TV chiefs warn Cameron and Clegg they will be empty chaired in TV debates…

Camerons thinking copy“Broadcasters last night threatened to go ahead with televised election debates with or without David Cameron. The ‘take it or leave it’ offer by BBC, ITV, Sky and Channel 4 came as bosses published revised plans that will now involve the leaders of seven parties. Along with the Tories, Labour, Lib Dems and Ukip, TV executives have extended the invitation to the Green Party, the Scottish Nationalist Party and Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru.” – Daily Mail

…but Prime Minister will not be ‘bounced’ by broadcasters…

“The channels appear hopeful that threatening to “empty-chair” the Prime Minister will force him to accept. Downing Street reacted furiously to the broadcasters’ decision to leak details of private talks on the debates, as Lord Hall, the director-general of the BBC, was accused of disclosing details of the talks in the Radio Times.” – Daily Telegraph

…and Lib Dems are furious at ‘side-lining’ of Clegg

CLEGG Bird“But the revised format threw up a fresh set of problems on Friday. The Lib Dems are furious that leader Nick Clegg has been marginalised in the new set of proposals. In the initial proposal, the deputy prime minister had been offered a three-way debate with Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband; the Lib Dem leader said he should have the chance to defend his party’s record in government.” – Financial Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Clegg: lame duck or dead parrot? Why his weakness makes a second coalition unlikely

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Hanging tough on the question of debates is paying off for Cameron

Government has created a ‘jobs revolution’, claims IDS

“Iain Duncan Smith has said that the Coalition has created a “jobs-led revolution” after figures showed that the number of people claiming the main out-of-work benefits is at the lowest level in 25 years. The Work and Pensions Secretary said that the number of people claiming benefits including jobseekers’ allowance, sickness benefits and income support for lone parents has decreased by 900,000 since 2010.” – Daily Telegraph

Osborne warns against post-poll spending spree

OSBORNE non-broken sword“George Osborne gave warning on Friday that Britain’s economic recovery “would be lost” if a new government elected in May failed to stick to his tight spending plans. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the UK chancellor said the recovery started in 2013 only because the government had stuck to its plan of credible deficit reduction, activist monetary policy and structural reform.” – Financial Times

…as he tells Europe to work harder to keep Britain

“The Chancellor demanded “clear plans to make the European continent more competitive, to back business in Europe and to make sure public finances are in order”. Basking in self-congratulation – and indifferent to how this might sound to foreign ears – he told the forum that Britain had the fastest growing economy in the developed world last year, is enjoying the fastest drop in unemployment in its history and is now the “go-to location” for investors from across the globe.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Chancellor calls on France and Italy to fix crisis – The Times (£)

Charles Moore: If I were Greek, I’d be tempted to vote Marxist

Euro meltdown“Truly, the country is being broken. In these circumstances, it is hard to disagree with Syriza’s leader, Alexis Tsipras, when he says: “We must end austerity so as not to let fear kill democracy.” I was amused to read a learned, anxious article in the Financial Times this week, which speculated about whether Mr Tsipras will ultimately let “reason or unreason” prevail. The author did not say which is which, as if FT readers all knew.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: The Deep End: Heresy of the Week: Right now, the EU might not be the biggest threat to our national sovereignty

Boris comes face to face with ISIS victims

“As Boris sat cross-legged in Mr Arbas’ tiny tent at the camp just outside Erbil, the dad of three wept as he said: “Where is our government? They have given us no help at all. We have nothing and I cannot provide for my family. Please tell the UN about us.” The Tory MP, 50, put his hand on his back and said: “I’m very sorry”.” – The Sun (£)

Coalition spat erupts over Number 10 campaign event

Number 10“Tory candidates standing in Liberal Democrat seats across the country were invited to bring constituents to the drinks reception with the Prime Minister’s wife. Lib Dem MPs last night accused David Cameron of misusing the official residence by organising party political events in the taxpayer-funded property less than four months before the election.” – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The breakup of the Coalition is coming. But when? And how?

Davidson criticises decision to fly flags at half-mast for Saudi monarch

“But the decision to lower flags to half mast over public buildings – also including Westminster Abbey – triggered a bitter backlash with widespread criticism that the monarch, who died aged 90, had done little to stop the regular public beheadings and floggings handed out by the authorities. The leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson condemned the decision to fly flags at half-mast as ‘a steaming pile of nonsense’. She added that it was a ‘stupid act on its own and a stupid precedent to set’.” – Daily Mail

Ofsted accused of campaigning against Christian schools using anti-‘Trojan Horse’ powers

Church shield“Again, the accusation is that inspectors went in with an agenda, quizzing pupils about racism, homophobia and extremism. It is alleged they were even asked if they knew what lesbians ‘did’. Other Christian, Catholic and Jewish schools claim also to have been marked down in similar circumstances — one for failing to invite Muslim imams to take assemblies, another for being ‘too white’.” – Daily Mail

Former MP opens fire on Grayling

“Chris Grayling is a disgraceful incompetent who should be sacked as Justice Secretary because he is undermining the legal system, a former Tory MP has claimed. In a vitriolic personal attack, the barrister Jerry Hayes denounced the minister as “off his trolley” and as a “s*** which will have to be flushed” from office after the election.” – The Independent

Samantha Cameron’s stepfather attacks foreign aid target

aidgraphic“The Government’s overseas aid target is creating an ‘ugly rush’ to spend billions of pounds, Samantha Cameron’s stepfather warned last night. Viscount Astor said a recent report by the National Audit Office, which revealed ministers had to spend an extra £1billion at the end of 2013 to hit the target, underlined the danger of fixing such goals in law.” – Daily Mail

Turner faces reselection battle

“Mr Turner has been accused by local Tories of generating “turmoil”, following the revelation this month of his involvement in a love triangle featuring his former partner of 17 years and one of his closest advisers. He was branded a “laughing stock” and attacked as being “in thrall” to Carole Dennett, his former fiancee, after she moved her lover into Mr Turner’s taxpayer-funded house temporarily.” – The Times (£)

Matthew Parris: The Page 3 debate reveals us as a nation of prudes

parris“Page 3 is in itself a minor issue but accepting that what some Sun readers want is society’s business lowers the bar in proscribing what our fellow citizens should see, read, do, be or even think… I’m far from asserting that intervention should trump individual liberty in every case; I only remark that a barrage of social coercion seems to be slowly building.” – The Times (£)

‘Vote loser’ Balls sidelined by Labour…

“Ed Balls has been sidelined by Labour chiefs because he is too much of a vote loser, The Sun has learned. In a major humiliation, party bosses have quietly shunted the Shadow Chancellor out of the media spotlight in the run-up to the General Election as he is too closely associated with the economic crash. Instead, Labour heavyweights are pushing Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna as the public face of Labour’s economic message.” – The Sun (£)

…as he warns of health charging under a Tory government…

LABOUR dead rose“Shrinking the public sector to the size envisioned by the Conservatives could lead to widespread charging in the health service, Labour claims. Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, based his claim on figures covering 34 developed economies that show extensive health service charging in any country that shrinks its state spending to as small as 35% of GDP, the target proposed by the Tories for 2019-20. On average the level of charges is three times higher in those countries than in the UK at present.” – The Guardian

…and Lord Winston becomes latest Labour figure to turn on ‘Soviet’ Mansion Tax

“Asked if he could just move somewhere smaller to avoid the tax, he replied: ‘If you’ve lived in a house for 30 or 40 years I’m not sure government should be forcing you to move out. That then becomes something that last really happened in the Soviet Union after the revolution.’ The Labour policy has already been criticised by several of the party’s own leading candidates to be Mayor of London, including Diane Abbott, Dame Tessa Jowell and Margaret Hodge, while last week Lord Mandelson said it was ‘crude’.” – Daily Mail

Miliband attacks football clubs over living wage

MILIBAND Red Ed“Premier League football clubs should pay all their employees the living wage, Ed Miliband said yesterday as he contrasted their earnings with players on £100,000 a week. If he becomes prime minister in May, the Labour leader would put pressure on the clubs to pay more than the £6.50-an-hour national minimum wage.” – The Independent

Blair’s ‘grovelling apology’ to Gaddafi for failure to deport enemies

“Tony Blair made a grovelling apology to Colonel Gaddafi for failing to send the tyrant’s enemies back to Libya to face torture, the Mail can reveal. The then Prime Minister told the dictator he was ‘very disappointed’ Britain’s courts had blocked the deportation of five Libyan dissidents amid fears they would be mistreated.” – Daily Mail

  • There must now be an enquiry into Libyan rendition – Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian

Scotland 1) Tory poster warns against Labour/SNP coalition

Miliband and Salmond“The Tories have released a poster showing Ed Miliband and Alex Salmond outside No10 – claiming a deal between them would plunge Britain into “chaos”. It comes amid mounting speculation that the Labour leader could come to an agreement with the Scottish National Party to become PM. Former SNP chief Mr Salmond is standing for election to Westminster in May, and polls suggest his party could hold the balance of power in a hung Parliament.” – The Sun (£)


Scotland 2) Murphy accused of putting jobs at risk with proposed fracking ban

“Jim Murphy has been accused of putting Scotland’s largest petrochemical plant at risk after he said he would use powers being devolved to Holyrood to ban fracking. The Scottish Labour leader said the environment and safety case for the extraction of shale gas had not been made and called for the introduction of a “triple-lock system” to block it until further protections were in place.” – Daily Mail

Scotland 3) SNP land reforms risk breaking up Scotland’s estates, warns spokesman

snplogo“He told the Telegraph that most estates make little or no profit and breaking them up into units too small to be sustainable risks leaving the taxpayer with a large bill for a community buy-out with no economic gain. Outlining the intense “frustration” his members feel about the manner in which the issue is being presented, Mr Johnstone said many MSPs and some ministers lavish high praise on the estates in their constituencies only to lambast landowners when they are at Holyrood.” – Daily Telegraph

UKIP’s health spokesperson owns up to having no experience

““I like people to be straight with me, I don’t like all this…shenanigans in the background, I’d rather people be honest and up-front and I always try to answer things very honestly. “So, honestly, I have no experience in health whatsoever,” she says. To be fair, most Health Secretaries could – and perhaps should – have said the same when they started the job.” – The Independent

Greens reject suggestion of Russell Brand for leader…

Green Party poster“The resurgent Green Party does not want an endorsement from celebrity activist Russell Brand, party sources have revealed. There had been mounting speculation that the comedian-turned-anarchist – who has worked with leaders of the Left-wing environmental party in recent years – would be unveiled as the ‘Green Nigel Farage’. But senior party sources claimed they didn’t need an answer to the charismatic Ukip leader.” – Daily Mail

…as current leader explains why they would welcome a fresh recession…

“The Queen would be given a council house, and an economic recession would be welcomed as long as “human measures” of quality of life were rising under a Green government, its leader has said. Speaking in a week in which her party secured record ratings and an invitation to join election debates on television, Natalie Bennett laid out policies that she hoped would smash Westminster’s consensus.” – The Times (£)

…and Dame Vivienne Westwood donating £300,000 to Greens

green20party (1)“Fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood is reportedly planning to donate around £300,000 to the Greens, in a further boost to the party which has seen its ranks swell in recent months. In a statement released on their website, the Green party confirmed that Dame Vivienne had pledged her full support ahead of the May 2015 General Election, but made no mention of the donation.” – The Independent

  • Green candidate apologises for offending transgender people – The Independent

News in Brief:

  • Bonzanza for British tourists as Euro set for 13-year low – Daily Mail
  • City worker tackles robber armed with machete – Daily Telegraph
  • A&E wait times fall as patients say away – The Times (£)
  • Pump prices fell by ten per cent last month – The Sun (£)
  • E-petitions called into question after bizarre responses – The Independent
  • Senior military ranks to be slashed – The Guardian
  • Anti-terror police made 165 Syria-related arrests last year – Daily Mail