3pm WATCH: Whips Office calling all Tory MPs! Whips Office calling all Tory MPs! In all media interviews, use this Australian Labour politician as a template...
1pm The Deep End on internet porn and children: "Imagine that one of your neighbours is a distributor of pornography. His house is full of the stuff, with all but the most extreme images lying around everywhere. Now imagine that he leaves his door open at all times, allowing your children to wander in where they can view his collection at will. How do you feel about this person? Obviously, you’d warn your children to keep well away, but wouldn’t you also want him to take some responsibility, to keep his door locked and his curtains drawn?"
Also on Today's Deep End:
Noon ConHomeUSA newslinks: Boehner emerges as Romney's chief ally on Capitol Hill
11am Gill Wyness and Tom Frostick on Comment: Why Conservatives should back efforts to tackle information inequalities in higher education
10.15am Local Government: New poll shows Boris 8% ahead - but could he get his budget through the London Assembly?
Columnist Bruce Anderson: Poms are bad enough for Murdoch, but Cameron's an Old Etonian pom to boot
Tony Lodge on Comment: A Gigawatt or a Megawatt? Why the PM must get a grip on energy policy
Cllr Gary Porter on Local Government: Vote Conservative next Thursday for better local government
Boris attacks "charity tax" and "snooper's charter" as second poll finds him eight point ahead
"Boris Johnson has urged the Government to retreat from its proposed “charity tax” as he seeks to distance himself from a Conservative Party sliding in the polls. The Mayor of London also put himself at odds with ministers over the proposed “snooper’s charter”, designed to allow the authorities to monitor conversations over the internet. “I’m very, very sceptical about that,” he said. Mr Johnson used an interview with The House magazine to portray himself as a political force independent of Tory ministers. “My relationship with George [Osborne] is fine — provided he’s coughing up,” he said." - The Times (£)
Today's Must-Read: Britain is becoming a three-party country
"When the local elections are held next month, it could well be that a new picture of Britain starts to emerge. Rather than being one nation, with Tory shires and Labour cities, we may see a political tricolour, with the nationalists at the top, Labour in the middle and the Tories at the bottom…When the Tories last commissioned a study about the North, it concluded that the geographical aspect was a red herring. The greater problem was the lack of a message for the blue-collar workers who make up a greater share of voters in the North. These people are worried about crime, schools and the cost of living in general – not the environment, overseas aid or Lords reform." - Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph
EU migrants to get free healthcare in Britain
"Britain was ordered by EU chiefs last night to give millions of foreigners full access to NHS healthcare. In a move that could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds, the Brussels-based European Commission insisted that immigrants from within the EU are entitled to stay and use the service indefinitely even if they do not pay UK taxes." - Daily Express
The Hunt hunt latest. Those on his case include...
1) ...Bernard Jenkin (who breaks ranks to say independent adviser should investigate whether Ministerial Code was broken)...
"The senior Tory MP Bernard Jenkin, chairman of the Public Administration Committee, suggested he was unhappy with the Government's handling of the situation when he said the Prime Minister's independent adviser on the Ministerial Code, Sir Alex Allan, should conduct "swift preliminary enquiries" to see if the Culture Secretary had a case to answer. Mr Jenkin said: "I think it is extraordinary that any special adviser should have anything at all to do with a Secretary of State's quasi-judicial role in a matter such as a takeover bid and whether to refer that takeover bid." - The Independent
2) ...Harriet Harman (still toiling to keep the story going...)
"Harriet Harman last night challenged Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to publish his text messages and emails with former adviser Adam Smith about News Corporation’s bid to take over satellite broadcaster BSkyB. The Shadow Culture Secretary issued her demand as Labour sought to keep up pressure on Mr Hunt…Ed Miliband yesterday claimed Mr Hunt remained in his job only because he was a “firewall” protecting David Cameron from scrutiny over his own dealings with News Corp executives including Mr Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks." - Daily Express
3) ...The FSA...
"But the Financial Services Authority is looking at claims that Mr Smith’s giving News Corporation price-sensitive information about its BSkyB takeover bid constitutes the serious offence of ‘market abuse’. In addition, Mr Hunt will have to hand over copies of paperwork on the takeover and transcripts of his emails to Mr Smith to the Leveson Inquiry into press standards." - Daily Mail
4) ...Oh, and don't forget the LibDems...
"Senior Lib Dems stopped short of backing Mr Hunt, saying only that he should explain himself when he gives evidence to Lord Justice Leveson. Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, told ITV News: “Jeremy has to be given an opportunity to present his side to the story.” - Daily Telegraph
(And the DCMS Permanent Secretary is gnomic when quizzed by the Public Accounts Committee) - The Guardian
A history of Special Adviser gaffes - Daily Telegraph
New evidence emerges that Osborne was lobbied by Murdoch - The Independent
And there are bad headlines for another senior politician: "Alex Salmond endured one his worst batterings at the hands of opposition leaders during First Minister’s Questions as he was attacked over his dealings with the tycoons Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump." - Scotsman
Liam Fox labels LibDems "roadblocks to deregulation"
"Inside the Coalition, resistance to deregulation largely comes from the Liberal Democrats. Two things need to be pointed out to them. First, that they make up only one sixth – not one half – of the Coalition and must expect that Conservative economic ideas will be dominant. Second, that if the economy does not improve, they can expect a very unhappy date in 2015 with the voters, and their antipathy to labour market reform makes this more likely." - Daily Telegraph
"Mr Fox, the former Defence Secretary, told The Sun: “If you have a deficit reduction strategy without labour market reform you are driving with the handbrake on. The Lib Dems will be totally liable if they are the roadblock to deregulation. Any small company in Britain will tell you they are scared of taking people on because they can’t get rid of them if it doesn’t work out. It makes it impossible to take on new people.” - The Sun
War of words erupts over welfare plan - Belfast Telegraph
David Cameron: This is the greenest government ever
"The government has achieved its aim of being the "greenest ever", David Cameron said on Thursday, in his first significant remarks on the environment since reaching office. "When I became prime minister I said I would aim to have the greenest government ever and this is exactly what we have," he told energy ministers from the world's leading nations at a summit in London. Cameron said he "passionately believed" the growth of renewable energy was vital to the UK's future. "I believe renewable energy can be among our cheapest energy sources within years not decades," he said. But he warned: "We need to make it financially sustainable." - The Guardian
Wet Tory magic: rain goddess Caroline Spelman conjures up one of the wettest Aprils on record, but still urges people to combat drought by saving water as tornadoes, torrents and thunderstorms threaten Britain
"Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, said the spring deluge would not be enough to end the drought affecting many parts of the country. “I could be deluded into thinking that I had the power to make it rain this week,” she joked. She added: “Although we have got really heavy rainfall this month, it isn’t enough to make up for two very dry winters in a row. “So it continues to be important that everyone takes responsibility for saving water. The current conditions allow the water companies and farmers to top up their reservoirs, which is a good thing. But it is very important that we continue to make all the efforts we can.” - Daily Telegraph
Neil Heywood did not work for UK government, Hague insists - Daily Telegraph
Couples will be forced to breach confidentiality rules and reveal their finances to each other in child benefit shake-up - Daily Mail
Mystery surrounds Jemima Khan's claim that George Galloway has converted to Islam - Daily Telegraph
5pm In Local government on the Tower Hamlets voter fraud scandal:
3.15pm WATCH: David Cameron addresses Clean Energy summit
11.45am ConHomeUSA newslinks: Romney urged to set out positive vision
Columnist Andrew Lilico: On Green Millenarianism
Quentin Langley on Comment: A tour of the Prime Minister's reshuffle options
Britain has plunged into the first double-dip recession since 1975 and is enduring its longest economic slump for a century - Daily Mail
"Ministers can’t blame Labour for ever. Cutting the deficit is right. But that seems the only shot in George Osborne’s locker. The Chancellor looks a one-trick pony lacking the imagination to drag us out of this slump." - The Sun Says
The BBC's Paul Mason and the Daily Mail agree: The Government has no growth plan
Osborne must embrace tax reform, faster infrastructure projects and bank lending measures - Alex Brummer in the Daily Mail
Jeremy Warner in The Telegraph argues that the Government is cutting the wrong things: "When you look at where the axe is falling hardest, it is on government investment – spending on schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, affordable housing, and so on. This is the easiest thing to chop, so that’s where the Coalition has acted first. In fact, this form of state spending should be doubled, tripled or even quadrupled, with the money made up by further cuts in entitlements and bureaucracy."
Too many taxes + over-hyped reforms + inflation = Double dip recession ...concludes Allister Heath for City AM
Nick Clegg's message to the banks: "Don't unnecessarily hoard capital when businesses need loans. Don't sit on your hands while firms are crying out for cash" - Quoted in The Independent
The government will today unveil a £70bn bonanza of lucrative public sector contracts
"Companies including BAE, Serco, Babcock and Capita have been invited to a Cabinet Office briefing where Francis Maude, cabinet secretary, will present a five year pipeline of bid opportunities in 13 sectors ranging from construction, energy and medical life sciences, which includes NHS drugs and equipment. The total includes £5.4bn of welfare-to-work contracts and £2.6bn of property and facilities management work as well as the retendering of smaller deals such as the provision of travel management for civil servants." - FT (£)
On ConHome yesterday:
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will soon expect some high earners to quiz their partners to find out if they claim child benefit - BBC
Jeremy Hunt could face three investigations after his special adviser resigned for leaking privileged information to the Murdoch empire - Daily Mail
Jeremy Hunt accused of throwing special adviser, Adam Smith, to the wolves - Guardian
> Yesterday's ToryDiary: Cameron puts in strong performance at PMQs while Jeremy Hunt enjoys full support from Tory MPs
Alex Salmond has conceded he had agreed to lobby UK ministers to support News International’s multi-billion takeover of BSkyB, insisting that anyone who questioned his actions “shouldn’t be in politics”- Scotsman
Rupert Murdoch disclosed that he had met the Prime Minister on at least five more occasions than David Cameron has previously admitted
"The chairman and chief executive of News Corporation provided details of diary entries to the Leveson Inquiry which showed that the two men had met on at least seven occasions since Mr Cameron became Prime Minister. Downing Street has previously acknowledged only that the Prime Minister had met the media tycoon twice since May 2010... On Wednesday night it emerged that only one-to-one or “substantial” meetings were disclosed officially, whereas Mr Murdoch recorded meetings at social dinners and other events." - Telegraph
PM to tell meeting of 23 countries that UK is spearheading green revolution - Guardian
The controversial bill cutting legal aid in England and Wales has survived a last-ditch attack in the Lords and is now set to become law - BBC
Two-thirds of voters, regardless of party, class and age reject city mayors - Guardian
Mark Hoban slams EU budget request
"Mark Hoban, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said that the draft budget conflicted with economic reality in Europe. “It is unacceptable for the Commission to propose an inflation-busting budget increase when governments across Europe are making difficult decisions on public spending,” Mr Hoban said at the European Parliament. The Brussels executive “must improve its financial discipline”, he added." - Times (£)
> Yesterday's MPsETC: There's one place in Europe which is a stranger to austerity. Guess where?
Sayeeda Warsi says she's ready to lead Tory attempt to win support of minority voters - Tim Shipman in the Daily Mail
Foodbank handouts double as more families end up on the breadline - Guardian
And finally... Should Cameron get a tattoo to deal with posh boy image?
In the FT (£), Robert Shrimsley uncovers some secret Downing Street strategising: "On balance we do not think a tattoo is a good idea; especially not a full-arm depiction of the home secretary surrounded by immigration queues at Heathrow. But if you are determined to persist with it, we recommend against henna tattoos. It is true they fade in a month but this might suggest a lack of conviction."
> 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.
11.45am ConHomeUSA: Romney kicks off general election campaign
11am Columnist Andrew Lilico: Some quick reactions on the return to recession
10am ToryDiary on -0.2% growth data: Attention Mr Osborne! Britain's economic recovery begins when the €urozone breaks up
Columnist Jill Kirby: Can Cameron get his government back on track?
Christopher Pincher MP on Comment: We need an energy bill - and new nuclear power stations - as a matter of urgency
Martin Callanan MEP on MPsETC: Europe has put an expensive sticking plaster on the €urozone but its fundamental weaknesses remain
Local government: 3,097 council staff earning over £100,000
Cameron wants to give Jeremy Hunt the chance to answer the charges against him when he appears before the Leveson inquiry shortly - Independent
"Jeremy Hunt was supposedly the impartial government arbitrator tasked with deciding whether to allow News Corp to take control of BSkyB. But dozens of devastating emails between Mr Hunt’s office and James Murdoch’s chief lobbyist Frederic Michel have laid bare an astonishing secret relationship between the media empire and the minister." - Daily Mail
Despite repeated public assurances of neutrality, an explosive cache of emails released to the Leveson Inquiry suggested Mr Hunt always backed the plan - The Sun
Jeremy Hunt hits back
"Mr Hunt’s allies said that he had been misrepresented in the e-mails from Mr Michel, who admitted in a statement to the inquiry that references to conversations with “JH” were shorthand for the Culture Secretary’s team. Most of the contact was with Mr Hunt’s advisers Adam Smith and John Zeff, he said. “It’s pretty clear that the e-mails were exaggerations and embellishments and not an accurate portrayal of what happened,” a friend of the Culture Secretary said." - Times (£)
> See Hunt's statement within yesterday's Rolling blog (7.30pm update)
Harriet Harman MP has called for the resignation of her government counterpart, Jeremy Hunt - ITV
Jeremy Hunt's cosy relations with News Corp executives shocked even cynical Leveson watchers - Tom Watson MP for The Guardian
James Murdoch DID discuss BSkyB takeover with David Cameron... over a Christmas dinner at Rebekah Brooks's house - Daily Mail
Comment on Jeremy Hunt
Alex Salmond is also accused of secret Murdoch deal - The Herald
The government borrowed £126bn in 2011/12, bang in line with the Office for Budget Responsibility's forecast in the March budget, and far below the £136.8bn deficit run up last year - Guardian
Osborne is preparing to climb down on plans to impose VAT on improvements to churches and cathedrals - Telegraph
Theresa May has insisted that she had “unambiguous” legal advice from governement lawyers about Abu Qatada’s appeal deadline to the European Court of Human Rights - Times (£)
Good teaching ‘stops pupils going off rails’: Gove praises power of traditional subjects - Daily Mail
You'd never know it from the biased BBC, but the housing benefit bill's going UP not DOWN
"There are no cuts to the housing benefit budget, only cuts to the projected increase. I should like to place a dunce’s hat on Mr Naughtie’s head and make him repeat that three times a day. It may also astonish him and his BBC colleagues to learn that overall there has been no cut in public spending, though, of course, some individual departments have suffered." - Stephen Glover in the Daily Mail
> Yesterday's Local government blog: Shapps complains to BBC over Newham coverage
More than half of sickness benefit claimants given an official health test were found to be capable of working - Express
Two years into its term [the Coalition's] reforms seem half-hearted and agonisingly slow. And it is lily-livered on central issues such as immigration and Europe - The Sun Says
David Aaronovitch in The Times (£): "A critique of the Cameronian settlement has been coalescing for some time now. It too is expulsive, though its scapegoats vary slightly from the French. It doesn’t want any more money spent on bailouts through the IMF, it blames Europe for many of our ills, it loves not migration and it wants to stop the world and step off."
Economy, tax, pensions and health are the four most important issues for voters - YouGov
It’s not immoral to try to reduce your tax bill - Adam Afriyie MP in The Times (£)
An elected House of Lords would inevitably challenge the House of Commons - Ann Widdecombe in The Express
Twitter users tell David Cameron how to 'keep it real' after Tory backbencher calls him an 'arrogant posh boy - Daily Mail
Queueing at Heathrow is becoming a major economic problem - Telegraph leader
Ed Miliband insists he intends to be "methodical" as Labour leader and not make rash promises - to win over a public that has lost trust in politics - BBC
Ed Balls seizes on anti-austerity feeling across Europe - FT (£)
"Last week the French electorate said no to more austerity and the Dutch government fell for the same reason. Spain faces a similar crisis, and the streets of Athens hold untold dangers. Even in Britain polls suggest an electorate unconvinced by the longevity of what by any standards is mild austerity." - Simon Jenkins in The Guardian
Dan Hannan in The Telegraph: "It is now clear to almost everyone that the euro is a recessionary mechanism. It is causing deflation and emigration in the southern states, and threatens massive tax rises in the north."
FT leader (£): "The Dutch case is a horrific display of Europe’s self-harming. In rpressurised states with no fiscal space, deficit cuts are of course imperative, but countries that can should let deficits widen to buoy aggregate demand in the eurozone until the recovery is firm."
Labour's Lord Winston said Mr Livingstone was “a tricky sort of customer” who had “espoused some disastrous causes” - The Sun
Britain has world's third highest proportion of sexually active teens - Guardian
> 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.
9.15pm Updated ROLLING BLOG ON TODAY'S LEVESON ALLEGATIONS. The Culture Secretary fights back.
5.15pm Local Government: Shapps complains to BBC over Newham coverage
5pm ToryDiary: ROLLING BLOG ON TODAY'S LEVESON ALLEGATIONS
1pm Oliver Heald MP on Comment: A reformed House of Lords should be indirectly elected
11.45am ConHomeUSA: Romney and Rubio campaign together in sign of things to come?
10.15am Local Government: Sir Robin Wales does have a choice
Mark Reckless MP: Prime Minister - Yes, you can legally deport Qatada
Cameron waters down claim on ECHR Qatada deadline
"The Prime Minister claimed that the European Court of Human Rights ‘told’ the Home Office that the time limit for the radical Islamist to appeal against deportation would expire last Monday at midnight. His claims were met with surprise in the Home Office and sparked accusations from Labour that he lied - forcing Mr Cameron to back track." - Daily Mail
Nadine Dories assails the Prime Minister and the Chancellor as "two arrogant posh boys"
"The MP for Mid Bedfordshire said: “There is a very tight, narrow clique of a certain group of people and what they do is act as a barrier and prevent Cameron and Osborne and others from actually really understanding or knowing what is happening in the rest of the country. “I think that not only are Cameron and Osborne two posh boys who don't know the price of milk, but they are two arrogant posh boys who show no remorse, no contrition, and no passion to want to understand the lives of others - and that is their real crime.” - Daily Telegraph
> Yesterday WATCH: Nadine Dorries tells the BBC that Cameron and Osborne are "two arrogant posh boys who don't know the price of milk - who show no remorse, no contrition and no passion to want to understand the lives of others".
Select Committee attack 1) There is a lack of strategy being set by Number 10
"The string of controversies and embarrassments that have recently beset the government is due in part to a lack of strategy being set by Number 10, according to a damning report by a committee of MPs. The report, by the public administration select committee, concludes that nobody is in charge of setting the government’s strategic objectives, and this is damaging its ability to achieve its aims. Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative MP who chairs the committee, said: “There is a failure in this government to think strategically.” - Financial Times (£)
Select Committee Attack 2) Ministers "got £2.6bn savings bid wrong"
"Ministers have been accused of over-estimating how much cash will be saved by axing quangos. The Government has vowed to get rid of at least 262 of the semi-public bodies by the next election. But just 72 have been closed in the past two years. Now Westminster’s public accounts committee has cast doubt on how much the Government says it will save the taxpayer. According to the Cabinet Office, £2.6billion will be cut from staff and admin costs." - The Sun
Osborne defends new IMF loan...
"The Chancellor rejected attacks from some of his Tory colleagues who said he was wrong to offer another £10 billion to help steady the eurozone. The Government said last week that it was prepared to increase exposure to the IMF to £40 billion as part of a wider international effort to enlarge the fund. Some Tory MPs have said British taxpayers should not be asked to help support the single European currency." - Daily Telegraph
...but is accused of "state-sponsored money laundering" from the Tory backbenches
"A string of Conservative MPs queued up to warn that the money – which raises Britain’s exposure to the IMF to £40billion – would be used to fund a backdoor bailout of the euro. During angry exchanges, Tory backbencher Stewart Jackson said the decision amounted to ‘state-sponsored money laundering’. Mr Jackson said the cash would be used to ‘prop up the doomed project of the euro’, and asked: ‘Why is the Chancellor throwing good money after bad?’ - Daily Mail
The Coalition's debt reduction strategy is too timid - Daily Telegraph Editorial
Warsi targets ethnic minority voters with 'core Tory values'
"The Prime Minister will today launch a major campaign to target ‘aspirational’ ethnic minority voters in the suburbs after warnings that he can’t win at the next election without them. Tory Chairman Baroness Warsi has revealed the party aims to woo female and older Asian voters who share the party’s views but who have traditionally voted Labour." - Daily Mail
Gaia theory scientist James Lovelock admits he was 'alarmist' about the impact of climate change - Daily Mail
Lords reform on the ropes as committee slams Clegg’s ‘mess’
"The Deputy Prime Minister’s central claim about an elected senate — that it would not change the balance of power with the Commons — was demolished by a committee of peers and MPs. Even though the committee gave its backing to proposals for a 450-strong chamber, 80 per cent of it elected by proportional representation, it was split down the middle on a series of pivotal issues around the effect on the Commons." - The Times (£)
Chris Huhne’s lover Carina Trimingham sold tale of Nick Clegg dalliances - Daily Telegraph
Markets take fright at Hollande’s election lead as Dutch government steps down over budget impasse
"Europe’s economy took another dramatic lurch downwards yesterday as investors found fresh reason to doubt whether the Continent’s politicians will be capable of resolving the sovereign debt crisis that continues to plague the single currency bloc. Stock markets reacted badly to a deluge of disappointing economic data, the victory of the Socialist candidate François Hollande in the first round of the French presidential election and the collapse of the Dutch government." - The Independent
Cameron denies snubbing Hollande as Whitehall looks to build bridges - The Independent
"I'm no fan of a nanny state, but how much more evidence do we need before we start protecting children from depraved imagery?"
"How much more evidence do we need that it is time to take action to protect the nation’s children?…I am no fan of a nanny state, and as pro-freedom as the next person. But we don’t accept that argument with any other kind of media, where a combination of industry and government and consumer bodies work together for the benefit of all." - Claire Perry MP, Daily Mail
Security/liberty issue 1) Theresa May faces questioning on "snooper's charter" - Sky News
Security/liberty issue 2) Government revives plan for greater data-sharing between agencies - The Guardian
Security/libery issue 3) Former GCHQ head calls for greater surveillance of Facebook and Twitter - The Independent