Cameron’s £7.5bn promise to grey voters…

140115 Cameron on Marr“David Cameron today pledges to protect a raft of pensioner benefits to ensure ‘dignity and security in retirement’. In a major pitch to grey voters, the Prime Minister will vow to continue paying for the winter fuel allowance, free bus passes, TV licences, prescriptions and eye tests for as long as he is in Downing Street. He will repeat the pledge, which he first made at the last election, as he rejects the argument that such benefits are an ‘unnecessary luxury’ in times of financial difficulties.” – Daily Mail

…as he is urged to ease visa restrictions on foreign students

“A future government must make it easier for foreign graduates to stay and work in Britain after their studies or the country risks losing talented people to “competitor economies”, a group of business leaders has warned. In a letter to the Financial Times, 17 signatories from across industry urge all political parties to remove overseas students from any immigration target, saying most Britons “look favourably” on university students who have come to the UK from outside the EU (in 2014 there were more than 310,000 such students).” – Financial Times

  • May should scrap requirement that visa applicants sign up to ‘British values’ – Financial Times

Stirrup and Stewart warn Russia is testing UK defences

Russian flag“Lord Stirrup, who was head of the armed forces at the time of the 2010 strategic defence and security review, said the ‘swingeing cuts’ to defence spending had left the forces ‘right on the limit’ and needed to be reversed. He was backed by Tory MP Rory Stewart, chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, who said that all the political parties now needed to commit to maintaining the Nato target of spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence. ‘This is absolutely central. Every party must in their manifesto commit to 2% spending on defence,’ he told Sky News.” – Daily Mail

  • Getting a grip on ‘Mad Vlad’ could save the EU – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun (£)
  • How we lost our chance for peace with Putin – Peter McKay, Daily Mail


Hague 1) Whitehall must prepare for SNP

“Whitehall civil servants must start planning for the SNP holding the balance of power at Westminster, William Hague has said after Nicola Sturgeon demanded the Nationalists be included in pre-election talks. The Leader of the House of Commons said the UK civil service always prepares for “every possible electoral outcome” from May’s general election regardless of how likely or otherwise it was to emerge.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Free tuition squeezing Scots students from top universities – Daily Telegraph

Hague 2) Labour must stop “whingeing” about attack ads

HAGUE William looking right“William Hague has said that Labour must stop “whingeing” about Tory attack adverts and pointed to the negative campaigning he was subjected to as leader of the Conservatives. Mr Hague, the leader of the Commons, said that the Conservatives are entitled to say “whatever we like” about the opposition. The Conservative Party has produced a series of YouTube adverts attacking Ed Miliband and Labour, questioning his fitness for office and ability to handle the economy.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Crosby revives L-plate attack first used in Australia – The Times (£)
  • Hague’s farewell tour – Patrick Kidd’s sketch, The Times (£)

Tory MPs rebuke ‘hypocritical’ Church of England over living wage

“A Sun investigation has found a string of churches, including Canterbury Cathedral, are advertising jobs at the lowest possible legal minimum or close to it. A source close to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “They should practise what they preach. “It is hypocritical of them to admonish others when they don’t seem to be able to put their own house in order.” Tory MP Nadine Dorries said: “The letter was a political crusade on behalf of a clique of elite left-wing Bishops.”” – The Sun (£)

>Today: Jonathan Dupont in Comment: The next big idea for the centre-right should be a Living Income

Yeo orders OFGEM to ‘get its act together’

YEO Tim grey“The report says Ofgem needs to “get its act together” to cut people’s energy bills. MPs say the regulator has failed to stop the companies from charging too much. Consumers are waiting too long for Ofgem to deliver savings, the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee warns. Committee chairman and Tory MP Tim Yeo said: “Ofgem’s chief executive told us that we would have to wait eight years to see whether value for money was being delivered. This is too long for hard-pressed consumers.”” – Daily Express

Weatherly urges early detection of oesophageal cancer

“An MP who says he is only alive thanks to a “toss of a coin”, after suffering advanced cancer of oesophagus, is appealing for a government-backed drive to increase early diagnosis of the often terminal disease. Mike Weatherley, who has decided to step down at the election, has been cancer-free since an operation three years ago to remove his gullet and part of his stomach.” – The Independent

Bercow racks up £177 charge for four-mile limo ride

John Bercow“John Bercow ran up a £177 fare for a four-mile limousine trip, and the taxpayer picked up the bill. The cost of the Commons Speaker’s return journey from Parliament to Euston station in north London came to more than his rail fare to Lancaster and back. The extraordinary bill emerged as Mr Bercow admitted to being ‘bumptious and pompous’.” – Daily Mail

Straw and Rifkind in cash-for-access sting

“Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind offered to use their positions as politicians on behalf of a fictitious Chinese company in return for payments of at least £5,000 per day. Mr Straw, one of Labour’s most senior figures, boasted that he operated “under the radar” to use his influence to change European Union rules on behalf of a commodity firm which pays him £60,000 a year. He has been suspended from Labour following the disclosures, described by the party as “disturbing”. – Daily Telegraph

Labour set to torpedo ban on ‘gendercide’ abortions

Baby shield“MPs are likely to vote against attempts to outlaw abortion on grounds of gender after Labour warned that it will have “troubling consequences”. Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, told Labour MPs that sex-selective abortions are already illegal under the Abortion Act so new legislation is not needed. She said that the move could inadvertently outlaw abortion in cases where there are “gender specific abnormalities”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Unions attempt to block Bruce’s ban on sex-selective abortions – Daily Mail
  • Women’s groups urge MPs to vote against amendment – Daily Telegraph
  • The genetic case against the ban – Alastair Kent, Daily Telegraph
  • Cooper announces Labour plan for child protection unit – The Guardian

Tim Montgomerie: Selective abortion by gender should be illegal

“To end this confusion and to curtail what she calls this “first and most fundamental form of violence against women and girls”, Mrs Bruce is rightly pressing her amendment. The debate has divided feminists. While some support action against doctors who practice sex selection, others see the Bruce amendment as an attack on a woman’s fundamental right to choose. If the foetus is merely a blob of jelly — as many pro-abortionists want us to believe — they are determined to resist any law that hints that it might be something more: like an unborn baby girl.” – The Times (£)

  • Why we need to clarify our abortion laws – Dominic Grieve, Daily Telegraph

Miliband move on Treasury risks new split with Balls…

LABOUR dead rose“Ed Miliband is considering taking tighter control of public spending in a move which would clip the wings of the Treasury under Labour. Senior figures in Labour are considering a cross-party report that makes the case for reshaping Whitehall to ensure the prime minister has a greater say on Treasury matters. The news comes amid the latest signs of tension between Ed Balls and Mr Miliband, after the shadow chancellor caused irritation with his handling of a series of broadcast interviews.” – The Times (£)

…as party woes continue over tuition fee cut funding

“Labour is finding it “tortuous and difficult” to come up with an affordable plan to reform tuition fees in England, the shadow Business Secretary has admitted. Publication of Labour’s proposals on higher education funding are understood to have been put back several times in recent months, as senior figures in the party have been unable to agree how to pay for a pledged cut in tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 – or indeed whether to do it at all.” – The Independent

Labour MPs view return of Prescott as ‘desperate’

John Prescott“Ed Miliband has been accused of making a “desperate attempt to burnish his working class credentials” by appointing Lord Prescott as his special adviser on climate change. The Labour leader has faced repeated criticism from both his own MPs and Labour supporters for failing to address the needs of the party’s core voters.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Prescott intended to help combat threat from UKIP – The Times (£)

>Today: Nadhim Zahawi MP’s column: The pound scrapped. Grammar schools too. Lord McCluskey in charge. The nightmare of a Miliband government.

Reeves hopes to become a minister – and go straight on maternity leave

“She hopes to become Work and Pensions Secretary if Ed Miliband wins power in May. But she is due to have her second baby just five weeks later, on 15 June, and will begin her maternity leave before that. Miss Reeves, 36, said she believes she would have time to abolish the housing benefit under-occupancy charge – known as the ‘bedroom tax’ – before she goes on maternity leave until September.” – Daily Mail

Labour plan business training for heads

money“A Labour government would ask leading businesses to coach school headteachers in the management skills required to manage large budgets, Tristram Hunt will announce on Monday. In a speech to the City Academy in Hackney — which is partnered with KPMG, the consultancy — the shadow education secretary will set out his strategy to help school leaders cope with the increasing financial independence afforded to academies and free schools.” – Financial Times

>Yesterday: Sam Barrett in Comment: Apprenticeships – and the decline of practical skills

Mitchell retracts claim that ‘paedophile’ could hold his seat for Labour

“One of Parliament’s longest serving MPs has dismissed reports that Labour could win his seat even if its candidate was an “alcoholic sex paedophile”. Veteran MP Austin Mitchell has represented the Labour stronghold of Great Grimsby since 1977 but will step down before the May election. However, he expects Labour, which has held the seat since 1945, to retain it no matter what.” – The Independent

Boris Johnson: Happy birthday, Mr Mugabe – with special love from Labour

boris-johnson“We turned our backs on the very people who were actually indispensable to the economic well-being of Zimbabwe, and Labour essentially allowed Mugabe to launch a racist tyranny. It was Labour’s betrayal of the Lancaster House Agreement – driven by political correctness and cowardice – that gave Mugabe the pretext for the despotic confiscations by which he has rewarded his supporters. And that is why Blair should be there: to mark Labour’s special contribution to the tyrant’s longevity in office.” – Daily Telegraph

Lib Dems 1) Election strategy hopes to emulate Romans

“The party has chosen to pull resources from almost every seat it does not currently hold. One senior MP said: “We have to sacrifice the plains and retreat to the villages and rebuild from there.” A party strategist compares the campaign to the tactics of the Roman army, which defeated Hannibal by letting him occupy large parts of Italy for several years before striking back and driving him out of the country.” – Financial Times

Lib Dems 2) Alexander outlines tax evasion crackdown

ALEXANDER Danny Marr“People and organisations who help to enable tax evasion could face prosecution and tough financial penalties under a crackdown proposed by the Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury. Danny Alexander proposed creating a new offence of “corporate failure to avoid preventing an economic crime” for those who encourage or help tax evasion.” – The Times (£)

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Danny Alexander floats new tax evasion and avoidance laws

Lib Dems 3) Clegg aims to reduce number of people in prison

“Locking up more criminals is a ‘sign of failure’ Nick Clegg will say today. The Lib Dem leader will use a speech to insist that prison is ‘not the answer’ for many offenders and will outline reforms to cut the number of women, people with mental health problems and drug users behind bars.” – Daily Mail

Anti-extremist taskforce denies radical links

Sayeeda Warsi“A taskforce set up to tackle anti-Muslim hatred is useful and necessary, a long-serving member claimed last night, after the group was accused of promoting Islamist “entryism”. Baroness Warsi, the former cabinet minister, faced claims that she appointed members with links to radical groups to the panel on anti-Muslim hatred, which she set up with Nick Clegg. Fiyaz Mughal, a former member who resigned in 2013, told The Sunday Telegraph that he was deeply concerned about some of the participants and their connections.” – The Times (£)

Public want Tories and Labour to rule out UKIP pact…

“Voters have delivered a huge snub to Nigel Farage’s Ukip by declaring: “We don’t want you in Government.” More than half of Brits want David Cameron and Ed Miliband to rule out any post-election deal which would bring the anti-EU party into No 10. The shock findings are contained in an exclusive YouGov poll for The Sun.” – The Sun (£)

>Today: ToryDiary: Should the Tories form a pact with UKIP? Take our survey to have your say.

…as half of its voters admit to racial prejudice

UKIP glass“Around half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races, new opinion research has found. When Ukip voters were asked by the pollster YouGov whether they would describe themselves as prejudiced “against people of other races”, only 49 per cent said they were not prejudiced. 42 per cent of the party’s supporters admitted to being “a little prejudiced” while 6 per cent said they were “very prejudiced” – a total of 48 per cent.” – The Independent

  • UKIP drops plan to run anti-gay preacher in general election – The Independent

Bours’ plan to bar migrants from NHS for five years

“…foreign workers, tourists, students and other visitors from overseas should not be allowed to enter the country without holding valid health insurance, she will argue. Louise Bours, a Ukip MEP for the North West of England, will use a keynote speech in Kent today to set out her party’s general election manifesto pledges on the NHS. “It’s not fair to expect British taxpayers to pay for foreign nationals to use the NHS. This is Britain: our NHS is the National Health Service, not the international health service,” Miss Bours will say. Under Ukip plans, migrants would have to wait for at least five years before being entitled to an NHS number.” – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Adrian Hilton in Comment: UKIP’s grammar school policy is a dog’s breakfast

Farage’s £9,000 expense bill for rent-free office

“Nigel Farage claimed nearly £9,000 in EU expenses over six months for utilities, insurance and business rates on a small constituency office, new documents reveal. The Ukip leader has previously faced questions over his expenses after The Times revealed that he had received tens of thousands of pounds to pay for an office provided to him rent-free.” – The Times (£)

Westwood urges fashion show guests to ‘Vote Green’

green20party (1)“Leave it to Vivienne Westwood, then, to stay true to her proto-punk roots and use the presentation of her latest Red Label collection as a chance to share her beliefs with a captive audience. “Vote Green” admonished the invite to yesterday’s show in London’s Science Museum, urging a change from capitalism to a green economy.” – The Independent

News in Brief:

  • PR firm for Government public health drive also serves junk food giants – Daily Mail
  • Fairtrade suffers sales dip as belts tighten – Daily Telegraph
  • Jihadist call for attack on British shoppers – The Times (£)
  • North Korea exports slaves to fund leader’s lifestyle – The Independent
  • Chelsea racist chant suspect runs human rights charity – Daily Mail