DC in DC: Obama gives Cameron a ringing pre-election endorsement

Cameron1“US President Barack Obama today handed David Cameron an extraordinary pre-election endorsement, hailing the British Prime Minister as a ‘great friend’. With less than four months until voters go to the polls in the tightest UK election for years, Mr Obama used a press conference in the White House to give the strongest possible backing to a fellow world leader.” – Daily Mail

  • Obama backing a boost for “my friend” Cameron – The Times (£)
  • President endorses the British economic strategy – Daily Mail
  • Cameron’s US success highlights Labour’s struggle for allies – The Times (£)
  • US will ‘prioritise’ release of British Guantanamo detainee – Daily Mail
  • Leaders pledge action against ISIS in Iraq – The Independent
  • A partnership enters bromance territory – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

>Today: Watch: Cameron and Obama in anti-terror talks

>Yesterday: Harriet Maltby on Comment: News from Britain to Obama: We may outstrip America within four years

Prime Minister pushes firms to pass on profits to employees

“British workers should be given pay rises by companies enjoying windfall profits from tumbling oil prices, David Cameron has said. The prime minister announced that he wanted companies in Britain, which have seen profits hit a 16-year high in recent months, to pass on the success to their employees.” – The Times (£)

  • Plummeting oil prices should see further fuel price cuts – Daily Express
  • Prime Minister taunts Labour on falling energy prices – Financial Times

Cameron: We can’t keep you 100 per cent safe in a free society

Police shield“It is impossible to keep people 100 per cent safe from terror attacks in an ‘open and free society’, David Cameron warned today as police increased protection for officers. Scotland Yard’s Mark Rowley announced he is also in talks with Jewish leaders offering their community great protection including more patrols in key areas. It comes after officers were ‘deliberately targeted’ by gunmen in Paris and the attack on a kosher supermarket in the French capital.” – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Andrew Bower on Comment: The encryption ban makes us look like the Thick Party

Britain creating jobs faster than any other EU country

“Overall, Britain saw the number of people in work jump by 720,000 in the 12 months to September 2014. By comparison, the increase in Germany – who came second in the EU league table – was only 390,000. The UK has also seen one of the fastest falls in the rate of unemployment. Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said Britain’s jobs miracle was “the envy of the EU”.” – The Sun (£)

Election 1) Tories set to outgun Labour in spending terms

MANIFESTO money“Labour hopes to raise up to £12m, according to senior figures in the party. The Tories are expected to collect an amount nearer the £19.5m central campaign limit, in line with the past two general elections, party insiders say. The opposition party will also begin the fight in a much weaker financial position than the incumbents. Labour had outstanding net debts of £5.7m at the end of 2013, compared with just £591,000 for the Conservative party.” – Financial Times

Election 2) Conservatives try to rebuild Scottish base

“Baroness Mobarik, who chairs the Pakistan Britain Trade and Investment Forum and is a former chairwoman of CBI Scotland, this week announced the creation of a new group for more than 35 business supporters, the Conservative Scottish Business network. This comes as the Tories attempt to regain a toehold in Scotland; senior party figures said three Scottish seats had been put on the party’s top 40 target list.” – Financial Times

  • A quarter of young Scottish voters have joined a party since the referendum – The Guardian

Chancellor claims sail of pensioner bonds a success

Conference 4“More than £1 billion of the Government’s new market-leading pensioner bonds have been sold to more than 110,000 over 65s, George Osborne has said. The Chancellor said the sale had been “hugely successful” with £1,153 million worth sold in the first two days. A pot of up to £10 billion has been put aside for the 65-plus bonds, which are available online, over the phone and by post.” – Daily Telegraph

NHS 1) Osborne warned as every NHS trust misses A&E targets

“The A&E crisis has left patients to be treated in store cupboards because there is not enough room in clinical areas, George Osborne was warned today. The Chancellor said the treatment was a ‘matter of regret’ for the whole government as he urged people not to go to A&E if they do not need to.” – Daily Mail

NHS 2) Hunt gives ambulance operators more time to make judgements

HUNT Doctor Carla Millar“Ambulances will be allowed to take longer to reach seriously ill patients under controversial plans announced by the Health Secretary. Jeremy Hunt yesterday unveiled a pilot scheme that will give operators an extra two minutes to assess 999 calls before dispatching paramedics. He said the added time will enable staff to establish if an ambulance is really needed, over concerns they are being sent out too readily to patients who are not seriously ill.” – Daily Mail

NHS 3) Fox brands Miliband “stupid” for using health service as political weapon

“Former Defence Secretary Liam Fox – a qualified doctor – said the Labour leader’s controversial bid to “weaponise” the health service would “disgust and demoralise” frontline staff. “Never before has a Labour leader had the temerity (or stupidity) to make such a claim,” Fox wrote, adding: “Labour does not own the NHS and the views of Miliband and Abbott will disgust and demoralise the many health professionals who do not regard themselves as being part of a party political battle.”” – The Sun (£)

>Yesterday: Judy Terry in Local Government: Health and Wellbeing Boards should champion NHS reform

Shapps confirms that Tory MPs will get vote on coalition deal

SHAPPS Grant favourite“Conservative MPs will be given the chance to veto a second coalition, the party chairman says today, as he played down the role of a US consultant hired to help the party. Grant Shapps said that MPs would be asked their views if there was another hung parliament, amid divisions over whether the Tories should try to govern as a minority or in coalition.” – The Times (£)

Tories offer more powers to the shires

“Ministers have spent the past few months courting the northern Labour cities with multi-billion pound devolution pledges, and will now tackle the “English question” by offering greater autonomy — and possibly cash — to rural areas as well. Greg Clark, as cities minister, is now holding discussions with council chiefs about combining counties with districts to negotiate for greater autonomy to run their own affairs.” – The Times (£)

>Today: ToryDiary: As Cameron talks better security in Washington, Clark plans more localism in Britain

Stewart suggests aid budget fund British troops on peacekeeping missions

STEWART, Rory headshot“Britain should use overseas aid to pay for its forces to take part in more United Nations peacekeeping missions, a Tory MP has said. Rory Stewart, chairman of the defence select committee, made the suggestion after the Department for International Development spent £1 billion in eight weeks to hit a target of allocating 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product to foreign aid.” – The Times (£)

Matthew Parris: Conservatives must tackle deceptive price comparison websites

“I wish I could report ministers are trying but I cannot. To its credit, the energy select committee is to question the Big Five. Labour, which has no great interest in the transformational power of consumer choice, has taken little interest. It is as though Tories think they must show that what’s good for business is automatically good for the public too; and any evidence to the contrary is reason to look sheepishly away.” – The Times (£)

How Labour sabotaged private hospital “success story”

NHS_Logo“There are growing calls for an inquiry into how Hinchingbrooke in Cambridgeshire was rated ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission watchdog – only months after winning an award for patient care. But the Mail has learned that individuals who helped draw up the CQC’s damning report have close ties to the Labour Party and unions which oppose NHS privatisation.” – Daily Mail

Miliband will face turmoil if he wins, warns Labour peer

“Ed Miliband faces the prospect of an “increasingly unpopular” government that could fall prematurely should he win the election, one of his peers has warned. Lord Liddle, a former adviser to Tony Blair, said Mr Miliband was likely to face a “major problem with rebel MPs” opposing spending cuts if he entered Downing Street. He warned that another election “may come uncomfortably sooner than Labour would like to think” due to the problems the next government will face.” – The Times (£)

Labour leader heads to Sheffield and promises voters their own weekly PMQs…

MILIBAND Ed red background“Voters will be allowed to question Ed Miliband about his Government’s policy every week in the House of Commons if he is Prime Minister after May’s general election. The Labour leader told 200 students at Sheffield Hallam University he wanted members of the public to grill him in the Commons every Wednesday, just before or after MPs have had their chance in Prime Minister’s Questions.” – Daily Telegraph

…and offers to decapitate Clegg

“Ed Miliband used a speech on the fringe of Nick Clegg’s home patch in Sheffield this morning to launch a stinging campaign to oust the Lib Dem leader. Miliband repeatedly accused Clegg of betraying his constituents, largely students, before setting his sights on winning the seat, resigning the Sheffield MP to political obscurity. Labour’s main line of attack focused on Clegg’s abandoned pledge to scrap tuition fees, made in 2010.” – The Sun (£)

Labour peer calls for death penalty for terrorists

Labour-Party-Red-Rose-logo“A Labour peer who survived the Mumbai terror attacks has suggested that the death penalty should be brought back for extremist fanatics like the evil killers of Fusilier Lee Rigby. Lord Noon said there should be a “major debate” on the controversial topic in the wake of the Paris attacks last week.” – The Sun (£)

Balls goads Osborne over Chancellors’ debate

“George Osborne was dragged into the row over televised election debates last night as Ed Balls said he was sure that the chancellor wouldn’t “duck” a showdown. The shadow chancellor revealed that he had already accepted an invitation for a televised debate with Mr Osborne and was confident it would go ahead.” – The Times (£)

Charles Moore: Tories would be foolish to give in to TV cartel over debates

Television“These debates are not, as Paddy Ashdown imagines, prescribed by some “independent” body: Ofcom can do no more than modify what others propose. They are cooked up by a cartel. The BBC, ITV and Sky join forces to bully the political parties into what, for their own advantage, they have concocted. The “5-3-2” format for the proposed three debates was sent to the parties without consulting them, and leaked in advance in order to exert moral pressure.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Iain Dale’s column: Why the Prime Minister will take part in the TV election debates after all

Alexander rejects pre-budget oil tax break despite Scottish job fears

“Danny Alexander has rejected Sir Ian Wood’s call for urgent tax breaks for North Sea oil to be introduced before March’s Budget despite another major company confirming it was planning job cuts. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury argued there was no point in rushing through a cut to a supplementary tax on profits as oil companies are not making any money, and are therefore not paying the levy.” – Daily Telegraph

  • New CBI Scotland chief aims to build bridges with SNP – Daily Telegraph

UKIP founder claims Farage’s influence will deny the party a seat

UKIP glass“Ukip’s founder has dismissed its chances of returning a single MP to Westminster in May, claiming the party is full of far-right sympathisers led by someone who is “obsessed” with immigration and defends racist behaviour. Dr Alan Sked said the party he established in 1993 was dominated by “the cult of Farage” whose stranglehold over Ukip would sink many potential MPs’ chances of ever taking seats in the House of Commons.” – The Independent

News in Brief:

  • Separate schools for LGBT children are not the answer, claims Tatchell – Daily Mail
  • The shocking north-south divide in higher educational attainment – The Times (£)
  • HMRC errors leave millions at risk of shock tax bills – Daily Telegraph
  • Officials failed to investigate school extremism threat – The Sun (£)
  • HS2 resident compensation scheme expanded – Financial Times
  • UK on highest ever terror alert after Belgian arrests – The Guardian
  • Pensioner charged after anti-vandal paint ruins vandals’ clothes – Daily Mail