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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

Montage

"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

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

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 08.03.59

"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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