Treasury 1) Prime Minister claims that 40p rate hits too many

MANIFESTO money“The 40p tax rate is hitting too many people on ‘middle incomes’, David Cameron said yesterday – as he hinted at fresh action on the issue in next week’s Budget. The Prime Minister said it was wrong that millions of people doing normal jobs like teaching are now paying a tax rate that was ‘only ever meant for the better off’. Mr Cameron announced last year that a future Conservative government would raise the threshold for paying 40p tax from £41,865 to £50,000 by 2020.” – Daily Mail

Treasury 2) Conservatives pledge to put ‘family first’ in budget

“David Cameron pledged to put “family first” as he revealed next week’s Budget will deliver help for ordinary workers. The PM said that “security” would be at the heart of Chancellor George Osborne’s eagerly-anticipated speech. Among the eye-catching policies which are set to be included are a further income tax cut for 26 million workers and another reduction in beer duty.” – The Sun (£)

Treasury 3) Osborne finds austerity ‘breathing room’

OSBORNE non-broken sword“George Osborne is looking at relaxing the Treasury’s assumption of deep austerity over the next five years in next week’s Budget, countering Labour’s claim that his “extreme” policies would take state spending back to the levels of the 1930s. His newfound flexibility comes because lower inflation and reasonable tax receipts have improved the medium-term outlook for the public finances, giving Mr Osborne the prospect of a surplus of almost £30bn by 2019-20.” – Financial Times

Treasury 4) Chancellor defends pension reform from critics

“We’re making this change because we think people should have the freedom to make their own, informed choice about what to do with their pension in retirement. For the first time people will no longer be effectively forced to buy an annuity when they retire, regardless of whether or not it is the best thing for them. They will instead have real choice over their money and access to a range of flexible products enabling them to make the right decision for their future.” – George Osborne, The Sun (£)

  • MPs raise fears for elderly once pension freedom kicks in – Financial Times
  • Consumers face rip-off scams after reforms – The Independent
  • Life expectancy and population growth promise pension time bomb – The Sun (£)
  • Chancellor attacks opposition as “patronising nonsense” – The Sun (£)

Cameron and Lansley are snubbed at the United Nations…

Cameron1“Mr Cameron had initially proposed that Mr Lansley, the former health secretary and his close friend, take over a position that is traditionally filled by a British candidate. But in a highly unusual rejection of the nominee of one of the UN’s Security Council powers, Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general, made clear that Mr Lansley was not an acceptable name to run the most powerful job in the humanitarian and development world.” – Daily Telegraph

…as he suggests grammar schools should expand

“Grammar schools should be able to expand if there is demand from parents, David Cameron has said. The Prime Minister spoke out amid claims that a decision over whether to open Britain’s first ‘new’ grammar school in 50 years has been shelved until after the election. The proposal for an ‘annexe’ to an existing grammar school in Sevenoaks, Kent, is currently being considered by the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Prime Minister promises Morgan her job if the Conservatives win in May – Daily Mail
  • Education Secretary rules out for-profit free schools – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Jonathan Simons in Comment: Now we have new evidence about Free Schools. And it shows that they’re working.

Hammond: Russia and ISIS are the greatest threats to UK security for decades

Armed Forces“Britain faces the ‘greatest challenge’ to national security in decades, the foreign secretary will warn today. Philip Hammond will say evolving threats from a subversive Russia and the spread of Islamic extremism must be stopped before they harm the UK. In a speech at the Royal United Services Institute, the former defence secretary will say no-one can ‘confidently and accurately’ predict the source of the next major threat the UK faces.” – Daily Mail

  • Tories line up to attack aid target law amidst defence spending row – Daily Mail
  • Election 2015: How each party compares on defence – Daily Telegraph
  • Former Army chief claims UK has been caught napping by cuts – Daily Telegraph


  • Shadow Chancellor claims ‘police and army’ will bear brunt of Tory cuts – The Independent
  • Balls ‘heaps pressure on’ with pledge to outspend Conservatives on defence… – The Times (£)
  • …but refuses to commit Labour to two per cent NATO target – Daily Telegraph


  • Don’t play politics with defence – General Sir Peter Wall, Daily Telegraph
  • We must learn from the Indian soldiers who fought for Britain – Sajid Javid, The Times (£)


Boris launches National Apprentice Week at fish factory

“Mr Johnson met apprentices working at the New England Seafood factory, where he confirmed plans for a £1.8million scheme that will create more than 3,500 new apprenticeships across the capital. He said: ‘Our new programme will reach out to those companies yet to dip their toe into the rich pool of talent contained in our capital.’” – Daily Mail

  • Will David Lammy be London’s first black mayor? – The Times (£)

>Today: Local Government: Londoners don’t want a celebrity mayor

MPs 1) Burrowes and Hammond amongst HSBC critics on Commons committees

BURROWES David“Conservative MP David Burrows said: ‘You are asking us to accept that Switzerland was off on a frolic on its own – that nobody in London knew what was going on’. He added: ‘I cannot believe that nobody knew the unlawful actions that were taking place in Switzerland, and if they didn’t know then they jolly well should have done.” – Daily Mail

  • Hodge urges resignation of BBC Trust chairman who served on bank’s board – Daily Mail
  • Fairhead and Committee chair clash on tax record – Financial Times


  • Hodge sinks her teeth in – Donald Macintyre, The Independent
  • Rona’s role in a world where £5m is petty cash – Ann Treneman, The Times (£)
  • Ding ding! It’s Hodge vs Fairhead – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

MPs 2) Around 85 Tories set to vote against plain tobacco packaging

“The plan – which will force traders to sell cigarettes in plain packs with just health warnings on the side – could cost small shops millions in lost business and boost counterfeit fag sales. Ministers now have to win a vote in the House on Wednesday to rubber stamp the new rules. Around 85 angry Tory MPs are expected to rebel against their own party in the free vote, where they will not be forced to back David Cameron.” – The Sun (£)

MPs 3) BBC debates negotiator criticised for Labour links

CAMERON TV“A senior BBC executive is facing calls to stand down from her role as lead negotiator for the televised election debates after it emerged that her husband is a former Labour communications chief. Sue Inglish, the head of political programmes at the Corporation who is leading talks over the debates for the broadcasters, has been criticised by Conservative MPs following the disclosure that her husband, John Underwood, was previously a director of communications for Labour.” – Daily Telegraph

Rachel Sylvester: Is ducking the debates Cameron’s bacon sandwich moment?

“The prime minister’s approach to the televised leaders’ debates is significant only because it is emblematic of a wider flaw in Conservative strategy. Downing Street has taken the view that the risk to Mr Cameron of taking part is greater than the risk of not turning up. In fact, in the current climate of hostility to politicians, the reverse is almost certainly the case. Voters will be baffled by the idea that Mr Cameron does not want to take the chance to explain to 20 million viewers why he wants to be prime minister. They will wonder why he is reluctant to take on Ed Miliband in a head-to-head if he is so convinced that the Labour leader is a loser.” – The Times (£)

Tories alleged by Shadow Chancellor to be planning £70bn of post-election cuts

BALLS Ed Spend can“The Tories will be forced to cut spending on the National Health Service – or introduce charging – if they are to press ahead with their plans for “colossal” cuts in the next parliament, the shadow chancellor Ed Balls has claimed. Mr Balls said the “unprecedented” scale of the cuts planned by George Osborne if the Conservatives win the general election – which they claimed would add up to £70 billion – meant they would be unable to keep their promise to ring-fence the NHS without putting up taxes.” – The Times (£)

  • Balls’ bleak vision of Britain – which even he doesn’t believe – Daily Mail
  • Shadow Chancellor ridiculed for suggesting Tories want to axe Foreign Office – Daily Telegraph
  • Ed’s lost his mar-Balls – The Sun (£)


Philip Johnston: Balls thinks the country is mad enough to vote Labour again

“Why would anyone in their right mind trust Mr Balls now, as he says a Labour government would be careful with our money, when the promises that were made in 1996 were so spectacularly broken just a few years after the party took power in 1997? As Albert Einstein observed, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is a definition of insanity. The country is not mad, even if Mr Balls thinks it is.” – Daily Telegraph

>Today: The Deep End: Spend first, ask questions later: Greece is proof that debt economics doesn’t work

>Yesterday: LeftWatch: Why should anyone listen to Sir Hugh Orde’s predictions of doom?

Labour strategist proposes permanent ‘German style’ Labour-SNP pact

Salmond Poster“Labour and the Scottish Nationalists could form a ‘permanent alliance’ at Westminster, it is claimed today. Despite mounting pressure on Ed Miliband to rule out any deal with the rampant SNP, one Labour strategist has floated the idea of an enduring ‘German-style’ agreement with the party, according to the New Statesman magazine. It was described as a ‘CDU-CSU scenario’, mirroring a deal between Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats with the Christian Social Union in the German state of Bavaria.” – Daily Mail

  • What would a Labour-SNP coalition look like? – The Independent
  • Scottish MPs and shadow cabinet urge Miliband to close door to SNP – The Times (£)
  • Desperate Labour chiefs mulls ‘wrecking ball’ pact – The Sun (£)
  • Nationalist pact not in Labour’s plans, claims Balls – The Scotsman
  • Scottish parties fail gender equality test before election – The Guardian
  • Tories’ Salmond billboard gets Farage makeover – The Independent


  • The only future for the UK is a federal one – Janan Ganesh, Financial Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Big Issue 1) The constitution – Cameron and Miliband must tell us how they plan to save the UK

Brown claims EU exit would leave UK ‘like North Korea’

“Britain would be like North Korea, without friends or influence, if it left the European Union, Gordon Brown said last night. The former prime minister, who has signalled that he wants to take a leading role in any post-election Labour campaign on Britain’s EU membership, made the claim in The Guardian. “We must tell the truth about the three million jobs, 25,000 companies, £200 billion of annual exports and the £450 billion of inward investment linked to Europe; and how the ‘Britzerland’ or Norwegian alternatives leave us subject to EU rules but denied a vote in shaping them,” he said.” – The Times (£)

  • Labour won’t let Cameron turn the UK into little Britain – Douglas Alexander, The Guardian

>Today: Rebecca Coulson’s column: What to we really mean when we say ‘Europe’?

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

Fears for Whitehall impartiality as Unite mulls merger with civil service union

On strike“A left-wing ‘super-union’ with almost 1.8million members could be created by a controversial merger of Labour’s biggest donor Unite and the biggest civil service union after the election, senior Conservatives fear… Half of all civil servants are members of the PCS, which is not currently politically affiliated. If the two unions merged, they would effectively be subsumed into a union which is Labour’s biggest financial supporter.” – Daily Mail

Blair faces embarrassment as candidates reject donations

“Tony Blair faced embarrassment last night after three Labour candidates turned down their share of his biggest donation to his party… The former RAF wing commander Sophy Gardner, Labour’s candidate for Conservative-held Gloucester, said that it would be “hypocritical” for her to accept the donation after she criticised the Iraq war, which Britain entered under Mr Blair’s leadership.” – The Times

  • Labour’s top donor warns the party lacks funds for a second election – Financial Times
  • How mad to look Blair’s gift horse in the mouth – Philip Collins, The Times (£)

Liberal Democrats claim Conservatives are blocking pay rise for teachers

Libdem bird vs TORY“The Conservatives are blocking a pay rise for teachers, according to the Liberal Democrats, in the latest row between the two coalition partners over the future of education and the economy. Ministers are expected to publish pay review recommendations for millions of public sector workers as early as Thursday, which would allow schools to have the flexibility to offer individual teachers in the main pay bracket a raise of up to 2% next year, subject to performance.” – The Guardian

Your chance to question Clegg

“MailOnline readers are now being asked to submit questions to the Lib Dem leader. Readers might want to ask him about tuition fees, immigration and Europe. Or what he plans to do with his life after politics, his favourite TV shows and movies, and life at home with wife Miriam and his three sons. Post your questions in the comments section and the best will be put to Mr Clegg in an exclusive interview with MailOnline later this week.” – Daily Mail

News in Brief

  • The murderer’s daughter bidding to become a Labour MP – Daily Mail
  • Top chefs claim EU allergen rules harm restaurants – Daily Telegraph
  • Labour MPs call for investigation into minister’s expenses – The Times (£)
  • Figures show hundreds of convicted sex offenders are missing – The Guardian
  • The despot who bought Blair for £16 million – Daily Mail