Jobs and wages on the rise

growth flag‘More people found work in the UK last year than in any year since 1988, a boon for the coalition government ahead of May’s general election. Official data published on Wednesday by the Office for National Statistics suggest the UK’s jobs-rich economic recovery remains on track, with employment rising, unemployment falling, and real wages inching higher after a painful five-year squeeze.’ – FT

  • The Tories should boast of their achievements more – Daily Mail Leader
  • A Conservative boom – The Sun Says (£)
  • Record numbers of EU migrants come in search of jobs – The Times (£)
  • France pursues economic reform – FT Leader
  • The CBI attacks localism – FT
  • Welcome to the Silicon Valleys – WalesOnline

>Yesterday: Tory Diary: Unemployment falls again

Fallon: Russia poses a real threat to the Baltics

‘President Putin poses a “real and present danger” to the Baltic states and Nato is getting ready to respond to any aggression, the defence secretary has warned. Michael Fallon said that the Russian leader was as much of a threat to Europe as Islamic State.’ – The Times (£)


>Today: The Deep End: What Putin wants from Ukraine is Ukraine

IDS on the warpath 1) He fights back against the Church’s political bias…

DUNCAN SMITH white background‘Iain Duncan Smith has hit out at the Church of England for ‘claiming to be non-partisan’ while attacking only Coalition policies. The Work and Pensions Secretary mocked the Anglican Church over its ‘dwindling relevance’ after a group of bishops brought out a letter to parishes railing against the market economy, consumerism and the legacy of Margaret Thatcher.’ – Daily Mail

>Today: Graeme Archer’s column: Casually vacant

>Yesterday: Dr Martin Parsons on Comment: The bishops’ letter is naive, inaccurate and sloppy

IDS on the warpath 2) …and claims Miliband ‘seems to have…avoided tax’

‘Iain Duncan Smith has waded into the tax row engulfing Ed Miliband by saying the Labour leader ‘seems to have managed to have avoided tax’. The Work and Pensions Secretary stood by his comments last night despite a furious response from Mr Miliband’s office. A Labour spokesman said that unless Mr Duncan Smith retracted his comment he would face being known ‘for his dishonesty as well as his incompetence’. – Daily Mail

Montgomerie: A new Tory vision

The Good Right‘Britain doesn’t need bigger government. We are already at the limit of what taxpayers can bear. While Labour might agree with investment in house building and in infrastructure, they don’t have the toughness to make the welfare and other cuts that would make that investment affordable. We need more intelligent government priorities and a new Conservatism that I’m describing on a new website called the should advance those priorities.’ – The Times (£)

  • Davidson’s new broadcast takes on stereotypes of Tories – Daily Telegraph
  • Scottish Labour claim Cameron is pleased at the SNP’s rise – The Scotsman

>Today: ToryDiary: You MUST read TheGoodRight NOW

Only competition can stop the energy rip-off

‘Some economists suggest that reform could come in the shape of a simple default tariff, indexed to the wholesale price, with a published fair margin. But what will really help is even greater competition. When the energy industry was first privatised and deregulated, prices fell. Under Labour, however, the market was distorted with green energy targets and monopolies were allowed to developed. Restoring choice, greater publicity about that choice, and above all greater simplicity to the whole process, is the best long-term solution.’ – Daily Telegraph Leader

  • How banks fleece their loyal customers – Daily Mail
  • FCA investigation into bank competition – FT

>Yesterday: David Frost on Comment: We need a new organisation to make the case for business

Clampdown on ‘sick-note culture’

NHS‘Anyone ill for more than four weeks will face a fit-for-work test under a government clampdown on the “sick- note culture” that is costing the economy billions of pounds each year. All GPs will be expected to refer patients to a company that will assess their ability to work and draw up a plan for their return.’ – The Times

  • It’s right to bypass GPs – The Times Leader (£)
  • Rising amputations due to obesity crisis – The Sun (£)
  • Doctors should be tougher – The Sun Says (£)
  • £6 billion NHS revenue for private firms – Daily Mail
  • Expensive drugs cost lives, claims report – FT
  • It would be wrong to talk about Labour’s NHS failure in Wales – The Guardian Leader

How does Tory fundraising work?

‘The Conservatives woo big donors using a pyramid structure. It goes up from Patron (£600 a year) to the Business & Entrepreneurs Forum (£2,500), the Front Bench Club (£5,000), the Renaissance Forum (£10,000), and the Treasurers’ Group (£25,000). The highest level is the Leader’s Group, for which you have to donate at least £50,000 a year. The top five members all gave £500,000 or more over the 12 months we looked at.’ – Buzzfeed

>Today: MPsETC: The Election Battleground 1) The North West

Brady: We need more grammar schools

BRADY Graham headshot‘Even those of us who wanted David Cameron to go it alone in 2010 for a spell of minority government, followed by a second election…are happy to acknowledge Iain Duncan Smith’s heroic battle to make work pay for everyone. We cheer on George Osborne as he patiently strives to restore sanity to the nation’s finances and we have been heartened, too, by the work set in train by Michael Gove to return rigour and quality to Britain’s state schools…The advantages of selective education should not be the preserve of those who can afford to pay — we should scrap Labour’s ban and open the way to a new revolution of opportunity and social mobility for all. That means more grammar schools.’ – Graham Brady MP, Daily Telegraph

The mansion tax? It’s the price of a lunch, says Kinnock

‘Neil Kinnock has dismissed concerns about Labour’s flagship mansion tax policy, saying it would not cost property millionaires any more each month than the price of a single lunch out. The former party leader said: ‘For the people who are asset-rich and very prosperous, a couple of hundred quid a month isn’t going to make a difference. They would spend that on lunch.’’ – Daily Mail

Hannan: Greece should default, devalue and decouple

Euro meltdown‘Greece’s least bad option is to default, decouple from the eurozone and devalue. It won’t be easy — frankly, for a country in Greece’s situation, there are no easy options — but at least letting go of the euro offers some hope of eventual recovery. Had Greece not been in the monetary union, its currency would have devalued automatically, as Britain’s did when recession hit. A cheaper exchange rate would have allowed Greece to price itself into the market and export its way back to growth.’ – Daniel Hannan MEP, Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Daniel Hannan MEP’s column: Cameron’s coming EU renegotiation will alter nothing

Labour plan to scrap speed cameras and renationalise the railways

‘Thousands of speed cameras could be switched off and parts of the railway renationalised under Labour plans to overhaul the road and train networks. The party said that action should be taken to prevent speed camera technology from being used as a “cash cow”.’ – The Times (£)

  • Councils intend to raise parking fees – The Times (£)

>Today: Local Government: Has the Government made any difference to the number of weekly bin collections?

McVey on her #NotJustForBoys campaign

MCVEY Esther Downing Street‘Like Labour’s pink bus, this Tory hashtag is aimed at women. But McVey, the Employment Minister, tells me it’s rather different: “Labour are doing it their way and the bus has got more publicity than their campaign, but this is true to its word. It is what it says on the tin – it’s not just for boys. It’s more of a movement. Harriet’s done a lot for women… But I wouldn’t want a campaign where the star is a pink bus. For me the star here is the young girls and the young women supporting them.”’ – Daily Telegraph

Leaked tape reveals Red UKIP’s love of Red Len

‘A vote for Ukip is a vote for the trade unions, a senior party figure has admitted. Election candidate Bob Smith — a founder member of the anti-EU party — made the comments in a speech to its youth wing. In a secret recording passed to The Sun, Mr Smith can be heard saying Ukip sees eye-to-eye with the Unite union, led by Len McCluskey, over its opposition to NHS privatisation.’ – The Sun (£)

Telegraph bank coverage scrutinised

telegraph‘An attack on the integrity of the Daily Telegraph by one of its most respected journalists appears “well founded”, an independent analysis of the newspaper’s coverage of the HSBC tax avoidance scandal has concluded. Peter Oborne, a rightwing maverick who was formerly the newspaper’s chief political commentator, resigned on Tuesday claiming that the Telegraph had committed a “fraud on its readers” by censoring articles in relation to the bank.’ – FT

>Yesterday: Tory Diary: Oborne’s resignation. The firepower is spectacular. But is it well targeted?

Clegg’s nursery subsidy hits parents in the pocket

‘Nick Clegg’s subsidised nursery scheme has sent the cost of childcare rocketing for middle-class families, according to a new report. Working parents are paying up to a third more than they did five years ago because of a shortfall created by giving more free places to disadvantaged toddlers.’ – Daily Mail

The end of the red box?

osborne-budget‘Ministers are being provided with thumbprint-activated smartphones to replace the traditional red box. For over 150 years, ministers have carried the scarlet leather cases crammed with documents their civil servants need them to read, and decisions they need to sign off. But now they are being issued with state-of-the-art iPhones, enabling them to do their work online.’ – Daily Mail

>Today: Tim Bale on Comment: We still haven’t had “the first internet election” – but it could come soon

News in brief