David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg have been drawn into the cash for access debate as it now emerges that all three have met an undercover businessman posing as a potential donor, in a twist we have splashed on today: "Fake donor pays way to heart of big parties".
Paul Wilmott met the political A-list after letting on that he was considering large donations to each of the three main parties. However, the undercover businessman was working for Channel 4's Dispatches programme, with it expected to include undercover footage of meetings with Cameron, Clegg and Labour frontbencher Chris Leslie. He reportedly met the Prime Minister at a fund-raising ball, and a senior cabinet minister at an exclusive Tory donor club event, in scenes that will be broadcast tonight.
The parties have already got their defences out, insisting no-one has done anything wrong, but the Dispatches investigation will leave some red faces in Westminster. The show will shed light on the "sausage factory" aspect to fundraising, the public won't like seeing how parties court potential donors behind the scenes, but it is how things are done.
The latest revelations may sound familiar as they come days after our investigations team caught out Clegg's former chief fundraiser Ibrahim Taguri and Lib Dem peer Lord Strasburger. Both stories provoked resignations, investigations, and fervent denials of wrongdoing. The Prime Minister used to be rather outspoken on the issue, saying in 2010 that the "far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money" was something that "has tainted our politics for too long". He even spoke about shining "the light of transparency" on lobbying so that politics "comes clean about who is buying power and influence". In his view, it was the "next big scandal waiting to happen".
Now in government ,what has Cameron done to clean up party funding? Not much. Cross-party talks aimed at cleaning up party funding collapsed in 2013, and won't be resumed until after the election. With the Prime Minister in danger of being tarnished by the "next big scandal", will this be a wake up call?
ACT OF DISUNION
Alex Salmond has claimed he will help write Ed Balls' first Budget after the general election by threatening to sabotage it unless it includes billions of pounds of extra spending, Simon Johnson reports, in his most explicit statement yet on how he would intend to turn the screw on a minority Labour government. Our view is that the main three parties should band together to endorse tactical voting against SNP candidates. "To avert a crisis that will once again threaten the Union, a new and bold approach is needed to stop Mr Salmond in his tracks," the Telegraph says.
TORY TROUBLES UP NORTH
A Tory election candidate, Afzal Amin, has reportedly been suspended for allegedly plotting to win votes by taking credit for stopping an EDL protest. This comes after defence minister Anna Soubry said Amin should "go now" if the claims were true. Here are more details.
CLOWNS TO THE LEFT...
Nigel Farage and his family have been chased out of a pub in Kent and had their car attacked by protesters demonstrating against the UK Independence Party (Ukip), Ben Riley-Smith reports. The Ukip leader labelled the demonstrators "scum" on Sunday afternoon and said his two children had yet to return after the family got split amid the hostility.
...JOKERS TO THE FAR-RIGHT...
Britain First, the far-right political party responsible for vigilante "invasions" of mosques and a campaign against the "Islamification" of Britain, has told its supporters to help deliver "major Ukip gains" at the general election, the Independent's James Cusick has found. Farage has previously tried to distance himself from support and associations offered from the extreme right. Britain First has said it "understands" how Ukip must play the "political game", and told its supporters to "ignore Ukip's necessary political bluster".
...HERE I AM, STUCK IN THE MIDDLE WITH U-KIP
Farage has argued that "controlling human nature is not the easiest thing to do" as he was tackled about recent scandals in his party on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show. "When things go wrong, I deal with them," he insisted. The Ukip leader also insisted he had been "utterly ruthless" with people who "stepped over the line".
IF EU GO, THERE WILL BE TROUBLE
Britain will be forced to have even more open borders if it leaves the European Union or face losing up to £55billion a year by 2030 - a sum that could trigger a recession, a comprehensive analysis has found. In a boost for David Cameron's case for reforming the EU, the Open Europe think tank has found that Britain could lose 2.2 per cent of its GDP in the event that it closes its borders following a "hostile" exit from the EU. Next chief executive Lord Wolfson has written for the Telegraph, arguing that "Eurosceptics and Europhiles should unite behind the Prime Minister's endeavours to get the bold reforms Europe so badly needs".
Theresa May will today tell radical Islamists that the "game is up" and that they were no longer tolerated in Britain as she sets out Tory plans for a crackdown on extremism, Steven Swinford reports. The Home Secretary is expected to say that a future Conservative government target Sharia law, change the rules on granting citizenship to ensure people embrace British values and introduce "banning orders" for extremist groups.
BOJO SAYS NO-ALITION
David Cameron should rule out a coalition with any party after the election so that people "know what they are voting for" Boris Johnson has said. In interviews with the Daily Mailand the Times, the Mayor of London says the Tory attitude should be: "Stuff coalition with anyone". He added: "If we go into this issuing faint pheremonal offerings or mating signals to this or that party it would be absolutely fatal".
YES HE KHAN...WITH HELP?
Labour is facing accusations of a "stitch-up" over union support for Sadiq Khan's potential run to be the party's candidate for Mayor of London over his alleged access to union members' contact details. A Labour source told the Sun: "The whole thing is a textbook union stitch-up to rig the selection for Sadiq."
ED VS BUSINESS PT94
Labour plans for a 10pc cut in electricity prices are being opposed by the CBI as it launches a 100-day "action plan" for the next government to reduce the risk of a so-called power vacuum, Roland Gribben reports. The employers' organisation is concerned that the power price promise made by Ed Miliband signals more interventionist policies if Labour wins the general election.
TIME AFTER TIME
Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants caught entering Britain are being released as soon as they are handed back to the French authorities, a cross-party group of MPs has said. The "bizarre" situation allows migrants to try "again and again" to enter the UK illegally knowing there is little punishment if caught, the Commons Home Affairs committee concluded. Here are more details.
Average of polls as of Saturday, March 21: Lab: 34.02%, Conservative: 33.16%, UKIP 14.9%, Lib Dem 7.9%, Green 4.73%. The data is from: YouGov, Populus, Opinium, ComRes, Survation, Ipsos MORI, ICM, TNS-BMRB.
TOO MANY TWEETS…
@DPJHodges: Very rarely agree with Nigel Farage. But when he calls people who harassed him and his family "scum" he's correct.
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1100: Ukip leader Nigel Farage is to give a speech on the economy in Heywood and Middleton - the Labour seat that Ukip came close to winning in a by-election last October
1430: Ask the Chancellors on Sky News: with George Osborne in a Q&A, and then Ed Balls at 1530.
1615: OBR Chairman Robert Chote and IFS Director Paul Johnson are to give evidence to the Treasury Committee on the Budget
Ukip to hold a disciplinary hearing for Janice Atkinson, the MEP allegedly caught requesting a falsified restaurant receipt for £3,000 (against a bill of £950) to claim as EU expenses
Alcohol duty changes made in the Budget come into effect. Alcohol duty rates on general beer, spirits, and lower strength cider to be reduced by 2 per cent; on high strength beer by 0.75 per cent; the rate on wine is frozen
Ed Miliband to make a speech in Clydebank alongside Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy.
Shadow health minister Andy Burnham, Health Minister Dan Poulter and Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb attend a Royal College of Nursing hustings event in London
1830: Environment Secretary Liz Truss, Energy Minister Ed Davey, shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint and Caroline Lucas MP speak at the Green Alliance greener Britain hustings in London
1900: Education Secretary Nicky Morgan speaks at a Creative Industries Federation event in London on cultural education
2000: Channel 4's 'Dispatches' goes undercover to investigate 'how to buy a meeting with a minister'
TODAY IN PARLIAMENT
HOUSE OF COMMONS
1430: Home Office Questions.
A statement on the European Council.
A Ten Minute Rule Motion: Tobacco Manufacturers Producer Responsibility.
Conclusion of the Budget Debate - Subject: Jobs, pensions and savings.
A short debate on the Centenary of the 1915 Armenian Genocide.
1630: A debate on an e-petition relating to proposed increase in fees for nurses and midwives.
HOUSE OF LORDS
House of Commons Commission Bill - 3rd reading.
A motion relating to the draft Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (Risk of Being Drawn into Terrorism) (Amendment and Guidance) Regulations 2015.
Motions relating to the draft Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Acquisition and Disclosure of Communications Data: Code of Practice) Order 2015; Draft Retention of Communications Data (Code of Practice) Order 2015.
Motions relating to the draft Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (Authority to Carry Scheme) Regulations 2015; Draft Authority to Carry Scheme (Civil Penalties) Regulations 2015; Draft Passenger, Crew and Service Information (Civil Penalties) Regulations 2015; Draft Aviation Security Act 1982 (Civil Penalties) Regulations 2015; Draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Code of Practice for Examining Officers and Review Officers) Order 2015; Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (Code of Practice for Officers exercising functions under Schedule 1) Regulations 2015; Civil Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2015.
A regret motion relating to the Gaming Machine (Circumstances of Use) (Amendment) Regulations 2015.
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