Cameron celebrates a 15 per cent fall in crime…

CAMERON byline photo“Crime in England and Wales fell by 15 per cent last year to a new record low since records began. … There were 7.5million offences in 2013 according to the British Crime Survey, down from almost 9million in 2012. … David Cameron sent congratulations to the police, with the figures showing a 22 per cent fall in both violent crime and bike thefts.” – Daily Mail

  • “Violent crime could be on the brink of a record rise in England and Wales after two police forces which adopted ‘open’ and ‘ethical’ crime recording policies showed a 25 per jump in violence last year.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “A thousand new foreign lags are being locked up in British jails every three months now, a shock new MPs report reveals today. … But MPs found one in seven – 13 per cent – of the whole prison population remains foreign because justice officials are failing to deport the cons any faster than new ones are being convicted.” – The Sun (£)

And comment:

  • “There is no silver bullet, but the many weapons being turned on crime are working” – Times editorial (£)

> Yesterday:

…and urges Boris to return to Parliament

borisfringe“David Cameron yesterday urged Boris Johnson to return to Parliament and the Cabinet – as MP for Downton Abbey. … The Prime Minister suggested the London Mayor could stand as MP for North West Hampshire, where government chief whip Sir George Young is to stand down next year. … Mr Cameron said there was no bar to Tory Mr Johnson serving out his term as mayor until 2016 and representing the commuter belt constituency which is home to Highclere Castle where Downton Abbey is filmed.” – Daily Mail

  • “Will Boris run for parliament? Will he stay on as mayor? Does he want to be PM? Endless column inches – or should that be centimetres? All out of No 10’s control. They need clear air and a chance to set out a positive economic narrative.” – John  McTernan, The Scotsman
  • “Boris does not get along with Westminster’s cult of message discipline — and he is not alone.” – Rafael Behr, The Times (£)

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – Big beasts for big times

The Prime Minister’s green credentials are being blown away, says Peter Franklin

Wind turbine“It’s difficult to know what the Tories are hoping to achieve. If Mr Cameron still wants to lead the greenest government ever, then why abandon Britain’s biggest source of renewable power? If he wants to reduce household bills, then why move against the cheapest form of zero-carbon electricity? If he wants to get the state out of the energy market, then what about the massive subsidies he’s just given to the French and Chinese to build a nuclear power station in Somerset?” – Peter Franklin, The Times (£)

  • “Fracking for shale gas could be a vote-winner – but more needs to be done to persuade the public it is safe, Michael Fallon, the energy minister, has said.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “A green corridor stretching from London to the North should be created alongside HS2 to make up for 500 important wildlife sites which will be disturbed by the project, a charity claims.” – Daily Telegraph

> Today: Cheryl Gillan MP on Comment – The case for HS2 has collapsed

Osborne stumps up for a new polar exploration ship

“A huge research ship costing £200 million has been commissioned, which will probe the oceans and climate of the arctic and Antarctic, George Osborne will announce today. … The new vessel, to be operated by the British Antarctic Survey, will replace the UK’s two current polar exploration ships, which are nearing the end of their lives. … Although primarily for research, the government said the ship would also allow Britain to ‘maintain our presence’ around the British territories in the South Atlantic.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “Cuts imposed by ministers that will see 125 jobs axed at Kew Gardens have gone ahead despite warnings that any drop in resourcing would threaten its future as one of the world’s leading botanic institutions.” – The Guardian

The Government takes heavy fire… from Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver“The TV chef blasted ministers for allowing takeaway shops to trade ‘just a stone’s throw’ from where kids learn. … Jamie also declared that no country – including Britain – had ‘smashed’ the child obesity crisis despite years of effort. … Renewing his blistering attack on the Coalition, he said the UK lacked real ‘leadership and vision’ to solve it.” – The Sun (£)

  • “…his suggestion the Government is somehow to blame because it does not stop fast food outlets from opening near schools is half-baked.” – Sun editorial (£)

Cabinet Office launches inquiry into Hillsborough insults

“The Cabinet Office has launched an investigation into claims that insults which were sent to the victims and families of the Hillsborough disaster were sent from government computers. … The Liverpool Echo said it had discovered that text on the Wikipedia page of the disaster had been changed from computers within Whitehall. It said that in 2009, ‘Blame Liverpool Fans’ was added to the page, while in 2012 the phrase ‘You’ll never walk alone’ was changed to ‘You’ll never walk again’ and other insulting variations.” – The Guardian

Clegg calls for a separation of Church and State…

CLEGG Bird“Nick Clegg prompted a row last night after issuing a provocative call for the separation of Church and State. … The Deputy Prime Minister said that while he agreed with David Cameron that Britain was ‘infused by Christian values’, he believed the Church of England should be disestablished. … His remarks are particularly sensitive since he is the chairman of the Privy Council, the formal body of advisers to the Queen.” – Daily Mail

  • “…the idea was immediately rejected by David Cameron.” – The Independent
  • “The row over David Cameron’s ‘Christian country’ claim has deepened as the Archbishop of Canterbury accused critics of Monty Python-style reactions. … Dr Welby insisted that Britain was indeed a Christian country because its society had been ‘shaped and founded on’ the religion.” – The Sun (£)

And comment:

  • “Disestablish the tolerant and cohesive Church of England and we would be a poorer nation for it” – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • “The British compromise between church and state is peculiar, irrational and anachronistic, and serves us well” – Times editorial (£)

…and launches his party’s European election campaign…

“Nick Clegg vowed to fight for reform of the EU as he launched the Liberal Democrats’ European election campaign on Thursday, insisting he was not “wrapping himself up in the European flag” for the sake of it. … The Lib Dem leader said he was the only head of a main party not ‘scared to speak up’ in favour of Britain’s membership of Europe and that it was ‘pro-British’ to argue for the country to remain in the EU.” – Financial Times

  • “Nick Clegg says he is ‘very concerned’ that takeaways are selling kebabs containing rat meat.” – The Independent

And comment:

  • “Conservatives are more interested in the local elections (than in the European ones) because they are thinking ahead to the 2015 campaign” – Isabel Hardman, Daily Telegraph

…as the Mail attacks him over Cyril Smith

Daily Mail masthead“The Liberal Democrat leader should not expect much credit for requesting a police investigation into how the political Establishment turned a blind eye to the 29-stone monster’s crimes for 40 years. … He has had to be dragged kicking and screaming to this point, having claimed two weeks ago Smith’s evil deeds ‘were not known or condoned by anyone in the Liberal Party or Liberal Democrats’.” – Daily Mail editorial

  • “Although exposed as a serial sex offender, Sir Cyril Smith seems to retain his influence from beyond the grave. … MPs are refusing to remove the portly paedophile from a painting that has pride of place at their Westminster office building.” – Sebastian Shakespeare, Daily Mail
  • “The last thing working dads need is lectures from the Cleggs (AKA Mr and Mrs Smug)” – Jan Moir, Daily Mail
  • “What cojones! Why it’s right to hear Miriam Clegg – loud and clear” – Beverley Turner, Daily Telegraph

Alexander announces Cornwall’s minority status

Alexander Danny Jan 12“Cornwall’s claims to a separate culture, language and identity are to be recognised by Europe, the UK government will announce later on Thursday. … The Cornish are to be granted the same status as the Welsh, Scots and Irish under the Council of Europe’s rules protecting national minorities from discrimination. … Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury – and a Scot – will make the announcement on a visit to the county.” – Financial Times

  • “When resources are so scarce that even the English language cannot be taught properly in our schools, Mr Clegg, in a repulsively cynical gesture, announced last month a grant of £120,000 to the Cornish Language Partnership, taking the amount spent on this since 2010 to more than £500,000.” – Simon Heffer, Daily Mail
  • “Cornwall is far more than just a county – and now it’s official” – Petroc Trelawny, Daily Telegraph
  • “Other counties will be envious of Cornwall.” – Guardian editorial

End the Coalition next month, says Lord Oakeshott

“A close ally of Vince Cable has called for the Lib Dems to quit the Coalition next month to avoid electoral disaster. … Senior peer Lord Oakeshott said the party should walk away from Government ‘straight after’ the May 22 European elections. … He said it was the only way to salvage the ‘piss off vote’ – or protest vote – ahead of next year’s general election.” – The Sun (£)

  • “Having delegated pay decisions to shareholders, Mr Cable should avoid a politicised running commentary.” – Financial Times editorial

Miliband intends to crack down on “exploitative zero hours contracts”

Ed Miliband stare“Ed Miliband will announce plans on Friday to crack down on “exploitative zero hours contracts”, giving new legal rights to up to 1m workers on arrangements that offer no guaranteed hours or pay, should Labour win the election in 2015. … The opposition leader will claim the move would end the abuse of the increasingly widely used contracts and encourage employers to compete on higher wages, skills and productivity.” – Financial Times

The shadow cabinet heads to Scotland

“Ed Miliband will take his entire shadow cabinet to Scotland to battle criticism Labour are failing to do enough to keep Britain together. … The Labour chief and his team will travel north of the border as part of a campaign aimed at encouraging Scotland to stay in the UK. … Labour have been heavily criticised by some for failing to do enough to prevent the breakup of the UK.” – The Sun (£)

  • “Labour leader Ed Miliband last night launched an attack on ‘narrow nationalism’ as he warned independence would permanently damage the cause of social justice.” – The Scotsman
  • “Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, has called for an ‘open, honest debate’ about Alex Salmond’s plans to loosen Scottish immigration controls after independence.” – The Guardian

And comment:

  • “Miliband and his colleagues’ trip north consolidates Labour’s new dominance of the Better Together campaign.” – Scotsman editorial
  • “Whereas for most of last year the polls pointed on average to No winning by a margin of at least three to two, this year the margin has narrowed considerably.” – John Curtice, The Independent

Labour looks to withdraw a £1.2 million loan from the Co-op

“Labour is looking to end its long-standing relationship with the troubled Cooperative Bank. … The party’s general secretary Iain McNicol is understood to want to move a £1.2 million loan to the trade union-controlled Unity Trust Bank. … Its current account facilities are also expected to be shifted.” – The Independent

  • “Through breathtaking mismanagement, the Co-op Bank managed to turn a weak position into a terminal one” – Independent editorial

> Yesterday: LeftWatch – Labour’s messy divorce from Co-Op Bank is another blow to their election machine

Harriet Sargeant: Clwyd isn’t alone

NHS“The response of assembly members and hospital boards is typical. I came across it when investigating the NHS over nine months. … My accounts of what I had seen were also dismissed as ‘anecdotal’. While there are undoubtedly countless dedicated and caring people working for the NHS who put themselves out for patients, like Ann Clwyd, I, too, was flooded with letters from patients who’d suffered the same ‘anecdotal’ experiences of callousness and incompetence.” – Harriet Sargeant, Daily Mail

  • “The NHS needs a life-saving idea – how about a health tax?” – Peter Wilby, The Guardian

And news:

  • “Social workers suffer from ‘decision fatigue’ and rarely hear about the consequences of their judgments, a Government-commissioned report has found.” – Daily Mail

UKIP suspends council candidate over tweets

UKIP glass“Ukip has suspended the star of its first European election TV broadcast after it emerged that he condemned Ed Miliband as ‘not a real Brit’, suggested Africans should ‘kill themselves off’ and said Islam was an evil religion with a paedophile prophet. … Andre Lampitt also said he loathed the charity Oxfam and welcomed Aids outbreaks in Africa, saying: ‘Inner peace will come when Aids does what it should and reduce African density.’” – Daily Mail

  • “He fails to see any irony in being a Polish candidate for a party that holds many members who would like to see eastern Europeans kicked out of the country.” – A Polish UKIP campaigner is interviewed in the Independent
  • “Calling Ukip’s posters ‘racist’ is yet another example of shameful Westminster evasion” – Nigel Farage, The Independent

And news:

  • “Nigel Farage should consider running in the Labour seat of Great Grimsby for the best chance of winning a seat at the next election, a leading Ukip expert has said.” – The Times (£)
  • “UKIP is on course to win five Assembly Members at the next election – with Plaid Cymru set to lose their seat in the European Parliament, according to a new poll.” – WalesOnline

> Today: Iain Dale’s column – UKIP’s European election posters are disgusting

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – Clegg & Farage, partners

Firefighters plan to strike (again)

“Firefighters will stage a fresh wave of strikes over the May bank holiday weekend in a bitter dispute over pensions. … Members of the Fire Brigades Union will walk out for five hours from noon on May 2, between 2pm and 2am on May 3 and between 10am and 3pm on May 5. … And there will be a ban on voluntary overtime for a week from May 2.” – The Sun (£)

Weaker universities could go under, warns Moody’s

“Weaker regional universities in England could struggle for survival in the wake of a brutal US-style beauty contest for students and their tuition fees, an international credit ratings agency has predicted. … The analysis by Moody’s comes the day after an Institute for Fiscal Studies report warned that the current funding model for universities in England would fail to produce forecast levels of revenue if graduate employment and pay remained subdued.” – The Guardian

  • “A flagship free school praised by both Prime Minister David Cameron and Education Secretary Michael Gove has been told by inspectors it must pull its socks up and improve.” – The Independent

Barclays boss lashes out over pay criticisms

UK notes and coins“Barclays was accused of attempting to silence criticism of its bonus culture after one of the bank’s directors slapped down a major shareholder for speaking out against its pay practices. … Sir John Sunderland, chairman of the bank’s remuneration committee, was angrily heckled by shareholders after he told Standard Life’s Alison Kennedy that it ‘would be good in future if these points could be made during the consultation phase’.” – The Independent

  • “A recruitment company where Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi is on the board has endured one of the biggest shareholder rebellions over pay so far this year and narrowly escaped having its pay deals voted down.” – The Guardian
  • “Claims that Britain is back in the grip of a consumer spending binge have been undermined by official figures showing that household expenditure has recovered more slowly than in other leading nations since the crisis.” – The Times (£)
  • “An EU tax on financial transactions is set to move closer next week with Britain expected to suffer an embarrassing defeat in its legal attempt to block the move.” – The Times (£)

One of the brains behind nudging defends nudging

“The great advantage of nudges is that they recognise the diversity of people’s situations and the risk of government error, while acknowledging people’s legitimate interest in preserving their own liberty. No one denies that requirements and bans have their place. But in a society that respects its citizens, we should start with a presumption in favour of freedom of choice.” – Cass Sunstein, The Guardian

Up to 700 Britons could now be fighting in Syria

Syria“Up to 700 British jihadists could now be fighting in Syria, the UK’s police counter-terrorism chief admitted yesterday. … Deputy Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball said the authorities are powerless to stop young Muslims travelling to the war-torn state. … The Scotland Yard chief said the battle against the Assad regime acts like a ‘magnet’ – and fighters now number in the ‘mid’ rather than ‘low’ hundreds.” – Daily Mail

  • “Radicalised Brit jihadi fighters coming back from Syria are the biggest security threat facing our country, Nick Clegg has warned.” – The Sun (£)
  • “The true cost of Britain’s military operations since the Cold War could be as high as £72billion. … Most of it has been squandered on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan seen as ‘strategic failures’, claims a respected defence think-tank.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “Social media is now the biggest jihadi training camp of them all” – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • Australia’s Tony Abbott accused of breaching Royal protocol, as he pats Prince William on the back – Daily Mail
  • Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential people – Daily Mail
  • BBC withdraws from CBI over Scottish referendum – Financial Times
  • Companies invited to bid for £300 contract to supply electricity to the Government – Financial Times
  • Russia could be making an “expensive mistake”, warns Kerry – The Guardian
  • Israel suspends peace talks with Palestinians after Fatah-Hamas deal – The Guardian
  • The search for MH370 is likely to last for years, claims US official – The Times (£)
  • Are Oasis reuniting? – Daily Telegraph

And finally: False honour

“As a Member of the British Empire, Terry Wilkins was proud to display his title on his emails, web page and even office stationery. … That was until his claim to the honour was exposed as false, and he immediately faced calls to resign. … However, the Tory councillor from Cornwall claims he is the victim of a hoax — having taken his title to be real ever since he received an official-looking letter and a medal in the post 19 years ago.” – Daily Telegraph