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24 Feb 2013 09:01:37

Newslinks for Sunday 24th February 2013

7.45pm LeftWatch: Nick Clegg first learnt of Lord Rennard concerns five years ago

3pm Local government: John Bald says Maths standards report is a  damning indictment of Labour's record

2.45pm WATCH: Vince Cable says he knew nothing of Lord Rennard allegations

1pm ToryDiary: George Osborne needs to develop an interest in boring spending cuts

9.45am ToryDiary: Afriyie targets "sneering" Osborne

ToryDiary: Party leaders fail to follow the equality rules they impose on others

MPsETC: Eastleigh byelection is showing UKIP to be an all-purpose protest party

Chris Skidmore MP on Comment: Mid-Staffs laid bare the cost in lives of Labour’s time in charge of the NHS

OsborneGeorge Osborne says he won't change course over credit rating downgrade..

"Only two major economies now have AAA ratings from all three major ratings agencies — Germany and Canada — and they have something important in common. In both countries, previous Governments used the good years to fix the roof when the sun was shining — reducing deficits and making their economies more competitive. .. Now we have no choice but to continue the hard work of putting our house in order. That’s the only way to win in the global race." - George Osborne The Sun on Sunday

  • "I think we've got a very clear message, a loud and clear message that Britain cannot let up in dealing with its debts, dealing with its problems, cannot let up in making sure that Britain can pay its way in the world. What is the message from the ratings agency? Britain's got a debt problem. I agree with that. I've been telling the country for years that we've got a debt problem, we've got to deal with it." - quoted in The Observer

Timesosb...but he is warned Sterling could slide to parity with euro... 

"George Osborne was on the defensive last night amid fears that Britain’s historic credit downgrade could spark turmoil in the markets. Experts warn there could be a major slide in sterling with the pound heading to parity with the euro for the first time since the financial crash of 2008-09." - Sunday Times

..he has with plenty of advice from left and and right

"In the budget, the government must urgently take action to kick-start our flatlining economy and realise that we need growth to get the deficit down." - Ed Balls BBC

  • "John Redwood, chairman of the party’s parliamentary economic affairs committee, said: "The markets have been saying for some time the government is borrowing too much and the strategy isn’t working . . .they need to promote more private sector growth and I think they have set tax rates that are too high to maximise revenue and they need to do something about that.” - Sunday Times
  •  "For all the union hysteria about “Tory cuts”, public spending is still rising, funded by borrowing we can’t afford. State bureaucracies have not been slashed. The overseas aid budget is going up, not down. The “bonfire of the quangos” never happened. Welfare savings have not gone deep enough.
    Meanwhile, high taxes hammer workers and drive away job-creating entrepreneurs while free mansions are handed to skivers." - The Sun Says

..but Boris says "Don't Panic"

"Last night Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, insisted there was no cause for alarm over the loss of triple-A status, saying it would be wrong to change course on the government’s deficit reduction programme. “There is no need to panic,” he declared." - Sunday Times

Forsythjames.. while James Forsyth says it doesn't matter
 
"Economically, though, I doubt that this will have much impact. In recent weeks, Britain’s debt has been trading more like that of France, which has lost its triple A rating, than Germany, which still has it. It is also worth noting that losing its triple A rating has had little impact on the US. Politically, Osborne will argue that Labour’s economic policy would only lead to further credit downgrades. " - James Forsyth Coffee House

>Yesterday:

WATCH:

Andrew Rawnsley predicts a dull budget..

"There is a argument around that, having now lost triple A status anyway, he could slightly relax fiscal austerity. That is emphatically not the Treasury view. Far from prompting him to ease towards a Plan
B, the chancellor will respond by redoubling his commitment to his current course. He has no scope to make the dramatic tax cuts urged on him by some in his party. As one Treasury figure puts it: "Any tax cuts will have to be paid for with tax rises elsewhere."  To use his own phrase, the best the Chancellor can probably hope for this year is to "avoid f***ing up" as badly as he did last year." - Andrew Rawnsley The Observer

....but Adam Afriyie says bold tax cuts are needed

"Our current system  acts as one long line of massive barriers to growth. These  barriers can be removed only by simplifying the tax regime...We should also introduce plans to gradually abolish employers’
National Insurance. New jobs are needed to secure the economic recovery. Why, then, retain a nonsensical tax on jobs?" Adam Afriyie Mail on Sunday

MariahutchConservatives four points ahead in Eastleigh byelection poll

"Support for the Tories is now 33 per cent in the poll conducted by Survation, with the Lib Dems breathing down their necks on 29. The survey also confirms reports of a strong finish by UKIP, with  the anti-Brussels party – which  has claimed it could create a ‘political earthquake’ in Eastleigh – now on 21 points. Labour is in fourth place on just 13 per cent. Prime Minister David Cameron holds a Q&A session in Eastleigh ahead of the by-election. In the last Survation poll in the constituency two weeks ago, the Tories were on 33 per cent, Lib Dems were on 36 per cent, UKIP were on 16 and Labour on 13." - Mail on Sunday

  • Labour's national lead increases to 12% in Opinium - Observer
  • Labour lead falls to 11% on YouGov - YouGov
  • "Addressing more than 200 party activists who had poured into Eastleigh on Friday, the Lib Dem deputy leader, Simon Hughes, said victory for his party in Thursday's byelection would "suddenly change British politics" and "encourage our troops phenomenally"." - The Observer
  • "The Eastleigh by-election could hand the UK Independence Party its first Westminster seat, according to early indications from the Hampshire constituency." - The Independent on Sunday

>Yesterday:

Ashcroft "pulls plug" on further donations - Sunday Times

Conservatives complain over BBC bias

"Senior Conservatives frustrated with the broadcaster include Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, and Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary. Grant Shapps, the party chairman, has also complained about coverage of the Coalition’s housing policy.... the Department for Work and Pensions has made more than 20 formal complaints to the BBC over the past year...Mr Duncan Smith has been particularly angered by the reporting of the housing benefit reforms referred to as “the bedroom tax”." - Sunday Telegraph

MoscleggLord Rennard allegations. Did Clegg know? The Mail on Sunday thinks he did..

"A former female party official, who worked in a senior  position at Lib Dem HQ at the time Ms Swinson investigated the claims, has given the Mail on Sunday a detailed account of conversations held at the time...She claims Ms Swinson told her: ‘Yes, Nick is aware of that but  we are pretty sure that none of the girls will talk."- Mail on Sunday

  • "One woman claimed that she was molested at a party for Nick Clegg’s victory as Lib Dem leader, and there were also claims that MPs knew that women were the targets of harassment. A former party worker claimed that it was “common knowledge” that Lord Rennard had tried to talk a young activist into bed, which was known in Lib Dem circles as the “Peterborough incident”." - Sunday Telegraph
  • "Separately, lawyers demanded yesterday that the party open a new investigation into whether Mike Hancock, one of its MPs, sexually assaulted a woman who suffers from a mental illness, and that it hand over any files it has on Cyril Smith, the late MP accused of a catalogue of sexual abuse of boys." - Sunday Telegraph
  • "It has been established that several members of Mr Clegg's office had been alerted to the allegations. His chief of staff, Jonny Oates, was told about complaints by women that were put to Lord Rennard by The Daily Telegraph in April 2010, a month before the election. Mr Clegg's deputy chief of staff, Alison Suttie, was also informed as early as 2008. This suggests that Mr Clegg either knew about the allegations himself but turned a blind eye or was not on top of events involving the most senior official in his party." - Independent on Sunday

...a Lib Dem spokesman claims he didn't...

"The Liberal Democrats have "categorically" denied claims leader Nick Clegg knew of allegations of misconduct against the party's former chief executive, Lord Rennard. The party launched two inquiries after Channel 4 News aired claims of sexual impropriety towards women by the peer. Aides to the deputy PM have insisted he only learned of the complaints after the broadcast." - BBC

...though the BBC did

"The BBC knew about the sex scandal surrounding Lord Rennard more than three months ago – but decided against running a news item on it. ...A BBC spokeswoman last night insisted the Corporation had pursued the story from the beginning and was continuing  to pursue it. She said: ‘To suggest we did not pursue this story is untrue. We began investigating allegations  but we are unable to persuade the women to speak on camera." Mail on Sunday

LittlewoodMark Littlewood says the Lib Dems need to come clean

"Jo Swinson MP,  a rising star of the Lib Dems and a declared champion of women’s rights, and the party’s chief whip, Paul Burstow MP, had been directly approached with the details of serious allegations about Rennard’s conduct. The complainants did not want their concerns to become public, they wished to prevent extreme embarrassment to the party and feared for their own reputations  and future career prospects. Exactly what Swinson and Burstow did with this information remains unclear and urgently needs to be discovered – along with a swift, honest and unambiguous clarification about which other senior party figures knew what, when they knew it, and how they acted on it – including Nick Clegg." - Mark Littlewood Mail on Sunday


>Yesterday: LeftWatch: Ten women claim Lib Dems' campaign chief molested them. When did Nick Clegg know?
Obsclegg

Clegg says Cameron stuck in the past for opposing Mansion Tax...

"To the right, there are Conservative voices that now back a high-value property tax, ranging from Mark Reckless to Tim Montgomerie....The mansion tax is an idea whose time has come. The Conservatives and opponents of fairer taxes have a choice. They can dig their heels in and remain stuck in the past. Or they can join with the Liberal Democrats and the chorus of voices seeking to make our tax system fair. Far better, surely, to move with the times." - The Observer

>Yesterday: Mark Field MP on Comment: The deeper discontent beneath the mansion tax debate

..but Dominic Raab says simpler, lower taxes would reduce avoidance

"Talk of a mansion tax on £2m homes sounds reasonable until you remember how the frozen threshold for stamp duty has sucked more and more people into paying the tax as property prices have risen. At a
time when we need to encourage saving, it would become a tax on thrift. The Lib Dems also tout a wealth tax on the top 10% of earners. In reality, that means anyone earning £50,000 or more — not something their candidate in Eastleigh is boasting about. Once the deficit is dealt with, we should be cutting, not raising, taxes on the middle class." - Sunday Times (£)

The BBC and NHS are sacred cows

"In order to appreciate why it is completely acceptable for the people who run organisations that are National Treasures not to be susceptible to the same rules as lesser beings, one must understand the transcendental plane on which they exist. The BBC is not just another broadcasting outfit, fighting for survival in a hugely competitive, growing market of programme providers. Nor is the NHS simply one possible model for a health-care system whose outcomes and performance are not much to write home about at the best of times – and which is occasionally responsible for thousands of unnecessary deaths. Oh, no." Janet Daley Sunday Telegraph

Former Scottish Secretary Bruce Millan has died - BBC

Glasgow students vote against Scottish independence - The Observer

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23 Feb 2013 08:58:52

Newslinks for Saturday 23rd February 2013

8.45pm MPsETC: Survation for the Mail on Sunday has Maria Hutchings and the Conservatives four points ahead of the Liberal Democrats in Eastleigh. Labour's support is sliding & UKIP's is growing.

1.45pm ToryDiary: The downgrade: some commentators' reactions

Screen shot 2013-02-23 at 12.46.36
12.45pm WATCH:

11.30am MPsETC: Conservative MPs react to Moody's verdict

ToryDiary: The downgrade. Black Friday?

Mark Field MP on Comment: The deeper discontent beneath the mansion tax debate

LeftWatch: Ten women claim Lib Dems' campaign chief molested them. When did Nick Clegg know?

MPsETC: UKIP is doing well in Eastleigh but its manifesto for the campaign reveals a silly and populist dishonesty

It was expected - and it's happened. Britain has lost its AAA credit rating

Screen shot 2013-02-23 at 05.29.55"Moody’s said last night that it would cut its assessment of Britain’s creditworthiness from AAA to AA1, marking the first time in the UK’s history that it has had a less-than-perfect rating. The Bank of England will suffer the same fate as a consequence. The move marks a blow not only for the UK’s prestige among international investors but for the Chancellor, George Osborne, himself — who has set huge store by his ability to maintain an unblemished rating." - The Times (£)

Moody's brings in the verdict. It warns that debt will peak at almost 100% of GDP

"Moody’s blamed weakness in the eurozone for also hurting the UK economy, and the rating agency now expects that the UK’s gross general government debt level will peak at just over 96 per cent of GDP in 2016. The difference between a triple-A and a double-A country, he said, was the ability to absorb shocks such as financial crises, and there was now uncertainty about whether, having intervened to prop up the City in 2008, the UK had the capacity to intervene again if needed." - Financial Times (£) 

Osborne is defiant...

Screen shot 2013-02-23 at 09.23.40" 'Tonight we have a stark reminder of the debt problems facing our country - and the clearest possible warning to anyone who thinks we can run away from dealing with those problems. 'Far from weakening our resolve to deliver our economic recovery plan, this decision redoubles it. We will go on delivering the plan that has cut the deficit by a quarter, and given us record low interest rates and record numbers of jobs.' " - Daily Mail 

...(And Balls is exultant)

"George Osborne said keeping the credit rating was the key goal of his economic policy. As his economic plan has floundered, it has been the last thing he has clung on to. And bizarrely his response tonight suggests he is not reflecting on why things have gone so badly wrong, but using this downgrade as one more reason to plough on with his failing plan – regardless of the damaging impact on struggling families and businesses." - The Guardian

"The politics of this are toxic for Osborne"

Screen shot 2013-02-23 at 08.24.41
"The entire strategy that he and Cameron embarked on after the election was based on the notion that under their stewardship Britain has a credible plan to get its finances in order. The truth is that when they say they are "dealing with the country's debt" they are almost doubling it. They decided to front-load tax rises, and back-load their spending cuts in the expectation that by now the UK would be powering into a strong recovery. The strategy is now in ruins." - Iain Martin, Daily Telegraph 

> Today: ToryDiary - The downgrade. Black Friday?

> Yesterday: ToryDiary - Moody's downgrades the UK's credit rating

Chancellor visits injured British troops - The Sun

Eastleigh: A Times poll finds the LibDems five points ahead of the Conservatives.  A third of UKIP supporters voted Tory last time.  A quarter voted LibDem...

Screen shot 2013-02-23 at 09.03.17"Mr Cameron could yet be vulnerable to a further surge from the UK Independence Party, which is attracting former Tory and Lib Dem supporters and is already beating Labour into third place. The Populus poll for The Times puts the Liberal Democrats on 33 per cent, the Conservatives on 28 per cent, Ukip on 21 per cent and Labour on 11 per cent. It underlines the extent to which UKIP has become the anti-Establishment party of the moment. Of the projected UKIP vote, a third voted Tory in 2010, a quarter voted Lib Dem and a quarter did not vote at all." - The Times (£)

...But there's bad news for the party.  Clegg is dragged into the Rennard allegations as at least ten women claim the party's Chief Executive molested them - and that the leader's office knew about it.  The claims are compared to Savile scandal by a leading LibDem activist: "There is a gulf…but there is also a potentially worrying similarity".

Screen shot 2013-02-23 at 08.52.49"The Deputy Prime Minister has been dragged into the sex scandal surrounding a top Liberal Democrat accused of molesting women. Amid mounting claims of a cover-up, it emerged Nick Clegg’s private office was made aware of the claims as long as five years ago.  Aides to the Lib Dem leader refused to say how much he knew about the allegations that former party chief Chris Rennard had groped a string of female activists." - Daily Mail

Farron-led inquiry will question Burstow, Swinson

"A disciplinary inquiry, to be led by a panel of independent party figures and lawyers, will also question Paul Burstow, chairman of the parliamentary party and a former health minister, and Jo Swinson, who is now Minister for Women. The women interviewed on Channel 4 claimed that neither Ms Swinson nor Mr Burstow, who was then the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, were prepared to take their complaints any further." - The Times (£)

Lord Rennard's statement

"Lord Rennard is deeply shocked by and strongly disputes the allegations made against him in the Channel 4 News broadcast on 21st February. He regards the report as a total distortion of his character. “Not a single complaint of misconduct was made against him to his knowledge during the 27 years he worked for the Liberal Democrat party. Despite the claim made by one woman in the report, Lord Rennard continued working closely with her for 10 years after the alleged event described.” - Financial Times (£)

Mike Hancock controversy re-surfaces

"Solicitors for a constituent of Mike Hancock, the Lib Dem MP for Portsmouth, wrote to the party on Friday asking it to reopen an internal inquiry into his behaviour. Hancock is being sued for alleged sexual assault against the woman, who suffers from a mental illness, after she had approached him for help with noisy neighbours in 2009. The Lib Dems cleared Hancock in February last year of any wrongdoing." - The Guardian

Stephen Tall: "It isn't good enough"

Screen shot 2013-02-23 at 08.54.18"So far the party has said only that “we urge anyone to contact the Chief Executive or use our confidential whistle blower procedure if they have issues they wish to raise as a result of Channel 4′s report.” That isn’t good enough. It isn’t reasonable to expect those who wish to allege sexual misconduct to send an email or letter to the chief executive unless they can be sure he and he alone will have access to such correspondence. As for the whistle-blower’s procedure, I wish you luck finding it on the party’s website or via a Google search. I haven’t been able to unearth it." - Stephen Tall's Blog

  • Rennard: the sandal-wearing Mystic Meg of the Muesli Party - Daily Mail

> Today: LeftWatch - Ten women claim Lib Dems' campaign chief molested them. When did Nick Clegg know?

Talking of the Savile crisis...

"Lord Patten, the BBC chairman, accused senior managers at the broadcaster of "frantic faffing about" as they failed to get to grips with the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse crisis, in transcripts published in full for the first time. He said they were overwhelmed by a labyrinthine bureaucracy unmatched by communist China…Alan Maclean QC, a member of the inquiry team, said relationships between executives were "toxic" and "poisoned" to such an extent that its director general, George Entwistle, would not talk to the Newsnight journalist who first tried to tell the Savile story." - The Guardian

The centre-right papers targets their howitzers at the BBC.  The Sun, the Mail, the Times (£) and the Telegraph all fire off damning editorials.

Back in Eastleigh, IDS (and Shapps) take the gloves off and call Huhne a liar

DUNCAN SMITH 2"The work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has urged his party's candidate at the Eastleigh byelection to constantly remind voters that the former holder of the seat, the disgraced Liberal Democrat MP Chris Huhne, "is a liar". Duncan Smith, a former Conservative party leader, said Hutchings should also go hard on the local Liberal Democrat council and get over the Tory message that it was pushing through developments on green sites while claiming to be protecting the countryside." - The Guardian

  • Eastleigh looks to be a two-horse race - Matthew Engel, Financial Times
  • Labour fear fourth place - The Sun
  • Maria Hutchings: I am not being hidden - The Guardian
  • Is Ed's pal the sickest man in politics? - Andrew Pierce of the Daily Mail lays in to John O'Farrell
  • The politicians are losing in Eastleigh - Michael Deacon, Daily Telegraph

Danny Alexander says that the tax threshold should be raised further

"Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury, suggested the radical tax cut for the low-paid should be the centrepiece of his party’s next manifesto. The measure would mean that no one earning the national minimum wage would pay income tax. But some Tories fear the proposals would put a further squeeze on middle-income households. Mr Alexander said: “The Lib Dems are the only party that will radically cut taxes for people on low and middle incomes that will build a stronger economy and a fairer society so that everyone can get on in life.” - Daily Express

And there's bad news for UKIP, too.  One its MEPs defects to the Conservatives

Screen shot 2013-02-23 at 08.56.31"Marta Andreasen, who was elected as a UKIP MEP in 2009, said she is going to join the Conservatives because they now offer the only realistic option for those wanting to bring about real change in Europe. Miss Andreasen, 58, was one of UKIP’s most high-profile MEPs and her departure is a serious blow. It also represents a significant coup for Mr Cameron, who has been under pressure from his own party to toughen up his Eurosceptic credentials in order to deal with the electoral threat from UKIP." - Daily Mail

> Today: MPsETC - UKIP is doing well in Eastleigh but its manifesto for the campaign reveals a silly and populist dishonesty

Prime Minister accused of breaking pledge as foreign criminal deportations fall

"Fewer foreign criminals are being deported despite a pledge by David Cameron more than two years ago to ‘intervene personally’. Since 2010 there has been a spectacular fall in the number sent home after committing serious offences here. In the year of the General Election, 5,342 were deported.  In 2011, in the Coalition’s second year of office, the figure was down 13 per cent to 4,649." - Daily Mail

Cameron India visit comment:

  • Cameron's right, our future lies with India. So why is he so fixated with Europe? - Robin Harris, Daily Mail
  • The Prime Minister acknowledges the shame of the Amritsar massacre in India, but many more died on the NHS’s filthy wards - Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph
  • Apologising for Amritsar is pointless - William Dalrymple, The Guardian

> Yesterday: Peter Hoskin in this week's Culture Column: Next time David Cameron goes to India, he should take some artists with him

"Cameron bans Obama from bringing Michelle to G8 as he decrees summit will be WAG free zone" - Daily Mail

Obsorne & Gove want tougher strike laws, but Maude & McLoughlin are opposed

Screen shot 2013-02-23 at 09.00.18"Right-wing Tory ministers are pressing David Cameron to include the proposals in the party’s next general election manifesto, The Independent understands. The planned legislation would make industrial action illegal unless at least 50 per cent of union members take part in a strike ballot. Supporters of the threshold – who insist the potential policy is “under active discussion” in Downing Street – believe the plan would prove highly popular with the voters." - The Independent

Germany's President: make English the language of the EU

"Joachim Gauck earned applause for his remarks, made in Berlin on Friday in a speech on Europe's future at a time of rising German scepticism towards Brussels. "Dear English, Scots, Welsh, Northern Irish and new British citizens, we want to continue having you on board," he said. "We need your experience as the oldest parliamentary democracy, we need your traditions, your sober-mindedness and your courage." - The Guardian

Patrick O'Flynn: The next Tory leader could be…Theresa May

May & Cameron
"Mrs May has a lot else going for her too.  She is the only woman with real seniority in a party that is lagging badly among women voters.  She is a self-made, grammar school girl in a party thought to be too posh and public school.  And at 56 she is thoroughly grown-up in a party that is held to have produced too many bumptious young men. She has not yet fulfilled her university boast but do not doubt that she is padded up in the pavilion as the bowling gets trickier for the man at the crease." - Daily Express

Graeme Archer: Let's talk about the exodus of 600,000 whites from London

"Discernment is required: nobody decent is arguing for a return to the homogeneity of Call the Midwife’s Poplar. Finally, politicians have admitted that to notice the scale of the immigration engineered by the last Labour government doesn’t make one racist. But neither is it wrong to discuss the cultural changes that large-scale immigration can cause. Six hundred thousand Londoners have left. They didn’t all sell ex-council houses in Barking, in order to purchase five-bedroom cliff-top villas in sunny Leigh-on-Sea." - Daily Telegraph

Screen shot 2013-02-23 at 05.29.11Ant and Dec tried drugs and, worse, Ant voted Conservative Agony for the Daily Mirror

Benefits 1) Commute three hours a day or lose benefits, jobseekers are told - Daily Mail

Benefits 2) Labour could link benefits level to work history - Daily Telegraph

Wild horses implicated in food scandal - Financial Times (£)

Hospital taken over by private firm shows highest levels of patient satisfaction - Daily Mail

Fuel 1) Cost of diesel breaks the £7 barrier - The Sun

Fuel 2) AA warns of price sharks pushing up petrol costs - Daily Express

> Yesterday:

Scottish Catholic cardinal says that priests should marry - Herald Scotland

Al-Qaeda wants terror knowledge spread throughout Europe to 'whack' people here - Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday: ToryDiary - Islamist terror and extremism: "They haven't gone away, you know"

Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickins warned of powerful paedophile ring 30 years ago - The Independent

And finally... No U-turns: Thatcher battle bus is sold for £17,000

"The 28-ton “battle bus” is thought to have been built in the 1980s for the former Prime Minister to use on a Northern Ireland tour. The vehicle went under the hammer and beat the estimate of £10,000, selling for a final £16,940 to a vehicle collector. Jonathan Humbert, of Northamptonshire-based JP Humbert Auctioneers, said: “There was immense interest. It sold to a spontaneous round of applause in the saleroom.” - Daily Express

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22 Feb 2013 08:31:46

Newslinks for Friday 22nd February 2013

Moody;s9.45pm: MOODY'S DOWNGRADES THE UK'S CREDIT RATING

6.30pm LISTEN: The Lib Dem MP who thinks that freezing fuel duty would be "absolutely bonkers"

4.45pm Peter Hoskin writes this week's Culture Column: Next time David Cameron goes to India, he should take some artists with him

4.30pm Local Government: Labour MP Clive Betts criticises Mansion Tax

2.45pm Alex Morton on Comment: Turning housing round

1.15pm Local Government: Lancashire cuts Council Tax by 2%

1pm Some fun for a Friday afternoon: The Cameron cameo in One Direction's Comic Relief video

DutyToryDiary: It's almost Budget time – and, once again, George Osborne faces a fuel dilemma

Also on ToryDiary: Islamist terror and extremism: "They haven't gone away, you know"

Robert Buckland MP on Comment: Andrew Tyrie’s concerns about the Justice and Security Bill are understandable but wrong

On Local Government:

The Deep End's heresy of the week: Actually, the internet isn’t going to transform our democracy into a decentralised techno-utopia

WATCH: Margaret Hodge MP says that the Government's Work Programme has been "disappointing" so far

Yesterday's borrowing figures leave Osborne sweating...

"Official figures showed the government borrowed £97.6billion in the first 10 months of the financial year - £5.3billion more than at the same stage of 2011-12. ... The Chancellor could now face the humiliating task of admitting in next month's Budget that the annual deficit will rise again this year instead of fall from £121billion to £119.9billion. ... An increase in borrowing this year - the first under the Coalition - would be a bruising setback for Mr Osborne and could see Britain stripped of its gold-plated credit rating." - Daily Mail

...as the Chancellor faces calls to act on fuel duty (again)...

George Osborne"Petrol is set to rise by another 3p a litre as the plunging pound drives up prices for millions of motorists, the AA warns today. ... The AA is urging Chancellor George Osborne to remove a duty rise planned for September from next month’s Budget." - Daily Mail

"Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers’ Association, which represents independent petrol stations, said: 'We are heading to new fuel records by Easter. We have written to the Chancellor strongly asking him to cancel the duty rise due on September 1 and to start cutting duty from April 1. We have had no reply.'" - The Times (£)

  • Treasury needs to spend more on energy security - Guardian

> Today on ToryDiary: It's almost Budget time – and, once again, George Osborne faces a fuel dilemma

> Yesterday on ToryDiary: What would lower earners prefer – lower taxes or cheaper energy?

...and opens an Enterprise Zone in Birmingham

"George Osborne will join Lord Heseltine and Andy Street, the boss of John Lewis and head of Birmingham’s Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), in the city to officially open the zone that has promised to create 40,000 jobs and £2.8bn of extra growth." - Daily Telegraph

Has David Cameron diluted his EU referendum pledge?

Ed Flag"Speaking at a campaign event in Eastleigh ahead of a by-election in the Hampshire constituency on February 28, the prime minister told voters: 'To get an EU referendum you need to vote for a Tory-only government.' ... The statement contradicts his assertion last month when he told reporters after his speech on Europe: 'If I’m prime minister, the referendum will happen.'" - Financial Times (£)

Mr Cameron versus the BBC

"When a reporter for the corporation suggested [Maria Hutchings] was being shielded from electors because she was a liability, a bad-tempered Mr Cameron snapped that the BBC was ‘acting stupidly’ ... He said the issue of Mrs Hutchings’ effectiveness as a candidate had been ‘got up’ by the BBC, adding: ‘You’re not the most important thing in this by-election.’" - Daily Mail

  • BBC"Trust the biased BBC to whip up a controversy about the Tories’ Eastleigh candidate not showing up for a Radio 5 debate. ... What would they have done had the Labour candidate not turned up? ... Apologised on his behalf, no doubt... then made all his arguments for him." - Sun leader
  • Lord Patten under fire as "dysfunctional" BBC faces Savile report - Independent

> Yesterday's selection of Eastleigh posts:

Aid charities versus Mr Cameron

Cameron"Aid money should be spent on ‘schools, not soldiers’, charities said last night – as David Cameron faced a backlash over moves to divert hundreds of millions of pounds to the Armed Forces. ... [But] Mr Cameron’s plan was warmly welcomed by Tory MPs who have raised increasing concern about the policy of cutting back defence spending while pouring billions more into foreign aid." - Daily Mail

  • "The prime minister's remarks on aid and security this week were a typically Cameronian mishmash, one part good sense, one part fudge, and one part appeasement." - Guardian leader
  • "Better a strong military than more foreign aid" - Daily Telegraph leader

And military charities aren't too pleased with the Prime Minister, either

"Before the last election David Cameron promised to enshrine in law a new Armed Forces Covenant that would ensure that 'if we are asking our armed forces to do dangerous jobs in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, we are doing all we can for them in return.' ... But a year into the Covenant, army charities complain that in practice it is little more than political rhetoric." - Independent

Paul Goodman: The Eastleigh by-election is a horrible warning for the Tories

PG"Here lies the by-election’s real significance. Unless Ukip comes a very good third – or, heaven help Mr Cameron, second – the Tory caravan will pick itself up and move on. The Prime Minister’s critics will bide their time until after the local elections. But the state of the Tories in Eastleigh, a seat that was once solidly blue, is a ghastly projection of their condition in parts of the rest of the country." - Paul Goodman, Daily Telegraph

Nick Boles's plan to turn offices into flats is being undermined by councils

"Plans to allow developers to turn office blocks into residential flats without planning permission are being undermined as seven London boroughs and several leading city authorities demand exemptions from the controversial policy." - Financial Times (£)

  • "The planning shake up fails to spark homes boom as the number of new builds is down 11 per cent on last year" - Daily Mail

David Gauke sets about naming and shaming tax cheats

"Tax cheats were named and shamed by the Government for the first time ever yesterday. ... The five individuals and four companies have between them deprived the public purse of nearly £900,000. ... David Gauke, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said the move showed the Government’s determination to crack down on tax cheats." - The Sun

  • "Taxman names and shames small firms... while the corporate giants are STILL going unpunished" - Daily Mail

"Electing new police and crime commissioners for the first time on a cold November night was 'not in the interests of voters', a critical report has found" - Daily Telegraph

Liz Truss attacks Labour's record on education, as new report suggests we're lagging behind other countries

Liz Truss"Bright pupils in England are two years behind their peers in the Far East when they reach 16, according to a damning report ... Education minister Liz Truss said the report was a 'damning indictment' of Labour’s time in power. She said: 'It shows our top pupils lose ground as they get older, not just with peers in the Far East, but with those in every country studied.'" - The Sun

  • "State school pupils are winning places at the country’s elite universities with lower A-level grades than their privately educated counterparts, say researchers" - Daily Mail

MPs criticise the Government's Work Programme

"In a damning assessment, the powerful Commons public accounts committee said the £5billion Work Programme had made an ‘extremely poor’ start since its launch in the summer of 2011 ... during its first 14 months only 3.6 per cent of claimants on the scheme moved off benefits into lasting jobs." - Daily Mail

  • "While there’s work, we’ll put up with low growth" - David Lipsey, The Times (£)

> Yesterday on ToryDiary: Under this Government, we have what Gordon Brown called for during his – British jobs for British workers"

> Today's video to WATCH: Margaret Hodge MP says that the Government's Work Programme has been "disappointing" so far

And there's criticism, too, for the Government's Prevent strategy to combat terrorism

Mugshots"The Government’s programme for tackling Islamist terror was called into question last night after three known jihadis were convicted of plotting an attack to rival 7/7. ... Activities of Irfan Naseer and his co-conspirators were widely known in the Sparkhill area of Birmingham but no one contacted police or other agencies." - The Times (£)

  • "Budget cuts must never hamper those combating terrorists on our soil. Nor must their resources be diverted." - Sun leader

> Today on ToryDiary: Islamist terror and extremism: "They haven't gone away, you know"

Lord Davies calls for bigger childcare tax breaks to help mothers get on to company boards - Daily Telegraph

TwitterLord McAlpine is dropping his defamation case against those Twitter users with less than 500 followers – but, of course, that doesn't include Sally Bercow - Daily Mail

The Lib Dems face accusations that they "covered up" sexual harrassment claims

"Women activists claimed that Lord Rennard, the party’s ex-chief executive and election mastermind, propositioned them and touched them inappropriately. ... Senior figures in the party had been warned about the complaints but the women involved said they did not act. Lord Rennard has denied he behaved inappropriately towards the women." - Daily Mail

Labour's new idea for linking benefits to work

"People who lose their jobs after many years of work would receive higher benefits than those who have not held down a career, under proposals being drawn up by Labour. ... Jon Cruddas, the MP who is drawing up the party’s policy review, has put forward the idea as part of an attempt to revive the 'contributory principle' set out in the Beveridge Report of 1942." - Financial Times (£)

Galloway's Oxford University Walkout

GAlloway"Ranting left-wing MP George Galloway was accused of racism after walking out of a debate because his opponent was Israeli" - The Sun

  • "...to dignify his display by deploying arguments against it is to flatter the MP. The truth is that Mr Galloway’s abrupt departure was the childish act of an attention-seeker. He has become a circus sideshow: roll up, roll up to be entertained by his next piece of eccentric unreason." - Times leader (£)

> Yesterday on LeftWatch: Conservative MP refuses to share platform with Palestinian & storms out of debate

"Politics needs to grow up and stop putting the youngest first" - Mary Dejevsky, Independent

With impeccable timing, a two-year study identifies problems with the jury system

Wig"Two thirds of jurors do not understand a judge’s legal direction, research has revealed. ... The two-year analysis of trial by jury also found that jurors frequently used the internet to research trials, despite warnings not to do so because of the risk of miscarriages of justice." - Daily Mail

  • "Have juries had their day in court?" - Harry Mount, Daily Telegraph
  • "Juries? It's time they went the way of the ducking stool" - Simon Jenkins, Guardian

Barristers warn that the Leveson proposals could contravene European laws - Daily Mail

The NHS has spent £15 million in three years on gagging whistleblowers, claims the Mail - Daily Mail

  • "Culture of secrecy is killing trust in NHS" - Daily Mail leader
  • "...all that honey-laced talk of accountability in the NHS — a body that belongs to us, the people — turns out to be total tosh. Carry on as you are, folks, the boss is doing a fine job." - Ian Birrell, Daily Mail
  • "After the Mid Staffs disaster, the NHS needs to open itself up to the cutting-edge practices in place elsewhere" - Lord Darzi, Daily Telegraph

Surprise, surprise: Doctors attack plans to work at weekends - The Times (£)

A "blip" for bankers

"The financial crisis has been 'little more than a blip' for London bankers who were being paid more three years after it hit than before and were more likely to be employed than other workers, a report has found." - Financial Times (£)

And finally 1)... Call time during Question Time for Lord Heseltine

 Lord Heseltine"The former Conservative cabinet minister and deputy Prime Minister, was left speechless after his wife Lady Heseltine rang during the corporation's flagship live political debate show." - Daily Telegraph

And finally 2)... Clegg's on the way out

"Deputy PM Nick Clegg is one of a dying breed, experts said yesterday. ... His classic surname is among those in danger of disappearing — along with others including William, Cohen, Kershaw, Sutcliffe, Butterworth and Greenwood." - The Sun

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21 Feb 2013 08:29:12

Newslinks for Thursday 21st February 2013

7pm WATCH: Cameron campaigns in Eastleigh. "Maria tells it as it is. We need that at Westminster."

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 17.43.515.45pm ToryDiary: What would lower earners prefer - lower taxes or cheaper energy?

2pm WATCH: Eastleigh - the Coalition partners go head to head

11am LeftWatch: Conservative MP refuses to share platform with Palestinian & storms out of debate

ToryDiary: Under this Government, we have what Gordon Brown called for during his - "British jobs for British workers"

Henry Hill's weekly Red, White and Blue column: How the arch-devolutionists plan to side-step referendums

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 08.24.39Eastleigh:

Local Government:

The Deep End: Fake market mechanisms will not reform our public services

Boris in Eastleigh. He slams Clegg (and has a word with Tim Montgomerie about the mansion tax: see below)...

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 08.21.13
"Mr Johnson said: 'Nick Clegg's single biggest contribution to British politics is to execute the most spectacular u-turn anybody has ever seen on tuition fees and sing a song about it. 'My general view is that he's a great big quivering jelly of indecision and invertebracy. Cameron is strong; he has a clear plan for the country.' Mr Clegg who visited Eastleigh earlier in the week, has been criticised for heading abroad for a long week with his wife and sons in Spain." - Daily Mail

...In the meantime, Clegg flies off to Spain after revealing his mansion tax solution for the elderly: sell up or pay up

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 08.41.52"The Deputy PM suggested that a home owner hit by the Liberal Democrats plan to tax high value homes should sell his house before they die. Mr Clegg told LBC Radio listener who had lived in his home with his family for 20 years should consider selling his property. During his weekly Call Clegg radio phone-in, the Deputy PM told the listener, known as John, that he would indeed be better off if he chose to sell up and move out." - Daily Express

Judge dismisses Pryce jury after it fails to reach a verdict. He says it is "struggling" with "the most basic concept" of trial by jury

"The eight women and four men on the jury at Southwark Crown Court in London were discharged after telling the judge that it was “highly unlikely” they would ever reach agreement on whether or not Miss Pryce was guilty of perverting the course of justice. Miss Pryce, who took speeding points on behalf of her ex-husband Chris Huhne, the former energy secretary, will now face a new trial before a different jury starting on Monday. The jury reached deadlock after sending the judge three separate notes containing 10 questions that suggested they were “struggling” with the most “basic concept” of trial by jury." - Daily Telegraph

  • Do we need IQ tests for juries? - Melanie Phillips, Daily Mail
  • The Vicky Pryce jury did its duty admirably - Stefan Stern, The Guardian

James Forsyth: Have the Tories lost in Eastleigh?

Forsyth James"The Liberal Democrats’ local advantage looks like it will be decisive, though. While the Tories are knocking on doors trying to find supporters, the Lib Dems know precisely where their electors are. As Thornton and Ming Campbell march down the street, a clipboard-wielding activist bounces along beside them shouting out which house to go to and the name of who lives there. They have a laser-like focus on their own support base: it is a get-out-the-vote strategy." - The Spectator

  • Make no mistake, Eastleigh is a pivotal event - Martin Kettle, The Guardian
  • The lesson from Eastleigh is simple: the Conservative leadership has lost control of the party - Steve Richards, The Independent
> Today:

> Yesterday:

Cameron in India.  He praises the Empire...

"The Prime Minister laid a wreath and expressed remorse as he visited the memorial in India to the 1919 Amritsar Massacre where hundreds of Sikh protesters were gunned down by troops under British command. But Mr Cameron…defended the achievements of British rule in India, saying: “I think there is an enormous amount to be proud of in what the British Empire did and was responsible for – but, of course, there were bad events as well as good. “The bad events we should learn from – and the good events we should celebrate.” - Daily Express

  • Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 08.25.49 Koh-I-Noor diamond to stay in Britain - The Sun
  • Cameron regret but no apology for Amritsar massacre divides families - The Times (£)
  • I wish more of us shared Cameron's pride in Empire - Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • Saying sorry for the past is humbug - Geoffrey Wheatcroft, The Guardian

...And hints that aid spending will shift to defence

"Hundreds of millions of pounds from Britain's aid budget are expected to be diverted to peacekeeping defence operations as the government moves to build up support on the Tory benches for overseas development. Amid deep unease among Conservative MPs at the size of the £10bn aid budget, which has increased while defence spending has been cut, David Cameron said on Wednesday that he was "very open" to the idea of pooling more resources." - The Guardian

  • "At last the penny drops for the Prime Minister on the international aid fiasco" - Sun Editorial

Cameron's private dinners net Tories £700,000 - The Guardian

Special Protection policeman found dead: "he was not under investigation" - The Sun

Under this Government, Brown's dream becomes real: it's British jobs for British workers

Brown Hands UP
"The majority of jobs created in Britain over the past year have been filled by workers who were born in this country, official figures revealed yesterday. It represents a dramatic reversal on Labour’s 13 years in power when there was a haemorrhaging of jobs to foreign workers. Office for National Statistics figures show that three in four jobs have gone to workers born outside Britain since 1997, even hitting more than 90 per cent at times." - Daily Mail

  • White Britons are now in minority in London - Daily Mail

> Today: ToryDiary - Under this Government, we have what Gordon Brown called for during his - "British jobs for British workers"

> Yesterday: ToryDiary - Encouraging news on employment; disheartening news on 4G

The NHS and the elderly 1) We don’t believe in NHS magic any more - Matthew Parris, The Times (£)

The NHS and the elderly 2) 90% of NHS staff say sack NHS Chief David Nicholson - Daily Mail

The NHS and the elderly 3) Should one man take the blame for mid-Staffs - Sue Cameron, Daily Telegraph

Willetts's job solution for the elderly: go back to University

Willetts David smiling"Mr Willetts said the age limit on student loans to cover tuition fees had been lifted, making a degree course “great value” for older people. This would help them cope with the pressure they would face to keep up to date as they worked well into their sixties, he suggested. His comments followed a government report which found that the country’s future economic success would depend on the skills and contributions of older workers." - Daily Telegraph

‘Under-performing’ academy schools receive warnings - The Times (£)

Gove adviser over e-mail exchange:  "The Independent seems to be on a kamikaze mission to go bust as fast as possible by writing ludicrous and dishonest stories."

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 08.34.10"A controversial aide to the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, faces questions over a potential breach of the code of conduct for ministers' special advisers after he implied that a journalist required therapy…The ministerial advisers' code says that special advisers must not take public part in political controversy and must "express comment with moderation, avoiding personal attacks"...Asked about the email, Mr Cummings said: "The Independent seems to be on a kamikaze mission to go bust as fast as possible by writing ludicrous and dishonest stories." - The Independent

Senior Pakistani Taliban commander captured in Afghanistan - The Guardian

Deficit vow in doubt after 4G auction

"David Cameron’s vow that the coalition is cutting Britain’s deficit is in doubt after the auction of 4G broadband raised £1.2bn less than the Treasury had predicted. Full superfast mobile services will finally be launched in Britain after a five-year wait but the auction undershot the government’s own forecasts. The one-off sale of spectrum to five groups – Vodafone, EE, O2, 3 and BT – raised just £2.3bn against the estimate of £3.5bn made by chancellor George Osborne two months ago." - Financial Times (£)

Peter Oborne: Osborne should stick to his job, stay away from Chequers this weekend, and leave politicking to others

OBORNE"It is unforgivable that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should take advantage of the extreme weakness of a useless opponent (Labour power brokers are now discussing the possibility of Alistair Darling or, intriguingly, David Miliband as Mr Balls’s replacement). George Osborne is fortunate in his enemy, but even so, he has no business discussing trivial election issues at Chequers this afternoon. His place is in the Treasury, fighting night and day to save the British economy from impending disaster." - Daily Telegraph

8,000 let off prison 10 times - The Sun

Ex-UUP duo may join the Conservatives

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 08.38.48"Two MLAs who dramatically quit the UUP last week in a row over unionist unity have opened contacts with the Conservative Party. While John McCallister and Basil McCrea have stressed they may not make any decision about their future for months, the Tory Party is now emerging strongly as a possible home for the duo…"The Tories are in the frame," Mr McCallister told this paper yesterday. "A firm announcement is unlikely before Easter," he added." - Belfast Telegraph

Former Salmond adviser says Scotland may need own currency - Scotsman

Anthony Seldon: It’s time for Ed Balls to quit

"Forgive me, but you stop Ed breathing fresh air. With you close to him, his breath will always be stale and smell of a toxic brand. Without a prolonged period out of the public eye, neither you nor the party will ever rid yourselves of the opportunistic, negative and bullying image of the Gordon era. Yes, we both believe he was a better prime minister than the conventional wisdom says but it will take years for his achievements to be recognised properly and the stain of his modus operandi will never be eradicated." - New Statesman

RSPB demands ban on deadly pesticides linked to bee decline - The Independent

Miliband's Swedish model

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 08.18.05
"Miliband, who peppered his remarks this week with references to “fairer distribution” of wealth and said he saw Sweden as an example of a place with “a more equitable distribution of incomes,” said this didn’t mean he was planning tax rises for the U.K. “I don’t think I would really use the phrase Stockholm-on-the-Thames,” he said. “There are some lessons you can learn, and some things that are different. They’ve always had a tradition of significantly higher tax and spending, which we don’t have in Britain and aren’t going to have in Britain. We’ve said that we want tax cuts for low and middle income families. That’s a sign of a fairer tax system; it’s not about higher taxes.” - Robert Hutton, Bloomberg

> Yesterday: LeftWatch - Anthony Seldon calls on Balls to stand down

Big freeze will last until the end of the month - Daily Express

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