MPs make flying visits to Rochester and Strood

RECKLESS Mark‘Conservatives ordered to hit the campaign trail in Rochester and Strood have been spending as little as 57 minutes in the constituency. In whistle-stop visits to the Kent seat, expected to fall to Ukip in a by-election tomorrow, some MPs have spoken to a handful of voters. Of about 15 Tories who passed through Rochester railway station on Monday and Tuesday, more than ten left after less than two hours.’ – The Times (£)

>Today: MajorityConservatism: Party Reform 2) Rebuilding the Conservative grassroots


Ofsted backs academic selection

‘The head of Ofsted yesterday called for children to be streamed at the age of 14 as part of a radical overhaul of the school system. Sir Michael Wilshaw said pupils should be directed towards either an academic or vocational school halfway through secondary education. His blueprint – outlined in a speech to business leaders – will be seen as tacit backing for a revival of academic selection.’ – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Cllr Andrew Wood on Local Government: Satellite expansion of grammar schools would be a mistake

Gove cancels Thursdays

GOVE, Michael blue sky‘Michael Gove has cancelled Thursdays in parliament, to the delight of Tories. The chief whip has written to his party’s MPs saying they are unlikely to be needed in Westminster on Thursdays between now and the election…The move is a reflection of the paucity of the government’s legislative agenda, with many MPs saying they have little to do. “It’s ludicrous,” said one Tory MP. “We should get rid of the fixed-term parliaments act.”’ – The Times (£)

  • MPs away campaigning cost the government a Commons defeat – Daily Mail
  • PubCos warn of unintended consequences – FT

Alexander accuses the Chancellor of ‘deception’ on deficit reduction

‘George Osborne has been accused by his Liberal Democrat deputy at the Treasury of attempting a “grand deception” on voters by promising unfunded tax cuts at a time when the UK budget deficit remains at about £100bn. Danny Alexander, Treasury chief secretary, also claimed Mr Osborne’s plan to eliminate the deficit purely by cutting public spending was “simply not credible”.’ – FT

  • NAO urges better financial monitoring of councils – FT
  • Sir Merrick Cockell suggests delving into pension funds for infrastructure – FT

Browne attacks the “arbitrary” mansion tax

Browne Jeremy headshot‘Plans to introduce an “arbitrary” mansion tax on expensive homes will “undermine the fundamental principles of private ownership”, a former Lib Dem minister has warned. In a scathing attack on the proposal, which is supported by Labour and the Lib Dems, Jeremy Browne said that imposing an annual charge on homes worth more than £2 million would permanently alter “the relationship between the state and the individual who owns a private possession”.’ – The Times (£)

>Yesterday: Stephen Tall’s column: How did it come to this? The Lib Dems’ seven key Coalition moments

Sounding Tough 1) Reeves joins the auction of crackdowns on welfare for migrants

‘Our country’s social security system was never intended to subsidise and perpetuate low-paid and insecure work. The European single market should not be about a race to the bottom on working conditions. So while some have said that we cannot negotiate changes to benefits paid to people in work, I am determined to look at how we can deliver reform in this area too.’ – Rachel Reeves, Daily Mail

  • UK grants citizenship to 193,900 people – The Times (£)
  • German MPs say the EU will never change its rules – FT

Sounding Tough 2) Cooper proposes new charges to fund border staff

Border‘Millions of Americans, Australians and Canadians will be charged £10 to come to Britain, under plans set out by Labour to pay for extra border staff. Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said 1,000 extra border guards could be hired by charging 5.5 million visitors from 55 countries…Home Secretary Theresa May said Labour’s proposed charge would apply to only around 230,300 people, and could pay for only 59 border staff.’ – Daily Mail

Sounding Tough 3) Burnham threatens to withhold cash until the NHS reforms

‘Labour has refused to give the NHS the extra money it is demanding until it makes radical reforms in its payment system to eliminate wasteful care. Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, told health leaders yesterday that voters would not stand for handing billions of pounds more to a health service in which glaring inefficiencies remain.’ – The Times (£)

Shapps slaps down Warsi over Jerusalem attack tweet

WARSI Sayeeda‘Tory party chairman Grant Shapps slapped down Sayeeda Warsi, his predecessor, after the former cabinet minister appeared to compare the deaths of the four Israelis in a Jerusalem synagogue to protests at the Al-Aqsa mosque in the holy city. A British rabbi is thought to be among those killed in the armed attack.’ – The Times (£)

The NHS could save £1 billion a year

‘The National Health Service could save about £1bn every year if hospital trusts ran their buildings and procurement operations more efficiently, according to new research for the health department. Some hospital trusts are spending several million pounds a year more than trusts of a comparable type.’ – FT

Finkelstein: Don’t underrate John Major

Major calls for windfall tax‘Sir John Major isn’t quite who you think he is. The nice things you believe about him are right. He is courteous and kind, solicitous (a little touch on the arm, the questions about the family, the handwritten notes), he cares about other people, he is moderate and intelligent…Yet he is also, to an extent not sufficiently understood, very clear in what he thinks, mischievous, tough and politically savvy. He is a proper pro, in other words.’ – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times (£)

Bob Geldof: I never heard my friend Mitchell say “pleb”

‘The musician said he had known Mr Mitchell for several years through their shared interest in international development. “We are an unlikely pair of friends,” Mr Geldof said. “I came from a poor Irish, not particularly well-educated background and he does not. I am in fact ‘a pleb’ and he is not. Never once in all our time did he patronise me, talk down to me, behave in a superior manner to me, deride, insult of dismiss me or my opinions.”’ – The Times (£)

  • Police officer: ‘I didn’t know what pleb meant’ – The Sun (£)

Country Life attacks planning reforms

Building shield‘Britain’s villages are under attack from predatory developers exploiting relaxed planning laws, the ‘countryside bible’ is warning. Country Life magazine says rural communities are being ruined by house builders ‘let off the leash’ by David Cameron. As a result, large estates are being built on the outskirts of villages, leaving residents with overcrowded schools and over-subscribed GP surgeries.’ – Daily Mail

News in Brief

  • Row over Paddington Bear’s foul-mouthed film – Daily Mail
  • Salmond shares the secret of his rise to power – Daily Telegraph
  • Ten police officers investigated by IPCC over Rotherham failings – The Times (£)
  • The Queen warns that Ebola may distract attention from other diseases – Daily Mail
  • Obama pushes the boundaries of executive power – Jacob Weisberg, FT
  • Rise in teen stabbing figures – The Sun (£)
  • Put your DNA on the moon – Daily Telegraph
  • A political shopping guide – The Independent

And finally…

Osborne keeps his fridge under lock and key…or does he?

‘Chancellor George Osborne has a special civil servant who guards his own padlocked fridge in the Treasury, it has been revealed. Lib Dem Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander revealed Mr Osborne had his own full-length fridge, which he kept under lock and key to stop colleagues raiding his milk…A spokesman for Mr Osborne said the allegation that he had his own fridge under lock and key was untrue. The source said: ‘There is only one fridge with a lock on. It’s communal and it is next to Danny’s office.’’ – Daily Mail