HS2

The Telegraph leads with a pronouncement against HS2: “Treasury minister: I will fight against HS2 rail project

David Cameron’s new Treasury minister has called for a “dramatic rethink” of the High Speed 2 rail project. Andrea Leadsom has warned that the £50 billion scheme does not represent value for taxpayers’ money. The economic case for the rail line was “questionable and rapidly deteriorating”, she said, promising to “fight against” the project.

Before she became a minister she sent a series of letters to rail executives, saying that the line would cause severe and irreversible damage to wildlife habitats, heritage sites and areas of natural beauty along the route. Her warnings over the economic justification for the project will be particularly damaging, coming from a Treasury minister widely respected for her economic expertise.

Organised Crime

The Telegraph also focuses on organised crime: “Fighting a whole new world of organised crime: The man in charge of Britain’s FBI

Next week the National Crime Agency will mark six months of existence by publishing its first detailed study of the risks Britain faces from serious crime. A public version of its “national strategic assessment” – minus the sensitive bits — will be released to give a clear idea of what the fledgling organisation is doing.

The difficulty, of course, is that catching bad guys — in particular the nasty, ruthless and sometimes foreign sort the NCA exists to thwart — often requires secrecy about methods and operations. Reconciling its desire for openness with that instinct for discretion falls to Keith Bristow, the agency’s director-general and, by the powers vested in him, the most powerful law enforcement officer in the country.

UKIP

The nasty MSM smearing of our party goes on, and the Telegraph’s Dan Hodges says: “Stop hiding from it: Ukip is a racist party. Time to challenge its ugly message.” His rant is based solely on the unwise choice of one ‘performer’ in the Party Political Broadcast:

This morning Ukip’s racism is once again on display. As many papers report, Andre Lampitt, the owner of a construction firm who appeared in Wednesday’s Ukip party political broadcast, was exposed for holding what, even by Ukip standards, are repugnant views. Statements taken from his various social media sites included “Most Nigerians are generally bad people I grew up in Africa and dare anyone to prove me wrong” and “Miliband is not a real Brit I hope he never gets to be PM! He was only born here”.

Though Lampitt’s comments were extreme, they are not in themselves markedly out of kilter with the ugly, anti-foreigner, anti-immigration narrative that is at the heart of Ukip’s Euro election campaign. A campaign which has been hit by further embarrassment today, with the revelation the British builder supposedly forced onto the streets by foreign workers is himself a foreign worker from Ireland.

The Express and The Mirror report on the Builder incident too, as it was an actor hired for the poster.  At least the same paper has ‘Farage on Friday’ where Nigel references the poll showing 70% of Express readers will vote UKIP, before attacking ‘flip-flop Cameron’.

The Guardian attacks us from a different direction: “Nigel Farage changes position on audit of his MEP allowance spending

Nigel Farage has shifted ground on an offer to allow an independent audit of his spending of European parliamentary allowances, denying he ever accepted the suggestion. In an interview with the Guardian, the Ukip leader instead claims it would be wrong for him to be singled out for a spending audit as it would put him in a different position to every other British MEP.

Farage said it was not the case that a fortnight ago he said he was happy to have his expenses independently audited. He told the Guardian: “I said if every other British MEP wants to, then I would. I mean, I am not going to be one out of 73 that is held up as an example of all that is wrong with the European Union. After all, I’ve been saying that myself for years, so this is absolutely ludicrous. If all 73 people want to go on to a new regime then of course I’ll do it, but to be singled out in this way is frankly ridiculous.”

Banking

The Telegraph also has a report on a discriminatory move by Lloyds Bank: “Lloyds drops overdraft fee on Islamic accounts

Lloyds Bank has been accused of religious discrimination after offering free overdraft accounts to Muslims. The bank sent customers a booklet this month explaining new charges.

While many will have to pay up to £80 a month if they go into the red, Muslims were told they would escape the charges. The document said: “We are removing the monthly overdraft management fee of £6 from our Islamic Account, Islamic Student Account and Islamic Graduate Account. So, if you use an unplanned overdraft on these accounts, there won’t be any charges.”

The Express reports on banking bonuses: “Treasury blocks Royal Bank of Scotland plan for 200 per cent bonuses

The part-nationalised bank had planned to ask for shareholders’ agreement. But the idea was dropped following a warning that UK Financial Investments, the quango that oversees the taxpayer stakes in Government-rescued banks, would formally veto the move.

A Treasury statement said there would be “no rise” while RBS was “still in recovery”. Chancellor George Osborne yesterday welcomed the decision. He said: “The new team at RBS has done a huge amount to repair what went so badly wrong in that bank but there’s still a long way to go.”

Scotland

After some international news, The Guardian leads for home news with: “Scottish independence: CBI does U-turn on supporting no campaign

British business lobby the CBI has petitioned the Electoral Commission to cancel its registration as an official supporter of the no campaign in the Scottish independence referendum.

The sudden switch in policy came after more than a dozen organisations, including major universities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee, government agencies in Scotland and the broadcasters STV and BBC, resigned from the CBI to protect their neutrality in the independence debate.

The CBI had registered as a supporter of the no campaign, allowing it to spend up to £150,000 before September’s referendum, on legal advice because it planned to make clear that it opposed independence at its official events and functions.

This is of course the same CBI that has come out strongly against the UK’s independence from the EU.

Mortgages

The Guardian reports on the additional vetting lenders have to perform to grant mortgages: “Homebuyers’ spending faces scrutiny as new mortgage regime comes into force

Homebuyers and people looking to re-mortgage will face tougher checks before being offered a loan under new rules coming into force on Saturday, which are designed to prevent a return to the reckless lending seen before the credit crisis.

Mortgage applicants’ expenditure on childcare, travel and even takeaways will be taken into account by lenders and will reduce the amount they are allowed to borrow. Banks and building societies will also be expected to check that borrowers can still afford repayments if interest rates rise from the current historic lows.

Education

The Independent reports on: “Citing a ‘competing engagement’, Michael Gove ducks out of headteachers’ conference

The decision comes after he was heckled and received a frosty reception from members of the National Association of Head Teachers last year.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, said: “I think it is disappointing and I think that – given how important it is that headteachers understand what the Government is trying to do – this was an excellent chance to persuade them of that. It is a missed opportunity. I think people will not be happy with the implications of what he has done.”

County Councillor Misbehaviour

The Independent reports on: “Cornwall councillor Terry Wilkins exposed over false MBE: ‘I have been the victim of an elaborate and malicious hoax’

Now if this had been a UKIP Councillor, the party would have been mentioned in the headline, but at least they do reveal his party in the article:

A Cornwall councillor who is facing calls to resign after he falsely claimed he had an MBE has said he is the victim of a long-standing deception. Terry Wilkins, Conservative councillor for Illogan, used the title on the council’s website and in official correspondence.

However, following an investigation by local newspaper the West Briton after local constituents voiced their concerns, the honours group said it had no record of Mr Wilkins being awarded an MBE.

Immigration

The Daily Mail tries to present a success story of mass immigration: “Polish invasion that’s SAVED my home town: An influx of 25,000 Poles has left Southampton’s schools full to bursting – with some locals feeling pushed out. But BARBARA DAVIES, who grew up there, found there’s another side to the story

  • One in ten of those living in Southampton thought to be Polish

  • Some argue the city’s services are now overcrowded following influx

  • But many have started up thriving businesses, boosting town’s economy

  • Here, Barbara Davies rediscovers the city – which is home to 25,000 Poles

Opinion: Frankly, it’s a fatuous anti-UKIP story, reporting mostly on dozens of successful Polish businesses serving Polish customers. It even references our party with:

It’s the kind of scenario that has Ukip supporters jumping up and down with outrage about the cost to society of Britain’s reckless immigration policies. And there are those here who call the city ‘Little Poland’ and rail against the Polish influx

Pensions

The Daily Express has a ‘shock-horror’ story on “Pensions: Millions face crisis in old age

Figures obtained by the Daily Express expose the true scale of Britain’s savings crisis.

They show a quarter of us are not putting away enough money for the future, while almost a third of those aged 45 to 54 have made no start on their nest egg.  Experts estimate that pensioners will need an income of £20,000 a year to enjoy a comfortable, no-frills retirement. That means accumulating a £400,000 pension pot.  But the statistics show the majority will fall woefully short of this target. It means millions will be forced to rely on the State pension, currently £113 a week.

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