Budget 1) Osborne to offer a taste of post-austerity Britain

OSBORNE red and blue“George Osborne will today use a £10 billion windfall from a booming economy to offer voters a taste of post-austerity Britain as he kicks off the Conservatives’ election campaign. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) will upgrade GDP growth for this year and next in today’s budget, giving the chancellor room to ease planned spending cuts while meeting the deadline to clear the deficit and fund tax cuts for millions of workers. The OBR is expected to increase its growth forecast for 2015 from 2.4 per cent to 2.7 per cent and for 2016 from 2.2 per cent to 2.5 per cent” – The Times (£)

  • Osborne bids to bring voters onside – Financial Times
  • Chancellor to cut tax on income from savings – Independent
  • Osborne to announce tidal power scheme – Guardian
  • Tax return panic to be ended by digital accounts – Daily Mail
  • Osborne to unveil new 12-sided pound coin – Guardian

Budget 2) Lawson: What Osborne should say

“The narrative of success needs to figure prominently in Mr Osborne’s Budget speech today, and it needs to be the main theme of the Tories’ general election campaign. But what of the Budget measures themselves? The single most important component is that the progress in reducing the fiscal deficit must be continued… Second, I would expect Mr Osborne to wish to continue on the path of tax reform” – Nigel Lawson, Daily Telegraph

  • Mr Osborne’s chance to inspire the nation – Daily Mail comment
  • The Tories are more trusted with the economy, and have a more favourable leader – so why aren’t they running away with the election? – Lord Ashcroft, Independent
  • Let’s hope the Chancellor has one or two rabbits under his hat – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph
  • We need a second wave of the consumer revolution to restore faith in capitalism – Dominic Raab MP, City AM

Budget 3) Finkelstein: Osborne today will not decide the election


“Economic policy is, naturally, central to the outcome of elections. But budgets held immediately before campaigns are not. Why is this? Well, to start with, voters don’t pay much heed to political announcements and what they do hear, they often don’t believe. Many pre-election budgets are simply held too late to make any difference. Any boost to income from today’s Budget might be felt very faintly in one month’s pay, if that” – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times (£)



Cameron agrees to one seven-way election debate

“The prospect of at least one televised leaders’ election debate edged closer on Monday after David Cameron finally agreed to participate in one seven-way performance on April 2. The prime minister’s team agreed an offer from the broadcasters that will pit Mr Cameron against the leaders of six other political parties as part of a series of election specials to run from the end of March to the end of April” – Financial Times

  • Digital debate organisers press Cameron for clear answer – Guardian
  • Tory treasurer “corruptly offered access to Cameron” – The Times (£)

Interview with Cameron: “Boris must finish being Mayor”

CAMERON & BORIS“What governmental role does Cameron envisage for Boris? ‘He has got to finish being Mayor.’ Could he be a minister and Mayor? Cameron says wryly: ‘Boris can do anything, he defies all laws of political logic and gravity. I think he needs to focus on being Mayor, strongly. Being MP and the Mayor is quite a lot’” – Sarah Sands interviews David Cameron, Evening Standard

  • A fridge as large as Imelda Marcos’s shoe cabinet – Quentin Letts watches Cameron in action, Daily Mail

The young Eds at work: Tories deploy 1997 Treasury film in attack ad

“The Tories have deployed footage of Ed Miliband and Ed Balls as young Treasury aides in an eve-of-budget attack advert. Clips of Ed Miliband, then 27, and Ed Balls, then 30, appearing alongside Gordon Brown in the early weeks of the last Labour government are deployed in a warning to voters about the risk of Labour returning to power… A voice-over warns: ‘They’ve wrecked the economy, they’ve never said sorry, and they’ll do it all again’” – Daily Telegraph

  • McCluskey attacks media team round Miliband – The Sun (£)
  • Jack Monroe joins Greens, leaving Labour – Guardian

Tories plan to “decapitate” Farage

Nigel Farage“Tory HQ is planning a ‘kill Ukip’ campaign in the Kent constituency where Nigel Farage is standing for Parliament after he vowed to quit as party leader if he loses… ‘This is a great opportunity,’ said one. ‘We can now make this a decapitation campaign. If voters who have previously backed other parties want to stop UKIP, they can vote for us and cut the head off the snake’” – Daily Mail

SNP “will shake Westminster”, Salmond says

“The Scottish National party will ‘shake Westminster to its foundations,’ says Alex Salmond, its former leader. He said Labour will find it hard to refuse to co-operate with the party after May’s general election. The former Scottish first minister said the SNP looked likely to have a decisive role in the formation of the next UK government” – Financial Times

  • Sturgeon becomes UK’s best paid politician – on paper – Herald

Northern Ireland unionist parties agree pact as they seek more seats

ulsterunionist“Unionist parties in Northern Ireland are likely to get more seats in the House of Commons in May’s general election following the announcement of a formal electoral pact. The Democratic Unionist and Ulster Unionist parties will field only one pro-union candidate in four Northern Irish constituencies, it was revealed on Wednesday. These include East Belfast, where the UUP will back Democratic Unionist candidate Gavin Robinson, who is seeking to wrest the seat from the Alliance party’s sole MP, Naomi Long” – Guardian


Police to investigate MP “abuse cover-up”

“An investigation has been ordered into claims that detectives were told to limit their inquiries into a prominent Labour politician accused of child sex abuse. The police watchdog has ordered Leicestershire police to examine claims of a cover-up involving Greville Janner, then a Labour MP and now a peer. The move came as the home secretary told MPs that she hoped anyone giving evidence to police inquiries into abuse or the historic child sex abuse inquiry would not face prosecution under the Official Secrets Act” – The Times (£)

  • May says Cyril Smith cover-up claims could lead to prosecutions – Guardian
  • Why I fear this monstrous sex abuse cover-up is far worse than we know – Simon Danczuk MP, Daily Mail

Splits in Europe could spell end of Russian sanctions

Vladimir Putin“Europe is so split over punishing President Putin’s aggression in Ukraine that the EU sanctions package is in danger of lapsing, diplomats and politicians have warned. Disagreements over how to proceed with trade restrictions, despite ceasefire breaches in Ukraine and the Kremlin’s triumphant celebrations of the annexation of Crimea a year ago, are likely to be exposed at a European leaders’ summit in Brussels this week. Efforts by the UK and other hawks to bring forward a vote on prolonging the restrictions that are hurting the Russian economy appear to have foundered” – The Times(£)

  • Putin sends spy ships to eavesdrop on British bases – Daily Express
  • Greeks find support for German reparations claims – in Germany – Financial Times

News in brief

  • Netanyahu hails “great victory” as Likud takes most seats – Guardian
  • Duckenfield admits his failure was direct cause of 96 Hillsborough deaths – Liverpool Echo
  • Four judges lose jobs after viewing porn – Daily Mail
  • Furious Clarkson demands retraction of Savile comparison – Daily Mail