General Election 1) May’s pledge to maintain Overseas Aid spending provokes criticism

sunpay“Theresa May has ruled out cuts to the UK foreign aid budget if she wins the election but doubts have been cast on other existing Conservative pledges. The prime minister said the commitment to spending 0.7% of national income on aid “will remain” although it must be spent “in the most effective way”. It follows speculation she was ready to drop it from the Tory manifesto. But she declined to guarantee existing spending on state pensions which ensures a minimum 2.5% annual increase.” – BBC

  • Sir Eric Pickles standing down as an MP – BBC
  • Arbitrary and meaningless target says Taxpayers’ Alliance – The Times(£)
  • You should be proud of Aid spending – Interview with Bill Gates, The Times(£)
  • Triple lock for pensions under threat – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Huw Merriman on Comment: Overseas aid. We’re right to reject the claim that charity begins at home

>Yesterday: WATCH: May – The 0.7 per cent aid spending pledge “remains – and will remain”

General Election 2) Labour to use new social media tool to target voters

“Labour has created a sophisticated new social media tool that will allow it to target individual voters with tailored policy messages, the party’s campaigns chief has told the Guardian…Andrew Gwynne, who is Labour’s joint national elections coordinator, said: “One of the things that we’ve learned, particularly from Sadiq Khan’s campaign in London for the mayoralty, is that we can now use social media in a very sophisticated way, targeting the people that we want to reach out to with certain messages, certain policy announcements.” – The Guardian

General Election 3) No major reshuffle planned afterwards

downingst“THERESA MAY does not want a major reshuffle after her expected June election victory, the Sun can reveal. While there will be “some minor tinkering” with the Cabinet, the majority of ministers will stay in place after June’s snap poll. A No.10 source said it will be “business as usual” this summer providing none of the leading Government figures commit major campaign blunders. Key roles such as Chancellor, Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary are unlikely to be changed.” – The Sun

General Election 4) Labour ditch controversial slogan

“Labour abandoned the slogan ‘The Tories are the real extremists’ amid fears it would highlight Jeremy Corbyn’s links to groups like Hamas and the IRA, sources have told The Telegraph. The phrase was discussed at a meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee as a way to counter Tory attacks against the party leader during the campaign. But fears were raised that it would prompt questions about Mr Corbyn’s views on terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, which he has previously declared “friends”.” – Daily Telegraph

General Election 5) Corbyn team hatch plan to keep control of the Party

FIST Red“One post election option allows for Mr Corbyn to try to remain in post. In the event of a bad defeat, one plan would be for Mr Corbyn to suggest all Labour MPs must share the blame. He would then invite anyone to make a leadership challenge. Under rules confirmed by the High Court last year, Mr Corbyn would automatically appear on the ballot, along with anyone who gets nominations from 20 per cent of MPs and MEPs.” – The Times(£)

General Election 6) Anger at overseas Britons denied vote

“Up to 3 million Britons living overseas are to be denied a vote in the general election, the Cabinet Office has confirmed. In a letter sent to the New Europeans campaign group on Friday, the Cabinet Office said that “unfortunately” British citizens who had lived abroad for longer than 15 years would not be entitled to vote on 8 June. The letter has prompted a furious reaction from Britons living abroad, and in Europe in particular, with campaign groups accusing the Conservatives of breaking yet another promise.” – The Guardian

General Election 7) Diesel tax delay

Petrol pump“Plans to hit diesel drivers with a “toxin tax” are likely to be shelved until after the election amid concerns that it could cost the Conservatives votes. Ministers have been drawing up plans for a crackdown on air pollution in seven cities which could see diesel cars hit by daily charges of even banned during peak hours. The plans have proved hugely controversial and motoring organisations have warned that drivers are being “punished” for following Government policy and buying diesel cars.” – Daily Telegraph

General Election 8) Lewis attacks Conservative voters as uncaring

“HARD-LEFT Labour MP Clive Lewis has branded 11 millions of Brits uncaring snobs. The Norwich MP tweeted a graphic claiming only the rich or uncaring vote Tory. He claimed the flowchart it was “a handy voting guide” – but sparked uproar online as social media users quickly pointed out 11,334,920 had put their cross next to the Conservatives in 2015.” – The Sun

General Election 9) Hammond calls for tax “flexibility”

HAMMOND Philip Marr March 2017“Speculation that the Conservatives are planning tax rises, if they win the general election, have been played down by party sources. Chancellor Philip Hammond said on Thursday there should be “flexibility to manage the system” of taxation. But Tory party sources have told the BBC it was not a hint at plans to raise taxes in the Conservative manifesto. The shadow chancellor John McDonnell accused the government of planning “a tax bombshell”.” – BBC

General Election 10) May must offer a break with Cameroonian “sleaze” says Oborne

“Take Craig Mackinlay, Tory MP for South Thanet. It is alleged that more than the legal limit of £15,000 was spent to help get him elected for the seat in 2015 ahead of his Ukip rival, Nigel Farage. It is a principle of English law that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. But I believe it would send out the wrong message if Mr Mackinlay was chosen to fight South Thanet again. The Uber and election expenses scandals offer Theresa May a chance to consign to the past the culture of cronyism and sleaze which, it is now clear, besmirched the Cameron administrations.” Peter Oborne, Daily Mail

  • A chance to restore voters trust – Leader Daily Mail

General Election 11) Tory drift to he right could be unstoppable says Parris

“My fear? Not that secretly Mrs May is particularly attached to the Tory hardliners: my fear is that she is not particularly attached to anything. A strong will, a strong mind and  strong likes and dislikes do not amount to a programme for government. Without that tiller, without that compass, the keel will set the course. And a deep current  is running to starboard.” – Matthew Parris, The Times(£)

General Election 12) The campaign must be used to find out what May stands for says Moore

telegraphbacklashtwo“What is her attitude to freedom, a word which she rarely uses? Does she think free markets are the key to prosperity? If so, how can an “industrial strategy” achieve anything? Does she believe in universal human rights law? What is her overall view of government spending and borrowing in the age of unfavourable demographics? Would she call herself a Thatcherite? (I am also curious, because she gives away so little, to bombard her with personal questions: Does she consider herself a town or country mouse? Would she rather holiday in Europe or America? Does she read poetry? Does she prefer the car or the train? Does she put the milk in first?)” – Charles Moore Daily Telegraph

Other election comment

  • Labour’s malaise – Leader, The Times(£)
  • Undiluted Toryism is the strongest brand – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • Rosettes can make you feel like a prize fool – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times(£)
  • Memo to May, the manifesto must strike a bold note – Camilla Cavendish Financial Times(£)
  • May won’t get a landslide – Mary Dejevsky Independent
  • Whatever the result Labour loses – Janice Turner, The Times(£)
  • Corbyn should learn from 1983 – Andrew Grice Independent


Bradley gives regulators more time to investigate Sky takeover

bradley2“The government has given regulators more time to investigate the proposed takeover of broadcaster Sky by 21st Century Fox. The Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, Karen Bradley, said she had extended the deadline because of the forthcoming general election. Regulators were examining the deal in the light of media plurality and broadcasting standards. European competition authorities had already waved the deal through.” – BBC

Buy British says Redwood

“A VETERAN Tory Eurosceptic yesterday urged Brit shoppers to take revenge against Brussels by buying English wine – and British motors. John Redwood said the country would be well catered for in the event the European Union imposes high tariffs post-Brexit, arguing there were plenty of options…Mr Redwood said: “You do not have to buy German and French cars. “There is a good choice of models, prices and specifications available from UK car factories…A visit to one of England’s vineyards taught me that England makes some good white wines. Plenty of good Australian and Californian reds too.” – The Sun

McCluskey wins Unite leadership vote

Len McCluskey“Len McCluskey has been re-elected as Unite’s general secretary following a bitter leadership battle. The result is a boost for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has sent the union chief a message of congratulations. Mr McCluskey’s chief rival Gerard Coyne – seen as the anti-Corbyn candidate – was beaten by nearly 6,000 votes. He said Unite, which is Labour’s biggest donor, had to change and claimed he faced attempts by officials to “bully and intimidate” him.” – BBC

Taxpayer gets his money back on Lloyds bailout

“THE taxpayer has finally made back the £20.3billion it spent bailing out Lloyds Bank, it emerged last night. Chancellor Philip Hammond confirmed the “significant milestone” on a trip to the US. It has now recouped £20.4million by steadily selling off its stake in the bank, which it bailed out in 2008. Originally it had a 43 per cent share in Lloyds, but it began selling this off in 2013, and last night its stake was less than 2 per cent.” – The Sun

Sturgeon does not rule out SNP/Conservative coalitions in town halls

nicola-sturgeon-08-01-17“Nicola Sturgeon repeatedly declined to rule out SNP councillors working with the Conservatives at a local level when she launched her party’s manifesto for next month’s local elections. Despite claiming that voting SNP was the best way to keep Tories away from power in councils, the First Minister declined to say that she would ban her councillors from forming coalitions with Ruth Davidson’s party. At her manifesto launch in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said there was a “danger” of Tories being propped up by Labour in local authorities, but stopped short of ruling out SNP/Tory deals.” – The Scotsman

  • Scottish Lib Dem leader fights with a ram – Independent

Trump backs US/EU free trade deal

“Britain has been pushed behind the European Union in the queue to strike a free-trade deal with the United States, officials in Washington have said. President Trump has softened his opposition to negotiating with the bloc as a whole after attempts by his officials to open talks with individual European nations were rebuffed. During a private conversation last month, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, convinced Mr Trump that talks on a US-EU deal would be simpler than he thought, sources close to both sides of the discussion told The Times.” – The Times(£)

Fillon accused of sexist remarks about maternity leave

guardianpen“The French presidential candidate François Fillon, already beset by scandal, has been accused of making sexist remarks after suggesting a leading French journalist was unsure of her brief because she had been on maternity leave.  During the candidates’ last major television appearance before the first-round vote on Sunday, the respected France 2 journalist Léa Salamé pressed Fillon for details on his plans to revolutionise France’s social security system. “I understand why you’re asking me this question, because you have been absent for a while and I congratulate you, but I have already answered that question 20 times, including on this programme,” he said.” – The Guardian

News in Brief

  • Mortgage rates at record low – Daily Mail
  • Leave.EU investigated over referendum spending – BBC
  • Tory MP Ben Howlett cleared of groping charge – The Sun
  • Arron Banks plans pirate radio station – Daily Telegraph
  • Sturgeon launches SNP council election manifesto – BBC
  • Plan to abolish SAS reserves blocked – The Times(£)
  • Tougher penalties for speeding drivers – Daily Telegraph
  • North Korea warns China of “catastrophic consequences” if sanctions continue – Daily Express
  • Britain goes a day without coal – BBC