Europe imposes fresh sanctions on Russia (but the French warship deal will still go ahead)…

Vladimir Putin“Europe last night imposed the toughest sanctions against Russia since the Cold War, sending the rouble into a tailspin and prompting warnings that British firms will be hit hard. … EU leaders agreed unanimously to embargoes against vast sectors of the Russian economy, designed to cripple its banks, energy firms and defence capabilities. … However, the embargo will apply only to future contracts, so one big deal that won’t be affected is the heavily criticised 1.2billion-euro sale of two French helicopter carriers to Russia, which has already been agreed.” – Daily Mail

  • “President Barack Obama said the new sanctions would make Russia’s ‘weak economy even weaker’.” – The Independent
  • “America has sensationally accused Russia of breaching Cold War nuclear missile treaty as the tension over Ukraine reaches breaking point.” – The Sun (£)
  • “The parents of a Brit killed in the MH17 tragedy begged for peace yesterday – as the EU finally slapped sanctions on Russia.” – The Sun (£)
  • “Bond yields have fallen to the lowest level in modern history in Germany, France and the eurozone’s core states, signalling a high risk of deflation and mounting concerns about sanctions against Russia.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “Pilots have called for the Government to ensure the safety of air passengers after a meeting of industry leaders failed to produce concrete advice on flying over war zones.” – Daily Telegraph

And comment:

  • “Barring a wholly unlikely change in the strategic calculations of President Vladimir Putin, relations between the west and Russia will be difficult and even dangerous for years to come.” – Financial Times editorial
  • “The EU has announced new sanctions against Russia. If these are to work, Europe must expect to make sacrifices” – Times editorial (£)
  • “EU’s sanctions on Russia will fail to be a knockout blow” – Christopher Granville, Financial Times

…whilst Cameron’s sanctions on migrants come under question

CAMERON EU fence“Britain is spending £5billion a year on tax credits for migrant workers, it has emerged. … Official figures show that 415,000 foreign nationals are benefiting from the perk, worth the equivalent of almost £100million every week. … The bill dwarfs the total savings achieved by David Cameron’s latest crackdown on out-of-work welfare payments to migrants, which was unveiled amid great fanfare on Tuesday. … These proposals, which include limiting access to jobseekers allowance to a period of three months, will reduce the benefits bill by just £100million a year.” – Daily Mail

“David Cameron was urged to get real on tackling immigration – as his high-profile benefits clampdown was branded a flop. … Sir Andrew Green of Migration Watch said halving the length of time jobless migrants can claim benefits was a step in the right direction. … But he said the change was nowhere near ‘sufficient’ to reduce the inflow of workers from EU countries taking low-skilled jobs.” – The Sun (£)

  • “David Cameron’s plan to cut benefits to European nationals is to be examined by the European Commission to check it does not breach EU law.” – The Independent
  • “The UK has paid for £400,000 of fences in Calais to foil illegal immigrants lurking there.” – The Sun (£)

And comment:

  • “David Cameron’s benefits crackdown for migrants is the window dressing Labour and Ukip say it is.” – Sun editorial (£)
  • “David Cameron’s EU benefits diatribe fools no one” – Nigel Farage, Daily Telegraph
  • “Several unresolved questions hang over whether the Scots have a future in Europe” – John Kerr, Financial Times

> Today: ToryDiary – ‘Migrant cop-out’…‘Why won’t Cameron come clean?’…‘Window dressing’ – the new immigration ‘crack-down’ falters

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – On immigration, and on economics too, Conservative language has become far too bureaucratic

The Prime Minister says that Britain leads Europe on gay rights

“The Prime Minister said Pride Brighton and Hove, which takes place this weekend, was a reminder of why Britain ‘continues to be recognised as number one in Europe on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGB&T) equality and rights’. … He said it was a ‘momentous occasion’ when the first legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples took place at midnight on 29 March.” – The Independent

Former Osborne adviser in the running for BBC job

BBC logo“A City grandee who helped advise the chancellor, George Osborne, on the restructuring of banking regulation has emerged as a leading contender to head the BBC after the favourite, Lord Coe, unexpectedly pulled out of the race. … Nick Prettejohn, who was recently appointed chairman of pensions and investment firm Scottish Widows, is understood to be one of four or five candidates set to be interviewed later this week to take over from Lord Patten as chairman of the BBC Trust.” – The Guardian

  • “Plans to find a new head of the BBC Trust were in disarray yesterday after a host of top names turned down the job. … Martyn Rose, chairman of English National Opera, Sir Peter Bazalgette, chairman of the Arts Council England, and Baroness Hogg, a former policy adviser to Sir John Major, are among those who have ruled themselves out, The Times has learnt.” – The Times (£)

Ministers to approve driverless car trials

“Driverless cars will start appearing on British roads next year, ministers will announce on Wednesday. … The Government wants to change the rules to allow companies to start running trials of cars that do not need a human driver on UK streets, industry sources said. … It means the first computer-controlled vehicles will be seen on quiet British streets by January next year.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “A survey by the Department for Transport has found that Britons are venturing out of their homes less and taking significantly fewer journeys by foot, car and bicycle.” – Daily Telegraph

A warning for HMRC over new tax-grabbing powers

Tax Take“HMRC was accused yesterday of taking ‘a smash and grab’ approach with its demand for new powers to seize money directly from people’s bank accounts. … Britain’s leading tax experts warned the taxman risks being ‘unconstitutional’ with the controversial plans, which could come into force within months. … The proposed new powers – which were published in the Budget and subject to a public consultation which closed yesterday – have triggered an outcry among tax experts.” – Daily Mail

  • “Tax workers have started a series of fresh strikes in a long-running dispute over job losses and office closures.” – The Guardian
  • “Everyone who uses a smartphone, laptop or tablet computer could face censorship by Brussels under the EU’s new right to be forgotten rule, a House of Lords report warned yesterday.” – Daily Mail
  • “Companies that bombard the public with nuisance text messages are getting away with it because ministers are dragging their feet over fining them.” – Daily Mail

Women’s groups call for Ruffley to step down now

“Women’s groups have called for MP David Ruffley to step down immediately, after he announced that he would leave parliament next May, months after accepting a police caution for assaulting his ex-girlfriend. Eleanor Rehahn, of the Bury St Edmunds branch of the women’s rights group the Fawcett Society, said the Conservative party was continuing to avoid dealing with the matter.” – The Guardian

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – Once the Dean’s letter was published, Ruffley’s resignation was inevitable

Boris refuses to say whether he plans to stand in 2015

borisfringe“The London mayor was asked three times on the BBC’s World at One about whether he intends to re-enter parliament, after a survey of Londoners found that they would want him to quit rather than do both jobs at once. … He refused to answer on each occasion, merely saying that he would make sure London has an ultra-low emissions zone whatever happens.” – The Guardian

  • “Friends of Boris Johnson worry that he is ‘wobbling’ over whether to stand as an MP at the general election. … One argument runs that if the Tories lose the election, the party is likely to descend into a bloodbath and Mr Johnson could stand on the sidelines as the most prominent Tory in the country.” – The Times (£)
  • “Green campaigners, pollution experts and the mayor of London have called on government to increase taxes on diesel fuel to tackle dirty air in UK cities.” – The Guardian

And comment:

  • “The Times believes that he should stand, but the worst outcome would be for him to waver.” – Times editorial (£)

Rafael Behr: The Lib Dems could survive by going back to their roots

“Now the Lib Dems are drifting back to their roots, campaigning seat-by-seat for individual MPs, respected for good deeds in their patch. There are worse ways to get by in politics and, given the difficulty Labour and Tories face building a majority, a shrunken band of Lib Dems might yet find their way back into government in 2015.” – Rafael Behr, The Guardian

> Yesterday: LeftWatch – The Lib Dems’ underwhelming review of their own finances

UKIP gain more from membership subscriptions than the Conservatives…

Farage Nigel Eating Cakes“The UK Independence Party received as much money in membership fees as the Conservatives did last year, new figures show. … Nigel Farage’s party – which has nearly 32,500 members – raked in £714,492 from its members’ in subscription fees during 2013. … The Conservatives, who do not reveal official membership figures but are thought to have around 135,000 members, managed to get just £749,000. … That is less than £6 per member, but the Conservatives say most of their membership fees go to local associations, and little of the money is held by the central party.” – Daily Mail

  • “Conservative headquarters received more money in 2013 from one widow’s estate than from its entire membership subscriptions.” – The Independent
  • “A Ukip fundraiser is a former madam who was jailed for earning hundreds of thousands of pounds from running brothels, The Times can reveal.” – The Times (£)
  • “Was Nigel Farage robbed of Gentleman of the Year?” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “Ukip holds the key for Miliband” – Allan Massie, The Scotsman

…but it’s Labour who find themselves mired in debt

“Labour is still deeply in the red despite slashing its net liabilities by more than £20m since 2006, when there were fears the party could be sunk by its spiralling debts. … The opposition party has not yet paid off all its legacy debts from the 2005 general election, when it borrowed £14m from a dozen millionaires – prompting the ‘cash for honours’ scandal. … As a result it still had an outstanding £5.7m of net debt at the end of last year, compared with £591,000 for the Conservative party.” – Financial Times

Balls to argue that “most people are worse off under the Tories”

BALLS Ed Spend can“The fall in earnings under the coalition will be greater than under any Government for more than 130 years, Labour will claim today. … Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls will say average wages after inflation are down by more than £1,600 a year since 2010. … And he will claim David Cameron will try to cut the top rate of tax again – from 45p to 40p for those earning over £150,000 if the Tories win next year’s election.” – Daily Mail

  • “Labour sources told The Independent that the party would pose the same question to voters that Ronald Reagan asked Americans at the 1980 election in which he defeated President Jimmy Carter: ‘Are you better off than you were four years ago?'” – The Independent
  • “A housing review for the Labour party will dash the hopes of those calling for a wholesale end to restrictions on council borrowing to build homes, warning this could clash with the party’s drive to avoid appearing profligate.” – Financial Times
  • “Ed Miliband should have a say in who is appointed as the new chief executive of the civil service, a leading peer has demanded.” – The Times (£)
  • “BBC presenter Sandi Toksvig was attacked by senior Labour politicians last night for comparing Ed Miliband to a ‘terminally ill child’.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “The Shadow Chancellor must take voters for morons. Labour’s overspending left Britain defenceless to the worst recession in a century.” – Sun editorial (£)
  • “It’s easy to scoff at the Labour leader’s failings, but underestimating him could turn out to be a mistake” – Mary Riddell, Daily Telegraph
  • “The rich want us to believe their wealth is good for us all” – George Monbiot, The Guardian

Burnham provokes Tory anger by calling for less private sector involvement in the NHS…

Andy Burnham“Labour’s health spokesman Andy Burnham was accused of ‘political posturing’ for calling for a halt to private companies running NHS services. … Mr Burnham backed Jarrow-style protest marches against the coalition’s health reforms, claiming the ‘privatisation’ of the health service is ‘indefensible’. … But his speech in Manchester came under fire because as health secretary in the last Labour government he extended the use of the private sector services.” – Daily Mail

  • “About £5.8bn of NHS work is being advertised to the private sector in moves that are slowly transforming the nature of healthcare in Britain.” – Financial Times

And comment:

  • “Privatisation of the NHS did not begin with the coalition – and it’s not the worst problem the service faces” – Guardian editorial
  • “Labour offers nothing on the NHS but crude caricatures” – Daily Telegraph editorial

…and Tory glee by resurrecting the “death tax”

NHS“Labour has resurrected plans for a 15 per cent ‘death tax’ to pay for people’s care in old age. … Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said he wants Labour to ’embrace’ a system where social care is funded by imposing a tax on estates when people die. … The Conservatives said that official figures show that a 15 per cent ‘death tax’ could mean a levy of £46,000 for the average Briton.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “Scottish health boards’ policy on the issue of smoking in hospital grounds was thrown into confusion last night after it emerged e-cigarettes could be part of a blanket ban.” – The Scotsman
  • “Hospitals are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money to force patients to court over car parking tickets.” – Daily Mail
  • “Fat doctors and nurses have been told to slim by the NHS’s chief executive to set a good example in the obesity crisis.” – The Sun (£)

And comment:

  • “The NHS is sending an unfortunate mixed message on the use of e-cigarettes.” – Scotsman editorial

Tower Hamlets mayor to face trial over election rigging allegations

“Britain’s first elected Muslim mayor is to face trial over claims he committed widespread voting fraud. … Lutfur Rahman, 48, is accused of using illegal tactics to win the mayoral election in Tower Hamlets, East London, in May. … People were allegedly promised council houses if they backed him and Islamic voters were told they should be ‘good Muslims’ and support him. … His supporters are accused of doctoring ballot papers, manipulating postal voting and sabotaging the chances of his main rival, Labour candidate John Briggs, by branding him racist and anti-Islamic.” – Daily Mail

  • “The family courts system is at breaking point due to delays caused by unrepresented litigants and overstretched judges, according to the body that represents lawyers and professionals in divorce hearings.” – The Guardian

Bank of England moves to tackle misconduct in the City, amid Lloyds row

Lloyds_Bank_2013_Logo“The Bank of England will on Wednesday unveil a tough new regime intended to stamp out misconduct in the City, including powers to claw back bonuses up to seven years after they have been paid and a new law that would see reckless bankers sent to jail. … The move comes as the board of Lloyds Banking Group  prepares to meet to discuss withholding pay from traders involved in the Libor rigging scandal. The bank prompted a political outcry this week after admitting to manipulating rates to cut the cost of a financial crisis rescue scheme, effectively costing the taxpayer millions of pounds.” – Financial Times

  • “The former boss of Lloyds who ran the bank while it defrauded taxpayers and racked up a £10billion bill for mis-selling PPI last night faced calls to give up his £192,000 a year pension.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “The banking sector is being reformed but more is needed” – Financial Times editorial
  • “High finance has indulged low morals for too long. It will take a new breed of bankers to change things.” – Guardian editorial

> Yesterday: David Fagleman on Comment – When it comes to the banks, financial stability isn’t enough

News in brief

  • Man tested for Ebola after flying from Nigeria to Britain – Daily Mail
  • Peston presents Newsnight for the first time – Daily Mail
  • ISIS video shows massacre of over 100 Iraqis – The Sun (£)
  • Israel prepares to push deeper into Gaza – Financial Times
  • Dawkins under fire for Twitter comments about rape – The Independent
  • “Women should not laugh in public,” says Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister – The Independent
  • Argentina on brink of second debt default in 12 years – The Guardian
  • The last surviving crewman of the Enola Gay dies – The Guardian
  • Royal aide accused of taking £100,000 in contract bribes – Daily Telegraph
  • Welsh Conservatives critcise the cost of subsidised canteens – WalesOnline
  • Commonwealth Games spectator ejected over Yes flag… – The Scotsman
  • …but Usain Bolt still reckons the Games are a “bit s***” – The Times (£)

And finally 1) Hammond’s protection

Police shield“Her mistake was to try to do a three-point turn outside the home of new Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. … as her disastrous attempt soon became a seven-point turn, plain-clothes protection officers became suspicious. … After questioning her and searching her vehicle, they discovered she was driving without a licence and called in back-up to the narrow street in Belgravia, one of London’s wealthiest areas. … Armed police officers arrived on motorbikes moments later to issue the hapless driver with a ticket. She then watched as her black car was towed away.” – Daily Mail

And finally 2) Hague’s new career?

“A hen party were left stunned when William Hague gatecrashed their celebrations. … The former Foreign Secretary was pictured with the group when they turned up at a sausage and beer festival in Rochdale, Lancs. … He happily posed for pictures with bride-to-be Rhiannan Adamson and her friends. … One was uploaded to Facebook, where some people thought Mr Hague was a stripper.” – The Sun (£)

  • “David Cameron has blamed the row over the demotion of the new Leader of the House of Lords on the need to keep William Hague in the Cabinet, a former Tory minister has said.” – The Independent