Budget 1) The Chancellor breaks out his shovel for a surge in infrastructure spending

Osborne worker‘George Osborne is to accelerate the spending of billions of pounds on new roads, railways and housing in an effort to keep the economy from stagnating. Better connections between northern cities, including work on the longest road tunnel in Europe, and high-speed trains between Manchester and Leeds account for £300 million of the spending to be announced in the budget tomorrow. The chancellor will also throw the government’s support behind Crossrail 2, promising to legislate for the new north-south line through the capital.’ – The Times (£)

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The Budget. Osborne should dare to be dull.

>Sunday: ToryDiary: The importance of infrastructure to Osborne

Budget 2) The living wage threatens the jobs market

‘Big firms are slashing overtime, cutting recruitment and axeing staff perks to pay for the new national living wage. Tesco, B&Q and Whitbread are among employers trying to reduce costs ahead of the 50p-an-hour pay rise next month. Cleaning firms and care homes are also seeking to trim budgets in preparation for the Government’s legal move to raise wages to at least £7.20 an hour for staff aged 25 and over…Ryan Bourne, of the Institute of Economic Affairs, warned some of the supposed beneficiaries would lose out. ‘It will reduce job opportunities for many low-skilled workers by squeezing businesses in industries such as cleaning, retail and hospitality,’ he said.’ – Daily Mail

  • Councils worry about how to pay for apprenticeship drive – FT
  • He will move to tackle homelessness – The Times (£)
  • His saving incentives are good policy – The Times Leader (£)
  • Santander offers leave to new grandparents – Daily Mail
  • Osborne must bear these risks in mind – Daily Mail Leader

Budget 3) Ganesh: Osborne can either eliminate the deficit or become Prime Minister, not both

downingst‘There is no way of clearing the deficit that does not expose him to the wrath of those who lose in the process. By contrast, no normal person minds if it is not cleared on time. If they did, he would not be chancellor now. This, then, is Mr Osborne’s dilemma. His best chance of succeeding Mr Cameron is to fail in his fiscal mission. Flunking his targets — above all, the surplus due in 2019-20 — wounds him less than the slog of meeting them. If anything, a softer policy conveys pragmatism in a darkening economic milieu. Success brings all the pain.’ – Janan Ganesh, FT

EU 1) Crosby: Leave has the lead because its voters are more keen

‘The country is divided. Almost half (47 per cent) support Remain while the same proportion (49 per cent) support Leave. But this does not take into account the differential between Remain and Leave supporters in their likelihood to vote. Leave voters are more likely to say they will show up – 79 per cent say they are certain to vote if the referendum was held today – whereas 72 per cent of Remain voters say the same. Taking this into account, Leave (52 per cent) has a seven point lead over Remain (45 per cent). The real risk for the Remain campaign is complacency.’ – Sir Lynton Crosby, Daily Telegraph


>Yesterday: James Cartlidge on Comment: I will vote Remain because I believe in the sovereignty that matters most – that of economic strength

EU 2) Merkel refuses to change open door policy even as voters punish her

merkel‘German leader Angela Merkel has remained defiant by confirming she will not change her ‘open door’ policy on migrants despite a crushing defeat in state elections which gave a far-right party big gains. Pressure is growing on the chancellor after her Christian Democrats Union (CDU) lost two of the three states voting to other parties – in what was described as a ‘worst case scenario’ for the embattled Mrs Merkel.’ – Daily Mail


>Today: Lord Ashcroft on Comment: “Germany and the northern European countries are in charge” – the view from Athens and Madrid

>Yesterday: International: Germany’s Christian Democrats must contend with a split on the right

EU 3) Most people support a Commonwealth free movement zone, poll reveals

‘Almost six in ten Britons support freedom of movement between the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, according to findings from the Royal Commonwealth Society. Lord Howell, who is president of the RCS, has now called on the Government to ‘remove the obstacles’ which are preventing Commonwealth citizens from moving here.’ – Daily Mail

The Sun comes out against the Snooper’s Charter

CCTV‘Tory MPs who care about journalism — and democracy — should today reject the Investigatory Powers Bill as it stands. We applaud most of it. But it draws too little distinction between spooks working to prevent terrorism and ordinary cops known to abuse spying powers. If they could be trusted, no innocent person would need to fear their records being stored or even accessed. Yet cops have recreationally used covert ­anti-terror powers to expose whistle-blowers who have embarrassed them.’ – The Sun Says (£)

PAC warns of NHS financial crisis

‘The NHS has reached crisis point with no credible plan to plug a £22 billion black hole in its budget, a powerful group of MPs has warned. Patients care is threatened by spiralling hospital deficits made worse by unrealistic government targets, the public accounts committee (PAC) concludes. The cross-party group of MPs tells ministers they cannot simply pin the blame on “rip-off” staffing agencies when a £4 billion bill for stand-in workers is largely as a result of failure to train enough doctors and nurses.’ – The Times (£)

Labour relieved as union donation plans face defeat in the Lords

Labour-Party-Red-Rose-logo‘Ministers are facing a defeat­ in the Lords on budget day over a plan that would cost Labour as much as £8 million a year in union funding. A former Conservative frontbencher is among a group of peers championing concessions that would mean Labour would lose only a fraction of that amount. It comes after the government­’s plan was attacked as a partisan attempt to jeopardise the finances of an opposition party.’ – The Times (£)

  • ICM are ‘stunned’ by their own pollnumbers – Daily Mail
  • Corbynites brace for a coup attempt – FT
  • Moderates fight off challenges in London CLPs – The Times (£)
  • Labour defends readmitting an anti-semite – Daily Mail
  • Corbyn must face up to the hatred in his own ranks – Hugo Rifkind, The Times (£)

>Yesterday: Left Watch: A coup against Corbyn would be doomed even if it achieved its immediate goal

New poll puts Khan ahead in London mayoral race

‘Two opinion polls this month have told much the same story about the contest to succeed Boris Johnson at the helm of City Hall. It is that Labour’s Sadiq Khan has a clear lead over his main rival Zac Goldsmith of the Conservatives, but that a lot of Londoners have still to make up their minds. The latest survey, conducted by YouGov, puts Khan seven points ahead of Goldsmith among all respondents – exactly the same margin he enjoyed in the last YouGov poll, which was conducted at the beginning of the year.’ – The Guardian

>Today: John Moss on Local Government: An update on Zac’s battle in Waltham Forest

Trump compares immigrants to deadly snakes

TRUMP hair‘Donald Trump – fighting for a clean sweep on Tuesday in primaries that could secure him the Republican nomination – likened immigrants to the US to a deadly snake that bites the person who shows it kindness…Mr Trump recited the words to “The Snake”, a 1968 song by Al Wilson. The lyrics to the song, which Mr Trump has recited before, tell the story of an ill snake who is taken into her home by a kindly woman. The snake is nursed back to health, but then delivers a poisonous bite to its host.’ – The Independent

>Today: ToryDiary: Could Trump happen here?

Putin leaves the world guessing as he orders partial Syria withdrawal

‘President Putin ordered the withdrawal of most Russian forces from Syria in a surprise announcement last night that cast into doubt Moscow’s support for the regime of President Assad. Speaking at a meeting in the Kremlin with his defence and foreign ministers, Mr Putin declared Russia’s bombing campaign to be a mission accomplished… Yevgeny Minchenko, a political analyst in Moscow, said the withdrawal meant the Kremlin could quit while it was ahead. “The biggest risk for the operation in Syria was Russia getting dragged into long-lasting military conflict.’ – The Times (£)

  • Assad must go if there is to be any chance of real peace – The Times Leader (£)
  • Banks are warned against Russian bonds – FT

News in Brief

  • When Letwin put porridge on a fry-up – The Sun (£)
  • Sir Peter Maxwell Davies has died – Daily Mail
  • The Blairs’ £27m property empire – The Guardian
  • Woman raises £10,000 for homeless man who helped her out – The Sun (£)
  • New research offers earlier, more accurate HIV test – Daily Mail
  • Burma elects first civilian president for 35 years – The Guardian
  • Danczuk to be ordered to pay back £11,000 in expenses – The Sun (£)