TV debates to go ahead without Cameron

telegraphdebates“The BBC is facing accusations of “institutional arrogance” after threatening to press ahead with televised election debates without the Prime Minister. David Cameron has rejected the idea of a head-to-head debate with Ed Miliband and said he will only take part in a single seven-way debate with the other party leaders. However the corporation and other broadcasters insisted that the debates “will go ahead” and host two election debates with seven party leaders and one head to head. The broadcaster’s decision raises the prospect that the Prime Minister could be “empty chaired” in the head-to-head debate with Ed Miliband.” – Daily Telegraph

  • The broadcaster should let ED Miliband debate himself – Michael Deacon Daily Telegraph
  • David Cameron has a right not to debate – Leader Daily Telegraph
  • The BBC’s high handed arrogance is a disgrace – The Sun Says
  • Broadcasters letter in full – Sky News


Cameron pledges more free schools…

“David Cameron is planning to announce a dramatic expansion of the controversial free schools programme on Monday by proposing a further 153 free schools be opened in the next parliament, according to a draft of his speech passed to the Guardian. The prime minister will also announce the names of 48 free schools to open in the summer of 2016 if the Conservatives are re-elected, as he demonstrates a determination not to slow down on probably the most disputed part of his party’s school reform programme.” – The Guardian

…while his daughter Nancy is to go to a comprehensive

“David Cameron is to become the first Conservative prime minister to send a child to a state secondary school after accepting a place at a Church of England academy a short walk from Downing Street. The Prime Minister has been privately worshipping at a London church once a week, often on a weekday morning, for several years. Now he and wife Samantha have decided to send daughter Nancy, 11, to the Grey Coat Hospital, a CofE school in Westminster, from September.” – Daily Mail

Baker calls for a Conservative/Labour coalition if there’s a hung Parliament

BAKER Ken black and white“A Tory-Labour coalition government should be formed in the event of a hung parliament to stop Scottish Nationalist MPs provoking a constitutional crisis, a former Conservative chairman argues today. The proposal by Lord Baker of Dorking – formerly Kenneth Baker, Margaret Thatcher’s Education Secretary – to create the first national government since the Second World War, reflects growing alarm in Tory and Labour ranks over the prospect of dozens of seats falling to the SNP, leading to paralysis at Westminster.” – The Independent

  • Why a Con-Lab coalition may be needed to save the United Kingdom – Lord Baker The Independent

A Conservative Government would allow a free vote on hunting

“David Cameron has pledged to offer MPs a vote on repealing the fox hunting ban if he wins the election and declared that he has the ‘countryside in my blood’. In an article for the Countryside Alliance magazine the Prime Minister makes a direct pitch to rural voters, insisting he understands their concerns and is proud of the country’s ‘rural identity’. He also points to his own ‘rural heritage’ and writes of feeling ‘most at home’ in the countryside, enjoying country walks and bike rides with his family and feeding the animals ‘at the next door farm’.” – Daily Mail

Every police force preparing for cuts

Police shield“Every police force in England and Wales is preparing for major budget cuts over the next five years, the BBC has found. Forces are facing a 5% cut in government funding in 2015/16 and more cuts after the general election. Some forces are planning to cut officer numbers to help them operate on smaller budgets.” – BBC

Cutting the spare room subsidy has reduced the Housing Benefit bill

“Spending on housing benefit has fallen for the first time in a decade, according to official data released yesterday. The Department for Work and Pensions said that spending fell by £150 million in real terms in 2013-14, compared with the previous financial year. The coalition government has introduced a package of reforms in housing welfare, including capping the local housing allowance rate to a four bedroom property and removing the spare room subsidy.” – The Times(£)

Miliband’s Scottish woes 1) He is to warn Scots a SNP vote would allow a Conservative Government…

Miliband coffee“Scotland cannot afford the risk of the Conservatives emerging as the largest party in the May UK election, Labour leader Ed Miliband will say. Mr Miliband will tell the Scottish Labour conference the vote is a choice between his party and the Tories. And he will warn delegates in Edinburgh that voting SNP will increase the prospect of a second term in office for David Cameron.” – BBC

  • “Don’t mistake my decency for weakness” – Ed Miliband interview The Guardian

Miliband’s Scottish woes 2) Pressure grows on him to rule out a deal with the SNP…

“Ed Miliband has come under intense pressure from the shadow cabinet, MPs and peers to use a speech in Scotland to reject a power-sharing deal with the SNP. Senior sources said that Mr Miliband’s keynote address to the Scottish Labour conference in Edinburgh today would include nothing to dismiss unequivocally a post-election agreement with the Nationalists.” – Daily Telegraph

Miliband’s Scottish woes 3) The SNP agree to back a Labour Government even if Trident was retained

Nicola Sturgeon“The SNP would support a future minority Labour government even if it renewed the Trident missile defence system, marking a U-turn that removes the biggest barrier to co-operation between the two parties.Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, used a newspaper interview to say that she would ensure a “more effective Labour government” if her party’s MPs were elected to Westminster in May. She ruled out a coalition with David Cameron but said that she was prepared to support a minority Labour government on an issue-by-issue basis.” – The Times(£)

  • Gamekeepers warn SNP the deer stalking tax will cost jobs – Daily Telegraph

Miliband’s Scottish woes 4) Scots rate him lower than Cameron

“Ed Miliband is less popular than David Cameron in Scotland and barely beats him on personal ratings in Wales, voter surveys show. A poll conducted for YouGov this week found only 18 per cent of people saying that the Labour leader was doing well north of the border and 73 per cent saying he was doing badly, a net score of minus 55. By contrast, 28 per cent of Scots said that Mr Cameron was doing well, with 66 per cent saying he was doing badly, giving him a net score of minus 38.” – The Times(£)

Cable’s postcode snobbery

CABLE Dr Evil“Vince Cable was last night accused of a blatant bid for votes after Royal Mail agreed to give his constituents a posher postcode. The Lib Dem Business Secretary was accused of “snobbery” by giving his stamp of approval to a residents’ campaign in his London seat Twickenham. Some 1,500 are furious that while they pay council tax to the affluent borough of Richmond, their TW3 postcode plonks them in the more deprived borough of Hounslow. But Mr Cable assured them their area would soon be recognised as a new postal town.” – The Sun(£)

Bennett calls for an end to austerity…

“Green Party leader Natalie Bennett has called for a “peaceful political revolution” at May’s election to end the “failed experiment of austerity”. Addressing her party’s spring conference, Ms Bennett said the poorest in society had been “blamed for the mistakes of the wealthy”. She called for free social care for the elderly, arguing her party can be “the agents of change”.” – BBC

  • Greens promise free social care for the over 65s – The Guardian

…and plots coalition with nationalists

green20party (1)“The SNP, Greens and Plaid Cymru are preparing to work together in the next parliament, creating a left-wing anti-austerity block of 50 or more MPs that will put pressure on Labour to soften spending cuts. Leaders from the Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties and the Greens made clear yesterday that they would present a united front to maximise their impact in the event of a hung parliament. Representatives of all three parties already meet weekly in the Commons but are planning to co-ordinate more closely.” – The Times(£)

Parris: What happened to the presumption of innocence?

“I know this is difficult territory. I’m aware of the risk one takes presuming innocence. I accept that genuine public shock at cases such as Savile feeds into a general suspicion of establishment stitch-ups, morally bankrupt politicians and the abuse of power. But at some deep level people want to believe these stories are true, and a barrage of righteous anger sloshes around in search of objects deserving of public indignation. There’s a craving for evidence.” – Matthew Parris The Times(£)

Moore: Conservatives should talk about security and immigration

charlesmoore“There is also an immigration dimension to the other great avoided issue – defence and national security. Isil, operating within reach of the EU Mediterranean coast, now says that it will drive lots of Middle-Eastern migrants our way, embedding its jihadists among them. Even if that turns out to be a vain boast, we see constant examples, within our own immigrant Muslim population, of politico-religious crime – the conviction of a chemistry teacher who helped his younger brother join Isil reported yesterday, that of a rich Pakistani who tried to blow up a Manchester shopping centre, the day before that.” – Charles Moore Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • Tory MP hopefuls prefer Theresa to Boris – Daily Mail
  • Lobbyists delaying Apache contract – BBC
  • MPs warn smart metering could be costly failure – Daily Telegraph
  • NHS whistleblower demands new job – BBC
  • Lib Dems push through mandatory reporting of gender pay gaps – The Guardian