Good morning. The morning’s papers focus on yesterday’s Unity March in Paris. “Liberty, equality, fraternity: France defies the terrorists” is our splash, while the Indy also goes for “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”. “Magnifique” sighs the Mirror. “United we stand” says the Times frontpage – “Je Suis 4 Million” roars the Sun. “A nation united against terror” is the Guardian’s take, while “Foreign leaders join 3.7m French in show of defiance over terror killings” is the FT’s.
But elsewhere the mood is turning back to the election campaign. Later today, the PM will set out the big themes for the Conservative manifesto: balancing the books, cutting taxes, boosting jobs, increasing home ownership, reforming education and bribing the baby boomers. (Or “providing security in retirement”.) Ed Miliband is meeting the public in Stevenage and pressuring the Government to vote for Labour’s motion on Wednesday to give Ofgem the power to cut energy bills.
Both men are coming in for their fair share of carping. That there is no mention of immigration in David Cameron’s little list has left the Sun in an irritable mood. “You have to wonder if he really wants to win,” their leader says. Meanwhile, the Labour leader is under pressure to admit that he used the word “weaponise” to describe his strategy for the NHS during the election campaign – Steven Swinford reveals that he briefed up to 15 BBC executives on his plans. (Here’s one from the archives: Damian McBride on the W word)
In reality, both men are being accused of running an election campaign. Mr Cameron doesn’t want to talk about immigration because Downing Street regards it as an invitation to vote for Nigel Farage. Whether or not Mr Miliband actually used the aesthetically and politically ugly word “weaponise” is besides the point: we all know that he wants the Health Service to be at the front of people’s minds on the 7th of May. But the two rows highlight one of the truths of this long, long campaign: the PM can’t ever quite forget Ukip and their Old Man of Sea effect on the Conservative poll share, while Labour have lost none of their capacity for acts of self-harm.
SNOOPER’S CHARTER III
David Cameron will tell Britain’s intelligence chiefs that the Data Communications Bill will be introduced after a Conservative election victory, Nick Watt reports in the Guardian. Absent a majority, they’ll have to get past Paddy Ashdown first. Writing in the Indy, Lord Ashdown argues: “Almost every recent generation has had to respond to these kind of phenomenon. And almost every generation has managed to do so without fundamentally undermining our freedoms or setting our societies at war with themselves.”
“There is a special burden on Muslim communities [to tackle terrorism], because whether we like it or not, these terrorists call themselves Muslims,” Sajid Javid argued yesterday. “You can’t get away from the fact that these people are using it as a tool to carry our their activities,” Mr Javid said.
Ed Miliband would be willing to go ahead with a debate with Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage and an empty chair if the PM won’t take part, the Labour leader told Andrew Marr yesterday. Hang on Mr Miliband, says James Kirkup in his column today, why won’t you sign up for the Telegraph’s team-up with the Guardian and YouTube, and debate the PM, Mr Farage, Mr Clegg and the Greens online? The Mirror follows up Lord Tebbit’s remarks to the Observer yesterday that David Cameron risks looking “frit” if he doesn’t participate in the debate. “Tebbit: Cam Is Chicken” is their headline.
CLOGS FOR CLEGG?
In the Guardian, Helen Pidd goes on the campaign trail with Nick Clegg, who is facing an increasingly difficult battle to hold his Sheffield Hallam seat against Labour’s Oliver Coppard. One voter is deserting Mr Clegg for Nigel Farage: “I think he will be in coalition instead of you next time,” the 53-year-old quantity surveyor says. The DPM says he is “confident but not complacent” of holding his seat.
BORIS SLEEPS ROUGH
Boris Johnson spent a night sleeping rough this weekend to raise awareness of the Indy’s Homeless Veterans campaign, in the company of that newspaper’s owner, Evgeny Lebedev.