less is unacceptable.’” – Daily Mail

And another probe; this one into the banks that won’t lend…

“The new competition watchdog is to investigate the banks’ failure to lend to small businesses. … It will be the first major probe undertaken by the Competition and Markets Authority, which takes over from the  Competition Commission and the Office of Fair Trading next month. … Banking industry insiders confirmed yesterday that it had found sufficient evidence of wrongdoing to recommend a full-scale inquiry by the CMA.” – Daily Mail

…as RBS and Lloyds hand out £35 million in bonuses…

“George Osborne is facing calls to explain bonus payouts worth an estimated £35m that have been handed out by the bailed-out Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group. … The scale of the rewards – including £3m in shares to the new RBS boss Ross McEwan – were announced to the stock exchange as it emerged the European commission is considering a new clampdown on boardroom pay by requiring firms to disclose a ratio for the gap between executive pay and the pay of an average employee.” – The Guardian

  • “The latest RBS bonuses are mind-boggling and stomach-churning.” – Sun editorial (£)

…and the Government prepares to act on pensions

“The government is preparing to clamp down on the £12bn-a-year annuity market with new measures to help those retiring to avoid buying poor value pensions. … Reforms, expected to be announced in this month’s Budget, will see rules relaxed to allow up to 150,000 savers a year to take a small pension pot as cash, instead of buying an annuity.” – Financial Times (£)

Osborne’s ringfences come under question

osborne-budget“A central plank of George Osborne’s campaign to shore up public support for the government’s spending cuts, by protecting sensitive areas such as health and education, will be unsustainable if the public finances are to be brought under control, an influential group of MPs has warned. … the House of Commons Treasury select committee said more needed to be done to inform the public about the ‘trade-offs inherent in ringfencing’, which automatically puts the burden of cuts on other areas.” – The Guardian

  • “George Osborne’s tax and benefit changes have hit women almost four times as hard as men, according to new research which threatens to compound the Conservative Party’s unpopularity among women.” – The Independent

Villiers: None of the IRA’s “most wanted” are safe from arrest

“None of the IRA’s ‘most wanted’ who hold the letters of assurance that led to the collapse of the Hyde Park bombing trial are safe from arrest, the Northern Ireland secretary has said. … Theresa Villiers said that none of the 187 IRA ‘on the runs’ holding the letters will be immune from future arrests or prosecutions.” – The Guardian

Gove wants football clubs to help run schools

“Football clubs should open their own state schools to ‘give something back’ to the local neighbourhood, according to Michael Gove. … The Education Secretary said Premier League and Championship clubs were often the ‘heartbeat of a community’ and were ideally placed to run a primary or secondary school.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “Fewer children are likely to get into their first choice of secondary school from next year as the start of a baby boom brings a squeeze on places.” – The Times (£)
  • “Ofsted is drawing up plans for the biggest shakeup to the way it inspects schools since it was founded, as the regulator seeks to demonstrate its independence before an anticipated onslaught by rightwing critics.” – The Guardian
  • “Muslim fundamentalists are plotting to take over state schools, according to leaked documents. … Activists have launched a campaign to oust headteachers using dirty tricks such as spreading false allegations and packing governing bodies with their supporters.” – Daily Mail

Andrew Gimson: Comprehensives are no longer treated as the egalitarian antidote to Eton

GIMSON Andrew Krieg“The educated middle classes in London, and indeed more widely, have become less inclined to assume that private schools are the only possible choice for their children. In part this is a simple question of money … But another factor is the growing recognition that many state secondaries have got much better. … No longer are comprehensives reluctant to encourage their most gifted and talented pupils to do exceptionally well, just because (by definition) not all pupils can do exceptionally well.” – Andrew Gimson, Financial Times

  • “Why I want my daughter to go to a state school” – Sarah Vine, The Guardian

Lib Dem spring conference 1) Clegg targets Farage

UKIP glass“Faced with ever growing hostility to the EU, and to immigration, Clegg has decided to present the Liberal Democrats unambiguously as the party of ‘in’ and of openness. He wants to be seen in these [European] elections as the Stop Farage candidate and to make the debate about the very character of Britain. The planned TV debate with the Ukip leader will give him a chance not just to stand up to Farage, but to stand up for a Britain that does not want to hide.” – The Guardian

  • “The widely held assumption is that Ukip is a party for disgruntled Bufton-Tufton Tories who hate Brussels and foreigners. In fact the majority of Ukip voters are blue-collar workers who are more worried about wages than Europe.” – The Times (£)
  • “Nigel Farage faces an official inquiry into allegations that Ukip improperly diverted taxpayers’ money to fund its political operations.” – The Times (£)

And comment:

  • “Banging on about Europe used to be a problem for Clegg. These days it’s the Lib Dems’ number one selling point” – Andrew Grice, The Independent

> Yesterday:

Lib Dem spring conference 2) A personal tax allowance of £12,500 is their price of Coalition

“Raising the personal tax allowance to £12,500 per year would be the price of Liberal Democrat support for either Labour or the Conservatives if next year’s general election ends in another hung parliament. … Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem Chief Treasury Secretary, will announce today that the pledge will be included in the party’s election manifesto. It will  promise a £500 increase in the tax threshold in the first Budget or economic statement after the election.” – The Independent

> Yesterday: Nick Denys on Comment – Our members should decide entry into a second coalition

Lib Dem spring conference 3) Could Alexander nab Cable’s “shadow chancellor” role?

Alexander Danny Jan 12“Speculation is growing, however, that the veteran minister could lose his role as his party’s ‘shadow chancellor’ at the next election. … Senior Lib Dems say the high-profile job is very likely to go to Danny Alexander, the Treasury chief secretary, who is on the right of the party and is seen by some as being too close to George Osborne, the Tory chancellor.” – Financial Times

Lib Dem spring conference 4) Carmichael wants No.10 officials to stop briefing against Darling

“The secretary of state for Scotland admitted on Friday that the campaign to keep Scotland in the UK had lost ground after the big three parties in Westminster said they would not allow an independent state to share the pound. … Alistair Carmichael said that the situation had, however, since stabilised. … The Lib Dem minister also said that senior Number 10 officials should ‘shut up’ and stop briefing against Alistair Darling, the head of the Better Together campaign against independence.” – Financial Times

Lib Dem spring conference 5) Farron calls for a digital bill of rights

“A digital bill of rights should be established in Britain to ensure that basic online freedoms are protected from the ‘untrammelled power of the state’, the Liberal Democrat president Tim Farron will say on Sunday. … The bill is a central feature of a motion, expected to be passed at the Lib Dem spring conference, which says that people need greater protections from ‘overreach by the state’.” – The Guardian

The Mail continues its battle with Dromey…

“In response to the Mail’s shocking reports about the past links between paedophile activists and the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), in which Dromey was a leading figure, he has behaved like the old union boss he used to be, making his noisy protests and playing the victim card. … The Mail’s stories, he declares, are nothing but ‘a smear’ and ‘a new low in journalism’, as he shows not the slightest shame about the affiliation of the Paedophile Information Exchange to the NCCL at a time when he was not only an executive member but also the civil rights organisation’s chairman.” – Daily Mail

…and Harman continues to aspire to high office

“Harriet Harman has announced that she wants to be Deputy Prime Minister if Labour wins the election, in a defiant declaration of intent after three bruising weeks fighting allegations about alleged links to a paedophile group. … Ms Harman said that it was ‘essential’ that she went for the key post after the toughest episode of her career” – The Times (£)

MPs claiming for milk

Milk“Tight-fisted MPs are getting  taxpayers to pick up the tab for  their milk. … An analysis of the latest expenses data reveals Labour’s business spokesman Chuka Umunna was reimbursed for 15 recent milk claims. … Defence secretary Phillip Hammond has also been counting the pennies. … The Conservative minister submitted two 40p expenses for ‘office milk’ and a £1.65 claim for milk and water, the latest figures show.” – Daily Mail

Lawyers’ strike closes courts

“Barristers and solicitors escalated their fight against planned cuts to the £1bn criminal legal aid budget on Friday, holding an all-day strike that shut down crown and magistrates courts. … Hundreds of criminal defence law firms were forced to close their doors, while trials at courts across England and Wales had to be rescheduled as a result of the protest. Thousands of lawyers were expected to participate.” – Financial Times

  • “The attorney-general will intervene in a case whose defendants have been left without barristers due to the government’s legal aid cuts, underscoring how high-profile white-collar trials could be jeopardised.” – Financial Times

And comment:

  • “There is an unspoken consensus that this least-glamorous arm of the welfare state is doomed to drop off.” – Guardian editorial

News in brief

And finally: A new low for the Lib Dems

“A pensioner who dresses as Elvis yesterday beat the Lib Dems in a council election. … David Bishop – who wants a 30 per cent discount for OAPs at brothels – got 67 votes. … This was enough to trump Lib Dem candidate Tony Marshall who came last with 56.” – The Sun (£)