Politics Summary: Thursday, March 4th

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The Ashcroft saga remains on the front page of the Guardian and Independent. The Guardian covers William Hague’s admission on Radio 4’s The World Tonight that he had known “for a few months” that the peer had renegotiated the terms under which he took his place in the House of Lords. The paper separately documents the “special chemistry” which bonds Hague and Ashcroft including details of a series of trips made by the shadow foreign secretary on the billionaire’s private jet. The Independent suggests that Hague’s remarks signal that the Tory leadership is seeking to distance itself from Lord Ashcroft. The Times reports that “William Hague is accused today by a former head of the Civil Service of failing to ensure that Lord Ashcroft honoured his commitment to the British taxpayer.” The Mirror says simply, “Cocky Hague should get axe for tax”. The Telegraph is more forgiving suggesting the shadow foreign secretary “was kept in the dark” about Lord Ashcroft’s non-domicile status. Left Foot Forward has a video of Jeremy Paxman grilling Hague about Ashcroft’s tax affairs last June.

The Financial Times report that Peter Mandelson has criticised Barack Obama’s plan to limit deposit-taking banks from proprietary trading and owning hedge funds as “too difficult” to implement: “President Obama’s proposals on banking regulation, I have to say, came as a bit of a surprise to people working on the G20 agenda and it’s important that we keep the multinational agenda firmly on track.” The Guardian says the remarks come “hot on the heels of caution expressed on Tuesday by the Financial Services Authority chairman, Lord Turner”. According to the FT the US Senate looks likely to water down or drop entirely Mr Obama’s proposal. Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that the “Treasury plans to set out £11bn government spending cuts” in the forthcoming Budget. Measures are expected to include a public sector pay squeeze, more NHS efficiency savings, and a new cull of the quangos

The Times devotes its front page to demands from the families of troops killed in Iraq that Gordon Brown should account for “decisions he took as Chancellor of the Exchequer regarding funding of the Iraq war” when he appears before the Chilcot Inquiry tomorrow. In the Independent, John Kampfner has some advice for Gordon Brown about the tightrope he must walk at the inquiry. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence is under attack, according to the FT, from a “highly critical parliament report” for “wasting hundreds of millions of pounds a year on buying equipment, often taking decisions to delay projects without understanding their full implication.”

The Independent covers the Labour party’s framing of the Conservative’s election message. The paper reports that Labour will warn that that a Conservative government would “turn back the clock” rather than take Britain forward. Ministers have agreed to highlight Tory plans to end the ban on fox hunting, cut inheritance tax and reward marriage in the tax system in Labour’s election campaign in an attempt to question Mr Cameron’s credentials as a moderniser. Hilary Benn said: “It seems that the majority of Tories want to spend government time legalising a so-called sport in which the participants allow dogs to rip other animals apart, even though a majority of the British people support the hunting ban.” The latest YouGov poll for The Sun puts the Tories 6 points ahead.

The Independent, Guardian, and Times devote front page picture tributes to Michael Foot, the former Labour party leader who died yesterday. Tribune, the paper edited by Foot from 1948 to 1952 and again from 1955 to 1960, has a detailed obituary which begins, “To chronicle the life of Michael Foot, who died on Wednesday aged 96, is to embrace the canvas of 20th century British radicalism.” Left Foot Forward yesterday documented a range of coverage of the politician’s life.

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