Prime Minister accuses Balls of speaking with a ‘forked tongue’ on local government

140115 Cameron on Marr“Ed Balls speaks with a “forked tongue” when he promises a better deal for local government, David Cameron has said. In an unusually personal attack on the shadow chancellor, he said he regards every statement Mr Balls makes with a “lorry load of the best Siberian salt”. He was responding to questions from an audience in Derby, West Midlands. The Labour-run Derby City Council has said that spending cuts will be “devastating” for the area.” – Daily Telegraph

Europe 1) Cameron tells EU to stand firm against Russia

“David Cameron last night urged wobbling European leaders not to go soft on Vladimir Putin in the wake of a ‘ceasefire’ in Ukraine. At an EU summit in Brussels, the Prime Minister insisted Europe must stand firm in maintaining sanctions against Russia. His comments came after the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany reached a deal to end the spiralling bloodshed in the region after a tense 17 hours of negotiations.” – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: Ukraine, Putin – and why Cameron should now commit to NATO’s defence spending target

Europe 2) Osborne warns that Greece might exit EU by accident

OSBORNE red and blue“Greece could exit the euro by accident, George Osborne has warned. Tensions are running so high there is a danger ministers will back themselves into positions they can’t get out of, he said. Crisis talks with left-wing Greek PM Alexis Tsipras collapsed in Brussels last night. The Chancellor said: “There’s a danger of accidents. The risks of Greek exit have risen. “That’s not good for the UK. It’s not good for financial stability.”” – The Sun (£)

Europe 3) Boris urges Greek bailout…

“The eurozone will unravel unless its leaders agree to ‘shell out’ to Greece, Boris Johnson said last night. The London Mayor, speaking during a tour of the US, risked undermining efforts to persuade Athens to make concessions – insisting it was in a ‘strong position’. ‘They will shell out in one way or the other,’ Mr Johnson said of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other eurozone leaders.” – Daily Mail

…as he demands more powers for cities from the Chancellor…

boris-johnson“Boris Johnson has managed to visit Washington’s Smithsonian Air institute during his six-day jaunt to the U.S., but not before taking a swipe at George Osborne and suggesting Americans still wish they were ruled by the Queen. The London mayor yesterday called on the Chancellor to hand massive financial powers to cities to help ‘detoxify’ British politics. He further claimed that Westminster was going through a ‘very rocky period’ and devolution would help to ‘electrify’ the political scene.” – Daily Mail

…and tries to put the living wage at the heart of the election campaign

“Battling Boris Johnson is gunning to improve the pay of low-income Brits. The London Mayor wants the Living Wage to be made the cornerstone of the Tories’ General Election campaign… A voluntary commitment by bosses to pay workers up to £2.65 an hour more than the minimum wage has only been backed by Labour nationally so far. But Boris wants David Cameron to leapfrog Ed Miliband and adopt it alongside tax breaks. Offering firms money off their tax bills would give them the leeway to hike wage levels.” – The Sun (£)

Osborne accused of rushing pension changes

MANIFESTO money“But with less than two months before the biggest overhaul of personal pensions in a century, there are growing fears that savers and insurance firms will not be ready for the deadline. Experts fear many savers will squander their nest eggs, while others wanting to take advantage of the changes will be turned down by their pensions firm. Yesterday the boss of one of the UK’s biggest insurance companies criticised ministers for setting an ‘incredibly aggressive timetable’ and warned it could lead to savers making ‘poor decisions’ with their money.” – Daily

Phil Collins: Toxic Tories are digging themselves into a hole

money“Not much matters in politics but the toxic association of the Tories with the inexplicably rich does matter. It locates a Tory virus, isolates it, then spreads it. Ed Miliband has been astute to press hard on the row over Lord Fink, the former treasurer of the Tory party who is on the record saying that “everyone” seeks to avoid tax. Coupled with the tax avoidance scandal at HSBC and the no-questions-asked appointment of the bank’s former chairman Stephen Green as a trade minister, the Tories are courting a fatal connotation for a governing party. They look a long way distant from the country they arrogantly seek to run.” – The Times (£)

Labour aide refers to tax row as another “Milly Dowler moment”…

“Ed Miliband was under fire last night over a ‘sickening’ suggestion that the row over Tory links to tax avoidance could be another ‘Milly Dowler moment’ to be exploited for political gain. The toxic claim was made by one of the Labour leader’s most senior aides, as Mr Miliband tried to drive home his efforts to link Tory donors to the tax avoidance scandal involving clients of HSBC’s Swiss private bank. Labour last night said the exact phrase ‘Milly Dowler moment’ had not been used, and said the only comparison between the issues was the way they had ‘crystallised’ public opinion.” – Daily Mail

…as Miliband accused of tax avoidance

MILIBAND Red Ed“Ed Miliband was forced to defend his own tax affairs yesterday after being accused of benefiting from a controversial tax-avoidance scheme. The Labour leader has spent the week lambasting ‘tax dodgers’ in the wake of the HSBC scandal, but he now faces questions over his own family’s practices. Mr Miliband and his family used a ‘deed of variation’ to divide the ownership of the family home in North London.” – Daily Mail


  • Ed put on a victim pose, then landed his own mum in it – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
  • A tale of jeers and smears… – Michael Deacon, Daily Telegraph

Dan Hodges: Screaming about tax dodgers is the new witch hunting

“Tax avoidance is the new witchcraft. Scream “tax dodger!”, and you will immediately be met with the cry: “Burn him! burn him!”. Forget the fact that tax avoidance is – by definition – perfectly legal. Or the fact that many of those leading the mob also practice tax avoidance – Ed Miliband has used perfectly legal tax avoidance to minimise tax on his properties, as Tony Benn used it to minimise death duties. Forget the fact that “tax avoidance” and “tax evasion” are used interchangeably. All of this is irrelevant.” – Daily Telegraph

>Today: The Deep End: Heresy of the week: Why not get rid of corporation tax completely?

>Yesterday: Dr Eamonn Butler in Comment: The wilful conflation of avoidance and evasion has led to tax tyranny

Maths lesson gives Miliband a headache

BARRIE CHARACTER EDUCATION“Warming up for his flagship education announcement on Thursday, Ed Miliband admitted he felt a “faint whiff of trepidation” being back at his former north London comprehensive. “Have I remembered to do my maths homework?” he joked to the audience at Haverstock School. “I have, I promise.” But the Labour leader’s calculations appeared to unravel after it emerged that his central pledge — maintaining the entire £58bn education budget in real terms over the next parliament — would still lead to a drop in the amount spent on each child.” – Financial Times

>Yesterday: To The Point: How the Coalition changed its mind about spending

Labour extend pay clawback period for bankers

“Bankers found guilty of wrongdoing could see their bonuses and fixed pay clawed back even if the offence took place 10 years ago, under a package of reforms to be announced by Labour on Friday. Ed Balls, shadow chancellor, will say that the proposed clawback period should be extended from seven to 10 years to take account of the fact that some banking scandals take a long time to emerge.” – Financial Times

Harman insists she did not tell Karen Danczuk to join Girls Aloud

Karen Danczuk“Harriet Harman has denied claims she told an MPs’ wife she was “too pretty” for politics. The Labour Deputy Leader is alleged to have told Karen Danczuk, a former councillor, that she should join Girls Aloud, the girlband, instead of pursuing a career in politics on the basis of her looks. Ms Harman strongly denied the claim, saying it was “inconceivable” she would discourage a woman from participating in politics. Mrs Danczuk also claimed Ms Harman’s pink election battlebus was “patronising” to women voters.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Say what you like about her but Harman wouldn’t say this – Andy McSmith, The Independent

SNP demand Labour increase spending as price of support

“The SNP will only cooperate with a Labour minority government if Ed Miliband pledges to increase public spending, party leader Nicola Sturgeon has said. Ms Sturgeon ruled out joining Labour in a formal coalition after May and instead insisted that the SNP could support Ed Miliband on a case-by-case basis known as confidence and supply. On her desire to increase public spending Ms Sturgeon told The Independent: “The whole approach the UK Government is taking is wrong. It’s cut at all costs. Slash and burn without thinking of the consequences.” – Daily Telegraph

  • First Minister seizes chance to play kingmaker after election – The Independent

>Today: Lewis Baston’s column: Will Salmond follow Parnell’s example after the next election?

Liberal Democrats sink to lowest poll rating in 25 years…CLEGG Bird

“An Ipsos MORI poll for the Evening Standard put the Lib Dems on just 6 per cent of the vote, behind both the Green Party and the UK Independence Party. The Lib Dems have not had such a poor poll rating since 1990, when the party was still new. The survey puts the Lib Dems behind the combined support for the Scottish and Welsh nationalists, two parties who do not run national campaigns.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Raising tuition fees is paying off for everyone… except Clegg – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph

…as they slump to fourth in the South West

“Analysis of the polls in January found that Nick Clegg’s party could retain as few as three of their 15 seats in the southwest. The study by Peter Kellner, president of YouGov, shows that support for the Lib Dems in their heartland has plummeted from 35 per cent in 2010 to only 16 per cent in January in Yougov polls. These put the Lib Dems in fourth place across the region, with the Conservatives on 37 per cent, Labour on 21 and Ukip on 17, with Greens on 8 per cent. Mr Kellner suggests that under these figures the Liberal Democrats would go from 15 seats to three seats, losing all but Yeovil, Bath and Thornbury & Yate.” – The Times (£)

  • Lib Dems would win one MP if election were held tomorrow – The Times (£)

Browne savages ‘insipid’ Liberal Democrat leader

Browne Jeremy headshot“Nick Clegg has been accused by one of his senior MPs of offering voters “insipid moderation” and retreating to the Liberal Democrats’ “comfort zone” by attacking their Conservative coalition partners. In an interview with The Independent, former minister Jeremy Browne warned that the Lib Dems face losses at the May election from which it would be “very difficult to recover”. He blamed their plight on Mr Clegg’s 2012 decision to end his “pro-coalition” stance and to “differentiate” from the Tories – partly to head off any attempt to oust him as party leader. As a result, he said, the Lib Dems are getting “no credit” for the economic recovery.” – The Independent

Councils should be allowed to build new villages, urges Lib Dem peer

“Councils should be handed new powers to create their own “garden villages”, the Coalition’s former planning adviser has proposed in a move that could trigger a million new houses being built across Britain. Lord Matthew Taylor, who advised the last Labour government and the Coalition on planning policy, said the current system maximises Nimbyism and needs to be radically overhauled.” – Daily Telegraph

  • No room for garden city? Build a garden village instead – The Independent
  • Proposal to build a million new homes in ten years – The Guardian

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Yes, let’s have Right to Buy 2. But like Universal Credit, it needs small steps – not a big bang

Farage launches UKIP campaign…

UKIP glass“The Ukip leader used a major speech in the Movie Star Cinema in Essex to set out his party’s pitch for May 7, where everything from popcorn boxes to a smart car had been branded in Ukip colours. Ruling out a coalition with either Labour or the Tories, Mr Farage set out Ukip policies including taking workers on the minimum wage out of income tax and scrapping tuition fees for science and engineering students.” – Daily Mail

  • UKIP leader says his party is the only one standing up for the ‘small man’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Farage claims party will be main challenger in most English seats – The Guardian


  • The only way is UKIP as Farage plays matinee idol – Donald Macintyre, The Independent
  • Nigel turns other cheek in 50 Shades of UKIP – Ann Treneman, The Times (£)

…as his party falls to ten per cent for the first time since 2013

“A new poll suggests that support for Ukip has fallen below 10 per cent for the first time since November 2013, as Nigel Farage prepared to launch his election campaign. As the party leader gave a speech in Essex in which he declared that Ukip was “picking up support from across every social spectrum”, an Ipsos Mori poll for the Evening Standard showed the party down two points at nine per cent. The Lib Dems were also down in the poll at six per cent – its lowest level for 25 years.” – The Independent

  • The UKIP ad van with EEC number plate – Daily Mail

News in Brief:

  • Government introduces mandatory reporting of FGM – Daily Mail
  • New poster campaign ahead of banning ‘revenge porn’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Pork removed from school menus across London borough – The Times (£)
  • Embattled PCC spend £16,000 of public money on media training – Daily Mail
  • Mystery gambler bets £200,000 on a hung parliament – The Sun (£)
  • Delay in moving patients from A&E to hospital causes hundreds of deaths a year – The Independent

And finally… ‘radio silence’ for BBC presenter engaged to ConHome columnist

LESLIE Charlotte red“A Tory MP has announced her engagement to a BBC presenter – after just two months together. Charlotte Leslie, 36, is set to marry BBC Radio Bristol host John Darvall, who she began dating in October last year. The twice-divorced father-of-four, who is in his 50s, popped the question on Christmas Day and the Bristol North West MP described the moment as ‘just completely natural and lovely’. She said: ‘We have known each other since 2011, when he started interviewing me.’” – Daily Mail