Breaking News: David Cameron has been speaking on the Today programme. He described current immigration levels as "still too high" and said that he wanted it reduced "back to responsible levels".
Mr Cameron also said that he wanted "longer transition periods" for countries in the European Union. On Bulgarian and Romanian migration, the Prime Minister said: "We've done the extent of what we can do" and explained that part of the #longtermplan was "dealing with immigration and welfare and Europe". Mr Cameron added: "We'll be the first government in modern history to finish a parliament with less regulation in place than we started with", and will tell the Federation of Small Business later today that 800 rules and regulations affecting them have been abolished or amended.
When challenged about the IFS's prediction that people will be worse off in 2015 than 2010, Mr Cameron said: "I’ll leave the statisticians to argue these things out."
CAN LABOUR WIN ON BASHING THE RICH?
Good morning. Now what? Labour has allowed Ed Balls to put politics before economics, and must face the consequences. Promising to put the top rate of tax back up to 50p has gone down badly with business. Labour figures will wince seeing the FT splash: 'Businesses blast 50p tax plans by Labour'. The Telegraph's 'Bosses blitz Labour's 50p tax rate' will hurt too, as it comes with a letter from 24 senior business figures detailing why it would threaten the recovery. The Mail talks about'Labour civil war', and its leader talks about the politics of envy. We'll get more today, with senior figures from the City queuing up to be rude about the decision, about Mr Balls and about Labour's economic credibility. The fact that those doing the criticising - and, let's admit it, those editing the papers - are for the most part top rate taxpayers is worth noting. It doesn't detract, however, from the central objection, namely that there is no economic case for it. The shadow chancellor is trying to claim that it might raise billions - he said on Marr yesterday that it had raised £10bn over three years - but the IFS and most others say it will bring in negligible sums: Mr Balls's claim that it will help eliminate the deficit is patent nonsense. Indeed, as Andrew Marr put it, even if the income-raising value of his changes are accepted at face value, where is he going to get the other 90pc he needs to achieve his objective of balancing the books next Parliament?
Perhaps if he dropped this talk of fairness he might find it easier: the task ahead can be described in all manner of ways, but if it's done properly then one thing it won't be is fair, whoever is in power. Already there are signs that some in Labour are unhappy about moving away from the Blair/Brown model of keeping the City happy - a model incidentally Mr Balls played a central role in. At this rate, Labour's Treasury team will struggle to find anyone willing to share a prawn cocktail with them. Mr Balls is many things but not stupid. He may have decided that what the City thinks no longer matters, and that he prefers to bash the rich in pursuit of cheap votes. Keep an eye therefore on the the polls in the next few days - will he get a lift of any sort from this populist lunge? Watch too the argument over what he meant: is reverting to 50p a permanent proposition or, as Alistair Darling intended it, a temporary one. He'll have to clarify, and presumably he'll say it will last only as long as the deficit. But that's a side show: Labour believes there are votes in bashing the rich, and the Tories can no longer be certain there aren't.
Dave faces an immigration showdown on two fronts. Around 50 backbench MPs are backing a proposal to extend transitional controls for Romanians and Bulgarians until 2019, despite warnings that it could contravene European law. Meanwhile, 100 Conservatives are supportingan amendment that would end the right of foreign criminals to claim the right to a "family life" in the UK. It sounds like Tory rebelliousness has reached new heights - but several minister are backing the amendments to the Immigration Bill and one MP describes them as effectively "government amendments". But will backbenchers be demanding even more concessions after the European elections - and will Dave be able to give them any?
GOVE v WILSHAW
Michael Gove is defending his aides of alleged "dirty tricks" against Ofsted head Sir Michael Wilshaw. Civitas and Policy Exchange, two think-tanks with links to Mr Gove and his team, have both criticised Ofsted's ability to regulate academies and free schools and the consistency with which it was upholding standards, and Sir Michael told the Sunday Times that he was "spitting blood" and believed that the attacks on inspectors were "informed by people at the department of education".
THE DAILY MAIL PRAISES A LIB DEM - WHATEVER NEXT?
Steve Webb's new pensions announcement gets a good airing today - it makes the front pages of both the Mail ("Boost your pension by £25 a week") and The Times ("Payouts to rise by 30% in pensions revolution"). As part of legislation expected in the Queen's speech, pensioners will be allowed to make top-up payments to increase their retirement income. It's being briefed as particularly welcome to women, who tend to live longer, though it's hardly going to be enough to end Dave's notorious "women problem". The flipside of the plans is that, unlike existing occupational schemes, there is not a guaranteed income for life, and pensioners will see their income throughout retirement vary depending on the performance of investments. Labour backtracked on proposals to introduce collective schemes in 2009. The Government will be happy with the Mail's leader, which expresses its shock at praising a Lib Dem minister and says that "The deal, significantly better than any available privately and particularly attractive to longer-lived women, should help put right an injustice to those who will reach retirement before the new £155 flat-rate pension is introduced on April 6, 2016."
DAVE BACKING YEO
The Prime Minister has written a letter to Tim Yeo, publicly backing his reselection bid in South Suffolk. Dave writes: "I very much hope that you will be selected to stand as the Conservative represenatative in this seat again, so that you can fight to continue representing your constituents in the next Parliament as you always have done in the past, with tenacity and commitment."
BALLS STILL AN HS2 SCEPTIC
Ed Balls has returned to an old favourite: flirting with abandoning HS2. Mr Balls said: "I don’t think that’s an argument which has yet been won by the supporters." The risk is that the fence will become uncomfortable, and voters will see indecision of the sort that businesses don't approve of. On that note, Chuka Umunna will today say that Labour would creare a Small Business Administration, modelled on that in the United States, to help small businesses and entrepreneurs get better heard in policymaking. But while Mr Miliband is so happy playing anti-business tunes, will Mr Umunna's voice be heard?
HAGUE CONFIRMS REFUGEE PLANS
William Hague has confirmed that the UK is working on accepting "particularly vulnerable" refugees from Syria and told Marr that the Government is working on how to determine eligibility. Britain could take several hundred refugees.
A BONFIRE OF RED TAPE
Dave is launching an attack on "crazy and over-zealous" red tape that impedes housing development, and will tell the Federation of Small Business today that over a hundred rules applied to new homes will be pared back to fewer than ten. Rules on minimum window sizes, the dimensions of rooms and arrangements for toilets will be among those put onto the bonfire and are predicted to save developers £60 million a year - £500 for every new property built. But has the Government waited too long to act on housing?
PICKLES DEFENDS APOSTROPHES
Lynton Crosby's "attitude is that only the top five issues matter", as one Tory MP puts it. Apostrophe use is, presumably, not one of them, but Eric Pickles used a letter in Saturday's Telegraph to attack "disingenuous and unnecessary" plans by Cambridge city council to abolish apostrophes on street signs.
TWEETS AND TWITS
A midnight half-marathon for Jim Murphy:
@jimmurphymp: In from my half marathon around the Southside. Usually busier streets, but wet & wild wind. Think I'll be a wee bit stiff in the morning.
In the Telegraph
Boris Johnson - Bash the rich and you deprive us of what their taxes pay for
Charles Moore - Time for GCHQ to come out of the shadows
David Blair - Ukraine: Behind the frozen barricades, morale is high
Telegraph View - Labour turns back the tax-and-spend clock
Best of the rest
Gaby Hinsliff in The Times - Until Balls says he was wrong, he’s a liability
Daily Mail leader - Labour's last refuge: The politics of envy
Allister Heath in City AM - The Labour party’s war on the better off is dreadful economics
Edward Luce in The Financial Times - High stakes merger for Hillary Clinton and Obama
0815 LONDON: Nick Clegg to light candle of remembrance on Holocaust Memorial Day. Deputy prime minister to help launch Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK, at King's Cross station
0830 LONDON: Speech by International Development Secretary Justine Greening. She will set out how she is refocusing the UK's aid budget to build jobs, generate economic growth and reduce dependency on aid across the developing world. London Stock Exchange 10 Paternoster Square
1200 LONDON: Mayor to launch Year of the Bus. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, will formally launch the Year of the Bus from the rear platform of a specially painted silver New Routemaster bus. Adjacent to City Hall, The Queen's Walk
1515 LONDON: Public Accounts Committee. The committee will examine (i) Severance payments (ii) Interpreter services (iii) Rural broadband. Witnesses include Una O'Brien, permanent secretary at the Department of Health, Sir David Nicholson, chief executive of NHS England and Mark Sedwill, Home Office permanent secretary, Ann Beasley, director-general of finance at the Ministry of Justice and Peter Handcock, Chief Executive of the Court and Tribunal Service; Sue Owen, permanent secretary at the Department for Culture. Room 15, House of Commons