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31 Mar 2012 09:00:22

Newslinks for Saturday 31st March 2012

8.45pm ToryDiary: Tories' lead on economy down from +25% to +4%

5pm WATCH: David Cameron: "Everything that can be done is being done" to solve fuel strike crisis

2.45pm MPsETC: Mike Nesbitt MLA elected new UUP leader

Miliband E Bradford West12.15pm WATCH: Ed Miliband: "I am determined that we learn the lessons of what happened" in Bradford West

ToryDiary: If Ministers wish to confront the unions, tanker drivers are not the right way to do it

Thomas Byrne on Comment: An idea for taxpayer-funded politics that makes sense

Local Government: Cllr Paul Dendle seeks nomination for Sussex Police Commissioner


David Cameron seeks to reassure motorists that fuel will not run out, as union postpones strike

Cameron Scots independence"Speaking after chairing a meeting of Cobra, the emergency committee, he insisted the government and fuel companies were doing all they could to address the shortages that have been caused by panic buying in some areas. "The fuel companies are working flat out to resupply petrol stations," he said. "It is frustrating, I know, when petrol stations have queues. Everything that can be done is being done, but it will take some time."" - Guardian

  • Ministers under pressure to bring in emergency rationing as 999 crews struggle to get hold of fuel - Daily Telegraph
  • Fuel strike over Easter ruled out by union - BBC
  • Advice to drivers changed after panic buying - BBC
  • David Cameron: My 'heart goes out' to woman burnt in petrol accident - Independent

> From yesterday - WATCH:

Tory MPs question Number 10's judgment after the last week of bad headlines

Screen shot 2012-03-30 at 06.46.58"Although attention has switched to Maude, he is relatively small beer as Tories start to voice, in private for the moment, a thought that would have been unthinkable a few weeks ago: George Osborne, the man hailed by Cameron as the Tories' master strategist, is losing his touch. "It would have been heretical a few weeks ago, but people are starting to be critical of George," one Tory said. "The granny tax shows a genius but it shows an errant genius."" - Guardian

  • The truth about PM and pastygate: he ate a sausage roll - Daily Telegraph
  • Cameron turns to Olympics in difficult week - FT (£)

Charles Moore: Even I’m starting to wonder: what do this lot know about anything?

MOORE"I do not feel patronised by this milieu, but even I, as I watched the Budget on television and saw the “Quad” of Messrs Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and Alexander all in a self-congratulatory, Oxford Union row, did get that “What do they know about anything?” feeling which, opinion polls suggest, is doing the Coalition harm... Gay marriage, rather than looking modern, begins to seem a typically privileged preoccupation of pampered public schoolboys... Wind farms look like ways of making poor people pay higher energy bills. The endless increase in overseas aid looks like an insult to every basic-rate taxpayer." - Charles Moore

  • Tory MPs turn on George Osborne, England's new Cardinal Wolsey - Guardian
  • The Cabinet needs an injection of normal people into its ranks - Patrick O'Flynn
  • It took Dave just ten days to REALLY toxify the Tories - Simon Heffer
  • Despite Galloway's win, the Tories still have problems - Jonathan Freedland

> Yesterday on ToryDiary: Cameron needs Growth, Grit and Grip

First the ‘pasty tax’ now church bells toll challenge for George Osborne

Screen shot 2012-03-30 at 08.18.48"Already facing a growing backlash over the so-called “pasty tax”, the Chancellor is now on a collision course with the Church of England over plans to impose VAT on restoration work on historic buildings. The change could cost the Church of England, which has 12,500 listed buildings up to £20 million a year. Last week the Bishop of London wrote to the Chancellor warning that the move could be a major “blow” to alterations designed to open up churches more widely to their local communities." - Daily Telegraph

  • "A European Court of Justice ruling meant he was under pressure to either slap VAT on all hot takeaway food or axe the duty completely." - The Sun

Eric Pickles on David Cameron: "You shouldn’t look down your nose at someone just because he’s had the misfortune to go to Eton. My colleagues [who complain] are foolish"


Eric Pickles interview with the Daily Telegraph: "“David Cameron has had personal experience of the difficulties that life can bring. I have always felt that David had the ability to walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes. You shouldn’t look down your nose at someone just because he’s had the misfortune to go to Eton. My colleagues [who complain] are foolish. This is the chap who took us out of the wilderness. My friends in the Tory party sometimes get used to discussing how many angels can dance on a pin head. That’s fine in opposition but in government it’s our chance to make a difference.”"

Theresa May has only 18 days before curfew laws are lifted on Abu Qatada

May Theresa Home Office"Theresa May has just 18 DAYS to get a deal to boot Abu Qatada out of Britain before tough restrictions on the terror suspect are scrapped. Home Office chiefs have set up a base in Jordan to try to finalise a deal to send the hate preacher back. It comes as Sun readers continue to sign our Must Try Harder To Kick Out Qatada petition, with the total now at 122,000. Qatada was freed from jail last month and put on a 22 hours-a-day curfew. He is banned from using the internet and must wear an electronic tag." - The Sun

Greg Clark: The man behind new planning laws


"His colleagues say that he is the Clark Kent of the Government, the geek in glasses who is fighting to save his country. This week Greg Clark stepped into a telephone box and emerged as Superman, bringing to an end the battle between the mighty Treasury and the powerful countryside lobby over planning. His national policy framework created peace by reassuring environmentalists that the Government had no intention of concreting over the hills and vales of England while comforting developers that building would become easier." - The Times (£)

David Cameron under pressure over Lord Gold links to Conservatives

"David Cameron is facing calls to replace Lord Gold as head of the “cash-for-access” inquiry, after it emerged the peer had business ties with the Conservative Party’s co-chairman... Lord Gold was a senior partner at law firm Herbert Smith, which advised Lord Feldman's family company for many years, until at least 2008. Lord Gold personally acted as a solicitor for the ladieswear company in 1995." - Daily Telegraph

Wales is owed an apology for NHS funding cuts, says David Davies

"The Welsh Government should apologise after new figures suggested funding for the NHS in Wales was being cut while in England funding was going up, a Tory MP claims. Statistics supplied to Monmouth MP David Davies by the House of Commons Library show that between 2008/09 and 2014/15, the health service in Wales will take a 5.1% cut while over the same period the NHS in England will get a funding rise of 7.4%." - WalesOnline

Ed Miliband’s seven dinners with leader of fuel strike union

Miliband _140x140"Pressure was mounting on Labour last night to distance itself from Unite, as the union refused to rule out the threat of strike action which has stoked panic buying of petrol by motorists across the UK. Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed an announcement by Unite that it would hold off strike action by tanker drivers until after the Easter holiday, but the Tories attacked Labour leader Ed Miliband when he published a list of 43 meals he had with party donors, including seven from the union’s general secretary Len McCluskey." - Scotsman

  • "However the Labour leader included all meetings at his home or office with trade union general secretaries and donors who had given £7,500 or more, going further than Mr Cameron, who earlier this week published details only of meals with "significant" donors who gave more than £50,000." - Evening Standard
  • Ed Miliband entertained tycoon Labour donors in his own home - Daily Telegraph

Miliband promises to do better as George Galloway boasts of 'Bradford Spring' election victory

GALLOWAY George"Mr Miliband, who had been out on the campaign trail in Bradford, promised to get to the bottom of the defeat and "learn lessons". “We've got to understand the reasons why that happened in Bradford,” he said. “Above all it reinforces for me something that I've emphasised throughout my leadership which is that we need to be engaged and rooted in every community of this country."" - Daily Telegraph

  • A disaster for British democracy - Stephen Pollard
  • George Galloway fought his by-election campaign in Bradford West as a champion of Islam, nakedly appealing to race and faith - Andrew Gilligan
  • George Galloway fights only in Muslim seats where he can spin his narrative of grievance and victimhood - David Aaronovitch
  • Could there be any greater indictment of our political class than the election of George Galloway? - Sir Max Hastings
  • Once again, Miliband forges ahead – then blows it - Andrew Grice
  • A wake-up call for an out-of-touch elite - Daily Mail editorial
  • George Galloway’s victory is part of a pattern, as the three main parties struggle to adapt - Independent

Bradford's peaceful democratic uprising that elected me comes from the wellspring of discontent that swept Britain last summer - George Galloway MP

> From yesterday:

Foreign criminal syndicates 'behind metal thefts in Britain' - Daily Telegraph

Simon Cowell offers work experience scheme after letter from Iain Duncan Smith

"The show's boss made the offer after Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith urged him to give unemployed teens a chance. The minister wrote to Cowell following the pair's clash in The Sun. The music mogul has sent back a letter declaring he is eager to help out." - The Sun

Glut of NHS doctors by 2020, report warns - Daily Telegraph

Migrant domestic violence support scheme extended - BBC


> 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.

30 Mar 2012 08:32:42

Newslinks for Friday 30th March 2012

Screen Shot 2012-03-30 at 17.59.086pm WATCH:

4.45pm Local government: UKIP snub Boris on second preference vote

12.15pm Local government: Boris launches Olympics manifesto

Noon ConHomeUSA: House Republicans pass Paul Ryan's Budget

10.15am WATCH: George Galloway celebrates most sensational victory in British by-election history. Ever. So he claims.

Miliband Ed on TV9.15am LeftWatch: Ed Miliband didn't win in Scotland. Ed Miliband didn't win in Bradford. If he doesn't win in London it's crisis time for him.

ToryDiary: Cameron needs Growth, Grit and Grip

Columnist Bruce Anderson: How many Thusha Kamaleswarans will be maimed or murdered before the rest of us wake up?

Fiona Hodgson on Comment: Our two Party Chairmen are doing a difficult job and they are doing it well

Also on Comment: Gareth Johnson MP - Great news from Kent: a vote to allow the first grammar school expansion for 50 years

Local Government:

WATCH: Osborne - Fuel crisis "caused by unions"

Screen shot 2012-03-30 at 06.35.24

This week's Deep End

Galloway grabs possession of Bradford West in by-election

Screen shot 2012-03-30 at 07.13.49"Respect swept from fifth place at the 2010 general election to a commanding victory for the ex-Labour anti-war campaigner against his former party on a swing of 36.59%. It was "the most sensational result in British by-election history bar none", he said on stage after being declared the victor with well over half the total votes. ..Mr Galloway won 18,341 votes to the 8,201 for Labour candidate Imran Hussain." - Daily Telegraph

  • The many accomplishments of Gorgeous George - Daily Mail

A dire result for Labour...

“In a big blow for Ed Miliband, Labour lost the seat which it has held since 1974 to the anti-war Respect politician, who will return to Westminster after a two-year absence.By the grace of God we have won the most sensational victory in British political history,” Mr Galloway said. The result will be seen as an indictment of Labour’s performance under Mr Miliband and it comes amid one of David Cameron’s most trying periods as Prime Minister." - The Times (£)

...And the Conservative vote collapses too

Screen shot 2012-03-30 at 07.21.34"The Tories, still needing to make inroads in northern immigrant areas, floundered badly as the party licked its wounds over its shambolic handling of the potential petrol strike. Jackie Whiteley, the Tory candidate came third, with 2,746 votes, 8.37%, a drop of 22.78% on the last election." - The Guardian

Labour Policy Chief Liam Byrne wants to quit front bench to fight Birmingham Mayoral election.  More bad news for Miliband...

"Ed Miliband was rocked last night after his policy chief announced he wants to quit — to become Mayor of Birmingham. Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne will formally unveil his plans to step down today. He will leave if Birmingham votes to have an elected mayor in May. It is a blow to Mr Miliband's bid to draw up a blueprint for Britain. Mr Byrne is in charge of his policy review and was due to report in the autumn." - The Sun

...And another day of dreadful headlines for Cameron. Fleet Street turns on Cameron as drivers queue, tempers fray, prices rise, the LibDems brief against Tory Ministers and Downing Street seems rudderless

Screen shot 2012-03-30 at 06.46.58

"Despite there being no possibility of a strike by tanker drivers for at least 11 days, motorists formed queues up to half a mile long at filling stations. In Dorset, police were forced to step in and ask seven forecourts to close temporarily because of fears for road safety. Elsewhere pumps ran dry, fuel was rationed and tempers frayed as drivers waited for up to an hour to fill up, buying 81 per cent more petrol and 43 per cent more diesel than on an average day." - Daily Telegraph

Coalition partners unite - and blame Maude...

"One senior Tory said: "Francis Maude has completely mucked up this week. He is to blame for the gargantuan queues outside petrol stations"…The Lib Dems blamed Maude for creating the panic buying. Dorset police confirmed that five garages were asked to close for a period, because lines of cars were causing congestion in Bournemouth and Weymouth, and there were reports of forecourt closures and petrol shortages across the UK." - The Guardian

...And now Davey adds to chaos

"Lib Dem Energy Secretary Ed Davey added to the chaotic Government warnings yesterday by calling for drivers to keep tanks two-thirds full. He said: “The impact of a tanker strike could disrupt the lives of millions of people.” - Daily Express

> Yesterday: Mark Field MP on Comment - The cost of keeping the Liberal Democrats inside the Coalition may undermine Tory candidates' election prospects

Tory MPs blame Craig Oliver and will tell Cameron: Get a grip

Screen shot 2012-03-30 at 07.26.46"Tory backbenchers have become so concerned at the lack of grip at No 10 that they will urge changes at the next meeting in Downing Street when Parliament returns after the recess. They are worried by the performance of Craig Oliver, the Prime Minister’s director of communications, and rumours that he has difficult relationship with several other key media figures at No 10 that are tarnishing the reputation of the Conservatives." - The Times (£)

  • How wheels came off and Tory communications machine ground to a halt - The Times (£)
  • "Downing Street intervened in the middle of Tuesday night’s transmission of Newsnight because officials felt that the programme was mispresenting the Prime Minister’s position on pasties." - The Times (£)

Petrol prices soar

"Some garages had pushed prices well above even the record averages set yesterday of 140.9p per litre for unleaded and 147.1p for diesel. In places as far apart as Gateshead in the North East and Chorleywood in Hertfordshire, motorists were having to pay an extra 3p to 4p overnight." - Daily Mail

  • Baggage handlers at Stansted to strike over Easter - The Sun

Miliband opens fire...

"Mr Miliband said the government had played “political games” with the issue after days of negative reaction to the Budget and hospitality for Conservative party donors. “In a delicate situation which demanded statesmanship, the government showed partisanship,” Mr Miliband said. “They made a crude decision to play politics with petrol without regard for the consequence.”  Mr Miliband said that the crisis was another sign that ministers were “out of touch”." - Financial Times (£)

...As does David Davis, who says: Cameron and Cabinet are seen as well-fed toffs living in a different world

DAVIS"He also warned that the decision to cut child benefit had convinced voters that Old Etonian Mr Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne ‘don’t know how we feel and work, what our lives are like’…Mr Davis, who grew up in a council flat, said: ‘It’s an unfair allegation, but it’s a powerful one, and it works against us. They think we’re toffs. ‘The truth is, they look at the front bench, they see them all very well dressed, well turned out, well fed, and perhaps feel that they’re in a different world to them." - Daily Mail

  • The class war is still raging across the dining table - Harry Mount, Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday:

Three attack stories on Conservatives:

The OECD claims that Britain is back in recession

"Britain is back in recession, according to the latest unwelcome forecast from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The UK economy shrank at an annual rate of 1.2 per cent in the final three months of 2011 and will contract by 0.4 per cent in the first quarter of this year, it said.  Two successive quarters of economic contraction is the technical definition of a recession. Some ministers are also privately concerned that the problems afflicting the eurozone could still return with a vengeance." - The Independent

The Sun keeps going with the pasty VAT row...

Screen shot 2012-03-30 at 08.18.48"The Pasty Tax is helping George Osborne to take more cash from millions of ordinary Brits than he is giving them, The Sun can reveal. The Chancellor trumpeted last week's Budget as a boost for hard-pressed pockets because he raised the income tax threshold. But a Sun analysis of official Treasury figures we have seen tells a different story. And it shows an average hard-working Sun reader earning £19,000 a year will be £21.52 worse off." - The Sun

...And the Independent raises the impact of the "tycoon tax" on charities

"They warn that the practical impact will be to deter rich philanthropists – as well as more ordinary people who receive a once-in-a-lifetime cash windfall – from handing over money to the good causes that increasingly rely on their largesse. They are questioning how the move (which reportedly came as a surprise to the Arts minister, Ed Vaizey) fits in with David Cameron's commitment to foster the "Big Society"." - The Independent

Payment by results will transform public services for the better - Oliver Letwin, The Guardian

Osborne aims to hit back with spending trap for Balls

OSBORNE-GEORGE-FROM-FT"George Osborne will challenge Labour to match a detailed co­alition programme of cuts stretching into the middle of the next parliament in an attempt to “finish the job” of eliminating the structural budget deficit by 2017. While the strategy will infuriate some Liberal Democrats, people familiar with the plan say it will underline their party’s economic credentials and has the support of Nick Clegg. It will also force Ed Miliband, Labour leader, to spell out how a Labour government would deal with the deficit." - Financial Times (£)


Neil O'Brien: Cameron needs friends in the north

"They still need far more female and ethnic minority MPs. But our polling shows people think it’s even more important that they also find candidates who are working class, northern and have real-world experience. However, it’s hard for such outsiders to get into the professionalised game of modern politics, not least for financial reasons. Quotas won’t work and aren’t fair. Instead, the party should think about how potential candidates are funded and developed at the start of their careers." - Neil O'Brien, Daily Telegraph

Other Comment

NHS watchdog not ready for new responsibilities, say MPs - The Guardian

Heseltine swings into action for Birmingham Mayoral vote

Screen shot 2012-03-30 at 08.00.48"At the centre of attention and munching on a banana was Lord Heseltine. Age may have greyed his locks and he no longer holds elected office but he still eclipsed the Cities minister, Greg Clark – tipped for promotion to the Cabinet, but who yesterday didn't have a prayer of competing with Tarzan…Mr Clark was asked why, if the Government was so keen on city mayors, it was refusing to give them any more powers than the council leaders they would replace.  Lord Heseltine intervened. "No, no, you're asking the wrong question," in patrician tones." - The Independent

Kent expands grammar schools in first major expansion of selective schools for 50 years - Daily Mail

Hague confirms funding of Syria's opposition

"Britain will provide a further £500,000 to support Syria’s political opposition in the face of president Bashar Assad’s regime, the Foreign Secretary said. William Hague is expected to announce the extra funding tonight during his annual speech at the Lord Mayor’s Easter Banquet. Mr Hague said the money would help 'hard-pressed' opposition groups to document the regime’s violations."  - Daily Mail

  • Hague tells Argentina "we will steadfastly defend Falklands" - Daily Telegraph

IDS and Grayling clash with Osborne over budget cuts

"Ministers in the Department for Work and Pensions are understood to be arguing that their budget should be spared. An aide to Iain Duncan Smith, the DWP Secretary, said: “From our perspective, we wouldn’t see this as simply £10billion of the DWP budget, and I’m pretty sure we’ll be making that point as and when we sit down with the Treasury.” And yesterday Employment Minister Chris Grayling said his department should not bear the entire brunt of the latest cuts." - Daily Express

London Mayoral election news and comment from the Times

Johnson Boris Pointing 2

Extradition 1) Home Affairs Select Committee says extradition treaty "must be reformed": Powerful committee of MPs backs Daily Mail's campaign - Daily Mail

Extradition 2) Reforming the extradition treaty between the UK and the United States cannot be impossible - Daily Telegraph editorial

Scotland Yard press chief resigns - Daily Express

Northern Ireland MLA McCallister delivers his baby son in the bathroom - Belfast Telegraph

Yes, Prime Minister returns to television with a six-episode season - The Times (£)


> 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.

29 Mar 2012 08:50:40

Newslinks for Thursday 29th March 2012

7pm Local government: Liam Byrne wants to be Birmingham's Mayor

5.15pm ToryDiary: Only 23% of Tory members expect an outright Tory majority after next election

4.30pm Eamonn Butler on Comment: Disillusionment with politicians is so great there is serious talk of clipping their wings

DAVIS DAVID3.45pm ToryDiary: David Davis warns remoteness from working class Britain could be as toxic for David Cameron as sleaze was for John Major

2.45pm Simon Kirby MP on Comment: I'm proud to say I've never voted against the Government or abstained

Noon ConHomeUSA: Rubio and Bush Snr both endorse the "inevitable" Romney

10.45am WATCH: Transport Minister Mike Penning says Francis Maude made a "mistake" with jerrycan of petrol advice

10.30am Local government: Will Livingstone condemn Olympics disruption by Occupy London?

Screen Shot 2012-03-29 at 07.29.11

ToryDiary: It's a crisis? Send for Fallon!

Columnist Andrew Lilico: Conservatives believe in property and we should understand that a Conservative should not believe in wealth taxes

Mark Field MP on Comment: The cost of keeping the Liberal Democrats inside the Coalition may undermine Tory candidates' election prospects

Christian Guy on ThinkTankCentral reflects on the conclusions of the Riots Communities and Victims Panel: The Social Justice Strategy should become the centrepiece programme of the Coalition

Local government: Kent County Council to vote on grammar school expansion

WATCH: Francis Maude and Charles Hendry talk to media about fuel strike precautions

David Cameron launching a Right to Provide and Right to Choose in the public sector: "Brick by brick, we’re tearing down the big state"

CAMERON IN CLASSROOM"State bureaucracy has proved too clumsy and inefficient, stifling the innovation we need at a time when value for money is so critical. I also have an instinctive belief that parents, patients and professionals are so much better equipped to make the choices that will drive improvements in our public services. Give the power to them, allow new providers to come forward with new ideas, and good things will happen." - The Prime Minister in The Telegraph

  • The Daily Mail: Public services may be run like John Lewis partnerships in radical shake-up planned by Coalition

Cameron has said there is "absolutely no justification" for strike action by fuel tanker drivers - Guardian


  • Government blamed for sparking panic buying as fire service union warn over minister's advice of storing fuel in jerry cans - Guardian
  • Petrol, pasties and the politics of panic: No.10 shambles over drivers hoarding fuel, and the tax on takeaway food - Daily Mail

Nearly half of Labour MPs are sponsored by Unite, the union which has called a strike of well-paid fuel tanker drivers - Telegraph leader

Miliband ball and chain

Forget Cruddas and Cameron. The REAL political travesty is Ed Miliband's silence about Red Len McCluskey - Andrew Pierce in the Daily Mail

The Sun Says: "Britain is, outrageously, at the mercy of a handful of well-paid tanker drivers, whipped up into militancy by the hard-Left boss of the Unite union which bankrolls the Labour Party. Ed Miliband can pathetically say he hopes a strike can be avoided. But he cannot and will not condemn the politically-driven bullying of Britain by his paymaster, Red Len McCluskey."

In The Times (£), Dom Raab MP accuses the Unite strikers of a political agenda: "Unite isn’t striking over earnings — oil tanker drivers’ pay is double that of other haulage drivers. It wants “reasonable minimum standards” covering health and safety and “wider stability” in the industry. But oil tankers are subject to onerous EU safety standards and haulage companies can do little about the volatility of global oil markets. These arguments are a fig leaf for Red Len’s political agenda. He opposes all cuts. He believes “there is no such thing as an irresponsible strike”. He advocates disruption during the Olympics and civil disobedience against public sector cutbacks."

The continuing hot pasties saga...

  • The West Cornwall Pasty Company outlet at Leeds station where PM recalls enjoying his last pasty closed two years ago - Guardian
  • "David Cameron became embroiled in a pasty tax fiasco yesterday when he was apparently caught telling fibs about his love of the hot snacks" - Daily Mail
  • Top pasty-maker warns PM in row over takeaway food - Scotsman
  • The Sun: "Slapping VAT on hot takeaway food is not a trivial issue, much as it may seem like it for rich men in Westminster. It is a kick in the teeth for hard-up working people. And a potential disaster for those whose jobs may live or die on it. Like the 13,000 in Cornwall's pasty trade. Mr Cameron needs to find the courage to reverse this unfair hike."
  • The Greggs affair will forever haunt this Chancellor - Judith Woods for The Telegraph

The Chancellor’s approval rating has slumped from 72% in December to 53% in a ConservativeHome survey

OSBORNE GEORGE BLUE"The survey revealed misgivings about the coalition. While 50% of respondents felt it was a good thing for the nation, compared with 44% who did not, far fewer (31%) thought it had benefited their party. The number of party members who are confident that the Conservatives will still be in power after the next election has fallen from 88 per cent in July last year to 62% yesterday." - Times (£)

Osborne must choose: Are you Chairman or Chancellor?

"Osborne can be told to choose between his role as part-time Chancellor and part-time Tory chairman. At present he is doing both jobs badly. The Conservatives are in urgent need of a chairman with independent power and authority, capable of standing up for the membership and tasked with securing the general election victory that Cameron and Osborne signally failed to deliver in 2010." - Peter Oborne in The Telegraph

Must-read of the day: The Tories' uphill election struggle

Hasan Mehdi"The simple truth is that Cameron needs to increase the Tory vote share at the next election if he is to secure a parliamentary majority. But not since 1974 has an incumbent prime minister pushed up his party's share of the vote. It was beyond the ability of Margaret Thatcher (in 1983 and 1987) and Tony Blair (2001 and 2005) and as a leading psephologist, John Curtice of Strathclyde University, points out: "Cameron is no Thatcher or Blair. If you look at his leader ratings, he is basically an average prime minister . . . He doesn't enthuse people."" - Mehdi Hasan in the New Statesman

Lords Committee questions wisdom of 0.7% aid target becoming law - Daily Mail

"In a report published on Thursday, the House of Lords economic affairs committee said enshrining the 0.7% figure into law "would deprive future governments of the flexibility to respond to changing circumstances at home and abroad"." - Guardian

  • Daily Mail leader: "For our country’s future, public spending must come down. And overseas aid – often corrupt, wasteful and counter-productive – is the obvious place to begin"

Mitchell Andrew Feb 2011Andrew Mitchell held shares in company which avoided millions in stamp duty - Telegraph

Osborne is facing opposition from within the government over plans to cut £10bn from welfare budgets - FT | Telegraph

Some charities say they are pulling out of the government's Work Programme for the long-term jobless, claiming the payments received are inadequate - BBC

"At last the government has set a target date for the privatisation of Royal Mail. By autumn of next year, the Queen’s head could fall into private hands" - FT leader (£)

"ONE in five UK adults is "functionally illiterate" a report reveals today. The staggering total means up to EIGHT MILLION are so poor at reading and writing they struggle in their daily lives." - The Sun

  • "Forget the granny tax, forget the 50p rate of tax and forget the pasty tax. The most important, but least discussed element of last week’s Budget is the continuing evidence of Britain’s underlying economic weakness." - Chris Giles in the FT (£)

Peer slams cost of English students studying at Scottish universities - Scotsman

Lords reform Committee recommends referendum to approve any changes

"Nick Clegg is facing a severe setback over his plans for an elected House of Lords after a decision by a cross-party committee to call for a referendum before any changes are introduced. The Deputy Prime Minister is likely to reject the call as it would ruin any chance of the first elections for the new chamber to coincide with the next general election, in May 2015." - Times (£)

The budget, the NHS risk register, the riots report – the coalition seems badly news-managed. Or is all this noise a smokescreen? - Zoe Williams in The Guardian

2012avatarsmallSally Bercow has said the Government's plans to ban a so-called legal high - "Mexxy" - made her tempted to try it before it was too late - Independent

"Sally Bercow drew sharp criticism from drugs campaigners last night after saying she was tempted to try the latest legal high before it is banned. Ministers are set to outlaw the sale of methoxetamine – also known as mexxy or MXE – within days after it was linked to two deaths and experts warned of its dangerous effects." - Daily Mail


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28 Mar 2012 08:33:37

Newslinks for Wednesday 28th March 2012

4.30pm MPsETC: Tory MPs debate assisted suicide

4pm Alex Morton of Policy Exchange on ThinkTankCentral: The National Planning Policy Framework changes nothing

2.30pm WATCH: David Cameron isn't great at badminton

1.15pm WATCH: “I love a hot pasty" says David Cameron as he tries to defuse pie tax row

12.30pm Alec Shelbrooke MP on Comment: Union members should opt in to the political fund on an annual basis

12.15pm ConHomeUSA: Speculation that ObamaCare will be declared unconstitutional

11am ToryDiary: Osborne has ordered the Treasury to do new work into the dynamic effects of tax cuts...

Miliband Ed Purple9.30am LeftWatch: Ed Miliband launches five point pledge card to help families pay their bills

ToryDiary: Which of the following factors are the biggest threat to Tory chances at the next election?

Columnist Jill Kirby: George Osborne's crazy cap on big donors to charities must be reversed

Greg Clark MP and John Howell MP on Comment: The Coalition's blueprint for sustainable development

Local government: Will elected Mayors be able to scrap council chief executives?


Downing Street says motorists should consider stockpiling petrol to dodge tanker drivers' strike - Telegraph

"With the AA warning against filling up tanks in case it caused a shortage, Labour accused Downing Street of stoking the risk of a mass rush to the pumps. ‘It’s the height of irresponsibility for Downing Street to give the impression that people should be panic-buying. They should be using all their efforts to get a settlement,’ a spokesman said. Labour leader Ed Miliband has so far refused to condemn the strike threat, with the Unite union behind the ballot being the party’s largest paymaster." - Daily Mail

  • The Express condemns Government's "half-baked advice"
  • Ross Clark urges Ed Miliband to condemn threatened strike - Express

Ken Clarke: Convicted criminals will face tougher community sentences which could include strict curfews, travel bans and ankle tags armed with “sat nav” - Telegraph

  • "Sadiq Khan, shadow justice secretary, said: “This Tory led-Government’s whole criminal justice strategy is built on an overriding objective to reduce prison numbers in order to fill the black hole in the budget, and these proposals appear part of this obsession."" - Times (£)

“My cheque book has been put away... there is no possibility of privacy” - The FT says Tory donors are unhappy at public gaze

  • Miliband to attack Cameron for "betraying" ordinary people to please his millionaire Tory paymasters - PA
  • "The Conservatives have received more than £100,000 in donations from companies and individuals connected to the lobbying industry since the party has been in government" - Independent
  • Lord Fink one of three donors omitted from list of Chequers guests, alongside GlaxoSmithKline chair and Diageo CEO - Guardian
  • Hague wined and dined three multi-millionaire Tory donors at his country mansion - Sun
  • "If there is a cap on donations of £50,000 or £10,000, the parties will have no money. Whatever they say, everyone in politics knows this. The parties might be able to make a bit by broadening their donor base, but it won’t bring in all that much" - Daniel Finkelstein in The Times (£)

16197575Campaigners have welcomed the Government’s decision to "water down" planning reforms - Telegraph

  • The Telegraph lists six major changes since the draft planning bill was published...
  • ...but The Mail is unconvinced: "Two points can be made with certainty about the Government’s plans to simplify and relax planning laws. One is that those who stand to gain most are get-rich-quick developers, who include some of the Conservative Party’s most generous donors. The other is that the biggest losers will be lovers of England’s countryside, among whom are numbered many of the Tories’ most loyal traditional supporters."
  • The Express says business remains happy - "John Cridland, director general of the CBI, said the Government had “kept its nerve”."
  • Allister Heath at City AM thinks the reforms are far too cautious.

At last the government has reined in the cowboy lobbyists and allowed urban renewal to trump rural development - Simon Jenkins in The Guardian

The Sun launches "Who VAT all the pies?" campaign saying "Hot takeaway food from bakery shops is a staple of ordinary Brits"

PastyGeorge Osborne has been mocked by MPs over his “pasty tax” after it emerged people could avoid paying VAT on hot baked goods if they wait for them to cool in the shop - Telegraph

"Under the rules released by the Treasury, a lukewarm pasty would not attract the sales tax in warm weather, because it would be the same temperature as the shop. But the same pasty could be hit with a VAT charge in winter when it would be warmer than the ‘ambient’ temperature." - Daily Mail

The Sun Says: "It's fun to imagine Mr Osborne as a modern Marie Antoinette. But there are serious parallels. She had no concept of starvation. Likewise the Chancellor and his rich Cabinet colleagues cannot begin to understand what it's like to be so hard-up that a sharp rise in the price of a pasty will hurt."

How bad has the last week been for the Conservatives?

  • Tory "attempts to convince people that 'we are all in it together' now look a busted flush. They are unequivocally viewed at the moment as the party of the rich." - Tom Bradby for ITN
  • "It is possible to argue that whatever the flashes of incompetence at the top, the Government is pursuing a programme of reform across the public services that is necessary, thought-out, and will, over time, drag the country out of the structural mess left by Labour" - Benedict Brogan in The Telegraph
  • The pendulum’s swung towards Labour in what Harold Wilson would’ve recognised as a long week in politics - Kevin Maguire in The Mirror
  • UKIP's support has been 7%, 6% and 6% in last three YouGov opinion surveys - The latest daily Sun/YouGov tracker gives Labour a 43% to 33% lead over the Conservatives

Osborne on AMGeorge Osborne opens door to unfunded tax cuts by inviting Treasury to consider dynamic effects of tax cuts

"Sources say that lowering the top rate of income tax could, for example, boost VAT receipts by incentivising people to spend their additional disposable pay. This is not at present taken into account. A cut in corporation tax, they add, could attract more businesses to Britain. Introducing that information would make lower tax rates more appealing." - Times (£)

"An aide to Mr Osborne criticised the Office for Budget Responsibility for taking insufficient account of the effect of corporation tax cuts on attracting companies to locate in Britain" - FT (£)

  • In his final column for The Times (£) Anatole Kaletsky urges George Osborne to abandon his austerity programme: "The rating agencies may downgrade Britain and the pound may fall briefly, but the economy will quickly rebound."

In her Express column Ann Widdecombe backs George Osborne on Granny Tax: "I can see no good reason why a pensioner who yesterday was working and economically active should have his retirement income assessed more favourably for tax than anyone else."

David Cameron has "forgotten" about dementia patients in care homes because "not a single penny" of the extra money he has just pledged will help them - Telegraph

More than one-third of schools in the government’s academy converter programme have cited additional money as their primary reason for taking part - FT (£)

Citing US pre-9/11 experience, David Davis warns of dangers of secret courts plan - Daily Mail

Panel concludes that riots were fuelled by a lack of opportunities for young people, poor parenting and suspicion of the police - Guardian

  • The FT (£) focuses on claims that the number of troubled families may equal 500,000, not 120,000 as Coalition has suggested
  • Poor parenting gets the blame for riots - Daily Mail

Joint Committee on House of Lord Reform says Bishops should stay - BBC

  • Peers say targets may be needed to recruit more ethnic minority and female judges if the judiciary did not better reflect society within five years - BBC

London 2012's legacy plans praised by International Olympic Committee (IOC) - Evening Standard 


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