Morning Briefing – The Telegraph

Good morning.

Ed Miliband is busy preparing to face off against Nicola Sturgeon, Nigel Farage, Natalie Bennett and Leanne Wood tonight for the BBC’s “challengers’ debate”, and now it emerges – as we have reported on our front page today – that his American polling guru pays no tax on his fees in Britain.

The admission from David Axelrod, ex-adviser to Barack Obama, will be uncomfortable for the Labour leader, who wants to crack down on foreigners who pay lower rates of tax. His apparent lack of interest in Labour’s campaign, despite being reportedly paid £300,000 by the party, has led some MPs to know him as an “invisible man”. “I don’t think he brings anything to the party,” one fumed. “I have heard nothing from him and I don’t want to.” Others feel that the guru, nicknamed “the Axe”, just isn’t hacking it.

Axelrod isn’t the only American in Miliband’s stable of advisers. Michael Sheehan, who coached Obama and Clinton for the presidential debates and charges up to £10,000 a day, is said to have been helping out. David Cameron won’t be in the debate, but he’s already trying to put Miliband off his stride by bringing up the “Lab-SNP coalition” trope – warning that Nicola Sturgeon’s party could act as “the chain to Labour’s wrecking ball”. The Tory leader may be choosing his words carefully after the Sun newspaper was accused of sexism for mocking up Sturgeon as Miley Cyrus astride her wrecking ball to hammer home how her policies “will ruin Britain”.

Miliband faces four potential wrecking balls in tonight’s debate, the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP swinging in from the left, and Ukip from the right. Farage, a Ukip MEP tells me, “will definitely get stuck in”. Labour strategists hope that more TV exposure will help their man. Miliband’s personal approval rating soared after his interview with Jeremy Paxman, however it was dented by his performance on the seven-way debates alongside new faces like Nicola Sturgeon. We’ll be following it all on our live-blog here.

The Labour leader is putting himself up alongside four newer faces again, who will all see him as the biggest target. Cameron faced this risk in the seven-way debates, when he aimed to stay statesmanlike and above the fray, without letting any of his opponents – tempted to have a pop at the prime minister – land any direct hits. Miliband will want to model himself as the next prime minister, while the others will want to take him down a peg. Few in the Labour ranks expect Miliband to come out tonight. “I think he will do OK,” one Labour MP tells me, suggesting – with West Wing-esque advice – that it depends on how natural Miliband is tonight: “Let Ed be Ed.”

AUDACITY OF HOPE

Ukip activists jeered and booed the Telegraph’s Chris Hope after he asked Nigel Farage at the party’s manifesto launch why the only black face in the manifesto appeared on the overseas aid page. As Farage’s face fell at the question, the room of activists then interrupted him with heckles which lasted for around 45 seconds.  One UKIP MEP later expressed fury to me about Hope’s “impertinent” question. However, James Kirkup says Ukip should apologise for Hope’s “disgraceful treatment”.

326 IS THE MAGIC NUMBER

David Cameron has suggested that he will consider himself a failure of the Tories do not win a majority in next month’s election, Peter Dominiczak reports. The Prime Minister said that he will not have “succeeded in what I want to achieve” if the Conservatives do not win the contest outright, after gaining 306 seats at the 2010 election. This comes as a poll found the Conservatives are set to win 14 marginal constituencies from the Liberal Democrats in the South West following a collapse in support for Nick Clegg’s party.

OUT OF POWER

The Liberal Democrats had an embarrassing moment after a power cut at the launch of their election manifesto. Nick Clegg’s microphone fizzed out and the lights went off shortly after he answered one question from a journalist and a couple from Lib Dem supporters.

DANNY’S INNER SAATCHI

Lib Dem Treasury chief Danny Alexander has presented voters with a rather aggressive choice this election. “Whose hands do you want around the throat of the next government?,” he asked BBC Newsnight’s Allegra Stratton. “Is it Nigel Farage, Alex Salmond, or do you want the Liberal Democrats?” Meanwhile, Nick Clegg ruled out taking over a government department in a future coalition.

RIGHT SAID ED

Ed Miliband has said he feels “sorry” for his previous girlfriends after a former senior BBC journalist was unmasked as his secret lover, Steven Swinford reports. Stephanie Flanders, who later became the corporation’s economics editor, was dating Miliband while he was working at the Treasury and she was BBC Newsnight’s economics correspondent.

50p TAX COULD BE CHUKA-D

Labour could drop the 50p tax rate once the deficit is reduced amid concerns that it will be “tax for the sake of taxing”, Labour’s shadow business secretary has said. In what appears to be a significant split with Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, Chuka Umunna said that he believes in keeping the “tax burden as low as possible”. Steven Swinford has more.

THE VERY LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

Nick Clegg has defended the right of parliamentary candidates to attend strip clubs, Matthew Holehouse reports. The Liberal Dem leader said he would not act as the “thought police” and “censor” the “personal behaviour” of those seeking elected office. His remarks came after Maajid Nawaz, the Liberal Democrat candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn and a self-described “feminist”, was exposed in a newspaper attempting to touch a woman during two £20 dances at Charlie’s Angels strip club in east London.

LABOUR’S ‘BENNETT MOMENT’

Footage has emerged of the moment a Labour election candidate appeared to ‘forget’ the party’s policies in a painful interview in Chiswick, west London, in a manner reminiscent to Green party leader Natalie Bennett’s infamous “mind blank” on LBC radio. Ruth Cadbury, Labour candidate for Brentford and Isleworth, was caught off-guard in the awkward interview with a local website when asked what Labour’s key manifesto promises were.

AND ON THE SEVENTH DAY…

Negotiations to form a government after the election could go on for weeks, the former cabinet secretary who brokered the Tory-Lib Dem government has indicated. Sir Gus O’Donnell said the parties were already indicating red lines in an act of “public foreplay” designed to make clear where there could be areas of policy overlap, Ben Riley-Smith reports.

IS IT ALL JUST POLL-OCKS?

Keiran Pedley’s Polling Matters podcast is back, and this week he spoke to yours truly (shameless plug), and Stephen Bush (formerly of this parish) about the General Election campaign so far, including the manifestos and impact of the Leaders’ debates. What role does the media have to play in polling? Are the parties’ tactics working? How clear are the polls?

MILI-BUBBLE

Fears of a mansion tax, jitters over the election result and increases in stamp duty have paralysed the housing market and caused a “worrying” price bubble because so few properties are being put on sale, estate agents have warned. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said buyers are scrambling to buy the few homes that are currently on the market, Gordon Rayner reports. Meanwhile, research has revealed that rich property owners will struggle to sell their homes if Labour wins the general election in May.

TRUE BLUE WORKERS

David Cameron said on Tuesday that the Tories were the “true workers’ party”. To show this, the Sun took three Tory ministers – Helen Grant, Greg Clark and Mike Penning – back to their roots for a series of fascinating profiles.

PASSOVER THIS AWKWARD POLL

A poll that suggested Labour would win Margaret Thatcher’s old constituency was flawed because it was conducted during Passover, the Conservative defending the seat has said. Mike Freer said that many Jewish voters who might have backed the Conservatives in Finchley and Golders Green would have been observing the festival so not have taken part in the poll by Lord Ashcroft. Emily Gosden has more.

British Home Secretary to Islamic Extremists: “The Game is Up”

“There is increasing evidence that a small but significant number of people living in Britain — almost all of whom are British citizens — reject our values. … It’s clear from these examples that extremism can take many forms. … They utterly reject British and Western values, including democracy, the rule of law, and equality between citizens, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, religion or sexuality. They believe that it’s impossible to be a good Muslim and a good British citizen. And they dismiss anybody who disagrees with them — including other Muslims — as ‘kafirs,’ or non-believers.” — Theresa May, British Home Secretary.

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Morning Briefing – The Telegraph

Good morning.

Nigel Farage has parked his tanks on David Cameron’s lawn, pledging in today’s Telegraph that Ukip would increase defence spending, in a move aimed directly at disgruntled Tories who have been tempted by both parties.

Farage’s move comes as he prepares to launch Ukip’s general election manifesto. Here’s our guide of what to expect. It looks like this will be Farage’s first – and last – general election manifesto as party leader, after he quipped last year: “By 2020 I will be too old and knackered and we’ll have found somebody else”. Ukip’s rising stars are already vying to take over, like migration spokesman Steven Woolfe, who told Good Morning Britain today that he would “of course” be interested. Woolfe’s ambition is well known in party circles, with the MEP telling me in January that Ukip could take on a “greater message”.

Support for the Ukip has waned, with the party’s current rating (12.7 per cent in our poll of polls) now less than half its 26.6 per cent high in the EU elections last May. The Conservatives are hoping after their manifesto launch (which we have splashed on today “Return of the good life”) could help them to squeeze Ukip further in the polls and give them just the boost they need to win. Ukippers have accused the Tories of stealing their policies, with one deadpan official musing: “So proud of the Ukip policy team, short staffed, beset, yet able to write the Tory manifesto as well as ours.” Others are nervous about such jibes, with one insider telling me: “If we say they’re nicking our policies, voters may think ‘I’ll vote for them because they’re practically the same thing now”. The party’s aim today, I’m told, is to show voters “whatever we say always seems to reflect public opinion so by voting Ukip you’re getting the real deal”.

Farage’s team will be buoyed by today’s Times’ front page, reporting that Jean Claude Juncker has ruled out any treaty negotiations on Britain’s relationship with Europe until after November 2019, two years later than David Cameron’s suggested deadline. The party will be able to seize on such news as proof that “the establishment” won’t change anything in Brussels.

Ukip’s manifesto will be under special scrutiny after its previous leader Lord Pearson – and more recently Farage – admitted to never having read its last one in 2010. Farage later dismissed the manifesto – which infamously included policies like repainting the trains and making the Circle line a circle – as “drivel”. We’ll be covering Ukip’s launch, and the Lib Dem manifesto, on our live-blog. For Ukip’s 2015 manifesto, Farage has already told reporters: “I’ve read every word of it and I agree with it all”. If a row breaks out over any of the new policies, the Ukip leader may regret not having as easy an excuse as he did about 2010’s manifesto.

RIGHT TO BUY VOTES

David Cameron’s plans to give housing association tenants the right to buy their homes, in a revival of Thatcher’s “propery-owning democracy” vision, has caused strong reactions. Julia Hartley-Brewer says it is “economically illiterate and morally wrong”, while Allister Heath says it is “great but the real solution is to build more homes”. However as our map shows, the potential number of beneficiaries is huge, so the plans could have great sway if tenants liked the Tory leader’s plans.

COALITION NEEDS A CLEGG TO STAND ON

Voters are facing a stark choice between “a coalition of grievance” that involves either the Scottish National party or Ukip, or the politics of conscience and stability with the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg has told the Guardian. Speaking before the launch of his party’s manifesto, Clegg argued that the nation is realising that a new coalition government is inevitable..

RONNIE SINKS THE BLUE AND THE REDS

Snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan has some pretty strong views on politics, telling Forever Sports magazine that the Conservatives and labour are part of the “little boys’ club” at Westminster. He also goes on to lay into Tony Blair over the Iraq war, saying: “He caused the war, him and Bush. And now he’s the UN peacekeeper for the Middle East. I mean, how’d he get that job?”

FROM CRADLE TO GRAVE WITH DAVE

David Cameron has pledged that the Conservative Party will offer voters “security at every stage of your life” as he unveiled the party’s General Election manifesto, Steven Swinford and Chris Hope report. The Tory leader also revealed that middle-income workers will be protected from being dragged into the higher rate of tax under a future Conservative government. For those with little time, we summed up the Tory manifesto in 90 seconds here.

SEE NO EVEL…

A deal between Labour and the SNP after the general election would be a “betrayal of the English vote”, Ed Balls has admitted. The shadow chancellor said that Labour “will not” make any agreement with Nicola Sturgeon’s party that would see Scotland benefit ahead of England, Peter Dominiczak reports.

… HEAR NO EVEL…

Jim Murphy, the Scottish Labour leader, was accused of a desperate ploy to kick-start Labour’s struggling election campaign in Scotland after attacking David Cameron’s plan for an English-only rate of income tax as a “brutal betrayal”, Simon Johnson reports. He launched an incendiary tirade criticising the Conservative manifesto’s pledge to give English MPs a veto over financial matters if they affect England only.

…SPEAK NO EVEL

The Conservatives are playing a “dangerous game” by talking up the SNP in the hope Nicola Sturgeon’s party can help them win the general election, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader has warned. Willie Rennie accused the Tories of “putting their party before their country” by building up the potential influence of the Scottish Nationalists, who are projected to win dozens of seats from Labour.

FAST AND FURIOUS JUSTICE

Persistent vandals, shoplifters and drug addicts will spend two nights in a police cell under Conservative plans to deal a “short, sharp” punishment to petty criminals, Matthew Holehouse reports. The new Fast Sanctions and Testing (FAST) schemes, which will be initially piloted, are based on “swift and certain” punishment programmes operating across 18 US states.

LOOSE LIPS SINK SHIPS

Is it too late for the Tories to win the election? Michael Gove appeared to be strikingly blunt when asked this question by BBC politics producer Chris Gibson, cheerily responding: “Yes”. Gibson tweeted: “I suspect Michael Gove may have misheard me or has seriously gone off message”. You can watch a video of their exchange here.

GORGEOUS GEORGE GETS HIS BEAUTY SLEEP

He may be one of the most important men in Britain, but it appears George Osborne still values his sleep. The Chancellor has revealed he bans his own phone from the bedroom so he is not disturbed with late-night calls. In an interview with the Radio Times, about his TV habits and tastes, which Nick Clegg also took, Osborne disclosed he switches off news programmes which run late into the evening, but “very occasionally” watches television in bed. You can read more details here. He also said the BBC was in danger of being “left behind” by its US rivals which produce gripping box set-length series.

UK: Whatever Happened to that Muslim Brotherhood Review?

Officials who are soft on extremism hope that both the extremism strategy and the Muslim Brotherhood review are not merely being kicked into the long grass but will, in fact, never see the light of day.

This is, it must be said, politics at its very worst. The Muslim Brotherhood has wreaked havoc for decades. Its desire to carry out coups and to rule Middle Eastern countries according to the rule of a hardline interpretation of Islamic law is not ancient history — it is very recent history.

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Christian Icons of Propaganda – Sabeel and Desmond Tutu

Why are Desmond Tutu, Sabeel and the anti-Semitic Churches that support BDS so tolerant of the persecution of Christians, global Islamist terrorism, the perpetual threat of Israel’s obliteration and the fact that Muslims have driven Christians out of Bethlehem, the very place of Jesus’s birth?

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Morning Briefing – The Telegraph

Good morning.

David Cameron will declare that the Conservatives are “the party of working people”, in a direct challenge to Labour, as he uses his party’s manifesto to build on Margaret Thatcher’s dream of a “home-owning democracy” and announce that people on the minimum wage will not pay tax under a Tory government. Here’s our “at a glance” guide of his key pledges.

The Prime Minister’s manifesto launch is our splash (“We are the true party of working people”), and features on the front pages of the Independent (“Cameron banks on Thatcher’s legacy”), i, Sun (“Bright to Buy”), Guardian, FT, Times, Mail, and Express. Spare a thought for the Greens, who decided that today would be a good day to get attention for their manifesto launch.

Cameron is dusting off his long term economic plan and asking voters not to “waste the past five years” by putting Ed Miliband in No 10, in a plea that echoes Harold Macmillan’s campaign message in 1959 of “Life is better with the Conservatives, don’t let Labour ruin it”. The Tory leader will try to offer voters some positive reasons to back him, like linking the minimum wage to the tax-free personal allowance, which he wants to increase to £12,500 by the end of the next Parliament, to save low-income workers from income tax. Such a pledge, being distinctly Lib Dem in origin, is a triumph of coalition politics, but Nick Clegg will be rather peeved at how adeptly the Tories pinched it when he launches his party’s manifesto tomorrow.

The upbeat message has Cameron going back to his modernising roots. Before entering No 10, the Tory leader liked to bound on stage at party conferences to tunes like ELO’s Mr Blue Sky and tell the party faithful, as he did in 2008, that “there is a steep climb ahead [but] the view from the summit will be worth it.” At this year’s spring forum, he told activists that the “sunlit uplands” were now “in sight”. Will voters think, as ELO’s Jeff Lyne sang: “Hey there, Mr Blue/ We’re so pleased to be with you/ Look around, see what you do/ Everybody smiles at you”? Cameron’s hopes rest on it.

The Conservatives have reason to feel cocky today after an ICM poll found they had opened up their largest poll lead over Labour in three years. However, this was quickly deflated by a Lord Ashcroft poll which put both parties at 33 per cent. Twyman’s law is once again right: if a poll looks interesting, it is probably wrong. As Electoral Calculus’ Martin Baxter writes, “Never believe a single poll. Take averages of polls, averages over pollsters and averages of polls”. Our “poll of polls” shows that Labour is still – marginally – in the lead.

The Conservatives were in a muddle last week, unsure whether to depict Ed Miliband as too “weak” or “ruthless” for No 10. David Cameron will need to give the Tory troops a positive song to sing to get voters out to the polling booth on election day.

MURPHY’S LAW STRIKES AGAIN

Ed Balls has dealt a severe blow to Jim Murphy’s general election strategy by contradicting his claim that a Labour Government would not implement spending cuts in Scotland, Simon Johnson reports. The Shadow Chancellor said Scotland would benefit from policies such as a Mansion Tax on properties worth more than £2 million. Meanwhile, Deutsche Bank has warned that a Labour government propped up by the SNP will raise taxes, ease austerity and oversee a rise in interest rates.

SWORDS DRAWN

Polish Prince John Zylinski has challenge Ukip leader Nigel Farage to a sword duel in Hyde park over his comments on immigration – failing that, he challenged Farage to a “duel of words” on a TV debate. This comes as Farage had an awkward meeting with a Hungarian immigrant who could not speak English during a factory visit in Clacton.

RED PRINCE OFF TO RUSSIA FOR LOVE

Stephen Kinnock, the prospective Labour MP and son of former party leader Neil, once starred in a spectacularly naff Russian film as a rich American “eager to bring home a beautiful Russian wife”. Buzzfeed’s Emily Ashton uncovered Kinnock’s star turn, which included a scene where he answers the phone while chilling out in a bubble bath.

ROBBO RETURNS

Nick Robinson has taken what he described as his “next small step back to reporting” after having an operation to remove a carcinoid tumour. The BBC’s political editor made a short appearance on tonight’s Six O’Clock News to analyse Labour’s election manifesto launch.

DD’S ADVICE FOR DC

David Cameron needs “a vision for Britain” on the lines of Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on a hill” speech, according to David Davis, the Tory who fought him for the party leadership back in 2005. Speaking to HuffPostUK’s Jessica Elgot, he also warned that negative campaigning would be a “disaster”, as shown by the No campaign in the Scottish referendum.

THIS BILLIONAIRE SAYS HELL YES

Gopichand Hinduja, one of Britain’s richest men, isn’t worried about the prospect of Ed Miliband becoming prime minister, praising him as “sensible” and “a person with depth”. Speaking to Bloomberg, the billionaire said: “He may not look that visionary, but he has fire in his belly.”

INTENSIVE CARE FOR LABOUR’S PLAN

Labour is risking patient safety by failing to pledge an extra £8billion a year to fund the NHS, a leading think tank has warned, as Ed Miliband’s attempts to repair his party’s economic credibility were challenged by a series of experts. Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the NHS, said last year that the NHS needed the extra funding by 2020 to maintain standards of care, while making a further £22billion worth of efficiency savings. Steven Swinford has more.

TRIALS ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

The Prime Minister and Ed Miliband have been criticised for confining their campaign stops to heavily stage managed events but Cameron may have longed for the safety of a Tory-supporting crowd while mingling with voters in Berwick-upon-Tweed constituency. In the space of just 15 minutes the PM was serenaded by a man with a ukulele who sang that he should “f— off back to Eton”, and was told to be a “good boy” by a woman who criticised him for his personal attacks on the Labour leader, saying: “I don’t like the name calling in politics”. Robert Midgley has more.

IT WASN’T CHILD’S PLAY…

So far David Cameron has been grilled by the finest journalistic minds including the BBC’s former grand inquisitor Jeremy Paxman on this general election campaign. But it took a question from a Year 7 called Reema, who is from Salford, Greater Manchester, on the BBC’s children’s television programme Newsround to leave the Prime Minister unable to find answer. The question was: “If you could pick one politician apart from yourself to win who would it be and why?” Chris Hope reports on how he answered.

Raising Children to be Soldiers of Allah

Dissent is not tolerated in the monolithic Islamic society of Bangladesh. Extremist Islamic forces not only vandalize the idols and temples of the Hindus or Buddhists, they are also kill anyone who speaks out against radicalization or Islamization.

The extremist Islamic forces mostly target university teachers, engineers, writers and bloggers, one after another — whoever is not in total accord with their faith, including anyone secular-minded.

Notably, it was after the founding the International Islamic Front for Jihad in 1998, that Bangladesh experienced the first major attack conducted by Islamists, on March 6, 1999. It killed 10 and critically injured 105 innocent people who were listening to music at a cultural program organized by Udichi, a secular cultural organization.

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