Budget 1) Osborne will promise benefits freeze and tax cuts in second term

OSBORNE scissors“Slashing £12billion from the nation’s bloated benefits bill will be at the heart of the Tory pitch for a second term in office. George Osborne’s pre-election budget next week will be a ‘steady as you go’ exercise with the emphasis on sustaining growth and reducing the deficit. But the Chancellor is planning to use a section of his speech – kept separate from measures agreed by the Coalition – to highlight proposals to ease the income tax burden” – Daily Mail

  • Three million people work but are still poor. What are the Conservatives going to do for them? – James Kirkup, Daily Telegraph
  • The secret of an exciting election? Be honest – Tim Montgomerie, The Times (£)


Budget 2) Cameron’s “dodgy accounting on defence would put others in jail”

“David Cameron was last night accused of contemplating the kind of ‘dodgy’ accounting that would put company executives in prison in his desire to inflate Britain’s defence budget. Air Chief Marshal Lord Stirrup, the prime minister’s former chief military adviser, said any attempt to use money spent on Britain’s spy agencies to meet a Nato target would be an ‘outrageous’ move” – The Times (£)

  • Cameron’s personal pledge has led to the row about defence spending – Luke Coffey, Daily Telegraph
  • The facts on how a defence row could hurt Cameron’s campaign – Daily Telegraph
  • Europe is not serious about defending itself – Ivo Daalder, Financial Times
  • The Tories could turn defence into an election winner – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail


Budget 3) Coalition to decide if pensioners can sell their annuities

money“Millions of pensioners are expected to cash in their annuities if a radical extension of the retirement benefit shake-up goes ahead. Coalition talks are to take place tomorrow to decide whether to press ahead with the reform in next Wednesday’s budget, Whitehall sources confirmed last night. Under the plans pensioners who have annuities would be able to sell them” – The Times (£)

The DUP will back the party that scraps the bedroom tax

What sort of programme for government would the DUP want to back in the next parliament?… On defence, the next government has to accept that we live in a world where committing to spending 2% of GDP on it is a bare minimum… On social justice, we think Westminster can learn from what we did at Stormont over the bedroom tax…It is time in the next parliament that the inhumane and ineffective consequences of the bedroom tax are revisited in the rest of the UK” – Nigel Dodds, Guardian

Farage warns of Muslim “fifth column”

FARAGE Nigel official“Nigel Farage has warned there is rising public concern about immigration partly because people believe there are some Muslims who want to form ‘a fifth column and kill us’, and that there has never before been a migrant group that wants to ‘change who we are and what we are’. The UKIP leader also said that race and other anti-discrimination legislation should be abolished, arguing that it was no longer needed in the United Kingdom, in an interview with former equality and human rights commissioner Trevor Phillips for Channel 4” – Guardian

  • Farage calls for end to “out of date” legislation on discrimination in the workplace – Independent
  • UKIP candidate hands son in to police after theft – Daily Mail

Labour MPs warn Miliband that Unite candidate could lose Halifax

“Ed Miliband has been warned that Labour could lose a key marginal seat if he allows the woman who was once at the centre of a vote-rigging row to be chosen as its candidate. The Unite union, Labour’s biggest donor, has stepped up its campaign to install Karie Murphy as the party’s candidate in Halifax, despite concerns among senior Labour figures that her selection could tip the balance towards the Conservatives” – The Times (£)

  • Mandelson attacks BBC over threat to “empty chair” Cameron – The Times (£)
  • Balls tells friends that Miliband is not up to it – Daily Mail
  • Their kitchen tells you all you need to know about the mirthless Milibands – Sarah Vine, Daily Mail

Lib Dem candidate quits over “dodgy” donation

LibDemDead“A key member of Nick Clegg’s inner circle accepted a potentially illegal donation for the Liberal Democrats — and arranged a private meeting for the would-be donor with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, an investigation by The Telegraph discloses today… The donation was sought by Ibrahim Taguri, the party’s former chief fund-raiser… Mr Taguri has this morning stood down as a parliamentary candidate” – Daily Telegraph

SNP devo max plans “mean 15 pence on income tax”

“Nicola Sturgeon’s plans to cut all financial ties with the UK would require the equivalent of a 15p hike in income tax, economic experts have warned after official figures showed Scotland is much deeper in the red thanks to its higher spending. The impartial Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) warned that her demand for ‘full fiscal autonomy’, or devolution max, if the SNP holds the balance of power after the general election would ‘likely involve substantial spending cuts or tax rises’” – Daily Telegraph

  • Scots public spending £1,200 per head more than UK – Scotsman

Aaronovitch: Boris could be called in to save the state

Boris Johnson gun“I have now begun to realise that the question is not ‘could Boris lead his party?’ but rather, ‘who could stop him?’. If David Cameron were to step down, for whatever reason, who would bet on Theresa May or George Osborne out-polling Boris among the Tory grassroots? In fact, in the event of a parliament so badly hung that no party could assemble a majority, I could even imagine a scenario where Boris, like the Roman aristocrat Cincinnatus, might be called in to save the state” – David Aaronovitch, The Times (£)

  • Snub for Boris as May shelves decision on water cannon – Daily Mail

MPs vote to stub out cigarette packaging

“Cigarettes in the UK will be sold in unbranded packaging by May next year after MPs voted to introduce the controversial measure, which tobacco companies have vowed to challenge in court…       The vote — 367 in favour and 113 against — makes the UK only the third country to pass plain packaging legislation after Ireland and Australia… Imperial Tobacco, the UK’s leading seller of cigarettes, had said it would sue the government to defend what it called its ‘valuable intellectual property’” – Financial Times


News in brief

  • Cornered Isis makes last stand in Tikrit – The Times (£)
  • Two police officers shot in Ferguson, Missouri, after chief resigns – Guardian
  • Hillsborough police chief apologises for lying – Daily Mail
  • True scale of child mental health crisis uncovered – The Times (£)
  • Prince Charles praises “brilliant” Camilla – Daily Express
  • Jumping whale kills tourist off Mexico – Guardian
  • New volcanic island forms off Tonga – Daily Mail
  • Thump steak: Clarkson wanted hot food but offered cold – The Sun (£)