Taxes and the election 1) It’s Money-back Monday, says Cameron

CAMERON Popular“David Cameron will say today that high taxes and wasteful government spending are ‘immoral’ as millions receive a tax cut. … As 14million working households – more than nine in ten – are given an average boost of £200 a year to their incomes, the Prime Minister will set out the Conservative case for people keeping more of their own money – because they ‘know best’ how it should be spent. … ‘There is no such thing as public money, there is only taxpayers’ money,’ he will say.” – Daily Mail

  • “The PM must flesh out his party’s manifesto to stop the Milibandwagon gaining momentum.” – Dan Hodges, Daily Telegraph

> Today:

Taxes and the election 2) We care about more than just the 45p rate, adds Osborne…

“George Osborne has avoided calls to rule out further help for the country’s top earners, offering vague answers when asked whether those raking in more than £50,000 could see the rate lowered. … Instead he says the Conservatives are committed to raising the tax-free personal allowance bracket from £10,000 to £12,500. … Raising 40 per cent tax so that it only applies to those earning at least £50,000 was also a priority, he said.” – Daily Mail

  • Pay“More than 1m UK taxpayers are expected to be caught in an income tax ‘trap’ in less than four years, whereby those earning £100,000 a year lose their tax-free personal allowance and face a marginal rate of 60 per cent.” – Financial Times
  • “The UK pays almost a fifth of all VAT that goes into the European budget pot — despite being just one of 28 nations. … Campaign group Business for Britain, which wants to renegotiate the UK’s deal with the EU, say its control over VAT is ‘deeply flawed’.” – The Sun (£)
  • “A British exit from the European Union would hurt the poorest regions of the country hardest because they are more dependent on manufacturing exports, a report has warned.” – The Independent
  • “Kellogg’s is the latest US owned multinational to be embroiled in the controversy over tax avoidance in Britain. … The cereal giant warned shareholders its profits could be hit by government moves to close tax loopholes.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “We must let Conservatives finish job of repairing economy.” – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail

Taxes and the election 3) …but Balls can exclusively reveal the Chancellor’s “secret plan” to cut the top rate…

BALLS Ed headshot facing left“But in a speech on Monday, Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, will claim that the Conservatives have a ‘secret plan’ to give another tax cut to the highest earners. … Mr Balls has promised that a Labour government would increase the top rate to 50p, at least for several years. … In his speech he will say that under a Conservative government, millionaires would pay less while millions of people would pay more.” – Financial Times

Taxes and the election 4) …bolstered by Alexander’s claims in the Independent…

Alexander Danny Jan 12“A senior Conservative minister told a Liberal Democrat cabinet colleague: ‘You take care of the workers and we’ll take care of the bosses’ in a private Whitehall meeting to discuss the Coalition Government’s priorities. … The controversial remark was revealed by Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in an interview with The Independent that exposes some of the behind the scenes tensions in the Coalition Government.” – The Independent

  • “The Conservatives have accepted a £50,000 election campaign donation from a senior city banker accused of being ‘grossly incompetent’ by the party’s own chairman of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards.” – The Independent

Taxes and the election 5) …and Clegg has some harsh words too

CLEGG Bird“George Osborne is a ‘very dangerous man’ whose plan for the public finances would result in economic ‘disaster’, Nick Clegg has warned in one of his strongest attacks yet on the Tory strategy. … After five years in coalition with the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrat leader said the prime minister, David Cameron, was ‘not too much about grand vision’ and acknowledged he could ‘live with that’ but was highly critical of the Tory chancellor.” – The Guardian

  • “I am buying Cleggs. Every time I read that the Liberal Democrats are heading for electoral disaster, or a snap leadership election after 8 May, or a crisis of identity, resources and trajectory – or all of the above – I call my broker and pick up a few more. I am not sure, you see, that Nick Clegg can be killed by conventional weapons.” – Matthew d’Ancona, The Guardian

It’s not just taxes: the pensions shake-up comes into effect today…

UK notes and coins“Fewer than 300 advisers have been hired to help millions of UK retirees with the biggest pension reforms in 100 years. … From today, for the first time, over-55s are able to cash in their pensions and spend them as they wish, instead of being forced to buy an annuity. … But critics claim the Government may have woefully underestimated the number of advisers needed to cope with such radical reform.” – Daily Mail

  • “A government minister who suggested people approaching retirement could blow their pension pots on a Lamborghini under radical reforms launched today has warned against rushing into a savings-fuelled spending spree.” – The Guardian
  • “Savers taking advantage of new freedoms to cash in their pension have been warned they could face shock tax bills.” – The Times (£)
  • “More than half a million savers will make George Osborne’s pension reforms a success by prudently withdrawing small amounts to spend on holidays, home improvements and their grandchildren, a study for the Telegraph indicates.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “Nationwide Building Society is giving anyone up to the age of 70 the chance to take out a 35-year loan – stoking fears of a buy-to-let boom.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “The pensions reforms that take effect this week arguably represent one of the biggest social and economic revolutions of the past 50 years.” – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • “…without responsibility this new freedom could be ruinous.” – Times editorial (£)

…and the cigarette one

“Cigarettes and cigars will be hidden from view in newsagents and corner shops today as part of the Government drive to stop people smoking. … From now on, shopkeepers – who often rely heavily on tobacco sales – must conceal the packets in cupboards. … The removal of tobacco displays comes in advance of the ban on colourful packaging next year.” – Daily Mail

Will the Tories extend the Right to Buy in marginal constituencies?

House icon“A radical extension of the ‘right to buy’ scheme that is expected to be included in the Conservative manifesto will affect more than 50 key marginal constituencies, analysis by The Times has revealed. … Analysis by this newspaper has found that areas with some of the highest proportion of housing association properties in the country are key battlegrounds in the election campaign.” – The Times (£)

Scots prefer Cameron as Prime Minister

“Nicola Sturgeon has vowed to let Ed Miliband into Number 10 — despite an exclusive Sun poll showing more Scots prefer David Cameron as PM. … It came as YouGov’s poll of Scots for The Sun revealed 25 per cent believe Mr Cameron would make the best PM, one point ahead of Red Ed Miliband. … The survey — carried out before the leaders’ debate which boosted Ms Sturgeon — also gave the SNP a 17-point lead over Labour on 46 per cent to 29.” – The Sun (£)

Dominic Lawson: Cameron should do more to help parents with disabled children

David Cameron 31-03-15“Another mother, whose son has acute cerebral palsy, epilepsy, incontinence, autism and deformities, is moving to the age when he is technically no longer a child (though he has a mental age of one): yet he’s been turned down for the NHS’s Continuing Healthcare Plan. … Samantha Cameron spoke movingly in yesterday’s interview about how Ivan’s needs — until they were helped by respite care — left the family ‘totally shattered and pretty much at breaking point’. Her husband should do something to help other, less well-connected families in the same predicament.” – Dominic Lawson, Daily Mail

  • “Brave Alan Barnes has called on the Government to outlaw legal highs after a junkie mugged him to fund his addiction.” – The Sun (£)

Boris for Bloomberg!

boris-johnson“Omigosh. Can that be true? It says here that the legendary American zillionaire Mike Bloomberg is poised to make an entry into British politics. In fact, he is said to be toying with the job currently held by your columnist. Bloomberg for Mayor, they say – Mayor of London! … Someone, somewhere is mounting a Draft Bloomberg campaign, and they are sticking their fingers in the wind, testing the waters and generally running it up the flagpole to see who salutes. And I want you to know, therefore, that I am standing to attention and signalling my wholehearted approval.” – Boris Johnson, Daily Telegraph

  • “One of America’s leading diplomats has said he finds cuts to British defence spending ‘extremely troubling’ and has called on the next government to spend two per cent of GDP on the military.” – Daily Telegraph

Bridgen versus the Trussell Trust

“Bosses at Britain’s biggest food bank charity were branded hypocrites last night — for investing in companies that use zero-hours contracts. … The Trussell Trust has slammed the contracts, saying they are one of the reasons for the poverty that has led to a huge increase in food banks. … The Tory candidate for North West Leicestershire, Andrew Bridgen, said: ‘It’s hypocritical of the Trussell Trust to invest in a fund which supports zero-hours contracts when they have spoken out against them.'” – The Sun (£)

Bone versus the National Trust

bone“The National Trust was last night warned not to meddle in politics after it vowed to step up attempts to tackle climate change. … Peter Bone, Conservative MP for Wellingborough, last night said the subject was better left to Parliament. … ‘It seems to me very surprising that the National Trust has taken this stance – it is entering a political debate with very strongly held views on both sides,’ he said.” – Daily Mail

Elphicke goes after the Beeb over its Mili-coverage

“Number 10 complained to the BBC after the broadcaster shunned yesterday’s Sun coverage of the ‘happy warrior’ notes Ed Miliband forgot to take away after the TV leaders debate. … The BBC then did an about turn and briefly discussed the embarrassing Mili story on a later Radio 4 broadcast. … Tory candidate Charlie Elphicke said: ‘It seems the BBC has forgotten its duty of impartiality.'” – The Sun (£)

Labour candidates criticise Miliband for signing up to the challengers’ TV debate

Miliband coffee“Ed Miliband is facing a backlash from his own parliamentary candidates after signing up to an election television debate that gives minor parties a ‘huge opportunity’ to target Labour voters. … Prospective Labour MPs are warning that his ‘absolutely crazy’ decision to be the only leader from the three main Westminster parties to appear alongside Scottish and Welsh nationalists, the Greens and Ukip puts him in danger of being outflanked on all sides.” – The Times (£)

  • “The leaders of Scotland’s two biggest political parties will face each other on Tuesday night in a televised debate that is potentially crucial for the future of Scottish politics — and the UK general election.” – Financial Times

And comment:

  • “Ed Miliband shows who he is – an utter catastrophe.” – Daily Mail editorial

Voters believe politicians don’t understand them, warns one Labour MP

“Britain faces a crisis of political leadership because voters believe that party leaders across the board are failing to understand how the world is changing ‘in the blink of an eye’, a leading member of the shadow cabinet has warned. … As political parties say they are encountering high numbers of undecided voters on the doorstep, the shadow social care minister, Liz Kendall, said that voters believed ‘politicians don’t understand it, don’t get it’.” – The Guardian

The shadow cabinet is too inexperienced, warns another

LABOUR dead rose“John Denham, the former Labour cabinet minister, has criticised Ed Miliband for relying on inexperienced politicians such as front benchers Chuka Umunna and Rachel Reeves … Speaking in an interview to mark his departure from the Commons after 23 years, the former Communities Secretary said his advice to new MPs would be to spent their first Parliament on the backbenches.” – Daily Telegraph

Trevor Kavanagh: Sturgeon is free to make irresponsible promises

Scottish flag“…unlike Miliband, Sturgeon is leading an insurrection, not a potential party of national government. … She may present a threat to the future of the British nation, but she is free as a bird to make any irresponsible promise that catches a voter’s eye without being held to account. … The SNP leader emerged as an overnight superstar from last week’s TV debate. … But remember so was Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg until he was found out.” – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun (£)

  • “The Nicola Sturgeon memo: Westminster’s nasty machinations have been exposed.” – Zoe Williams, The Guardian
  • “Alex Salmond is no longer the leader of the Scottish Nationalists, a party not even fielding candidates in almost nine-tenths of the UK’s constituencies. Yet he is turning into the pivotal figure of the whole election.” – Matthew Engel, Financial Times

And related news stories:

  • “A confidential memo claiming that Nicola Sturgeon wants David Cameron to remain as Prime Minister was written in the UK Government’s Scotland Office. … Alistair Carmichael, the Scottish Secretary, confirmed that the leaked document originated north of the border.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “For decades, Labour regularly harvested the majority of Scotland’s 59 seats in the House of Commons. That was before they had to reckon with the Scottish nationalists’ dynamic resurgence. … Now, many of the 40 are bracing themselves for the likelihood that they may never take their seats on the green benches again.” – Financial Times

Who could replace Farage?

UKIP glass“UKIP challengers are lining up to replace party leader Nigel Farage if he has to step down. … He has promised to quit if he fails to win South Thanet on May 7. … And a poll commissioned by Ukip and leaked at the weekend suggests the Tories now have a one-point lead in the Kent constituency. … Party MEP Diane James said: ‘We have a very high calibre of individuals within Ukip. … There are people there waiting.’ … She listed Suzanne Evans, Patrick O’Flynn and Paul Nuttall as possible contenders.” – The Sun (£)

  • “Half of voters agree with Ukip that immigrants should not immediately receive free HIV treatment, a poll suggests.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “Ukip is wilting in the heat of election battle – but perhaps the damage is done.” – Ian Birrell, The Independent
  • “The latest problem to face party leader Nigel Farage is accusations of hypocrisy over tax avoidance.” – Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail

Tim Montgomerie: Farage’s toxic rants could end up helping Brussels

MONTGOMERIE Tim offical“Because Nigel Farage takes so many more votes from the Conservatives than Labour he is doing most harm to David Cameron, but his strategy is also harming the greater cause that Ukip was set up to win. Support for staying in the EU is rising steadily. This is mainly because the worst of the eurozone crisis has, hopefully, passed but Ukip’s toxicity with a clear majority of voters isn’t helping.” – Tim Montgomerie, The Times (£)

Michael Barber’s advice to the next Prime Minister

“Appoint someone you trust deeply as chancellor. It can go horribly wrong as with Thatcher and Lawson, Major and Lamont and Blair and Brown. Better role models are Callaghan and Healey, Major and Clarke. During my time in No 10, I remember the poisonous relationship between Tony and Gordon.” – Michael Barber, The Times (£)

  • “Since then the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, with its two-thirds requirement for a dissolution and two weeks for the opposition to try governing, has changed the calculation. It reduces everybody’s room for manoeuvre. Minority but long-lasting government now seems highly likely. Let’s hope both main party leaders have people thinking hard about how to make it work.” – Matt Ridley, The Times (£)

Another row over sex education in schools

“The National Union of Teachers has called for a ‘positive portrayal of same sex relationships’ in lessons to be made ‘compulsory’ under the next government. … It said MPs had a duty to tackle ‘homophobia, biphobia and transphobia’ in schools and create a ‘positive climate of understanding about sexuality’. … But critics accused the NUT of ‘thought control’ and said the ‘intolerant’ proposals risked ‘oversexualising’ children at a young age.” – Daily Mail

The dangers of drug-resistant infections

NHS“As many as 80,000 people could die if there was an outbreak of a drug-resistant infection in Britain, a government forecast has warned. … According to the report, about 200,000 people could fall victim to a bacterial blood infection if there was a widespread outbreak that existing antibiotics could not tackle. … Even routine operations would become high-risk procedures and many elements of modern medicine, such as organ transplants, would be too dangerous, the report said.” – The Guardian

  • “One in three posts for trainee GPs across the country has not been filled, according to new figures which have triggered warnings of a major NHS recruitment crisis.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “Ambulance bosses are routinely making a 21,500-mile round trip to Australia to hire paramedics on £4,500 ‘golden hello’ payments because it is far cheaper than training them in Britain.” – Daily Mail

News in brief

  • Harry honours war dead in Australia – The Sun (£)
  • Public warm to the idea of Queen Camilla – The Times (£)
  • 40 illegal immigrants are detained in Britain every day – The Times (£)
  • Greek political unrest and deepening debt crisis fuel talk of snap election – The Guardian
  • Obama fights back against critics of Iran nuclear deal – The Guardian
  • Rolling Stone magazine retracts discredited rape story – The Independent
  • Jeremy Clarkson’s final Top Gear final episodes may never be screened – The Independent

And finally 1) Counting sheep

“It’s David Lamberon! The PM bottle-fed a baby sheep yesterday while mucking in on a farm in his Oxfordshire constituency. … The critter rewarded him with a kiss on the nose after feeding time. The PM had earlier attended an Easter Sunday service at his local church with wife Samantha.” – The Sun (£)

And finally 2) Give that Gove a hug

GOVE Legatum“On Question Time last week, I said I wanted to hug Michael Gove, the government chief whip. Yes, really. I said it and did it too after the programme ended. Gove was on the panel, as were Danny Alexander, Andy Burnham and Peter Hitchens of the Mail on Sunday. I have always found Mr Gove wrongheaded and obnoxiously self-righteous. So what prompted this sudden gush of affection? Gratitude, that’s what.” – Yasmin Alibhai Brown, The Independent

And finally 3) The only way is another way

“TOWIE stars Joey Essex and Amy Childs yesterday waded in to the election battleground — rapping benefit scroungers and blasting ‘childish’ politicians. … They highlighted issues that concern millions of ordinary families and challenged political parties to address them.” – The Sun (£)

  • “It’s easy to take one look at the likes of Amy Childs and Joey Essex and dismiss them as reality TV airheads. … Easy — but wrong.” – Sun editorial (£)

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