Cameron talks tough on Russia…

Russian flag“David Cameron warned there will be ‘more consequences’ and further sanctions for Russia if the ceasefire does not hold. He rejected the assessment of a parliamentary committee that the UK found itself ‘sleep-walking’ into the crisis over Ukraine, insisting the blame for the situation lay ‘squarely’ with Russia and its president Mr Putin. Speaking on a visit to Govan shipyard in Glasgow, the Prime Minister said: ‘I don’t accept this. The responsibility for what has happened in Ukraine lies absolutely squarely with Vladimir Putin and Russia.” – Daily Mail

  • Downing Street ‘gags’ general about Putin threat – The Times (£)
  • Prime Minister says West is not to blame for Ukraine crisis – The Sun (£)

>Today: ToryDiary: Are we psychologically prepared for the rest of the 21st Century?

…as he lays down the next generation of British warships

“David Cameron has backed Scottish shipbuilding with an £859million investment in the next generation of Royal Navy frigates to be built on the River Clyde. The Prime Minister said the money will be spent on developing the Type 26 warship and sustain 1,700 jobs across the country. The ship will replace Type 23s, with around 13 expected to be built by BAE Systems for service in the early 2020s.” – Daily Mail

Prime Minister puts UK at forefront of fight against dementia

Aid shield“Dementia patients will receive a diagnosis within six weeks, David Cameron will pledge today… The Prime Minister branded dementia one of the ‘greatest enemies of humanity’, insisting care for sufferers and efforts to find better treatments must be stepped up. As part of this effort, Mr Cameron said people presenting with symptoms should not be kept waiting for treatment because of delayed diagnoses.” – Daily Mail

Jeremy Hunt: Like Aids, we can turn the tide on dementia

“After decades of battling Aids, another fiendishly complicated disease, scientists are now discussing for the first time a vaccine as a realistic prospect. If we can turn the tide on Aids, surely it is not beyond the realm of human endeavour to do the same for dementia? Despite the constraints on public spending, and because of our strong economy, Britain has doubled research funding for dementia to £66 million. Today we are announcing that £300 million will be committed to further research in the next parliament.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: David Thomas in Comment: Why we need a charter for care workers

Prime Minister attacks Labour over ‘spineless’ SNP deal…

Scottish flag“David Cameron has accused Labour of being “spineless” for refusing to rule out sharing power with the SNP after the general election despite Alex Salmond wanting to “abolish” the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister said it was “appalling” that Labour attempts to “wrap themselves” in the Union flag while being prepared to work with a party that “would rip up that flag given half a chance.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Prime Minister suggests parties have booked a honeymoon in North Korea – The Guardian

…as Davidson pledges to stop Holyrood using Scots as a ‘cash machine’

“Ruth Davidson has promised to put the “overburdened, underappreciated taxpayer of Scotland” at the heart of her general election campaign and warned working families they had to vote Tory if they wanted any help. The Scottish Conservative leader said the country’s Left-wing parties see the taxpayer as “little more than a cash machine from which endless withdrawals can be made.”” – Daily Telegraph

Grammar school campaigners cheered by Cameron’s shift in tone

BARRIE CHARACTER EDUCATION“Campaigners for a new generation of grammar schools were cheered by an apparent shift in tone by David Cameron on the issue this week.Visiting a state school in Hove, East Sussex, on Tuesday the Prime Minister declared his “strong support” for the right of all “good schools” to expand, adding: “And that should include grammar schools.” His remarks contrasted with his claim in the early years of his Tory leadership that a pledge to build more grammar schools “would be an electoral albatross”.” – Daily Express

Osborne 1) Chancellor hints at tax cut for middle earners

“Speaking yesterday as he visited London Underground workers upgrading the Tube network, the Chancellor said the figures vindicated the Coalition’s decisions on tax and spending, including the cutting the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p, which ‘sent a signal’ that Britain backed enterprise. And he vowed that further tax cuts, offering relief for those paying the 40p higher rate, and a new income tax threshold of £12,500 would be his ‘priority’ if the Conservatives remain in power. ‘I took a difficult decision to cut the 50p rate,’ he said. ‘That rate sent a message that Britain was an uncompetitive place to do business.” – Daily Mail

Osborne 2) Government records an £8.8 billion surplus that looks set to run to the election

OSBORNE non-broken sword“Britain’s economy is now booming so quickly even the Government’s finances are in profit. New figures show Chancellor George Osborne was able to record a surplus of £8.8billion in January — the best monthly figure since before the crash in 2008. The first month of the year is traditionally good for the Government as money floods in from tax self-assessments. But this year’s figures suggest Mr Osborne could record a surplus right up until the end of the financial year in April — for three months running ahead of the election in May.” – The Sun (£)

Osborne 3) Top Tories outline investment in London

“George Osborne and Boris Johnson have sketched out an ambitious housebuilding and infrastructure programme for London over the next 15 years but left open the question of who would pay for much of it until after May’s general election. During an unusual display on Friday of mutual support by two men who have both been spoken of as possible future Conservative leaders, the chancellor pledged to boost the capital’s economy by £6.4bn by 2030, create 500,000 extra jobs, build more than 400,000 homes and invest £10bn in transport.” – Financial Times

  • Osborne and Boris unveil boost for London – The Sun (£)
  • Government accused of buying posters featuring Tory slogan – The Independent
  • The Chancellor could really learn from Wolf Hall – Andy McSmith’s sketch, The Independent

Osborne 4) Chancellor breaks silence over HSBC

“The chancellor spoke out after claims that he was ducking questions over the bank and why there had been only one prosecution after allegations of tax evasion through its Swiss subsidiary. He has also faced calls to explain why Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, HSBC’s former boss, was hired as a minister, although Lord Green has denied any wrongdoing. Speaking at an event at Tate Modern in London yesterday, Mr Osborne said that the allegations were “very serious”, but he warned that not involving politicians in deciding whom to prosecute was “one of the bulwarks of freedom in this country for hundreds of years”.” – The Times (£)

>Yesterday: Dominic Raab MP in Comment: HMRC should be taking on the big boys – not picking on the little guy

Grayling told he gave misleading advice on legal aid

Grayling470“Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling was told by a judge today he issued “materially misleading and inaccurate” guidance on rights to legal aid at inquests. It is the latest legal challenge to controversial provisions of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Laspo).” – The Independent

Government restricts police ability to ‘snoop’ on journalists

“A damning report earlier this month revealed that police used the anti-terror Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act – RIPA – to snoop on 82 journalists and expose 242 secret sources. Under the law as it stands, they only needed the permission of a senior officer to do so. Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert had planned to amend the Serious Crime Bill currently going through Parliament to toughen up the process. But in a letter to a committee scrutinising the Bill, Home Office Minister Karen Bradley said the Government would introduce the change itself.” – The Sun (£)

Matthew Parris: Cameron must stop trashing his own brand

Camerons thinking copy“Political campaigning is in danger of professionalising itself right up its own bottom. A good leader — and Mr Cameron can be a very good leader — is not a boiled egg on which spin-doctors pencil eyebrows, smiles or scowls. He wouldn’t be where he is unless he possessed qualities others lacked, and had understood things others missed. This is no time to defer to the mechanics.” – The Times (£)

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: May and McVey, negative campaigning – and the women factor

A house divided: Labour’s top team riven by factions

“The factionalism is growing and the top of the party is bitterly divided into camps. Around Miliband are the ‘Clappers’, who slavishly applaud him when he returns to the office, even if a speech has not gone well. They’re pitted against the ‘Ballsites’ in Ed Balls’s office, who work tirelessly to promote Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, as next party leader. She, of course, is married to shadow chancellor Balls. The problem is, some of the Clappers are at war with each other, too. At a time when Red Ed’s advisers should be rallying round their beleaguered boss, the truth is that they are riven with division.” – Daily Mail

Miliband could raid pensions to fund tuition fee cut

MILIBAND Red Ed“Pensioners could be hit by a tax raid to fund Ed Miliband’s plans to cut university fees, it emerged last night. The Labour leader is expected to announce details of the party’s policy to lower tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 within days, but is yet to agree with Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls on how the £2billion scheme could be funded. It emerged last night that one option being considered by Mr Balls is cutting some of the tax breaks handed to people saving for a pension.” – Daily Mail

Labour leader confronted by factory worker

“A leisurely election tour around a factory turned sour for Ed Miliband on Thursday, when a disgruntled voter confronted the Labour leader and said that many working class people were “leaning towards Ukip”. Peter Baldwin, an electrician at BAE systems, approached Miliband during a visit by the leader to the jet fighter factory in Lancashire. Baldwin said to Miliband: “At this moment in time I don’t feel like voting Labour.” – The Independent

  • I feel sorry for politicians who have to mix with the public – Dan Hodges, Daily Telegraph

Balls backtracks on receipts claim

BALLS Miliband pub“Ed Balls has been forced to backtrack on his claim that everyone in the country should get receipts for cash-in-hand odd jobs. Mr Balls has faced ridicule after he said that even someone who “cuts your hedge for a tenner” should provide an invoice to discourage tax avoidance, and claimed that he had the “name and address and a receipt” for every cash transaction because it was “the right thing to do”. Senior Labour figures including Ed Miliband distanced themselves from Mr Balls’s comments.” – Daily Telegraph

Rotherham abuse continues, claims Champion

“Because politicians are involved and independent inquiries have reported back, it is easy for those of us on the outside to regard this as an historical scandal. We want justice to be done and lessons learnt so we can move on. But Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham, cuts quickly to the jolting truth: even as the police are struggling to catch the guilty men, the abuse is continuing. “It is still going on, absolutely,” Ms Champion says in her office overlooking the South Yorkshire town, without a scintilla of doubt in her voice.” – The Times (£)

Whitehead attacks ‘Immigration Street’ programme…

Britain shield“In an open letter to the broadcaster, community leaders including MP Alan Whitehead and police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes called for the ‘ill-named and ill-advised’ programme to be stopped… It accused the production team of ‘reluctance to work constructively with the local community and us’. Dr Whitehead, a Labour MP, said last night: ‘The residents never wanted this programme to be foisted upon them.’” – Daily Mail

…as Vaz decries British values test as ‘Soviet’

“A debate on what it means to be British gained fresh force after reports that the Home Office is considering asking applicants for visitor visas to demonstrate “British values” before entering the country. “It sounds rather Soviet to me,” said Keith Vaz, Britain’s longest-serving MP of Asian descent. “We are defined by our institutions rather than our values. . . One of the benefits of being a liberal democracy is that we don’t put forward a single set of values.” – Financial Times

Charles Moore: Being better than Miliband isn’t enough. Cameron must address voters’ concerns

charlesmoore“I know it is considered bad manners to talk about things that matter in general elections. No doubt Mr Cameron is advised at every turn not to take unnecessary risks. But if he were to make a couple of big, serious speeches soon – one about the economic future of capitalism and another about global security – the effect could be as counter-intuitively exciting as John Major on his soapbox in 1992.” – Daily Telegraph

UKIP brace for race row over new documentary

“Nigel Farage is braced for fresh accusations of racism in Ukip with the broadcast this weekend of a fly-on-the-wall documentary about his local branch. Meet the Ukippers has been overseen by the producer behind Benefits Street, the Channel 4 series about a Birmingham road whose residents were heavily dependent on the welfare system. The film-makers say that it will offer “jaw-dropping views on race” as well as “unprecedented access” to members in South Thanet, on the Kent coast, where Mr Farage is running for parliament.” – The Times (£)

Scottish Universities afraid to call for fees against wishes of SNP

snplogo“Professor Craig Mahoney, principal of the University of the West of Scotland (UWS), warned his institution has a multi-million pound shortfall compared with its English competitors because the public purse does not provide enough funding. He said charging students tuition fees would provide much-needed income for institutions but the issue was rarely discussed among his peers because “opposing government policy isn’t always welcomed.”” – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief

  • Disgraced Rotherham leader’s Dolly Parton vanity project – Daily Mail
  • Guardian alleged to have edited news article to appease advertiser – Daily Telegraph
  • Tower Hamlets mayor refuses to answer questions, citing his human rights – The Times (£)
  • Three London schoolgirls head for Syria to join ISIS – Financial Times
  • Russell Brand on Prospect magazine’s great thinkers shortlist – Daily Mail