Cameron and Obama pledge to defend free speech…

obamacameron“David Cameron and Barack Obama have vowed to defeat the “distorted ideology” of terrorism, ahead of talks in Washington. The UK and US leaders said they would not allow anyone to “muzzle free speech” after Islamist gunmen killed 17 people in terror attacks in Paris. They are expected to discuss cyber crime and the economy during the prime minister’s two-day visit. It is likely to be his final Washington visit before May’s general election. Mr Cameron is also expected to raise the case of Shaker Aamer, the final British resident in Guantanamo Bay.” – BBC

  • Crack down on internet giants PM to tell Obama – Daily Mail
  • A prosperous west will beat terror vows Obama – The Times(£)
  • The Special Relationship is shakier than ever – Sir Christopher Meyer Daily Telegraph
  • David Cameron has a very strange idea of freedom – Leader The Spectator(£)

…as Obama backs Cameron’s long term economic plan

“PRESIDENT Obama will infuriate Labour today by rolling out the red carpet for David Cameron – and endorsing his economic plan. The PM is being put up in Blair House – a Presidential residence typically reserved for heads of state – as he flies into Washington DC for a 48-hour love-in. And in a huge coup, the US President backed the PM’s efforts to help hard-up workers, the core Labour vote. In a joint statement about the economy the pair said they were “supporting small business, expanding apprenticeships and backing increases in the minimum wage”.” – The Sun(£)

  • We won’t let the voice of freedom be muzzled – David Cameron and Barack Obama The Times(£)
  • What gifts will they exchange? – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Obama and Cameron team up

Osborne:UK could be richer than US within 15 years

OSBORNE ConHome“Britain could be richer than America within 15 years if it presses ahead with economic reforms to boost growth, George Osborne said last night. In a bullish assessment, the Chancellor said there was ‘no reason why Britain cannot be the richest major economy in the world’, provided it continues reforms to upgrade the country’s skills base and creaking infrastructure. Mr Osborne also laid out plans for a new fiscal rule that would prevent future governments going on a borrowing spree – and force them to start paying down Britain’s debts.” – Daily Mail

  • “GEORGE Osborne’s dream of making Britain the world’s richest economy is worthy, if a long way off. What is achievable, and should be mandatory, is the Treasury making a profit each year to allow us to withstand the next economic downturn.” – The Sun Says(£)
  • Stamp Duty reforms “will boost prices” – The Times(£)

>Today: Prof Philip Booth on Comment: How to stop worrying and learn to enjoy deflation

May defends “Snoopers Charter” plan

“British security services would have been unable to trace the Charlie Hebdo terrorists in the way their French counterparts did, the Home Secretary has suggested, as she made the case for new surveillance powers. Theresa May told the Commons that communications data was likely to have been used by French police in the Paris attacks to trace and link the terrorists, but British authorities are losing the ability to investigate suspects. The Coalition is split over measures dubbed a “snoopers’ charter” by critics that would force phone and Internet companies to store records of contact for one year so that they might be investigated.” – Daily Telegraph

Debate about the debates at PMQs…

green20party (1)“David Cameron and Ed Miliband have accused each other of “running scared” over election TV debates, as they clashed at Prime Minister’s Questions. Mr Miliband called the prime minister’s refusal to take part unless the Green Party was involved a “pathetic excuse”. He said he would debate with “anyone invited by the broadcasters”. But Mr Cameron said the Labour leader was “chickening” out of facing the Greens and all “national parties” must be represented.” – BBC

  • 7 in 10 back Greens to take part in TV election debates – The Sun(£)
  • It’s not easy being Green – just ask the people of Brighton – The Sun(£)
  • Labour’s farmyard fandango was for nothing – Quentin Letts Daily Mail
  • Let Miliband and Clegg “empty chair” Cameron and see where it gets them – Dan Hodges Daily Telegraph
  • Cameron should join the debates – Leader Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Andrew Gimson’s PMQ sketch: Miliband looks more and more like Rumpole

…and “White Van Woman” hailed as wheels of recovery

“DAVID Cameron hailed White Van Women as the “wheels” of the recovery – as he praised The Sun’s drive to champion blue collar ladies. The PM was quizzed by Tory MP Rob Halfon during Prime Minister’s Questions whether he had read our story about tradeswoman Alison Hickling. Mr Cameron said: “Of course I look at The Sun every morning – and I was fascinated to see this article.
The fact is that under Labour, female unemployment went up by 24 per cent. Under this Government, the number of women in work is at its highest since records began.”- The Sun(£)

Archbishops say the poor after “left behind” under the Coalition

telegrapharch“Britain under the Coalition is a country in which the poor are being “left behind” and entire cities “cast aside” because politicians are obsessed with Middle England, the Church of England says today in a damning assessment of the state of the nation. In a direct and unapologetically “political” intervention timed for the beginning of the General Election campaign, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, warn party leaders are selling a “lie” that economic growth is the answer to Britain’s social problems. Questioning David Cameron’s slogan “we’re all in this together” they condemn inequality as “evil” and dismiss the assumption that the value of communities is in their economic output as a “sin”. ” – Daily Telegraph

  • In defence of rampant consumerism – Ryan Bourne Daily Telegraph
  • The churches top prelates are disappointingly partisan – Leader Daily Telegraph
  • The Archbishop of York on why politicians are like men arguing at a urinal – Isabel Hardman The Spectator
  • Interview with the Archbishop of York – Daily Telegraph
  • Welby says entire towns and regions are in a downward spiral – The Independent

Burnham calls for caps on fat, salt and sugar content

“Maximum limits would be set on levels of fat, salt and sugar in food marketed to children, under a Labour government, the shadow health secretary will say. In a speech, Andy Burnham will say it is time for tough action to protect children and tackle obesity. He will criticise the government’s approach to industry, which has been categorised by voluntary agreements. The Conservatives said “real progress” had been made on public health under the current government.” – BBC

Reeves confirms U-turn on energy price freeze

Rachel Reeves“The party’s work and pensions spokesman Rachel Reeves confirmed the shift, saying the ‘world has changed’ since the freeze was announced. Miss Reeves acknowledged that the party ‘didn’t use the word cap’ when the policy was launched. She told the BBC’s Daily Politics show: ‘Clearly at the time, prices were going up… The world has changed, and now we’ve got falling energy prices.’ Conservative chairman Grant Shapps seized on the admission as evidence that the policy was in ‘complete chaos’. ” – Daily Mail

  • Why won’t Labour stand up for the poor? – Simon Jenkins The Guardian
  • Oil price crash threatens North Sea oilfields – The Guardian

Firms named and shamed for not paying the minimum wage

“Retail giant H&M and service station operator Welcome Break are among 37 firms to be “named and shamed” for failing to pay the minimum wage. It is the single biggest list of companies exposed by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The 37 firms will be fined a total of £51,000 and must also pay affected staff the £177,000 they were underpaid. Welcome Break said a new IT problem contributed to the mistake, while H&M blamed time logging errors.” – BBC

Tower Hamlets Mayor faces new fraud claims

ballot_box“Claims that voters in Tower Hamlets were spat on, free lunches were used to win over local residents and that canvassers were paid in the runup to May’s mayoral election have been published in advance of an election court hearing next month. Lutfur Rahman, Britain’s first directly elected Muslim mayor, will face the claims brought by local residents who want to rerun the election on the grounds that he won through electoral fraud. He has issued a statement rejecting the claims as unsubstantiated, cynical, politically motivated attacks.” – The Guardian

Oborne: Tory machine will back Boris as next leader

“For the past five years Mr Osborne and Mr Johnson have been rivals. Now Mr Osborne, acting on the advice of Michael Gove, has signalled that he is ready to join Boris Johnson’s team. He brings with him Tory central office, the whips, and the gruesome inner circle that surrounds the Prime Minister. I record all of this with sorrow, even perhaps an element of personal bitterness. The Telegraph colleague I know is an outsider, a maverick, a genius. Now they want to make him continuity Cameron, the best way of securing the Prime Minister’s legacy, and keeping out Mrs May. ” – Peter Oborne Daily Telegraph

Fox: Send in more GPs ease pressures on A&E

FOX Liam One Minute“Many hospitals already have GPs at their accident and emergency departments and this should be extended to all hospitals. Those who arrive at the door should be split into those who need to see a GP and those who actually require emergency treatment. This would stop those who are not genuine A&E cases from unnecessarily holding up the treatment of those in greater need. Likewise, we need to ask why we can only see hospital specialists when referred by a GP.” – Liam Fox Daily Telegraph

  • A billion pounds offered for GPs to improve care – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Lord Ashcroft of Comment: The people, the parties and the NHS

Wild: The Mansion Tax will clobber most of us

“The track record of politicians from all eras and parties shows that relatively small levies initially introduced on the better-off are eventually extended to the rest of the population — and then increased. It’s a trick that’s been played for centuries. When Peel introduced income tax in his 1842 budget, the rate was 3 per cent on incomes over £150, which at the time was more than four times average earnings.” – Alex Wild The Times(£)

Montgomerie: Compulsory voting would make parties appeal to the whole electorate

MONTGOMERIE purple background“Conservatives should exalt responsibilities as well as rights. Citizenship already comes with duties, including an obligation to serve on juries if summoned and complete a census form once a decade.Neither should Conservatives fear the political implications of maximising turnout. Throughout its history the party has been at its best when it has sought to extend the franchise.” – Tim Montgomerie The Times(£)

News in brief

  • NHS failing poorer patients with cancer – The Sun(£)
  • Labour lead at two – YouGov
  • China invests in UK Nuclear Power – BBC
  • Legal case against NHS over contaminated blood – BBC
  • Bury Council cuts bin collections to once every three weeks prompting businessman to offer alternative service – Daily Mail
  • Salmond loses bet over oil price – The Sun(£)

And finally…Pub landlord takes on Farage

“Al Murray has confirmed that he will stand against Nigel Farage in the next general election. The Pub Landlord will contest the Ukip leader for the Kent constituency seat of South Thanet under the banner of the Free United Kingdom Party.” – The Independent