Sunday, 31 March 2013

Cameron faces Europe revolt by 100 Tory MPs over 'broken promises' for referendum

David Cameron faces a revolt by more than 100 Tory MPs this week amid renewed reports his backbench critics are coming closer to mounting a leadership challenge.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, leaked to The Mail on Sunday, the MPs demand that he toughens up his vow to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU if the Conservatives win the next Election.

They state he must hold a Commons vote on the issue before the Election in 2015 to prove he means it – and to expose Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, who have made clear they oppose it.

The latest EU referendum revolt comes after an opinion poll suggested Mr Cameron’s Eurosceptic rival Boris Johnson would wipe out Labour’s six-point lead if the London Mayor was Tory leader.

And well-placed sources say 25 of the 46 MPs needed to trigger a leadership contest have now written to Graham Brady, chairman of the party’s 1922 Committee of backbench MPs, asking for a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister.

In the letter to Mr Cameron, written by Basildon MP John Baron but understood to bear the signatures of one in three Tory MPs, the rebels tell him to enshrine his referendum pledge in law now – or be accused of ‘broken promises’.

Mr Cameron had hoped to silence his Tory Eurosceptic critics in January by vowing to hold a referendum on UK membership of the EU if he wins the next Election.

However, Tory malcontents say he has not gone far enough and want ‘enabling legislation’ setting out a timetable and details of the referendum now, even if it takes place after the Election, arguing that otherwise voters will not trust him.

The rebels discount the likelihood of a Commons defeat by pro-EU Labour and Lib Dem MPs, on the grounds that voters, who according to polls favour a referendum, would turn against them.

The letter, due to be delivered to Mr Cameron on Tuesday, says: ‘There is a strong argument in favour of bringing forward the enabling legislation into this Parliament.

‘It would address the fundamental lack of public trust when people hear politicians making promises about Europe. Too many have been broken in the past.’

Sources said last night that the letter bears the signatures of more than 100 Tory backbenchers, including several ex-Ministers.

Moves to win support for the letter were conducted in cloak-and-dagger style – MPs who signed were not told who else had put their name to it. One said: ‘If the whips had found out, they would have scuppered the whole thing.’

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If you exclude North Sea oil and the City, Britain IS recovering

Here are a few quotes from David Smith's article for the Sunday Times, republished on his blog;

"The service sector, which accounts for 77% of GDP, had a milder recession than the rest of the economy and has has a better recovery, growing by 1.1% in 2010, 1.2% in 2011 and 1.2% again in 2012."

"The motor trade is up 11.4% since 2009, wholesaling 5%, publishing, audiovisual and broadcasting up 15.8%. What the Office for National Statistics calls accommodation is up 6%, telecommunications 6.3%, computer programming and consultancy 14.6%, arts, entertainment and recreation 6.7%, legal, accountancy and architecture 9.2%, other professional and scientific services 17.4%, and healthcare (including the ringfenced National Health Service) 10.4%."

"The number of people in work is 3.3% higher than its 2009 recession low point and 0.7% above pre-crisis levels. Service sector employment is 722,000 up on the 2009 low and 490,000 higher than at the start of 2008, when recession struck. Those increases are 2.8% and 1.9% respectively."

For David Smith the reason why the overall economic numbers are so flat is that two historically important sectors - the North Sea oil industry and the financial services sector - have endured such torrid times. But the overall picture is of a wider economy that is recovering and of a British economy that is - to use the jargon - rebalancing.

And a final word from Jeff Randall in The Sunday Telegraph. Mr Randall simply does not believe the official statistics. He is convinced that large parts of the new British economy are growing but official statisticians are too backwards-looking to notice:

"My suspicion is that the Office for National Statistics is not picking up in full the explosion of business start-ups. The number of UK private-sector businesses has increased in each of the past 12 years and stands at 4.8 million, a record high. One-man bands are often slow with paperwork and hard to track. Naysayers sneer that recession has turned us into a nation of odd-jobbers and micro-businesses. Let’s hope so. That’s how Microsoft, Google and Facebook began."

By Tim Montgommerie,

Pupils, parents and businesses suffer as Teachers set for walkouts

Schools are set to be hit by widespread teacher strikes this year over pay and pensions.

National Union of Teachers general secretary Christine Blower demanded backing for the walkouts yesterday at its annual conference in Liverpool after being sent a letter from Education Secretary Michael Gove insisting he will not give in on planned reforms.

Ms Blower told delegates: "What he's saying is pay and pensions are done and dusted, and there's no reason to talk about it. That's not our view."

The NUT and rival union the NASUWT announced last week that they were planning joint regional strikes, beginning in areas of the North-west on June 27.

More are set to follow in the autumn term, with a national walkout before Christmas.

The unions demand that Mr Gove suspends introduction of performance-related pay later this year and reconsiders a pension shake-up.

Mr Gove said in his letter he would be "very happy" to meet unions but "the direction of travel is now fixed."


Personal comment:

As a parent of two children, I share the views of many other parents, our children's education is far more important than teachers being manipulated by Labour's Union Paymasters. Whilst many union baron's cream their six figure salaries off union members (no doubt without the restriction or freezing of wages that many employees up and down the country have had to in recent years), they seem to think that striking to back up their campaign against the Government, is far more important than encouraging teachers to do their jobs. They seem oblivious to the fact that in addition to depriving children of their education, the lost productivity suffered by businesses up and down the country as parents take time off to look after children who have to stay at home, will also reduce tax revenues into the Government that pays their wages.

Prime Minister's Easter Message

Prime Minister David Cameron has sent his best wishes to Christians in the UK and around the world celebrating Easter.

The Prime Minister said:

“I send my best wishes to all those in the United Kingdom and around the world celebrating Easter this year in what is an incredibly exciting time for the Christian faith worldwide.

“This year’s Holy Week and Easter celebrations follow an extraordinary few days for Christians; not only with the enthronement of Justin Welby as our new Archbishop of Canterbury, but also with the election of Pope Francis in Rome.

“In the Bible, Saint Peter reminds us of the hope that comes from new birth through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Christians, it also reminds us of Jesus’s legacy of generosity, tolerance, mercy, and forgiveness.

“That legacy lives on in so many Christian charities and churches both at home and abroad. Whether they are meeting the needs of the poor, helping people in trouble, or providing spiritual guidance and support to those in need, faith institutions perform an incredible role to the benefit of our society. As long as I am Prime Minister, they will have the support of this Government.

“With that in mind, I am particularly proud to lead a Government that has kept its promise to invest 0.7 per cent of our gross national income on helping the world’s poorest, and I am grateful that we have been able to partner with both Christian and non-Christian charities to relieve suffering overseas.

“I hope you have a very happy Easter.”

900,000 choose to come off sickness benefit ahead of tests

Nearly 900,000 people who were on incapacity benefit dropped their claim to the payments rather than undergo a tough medical test, latest government figures show.

The 878,300 who decided not to have an official assessment of whether they were fit for work was more than a third of the total number of people claiming sickness-related benefits.

The statistics also revealed that some claimants cited conditions such as “blisters”, “sprains and strains” and “acne” as preventing them from having a job.

More than 46,120 people claimed incapacity benefit because of “behavioural disorders due to the use of alcohol” while 29,130 claimants cited drug use.

Ministers said the figures showed the full extent of how millions had been “trapped on welfare” for decades.

Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party chairman, said the old system was “evil” and accused Labour of using sickness benefits to “hide the unemployed” when the party was in power.

The statistics emerged ahead of a raft of controversial changes to the benefits system which will come into force this week - including the “bedroom tax” which sees council and social housing tenants facing reductions to their benefits if they have empty rooms in their homes.

Also coming in is an overall benefits “cap”, which will prevent any household receiving more than £26,000 a year in total benefit payments - a figure set to reflect the average gross salary of a full-time worker.

Labour say the average household will be £891 worse off in 2013-14 because of tax and benefits changes.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has faced criticism after scaling back a pilot scheme for his flagship universal credit - which will merge dozens of different out-of-work benefits into a single payment with the aim of ensuring an individual is always better off in work than on benefit.

Instead of being tested in four job centres, the new system will only be piloted in one from this week amid claims the new scheme is in chaos.

Mr Duncan Smith has admitted, as revealed by The Telegraph, that ministers have effectively given up trying to reduce the overall welfare bill and that the government is simply trying to “manage” the rise in payments.

Speaking in Scotland he said in “reality” Britain was “not cutting welfare” unlike other European nations.

Ministers will hit back in the row over welfare this week by publishing a raft of figures which they say show that tough measures - or the threat of them - are already “changing behaviour” by seeing people drop their claims.

These include the figures on incapacity benefit. As well as the 878,300 who chose to drop their claims, another 837,000 who did take the a medical test were found to be fit to work immediately, while a further 367,300 were judged able to some level of work.

Only 232,000 (one in eight of those tested) were classified by doctors to be too ill to do any sort of job.

Some 30 people claimed they were unfit to work because of blisters, while 60 cited acne and 2,110 said “sprains and strains” rendered them unfit for employment.

The vast majority of these have since dropped their claims or been found to be fit for work, according to the Department for Work and Pensions figures.

The assessments part of the Work Programme introduced by Mr Duncan Smith, a scheme costing up to £5 billion under which private-sector providers are paid to help the long-term unemployed find work.

More than 2 million people who previously claimed sickness payments are gradually being assessed to determine whether they are eligible for the main incapacity benefit, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

If they are not, and cannot find work, they have to claim the less generous Jobseekers Allowance (JSA).

Mr Shapps said: “One of the cruelest things about this welfare system, which had developed over that it traps people who want to work hard and get on in life with no other option but to be trapped into a life on welfare.

“It’s cruel, I think the system had actually become literally cruel, even evil to people. People suspected for a long time that incapacity benefit had been used by the previous government to hide the unemployed.

“This is a new figure, nearly a million people have come off incapacity benefit...before going for the test. They’ve taken themselves off. My big argument here is this is not these people were trying to play the system, as much as these people were forced into a system that played them.”

Friday, 29 March 2013

Backlash for Nick Clegg over immigration speech from within his own party

By Harry Phibbs, ConservativeHome

I sometimes feel that Conservative Party members don't take their role sufficiently seriously in terms of contributing to policy. However, the excruciating self importance of Lib Dem policy group members is hardly something one would wish to emulate.

Over at Lib Dem Voice a group of them are grumbling, having been provoked by Nick Clegg's recent speech on immigration. They seem to think that decisions on governing the country should wait upon the Deputy Prime Minister obtaining due authority from the gaggle of bearded sandal wearers at his Party's annual seaside gathering.

The group complains:

As members of the body setting up a review of Liberal Democrat policy on immigration and identity under Andrew Stunell MP, or members of the review itself, we feel the need to put a few facts in the public domain following Nick Clegg’s speech on Friday.

It would have been helpful had we been made aware of the contents in advance. It would have been very helpful if members of the Policy Working Group had been sent an embargoed copy of the speech the night before.

This is not just procedural fuss pottery. They are also objecting to the substance of what Mr Clegg was saying. In his speech Mr Clegg said he wanted to ditch the Lib Dem policy of giving an amnesty to illegal immigrants.

He said:
It was seen by many people as a reward for those who have broken the law. And so it risked undermining public confidence in the immigration system. The very public confidence that is essential to a tolerant and open Britain. That is why I am no longer convinced this specific policy should be retained in our manifesto for the next General Election.

His critics respond:

The policy of an earned amnesty to speed up the regularisation of the immigration status of those here illegally who have abided by the law, and want to contribute to our society by paying taxes and taking part in the democratic process – a policy championed by Nick himself – remains Liberal Democrat policy until our Conference decides otherwise. Unlike the other two parties, we do not believe in top-down policymaking by diktat.

In his speech Mr Clegg stressed the importance of those living here being able to speak English.

He said:

The Government currently spends tens of millions of pounds on translation services and materials. And, of course, people should get help, if they need it to understand what their doctor is saying, or how to sign their children up for school, or what's going on at a court hearing.

But there's a missed opportunity here to improve people's English so that, in the long term, they don't need those translators and the taxpayer spends less.

He notes approvingly that in 2011 the Government "introduced powers for Jobcentre advisers to mandate people on job-related benefits to learn English if their level of language skills is stopping them from finding work."

He added:

Where people need a translator to interact with services, I've asked Mark Harper, the Immigration Minister, to look at whether we could refer them onto an English language course. And, if people refuse to stick with those courses, we should consider making them pay for their translation services instead. To a lot of people, that’s just common sense.

To a lot of people it is common sense. But not his critics from his Federal Policy Committee. They say:

Have the implications and practicalities of “going on an English Language course” for those needing translation been thought about, and is the terminology even right? The biggest need is for an interpreter not translator anyway. However the public will now think that this is our policy, and it would have been so much more helpful if the suggestion could have been put to the working group in advance.

For good measure they add:

The debate on immigration in this country has been unhealthy for too long. That the sudden surge of interest by party leaders appears to have been triggered by short-term expediency is a symptom of that.

Those living here, and unable to speak English, are at a disadvantage in seeking work. Thus for those who are unemployed and on welfare, a requirement to learn English is eminently reasonable. If Mr Clegg is getting flack from his Party even on this point then we can see the difficulty he is in.

It is worth noting that the views of Lib Dem activists are not in line with Lib Dem voters. This YouGov poll from earlier this month includes the following points. It found that fewer than half of Lib Dem voters felt that most immigrants "play a positive role." Asked if they would agree with a change so that "non-emergency treatment is only available to people who have been resident in Britain for a fixed period of time, such as a year", 65% of Lib Dems said yes. Asked if "entitlement to benefits and healthcare in Britain should only be open to people who have paid taxes in the past, even if it means some needy people go without", there was the support of 79% of Lib Dems.

Contrary to the majority of Lib Dem (and Labour and Conservative voters), I estimate that most immigrants (those born abroad but living here) do make a positive contribution. But, of course, lots don't. Lots of them (as well as lots of those born here) are trapped on welfare. The trap is tighter for those who don't speak English - nearly a million of us. David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg all accept this.

More broadly, we should shift the debate on immigration from being pro or anti immigration to looking at what each individual wishing to live here has to offer. It means shifting away from race towards economics. That involves welcoming entrepreneurs and scientists but not welfare tourists. That is a change that true liberals should welcome. Sadly it seems not to be a vision shared by the Liberal Democrats Federal Policy Committee as they absorb themselves in procedural spats.

Senior German Eurocrat branded Voldemort after rant at Prime Minister David Cameron

A Senior Eurocrat launched an extraordinary attack on David Cameron last night over his attempt to loosen ties with ­Brussels.

Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, claimed the Prime Minister’s drive to renegotiate the UK’s membership deal with the European Union could lead to “the break-up of the union”.
And he claimed Mr Cameron’s proposed referendum on a new membership deal with Brussels was “a dangerous game”.
Mr Schulz’s rant came in an article in the magazine Public Service Review Europe.
It follows Mr Cameron’s pledge to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s membership of the EU and hold an in-or-out referendum by 2017 if he wins the next election.
Mr Schulz wrote: “Any attempt by the UK government to repatriate powers to Westminster is likely to be a drawn out and ­cumbersome negotiation.
“I would question whether it is truly in the British and European long-term interest.
“However attractive repatriation may seem on the surface, it would involve long and complex procedures with no guarantee of a favourable outcome.
“Renegotiation is a two-way process where no artificial deadlines can be imposed by one side.”
Mr Schulz, a member of Germany’s Left-of-centre Social Democratic Party, urged Tories to drop their “adversarial stance” towards the EU.
He accused Mr Cameron of playing “a dangerous game for tactical, domestic reasons”.
He said Mr Cameron “increasingly resembles the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, who cannot tame the forces that he has conjured – forces that want to leave the EU for ideological reasons, to the detriment of the British people”.
Mr Schulz argued that looking at the terms of EU membership “and picking and choosing the bits of which the UK approves, sets a dangerous precedent”.
He added: “It could lead to piecemeal legislation, disintegration and potentially the break-up of the union.
“The eurozone is integrating more deeply and more rapidly out of necessity. The UK has chosen to remain outside the euro. The UK’s support for deeper integration of the eurozone is welcome but doing so from outside means the eurozone cannot and will not be shaped according to British interest.”
Warning Britain against further attempts to undermine European unity, Mr Schulz said: “It is not in the UK’s interest to seek to downgrade to some kind of ‘second class’ EU membership and so choose to weaken its own influence on European and global affairs.
“We need a UK as a fully-fledged member, not harbouring in the port of Dover.”
Tory MP Douglas Carswell said: “If he wants to start invoking the spirit of Harry Potter, then I think he would make a good ­Voldemort. I am campaigning for Britain to leave the EU and Herr Schulz is making my job persuading ­the undecideds a heck of a lot ­easier.”


Thursday, 28 March 2013

Just what Ed Miliband doesn't need: Gordon Brown's ex-spin doctor to publish explosive memoir revealing New Labour's darkest secrets

- Damian McBride plans to releases his book on the eve of Ed Miliband's major party conference speech
- Will lift the lid on a decade spent at Gordon Brown's side
- Spin doctor was forced to quit in 2009 for a plot to smear Tory MPs

Ed Miliband’s hopes of presenting himself as a Prime Minister-in-waiting are set to be dashed by a devastating memoir lifting the lid on his role in the dying days of the last Labour government.

Former spin doctor Damian McBride will reveal the secrets of working for Gordon Brown for a decade, and Mr Miliband’s role as a key member of the former Prime Minister’s inner circle.

The explosive book, to be published on the eve of Mr Miliband’s keynote speech at the Labour conference in September, is expected to provide the most comprehensive account to date of Mr Brown’s rise and fall and his coterie of aides who dominate Labour today.

Mr McBride was forced to quit Downing Street in 2009 after it emerged he plotted to use a website to smear Tory MPs by spreading false rumours about their private lives.

But since then he has used a blog to reveal the inner workings of the Brown administration, which have become a must-read for journalists and MPs.

His memoir Power Trip: A Decade of Policy, Plots and Spin, will be published on September 23 - during the Labour Party's autumn conference - and will cover his 10 years working for Mr Brown, including the feud with Tony Blair at the top of New Labour.

Publishers BiteBack claim the book will ‘send shivers down the back of the Labour establishment as it reveals the truth about life within Gordon Brown’s government’.

Mr McBride has received a five-figure for the book which will chart his rise from civil service press officer in the Treasury in 2009 to Number 10’s top spin doctor in the early days of Mr Brown’s premiership.

He promises to reveal the ‘personal feuds, political plots, and media manipulation which lay at New Labour’s core’.

Just yesterday Mr McBride took a swipe at David Miliband, who announced he was quitting British politics two and a half years after losing the Labour leadership contest.

Mr McBride said Mr Miliband failure of nerve had stopped him from moving against Mr Brown before the last general election: 'His huge moment was 2008 but we monstered him because of his timidity.'

The memoir is likely to make for uncomfortable reading for Mr Miliband, who worked alongside Mr Brown and Mr McBride in the Treasury before becoming an MP but has sought to play down his links with the former PM.

Ed Balls, Labour’s shadow chancellor, was also a close ally of Mr McBride but sought to distance himself after the communications chief was forced to quit in 2009.

Mr McBride gave a flavour of life working for Mr Brown last year in a blog post on the former PM's infamous temper. He wrote: 'There are two phrases that every former Gordon Brown staffer got used to hearing when he couldn’t hide his exasperation with them any longer.

'The first – delivered slowly and usually punctuated with a pounding fist on the back of a chair – was “Too. Many. Mistakes.” The second – delivered in a strangled growl, usually at the person he wanted to murder on the spot – was: “I NEED NEW PEOPLE”.'

Iain Dale, the former Tory blogger who is now managing director of publishers Biteback, said: ‘I have absolute confidence in predicting Damian’s book will be seen as the political memoir of the year.

‘I’ve been chasing this book for at least eighteen months and am delighted to have persuaded Damian to put pen to paper.

‘Everyone knows from his blog that Damian is a brilliantly incisive writer and that he was in a unique position to expose what being at the centre of power in the Brown government was really like.’

After being cast out of the Labour fold, Mr McBride has used his blog to give a brutally honest account of the Brown regime’s failings.

Mr McBride said: ‘Given that Iain Dale was one of my supposed enemies when I was working in Downing Street, he was the last person I expected to be working with, but his thoughts on what this book should be about exactly matched my own, and I am delighted to be publishing it with him.

‘I hope that, like my blog, this book will be a chance not only to give my account of what happened during Gordon Brown's time in office, but also to give an insight into what life is like for those working in government today.’

Royalties will be split between the Catholic aid agency Cafod, where Mr McBride now works, and the appeal by his former employers Finchley Catholic High School to build a new sixth-form centre.

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Prince William to appear in search and rescue TV series

Prince William will appear in a TV series featuring the RAF Search and Rescue Force and say there is no greater calling than to save someone’s life.

The Duke of Cambridge, known as Flight Lieutenant William Wales in his role as an RAF Sea King helicopter pilot, is seen in dramatic footage manoeuvring his aircraft to find and save a boy.

He had been trapped in an old slate quarry after falling off a railway bridge on to rocks.

William, whose job in the RAF will disappear by March 2016 under Government plans to privatise the service, said: “There’s no greater feeling than when you’ve actually done some good and saved someone’s life. I don’t think there’s any greater calling in life – to be able to see a son or daughter’s face when you bring their mother or father back from the edge of death. It’s quite powerful.”

The second-in-line to the throne lobbied Prime Minister David Cameron unsuccessfully to save the Search and Rescue Force from privatisation after 70 years under the control of the RAF and Royal Navy. William, 30, features in all four episodes of the second season of Helicopter Rescue.

The BBC1 Wales series profiles the work of the RAF crews at Valley on the Isle of Anglesey and Chivenor in Devon. The first part will be screened at 8.30pm on April 8.

William’s rescue of the boy, who made a complete recovery from his injuries at an old quarry at Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd, last October, is a central part of the first programme.

He is seen scouring the landscape and then holding the aircraft steady while the boy is winched on board on a stretcher.

William said: “You want to make the right call. I’ve a duty of care for the crew and for the casualty.

“As captain, you’re trying to play out the entire rescue...and back again in your mind, and pick up any circumstances or problems you can foresee, and try and fix them on the ground before you get airborne.”

The Prince, due to complete a tour of duty at RAF Valley by September, is expected to announce soon if he will stay in the Forces.

William is to join his father Prince Charles to host a summit at St James’s Palace in May on the illegal poaching of wild animals.


Bruce Willis expresses interest in new Bond movie

Yesterday we revealed that film director and Olympics opening ceremony mastermind Danny Boyle won’t be signing up for the next Bond movie.

But while Danny may not be on board another big name has expressed an interest: veteran action hero Bruce Willis.

After Javier Bardem stole scenes as peroxide blond baddie Silva in Skyfall, Bruce has said that after years of playing the good guy he would go bad for Bond.

“I always thought it would be more fun to play bad guys,” says the 58-year-old best known for playing New York policeman John McClane in the Die Hard series.

“I tried it a couple of times but it really wasn’t as much fun as I thought it would be so I’ll stay good unless there’s a James Bond villain offer. That last movie really renewed my love for 007.”


Jessops has resurgence as Dragon's Den Peter Jones opens six new stores

Dragons' Den star Peter Jones vowed to revitalise the UK high street as he re-opens six Jessops camera stores creating hundreds of new jobs.

Jones, who bought Jessops out of administration in January taking on the role of chief executive and chairman, said the return of the iconic brand would lead to a “retail resurgence”.

Jessops, which collapsed after struggling against the rising use of camera phones and online competition, will open a further 30 stores in April at the rate of one a day taking on 500 new workers.

It is spending £4million on the new stores including flagship outlets in London’s Oxford Street and Birmingham, boasting new features such as play tables where customers can handle SDHpcameras. There will be a click and collect option for online orders.

Jones boasts it will offer Europe’s biggest range of camera equipment and offer photography courses for amateurs. He aims to rack up £80million sales in its first 12 months.

“Britain’s high street is fighting back and I am giving my personal commitment to its resurgence by re-opening the doors of one of the country’s most historic retailers,” Jones said.

Boris Johnson as Tory leader 'would wipe out Labour lead'

Boris Johnson would wipe out Labour’s lead in the polls if he took over from David Cameron as Conservative leader, a new survey has revealed.

The research suggests the London Mayor’s popularity increased after he was grilled by the BBC about an alleged extra-marital affair and other misdemeanours live on air this week.

A YouGov poll for the Evening Standard showed the Conservatives would be neck-and-neck with Labour in the polls on 37 per cent of the vote if they were led by Mr Johnson.

It found just 31 per cent of people would vote Tory under Mr Cameron, putting him far behind his colleague and potential rival.

Given the choice between the two men, around 38 per cent of people opted for Mr Johnson as leader, while 33 per cent chose the Prime Minister. This was a bigger gap than when the question was asked in October.

The so-called “Boris Bounce” appeared to be driven by support from younger people, and those who are currently planning to vote for the UK Independence Party.

Conservative supporters preferred Mr Cameron by a margin of 58 per cent to 29 per cent.

However, Ukip supporters opted for Mr Johnson by 51 per cent to 21 per cent.

The poll was carried out in the days after Mr Johnson floundered as he was questioned on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show over episodes from his past.

Eddie Mair, the interviewer, quizzed him about an alleged extra-marital affair, fabricating quotes as a journalist and agreeing to help a friend with a plot to get someone beaten up.

The London Mayor has dismissed complaints about his treatment, saying it was the BBC’s job to “have a bash” at him.

Voters also appear to think the questions were justified, with 55 per cent saying the questioning was acceptable and 23 per cent saying it was not. However, the episode has not negatively affected his popularity.

The poll will add to pressure on Mr Cameron who has been the subject of speculation about his leadership after the Conservatives suffered a bruising defeat to both the Liberal Democrats and Ukip in the Eastleigh by-election.

It will also add to Mr Johnson’s reputation for brushing off embarrassing incidents.

The London Mayor was interviewed on the BBC ahead of a documentary about his life by political film-maker Michael Cockerell.

In the hour-long piece, Mr Johnson admitted for the first time that he would “of course” like to take over from David Cameron as leader of the Conservatives.

In a series of interviews, many of his friends, family and colleagues portrayed the London Mayor as a canny operator with deep ambition beneath his bumbling exterior.

His sister, the journalist Rachel Johnson, said the London Mayor "sees life as a competition and he always wants to be top".

Sir Max Hastings, who was his editor for nine years, also said the politician genuinely is chaotic but has "discipline when he wants to have it".

Mr Johnson is not even an MP anymore and has three years left as Mayor of London. However, he could return to Parliament after the next election if a Conservative MP were willing to give up their seat for him, triggering a by-election.

By Rowena Mason, Daily Telegraph

Early finish means road to Alfriston is set to reopen in time for Easter

Motorists, residents and businesses in Alfriston are set to receive an Easter boost as roadworks in the village finish in time for the holiday weekend.

High Street has been closed to through traffic since East Sussex County Council began essential drainage and resurfacing work on February 18.

The repairs were due to take seven weeks to complete but, despite the recent bad weather, are running a week ahead of schedule, meaning the road is now due to reopen for the Easter weekend.

Highways crews have repaired an old and worn pipe which drains surface water from the carriageway, began resurfacing the whole stretch of road on Saturday (23) and expect to finish the work on the afternoon of Thursday, March 28.

Roger Williams, the county council's head of highways, said: “Our crews have been working double shifts and weekends to ensure this essential work is completed as quickly as possible.

“We're very pleased we've been able to finish early so the road can reopen in time for the Easter weekend.

“We appreciate that, as is the case with any roadworks scheme, there has been some inconvenience, but we'd like to thank everyone in the village for their patience.”

Updates on roadworks across East Sussex are available on the roads and transport section of the county council's website at or on Twitter @esccroads

Torpedo exploded off the Eastbourne coast after being landed on a fishing boat

A World War 2 torpedo has been set off in a controlled explosion off the coast of Eastbourne this afternoon.

Experts from the Royal Navy Bomb Disposal Unit carried out the controlled explosion on the sea bed shortly after 3pm.

They were called to Eastbourne from Portsmouth after the Shoreham based scallop trawler Joanna C landed the 500lb bomb in its nets in the morning while off the coast of Beachy Head, roughly two miles (1.2km) south east of Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne.

Lifeboat crews and coastguards are standing half a mile from the Joanna C fishing vessel which is currently three miles south east of Beachy Head.

The three fishermen on board were transferred from their vessel to the waiting Eastbourne Lifeboat the Diamond Jubilee while the four soldiers dropped the bomb over the side of the boat onto the sea bed before detonating it.

The incident is the third that Eastbourne’s lifeboats have been called to this morning.

Volunteer crew members were first called out at 6.22am after a collision between Dutch and French fishing vessels 17 miles off the coast of Eastbourne.

An hour later they were called to look for a Dutch vessel which had lost contact with both French and Dutch authorities but was located.

Via BBC Sussex Website &

Samantha Cameron speaks of her horror on a barefoot visit to Syrian refugee camp

Innocent children's lives are being smashed to pieces... SamCam speaks of her horror on a barefoot visit to Syrian refugee camp
  • Samantha Cameron was on a visit to Lebanon as an ambassador for Save the Children

  • Prime Minister's wife said she was horrified by stories she heard from those caught up in the violence

  • The number of refugees has increased from 1,000 a day at the beginning of the year to over 8,000 a day

Barefoot and sitting cross-legged on the floor, Samantha Cameron is listening to mothers telling stories about their children.

But in this mothers’ group, the tales are of grief, fear and terrible loss. They are some of the most shocking stories she has ever heard.

On her first solo foreign trip, the Prime Minister’s wife and mother of three travelled to Lebanon to meet families torn apart by the crisis in Syria.

After visiting refugees, the woman who rarely makes public pronouncements warned that innocent childhoods were‘being smashed to pieces’ in the conflict.

Mrs Cameron said: ‘As a mother, it is horrifying to hear the harrowing stories from the children I met today. No child should ever experience what they have.

‘With every day that passes, more children and parents are being killed, more innocent childhoods are being smashed to pieces.’

Mrs Cameron, who has been an ambassador for Save the Children since 2011, visited a camp in the Bekaa Valley on Tuesday and spoke to women and children caught up in the violence.

Visibly emotional after speaking to a mother whose young son was killed by a sniper in front of her other six children, she said: ‘It’s so shocking. It’s difficult to take in.

‘Her three-year-old son was shot by a sniper at a checkpoint – a sniper aiming at a car full of seven children. I mean, it’s just … you just can’t imagine why that could happen.’

The grieving mother had told Mrs Cameron: ‘I was driving with my children, trying to escape Syria, when the shooting started. How can anyone shoot at a car with seven children in it?

'They shot my baby and he died. His brothers and sisters saw this happen.’ At a health clinic at the camp, Mrs Cameron held the hand of a little disabled boy. Because of constant shelling and sniper fire, his mother struggles to find healthcare for him.'

An estimated three million people have fled their homes in Syria. One million have made it to neighbouring countries but two million are trapped in the warzone.

Save The Children chief executive Justin Forsyth, who accompanied Mrs Cameron, said: ‘Samantha Cameron’s support helps draw attention to the plight of children caught up in this terrifying conflict. Without more help , and quickly, we risk losing a generation of Syria’s children.’

John Hayes & Michael Fallon promoted in mini reshuffle

By Tim Montgomerie, Conservativehome.

David Cameron has conducted a mini reshuffle this morning. He has appointed John Hayes MP to the Cabinet Office and Michael Fallon will be taking over John's Energy brief. Both men have been two of the Coalition's success stories.

HAYES JOHNTaking John Hayes first. In his previous ministerial incarnation Hayes oversaw the Coalition's skills and apprenticeships policy. He was a master of the subject - having shadowed the portfolio for most of the last parliament. In government he worked closely with George Osborne to ensure that, in this era of austerity, this long-term investment in our nation's future got extra funding rather than less. Hayes has had a rocky relationship with Ed Davey at DECC, with the two men disagreeing rather publicly over windfarms policy.

Nonetheless, I understand that one of John Hayes' last acts was to sign off a settlement of the government's onshore wind policy. It's not exactly clear what John Hayes' new role will be but the MP for South Holland and the Deepings and co-founder of the Cornerstone Group understands the Right of the Tory Party (including the 2010 intake) and Number 10 doesn't. Hayes will be acting as a political and parliamentary adviser to the PM and will, I hope, be doing a lot more media. His non-southern, non-posh voice is one the Conservatives lack. He is a curious mix of Right-wing and One Nation. He signs up to nearly all traditional Tory positions on immigration, Europe, crime and the family (especially the family) but he's not much of a liberal when it comes to economic matters. Although a businessman before entering politics he's never been much of a fan of free trade.

He sees a large role for the state in providing a social safety-net and underpinning UK manufacturing. Cameron's decision to bring Hayes into his inner team - a team that doesn't understand working class Conservatives - is a very good one. Hayes recently claimed to be the personification of blue collar conservatism.

My understanding is that John Hayes will be more Andrew Mackay than Michael Fallon. Mackay was something of a parallel chief whip for Cameron when he was based in the Leader of the Opposition's office in the last parliament. He helped connect Cameron with MPs (not always successfully). Fallon, in contrast, was primarily Minister for the Today programme.Fallon Michael Newsnight
Fallon will now have two responsibilities. He will remain at BIS, developing the Coalition's policies for business but he'll also co-ordinate the Coalition's energy policies. This super brief is a sign that Number 10 regards Fallon as one of the Government's most effective ministers. One Number 11 source tells me that he gets things done. "Fallon is to Cameron what Lord Young was to Thatcher - other ministers bring problems, Fallon brings solutions". If it wasn't for Coalition he'd be in the Cabinet and a powerful pro-enterprise member of it. Some suggested that his appointment last year to work alongside Vince Cable at BIS was an act of war from Number 10 towards the Business Secretary. In reality the relationship has been a solid one. Fallon will now work with another Lib Dem Cabinet minister - Ed Davey - to ensure that the Government accelerates the policies towards the nuclear, renewables and gas industries that will achieve a rebalancing of the UK economy and an energy prices regime that supports manufacturing.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Nick Clegg suffers further popularity slump among Liberal Democrat members

Poll found half of members are dissatisfied with performance as leader, while Vince Cable is their favourite of the party's ministers.

Nick Clegg’s ratings amongst Liberal Democrat activists have slumped as some party members question whether he should stand down as their leader before the next general election.

After the Lib Dems’ victory in last month’s Eastleigh by-election, Clegg allies said he was certain to lead his party into and beyond the 2015 poll. But some grassroots activists want to install a new leader, such as Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, before the election.

A survey of 650 party members by the Lib Dem Voice website found that 50 per cent are dissatisfied with Mr Clegg’s performance as party leader, a rise of nine points since December. The proportion satisfied is 48 per cent, 10 points down on December.

When party members were asked to rate Lib Dem ministers, Mr Clegg surprisingly came in the bottom five. Some 46 per cent are satisfied with his performance as Deputy Prime Minister, while 44 per cent are dissatisfied, a net rating of plus 2 points.

However, 78 per cent of Lib Dem activists support the coalition with the Conservatives, while only 18 per cent oppose it.

Naomi Smith, co-chair of the Social Liberal Forum pressure group, said: “The results will make difficult reading for the Deputy Prime Minister. The party faithful have delivered a clear message – they continue to support the Coalition Government but not under the current Lib Dem leadership.” She believed Mr Clegg’s rating would have been even lower if the poll had been taken after his “deeply unpopular” speech on immigration last Friday.

Clegg allies hit back. A senior Lib Dem source said: “The stunning victory in the Eastleigh by-election vindicated Nick’s political strategy that the Lib Dems can both be in government and win. The survey clearly demonstrates continued widespread support among Lib Dems to both being in coalition and the overall direction of the party. Despite what our opponents would want, our party remains united behind his message – building a stronger economy and a fairer society enabling everyone to get on in life.”

Mr Cable tops the Lib Dems’ popularity chart. Some 80 per cent of members are satisfied with his work as Business Secretary, while only 10 per cent are dissatisfied, a net rating of plus 70 points. The finding suggests Mr Cable would be the strong front-runner to succeed Mr Clegg if he stands down before the election, as a new leader would be chosen in a ballot of members.

Others in the top five are Lynne Featherstone, the International Development Minister; Steve Webb, the Pensions Minister; Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary and Michael Moore, the Scotland Secretary. Others joining Mr Clegg in the bottom five are Jeremy Browne, the Home Office Minister; David Laws, the Schools Minister; Lord McNally, the Justice Minister and Baroness Randerson, a minister at the Wales Office.

Clegg allies pointed out that the survey was taken soon after the party’s spring conference voted against the Government’s plans to allow civil courts to take some evidence in secret. Mr Clegg’s handling of the issue has faced grassroots criticism.

Activists suggested the survey may reflect recent controversies such as the allegations that Lord Rennard, the party’s former chief executive, sexually harassed women activists, which he denies.

By Andrew Grice, The Independent.

Work on one of county's largest resurfacing projects ends

The recent snow couldn't stop progress on the largest resurfacing scheme carried out by East Sussex County Council since 1994.

The A22 Hailsham Bypass will be free of cones, machinery and workmen in time for the Easter weekend getaway.

Since work began eight weeks ago, East Sussex Highways has resurfaced 67,640sqm of road – the equivalent of nine football pitches.

As well as the obvious work involved in a resurfacing scheme of this magnitude, workers have also carried out hedge trimming, lining, drainage maintenance, barrier repair and kerb removal. Aqua seeding, a process where grass seed is sprayed using high pressured pumps, was also used to reinstate grass verges.

All the work has been completed on schedule and to budget despite delays caused by the wintry weather earlier this month.

Karl Taylor, assistant director of operations at East Sussex County Council, said: “We appreciate that this work caused delays and inconvenience, and would like to thank motorists for their patience.

“The snowfall in mid March caused delays, but staff and contractors worked hard to ensure the scheme was completed in time for the Easter weekend getaway.

“The result of the work carried out by East Sussex Highways is a road which is smoother and safer for our residents and visitors to our county.”

The road has been resurfaced between the Boship roundabout and the Cophall roundabout.

Sussex University gets injunction to stop sit-in

The University of Sussex has been granted an injunction to end a six-week occupation by students.

The university said it took action in the High Court after a "violent protest" on Monday led to damage at the Falmer campus just outside Brighton.

It said staff felt intimidated and had to be escorted from their building by security staff.

A student spokesman disputed the protest, over plans to outsource 235 jobs, was violent.

He said students were continuing to occupy Bramber House.

The occupation began in a conference room on 7 February following a 300-strong staff and student protest over proposals to outsource the jobs,

University officials granted open access to the building between 08:00 and 22:00 GMT, while a number of high profile speakers and notable academics gave talks.

'Increasingly concerned'

On Monday, students, staff and supporters from universities around the UK congregated to show solidarity with hundreds of their Sussex counterparts.

The students claimed there were nearly 2,000 protesters, the majority from Sussex.

The university said it had tolerated the sit-in because there had been no undue disruption but it had become increasingly concerned about the attitude of the occupiers.

It said protesters smashed glass doors at the entrance to the main administration building, Sussex House, and damaged documents, fire alarms and CCTV cameras and daubed slogans on interior walls.

In Bramber House, the occupiers broke doors and occupied seminar rooms that would normally be used for teaching and learning.

"We have now embarked on this legal process to prevent a repetition of the type of violent protest we saw at Sussex House on Monday and to pave the way to ending the occupation," said registrar and secretary John Duffy.

The student spokesman it was misleading to say the protest was violent.

"There is no evidence of any violent protest taking place, though there may have been some damage," he said.

"The injunction is a clear sign from the university that they are not going to allow protests to take place.

"This is hugely worrying."

The Redoubt Fortress opens on Good Friday with a free weekend!

The Redoubt Fortress opens on Good Friday and has free entry over the Easter weekend. The Napoleonic fortress has been undergoing improvement over the winter months and has seen some great changes. They will be kicking off the year with lots of fun activities and offers.

Follow the museum trail for a chance to win a £50 Amazon voucher! Visit the NEW café ‘The Outpost’ and swap a voucher for a free hot cross bun. Visitors can expect to enjoy tea and cakes in the vintage themed café which is decorated with photographs and pictures from the Redoubt’s collection. Regulars can enjoy great benefits too with a loyalty card giving a free cuppa after a number of visits.

Senior Head of Tourism and Leisure for Eastbourne, Tracey McNulty said “Don’t forget to wrap up when you visit the Redoubt weekend as the temperatures look to be on the low side. But don’t worry you can expect a warm welcome from the Museum Staff, eager to tell you the story of the Redoubt and enjoy a hot drink at the wonderful new vintage styled Café, The Outpost, both sure to leave you with a spring in your step!”

The Redoubt shop has also had a revamp and there will be a new range of gifts and military books on sale. In addition, there is a new children’s resource area, offering plenty for all ages to get involved with.

The Redoubt’s medal collection has always been something of fascination to visitors, but this year they will be displayed in chronological order along with some stories of the soldiers who’d earned them. To add to this, there are many more medals on display than in previous years!

Outside the fortress, shrubbery around the moat has been removed and traditional style gates and railings are currently being installed. There has also been new signage put in place on the Gun Platform and Parade Ground that will offer visitors more information about the two hundred year old Fortress.

The museum will now be open 7 days a week and offers two daily tours of the building starting at 11am and 2.30pm.

It is predicted that the FREE opening at the Easter weekend will fill the Fortress with eager visitors; and with the upcoming programme of events at the Redoubt set to fire everyone’s imagination; visitors are set for a brilliant year.

The opening of the season kicks off at 10am on Friday 29 April. For more information go to

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Angelina Jolie joins William Hague on their anti-rape mission in the Congo

Angelina Jolie shunned her Hollywood image and lifestyle as she met rape victims in Africa alongside William Hague today.

The 37-year-old was pictured visiting several different camps in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Wearing a simple white shirt with black trousers, Jolie had her hair scraped back into a low ponytail and chose to wear no make-up as she sat with the British Foreign Secretary.

The 'Mr and Mrs Smith' star and Hague spent time at the Nzolo Internally Displaced Persons camp, north of Goma, as well as at the Lac Vert camp, which is on the edge of Goma.

Speaking about their mission to raise awareness of the issue on an international scale, Jolie told Sky News: “It's often that we speak about the drama and the pain and the horrors of the Congo but it's also a wonderful place with extraordinary people.

“The big message is that this initiative started by the Foreign Secretary is extraordinary, but what we're here to do is to try to scale it up and make this a worldwide focus.

“It's been going on in every war, every crisis and it's often an afterthought - and it's due time to end this, and put an end to impunity, and they deserve it.”

Jeremy Hunt announces the Government's initial response to the Francis Report

Jeremy Hunt's full statement, as well as the parliamentary discussion that followed, can be viewed below. The Health Secretary said that the Government wants to embed a "culture of zero harm" in the NHS, and announced measures including (as per the Department of Health website):

New Ofsted-style ratings for hospitals and care homes overseen by an Independent Chief inspector of Hospitals and Chief Inspector of Social Care.

A statutory duty of candour for organisations which provide care and are registered with the Care Quality Commission.

A review by the NHS Confederation on how to reduce the bureaucratic burden on frontline staff and NHS providers by a third.

A pilot programme which will see nurses working for up to a year as a healthcare assistant as a prerequisite for receiving funding for their degree.

Nurses’ skills being revalidated, as doctors’ are now, and healthcare support workers and adult social care workers having a code of conduct and minimum training standards.

Furthermore in relation to Eastbourne's District General Hospital, during questions in the Commons yesterday, Jeremy Hunt confirmed that the recent decision to downgrade maternity services in Eastbourne to a Midwife lead unit and moving Consultant lead care to Hastings, can be reviewed by the new Chief Inspector of Hospitals, a development that campaigners are sure to welcome.

Theresa May breaks up the UK Border Agency in immigration crackdown & makes them report to her in future

Forget what your calendars say, this has been the month of May. It began with Theresa May’s department boasting that net migration has fallen by a third. It continued with her speech to ConservativeHome’s Victory 2015 conference. And now, today, it sees her make an important announcement in the Commons. The dysfunctional UK Border Agency is effectively going to be abolished, and two new organisations will take its place. One will deal with immigration and visas. The other will deal with law enforcement.

The timing of this announcement is rather opportune: only yesterday, the Home Affairs select committee released a report that was damning about UKBA’s performance – particularly in building up a backlog of cases that could take up to 24 years to clear – and about Lin Homer, its former boss. But that’s just a coincidence. In her statement and the discussion that followed, Theresa May emphasised that this decision had been taken over many months, and because of longstanding concerns. How longstanding? “In truth, the Agency was not set up to absorb the level of mass immigration that we saw under the last government,” she said.

Yvette Cooper half-welcomed Theresa May’s announcement and half-attacked it. Her point was that May herself should take some of the blame for the UKBA’s failings, thanks to the 30 per cent cuts, etc, etc. But here's the thing: May will take more of the blame – or praise, as the case may be – under the new system. The new organisations aren’t being set up as agencies but will report directly to Home Office ministers, and that’s before we get onto the work the department will now undertake to “modernise IT across the whole immigration system”. In future, the chain of accountability will stop at the Home Secretary.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Owen Paterson proves a gale of fresh air in Westminster

From badgers to horsemeat, Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, is showing the merit of experience in running a notoriously difficult Government department, Christopher Booker finds.

It was quite a week for Owen Paterson, our Environment Secretary, who is winning himself a reputation not just as one of the more colourfully controversial ministers in this Government but also as one of the most energetic and effective.

Last Sunday, after trundling a horsebox across England to help his daughter ride at a horse trials event, Mr Paterson flew to Brussels to play a leading role in one of the most important meetings of EU agriculture ministers for years.

Although scarcely noticed by the British media, it consisted of two days of gruelling negotiations to decide the future shape of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.

“In particular,” says Mr Paterson, “I was determined to fight off strong pressure from various of my continental colleagues for a move back to the bad old days of 'production subsidies, butter mountains and wine lakes’.”

In addition to discussing hundreds of pages of dense technical documents put before ministers from 27 countries, he was also determined to raise the controversial issue of neonicotinoids, the chemicals blamed by environmentalists for damaging Europe’s bees.

“Last weekend,” he says, “my office was swamped with 80,000 emails all protesting in identical terms at my insistence that these pesticides should not be banned by the EU until proper scientific evidence was available from field studies currently being analysed as a top priority by my technical staff at Defra [the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs].”
His pragmatic, common-sense line won support from many of his EU colleagues.

Over lunch on Tuesday, however, Mr Paterson and his senior officials were taken aback when the Italians and French sprang an ambush by proposing a change to an arcane clause in an EU regulation.

“If they had got their way, this would have cost British taxpayers an extra £250 million a year — taken off our EU budget rebate,” he says.

“This set off an afternoon of frenzied telephone calls between Downing Street, Dublin, Paris and Rome to sort out what looked like a pretty underhand bid to overturn a point which we thought had been firmly agreed between David Cameron and Brussels only a few days earlier.”

The talks ended late that evening and Mr Paterson caught the dawn plane back to London for an 8am Cabinet meeting to hear George Osborne setting out his Budget proposals for later that day.

On Thursday and Friday, breaking off from non-stop meetings and speeches to attend the installation of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Mr Paterson found himself facing an astonishingly abusive flood of tweets and messages on the internet, led by Bill Oddie and by Dr Brian May, the animal-welfare activist, attacking him very personally for everything from his policy on badger culling to his support for fox hunting.

In a long rant from Mr May, which he added to several times through the day on Friday, while Mr Paterson was addressing the annual conference of the Federation of Small Businesses in Leicester, he accused the Environment Secretary of being cruel, cold-hearted, unethical, undemocratic and unscientific as he implored animal-lovers across the land to sign up to the Team Badger petition, calling for a halt to the planned cull of badgers infected with bovine TB.

On Saturday, having finally got home to Shropshire, Mr Paterson ended his week by spending much of the day out in the fields, where he and his wife, Rose, keep a flock of sheep, helping to save dozens of new lambs as they were born into a world covered in a foot of snow.

When, last September, Mr Paterson was promoted to run Defra from the comparative obscurity of his years as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, he was billed as “the unknown Cabinet minister”.

Since then, not a week has gone by when he has not made headlines, as he has had to step into one crisis after another: from dying ash trees to dying bees, from badger-culling to the furore over horse meat fraud.

While many of his Tory colleagues have been wrestling with how their party can again re-engage with “Conservative values”, Mr Paterson has been throwing himself into his taxing new job in a way that he hopes shows “Conservative values in action”.

He has also attracted attention for his robust views on other issues, from his opposition to gay marriage and his wish to see a return to the proper fox hunting he used to enjoy, to the wind farms he has long opposed as “a hideously expensive blight on the countryside, serving very little practical purpose”.

In at least three respects, it was an inspired move by Mr Cameron to appoint Mr Paterson to head a department with an almost absurdly wide range of responsibilities, from farming and fisheries to food safety and flood defences, from waste disposal to water policy.

First, it might have seemed counter-intuitive to put the most trenchant Eurosceptic in the Cabinet in charge of the ministry that more than any other in Whitehall is subject in almost all it does to policies and laws decided in Brussels.

In fact, Mr Paterson, who speaks French and German, knows and loves Europe and its peoples as well as any British politician — but he also knows much better than most how our European system of government works.

It was this that, when the horse meat scandal erupted in January, enabled him to see at once that the real problem was the way the system of regulations introduced by the EU after it took over responsibility for food safety in 2002 was “a standing invitation to fraud, because it forces everyone to rely on a paper trail rather than on rigorous inspections”.

It was because he had done his homework that Mr Paterson was able to take the lead in Brussels in trying to tackle the problem, working closely together with Simon Coveney, his Irish opposite number, and Tonio Borg, the EU’s health commissioner.

He was the first politician to talk to Europol, supported by the French and the Irish, because they were in the best position to coordinate a thorough investigation into what has become a Europe-wide fraud epidemic.

When Mr Paterson referred in speeches to the regulation that he saw as the root of the problem, 178/2002, he was so far ahead of the field that it left Mary Creagh, his Labour opposite number, floundering in trying to portray him as no more than a dithering accomplice of the food industry.
Secondly, Mr Paterson is the first Defra secretary to know and love the countryside.

“One thing you learn is that for wildlife to flourish, it has to be managed. Unless we manage streams and rivers, they get choked and wildlife dies. Unless we control dominant species, predators take over and kill everything else off.”

On no issue has Mr Paterson aroused more bile from the green lobby — as in last week’s stream of abuse from Mr Oddie and Mr May — than his support for properly targeted control of the badgers that have become such a threat not just to the cattle they infect with bovine tuberculosis, at a cost to taxpayers of £100 million a year, but also to many other forms of wildlife, from hedgehogs and bumblebees to ground-nesting birds.

Indeed, the third reason why Mr Paterson is such an ideal choice for the job is that he is in all things a pragmatist, who likes first to examine all the evidence and then to take decisive action.
“I know about badgers,” he says, “because I really studied this problem in the days between 2003 and 2005 when I was shadow spokesman on agriculture.

“I put down 600 parliamentary questions [the largest number ever tabled by an MP on a single subject] and I could see that in every country which had managed to crack the problem of TB in cattle, the answer lay in culling the wildlife species which were the main carriers of the disease.

“In New Zealand it was possums, in Michigan it was white-tailed deer — just as it had been in Britain back in the days when we eliminated TB in our cattle herds by controlling badger numbers.
“No one could be fonder of badgers than me,” he insists, as the only MP who can claim to have kept two orphaned badgers as pets when he was a boy.

“But what is really sad about these people who are so fanatically opposed to culling is that they can’t see that the horrible disease of TB is just as much of a problem for the badgers themselves as it is to cattle.

“Soon after I became Secretary of State, the NFU asked me to halt the badger culls because it was too late in the year to conduct them scientifically.

"But I am determined to see them carried through now, because unless we get on top of this disease, it will continue to be a tragedy for the countryside, for the farmers, for wildlife in general and for all those sick badgers otherwise condemned to a long and very painful death.”

Since taking over at Defra, Mr Paterson has moved decisively on one issue after another. He took a grip on the threat to our ash trees, by halting imports and ordering an exhaustive survey of the countryside “so that we can get a really accurate picture of what we are dealing with”.

He has taken action on flood defences and fracking, just as he has tried to lead the way in Europe on the horse-meat scandal and food fraud.

Another issue due to make headlines will be a major Bill on Britain’s water policy, soon to come before Parliament.

“It is vital that we find ways to reverse the tendency in recent years to charge customers ever more for water while supplying them with less.

"We desperately need to build more reservoirs to store all that water which keeps falling out of the sky — contrary to the long-fashionable belief that, thanks to global warming, we can expect nothing in the future but endless droughts.”

Mr Paterson smiles as he says this. In private he laughs a lot and is much more genially relaxed than he sometimes appears to be in public. And, of course, his pragmatic scepticism about climate change, like his enthusiasms for shale gas and GM crops, is yet another reason why he has become such a hate figure for the green pressure groups.

He enjoys the irony of the fact that, as a practical environmentalist, he is demonised by fanatical ideologues who know rather less about nature and the environment than he does — just as he does in being the pragmatic Eurosceptic who knows considerably more about how the EU system of government works than those ideological Europhiles like his Labour opposite number, for whom “Europe” is little more than “a cosy abstract idea”.

His driving force is “make sure you look at all the evidence, only then can you take the right effective action”.

In that sense, as one of the few politicians with practical experience of running a business out in the real world — he was head of the family leather firm and president of the European Tanners Confederation — Mr Paterson is a true rarity in contemporary politics. He has also in the past eight months blown through Defra like a gale of fresh air.

Whatever else may be said of Mr Cameron, in this instance he put the right man in the right place.

British taxpayers do not owe immigrants a living through benefits, warns Cameron as he announces restricted access to health care and housing

Britain's benefits system is to be overhauled to end the idea that it will payout to anyone who moves here, David Cameron pledged today.

Housing, health and unemployment support will be restricted to people who have lived in the UK for several years or can prove they are entitled to state-funded help.

Mr Cameron used a major speech at University Campus Suffolk in Ipswich in Suffolk to promise to 'strengthen' tests to ensure only those who have paid into the system are able to receive handouts.

But the much-trailled crackdown was dismissed by critics who argued that many of the limits on benefits were already in place and the real fear for many in the UK was the threat posed to jobs by an influx of cheap labour.

Mr pledged to end end Britain’s ‘something for nothing’ reputation, although a more radical plan to ban new arrivals from claiming benefits at all in their first year was dropped for fear of breaching EU law.

Mr Cameron claimed net migration needs to ‘come down radically’ after getting ‘badly out of control’ under Labour.

He said: 'Right now the message through the benefit system is all wrong.

'It says if you can’t find a job or drop out of work early, the British taxpayer owes you a living for as long as you like no matter how little you have contributed to social security since you arrived.

'My view is simple. Ending the something for nothing culture needs to apply to immigration as well as welfare.'

The centrepiece of his reforms is a limit of six months on the right of EU nationals to claim out-of-work benefits.

From January, those who cannot show they are on the verge of securing a job will have their benefits stopped.

But Chris Bryant, Labour's shadow immigration minister, said such restrictions were already in place.

He said current regulations say that EU migrants cannot claim benefits after six months if they are not ‘genuinely seeking work and have a reasonable chance of being engaged’.

Mr Cameron said migrants can only claim after six months if ‘they can prove not just that you are genuinely seeking employment but also that you have a genuine chance of getting a job’.

Mr Bryant said: 'It’s exactly the same, isn’t it, there’s no difference at all, this isn’t a new announcement.'

The Prime Minister also unveiled a crackdown on so-called health tourism, with hospitals ordered to start charging foreign visitors. Those from outside the EU will need health insurance before being granted a visa.

There will be a major shake-up of council housing rules designed to keep immigrant families off waiting lists for at least two years and possibly as many as five.

Town halls will have to stop allowing migrants to jump the queue – last year around 32,000 of the 360,000 available council homes went to foreigners.

Mr Cameron said: 'New migrants should not expect to be given a home on arrival.

'And yet at present almost one in ten new social lettings go to foreign nationals.

'So I am going to introduce new statutory housing allocations guidance this spring to create a local residence test.

'This should mean that local people rightly get priority in the social housing system.

'And migrants will need to have lived here and contributed to this country for at least two years before they can qualify.'

The measures were described as ‘amongst the toughest in the world’ by immigration minister Mark Harper.

They are a response to public fears of an influx of thousands of migrants from Romania and Bulgaria when movement restrictions are lifted at the end of this year.

The Government is also anxious about growing support for the UK Independence Party, which has fed on concern about the impact of mass immigration.

There is nothing however in the proposals to stops migrants travelling here from the poorer parts of Eastern Europe.

The bid to cap eligibility for benefits to six months will put the Government on collision course with Brussels, which zealously guards the right to free movement across Europe.

Ministers will make the case that after six months migrants will have ‘exhausted’ their right to look for work in this country.

Sources say they are confident of winning an expected legal challenge at the European Court of Justice.

The Government will also seek to close a loophole which enables illegal over-stayers to continue claiming benefits when their visas expire.

And ministers will try to toughen up the rules on the habitual residency test which governs how quickly migrants can start claiming in-work benefits such as tax credits.

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Caroline and Tim discuss the issues that matter to local residents at Lansdowne Hotel event

Conservative Parliamentary Candidate, Cllr. Mrs Caroline Ansell was delighted to welcome Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing & Shoreham, to speak at the annual Upperton Ward Conservatives Dinner held at the Lansdowne Hotel on Friday 22nd March.

Caroline said afterwards “Tim gave a very thoughtful and amusing speech, recounting his experiences as a Member of Parliament and giving his opinion on a number of topical issues. He is very fond of Eastbourne, he was born here and spent his childhood holidays here, so we very much enjoyed his visit and his memories and we look forward to welcoming him back again in the future”

During the event, Caroline and Tim took time to discuss the issues that matter to residents in both Eastbourne and Willingdon and East Worthing and Shoreham, including the campaign to upgrade the A27 , education and developing opportunities for our young people and the plight of pensioners on low incomes.

By Cllr Philip Ede

Nasty? Not exactly. But after that TV ambush, Boris's rise doesn't look quite so irresistible

By Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

Less generous souls might almost suspect the BBC of trying to stir trouble at the top of the Conservative Party. Tonight, it will devote an hour of much-trailed, primetime television to an admiring profile of Boris Johnson.

As the programme notes — promoting the idea with the subtlety of a head waiter pushing the exotic sole veronique — there are some people who want ‘Beano Boris’ to become Tory leader.

Meanwhile, London Mayor Johnson was yesterday granted a prominent interview slot on BBC1. Its presenter, Eddie Mair, raised three rackety episodes from the Mayor’s life and discerned a pattern of deceit, even of menace.

‘You’re a pretty nasty piece of work, aren’t you?’ he asked a pop-eyed Mr Johnson.
What a lot of interest, suddenly, in our Boris. Is something going on?

Tonight’s BBC2 documentary — Boris Johnson: The Irresistible Rise — is not quite a shameless plug, but it certainly offers a generous view of the man who is plainly positioning himself to succeed David Cameron as Tory leader (even though there is not yet a vacancy!).

We see a cute family cine film from the Sixties of Boris, aged five, gallantly paddling down a fast-moving stream.

We hear of his cradle-reared competitiveness, his bravado on the games field, his use of humour to tickle support from a crowd. There are snapshots of Boris the blond Adonis at Oxford. He is an accomplished painter.

There have been setbacks in his life. He was once fired from The Times, was sacked from the Tory frontbench by Michael Howard, and many, many moons ago had a dodgy friend called Darius Guppy.

It is these three matters that sent Eddie Mair into such orbit yesterday.

Is Boris a nasty piece of work, as Mr Mair suggested? I have known the old horse for 25 years and have no hesitation in saying that ‘nasty’ is an adjective too far.

Half his trouble is that he is not nasty enough. Like many Old Etonians, he is terrified of becoming unpopular. The greatest politicians are prepared to be disliked.

But can Boris be maddening? Can he let people down? Is he a selfish brute?

At times, yes, all of these. Pratfalls have become his trademark. Tonight’s film repeats footage of Mayor Johnson falling into a muddy river and grinding to a halt on his Olympics zip-wire. Good old Boris!

There is that cold London morning when, in jogging bandana, he found he had been locked out of his home by his wife after one of his romantic sallies. For that to happen to any husband would be an embarrassment. It had to happen to Boris in front of several TV cameras.

The documentary opens with Boris playing tennis, whacking the ball with merry abandon. He uses a Seventies-style wooden racquet which has warped, having been left out in the cold and wet. Just like its owner.

Mayor Boris goofs it up for the camera, posing like a cross between Bjorn Borg and John Prescott. Though no Dan Maskell, I’d say the piratically-dressed Boris is a better tennis player than he might have us first believe. He hits the ball sweetly, despatching dolly drops with a hint of topspin.

That may also be true of his political timing. Is the scheduling of this film and yesterday’s BBC1 interview not intriguing?

The Coalition Government is suffering mid-term blues and David Cameron is struggling to contain rebellion in his party. Boris clearly has his eye on something rather greater than the next rung of his local tennis club ladder.

Supporters (and quite a few sceptics) say he is a winner. Disorganised, untidy, quick to dip his paw into the biscuit barrel, Boris reaches the parts of the electorate other Conservatives only deter.

Private Eye editor Ian Hislop calls him ‘our Berlusconi’. Uh oh! Yet there is certainly something of Italy’s ex-PM and bunga-bunga supremo in the way Boris survives sex scandals that would torpedo lesser vessels.

Boris is brazen, cheerful, zesty, full of political sap. Voters sometimes opt for that sort of thing — and never more so than when they feel the other politicians have become colourless and ‘all the same’.
They see Boris not only as clever, but also as a bumbler. That paradox is key to his appeal.

He tells documentary-maker Michael Cockerell: ‘As a general tactic in life, it is often useful to give the slight impression that you are deliberately pretending not to know what is going on — because the reality may be that you don’t know what is going on, but people won’t be able to tell the difference!’

Boris Johnson is not so much a politician as a double bluff made flesh. Are the public deterred by this vaguely elusive quality? His former boss Lord (Conrad) Black calls him ‘a sly fox disguised as a teddy bear’.

Of his hunger for the highest office, there should be no doubt. A quotation about his desire for the Tory crown, made in tonight’s film, has already been dispersed widely in the political Press (this programme has been given a far heftier PR push than most BBC2 Monday night shows).

Boris goes through the dutiful expressions of disbelief that the leadership could ever come his way.

Having parked those formulaic disclaimers, he produces a jovial rugby-union metaphor, saying that ‘if the ball came loose from the back of the scrum, which it won’t, of course, it would be a great thing to have a crack at’.

Is PM Boris really a possibility? As recently as six months ago, I could not envisage him crossing the doorstep of No 10 as PM.

David Cameron just seemed so natural as Tory leader, so genial and resilient. But there is no denying that the Ukip threat, the gay-marriage hoo-hah and the parade of U-turns have dented Mr Cameron’s chances of retaining his party leadership.

Boris’s sister Rachel says that the Mayor ‘knows life is a competition and he always wants to be top’. As a boy, he always said he wanted to be ‘world king’ some day. The drive is there.

He is not without his weaknesses. Prime Ministers make life-and-death decisions. BBC2’s documentary concedes that placing Boris anywhere near the nuclear red button could be tempting disaster — might he not think it was the button for summoning a maid?

However, his time as London Mayor has shown that, for all the gooning, Boris Johnson is capable. He has kept the city running pretty well. Perhaps the ‘nuclear question’ can be overdone.

Do the sexual infidelities matter? His wife, Marina, does not appear in tonight’s film. Former newspaper editor Sir Max Hastings says that he once told his former employee Boris to ‘lock up your willy’. But female voters like Boris rather more than they seem to like the more conventionally handsome, modern-man Cameron.

Bonker Boris versus Honker Miliband. It’s not hard to see who would win the ladies’ vote in that one.

His blood family is behind him all the way. His divorced parents collaborated with tonight’s film. Is ‘collaborated’, with its undertones of political plotting, the right word? I think it probably is.

Boris’s dad, Stanley, considers the minor snag that his lad is not at present in the House of Commons. Stanley baldly states that if a Commons seat needs to be found, let it be found now, before the 2015 general election, so that Boris is handily placed.
Boris’s mother, Charlotte, proves to be an engaging lady with a gap-toothed smile.

The film talks frankly about a breakdown Mrs Johnson had when Boris was a child.
She says that while she was away for months being treated, Boris took on a role in caring for his younger siblings, protecting them while the family was subjected to a stream of often ‘dotty’ nannies.

So much for the theory, so often heard from his former colleagues, that he is ‘not a team player’. The image of the boy Boris tending for his little siblings at an unsettling time may invite one to view him afresh.

Some Tories will have watched yesterday’s awkward interview with Eddie Mair and thought: ‘There goes our big hope — blown to pieces on live telly.’ But others will watch tonight’s documentary and think: ‘Boris is our man.’

Whoever ends up leading the Conservatives, be it Cameron, Home Secretary Theresa May or Johnson, is surely going to be preferable to Ed Miliband.

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