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28 Feb 2013 07:56:07

Newslinks for Thursday 28th February 2013



4pm Robert Buckland MP on Comment: The Justice and Security Bill strikes the correct balance between openness and the need to preserve our national security

11.30am ToryDiary: There are three groups of Tory MPs when it comes to economic policy. George Osborne aims to please two of them.

Aa8c0d4fedcfa945a85b38b0c284930811.30am Local government: Survey finds 41% of councils planning Council Tax rises

ToryDiary: Tory HQ think they can keep Labour to 35% of the national vote but that if UKIP splinter the Tory vote that'll be enough to install Miliband as PM

Steve Barclay MP on Comment: Foreign doctors working in the NHS should be able to speak English to a safe standard

Spencer Pitfield on Comment: Immigration and education on the Conservative Policy Forum's agenda

Columnist Henry Hill: Will the defections that never were shake Northern Ireland's Conservatives from their complacency?

Local government: Right to buy sales double - but are still too low

The Deep End: Lower taxes for the working poor would be better than a living wage

UK objections over-ruled and EU agrees cap on bankers' bonuses - BBC

"Mayor of London Boris Johnson was the only major politician to make a public stand for Britain’s financial services industry. Last week he told City A.M. that the EU “should stop butting in” on bankers’ pay and said the reforms could “undermine London’s international competitiveness”." - City AM

A71be04a133b82794038c64247bb3a39David Davis warns of "crisis" for Cameron if Tories lose Eastleigh - Telegraph

"David Cameron's leadership will be in crisis if the Conservatives come third in the Eastleigh byelection behind the Liberal Democrats and Ukip, the prominent rightwing Tory David Davis has warned. His remarks, before the critical by-election for the coalition partners, reflect Conservative concern that the main route to an overall majority at the next election will be blocked if Tories cannot capture a string of Liberal Democrat seats." - Guardian

Conservatives could finish third in the Eastleigh by-election - Telegraph

Ukip could challenge Lib Dems and Tories for second 'photo finish' predicted in by-election - Independent

Comment on Eastleigh:

  • Everyone's a winner if the Lib Dems win Eastleigh - Steve Richards in The Independent
  • Nick Clegg deserves to be punished in Eastleigh by-election - Telegraph leader
  • Times leader (£): "If the Conservatives cannot capture a Liberal Democrat seat in circumstances in which the incumbent MP has pleaded guilty to a crime that may result in his being imprisoned, it begins to look difficult to see how the Conservative Party can improve on its 2010 performance."
  • The latest YouGov poll gives Labour a 43% to 32% lead but Cameron leads Miliband by 34% to 22% as best PM - PDF

> Yesterday's LeftWatch: What happens if Nick Clegg resigns?

Cameron yesterday launched a furious attack on the Labour candidate in today's Eastleigh by-election for his "appalling" wish that Margaret Thatcher had been killed by the IRA - Express

Clegg on MarrClegg changes his story again on Lord Rennard

"Nick Clegg warned Lord Rennard four years ago to put a stop to his “inappropriate” behaviour towards women, it emerged yesterday. Mr Clegg also conceded that the former Lib Dem chief executive was effectively forced out of his job over concerns about sexual impropriety, and not just ill health as was stated at the time." - Times (£)

Matthew Parris in The Times (£): "Who can now doubt that if at the outset the Lib Dem leader had issued a one-sentence statement — “I have set up two inquiries to find out what, if anything, went wrong; I shall be making no further public comment until they report; meanwhile it must be noted that Lord Rennard continues to protest his innocence” — then he’d be in a better place now?"

  • From Lloyd George to Jeremy Thorpe, there's something in Liberal DNA that breeds sex scandals - Dominic Sandbrook in the Daily Mail
  • Clegg accused of ignoring formal requests for help from alleged sex abuse victims of the late Lib Dem MP, Cyril Smith - Guardian

COUNCIL TAXMore than 40% of councils in England are planning to increase council tax this year - BBC

Eric Pickles commented: "‘This survey confirms that council tax will effectively be frozen again this year, with an average change across England of just a mere 0.8 per cent. This is a tax cut in real terms." Quoted in the Daily Mail.

"Labour said the decision by so many councils to turn their backs on the Coalition’s offer to fund a freeze was an “embarrassment” for the Coalition. Clive Betts MP, the Labour chairman of the communities and local government committee, said the increase would be “difficult” to understand for hard-pressed families." - Telegraph

David Cameron pledged to go "further and faster" in reducing the deficit after the UK was stripped of its coveted AAA credit rating - Guardian

The economy DID grow in 2012 - but only by just 0.2% - Daily Mail

Official figures on the British public finances are no longer to be trusted - Chris Giles in the FT (£)

> Yesterday's ToryDiary: You're just like Gordon Brown. Cameron begins new push to paint Ed Miliband as an unrepentant big spender.

OSBORNE GEORGE NWTory MPs give Chancellor a list of tax cuts --- but offer little help with spending restraint

"In a pre-Budget private meeting attended by about 80 backbench MPs, the chancellor was repeatedly pressed to use any available money to cut fuel, beer and air passenger duties, and green levies that force up energy bills. Others pressed Mr Osborne to cut capital gains tax, at least temporarily, to kickstart the housing market, while some Tory MPs have also been urging the leadership to cut corporation tax for small- and medium-sized businesses." - FT (£)

Osborne sympathetic to Tory MPs on petrol duty and green levies - Spectator

UnknownPM considers making cigarette packets display graphic images of disease - Daily Mail

"The prime minister, who is a former smoker, told MPs that he was looking "across the piece" at ideas which could also include imposing a ban on smoking in cars when children are present. Cameron cited rules in Australia where tobacco companies are banned from placing their company logo on cigarette packets, which are instead covered with pictures of body parts diseased by smoking. These include colour photographs of feet damaged by gangrene and pictures of eyes blinded by smoking." - Guardian

David Cameron’s plans for a minimum price for alcohol will “penalise” responsible consumers without reducing problem drinking, according to the officials who would be expected to enforce the rules - Telegraph

David Cameron is holding talks with Latvian leaders in what is thought to be the first bilateral visit by a British prime minister to the country - Belfast Telegraph

I'll ban IVF for prisoners, says Grayling: Justice Secretary vows to take on Strasbourg judges - Daily Mail

Kenneth Clarke's plans for secret courts savaged by 702 lawyers - Guardian

...but Mr Clarke himself insists that all "right-thinking citizens" should support his proposals - Telegraph

Major John June 2012John Major will claim that being a Ministerial Special Adviser is often a way of filling the gap between university and becoming an MP “without touching the real world at the sides” - Telegraph

Professionalising school governorships threatens the volunteering spirit of David Cameron’s Big Society - Telegraph leader

Public Accounts Committee: The Ministry of Defence has bought billions of pounds worth of equipment that it does not need - BBC

The Joint Committee on National Security Strategy has said that the National Security Council had failed to scrutinise a number of "very central and uncomfortable questions" - BBC

Peter Oborne: Ed Miliband should sack Ed Balls after the Shadow Chancellor failed to take advantage of AAA downgrade - Telegraph

NHS hospitals last night stood accused of fiddling figures to mask the numbers of patients dying needlessly - Daily Mail

Once written off, Republican moderates are finding voice again – at least on social issues - Heather Long in The Guardian

Martha Lane Fox told yesterday how she is to become the Baroness of Soho — and joked her peerage should get her “free cocktails and nipple tassels” - The Sun

And finally... David Cameron to be dropped from switching on Christmas lights in Witney because he is 'too costly' from a security point of view - Telegraph


> Please use the thread below to provide links to news topics likely to be of interest to ConservativeHome readers and to comment on political topics that haven't been given their own blog. Read our comments policy here.

27 Feb 2013 08:23:44

Newslinks for Wednesday 27th February 2013

5pm ToryDiary: Tim Montgomerie moving to become Comment Editor of The Times (but he'll still be writing for ConservativeHome)

3.30pm LeftWatch: What happens if Nick Clegg resigns?

3pm Agenda for ConservativeHome's Victory 2015 Conference

12.30pm Review of PMQs: You're just like Gordon Brown. Cameron begins new push to paint Ed Miliband as an unrepentant big spender.

11.30am Chris Skidmore MP on Comment: Let's seize this golden opportunity to put history back at the heart of the national curriculum


© i-Images

11.15am Local government: Eric Pickles is NOT resisting further spending cuts

ToryDiary: After Rennard, Parliament may seek to bar sexism, with good consequences - and bad ones

Nick Faith on Comment: Osborne should announce local pay bargaining in the Budget

Columnist Garvan Walshe: China’s cyber attacks betray Beijing’s attitude to international security

The Deep End: "To think out of the box, you first have to realise that there is a box. And this, in the end, is the tragedy of David Cameron's leadership of the Conservative Party and of the nation. By surrendering the origination and development of policy to the civil service, he had retreated into the furthest corner of the darkest box and closed the lid."

On Local government: Cllr Nicholas Rogers calls for unitary authorities, fewer but higher paid councillors and local sales tax revenue to replace grants from central government.

Italian voters were, quite sensibly, rejecting permanent austerity, locked into the €uro - John Redwood

Troubles in Italy (and other poorly-led nations) benefit Britain... "UK long-term borrowing costs have fallen to their lowest level this year, as troubles in the eurozone offset worries over a fresh batch of credit rating downgrades for government-backed institutions." - FT (£)

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 08.00.48

Italy's voters were rejecting the €uro - says the Daily Mail leader, they weren't, says the FT (£): "Opinion polls show that support for the euro in Italy remains high."

  • "Europe's leaders are steadily dragging their joint economies towards depression, afflicting their competitive relation with the outside world possibly for ever..." ...and, writes Simon Jenkins in The Guardian, Italians said enough is enough.
  • "The reason Italy has been plunged into political chaos — and why world stock markets have plunged, too — is distressingly simple. Thanks to a proportional representation electoral system of the kind favoured by the hapless Nick Clegg, the balance of power in the Italian legislature is held by a party whose leader is a stand-up comedian. As a result, the third-largest economy in the eurozone appears for the moment to be ungovernable." - Simon Heffer in the Daily Mail
  • There's plenty of disaffection, but no good alternatives - Wall Street Journal

> Yesterday's International: The only grown up candidate in Italy's general election won just 10% of the vote

"Fiery" Cabinet meeting discusses ring-fencing

"David Cameron has presided over one of his most fiery cabinet meetings when a group of ministers demanded an end to "ringfenced" spending and two ministers were criticised for failing to promote growth measures." - Guardian

"Several ministers have started arguing that there should no longer be ringfencing for overseas aid, health and schools, although the Prime Minister has always insisted that these budgets will be protected until the end of the Parliament and into 2015-16." - Times (£)

  • Predicted reductions in MoD budget could lead to drastic measures such as axing another 15,000 jobs - Guardian | FT (£)

> Yesterday's ConHome exclusive: Tory Cabinet ministers and Lib Dems have one message for Osborne: Cut the ring fences

OSBORNE + CAMERONDavid Cameron and George Osborne have ordered ministers - notably Eric Pickles and Maria Miller - to do more to kickstart growth amid a Cabinet “blame game” about Britain’s flatlining economy - Independent

John Redwood sets out his economic recipe in an article for The Times

"A shortage of public borrowing is not the problem. What we lack is a strong private sector recovery. To produce that needs action to curb inflation, set realistic tax rates, and mend the banks more rapidly. Costly energy, poor transport, and a lack of electricity for the future are also issues in search of solutions that could assist growth." - John Redwood in The Times (£)

  • Tory MPs want cuts to corporation tax and air passenger duty - Telegraph
  • Allister Heath proposes a ten point plan to reboot Britain - Telegraph
  • Bank of England Deputy Governor the prospect of a base rate BELOW zero in bid to kickstart spending - Daily Mail

Ten Tory MPs demand Sir David Nicholson quits over NHS catastrophe - Daily Mail

Migrants will be banned from automatic legal aid in the UK - Telegraph

Screen Shot 2013-02-26 at 12.55.01Hyprocritical Cabinet ministers have waved through THREE beer tax rises — despite campaigning to halt them in opposition - The Sun

> Jonathan Isaby on Comment yesterday: Stop increasing tax on our pints of beer!

Some of the country’s most prominent historians have backed Michael Gove’s controversial new history curriculum

"In a letter to The Times (£) published today, 15 historians, including David Starkey, Antony Beevor and Niall Ferguson, write: “While these proposals will no doubt be adapted as a result of full consultation, the essential idea ... is a welcome one.”" - Times (£)

Tory ex-minister, Tim Loughton, turns his sights on Michael Gove's adviser

"In a significant escalation of hostilities between the former minister and his old colleagues at the Department of Education, he has used parliamentary procedure to question whether any formal complaints have been made about Dominic Cummings." - Independent

3,496 council-owned properties have been sold to tenants since the relaunch of Right-to-Buy last April, the highest number of sales for five years - FT (£)

The government is to announce the appointment of a chief social scientist, who will co-ordinate a set of "what works" evidence centres in Whitehall - The Guardian

EU ministers back fish dumping plan - BBC

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 08.15.43The Eastleigh by-election campaign has entered its final day - BBC

  • "Maria Hutchings told the BBC the Tories had the best plans on immigration, Europe and cutting the deficit."
  • Simon Hoggart notes that Lib Dem MPs abandoned health questions and Commons debates yesterday to campaign in Eastleigh (or out of Rennard-related shame?) - Guardian
  • Michael Gove says UKIP is the protest party of choice for unhappy Eastleigh voters - Telegraph
  • Disgraced former Tory minister Neil Hamilton and his 'lovely' wife Christine spent the day campaigning on behalf of UKIP - Guardian

Alleged Lord Rennard victim says nine other women 'involved' in case - BBC

"Nick Clegg was personally warned by one of his MPs that a senior figure in the Liberal Democrats might be sexually molesting female members of staff, The Daily Telegraph can disclose."

'We were called Rennard's red hot babes' - Independent

If Nick Clegg’s story won’t stand up, the Lord Rennard scandal could finish him - Mary Riddell in The Telegraph

Only 11% of voters think Clegg "open and honest" over Lord Rennard scandal, 52% say not open and honest - Sun Politics

Clegg Unhappy
In his Times (£) column Daniel Finkelstein cools on the Coalition: "The Lib Dems have gone from constructive coalition partner to obstructive one... Nationally the Lib Dems talk pretty much only of how they are going to tax the rich more and resist further welfare reform."

Only a total Cleggectomy can save the Lib Dems now - Matthew Norman in The Independent

Labour will fight the next general election on a £25 billion pledge to retain Britain's independent nuclear deterrent - Independent

BLAIR TONY seriousTony Blair says Iraq would be far worse today under Saddam Hussein - Guardian

"He admitted that life in Iraq, where sectarian killings continue on a weekly basis, was not what he had hoped it would be following the downfall of Saddam Hussein. But he said that the situation would have been much worse if the dictator had been allowed to stay, describing him as 20 times worse than Bashar Assad of Syria." - Times (£)

We are luckier than we realise to have had Labour as our Left-of-Centre party - Dan Hannan at The Telegraph

MPs are to be spared the full impact of a rise in pension contributions paid by other public-sector employees - Daily Express

Why did it take so long to award campaign decorations to survivors of the Arctic convoys and Bomber Command? - Telegraph leader

The Pope is a pretty good role model for believer and unbeliever alike - Ann Widdecombe in the Daily Express

Gay Pride FlagLeading American Republicans sign legal brief in favour of gay marriage - New York Times

> The Daily Dish's Andrew Sullivan welcomes the news.

And finally... (1) John Bercow apologises for wrongly 'outing' 6ft 2in former England rugby star Ben Cohen as 'openly gay' - Daily Mail

And finally... (2) The gaffe-prone Mayor of London Boris Johnson has fought a losing battle with a sewing machine at a clothing factory before declaring the finished garment a "codpiece" - ITV


Please use the thread below to provide links to news topics likely to be of interest to ConservativeHome readers and to comment on political topics that haven't been given their own blog. Read our comments policy here.

26 Feb 2013 08:31:50

Newslinks for Tuesday 26th February 2013

7.15pm Local government: Roll of honour update - Cotswold District Council cuts Council Tax by 5%

5pm Robert Halfon MP to Andrew Lilico: We need tax cuts for the many, not the few

3pm John Penrose MP on Comment: How to save our High Streets and green fields in one go

1pm Jonathan Isaby on Comment: Stop increasing tax on our pints of beer!

11.45am Local government: Roll of Honour: The Conservative councils cutting Council Tax

9.30am Eamonn Butler on Comment: The Chancellor should cut CGT in his Budget. Higher rates have been counter-productive.

ToryDiary: Tory Cabinet ministers and Lib Dems have one message for Osborne --- Cut the ring fences

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 23.57.13

Lord Ashcroft on Comment: Liberal Democrats 5% ahead in Eastleigh

Andrew Bridgen MP on Comment: The people who were part of the Mid Staffs failure should not be running the NHS today

Columnist Greg Clark MP: The good news on jobs

Local government: Councils pushing up Tax but refusing to sell farms, pubs, shops and golf courses

The Deep End: Legalising prostitution hasn’t worked and nor would legalising drugs

MPsETC update: Kevin Foster adopted for Torbay

International: The only grown up candidate in Italy's general election won just 10% of the vote

Italy votes for chaos

City AM on the bleak election result in Europe's fourth biggest economy: "Italian voters left the Eurozone’s third biggest economy a gridlocked political mess yesterday, with a hung parliament clobbering the euro, spooking stock markets, and sending measures of volatility soaring. Pier Luigi Bersani’s centre-left bloc managed to win a majority in the lower house by dint of the electoral system’s generous winner’s bonus. But projections late last night suggested it would be Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right alliance that took the top spot in the senate – though there is no rule that guarantees the winning coalition an overall majority in the upper house. And the emergence of comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement as a major political force puts a further spanner in the works, as Grillo has promised never to work with other parties in a coalition."

  • "My advice to the coalition, to Labour and to the City: pay close attention to Italy’s dysfunctional, unpredictable election result: unless something big changes fast, it is the shape of things to come in Britain." - City AM's editor, Allister Heath

Changing their tune AGAIN, Liberal Democrats now say that Rennard was forced to quit as Chief Executive because of sex pest allegations


The Guardian: "Senior Liberal Democrats suggested for the first time on Monday that Lord Rennard had not stood down as the party's chief executive for health reasons, but after pressure from Nick Clegg's office and the then party president over general allegations of sexual impropriety."

The Daily Mail claims that FIVE specific complaints about Lord Rennard were made to Nick Clegg.

  • Liberal Democrat officials are to meet Metropolitan Police officers to discuss allegations made against the party's former chief executive Lord Rennard - BBC
  • The Liberal Democrats have removed control of a whistleblowing system from the wife of one of Nick Clegg’s key aides and handed it to an independent company - Telegraph

Sexism is rife in Parliament, claims Cathy Newman in The Telegraph

Rachel Sylvester says the Lib Dems' failure to recruit women to its Commons ranks means it is a male-dominated party and has allowed an "inappropriate culture" to develop - The Times (£)

The Telegraph invites the people of Eastleigh to punish the hypocritical Liberal Democrats

Telegraph leader: "Some Lib Dems have brushed this story off as an attempt to disrupt the Eastleigh by-election. In truth, it was the fact that Lord Rennard was permitted to return to public life, not least as a member of the party’s key policy committee, that taxed his accusers beyond endurance. The fortuitous timing should, however, give voters a chance to show precisely what they think of those who cast themselves as progressive crusaders for equality and justice, while failing lamentably to live up to those ideals."

  • Times leader (£): "Mr Clegg should also consider the questions that the affair has raised about the claim of the Lib Dems to be a serious political party."
  • The Rennard case exposes how the Lib Dems have lacked capacity to deal with all sorts of issues, including economic strategy and the NHS reforms - Steve Richards in The Independent

6a00d83451b31c69e2017c370b76e3970b-150wiMarta Andreasen, the former UKIP MEP who has joined the Conservatives, will visit Eastleigh today and warn voters that only maria Hutchings can stop the Lib Dems keeping Chris Huhne's seat - Daily Mail

> Lord Ashcroft's new poll puts the Liberal Democrats on 33%, the Tories on 28%, UKIP on 21%

"For the first time in its monthly polls for The Independent, ComRes puts Nick Clegg's party in fourth place behind the UK Independence Party." | The Herald

Tory MPs all agree Labour is to blame for Britain losing its AAA rating - Donald Macintyre for The Independent

George Osborne's message to the Commons, quoted in The Express: “That is the choice for Britain – either we can abandon our efforts to deal with our debt problems and make a difficult situation very much worse, or we can redouble our efforts to overcome our debts and make sure this country can earn its way in the world.”

Balls Ed Feb 2010Ed Balls branded George Osborne the "downgraded chancellor", echoing the late John Smith's famous description of John Major in 1992 as a "devalued prime minister of a devalued government" after Black Wednesday - Guardian

Alex Brummer in the Daily Mail: "Total state spending and borrowing has not been cut in absolute terms at all. Indeed, the burden of debt, the accumulated amount of borrowing made by governments down the years, is rising relentlessly. It was an understanding of this stark truth that led to Britain losing its AAA credit rating last week. The world’s market monitors finally lost patience with our inability to control our borrowing and lack of economic growth."

In carefully-worded blog John Redwood blames Coalition's tax, banking and infrastructure policies for lack of growth - John Redwood

Ganesh JananJanan Ganesh in the FT (£): "Mr Osborne is likely to resist screams to “go for growth” – as though there were some lever that would bring economic vitality if only he would pull it – and prioritise his ailing deficit-reduction plan instead."

Michael Fallon, the business minister, has promised to cut red tape with “no more gold-plating” of European laws - Telegraph

> Yesterday evening's ToryDiary: Michael Fallon launches Thatcherite attack on Labour's failed approach to regulation of banks and the NHS

Osborne's Capital Gains increase 'cut his tax take': Chancellor faces call to slash rate as it fails to create revenue - Daily Mail

Xe_1680556a"Scrap the April beer hike in the Budget, Chancellor. Or things can only get bitter." - The Sun backs beer drinkers.

Go to the TaxPayers' Alliance's beer tax campaign website.

20 Tory MPs to demand resignation of NHS chief over Mid Staffs scandal - Telegraph

"Campaigners will today deliver a letter to David Cameron criticising his ‘deeply shameful’ behaviour in backing NHS chief Sir David Nicholson. Patients First and Cure the NHS will accuse the Prime Minister of double standards for vowing to prosecute incompetent hospital staff but not the bureaucrats behind the system." - Daily Mail

Cameron vows to crack down on 'the benefits free-for-all' for migrants coming to Britain

Daily-express-february-26-1-329x437"In a wide-ranging interview with the Daily Express, Mr Cameron also spoke of his “immense frustration” at working with Nick Clegg after his Liberal Democrat deputy reneged on a deal on reforming Parliamentary boundaries. He also vowed to keep Chancellor George Osborne in his post despite Britain losing its cherished AAA credit rating. But he reserved his strongest words for a pledge to go far further in cutting annual net immigration." - Express

David Cameron hints at a peerage for Ann Widdecombe - Express

Backbench Tories taking positions:

  • A royal charter will deliver a genuinely independent regulator - Tory MP George Eustice who wanted a statutory press regulator endorses Oliver Letwin's compromise proposal in an article for The Guardian
  • A cap on bankers’ bonuses would be lunacy - Norman Lamont in The Telegraph

Boris Johnson has described members of the London Assembly as “great supine protoplasmic invertebrate jellies” after they ejected him from a meeting

"The Mayor of London, who is renowned for his flamboyant rhetoric, had been due to face a two-hour grilling by Assembly members over his £16.5 billion budget for next year, which includes cuts to the fire service and police. But Labour, Green and Lib Dem members voted to bypass the opportunity to question Mr Johnson because his deputy, Victoria Borwick, was not present for the opening statement." - Times (£)

West Coast Main Line franchise fiasco 'to cost at least £50m' - BBC

"MPs said they were concerned that basic mistakes could be repeated in future projects such as the London to Birmingham high-speed HS2 scheme and the London Thameslink project." - Independent

Defence Select Committee concludes that too many "genuine complaints" about bullying, harassment, or sexual offences in the armed services are not being reported - BBC

Plans to reform Britain's arcane libel laws have been thrown into doubt after the House of Lords last night approved amendments introduced to the Defamation Bill by the film producer Lord Puttnam - Independent

Even if Iran gets the Bomb, it won’t be worth going to war - Jack Straw in The Telegraph claims that containment is a better response than conflict in dealing with a country we have long mishandled.


> Please use the thread below to provide links to news topics likely to be of interest to ConservativeHome readers and to comment on political topics that haven't been given their own blog. Read our comments policy here.

25 Feb 2013 08:31:29

Newslinks for Monday 25th February 2013

Midnight Lord Ashcroft on Comment: Liberal Democrats 5% ahead in Eastleigh

Fallon Michael Newsnight7pm ToryDiary: Michael Fallon launches Thatcherite attack on Labour's failed approach to regulation of banks and the NHS

4.30pm Andrew Lilico on Comment: Why we lost the AAA and what it means now

4pm MPsETC: Seven more Tory candidates are selected

2.30pm Anthony Peto on Comment: Why Robert Buckland is wrong about the Justice and Security Bill

1pm Jesse Norman MP on Comment: We should celebrate the Children and Families Bill

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 11.29.5611.30am LeftWatch: The Three Golden Rules that have guided the Liberal Democrats over the Rennard claims

Plus a video of Nick Clegg claiming that he's "outraged" at suggestions he did not take the Rennard allegations seriously and Simon Hughes insisting the Tim Farron-led inquiry will be independent.

11am Iain Anderson on Comment: Osborne should stay on his immediate course but chart a bolder future

ToryDiary: The Budget will be remarkable for its continuity. This Chancellor - rightly - isn't for turning.

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 08.09.10

MPsETC: It's final countdown time in the battle for Eastleigh. Can you help elect Maria?

MPsETC: Has Lord Ashcroft stopped giving to the Conservative Party?

Marc Glendening on Comment: Invasion of the Euro-McCarthyites --- EU sceptics should be prepared to be smeared.

Cllr Alex Williams on Local government: Trafford Conservatives Council Tax freeze highlights stark contrast with Labour in Greater Manchester

The Deep End: Tim Montgomerie is wrong about wealth taxes, but so are his critics

Clegg insisted he didn't know about sex allegations against peer but now admits he ordered probe FIVE YEARS ago into 'non specific' claims of assaults - Daily Mail | Telegraph | Guardian


"Mr Clegg said he was made aware in 2008 of "indirect and non-specific concerns" about inappropriate behaviour towards women by the peer. The deputy PM said his office acted to deal with the allegations, which have been strongly denied by Lord Rennard." - BBC

"Initially the Deputy PM denied knowing the first thing about them until last Thursday. Yesterday, he admitted his office WAS told years ago, and that his own chief of staff was sent to grill Lord Rennard over them. So Clegg DID know." - The Sun Says

> Yesterday's LeftWatch: Nick Clegg's full Rennard statement

56ab4c1b80b6231d455a8ffce865d4e7Commentators line up to slam the Liberal Democrats' and Nick Clegg's handling of the allegations...

  • Gaby Hinsliff in The Guardian: "The Lib Dems' handling of harassment claims has so far been shameful"This all bears a remarkable similarity to the way the BBC responded to the Jimmy Savile scandal
  • Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail: "This all bears a remarkable similarity to the way the BBC responded to the Jimmy Savile scandal"
  • Stephen Glover in the Daily Mail: "Despite their pretence of being nice and enlightened, the Lib Dems are the nastiest, most hypocritical and most ruthless political party in modern British history."
  • Leo McKinstry in The Express: "Today the Lib Dems are accused of covering up the antics of an alleged sex-pest, just as they repeatedly covered up Charles Kennedy’s alcoholism during his leadership, even threatening journalists with libel suits if they dared to reveal his drink problem."
  • Independent leader: "Mr Clegg may protest that he was aware only of "general concerns" and that, without an official complaint, he could make no official move. But such sophistry is wholly inadequate."
A prominent and powerful 'Rasputin figure' who ruled the Lib Dem machine - The Independent profiles Lord Rennard.

Tory backbenchers call for Osborne to get serious about spending and cut taxes

The No-Turning Back Group will call for tax cuts: "David Ruffley, a leading member of the group, said: “Some of us would like him to cut public spending even more in order to fund tax cuts to inject a fiscal stimulus int o the UK economy at the Budget.”" - FT (£)

DAVIS DAVID"David Davis, the former Tory leadership contender, argued that Mr Osborne, who has made the rating central to his austerity programme, had been undermined. “In part we are seeing the consequence of rhetoric outdoing reality. We have taken a tough position on spending cuts but we haven’t delivered it. We need to embark on a real cuts strategy,” he said. John Redwood, chairman of the Tory parliamentary economic affairs committee, said that the downgrade was a verdict on coalition policy and urged an immediate switch towards tax cuts and prioritised spending." - Times (£)

Tim Montgomerie: Britain deserved to be downgraded, the British political class simply isn't serious about cutting spending - The Times (£)

  • The loss of Britain’s AAA credit rating demonstrates that George Osborne must deliver on his economic strategy, not change it - Times leader (£)
  • The Chancellor is guilty of too much muddling through and not enough radicalism - Telegraph leader
  • Owen Jones sets out his Plan B in The Independent: "Pushing growth through house-building, an industrial strategy and genuinely publicly run banks; hiking taxes on the wealthy – who, contrary to myth, studies show do not flee as a result; reducing welfare spending by no longer subsidising private landlords and badly paying bosses: here can be the basis of Labour’s alternative."

Kenneth Clarke and Lord Lawson predict longer-term problems for currency and economy after Moody's AAA rating downgrade - Guardian


FT leader-writers (£) criticises Osborne's decision to highlight Britain's AAA rating: "While the hallmark of a triple A rating has symbolic significance, George Osborne is guilty of elevating it far out of proportion. He pinned his colours to the rating agencies’ mast by using the preservation of the triple A as a justification for austerity. If the downgrade shatters his credibility with voters, that is an unforced political error."

> Today's ToryDiary: The Budget will be remarkable for its continuity. This Chancellor - rightly - isn't for turning.

CLARKE KEN ON ITNIt would hardly be "surprising" if the Conservatives lost the Eastleigh by-election, Ken Clarke has said, becoming the first Tory Cabinet minister to publicly admit the prospect of defeat - Telegraph

Trevor Kavanagh looks forward to the Eastleigh by-election campaign: "If the Tories lose, they have only themselves to blame. The seat was there to be taken the moment Huhne was caught fiddling his speeding points. Instead they sat on their hands and picked Maria Hutchings as their lacklustre candidate." - The Sun

One thing’s clear about Eastleigh: it’ll be a wretched day for Labour - Boris Johnson in The Telegraph

Vicky Pryce's retrial begins today - Telegraph

> Please volunteer for the Tory campaign in Eastleigh.

John Kerry is due to meet Cameron and Hague, as part of first trip abroad as US secretary of state - BBC

Leader of Welsh Tories proposes tax relief for 40p taxpayers - Western Mail

Wollaston SarahBackbenchers in the news

  • If he wants more female MPs, the prime minister must look at introducing job sharing to help them juggle family and career - Sarah Wollaston MP for The Guardian
  • Tory MP Andrew Bridgen has called for the resignation of the NHS' Sir David Nicholson for 'presiding over a culture of secrecy and cover-up that cost many people their lives' - Daily Mail
  • Backbenchers should be 'willing to rebel', says Iain Duncan Smith - Telegraph

Finance mogul, Michael Spencer, who handed the Tories £3million 'to be given a peerage' - Daily Mail

The chairman of David Cameron’s local Conservative association has resigned in protest at his support for gay marriage - Telegraph

The Electoral Reform Society claims police commissioner elections "failed both candidates and voters alike" - BBC

Don’t worry, there’ll be no flood of Romanians - Victor Ponta, Romanian Prime Minister, for The Times (£)

Harman Harriet March 2011"Harriet Harman has signalled Labour’s willingness to reach an all-party agreement over Lord Justice Leveson’s proposals on press regulation, but warned Prime Minister David Cameron that “watered-down” plans would not be acceptable." - Scotsman

Spain's crisis could not have come at a worse moment - for her and for Europe - Rob Marchant for The Independent

Is marriage now just a middle-class institution? Today less than half of working class people wed but rates rise among high income earners - Daily Mail

> Last week's Comment piece from Harry Benson: Nearly one in two fifteen year olds experience family breakdown. That fact should shock us.

And finally... Andrew Mitchell to auction his bike for charity

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"A friend of the politician said that the Conservative MP for Sutton Coldfield believes that the bike, with its distinctive basket, is too easily recognised after it appeared in the “plebgate” row he had with police in Downing Street. Since then, it has been targeted by thieves twice, while tourists and supporters have been stopping the MP to have their photograph taken with it." - Times (£) and the Huffington Post


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