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Saturday 13th March 2010

10.30pm LeftWatch: Labour to annouce plans to abolish House of Lords and replace it with a 300-member fully elected second chamber

8.45pm ToryDiary update: YouGov daily tracker gives Tories a 4% lead

6.30pm ToryDiary: Tory lead narrows to 7% with ICM as 34% of voters indicate a hung parliament would be best for the country

Picture 45pm WATCH: Vince Cable attacks the Conservatives in his speech to the Lib Dem spring conference

4.45pm Jonathan Isaby on CentreRight laments that "Health and safety fears" have called a halt to an English tradition after more than 200 years

4pm Seats and Candidates: Karen Buckley selected for Hyndburn

3.15pm Parliament: MPs back ban on under-18s using ultra-violet sunbeds

2pm WATCH: David Cameron uses his latest WebCameron video to outline the Conservative approach to restoring confidence in the British economy

1440a4701.30pm ToryDiary: Vote Labour and pay £1,440 more on your mortgage

11am LeftWatch: Ms Toynbee is "deeply alarmed" at the prospect of Labour pledging not to raise tax

 ToryDiary:

Simon Fawthrop on Platform: A proposal for an elected Senate which would allow existing peers to retain speaking (but not voting) rights

Seats and Candidates: Cheltenham's Mark Coote revisits his grammar school which he helped save from Callaghan's Labour Government

Local Government: Would Labour be better off without Unison cash?

WATCH: The first clips from Samantha Cameron's TV interview with Sir Trevor McDonald

David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy have "warm and friendly" meeting dominated by defence issues

Picture 8 "David Cameron invited Nicolas Sarkozy to help to shape Britain’s military future as he and Gordon Brown competed for a pre-election boost from the French President. Mr Cameron used an audience with Mr Sarkozy to invite France to make a formal submission to a post-election strategic defence review. He also made clear that the Tories would be “active and energetic partners in the European Union from day one”, according to party officials." - The Times

"Both Labour and the Conservatives have promised a strategic defence review after the election. Cameron told Sarkozy that if he were in office, he would ask France to make a formal submission to the review. The spokesman said Cameron had also assured Sarkozy that under his leadership, Britain would remain committed to the European anti-piracy naval force operating off the coast of Somalia... A spokesman for Sarkozy said the meeting had lasted a little over half an hour and had been "warm and friendly." - Reuters

Seven days of air travel chaos on the cards as Labour's paymasters prepare to strike

"More than half a million British Airways passengers face strike disruption this month after the Unite trade union announced walkouts over two consecutive weekends, prompting BA to withdraw a last-ditch peace offer." - The Guardian

Ken Clarke "Ken Clarke, the shadow Business Secretary, drew the obvious link yesterday between Gordon Brown and the union involved in the BA strike. "There is no point in being naive," he said. "The fact is that Unite has given £11m to Labour over the past four years. They own the Labour Party, which is why there is no condemnation of any kind coming for a particularly irresponsible strike. They are totally silent because their silence has been bought." - The Independent

"The walkout of 13,500 cabin crew is being planned by Unite, whose political officer, Charlie Whelan, is back as a member of Gordon Brown’s inner circle, plotting the election campaign. Unite has donated £11 million to Labour in the past three years; now it may be Mr Whelan who is able to decide whether the party suffers or escapes the devastating embarrassment of a BA strike on the eve of a general election. For a man who enjoys pulling strings, it must surely be gratifying to hold so many of them." - Telegraph editorial

Unite members canvass for Labour in key marginal seats - The Guardian

> Yesterday's LeftWatch: Three unions have given £25 million to Labour - and have now secured more than 100 parliamentary candidacies

Tories need new attack to counter Labour's chess moves on tax

"In January, George Osborne seized on comments by Alistair Darling that he could not rule out Vat rises. If that line was held then the pressure was off the shadow chancellor. But Mr Byrne’s unequivocal comment on VAT means Mr Brown and his allies will continue to hammer the point about possible Tory tax rises from now until polling day. The Conservatives, trying to counter this predictable but remorseless attack, need to think carefully about how to respond. They are still desperate to avoid giving Mr Brown any ammunition to paint them as cutters of public services. That has led to timidity when proposing tax cuts of any sort." - Andrew Porter in the Daily Telegraph

The one cut that could save Labour - Simon Heffer in the Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday's LeftWatch: Treasury Minister claims there would be "no new tax rises" if Labour were re-elected

Conservatives would restore tax breaks for holiday lets

"Thousands of second home owners would benefit from a reverse of tax policies under a pledge from the Conservatives. George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, said that a Tory government would restore tax breaks to the owners of properties run as holiday lets. Treasury plans due to take effect next month will remove tax breaks from furnished holiday lets, potentially leaving owners with huge tax bills. The Tories said the tax change will affect 120,000 people and businesses. Industry groups have said it will cost thousands of jobs." - Daily Telegraph

More from Samantha Cameron's first TV interview

Picture 6 "The wife of Tory leader David Cameron has spoken of his cooking and parenting skills in her first TV interview about their relationship and home life. In an interview with ITV1's Trevor McDonald, Samantha Cameron said he was "very strong" and a "fantastic dad". Mrs Cameron also admitted her husband had some irritating habits and said the prospect of their life changing if he became prime minister was "daunting"... But she said while he was a good cook, he tended to make a "terrible mess" and was not good at clearing up after himself." - BBC

> Thursday's ToryDiary: Samantha Cameron breaks her silence with first interview as she prepares to hit the election campaign trail

Ex-Tory MEP joins Lib Dems

"An ex-senior Tory MEP, expelled in a row over the party's new allies in Europe, has joined the Lib Dems. Edward McMillan-Scott, who once headed the Tory grouping in Brussels, was unhappy with David Cameron's decision to re-align the party in Europe... The Tories said Mr McMillan-Scott was expelled six months ago: "He has not been a Conservative MEP since then." A senior party source told the BBC: "They're welcome to him."  - BBC

> Yesterday's ToryDiary: Expelled Tory MEP, Edward McMillan-Scott joins the Liberal Democrats

Nick Clegg warns Lib Dems of tough election

Nick Clegg confrence speech "Nick Clegg warned the Liberal Democrats last night that they faced the "biggest fight of our political lives" in the general election. He added: "Don't think it's going to be easy. It's going to be tough. Tougher than anything we've ever done, because the closer we get the harder our opponents will fight to keep us down". - The Independent

"I don't believe for a minute that there is going to be a photo finish – it will be quite clear who the voters want. That's the mandate. I personally think these constitutional niceties will be swept aside if it's obvious that there's one party that enjoys a mandate, if not an actual majority, from the British people." - Nick Clegg interviewed in The Guardian

Britain will never stick with a Con-Lib pact - Matthew Parris in The Times

Past experience suggests that Clegg shouldn't count on a hung parliament - Andrew Grice in The Independent

BNP forced to amend party constitution again

"The British National Party began processing applications within hours of a court order banning recruitment of new members after its leader claimed to have amended the constitution. In a landmark ruling on Friday, Judge Paul Collins issued an injunction against the far-right group stating its constitution was illegal and ordering it to comply with equality laws. He said the party's membership rules meant it was "likely to commit unlawful acts". But Mr Griffin declared on Friday night he had now amended the constitution to comply with the law and membership had therefore reopened." - Press Association

The battle for Barking - The Guardian

> James Bethell on CentreRight last night: Nick Griffin is playing a game with the courts and the continuing judicial challenge to the BNP risks playing into his hands

Boris Johnson clashes with David Cameron on high-speed rail - Last night's Evening Standard

Tories pledge to increase number of faith schools - The Times

Tories accused of scuppering vulture funds bill - Guardian

How spin put Labour back in the running - Patrick O'Flynn in the Daily Express

Labour hasn't given up on Birmingham Edgbaston - The Guardian

John and Sally Bercow profiled - The Times

Children's Commissioner: Bulger killers should not have been prosecuted - The Times

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