Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Ef's triple trouble..



Labour's election campaign did not get off to the best of starts. Ed Miliband tried to woo business yesterday, and now faces trouble on three fronts: business leaders insisting they don't actually support himhis own MPs threatening to sabotage his cuts, and an increasingly controversial mug.

The business backlash will be especially galling for Miliband, as the party tried to show how business-friendly it can be at the start of its campaign by unveiling a "business manifesto". Labour took out an advert quoting numerous business leaders from companies like Kellogg's and Siemens on the importance of staying in the EU in a bid to back up their attack on the Tories' EU referendum pledge. But several business chiefs quoted have now expressed irritation about being used for an election ad. BAE Systems chair Sir Richard Olver, has written in today's Telegraph that businesses should "stick with the Tories". Our view is even blunter: "Mr Miliband may try to pretend to be a friend of the businesses that create the country's wealth and provide the jobs. He isn't."

Labour backbenchers are also threatening to rebel over their leader's cuts. John McDonnell, chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs and former leadership contender, told the New Statesman that as many as 40 MPs could rise up to rein in Miliband's planned austerity, insisting: "I think it will change, inevitably it will change". McDonnell's threat also raises the humiliating prospect of Labour rebels working with the Scottish Nationalists, a party Miliband has kept at arm's length, to stop his cuts. Some Conservatives struggling to hide their glee, as the threat feeds into their framing of the election as a "competence vs chaos" choice. 

Two shadow Cabinet ministers, Sadiq Khan and Chuka Umunna, have added to Miliband's woes by saying they would not buy one of Labour's new "controls on immigration" mugs. Miliband has been accused of "pandering to Ukip" with the controversial cups - bearing the party's slogan on immigration - which have been branded "an embarrassment". 

The Conservatives have also had a bumpy start after opening their campaign by accusing Labour of planning to hit families with a £3,000 tax rise. The Institute for Fiscal Studies quickly branded their claims "unhelpful and of little value". However, they are shrugging this off and trying to keep the focus on the economy, with David Cameron promising that a future Conservative government would create 2 million jobsin the next five years. This is a nice-sounding pledge, but one which may sound odd to some Conservatives. David Cameron used to mock the idea "that it's governments that create jobs", saying: "No, they don't – businesses do".

As the parties fight on for Day 2 of the campaign, Ben-Riley Smith will have the latest developments on our live-blog.


NIGEL DOESN'T GET HIS IDEAL NEIGHBOUR...

David Cameron has been handed a boost at Thursday's seven way television debate by being drawn to stand on the far right of the party leaders, Chris Hope reports. To the delight of Tory strategists, the Prime Minister will be far away from Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party and a strong performer in the format.

...BUT HE HAS FRIENDS ON THE OTHER SIDE

Nigel Farage has held secret talks about working with anti-European Union Conservative MPs in preparation for a hung parliament. The UK Independence Party leader disclosed the contact when he was unveiling the party's general election pledge card outside the London offices of the European Commission in London. Here are more details

MAKING YOUR MIND UP

Not sure who to vote for yet? The Telegraph has teamed up with Vote Match, the UK's biggest voting advice app, in order to help you find the party that best matches your views. The app is quick and easy to use, and the results may surprise you...

THE HEIGHT OF DEBATE

Party leaders have been offered a choice of podium ahead of Thursday's second televised election debate to ensure that height advantage does not unfairly advantage them. The seven party leaders have been told to email the producers of ITV's "Leaders Debate" with details of "their ideal podium height". Read more here.

GO OUR OWN WAY

Ruth Davidson has said she would prefer to see the Tories form a minority government, rather than enter another coalition, reports Auslan Cramb. The Scottish Conservative leader admitted as she launched her party's campaign north of the border that a majority in the general election "doesn't look like a dead cert, stick on right now".

SECRET BALLOT

The coalition's adviser on poverty has attacked both the Conservatives and Labour for keeping voters in the dark about the impact of their planned spending cuts until after polling day. Alan Milburn told the Independent's Andrew Grice that Labour and the Tories were stuck in their "comfort zones" and appealing to their core vote – on the NHS and the economy respectively. 

LABOUR BAGS BILBO 

The partner of Martin Freeman, the Hobbit and Sherlock Holmes actor, has tweeted "f*** the Tories" after he appeared in an election broadcast for the Labour Party, Steven Swinford reports. Mr Freeman, who also starred in The Office, claimed that the Tories will take the country on a "rollercoaster of cuts" while Labour will ensure that the "economy works for all of us, not just the privileged few like me".

LIVING WITH EDS

Tory candidate Nicola Blackwood has spoken up about being diagnosed with the rare debilitating condition Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), which means she has very fragile skin, ligaments, blood vessels and organs, as well as loose joints. "I am very lucky; my type of EDS does not carry life-threatening risk," she wrote on Sun Nation, "there were times when I just felt like my body was falling apart on me". 

ONE-TRACK DAVE 

The Prime Minister has given an interview to Heat magazine in which he spoke about rats, spiders and chili peppers. He also revealed that he is terrible at multi-tasking, quipping: "I'm a man, I can't do two things at once". Emily Gosden has more

ON THE BUSES

Nick Clegg has been touring the country in a yellow battle bus, the Conservatives have their blue one, and Labour has a red one. We've taken a look back at some 'Battle Buses' and past passengers who hoped to make Westminster their ultimate destination.


POLL POSITION


Average of polls as of Sunday, March 29: Lab: 33.7%, Conservative: 33.7%, UKIP 13.8%, Lib Dem 8%, Green 5.1%. The data is from: YouGov, Populus, Opinium, ComRes, Survation, Ipsos MORI, ICM, TNS-BMRB. 

TOO MANY TWEETS…

@AllieRenison: Epic - @ChukaUmunna asked about the immigration controls mug: "You what?" #real


COMMENT

From The Telegraph

Philip Johnston - This boring election is almost guaranteed to leave you fuming

Martin Baxter Campaign Calculus: What happens if nobody wins?

From elsewhere

Zoe Williams - Seven signs that a general election is under way

Rachel Sylvester - Head or heart? It's a Wizard of Oz election

AGENDA

0730 Nick Clegg outlines Lib Dem NHS commitments in first campaign press conference. Clegg then goes on to visit Watford and then Cardiff..

0930 UK final growth figure for Q4 to be published by ONS. Last month's estimate was that the economy grew by 0.5 per cent in the quarter

1000 Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood and Hywel Williams launch the party's manifesto in Bangor 

1100 Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, Public Health Minister Dan Poulter (12:00) and Paul Burstow (12:30) speak at the London Nurse Show

25th anniversary of the poll tax riots in London

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls is expected to reveal details of Labour's prospective budget

Scotland Secretary Alistair Carmichael visits Aberdeenshire as part of the Liberal Democrat election campaign

Shadow consumer affairs minister Stella Creasy and Robin Walker speaks at the Centre for Responsible Credit annual conference in Birmingham

1915 Jon Cruddas speaks at a Centre for Social Justice event on compassion in British politics

TODAY IN PARLIAMENT

HOUSE OF COMMONS

No business

WESTMINSTER HALL

No business 

HOUSE OF LORDS

No business

Monday, 30 March 2015

Taking care of business..


David Cameron is meeting with the Queen today to mark the formal start of the general election campaign, but you might say that the campaign has been going since 2010. The Tory leader will then warn that families face a £3,000 tax bombshell if Ed Miliband gets into Downing Street, echoing tactics used by the Conservatives in 1992, when the party won the general election by accusing Neil Kinnock of plotting a "tax bombshell".

Meanwhile, Ed Miliband is trying to align Labour with the business community as he prepares to lead his front bench at the launch of the party's "business manifesto". Labour is going after the Conservatives' EU referendum pledge, taking out page 7 of the Financial Times as an advert to push their key message that "the biggest risk to British business is the threat of an EU exit". 

However, this carefully planned charm offensive has been undermined by one of Labour's biggest donors, Dr Assem Allam, rising up to praise the Conservatives as the "best party in Europe" to manage the economy. Speaking to the Telegraph, the Hull City football club owner, who has given the party £400,000, accused Miliband of wanting to "penalise" business leaders, branded his central election pitch "communism", and compared some of his flagship economic policies to those of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. John Cridland, head of the Confederation of British Industry, told the Today programme this morning that Miliband's "polices on markets have raised some concern in the business community".

Labour's most popular message for business remains their commitment to stay in the European Union, while the Conservatives highlight their penchant for tax cuts and slashing red tape. Tony Blair, who knows a thing or two about winning elections, has tried to teach Labour the importance of wooing business, writing in his memoirs that they lost the 2010 general election as "tellingly, we lost business". He went on: "If... chief executives say it is Labour that will put the economy at risk, who does the voter believe? Answer: the chief executives. Once you lose them, you lose more than a few votes. You lose your economic credibility". 

However, a survey by Populus last year for the FT found that 44% of voters said they would be more likely to support a party that was tougher on big business, with those demanding action including 50% of Tory supporters, 63% of Liberal Democrats, 67% of Ukip backers and 72% of Labour supporters.

Miliband hopes that voters look past the criticism from business leaders, but with Labour still neck-and-neck with the Tories, the party is failing to set out a compelling alternative. 

 


MAKING YOUR MIND UP

Not sure who to vote for yet? The Telegraph has teamed up with Vote Match, the UK's biggest voting advice app, in order to help you find the party that best matches your views. The app is quick and easy to use, and the results may surprise you...

TO THE LEFT, TO THE LEFT

Nick Clegg's general election campaign had a stuttering start when the Liberal Democrat leader's bus appeared to have trouble turning around on narrow roads in Oxfordshire, Chris Hope reports. Mr Clegg was unveiling the party's distinctive canary yellow battle bus, which he is expected to use the bus to meet LibDem supporters as he criss-crosses the country in the general election campaign over the next seven weeks. MailOnline's Matt Chorley compared the scene to Alan Partridge riding around in his mobile radio.

GENERAL IGNORANCE

Ignoring defence issues ahead of the general election is "wrong, complacent and dangerous", the former head of the Army says, as he calls on David Cameron to commit to spending 2 per cent of GDP on the military. Writing in The Daily Telegraph, General Sir Richard Dannatt, warns that Tory voters could switch their allegiance to the UK Independence Party because of Nigel Farage's commitment to defence spending.

NO TIME FOR GOGGLEBOX

Nigel Farage says that he is too busy running the UK Independence Party to watch television programmes or read books. Speaking to the Observer, the Ukip leader also discussed his mother Barbara Stevens, who he said was "quite a character". Last year she was photographed posing half-naked in a Women's Institute calendar.

OCH AYE, THE NEWS!

Alex Salmond has issued an extraordinary demand for control over the BBC in Scotland to be transferred to Edinburgh so its political coverage can be made more favourable to the SNP, Simon Johnson reports. The former First Minister told the party conference in Glasgow that BBC Scotland must be devolved to Holyrood so that its supposed anti-Nationalist bias can be "resolved". Meanwhile, Boris Johnson argues in today's Telegraph that Salmond would "run rings around Miliband" as an MP and that any Labour-SNP coalition would result in the "Scottish tail wagging the English dog". 

NICOLA, QUEEN OF SCOTS

How have Alex Salmond's recent interventions left his successor, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, feeling? Speaking to BuzzFeed's Jamie Ross, she reveals what she thinks, and talks of how her party will have a "very significant" role to play if "weak" Ed Miliband becomes prime minister. She also thinks Irn Bru is "good in moderation". 

THE INTERNET IS FOR...

Labour MP Simon Danczuk has admitted that he watches pornography. Mr Danczuk, whose wife Karen has been find of posting photos of herself online, admitted to radio station Key 2 in Manchester that his phone had tagged as a "favourite" a hard-core porn site on Twitter.

THE QUIET MAN (UNHELPFULLY) TURNS UP THE VOLUME

David Cameron will not serve a full second term as Prime Minister if he wins the General Election, one of his senior Cabinet ministers has claimed. Iain Duncan Smith, one of Mr Cameron's predecessors as Tory leader, said that Mr Cameron would stand down as Prime Minister before the 2020 election. Here are more details

THE BORROWERS

One of Ed Miliband's key elections chiefs has admitted that Labour will borrow more if the party wins the general election in May. The admission from Lucy Powell came after the Institute for Fiscal Studies said the party would have borrowing of up to £30 billion by 2020 - when the Tories aim to be running a surplus of £7 billion. Read more here

STORM IN A MUG

Ed Miliband is under attack from one of his senior backbenchers for his "shameful" immigration policy, Chris Hope reports. Diane Abbott, who lost out to Mr Miliband in the party's 2010 leadership contest, attacked the party's pledge to control immigration if it wins power in May's general election.

THE DAMNED UTD

Is Ed Miliband as weak as critics say he is? Would Labour have been better off with his brother as leader? Keiran Pedley discusses this and more for the latest Polling Matters podcast with Tim Bale. Professor Bale, from Queen Mary Univeristy, argues that Bale, a Queen Mary University academic, has largely done a good job of keeping the party united following election defeat in 2010.


POLL POSITION


Average of polls as of Sunday, March 29: Lab: 33.6%, Conservative: 33.1%, UKIP 14%, Lib Dem 8.2%, Green 5.3%. The data is from: YouGov, Populus, Opinium, ComRes, Survation, Ipsos MORI, ICM, TNS-BMRB. 

TOO MANY TWEETS…

@FaisalIslamCaptain Chaos on election campaign. 1. Cameron attacks Labour chaos on econ/ tax 2. Miliband attacks Conservative chaos on Europe/leadership


COMMENT

From The Telegraph

Boris Johnson  - Regressive, sarcastic and pious – welcome to Britain under Ed Miliband and the SNP

Janet Daley - Politics is now a puerile game – and we're not playing along

From elsewhere

Matthew D'Ancona - Cavaliers v Roundheads is great telly but bad politics

Alastair Campbell - The Loser in the Debates Was the Public - And Not for the Reasons You Think

AGENDA

Parliament to be dissolved at midday, ministers kicked out of their governmental offices and the 'short campaign' to start

1000 Scottish Green Party leader Patrick Harvie launches the party's manifesto in Edinburgh

1100 Ed Miliband, Ed Balls, Chuka Umunna, Rachel Reeves, Douglas Alexander and Caroline Flint will launch Labour's Business Manifesto at Bloomberg

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt to give a speech at the Association of Teachers & Lecturers conference in Liverpool

1830 Mayor of London Boris Johnson speaks at a Legatum Institute event in London 

Royal Mail to increase the prices of its First and Second Class Stamps by 1p to 63p and 54p respectively

TODAY IN PARLIAMENT

HOUSE OF COMMONS

No business

WESTMINSTER HALL

No business 

HOUSE OF LORDS

No business

Friday, 27 March 2015

Redemption..



As MPs hit the campaign trail, David Cameron and Ed Miliband faced off on TV last night. It wasn't quite head-to-head though, as each party leader, Cameron first and then Miliband, sat down to be interviewed by Jeremy Paxman, and take part in a Q&A alone. Imagine a prime ministerial version of Crufts, with each leader coming out before the judges (the voters) to show off what they can do. Here's our round-up of what happened.

The meatiest exchanges were during the interviews. Paxman grilled Miliband about his strength of character and the last Labour government's immigration policies, while he took Cameron was taken to task over broken promises on immigration, accusing the Prime Minister of surrounding himself with "rich people" and causing a massive rise in food banks. The Tory leader seemed thrown off by Paxman's opening salvo, grumbling about his "completely unjustified" and "ridiculous" questions. He later recovered in the Q&A with an assured performance. 

Miliband, however, came out fighting against Paxman. "Am I tough enough? Hell yes!" he insisted. When Paxman mocked Labour's chances of winning a majority, Miliband shot back. "You're important, Jeremy, but not that important! You don't get to decide the result of the election!" His defiant performance was reminiscent of an early David Cameron, who in 2005 when fighting for the Conservative leadership, told Paxman off for treating his interviewees "like they are some cross between a fake or a hypocrite".

Who won? The post-match ICM poll gave it to Cameron, with 54 per cent of those saying he had come out on top, compared to just 46 per cent for Miliband. Our columnists, Dan Hodges, Mary Riddell, James Kirkup, Tim Stanley and Janet Daley gave their verdict here. Labour can be cheerful as Miliband did far better than expected, which is why the Tories have always been so wary of debates. Asked who they thought would make the better PM, 48 per cent said Cameron, while 40 per cent preferred Miliband, which is a massive improvement for the Labour leader, who is normally as much as 20 points behind. Conservative voters will view the debate as a resounding victory for their man, and vice versa, so what about the floating voters? Among the 8 per cent who said the debate could sway how they vote, 56 per cent of them said they were tempted to vote Labour, and 30 per cent the Tories. 

Neither party has victory in the bag after this first TV clash. But it will provide a badly needed confidence boost for Labour, as Miliband prepares to launch his party's election campaign today. It may also rein in the Tories' exuberance as they realise "Red Ed" is not dead yet.


DISORDER DISORDER!

David Cameron has been humiliated after a plot to oust the Speaker backfired amid fury from senior Conservatives, Matthew Holehouse reports. Nearly two-dozen Tories voted against a "shabby plot" to undermine John Bercow by amending parliamentary rules to put his re-election to a secret ballot. Bercow had tears in his eyes as Charles Walker, the Conservative chairman of the Procedure Committee, attacked his colleagues for "playing him for a fool" by keeping him in the dark about an attempt to drive through reforms in the dying hours of the Parliament that he had proposed months ago.

BAD MAN BLAIR

Dame Joan Ruddock is the latest retiring MP in Rosa Prince's fascinating running series of interviews. She recalls moments of flagrant sexism in the Commons, like when one Tory MP shouted that he'd like to strip search her during a debate. The Labour MP also explains why she calls Tony Blair a "bad man" and talks of how she and fellow Labour MP Frank Doran left their spouses to be together. 

AIDEN FLEES THE HURLEY BURLEY

A Tory MP who attended a Nazi-themed stag party has attacked some of his own constituents as "rude and awkward", condemned Parliament as a "mad house" and suggested he should be paid more, Steven Swinford reports. In his valedictory speech as he stood down as an MP, Aiden Burley said that being an MP comes at "great cost" including "being away from home, working very long hours, often for lower pay than you were earning before".

BATTLE ROYAL COMES TO AN END

The UK's highest court has refused to overturn a ruling which paved the way for publication of letters written by the Prince of Wales to government ministers. Supreme Court justices in London rejected a challenge by the Attorney General, the Government's principal legal adviser, against a decision by Court of Appeal judges that he has unlawfully prevented the public seeing the letters. Here are more details

BOJO4LEADER GETS A BOOST

Boris Johnson is the clear favourite to replace David Cameron with more than twice as much support as either Theresa May or George Osborne, a new poll has found. More than a quarter of voters think Mr Johnson should replace Mr Cameron if he stands down during the next term, compared to 13 per cent who support Theresa May and 8 per cent who support George Osborne.

YELLO' YELLO'...WHAT'S ALL THIS THEN?

The Metropolitan Police is investigating allegations regarding donations to the Liberal Democrats raised in the Daily Telegraph's undercover investigation. The Electoral Commission has passed a file of allegations prepared by the Telegraph to the police. Here are more details

I CAN'T GET NO SELFIE-SATISFACTION

Conservative MPs have been told to pose for "selfies" with voters to increase the party's exposure on social media websites like Facebook. A senior Tory source, speaking after a final pre-election meeting of the party's MPs with the election guru Lynton Crosby, agreed that this could become known as "the selfie election". Chris Hope has more.

STILL COALICIOUS

Half of Tory MPs and candidates would back a second coalition with the Lib Dems if their party falls short of a majority, a new Dods poll has revealedThe survey found that 48% of sitting Tory MPs, and 53% of prospective parliamentary candidates, want to see a repeat of the current coalition in the event of a hung parliament.

FOLLOW THE LEADER

Nicola Sturgeon has insisted that Alex Salmond is not "calling the shots" in the SNP as she faced unprecedented mockery at Holyrood over her predecessor portraying himself as kingmaker after the general election. Simon Johnson reports. For the second day running the First Minister was forced to assert that she, and not her mentor, is leading the Nationalists and overseeing the party's election strategy


POLL POSITION


Average of polls as of Wednesday, March 25: Lab: 33.65%, Conservative: 33.69%, UKIP 13.85%, Lib Dem 7.9%, Green 5.32%. The data is from: YouGov, Populus, Opinium, ComRes, Survation, Ipsos MORI, ICM, TNS-BMRB. 

TOO MANY TWEETS…

@PiersMorgan: Miliband did marginally better than Cameron. And Miliband's awful. So that shows you how poor Cameron was/is


COMMENT

From The Telegraph

Bobby Friedman - John Bercow: the most infuriating man in Britain

Fraser Nelson - Public satisfaction is high, but the Tories are not getting the credit

From elsewhere

Quentin Letts - Miliband came over all Mr Muscle. Am I tough? Hell yes! 

George Eaton - Punchy Miliband was the big winner against a flat Cameron

AGENDA

09:30 Weekly statistics on A&E waiting times to be published

20:00 'Any Questions' from Doncaster. On the panel: Conservative Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves, Respect MP George Galloway and Ukip economic spokesman Patrick O'Flynn

Climate Change Minister Baroness Verma attends the Asian business awards

Labour launch election campaign

Plaid Cymru election campaign to launch

TODAY IN PARLIAMENT

HOUSE OF COMMONS

Parliament prorogued - business will not be proceeded with 

WESTMINSTER HALL

No business 

HOUSE OF LORDS

No business

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Lights, camera, election..



David Cameron got the election campaign off the topic of his retirement and onto tax policy after tripping up Ed Miliband at Prime Minister's Questions yesterday. The Labour leader thought he was on a perfect line of attack after George Osborne struggled to rule out increasing VAT under questioning from MPs on Tuesday, but he fell into a carefully-placed trap as Cameron did exactly that. 

The move will somewhat spike Labour's guns as the party launched a big poster campaign, advertising their commitment to not raise VAT, in order to pile pressure on Cameron. Miliband tried to keep up the attack, dismissing his answer on VAT as not convincing enough, akin to George Bush senior's "Read my lips: no new taxes" promise. However, Cameron was able to keep him on the back foot over his apparent refusal to say if a future Labour government would have to increase National Insurance. 

Ed Balls later ruled out increasing National Insurance, which is a big move as it counts, along with VAT, for around 1/3 of tax revenue. Labour is also set to rule out increasing the basic or higher rate of income tax, which risks giving Balls much less wriggle room over how he will stick to his plans to reduce the deficit. What taxes would he have to raise? By how much? Would he have to cut more than he lets on? Our view is that Balls has "somewhat boxed Miliband into a corner for the campaign". 

The Conservatives' average poll position is holding steady, and threatening to leapfrog Labour, suggesting that Cameron's "no third term pledge" has failed to worry voters. The two party leaders are gearing up for the first televised debate tonight. I hear Miliband has spent much of this week practising, and been helped by Alastair Campbell and Michael Sheehan, who coached Obama and Clinton for the presidential debates and charges as much as £10,000 per day. Cameron, by contrast, hasn't had time to rehearse. If CCHQ is worried, it isn't letting on, with one spinner telling me: "He's running the country."

The party leaders won't be facing off head-to-head, but both men will be keen to use their appearances to give their campaigns some much-needed momentum. 


I STILL AGREE WITH NICK

David Cameron has held private discussions about forming another coalition government after the general election, it has been claimed. With polls pointing to another hung Parliament, it has been reported that behind closed doors, the Prime Minister "doesn't bother to maintain the fiction" that he is not planning for a second coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Here are more details

BYE BYE BERCOW?

MPs will vote on Thursday on whether to re-elect the Speaker of the House of Commons by secret ballot, after the Conservatives and Lib Dems launched a surprise "payback" plot to unseat John Bercow. An emergency motion has been tabled by William Hague, the Leader of the Commons, on the final sitting day of Parliament. Chris Hope has more

MY DAD'S THE PRIME MINISTER

David Cameron's children were allowed to watch what could be his last Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday for "educational purposes", Chris Hope reports. Nancy and Elwen Cameron were both in the public gallery, with their mother Samantha, to watch the last Parliamentary duel between Mr Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband.

I HATE THESE BLURRED LINES

Nick Clegg has challenged the Tories and Labour to outline their policy red lines for coalition negotiations ahead of the election, Ben Riley-Smith reports. The Deputy Prime Minister said his party would put on the front page of their election manifesto which policies they will fight hardest to implement and challenged rivals to do the same.

EVERYDAY I LOVE EU LESS AND LESS

British people are more anti-Europe now than at any point in the last two decades, Javier Espinoza reports. On Europe, 62 per cent want Britain to leave the European Union or see a significant reduction in Brussels' powers. Nearly half would like to see the EU have less power now, compared to 30 per cent in 1997, the British Social Attitudes Survey of nearly 3,000 people found. 

ED, I WIN (TAILS YOU LOSE)

Alex Salmond has said he will be able to hold Labour to ransom and rewrite its budget – even if Ed Miliband does not want to do a deal, Matthew Holehouse reports. The former Scottish First Minister said he would be able to "shut out" David Cameron from government – and force budget amendments on Ed Miliband whether he wanted them or not.

TARTAN TIFF

Nicola Sturgeon has been forced to reassert she is the SNP leader after Alex Salmond undermined her demands for propping up a minority Labour government after the general election, Simon Johnson reports. The First Minister insisted that her predecessor is merely a member of her "team" and "I'm leading the SNP campaign" after he said he would install Ed Miliband in Downing Street regardless of whether a power-sharing deal was reached.

JUST A PRETTY FACE?

Miriam Gonz√°lez Durantez, wife of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, has revealed that the "one thing" that first attracted her to him was "his looks". She told LBC's Shelagh Fogarty: "When you are 20, you're not impressed by anything else than by the looks to start with." Mrs Gonzalez also denied reports that they first met on the dancefloor. The full interview is here

THEY'LL BE WATCHING YOU

Police spied on a string of Labour politicians during the 1990s, covertly monitoring them even after they had been elected to the House of Commons, a whistleblower has told the Guardian. Former police officer Peter Francis said that he read secret files on 10 MPs during his 11 years working for the Metropolitan police's special branch, which featured Labour's current deputy leader, Harriet Harman, the former cabinet minister Peter Hain and the former home secretary Jack Straw.

TATLER TORIES II

Women and ethnic minority candidates are being selected for the safest Tory seats, just like the now infamous 'Tatler Tories' of 2008. However, they're keeping quiet and avoiding the photoshoots. Harry Cole has been looking at David Cameron's "secret A-list" in this week's Spectator Life.

UKIP? U-BIGOTS

The founder and former chair of Ukip's group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people has called the party a "cult" that is "too willing to entertain bigots". In a scathing attack on UKIP and its leadership, Tom Booker told BuzzFeed that Nigel Farage used the existence of the LGBT group as a public relations stunt to cover the homophobic views of some of its politicians.

CASH IN THE SECOND ATTIC

Many MPs leaving office this May will have a valuable memento of their time in office, a second home part-subsidied by taxpayers. City A.M's Emma Haslett and Ashley Kirk have found that they could stand to make more than £9m of gains on these properties.


POLL POSITION


Average of polls as of Wednesday, March 25: Lab: 33.7%, Conservative: 33.88%, UKIP 13.79%, Lib Dem 7.9%, Green 5.34%. The data is from: YouGov, Populus, Opinium, ComRes, Survation, Ipsos MORI, ICM, TNS-BMRB. 

TOO MANY TWEETS…

@FaisalIslam: I'm going to enjoy this election campaign even more if the PM persists with this newsworthy "straight answer" strategy. #pmqs


COMMENT

From The Telegraph

Caroline Abrahams - This is why old people heckled you, David Cameron

Iain Martin - Will Alex Salmond ever shut up? 

From elsewhere

Chris Giles - UK voters face a choice of cuts or more cuts in public spending

George Pascoe Watson - The PM is preparing to debate... but tonight is NOT the night.

AGENDA

0900 Nick Clegg's weekly phone-in on LBC

0930 UK monthly retail sales figures for February to be published by ONS

0945 Supreme Court to hand down a judgment on whether Prince Charles' letters to government departments should be revealed under the Freedom of Information Act

2100 Channel 4 and Sky News to broadcast 'Cameron & Miliband Live: The Battle for Number 10' – Cameron will be interviewed first by Jeremy Paxman, before questions are thrown open to a studio audience in a Q&A moderated by Kay Burley. The same audience will then grill Miliband, before Paxman asks his questions.

2245 'Question Time' from Bolton. On the panel: Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, Ukip immigration spokesman Steven Woolfe and broadcaster Janet Street-Porter

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid in conversation at Legatum Institute on capitalism

Retiring MPs to give valedictory speeches during a special session in the House of Commons

Richard III to be reburied at Leicester Cathedral

TODAY IN PARLIAMENT

HOUSE OF COMMONS

9.30 Prayers

Oral Questions: Business, Innovation and Skills

10.30 Urgent Questions, Ministerial Statements (if any)

Business of the House (24, 25 and 26 March) (No. 2) (Motion)

Motions relating to procedure of the House (if the Business of the House Motion is agreed to)

Until 1630 Backbench Business: Valedictory debate - A Royal Commission is expected

WESTMINSTER HALL

No business 

HOUSE OF LORDS

11:00 Oral questions 

Baroness Boothroyd - UNESCO concerns over South Bank development and the impact on the Palace of Westminster

Baroness Henig - Regulation system for private investigators

Baroness Smith of Basildon -Reduction of police numbers and the impact on community safety

Lord Ramsbotham - G4S retraction of an invitation to the Howard League for Penal Reform to visit HMP Birmingham and HMP Oakwood

Lord Ashton of Hyde - Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2015 - motion to approve

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara -Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. 26th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Lord Lloyd of Berwick - Report of the Inquiry into the Use of Immigration Detention in the United Kingdom

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Dave's last orders..



David Cameron bid his Coalition Cabinet farewell yesterday, after promising not to go on too long as Prime Minister, marking its final session before the election with "Co-ale-ition" beer and tubs of "Coalition crunch" crisps. 

Cameron will be feeling demob-happy today as he prepares to face off against Ed Miliband for the last session of Prime Minister's Questions of the Parliament. Coalition niceties will officially dissolve from next Monday as politicians throw themselves into campaigning. But the Prime Minister's pre-resignation still hangs over the Conservative campaign, with MPs fearing that constant talk of who could take over risks being a "distraction". Cameron has struggled to move the conversation on from when he will retire, popping up at an Age UK rally to talk about his intended "political epitaph", in an appearance which saw him heckled by the audience of pensioners.

The uncertainty Cameron sparked around the party's future leadership has set some MPs on edge, with one fuming to our reporters: "It's impossible to suggest people should vote for you if you don't know who will lead the party". Another MP argued that the Prime Minister had made his potential second term in office, which he pledged to serve in full, even more precarious. "If the election result is not good enough, some people will now say, 'He's going before 2020 anyway; we might as well go for him now'," he told the Independent.

A good day to bury bad news? Ukip tried its best, announcing the expulsion of Janice Atkinson over false expenses claims, with Nigel Farage unveiling her replacement as the party's parliamentary candidate in Kent. However, the process quickly went a bit pear-shaped as a local party member complained that the new candidate, Harriet Yeo, had been chosen without any consultation. Ukip spinners insist the timing was a coincidence, with one telling me: "We reacted quickly. We weren't waiting for an old Etonian to tell an old Etonian that he's passing the baton to another old Etonian". 

The Prime Minister is undoubtedly kicking himself for being so frank about his future. Our view is that he "should have said, and no doubt now wishes he had, that the question of a third term does not arise until he has secured a second". Conservative campaigners will be getting impatient over this leadership talk, as every day it continues is a day less talking about the issues. 


THE BENEFITS OF ENGLISH 

Foreigners will be stripped of hundreds of pounds worth of housing benefits if they refuse to learn English under a Conservative majority government, Ben Riley-Smith has learned. Doctors and nurses will also have to tell migrants who cannot speak English where they can learn the language under proposals being drawn up by the Conservatives.

SALMOND THE SABOTEUR

Alex Salmond has been accused of trying to "sabotage" democracy after pledging to install Ed Miliband as Prime Minister even if the Conservatives are the largest party after the general election, Simon Johnson reports. The former First Minister said Nationalist MPs in a hung parliament would try to bring down any Tory minority government by voting against its Queen's Speech, even if Labour has fewer seats.

LABOUR'S POSTER CHILD

Labour has been accused of using an "inappropriate" image on its election poster of a potential "victim of child abuse", Camilla Turner reports. The poster, which features an X-ray image of a broken bone, is accompanied by the words: "Next time they'll cut to the bone".

THE GREEN REPUBLIC

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett (no relation) has indicated that she would support the abolition of the monarchy and called on the change to be considered after the election. Miss Bennett repeatedly refused to rule out removing the Queen from her role as head of state and said a decision should be placed in the hands of the people. Read more here.

MONEY MONEY MONEY (IT'S A RICH MAN'S PARTY)

David Cameron has failed to shake off the Tories' image as "a party of the one per cent" and now faces being ousted from Downing Street, a senior Tory has said.Ex-Conservative minister and London mayoral candidate Steve Norris said at a Centre for London think-tank debate that his party was suffering in the polls because of perceptions they are a party of the rich. Politics.co.uk's Adam Bienkov was in the audience

VAT'S NOT CONVINCING

George Osborne has refiused five times to give a "cast-iron guarantee" that he would not raise VAT in the next parliament, saying only that there is no need to do so. The chancellor was tackled on his plans after Labour's Ed Balls ruled out a rise in VAT for his party's general election manifesto and unveiled a poster warning of a Tory plan to increase the tax. The Guardian has more

A NOBODY WILL WIN

Tory MP David Davis, who challenged David Cameron for the leadership of the party in 2005, thinks none of the front-runners to succeed the prime minister will actually get the top job. "I can guarantee it will be someone we haven't thought of," he told the Huffington Post UK's Jessica Elgot. Meanwhile, I've argued that Education Secretary Nicky Morgan should be considered a serious leadership contender.

MURPHY BANKS ON BONUSES

Jim Murphy will today promise that Labour would use £1 billion from a tax on bankers' bonuses in the City of London to fund free university education and higher bursaries for Scottish students. The Scottish Labour leader will say that the spending commitment was only affordable by taxing the "wealthiest in the City of London" and had the impact of redistributing money "from South to North". Here are more details.

THIS AIN'T LOOKING PRITI...

A Conservative MP has called for her Labour election rival to be axed after accusing him of sending her "misogynistic" and "racist" tweets - and branding her a "sexy Bond villain". Priti Patel, who represents Witham in Essex, criticised John Clarke after he compared her to the "village idiot". Here are more details

BRUSSELS BROADCASTING CORP

The BBC's coverage of the European Union is biased and letting down viewers, MPs have concluded in a scathing report. The Corporation is failing its own promise to cover Europe impartially and there remain "deep concerns" about the breadth of topics investigated, the European Scrutiny Committee said.

CLEGG GONNA FUNK YOU UP

After Nick Clegg's previous hit, The Sorry Song, the Liberal Democrats have released a new election anthem, remixing his conference speech to the tune of Mark Ronson's Uptown Funk. The video has to be seen to be believed, with Clegg singing things like: "We are too hot... Lib Dems!" and "Voting Liberal Democrat, woo hoo!" 


POLL POSITION


Average of polls as of Monday, March 23: Lab: 33.71%, Conservative: 33.29%, UKIP 14.45%, Lib Dem 7.91%, Green 4.87%. The data is from: YouGov, Populus, Opinium, ComRes, Survation, Ipsos MORI, ICM, TNS-BMRB. 

TOO MANY TWEETS…

@AFNeil: First Miliband, now Cameron. New rule for British politicians: stay our of the kitchen!!


COMMENT

From The Telegraph

Dan Hodges - David Cameron may not know it, but he has just ended his modernisation project

James Kirkup - By 2020, the Conservative Party leader will be . . . not who you expect

From elsewhere

Daniel Finkelstein - Tell every PM: ten years and that's your lot

Rafael Behr - Even if David Cameron wins in May this exit talk will haunt him

AGENDA

1200 Last PMQs before the election

1300 Nick Clegg takes questions on Mumsnet

1430 Miriam Gonzalez, Nick Clegg's wife, interviewed on LBC 

Lord Davies to launch his annual review of Women on Boards; the Cranfield School of Management's 'Female FTSE' report is also to be published

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is to give a speech at the City of London Corporation's Easter Banquet for the diplomatic corps

1500 Owen Paterson speaks at a Heritage Foundation event in Washington DC on the General Election and the planned referendum on EU membership 

1800 Westminster Policy Institute debate on how election could impact business, with Matthew Hancock, Simon Walker, Sean Worth. Brewer's Hall, London

TODAY IN PARLIAMENT

HOUSE OF COMMONS

11.30am Oral questions - Cabinet Office, including Topical Questions

12pm Prime Minister's Question Time

Presentation of Bill - Protection of Children (Removal of Police Discretion) - Mr Barry Sheerman

Ten Minute Rule Motion -Tax Transparency and International Development - Fiona O'Donnell

Business -Finance (No.2) Bill - All stages

Motion - Motion to approve a Statutory Instrument relating to terrorism

Adjournment debate - Social care and military compensation - Mr Gordon Marsden

WESTMINSTER HALL

Adjournment debates 

9.30 - 1100 Economic infrastructure of North Wales - Mark Tami

1100 - 11.30 Human rights and security in Democratic Republic of Congo - Jeremy Corbyn

14.30 - 1600 High Speed 2 - Mrs Cheryl Gillan

1600 - 1630 Crisis report on homelessness 2015 - Mr Brooks Newmark

16.30 - 1700 Monitor's investigation into Princess Royal University Hospital and hospitals in South East London - Jim Dowd

HOUSE OF LORDS

1500 Oral questions, Devolution of services and powers in England and basis for a future government, Commencement date for the next defence review, Threats to community life in the UK, Planned policy changes in respect of the Middle East following the recent election results in Israel

Local Government (Religious etc. Observances) Bill - 3rd reading - Lord Cormack

Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Bill - 3rd reading - Lord Ribeiro

Health Service Commissioner for England (Complaint Handling) Bill - 3rd reading - Baroness Finlay of Llandaff

Modern Slavery Bill - Consideration of Commons amendments - Lord Bates

Debate -The economy of the UK in the light of the Budget Statement - Lord Deighton

Motion to approve for the purposes of Section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993 the Government's assessment as set out in the Budget Report - Lord Deighton

Orders and regulations - Public Contract Regulations 2015 - motion to regret - Lord Hunt of Kings Heath