5.45pm WATCH: David Cameron tells the Commons: Gaddafi must go now
5.30pm Matthew Sinclair on Comment: Philip Hammond applauds Birmingham Council for waste which Eric Pickles condemned
4pm Paul Goodman on Comment: Why doesn't Fine Gael now form a coalition with Fianna Fail?
3.15pm ToryDiary: What is the job of the Tory Chairman? Is membership growing or falling in your Association? Who are the Coalition's enemies? Is David Cameron giving too many concessions to the Lib Dems? Are Tory MPs TOO rebellious?
2.30pm JP Floru on Comment: Ed Miliband prescribes more socialism to cure the squeezed middle
Noon Guy Opperman MP on Comment: How I am promoting the Big Society as a constituency MP
10.45am: Paul Goodman on Comment: Searchlight's new campaign fails its first test
10.15am ThinkTankCentral: TaxPayers' Alliance restate opposition to High Speed Rail as five-month consultation opens
Philip Davies MP on Comment: Increased use of CCTV and DNA profiling would actually enhance our freedom
Also on Comment: Steve Baker MP: The Big Society is The New United Kingdom
Seats and Candidates: Dennis Skinner finds himself as Labour's new poster boy (at least in Barnsley)
Cameron urges Gaddafi to "go now"...
"Prime Minister David Cameron urged Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to "go now" as the UK imposed sanctions in an effort to force him from power. The Prime Minister, speaking inside Downing Street, also said that he was "delighted" at the success of a second special forces-led operation to rescue oil workers stuck in the remote Libyan desert... Mr Cameron said: "All of this sends a clear message to this regime: it is time for Colonel Gaddafi to go and to go now. There is no future for Libya that includes him." - Press Association
...as George Osborne freezes his UK assets
"George Osborne has frozen the British-held assets of Muammer Gaddafi and five members of his family, as Treasury officials step up efforts to track down billions of pounds held in bank accounts and commercial property. The UK chancellor’s decision followed a similar move in the US by President Barack Obama and a UN Security Council resolution to freeze the embattled Libyan leader’s assets. Details also emerged on Sunday night of an audacious attempt made in the past week to move uncirculated Libyan banknotes worth £900m out of the UK." - FT (£)
> Yesterday's ToryDiary: Hague says Government working round-the-clock to rescue remaining Britons in Libya
As a consultation begins, Philip Hammond brands HiSpeed Rail protesters "Nimbys"
"Opposition to high-speed rail is driven by “Nimbys” peddling inaccurate scare stories, the Transport Secretary has told The Times ahead of the launch of plans to build a new railway through the heart of rural England... The Government will set out the case for the high-speed railway this morning, including a new business plan, an environmental appraisal and an assessment of alternatives such as upgrading the West Coast Main Line." - The Times (£)
> Video from yesterday: Hammond vows to convert opponents of HiSpeed rail plan
...whilst he moots raising motorway speed limit to 80mph
"Motorway speed limits could be raised to 80mph and those on city and town roads be reduced, with the decision on restrictions being made as much on cost as on safety. The Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, said yesterday that decisive factors could include the economic benefits of faster travel as well as environmental concerns." - The Independent
Unruly youngsters must be sent to boot camps to learn respect, declares Gove
"Youngsters need the rigour of a military-style education because they have ‘no self-discipline or sense of purpose’, the Education Secretary said. Michael Gove attacked the declining virtues of the young yesterday, as he announced £1.5million funding to draft battle-hardened troops into ‘boot camps’ for unruly pupils. He believes war veterans are needed to drill respect into troubled teenagers and provide them with role models." - Daily Mail
David Cameron "rebukes Liam Fox over 'bigging up' of Iran's nuclear ambitions"
"David Cameron, the Prime Minister, and William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, are understood to be unhappy about the Defence Secretary’s hawkish statements on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Sources said Mr Cameron was worried that high-profile warnings about the Iranian nuclear programme could strengthen the domestic position of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime by lending it credibility." - Daily Telegraph
Coalition parties train to fight each other in May local elections offensive
"The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives will spend their spring conferences planning how to attack each other’s policies as the coalition partners’ gloves come off before the local elections in May. Members of Nick Clegg’s party have been invited to attend workshops with names such as Inspired! Winning against the Tories and Defending Against the Conservatives in 2011, The Times can reveal... A Conservative spokesman said that there would be similar sessions at its spring forum in Cardiff this weekend." - The Times (£)
Boris Johnson: Why we must oppose AV - which, lest we forget, was Gordon Brown's Gaddafi-style last gasp self-preservation attempt (and let's have a referendum on Lisbon while we're at it)
"It seems unlikely that in the next few weeks the AV campaign will mobilise the masses in the way that we have seen in North Africa... The whole thing threatens to be a bit of a damp squib. Which is a shame, because the more closely people focus on what is being put to the people on May 5, the more clearly they should see that this is a gigantic fraud... It is bonkers to be pursuing the last manoeuvre of a cornered Gordon Brown. By all means let us have a referendum – the one we were promised, on the Lisbon EU Treaty." - Boris Johnson writing in the Daily Telegraph
Daily Mail: Overseas aid should share the burden of the cuts
"We welcome news that the Coalition is to stop aid to 16 relatively well-off countries — including economic superpower China and oil-rich Russia... Bewilderingly, though, the Coalition’s review of international aid has concluded that payments to India — a nation with three times as many billionaires as we have and its own space programme — will be maintained... The International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, admits that his constituents ‘go ballistic’ that aid is not facing the same cuts as practically every other Whitehall department. He should listen to them." - Daily Mail editorial
> Video from yesterday: Andrew Mitchell defends UK aid spending in India
John Redwood: It’s refreshing to hear an apology
"Why have Caroline Spelman, Michael Gove, Liam Fox and William Hague all had to say sorry in the last few weeks? Each case is different... The only common current is they each illustrate the need for Ministers to involve themselves in the detail as well as the main decision." - John Redwood's Diary
David Miliband rounds on Cameron for his attack on state multiculturalism...
"David Miliband has made a rare intervention into frontline British politics to warn David Cameron his recent attack on state multiculturalism risks pushing people with concerns about race and immigration into "latent hostility or active enmity". In a Guardian article, the former foreign secretary says the prime minister's "muscular liberalism" offers little to people who are craving what he calls a "greater sense of security" in an ever changing world." - The Guardian
..as Ed Miliband warns of "cost of living crisis"
"Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, will warn today of a "cost of living crisis" that will leave middle-income earners struggling even if the economy recovers. A report launched today is expected to claim that average pay will be no higher in 2015 than it was in 2003. Allowing for inflation, the Resolution Foundation suggests that the median wages of full-time employees will be £25,559 in 2015 – compared with £25,570 in 2003." - The Independent
Political news in brief
Fine Gael-Labour coalition to follow Irish election win with EU talks on loan
"One of the most dramatic elections in Irish history is expected to produce a record majority of more than 50 seats in the Dáil for a Fine Gael-Labour coalition. Enda Kenny, the Fine Gael leader, has pledged that one of his first acts as prime minister will be to seek a lower interest rate on loans to Ireland to shore up its banking system and keep public services running." - The Guardian
> Zoe Healy on International yesterday: Fine Gael's big Irish victory
And finally... Bob Crow calls for tax on sending emails
"Bob Crow, the Left-wing trade union leader, has suggested that emails should be subject to taxes in order to pay off the deficit. The General Secretary of the militant Rail, Maritime and Transport union was booed as he outlined his idea for a 1p tax on each email during an appearance on a late night comedy show. He said that rather than cutting public services, the Government should tax email traffic and scrap the replacement for the Trident nuclear defence system." - Daily Telegraph
7.45pm Zoe Healy on International: Fine Gael's big Irish victory
2pm WATCH: In 25 minute interview with Al Jazeera David Cameron rejects In/Out referendum on EU, says drug legalisation would create more problems than it would solve; and identifies fall of Berlin Wall as defining world event in his political development.
Glyn Gaskarth on Local government: Will those in non-jobs find real jobs?
The UK is to stop direct aid to 16 countries, including Russia, China and Iraq
"Resources will be focused on the 27 countries that account for three-quarters of the world's maternal mortality and malaria deaths, such as Ghana and Afghanistan. By 2014, 30% of UK aid is expected to go to war-torn and unstable countries. The report confirms that direct aid to countries including Iraq and Kosovo will stop, whilst aid to India will be frozen." - BBC
Liam Fox: Libya crisis shows why we're right on defence reform
"As we have seen in Libya in the past 96 hours the UK still has the military capability to protect British interests. At a time when the commercial sector was unable or unwilling to fly, the Government used a range of military assets, including Royal Navy warships each with a detachment of Royal Marines and C-130 Hercules aircraft to evacuate hundreds of Britons and citizens from a dozen other countries. In fact, British Armed Forces have been leading the way with HMS Cumberland being the first military asset from any country to enter and evacuate citizens from the Libyan city of Benghazi." - Liam Fox in The Sunday Telegraph
But, writes Patrick Mercer MP in the Sunday Express: Defence cuts have left us too weak to help our own people
> Yesterday's ToryDiary: The RAF flies over 150 civilians out of Libya
TODAY'S MUST-READ: John Rentoul charts the twists and turns of Cameron's foreign policy
"Cameron's foreign policy, or lack thereof, is perhaps more important. To start with the formative issue, he only just supported the Iraq war. He classified himself as one of "the confused and uncertain", who voted "grudgingly, unhappily, unenthusiastically" for military action. Since then, he has stuck to his principles with the constancy of a pinball. Some of his best friends are liberal interventionists, and he is an admirer of Tony Blair, but in a speech in Pakistan in 2008 he said: "I am a liberal Conservative, not a neo-conservative". In the same speech, he preferred cliché to meaning: "We should accept that we cannot impose democracy at the barrel of a gun; that we cannot drop democracy from 10,000ft and we shouldn't try." Did that mean policy in Afghanistan and Iraq had been mistaken; or just Iraq; or just the democracy bit? During the election campaign last year, he was a muscular interventionist pledging whatever it took to get the job done in Afghanistan, and to protect defence spending from the worst of the cuts. Soon after he was elected, he had spun on a bayonet-point to do the one thing that the interventionists thought was an open invitation to the Taliban to fight on: namely to set a deadline for British troops to pull out of Afghanistan. Then he as good as declared that the main aim of foreign policy was trade promotion." - John Rentoul in the Independent on Sunday
"It is not fair to say that [Cameron] came to office without one, but it is reasonable to suggest that his foreign policy could be summarised on the back of an envelope. 1) Concentrate on domestic affairs. 2) Get out of Afghanistan as soon as we decently can and avoid any further foreign entanglements. 3) Hope Europe does not throw up anything which provokes my backwoodsmen. 4) Demonstrate the compassionate side of my Conservatism by maintaining the aid budget. 5) Sell more stuff abroad. 6) Concentrate on domestic affairs." - Andrew Rawnsley in The Observer
"Our world-class defence firms can be left to flog their own kit. British foreign policy means protecting our people and promoting democracy. Without being suspected of ulterior motives. The days of flogging tear gas to Arab autocrats should be well and truly over." - Fraser Nelson in the News of the World (£)
Labour plan to paint Coalition as "incompetent"
"Labour’s strategy over the past few months has been to paint the Coalition as incompetent and ideological. But Ed Miliband’s team knows the incompetence charge is the far more potent one. They remember how the Tory Party never recovered from Black Wednesday, despite the years of economic prosperity that followed, and so are determined to use every opportunity to undermine the Coalition’s reputation for effectiveness. They believe that once the Coalition is seen as incompetent, it will be impossible for it to command public support for the cuts or its reform programme. Their line will be: Would you trust this lot to get it right?" - James Forsyth in the Mail on Sunday
Ministers say high-speed rail will make Birmingham the new Lyon - The Sunday Telegraph
"Our proposed high-speed network would bring central London to within 49 minutes of central Birmingham, to within 80 minutes of Leeds and just 73 minutes of Manchester. High-speed services would provide a huge uplift in capacity on key routes between the North and London, and, as passengers transfer to the new line, valuable capacity will be released on the existing network for commuter and freight services." - Philip Hammond in the Independent on Sunday
Chris Patten's powers as new Chairman of BBC Trust
"The chairman of the BBC Trust has a powerful position, but Patten won’t be able to interfere with day-to-day editorial decisions. Where he’ll be able to make an impact is by commissioning reports on, for example, how the BBC covers business or reports on religion. He’ll then be able to force programme-makers to absorb the lessons." - Tim Montgomerie in The Sunday Telegraph
> Yesterday's ToryDiary: David Cameron's Today joke (and what can we expect from Chris Patten?)
If Murdoch gets BSkyB, it will be a victory for monopoly capitalism - Will Hutton in The Observer
Political in Brief:
Peers and MPs blow £500k on Westminster art spree - Mail on Sunday
Ed Balls urges the government to ditch the recent VAT rise on petrol to ease motorists’ misery amid fears fuel costs could hit £1.40 a litre
"In an interview with The Sunday Times, Balls urged immediate action, warning that Britain was facing a “cost-of-living crisis”. “Filling up a family car now costs £65-£75. World oil prices are already very high, and the chancellor has chosen, at this very moment, to raise fuel prices further, by pushing up Vat. I am urging him to reverse that increase,” he said." - The Sunday Times (£)
Huge numbers would support anti-immigration, patriotic party if it rejected violence
"A Populus poll found that 48% of the population would consider supporting a new anti-immigration party committed to challenging Islamist extremism, and would support policies to make it statutory for all public buildings to fly the flag of St George or the union flag." - Observer | Mail on Sunday
Barack Obama catches up with Republicans on gay marriage - Toby Harnden in The Sunday Telegraph
And finally... Larry the let-down?
"We were promised a killer instinct and a readiness to clean up politics. Well, Downing Street, anyway. But as with some of his ministerial colleagues, the move into government has caused Larry the Cat to lose his way. The nation's premier pet is more interested in catnapping than rat-catching." - Independent on Sunday
7.30pm ToryDiary: The RAF flies over 150 civilians out of Libya
7.15pm ToryDiary: David Cameron's Radio 4 joke (and what can we expect from Chris Patten?)
4.30pm WATCH: Saif Gaddafi: Libyan massacre reports are "a joke"
1.15pm LISTEN Right wing politicians are better looking than their left wing counterparts according to a new Swedish study. So who are the most attractive MPs? Bill Cash and Stephen Pound debate the issue.
10.45am Paul Goodman on Comment: George Bush and the neo-cons haven't been proved right about the Middle East
ToryDiary: Cameron won't strive to keep Bercow alive
Cameron moves to grip Libya crisis as the papers probe his Middle East tour
"David Cameron moved to regain lost ground over his handling of the Libyan crisis by leading calls for sanctions, asset freezes and war crimes tribunals against Colonel Gaddafi. The prime minister has faced criticism over the ponderous pace of the Foreign Office rescue of stranded Britons in Libya since he left on a four-day tour of the Gulf to strike energy and defence deals. The trip had been planned well before the unrest across the Middle East." - The Guardian
"European governments had last night reached a consensus on the need for sanctions on the Gaddafi clan and instructed officials to announce detailed measures early next week. Amid divisions and foot-dragging by Italy…the EU and its foreign minister, Baroness Ashton, have been criticised for failing to act quickly. Endorsing the move to "restrictive measures" against Col Gaddafi, Lady Ashton insisted: "We are putting as much pressure as possible to try to stop the violence in Libya"." - Daily Telegraph
"For the first time the prime minister’s near obsession with promoting trade was confronted with one of the awkward dilemmas of statesmanship – the short-term rewards and long-term perils of doing business with authoritarian regimes. As he moved between meetings with military juntas, wealthy sultans and the leaders of an uprising, Mr Cameron insisted there was “no contradiction” between fostering commerce and security, and promoting freedom. But it was clear the trip gave him pause for thought." - Financial Times
Middle East Comment -
"No sooner had the John Simpsons and George Alagiahs left the excited nights in Tahrir Square in Cairo, than a vast crowd, almost unreported in the West, turned out there to hear Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, who had just flown in from Qatar after years of exile…Next stop for our cameras was Bahrain, and now to Libya – or rather, to the Libyan border…They will stay there as long as there is bloodshed and/or the fall of the dictator, and then slip away without bothering about what happens after." - Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph
"Having accepted £300,000 of the promised £1.5 million, it has now renounced the gift and promises to surrender £150,000. But a further £150,000 has already been spent. What should be done?…LSE students, discovering a little of yesteryear’s radicalism, have come up with a good solution: use the entire Gaddafi fund to pay for scholarships for deserving Libyans. Justice and honour might thus be salvaged for the battered university." - Times Editorial (£)
Danny Alexander defends the City
"Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, has been pressing for tougher control on bankers whom he describes as “spivs and gamblers”. Mr Alexander strikes a different tone. “I’ll choose my own language,” he says. “Through the discussions we’ve had with the banks we’re getting more lending into the economy, more tax, and lower bonuses. But I think it’s also important to stress the importance of the financial services industry to Britain. We need to rebalance the economy but that needs to be about building up other parts of the economy, not tearing down one part of it.” - The Times (£)
Last year's slowdown was bigger than expected
"The economic slowdown at the end of last year was worse than previously thought – ramping up pressure on the Chancellor to kickstart the recovery in next month’s Budget. The size of the economy shrunk by 0.6 per cent between October and December, the Office for National Statistics said. The original estimate of a 0.5 per cent contraction was blamed on one of the worst winters in recent memory, which led to a squeeze on retail sales." - Daily Mail
Yesterday in Comment -
Andrew Lilico: What is inflation?
How are you feeling today? Let the Government know in £2m "well-being" survey
"Households up and down the country will soon be invited to judge whether they have 'worthwhile' lives in the nation's first 'wellbeing index'. The survey, which is thought to be the brainchild of government 'blue-sky thinker' Steve Hilton, will ask 200,000 people to rate their happiness on a scale of zero to ten. Whether the initiative's £2million budget will have any impact upon the happiness of taxpayers is yet to be seen. But supporters believe the index will help improve national contentment." - Daily Mail
I'm never unhappy with a questionnaire - Bryony Gordon, Daily Telegraph
Passenger forecasts for high-speed rail are deeply flawed, say project critics
"Ministers will claim next week that up to 15 million British road users and airline passengers will switch to high-speed routes featuring 225mph trains when they become available in the mid-2030s. But critics of the £34 billion project, many of whom live along the proposed initial route between London and Birmingham, claim that these figures are optimistic and say that ministers have not given adequate consideration to cheaper alternatives." - The Times (£)
Willetts threatens "overcharging" universities with further funding cuts
"Very few universities would be justified in charging tuition fees of £9,000 a year – the new maximum from next year – the higher education minister, David Willetts, has said in a speech to vice-chancellors. The government wants a stratified system under which universities charge different amounts. Ministers expect the average to be £7,500. However, several universities have said they intend to charge the maximum." - The Guardian
Extra university places for students paying upfront - The Times (£)
Council Chief Executives ignore Pickles' pay cut advice
"Eric Pickles is not short of advice for councils. But one of his pearls of wisdom appears to have fallen on deaf ears. At last year's Conservative conference the Communities and Local Government Secretary had a suggestion for council Chief Executives. He said any paid more than £150,000 should take a 5% pay cut; any paid £200,000 could make it 10%. But the Politics Show has discovered that only one Chief Executive across the region has actually listened to that advice and cut his salary." - BBC
Coalition and Political News in Brief
First exit poll predicts Irish election result
"The results of an RTÉ Exit Poll indicate that Fine Gael is on course to lead the next government - but that it will not win an overall majority. The Millward Brown Lansdowne Poll also indicates that Labour should have its best ever General Election result, and Fianna Fáil its worst. 3,500 voters were interviewed after they had cast their ballots by Millward Brown Lansdowne for the RTÉ Exit Poll." - RTE News
Mandelson's warning to Miliband
"Ed Miliband risks making his party as unelectable as it was in the days of Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock, Lord Mandelson warned last night. The former business secretary said there was a danger that Labour would become as mistrusted on the economy as it was in the 1980s. In a new chapter of his memoirs, he taunted Mr Miliband over a ‘wafer-thin’ leadership majority that was achieved only through the support of union barons." - Daily Mail
Daily Mail urges Cameron to take on BBC over cuts bias
"Frankly, the BBC’s bias is a disgrace. With complete justification, the Prime Minister has referred to this ‘impartial’ behemoth as the ‘British Broadcasting Cuts Corporation’. This paper now hopes David Cameron’s entirely understandable anger will be communicated to his ministers, who over recent months have shown a worrying reluctance to answer their critics – allowing the whining anti-cuts brigade to win their arguments by default." - Daily Mail Editorial
4.45pm ToryDiary: Bad week for the Foreign Office, the United Nations and The Guardian
2pm Andrew Lilico on Comment: What is inflation?
12.30pm Local government: Brian Coleman attacks London Assembly "shambles"
10am Local government: Westminster Council leader Cllr Colin Barrow says: Let councils be financially self sufficient
Tim Loughton MP on Comment: Relaxing adoption guidelines will offer more vulnerable the children the chance of a loving, stable family home
Also on Comment, Syed Kamall MEP: Overcoming barriers to volunteering for the Big Society
Jonathan Isaby for Seats and candidates: There are lots of Conservatives in Barnsley... but they won't all be voting Conservative next week
Cameron and Obama promise to "coordinate on possible multilateral measures on Libya" - Telegraph
Daily Mail: David Cameron's misguided Middle East trip
"If pro-Western dictatorships are replaced by hostile fundamentalist Muslims, the Coalition’s enthusiastic embrace of change may look deeply naive. And if Mr Cameron was determined to go on this pro-democracy tour, the decision to take with him a group of British arms dealers undermined his message before he’d even taken off." - Daily Mail leader | The Sun Says
"If Britain wants to preach democracy, it would be better if we didn’t provide its enemies with weapons of oppression" - Philip Collins in The Times (£)
City AM: Inflation more worrying than cuts
"Politicians and the media are obsessed with spending cuts, even though these will be worth only one per cent of total state spending in real terms in 2011-12. Yet the impact of inflation on incomes will be three times larger – and everybody is being hit. The coalition would be well-advised to remember the 2000 fuel protests: they almost destroyed Tony Blair, something that not even Iraq could manage." - Allister Heath in City AM
FT: Put your money where your mouth is, Mr Cameron
"Only weeks ago, Mr Cameron intoned against multiculturalism, calling for a “muscular liberalism” as the base of common values to which immigrants must adjust. As a crucial part of this adjustment, host countries should make “sure immigrants speak the language of their new home”. The prime minister is quite right. What a shame, then, that a survey finds 99,000 new citizens may no longer afford English classes, which they have hitherto been able to take for free." - FT leader (£)
> The FT (£) provides a handy guide to when the cuts start to bite.
The Telegraph has THREE cuts stories:
Other Coalition in brief:
Net immigration grew strongly in 2010
Guardian investigation reveals more than £1.6m was channelled to MPs and Lords in last year by corporations and interest groups including...
Douglas Carswell comments; "I don't know whether it's legitimate for companies to hand out, say, sports tickets to MPs. But if my constituents can see clearly and easily what I have received, sunlight is the best disinfectant. The public will quickly rule what they think is acceptable. It's for them to decide, not a group of Westminster grandees."" More in The Guardian.
Taxpayer to be lumbered with RBS for years as it loses £3.1m every day - Scotsman
David Cameron renames the BBC as the British Broadcasting Cuts Corporation
"Just before going to the Middle East to promote world peace, the UK arms industry and RBS shares, Dave broke off from his busy schedule to give an interview to a young BBC hack about youth unemployment... The interview was cut from 15 minutes to just five. He did find time to include a parting shot, though. This is a good news story, he explained to the hack, and you lot at the “BBCC” should see it that way. “The BBCC?” the hack asked. “Yes, the British Broadcasting Cuts Corporation.” - Telegraph's City Diary
BBC paying senior bosses thousands in bonuses despite promising to stop - Daily Mail