Quietly and slowly, the election debates are stifled

CAMERON TV“The April dates are unacceptable to Cameron, who has repeatedly said he wants the debates to take place before the “short campaign” begins on March 30. He also wants the Democratic Unionist party, which has launched legal action because it has so far been excluded, to be included. The broadcasters have also fallen foul of the Lib Dems, who are furious Clegg has been placed on equal footing with Plaid Cymru, which got one-sixtieth as many votes in 2010.” – Sunday Times (£)

  • Lots to be drawn to decide the scheduling order for the three TV election debates that may never happen – Mail on Sunday
  • The chaos of the coming Parliament – Adam Bolton, Sunday Times (£)

The Conservatives take their first poll lead with Opinium

“The Conservatives have taken a two-point lead, their first since Opinium started polling, and highest share of the vote, since March 2012. The Conservatives have risen by two points since a week ago to 35%, while Labour has correspondingly dropped two points to 33%. Ukip has risen slightly to 15%. Once again the Greens have squeezed into fourth place on 7%, while the Lib Dems drop two points to 6%.” – Observer

Shapps: 11,000 key votes ‘can win it’ for us

SHAPPS Carla head“There are 23 seats where around 11,200 votes take us from being where we are at the moment — the largest party without an overall majority — to a party with an overall majority. When you say that to people they understand that their vote really matters. Despite all the commentators saying we can’t have an overall majority, of course we can. By comparison, Labour would need to win 70 constituencies. They need to pick up hundreds of thousands of votes.” – Sunday Times (£)

Janet Daley: The Tories’ attack ads are cruel, flippant and unfunny

“This brings us back, I’m afraid, to that terrible Bullingdon Club photograph that everybody is so determined to expunge. What was so disturbing about the image of those young men was not their wealth or even their arrogance: it was the hint of cruelty. I can remember thinking that I would not have wanted to run into that bunch of guys in a restaurant. Yes, of course, our perception of them now is different: they are decent fellows, family men who are devoted to their children. But why, then, should they encourage a reminder of that fatal earlier idea of themselves?” – Daily Telegraph

Abroad 1) Russia. Cameron orders MI5 crackdown on Putin’s spies, Fallon says Russian planes will be seen off.

Vladimir Putin“Senior security sources say there has been a “policy change” towards Russian intelligence officers operating in the UK. MI5 bosses have told the counter-espionage branch of the security service to step up surveillance against Kremlin-backed agents on the streets of London. Intelligence chiefs are also recruiting Russian speakers to MI5, MI6 and GCHQ as security chiefs warn that a new Cold War is under way.” – Sunday Times (£)

  • Britain at risk as our air defences are slashed – Sunday Express
  • Ousted Ukraine leader aiming to return as rebel rockets threaten peace plan – Observer
  • RAF scrambled to intercept Russians more than 40 times – Daily Telegraph
  • Cameron under pressure over two per cent defence target – James Forsyth, Mail on Sunday

Fox: Arm Ukraine

“Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, the former defence secretary warns that the West must “wake up” to the reality of the Kremlin’s “clear strategic plan” to dominate Europe from the Baltics to the Balkans. European states must prioritise national security over welfare and foreign aid, and equip the Ukrainian government with anti-tank weapons, surveillance drones and encrypted technology, Dr Fox argues.” – Sunday Telegraph

Abroad 2) ISIS digs in

Screen shot 2015-02-22 at 08.33.12“IS appears to have the human and financial resources to fight a long war, though both are under strain. According to interviews by The Independent with people living in Mosul reached by phone, or with recent refugees from the city, IS officials are conscripting at least one young man from every family in Mosul, which has a population of 1.5 million. It has drafted a list of draconian punishments for those not willing to fight, starting with 80 lashes and ending with execution.” – Independent on Sunday

> Today: ToryDiary – The triviality of this election campaign, the seriousness of events abroad

> Yesterday:

Labour: Knives out for Balls. Frontbenchers brief that he should not be appointed Chancellor if Labour wins…

“They said his reputation as a “safe pair of hands” had been shattered when he failed to name a single Labour business backer and told voters they should get a receipt for work done cash in hand, both of which attracted ridicule.Senior figures also expressed frustration and incredulity that Balls has dug his heels in over funding a cut in English tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 a year — three years after Miliband first backed the policy and with the announcement due at the end of this week.” – Sunday Times (£)

…As Miliband brings back Prescott

Prescott Punch“In a controversial move, the Labour leader has appointed Lord Prescott as his personal adviser with specific responsibility for climate change. His remit, according to aides, is to “bash heads together”…However, the surprise appointment will inevitably be seen as a way to shore up Labour’s traditional working-class vote and address growing concerns that Miliband and the shadow cabinet are failing to cut through to the electorate.” – The Guardian

  • Climate change is not just an environmental issue – Ed Miliband, Observer

More Labour news:

  • Mayoral aspirant Sadiq Khan says that Labour will take aim at Tory and Lib Dem London seats to get Miliband into Number 10 – Independent on Sunday
  • Labour choose British-Somali Londoner to stand against George Galloway – Observer
  • Rowling, Allen, Tennant: Labour supporters silent on whether or not they will back Miliband… – Mail on Sunday
  • …But Gillian Duffy steps up to the plate – Observer
  • Teachers, nurses and social workers must report suspected child abuse, under Labour plans – Sunday Express
  • Prison, not payoffs, for those who let children die – Simon Danzcuk MP, Sunday Times (£)
  • Karen Danczuk claims to have been raped “hundreds of times” and says he will go to police: her mother dismisses the allegations – Mail on Sunday
  • The Danczuks: More, much more than this, we do it our way – Observer

Rawnsley: The SNP threat to Labour

Scottish flag“It equally suits the short-term electoral interests of the Tories, if not the long-term health of the union that Mr Cameron claims to care so much about, if the nationalists rob Labour of a lot of its seats north of the border…if Mr Miliband were the runner-up in seats it would be a helluva a lot less likely that he could form and justify a Labour-led government. At every UK election for nearly a century, the party with the most seats has won the keys to power.” – Observer

Will UKIP win Grimsby?

“Handing out purple leaflets and dressed head to toe in purple, Victoria Ayling looks every inch the Ukip candidate. But she’s not chasing Tory votes in Essex and Kent; she has her sights set at Labour in its once safe seat of Great Grimsby in Lincolnshire. Commentators and pollsters have identified the constituency as a key target in the general election. Most of the attention has focused on Nigel Farage in South Thanet, but it’s here in the North, where the party is seeking to win Labour votes, that Ukip has one of the best chances of winning.” – Independent on Sunday

  • (Austin Mitchell says that ‘Even if we selected a raving alcoholic sex paedophile we wouldn’t lose Grimsby’) – Independent on Sunday
  • UKIP to contest 40 Scottish seats – Sunday Times (£)
  • The party’s Newport branch puts up Dad’s Army-style Facebook post showing Conservatives and Labour invading Britain with the EU ‘Nazis’ – Mail on Sunday
  • Race row councillor accuses UKIP of betrayal – Sunday Express
  • Latest film about UKIP – Independent on Sunday

> Today: Adrian Hilton on Comment – UKIP’s grammar school policy is a dog’s breakfast

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – What future awaits UKIP’s libertarians?

Fiona Bruce seeks end to “femicide” of unborn girls

BRUCE Fiona“Mrs Bruce has tabled an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill which would ‘put beyond doubt’ that it should be a prosecutable offence for a doctor in the UK to abort a baby on the basis of gender. The MP, who claims wide cross-party support for the measure, says the reform is required because in 2012 the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to charge two doctors who were caught agreeing to abort female babies.” – Mail on Sunday

  • We mustn’t stand in the way of three-parent babies – Lord Carey, Mail on Sunday

Norwich: A stronghold of Anglican values

“The city’s bishop, Graham James…launched the first guidance notes from Church of England bishops to voters before the general election. These pull no punches in condemning an “almost moribund political culture”,attacking a society that “celebrates equality” but “treats the poor and vulnerable as unwanted, unvalued and unnoticed”, and appealing for a “fresh moral vision of the kind of country we want to be”. Anyone wanting to see how that vision might work in practice can do so in Norwich, spreading out into all areas of community engagement from its Anglican churches.” – Observer

The Telegraph hits back at its critics, who duly hit back at it

Screen shot 2015-02-22 at 08.39.26“The Daily Telegraph faced a public outcry yesterday after publishing an article that used the suicides of two people to attack News UK, the publisher of The Times and The Sunday Times. Various tweets described it as “disgusting” and “a new low”, and suggested the newspaper was “losing its credibility”. The Daily Telegraph disabled the comment function when it put the article on its website. The newspaper was accused last week by Peter Oborne — its former chief political commentator — and other publications, of failing to pursue the HSBC tax avoidance story because the bank was one of its biggest advertisers.” – Sunday Times (£)

News in Brief