Conservative moronity: related links
:Murdoch papers paid £1m to gag phone-hacking victims
News of the World bugging led to £700,000 payout to PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor
Sun editor Rebekah Wade and Conservative communications chief Andy Coulson
- both ex-NoW editors - involved
News International chairman Les Hinton told MPs reporter jailed for phone-hacking was one-off case
:Feud grips new Tory Euro grouping
It was meant to be a brave new era of co-operation, but David Cameron's new European alliance now looks increasingly forlorn as his new allies traded insults with a Tory grandee.
After weeks of tension, Michal Kamiński, the Polish leader of the Conservatives' new grouping in the European Parliament, threatened legal action against Edward McMillan-Scott, a Tory MEP who has served for 25 years but who was thrown out of the party by Mr Cameron last week for accusing Mr Kamiński of being a racist.
:The European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECRG) - corrected and updated
The "European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECRG)", isn't that the most ridiculous combination one could imagine? Mixing those who want to conserve and those who want to reform?
But it has become a truth:
The British Tories, the Polish PiS and the Czech ODS form a joint eurosceptic group in the European Parliament. This brings together three of the most important not-so-European anti-good-things parties, those who want to conserve the bad sides (like nationalism) in the European Union and reform the good ones (like working together, liberalising interpersonal relations, etc).
Diary - Follow the money, the saying goes. And the result from Conservative HQ. Silence
"It was almost three weeks ago that we asked Conservative central office about the £50,000 donation made to the party by one John E Dodd, which is helpfully noted on the Electoral Commission register. Three weeks tomorrow in fact, but the frequent promises of clarification have never materialised. Frankly, we're still puzzled. Could it be, we asked, that the donor - who has given the party enough to become part of David Cameron's elite Leader's Club - is John Edwin Dodd, the investment type who co-founded Artemis fund management group?
John Edwin Dodd, the multimillionaire owner of the Glenogil shooting estate, in Angus, Tayside, who last year had his farming subsidy cut by £107,000 by the Scottish executive - a record sanction - after police found highly toxic and illegal pesticides on bait
. We thought it best to ask because it would seem strange for the Tories, who say they will do all to protect our green and pleasant land, to be taking money from one judged by the authorities to be imperilling it
, despite his continued claims of innocence. The days have passed since we asked. Since then, nothing from him, nothing from them."
:David Cameron urged to sever links with Polish MEP
"Michal Kaminski, the chair of the European Conservatives and Reformists group, has far-right tendencies, anti-racism campaigners claim"
"Prominent Jewish figures and anti-racism campaigners in Europe today urged David Cameron to sever his links with a Polish politician they claim has far-right and neo-Nazi tendencies.
Rabbis have expressed concern that the Tory leader has allied himself with the MEP Michal Kaminski, who earlier this month became the chair of the European Conservatives and Reformists group, which includes about 25 Tory MEPs.
In an interview with this week's New Statesman, the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, said it was "clear" that Kaminski was a former member of the National Revival of Poland party, which the US State Department described as "habouring anti-semitic views".
Kaminski has been accused of downplaying the massacre of Jews in wartime Poland - a charge he has strongly denied - while the National Revival of Poland party is known for extremist views and campaigns.
"It is clear that Mr Kaminski was a member of the NOP, a group that is openly far-right and neo-Nazi," Schudrich said.
"Anyone who would want to align himself with a person who was an active member of NOP and the Committee to Defend the Good Name of Jedwabne, which was established to deny historical facts of the massacre ... needs to understand with what, and by whom, he is being represented."
Rafal Pankowski, of the Holocaust campaign group Never Again, said: "Kaminski has an extreme right background."
"To have him, of all people, the chairman of a group that legitimises far-right tendencies across Europe, is somewhat ironic, [especially] for a leader like Cameron, who domestically opposed the BNP, for example."
:Cameron may have helped the Polish right, but he has not served Britain
"The farce of David Cameron's Latvian legion becomes more ridiculous by the day. Last month, I deplored the fact that Cameron has led his members of the European parliament out of the mainstream, influential European People's Party (EPP) grouping into a much smaller new faction, now christened the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR)."
:Tories face fresh questions over Euro alliance
'The Tories faced fresh questions over their new European Parliament alliance today after it emerged its Polish chair has backed both the Lisbon Treaty and the Common Agricultural Policy.
Law and Justice Party MEP Michael Kaminski told his Law and Justice Party's website that the treaty "guarantees Poland's sovereignty".
That would appear to put him seriously at odds with David Cameron who is strongly opposed to the treaty which he wants to put to a referendum in the UK.
:There it is, then. The Tories, too, will live down to our expectations
'That all David Cameron can do is 'rebuke' Alan Duncan and his fellow clods shows the scale of Tory dreams in an age of tweeting MPs'
'After all, this is the week that saw David Cameron opt to keep poor ration-booked, shit-treated Alan Duncan in his post, rather than declare that perhaps he wasn't the man to front the Tories' now spectacularly compromised expenses clean-up... Greater love hath no man than he lay down his not-very-convincing reformer's pose for Little Alan Duncan's shadow cabinet life?
Big dreams, Dave. Big dreams.
:Tory frontbencher Michael Gove on defensive after anti-NHS book link
'A senior member of the Shadow Cabinet today strenuously tried to distance himself from a controversial Conservative MEP who has fiercely attacked the health service.
Despite efforts by David Cameron to close down the row, Michael Gove, the Shadow Schools Secretary, was forced to make plain that he "emphatically disagreed" with Daniel Hannan over the NHS.'
:Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Cameron?
'The Tories speak with two tongues when they claim that they can make deep cuts to public spending and improve services'
..'The Tory leader talks about a "new approach to public spending" which will "get more for less". How this trick works is known only to members of the Magic Circle'
:Cameron's basic error will cost this country dearly
'Just as Labour has got the economy fluttering to life, promised Tory cuts to the public sector would put it all at risk'
'With encouraging indicators this week that Britain is starting to emerge from recession a little ahead of Treasury forecasts, early signs suggest public opinion is shifting to the view that Labour's fiscal stimulus worked. Recovery will be fragile all next year, with fear of a double dip. So where are the Tories? Thoroughly trounced, proven to be wrong when all through the crisis they alone in the world opposed all intervention, including the bailing-out of banks. They have virtually no reputable economic allies.'
:The Conservative MEP Edward McMillan-Scott has been expelled from the party.
'The MEP was suspended in July after he stood for vice-president of the European Parliament in defiance of party instructions.
He was criticised for challenging a Polish MEP, one of the Tories' new allies in Brussels, for the role. '
Tory MEP expelled for calling a right-wing prick, who Cameron loves, a right-wing prick.
:Osborne: Banks must rebuild balance sheets, and they must not
'"As happened in Japan, lower policy rates will be absorbed by the banks in the form of higher margins and profits in order to rebuild their balance sheets, instead of being passed on to households and businesses."
But later he argues:
"Indeed, if banks pay out huge bonuses on the back of taxpayer support instead of using profits to rebuild their balance sheets, that is not only bad for the broader economy, it is bad for the City itself.”"
:Punished for challenging extremism
(punished for telling the truth)
'warned the Conservatives about Michal Kaminski before I stood against him in Europe. They should not have expelled me'
'I was shocked to be expelled from the Conservative party on Tuesday without notice. I had already lost the whip in July for winning re-election as vice-president of the European parliament against Michal Kaminski MEP, the Pole with an extremist past who now leads David Cameron's new European Conservative and Reformists (ECR) group'
:The Atlantic Bridge: Think Tank or sham? Top Tories face Charity Commission investigation
'Following a complaint from this blogger, the Charity Commission has launched an inquiry into the status of the Atlantic Bridge, a charity whose main activity appears to be the sponsorship of predominantly private events at which senior Conservatives - including shadow cabinet ministers - and their US allies may bond behind closed doors.'
:Leading Tory charity facing investigation
'A Conservative charity, set up by Liam Fox, is being investigated by the Charity Commission. The Atlantic Bridge - which boasts five shadow cabinet ministers on its advisory council including George Osborne and William Hague, as well as Fox - claims its mission statement is, "the simple aim of "Strengthening the Special Relationship" exemplified by the Reagan-Thatcher partnership of the 1980s."'
:Latvia's far right: Inconvenient truths that the Tories ignore
'Although for several years the parade had, at best, a semi-official imprimatur, more recently it has been banned including this year, although the parade went ahead.
It is precisely this that the Tories have ignored for the convenience of their political alliances in Europe. They have ignored the real history of the Latvian legion, an organisation that included enthusiastic Nazis culpable in the murder of the country's Jews. They have chosen to gloss over as well that the issue of the legion's annual march in Riga is deeply distasteful to many Latvians in a country that suffered grievously at the hands of both Stalin and Hitler.
They have also failed to understand, whatever the mitigating circumstances that compelled some Latvians into the SS, that such service is not something to be commemorated or celebrated, but mourned. Indeed, as the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and several Jewish writers have attempted carefully to argue in the past, while the legion as a single body was not "guilty" of genocidal acts, members of the legion certainly were guilty of the most terrible crimes, making it entirely inappropriate to celebrate its existence.
What is most shocking, perhaps, in this whole story is the intellectual and moral laziness of senior Tories. And the fact that they are so little troubled at being associated with a foreign party that associates itself - for whatever reason of nationalism and history - with Hitler's Schutzstaffel: the SS.'
'Michał Kamiński, the Polish MEP and leader of the European Conservative and Reformist grouping in the European parliament, has been invited to attend the Conservative party conference.
..Kamiński's previous visit to the United Kingdom was in 1999, when he led a delegation to comfort General Pinochet, pending his extradition to Spain. Kamiński gave the ailing general a replica of the Black Madonna icon. Both men were apparently deeply moved and Kamiński declared this to be the most uplifting moment of his entire life. One wonders if his meeting with David Cameron will have the same impact.'
:Boris blows Tory truce on Europe with call for referendum
'Boris Johnson stirred up further trouble for David Cameron yesterday with a pitch for the leadership of the Tory eurosceptics.
The controversial Mayor of London called for a referendum to take back powers from Brussels.
His intervention forced Mr Cameron to launch a desperate attempt to paper over the party's divisions on Europe as members of his frontbench team traded blows over the Lisbon Treaty.'
:Holocaust survivor asks Tories to reconsider links with Michal Kaminski
'One of Britain's most prominent Holocaust survivors has called on the Conservative party to reconsider its alliance with Michal Kaminski, the Polish MEP who leads the Conservatives in the European parliament, citing his "unacceptable" views.
Ben Helfgott, 78, said Kaminski's attempts to compare the massacre of 1,600 Jews in Jedwabne in 1941 with individual acts of collaboration by Jews with the Soviet army were "not acceptable".
These views would be anathema to any Jew or any decent person who knows about the Holocaust," he said. "This is not a direct denial of Holocaust but in a sense it is accusing the victims of being no different from the perpetrators" he said. "There is a line here which must not be crossed."'
:Cameron will have to ditch European rightwingers, Heseltine predicts
'David Cameron would be forced into a swift and humiliating retreat on Europe if he wins power, according to one of the elder statesmen from the last Conservative Government.
Lord Heseltine, the former Deputy Prime Minister, predicts that Mr Cameron will have to rejoin the European People's Party (EPP) soon after the election. He is understood to have warned the party leadership at a private meeting last week that its currently Eurosceptic stance would be deeply damaging to Britain's foreign policy interests.'
:Revealed in all his fakery, David Cameron - the tough talker who took the coward's way out
This is Peter Hitchens' Mail on Sunday column
'By their deeds shall ye know them. David Cameron is a fake conservative and those who still invest hopes in him are asking to be disappointed. There is no need to put him in Downing Street to find out that the Cameron Tories will govern this country just as New Labour have done.
On the contrary, there is a great need to ensure he never gets there. Why would we need another Blair? Apart from those people who are happy to be in office but not in power, why should anyone want to help this rabble of cynical poseurs into government? '
:Tory tax allies 'subsidised' by the taxpayer
'Taxpayers' Alliance accused of using charitable arm to claim gift aid on donations from wealthy backers
Though the Taxpayers' Alliance denies it is a 'Conservative front organisation', it is influential in party circles: in October, George Osborne, above, proposed a public sectory pay freeze recommend a month earlier by the alliance.
A campaign group which claims to represent the interests of ordinary taxpayers is using a charitable arm which gives it access to tax relief on donations from wealthy backers, the Guardian has learned.'
People walk past Northern League posters in Milan that read "Now They Live in Reservations"
An Italian Town's White (No Foreigners) Christmas
'Italy's influential Northern League Party has stood out over the past decade for its particular knack in finding new (and not-so-new) ways of offending people based on country of origin and color of skin. In 2003, Umberto Bossi, founder of the party, which once espoused separatism, told an interviewer that police should open fire on the boatloads of undocumented Africans arriving on Italian shores, calling the would-be immigrants "bingo-bongos." Other Northern League pols have proposed everything from separate trains for immigrants to banning the building of new mosques and even prohibiting the serving of kebabs and other non-Italian food in city centers.'
:NHS Privatisation Meeting with David Cameron
'..on the advisory board is Dr Tim Evans, who is President of the Libertarian Alliance. The Director of the Libertarian Alliance is Dr Sean Gabb who only in February 2009 was invited to give a speech to Conservative Future which is the youth wing of the UK conservative party. In that speech he said;
"On the first day of your government, you should close down the BBC. You should take it off air. You should disclaim its copyrights. You should throw all its staff into the street. You should not try to privatise the BBC. This would simply be to transfer the voice of your enemy from the public to the private sector, where it might be more effective in its opposition. You must shut it down - and shut it down at once
. You should do the same with much of the administration. The Foreign Office, much of the Home Office, the Commission for Racial Equality, anything to do with health and safety and planning and child protection - I mean much of the public sector - these should be shut down. If at the end of your first month in power, you have not shut down half of the State, you are failing
. If you have shut down half the State, you have made a step in the right direction, and are ready for still further cuts."
"Following from this, however, I advise you to leave large areas of the welfare state alone. It is regrettable, but most people in this country do like the idea of healthcare free at the point of use, and of free education, and of pensions and unemployment benefit. These must go in the long term. But they must be retained in the short term to maintain electoral support.
Their cost and methods of provision should be examined. But cutting welfare provision would be politically unwise in the early days of our revolution."'
:Tories accused of 'duping' charity choir
"THE Conservatives in Cornwall have been accused of "duping" a charity choir into taking part in a Christmas carol concert to raise money for party funds as well as charity.
Members of Helston Chamber Choir were delighted when they were invited to sing at the festive event next week, believing it was in aid of St Julia's Hospice, part of Cornwall Hospice Care, alone.
However, when promised publicity material and tickets failed to materialise, and then e-mails went unanswered, the choir investigated further - only to find the concert was also raising cash for the Tories in West Cornwall."
:Conservatives refuse to pay a £215,000 bill after rigged poll
'The Conservative Party is refusing to pay a £215,000 bill after one of its local election candidates rigged a poll using hundreds of fictitious voters to oust Europe's first black woman mayor.
The party went to the High Court yesterday to challenge an attempt to make it pay the costs of a scandal that pressured the Government into introducing tough new reforms to make it harder to steal elections.
The Tory candidate, who was jailed with five accomplices, was penniless and so the national Conservative Party is being asked to pay the defeated Labour candidate's outstanding legal bill for exposing the fraud.'
:A mission to Rwanda with the true disciples of Cameron
'Lucy Kinder joined the Tory volunteers on their annual mission to Africa - and found a combination of compassion and careerism
These were not your usual clutch of businessmen, NGO workers and gap-year students for whom Rwanda has become a regular destination. Rather, they were Britain's most likely future leaders - who, complete with "Back Boris!" T-shirts, had arrived to bring compassionate conservatism to Africa.
Our group included Andrew Mitchell, the shadow International Development Secretary, Nick Hurd, shadow Minister for Charities, Social Enterprise and Volunteering, and Desmond Swayne, Parliamentary Private Secretary to David Cameron.
The volunteers seized their chance to access this Westminster bubble and capitalise on the political acumen available thousands of miles from the pressures of home.
As one floppy-haired volunteer working on the private sector project remarked: "I'm here to make contacts, to network. I'm using it as an opportunity to get closer to people who can help my company
:Cameron's slum dogma
'The Conservative plan for overseas aid treats Africa as a laboratory for free-market ideology
You don't win general elections in Britain by fighting poverty in poor countries. That has to be good news for David Cameron, because the Conservative programme on international development would be a sure-fire vote loser.
Whatever your take on New Labour, its credentials on development are impressive. As a nation we have become more generous in our dealings with the world's poorest people, moving from the lower leagues to the premier division of leadership on poverty reduction.'
:Tory MEP defiant after losing expulsion appeal
'A veteran Tory MEP declared war on his party this afternoon after losing an appeal against his expulsion.
Edward McMillan-Scott said he was preparing a High Court challenge for reinstatement - and mounting a pro-European campaign to counter Conservative anti-EU rhetoric ahead of the general election.
Mr McMillan-Scott, an MEP for 25 years, lost the Tory whip six months ago after breaking ranks to challenge a Polish MEP for the post of European Parliament vice-president.
Mr McMillan-Scott won, and his defeat of the controversial Pole, Michal Kaminski, infuriated Tory high command because Mr Kaminksi's Law and Justice Party had just joined forces with the Conservatives in Strasbourg to form a new Eurosceptic political bloc.
Mr McMillan-Scott says he acted in protest at Mr Kaminski's "'anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist"' links.
Mr McMillan-Scott said his expulsion had been unfair, adding: "There is no shame in losing the whip on a point of principle - to be expelled for the same thing was disproportionate and against natural justice."
He said the only recent expulsions had been Jeffrey Archer in 2001, following imprisonment for perjury, and Den Dover, a former MP and MEP, last year for allegedly misusing £600,000 of euro-expenses.
Mr McMillan-Scott went on: "In the context of the Westminster expenses scandal, for which no Conservative was expelled, or the serial disloyalty of Europhobes like (Tory MEP) Daniel Hannan, this will be seen by many as a serious case of double standards."
He described Mr Hannan as "Dog-whistle Dan, the deniable Ukip voice of the Tory Party" and added: "Dan is more interested in UK independence than in the Conservative Party - he should be expelled, not me."
Meanwhile, Mr McMillan-Scott admitted he was still fuming about an "abusive, humiliating" letter from Foreign Secretary William Hague, ordering the MEP to apologise to Mr Kaminski and to Tory group leader Timothy Kirkhope. '
:What happened to Conservative values?
by Edward McMillan-Scott
[re: the title: if I ever see any evidence of any I'll be well and truly shocked]
'Since I was expelled from the party for standing up to extremism, my former party's MEPs have lost their way in Europe
David Cameron's controversial new European parliament group, which includes extremist Poles and other ill-assorted individuals, was the brainchild and creation of two British conservative nationalists: Daniel Hannan MEP and his ally Mark Francois, a rightwing former Essex councillor. On Monday the MEPs' Bureau - on which I sit - may approve a taxpayer-funded £1.6m cross-frontier political movement - based on the politically-incoherent group. This will be run by Hannan, whom Francois imposed against the wishes of at least 10 other, increasingly resentful, Tory MEPs.
Hannan gave up his MEP spokesmanship to campaign full-time for a British referendum on the EU only days after this phoney idea was rejected by Cameron. Hannan reveres Enoch Powell, decries the NHS on American TV, loathes the BBC, calls Obama "exotic", is sceptical about climate change and apes Sarah Palin's dangerous populism, but the Conservative party embraces him. Any party seeking the middle ground should instead favour my brand of conservative internationalism: Britain should lead in Europe not leave it.
After I stood and won re-election as European parliament vice-president with cross-party support against the controversial Polish MEP Michal Kaminski, breaking the Brussels consensus, the Conservative whip was withdrawn from me. Kaminski's antisemitic words and deeds have been widely reported, most recently by the BBC's Newsnight special report.
:Tories' chaotic retreat on married tax break
'The Tories went into retreatyesterday over plans to give married couples a tax break.
Senior party sources said no details or costings of the plans for David Cameron's flagship policy would be published until after the election.
And former leader Iain Duncan Smith, who first called for the tax break, said the Tories should consider a cut-price version of the £4.9 billion plan.
The back-pedalling comes amid growing unhappiness in the shadow cabinet at the current proposal which discriminates against single-parents and couples where both work. Instead it favours rich families, where only one partner works, by letting them share their tax-free allowance.'
:What exactly is Conservative economic policy?
'I'm simply not clear on Conservative economic policy in relation to government debt.
Why is Cameron saying one day to business leaders that there is no need for big cuts in the first year of a Conservative government, while on the very same day one of his top MPs is going on about the 'need to get to grips with public finances now'?
Why is there a commitment to an emergency budget if there are aren't going to be any significant cuts? Would such a budget simply be about reducing corporation tax and therefore increasing the deficit?
Well, there is a track record for such economic stupidity by the Tories.
Under Thatcher, cyclical borrowing costs caused by the Tory response to recession - itself largely driven by fear of how the markets might respond - continued to ensure that the structural budget deficit continued at more or less the same level for a further four years beyond the actual recession (see the graphs at page 7 of this IFS report).
And the Tories are trying to instill economic confidence with international investors? Gawd help us.'
:Nazi nurses and Facebook fiends
Beyond the Bedpan is left reeling by an attack on our "Nazi" NHS - by a woman who advises the Conservative party on health policy.
The beauty of the internet is that anyone can write whatever they want, whenever they want, about any subject they want. The blogosphere in particular has every persuasion, perversion and conspiracy theory you could think of, and millions more that you couldn't.
To demonstrate, let's take two random subjects, say the NHS and Nazis. One is much-lauded, often imperfect system of providing free healthcare for all. The other is a group responsible for some of history's most brutal atrocities. What could they possibly have in common?
Quite a lot, according to our colleagues at Nurses for Reform, a campaign group made of nurses who oppose the NHS. Or, in their own words, "reject bland egalitarianism in favour of competition", and believe that "the state should set free all NHS hospitals and healthcare provision".
Their objections are many and varied, but one really sticks out - the NHS is akin to Nazi policy.
:Isolated Cameron defends Kaminski (again) as European leaders rally round Brown
'The controversy over David Cameron's alliance with Michal Kaminski re-ignited today following an interview in which the Tory leader once again defended the Polish extremist and centre-Right European leaders pledged their support to Gordon Brown.
Michal-Kaminski-angryIn an interview with Johann Hari in the Independent, Cameron deployed his usual tactics of denial, evasiveness and anger when questioned about Kaminski, as he's done every time he's been confronted with the evidence of Kaminski and his party's extremism.
Just like his response to Left Foot Forward when asked the same question last month, it appears political expediency trumps conviction, that pacifying the Eurosceptics in his party by signing up to Kaminski's vision of Europe is all that matters - even at the expense of his own self-styled "liberal, nice, new Tory" credentials.'
:Hypocritical Cameron voted against proposals to reform parliamentary privilege
'With his poll lead slipping, his team's competence questioned and his policies under attack, David Cameron today stands accused of "breathtaking" hypocrisy over his comments on the expenses scandal. In a speech on rebuilding trust in politics the Conservative party lead sought to portray himself as "the change Britain desperately needs", criticising Gordon Brown for being a "roadblock to political reform".
His record since the scandal broke, however, belies such rhetoric, Left Foot Forward can reveal.
When the Parliamentary Standards Bill was introduced in the Commons on June 23rd, it contained a clause stating parliamentary privilege did not prevent evidence being admissible in proceedings against an MP for an offence in the Bill - a clause deleted after opposition from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.
:Tory cuts pave the way for a return to 80s dole queues
Conservative plans to axe longer term support suggest they still think unemployment is a price worth paying for ideology
'As certain as death and taxes are the deep cuts to come. Whoever is in power, the axe will fall. But where, how soon and how cruelly will depend on who wins the election. Labour, unwisely, is 'giving a premature foretaste with Peter Mandelson's university cuts. But David Cameron and George Osborne, whatever their jittery differences in pre-election language, are pledged to consign 'considerably more public employees to the dole than 'Labour is, tipping yet more private sector employees out of work as they go.
In this worst recession since the 1930s, with 5% of the economy wiped out permanently, and years before output creeps back to where it was, unemployment should be far worse than in the early 80s recession. Based on previous recessions the predictions were that, by now, at least 3 million would be on the dole. Yet look at the comparison with the 80s. Back then, though growth restarted in 1981, unemployment kept soaring upwards long afterwards, reaching a peak of 3.3 million in 1986, some 12% of the then working population. Yet in this far worse recession only 2.46m - 7.8% of the working population - are out of work. True, January's figures, published next week, will almost certainly rise, with Christmas employees laid off, and many more will follow in future cuts. But still the numbers so far defy the gravity of the economic situation.'
:Cameron's Euro MPs vote against plans to tackle tax dodgers and target tax havens
By Arlene McCarthy MEP
'In a vote in the European Parliament today (Wednesday 10th February), British Conservatives voted against proposals supporting the automatic exchange of information to crack down on those seeking to hide their money from the tax authorities.
Vice Chair of the Economic Affairs Committee, Arlene McCarthy MEP, said:
"Tory Euro MPs' actions make a mockery of George Osborne's pledge at Tory Party Conference "to target tax evasion and offshore tax havens". We should judge the Tory Party by their actions not by their words. Weakening proposals which seek to crack down on tax dodgers using tax havens shows they are not serious about tackling tax cheats.
"The Tories cannot be trusted on tax, time and again they protect and prioritise the wealthy and privileged minority over law abiding taxpayers."'
:Cameron "playing with fire" in plan that may bar Sinn FÃ©in from power
An Ulster Volunteer Force (LVF) Mural in north Belfast
'The Conservatives were accused last night of threatening the Northern Ireland peace process by backing changes that could give the Ulster Unionists a stranglehold on power.
The party is also prepared to intervene if Sinn FÃ©in becomes the largest party after next year's elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly. It would consider downgrading the post of the Province's First Minister, which normally goes to the largest party, to prevent a walkout by Unionists - a move that would effectively prevent Martin McGuinness, the former IRA commander, from holding the position.
The proposals have led to accusations that David Cameron, who has insisted that he is a Unionist, is playing with fire in Northern Ireland. Conservatives insist that they would do nothing to jeopardise the peace process created by the Good Friday agreement. But there remains suspicion at their decision to field candidates jointly with the Ulster Unionist Party, under the banner "Ulster Conservatives and Unionists - Joint Force".'
:Westminster unites in anger over secret talks to reach care Bill deal
'Andrew Lansley pulled off the rare feat yesterday of uniting his own Tory front benches and the Labour front benches in anger against him, amid new recriminations over Gordon Brown’s social care plans.
The Shadow Health Secretary appears to have been "freelancing" when he made the first approaches to Norman Lamb, his Liberal Democrat opposite number, and Andy Burnham, the Health Secretary, about a potential care deal for the elderly.'
:Conservatives: Selling taxpayers short
'Auctioning off state-owned banks for less than they are worth is no way to restore the Treasury's books'
'Tony Blair was explicit in naming education as his top three priorities, but David Cameron's claim that "we can't go on like this" is barely less blunt in suggesting that curbing the deficit must be priorities one, two and three. But that message has now been compromised by George Osborne's proposal for flogging off the nationalised banks at a discount.'
:Ken Clarke in attack on Cameron for "waltzing off" with "ultra-nationalist right in central Europe"
It was five years ago, but still . . .
'I just came across this rather interesting news story on the BBC website, from December 2005, in the first week of David Cameron's appointment as leader of the Conservative Party.
It quotes Kenneth Clarke, currently Cameron's shadow business secretary, on the latter's proposal -- now fulfilled -- to withdraw from mainstream European politics, made in order to secure the Tory leadership.
As Clarke said: "I hope he will . . . perhaps decide that being a more extreme Eurosceptic than any of his predecessors is not the best way to launch himself on the international scene."
Here is the juciest bit:
Some of our really hardline people apparently have persuaded him that he must break ranks and leave all these Christian Democrats, these Scandinavian Conservatives and Gaullists and people and start waltzing off looking for allies amongst the ultra-nationalist right in central Europe.
Clarke added: "Given all the goodwill that is surrounding his taking over and the optimism everybody has for him, I really think what a pity to insist on finding some new, slightly headbanging European Eurosceptic decision to take up as his first act in the leadership."
:Head teachers warn on Tory 'corner shop' schools plan
'Conservative education plans could lead to a "corner shop" system of 20,000 autonomous schools, the Association of School and College Leaders has warned.
The poorest would suffer the most under Tory plans to let parents set up "free schools" outside council control, said outgoing ASCL head Dr John Dunford.
He also warned against a "false belief" the market would improve standards. '
:David Cameron's rightwing 'allies' march in Riga to commemorate the SS
Row over SS veterans' parade in Latvia puts the spotlight on Tory links to eastern Europe's far right Nazi sympathisers
A picture showing SS soldiers is laid on flowers at the Freedom monument in Riga. Photograph: Ilmars Znotins/AFP/Getty Images
'The number three bus in Riga winds from the mouth of the river Daugava, past the lovely old centre of the city to the miles of Lego-brick, Soviet-era blocks in Plavnieki.
At the foot of one of them, Natalija is sitting at one table and Maksimam at another in the Tris Pelmeni cafe, eating herring with onions and drinking beer while ice melts down the windows and the radio relays a highly charged ice-hockey game between Dinamo Riga and Ska St Petersburg. Old ladies pick through the snow with shopping, men rummage through rubbish bins and boys with shaven heads fly the Russian flag from cars screeching through the slush.
This weekend, there is also a widespread sense of anger. In this ethnic Russian suburb of the Latvian capital, there is disbelief at the prospect of a commemoration to be held this Tuesday by veterans and supporters of the Latvian Legion of the wartime SS.
Natalija's uncle "was killed by the fascists", she says, yet "still the Latvians allow a parade of the SS of Adolf Hitler!".Maksimam, younger, hunches the collar of his leather jacket, sips his drink and says he cares little what the old people get up to - but spits at the idea of an SS ceremony.'
:Embarrassment for David Cameron over Tory hopefuls' lobbying links
Conservative drive to 'clean up politics' faces test over failure by several candidates to fully declare their work for lobby firms, says Nick Mathiason
Conservative Party leader David Cameron said last month that lobbying 'was the next big scandal waiting to happen'. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA
'David Cameron's drive to clean up politics is facing an embarrassing public test after it emerged that a number of prospective Conservative MPs have failed fully to declare in their campaign literature that they work for lobby firms representing powerful business interests.
The revelation threatens to destabilise Tory hopefuls in the upcoming election as voters in constituencies where alleged "secret lobbyist candidates" are running will be the subject of a targeted online advertising blitz on Google and Facebook orchestrated by 38 Degrees, an innovative online campaign group.'
:Christopher Chope MP - Bastard
Christopher Chope, friend of the Vulture Funds
'There exists in the world a group of businessmen and women who can plumb the depths even further than the amoral bastards who run Trafigura. These are the likes of Paul Singer and his firm Elliot Associates who wallow in the fetid depths of finance known as vulture funds.
Because of the lack of time before the general election, the Bill's only chance of making it on to the statute book was if there were no protests in the Commons. But to the fury of Labour MPs, one lone voice piped up: "Object!
" Three Conservatives were in the chamber but it was not clear at the time who had intervened.
On Friday evening it emerged that Christopher Chope had been the backbencher to raise his objection. He believes that the proposed legislation has not been properly debated in the Commons. "If you are concerned about this Bill making progress, you should be asking why the Government hasn't given it extra time. As far as today's proceedings are concerned, there's a big Government spin operation to shift the blame to other people." He told the Independent
He also claimed the opposition frontbench had covertly supported the move - an allegation fiercely denied by the shadow Treasury minister, David Gauke, who said the Tories had worked "in a co-operative manner at every stage of this Bill."
Chope is the MP for Christchurch, an area where Tory votes are weighed, not counted. It is a place where a dog turd with a blue rosette will be elected. It would seem that the people definitely voted for the dog turd. I hope they are proud of him for what he did last week.'
:Nazi SS veterans march through Riga in event attended by right-wing party linked to Tories
'Veterans of the dreaded Nazi Waffen SS marched in freezing temperatures in the Latvian capital Riga today cheered by locals who view them as heroes.
A city council ban on the march was overturned at the 11th hour by a court.
That meant that men who once wore the double S-flashes of the Nazi party's elite combat unit were honoured among the 2,000 who took part as freedom fighters from Communism.
All in their late 80's and 90's, the 30 odd Latvians who took up arms for the Third Reich against the Soviet Union in WW2 were the heroes of the day in the tiny Baltic state where Stalin was considered worse than Hitler.
The march was attended by a member of the right-wing Fatherland and Freedom party in Latvia, which is allied with David Cameron's MEPs in the European Parliament.
Efraim Zuroff, the world's foremost Nazi hunter who was also in Riga for a Holocaust conference, pleaded for Latvians not to honour the memory of the 140,000 men who joined the Latvian Legion in 1943 to fight for the Third Reich. His pleas fell on deaf ears.'
:You just don't get it, do you, Michael?
Letters from a Swing Voter
Had it not been earlier in the week, I would have assumed Michael Gove's declaration that the poorest children could now weep with relief because they'd be allowed to go to school on Saturday was just another April Fool. Incredibly, it turns out this is a genuine proposal, and one that was met with a pretty frosty reception from parents, teachers and commentators - in fact, anyone who had been to a mainstream school, it would appear. Just like the kids this proposition fleetingly pays any attention to - the ones who lack confidence, or ability, or even English as a first language - I am lost for words.
Can I ask you a question, Michael? Have you ever spoken to a school-aged child that isn't your own? I'm assuming, as shadow secretary for schools, you've been inside one, but did you go and speak to the kids that weren't hand-picked to meet you? The ones who come from those "broken" homes Dave keeps talking about; the ones who only get one hot meal a day, and that's the free lunch at school; the ones without a clean school uniform, or completed homework, or money to pay for the next school trip; the ones who are really, really failing, Michael, so much so that to just sit through an entire lesson without being aggressive or disruptive is as much as they can do? Because I think, Michael, if you did speak to them, you'd realise that giving them the chance to go to school on a Saturday, so they can play musical instruments, isn't going to cut it.
There are lots of things that upset me about this proposal, but there are two things I'd like to highlight. Firstly, independent schools don't churn out fantastically abled young adults because they offer classes on Saturdays - if you're going to learn from the private sector, you can do better than that. And secondly, children are acutely aware of social stigma.
I've recently seen some exciting steps towards changing state education - even this week Ed Balls pledged £1.6m as part of a free school meals pilot - but sometimes, yes, they ape the historic legacy of independent schools and the resources they are able to give their lucky students. I occasionally help a start-up run a fantastically successful alumni programme for kids in state schools, giving them the chance to get good careers advice from "people just like them" - ultimately, it's a national vision of the Old Boys' networking club, but I believe it's timely and relevant. The reason it works is because it's for everyone, not just those who are underperforming, and it's delivered by former students, during the school week, with no extra work or time required by any of the teaching staff. Michael, can you tell me where the money will come from to pay for your Saturday schools? And have you found a single teacher that isn't so war-weary that they'd come in over the weekend to deal with the most difficult and hard to reach kids?
And as for the stigma, well, I have a rather long and potted history with schools. I've run the gamut from local primary, to grant maintained grammar, a fleeting appearance at a private all girls and then to the third largest comprehensive in the UK, taking in three cities. During my whistlestop tour of the UK's schooling system, and this might surprise you, my education was pretty consistent - and it was good. What also remained unchanged was the desperation I felt to just be like everyone else, whichever school I was in. Sadly, I was the fat kid with NHS glasses and a school jumper with a massive burn mark on it from when my Dad cursingly singed it on the radiator on the first day of term. I wore that red-hot shame of feeling different than everyone else for years, and it impacts on how I behave now.
Don't make a generation of children wear the social stigma of being underprivileged, Michael. Don't make them feel the red-hot shame of being poor because they come in on a Saturday when all their middle class peers are off kicking balls around in the park. If you've done nothing else, you've shown that you really just don't get it, do you? You fundamentally do not know what life feels like for the majority of people. I was prepared to ignore Labour's accusations that the Tories played out their policies on the fields of Eton, because I didn't think it was fair to tar you all - not least because your female MPs couldn't go to Eton if they tried. But this comes straight from those hallowed grounds - it's weak, it's out of touch, it's patronising, and it proves that millions of young voters like me don't have shoulders broad enough to carry all those chips you've been handing out.'
Tory peer: Cuts make poor 'breed'
A new Conservative peer has been quoted as saying changes to the welfare system will encourage "breeding" among people on benefits.
Downing Street swiftly distanced itself from the comments, in a newspaper interview, by former MP Howard Flight.
Mr Flight was named by David Cameron last week as one of more than 20 new Conservative peers.
He was sacked as Tory candidate ahead of the 2005 election after suggesting the party had secret cuts plans.