Osborne 1) We are better off with George, experts claim

OSBORNE non-broken sword“Families will be better off this year than they were when the Coalition came to power, independent experts said yesterday. In a boost to George Osborne, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said it was ‘very likely’ that household incomes would be higher this year than in 2010. The Chancellor’s claim that families would be £900 better off in 2015 was one of the key Tory messages in Wednesday’s Budget.” – Daily Mail

  • Brits in better shape than when Coalition took office – The Sun (£)
  • Tories will take middle classes out of the top rate, Chancellor hints – Daily Telegraph
  • Music to their ears! Osborne’s orchestra tax break – The Sun (£)
  • Budget lifts more women than men out of income tax – Daily Telegraph
  • Pension reform windfall projections dismissed – The Times (£)


Osborne 2) Think tank urges Tories to explain welfare cuts

“The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said the Chancellor should spell out how he intends to find £12 billion of savings from welfare when he has only identified £2bn. Forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) suggest the plans to cut the deficit before ending austerity a year early will mean a tightening squeeze followed by a spending splurge. Analysis suggests the cuts in 2016-17 and 2017-18 of more than 5 per cent would be twice the size of any so far by the coalition.” – The Scotsman


Osborne 3) Chancellor still won’t commit to defence target

MANIFESTO money“George Osborne infuriated Tory MPs yesterday after he refused to commit to spending 2 per cent of Britain’s national income on defence – despite a steep rise in the foreign aid budget. The Chancellor dodged the question repeatedly during a post-Budget interview, even though there is growing pressure from politicians and military chiefs. Mr Osborne refused four times to guarantee that he would meet the 2 per cent target in the next Parliament, saying only: ‘We are promising to keep our country safe.’” – Daily Mail

Osborne 4) Critics turn their fire on property Isas

“Under the plans, the Government will boost people’s savings by £50 for every £200 they put away, with a maximum bonus of £3,000. And couples can have separate Isas, meaning they can receive a £6,000 bonus towards their first home. The policy has been welcomed by mortgage brokers, who believe it could inject some life into a slowing property market. But the Institute for Fiscal Studies and two leading free market think-tanks yesterday warned that the scheme could backfire. They said it would only fuel demand without addressing the severe lack of new homes across the UK.” – Daily Mail

Osborne 5) OBR puts migration at the heart of recovery

Britain shield“George Osborne’s sunny economic forecast and much of his claim that Britain is a “comeback country” have more to do with higher than expected levels of net inward migration than his stewardship as chancellor or the falling oil price. That is not a verdict that you are likely to hear from the Conservatives or from Labour for that matter, both of which like to appear as parties opposed to mass migration, but the Office for Budget Responsibility makes clear that it is one key factor fuelling Britain’s economic recovery.” – The Guardian

  • Ministers must ‘get a grip’ on immigration – The Sun (£)

Labour plans further tax rises

“Labour will announce more tax rises to plug a £1.5 billion gap left by George Osborne’s raid on its campaign war-chest, a senior figure in the party said yesterday. The chancellor stole two of Labour’s key money-raising measures to fund his own giveaways for first-time buyers, savers and workers in Wednesday’s budget. Ed Balls yesterday chose to match all the handouts, even though that leaves a hole in funding earmarked for policies such as the pledge to cut tuition fees.” – The Times (£)

  • Don’t ask me maths questions, asks Balls – Daily Mail
  • Shadow Chancellor snubs Alexander’s handshake ploy – The Independent

Fraser Nelson: Will this boring Budget help the Tories to light the blue touchpaper?

frasernelson“This week’s Budget didn’t really add to the list of reasons to vote Tory. It was aimed at spiking Labour’s guns, rather than winning more Tory support. It was a Budget for a Chancellor who thinks he’s winning. As one Tory MP put it: “This is the kind of Budget you pass when you’re 1-0 up at half time. The problem is that we’re 2-1 down.” Even the bribes were paltry: cutting tax on bank interest doesn’t help at a time when almost no one is getting bank interest. And with the average house price rising by £23,000 last year, and up £51,000 since the crash, even a £3,000 bung from the government won’t help.” – Daily Telegraph

>Today: The Deep End: Heresy of the Week: Fairness is a Conservative concept

Downing Street intervenes in row with ‘Sir Cover Up’…

“Critics raised concerns about a quiet change to the civil service code, which they warned could ‘stifle whistleblowing’ and open government. The code has been amended to include a new provision making clear that officials could be sacked if they speak out before checking with a minister. Downing Street was understood to have intervened in the row, forcing the Cabinet Office to offer a series of concessions.” – Daily Mail

…as Juncker accuses Cameron of confecting concerns over EU red tape…

EU FLag“The President of the European Commission is understood to have told colleagues that the Prime Minister’s call to ease the tax regime for internet start-ups was simply a ploy to boost his credentials among voters wavering with Ukip. British officials yesterday said Mr Cameron’s demand for a review of EU-wide rules on the VAT paid by online firms had borne fruit. After being approached this evening by Mr Cameron on the sidelines of the last European Council meeting before the election, Mr Juncker agreed to include the regulations in a major review of EU red tape.” – Daily Telegraph

…and the Prime Minister revives Thatcher’s Eastern Europe free market fund

“Britain will spend £20 million this year to help former communist states come in from the cold and resist the Putin regime. David Cameron last night announced plans to send British officials to help reform the creaking bureaucracies of Georgia, Moldova, Bosnia and Herzogovina, and Serbia. The plan can help “prevent the next Ukraine” by helping eastern European states to build free markets, functioning democracies and rid their institutions of cronyism, British officials said.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Cameron to keep ex-Communist countries out of Russia’s claws – The Sun (£)

>Today: ToryDiary: Good aid will help hold off Putin in the East – but we should use it against Islamist aggression, too

Justice Select Committee criticises Grayling over prison inspector appointment

Grayling470“The justice select committee expressed concerns on Thursday over Chris Grayling’s decision to sideline the candidate chosen by the commission. However, it also raised separate concerns after learning that the two independent members of the appointments panel had been active members of the Conservative party. Sir Alan Beith, who chairs the committee, said Sir David Normington, civil service commissioner, had made clear there was “no requirement” that the secretary of state should be given more than one candidate from whom to make a choice.” – Financial Times

  • Justice Secretary in cronyism row – The Independent
  • Vaz leads Home Affairs Committee call for anonymity for men accused of rape – Daily Mail

Tory peer sparks row by denouncing living wage

“Tory peer Lord Wolfson, who last year took home £4.6million, said it was ‘an invention’ and ‘not a reality’. The living wage is calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK and is £7.85 an hour and £9.15 in London. It has become a cause celebre with trade unions and some politicians – including Labour leader Ed Miliband and London Mayor Boris Johnson.” – Daily Mail

Scottish National Party suspend member for homophobic abuse of Davidson

DAVIDSON Ruth new“A Scottish National Party (SNP) member has been suspended after tweeting homophobic abuse to the Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson. The news of the suspension – which was announced by the SNP First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, in the Scottish Parliament – came after Ms Sturgeon and other political leaders north of the border united in a rare cross-party call for an end to homophobic abuse.” – The Independent

  • Cybernat troll blames Scottish Conservative leader for abuse he sent her – Daily Express

Hague bows out as Leader of the House by mocking Miliband

“William Hague formally bowed out as Leader of the House – by poking fun at Labour leader Ed Miliband. In his last weekly business statement before the election, the senior Tory brought the House down when talking about the economy – and Labour’s refusal to be drawn on cuts. He said: “There will be a great deal of suspicion that there will be large hidden tax rises from a Leader of the Opposition who has that large hidden kitchen he did not want to speak about.” Tributes for the former Tory leader came in from all sides of the House, with Labour’s Angela Eagle saying the Conservatives were about to lose “the only Northern powerhouse” they had ever had.” – The Sun (£)

Revenge of the Red Baron: Party fears row with McCluskey over Murphy

MILIBAND Red Ed“Relations between Miliband and the union were put under further strain when Linda Riordan, the retiring Halifax Labour MP, accused the party leadership of dirty tricks. She has made a formal protest to Iain McNicol, Labour’s general secretary. But the heavyweight the front bench should be really worried about is Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, who is enraged by the actions of Miliband and Harman. For he is the most powerful Left-wing union boss since miners’ leader Arthur Scargill.” – Daily Mail

Miliband left off Labour leaflets

“The Labour leader does not appear on scores of pieces of party literature handed out on doorsteps up and down the country. In one pamphlet, 10 Reasons To Vote Labour, neither Mr Miliband’s name nor his picture can be seen. Many insiders see him as an Achilles heel in the run-up to polling. Mr Miliband has endured a string of miserable personality ratings when compared with other leaders including Prime Minister David Cameron and Ukip’s Nigel Farage.” – Daily Express

Hunt would end ‘alpha male’ school reform culture

SIllyHunt“A Labour government would end Westminster’s “alpha male” education reform culture, the shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, is to promise in a speech setting out the party’s plans for schools. He aims to call time on the “exam factory” approach of recent years and offer in its place greater autonomy for teachers and school leaders. Hunt will say there is an affliction bedevilling Westminster culture, in a thinly veiled dig at former Conservative education secretary Michael Gove: “The cult of the big reformer. A sort of alpha male compulsion to see everything through the prism of your ‘reforming legacy’.”” – The Guardian

Philip Collins: What the public want is a Labour government led by the Tories

The opinion polls are locked because neither party offers what a plurality wants, which is the Labour party, led by Tories. The sum total of his many failures, allied to a flinty political will which is a genuinely rare political virtue, is that George Osborne has turned into a Tory man carrying out Labour measures, the best chancellor Labour doesn’t have. The sort of chancellor Labour had in the year 2001.” – The Times (£)

Clegg hams it up for new Lib Dem broadcast after walking out of party ‘budget’…

CLEGG Bird“When Nick Clegg walked out of today’s farcical ‘yellow budget’ speech, it prompted relentless jeers from Labour MPs – and left Danny Alexander speaking to a virtually-empty chamber. And, to add insult to injury, the Deputy Prime Minister’s swift exit appeared to be for the sole purpose of trying his hand at a spot of Am-dram in Gravesend. As these pictures show, the Liberal Democrat leader was this afternoon seen sauntering around Kent, taking selfies with residents and high-fiving passers-by as part of a ‘fun’ film shoot for a party political broadcast.” – Daily Mail


  • Truly, the man is an asp – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
  • Alexander enjoyed writing the budget so much he wrote a second – Michael Deacon, Daily Telegraph
  • The big yellow box steals the show – Ann Treneman, The Times (£)
  • The curious case of the yellow Budget box – Donald Macintyre, The Independent
  • Danny Alexander’s liberated lunchbox – John Crace, The Guardian

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Alexander struggles to deliver the Liberal Democrats’ alternative budget

…as he rallies the spirits of his party in Scotland

“Nick Clegg will attempt to dispel gloom around the Liberal Democrats’ election prospects in Scotland by insisting they will hold all their seats and “wipe the smile off Alex Salmond’s face”. Speaking at a general election campaign rally at the party’s Scottish conference in Aberdeen, the Lib Dem leader will tell delegates “we will do so much better than anyone thinks.” He will claim his party will see off SNP challenges to all its 11 seats, including Gordon in Aberdeenshire, which Mr Salmond is the clear favourite to win for the SNP.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Sturgeon admits SNP overestimated oil revenues during referendum campaign – Daily Telegraph

UKIP suspends high-profile MEP over fraudulent expenses claim

UKIP logo“A high-profile Ukip MEP has been suspended and removed as a General Election candidate after allegations of fraudulent expenses claims. The party said it was ‘incredibly disappointed’ with Janice Atkinson after a member of her staff was secretly filmed apparently trying to obtain an inflated invoice for a drinks reception in a bid to claim the money from the EU. Mrs Atkinson, an MEP for the South East, had hosted the women’s fringe event – attended by Nigel Farage’s wife Kirsten – during Ukip’s spring conference in Margate, Kent, last month.” – Daily Mail

Plaid Cymru names its price

“If David Cameron and Ed Miliband are weighing up possible coalition deals after the general election, they may want to carry out some elementary cost-benefit analysis. Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalist party, has told the Financial Times that it will lend its support in the event of a hung parliament for an extra £1.2bn annual funding for Wales. On its current parliamentary presence of three MPs, this amounts to £400m a year per seat. This compares with a price of about £250m for each of the eight seats held by the Democratic Unionists in Northern Ireland, according to one senior party figure.” – Financial Times

News in Brief:

  • Human rights meddling by UK judges ‘aiding terror’, warns Civitas – Daily Mail
  • US to ‘re-evaluate’ support for Israel at the UN – Daily Telegraph
  • Plans for mini-motorways to ease congestion – The Times (£)
  • HS2 could reach Crewe six years ahead of schedule – Financial Times
  • Government accused of allowing arms manufacturers to export in secret – The Independent
  • Election pacts the order of the day in Northern Ireland – Belfast Telegraph
  • Hard-man Labour MP stares down mugger who threatened to kill him – Daily Mail
  • Americans prefer the royal family to their own politicians, claims Obama – The Guardian