Politics Summary: Tuesday, March 30th

The Conservative’s pledge to hold off Labour’s planned rise in national insurance dominates the papers coverage of Channel 4’s chancellors’ debate. The Times reports that, “Alistair Darling and Vincent Cable ganged up on George Osborne last night to heap derision on the Conservatives’ proposed tax cut.” The Guardian front page focuses on Alistair Darling’s remark that the shadow chancellor was taking a “terrible risk”. Left Foot Forward showed yesterday that there was a £3 billion black hole in the Tories’ tax plans.

The Financial Times focuses on criticism of the financial sector: “Banks come under fire in TV clash”. The Telegraph says the candidates were “all agreed that the cuts would have to be tougher than those imposed by Baroness Thatcher in the 1980s.” Channel 4’s Cathy Newman fact-checked the three candidate’s claims and concludes: “Vince Cable reinforced his reputation – telling the truth for example on the income gap being worse than when the Tories left office. Alistair Darling, on the other hand, boobed on the death tax. And George Osborne remains confusing on child tax credits.” Tweetminster reported that there were 12,250 tweets. Final sentiment scores (a measure of the positive or negative reaction to candidates) was Cable +5, Darling +1, Osborne zero. Channel 4’s online poll showed “Cable 36 per cent, Darling 32 per cent and Osborne 32 per cent.”

The front pages of the Telegraph, Times, and Guardian examine Labour’s plans to reshape the welfare state. In the Guardian Andy Burnham, the health secretary, sets out his vision for a “new National Care Service, providing personal care and support to adults on the basis of need and free at the point of use, will ensure that an ageing society remains a decent and fair society.” The paper reports that he will today “promise new laws to cap the cost of residential costs after two years in a home.” The Telegraph says, “No details will be provided on funding. Mr Burnham will instead say that a Royal Commission will be appointed to draw up proposals for a care service after 2015.” But the Times appears to have more details: “The freeze in inheritance tax thresholds for four years, announced in last week’s Budget, would raise up to £500 million a year. Another £200 million would come from the decision to abolish the default retirement age of 65, or raise it, also announced in the Budget.”

Angela Merkel will deliver a “diplomatic snub” this week to the Conservative leader David Cameron, reports the Independent. Ms Merkel will join the Prime Minister for lunch on Thursday. But she has found no space in her diary to meet Mr Cameron – even though the polls suggest he could be in Downing Street within six weeks. In September, Left Foot Forward reported that the German Chancellor withdrew her party’s London representative after Mr Cameron’s decision to withdraw the Conservatives from the centre-right European People’s Party grouping.

A cross-party committee of MPs has criticised the BBC‘s financial accountability, reports the Guardian. The Commons culture, media and sport select committee’s review of the BBC’s 2008-09 annual report says the “reward packages of the director general and senior management of the BBC are seen to be out of step with the current economic climate”. The Mirror focuses on the advice that BBC director general Mark Thompson should take a cut on his £800,000 salary. The Telegraph suggests that “No BBC presenter should be paid more than £5 million a year” although it is unclear if anyone other than Jonathan Ross earns that much.

Tony Blair will return to domestic politics today with a speech to the Trimdon Labour Club in Sedgefield, his former constituency. According to the Guardian he will say that Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling have made the right calls on all the big decisions on the economy during the recession. The Times reports that, “Tony Blair will not attack David Cameron directly in his first speech on domestic politics since leaving office — a move that will retain the ex-Prime Minister’s commercial and political value after the election.”

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.