Cameron and Cooper defeat ban on sex-selective abortions…

Baby shield“The proposed ban was tabled by Tory MP Fiona Bruce but was dealt a major blow when shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper wrote to Labour MPs urging them to vote against it. Miss Cooper said that to support the change would make ‘vulnerable women’ less likely to have ‘open and honest conversations’ with doctors and nurses. David Cameron also said it could stop women being able to ‘avoid the certainty of genetic disease’.” – Daily Mail


  • Anti-abortionists wage a stealth war on women’s rights – Oliver Kamm, The Times (£)
  • Banning sex-selective abortion is a betrayal of women – Bryony Gordon, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Fiona Bruce MP in Comment: We need an explicit ban on sex-selective abortion

…as he distances himself from MP who questioned Reeves’ cabinet role…

“David Cameron yesterday distanced himself from remarks by a Conservative MP who questioned a Labour frontbencher’s plan to go on maternity leave straight after the election. Rachel Reeves hopes to become Work and Pensions Secretary if Ed Miliband wins power in May, but is due to have her second baby just five weeks later.” – Daily Mail

  • Cameron hits back at ‘outrageous’ maternity leave comments – The Guardian
  • Motherhood was no barrier to the Iron Lady, so why for Reeves? – Andy McSmith, The Independent
  • Sorry Rachel, but your plan is anything but feminist – Belinda Brown, Daily Mail

…calls for fresh measures to hinder ISIS recruitment…

CAMERON PPB Jobs“British teenagers flying to Turkey could be challenged by airplane staff under plans outlined by David Cameron after three schoolgirls fled the UK to join Isil. The Prime Minister called for airlines to adopt new procedures to ensure children not previously identified as being “at risk” are still “properly identified and questioned” at borders.” – Daily Telegraph

…and claims young people support his defence of elderly privileges

“Young people believe that old people deserve free bus passes, TV licences, prescriptions and inflation-busting increases in their pensions, David Cameron has said. The Prime Minister trumpeted the Tories’ support for pensioners on a visit to the headquarters of old people’s group Saga in Hastings. He said that the next Conservative Government will “no question” protect “the winter fuel payment, free bus passes, TV licences, prescriptions and eye tests” for the elderly. He added that young people agreed with these measures.” – Daily Telegraph

  • The cost of Cameron’s pensioner promises – Financial Times
  • Tories accused of trying to bribe pensioners – The Independent
  • Prime Minister: My mission is to give pensioners security and dignity – Daily Express

Osborne 1) 2015 budget will contain fresh measures to combat tax evasion

OSBORNE non-broken sword“George Osborne’s Budget next month will include tough new measures to tackle tax evasion in the wake of the HSBC controversy. The Chancellor said that he will be “taking action” against tax evasion ahead of May’s general election. He accused the last Labour government of “turning a blind eye” to the issue as he clashed with Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, over the issue in the House of Commons.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Banks to be fined for helping tax dodgers – The Times (£)
  • Chancellor announces huge penalties for banks which collude in tax evasion – The Independent
  • Handyman George makes Balls pay – Ann Treneman’s sketch, The Times (£)

Osborne 2) Minimum wage rise smaller than was hinted at

“The national minimum wage is to rise by 20p an hour to £6.70, despite George Osborne suggesting last year it could hit £7. The Low Pay Commission has recommended the increase to ministers, the largest real terms rise since 2007. Ministers boasted it would take the hourly rate to its highest level in real terms since 2010, but it falls short of the idea it could hit £7 floated by the Chancellor a year ago.” – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Jonathan Dupont in Comment: The next big idea for the centre-right should be a Living Income

Janan Ganesh: The Prime Minister and Chancellor’s close relationship is an historical aberration

Janan Ganesh“There is a design quirk in Britain’s current government, and it is not what you think it is. Yes, this is the first coalition since the second world war, but that makes it unusual not unique. It is also the first administration whose term is fixed by law, but that just formalises the convention that a parliament lasts four or five years. The oddity of this government is not structural or constitutional but personal: the partnership of David Cameron and George Osborne. Human relations are hard to quantify but it is doubtful whether a prime minister and his chancellor have worked so closely for so long since the latter office gained real eminence at the end of the 19th century.” – Financial Times

Mail calls May’s family history a ‘textbook’ example of social mobility

“It is an uplifting journey over the course of a century from Downstairs, when the two young women were lowly maids, to Upstairs, with their 58-year-old granddaughter at the heart of government… It would certainly change the tune of critics who bray that too many Cabinet ministers — not to mention quite a few in the Shadow Cabinet — are the glossy product of famous public schools. The last time the Tory Party was comfortably winning elections its leader was Margaret Thatcher, also state-educated, whose father was a shopkeeper.” – Daily Mail

Boris: Like Gandalf the wizard, I will return in a more powerful form

Screen shot 2015-02-24 at 09.13.19“Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has compared himself to Gandalf, the fictional wizard, and suggested that by 2020 he will have transformed into “some new form, more powerful than I can possibly imagine”. During an appearance before the Greater London Authority, Mr Johnson was challenged over his plans for a low-emissions zone, which will not be introduced in the capital until the end of the next Parliament. He replied: “In one form or another I will be here. Like Gandalf I will be I will be translated into some new form, more powerful than I can possibly imagine.”” – Daily Telegraph

Tory MPs urge creation of new Sikh army regiment…

“Ministers are examining proposals to create a new British Sikh regiment, reminiscent of the ones that fought in both world wars, it has emerged. Speaking yesterday in Parliament, former defence minister Sir Nicholas Soames urged the Government to ‘do away with political correctness’, praising ‘the extraordinary gallant and distinguished service by Sikhs to this country down the generations’. And Tory MP Rory Stewart, chairman of the defence select committee, asked Armed Forces minister Mark Francois to look at a Sikh company within the reserves ‘as a starting point’.” – Daily Mail

>Today: Johnny Mercer in Comment: If we send our troops to war, we must care for their mental health when they return

…as another warns that EU referendum speculation is harming investment

EU Exit“The government’s pledge to hold a referendum on Britain’s EU membership in 2017 is already costing the nation investment, a senior Conservative MP has warned. Mark Garnier, a former fund manager and now member of the Treasury select committee, said the promise by David Cameron to hold a referendum during the next parliament had created a destabilising effect.” – Financial Times

Rifkind told committee position is ‘untenable’

“Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former foreign secretary suspended by the Conservatives over cash-for-access claims, is facing calls from his colleagues to stand down as chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. He will be told on Tuesday by some of his colleagues at a meeting of the committee, which oversees the security services, that his position is now “untenable” and that he should stand down pending an investigation.” – Daily Telegraph

Philip Johnston: Parliament will be poorer if MPs have no outside experience

PARLIAMENT“Yet Ed Miliband’s immediate reaction to this newspaper’s story was to call for a cap on MPs’ earnings from outside Parliament and to say they should have no second job. This would disqualify many of the professionals who keep their outside career once elected and bring a wealth of knowledge into parliament when they speak and contribute to legislation. Such a response is hardly surprising from a Labour leader who exemplifies everything that is wrong with the modern politician.” – Daily Telegraph

Straw and Rifkind:

Outside earnings:

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Straw, Rifkind, outside interests – and the law of unexpected consequences

Fresh Tory poll lead as Miliband holds Labour back…

“The ComRes survey reveals that the Tories are up three points in a month – on 34 per cent to Labour’s 32 – while Ukip has slipped four points to 13 per cent, its lowest ebb since early last year. The poll confirms that with fewer than 75 days to go until the most unpredictable General Election for generations, Ed Miliband has become a significant drag on Labour’s fortunes. More than 60 per cent of voters do not believe he would make a good prime minister and one in four say they would like to vote Labour but are put off by the party’s leader.” – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Lord Ashcroft in Comment: Labour’s lead up to four points in my latest poll

…and Campbell urges shadow cabinet to take focus off their leader…

MILIBAND Ed red background“Tony Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell has said the current Labour team needs to ”step up” because there is too much focus on Ed Miliband. Mr Campbell shared his advice for the Labour team while promoting his new book, Winners. “I think there is a responsibility for Ed Miliband to engage and liberate the broader (Labour) team, but more importantly for that broader team to step up to it … the election is becoming far too focused on the two leaders,” he said.” – Daily Telegraph

…as Miliband’s energy freeze is revealed to have put £70 on bills

“Ed Miliband’s energy price freeze has cost each household nearly £70 — a pricing expert said last night. The senior consultant said average gas bills — currently £695 a year — could be around 10 per cent lower if the energy market was allowed to operate without the threat of political intervention. Tim Ham of Pearson Ham said the threat of a Labour Government freezing bills meant the “Big 6” suppliers were worried about cutting bills — then being unable to put them up if costs spiralled.” – The Sun (£)

Labour will make schools appoint ‘local culture champions’…

BARRIE CHARACTER EDUCATION“Schools under Labour will only be able to receive an “outstanding” rating from Ofsted inspectors if they offer creative subjects and cultural opportunities, Ed Miliband has said. Labour will also make schools appoint a “local culture champion” to forge links with arts organisations and after-school clubs will be encouraged to offer music, drama, dance and other creative activities. Mr Miliband used a speech in London to insist that he will put the arts “at the heart” of his government if he wins May’s general election.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Miliband: Labour will put the arts at the heart of government – The Independent
  • Labour leader believes arts education is a universal entitlement – The Guardian

>Yesterday: LeftWatch: Labour’s problem with tuition fees

…and appoint inmates to boards running prisons

“Prisoners could get a role in running their jails under Labour plans. Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan has said lags could join “prison boards”. The shock move, giving them a say on how jails operate while they are banged up, was revealed in a secret recording passed to The Sun. Last year, Mr Khan told a conference the new boards would include representatives of councils, police, health, education and prison staff.” – The Sun (£)


Labour publishes plan for victims’ law

Police shield“Crimes will be reportable at places other than police stations and judges empowered to prevent vulnerable witnesses enduring excessive cross-examination, under Labour proposals for a victims’ law published on Tuesday. There will be mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse and police officers will have to record all allegations of crimes, it also recommends.” – The Guardian

Hodge leads committee criticism of Government’s student loan oversight

“Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money was wrongly paid out to alternative higher education colleges run by private companies and charities for EU students who failed to attend or complete courses, MPs have said. In just two years the number of students claiming funds for courses at private colleges rose from 7,000 to 53,000, while the amount of taxpayers’ money paid to students through loans and grants rose from around £50m to around £675m.” – The Independent

  • MPs criticise lax handling of major higher education expansion – The Guardian

US comedian heaps fresh derision on Labour’s pink van

DEL PIERO, Gloria“However, Gloria De Piero, the shadow minister for women and equality, has the worst bus crash in the clip, as she tries to avoid the pink issue. “Hot… err… I’ll tell you where we got… It’s like… Pink… Cerise…. I mean. I don’t know. People will call this colour… It’s certainly a version of pink, I would say,” she mutters. “I think she may just have hit rock bottom,” notes Oliver. “I’ve gone into politics to make a difference and now I am on television desperately trying to act like I don’t know the colour pink. What happened to my life?”” – Daily Telegraph

Liberal Democrats threaten to block TV debates

“Senior Liberal Democrats declared that pre-election TV debates would take place “over their dead body” after Britain’s four main broadcasters yesterday announced the order in which they would screen three proposed debates. The party refused to rule out the possibility of legal action as it emerged that the key head-to-head debate between David Cameron and Ed Miliband, which excludes Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, will take place a week before the general election.” – The Times (£)

  • Fury at TV bosses’ plan for last-minute showdown – The Sun (£)
  • Labour presses Cameron on debates as schedule published – The Guardian

>Today: Stephen Tall’s final column: Some farewell advice

Lord Ashcroft reports UKIP slump in polls after TV trials

UKIP glass“Ukip have been hit hard in the polls, falling five points in a week, according to polling carried out by the Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft. The party’s support felt to 11 per cent of the vote, the lowest share since the former Tory donor began analysing voting intentions. Ukip’s poll slump comes after Ofcom received thousands of complaints following a docudrama by Channel 4, Ukip: The First 100 Days, which imagined the party leader Nigel Farage as the Prime Minister.” – Daily Telegraph

  • UKIP down, but polls won’t pick a winner – Sam Coates, The Times (£)
  • OFCOM launches investigation into Channel 4 programme – Daily Mail
  • Meet the Ukippers: Nine slightly terrifying things we learned – Daily Telegraph
  • Twitter reacts to Meet the Ukippers – The Independent
  • Politician expelled for racist comments claims she found the Caribbean ‘OK’ – The Independent

UKIP would ban migrants without health insurance from the UK

“Ukip’s plans to make immigrants have health insurance for their first five years in Britain would not lead to ill people being denied treatment, Nigel Farage has said. Unveiling his party’s health policy on Monday, the Ukip leader confirmed that tourists, students and all those moving permanently except refugees would need medical cover before entering the country. However, the party has not yet set out precise details about how this would work, including whether more visitors would need visas to enter, the method of policing it and how those who were already in the country without cover would be dealt with.” – The Guardian


Douglas Carswell: Enoch Powell was wrong about immigration

CARSWELL Douglas Marr“Perhaps the greatest failing of the immigration system is that it discriminates against precisely the sort of people who, in a world of increasing labour mobility, we might actually want to attract. Since 400 million EU citizens have a right to come to Britain — thanks to fifty-year-old rules drawn up when what became the European Union had only six members — lowering immigration numbers means making it harder for non-EU people to enter the UK. Thus do we prioritise an EU citizen with a criminal record over someone with a doctorate from India or Singapore. It makes no sense.” – The Times (£)

Sturgeon 1) First Minister covered up cost of airport purchase

“Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of covering up the true cost to the taxpayer of buying Prestwick Airport after she kept secret the existence of a new estimate predicting it would almost double to £40 million. An Audit Scotland investigation into the controversial purchase found that a revised business plan produced in May last year forecast that public loans to the loss-making airport would reach £39.6 million by 2021/22.” – Daily Telegraph

Sturgeon 2) New academic qualification for heads to combat school performance failures

snplogo“Head teachers will be forced to take a new masters qualification to improve leadership at Scotland’s schools, Nicola Sturgeon has announced as she viewed successful education reforms in London. The First Minister said teachers will be able to start studying for the qualification from August this year and by 2018-19 it will become mandatory for all new head teachers. She argued that “strong leadership” was required if her new drive to close the gulf in performance between state schools in the richest and poorest areas is to be successful.” – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • Bishops urge Catholics to back candidates who support marriage – Daily Mail
  • Peers urged to retire as Lord Speaker sets out advantages – Daily Telegraph
  • Think tank recommends BBC should compete for licence fee cash – The Times (£)
  • Suspect hits out at Karen Danczuk’s story – The Sun (£)
  • Study recommends loosening the Green Belt to ease pressure on housing – Financial Times
  • Tobacco industry waged ‘David and Goliath’ campaign against EU – The Independent
  • BBC and police heavily criticised over Sir Cliff Richard house raid – The Guardian
  • Teenage metal detector uncovers IRA weapon cache – Daily Mail