Liberal Democrats

The Telegraph leads with Liberal Democrats and Nick Clegg in new party fundraising scandal.

The Liberal Democrats have been embroiled in a new fundraising scandal after accepting a second potentially illegal donation that allegedly “bought” a donor access to Nick Clegg. Lord Strasburger, a senior Lib Dem peer, resigned from the party on Friday night, and the Electoral Commission began an investigation over the allegations.

They are said to centre on a £10,000 donation that was allegedly paid to the party by the “stepfather” of an undercover businessman, which would be against the rules on donations. The Channel 4 Dispatches investigation, due to be screened on Monday, is understood to show Lord Strasburger discussing how to circumvent donation disclosure rules.

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, is understood to have been filmed meeting the “dodgy” donor.

Also in The Guardian and Express.

David Cameron

The Guardian leads with ‘Praetorian guard’ plan to save Cameron from being unseated after election

Supporters of David Cameron are contacting loyalists to ask them to form a “praetorian guard” to take to the airwaves in support of the prime minister immediately after the general election if the Tories fail to secure a decisive lead in parliamentary seats.

Amid fears that at least two members on the 1922 Committee executive are planning to set in motion the unseating of Cameron on the weekend after the election, the loyalists are being told they will need to move quickly to save him.

There are fears that Cameron’s position could be in grave peril at a post-election meeting of the 1922 Committee, which has been brought forward to the Monday after polling day on 7 May, if the Tories fail to get a healthy lead over Labour in the Commons. All sides agree Cameron will immediately signal his intention to resign if Ed Miliband wins the election.

The Independent takes a different tack, leading with an attack on the contents of his Downing Street kitchen: A microcosm of the hierarchical society a Tory victory would give us.

If the Tories win this election, expect an un-austere, self-conscious and, ultimately, hypocritical society of socially engineered superiors.  Very rarely do I feel sorry for David Cameron, but seeing him sitting alone in his unnervingly perfect kitchen, eating nothing but a sardine sandwich for lunch, made me want to rush home from work, garnish a bird with streaky rashers, stick it in the oven at gas mark 7, and head over to Downing Street with a juicy roast chicken.

Surely that small but lavishly appointed space can’t be Dave and Sam’s only kitchen? It isn’t, of course. There’s another, larger one available to the family, who live in a flat over No 11 because the one above No 10 is too bijou for their capacious tastes. Perhaps, when he isn’t being tracked by a team from The Sun, the PM lunches in that one on succulent joints of beef dripping in juices and accompanied by mountains of fluffy white roast potatoes.

Inequality

Dan Hodges in the Telegraph says the fight against inequality will define the next Parliament

The poor have been shouldering more of the burden than is fair.

Yesterday Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, delivered his verdict on the Budget. Paul Johnson is the Simon Cowell of economics. With the raising or lowering of a thumb he can make or break careers. His analysis was typically detailed. But if you separate out the politics from the economics, it delivered three significant judgments.

The first related to the cost of living crisis. George Osborne is right. It’s finally over. According to Johnson: “Average household incomes have just about regained their pre-recession levels. They are finally rising, and will probably be higher in 2015 than they were in 2010, and possibly higher than their 2009 peak”… (read the article for full text)

The second significant ruling related to the public sector spending “rollercoaster” identified by the OBR…

Johnson’s third major judgment related to George Osborne’s famous – some would say infamous – claim that over the past five years we have all been “in it together”…

UKIP

The Guardian says that Ukip faces crisis after suspensions and racism claims.

The UK Independence party is facing a major crisis after the suspension of two parliamentary candidates within 24 hours and the resignation of a third who claimed there was “open racism and sanctimonious bullying” in the party.

Detectives are investigating an allegation of fraud after the suspension of Ukip MEP Janice Atkinson, its candidate in Folkestone and Hythe, over claims that a member of staff attempted to overcharge EU expenses.

The party has also suspended Stephen Howd, its candidate in Scunthorpe, while an investigation is carried out into an alleged incident at his workplace. In a third development, Jonathan Stanley has stood down as parliamentary candidate for Westmorland and Lonsdale, complaining of a culture of bullying and racism.

There’s a more sympathetic approach in The Express.

Labour

The Independent reports that Labour ‘open to the charge of hypocrisy’ after failing to divulge hedge fund manager’s donation.

Labour has received a huge donation from a multimillion-pound hedge fund manager whose identity the party tried to keep secret, The Independent can reveal. Martin Taylor has given Labour nearly £600,000 since 2012, making him the party’s fourth-largest donor, and has had at least one meeting with the Labour leader, Ed Miliband.

But party officials have refused to confirm Mr Taylor’s identity for several weeks despite repeated requests from journalists. Yesterday, after The Independent said it intended to publish details of Mr Taylor’s identity – without the party’s confirmation – Labour released a statement from Mr Taylor confirming he was the source of the funds.

Also in The Express.

Trade Unions

The Telegraph reports that Unite are prepared to carry out illegal strikes if Tories win election

Unite, one of Britain’s biggest unions, has said that it is prepared to carry out illegal strikes if the Conservatives win the General Election.

Len McCluskey, the Unite General Secretary, said that he is so concerned that a majority Tory government will bring in anti-strike legislation that the union is prepared to remove the words “so far as may be lawful” from its rule book.

The Conservatives provoked a major row with the trade unions over sweeping plans to ban them from taking strike action without the support of at least 40 per cent of their members.

Whereas the Liberal Democrats wants to make it easier for the Unions to strike as reported in the Mirror with Union members could vote for strike action on mobile phones under radical new plans.

Unions could be allowed to ballot members online or using mobile phones under new proposals. Lib Dem Cabinet minister Vince Cable wants to modernise how trade unions hold votes on strikes and elect officials.

It follows criticism from right-wing Tories that strikes frequently go ahead despite a low turnout. But Mr Cable is resisting their calls for a minimum threshold. Instead he wants to boost turnout by ending the outdated laws which state all union votes need a postal ballot.

General Election

The Guardian reports that British voters have shifted to the left since last general election, study says.

Conservatives should focus on countering Labour attacks on spending cuts if they wish to remain in power, thinktank researchers say. The political centre ground in Britain has shifted to the left since the last general election in 2010, a leading thinktank has concluded from a new assessment of the British Social Attitudes survey. The authors of the joint report by NatCen Social Research and Essex University warn the Conservatives that the findings suggest they would be wise to ensure that they are not depicted by their opponents as hostile to public services.

The report is published as the Labour party intensifies its warning about “extreme” Tory spending cuts with the release of a poster of an X-ray of a broken leg saying: “Next time, they’ll cut to the bone.”

Dr John Bartle, of Essex University, suggests that the Tories would do well to counter the Labour line of attack. “The general leftward shift that has taken place since the last general election suggests that arguments about the need to shrink the state, reduce waste and cut income taxes will have less traction than in 2010.”

Education

The Independent reports that Character is the key to poorer children securing top jobs, says study.

Bright children who lack “grit” and “resilience” are more likely to end up with worse jobs and lower salaries than their classmates with good social and emotional skills, according to a new study.

The research, which called for schools to put more focus on improving personal traits, also found that “character” boosted poorer children’s chances of breaking free of deprivation and going on to get a “top job”.

Children of professional parents are more likely to end up in higher-earning jobs and  researchers calculated that 10 per cent of this advantage was due to better character skills.

And in one of our other articles today, Nigel Moore suggests we should be Teaching Innovation as well.

SNP

The Daily Mail has a juicy story on Nicola Sturgeon: “McHypocrite set to lord it over England: The full story of the cynicism and double standards of SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon who could soon run England with Red Ed

The year is 1987, and in an upstairs bedroom of a pebbledash house in the Ayrshire village of Dreghorn, a remarkable political journey is about to commence. Here, beneath CND stickers and posters of the pop band Kajagoogoo, who inspired her ‘bog brush’ haircut, 16-year-old Nicola Sturgeon fills out an application form to join the Scottish Nationalist Party.

The working-class daughter of an electrician and a housewife, she is driven by a burning hatred of Margaret Thatcher. ‘Thatcher was the motivation for my entire political career,’ Sturgeon later recalled. ‘I hated everything she stood for. This was the genesis of my nationalism. I hated the fact that she was able to do what she was doing and yet no one I knew in my entire life had voted for her.’

Over the ensuing weeks during that year’s General Election campaign, this idealistic schoolgirl would knock on endless doors and lick countless envelopes in support of Kay Ullrich, the SNP candidate in her native Cunninghame South.

Her efforts came to nothing: Ullrich was well beaten by Labour, and Thatcher returned to Downing Street. But the campaign ignited a spark that, 28 years and many haircuts later, would propel Nicola Sturgeon to the highest office in Scotland.

Taxation

The Daily Mail has dug deep into the Budget to reveal this nugget: “£2,000 fine for late tax return among hidden penalties in George Osborne’s new ‘easy’ digital system

Taxpayers who file late returns face draconian fines of up to £2,000 in a shake-up buried in government documents. Officials want to ditch the automatic £100 penalty for missing the deadline in favour of a points system similar to the one used to punish motorists.

The points would be registered on the new digital tax accounts unveiled by George Osborne in his Budget speech on Wednesday. It was not clear what his plans meant for the ten million workers forced to complete self-assessment forms.

But Money Mail has discovered that those who keep failing to fill out their returns could pile up enough points to attract fines of nearly £2,000. In extreme cases, the penalty could be much higher – and even unlimited.

BBC

Here we go again, the Express reports on a Review that reveals the audience for BBC Radio 2 is ‘too white’.

The BBC Trust, which carried out the review, said: “Radio 2’s reach among black, Asian and minority ethnic audiences over 35 is significantly lower than it is amongst white audiences.

“As Radio 2 has a remit to serve a broad audience…it should address this disparity.” The trust said it would expect an update on the station’s progress in six months. The review also said Radio 1 was cutting the number of live sessions and its coverage of festivals to save money.

The number of live broadcasts on Radio 1 would be reduced from 250 to 160 each year. The review said there would also be “a small reduction” in drama on Radio 3. It praised all the stations for being “distinctive”.

NHS

The Express also has a story: Welshman who was considered a ‘foreigner’ at English hospital is billed £1,775

A WELSH resident claims he was treated like a health tourist by English hospital bosses who branded him a “foreigner” and billed him £1,775. icholas White fell ill while visiting relatives in Cambridgeshire before Christmas and spent three days in a local hospital undergoing tests.

When he went back to Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon for a follow-up procedure a few weeks later he was stunned to be told that he was expected to pay. On returning home to Barmouth, North Wales, the retired teacher received a bill from Hinchingbrooke NHS trust demanding immediate payment – followed by another claiming it was overdue.

The Mirror focuses on Savage nursing cuts put mental health patients at ‘high risk’ of harm.

Thousands of mental health patients are being put in danger due to an alarming shortfall in specialist nurses. New figures show mental health services are under “serious pressure” because of a perfect storm of savage cuts to nurse training places at the same time as spiralling demand for care.

Experts last night (FRI) branded mental health services a “a car crash” and warned that Britain’s most vulnerable people were being “left to cope alone with self-harm and suicidal thoughts”. As specialist mental health nurses leave the service, the number of trainees coming in to step into their shoes has fallen sharply as training places are cut.

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