Politics Summary: Monday, April 12th

Labour will today unveil its manifesto, with increases in the minimum wage, plans to cut youth unemployment and reforms to schools and hospitals.

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The prime minister will today pledge the Labour party to allow inadequate schools, hospital authorities and police to be taken over if he wins the election. In an interview with The Guardian, he says: “The days of take it or leave it public services are over … The days of just minimum standards are over. The days of the impersonal are finished. It has to be personal, accountable and tailored to your needs, and with a mechanism to trigger change if the service does not meet your needs.”

Turning his fire on the Tory plans for £6 billion of public spending cuts this year, before the recovery is secured, he adds: “This is central. There is no country in the world I know – France, Germany, the US, Japan – that is pulling money out of the economy at the moment.” Returning to public service reforms, the pm insists the manifasto pladge will help drive up standards: “In total over the next parliament we will have created 1,000 federated schools, and 400 city academies … This is working on a new model of voice and choice – parent voice, parent power and parents being able to change the management of the school. What used to be a public service becomes a personal service.”

All the papers lead on Labour’s manifesto, to be launched in Birmingham this morning, with the Telegraph focusing on the pledges on family rights and anti-social behaviour. Dubbed “an attempt to recapture Middle England voters” by the Telegraph, Labour will bring in laws to let individuals apply for an anti-social behaviour order, promising to guarantee a 24-hour response to any complaint of anti-social behaviour with police, local authorities and other agencies required to respond and each complainant given a dedicated case worker. The Times looks at Labour’s plans to “force foreign workers to speak English”, saying prime minister will aim to convince voters “he understands their concerns about public services and immigration”. As well as proposals to increase the minimum wage and tackle youth unemployment by finding a job for over-25s who have been unemployed for two years and under-25s out of work for ten months, Labour will pledge to extend the English language requirement to all new applicants for public sector jobs. The Independent says the manifesto “will be devoid of major new spending promises” with the Prime Minister placing “heavy emphasis on the need to continue ‘spreading excellence’ in public services,” while the Standard reports that Labour will “promise not to raise income tax rates” though there will be “no such commitment on VAT”.

The row over Labour’s leaflets on cancer is reported in The Times, with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats calling for an inquiry into whether NHS databases had been used to identify recipients. Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “It is shameful that the Labour Party, knowing that we are the only party that is going to increase investment in the NHS, have decided to deliberately scare patients and misrepresent what we have said … I’m actually rather shocked that they are trying to target breast cancer patients and alarm them by making up stories about what the Conservative Party would do. I think Andy Burnham, the Health Secretary, should write to every woman Labour sent these cards to apologise and withdraw these claims.” Vince Cable, Lib Dem Treasury spokesman, said it would be “disreputable” if databases had been used to target the message at sufferers. The health secretary, however, insisted Labour had not specifically targeted cancer sufferers, saying: “It is categorically incorrect to imply that we targeted cancer sufferers and we regret if any offence or anxiety was given to people who have suffered cancer. But we make no apology for highlighting the difference between Labour and the Conservatives on cancer care. Under Labour, anyone suspected of having cancer will see a specialist within two weeks. Under the Conservatives you don’t. The choice is simple.” The Guardian reports David Cameron’s anger; calling for Gordon Brown to apologise for sending the leaflets, he describes the tactics as “sick”.

The Independent reports the continued criticism of the Tories over gay rights, in the wake of shadow home secretary Chris Grayling’s secret remarks that B&B owners should be allowed to bar gay couples. About 400 gay rights activists launched a protest outside the party’s Millbank headquarters yesterday, calling on Mr Cameron to “discuss his policies for promoting equality for gay and lesbian people”. The appearance of the “Big Gay Flashmob” protest, reports the Indy, demonstrates that “some in the community saw the shadow Home Secretary’s comments as an ominous sign that the Tories were still not a party that could represent gay voters”. The report adds: “For many at the gathering, the Tories’ track record on promoting gay rights could not be easily erased by talk of a new “progressive” era by Mr Cameron. As well as the views of Mr Grayling, many cited Section 28 as the most indelible stain on the Conservative’s history … Among the rainbow flags and pink Union Jacks wielded by the protesters yesterday were signs reading: ‘Remember Section 28: never trust a Tory.'”

And the Times and Guardian report Poland’s shock and mourning at the death of its president in a plane crash on Saturday. Lech Kaczynski and his wife were among 96 people killed in the crash, alongside the chief of the general staff, the chairman of the security services, the central bank governor and Solidarity heroes. Warsaw came to a halt yesterday as the body of the President returned home, reports The Times: “As the red and white Polish flag on the President’s casket flapped in the wind, the honour guard at Warsaw airport struck up the National Anthem. The president’s ashen-faced twin brother Jaroslaw, the Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, and parliamentarians fortunate enough not to have been on the doomed presidential plane, moved their lips to the words of the anthem: ‘Poland has yet to perish/As long as we still live/That which foreign force has seized/We at sabre point shall retrieve.'” The Guardian headline reads: “‘They were wiped out. It’s our Katyn trauma all over again'”, describing the disaster as Poland’s “worst postwar tragedy”.

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