Major calls on Labour to rule out a coalition with the SNP

telegraphmajor“Ed Miliband must formally rule out a Coalition with the Scottish National Party for the sake of the future of the United Kingdom, Sir John Major says. Polls suggest that, with no party set to win enough seats to form a Government, Labour and the SNP could be left with enough MPs together to form a new Coalition after May’s general election. However, Sir John, who was Conservative Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997, warned that “the SNP would enter into any agreement with Labour with one overriding aim: to break up the United Kingdom”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • It’s shameful that Labour hasn’t ruled out a pact with the SNP – Sir John Major Daily Telegraph
  • “This weekend, Jim Murphy will launch a policy paper outlining many of his plans for next year’s Scottish Parliament election. ..This week’s Ashcroft polling on general election voting intentions suggests he is facing a huge struggle.” – The Times(£)
  • Pro unionist tactical voting urged – The Guardian
  • Labour must rule out a deal with the SNP – Philip Collins The Times(£)

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: “Can the Conservatives fight back against Labour faster than Labour can fight back against the SNP?”

Proposed defence spending freeze threatens Tory rebellion

“The Treasury is preparing to freeze defence spending after the election, Whitehall sources warned last night, fuelling a growing Tory rebellion over Britain’s military budget. More than 30 MPs are to stage a Commons showdown next week in an attempt to force David Cameron to meet a Nato commitment to spend at least 2 per cent of national income on defence. However, the Ministry of Defence is braced for a “flat cash” settlement that could mean defence spending as a percentage of GDP sliding to 1.7 per cent by the end of the next parliament — below the level of Nato allies such as Poland and Romania.” – The Times(£)

  • Lord Wood urges Labour to oppose Trident – The Sun(£)

TV debate blame game continues

guardiandebates“The prospect of any repeat of the 2010 election TV debates appeared to be drawing to a close on Thursday night as exasperated broadcasters desperately suggested they might screen the events by replacing an absent David Cameron with an empty chair. The high-risk proposal is fraught with legal difficulties because of broadcasters’ obligation to remain politically impartial, but they say was forced on them because of Downing Street’s continuing refusal to allow the prime minister to participate in the debates without various pre-conditions being met.” – The Guardian

>Today: Columnist Lewis Baston: Do General Election campaigns help to decide the result?

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: TV debate turmoil: the broadcasters have no-one to blame but themselves

Cameron pledges tougher approach to Putin….

“Britain and its allies are prepared to take sanctions against Russia “to a whole different level” if a faltering ceasefire in Ukraine fails, David Cameron said yesterday. The prime minister accused President Putin of ripping up the rule book with his actions in Ukraine and said that the West must be ready “to settle in for a long and determined position” of pitting the weight of the US and the EU against Russia. “The rest of the world should be prepared to say to Russia, ‘Well you can’t rip up one part of the international rule book while still having access to international markets, international finance, international systems’,” Mr Cameron said.” – The Times(£)

…but more sunshine at home

“Mr Cameron was grilled by The Sun on whether his “Mr Brightside” image that characterised his early years as Tory leader has gone for good. Speaking during a campaign trip to the West Midlands, the PM hit back: “I don’t accept that. Our message is upbeat but down to earth, which is what people want and what we are trying to deliver…The sunshine I want is a recovery that creates more jobs, lower taxes, better houses. So yes, you will hear a lot more sunshine from me.” – The Sun(£)

Ten minutes grace before drivers face parking penalties

mailparking“Drivers are to get ten minutes extra time after a parking ticket runs out before they can be hit with a fine. Under a change in the law to take effect within weeks, they will have the right to a ‘grace period’ in all on-street or off-street council parking places. For decades, drivers have complained of returning to their cars moments after a ticket expires to find a prowling warden has already hit them with a penalty.” – Daily Mail

  • “Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, said: “We are ending the war on drivers who simply want to go about their daily business. “- Daily Telegraph
  •  Ban on CCTV “spy cars” intended to fine drivers for parking on yellow lines – The Guardian
  • Labour propose ten year limit on public service transport tyres – The Independent
  • Pressure to extend fuel duty freeze – The Sun(£)

Raab calls for Child Benefit to be limited to three children a family

“The Conservatives are considering limiting child benefit to three children, BBC Newsnight has learned. The Treasury is “softening” to the idea and is examining the details, Newsnight political editor Allegra Stratton said. It would save an estimated £300m a year – but Tory MP Dominic Raab said it was not purely about cost but could “send a message about personal responsibility”.” – BBC

IDS welcomes growth in proportion of children living with both parents

IDS on Marr“The number of children living in traditional family units is increasing, a report revealed yesterday. The proportion of youngsters living with both parents rose from 67 per cent to 70 per cent in two years. Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith declared the findings ‘good news’ and said it proved how funding for relationship counselling was working.” – Daily Mail

  • Conservative compassion is about getting someone back to work says IDS – Daily Telegraph

Conservatives losing support among public sector workers

“David Cameron is facing an uphill task to convince public sector workers in marginal Conservative seats to vote Tory, new polling analysis shows. The prime minister has lost twice as much support in Tory marginals with the highest number of public sector workers as in those with the fewest. In the 15 Conservative-held marginal seats where Labour is in second place with the fewest public sector workers, the Tories trail by 4 per cent. That rises to 8 per cent in the 15 Tory marginals with the highest proportion of employees working for state-funded organisations.” – The Times(£)

Lib Dems unsure how strongly to support the Budget

LibDemDead“The Liberal Democrats are discussing the extent to which the budget on 18 March can be regarded as a coalition effort at a time when they are odds with the Tories over deficit reduction, capital investment and tax rises. The budget is the last major fiscal event before the election and each wants to claim responsibility for rising living standards and the coalition’s overall economic record. Yet at the same time, the two parties are increasingly divergent on future economic policy. The Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, stayed away from the Commons during the autumn statement and may do so again for the budget.” – The Guardian

  • Davey claims “crazy Conservatives” would “frack every bit of croquet lawn” – Daily Telegraph

Miliband pledges pension perks will be safe under Labour

“Ed Miliband will today move to reassure Britain’s 11 million pensioners that Labour would not launch a further raid on their winter fuel payments and free bus passes and TV licences. The Labour leader will reject suggestions that he is stoking generational divisions before the May election by targeting young adults while the Tories woo the “grey vote”.” – The Independent

Lucas proposes Green/SNP “progressive alliance”

green20party (1)“Green Party MP Caroline Lucas is to call for a “progressive alliance” with the SNP as her party holds what it says is its largest ever conference in Liverpool. The Brighton Pavilion MP will say the two parties could “forge a new grouping in Parliament”. Ms Lucas will say: “With the rise of the SNP, and with our own Green surge, we have the chance to forge a new grouping in Parliament. A progressive alliance. “Of course, in Scotland and in Wales we’ll be fighting hard for our distinctive values and policies. Just as we do against those individual Labour and even Lib Dem candidates with whom we have something in common.” – BBC

Farage claims UKIP will win at least ten seats

FARAGE big laugh“Nigel Farage predicted yesterday that Ukip would win at least ten seats in the general election on May 7. The Ukip leader has avoided making specific forecasts, but admitted he believes the number of constituencies his party will win to be “in double figures”. Panel members on ITV’s Loose Women had rejected his initial declaration that the anti-EU party would win “more than a handful” of seats and demanded: “Give us a number.”- The Times(£)

  • Clegg bets six pints that UKIP will be “pipsqueak of a Party” – The Guardian
  • UKIP split on immigration cap – The Sun(£)

Government announces new mental health rights

“Proposals to give more rights to people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health conditions are to be unveiled by the government. Care Minister Norman Lamb said the changes would put people in charge of their care, and promote community support as an alternative to hospital. Mr Lamb admitted many families felt “their concerns are ignored”. Ministers pledged to move patients out of hospitals and into community care after the Winterbourne View scandal.” – BBC

Ipsa to ban MPs from taxi and dinner expenses

taxis“MPs will be banned from claiming expenses for dinners, TV licences and pre-23:00 taxis after May’s election, the expenses watchdog has said. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) proposed the curbs in 2013 as part of a wider package that included salaries rising from £67,000 to £74,000. The salary rise is still subject to review from the party leaders. But Ipsa said the cuts to expenses would go ahead on 8 May anyway.” – BBC

MPs urge Government to do more to champion democracy in Hong Kong..

“The government should speak up in support of democracy in Hong Kong or risk damage to the UK’s reputation there, MPs have said. The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee urged ministers to press China harder on its plans for political reform. It also said it was “profoundly disappointed” at ministers’ response when China blocked committee members from visiting the former UK colony.” – BBC

…but Umunna says Britain can’t “lecture” China

Umunna on Marr“ONE of Labour’s rising stars faces a furious backlash after blasting Britain’s past. Chuka Umunna, Shadow Business Secretary, said Brits couldn’t lecture countries such as China given the “thoroughly undemocractic things” the country did as a colonial power. He said there was no way Britain could “pose as saints”. The comments come with the Nigerian-born Brit emerging as one of the front-runners to replace Ed Miliband as Labour leader if the party lose the General Election.” – The Sun(£)

Population of England has risen by 565,000 since 2011

“A major analysis by the University of Oxford estimates the population of England has risen by 565,000 since 2011 due to immigration. The figures suggest the migrant population of every local authority in the country may have risen. Two-thirds of the rise is attributed to people from the European Union. The Migration Observatory unit says it came up with the projections because similar official data will not be available before the general election.” – BBC

News in brief

  • Labour four points ahead – YouGov
  • Clegg calls for Cornish Assembly – BBC
  • EU promises to curb red tape – BBC
  • Hand back Blair’s £106,000 Labour candidates urged – Daily Mail
  • Fallon scraps plan to raise sunken ship – The Times(£)
  • 300 staff working for MPs and peers have lobbying interests – The Guardian
  • Faster immigration cuts council spending per head says IFS – Daily Telegraph