Cameron channels Macmillan in bid to boost wages…

Cameron1“David Cameron will today tell businesses enjoying their best conditions ‘for a long time’ that ‘it’s time Britain had a pay rise’. He will also propose a minimum wage above £8 an hour by the end of the next Parliament. Firms’ costs are falling thanks to the strongest economic growth for seven years and the lowest inflation for more than a decade, the Prime Minister will say. His optimistic words echo the famous July 1957 speech by then Tory premier Harold ‘Supermac’ Macmillan that, at a time of low unemployment and high growth, most Britons ‘have never had it so good’.” – Daily Mail

  • Prime Minister hopes to undermine Labour’s key election theme – The Guardian
  • Cameron declared most relaxed PM ever after inviting officials for “chaterama” – The Times (£)

…and examines Greek threat to the British economy…

“David Cameron has met senior officials from Whitehall and the Bank of England to discuss the possible impact on the UK economy of continuing instability in Greece. The hour-long meeting in the cabinet room at No 10 came amid continuing speculation about a potential Greek default on its debts or its exit from the eurozone. Downing Street stressed that the overwhelming majority of Greek debt was held by eurozone institutions, not by Britain, and that reforms since the previous crisis in 2012 may have lessened the vulnerability of other European countries to a shock from Greece.” – The Guardian

  • Cameron ‘risks reputation’ pushing Lansley for UN position – The Times (£)

>Today: ToryDiary: Just how serious is the Greek crisis?

…as backbenchers warn he is soft on migration

Cameron Migrant“David Cameron’s plans to curb immigration do not go far enough and leave Britain at risk of ‘immensely serious social dangers’, a Conservative backbench manifesto claims. Brian Binley, treasurer of the powerful 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, said tougher controls were needed on migrants’ access to welfare and the jobs market. In a pamphlet for the respected Civitas think-tank, he said immigrants’ country of origin should be made to pay for social security costs until they have made a significant contribution to the Exchequer.” – Daily Mail

  • Immigration advisors stress clients by encouraging unrealistic appeals – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Judy Terry in Local Government: Every council should have a cabinet member for immigrant communities

Ukraine 1) Downing Street steps up pressure on Putin

“Five Russian officials as well as 14 separatist military leaders will face asset freezes and travel bans from February 16 unless a breakthrough can be reached in crunch talks in Minsk. Downing Street said: “There is opportunity on Wednesday for Russia to take a different approach. “If it chooses to do that, then there might be a small window of opportunity to reconsider today’s decisions.” – The Sun (£)

Ukraine 2) Fox demands that the West arms Kiev

FOX Liam blue background“The West must stop appeasing President Putin and supply arms to Ukrainian forces fighting separatists, a senior Conservative will warn today. The intervention from Liam Fox, the former defence secretary, represents the first major call from a senior Tory for arms to be supplied and comes amid tensions between Europe and the United States over the crisis. In a speech in Shrivenham, near Swindon, today, Dr Fox will warn that “appeasement has a bad track record”.” – The Times (£)

>Yesterday: Bernard Jenkin MP in Comment: “There are no votes in defence.” Or so they say…

Boost for Osborne as economic growth hits highest level since 2006…

“The slump in oil prices is fuelling the fastest growth in the UK economy since before the financial crisis, according to a leading think-tank. In a pre-election boost for Chancellor George Osborne, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research increased its forecast for GDP growth this year to 2.9 per cent – the highest since 2006, when it reached 3 per cent.” – Daily Mail

  • Chancellor is fuelling intergenerational war – Joan Bakewell, Daily Telegraph

…but US firms attack ‘Google tax’

OSBORNE red and blue“US multinationals have attacked George Osborne’s “diverted profits” tax, amid claims the crackdown is having a chilling effect on inward investment. The tax — dubbed the Google tax — is set to come into force in April to tackle what the UK chancellor describes as multinationals that “go to extraordinary lengths” to cut tax bills.” – Financial Times

NHS 1) Fine of £10,000 for hospitals that lie about poor care

“Hospitals will be fined £10,000 if they are found to have lied over negligence claims, under new Government plans to tackle a “cover-up culture” in the NHS. New financial penalties to encourage openness, and jail sentences of up to two years for those who “consent or connive” to provide false information will be introduced as an inquiry into the treatment of NHS whistleblowers reports tomorrow.” – Daily Telegraph

  • The Prime Minister’s allergy to detail has tripped him over the NHS – Isabel Hardman, The Times (£)

NHS 2) Mounting negligence costs call patient right to sue into question

MANIFESTO money“A soaring bill from medical negligence damages has become a threat to the National Health Service, says one of the most senior business figures in Whitehall. He said there was a question as to whether patients should lose their right to sue. The NHS Litigation Authority, which provides indemnity cover for legal claims against the health service, has set aside £26.1bn to cover outstanding liabilities, equivalent to almost a quarter of the £113bn annual health budget: £1.6bn was paid out last year.” – Financial Times

Councils defy Pickles’ council tax drive

“Millions of people face council tax rises after local authorities defied Ministers’ demands to freeze the levy. Only a quarter of councils have decided to freeze council tax this year, although they are sitting on £30billion of reserves and uncollected income. New figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government showed that 114 councils will freeze council tax next year, while eight will reduce it.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Local authorities refuse to admit to rate freeze – The Sun (£)

>Yesterday: Cllr Matthew Palmer in Local Government: The Conservative Councillors Association needs reform

Tory MPs give mixed welcome to proposed ‘job description’

PARLIAMENT“Ben Wallace, a Conservative MP, said: “We are there to serve and part of our role is to help our constituents when they have no other voice. The relationship between an MP and their constituent is a very personal choice and a one size fits all rule could rob the constituent and MP of that relationship.” Charles Walker, another Tory MP, said that some clarification was needed because MPs were increasingly asked used to intervene in commercial disputes.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Job description for MPs will boost democracy, claims watchdog – The Independent
  • MPs accused of whitewash after endorsing self-regulation – The Sun (£)

Philip Johnston: Against all odds, a welfare revolution is under way

“The Left will doubtless carp but they had their chance and flunked it. In fact, even the Labour Party is not opposed to UC in principle, though it has ominously pledged to “pause” the project if it gets into power. What has been particularly interesting about this programme is how it has been embraced enthusiastically by those officials and welfare practitioners who have seen the consequences of failure and the scope for scams at first hand. Unlike Michael Gove’s battle with “the Blob” at Education, Mr Duncan Smith found his department eager for change.” – Daily Telegraph

Frustration with Ed as Labour prepares to address the British Chambers of Commerce…

MILIBAND Red Ed“Labour’s top economic team is preparing to address the British Chambers of Commerce at a time when the party’s relationship with the business community is at a low not seen since the advent of New Labour. Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, and Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, who are both speaking at the prestigious business group’s annual conference, are said to be frustrated by what they see as some colleagues’ attitude towards entrepreneurship.” – Daily Telegraph

…as small firms hit back over Miliband paternity proposals

“Labour announced yesterday that it would increase paid leave for new fathers from two to four weeks, as well as putting up statutory paternity pay by more than £120, to £260 a week. But the Federation of Small Businesses said firms would have to shoulder the expense of getting staff in to cover for fathers – a burden many may be unable to afford. And the British Chambers of Commerce said the plan would amount to a ‘tax on business’.” – Daily Mail

  • Labour leader says he’d take a month off being PM if he had another child – The Sun (£)
  • Paternity leave – do the figures add up? – The Independent
  • Voters want government to ‘stand up to’ business but don’t trust Miliband to do it – Peter Kellner, Daily Telegraph
  • Ed looks worse for wear in morning photo shoot – Daily Mail
  • Miliband rejects Mr Bean analogy – Daily Telegraph


  • Ed serves up a crème de menth of claptrap – Ann Treneman, The Times (£)
  • Labour unveils some business backers – Michael Deacon, Daily Telegraph

Trade unionist ‘bullied’ by GMB for embarrassing Miliband wins court battle

On strike“Trade unions are not usually known for their aversion to socialism — but that can change when one of their number upsets the leader of the Labour party. Ed Miliband triggered a legal battle in which the GMB union was found guilty of discriminating against and harassing one of its workers for his “left-wing democratic socialist” beliefs, it has been claimed. The landmark decision means that “left-wing democratic socialism” will now be recognised as a belief under equality law and put on a par with Christianity and other protected world faiths.” – The Times (£)

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: The ConHome Manifesto 15) Trade Union reform

Balls under fire over HSBC tax evasion allegations

“Ed Balls faced calls to ‘come clean’ about Labour’s failure to tackle tax evasion while he was City Minister in the wake of revelations HSBC helped 7,000 wealthy Britons avoid millions of pounds in tax. Britain’s biggest bank is alleged to have used its Swiss private banking arm to help their super-rich clients, including celebrities and royalty, to evade tax and also advised them how to stay one step ahead of UK tax law. The Tories and Lib Dems seized on the revelation to question the role of Mr Balls, who was City Minister from May 2006 to June 2007.” – Daily Mail

  • Demand for Shadow Chancellor to make Commons statement – The Sun (£)
  • Labour attacks ministerial role of former HSBC chairman – Financial Times
  • Are the Tories merely defending crony capitalism? – Ian Birrell, The Guardian


  • Parliamentary scrap over tax was mostly confected – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
  • Question evasion and the tax blame game – Donald Macintyre, The Independent

Rachel Sylvester: Politics and business – a dangerous cocktail

Banks Face 6 Billion Of Libor Litigation“It’s not surprising that the opinion polls haven’t shifted as a result of this tit-for-tat tiff. Each party is simply reinforcing the perception that already exists in the voters’ minds. For Labour, it is the sense that it cannot be trusted to run the economy competently that endures; for the Tories, the fear that they are on the side of the rich at the expense of everybody else. These are the toxic underlying brands that both sides have failed so spectacularly to shift in the past five years.” – The Times (£)

  • PM mingles with over 1,000 guests at Tory fundraiser – Daily Mail
  • Shop with Theresa May… bids start at £8,000 – The Times (£)

Hodge claims civil servants threatened to break up Public Accounts Committee

A Commons spending watchdog was threatened with break-up if it did not moderate its treatment of civil servants, says its head, Margaret Hodge. In a speech marking almost five years at the helm of the public accounts committee, Ms Hodge attacked an unaccountable Whitehall “freemasonry”. She said the “sad truth” was that in a battle between Whitehall and politicians, the civil servants were “most likely to win because whereas we are here today and gone tomorrow, they are there for the long term”. – Financial Times

>Today: The Deep End: The Conservative Party should have its own civil service

Straw could take peerage before Chilcot is published

Jack Straw“Former foreign secretary Jack Straw is being lined up for a seat in the House of Lords after he steps down as an MP in May. The former Foreign Secretary is understood to be open to accepting a peerage and could even take up his place on the red benches before his role in taking Britain to war against Iraq is laid bare in the long-delayed Chilcot report.” – Daily Mail

Cities may be allowed to set stamp duty and keep revenue

“Large cities would be allowed to set their own rates of stamp duty and keep the proceeds under plans being considered by ministers to devolve powers out of Whitehall. Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, suggested that ten British cities should have more control over local taxes, including business taxes and stamp duty — which alone raises more than £7 billion for the Exchequer.” – The Times (£)

>Today: Stephen Tall’s column: Should we Lib Dems enter a second coalition?

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The Government is right to tie mayors to more powers

Paxman interview with Farage falls through

FARAGE Nigel official“A planned head-to-head between Jeremy Paxman and Nigel Farage has been shelved after talks between Channel 4 and Ukip broke down. A special programme was planned to be to broadcast after a documentary-drama imagining the first 100 days of a Ukip government after the next election. But the idea has now been dropped after Channel 4 first cancelled it, before resurrecting it with Jon Snow as the mooted interviewer – only to have Ukip refuse the second invitation.” – The Guardian

Scotland 1) SNP set to double Westminster vote

“The Scottish National party is on course to double its vote in May’s general election despite its lead over Scottish Labour narrowing, the latest poll on Westminster voting intentions shows. The TNS poll gives the SNP a 10-point lead over Scottish Labour among those certain to vote, at 41% against 31%, putting nearly half of the 41 Westminster seats won by Scottish Labour in 2010 at risk. The SNP took less than 20% of the vote in 2010, when Labour was led by Gordon Brown.” – The Guardian

  • Murphy ridiculed for Irn Bru expense – Daily Mail

Scotland 2) Scottish landowner attacks SNP grab

Scottish flag“A Scottish businessman who recently won a high-profile agricultural tenancy case has slammed plans for rural land reform, saying they risk undermining investment and would be vulnerable to human rights challenges. The comments from Alastair Salvesen, a scion of the Salvesen shipping company and one of Scotland’s richest people, underscore landowner worries about the “radical reform” promised by the Scottish National party government.” – Financial Times

Scotland 3) Tim Montgomerie: Ten parts of the UK more deserving of assistance than Scotland

“But the Barnett formula for distributing public spending across the UK needs to be abandoned and replaced with a modern assessment of social need. Like the bias of the UK state to the increasingly wealthy elderly rather than to the increasingly squeezed young; or the bias to the short-termism of spending more and more tax revenues on housing benefit rather than the long-term need to build more affordable housing; the bias in the political debate towards Scotland must end.” – CapX

News in Brief:

  • Police apologise for seeking details of Charlie Hebdo subscribers – Daily Mail
  • Four dead in Bath after truck loses control – Daily Telegraph
  • UK drivers could face EU speed fines – The Times (£)
  • Business leader backs EU referendum – Financial Times
  • Republican terrorists planned rocket attack on McGuinness – The Guardian
  • Germany rejects Greek call for £120bn in damages – Daily Mail
  • Arm all frontline officers with tasers, urge Police Federation – Daily Telegraph