Cameron unveils increases in the minimum wage…

Cameron1“Businesses will be forced to let workers share the fruits of recovery with the biggest real-terms increase in the minimum wage since the financial crisis. The standard rate will rise from October to £6.70 an hour, benefiting 1.4million, while the rate for apprentices will go up by a fifth – the largest increase on record. The changes, to be announced in today’s pre-election Budget, follow the Prime Minister’s insistence that businesses should give their workers a pay rise.” – Daily Mail

  • You’re highered! Chancellor’s pay rise for apprentices – The Sun (£)
  • Cameron promises three per cent rise to those on minimum pay – The Times (£)
  • Centre for Social Justice calls for firms to go further in sharing profits – The Sun (£)


  • Labour’s profit-sharing alternative is a terrible idea – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph

…as National Audit Office claim impact of cuts has not been properly assessed…

“Whitehall officials have failed to grasp the impact of deep public spending cuts on the ground and are carrying out “radical surgery” without knowing “where the heart is”, the head of the spending watchdog says today. Sir Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, suggested that civil servants were now preparing another round of cuts for the next Parliament without having the necessary information to judge whether these would lead to improvements or just a rationing of services.” – The Times (£)

…and Osborne prepares to raise inheritance tax threshold

OSBORNE scissors“George Osborne will use a £6 billion boost to the nation’s coffers to stop tens of thousands of families paying inheritance tax. The Chancellor will announce Conservative plans to raise the threshold at which people pay inheritance tax on properties to £1 million, meaning that around 20,000 fewer middle-class families will have to pay. The move will electrify the general election campaign and will be seen as a bid to win back middle-class voters who have defected to Ukip.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Tories £1m tax giveaway for wealthier households – The Guardian
  • Economists predict ‘cocktail of good news’ from Chancellor – Daily Mail
  • Osborne’s options for pre-election sweeteners – Financial Times
  • Budget 2015: Predictions and leaks – Daily Telegraph
  • North Sea oil set for tax breaks in budget – Financial Times
  • Osborne to make unexpected raid on high-earners’ pensions – The Sun (£)


Philip Johnston: Memo to the Chancellor – giveaways don’t always work

“It is hard, then, to resist the temptation of pre-election bribery when the chance arises; but the consequences are hard to predict. According to one theory, had Lamont been a little less munificent in 1992, Kinnock might have won the election and within months his government would have been overwhelmed by the sterling crisis brought about by membership of the ERM. Once again, Labour would have presided over a devaluation and its economic credibility shattered for a generation, allowing the Tories to stroll back to power. There would have been no New Labour, no Blair premiership, no Iraq invasion, no Brown bust, no…” – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Peter Hoskin in Comment: How Osborne changed into White Van George


Cameron 1) Pledge to remain in Parliament even if he loses in May

140115 Cameron on Marr“David Cameron has said that he will remain in Parliament as an MP even if he is forced to leave Downing Street after the election. The Prime Minister said that he ‘loves public service’ and would continue to serve his constituents even if he is ‘hoofed out’ of Number 10 in May. In contrast to Tony Blair, who left Parliament when he stopped being prime minister in 2007 and has made a personal fortune, Mr Cameron said he planned to ‘stick with’ voters in his Witney constituency.” – Daily Mail

  • Ten things we learned in Cameron’s Buzzfeed interview – The Independent

Cameron 2) Report into Muslim Brotherhood pulled to avoid row in Middle East

“David Cameron has made an eleventh-hour intervention to postpone the publication of a controversial report into the Muslim Brotherhood in an attempt to avert a potential row with Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The long-awaited report was due to be published on Monday afternoon but Mr Cameron’s move now means it is unlikely to be released before the UK general election on May 7, if at all. It was expected to conclude that the Muslim Brotherhood should not be proscribed as a terrorist organisation, although its activities in Britain should be more transparent and kept under review.” – Financial Times

  • Favourable review of the Brotherhood is shelved – The Independent
  • Prime Minister prepared to recommend harsher anti-extremist laws – The Guardian

Cameron 3) Prime Minister has full confidence in Shapps

SHAPPS Carla head“David Cameron has expressed his “full confidence” in Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party Chairman, after it emerged he continued to pursue business interests under a pseudonym for more than a year after becoming an MP. Mr Shapps had repeatedly said that he stopped doing business under the name Michael Green after entering Parliament in 2005. However the Guardian has uncovered a recording reportedly from the summer of 2006 in which the Tory MP explains how listeners can make a “ton of cash by Christmas”.” – Daily Telegraph

Can Crosby, the ‘Lizard of Oz’, win the election for the Tories?

“A former Tory shadow minister says: “David Cameron has only had clarity when two people have been in the room with him: Andy Coulson, when Cameron had lost his way in opposition, and Lynton Crosby, when Cameron had lost his way in government.”…But like Coulson, convicted last year of conspiracy to hack phones, Crosby has sometimes been a liability for the Tories as well as an asset.” – Andy Beckett, The Guardian

>Today: ToryDiary: Crosby – the Conservatives best chance of winning 35%. But is that the limit of Cameron’s ambition?

Health 1) All foreign midwives, nurses and dentists face tough new language requirements

NHS_Logo“Today health minister Dr Dan Poulter said by voting to include all healthcare professionals, as well as doctors, would offer ‘better protection for patients’. Debating the final stage of the legislation, he said: ‘We all value the contribution that doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals from all over the world make to our NHS, but being able to speak and communicate to a good standard of English is essential to provide high quality and safe patient care. ‘These new laws will provide protection for patients and the public.’” – Daily Mail

  • Lord Bates claims migrant birth rate too high – Daily Mail

Health 2) Hunt announces dementia research fund

“Research into dementia is to be boosted by a $100m venture capital fund backed by the UK government and several of the world’s biggest pharmaceuticals companies. Plans for the fund, the first of its kind, will be announced on Tuesday by Jeremy Hunt, the UK’s health secretary, at an international meeting in Geneva aimed at strengthening global efforts to tackle one of the world’s most pressing health challenges. US investment bank JPMorgan will help set up the fund, with GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Biogen Idec among the companies committing money alongside the UK government.” – Financial Times

Leslie leads call to overturn ban on prison boxing

LESLIE Charlotte red“The work, entitled The Right Hook, tackles what the mixture of Tory and Labour MPs say is a series of false stereotypes to insist boxing can be a powerful force for good in society. The group’s chairman, Tory MP Charlotte Leslie, told The Sun: “It has been proved that kids going to boxing clubs is the most effective way of stopping them going into gangs. “That is because it channels anger management like nothing else. We should base our policy on what actually works rather than prejudice.”” – The Sun (£)

>Yesterday: Charlotte Leslie MP’s column: An appeal to my Labour colleagues. The public needs to see this NHS report – so let’s agree it.

Barwell urges supporters not to mention his party or his leader

“A Tory MP has urged his supporters not to ‘mention the Conservative Party or David Cameron’ when sending out letters in support of him. Gavin Barwell, who is fighting the key London marginal of Croydon, has asked constituents to sign letters to friends and neighbours supporting his re-election. But Mr Barwell was left red-faced after it emerged he sent out ‘sample’ letters designed to make it look like they were written by ordinary constituents.” – Daily Mail

Labour and Unite teetering on edge of new battle over Murphy

Unite logo“Miss Murphy had only announced her candidature on Friday citing “the high level of support and encouragement” she had received “from local party members”. But Labour sources in the north of England were appalled. One told The Telegraph: “It is frankly disgusting – you have basically got a Unite takeover that is well underway now. “The selection processes are getting worse and worse and it just looks like we are becoming a smaller party, a mental cult.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Leaked emails reveal Labour’s battle with union – The Independent
  • How Murphy was snubbed twice for a Labour seat in two years – Daily Telegraph

Straw claims white MPs struggle to address community segregation over racism fears

“Jack Straw has said ‘a lot of white politicians’ prefer to keep silent about the segregation of our communities for fear of being dubbed racist. The former Labour home secretary said it was the responsibility of politicians to get such issues out in the open, but said there was a ‘polite society’ which meant that such issues are not talked about. And Ann Cryer, the former Labour MP for Keighley, said it had been difficult for her to raise the issue of grooming by Asian men in her West Yorkshire constituency ‘without being called a racist’.” – Daily Mail

SNP pledge to end austerity and ‘lock out’ the Tories despite Miliband promise

LABOUR dead rose“Nicola Sturgeon yesterday vowed to work with Labour to ‘lock the Tories out’ of power. In an extraordinary speech in London, Scotland’s first minister claimed voters across the UK would welcome her party’s influence at Westminster, saying she would end austerity. But, following mounting pressure from senior colleagues, Ed Miliband last night tried to draw a line under speculation about a Labour-SNP government by ruling out a formal coalition… But Mr Miliband pointedly refused to rule out a deal that would see the resurgent Scottish nationalists prop up a minority Labour government in key Commons votes – the preferred option of Miss Sturgeon.” – Daily Mail


  • Miliband may still need Sturgeon to put him in Downing Street – Euan McColm, Daily Telegraph


  • A leftie love-in at the LSE – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
  • Sturgeon turns into the soft option – Ann Treneman, The Times (£)


US offers Blair new Middle East role

“The United States is understood to be in talks with Tony Blair about giving him a new role in getting Arab states to back a fresh Middle East peace initiative. The idea is believed to have been discussed when John Kerry, the US secretary of state, met Mr Blair in Egypt at the weekend. The change of role would give the former British prime minister a dignified exit after eight years as envoy for the Quartet of the US, the European Union, United Nations and Russia.” – The Times (£)

  • Ambassador claims Blair achieved ‘very little’ as peace envoy – Daily Telegraph


  • Blair and Britain would both be better off if he’d stayed in politics – James Kirkup, Daily Telegraph
  • Is Blair retiring to spend more time with his dictators? – Nick Kochan, The Independent

Rachel Sylvester: We must stop hissing at this pantomime villain

BLAIR demon eyes“Mr Blair’s transformation from hero to villain also coincided with the wider collapse in public trust in politics. New Labour did not create this shift — that was based more on wider cultural changes such as the loss of deference and the rise of individuality caused partly by the internet — but the emphasis on spin and the toxic “dodgy dossier” on Iraq contributed to it. The former leader, who once promised that his government would be the “servants of the people”, has become the focus for a wider sense of betrayal that many people feel about a Westminster elite. Despite all this, there is a gap in the market for a politician with Mr Blair’s emotional intelligence and centrist appeal.” – The Times (£)

  • Blair blasted after defending decision to allow in Eastern European migrants – Daily Express

Campaign Calculus: Incumbency may not save the Lib Dems

“On this model the Liberal Democrats are predicted to lose forty of their seats, leaving them with a rump of 17 seats. But the incumbency effect could be stronger than this. Let’s cross-check the model with the constituency-level polling conducted by Lord Ashcroft and others. These polls surveyed 26 Lib Dem seats and suggest that the Lib Dems will lose 19 of them. In close agreement, the Electoral Calculus model predicts 21 losses for the same seats, which suggests that the incumbency effect will not be extremely strong.” – Martin Baxter, Daily Telegraph

>Today: MPs Etc.: The Conservative Association Chairman who is campaigning for the Lib Dems

UKIP 1) Inside the South Thanet campaign that will decide Farage’s fate

UKIP glass“The point is that the national party is taking the campaign seriously and will invest heavily as a result. They all know that the result will be a watershed moment in Ukip’s history. Labour, meanwhile, don’t seem to be investing in a big way in Thanet South, which makes strategic sense. If I were in Labour HQ I would be devoting resources instead to Labour seats that are facing a real threat from Ukip, such as Great Grimsby or Rotherham, and focus on making the more important symbolic point that not a single Labour seat falls to Ukip.” – Matthew Goodwin, Daily Telegraph

UKIP 2) Party given two election broadcasts whilst Greens miss out

“The UK Independence Party will be guaranteed two party political broadcasts on commercial television during the election campaign. The ruling by Ofcom, the media regulator, means that Ukip will have to be treated the same as the other major political parties ahead of polling day. It is another major boost for Ukip from Ofcom after the BBC ruled that Ukip should be treated by the broadcasters as a “major party”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Farage’s party join the big league in England and Wales – Financial Times
  • Greens furious at broadcast restrictions – The Sun (£)

News in Brief:

  • Ofsted under fire over Rotherham and Trojan Horse schools – Daily Mail
  • Prince Harry seeks full-time work after leaving Army – Daily Telegraph
  • Extreme sect secures £13m tax breaks – The Times (£)
  • £33bn annual cost of Brussels red tape – Daily Express
  • MPs warn of cost as vital Whitehall skills lost – Financial Times
  • Anti-racist groups condemn Trevor Phillips – The Independent
  • New pension scheme will see Northern Irish teachers work to 68 – Belfast Telegraph
  • Metropolitan Police investigated over 14 child abuse cover ups – Daily Mail