Clegg vs Farage II: Viewers hand it to the UKIP leader

Farage Nigel Eating Cakes“Two snap polls showed the Ukip leader easily triumphed in the second live TV debate with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, in which he urged voters to join a ‘People’s Army’ to topple the political establishment in Brussels. … But Mr Farage was forced on to the defensive after claiming Assad did not use chemical weapons against the Syrian people.” – Daily Mail

  • “Farage was judged the victor with ICM across all age groups and regions, and even among viewers who had been Lib Dem voters in 2010” – The Guardian
  • “A snap YouGov poll for The Sun found 68% – more than two thirds – thought the UKIP leader won the bitter clash.” – The Sun (£)
  • “Nigel Farage is using a private company which could halve the tax bill on his media appearances, it can be revealed.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “What a week!” – Nigel Farage writes the Diary column in The Spectator
  • “Welcome to the lunacies of the European debate.” – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
  • “Mr Clegg is to be commended for challenging the Ukip leader to debate: but might the ‘political class’ come to regret that he did?” – Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday: 

Hesetline has his say on Europe: “One day Britain will join the euro”

“Does he think Britain will join the euro? ‘Oh yes, one day, one day.’ … Showing his scorn for Nigel Farage and Ukip, which Heseltine mockingly calls the ‘UK Isolationist Party’, and recalling that he was ‘the first Conservative to criticise Enoch Powell’, he compared Ukip to parties of the far right past and present.” – Michael Heseltine, interviewed in the New Statesman

  • “Boris Johnson should not stand as an MP until after he has completed his second term as Mayor of London in 2016, Lord Heseltine has said.” – The Times (£)

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – Almost half of Party members want Boris to stand for the Commons at the next election

Miller expected to keep job, despite having to repay expenses

MILLER Maria white Marr“Culture Secretary Maria Miller is today expected to keep her job despite being told to repay thousands of pounds in expenses claims. … The minister is braced for a critical report from Commons standards watchdogs who have spent almost 18 months investigating her use of the taxpayer-funded second home allowance.” – Daily Mail

  • “Asked on Wednesday if David Cameron had full confidence in Miller, the prime minister’s spokesman replied with an emphatic yes.” – The Guardian

And comment:

  • “Is Maria Miller fit to judge the UK Press?” – Daily Mail editorial

> Today: James Oliver’s Culture Column – Save our DVDs, please, Maria Miller!

“What’s happening in the NHS in Wales is a scandal,” says Cameron…

NHS“An angry confrontation took place during Prime Minister’s Question’s today when David Cameron addressed ‘NHS refugees’ and challenged Ed Miliband to ‘get hold’ of Carwyn Jones and tell him to drive up investment. … Mr Cameron said: ‘My honourable friend is right to raise this because frankly what is happening in our NHS in Wales is a scandal and it is a scandal which is entirely the responsibility of the Labour party who are running the Welsh Assembly Government.'” – WalesOnline

  • “Electronic cigarettes could be included in the smoking ban in Wales, under proposals unveiled yesterday. … Ministers fear they glamorise smoking and act as a gateway to normal cigarettes.” – Daily Mail
  • “England needs a single, ringfenced budget for health and social care, according to a report by an influential think-tank. … The King’s Fund argues that the current system of separate budgets for health and social care is failing to respond to the needs of people with long-term conditions.” – Financial Times

…as he also wades into the England football kit row…

“David Cameron today led calls for a ‘rethink’ of the £90 price tag on the new replica England football shirt. … The Prime Minister said fans would ‘welcome’ the Football Association and kit makers Nike reconsidering the hefty costs which have been condemned as a ‘rip-off’ by fans. … The government has insisted the charges are ‘not right’ and risk punishing loyal supporters who are ‘the bedrock of our national game’.” – Daily Mail

  • “Nike was presented with the first Sun Rip-Offscar yesterday as pressure grew over the whopping £90 price tag on England’s new World Cup shirt.” – The Sun (£)

And comment:

  • “David Cameron is quite right — and perfectly entitled — to attack Nike for fleecing footie fans.” – Sun editorial (£)

…and comes under pressure to bar Scottish constituencies from the next election

Scottish flag“David Cameron is being urged to rewrite the rules of the 2015 general election in the Tories’ favour if Scotland votes for independence. … The Prime Minister is being lobbied by senior Conservatives who want him to ban the 59 Scottish constituencies from taking part in the election if Alex Salmond wins the referendum in September. The exclusion of Scotland could determine the next government.” – The Times (£)

  • “The dilemma apparently created by a vote for Scottish independence is one that already exists. Many domestic matters are decided for Scottish voters by a Scottish parliament. Yet Scottish MPs are allowed to vote on the same matters in the House of Commons.” – Times editorial (£)

> Today: Brian Monteith’s column – Scotland’s No campaign must hold its nerve

Revenues increase after Osborne cuts the top rate

“The amount of tax paid by the best-off has soared since George Osborne slashed the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p, according to a new analysis. … New figures from HM Revenue & Customs show the total income tax collected on earnings over £150,000 has shot up from £40 billion last year to £49 billion this year.” – Daily Mail

  • “The PM will today announce the creation of 9,900 jobs — pointing to them as proof the economy is reviving after the Coalition austerity drive.” – The Sun (£)
  • “People aged 50 and over account for more than 70 per cent of the increase in the number of self-employed over the past five years, according to the Office for National Statistics.” – Daily Mail
  • “House prices are soaring by up to 18 per cent across the country from Bath to Bradford, experts said yesterday.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “The chancellor is of course entitled to intervene if he thinks the regulator is failing – or ultimately to fire him if he is not up to the job. But short of dismissal, a quiet word would surely be more productive than an open tongue-lashing. As it is, Mr Osborne has created the worst of all worlds: a regulator is still in place in whom he has overtly stated his lack of confidence.” – Financial Times

> Today: Dr Kristian Niemietz on Comment – Is a minimum wage hike really an alternative to high tax credit spending?

> Yesterday: The Deep End – The Conservative Party doesn’t have an economic policy, but here’s one Conservative MP who does

Will the Chancellor spend some of that money on potholes?

Osborne-Headshot3“Britain is facing a growing £12billion bill to fix the nation’s potholes – made worse by the record rainfall and flooding this winter, a report reveals today. … It says the ‘catch-up’ cost of getting local roads back to a reasonable state has now soared by £1.5billion in a single year because of the deluge. … And that is despite extra cash and effort to fill more than two million potholes across England and Wales over the last 12 months.” – Daily Mail

Or will he meet Brady’s demands for more tax cuts?

“A top Tory backbencher said people should escape higher rates of inheritance tax if they help younger relatives on to the property ladder. … Graham Brady MP also said the elderly should get tax relief if they pay some of their wealth into relatives’ pension pots. … The MP – chair of the powerful 1922 Committee – said the Conservatives had to go back to their roots of helping people achieve ‘independence, security and freedom.'” – The Sun (£)

Green launches new crackdown on sex abuse images

“More than 1,600 search terms commonly used by child abusers have already been banned under an agreement between Internet service providers and ministers. … But Damian Green, the policing minister, signalled his determination to go further and track down ‘abhorrent’ images hidden on remote and anonymous sites.” – The Independent

  • “Damian Green said the case of Edward Snowden – who went public with a series of allegations about Britain and the US’s spying capabilities – had made firms ‘wary’ of co-operating with the government to combat the illegal images.” – Daily Telegraph

Ministers to boost payments for Army Reserves

“Desperate defence chiefs will give £10,000 ‘golden handcuffs’ payments to regular soldiers who join the reserves in a bid to boost Army recruitment. … Ministers have pledged to double the cash incentive for troops who quit or face redundancy and instead sign up to be so-called ‘weekend warriors’ amid a mounting recruitment crisis. … And £300 will be paid to any civilian who wants to enlist in the Army Reserve – formerly the Territorial Army – as a lure to push ahead with their application.” – Daily Mail

  • “Spain’s ambassador to the UK has been summoned to the Foreign Office following a ‘serious incursion’ into British-controlled waters off Gibraltar. … David Lidington, a Foreign Office minister, said that the activities of two Spanish ships off the coast of the British territory were not only ‘unlawful’ but also dangerous.” – Daily Telegraph

Herbert and Healey launch a new project to reform Whitehall

“To seize this opportunity, we are today launching a new project, GovernUp, backed by senior politicians of all parties, former civil servants, Whitehall advisers and business leaders. … GovernUp will offer solutions to all three party leaders before the next election and aim to build a cross-party consensus on the changes required. The recent introduction of extended ministerial offices, which allow ministers to bring in outside talent to strengthen their teams, demonstrates the potential for new thinking.” – Nick Herbert and John Healey, The Times (£)

Matt Ridley: The IPCC just agreed with Nigel Lawson

Nigel_Lawson_006“The received wisdom on global warming, published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was updated this week. The newspapers were, as always, full of stories about scientists being even more certain of environmental Armageddon. But the document itself revealed a far more striking story: it emphasised, again and again, the need to adapt to climate change. Even in the main text of the press release that accompanied the report, the word ‘adaptation’ occurred ten times, the word ‘mitigation’ not at all.” – Matt Ridley, The Spectator

  • “Apart from Saharan sand, this week’s air pollution is nothing new – it is just that the Government usually keeps quiet about Britain’s highly contaminated air” – Geoffrey Lean, Daily Telegraph

And comment:

  • “Just one deep coal mine will be left in Britain by the end of next year after the UK’s largest coal producer announced plans to close two of the three remaining pits.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “The Environment Agency spent more than £800,000 hiring equipment to dredge swollen rivers after it sold off its own machines for just £230,000.” – Daily Telegraph

John Harris: The Tories own the future

“What underlines the sense that Tories are on an upswing is the fact that they, and the right more widely, have come up with a solid vision of the future, and may yet persuade a sufficient share of the public to buy in. … The academic and Lib Dem peer Ralf Dahrendorf famously said that the SDP wanted ‘a better yesterday’: the same is true of 90% of the left, not just here, but all over Europe, and beyond.” – John Harris, The Guardian

Tim Montgomerie: The Left’s bogeymen have never gone away

MONTGOMERIE purple background“A party that gets elected by keeping public sector interests and left-wing newspapers happy will govern by trying to keep them happy. And don’t think Mr Miliband will be able to ignore them. If he wins, all opinion polls suggest it will be a narrow victory. He won’t get legislation passed unless Diane Abbott, Jeremy Corbyn, Paul Flynn, Dennis Skinner and the 20 or so other members of his party’s awkward squad are kept on side.” – Tim Montgomerie, The Times (£)

> Today: Grant Shapps MP’s column – The extraordinary things Labour are saying about Ed Miliband

> Yesterday: WATCH – More spending, more borrowing, more taxes – same old Labour

Cable defends the Royal Mail sell-off

“Vince Cable on Wednesday denied that there was any ‘gentleman’s agreement’ with blue-chip investors on Royal Mail privatisation after party leaders clashed in the Commons on Wednesday. … Labour urged the government to clarify ‘unanswered’ questions about autumn’s mail sell-off.” – Financial Times

  • “David Cameron has falsely claimed the Labour party pledged to privatise Royal Mail in its manifesto for the 2010 general election.” – The Guardian

Blair caught up in IRA allegations

“Tony Blair’s Downing Street was accused of trying to ‘pervert the course of justice’ yesterday after it emerged it had contacted the police – at the request of Gerry Adams – to demand the release of an IRA gunman. … An inquiry by MPs heard explosive new evidence from an ex-senior police officer linking the former Prime Minister to the controversial amnesty granted to on-the-run IRA suspects.” – Daily Mail

  • “An Irish bomber allegedly blew himself up after he forgot about the clocks going forward an hour for British Summer Time while he was planting a bomb.” – The Independent

Ofsted chief recommends starting school aged two

School“Schools should take children from the age of two to stop the poorest pupils falling behind, the head of Ofsted will say today. … Thousands of youngsters are being ‘let down’ by poor quality nurseries and childminders who fail to equip them with basic skills, according to Sir Michael Wilshaw. … He will say school-based nurseries should begin to teach children as young as two to count, hold a pen and recognise words.” – Daily Mail

  • “”England’s GCSE pupils will be benchmarked against their Chinese counterparts from 2017, in a response from exam regulators to ministers’ calls to toughen up a marking system they say has been discredited by years of grade inflation.” – The Guardian
  • “The number of top GCSE grades awarded will be halved in a shake-up  to end an era of soaring pass rates.” – Daily Mail
  • “UK universities contribute £73bn to the country’s economy, an increase of nearly a quarter during the past five years, research has shown.” – Financial Times

And comment:

  • “It makes sense to reduce the number of GCSE high-flyers” – Richard Garner, The Independent

News in brief

  • Another deadly shooting at Foot Hood in Texas – The Sun (£)
  • Ségolène Royale returns to the French Government – The Independent
  • Britain fares well in international quality of life index – The Independent
  • Married over-50s with children are happier than most – Daily Mail
  • Carol Ann Duffy & Co. write to Grayling to ask for a meeting – The Guardian

And finally 1) Politicians aren’t the only scoundrels in Parliament

Prison bars“Nearly £80,000 worth of items have been stolen or lost in Parliament in just five years – including a £1,700 Rolex watch and a teddy bear. … The list of nicked and mislaid goods has been revealed for the first time following a Freedom of Information request. … Laptops, iPads, champagne and even a dental mould are also among the belongings which either went missing or had been stolen between 2009 and 2013.” – The Sun (£)

And finally 2) Cameron loves Waitrose

“David Cameron has lavished praise on Waitrose, lauding customers of the upmarket store as more ‘talkative and engaged’ than those who shop elsewhere. … The Prime Minister, who has repeatedly tried to play down his privileged background, spoke of his loyalty to Waitrose on a visit to John Lewis in Cheadle near Manchester.” – Daily Telegraph

> Today: ToryDiary – Cameron’s North-West Frontier