Friday, 13 March 2015

The rot sets in..

The Liberal Democrats continue to be embarrassed by Ibrahim Taguri, as parliamentary authorities are now investigating the apparent "misuse" of a Commons pass held by the party's former chief fundraiser in his efforts to woo one of our undercover reporters posing as an Indian businessman and donor.

Taguri invited our reporter into Parliament for a meeting and a tour of Nick Clegg's Commons office in November. Both he and the party have denied any wrongdoing, but a second inquiry will not make things easier, as the Met Police have been asked to "urgently investigate" disclosures by the this newspaper over the party's fundraising.

The Lib Dem leadership can't dismiss Taguri as a rogue operative, as Clegg appointed him the party's "race equality champion" in January and - until recently - he was their parliamentary candidate for Brent Central. The former chief fundraiser also boasted to our reporter that Clegg had offered to make him a member of a future coalition government, describing himself as "part of the shadow cabinet". 

What is the point of the Lib Dems? Taguri was only last month calling for an end to "this culture of dishonesty and distrust" and pledging to be "open [and] transparent". Clegg has previously hit out at the "opaque, corrosive" state of party funding, writing in his first few months as Lib Dem leader that "the relationship between money and politics is rotten, and it is hollowing out our whole political system". He warned in 2009 that "if we don't sort out party funding, there is just a scandal waiting to happen". 

Despite the urgency, Clegg has failed to do anything about it in government, after cross-party talks fell apart and now look unlikely to resume until after the election. For a party that wants to be better than the rest, Clegg could lead by example. 


The Chancellor's final Budget of this Parliament is less than a week away, on March 18. Will  there be pre-election fireworks?  We have been rounding up the best predictions and leaks so far to show what George could have in his red box. 


The Conservatives will only win the election if they "remind" people they are "warriors for the dispossessed", Michael Gove has warned in a speech on equality. The Chief Whip, and close confidante of the Prime Minister, said the party must win over the electorate's "hearts" before they will use their "heads" and back the Tories. Ben Riley-Smith has more.


David Cameron and the Chancellor have not raised the prospect of more defence spending in next week's Budget despite a brewing Tory backbench rebellion, Nick Clegg has awkwardly revealed. The Lib Dem leader told the Daily Mail that "they haven't raised it once, not a dicky-bird" in Budget talks. His attack comes as Conservative backbenchers urged the Prime Minister to commit to the Nato target of spending two percent of GDP on defence. 


It was an attempt to portray Ed Miliband as a "man of the people" by filming him alongside his wife in a small, austere kitchen of their north London home. But the move backfired after it emerged the room was in fact the smaller of two kitchens in his £2 million mansion, which he uses only for preparing "tea and quick snacks". The apparent gaffe drew jibes about "Two Kitchens" Miliband – a reference to John 'Two Jags' Prescott, the former Labour deputy leader. Here are more details.


A Labour government would give the energy regulator new powers to force firms to cut electricity and gas, Miliband will say. The Labour leader will use a speech to say that if he wins the election he will pass a new law giving Ofgem a "legal duty to ensure fair prices this winter", Peter Dominiczak has more


As the nearest thing in politics to Jeremy Clarkson, Nigel Farage might have been expected to have been one of the first people to sign a petition to save the Top Gear host's job. However, the UKIP leader has told the Telegraph's Gordon Rayner that the 730,000 people who have supported the online petition to reinstate the presenter should wait until the facts are known before rushing to judgement.


Ed Miliband "doesn't understand what it takes to run a business" and the need to "roll up your sleeves" to get things done, Apprentice star Karren Brady has told the House magazine. The Tory peer claimed the majority of British businessmen are "very concerned" by the impact a Labour government would have on companies. Here are more details


Ed Miliband will have to rule out any coalition involving the SNP if he wants to work with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party in a coalition, the party's Westminster leader has told BBC Newsnight. Nigel Dodds also said that Labour would have to offer a European referendum in exchange for the DUP's support. Miliband said last night on BBC3 that he did not "want" a coalition with the Scottish Nationalists, calling such an idea "nonsense".  


Nigel Farage was likened to Goebbels by a Downing Street adviser tonight after issuing what was described as a "deeply racist" call to allow employers to discriminate by colour. The UKIP leader's suggestion that forty years' of legislation banning employers from turning away workers on grounds of ethnicity should be scrapped was branded "frankly appalling" by David Cameron and "dangerous" by Ed Miliband, Matthew Holehouse reports


Farage has been in the news already this week but there's more to come. From tomorrow, the Telegraph is serialising his new book, the Purple Revolution. Even by his standards, it's candid stuff. In the first instalment, we find out what the Ukip leader really thinks about the NHS.


@JessicaElgotIbrahim Taguri's last @HuffPostUK blog is a tad awkward now… 'We must end this culture of dishonesty and distrust'


From The Telegraph

Dan Hodges - The Lib Dems have spent years telling us they're better than the others. So much for that

Fraser Nelson - Danny Alexander's paltry fee exposes Lib Dem desperation

From elsewhere

Philip Collins - Ed is just the tip of the iceberg for Labour

Polly Toynbee - Yet another cash-for-influence scandal. No wonder voters are enraged


2000 'Any Questions?' on Radio 4. On the panel: former Chancellor Ken Clarke, Ukip deputy chairman Suzanne Evans, former Lib Dem president Tim Farron and Brookside creator Phil Redmond

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh are to attend a service of commemoration at St Paul's Cathedral marking the end of Britain's mission in Afghanistan

Cheltenham Gold Cup

The British Library's Magna Carta 800th anniversary exhibition to open



Not sitting. 


1000: Local Government (Religious etc. Observances) Bill - Committee of the whole House. 

Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Bill - Committee of the whole House. 

Health Service Commissioner for England (Complaint Handling) Bill - Second reading. 

Divorce (Financial Provision) Bill [HL] - Report stage.