Merkel says EU Treaty change is possible…

merkel“Angela Merkel has said she does not rule out future treaty changes in Europe and will be a “constructive partner” to the UK in getting reforms. After talks with David Cameron, the German leader said her “clear-cut” view was that the UK should stay in the EU. While there was already “common ground” across many areas, she said progress on welfare would be “more protracted”. The British prime minister said there was no “magic” solution to reform but “where there’s a will there’s a way”.” – BBC

…but Polish leader says immigration demand “unacceptable”

“Poland emerged as the biggest threat to David Cameron’s EU renegotiation when its leader branded his key immigration demand “unacceptable”. Blocking arriving European migrants’ access to handouts for four years is the centrepiece of the PM’s demand for powers back from Brussels.” – The Sun(£)

>Yesterday: Andrew Lilico on Comment: Any EU renegotiation must, by definition, include Treaty change

 IDS says welfare reforms are a journey to independence

IDS on Marr“What makes Universal Credit different from old-style benefits is that it makes it much easier for people to move from benefits to work. No longer do people have the hassle of stopping their benefit claim and then making a new claim for tax credits. No longer do they face the cliff edge of potentially losing all benefit support in one go. Instead, they remain on Universal Credit, and it adjusts in line with their new earnings. This can make the sometimes tricky decision to take a job much easier.” – Iain Duncan Smith Daily Telegraph

Griffin is largest donor to Conservatives

“The Conservatives continue to rely on huge donations from the business world and the City. Their largest donation came from John Griffin, founder of the Addison Lee taxi company, who gave £661,250. Michael D Gooley, the founder of the Trailfinders travel agent, also contributed £500,000. He has now given the party £1.5 million over the past year. James Lupton, a hedge fund founder, gave £375,900 to the party.” – The Times(£)

Cameron to send troops to Iraq danger zones…

David Cameron 04-05-15“Britain is preparing to send troops to more dangerous parts of Iraq to help the US military train local forces who have struggled to make gains in the fight against Islamic State….The prospect of expanding Britain’s training mission in Iraq beyond the relative safety of the Kurdish north, where it currently operates, was raised at a National Security Council (NSC) meeting chaired by David Cameron on Thursday, Whitehall sources said.” – The Times(£)

…but Lord West warns of spending cuts “disaster”

Britain’s defence is ‘balanced on a knife edge’ and will reach crisis point unless more money is found, a former head of the Royal Navy has claimed. Warning of the crippling impact of further cuts to the Armed Forces, Admiral Lord West said the UK was on the ‘road to disaster’…His comments came as it emerged that the Ministry of Defence has been told to slash £1billion from the annual defence budget of £36.5billion in a move that could hit operations overseas.” – Daily Mail

  • Cuts would break NATO pledge MPs warn – The Sun(£)

>Yesterday: Tory Diary: Why meeting the NATO two per cent defence target matters

May challenged by broadcasters over vetting programmes for extremism

Theresa May 14-04-15“Senior figures in broadcasting have criticised proposals to introduce counter-extremism powers allowing the vetting of British television programmes before transmission as impractical and unjustified. A government plan to strengthen the role of media regulator Ofcom to take “tough measures against channels that broadcast extremist content” was outlined in the Queen’s speech last week…Michael Grade, former chairman of the BBC and chief executive of ITV and Channel 4, said: ‘I would be very suspicious of ex-ante powers of publication being given to a regulator or anyone.’ ” – The Guardian

Pursglove challenges rise in Aid spending

“New Tory MP Tom Pursglove said: “I would rather see our defence budget rise than commit to an arbitrary figure on international development. “Britain is a very generous nation and people dig very deep when there is an international disaster. We should be looking at trade, not aid. This is just a sticking plaster approach.” – Daily Express

Labour leadership contenders compete to back business and cutting welfare

Andy Burnham“Andy Burnham, the favourite to become the next Labour leader, has risked angering his party by indicating that he is ready to back further welfare cuts. As all three main contenders for the job gave major speeches setting out their stalls, the shadow health secretary said that his party had to tackle the perception that Labour was “soft on people who want something for nothing”.” – The Times(£)

  • Give those who choose to live on benefits a “kick up the backside” says Caroline Flint – Daily Mail
  • Teach white working class young about aspiration says Kendall – The Guardian
  • Cooper claims to be the unity candidate – The Independent
  • Labour was “squeamish” about immigration says Cooper – BBC

>Today: Anthony Calvert on Comment: My opponent, Mary Creagh. A symbol of the damage that political correctness has wreaked on Labour

>Yesterday: Tory Diary: Who should be Labour’s next leader? Have your say in our latest survey.

Bid to oust Carmichael as an MP

Alistair Carmichael 22-05-15“Campaigners have begun a legal attempt to overturn the election of the former cabinet minister Alistair Carmichael as the MP for Orkney and Shetland. The Lib Dem MP has faced calls to resign over the leak of a memo which suggested SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon wanted David Cameron as prime minister. A petition was lodged at the Court of Session in Edinburgh in the name of four islanders. They raised more than £40,000 through the internet to pay their legal costs.” – BBC

Obesity “will cause more cancer deaths than smoking”

“Obesity will overtake smoking as the biggest cancer killer within the next decade, experts predict. The condition is already to blame for up to 32,000 cancer deaths in the UK each year, researchers warn. They say diet and exercise regimes should become ‘standard’ treatment for cancer alongside chemotherapy and surgery. Within the next ten years in the US and the UK obesity will cause more cancers than smoking, the Harvard University academics said.” – Daily Mail

Fines amnesty for late tax returns

Tax Take“Up to 890,000 people who filed late tax returns have been given an amnesty over the £100 fine for missing the deadline, it can be disclosed. Tax officials are no longer checking why someone was unable to submit their self-assessment forms on time, as long they provide a “reasonable” excuse. In an internal memo leaked to The Daily Telegraph, staff at HM Revenue & Customs were asked to write off the £100 charge without further investigation if people with seemingly mitigating circumstances appealed after paying their tax bill. The unusual action has been taken as HMRC faces a backlog of almost a million letters from taxpayers, the documents showed.” – Daily Telegraph

Gatwick would challenge Heathrow expansion over air quality rules

“Gatwick has threatened to launch a legal challenge if the Government decides to back the expansion of Heathrow. The Airports Commission is expected to give a recommendation on how the Government should expand capacity in the southeast of England in the next few weeks. The Commission, which was set up in September 2012, must decide between three proposals – two to expand Heathrow and the third to build a second runway at Gatwick. It took the surprise decision earlier this month to launch a consultation on airport air quality.” – Daily Telegraph

SNP threaten to carry on clapping

SALMOND smiling“Scotland’s former First Minister Alex Salmond has revealed his party’s huge new intake will defy tradition and clap in the Commons. In a practice respected for centuries, members only cheer approval for each other, but the 56 new nationalists clapped a colleague three times in the first debate after Parliament’s return on Wednesday. Speaker John Bercow demanded they “show respect” following the pre-planned protest. But Mr Salmond, who was also re-elected three weeks ago, risked more trouble by hitting back. He said: “The Speaker is wrong to suggest it’s against the rules of the House of Commons.” – The Sun(£)

Interim Mayor of Greater Manchester chosen

“Tony Lloyd, who is currently the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner, will now control an £8bn budget and lead a new experiment in city governance. However, there was not a ballot box in sight during his appointment – instead the decision was made by a “selection panel” of 10 civic leaders in a closed-door meeting that has already been described as an “undemocratic stitch-up”. He will be replaced by an elected mayor in 2017, but that has not stopped residents and governance experts raising objections.” – The Independent

Hannan: Stop the scaremongering over EU trade

Hannan Dan Nov 2014“The idea that we’d face trade barriers if we pulled out exists only in the press releases of British pro-EU campaigners. They know perfectly well that it’s a straw man — though that doesn’t stop them bashing away at it for all they’re worth. How can I be so sure that our trading relationship would not change? Because every state in Europe, whether or not it is in the EU, participates in the single market: Norway, Andorra, Turkey, Switzerland, Serbia, the Channel Islands and so forth.” – Daniel Hannan Daily Mail

Moore: Control freaks demand the right to die

MOORE Charles blue background“The only really uncontrollable thing is death. It is death which, to use Mr Spector’s phrase about his disease, is the “walking timebomb”, the only one we cannot defuse. “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can take nothing out,” it says in the Prayer Book burial service. The mind of the control freak hates this stark fact: it seems to go against all the principles of acquisition and achievement on which he (the condition is much more common in men than in women) has constructed his life.” – Charles Moore Daily Telegraph

News in brief

And finally…an investigation by the Daily Mail on what became of David Cameron’s classmates at Eton

“Beneath the unruly Eighties quiff, the features are unmistakeable. Sitting in the centre of this school photograph, with a wing collar and bow-tie signifying his authority as a house captain, is none other than a 17-year-old David Cameron. This exclusive picture — the first to show the future Prime Minister in his Eton schooldays — has come to light after the photographer chanced upon it in his archives and decided to make it public. It shows Cameron and 45 housemates at the prime of a very gilded youth.” – Daily Mail