Monday, 9 February 2015

In it together..

Good morning. Is there an election going on? An additional £5 billion worth of pensioner bonds - government-backed securities offering an interest rate of up to 4% - will be offered to silver savers after the original scheme sold faster than expected. 

"This announcement well and truly proves we are not all in it together," says IEA director Mark Littlewood, in what he calls a "direct subsidy to wealthy pensioners from the working-age population". "There is no doubt that savers have been clobbered by the policy of keeping interest rate at rock bttom for years," says Patrick Hosking in the Times, "in every other way, the bonds grate." The scheme diverts funds form banks and building societies, raising the cost of borrowing and it costs the government nine times more than borrowing on the open market. The additional offer is expected to cost the taxpayer £500 million over five years.

 "Many see pensioner bonds as a essentialy a bribe from the Chancellor to an influential group of voters," sniffs Ben Chu in the i, "The Treasury has had plenty of time to produce evidence to rebut that charge [and] it has failed to do so." Our leader disagrees. "For ministers to offer bonds that go a little way towards offsetting olders savers' losses is not about bribery, but fairness," is our verdict.

Who's right? Frankly, George Osborne won't care when the coverage is this good and the policy this popular. "A million pensioners to benefit from bonds" is our splash, "Windfall for pensioners in Osborne bond boost" is the Times', "Osborne wooes grey vote with £5 billion boost for OAP bonds" is the Mail's take while the Guardian's less-supportive headline - "Chancellor is using pensioner bonds to buy votes, says free-market thinktank" is way back on page 26. That Labour's complaint is that it's all a distraction from a deficit of pensioner bungs elsewhere - "he is actually trying to erase the memory of how much he has taken away from pensioners" says Chris Leslie - is a symbol of how well the policy will play.

It's a reminder, if it were needed, of what happens if you don't turn up on election day.  People who vote get stuff. People who don't, get stuffed.


Alexis Tsipiras has put the cat among the pigeons with a speech that put reversing the financial measures imposed upon Greece first - and international creditors a very distant second. Alan Greenspan, the former Head of the US  Federal Reserve, tells the BBC that "there is no way that I can concieve of the Euro of continuing, unless and unitl all of the members of Eurozone become politically integrated". George Osborne, who will urge the G20 to resolve the crisis, has stepped up contingency planning for a Greek exit from the Euro. 


A Labour government will double paternity leave from two weeks to a month and bring paternity pay in line with the minimum wage, from £260 a week from £138.18 a week, Ed Miliband will announce later today. But the policy has come under fire from business leaders, who say the plan "amounts to a tax on business". Steven Swinford has the story


The Conservatives will bring American-style attack ads to Britain thanks to a loophole in election rules to target voters using paid-for YouTube adverts, Jim Waterson has discovered. The adverts - which will be quick and cheap efforts for the most part - can also be carefully finessed so they appear only to voters in marginal seats and specifically-chosen demographics. While TV adverts are restricted to party political broadcasts, the only limit to the number of YouTube adverts is in election spending rules. 


Sir Peter Luff and Bob Ainsworth, former ministers in the Ministry of Defence under the Conservative and Labour parties respectively, have penned a joint op-ed in today's Telegraph calling for Britain to maintain its defence capabilities in order to keep its Nato obligations and protect the country from unforeseen threats. 


The SNP and Plaid Cymru have called for an In-Out referendum to require a majority vote in all of the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom, Chris Hope reports. "We have had a lot of talk during the Scottish referendum about the UK being a family of nations," says Nicola Sturgeon, "This is such a big decision that all members of the family need to be involved in taking that decision." 


The Sun's Steve Hawkes has found that 36 Labour MPs - including his PPS, Karen Buck, and his campaign coordinator Lucy Powell - are using zero-hours contracts. The party says that they are not exploitative and are typical of those used to take on interns on a part-time basis.


Business faces a "Hobson's Choice" between a Conservative party that could take Britain out of Europe and a Labour leader who "clearly believes bashing business is good for the ballot box", Sir Martin Sorrell, who has previously advised the PM on business matters, tells the Guardian. In the first of a series of reports on what would happen if Britain did leave the EU, Harriet Agnew takes the mood of the City in the FT, and finds that while investment banks are reluctant to leave, some hedge funds are actively campaigning for Brexit. 


Andrew Rosenfeld, a Labour donor who co-founded the property company Minerva and served as chairman of the mobile phone provider TPO, has died after a short illness. Ed Miliband said: "I am deeply saddened by the sudden death of my friend, Andrew Rosenfeld. My thoughts are with Juliet and his family."



Labour 33% Conservatives 32% Ukip 15% Liberal Democrat 7% Ukip 15% Greens 7% (Ashcroft-Opinium-Populus-YouGov) 

I'm available by pressing reply or on Twitter - our cartoon is the work of Christian Adams- a gallery of his work is available here.


Opinium: Labour 34% Conservatives 32% Ukip 15% Green 8% Liberal Democrat 7%

YouGov: Labour 33% Conservatives 32%  Ukip 15% Green 8% Liberal Democrat 7%


@jantalipinski: I will definitely vote for Ed if he goes around pointing at things Mylene Klass is using and taxes them


From the Telegraph

James Kirkup - For pensioners, the age of free money is far from over

Boris Johnson - Ed Miliband will never understand that capitalism can cure cancer

From elsewhere

Matthew D'Ancona - The Tories must embrace progress once more (Guardian)

Philip Cowley - What's more important to voters, coherent policy or the chance to send a message? (Spectator)


1330 ANSTRUTHER: Scottish Secretary and Defra minister meet fishing representatives. Alistair Carmichael and George Eustice will meet with representatives of the Scottish Fisheries Federation.

1600 LONDON: Launch of All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry report on anti-semitism, with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

1630 ST ANDREWS: Scottish Secretary and Defra minister at farming conference. Alistair Carmichael and George Eustice deliver speeches at the NFUS conference.

1800 LONDON: Reality Party founder Mark 'Bez' Berry and girlfriend Firouzeh Razavi to start a seven day bed-in at the Montcalm in the Brewery, to protest against shale fracking.


COMMONS - 1430:

Home Office Questions.

Motions to approve: i) Draft Social Security Benefits Up-Rating Order 2015. ii) Draft Guaranteed Minimum Pensions Increase Order 2015.

Motions to approve: i) Draft Mesothelioma Lump Sum Payments (Conditions and Amounts) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 ii) Draft Pneumoconiosis Etc. (Workers' Compensation) (Payment Of Claims) (Amendment) Regulations 2015.

A short debate on the regulation of announcements relating to peanut allergies on flights entering and leaving the UK.

LORDS - 1430:

Introduction of the Bishop of Salisbury.


Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill - Third reading.

Infrastructure Bill (HL) - Consideration of Commons amendments.