We’ll do more to reform welfare and education, pledges Cameron…

CAMERON byline photo“The British economy will be a trickier fix, he acknowledges, and DIY Dave’s mantra is that only he has the tools to save us. … The Prime Minister knows that he has just 18 weeks until the General Election to drill home that message – or see his political career finished before he is 50. Worst of all, he would go down in history as the man who lost to Ed Miliband. … Launching his bid for another five years in Downing Street in an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, Mr Cameron: Vows to ‘hit the ground running and hard’ if he is re-elected, introducing reforming legislation on education and welfare within the first 50 days.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “The Conservative party’s January offensive against Labour has backfired after it emerged that a photograph they used showing the ‘road to a stronger economy’ is of a German road.” – Sunday Times (£)
  • “Local authorities are reacting to high demand for council houses by giving priority to those in work and insisting that would-be tenants have lived in an area for up to five years before they become eligible.” – Sunday Times (£)
  • “…the Department for Work and Pensions has carried out 60 peer reviews following the deaths of customers.” – The Observer

…as he attacks Miliband’s fiscal plan…

“In a conscious echo of the 1992 contest, which returned John Major to Downing Street, the prime minister will accuse Ed Miliband of secretly plotting to raise both the 20p and 40p rates of income tax to service Britain’s debts if he wins power in May. … Last night Cameron told The Sunday Times that Labour would have to pay a ‘breathtaking’ £13.5bn extra in debt interest payments over the lifetime of the next parliament, accusing the Labour leader of ‘pouring’ public money ‘down the drain’.” – Sunday Times (£)

…and warns Europe that Britain could leave

EU Exit“David Cameron today warns Brussels that he is prepared to take Britain out of Europe – as he states his determination to serve a full second term in Downing Street. … The Prime Minister – marking the effective start of the General Election campaign with an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday – declared just days before a meeting in London with German Chancellor Angela Merkel: ‘If I don’t get what is needed I rule nothing out.’” – Mail on Sunday

  • “In more skilful hands, David Cameron’s calls for EU reform might have meshed well with German priorities for sound money and stability, but Cameron has recklessly squandered European alliances and opportunities.” – Observer editorial

> Today: Alistair Burt MP on Comment – The strange silence of British politicians over Merkel’s confrontation of extremism

(Goodwill already has)

A minister stormed out of a top-level meeting after EU chiefs agreed with Spain to exclude Gibraltar from an important air safety deal. … Robert Goodwill quit the Brussels summit ‘in protest’ at the ‘astonishing’ decision to shut out the British territory from a plan to make flights safer and quicker by merging airspace.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “A diktat from Brussels will impose maximum power limits on all new cookers. … Tory MEP Daniel Hannan said: ‘If people want a low or high-powered oven, they’re quite capable of deciding for themselves.'” – Sun on Sunday (£)

Pollster Kellner’s advice for the Prime Minister

Opinion Poll graphic“You are miles ahead of Miliband as voters’ preferred Prime Minister. … Not least because the Tories are trusted more than Labour to run our economy. … Why are you struggling to overtake in voting intention? … First, most regard you as a well-off toff who doesn’t understand struggles that normal folk face. … Second, nearly two million people who voted Tory in 2010 plan to vote Ukip. … You need to win back at least half. Not just to fend off Ukip in its target seats, but to maximise your vote in the Tory-Labour marginals.” – Peter Kellner, Sun on Sunday (£)

  • “As the wind machine of the election campaign cranks up, I know I am talking into a gale, but let us have less of the ‘lies’, ‘lying’ and ‘liar’.” – John Rentoul, Independent on Sunday
  • “No winners in weirdest election ever.” – Louise Mensch, Sun on Sunday (£)
  • “The cuts will carry on in 2015 – but they’ll do us good.” – Bruce Anderson, Sunday Telegraph
  • “All the evidence says that Ed will win. Yes, it really could happen.” – Adam Boulton, Sunday Times (£)
  • “Voters want visions and solutions, not just scaremongering.” – Sun on Sunday editorial (£)
  • “The one thing we have to pray for is an election outcome that does not plunge us into further uncertainty.” – Sunday Times editorial (£)

And also from the pollsters:

  • “For the second year running, a clampdown on immigrants’ benefits has won the Sunday Times/YouGov new year knockout policy contest.” – Sunday Times (£)

Brady pushes for a vote in the event of another Coalition

BRADY Graham headshot“David Cameron will have to offer Tory MPs the power to veto a future coalition deal in a secret ballot, the most senior Conservative backbencher has warned. … Cameron has previously said he would consult MPs — as Nick Clegg did with Liberal Democrats in 2010 — but has repeatedly refused to say that he would give them a secret ballot. Brady said: ‘Conservative colleagues would have to be consulted and have input. I think it’s a given that there would have to be a vote.’ … Asked whether it should be a secret ballot, he said: ‘I think that is inevitable.'” – Sunday Times (£)

  • “There’s no way we’re heading for another carping coalition.” – Janet Daley, Sunday Telegraph

> Today: ToryDiary – Downing Street should clarify what will happen in the event of another Hung Parliament

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – Crosby tunnels behind enemy lines

Ministers to consider Fabricant’s proposals for allowing gay men to give blood

Fabricant“Gay men in relationships could be able to give blood for the first time since the Aids epidemic of the eighties under a shake-up of medical laws being proposed by ministers. … Michael Fabricant, MP for Lichfield is now pushing for a reform of the law, especially in light of the growing acceptance of same-sex marriages. … Ministers from the Department of Health plan to look into the possibility of changing the law to allow gay men more leniency when giving blood.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “The Church of England is embroiled in a row over proposals to sweep away laws that forbid a full Christian funeral to people who have taken their own lives.” – Mail on Sunday

Walker wants to finish off the Zombie Parliament

“Labour said there was now so little legislation to discuss that Tory backbenchers were only expected to turn up at Westminster for barely a month between now and the Election on May 7. … Even Conservative MPs are concerned. Tory MP Charles Walker, chairman of the Commons Procedure Committee, said: ‘There’s a natural rhythm to British politics that has served us well for decades and it’s a four-year rhythm. I’d prefer to do away with the whole idea of fixed terms.’” – Mail on Sunday

Ministry of Justice blocks rapist footballer from playing abroad

Prison bars“Convicted rapist Ched Evans will not be able to resume his football career overseas, following a Ministry of Justice intervention. … Maltese Premier League club Hibernians announced yesterday they had offered the 26-year-old former Sheffield United and Wales striker a six-month deal. … But in a statement, the Ministry of Justice said that as a convicted sex offender on licence, Evans was effectively barred from working abroad.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “Mobile phones used by prisoners will be cut off under a law to be introduced tomorrow after the phone networks refused to act unless compelled to by the courts.” – Sunday Times (£)
  • “Road bans for killer drivers will start only after they have left prison under new laws.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

And comment:

  • “Should a convicted rapist get another chance?” – David Walsh, Sunday Times (£)

Officials block May’s bid to knight Geoffrey Boycott

Boycott“…an attempt by Home Secretary Theresa May to turn the affectionate tribute into a genuine knighthood was blocked by Government officials because of Boycott’s conviction for assaulting a former lover, The Mail on Sunday has learned. … The bid to honour the former England captain in the New Year Honours list was vetoed by the Cabinet Office because of a furore dating back nearly two decades.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “But The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the ornately furnished chapel Sir Winston Churchill insisted should remain a ‘permanent’ shrine to the glorious Few is to be closed down and boarded up.” – Mail on Sunday

The Home Secretary also faces resistance to her plans for countering terrorism

MAY Home Office big“The Home Secretary would gain the right to cancel the passports of returning British citizens for two years or more, if they are suspected to have been involved in terrorist activity abroad, as part of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill.  … A number of senior Conservatives are preparing to back a Labour-led amendment that would force the Home Secretary to go to the courts.” – Independent on Sunday

  • “A senior Taliban commander who has threatened attacks against Britain is using LinkedIn, the business networking site for professionals, in an apparent attempt to recruit terrorists.” – Sunday Telegraph
  • “The Islamic State has released a new propaganda video featuring British hostage John Cantlie, in which he gives a tour inside the city of Mosul in Iraq.” – Mail on Sunday

And comment:

  • “The coalition’s record on civil liberties has been disappointing.” – Independent on Sunday editorial
  • “The West is wrong again in its fight against terror.” – Patrick Cockburn, Independent on Sunday

Nurseries to screen toddlers expressing extremist views, under Government plans

ISIS“Toddlers thought to be at risk of becoming terrorists will be screened by nursery staff under new guidance. … The crackdown will see teachers having to report those expressing extremist views about non-Muslims or calling for Sharia law. … The Government’s controversial move comes weeks after a mum who took pictures of her toddler with a toy assault rifle was revealed to have wanted to send his brother aged eight to wage jihad.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

  • “Critics said the idea was ‘unworkable’ and ‘heavy-handed’, and accused the Government of treating teachers and carers as ‘spies’.” – Sunday Telegraph

And comment:

  • “All religious schools must keep the faith – with British values.” – Rod Liddle, Sunday Times (£)

Fox: “Give Putin a rope and let him swing to safety”

FOX Liam One Minute“In return for the removal of the Russian threat to Ukraine, access to capital markets might be reinstated, easing some of the financial horror the country is facing. The tragedy is that all this might have been prevented with a leadership that looked forwards and outwards rather than backwards and inwards. The people of Russia, and to an extent Russia’s economic trade partners, are likely to pay a high price for this failure.” – Liam Fox, Sunday Times (£)

Boris’s battle over Parliament Square

“Boris Johnson has been accused of using Parliament Square as his ‘private back garden’ in an attempt to crush the fledgling Occupy Democracy movement. … Lawyers have written to London’s mayor threatening legal action after he sanctioned the construction of ‘unlawful’ fences around the square, which campaigners claim are a deliberate attempt to stop them protesting peacefully.” – The Observer

Webb provides support for the Bank of Mum and Dad

WEBB Steve dispatch box“Retired parents wanting to help their children with money could benefit under plans to give them the right to sell their pensions. … The changes being floated by pensions minister Steve Webb would give millions of pensioners the option to receive a cash sum that they could spend as they wished, including helping their offspring. … Mr Webb said that he wanted to build on reforms in last year’s Budget which will mean that from April, working people will be able to cash in their pension savings for a lump sum when they retire.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “Families are facing the choice between heating and eating, a report says.” – Sun on Sunday (£)
  • “MPs want tobacco companies, takeaway restaurants and chewing-gum manufacturers to spend hundreds of millions of pounds cleaning up the mess their products create.” – Independent on Sunday

And comment:

  • “The Government’s revolution in pensions is wise and vote-worthy.” – Sunday Telegraph editorial

Labour tries to play up the Tories’ links to the banks

“One in three Tory candidates in the party’s battleground seats has strong links to the financial services industry. … Research by the Labour party has shown that 44 Conservative candidates in the 130 seats that will decide the election have either worked for banks and other finance companies or accepted political donations from them. … Of the 44 candidates concerned, 30 are sitting MPs and the other 14 have a fighting chance of joining them in parliament in May.” – Sunday Times (£)

Burnham warns against “privatisation” of the NHS…

Andy Burnham“The NHS risks being consumed by a toxic mix of cuts and privatisation if the Conservatives win the general election, the shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has warned. … Labour has issued a 27-page dossier claiming that an analysis of healthcare systems in countries such as Mexico and South Korea, where state spending is at similar levels to those announced by George Osborne in the autumn statement, suggests that a substantial reliance on private healthcare will become inevitable.” – The Observer

  • “Last night each party accused the other of smears. … The Tories said: ‘We can only have a strong NHS with a stronger economy.'” – Sun on Sunday (£)

…as Field wonders why his party won’t admit the truth about the health service

NHS“I may be accused of scare-mongering, of exaggerating the threat to our universal, free- at-the-point-of-use health service. … But in my view, nothing short of a revolution is required – a radical rescue plan to save the NHS from financial meltdown and to take it out of day-to-day party political control. … Sadly, I see no such plan from either the Tories under David Cameron or, I regret to say, my own party under Ed Miliband.” – Frank Field, Mail on Sunday

  • “Go to bed with Ed and wake up in failing France.” – Tony Parsons, Sun on Sunday (£)

And related news:

  • “New hospitals costing billions of pounds will be needed in the next two decades unless Britain gets a grip on the obesity epidemic, according to the head of public health in England.” – Sunday Times (£)
  • “Patients in Brazil, China and Malaysia have a higher chance of surviving some common cancers than those in Britain, the biggest ever global study of its kind reveals.” – Sunday Times (£)
  • “Millions of People looking after sick or elderly loved-ones could be recruited to help avert a disastrous shortage of care workers as the population ages, the head of one of the UK’s only care training groups has suggested.” – Sunday Telegraph
  • “A top doctor has accused the public of being ‘greedy’ in its use of the NHS because it is free.” – Sunday Times (£)
  • “Campaigners are accusing the NHS of imposing ‘cruel’ cuts on people who are going deaf by denying them the hearing aids they need.” – The Observer
  • “A Glaswegian nurse who was diagnosed with Ebola after returning to the UK from Sierra Leone is in critical condition.” – Mail on Sunday

Umunna accuses the Coalition of misleading Parliament over tuition fees

“Government ministers have been accused of misleading both the Commons and the Lords over supposed international praise for Britain’s university tuition fees system. … the shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna, said the report expressly stated that it was referring to the fee structure, introduced under the last Labour government, which was in place until 2011.” – Independent on Sunday

  • “Long-term youth unemployment is costing taxpayers more than £180m a year, according to new analysis by Labour.” – Independent on Sunday
  • “Students who made a new year promise to give away a tenth of their lifetime earnings have seen the idea take off across the world.” – Sunday Times (£)

Ofsted must stay out of politics, says Labour’s Hunt

School“Oftsed will have to undertake major reforms under a Labour government and stay out of politics, the shadow education secretary has announced. … In a reference to some of the schools in Birmingham caught up in alleged Islamist infiltration, Tristram Hunt said that Ofsted – headed by Sir Michael Wilshaw – should not allow schools without a broad curriculum to attain outstanding status. … Writing in the Observer, he also said he was concerned by the way Ofsted had become politicised.” – The Observer

  • “A new Ofsted regime will encourage ‘completely pointless’ homework for students, a teacher and education expert has claimed.” – Independent on Sunday
  • “Boys should be protected from the classroom domination of girls by being taught in single- sex classes between the ages of 11 and 16, according to the first male leader of the Girls’ Schools Association.” – Sunday Times (£)
  • “Nancy Cameron daughter of the prime minister, is to be offered a place at a top Church of England secondary school within walking distance of Downing Street, sources close to the school have revealed.” – Sunday Times (£)

And comment:

  • “Schools need freedom to thrive. Labour will offer it.” – Tristram Hunt, The Observer
  • “… the education system has over the last four years been subject to huge cuts to the services that support some of the most vulnerable children and damaging upheaval as a result of the coalition’s fervent obsession with structural reform.” – Observer editorial

Cooper takes aim at the Government’s border problems

COOPER Yvette looking right“Criminals are exploiting gaps in Britain’s border security to smuggle guns and drugs, The Sun on Sunday can reveal. … A 54-page buried Government report lists how loopholes allow the lethal goods to be smuggled in. … Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper blasted the ‘chaos and incompetence’, adding: ‘This is yet more evidence that under Theresa May our borders have become less secure.'” – Sun on Sunday (£)

  • “Asylum seekers are being allowed into Britain without checks on possible criminal backgrounds because of a gaping loophole in immigration policy.” – Sunday Times (£)

And comment:

  • “A lax approach to asylum is unfair to everyone.” – Sunday Times editorial (£)
  • “Britain’s hospitality is being abused.” – Sunday Telegraph editorial

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – A winning Conservative migration strategy for the next election

Mann claims that “Westminster paedophile ring” allegations have been covered up

Police shield“Crucial files from at least six probes into paedophile rings with alleged links to VIPs have vanished. … It indicates a systematic establishment cover-up to protect senior political suspects, an MP suggested last night. … Labour’s John Mann said: ‘The pattern cannot be an accident.’ … He last week gave a dossier to police accusing 22 politicians, including three current MPs and three peers, of being linked to historic abuse.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

  • “One of Margaret Thatcher’s closest confidantes raped a teenage boy 30 years ago but escaped justice when Scotland Yard covered up the crime, it has been alleged.” – Sunday Telegraph
  • “The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been accused of lying to the UN over ‘endemic’ child sex abuse in the British overseas territory of St Helena to cover up allegations, one of which was that a police officer raped a four-year-old girl.” – Sunday Times (£)

And comment:

  • “Police, not expensive lawyers, should investigate child abuse.” – Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times (£)

“I walked into the sea. Something brought me back.” An interview with Labour’s first transgender candidate

“Brothers’ manner is rather stiff and combative at first. She has been ‘impatient with the world’ since her teens. ‘I don’t do rules very well,’ she says, adding: ‘If people tell me I can’t do something, it’s like a red rag to a bull.’ … But by the time I leave, invulnerable is the last word I would use to describe Brothers.” – Decca Aitkenhead, The Observer

Peter Hitchens’ email correspondence with Johann Hari

Peterhitchens“Dear Peter, As you know, for the past three years I’ve been travelling 30,000 miles to discover the real story of the war on drugs. Late in my journey, shortly after spending some time in prisons in Arizona, I read your book The War We Never Fought. Although I disagree with most of it, it struck me as the most clear and lucid argument for the prohibitionist case in decades. … Dear Johann, You and I are arguing from different premises.” – Peter Hitchens and Johann Hari, Mail on Sunday

Nick Cohen on Prince Charles: “We’ll not stomach a meddling monarch”

charles“The question should not be whether you agree with him (although I would doubt your sanity if you agreed with his whole obscurantist world view) but: by what right does he interfere? To date, no politician has asked it. … After four generations of telling the British that the monarchy is a unifying force ‘above politics’, politicians do not even trouble to pretend that Charles III is anything other than a “player” with his own manifesto and prejudices.” – Nick Cohen, The Observer

  • “How my trip to the cinema reminded me of the English distaste for hatred.” – Will Hutton, The Observer

And related news:

  • “The prince is said by senior sources to be ‘furious’ at the way the documentary turned into a public controversy.” – Sunday Times (£)

News in brief

And finally 1) The Guido Fawkes Awards

Guido Fawkes“Diet Of The Year: Chancellor George Osborne and his shadow Ed Balls both tightened their belts on the 5:2 fad, while even Eric Pickles lost a couple of stone in 2014. … However, Guido revealed that not everyone was happy with Osborne’s efforts to cut his waist size. After it was claimed a female aide had set him off on his slimming regime, his wife Frances was overheard exclaiming: ‘If anyone is going to put my husband on a diet, it’s me.'” – Sun on Sunday (£)

And finally 2) Watching paint dry

“When David Cameron leaves Downing Street for the last time his face probably won’t be quickly forgotten by the British public; but it might not be remembered too well by future generations because, in a break from tradition, he has yet to sit for an official portrait for the Parliamentary Art Collection.” – Independent on Sunday