Cameron pledges a seven day NHS..

telegraphnhs“A Conservative government will create a “truly seven-day NHS”, David Cameron will say, as he pledges that everyone is the country will have weekend access to urgent and emergency care at the weekend. The Prime Minister will use the first major speech of his general election campaign to promise voters that voters will have “access to the NHS services they need seven days a week” by 2020. In a frank admission, Mr Cameron will concede that the “truth” is that patients are currently ‘more likely to die if you turn up at the hospital at the weekend’.” – Daily Telegraph

  • The policy is favoured by Simon Stevens and Sir Bruce Keogh – The Guardian
  • Plan will cost £2 billion – Daily Mail
  • Burnham says the plan is “not credibile” – BBC
  • Crosby says talk about the economy not the NHS – The Independent
  • New drug to prevent arthritis – Daily Express
  • Seven day GP access for 18 million patients also announced – Jeremy Hunt

…while Labour propose a five per cent profit cap on private firms working for the NHS

“Labour would cap the amount of profit private firms can make from the NHS in England, Ed Miliband has said as he launched the party’s election campaign. He pledged to halt the “the tide of privatisation” he claims has taken place in the health service since 2010 and ensure a “proper” level of funding. Private firms will have to reimburse the NHS if they exceed a 5% profit cap on contracts, he told activists.” – BBC

  • Another top-down reorganisation – Leader The Guardian
  • Pouting Chuka could be Julia Roberts in a shampoo ad – Quentin Letts Daily Mail

46 MPs claim expenses for rent or hotels in London – despite owning taxpayer funded homes there

House icon“Forty six MPs have claimed expenses for London rent or hotels despite owning a taxpayer-funded property in the capital, an investigation has found. The situation has come about after a new system brought in after the 2009 expenses scandal, which was exposed by The Daily Telegraph, banned MPs from claiming mortgage interest. This meant the MPs have had to let out their old second homes – often for thousands of pounds – and claim for hotel rooms or renting another property.” – Daily Telegraph

  • MPs should uphold the spirit as well as the letter of the rules – The Times(£)

Leaked documents show options for welfare cuts

“The Conservatives are considering options for scrapping several benefits, Department for Work and Pensions documents seen by the BBC suggest. The leaked files, commissioned by Tory officials, also suggest a regional benefits cap and taxing disability benefits as ways to help cut £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017/18. The Conservatives insisted the proposals were not party policy.” – BBC

Grayling acts to end union subs being taken from pay packets at the MOJ

Chris Grayling“Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, has been accused by Simon Hughes, his Liberal Democrat ministerial colleague, of “absurd” behaviour over plans to block staff in the Ministry of Justice from paying trade union subscriptions through their pay packets… A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “In line with a number of other government departments, we are taking forward changes to how civil servants can pay their trade union subscriptions. We no longer think it is appropriate to act as an intermediary for these payments.” – The Guardian

Tories warn of six-pronged attack at next TV debate

“David Cameron has been warned that he may become the target of a six-way attack at next week’s television debate amid continuing worries inside his team at the decision to take part. The prime minister will face five opponents from the left — Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru — during the ITV debate while only Ukip are on the right. Aides are concerned that he will face co-ordinated attacks from the rest of the panel.” – The Times(£)

Nicky Morgan calls for a quota of Tory women candidates

MORGAN Nicky headshot“Nicky Morgan is the first senior Conservative minister to push for a target for the number of female MPs in the party, despite Tory policy advising against quotas. The education secretary called on David Cameron to look at “all and any options” to make sure that at least 30 per cent of Tory MPs are women, including holding all-women shortlists. Ms Morgan, who is also women and equalities minister, said that parliament needed to “look like the country” and become more representative of women.” – The Times(£)

Cameron schedules in “thinking time”

“David Cameron demands that his staff include “tiny windows” in his diary for him to be alone after being told by Barack Obama to ensure that he had “thinking time”. The daily slots, which typically include a solitary 20-minute lunch in his No 10 flat, are part of a ruthlessly enforced schedule that helps him to cope with the pressure. The moments of stillness are captured in an in-depth portrait in today’s Times Magazine of the man fighting to remain Britain’s prime minister.”

BBC presenter loses prime time slot because he’s engaged to a Tory MP

LESLIE Charlotte red“A BBC presenter has vented his anger on air at the decision to move him from a prime current affairs slot because he is engaged to a Conservative MP. John Darvall, of BBC Radio Bristol’s Mid-morning programme, is being moved before the general election but says that he has had no guarantee he will be able to return. Darvall, 48, and Charlotte Leslie, the MP for Bristol North West, met four years ago on his programme. They began dating in October and the twice-married father of four proposed on Christmas Day.” – The Times(£)

Churchill warned me not to trust the bankers says Tapsell

PeterTapsell“After PMQs, Churchill liked to go to the smoking room, thick with fug and intrigue, and have a brandy. Keen young Tories, like the young Tapsell, were told, two weeks in advance, of their task to sit with him….’After a pause of about ten minutes, Churchill turned to me, put his hand on my wrist quite firmly, looked at me with his pale blue eyes and said: ‘NEVER TRUST THE BANKERS!’” – Interview with Sir Peter Tapsell The Times(£)

SNP claims Miliband will agree to scrap Trident

“SNP boss Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to join forces with Ed Miliband to scrap Britain’s Trident nuclear missiles. Scotland’s First Minister insisted the Labour leader is only ruling out disarmament “this side of the election”. After the May 7 poll, her droves of new MPs will join forces with freshly elected Labour members to dismantle the nation’s nuclear deterrent.” – The Sun(£)

Two million viewers turned off while Miliband was on…

TV“Official figures for the Channel 4 programme from 9pm on Thursday night show the number of viewers grew to 2.9 million within the first half hour during the PM’s segment. After initially peaking at 3 million during Red Ed’s first 15 minutes, the figures then swiftly collapsed down to a mere 1 million by the show’s last five minutes. The revelation comes after The Sun was able to plot precisely how the two party leaders went down with voters in depth for the first time.” – The Sun(£)

  • Miliband will not admit that Labour ruined the economy – Ross Clark Daily Express
  • TV battle generates half a million tweets – The Guardian

…and BBC refused to declare Cameron won

“The BBC is under fire for refusing to say that the Conservatives were the “clear winner” of the first televised election debate programmes. The Tories are furious that the corporation failed to report in clear terms that David Cameron had beaten Ed Miliband in the first debate. An ICM poll for The Guardian released after the Sky News and Channel 4 programme ended handed Cameron a 54 per cent to 46 per cent advantage. A YouGov poll for The Times gave Mr Cameron a narrow 51 per cent to 49 per cent victory. A panel on the BBC’s Newsnight programme also said Mr Cameron had won.” – Daily Telegraph


Labour ahead in London

“Labour will make important gains in London in the general election, according to a special Guardian/ICM telephone poll which shows the party winning several seats in the capital. The party is set to advance by 5 percentage points from its previous general election performance to reach 42% – and is a full 10 points ahead of the Tories, who fall back 3 points from their 2010 result to land at 32%.” – The Guardian

Unite give Labour another million pounds

Unite logo“RED Len McCluskey’s Unite union has given another £1million to the Labour Party — bringing its total donations since December to £3.5million. The gift boosts Labour’s war chest before the election — and there could be more to come. Tory minister Sajid Javid said Mr McCluskey “owns Ed Miliband lock, stock and barrel”, adding: “He bungs the cash, calls the shots and Miliband dances to his tune.” – The Sun(£)

Maitland: Left wing plays make the theatre boring

“Dead Sheep isn’t overtly Right-wing: it’s just a play about politics which isn’t Left-wing. One day, though, I will write something so full of mischief it makes Polly Toynbee blow a gasket. That would be the jackpot. The thing about today’s Left-wing plays is that they’re so convinced they’re right – small “r” – that they end up being one-eyed, strident and almost fascistic. Which isn’t enjoyable or challenging at all.” – Jonathan Maitland Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: MPsETC: Special ConHome reader offer for Dead Sheep – a play about Geoffrey Howe and the two women in his life

Parris: The Conservatives still suffer from “nasty party” tag

PARRIS Mathhew“Voters really don’t have any big issues with Conservative policies. Fourteen per cent of intending Labour voters told a recent Ashcroft poll of marginal seats: “I am satisfied with the job David Cameron is doing overall as prime minister.” Yet something about voting Conservative sticks in the craw, but what? There are two components. First, class resentment of what’s seen as a toffs’ party. And second, a suspicion that Tories aren’t very nice or sympathetic people. How does David Cameron deal with this in the next six weeks? No, really, you tell me.” – Matthew Parris The Times(£)

Moore: Cameron needs to show more hunger for victory

MOORE Charles blue background“On individual days, as you can see when he wins his jousts at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Cameron is an able and competitive fighter, but when it comes to the constant assertion of direction and purpose, he is too posh to push. He is not really preaching to us about what he wants Britain to be in the next five years: possibly he does not know himself. Possibly that is why he already, aged 48, envisages retirement. ” – Charles Moore Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • Sir Rocco Forte says taxation levels are “disgraceful” – Daily Telegraph
  • Queen’s Speech to take place on May 27th – BBC
  • Labour ban The Sun from their election launch – The Sun(£)
  • Plaid confirms plans to be part of a bloc with the SNP and Greens – BBC
  • Respect candidate to stand in Bradford – Yorkshire Post
  • Tory MPs would prefer coalition with the Lib Dems to UKIP – The Sun(£)
  • First sketches from the election campaigns official artist – Daily Telegraph
  • Justine Miliband to have a “vocal role” in campaign – The Guardian