The five things you need to know on Thursday 2 October 2013...
1) EARN, LEARN OR LOSE YOUR HOME
David Cameron brought the Conservative conference in Manchester to a close yesterday by signalling a new crackdown on benefit claimants - specifically, under-25s. From the Independent front page:
"Young people under 25 could lose their state benefits if they are not in work, education or training in the next round of Conservative welfare reforms, David Cameron revealed today.
"In his closing speech the Tory conference in Manchester, the Prime Minister disclosed that his party’s manifesto for the 2015 election would include proposals to tackle the problem of 'Neets' – young people not in education, employment or training.
"Later Tory officials confirmed that under-25s would lose their automatic right to Housing Benefit and Jobseeker’s Allowance if they refused to take up offers of work, training or education. The move is unlikely to be introduced before the 2015 election because the Liberal Democrats have already blocked proposals by Tory ministers to curb Housing Benefit for under-25s."
'Earn or learn' is the phrase the PM used in his speech. Yet, as the Independent, adds:
"The Tories will have to decide whether young single parents would be hit, since they account for an estimated 40 per cent of Housing Benefit claims by under-25s."
Meanwhile, the Times splashes on news that "Cameron plans blitz on cost of living":
"Cuts to the cost of rail commuters' season tickets and a curb on bank fees will form part of a Tory assault on the cost of living starting next month... George Osborne has identified water bills, rail fares and bank fees as areas where the Government can act to help with household bills."
The PM and chancellor clearly seem rattled by Ed Miliband's left-populism on energy prices...
Note: I will be on Question Time tonight, on BBC1, at 10.35pm. Other panellists on the show in Birmingham include Tory chairman Grant Shapps and the Daily Mail's Quentin Letts.
2) LYNTON'S TAX AFFAIRS
Lynton Crosby is back in the headlines. The Mirror splashes on:
"Dear Prime Minister,
"Is it 'morally wrong For your election guru to use an offshore tax haven?
Yours sincerely, the taxpayers of Btiain."
The paper reports:
"David Cameron’s election guru owns and runs a mysterious offshore company in Malta, the Mirror can reveal.
"The link between Lynton Crosby and the notorious tax haven will cause acute embarrassment to the PM, who has described legal ploys to avoid tax as 'morally wrong'.
"Our investigation has found that Mr Crosby’s Maltese firm Rutland is run from the offices of a trust firm specialising in “wealth preservation” and hiding the true identity of company owners.
"Mr Crosby’s spokesman yesterday refused our requests to reveal who really owns a large stake in Rutland, which has been put into the trust.
"He confirmed that Mr Crosby, an Australian who lives in the UK, is a non-domicile – or 'non-dom' – and insisted he paid his 'full tax obligations'."
Crosby, to be clear, hasn't been accused of any legal wrongdoing.
3) GAY MARRIAGE A 'TERRIBLE MISTAKE'?
From the Daily Mail:
"David Cameron has admitted in a private meeting of senior Conservative constituency officials that he made a ‘terrible’ mistake over gay marriage.
"In a brutally frank series of exchanges with activists behind closed doors at the party conference, he conceded it had been a political error to have forced the contentious legislation through Parliament.
"The Prime Minister said that although he remained a committed supporter of gay marriage, he regretted the uproar the policy had caused in the Parliamentary and voluntary party. He admitted he had under-estimated the scale of the opposition from his own supporters and the Church."
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video of a baby chick snuggling with a sleeping cat. You know you want to.
4) TORIES FOR RALPH
The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary may have been mealy-mouthed in their response to the Mail's attack on Ralph and Ed Miliband, and refused to condemn the paper, but other Tories are starting to come out and lend their full support to the Labour leader and his late father.
First, it was Zac Goldsmith, who condemned the Mail's Nazi past at a HuffPost UK fringe in Manchester on Tuesday.
Now the former Tory cabinet ministers, Lords Heseltine and Moore, have joined in - from the Guardian:
"A former member of Margaret Thatcher's cabinet has accused the Daily Mail of 'telling lies' about Ralph Miliband... Lord Moore of Lower Marsh said his former tutor was a good man who never had a bad word to say about Britain.
Moore, who served in Thatcher's cabinet between 1986 and 1989 and was briefly tipped as a potential successor to Thatcher, said it 'beggars belief' that the Mail could impugn the patriotism of Miliband, who taught him at the London School of Economics... 'I saw him week after week and it beggars belief that the Daily Mail can accuse him of lacking patriotism. I never heard him ever say one word which was negative about Britain – our country.'"
The Guardian report continues: "Heseltine told The Daily Politics on BBC2: 'This is carrying politics to an extent that is just demeaning, frankly. The headline isn't justified. It is completely out of context. As everybody knows the guy fought for this country and we now live in a totally different world to the clash between communism and fascism.'"
Miliband himself, however, according to the FT, won't be complaining to the Press Complaints Commission.
5) STOP CALLING US RACIST
From the Huffington Post UK:
"Lord Heseltine has accused Ukip of being a 'racist' party, comparing their campaigning to Enoch Powell.
"The Tory grandee also likened Nigel Farage's party to that of Marine Le Pen in France, saying: 'You always have these right-wing, racist operations, pandering to the lowest common denominator of politics, and that's what's happening.'
"Appearing on the BBC's Daily Politics on Wednesday, he said he was not accusing Farage himself, but said "everyone knows" there was a racist agenda, pointing to the party's members."
However, as my colleague Tom Moseley reports, Ukip responded "angrily to Lord Heseltine's racism accusation, saying it was time to end the 'disgusting slur' against the party.
"After the Tory grandee likened Nigel Farage's party to Enoch Powell and Marine Le Pen, it branded him a 'dinosaur', and
MEP candidate Amjad Bashir challenged him to a public debate.
"Bashir said: 'I’m sick to the back teeth now. The media keep repeating this appalling accusation, thoughtlessly, without any grounding, without any just cause or reason and frankly it’s abhorrent.'"
It probably doesn't help Ukip's cause that, on its website, it goes out of its way to define itself as a "non-racist" party. Which other party has to do that?
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From the latest Sun/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 8
That would give Labour a majority of 58.
140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
@StewartWood Cameron's speech was heavy on metaphor, feather-light on substance. But notable for marking the death of his "Ed Miliband is weak" strategy.
@campbellclaret As we've seen it's best to keep families out of politics but when Michael Gove defends the Mail remember his wife has a huge Dacre paycheck
@Mike_Fabricant Doing a candid interview tonight on @BBCRadio4 The World Tonight at 10pm (I don't mention hardworking people once). It's about Tom Clancy.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Martin Kettle, writing in the Guardian, says: "The Tories are still better off with one-nation Cameron."
Steve Richards, writing in the Independent, says: "Cameron responds to Miliband, but still keeps his options open."
Natalie Bennett, writing in the Huffington Post UK, says: "Plasters, But No Answers, to the Failure of the British Economy to Meet Basic Needs."
Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Ned Simons (email@example.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol