Cameron 1) Former NATO chief claims he is ‘irrelevant’

NATOThe crisis in Ukraine could lead to ‘total war’, Britain’s former Nato chief warned yesterday. His stark warning came as the French and German leaders flew to Moscow to thrash out a peace deal – without David Cameron. General Sir Richard Shirreff also criticised Mr Cameron for not doing enough to persuade Vladimir Putin to pull back from Russia’s intervention in the country, saying he risked becoming a ‘foreign policy irrelevance’.” – Daily Mail


Cameron 2) Half of voters in major European countries support reform bid

EU FLag“David Cameron’s bid to force major reforms in Brussels has won the backing of half of voters in Europe’s biggest economies, a poll has found. An extensive survey of people in countries including Germany and France by pollsters ComRes found that voters are increasingly concerned about the EU and are demanding change.” – Daily Telegraph

Obama’s ‘Chief of Stuff’ joins Tory election team…

“He was President Obama’s “chief of stuff”; the ever-present assistant on the campaign trail and in the Oval Office. Now Reggie Love, the president’s basketball buddy and unofficial ambassador, has joined Team Cameron. However, the man who Mr Obama dubbed “iReggie” — his source of all information — is not heading to No 10 to help the prime minister to run his day more efficiently. Instead, the former US college basketball star has become part of the Conservative party’s general election operation, tasked with winning Mr Cameron a second term.” – The Times (£)

…as they promise to cut £10bn of red tape

Red Tape Britain“British businesses will save an average of £2,000 by the end of the next Parliament under ambitious Conservative plans to cut the red tape that can “mean the difference between success and failure”. The Conservatives will make a manifesto pledge to cut £10billion of red tape by 2020 to ensure that “our nation’s employers can grow and create jobs”. David Cameron will next week make a series of announcements aimed at the business community.” – Daily Telegraph


Government was aware of problems with flu vaccine

“David Cameron’s spokesman said the government had been alerted to the problem over the summer. “There were concerns raised a few months ago in August in Australia. So we were aware of those,” he said. “The point is it takes several months to develop a vaccine and that process obviously starts a while before the sort of winter period when it hits.” The vaccine is “still the best protection we have” as it also protects against two other strains which may yet emerge this winter, the spokesman said.” – The Times (£)

Ministers 1) Morgan allies with Clegg to cut teacher workload

“Nicky Morgan claims teachers are ‘working far too hard, for far too long’ and has promised to slash their workload. The Education Secretary lined up with Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg to propose ways to lighten the burden on school staff. This includes not making alterations to qualifications in the academic year or during a course unless in ‘exceptional circumstances’.” – Daily Mail

Ministers 2) Javid criticises police treatment of Sun journalists

Newspaper mastheads“Culture Secretary Sajid Javid has slammed police for treating Sun journalists like terrorists during their Plebgate probe. The Cabinet minister issued the withering attack on detectives who forced a phone company to hand over Sun reporters’ bills to expose the cop who blew the whistle on foul-mouthed Tory MP Andrew Mitchell.” – The Sun (£)

Tory peers fail to block aid target

“Former Chancellor Lord Lawson spearheaded attacks on a Bill to enshrine in law the UK’s commitment to the United Nations’ target of spending 0.7 per cent of national income on aid, currently £11billion a year. Peers argued in the House of Lords that governments should have more flexibility. No changes were secured yesterday to the Liberal Democrat Private Members’ Bill, which passed its Lords committee stage.” – Daily Express

King’s Fund attacks Lansley’s legacy in new report

NHS_Logo“The best thing that can be said, reading its verdict, is that the damage from the reforms was mostly indirect. That is, Lansley’s plan to sweep away the layer of bureaucracy sitting above trusts – the Strategic Health Authorities – and put commissioning power in the hands of GPs hasn’t actually made things worse, at least not by much. The problem is that it absorbed the full attention of the entire health bureaucracy for approximately three years, derailing other reform projects, and has (after its passage through the legislative meat grinder) left health care more fragmented than it was before, and just as inefficient.” – Robert Colvile, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Paddy Briggs in Comment: I’m a Fabian. And I believe it’s wrong to claim that the Conservatives are privatising the NHS

Matthew Parris: A warning to Cameron from down under

“There is no major power on earth that shares more with Britain than the country Mr Abbott leads. So when in his country a mainstream party in the conservative tradition lurches to the right under a new leader and campaigns for election on a raucously populist platform, gets a shot at government and comes an almighty cropper, we British Conservatives should take notice. Australia may be telling us something. This weekend Tony Abbott’s premiership as leader of the Australian Liberal party begins, surely, its ill-tempered walk to the gallows.” – The Times (£)

Labour grandees approached Johnson to replace Miliband

MILIBAND Ed red background“Lord Mandelson and Alastair Campbell, two of the founders of ‘new’ Labour, approached Alan Johnson in the past few months to ask if he wanted to replace Ed Miliband as Labour leader. Both Lord Mandelson, the former Business secretary, and Mr Campbell, Tony Blair’s former director of communications, contacted Mr Johnson, a former Labour Cabinet minister, to ask if he wanted to lead the party. The intervention came weeks after Mr Miliband’s disastrous speech to the Labour party conference when he forgot to mention the economy.” – Daily Telegraph

Burnham steps up battle with business by confronting online giants

“Andy Burnham has accused Starbucks, Google and Amazon of “damaging the fabric of our life” in an escalation of Labour’s battle with business. The shadow health secretary added the coffee shop chain, internet search engine and online retail giant to Boots in a lengthening list of companies marked out for criticism by Labour. In an interview with The Times, Mr Burnham said that New Labour “got too close” to big business and praised Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite. He claimed that it was healthier for the party to be funded by the unions than by wealthy individuals.” – The Times (£)

…as fifteen of Blair’s business backers cool on Labour

LABOUR dead rose“Fifteen business leaders who endorsed Tony Blair’s Labour party before the 2005 election have moved to distance themselves from Ed Miliband, The Daily Telegraph can disclose. The news demonstrates starkly how some of the businessmen courted by Labour leader Tony Blair in the last decade appear to have fallen out of love with the Labour party.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Whether or not Miliband is anti-business, the image is real and damaging – Andrew Grice, The Independent

>Yesterday: Iain Dale’s column: No, Balls isn’t anti-business. Indeed, he understands business.

‘Frankenstein’ Labour-led coalition most likely outcome, claims new poll

“There are ten possible outcomes for May 7. But the chance of either an outright Conservative or Labour majority was put at less than three per cent in new research by leading pollsters Populus and PR firm Hanover. Tory chief whip Michael Gove warned on Thursday that Ed Miliband would form a “Frankenstein coalition” just to get into No 10 — and wreck the recovery.” – The Sun (£)

The right’s divisions could let Labour in – Daily Telegraph editorial

Hunt apologises to nuns over Question Time comments

SIllyHunt“Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, has said he “meant no offence to nuns” after appearing to question the quality of teaching they provide at Catholic schools. The Stoke-on-Trent Central MP came under heavy criticism when he challenged a fellow panelist on the BBC’s flagship Question Time programme as she praised the “real values” her teachers had instilled in her, saying: “These were all nuns, weren’t they?”” – Daily Telegraph

Labour’s £500,000 help from tax avoidance firm

“Labour was last night urged to stop taking unpaid help from an accountancy giant accused by MPs of promoting tax avoidance schemes on an ‘industrial scale’. Senior Labour politicians – including members of Ed Miliband’s frontbench team – have accepted more than £500,000 worth of free help and advice from PricewaterhouseCoopers. Ed Balls, Chuka Umunna and Tristram Hunt are among them. The revelation is particularly damaging because PwC has placed its staff in Labour teams drawing up official policies on economic issues, including tax.” – Daily Mail

  • Miliband: I won’t back down on tax avoidance – The Guardian

Charles Moore: Ministers have made enquiries too sprawling to be useful

charlesmoore“I expect I am in a minority, but I felt a surge of sympathy when I watched Sir John Chilcot appear before the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday. His report on the Iraq war has taken a shockingly long time to appear, and so MPs and media were baying at him. Their implication was that he did not much care, and was therefore either complacent or covering up. A different explanation struck me: Sir John does care about the truth, and that is why he is taking a long time.” – Daily Telegraph

Former MPs who collecting House retirement money standing again

“In 2010, £10.4 million was paid to 220 MPs. Of these, 12 Labour and two Liberal Democrat MPs were given payoffs of £65,000 each. Five years later all 14 have now been reselected by their parties to fight the same seats and could get their old jobs back. In addition Alex Salmond, who stood down as an MP in 2010 and received a £65,000 payout is standing again for Westminster after resigning last year as Scottish first minister and leader of the Scottish National Party. After tax he received about £50,000 and donated half to a charity.” – The Times (£)

Clegg on standby to serve as caretaker Prime Minister

Curse of Clegg 2Nick Clegg could serve as a caretaker prime minister after the general election until a new coalition is formed, a senior Lib Dem MP suggested yesterday. Former defence minister Sir Nick Harvey said any negotiations after this May’s vote could take up to a month, unlike the 2010 coalition deal which was thrashed out in just five days. The veteran Lib Dem MP said this would require an “interim government” to be in place while political parties haggled over the formation of a new administration.” – Daily Express

Featherstone supports controversial FGM prosecution

“The controversial prosecution of an NHS doctor over female genital mutilation was justified, a Liberal Democrat minister has claimed. Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone said the ‘shock waves’ the case created would serve as a warning to others about the dangers associated with treating victims. She was speaking after Dhanuson Dharmasena, 32, was acquitted in less than 25 minutes of carrying out FGM on a young woman at Whittington Hospital in north London in 2012.” – Daily Mail

…as retiring Lib Dem MP sparks ‘jobs for girls’ outrage

LibDemDead“A Lib Dem MP has been slammed after claiming men are discriminated against in the House of Commons. Ian Swales suggested some female Cabinet ministers only got jobs because they are women. Mr Swales, 61, hit out as he prepared to stand down after five years as MP for Redcar, Teesside.” – The Sun (£)

Farage trapped in UKIP office by breastfeeding protesters

“Nigel Farage was holed up in a Ukip office for almost two hours today after it became surrounded by protesters. After police told the Ukip leader not to leave the office in Rotherham, he complained the protests were ‘undemocratic’ and blamed unions for mobilising opposition to his party. It follows his outspoken criticism of the way the grooming scandal in the town had been handled by the local council, but the Labour party accused him of trying to use child abuse to score political points.” – Daily Mail

  • Rotherham police were deliberately obstructive claims Farage – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: The Deep End: Heresy of the Week: Political correctness has nothing to do with politeness

UKIP embarks on City charm offensive

UKIP glass“The UK Independence party has embarked on a charm offensive of City firms as the party looks to change its reputation among some of Britain’s biggest companies. Steven Woolfe, Ukip’s financial services spokesman, has spent the past two days visiting executives from blue-chip companies in an effort to dilute some of the hostility the party has faced from British businesses.” – Financial Times

Colonies are UKIP defence priority

“The Middle East may be awash with violence while fears of “total war” between Russia and Ukraine persist, but Ukip’s top military man appears to be gearing up to fight older battles. Defence spokesman Mike Hookem MEP seems more concerned that Argentina might take advantage of Britain’s defence cuts to try something sneaky in the South Atlantic or that Spain could be secretly plotting to retake Gibraltar, 302 years after it was ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht.” – The Independent

Galloway heckled by Question Time audience

GALLOWAY George“Controversial MP George Galloway was heckled on Question Time last night after the ‘provocative’ decision by the BBC to invite him on the show in a Jewish area. During the the hostile hour-long political debate the crowd shouted ‘you are not welcome in London’ and accused him of fuelling anti-Semitism in Britain. After the recording pro-Israel supporters waving flags and chanting attacked his car as he left the venue in Finchley, north London.” – Daily Mail

  • Respect leader accuses BBC of ‘set up’ – The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • NHS boss collects £155,000 for a 24-hour retirement – Daily Mail
  • Police officer under investigation over Rotherham scandal dies in crash – Daily Telegraph
  • Huge rally planned to urge more house building – The Times (£)
  • UK mass surveillance ruled unlawful – Financial Times
  • Library visits fall by 40 million in four years – The Independent
  • NHS creates three ‘compensation millionaires’ a week – Daily Express
  • Researcher warns next flu vaccine may not be effective – The Guardian
  • Police carrying guns on routine call outs – Daily Mail