Tory leadership said to be plotting an EU referendum for 2016

EU Exit“The prime minister’s in-out referendum on Europe could be held as early as May next year under plans mapped out by Downing Street officials. … If the Tories keep the keys to Downing Street, one scenario being considered would see negotiations with EU governments continue this summer to get a new deal for Britain in Brussels. … The prime minister would outline his final demands at the Conservative party conference in October and announce a referendum date, either in the spring or autumn next year, setting the clock ticking on final talks with the other 27 EU countries.” – Sunday Times (£)

  • “All this is good, although it comes with a large health warning.” – Sunday Times editorial (£)

> Today: ToryDiary – The dangers of an early EU referendum

Generals turn on Cameron over his failure to deal with ISIS

CAMERON-PENSIVE“Senior British military figures have expressed growing frustration with David Cameron’s failure to tackle the threat of Isis jihadists in Iraq. … One recently retired general accused him of ‘posturing’ while wielding ‘a tiny stick’ and another serving general said: ‘No one on the international stage takes the UK seriously any more.’ … General Sir Richard Shirreff, who until last year was Nato’s deputy supreme allied commander Europe, said the government’s limited commitment to Iraq demonstrated the ‘hollowness’ of the UK’s political leaders.” – Sunday Times (£)

  • “A British Muslim convert released from prison in Syria after the intervention of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has returned to the war-torn country and is believed to have become a jihadist.” – Sunday Times (£)
  • “Today, the world faces its biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War and nearly four million Syrians languish in camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.” – Independent on Sunday
  • “The Mail on Sunday can today reveal evidence of an astonishing legal cover-up that threatens to wreck one of Britain’s biggest terrorism cases – the convictions of the five men jailed for a combined total of 153 years for the ‘21/7’ attempted London bombings in 2005.” – Mail on Sunday
  • “The last British detainee to be released from Guantanamo is in line for a £1 million payment from the UK government – despite claims of his terror links to al-Qaeda in official US documents.” – Sunday Telegraph
  • “Elite Army snipers are receiving security training from the SAS amid fears that they and their families will be targeted by Islamic terrorists following a series of blunders.” – Mail on Sunday

And comment:

  • “Britain has no plan for tackling the militants, and no idea who’s in charge.” – Patrick Cockburn, Independent on Sunday
  • “Terrorise, mobilise, polarise: Isis follows the age-old strategy of rulers.” – Jason Burke, The Observer
  • “Jordan has given the West a chance to beat the jihadists: we must take it.” – James Rubin, Sunday Times (£)
  • “Our war-weary country wobbles before the thugs of Moscow and Isis.” – Adam Boulton, Sunday Times (£)

No.10 sources: The Chilcot Report will be “devastating”

Iraq flag“Well-placed sources say that ‘approximately 30’ people have been sent letters by chairman Sir John Chilcot warning them that they will be criticised in his report into the 2003 invasion. … Sources close to the inquiry say its strongly worded criticisms of the way the war was handled make a nonsense of claims that it will be a ‘whitewash’. … Downing Street insiders expect the report to be a ‘devastating’ indictment of the Blair Government and large sections of the Whitehall establishment.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “Former SAS soldiers have spoken for the first time about their role in an ‘industrial-scale counterterrorist killing machine’ that killed or captured thousands of al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.” – Sunday Times (£)
  • “A Falklands hero whose medal citation was lost by senior officers has been refused an award – despite a high-profile campaign by his family, MPs and The Mail on Sunday.” – Mail on Sunday

Hunt orders a review of hospital deaths…

HUNT Doctor Carla Millar“1,000 patients a month are dying needlessly in NHS hospitals because of staff blunders, the Health Secretary has warned as he announces sweeping reforms to bring an end to a ‘cover-up culture’ which is risking lives. … On Wednesday, Sir Robert Francis, who led the public inquiry into the Mid Staffs scandal, will publish a report which lays bare the devastating treatment of NHS doctors and nurses who tried to warn of unsafe care. … Mr Hunt will respond with a package of reforms to improve safety in hospitals, starting with the national review of 2,000 deaths, to establish just how many lives might have been saved with the right care.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • “The NHS must avoid another Mid Staffs catastrophe.” – Sunday Telegraph editorial
  • “Many are also grumpy about the way the Conservatives are handling Labour attacks on the NHS.” – Isabel Hardman, The Observer

…and offers lessons in whistleblowing to medical trainees

“Trainee doctors and nurses will receive lessons on whistleblowing from this autumn, the health secretary Jeremy Hunt has revealed, ahead of a report this week that is set to criticise the NHS. … Hunt has drafted in Helene Donnelly, the A&E nurse whose warnings were ignored in the Mid Staffordshire scandal, to help teach junior clinical staff to expose wrongdoing by their bosses.” – Sunday Times (£)

  • “Andrew Lloyd Webber, Melvyn Bragg and the publisher Gail Rebuck, widow of the Labour grandee Philip Gould, today issue a powerful plea for dying patients to be given access to experimental drugs and other treatments.” – Sunday Times (£)
  • “The NHS’s unprecedented decision to put 11 trusts into special measures is likely to have saved hundreds of lives, experts have said.” – Independent on Sunday
  • “Patients will have to wait for at least a week to see their doctor a record 67 million times this year, family GPs are warning.” – The Observer
  • “…leading doctors are warning that Ministers are about to squander £250 million because the equipment chosen for two proton beam treatment centres in the UK is based on ‘old technology’.” – Mail on Sunday
  • “Medical watchdog statistics show a record 114 claims relating to indecent conduct or improper relations with patients in 2013.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

Patel urges fuel companies to pass on their savings

Petrol pump“Greedy fuel giants are clobbering diesel drivers as pump prices continue to fall, a Sun on Sunday investigation has revealed. … Treasury Minister Priti Patel told The Sun on Sunday: ‘For both fuels we will continue to urge oil companies to pass on all maximum benefits from the price reductions in oil, so that consumers feel the benefit at the pumps.'” – Sun on Sunday (£)

  • “Hundreds of thousands of people will no longer be hit with £100 fines for failing to complete their income tax returns on time, under radical government plans.” – Sunday Telegraph

Stuart leads a cross-party campaign to exempt sixth form colleges from VAT

“A senior Tory MP has criticised the Government’s refusal to release sixth-form colleges from having to pay VAT. … Graham Stuart, the Conservative chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee, is leading a cross-party campaign by 75 MPs to persuade the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, to exempt colleges. … At present, VAT payments are costing sixth-form colleges on average £335,000 a year – the equivalent of at least 10 teaching posts.” – Independent on Sunday

  • “The general secretary of one of Britain’s biggest teachers’ unions has written to Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, expressing the ‘gravest concerns’ about an inquiry that cleared three schools of having advance knowledge of Ofsted inspection dates.” – The Observer

And comment:

  • “The only maths we teach children is ‘go forth and multiply’.” – Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday
  • “What could be more absurd than censorship on campus?” – Nick Cohen, The Observer

Rifkind accuses the BBC over its new Rowling adaptation

Biased BBC“…now the BBC has come under fire over its adaptation of her novel The Casual Vacancy just weeks before the General Election. … Tory MP and former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said the timing of the broadcast struck him as being ‘very odd at least’. … He said: ‘In the run-up to a General Election, the Government quite rightly has to go into purdah and refrain from doing anything provocative. I think the BBC should have to apply the same criteria.’” – Mail on Sunday

  • “The BBC spent £2,400 of licence-fee money paying for friends of Alan Yentob, a senior executive, to attend a private function at which he was being given an award.” – Sunday Times (£)
  • “BBC staff spent £1 million on first-class rail trips in three years, figures showed yesterday.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

Questions about Buckland’s tax affairs

“A Tory MP who is one of the government’s top law officers has invested in a film partnership scheme being investigated over tax avoidance. … Robert Buckland, the solicitor-general and MP for South Swindon, has been a member of the Invicta Film Partnership No 25 for nearly 10 years. … A circular sent to all members of the scheme, which has been obtained by The Sunday Times, warned in May last year that it was the ‘subject of an open HMRC [HM Revenue & Customs] inquiry’.” – Sunday Times (£)

Boris to meet with Hillary

“Boris Johnson will hold talks with Hillary Clinton, a fellow leader in waiting, on a whistle-stop tour of America this week. … The mayor of London will meet the former US secretary of state, the Democrat frontrunner to be the next president, in New York on Wednesday. … Johnson will also use the visit, which takes in Boston and Washington, to drum up business for Britain while burnishing his credentials as a potential prime minister.” – Sunday Times (£)

The Lib Dems are growing sceptical about the benefits of government, writes James Forsyth

CLEGG Bird“As it is, many Lib Dems are having second thoughts about going back into government at all. There have always been those in the party who have wanted to return to opposition to lick their coalition-inflicted wounds, and this attitude is now taking hold among some senior figures who are actually in government. … While those closest to Nick Clegg remain convinced about the merits of another coalition, a growing number of Lib Dem Ministers are increasingly sceptical.” – James Forsyth, Mail on Sunday

  • “Nick Clegg is facing the fight of his life to hang onto his own Commons seat after a revised set of poll results showed the Liberal Democrats were three points behind Labour in his constituency of Sheffield Hallam.” – Sunday Telegraph

And further comment:

  • “Gove assures Guido he will campaign in Sheffield and said: ‘I would be sad on a personal level because I thought Nick Clegg did the right thing in joining the coalition. … I’m still urging people to vote Conservative in Sheffield Hallam as I would in any other seat.'” – Guido Fawkes, Sun on Sunday (£)
  • “By far and away, Cable is the most popular figure in the party among traditional supporters and the wider public.” – Jane Merrick, Independent on Sunday

> Yesterday: Lord Ashcroft on Comment – Sheffield Hallam, Doncaster North and Thanet South

Ed under fire 1) Cameron claims that Labour’s policies would cost 100,000 jobs

Miliband coffee“David Cameron has hailed Britain’s growing economic recovery as the ‘Great Revival’, as former Labour donors express their frustration at Ed Miliband’s “half baked” plans for business. … Writing for The Telegraph, Mr Cameron launched his strongest attack to date on Mr Miliband’s economic policies, warning that the Labour leader’s ‘sneering hatred of business’ would cost the country almost 100,000 jobs.” – Sunday Telegraph

Read Cameron’s Sunday Telegraph article in full

  • “Ed Miliband has come under fresh attack from businessmen, including two of Labour’s leading backers, for peddling ‘anti-business’ views that will take Britain ‘back to the 1970s’.” – Sunday Times (£)

And comment:

  • “The beating heart of Britain that Miliband wants to stop.” – Luke Johnson, Sunday Times (£)
  • “Ed’s business balls-ups won’t work for Labour.” – Simon Goodley, The Observer
  • “Someone should tell Ed Miliband that we are all in business now.” – DJ Taylor, Independent on Sunday
  • “Ed Miliband knows all about politics but nothing about life.” – Janet Daley, Sunday Telegraph
  • “Is the Labour party buckling under the strain?” – Iain Martin, Sunday Telegraph
  • “Government and opposition tax our patience.” – Sunday Times editorial (£)
  • “Labour’s Boots bashing is bad for UK business.” – Sunday Telegraph editorial

> Yesterday: LeftWatch – Miliband is building a coalition to win, but not to govern

Ed under fire 2) Do Northern workers dislike him enough to vote Tory?

ballot_box“Tories believe the industrial North can deliver them an election victory — claiming voters in the Labour heartland hate Ed Miliband. … David Cameron has set his sights on stealing seats in mining areas and industrial towns in Yorkshire and Manchester. … The top wish is to oust Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls in West Yorks. … Cabinet ministers claim voters in the region tell them they prefer Mr Cameron in No10.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

  • “Labour, she says, shouldn’t be swayed by the prospect of fighting the election on several fronts – the Tories nationally, the SNP in Scotland and Ukip in northern working-class seats.” – Angela Eagle is interviewed in the Independent on Sunday

Ed under fire 3) Scottish Labour doesn’t want voters to think of him

“Ed Miliband’s political turmoil intensified yesterday after Labour admitted it had been forced to stop using David Cameron as a ‘scare tactic’ in Scotland – because the Prime Minister is more popular with voters than Mr Miliband. … Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy admitted that the party had ditched its mantra of ‘Vote SNP – get Cameron’ in favour of ‘Vote SNP – get Tory’, after strategists vetoed plans to portray the Election as a straight fight between Mr Miliband and Mr Cameron.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “…as Lord Ashcroft’s stunning poll of Labour’s safest Scottish seats revealed last week, these places are at the centre of a storm that may be about to wipe the party from the electoral map of west-central Scotland.” – Kevin McKenna, The Observer

Ed under fire 4) His neighbours don’t want a mansion tax

House icon“It is the flagship Labour policy that has divided Ed Miliband’s party, and now his neighbours have come out in revolt over his controversial Mansion Tax. … Some residents living in the North London street – where Mr Miliband lives in a £2.6million home bought in his barrister wife’s name in 2009 for £1.6million – say they may not be able to afford the tax.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “A tight-fisted Labour MP has been blasted for claiming as little as £1.35 in expenses — to attend voters’ funerals.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

But salvation comes in the form of Blair!

“Tony Blair has moved to end talk of a rift with Ed Miliband as he pledged to offer whatever support the Labour leader wants in the runup to the 7 May election. … The Observer understands that talks between Labour officials and Blair’s office have been going on for weeks about the role he might play in the election campaign. … Blair’s office said that regarding ‘his involvement in the party’s election campaign, he will do whatever the party wants’.” – The Observer

Labour promises to double the number of Sure Start childcare places…

Family shield“A new election battleground has opened up as Labour pledges to save popular Sure Start children’s centres from further closures and double the number of childcare places they provide to more than 118,000. … The move would reverse a decision in 2010 by the coalition government, when Sure Start centres were freed from a previous requirement to provide childcare.” – The Observer

…and wants to “blacklist” people convicted of hate crimes

“People convicted of homophobic, transgender or disability hate crime would be put on a ‘blacklist’ to warn future employers of past misdemeanours under new proposals by Labour. … The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, will on Monday unveil a strategy to tackle the UK’s soaring rise in antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia and abuse of people with disabilities.” – The Observer

Sturgeon insists that Scottish MPs should vote on English issues

Scottish flag“Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has dismissed William Hague’s plans for English laws for English people, and committed to vote on English-only issues at ‘each and every opportunity’ when Scotland’s interests are affected. … In a move designed to undermine proposals unveiled by the leader of the Commons last week, the SNP leader said her MPs in Westminster would now vote on budgetary changes nominally focused on England if they felt there would be an impact in Scotland.” – The Observer

Read Sturgeon’s Observer article in full

  • “A Freedom of Information request disclosed that [Alex Salmond] did not relinquish his parliamentary pass when he stood down as an MP in 2010. This gave him the right to come and go in Parliament as he pleased.” – Sunday Telegraph

Farage’s positive campaign in Rotherham doesn’t last very long

“Nigel Farage promised that Ukip would mount a positive and clean general election campaign, only to call Rotherham’s Labour MP a ‘disgraceful woman’ after she accused him of rubber-necking at child abuse victims. … The Ukip leader said negative campaigning did not work: ‘We have quite deliberately got some positive messages coming up in this election campaign.'” – The Observer

From Harassed Hipsters to Squeezed Semis: introducing the tribes of 2015

2015“Are you a Harassed Hipster or a Squeezed Semi? Perhaps you are Aldi Woman or Glass Ceiling Woman – or both. Or maybe you are a Settled Silver, living comfortably in old age, resented by the Neo-Greens who feel their generation has been hard done by. … While this general election is impossible to call, the people whose votes the political parties are hunting are becoming easier to identify by the day.” – Jane Merrick, Independent on Sunday

  • “The pundits have less idea than ever who will win this lottery election.” – Mark Leftly, Independent on Sunday

Candidates making use of fake Twitter followers

“Social media experts criticised the tactics, arguing that they defeated the purpose of Twitter, as users were not following and listening to genuine people. However, with social media playing a big role in campaigning for the coming general election, candidates are under pressure to develop an impressive online profile.” – Sunday Times (£)

  • “Russell Brand has three times as many Twitter followers as every MP in Britain put together, casting new light on the political influence of the comedian turned campaigner.” – Sunday Times (£)

Council accused of intimidating whistleblowers who expose sex abuse

Whistle“A council has been accused of ‘intimidating’ whistleblowers at the taxpayer’s expense after hiring a top legal firm to investigate how allegations of sexual abuse at one of its care homes were leaked to the press. … In November last year The Sunday Times revealed how a member of staff at Somerset county council was being investigated by police for having sex with a vulnerable teenage girl in his care.” – Sunday Times (£)

  • “Labour closes its eyes and pinches its nose in its rotten boroughs.” – Camilla Cavendish, Sunday Times (£)
  • “Rotherham is yet another massive failure by our social workers.” – Christopher Booker, Sunday Telegraph

Philip Johnston: The Director of Public Prosecutions is pursuing the wrong cases

“Yet there is growing concern that Mrs Saunders is more interested in pursuing campaign agendas rather than serving the interests of the public at large. The decision to prosecute Dr Dharmasena contrasts noticeably with the DPP’s refusal to take action against two doctors accused of offering to carry out gender-specific abortions. It would not, she said, have been in the public interest to do so. So why take a different line with FGM?” – Philip Johnston, Sunday Telegraph

  • “Scotland Yard has paid out more than £500,000 of public money to two of its own undercover detectives who blew the whistle on alleged lavish spending on meals and alcohol by one of the force’s most secret squads.” – Sunday Times (£)
  • “A police force has performed a major U-turn after its Chief Constable announced his early retirement while under investigation for gross misconduct.” – Mail on Sunday
  • “Schools are pushing up violent crime figures by reporting petty playground squabbles to police, a senior officer has claimed.” – Mail on Sunday

Prince Charles: People who come to Britain should abide by our values

charles“Prince Charles risked provoking a new political and religious storm yesterday when he said Muslims living in the UK should follow British values. … In a staunch defence of Britain’s ‘Christian standpoint,’ he denounced the radicalisation of young Britons by Islamic fanatics and said they should show more respect to ‘the values we hold dear’. … People who had ‘come here, were born here or go to school here’ should ‘abide by our values,’ he said.” – Mail on Sunday

Read a transcript of Prince Charles’s comments

  • “The Home Office has been accused of failing to deport hundreds of foreign fraudsters who con Britons into marriage, to get a UK visa and to plunder their finances.” – Mail on Sunday
  • “A fly-on-the-wall television documentary reveals that in 1997 at Gascoigne Primary School in Barking, East London, 90 per cent of pupils spoke English as their first language. That figure has now fallen to ten per cent.” – Mail on Sunday

And comment:

  • “Charles and the defence of liberty.” – Mail on Sunday editorial

> Yesterday: Lady Berridge on Comment – We must champion the freedom to change one’s beliefs about religion

Carney raises the prospect of deflation

“The Bank of England governor Mark Carney will this week raise the prospect of inflation falling below zero for the first time since the Bank started forecasts more than two decades ago. … Simon Wells, chief UK economist at HSBC, predicted the Bank would make its first central forecast of outright deflation by the summer. The quarterly inflation report is out on Thursday.” – Sunday Times (£)

Ukraine’s President calls for support from Europe

Ukraine flag“A last-ditch attempt to bring peace to eastern Ukraine will be put to the country’s leaders today amid warnings that failure to reach a settlement could lead to all-out war. … In a dramatic intervention last night, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the crisis in his country would remain unresolved unless it received political, economic and military support from allies in Europe and beyond.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “Angela Merkel, who travelled with Hollande to Moscow on Friday evening to set out their proposal, was downbeat about its prospects on Saturday.” – The Observer

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – Our duty to protect the Baltic states

News in brief

And finally 1) Yakety Yak

Ed Miliband stare“Yak farmers in remote Nepal have now joined in the joke of Ed Miliband’s bacon sarnie shame — after The Sun on Sunday got the images to them. … We couldn’t resist showing them the photos after the Labour leader said the images had gone viral but ‘apparently haven’t reached some yak farmers in Nepal’. … After a three-hour each-way trek into the mountainous region, that has now been put right.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

  • “I can’t remember the last time a senior Labour politician appeared on television without committing a major gaffe.” – Toby Young, Sun on Sunday (£)

And finally 2) Not everything is awesome

“Parents have poured scorn on a Labour MP after she claimed children are no longer interested in Lego. … Stella Creasy, 37, said that at Christmas her young nieces and a nephew refused to build a Lego toy of the Death Star from the Star Wars films. … Last year Lego overtook Mattel to become the world’s largest toy manufacturer as the Danish company’s UK sales hit a record £226 million.” – Mail on Sunday