Politics Summary: Tuesday, February 23rd

The Guardian‘s headline reads, “Hung Parliament looms as Tory support crumbles.” The Conservative share of the vote has fallen to 37 per cent, its lowest point for nearly two years. The paper reports that, “The opposition has also lost ground on key policy issues, including the economy, and may be losing their campaign against Labour’s so-called death tax.” Meanwhile, a YouGov poll for The Sun conducted over the bullying allegations were revealed show the lead has dropped to 6 per cent, despite overnight rumours that the lead had widened to 12 points. The Financial Times reports that David Blunkett is leading a “massive, two-month” US-style
internet drive to cultivate small donors.

The front pages of the Independent, Times, Telegraph, Mail, and Sun continue to cover the rumours of bullying in Downing Street. The Guardian outlines that cabinet secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell has denied that he had ever warned the prime minister about behaving in a bullying or intimidatory manner – undermining one of the key claims in Andrew Rawnsley’s book. The Indy reports that Jeremy Heywood, the top civil servant in Downing St, urged staff to come forward if they had been bullied while the Mail focuses on Christine Pratt, the head of the National Bullying Helpline charity at the centre of the row. All four of the charity’s trustees, including Tory MP Ann Widdecombe, resigned after Pratt went public with claims that staff at No 10 had phoned her charity. The Telegraph reports that Sarah Brown told GMTV: “I know [Gordon] as a strong, hard working decent man and he isn’t anything else. What you see is what you get with him.” Both opposition leaders called for an inquiry into the bullying claims. Downing Street responded that there was no need for an investigation.

The Telegraph trails Cabinet Minister Jim Murphy’s speech to Progress this evening where he will point out that five million people have visited a place of worship in the last month. Mr Murphy will cite research conducted at the time of the 2005 general election suggesting Labour won 31 per cent of the religious vote, nine points more than the Tories. In the Guardian, Nick Spencer points out that if there were a general election tomorrow, 35 per cent of voting Muslims (meaning those Muslims who claim they are more likely than not to vote) would vote Labour compared to 22 per cent of voting Christians and 23 per cent of the entire voting population.

The Telegraph reports that new Conservative planning proposals would give local councils new powers to block major supermarket developments. It also pledges an overhaul of local planning laws to allow communities to draw up new “Local Plans” that will dictate what sort of new housing developments can be permitted. Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation told the paper: “We would oppose anything that needlessly clogs up the planning system. It is vital that we do what we can to support town centres while taking account of the jobs, homes and opportunities that are afforded by large-scale edge of town developments.”

The FT reports that President Obama “seeks to end health stalemate” with a fresh $950bn proposal, billed as his “opening bid” for a cross-party summit he will host on Thursday. The Washington Post outlines that despite “rampant speculation that the White House would narrow its ambitions,” the president’s proposal is similar to the bills on which Congress has toiled for months. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said, “The longer Washington sticks with its failed approach to health care, the longer Americans have to wait for the real, step-by-step reforms that will actually lower costs and lead to a better system.”

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