Cameron: the Chilcot report should be published by the end of the year

CAMERON Marr Europe“The long-delayed official report into the Iraq war must be published by the end of the year, David Cameron insisted last night. … In a dramatic intervention that appears to set him at odds with his most senior civil servant, Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Prime Minister said the public wanted ‘answers’ on the 2003 conflict and ‘shouldn’t have to wait too much longer’. … Whitehall sources said Mr Cameron wanted an agreement reached quickly between the Cabinet Office and the Iraq inquiry team that would see ‘as much as can sensibly be included’ of the most sensitive documents in the final report.” – Daily Mail

  • “If Whitehall does not back down by the 15 June anniversary, Sir John and his colleagues should copy the Duke of Wellington. They should tell the government to publish and be damned.” – Guardian editorial

>Today: ToryDiary – Cameron tries to avoid being dragged into Blair’s war

The Prime Minister’s cautious diplomacy in Scotland

Scottish flag“Scotland is still very much part of the UK, but this week’s overnight trip north of the border by David Cameron was a study in cautious public diplomacy. ,,, Determined not to put a foot wrong amid an increasingly fierce debate over Scottish independence, the UK prime minister focused on charming local media. He limited his public contacts with the electorate on Friday to a session with a dozen newly enfranchised high school pupils – 16-year-olds have been given the vote for the referendum.” – Financial Times

  • “David Cameron has claimed that London is a ‘precious asset’ for the whole of the UK, on the second day of his trip to Scotland.” – The Scotsman

>Today: Peter Cuthbertson on Comment – Why this commentariat panic about Scotland’s referenendum? It will vote No – and the key is the Don’t Knows

>Yesterday: WATCH – Tim Stanley defends the Union

Will he take part in an online debate?

CAMERON POINTING“Senior figures in Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the UK Independence Party have given a cautious welcome to prioposals for an online election debate between the party leaders early next year. … The news will put further pressure on David Cameron and the Conservatives to agree to the plans, which could ensure the leaders are seen debating are seen by far more young people than before.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “Don’t be a nervous nellie, David Cameron – debate!” – Matthew Norman, Daily Telegraph

May orders an investigation into the selling of bogus documents to migrants

“Migrants who can speak no English were able to buy, for just £500, a certificate which says they have passed a language test. … The documents open the door to British citizenship, allowing them access to a full range of benefits.  … MPs and campaign groups warned that our revelations could be just the tip of the iceberg at a time when 200,000 passports are being granted to migrants every year. … Home Secretary Theresa May last night ordered an urgent investigation into the Mail’s evidence, which could lead to criminal prosecutions.” – Daily Mail

  • “Hundreds of convicted criminals have demanded that their past misdemeanours are expunged from Google searches after a contentious European court decision.” – The Times (£)

Gove’s department considers privatising child protection services

GOVE finger pointing“The power to take children away from their families could be privatised along with other child protection services under controversial plans the government has quietly announced. … The proposal from Michael Gove’s Department for Education (DfE) to permit the outsourcing of children’s social services in England to companies such as G4S and Serco has alarmed experts.” – The Guardian

The Government congratulates itself for the reduction in sickness benefit claims

“Official figures, revealed today, show the number of people claiming Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance tumbled by 44,000 in the year to November. … This equates to just under 850 people moving off sickness benefits every week – or 120 every day. … Disability minister Mike Penning said: ‘As part of our long-term economic plan, it’s only fair that we look at whether people can do some form of work with the right support – rather than simply writing them off on long-term sickness benefits, as has happened in the past.'” – Daily Mail

Whittingdale tells BBC bosses: the licence fee’s a goner

“The BBC licence fee is outdated and could be abolished in as little as two years, BBC managers have been told. … John Whittingdale, chairman of the powerful Commons committee which is looking at new ways to fund the broadcaster, has told executives it will ‘not survive’. … It could be axed at the next renewal of the BBC Charter in 2016, or if no alternative is agreed on, it may be kept for part of the next Charter period – which ends in 2026 – but no longer, he said.” – Daily Mail

An outbreak of loyalty on the Conservative backbenches…

CAMERON Popular“David Cameron’s critics on the Conservative right have abandoned plans for a full-scale revolt against his leadership if the party suffers at the hands of Ukip in next week’s local and European elections. … John Redwood, a senior backbencher, was said to have ‘prevailed’ in discussions with colleagues on the right, arguing it was the wrong time to pick a new fight with Mr Cameron on Europe.” – Financial Times

  • “The Conservatives have been given more than £5m since the last election through secretive members’ clubs – that allow donors to keep their identity hidden from public scrutiny.” – The Independent

And comment:

  • “Will tax dodger Gary Barlow’s support for the Tories backfire on his chum Dave?” – Geoffrey Levy, Daily Mail
  • “Pop stars may be parasites, but we don’t need the PM to get involved” – Giles Coren, The Times (£)

>Yesterday: ToryDiary – Twelve reasons why the morale of Conservative MPs has risen

…but Tories are battling each other in Brussels

“A row has erupted between moderate and Eurosceptic Conservatives after their leader in the European parliament, Martin Callanan, confirmed he is courting a highly controversial Danish anti-immigration party to join the Tories’ group in Strasbourg. … Sir Robert Atkins, a veteran Tory MEP who served as a minister in John Major’s government, warned that any association with the Danish People’s party would be damaging for Britain and for the Conservatives.” – The Guardian

  • “Best-before dates on kitchen cupboard items such as tinned goods and olive oil could be scrapped after several EU countries warned that they lead to the waste of million of tons of food a year.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “But if you thought Commissioners and MEPs were on the gravy train, what about the EU’s own work-force? … This is an organisation that contains an estimated 3,325 officials — more than 7 per cent of its establishment — whose salaries exceed that of Prime Minister David Cameron. … But the basic pay is just the start. Bureaucrats also enjoy an incredible range of benefits: from expatriation allowances, to support with school fees.” – Leo McKinstry, Daily Mail
  • “The next European parliament will likely be stuffed with Right-wing kooks from … It is a deeply unpleasant and  dangerous prospect.” – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail

More sorry tales of Coalition horse-trading

Curse of Clegg 2“The decision to recognise the Cornish as a minority group was the result of ‘petty’ horse-trading over policies between the coalition parties, senior Tories claimed last night. … Amid deepening tensions, it was claimed the Liberal Democrat minister David Laws – one of Nick Clegg’s closest allies – demanded the move in return for signing off another policy. … The Lib Dems are said to have refused to agree to reforms of town hall pensions, which could save taxpayers up to £600million a year, unless the Cornwall announcement was made.” – Daily Mail

  • “Conservative Downing Street aides say efforts have been made to rein in Dominic Cummings, who has launched a series of barbed analyses, sometimes with the apparent support of Gove, the education secretary, of what he describes as a dysfunctional Whitehall machine.” – The Guardian

And comment:

  • “The bigger risk the Lib Dems are running is that of devaluing their greatest achievement – their participation in a government that has taken the UK out of the economic crisis and into a period of sustained recovery.” – Financial Times editorial
  • “The spat between Lib Dems and Tories over free school meals is an example of how not to govern” – Times editorial (£)

>Yesterday: ToryDiary – In which J.Alfred Prufrock MP has a strange encounter with Nick Clegg

And more bad poll news for Miliband…

MILIBAND Red Ed“One in four voters backing another party might support Labour if Ed Miliband was replaced as leader, a poll has found. … In a nationwide Opinium poll for the Daily Mail, 25 per cent of those who had already decided to vote for another party at the general election next May said ditching him could swing their vote. … The poll will pile pressure on Labour, who face being pushed into second place by Ukip in next week’s European elections.” – Daily Mail

  • “Ed Miliband has said Labour ‘will never again turn our backs’ on British people who are concerned about immigration but has refused to set a target for the number of foreigners that should be allowed to come to the UK.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “Ed Miliband’s new election guru has told Labour campaign chiefs to sharpen up, get organised and to exploit David Cameron’s critical weaknesses in marginal seats.” – The Times (£)

…as Gillian Duffy offers her thoughts on the Labour leader

“The pensioner who brought down Gordon Brown has branded Ed Miliband just another privileged suit in Westminster – in a damning verdict on the Labour leader. … Gillian Duffy, a lifelong Labour voter, said he was no different from posh David Cameron and Nick Clegg who had never experienced real life. … And she said beer-swilling Nigel Farage was the only party leader who seemed to connect with hard-working Brits.” – The Sun (£)

  • “Dopey Joey Essex is all set to vote for his friend Ed Miliband — despite having no idea what political party he leads.” – The Sun (£)

Burnham rages about cancelled operations and extended waiting times

NHS“More than 64,000 operations in NHS hospitals in England were cancelled last year – the highest figure for a decade. … Other figures from NHS England show that the NHS missed the four hour waiting time target for A&E units. … Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said ‘David Cameron was boasting about the performance of the NHS this week, but these figures show he is shockingly complacent and completely out of touch with what is happening on the frontline.'” – Daily Mail

  • “A damning report into a hospital where at least five patients died after complications from keyhole cancer surgery has found that managers ignored repeated warnings about the behaviour of surgeons.” – Daily Telegraph

And comment:

  • “An ‘NHS tax’ – everybody’s thinking about it, everybody knows it’s inevitable, but nobody will admit as much” – Andrew Grice, The Independent
  • “Before you take your statins, make sure you’ve looked at the stats” – Graeme Archer, Daily Telegraph
  • “NHS managers are not doing their job properly” – Daily Telegraph editorial

>Yesterday: Andrew RT Davies on Comment – After the hospital horrors in Bridgend, we need a full, independent enquiry into Wales’s NHS

Public schools breed immoral people… says privately-educated Tristram Hunt

tristramhunt“Public schools produce some of the ‘singularly most immoral people’ in society, Labour’s shadow education secretary has claimed in an extraordinary swipe at the independent sector. … Tristram Hunt, who was privately-educated himself, risked angering parents and children with his outspoken criticism of former pupils of private schools. … He also risks riling his political opponents – and colleagues – in Westminster, where more than a third of MPs went to a private school.” – Daily Mail

Prescott’s homes are crumbling

“Some of the ‘£60,000 homes’ built under the Labour government’s drive to solve the housing crisis are rotting just seven years after their construction, it has emerged. … A futuristic development of prefabricated houses in Milton Keynes is suffering from a catalogue of problems, including detached panels, double-glazing failures and water leakage that has caused rot to occur within the timber frames, according to a report seen by the Financial Times and detailed in this week’s Architects Journal.” – Financial Times

Farage’s radio car crash

UKIP glass“The UK Independence party’s head of communications tried to rescue Nigel Farage from a gruelling radio interview on Friday, when he was attacked about expenses, immigration and Ukip’s partners in the European Parliament. … The party leader was being interviewed on LBC, a London radio station, when Patrick O’Flynn stepped in to try to end the session after 20 minutes.” … David Cameron said on Friday that Mr Farage had said ‘some pretty unpleasant things’ in the interview.” – Financial Times

  • “A shamed Ukip council candidate has been pictured with Third Reich-inspired tattoos.” – The Sun (£)
  • “Ukip has suspended its Freephone number after opponents mounted a campaign of calls to push up the party’s costs.” – The Independent
  • “Alex Salmond has warned Muslim and Asian voters that, unless they back the Scottish National party, Ukip could take one of Scotland’s six European parliament seats in Thursday’s elections.” – The Guardian

And comment:

  • “It is not racist to worry about the impact of millions of migrants on Britain, as we have argued for years. … It IS racist to smear Romanians for being Romanian. … Nigel Farage, Ukip leader, did just that.” – Sun editorial (£)


But UKIP aren’t racist, says Pickles

“The UK Independence Party is ‘über-nationalist’ and ‘xenophobic’ rather than being racist, a senior Conservative minister said last night. … Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, said that Nigel Farage, Ukip’s leader, has preyed on people’s fear of immigration in a ‘shameful’ way and his party contains people who have made ‘racist calculations’. But Mr Pickles does not believe ‘in my heart’ that the party is racist, he told The Telegraph.” – Daily Telegraph

AstraZeneca scientists warn against the Pfizer deal

Pfizer“Years of scientific work could be undone at AstraZeneca if a deal goes ahead with Pfizer, experts at the firm have warned. … Any takeover would be ‘disruptive’ for its pipeline of new drugs, they said, calling on the board to ‘fight’ for the company’s independence. … The comments are in contrast to those of chief executive Pascal Soriot, who stands to make up to £31.5million if the deal goes ahead.” – Daily Mail

  • “Labour’s shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna, has threatened to block the proposed £63bn takeover of AstraZeneca by its US rival Pfizer if the party wins the general election.” – The Guardian
  • “Pfizer executives made millions by cashing in their shares in the US pharmaceutical firm, just weeks before renewing a £63bn bid for AstraZeneca.” – The Guardian
  • “Energy giant E.on has been forced to hand back a record £12 million to vulnerable people after it was found guilty of breaking energy sales rules.” – The Independent
  • “Ministers bruised by the squabble over the Royal Mail privatisation appear in no hurry to start selling the state’s remaining 30 per cent stake as the postal operator prepares to announce steady earnings growth next week.” – Financial Times

Number of tax investigations doubles in a year

“The number of people being investigated by the taxman has doubled in one year, raising concerns that people who have made innocent mistakes are being targeted by the Government. … HM Revenue & Customs made inquiries about the tax affairs of 237,215 people last year, compared with about 119,000 in 2011-12, figures obtained by The Daily Telegraph show. … The number of self-employed people investigated has quadrupled in that time while annual prosecutions have risen sevenfold in three years.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “Demands by the taxman for the power to raid ISAs were met with a wave of opposition last night.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “HMRC has to be careful that in the process of trying to catch fraudsters it does not ensnare people who fail to understand its system” – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • “We hear the Conservatives are seeking ‘big’ ideas for their election manifesto. … What could be bigger than a dramatic simplification of the tax system that makes it fairer, flatter, removes the punitive anomalies and finally brings an end to widespread avoidance?” – Daily Mail editorial
  • “The bonfire of taxes that would make Britain boom” – Simon Heffer, Daily Mail

Matthew Parris: We don’t do politics any more – we just watch

“Not only is popular participation declining but even the fixtures — the football matches, parliamentary debates, tournaments or elections — are gathering around themselves such an encrustation of expert anaysis, comment and discussion, that the contest itself becomes momentary, ephemeral: little more than a trigger for pre- and post-event commentary.” – Matthew Parris, The Times (£)

Tim Montgomerie on poverty and corruption in Brazil

MONTGOMERIE purple background“Charitable giving from Britain will be needed for a few more years yet — at least until Brazil has reinvented the way its political and business class interact. There are many reasons to be hopeful in this land that they call the ‘country of the future’. Brazil, after all, has overcome military dictatorship, hyperinflation and much more widespread poverty all in the last few decades. … There is no reason why it cannot overcome corruption, too. But it’s not a battle that it is winning at the moment.” – Tim Montgomerie, The Times (£)

Charles Moore: Why we can’t appease Vladimir Putin

“The essential appeaser’s error is to say, ‘Let’s be reasonable’, to a person to whom reason is anathema and so ends up, by mistake, endorsing tyranny. In January 1939, The Times’s leading article declared that, ‘Certain grievances in Europe which threatened war have now been adjusted without war, even though… the adjustment has been hasty and crude, and bears the marks of force.’ War came less than nine months later. Putin seems to be sorting out ‘certain grievances’ in this spirit.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

  • “Russia’s internet regulator has threatened to block Twitter, in the most detailed warning on the options Moscow is considering in its efforts to tighten restrictions over the internet.” – Financial Times

News in brief

  • Modi sweeps to power in India – Financial Times
  • Suspicions that Edward Snowden has been spying for the Russians – Daily Mail
  • Stuart Hall found guilty of indecent assault (but escapes other charges) – Daily Mail
  • UK to run out of fossil fuels in five years, claims report – The Independent
  • Scientists condemned for political bias on climate change – The Times (£)
  • Lee Rigby memorial rejected by authorities – Daily Telegraph
  • Manchester City hit with record £50 million fine – Daily Telegraph

And finally 1) The Tories’ Facebook support

Facebook“One is a middle-aged Russian woman who lives in the town of Samara 650 miles east of Moscow and ‘likes’ Tony Blair and Pravda. … But according to Facebook she’s backing ‘real change in Europe’ on 22 May and voting for David Cameron. … Then there is the man from Mexico City called Yeyo Garuno who is all in favour of Mr Cameron’s welfare cap on benefits payments. Or indeed PiYapong Pakalertid who has signed up to be part of Mr Cameron’s Team 2015 on Facebook. He lives in Praken, Thailand.” – The Independent

And finally 2) Milliband, Milibanned, Miliband

“David Axelrod, Ed Miliband’s new American adviser, misspelt the Labour leader’s name in a public message. … ‘Enjoyed my visit with @Ed_Milliband and his @UKLabour team. I was inspired by the brilliant, tireless young women and men I met at HQ!,’ he wrote on Twitter.” – Daily Telegraph

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