Osborne plans ‘bribes’ to homeowners impeding infrastructure projects…

OSBORNE red and blue“Homeowners whose properties lie in the path of major infrastructure projects will be offered ‘bribes’ to sell up, under plans to be unveiled in the Budget. George Osborne is expected to launch a consultation into the compulsory purchase system, which critics say is a major barrier to investment in the UK. Plans include looking at whether property owners should be offered a premium on the value of their home or land if it is needed for essential infrastructure.” – Daily Mail

  • Use income from tobacco levy to tackle litter, committee tells Chancellor – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Graham Brady MP in Comment: It’s decision time for Britain’s air infrastructure

…as IFS reveals the cost of the 2010 VAT hike

“An emergency increase in VAT introduced in 2010 represented a £14 billion tax increase for consumers, a new analysis has found. Taxes have risen by about £255 per person since the coalition government came to power, according to the study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), a respected think-tank. It calculated that net tax increases amounted to £16.4 billion. Its findings show that while George Osborne has regularly highlighted spending cuts as the best way to repair Britain’s finances, higher taxes have also been used to close the deficit.” – The Times (£)

NATO head tells Cameron: We are counting on your leadership…

Camerons thinking copy“Nato’s General Secretary has issued a thinly veiled challenge to David Cameron to continue spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence if re-elected. Jens Stoltenberg, who held talks with the Prime Minister on Friday, sent out a press statement saying Nato “counts on” Britain’s “leadership in the future”. Mr Stoltenberg also met privately with the Defence Secretary to ensure “important decisions” made at a summit last year – when the UK spoke out against defence cuts – are implemented.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Defence must be in manifestos, say ex-Forces chiefs – The Times (£)


>Today: ToryDiary: Why the Conservatives should commit to the NATO two per cent spending target

…as prospect of Chinese trade lures the Prime Minister from the special relationship…

“Boris Johnson, mayor of London, gave an insight into Britain’s new trade diplomacy on a visit to Beijing in 2013, when he said: “I don’t walk into a meeting and say, “I say, you chaps, how’s freedom doing?” In its own modest way, 2013 marked Mr Cameron’s own pivot to Asia, even at the expense of straining relations with the UK’s most important global strategic partner: the US. Those relations were strained again this week as the White House lamented London’s “constant accommodation”of China after the UK decided to join a new China-led financial institution that could rival the World Bank.” – Financial Times

>Yesterday: Diego Zuluaga Laguna in Comment: TTIP will have no impact on environmental protection

…and he reiterates his pledge to reform the EU

EU Exit“David Cameron yesterday insisted he will win his battle to reform the EU and said he was prepared to force through a treaty change to make it tougher for migrants to claim British benefits. The Prime Minister also defended his plans for a referendum on Britain’s membership, denying he was taking a dangerous risk and creating uncertainty for businesses. He said he hoped the referendum could be held as early as next year if the Conservatives win the general election rather than waiting until his promised deadline of the end of 2017.” – Daily Express

May claims country has yet to grasp true scale of child abuse

“A major inquiry into child abuse will reveal that sexual exploitation runs through every level of British society like a “stick of Blackpool rock”, Theresa May warns today. Writing in The Daily Telegraph, the Home Secretary, says that people across Britain do not yet “appreciate the true scale” of the abuse and that once the inquiry is done, “we will never look at society in the same way again”.” – Daily Telegraph

Tory chiefs plan ‘people’s ombudsman’ to give power to patients

NHS_Logo“Millions of Brits are to be given unprecedented powers to lodge complaints about dodgy doctors and NHS chiefs under a Government shake-up, The Sun can reveal. Sources claim top Tory chiefs plan to launch a people’s ombudsman to give “power to the patients” after a spate of recent health scandals… The new body will field complaints about every aspect of the health service down to social care and care homes at a local authority level. It is also expected to encourage whistleblowers. The shake-up is the brainchild of Oliver Letwin, the Tory policy chief, and consumer watchdog Which?.” – The Sun (£)

Tories hope Harrow will prove a lesson in how free schools win votes

“Bob Blackman, the Tory MP for Harrow East, agreed that free schools were vote winners, saying they were hugely important to his constituents. The borough is home to people from more than 100 nations, who speak 88 different languages, driving demand for diverse schools, he said. He said: “Free schools offer greater parental choice — and because they’re free of local authority control they can get on with the job of educating children in the way that parents want. People in Harrow can see the benefit of them. Their only frustration is that it takes time for them to come to fruition.”” – The Times (£)

  • Laws claims Gove still runs Conservative education policy – The Independent


Crosby keeps the Conservatives on a tight leash

lynton-crosby“Since Mr Crosby went full-time as election chief in autumn 2013 on a £1m-plus contract, Conservative campaign headquarters has been in almost total lockdown and MPs are kept on a tight leash. “He runs a campaign like a military operation,” observes a senior Conservative politician who worked with Mr Crosby on former party leader Michael Howard’s unsuccessful 2005 campaign. “He’s a disciplinarian. Once the message is decided, he makes sure no one says anything else.”” – Financial Times

Neill rebuts ‘Game of Cuts’ campaign video

“Among them is a parody of King Joffrey Baratheon, a ruthless ruler, who is informed: ‘The seven kingdoms prosper once more. We must not jeopardise this by pandering to the whims of the north… Our funding cuts will help to protect the future of the seven kingdoms.’ However, the film has been criticised by Conservative party vice-chairman and former local government minister Bob Neill. He said: ‘Taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be used to subsidise the Box Set fantasies of town hall officials.” – Daily Mail

Miliband claims Cameron will take UK back to the Thirties…

MILIBAND Red Ed“Ed Miliband will risk accusations of scaremongering today when he claims that David Cameron wants to take Britain back to a time when “children left school at 14”. In a speech revealing Labour’s five-point pledge card for the election, Mr Miliband will again warn voters that the prime minister’s plans would threaten the NHS and return the country’s spending to 1930s levels. He will also claim that they would return Britain to an age when some children were forced to leave school early.” – The Times (£)

  • Labour accuse Tories of being in the pay of the energy sector – The Guardian

…as he leaves business out of five key pledges…

“Ed Miliband will today unveil his five key pledges for the general election – but will make no mention of British businesses. The Labour leader will use a speech to say his key promises ahead of the election are to deliver a strong economic foundation, higher living standards, a better NHS, immigration controls and “a country where the next generation can do better than the last”. However, critics pointed out that he makes no mention of the need to support British companies.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Five ways Miliband’s pledges and Balls’ don’t match up – The Independent

…and young voters ask him if he regrets ‘stabbing his brother in the back’

David Miliband“Ed Miliband has been challenged on live TV over whether he regrets ‘stabbing his brother in the back’ to win the Labour leadership. He insisted that although the contest was ‘bruising’ he thought he would make a better leader than brother David, and still does. It came as he was grilled by young voters on BBC Three, who questioned him about trust, drugs and being weird.” – Daily Mail

  • The bits of Ed they didn’t want you to see – Michael Deacon’s sketch, Daily Telegraph

Experts attack party plan to rain pensions to cut tuition fees

“Experts have hit out at Labour’s plans to raid pension pots to slash university tuition fees. Ed Miliband has said he will reduce them from £9,000 to £6,000-a-year by dropping the annual pension allowance and cutting relief for high-earners. But the Institute for Fiscal Studies said that “threatened to undermine” the pensions system. The IFS also criticised many of the tax changes introduced by the Coalition over the last five years.” – The Sun (£)

  • Cambridge warns of student number cut if income falls – Financial Times

Prescott claims Blair’s ‘bloody crusades’ radicalised Muslims

John Prescott“Tony Blair’s “bloody crusades” in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to the radicalisation of a generation of young British Muslims, John Prescott has suggested. Lord Prescott, the former deputy prime minister, said that Mr Blair is “unfortunately” a supporter of regime change in the Middle East and that he “wants to invade everywhere”. In controversial comments made in February, Lord Prescott, who has been brought into Ed Miliband’s inner circle as a climate change advisor, appeared to link the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the radicalisation of British Muslims.” – Daily Telegraph

Harman wades into Unite selection battle

“Harriet Harman has been drafted into help sort out a growing row over a Labour election candidate who has been parachuted into a key marginal seat by Labour’s biggest union donor. Labour’s deputy leader is understood to have “taken over the selection” process in Halifax, amid concerns that the Unite union is trying to ensure that Karie Murphy replaces the current Labour MP, Linda Riordan, who is quitting at the election.” – Daily Telegraph

  • ‘Big row’ Murphy seeks Halifax nomination – The Sun (£)

Johnson latest Labour figure to call for bar on SNP alliance

LABOUR dead rose“ED Miliband is under fresh pressure to rule out a deal with the SNP – as a Labour civil war breaks out over his repeated refusal to do so. Former Cabinet minister Alan Johnson became the latest big-hitter to call on the hapless party chief to get off the fence. He said: “I think he should rule it out. I can’t see a downside to it. “We can’t possibly do a deal with a party that wants to be out of the United Kingdom and give up our nuclear deterrent. We can’t possibly do a deal with a party on that basis.” His comments came as senior Labour figures hit out at their Scottish colleagues for failing to halt the Nationalist surge.” – The Sun (£)


  • Minority government would be preferable to coalition – Bernard Donoughue, Financial Times

Matthew Parris: The SNP’s resurgence vindicates my pessimism

“I remember where I was when I saw the second of the two TV debates. Bullying, interrupting and shin-kicking as the audience cheered, a pumped-up Salmond flattened a transparently decent man, Alistair Darling. A sort of iciness stole over me; I changed my view of Salmond completely and of the Scots, too, a bit: how could they admire such a person or his party? If the polls are to be believed, their admiration swells. I grow cold towards such an electorate, and I’m sure millions like me in England do too.” – The Times (£)

Lib Dems 1) Alexander denounces Cameron for playing up SNP for short-term advantage

Lib Dem Bird Tory“David Cameron is jeopardising the future of the UK by “talking up the SNP” for “short-term party advantage,” Danny Alexander said yesterday. With polls suggesting that the Scots nationalists are set to sweep away dozens of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs – including the Lib Dem Treasury chief secretary — he accused Mr Cameron of a “disgraceful” attempt to encourage the SNP surge. Conservative campaign posters depict Ed Miliband in Alex Salmond’s pocket and the prime minister accused the Labour leader of “chickening out” of vetoing a post-election deal last week.” – The Times (£)

  • Cable claims pan-yellow SNP-Lib Dem pact is ‘inconceivable’ – The Guardian

Lib Dems 2) Extra cash in the budget for mental health campaign

“The money will fund early intervention programmes to stop youngsters from developing serious and potentially fatal mental health conditions, Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, said. It will also pay for more facilities for those most at need, it is understood. Securing more funding for mental health has been a key Liberal Democrat demand during negotiations over Wednesday’s budget, the last before the election. Nick Clegg is expected to announce some of the details at his party’s spring conference tomorrow – a major boost for the Time To Mind campaign, launched by The Times this week to try to end the scandal.” – The Times (£)

  • Clegg will be at Osborne’s side at the budget, for his share of the credit – Andrew Grice, The Independent

>Today: Mark Field MP in Comment: No glittering giveaways. No electoral sweeteners. Why we need a deeply unexciting Budget


>Yesterday: Samantha Callan in Comment: Osborne should make the marriage allowance meaningful in the Budget – and here’s how

Lib Dems 3) Party reveals radical new plan to boost property ownership

Clegg Hands“Families who rent their homes would own it after 30 years under a radical plan to help more people on to the property ladder. The ‘rent-to-own’ scheme unveiled by the Lib Dems would see tenants pay market level rents, but each year would gain a bigger stake in the value of the property, taking full ownership after three decades. It comes after warnings that by 2020 just one in five people under the age of 35 will be able to buy their own home under current trends.” – Daily Mail

Lib Dems 4) Clegg accused of bribing Cornish with £150,000 to promote language 557 actually speak

“Nick Clegg yesterday handed over £150,000 of public money to promote a language barely anyone speaks. The Lib Dem leader’s generosity to the handful of Cornish speakers is the latest in a series of extraordinary gestures to the county over recent months. Yesterday’s handout brings Coalition spending on attempts to revive Cornish to £500,000 – enough to give nearly £900 to every person who speaks it.” – Daily Mail

  • BBC branded irresponsible for putting Charles Kennedy on Question Time – Daily Mail

Mark Littlewood: What do the Lib Dems stand for anymore?

Lib Dem bird cage“In two or three dozen seats, they will hoping to get their man elected (and it is nearly always a man, the next LibDem Parliamentary Party may even be a woman-free zone) because of their work in the local community and their pavement pounding, fete opening and leaflet delivering over many years. Over 90% of constituencies have already been written off. This approach may just work. Perhaps 20 or 30 Liberal Democrat MPs do make it back to Westminster. And who knows, because the election looks so close, they may even find themselves back in coalition. But if by some arithmetical accident, the Liberal Democrats do find themselves in power after polling day, it is hard to be at all sure what on earth they would do with it.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Ashdown rallies troops amidst bleak election prospects – The Independent

Farage claims NHS almost killed him

“Nigel Farage has launched an astonishing attack on the National Health Service accusing doctors of ‘incompetence and negligence’ over their failure to diagnose his cancer. The controversial politician developed cancer in his 20s and said an Indian doctor tried to convince him he had an infection even though his left testicle had swollen to the size of a rock hard lemon. The Ukip leader claimed he was ‘fobbed off by one NHS doctor to the next’, and, without private health insurance, he would ‘probably be dead’.” – Daily Mail

UKIP leaders call to scrap discrimination laws would make Nazis proud, claims Zahawi

ukip-cover“The Tories appear to be so scared of Nigel Farage that they’ve resorted to comparing the Ukip leader to the Nazis. Nadhim Zahawi, an Iraqi-born Conservative MP who sits on the Number 10 policy board, likened Mr Farage’s call to scrap race discrimination laws to Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Propoganda in Nazi Germany and one of Adolf Hitler’s closest advisers. “It’s a remark that Goebbels would be proud of,” he told LBC Radio. He also branded the Ukip leader “deeply racist”.” – The Independent

  • Tories accused of pork-barrel politics in South Thanet – The Guardian
  • Pub Landlord too heavy to parachute into Farage’s garden – Daily Mail

Activists see red over Green ball

“The Green Party announced plans to hold a black tie – or alternatively green tie – fundraiser this month for its ambitious general election campaign, with the cheapest tickets at £1,000. The minimum cost of going to the bash at a central London hotel was twice the price of standard tickets to the Conservatives’ much-mocked black-and-white ball last month… However, the plans appeared to be in the balance last night as anger grew among activists who believe the Greens are aping their rivals. A link to details of the reception vanished from the Greens’ website and party sources confirmed it was under discussion.” – The Independent

  • The party with a poorer diversity record than UKIP – i100

New in Brief:

  • NHS may still be using controversial Liverpool Care Pathway – Daily Mail
  • ISIS unleash chemical weapons in Iraq – The Times (£)
  • Welsh Assembly refuses permission to shoot Bond scenes – Daily Telegraph
  • Desperate ISIS could get more brutal as its grip loosens – Daily Express
  • Oxford and Cambridge unions win exemption from extremist speaker ban – The Independent
  • Home Affairs committee demands FGM legislation ban cosmetic surgeries – The Guardian
  • English holidaymakers could pay £79 more than Scots per flight if Edinburgh axe Air Passenger Duty – Daily Mail