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Newslinks for Wednesday 20th February 2013

6.30pm LeftWatch: Anthony Seldon calls on Balls to stand down

6pm WATCH: Boris campaigning in Eastleigh: "We've got a great candidate in Maria"

4.30pm LeftWatch: Clegg lays into Labour (and Boris lays into Clegg)

Image2pm WATCH: David Cameron pays tribute to the victims of the Amritsar massacre

12.30pm ToryDiary: Encouraging news on employment; disheartening news on 4G

11am MPsETC: Andrew Mitchell pops up in the F.T. But he should really be popping up in Cabinet

10am Local Government: Five London boroughs are increasing Council Tax

ToryDiary: The OBR doesn’t get everything right – but it’s still one of Osborne’s most important innovations

SSStephan Shakespeare writes the latest Opinion Pollster column, saying that politicians like to have gurus, but they need geeks: "Gurus make big sweeping assertions; geeks prefer lots of tiny statistical tests. Gurus guess; geeks know. Gurus are plentiful; true geeks are rare. If you really want to win, invest in the science."

Harry Benson on Comment: Nearly one in two fifteen year olds experience family breakdown. That fact should shock us.

Local Government: Nearly £2 billion a year spent on Town Hall middle managers

The Deep End: Why southern Europe still puts up with the Eurozone

Cameron in India 1): The PM's remorse over 1919 massacre

Cameron"David Cameron will today express remorse for the ‘deeply shameful’ Amritsar massacre when he visits the scene of the worst single atrocity of the British Empire. ... The Prime Minister will visit the Golden Temple – the holiest shrine for Sikhs – close to where British soldiers gunned down at least 379 peaceful protesters in 1919. ... But he will stop short of a full apology and will not use the word ‘sorry’ when he signs a book of condolence in the garden at Jallianwala Bagh, where the killings occurred." - Daily Mail

  • "One of the problems of expressing remorse, as David Cameron is to do, is that it can make a nonsensical simplicity out of past events." - Tony Rennell, Daily Mail
  • "Cameron is adept at the art of apology, so why doesn't he give one to India?" - Archie Bland, Independent
  • David Cameron's condolences may not be enough to heal Indian wounds - Independent

> Yesterday's video to WATCH: David Cameron and Bollywood star Aamir Khan are greeted by screaming crowds in Delhi

Cameron in India 2): Versus Hilary Mantel

HM"Now David Cameron, while on a trip to India, has waded into the row to support the pregnant Duchess. ... He said that Hilary Mantel is 'a great writer' but described her comments on Kate as 'a hurtful thing to say', according to reports. ... He described the comments about the Duchess of Cambridge as 'completely misguided and completely wrong'." - Daily Mail

> Yesterday:

Cameron in India 3): Versus Nick Clegg

"David Cameron yesterday warned Nick Clegg not to split the Coalition by siding with Labour in the Commons over calls for a new Mansion Tax. ... The Prime Minister told reporters he would be ‘disappointed’ if his deputy opted to vote for the controversial policy which would impose a swingeing tax on homes worth more than £2 million. ... But Mr Clegg refused to rule out siding with Labour to back a policy that has long been a cherished Liberal Democrat goal." - Daily Mail

  • "A wealth tax would be ethically wrong and economically destructive" - Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph

Cameron in India 4): Bribery probe into helicopter deal

Helicopter"Britain will co-operate in a bribery probe by India over a £483million helicopter deal. ... David Cameron’s vow came as he was put on the spot by India’s PM. ... Mr Cameron stressed Yeovil-based Agusta-Westland is owned by Italians, whose own country is investigating." - The Sun

  • "David Cameron was reminded of the occasionally spiky side to UK-Indian relations on Tuesday, as Manmohan Singh, Indian premier, publicly raised bribery allegations over a helicopter contract and criticised Britain’s visa policy." - Financial Times (£)
  • "Red Arrows jets are being flogged to India for its own aerobatic display team to use." - The Sun

Gavin Barwell warns that moaning about immgration will damage trade prospects

GB"Indian investment in British companies has declined to a “worrying” degree in the past two years as a result of the negative debate on limiting migration, according to Gavin Barwell, a Conservative MP. ... Mr Barwell, who is a parliamentary aide to the Education Secretary, said Mr Cameron’s trip to India would do no good unless the tone of immigration policy changed." - Daily Telegraph

  • The article in which Mr Barwell makes his argument - Daily Telegraph
  • "Labour needs to up its game on immigration and welfare to see off Lynton Crosby’s threat" - Mary Riddell, Daily Telegraph

No.10 urged to take action to avoid energy shortages and price rises

"Warning that consumers faced even higher electricity and gas bills, Alistair Buchanan, Ofgem’s chief executive who steps down in June, predicted a 'near-crisis' over energy supply. ... He said the Government needed to take action to revive its flagging Green Deal energy efficiency programme." - The Times (£)

"Companies including PZ Cussons, the soap and shampoo group, Cisco, the IT group and Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) have signed a petition calling on the government to commit itself to a carbon-free power sector by 2030." - Financial Times (£)

  • Power"In an ideal world, the Government would disregard the European Commission’s emissions strictures on grounds of pressing need; instead, it looks as though the price for a generation of dithering will be paid by consumers and businesses via their power bills." - Daily Telegraph leader
  • "In a sane world, ministers would immediately suspend their green edicts, scrap green taxes on energy bills and keep open existing coal power stations until we are producing enough clean power to stand on our own two feet." - Daily Mail leader
  • "Our politicians would be wise to get moving on the fundraising, infrastructure and regulatory changes needed to make nuclear, renewables and clean carbon happen – as soon as is possible." - Independent leader
  • "The government's response is a creakingly complex energy bill, which guarantees little but uncertainty." - Guardian leader
  • "From banks to the 'big six' energy companies – more capitalism, not less of it, is the answer" - Ian Birrell, Independent

The public wants George Osborne to slash fuel taxes, suggests poll

Duty"George Osborne should make cutting petrol duty his top Budget priority, according to a poll of hard-pressed Brits. ... It found 39 per cent of voters want him to knock 14p a litre off pump prices. ... That is three times the number who want him to bring back the 10p tax rate ... Tory MP Robert Halfon said: 'Brits are being fleeced for the most expensive fuel in Europe.'" - The Sun

  • "But high petrol prices are a Tory vote-loser. ... Unless, that is, George Osborne listens to Sun readers and lowers duty next month." - Sun leader

Concerns over the Government's inquiry into NHS deaths

"A government inquiry into high death rates at 14 hospitals will not speak to staff who have blown the whistle since leaving the NHS. ... Gary Walker, a former chief executive of one of the hospitals, who left after claiming that it was putting patients at risk, said the decision was blinkered." - The Times (£)

Ministers are looking outside Whitehall for advice

"Ministers have appointed a string of 'expert advisers' from outside Whitehall in a first step to politicise the Civil Service. The individuals have been put on temporary civil service contracts and will work closely with Cabinet ministers to drive through reforms." - The Times (£)

  • "Bringing expert advisers into Whitehall is right, but their roles and responsibilities should be clearer" - Times leader (£)

Private schools are joining Michael Gove's revolution, too

Gove"A third of the first round of applicants to take part in the coalition’s flagship 'free schools' policy programme were independent schools seeking to enter the state sector, according to data released by the Department for Education. ... The information was revealed after the British Humanist Association took the DfE to a tribunal, under the Freedom of Information Act, which ruled that releasing the data was in the public interest." - Financial Times (£)

  • "More than 100 religious groups have applied to the Government to open one of its free schools, official figures have revealed for the first time. ... They include the Plymouth Brethren – an exclusive religious sect which refuses to teach technology and preaches creationism – which has put in 14 applications to bring existing private schools they already run into the state sector. All the applications have been refused." - Independent

> Yesterday on Local Government: The new history curriculum is anything but narrow-minded

Simon Burns is confident about high-speed rail, despite legal challenges

"The government is determined that a looming legal decision over the new high-speed rail line connecting London to the north will not derail the £34.5bn project, according to the rail minister. ... Speaking from Japan, where he is on a fact-finding mission to the country which introduced the first high-speed “bullet trains” in 1964, Simon Burns told the FT the court challenge to the first phase would not cause any 'major hiccup'." - Financial Times (£)

Ministers look to overturn Labour's defamation proposals while they're still in the Lords

Red bench"Government sources last night revealed they will try to force a fresh vote in the House of Lords on Monday to overturn a controversial Labour amendment to the Defamation Bill, which critics say would damage free speech and break European human rights laws. ... But the attempt to remove a Lords amendment before it has been considered by MPs is highly unusual and could backfire if peers think their rights are being trampled on by the Government." - Daily Mail

30,000 council workers on over £50,000 a year – Tories call for cuts

"Almost 30,000 council pen-pushers now earn more than £50,000 a year. ... Last night, the Tories said the figures, from a report by the Taxpayers’ Alliance, showed there was plenty of scope for councils to make savings without hitting services for the vulnerable. ... But of the ten councils with the greatest number of staff on the high salaries, six are Tory controlled, according to the report." - Daily Mail

  • The blogger doing battle with Carmarthenshire council - The Times (£)

Tories "sniff defeat" in Eastleigh

"...senior Tories are playing down their chances of victory. They have been hampered by a weak organisation in the constituency, where every council seat is held by the Liberal Democrats. One admitted: 'There hasn’t been much canvassing ahead of the by-election and there isn’t a huge database locally.'" - Independent

Richard Drax attacks the Government over coastguard discussions

RD"The government has been accused of gagging the chief executive of the coastguard agency over the privatisation of the search-and-rescue helicopter service. ... Tory MP [Richard Drax] on Tuesday claimed ministers were acting in an 'almost Orwellian' way by banning the head of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Sir Alan Massey, from discussing the scheme with him." - Guardian

Europe needs David Cameron's "tough love", writes Andrew Mitchell

"Britain’s success in arguing for a cut in the EU budget shows that it is not isolated diplomatically – and has friends that share its vision. The UK needs to build on this success with a thoughtful and innovative campaign, which sets the stage not only for Britain’s new relationship with the EU but also for a new phase for Europe." - Andrew Mitchell, Financial Times (£)

> Yesterday, by Robert Buckland MP on Comment: In Europe, Britain is taking its place at the head of the table

Daniel Finkelstein: Real Conservatives cut spending before taxes

"Cutting tax is right strategically but if you want to cut tax you need to cut public spending first — and this is hard. ... What Mrs Thatcher understood is something no Conservative should ever forget. There are no magic wands. Chancellors can’t create growth tomorrow by 'being bold'. It’s a left-wing idea to believe that Budgets can transform the immediate economic picture." - Daniel Finkelstein, The Times (£)

Andrew Alexander: The Office for Budget Responsibility is hurting the Chancellor

OBR"Having launched the organisation with a great fanfare, Osborne has had little choice but to work within its predictions. But these have proved consistently wrong. And, worse,  consistently in the wrong direction." - Andrew Alexander, Daily Mail

> Today on ToryDiary: The OBR doesn’t get everything right – but it’s still one of Osborne’s most important innovations

I'm in touch with Ukip, says Marine Le Pen

"Mrs Le Pen, an MEP and president of the right-wing Front National party in France, denied that her party felt an affinity with the British National Party and added: 'I am in regular contact with UKIP. If I felt my options were closer to the BNP I would be in contact with the BNP, but I am in contact with UKIP.'" - The Times (£)

Doreen Lawrence: Britian is still "organised and shaped" by race

DL"Doreen Lawrence will this week warn that British society is going ‘backwards’ in terms of equality and that white minority groups are among those facing racism. ... Politics and professions are dominated by an ‘old boys’ network’, according to Mrs Lawrence – who will say that we still live in a country ‘organised and shaped’ by race." - Daily Mail

"Our farmers are sinking in mud and red tape" - Alice Thomson, The Times (£)

"Women in their fifties who have a full-time job earn nearly 20 per cent less than men of the same age" - Daily Mail

The average Brit will face the last twelve years of their life with no savings, warns report - Daily Mail

And finally... has horsemeat entered the Parliamentary food chain?

Parliament"The House of Commons was dragged into the horse-meat scandal last night — as four products were withdrawn from its restaurants. ... Parliament bosses said Italian meatballs, steak-and-kidney pies and puddings and beef-and-onion pies had been pulled from eateries used by MPs, peers and staff." - The Sun

> Yesterday's video to WATCH: Food businesses must take steps to reassure consumers, says Owen Paterson

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