Osborne explores raising personal allowance to £11,000

OSBORNE non-broken sword“George Osborne is considering a pre-election tax cut for 27million voters in this month’s Budget. Ministers are working on a deal that would see the amount workers can earn before paying income tax rise by another £200. Currently the income tax personal allowance stands at £10,000 and it is due to rise to £10,600 in April. But the further raise would take thousands more people out of tax altogether and take the allowance towards £11,000.” – Daily Mail

  • Tax joy for millions of Britons as Chancellor gives back £200 – Daily Express
  • Budget may see surprise flourish as election looms – The Guardian
  • Alexander vows to block tax cut – Daily Telegraph
  • Coalition row as Lib Dems demand fresh bank raid – The Sun (£)

Damian McBride: Osborne can’t afford a pre-election splurge

“One told me that Osborne was desperate to reverse his 2010 increase in VAT, at a cost of £13 billion: his signal to the British people that their period of necessary sacrifice was over. Irresponsible electioneering it might have been, but tax cuts on that scale would have been easily possible this year if Mr Osborne’s deficit reduction plan had worked. But it has failed. And as a result, the chancellor is stuck.” – The Times (£)

BBC considers offering Cameron his own show as it backs down on empty chair threat

CAMERON TV“David Cameron could be given his own election programme if he refuses to show up for televised leaders debates, it was claimed today. Broadcasters last week insisted they would push ahead with plans for three debates in April – including a face-off between the Prime Minister and Ed Miliband. But the BBC is understood to have backed down from threats to ’empty chair’ Mr Cameron if he refuses to show.” – Daily Mail

  • Miliband mocked for trying to make debates law – Daily Mail


  • Why the BBC’s arrogance over debates could threaten its future – Dominic Lawson, Daily Mail

Hammond refuses to rule out military cuts

“Maintaining defence spending at the minimum demanded by Nato is now only a ‘target’, top Tory cabinet minister Philip Hammond suggested this morning. The Foreign Secretary refused 10 times to guarantee that the Tories would protect the military from further cuts after the election. Mr Hammond said the final decision on whether or not to ring-fence military spending would not be made until after the election.” – Daily Mail

  • Army could fall to 50,000 troops after the election – The Times (£)
  • Think tank warns that armed forces could lose 43,000 personnel – Financial Times
  • Fend off Russia with EU army, suggests Juncker – Daily Telegraph
  • Tory cuts to police will leave public undefended, claims senior officer – Daily Mail


  • The Foreign Secretary has turned caution into an art – Ann Treneman, The Times (£)

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Hammond – “I’m a passionate supporter of the armed forces and of maintaining Britain’s military strength”

As Conservatives promise 500 new free schools…

BARRIE CHARACTER EDUCATION“At least 500 extra free schools will be built if the Conservatives win the election, David Cameron has said as a new study found they drive up local education standards. The Prime Minister said only the Tories were “committed” to expanding free schools and would push ahead with his flagship education policy at the same rate as this parliament if re-elected. It comes as a new report found struggling schools were improving up to twice as fast when a free school opened close by compared to the national average.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Permission granted for 49 more free schools – The Sun (£)

…Number 10 steps in to delay new grammar ‘annexe’

“A decision over whether to open Britain’s first ‘new’ grammar school in 50 years has been shelved until after the election, it emerged last night. The proposal for an ‘annexe’ to an existing grammar school in Sevenoaks, Kent, is currently being considered by the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan. She is awaiting legal advice and was expected to rule on the matter before the election. But last night a Downing Street source said: ‘I do not think there’s going to be a decision on it this side of the election.’” – Daily Mail

  • Give us a new grammar now, Tories urged – The Times (£)
  • Pupils as young as 11 to be taught about rape, alcohol and dress in new classes – Daily Mail
  • Morgan slams Tristram Hunt for calling her ‘love’ in Commons – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: Why Steve Hilton won

New Tory poster shows Miliband in Salmond’s pocket

Salmond Poster“David Cameron today puts the prospect of Alex Salmond ‘calling the tune’ in a deal with Labour at the centre of the Tory election campaign. As he launches a poster showing a tiny Ed Miliband in Mr Salmond’s pocket, the Prime Minister warns of the ‘chilling and real prospect’ of Labour being propped up in government by the Scottish National Party. His offensive comes after a day in which four members of Labour’s shadow cabinet refused repeatedly to say whether they would do a deal with the SNP in the event of a hung parliament.” – Daily Mail

  • Tories move to exploit Labour split on Scotland – The Times (£)
  • Conservative MPs revolt against Crosby’s ‘aggressive’ and ‘uninspiring’ strategy – The Independent
  • Salmond’s Scot Ed in his pocket – The Sun (£)
  • Talk of a Tory-Labour coalition is boosting the SNP vote, Labour warn – The Independent
  • Fury as Scottish Labour MP calls Sturgeon ‘wee lass in tin helmet’ – Daily Mail


  • Rumours of Scottish Labour’s demise are premature – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph
  • Don’t insult the Scots with a pact to block the SNP – Tim Montgomerie, The Times (£)
  • Labour should be worried about May – Leslie Riddoch, The Scotsman

>Today: Murdo Fraser MSP in Comment: An EU referendum – the end of the UK, or the end of the Conservative Party?

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Competence v chaos. Cameron’s Key campaign message. Literally.

Greening demands end to Heathrow’s hopes for expansion

“Plans to expand Heathrow must be ditched once and for all in favour of building another runway at Gatwick, a cabinet minister has warned. Justine Greening, a former transport secretary, said that pressing ahead with expanding the airport would only compound the mistake of putting Britain’s hub airport “in the wrong place”, while causing unfair noise and air pollution for tens of thousands of people.” – The Times (£)

EU migrants must work before claiming benefits

Building shield“From today foreign jobseekers will be banned from claiming housing benefit, in the latest of a series of changes that have also halved the length of time in which unemployed migrants can claim jobseeker’s allowance, child benefit and child tax credit. Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, said: “Our new rules for universal credit will ensure we have a fair system where people cannot claim means-tested benefits until they have worked.”” – The Times (£)

  • Immigration the overriding issue for Rees-Mogg’s constituents – Financial Times

Boris Johnson: For their sake, immigrants must speak the language of Shakespeare

“The question is: what sort of society do we want – a society that is integrated, or one that is balkanised? Do we let people live and work in mutually segregated sub-cultures? Or do we insist on the primacy of the English language? My instinctive answer is clear. I think we should insist absolutely on English as the common language – though I can see that this immediately raises some ideological difficulties; and it was this conundrum that was causing my brain to race last night.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Cllr Tom Hunt in Comment: Why Syed Kamall should be the Consevative candidate for Mayor of London

Balls warns that Conservatives will cost a quarter of a million pensioners their social care

BALLS Ed Spend can“A quarter of a million pensioners would lose their entitlement to free social care if the Conservatives win the election, Ed Balls will say today. In a speech ahead of next week’s Budget, the shadow chancellor will accuse the Tories of planning to impose the biggest spending cuts since the war and the deepest of any advanced economy.” – Daily Telegraph

Miliband’s tax numbers don’t add up

“If you were fortunate enough to be earning £150,000 a year, or slightly more, would you really ask your boss for a pay cut? Well, you might, should Ed Miliband come to power and implement his new tuition fees policy. Leave aside the Labour leader’s proposed fee cut, misguided though it is, and look at how he proposes to fund the measure. It is odd how little attention this part of his plan has received, for it will damage hugely this country’s savings culture and, contrary to Mr Miliband’s claims, will hurt more than just the wealthy.” – Ian King, The Times (£)

Labour candidate refuses Blair donation

BLAIR demon eyes“A Labour candidate for Parliament has rejected a £1,000 donation to her campaign from Tony Blair… Mr Blair made a donation of £1,000 to the local campaigns in 106 target constituencies, saying they were ‘where the election will be won for Labour’. But Dundee East candidate Lesley Brennan said her constituency would not be accepting the money.” – Daily Mail

Lib Dems 1) Sir Menzies calls for PMQs to be scrapped

“Sir Menzies Campbell, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, has described Prime Minister’s Question Time as a “bear pit” and called for it to be scrapped. In an interview with The Telegraph to mark his departure from the House of Commons, the 73-year-old veteran MP said being forced to take part in the weekly session was the worst time of his 28 years in Parliament.” – Daily Telegraph

Lib Dems 2) Trevor Kavanagh: Clegg’s a dope for chasing the drugs vote

Curse of Clegg 2“Like a spaced-out political junkie on the back streets of Westminster, Nick Clegg would sell his own grandmother for a vote. The ultimate opportunist, he once tried bribing students with an unaffordable promise of free university tuition. He is still paying the price for that shabby betrayal. Now, desperate to save himself and his discredited party from meltdown on May 7, he is blatantly peddling legalising dope in return for voting Lib Dem.” – The Sun (£)

Farage denounces first past the post as UKIP predicted lots of second places

“Nigel Farage has called for the “bankrupt” first past the post electoral system to be scrapped after new research found the UK Independence Party will come second in 100 seats but only win half a dozen MPs. The Ukip leader told The Telegraph he wanted the proportion of votes a party wins across the country to be reflected in the number of seats it has in the Commons and hinted it might be a manifesto pledge.” – Daily Telegraph

Galloway and his lawyers accused of blackmail over libel threats

GALLOWAY George“George Galloway and his solicitors stand accused of criminal wrongdoing after demanding more than £6,000 from anyone who allegedly libelled him on Twitter. The MP for Bradford West provoked an outcry last week after The Times revealed that he had instructed lawyers at £500 per hour to send legal threats to as many as a dozen Twitter users who had composed or retweeted posts alleging that he was antisemitic.” – The Times (£)

News in Brief:

  • Kids Company in crisis after three directors resign over funding – Daily Mail
  • BBC’s director general backs votes at 16 – Daily Telegraph
  • Outrage in the Commons as silver is sold off – The Times (£)
  • Treasury censured by MPs over lack of crash precautions – Financial Times
  • Think tank calls for limits on Prime Minister’s power to reorganise departments – The Independent
  • Families of ISIS runaways demand apology from Scotland Yard – The Guardian
  • Irish American furore as cardinal compares the IRA to Islamic State – Newsletter