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Newslinks for Friday 23rd March 2012

5.00pm Local Government:

3.45pm WATCH: Andrew Lansley reacts to discovery that 20% of clinics may be illegally providing abortion-on-demand

2.30pm Samuel Kasamu on Comment: "Jackie Whiteley must demonstrate that the Party has a strong housing policy, a strategy for job creation, and of course that the Conservatives are a party that has the ability to represent every section of society. Good luck! The challenge for the party in the Bradford West by-election

Screen shot 2012-03-23 at 14.32.242.30pm WATCH: Conservative candidate Jackie Whiteley and other Bradford West by-election candidates bid to be new MP

Noon ConHomeUSA newslinks: Santorum implies he'd prefer a second Obama term to a Romney presidency

11am Alistair Thompson on Comment: Sunday Trading reforms will only benefit the big supermarkets and further disadvantage small businesses

10.30am ToryDiary: The Sun's anger at Osborne is a warning that Tory High Command is still failing to reach the strivers

ToryDiary: Cameron claims minimum price for alcohol could save 9,000 lives over next decade

Columnist Bruce Anderson: The Government's cup of troubles is running over... and it is not yet full!

AshcroftLord Ashcroft on Comment: Anti-NHS Bill candidates would boost the Conservative Party

Local government:

MPsETC: Tobias Ellwood MP campaigns for Parliament's Big Ben Tower to be renamed for Queen's Diamond Jubilee

WATCH: Channel 4's Michael Crick investigates whether George Osborne is a 50p taxpayer

Screen Shot 2012-03-23 at 08.48.01

This week's Deep End:

Go to The Deep End page.

CAMERON POINTINGDavid Cameron will today unveil plans to introduce a minimum price per unit of alcohol

"The move will be welcomed by medical experts, but has faced opposition from some Conservative MPs, who say it will penalise moderate drinkers and cost consumers as much as £700million a year. Ministers have been warned it could also be ruled illegal under EU free trade laws. Minimum pricing could spell the end for supermarket own brands as they lose their price advantage." - Daily Mail

"The new Alcohol Strategy is intended to "turn the tide" against irresponsible drinking, which costs the UK an estimated £21 billion a year. It sets out plans for a minimum unit price for alcohol, possibly 40p, bans the sale of multi-buy discount deals and introduces a "zero tolerance" approach to drunken behaviour in A&E departments." - London Evening Standard

Plans to cut the winter fuel payments for better-off pensioners in the Budget were blocked by David Cameron

PENSIONERS

  • "In its post-Budget analysis, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said that, in a worst case scenario, someone turning 65 in 2013-14 with an income of between £10,820 and £26,200 would lose £323 in that year – much higher than the £80 average loss cited by the Treasury." - Independent
  • "Chancellor George Osborne told the BBC no pensioner would be worse off in cash terms, and said state pension increases would leave them better off."
  • "David Cameron led a fightback over the controversial decision yesterday, arguing that the overall effect of Coalition policies would leave many pensioners better off" - Telegraph
  • "The Institute for Fiscal Studies said that the Chancellor’s decision to freeze the level of income pensioners can earn before paying income tax was a “modest” measure affecting a group that had seen faster income growth than the working age population over the past decade" - Times (£)
  • "The over-60s have become accustomed to escaping the pain of deficit reduction. A range of benefits including winter fuel allowance, free bus passes and free TV licences have been left untouched. Instead working families with children have born much of the brunt of spending cuts." - FT (£)

Telegraph, Mail, Times, independent and FT differ on merits of "granny tax"

  • The Telegraph leader: "The “granny tax” is doubly iniquitous, since it punishes not just the elderly, but the frugal elderly – those who have done the right thing, who have scrimped and saved for retirement, and have already seen their income from investments and annuities hammered by quantitative easing and rock-bottom interest rates."
  • Daily Mail leader: "One of the oldest rules in politics is that you cross Britain’s pensioners at your peril. The Mail believes he may rue the day he did so."
  • Times leader (£): "While the incomes of the elderly have been squeezed, many of the elderly are asset-rich. The boom in house prices up until 2007 has ensured that young people remain overwhelmingly locked out of home ownership. Their working lives will moreover be spent paying off the debts acquired by the generations before them."
  • Independent leader: "The average will pay a mere £80 per year more tax. Hardly excessive given the pressure being felt elsewhere, particularly given that state pensions will continue to rise and the falling allowance will simply bring it into line with that of working people."
  • FT leader (£): "Pulling back the UK tax and benefit system’s bias towards the elderly is a necessary reform and one that only a bold chancellor will be able to effect. But having chosen boldness, Mr Osborne deployed it in strange ways. He did not touch the grossly inefficient benefits given to rich pensioners, such as subsidised heating and free bus passes. These are the welfare perks most sensible to cull in terms of both efficiency and fairness. The chancellor instead hit those on incomes between £8,000 and £30,000, protecting those higher up the income distribution (though their time will no doubt come). For now, Mr Osborne has plumped for a frozen bottom over a squeezed middle."

"Osborne’s reputation as the Conservative party’s master strategist and tactician was being questioned by Tory MPs on Thursday, after his Budget received a panning in the press over the chancellor’s unexpected £1bn tax take from pensioners"

Osborne George Union Jack long

Read more in the FT (£)

By 48% to 32% voters do NOT agree Budget was fair - Sun/ YouGov poll

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimates that the number of taxpayers paying 40p in the pound will hit 5 million by 2014, up from 3.7 million today - Times (£)

  • The percentage of people paying 40% tax will be 15% next year compared to 5% in the 1980s - The Guardian
  • "Osborne will also improve incentives for those at the top, thanks to his forthcoming 45p rate. But he has made the situation worse for the 1.3m being dragged into the 42p tax rate and for the 400,000 parents affected between £50k-£60k. The range over which the personal allowance is withdrawn also keeps on increasing as the allowance grows, dragging thousands more into very high marginal rates (the range will be £100-£120k by 2014)." - Allister Heath in City AM

50PThe Camerons could gain up to £5,000 a year as a result of the controversial tax cut for those who earn more than £150,000 a year - Independent

  • "It is questionable, to be charitable about it, to take a single year’s revenue as definitive evidence that the tax does not raise much money. It is also notable that the £1.1 billion raised by the 50p rate is somehow trivial, whereas the £700,000 raised by cutting benefits for the disabled cannot be done without." - Philip Collins in The Times (£)
  • George Osborne's 50p rate gamble reveals a naked yearning for the glory days of Thatcher - Polly Toynbee in The Guardian
  • "The real criticism of the cut in the top basic income tax rate from 50 per cent to 45 per cent is that Mr Osborne did not go the whole way and reduce it to the 40 per cent rate it was at for most of the past few parliaments. The chancellor has chosen to be hung for a lamb when he could have been hung for a sheep." - Samuel Brittan in the FT (£)

The Guardian blames Labour's "lack of coherence" for allowing "the Conservative right to make all the running".

And what about the pie tax?

"One of Britain’s biggest bakery chains saw £30million wiped off its value yesterday following George Osborne’s decision to put VAT on hot take-out food. Greggs, which has branches across the country, saw its share price plunge by 5 per cent over the plan to add the 20 per cent sales tax to sausage rolls, pasties and pies." - Daily Mail

Nelson Fraser pink shirtFraser Nelson: The Chancellor’s slow-motion cuts are dragging out the austerity process

"Why, voters may ask, is Osborne still offering austerity? Wasn’t five years enough for him to deal with this deficit? Even by his own estimates, he will be presiding over the slowest recovery in British economic history. His decision to impose slow-motion cuts, totalling less than 1 per cent a year, has dragged out the austerity process further." - Fraser Nelson in The Telegraph

Up to one in five abortion clinics is suspected of breaking the law and faces a police inquiry following an official investigation ordered by Andrew Lansley - Daily Mail | Telegraph

Davidson ruthScottish Conservatives meet in Troon - BBC

  • David Cameron tells Alex Salmond: Stop dithering an get on with holding a referendum on independence - Telegraph
  • Ruth Davidson claims to have boosted Scottish Tory membership by 2,000 - Scotsman
  • Barely five months into her Conservative leadership and Ruth Davidson is under pressure to perform - Tom Peterkin in The Scotsman
  • "In television appearances and in the few major speeches she’s made, Ruth Davidson has acquitted herself pretty well. Where, however, she has fallen down has been in her weekly jousts with Alex Salmond at First Minister’s Questions" - Alan Cochrane in The Telegraph

Police officers to be balloted on right to strike - Guardian

Stage two of Bercow's Tory-hating speakership - Simon Carr in The Independent

Lord Heseltine makes first Lords speech after 11 years - BBC

The UK-US relationship IS indispensable - Frederick Forsyth in The Express

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