Knighthoods for Nicholas Soames and Bill Cash

soames“Winston Churchill’s grandson, one of Parliament’s most longstanding Eurosceptics and a deputy Speaker of the Commons have all been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Tory MPs Nicholas Soames and Bill Cash are to be knighted while Labour’s Dawn Primarolo is to become a Dame. Mr Soames, who followed his grandfather into Parliament in 1983, said he was “profoundly honoured and thrilled”. – BBC

  • “A CBE goes to former Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Elizabeth Filkin, author of the controversial report on the relationship between the police and the media in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.  A total of 1,149 people are included in the honours. Some 11% of the awards are for work in education, including knighthoods for national pupil-premium champion John Dunford.” – The Guardian
  • Cameron’s biographer Anthony Seldon knighted – Daily Telegraph
  • Honours list in full – Cabinet Office

Credit ratings upgrade boosts Osborne

“BRITAIN’S credit rating has been upgraded in a massive boost for Chancellor George Osborne. Ratings agency Standard and Poor’s said the outlook for the UK economy was AAA stable — 18 months after they downgraded it to “negative”. It means they believe Britain is now better placed to pay back its debts. A spokesman said: “We anticipate that the UK’s economic recovery will continue to broaden, benefiting the public finances.” – The Sun(£)

  • “About 75,000 homes are to be built in 30 new “housing zones” across England after George Osborne announced £400 million of funding. The money, half of which will go to London, will be paid as recoverable loans, meaning that councils will be able to use the funding for infrastructure and pay it back when the land is sold to developers. The move is intended to address a housing shortage, particularly in the south east, but could lead to protests once zones are identified this year.” – The Times(£)

Cameron plans a woman in every department

Esther McVey“David Cameron is expected to put a female minister in every Government department to counter claims that he has a ‘woman problem’….Sources expect at least one woman to be moved up to the Cabinet. Employment Minister Esther McVey is heavily tipped for promotion, as are Women’s Minister Nicky  Morgan and Childcare Minister Liz Truss. Mr Cameron will also have to bring a number of women into the Government for the first time. Potential names include Portsmouth MP and Royal Navy reservist Penny Mordaunt…Another contender is rising star Priti Patel..” – Daily Mail

  • “At the moment, seven of the Government’s 24 departments have no female representation.  They include the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Scotland Office. And only 25 of Mr Cameron’s 120 Tory ministers are women. But senior Tory sources say that will be addressed in the reshuffle, which could take place as early as next week.” – The Sun(£)
  • “Among other changes, the Conservative whip Greg Hands has been tipped to take over as Chief Whip following a successful period as deputy to Sir George, while the business minister, Matthew Hancock, is likely to have to wait for promotion.” – The Independent

>Today: ToryDiary: Cameron set to promote female talent

Pickles tells councils to stop land banking

PICKLES Eric smiling“We want to encourage councils to sell off land and assets which aren’t being used productively so that they can be turned into houses. We can all think of disused buildings or wasted space which might be put to better use in our own communities. Some councils are already adopting this – like Hartlepool, which has sold 11 sites since last May – but all of them should be taking action. We also introduced a Right to Reclaim Land for people to use if they don’t think their council is acting quickly enough.” – Eric Pickles Daily Telegraph

Green warns ethnic minority voters are “disengaged” from the Conservatives

“A Conservative minister has admitted his party is performing “appallingly” among minority ethnic voters who he says are “completely disengaged” from the party. The policing minister Damian Green told a Tory Reform Group conference that the party could have won a majority of up to 70 at the last general election if black and Asian voters had supported it on the same scale as ‘Anglo-Saxon whites’.” – The Guardian

Miliband apologises for posing with The Sun

Miliband coffee“Ed Miliband has apologised for any offence caused after he posed with a copy of the Sun newspaper. The Labour leader was pictured holding a special edition of the paper which was sent to millions of homes free to mark the start of the World Cup. Labour MPs have criticised their leader for associating himself with the paper, which has long been criticised for its reporting of the Hillsborough disaster. Mr Miliband said he “understood the anger” felt on Merseyside about it.” – BBC

  • “Mili-livered Ed.  Poses for Sun pic then grovels when MPs moan.” – The Sun(£)
  • “The apology came on a torrid day for the Labour leader on which he was attacked from all sides of the party over his ‘disastrous’ immigration policy and ‘divisive’ slogans, and a close aide warned that Labour was struggling for credibility.” – Daily Mail
  • “Leading the criticism, Liverpool’s Labour, mayor, Joe Anderson, said in a statement: “Like everybody in this city I am really hurt and offended by Ed Miliband’s support for the S*n [sic] ‘newspaper’ today. Such clear support for that publication at any time would be wrong but at such a sensitive time is deeply shocking. ..For the leader of the Labour party to make such an offensive gesture insults not only me but every person in the city.” – The Guardian
  • Labour councillor resigns in protest – Liverpool Echo

Yesterday: LeftWatch: Icarus Miliband gets burned by The Sun

…but not for his anti business policies

“Ed Miliband has made a habit as Labour leader of apologising for all the wrong things. He was at it again yesterday, issuing a curious apology for posing with a copy of The Sun which proclaimed his allegiance to England in the World Cup. Much more important, in a speech on Thursday to the GMB union, Mr Miliband repeated all the errors of his economic case with no apology to be heard. It is surely not possible, and it is certainly not desirable, for a party to win an election without attracting the endorsement of a single FTSE 100 chief executive. That was the position Labour got itself into by 2010 and it looks likely it will happen again in 2015.” – Leader The Times(£)

Union leader warns the working class are turning to UKIP

UKIP logo“Ed Miliband faces losing Labour’s traditional workers to the UK Independence Party, one of his biggest union backers has warned. Dave Prentis, Unison’s general secretary, said he was concerned that Labour was losing touch with its core support as the general election approaches…Mr Prentis said: “We have always believed that it [Ukip] is an issue for the Tories, but there is no doubt whatsoever that Ukip could take votes away from Labour unless Labour has policies that resonate with working people.” – Daily Telegraph

Clegg sees off rebellion

“The remaining threat of a challenge to Nick Clegg’s leadership appeared to have died out on Friday night when Cambridge Liberal Democrats rejected a move to call for a change in party leadership. At a specially convened meeting the party voted by 45 to 32 to reject the call. The outcome was welcomed by the local Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert as the right decision. There were some in the party leadership that feared a vote for a contest by Cambridge might have led to other constituency parties reopening the issue of Clegg’s leadership.” – The Guardian

Prison officer shortage raises fears of rioting

timesjails“The Ministry of Justice is scrambling to recruit more prison officers amid fears of disturbances across Britain’s jails this summer. Former staff who took voluntary redundancy will be asked to return to work as part of emergency measures to tackle an overcrowding crisis. Dozens of prisons already at bursting point are being told to take more inmates while hundreds of officers are being sent from their usual jails to help to bolster numbers where there are serious staff shortages.” – The Times(£)

  • “The prison population rose 182 this week to 85,410, up 1,749 on the same time last year. Official projections this year suggested that in a worst-case scenario, the numbers in jail this month would be more than 1,000 lower. An indication of the pressure on jails is underlined by the 153 per cent increase in the number of times that the prison service’s Gold Command was mobilised in the past two years. The command is a support group of officials used to co-ordinate the response to serious trouble.” – Daily Telegraph

Extra £250 million for NHS to reduce waiting lists

“Hospitals have been given £250 million to clear NHS waiting lists as ministers react to concerns over the rising number of people waiting for treatment. The money can be spent on keeping operating theatres open at night or at weekends, or sending patients to be treated in the private sector.” – The Times(£)

MPs attack “farcical” effort to curb tobacco smuggling

Smoke“Efforts to tackle tobacco smuggling have been hampered by a “farcical” lack of action by the government and its agencies, a committee of MPs has said. The number of illicit cigarettes smoked in the UK rose by 49% to a billion in 2012, suggesting a reduction in enforcement action, the MPs said. The Commons home affairs select committee said the failure to deal with rogue products was ‘of grave concern’.” – BBC

Border staff diverted to help clear passport backlog

“Britain’s frontline border staff have been asked to abandon their normal roles for up to six weeks to help cut the passport office backlog, The Telegraph can disclose. A leaked internal email from a senior Border Force director asked immigration and Customs officers to leave frontline duties and relocate to other parts of the country to process paperwork at Her Majesty’s Passport Office (HMPO), which is struggling with a backlog of at least 30,000 applications.” – Daily Telegraph

  • 208,000 passports handed to migrants in one year – one reason there’s a massive backlog – Daily Mail

Pro Russian rebels shoot down Ukraine military plane

“Pro-Russian rebels have shot down a military transport plane in eastern Ukraine, officials say, reportedly killing dozens of service personnel. Ukraine’s defence ministry said the Il-76 transport plane crashed after coming under anti-aircraft fire over Luhansk. Reuters news agency quotes military spokesman Vladislav Seleznov as saying 49 military personnel were killed.” – BBC

Parris: Gove’s “draining the swamp” has assumption of guilt

“Should the Home Office go in hard and early, as Mr Gove wishes, against religious extremists, even before suspects have actually engaged in acts of terrorism or incitement? This question is bigger than the immediate row about Islamism, and Birmingham schools. It is one of the great debates in English jurisprudence.” – Matthew Parris The Times(£)

Moore: By trying to be the “Peace President” Obama leaves a legacy of war

charlesmoore“He does not grasp, apparently, that the Pax Americana, under whose protection we have lived since 1945, has existed because it has always been backed by the credible threat of force. Weakness is provocative to bad actors, and some of the world’s worst have now been provoked. This seems to have come as an almost complete surprise to the Obama White House. The Peace President is starting to leave a legacy of war.” – Charles Moore Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • 17,000 waiting too long for cancer test – Daily Mail
  • Few fathers take up extra paternity leave offer – BBC
  • Labour group demands shops weigh customers before serving them – The Sun(£)
  • Bigger fines for rogue landlords – The Guardian
  • Margot James backs benefit cuts for feckless parents – Daily Mail
  • Gordon Brown warns independence could hit lottery funding for Scottish projects – The Guardian