Cameron attacks Miliband for attempting to “weaponise” the NHS

NHS_Logo“The Prime Minister has accused Ed Miliband of ‘wriggling like an eel’ when pressed on whether he intended to use the NHS as a political weapon. In November, the BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson revealed: ‘A phrase the Labour leader uses in private is that he wants to – and I quote – weaponise the NHS for politics.’ Yesterday it emerged that Mr Miliband made the comment almost two months ago, in a private meeting attended by up to 15 senior executives at the Corporation.” – Daily Mail

  • Weaponising the NHS is rotten politics that puts patients in danger – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
  • Labour refuses to confirm “weaponisation” claim – The Guardian
  • Tories accuse Labour of “dirty tricks” campaign – The Sun (£)
  • Polls reveal Cameron and Miliband both drawing blood – The Times (£)

>Today: Matthew Maxwell Scott on Comment: What’s wrong with private providers delivering public services?

…but comes under fire for leaving immigration off list of election priorities

“David Cameron was criticised yesterday for the ‘amazing’ omission of immigration from the top six issues on which the Conservatives will fight the forthcoming election. Neither Britain’s borders nor the health service merited a mention in his party’s pitch to voters in May, which includes cutting the deficit, jobs, tax, education, housing and retirement. This is despite polls consistently showing these are the two issues of greatest concern to voters, often eclipsing economic growth.” – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Cameron’s manifesto list borrows from the ConHome manifesto

TV debates 1) I want debates and rivals are “running away”, claims Cameron

Television“David Cameron has insisted Westminster rivals are “running away” from TV debates in the run-up to the general election – despite his own refusal to take part unless the Greens are represented. The Prime Minister has ruled out appearing in the debates under the current format proposed by the broadcasters, which would see Ukip’s Nigel Farage take part but not Green leader Natalie Bennett.” – The Independent

TV debates 2) Empty chair the Prime Minister if he ducks challenge, urges Labour leader

“Broadcasters should “empty-chair” David Cameron if he refuses so take part in televised election debates, Ed Miliband said today. The Labour leader said it would be “pretty disreputable” for the prime minister to refuse to take part after extolling the virtues of the idea at the last election in 2010. He urged the BBC, Sky, ITV and Channel 4 to plough ahead regardless of whether the Tory leader agreed to take part.” – The Times (£)

  • Debates should proceed without Cameron, argues former BBC executive – The Guardian

>Today: The Deep End: For a privileged few free speech isn’t just free, it’s subsidised by the state

Conservatives surge to six-point poll lead as Labour flounders

Rosette shield“The Conservatives have opened up their biggest lead over Labour since 2010 as voters become increasingly optimistic about the economy, according to a new poll. With four months to go until the General Election, the survey by Lord Ashcroft put the Tories on 34 per cent, six points ahead of Labour on 28 per cent – worse than their result under Gordon Brown. A regional breakdown suggested that in England, the Conservatives lead Labour by 37 per cent to 29 per cent, while in Scotland the resurgent SNP is on 48 per cent to Labour’s 24 per cent.” – Daily Mail

>Today: Stephen Tall’s column: Here we go. My predictions for the coming election

>Yesterday: Lord Ashcroft on Comment: The Conservatives enjoy a six point lead in my first poll of 2015

Unions denounce Tory strike proposals

“Unions have reacted furiously to Conservative plans to toughen up rules regarding public sector strikes. The Tories today announced plans requiring at least 40% support from eligible members, and a majority of those who turn out to vote. The TUC called the move a “democratic outrage” and said it would effectively end the right to strike in the public sector at a time when Conservatives were planning pay restraints and job cuts.” – The Times (£)

Security 1) Prime Minister puts Special Forces on standby against Islamists

140115 Cameron on Marr“SAS troops will be deployed on the streets if Islamist fanatics launch a Paris-style gun attack in Britain. David Cameron has put them on standby to head off the ‘fanatical death cult of Islamist extremist violence’. The elite soldiers will take part in training exercises in which firearms police will re-create the horror witnessed in France last week.” – Daily Mail

  • Beheading threat puts troops on high alert – The Times (£)
  • Cameron calls for UK terrorist plan – Financial Times
  • West bears ‘some culpability’ for massacre, claims Farage – Daily Mail
  • Why tougher anti-terror measures inevitably fall by the wayside – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph

Security 2) Clegg condemns calls for revival of “Snoopers Charter”

“Nick Clegg will today condemn calls for the revival of the so-called snoopers’ charter following the Paris terror attacks with the warning: “We do not make ourselves safer by making ourselves less free.” The Deputy Prime Minister will put himself at odds with David Cameron who promised yesterday to give the intelligence services extra surveillance powers if he wins this year’s general election.” – The Independent

>Yesterday: Watch: Cameron lays out his case for new data surveillance powers

EU set to permit GM crops in victory for Paterson

EU FLag“The new legal regime that is expected to be adopted today is at odds with the principles of the EU and single market, which has previously insisted that all member states should apply the same rules on food and farming… The arrangements have been hailed as a success for the pro-GM campaigner and former Tory Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, who was sacked last year.” – Daily Mail

Janan Ganesh: Ever blander UK politics makes for a cheerful prospect

“The intellectual torpor of the election is a sign of Britain’s relative success and stability. Politicians are not struggling to come up with big new ideas because of writer’s block but because, in a highly evolved country that gets most things right, there are not many big new ideas to be had. There is only the ancient work of fiscal adjustment, to bring state spending in line with revenues. The rest is tinkering.” – Financial Times

>Yesterday: The Deep End: A horrifying prospect – the general election might be quite boring

Burnham claims people will have to take more responsibility for their own health…

Andy Burnham“Mr Burnham told MailOnline: ‘In a century of rising demand, rising cost of health, it is the most cost-effective way we can give people the keys to their own health. ‘People will have to take more responsibility for their own health.’ He added: ‘The NHS won’t be able to do everything. It’s maybe a message that people haven’t heard from Labour always.” – Daily Mail

  • Why Labour should be careful talking about the NHS – James Kirkup, Daily Telegraph
  • NHS phoney war hides the real scandal – Rachel Sylvester, The Times (£)

…as think tank claims Labour’s softening of spending cuts will cost country £50bn a year by 2020…

“Labour’s plan to soften spending cuts if it wins the election would mean borrowing up to £50 billion a year more by 2020 than the Conservatives, the head of Britain’s leading economic think-tank is warning. Continuing to follow the path set out by Ed Miliband risks adding £170 billion to the national debt by 2030, leaving little room for the government to offer emergency help if there is another crisis, according to Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies.” – The Times (£)

>Today: Grant Shapps’ column: Don’t let Miliband pick your pocket

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Two thirds. Five sevenths. The proportion of unidentified savings that the two main parties are planning

…and Labour calculates pay squeeze could cost Treasury £100m

money“The Treasury will lose more than £100bn in revenue if wages growth is as much below forecast in the next parliament as it has been in this parliament, according to calculations released on Tuesday by Labour. Income tax receipts and national insurance contributions have been 6.9% lower across the parliament than expected in 2010, equivalent to £95bn. The same level of shortfall in the next parliament would deprive the Treasury of £109bn in revenue, the party says.” – The Guardian

Hodge’s committee hits out at Department of Work and Pensions over benefit fraud

“And the influential Public Accounts Committee, which acts as a public spending watchdog, revealed the amount of fraud and error in Housing Benefit is still going up. A report condemned the Department of Work and Pensions – which pays out for the benefit designed to cover the rent for people who cannot afford to pay their own – for failure to curb false claims, and added that MPs were sceptical of promises by civil servants to slash the losses by more than two thirds by this spring.” – Daily Mail

Miliband claims Eurosceptics are a threat to national security…

Ed Miliband French“Eurosceptics who support severing ties with Brussels are endangering Britain’s national security, Ed Miliband suggested today. The Labour leader said that counter-terrorism was a key reason why he wanted the UK to remain in the 28-member union. Mr Miliband, who yesterday joined the national unity march in Paris after terror attacks in the French capital, urged voters to “think about terrorism” when considering Britain’s membership. – The Times (£)

  • Labour claim exit from the EU would hinder fight against terrorism – The Guardian

…as frontbencher Jarvis tells party not to worry, Farage isn’t actually popular

“Labour should not be “overly concerned” about Ukip because few voters have much fondness for Nigel Farage, one of Ed Miliband’s frontbenchers has said. Dan Jarvis, a shadow justice minister, said the number of people with a genuine passion or warmth for Ukip was tiny. His comments may alarm some colleagues who fear that Labour has been doing too little to combat the threat posed by Ukip in the party’s northern heartlands.” – The Times (£)

As Blair prepares to give evidence, why the IRA letters matter

tony-blair“Letters of assurance were sent to more than 200 IRA suspects in the years after the Northern Ireland peace agreement telling them they were no longer wanted by the police. Critics said the letters were effectively an amnesty and a “get out of jail free card” while ministers and officials have insisted it was an administrative scheme that only informed recipients of statements of fact.” – Daily Telegraph

Labour’s SNP revolt

“Shadow Cabinet ministers are pushing Ed Miliband to rule out any deal to govern with the SNP. The Labour leader left open the possibility of a pact with Alex Salmond’s new MPs yesterday. Mr Miliband refused to speculate on coalition negotiations by insisting he is “not about deals”. But he would also not close the door on one with the resurgent nationalists — despite being asked to four times during a TV interview.” – The Sun (£)

Iain Martin: Miliband’s refusal to rule out SNP pact is simply nuts

Labour England“The Labour leader is already in trouble for using the term “weaponise” in relation to the NHS. He is accused of using the term to describe how he intends to exploit the issue in the run-up to the election. But it looks as though he has unintentionally “weaponised” another subject: Labour’s vulnerability to Tory charges that it is prepared to stitch up England.” – Daily Telegraph

Millions could enjoy cheaper holidays after Treasury takes action on fuel slump

“Millions of Britons could soon enjoy cheaper bus rides and summer holidays after the Treasury wrote to holiday and travel companies demanding they pass on fuel price falls to consumers. Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said it was “only right” that companies enjoying boosted profits from plummeting oil prices passed on “every last penny” to the public.” – Daily Telegraph

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