Cameron honours Auschwitz victims

CAMERON-PENSIVE“While survivors of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp marked the 70th anniversary of its liberation in Poland, political leaders, the Prince of Wales, prominent Jews and cast of stars of stage and screen gathered in London amid tight security. Mr Cameron told those in attendance that modern Britain must ‘not allow any excuses for anti-Semitism’ as he unveiled plans for a national memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.” – Daily Mail

Prime Minister insists Britain would be better with fewer migrants…

“Britain would be a ‘better, stronger country’ if fewer people moved here from abroad, David Cameron claimed today. The Prime Minister insisted he did not regret his pledge to cut net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’ despite latest figures showing it hitting 260,000. He vowed to continue to pursue the target, despite admitting there was little he could do to curb numbers from the EU apart from limiting access to benefits.” – Daily Mail

  • The election will be won or lost on health, the economy, and immigration – Daily Telegraph
  • But what about voters who care about other issues? – James Kirkup, Daily Telegraph

…and that benefits for wealthy pensioners is a matter of ‘fairness’

MANIFESTO money“The prime minister said yesterday that it would not be fair to cut pensioner benefits, in an echo of his pledge in 2010 to keep giving pensioners winter fuel payments, free bus passes and TV licences regardless of their income. The commitment undermined Conservative claims that they had spread the pain of austerity fairly.” – The Times (£)

  • Cameron’s five-year legacy: has he finished what Thatcher started? – The Guardian


Voters back debates without Cameron

“Two thirds of voters think the television debates should go ahead even if David Cameron refuses to take part, according to a poll. The findings came as the prime minister appeared to raise further objections, insisting that the broadcasts must take place before the election campaign began in earnest. Mr Cameron insisted he was “not fighting shy” and said he would be delighted to take part, but was accused of “wriggling and wriggling to try and get out” by Ed Miliband.” – The Times (£)

  • Prime Minister accused of trying to ‘wriggle out’ of debating’ – The Independent

>Yesterday: Nic Conner on Comment: Let the Democratic Unionists into the debates

Osborne cautions against recklessness as UK economy set to become world’s best-performing

Building shield“Chancellor George Osborne said: ‘Today’s figures confirm that the recovery is on track and our plan is protecting Britain from the economic storm, with the fastest growth of any major economy in 2014. ‘But the international climate is getting worse, and with 100 days to go until the election now is not the time to abandon that plan and return Britain to economic chaos.’” – Daily Mail

>Today: Ryan Bourne on Comment: Should Osborne target full employment?

Morgan backs Ofsted over ‘British values’ criticism of free school

“Education Secretary Nicky Morgan last night shrugged off recent controversies over the inspections of Christian schools and launched a stalwart defence of her ‘British Values’ drive. In the wake of the row over some faith schools in the North East being labelled intolerant, she said she was ‘unapologetic’.” – Daily Mail

  • Lessons in British values will protect UK from terrorism claims Education Secretary – Daily Telegraph

>Today: John Bald in Local Government: Teacher training – and school inspections – should focus on subjects

More than 100 Conservative MPs to rebel against plain packaging

cigarsmoke“Up to 100 Tory MPs are planning to vote against Government plans to force tobacco companies to sell cigarettes in plain packaging, The Telegraph can disclose. In a move that will cause embarrassment for Prime Minister David Cameron weeks ahead of the general election scores of Conservative MPs will vote against the plans.” – Daily Telegraph

  • This move will boost the black market in tobacco – Nick de Bois, Daily Telegraph

Health strikes called off after last-minute deal

“Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, warned the unions that the strikes, which included walkouts by ambulance staff, risked patients’ lives. Last night, however, with a little more than three months to go before the general election, the government stepped back from a major confrontation with health workers.” – The Times (£)

Boris challenges parties on cycle funding

BORIS blue and red“Pressure has now increased on political parties to pledge an annual fund for cycling worth £10 per capita each year – around £400 million or 3 per cent of the transport budget. Asked if the political parties should pledge significant funding for cycling for the rest of the country in their manifestos, the London mayor added: “Yes, absolutely. I’m sure it will be in the Conservative manifesto. Other parties can commit suicide by failing to promote cycling if they want.”” – The Times (£)

Villiers warns of further errors in controversial “on the run” scheme

“Further errors in the controversial IRA “comfort letters” scheme are likely to emerge, the Northern Ireland Secretary has warned. Theresa Villiers also told MPs that an investigation into the scheme by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is also expected to take years to complete.” – Daily Telegraph

Iain Martin: The prospect of a Labour/SNP coalition is a gift to the Tories

Miliband and Salmond“Miliband has declined to rule out a pact on the duff advice of Labour in Scotland, based on the theory that voters north of the border are well used to pacts at Holyrood and would have little problem with a Labour/Nat deal in London. So that’s okay, then? No. It overlooks how unpopular the notion of Scots dictating to England is likely to be in much of England, particularly in the heavily populated south.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Balls defies Miliband to rule out SNP deal – The Sun (£)
  • Will the real Jim Murphy please stand up? – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph

Hammer blows to Ed as polls show Labour voter satisfaction with NHS up…

“Ed Miliband’s decision to make the NHS the central theme of Labour’s general election campaign was dealt a series of heavy blows yesterday. Two former Labour health secretaries raised fears about the strategy, and new figures showed a dramatic surge in public satisfaction with the Health Service – especially among Labour voters. On a disastrous day for the Labour leader who has said he will ‘weaponise’ the NHS during the campaign…” – Daily Mail

…former health secretaries turn on his strategy…

NHS_Logo“Ed Miliband’s pledge to protect the NHS is a “pale imitation” of Neil Kinnock’s disastrous 1992 campaign that could lead to defeat at the polls, a former Labour cabinet minister has warned. Alan Milburn, the former health secretary and a leading Blairite, said that it would be a “fatal mistake” for the party to increase the NHS budget without reforming it for the modern age. The party risked drawing opprobrium for sticking to its comfort zone, he added.” – The Times (£)

  • Milburn brands Miliband a “pale imitation” of Kinnock – The Sun (£)

…and he claims it isn’t ‘fair’ to compare English and Welsh health services

“Ed Miliband today tried to dodge questions about the dire state of the NHS in Wales, by claiming that it was at least better than two decades ago. The Labour leader today launched his party’s health manifesto, warning the NHS under the Tories faces ‘its most perilous moment in a generation’. But he came under fresh pressure over long waiting times in Wales, where Labour is in control, insisting it was only ‘fair’ to compared it to the mid-1990s when the Tories were last in power before devolution.” – Daily Mail

Desperate Labour woo Sinn Fein

Gerry Adams“Discussions have taken place over whether the political wing of the IRA would prop up a minority government led by Ed Miliband. The move will outrage families of victims of Republican killers. Although Sinn Fein, led by Gerry Adams, have five MPs, they refuse to take their seats in the Commons. They include Conor Murphy — jailed for five years in 1982 for IRA membership and possession of explosives.” – The Sun (£)

Tuition fee cut promise piles pressure on universities

“Indications that Labour is planning to cut tuition fees have heightened budget concerns among university vice-chancellors, who were already braced for substantial reductions in funding, rising wage bills and growing competition from international institutions.” – Financial Times

Miliband attacks Thatcher’s privatisation programme

MILIBAND Red Ed“Ed Miliband trashed Margaret Thatcher’s unprecedented 1980s privatisation programme – sparking fury among Tory MPs. Blasting the creeping privatisation of the NHS, the Labour leader mocked the sell-off of big energy giants and utilities, saying: “Now we know where that got us, don’t we.” Tory backbencher James Clappison said the comments suggested he would renationalise scores of firms.” – The Sun (£)

>Yesterday: Left Watch: The leftward winds blowing Miliband off course

‘Ordinary voter’ offered role by Miliband never heard back and may vote Conservative

“Interviewed by broadcaster Nick Ferrari on his LBC breakfast programme yesterday she was asked about David Cameron’s plans for increased apprenticeships for the young. She praised the Cameron scheme but then she said: ‘You know I’ve still not heard back from Ed regarding being an apprenticeship ambassador so I’m not sure yet who I will vote for.’” – Daily Mail

Lammy attacks Labour attempt to ‘out-UKIP UKIP’

LABOUR dead rose“A Labour MP bidding to replace Boris Johnson as London Mayor has accused the party of trying to ‘out-kip Ukip’ with an ‘inflammatory’ leaflet on immigration. David Lammy today hit out at the flier trumpeting Labour’s ‘tough new approach to immigration’ which boasted that the party would stop migrants claiming benefits until they have lived in the UK for two years.” – Daily Mail

Mandelson avoids tax with £400,000 loan from his own company

“The Labour grandee received the cash from a company he set up to funnel income from his book and public speaking engagements. Instead of withdrawing the money in salary or dividend payments, which would have to be taxed, the former business secretary chose to receive it as a loan from the company of which he is the sole shareholder.” – Daily Mail

Cables clashes with Cameron over free trade pact…

Libdem bird vs TORY“A Coalition split over a planned free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States has emerged after the Liberal Democrats demanded tough new safeguards for British jobs and industry to be written into the deal. The call by Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, during a cabinet meeting today threatens to put the party on a collision course with David Cameron who has trumpeted the deal’s potential benefits.” – The Independent

…and supermarket oversight

“David Cameron has been accused of caving in to the Treasury and to big business over proposals to fine Britain’s retailers for squeezing suppliers. The government has been under pressure to respond to concerns about the way supermarkets treat suppliers as a price war wages between chains.” – Financial Times

Liberal Democrat peeress causes diplomatic incident in Taiwan with gift of a watch

International shield“Baroness Susan Kramer, Minister of State for Transport, gave the timepiece to Ko Wen-je, the mayor of Taipei in Taiwan, during an official visit. Such gifts are taboo in the Asian country, as she was unaware that in Chinese culture, the phrase “giving a clock” sounds the same in Taiwanese as a “bidding farewell” funeral ritual. Clocks also symbolise time running out in life or at the end of relationships in the island’s culture.” – The Sun (£)

UKIP  1) Party makes election pledge to amend smoking ban

“Ukip would overturn the smoking ban as one of its election pledges, the party announced yesterday. Nigel Farage’s party promised to “amend the smoking ban to promote choice for ventilated smoking rooms”, and also set out its opposition to plain cigarette packaging. Other Ukip pledges included “official documents to be published primarily in English” and “reinstating British territorial waters”.” – The Times (£)

UKIP 2) Dominic Raab: UKIP is a double-talking, flip-flopping party of spendthrifts

UKIP glass“Such flip-flopping is not a one-off. Ukip’s 2010 manifesto promised a flat tax, three high-speed rail lines, and vouchers to opt out of the NHS or schools. Every party revises key policies before an election. But Ukip junked the lot – betraying a lack of principles. Farage says he never read his 2010 manifesto. That shows breath-taking disdain for the promises made to The Sun readers at election time.” – The Sun (£)

Officials explore possibility of moving Trident to Wales as SNP surge

“Defence officials have secretly started examining plans to move Britain’s nuclear-armed submarines from Scotland to Wales, the Daily Mail can reveal. The Scottish Nationalists, on course for an unprecedented breakthrough at May’s General Election, insist they want the Trident fleet removed from its base on the west coast of Scotland.” – Daily Mail

Meanwhile wealthy Scots mull fleeing Nationalist taxes…

snplogo“Scotland is on the brink of an exodus of wealthy home owners wanting to escape the SNP’s high-tax agenda, a leading estate agent has said as it warned John Swinney’s new property tax may raise only half the amount he predicts. Savills said “endless” numbers of its clients were considering selling up and moving south of the Border before the introduction on April 1 of Mr Swinney’s Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT), his replacement for Stamp Duty.” – Daily Telegraph

…as taxpayer faces bill to compensate landowner victims of Scottish Government

“Taxpayers face paying out millions of pounds to Scottish landowners for infringement of their property rights under new plans to overhaul tenant farming, it has been claimed. Scottish Land & Estates, which represent landowners, warned SNP ministers they would face a barrage of “very substantial compensation claims” if they pressed ahead with recommendations giving tenant farmers greater rights to pass on their holdings.” – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: SNP accused of hijacking history curriculum

Greens 1) Tensions in the Green leadership as party distances itself from Russell Brand

Green Party poster“In an interview last month Natalie Bennett, the Green leader, was dismissive of Brand. “We do politics differently,” she said, adding that a “big personality . . . tossing their hair around” would be a distraction. Last week a senior party figure was quoted as saying that Brand’s endorsement might “seem like a good idea for two or three days but I suspect it would quickly turn into a nightmare”. The comment drew a furious response from Caroline Lucas, the Greens’ only MP, who was replaced by Ms Bennett as leader in 2012.” – The Times (£)

Greens 2) Decades-old conference decisions leave Greens exposed

“Thanks to a rise in the opinion polls and the huge surge in membership during the past year, the policies of the Green party are increasingly coming under the microscope. Much of the attention has focused on Policies for a Sustainable Society, a document covering 34 policy areas that is available on a dedicated website.” – Financial Times

  • The neoliberal consensus is collapsing: vote Green – George Monbiot, The Guardian

>Today: The Deep End: The reverse watermelons of the Labour Party

News in Brief

  • Earthquake in Hampshire ‘felt like an explosion’ – Daily Mail
  • Vice-Chancellors claim anti-terror plans are unworkable – The Times (£)
  • Spelling error destroys 124-year-old firm and costs Government £9 million – Daily Telegraph
  • Russia’s Wall Street spy ring – The Independent
  • Police call for slavery victims to be freed from prosecution for minor offences – The Guardian
  • New Shaun the Sheep character bears ‘uncanny resemblance’ to Miliband – Daily Mail