New Sneers Honours

By DAVID WOODING
IT’S been a year when the people of Britain have stuck a collective two fingers up to MPs.
Voters have used the ballot box to take their revenge on politicians of all varieties, whom many see as out of touch.
But some MPs and peers  haven’t learned a thing as they hurl insults, throw tantrums and sneer at ordinary people.
So in an irreverent, but light-hearted, look back at the past year in Parliament, here are my New Sneer’s Honours.
Sneer of the Realm: Labour’s Emily Thornberry who scoffed at a house with three England flags and a white van outside. She resigned as shadow attorney general hours after tweeting a picture of them hours before the Rochester by-election result.
Life sneerage: Fouled-mouthed Tory Andrew Mitchell fought a £3 million, two-year legal after denying he called cops “plebs” when they refused to let him ride his bike through the Downing Street main gates. A High Court judge sided with the cops and told the snobbish ex-Chief Whip: “On yer bike.”
Cabbie-net Minister of the Year: David Mellor berated a taxi driver who suggested a quicker route, calling him a “a smart-arsed little b*****d” and telling him: “Shut up you sweaty little git.” The Tory ex-minister added: “I’ve been in the Cabinet, I’m an award-winning broadcaster, I’m a Queen’s counsel.” He was forced to apologise after cabbies threatened to ban him. I’d like to see how long he waits next time he wants to hail a taxi.
Sneer of the Year: Tory MP Mark Garnier for telling his party not to bother with “dog-end voters” who live in “outlying regions”. Suspect he’ll soon be at the dog-end of his political career.
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Emily Thornberry and the twitpic that cost her her job.

Yes, Yes, Yes Minister: Deputy PM’s wife Miriam Clegg wins the honesty award for saying “women have been faking it for years”. But has she told husband Nick?
Snooze-Night TV Award: David Cameron, who admitted he often dozes off on the sofa when he has a night in front of the telly with wife Sam. The PM said: “Half an hour of Silent witness and we’re both asleep.” At least Sam doesn’t have to fake it.
The “Three minutes is a long time in politics” Award: Tory chief whip Michael Gove was nominated by his gossipy wife Sarah Vine. When told that men burn 4.2 calories a minute during sex, she quipped: “Wow! That’s 12.6 calories a session.”
Big Benn Clanger of the Year: Diane Abbott for live tweeting from inside church at Tony Benn’s funeral. An angry admirer of the Labour legend (that’s Benn, not Abbott) raged: “Why not go the whole hog and do a selfie with the coffin?”
The Prat that got the Queen: The royal claws were out for David Cameron after he claimed Her Majesty “purred” with pleasure when he phoned her the No vote in the Scottish independence referendum.
OBE – ‘Orrible Butty Eater: Ed Miliband, who bit off more than he could chew when he tried to battle his way through a bacon sandwich. The sarnie won.
The Gillette Award for Sharpest Political Putdown: Louise Mensch after MP’s wife Karen Danczuk posted saucy cleavage selfies on Twitter: “Put them away, love. Frankly, I’d rather see Ed Miliband eating a bacon sandwich.”
Karen Danczuk gives yours truly a lesson in how to take a selfie.

Karen Danczuk gives yours truly a lesson in how to take a selfie.

Gold Medal for Selfie-Exposure: Charities Minister Brooks Newmark resigned after sending explicit photographs of himself to an undercover reporter. The nation was appalled at his bad taste. Surely, no self-respecting MP would be seen dead hanging out of paisley pyjamas.
Class Warrior of the Year: Singer Myleene Klass for ripping Ed Miliband to shreds on TV over his planned mansion tax. “You can’t just point at something and say let’s tax it,” she stormed. “You might as well tax this glass of water.”
Worst political U-turn: Ed Balls, who was investigated by cops after hitting a parked car while doing a seven-point turn in a narrow street then driving off. It’s not the first time the shadow chancellor has found himself in a tight spot.
The Jack Horner Award for Women’s Rights: Nigel Farage, who infuriated mums by telling them to breastfeed in the corner of cafes and restaurants where nobody could see them.
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Exposed: My story about Brooks Newmark.

Feminist of the Year: Sports Minister Helen Grant for her efforts to get more women involved in physical activity with these fine words of advice: “There are some wonderful sports you can do and look absolutely radiant and very feminine. Ballet, gymnastics, cheerleading and even roller-skating.”
Overseas Aid Champion: Harriet Harman who wore a T-shirt with the slogan “This is what a feminist looks like”. Her selfless act helped to boost employment in Mauritius, where women were paid 62p an hour to work in a sweatshop making the garments.
House of Lards Pin-up of the Year: Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who has been bombarded with demands for signed photographs from young girls in Russia. A puzzled aide admitted: “I’ve no idea why Eric is so big over there.”
Cockup of the Year: Communities Minister Penny Mordaunt for using the word “cock” six times and “lay” or “laid” five times during a Commons speech on poultry welfare. But she later let slip it was part of a smutty dare from Royal Navy officer friends.
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Penny Mordaunt: Putting cock welfare first.

Twerking twerp of the year: David Cameron for twerking at an Ibiza-style rave he hosted at Chequers to celebrate his wife Samantha’s 40th birthday – after branding top twerker Miley Cyrus a bad role model for kids.

Pint of Order: George “We’re all in this together” Osborne, for keeping a padlock on his office fridge to stop staff raiding his milk. Well, at least he’s miserly with the rest of us, too.
Rocky Belt for Parliamentary Punch-ups: SNP chief Alex Salmond and Labour’s Alistair Darling who squared up in live TV debates over Scots independence. Two Scottish men shouting at each other and they didn’t have the decency to do it in a Glasgow pub.
Resignation of the Year: Home Office minister Norman Baker quits, saying that working there was like “walking through mud”. Think how your boss, Theresa May copes, Norman. She does it wearing kitten heels.

 

William Hague’s off to Joliewood

By DAVID WOODING

CABINET quitter William Hague is set for a mega pay day – thanks to his friendship with Angelina Jolie.

The former Foreign Secretary has showbiz agents clamouring to sign him.

They are offering fees of at least £25,000 an hour to make after-dinner speeches.

And he is expected to land a series of six-figure book deals when he stands down as an MP in May.

In an exclusive interview, Mr Hague, 53, told me he plans to see much more of Hollywood star Angelina when his 26 years in politics end at the next election.

He also revealls how he gave his wife Ffion power of VETO to end his political career, FORGED a “most unusual” friendship with David Cameron and George Osborne and admits his chances of becoming PM were WRECKED because he won the Tory leadership when he was too young.

Big league

He admits that the world is his oyster when he exits the political stage. He said: “The responsibilities have been there day and night. I am quite looking forward to the change.”

His decision to go was made public when he quit as Foreign Secretary in July’s reshuffle. But he has kept his role fighting rape as a weapon of war alongside fellow campaigner Angelina.

William Hague

He said: “Our campaign will continue. I will do more work with Angelina.

“We are always in touch and the summit we held last month was no way the end of that.”

Asked about the involvement of her husband Brad Pitt in the campaign, he bristled: “Well, he came to show his support. But it’s HER campaign with ME. WE lead the campaign.

“Although some may think we are an unusual combination or alliance, it is an effective one.”

Mr Hague will start his lucrative life outside politics by writing a history book. He has already published two moneyspinners about William Wilberforce and Pitt — that’s William Pitt the Younger, not Brad.

In his last break from front-line politics he earned £820,000 for writing, speaking and TV appearances.

Now he is ready to enter the big league. Leading speakers’ agent JLE said: “He’d be on our top AA rate, where fees start at £25,000. His friendship with Angelina Jolie will only add to his attraction.”

Mr Hague said: “I will write mainly about history. It’s unlikely I’ll write my memoirs but not impossible.

I might write about some of my experiences but I am not one for writing nasty things about colleagues, nor have I noted down every ten minutes.

“But I don’t rule out writing something about my experiences about politics.”

The Yorkshireman is secretly hankering after a move to America. He said: “After Yorkshire, Montana is the next place in the world my spirit is at home … I dream of living on a ranch there.”

He’s also looking forward to spending more time with Ffion.

He said: “Ffion agrees it is time to go but she would have been supportive if I had said I want to be an MP for longer. I have been busy the whole 17 years we’ve been married but she hasn’t been asking me to step down.

“When I went back into front-line politics, I told her, ‘Whenever you want me to stop, I will stop.’ The decision was always in her hands.

“Spending more time with Ffion will be a very good side-effect of this decision.” Mr Hague burst on to the political stage as a 16-year-old, making a speech at a Tory conference. He was an MP before he was 28, in the Cabinet at 34 and party leader at 36. He had to take on Tony Blair when the Labour PM was at the peak of his popularity.

No regrets He reflected: “I was almost certainly too young to do it but I have never regretted taking it.”

William Hague

Despite the 2001 election defeat, he insists he has been proven right on three key issues — Labour DID raise taxes, immigration DID become a problem and joining the euro WOULD have been a disaster.

Mr Hague’s high point was passing the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act in his time as Minister for Disabled People. He said: “I did it all on the back of an envelope. I was on my way from America and I put it together on the plane, took it through Parliament and produced a landmark piece of legislation.”

He added: “From now to next May I am going to lead the House of Commons and help David Cameron win the next election.

“Between David, George Osborne and myself, we have had a most unusual connection and friendship … We are fortunate in the Conservative Party to have a lot of talented new people … which gives me confidence in saying it is time to move on.

“It is always better to step down when people wonder why you’ve done so, than a couple of years later when they wonder why you haven’t.” Continue reading

Teacher has gone…but the music still lingers.

By DAVID WOODING

WE often talk about the need for inspirational teachers to help drive up standards in our schools.

Sadly, there aren’t nearly enough. But I was lucky to have come across one who made a big impact on me.

Ken Marshall was the man who introduced me to one of the enduring loves of my life – music.

He was a dedicated professional who would make that extra effort for any pupil in whom he spotted potential.

And I was among a group of 11-year-olds who seemed to show an interest after hearing a piece from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite.

So along with others, I was invited to Mr Marshall’s home on the first Saturday of every month to squat on the floor of his front room and listen to the works of great composers boom out of his two-foot high stereo speakers.

If we were honest, some were just curious about having a peek inside “Sir’s” home. Or perhaps it was the orange squash and biscuits served by his lovely wife, Joyce.

But we were all swept along by Mr Marshall’s infectious personality – and the music.

In between snatches of masterpieces – he only played enough to entice us – we listened enraptured as our wiry-haired, gravel-voiced tutor told us stories about the lives of Beethoven, Dvorak and Brahms.

He was knowledgeable, funny and enthusiastic and we learned so much more than just music. We learned about manners, use of language and how to sit still.

Mr Marshall wasn’t even my teacher. I was invited along by a former pupil of his I met when we started at the same senior school.

I had to take a typed note to be signed by my parents which outlined the Music Club rules. I still obey rule one to this day and chastise others who don’t. No talking when the music is playing.

So it came that through rain, wind and snow I would make the 40-minute Saturday morning trek to feast my ears on Mr Marshall’s music collection.

Before long, I had passed the fidget test and was allowed to go to a live concert. Mr Marshall had worked a bit of a scam with a friend who worked in the cafeteria of the Queen’s Hall in Widnes.

Whenever the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra came to play, he would smuggle a few of us in to hear the concert for free, kneeling on seats in the coffee bar to peer through a giant, decorative hatch in the wall to see the musicians playing below.

It was in this somewhat awkward position that I listened, usually in awe, for the first time such great works as Stravinsky’s Petrushka, Sibelius’s fifth symphony, Hindemith’s Nobilissima Visione,  Britten’s Les Illuminations and the Prelude and Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.

I was hooked, and saved up my pocket money until I had 99p to buy my first LP – a Classics for Pleasure recording of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. I’d only heard the first 10 minutes of the work in Mr Marshall’s front room – but it was the first time I felt my spine tingle.

Thus began a lifelong friendship…and an odyssey, exploring the work of dozens of composers who have provided an endless source of pleasure and fulfillment.

Later, I began to attend concerts myself and now realise life would be empty had Mr Marshall not opened the door to the joy of music.

So I was deeply saddened to learn that the kind, encouraging man who put me on this wonderful path has died.

There will be many other former pupils whose lives were influenced by Mr Marshall who, like me, will want to say farewell and thanks for enriching our lives.

You may be gone but the gift you gave will stay with us always.

How 2 Jags bought 20,000 “ego” pens at our expense

By DAVID WOODING
JOHN Prescott has inked his high-spending show-off ways into political history – with a stash of “vanity” pens.
The former Deputy PM ordered 20,000 branded ballpoints costing taxpayers £3,450.
But there are so many that ministers are still stumbling over boxes of them SEVEN YEARS after he stood down.
Now civil servants have been ordered to STOP ordering fresh supplies until the Prezza pens are used up.
A source said: “What sort of an ego must you have to go out and order a job lot of pens with your own logo on them?
The horde was discovered when Communities Secretary Eric Pickles took over the Whitehall building once occupied by MrPrescott’s empire.
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The ballpoints are emblazoned with the legend “The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister” – and a picture of the department’s crest.
Brandon Lewis, a junior minister in the new Communities Department, said: “It is quite some legacy he has left.
“Even now, these pens serve to remind us of the sheer vanity, waste of John Prescott and his colleagues.
“It is sickening to think they were ordered at a time the last government was plunging the country into debt.”
A government spokesman said: “The new administration is encouraging staff to use up these pens to help reduce the need to buy stationery.”

New Jeers Honours

By DAVID WOODING

THERE has been plenty of gloom in the corridors of power during 2013.

It’s been a year of squeezes and freezes as politicians tell us all to tighten our belts.

But through all the austerity, they still managed to make us laugh – if only at their own tantrums, cock-ups.

So let’s loosen those belts a notch or two as Sun on Sunday Political Editor David Wooding honours those MPs in his NewJeers Political Awards.

Prat of the Year

MEP Godfrey Bloom for a string of outbursts too brazen even for the “fruitcakes and loonies” of UKIP. He dubbed African countries “bongo bong land”, branding women who don’t clean behind the fridge “sluts”. UKIP boss Nigel Farage stripped him of the party whip – probably using even more fruity language in the process.

Gold medal for selfie-exposure

David Cameron was caught snoozing barefoot on a bed in the background of a picture, posted on Instagram, of his sister-in-law getting ready for her wedding. Clearly, the red ministerial box beside him was full of dreary reading.

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The Gillette Award for sharpest put-down

The striker whose one-liner floored Tory heavyweight Eric Pickles after he scoffed at the small number of union activists on a Whitehall picket line.The roly poly Cabinet bruiser laughed: “I’ve walked past longer chip shop queues.” Quick as a flash, the un-named striker retorted: “But Eric, you’ve NEVER walked past a chip shop queue in your life.”

Shafter BAFTA

London Mayor Boris Johnson with this put down for Labour leader Ed Miliband: “Only a socialist could consider family ties as being so trivial as to shaft his own brother.”

Gaffe of the year 1

David Cameron for declaring he was on “team Nigella” and almost halting the trial of the TV chef’s former servants. The judge told the jury to ignore what he said. Labour would, no doubt, agree.

Gaffe of the year 2

The PM again for being unable to quote the price of a loaf – then admitting he baked his own using a posh, trendy bread-maker and organic flour.

A League of Their Own medal for sport

Sports minister Helen Grant who failed to get a single question right in a TV sports quiz.  She couldn’t name the Wimbledon women’s champ (Marion Bartoli), the FA cup holders (Wigan Athletic) or the England rugby captain (Chris Robshaw). Back in training for you, Ms Grant.

Twit of the Year

Labour MP Jack Dromey favourited gay porn websites on Twitter. The dad-of-three accidentally clicked on posts about well-endowed gay black men while researching a holiday. His wife, equalities zealot Harriet Harman, will clearly be pleased with his efforts to achieve diversity.

Jingle Balls Medal

Ed Balls, under pressure over his red-faced blustering performance at the autumn statement, mis-timed his grade three piano exam for the same day and had to postpone it. But he did better in his first public recital when he played a piece for children with only a few bum notes.

Pants on Fire Diploma

This is always a tough one in politics, with so many liars to choose from. But Chris Huhne wins this year’s award on points…the three he had put on his wife’s driving licence. The former Energy Secretary was jailed for eight months for perverting justice, but freed after serving 62 days, describing it as a “humbling and sobering experience”. True to form, it wasn’t long before he shamelessly took to the airwaves pontificating on the behaviour of others. Huhne wasn’t the only politician to run into trouble behind the wheel, though…

Strop Gear Award for Motoring

Commons Speaker John Bercow was called an “arrogant toff” and a “little weasel” in a five-minute dressing down by a mum who claimed he pranged her car while parking.

The Red “Ed” Light Award for Road discipline

Ed Balls, famed for blowing his top during Commons debates, didn’t see red for once – at a set of traffic lights. The shadow chancellor was fined after police cameras caught him jumping a red signal in his car. He confessed only weeks earlier he had also been caught speeding.

We’re all in this (parking space) together medal

George Osborne, after his car was caught on camera using a disabled parking bay in the same week the Chancellor cut disability benefits. And while we’re on motoring…

U-turn of the Year

David Cameron promised to be the greenest PM ever but with a screech of tyres he then promised to “cut the green crap” to bring down energy costs. Foot on the gas, Dave.

Margaret Thatcher memorial medal for tributes

Respect – but not respected – MP George Galloway produced the most churlish response to Lady Thatcher’s death with “tramp the dirt down”. He shares the award with ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell who provided the most cringe-making tribute: “A grocer’s daughter who taught me anything is possible…x.”

Nelson Mandela Award for Name-dropping

Nearly all top politicians were quick to boast how they once shook hands with Nelson Mandela…apart from Nick Clegg. But that didn’t stop him making a personal tribute on his death. The Deputy PM was greeted with howls of laughter as he told the Commons he never met the South African leader – but knew somebody who had.

Snouts in the Trough Award

Millionaire health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who blew £3,700 of taxpayers’ money learning his Chinese wife’s language, was front runner. But he was pipped at the post by most of the 650 other MPs who demanded an 11 per cent pay rise while the rest of us have our wages squeezed.

Fashionista of the Year

Labour’s Stella Creasy left kitten-heeled Home Secretary Theresa May in the shade by donning a chic blue PVC pencil skirt to question the PM in the Commons. Perhaps she’ll land a shadow Cabinet job – but her leader will make the vinyl decision.

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Rocky Belt for Parliamentary punch-ups

Hellraiser Eric Joyce spent a night in police cells after a brawl in a Commons bar – just a year after being charged with another Westminster fracas. But it was his decision to stand down as Falkirk MP which started the mother of all punch-ups as Ed Miliband squared up to union militants over who should be Labour’s new candidate.

Snooze-night award for political broadcasting

Newsnight editor Ian Katz wins hands down for taking to Twitter to brand Labour’s rising star Rachel Reeves “boring snoring” moments after she went on his BBC2 show. Ms Reeves replied simply: “Thanks”. But red-faced Katz, only two weeks in his job after leaving the Guardian, apologized in writing.

Plain speaking award

John Prescott, who on hearing his successor as deputy PM, Nick Clegg, has 15 advisers, quipped: “Even Jesus Christ capped it at 12.”

Political wisdom award

TV’s Jeremy Paxman for summing up the three choices facing voters at the next election – barely 500 days away – thus: “The people who gave us five years of austerity, the people who left us in this mess and  the people who pledged they would not raise student fees – the most blatant lie in recent political history.”

Oops!! Here’s what Lib Dems will be telling us over next few days

By DAVID WOODING

IT was meant as a private briefing note for Lib Dem MPs, so they knew the “line to take” in media interviews at the party conference in Glasgow.

Unfortunately, some hapless soul accidentally sent it to journalists instead.

It urges them to stress that the party is in “confident mood” and gives them nuggets and sound bytes to say before the cameras. So save yourself all that time watching tedious interviews on the telly and read the memo yourself, in just over a minute!

The advice misses one golden rule of politics…think and double check your email before pressing the send button.

THE MEMO IN FULL:

Five things to remember for every interview

  • This conference sees the party in a confident mood
  • We have a strong record of achievement in Government
  • Our priorities are jobs and easing the squeeze on household budgets
  • Labour cannot be trusted to build a stronger economy
  • The Conservatives on their own cannot build a fairer society

Fairer taxes

Under Nick Clegg’s leadership, the party have focused on the old liberal principle of favouring taxation on unearned wealth over hard work. This has culminated in the introduction in government of the key Lib Dem policy of cutting taxes by £700 for more than 20m people.

In these difficult times, it is important that everyone makes their contribution. It is right that we ask the broadest shoulder to bear their fair share: it is unrealistic to cut more money from welfare spending without increasing taxes on Britain’s richest.

We are looking at how the richest 10% of people, those earning over £50,000, could make a further contribution. The vast majority of people in the country would consider £50,000 a very large salary: these are not the middle income earners.

Spare room subsidy

From April 2013 the Government introduced a reduction in Housing Benefit for those who are receiving benefit for spare bedrooms in the social rented sector. It is not a tax.

1.            The policy is about making better use of social housing

2.            Many councils have people on waiting lists or living in overcrowded accommodation while others are funded for spare rooms they don’t need

3.            Why should someone who rents a council house get benefit for a spare room when you don’t if you have a private landlord?

4.            The policy will also contain the growing Housing Benefit bill for the taxpayer

5.            It will also encourage people to look for work

The Liberal Democrats in Government have secured an additional £35m fund to help claimants affected by the removal of the spare room subsidy who need extra support. This funding consists of £5m for rural areas with very isolated communities, £10m for all local authorities and £20m as a bidding fund for local authorities who can demonstrate that they have or are developing a robust policy to distribute discretionary housing payments and who have an additional need for funding.

Key Stats

·         Nearly one third of working-age social housing tenants on Housing Benefit are living in accommodation too big for their needs.

·         There are nearly 1m spare bedrooms, with an estimated cost to the taxpayer of up to half-a-billion pounds a year.

·         There are over 250,000 households living in overcrowded accommodation in the Social Rented Sector in England, who need more space.

·         Nearly 2m households (1.8m) in England on the social housing waiting list.

·         The cost of HB has increased by 50% in real terms over the last decade

In Scotland:

·         The housing benefit bill is £1.8bn

·         Based on the Scottish Housing Conditions Survey (SHCS), there are 59,000 households overcrowded in Scotland (3% of the total).  25,000 of these are in the social rented sector.

In the social rented sector in Scotland, there are:

·         148,000households occupying one bedroom properties

·         252,000households occupying two bedroom properties

·         Around 20,000new lettings of one bedroom properties in 2011

·         Over 5,000 new dwellings completed in 2011

·         158,000on waiting lists

Discretionary Housing Payments

To ensure we protect the vulnerable, we have trebled the Discretionary Housing Payment budget, which will enable local authorities to provide additional support, and respond on a case by case basis.

We have provided DHPs for three years, and it is under constant review. We have allocated £150m to local authorities for discretionary housing payments (DHPs) this year, including £25m for those in adapted accommodation affected by the removal of the spare room subsidy. We have also allocated an extra £5m for the most rural areas to help support remote and isolated communities. We have given councils an extra £10m to support the administration of the policy and there is a £20m fund available which councils can bid for if they need extra support. Some local authorities may claim they do not have enough DHPs. Similar claims were made in 2011/12, when councils ended up under spending their DHP budget by £11m.

Mansion Tax

The Liberal Democrats want everyone to pay their fair share, which is why we believe a Mansion Tax on the value of properties over £2m is fair.

To say this will affect houses worth more than £1.25m is nonsense invented by people who want to grab a headline. Our policy is for a threshold of £2m.

Personal allowance threshold

In government we have achieved our manifesto pledge to increase the income tax personal allowance to £10,000, taking 2.7m people out of income tax and giving a tax cut of £700 per annum to 24m others.

As the next step, we believe that there is a clear case for taking the equivalent of a full-time job on the minimum wage (equivalent to £12,300 per annum at current rates) out of income tax entirely. This is a bold move which would provide tax relief to many millions of families on low and middle incomes, and would help to maximise the rewards of employment for those on low incomes.

Making this change in one go would come at a significant cost to the Treasury, therefore we intend to phase this change in in stages over the course of the next parliament. It would be paid for through the other tax changes we propose to make, such as introduction of a Mansion Tax, Capital Gains Tax and pension tax reform, and our range of measures designed to tackle tax avoidance.

In this way we can provide tax cuts to those who most deserve them, encourage employment and boost the economy.

Capital Gains Tax

Taxing capital gains at a lower rate than income, as per the existing system, is of little or no benefit to the least well-off members of society, but allows some of the wealthiest individuals to pay significantly less tax than if the rates were aligned. This is fundamentally unfair.

In government, we acted quickly to make the regime more progressive by introducing a higher rate of 28% for gains made by higher and additional rate taxpayers, however ultimately we believe capital gains tax rates should be aligned with income tax rates.

Our tax reforms would achieve this, and would also reintroduce indexation allowances, in order to ensure that no-one is taxed on the portion of a ‘gain’ which has arisen simply due to inflation – and therefore ensure that no-one is penalised for holding assets over the long term.

The additional revenue that would be raised by these measures would go directly towards our aim of increasing the income tax personal allowance to the level equivalent to the minimum wage, which would benefit all individuals in full time employment – instead of the preferential capital gains tax rates which only benefit the wealthy.

Pensions tax relief

A £1m lifetime allowance would still be a generous regime – even at the existing low annuity rates, a £1m pension pot for a typical pensioner would provide a tax-free lump sum of £250,000 on retirement plus an inflation-linked pension of around £25,000 a year (or £45,000 per year fixed).

In reality the vast majority of employees will not reach a pension pot of £1m, and therefore will be unaffected by our proposal.

Cider

We want to alter the definition of cider for duty purposes to exclude the mass-produced, lower quality products from the beneficial low duty rates (compared to beer or wine) which apply to cider.

The current requirement to be classed as a cider is for only 35% of the product to be from apple juice. Increasing this requirement (to, say, 75%) would require manufacturers of high volume, low quality product to either significantly increase the quality of what they’re making, or pay duty at (considerably higher) wine rates. By contrast, those manufacturers already producing cider from actual apples would be unaffected.

Either way, the cost of low-end products would increase, the market would be levelled, and the harmful social impact of very cheap, high-strength ciders would be reduced.

Jewellery Tax

We have never proposed introducing a ’jewellery tax’ (or more accurately a ‘net asset tax’). As part of our extensive tax policy consultation process, we invited party members (and others) to comment on the idea of a French-style ‘net asset tax’, as this was one of the ideas that had been suggested by contributors to the consultation process up to that point. Ultimately the idea was rejected by the working group.

Stronger economy

Due to a banking crisis and Labour’s economic mismanagement, the coalition inherited an economy in very bad shape.

With sustained action and after taking many difficult decisions, the coalition has managed to reduce the structural deficit by a third since coming to power. Having created over a million private sector jobs, with increasing business confidence and the economy having grown for two successive quarters, there are signs that the economy is healing, although there is still a long way to go.

We have proposed taking radical action to tackle high youth unemployment by developing a comprehensive strategy to give 16-24 year olds access to skills, advice and opportunities necessary to find sustainable employment.

We would also like to pool council borrowing limits so councils who want to build more houses, but are at their limits, are able to do so. We will also examine whether Public Sector Net Debt (PSND) could be brought into line with definitions of other EU countries, enabling councils with a sustainable business model to borrow to invest in building more homes for rent.

Youth Contract

The Youth Contract aimed to create up to 160,000 jobs over three years for under-25s. By the end of July, just under 5,000 wage subsidies had been paid out. Nick Clegg acknowledged at the time that “the initial launch of the offer of this wage subsidy did get off to a slow start”. However he was quick to point that the Youth Contract may be more appealing for small and medium-sized businesses than large corporations.

The Deputy Prime Minister has also been keen to learn what could have been done to promote the Youth Contract better, such as utilising the Jobcentre Plus network more. The Confederation of British Industry are supportive of the Youth Contract and government remains determined to improve uptake.

Race equality

Liberal Democrats reject all prejudice and discrimination, as well as all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality. The party is fully committed to helping Britain’s ethnic minority communities achieve their full potential.

Racial inequality and racism continues to be a major problem faced by black and minority ethnic people from early years and throughout education and employment.

The motion reaffirms this commitment, and aims to tackle a number of inequalities in the education sector, while also aiming to improve race equality among private sector companies in receipt of public money.

Cohabitation rights

We believe the discrepancies between the rights afforded to cohabiting unmarried couples and those that are married need addressing, to give equal legal recognition to both relationships.

Currently if one partner dies without leaving a will, the surviving partner will not automatically inherit anything unless the couple owned property jointly. Equally in a cohabiting couple, currently neither partner has a legal duty to support the other financially, and voluntary agreements to pay maintenance to each other may be difficult to enforce, irrespective of the facts and circumstances of the relationship, such as sacrifices that may have been made by one party.

Veils in schools

Speaking to the Telegraph, Jeremy Browne said: “I am instinctively uneasy about restricting the freedom of individuals to observe the religion of their choice. That would apply to Christian minorities in the Middle East just as much as religious minorities here in Britain.

“But there is genuine debate about whether girls should feel a compulsion to wear a veil when society deems children to be unable to express personal choices about other areas like buying alcohol, smoking or getting married.

“We should be very cautious about imposing religious conformity on a society which has always valued freedom of expression.”

Harassment allegations

Sexual harassment or abuse will not be tolerated in the Liberal Democrats. We have acknowledged that there have been failings in the past. We have apologised for those publicly and we are determined they will not be repeated.

That’s why we set up an independent inquiry into the party’s culture and practices, which was widely publicised and made a number of recommendations which are now being implemented.

Anyone who had suffered harassment or abuse was encouraged to come forward and give evidence and that evidence was taken extremely seriously. Anyone who has not come forward is encouraged to do so by contacting the independent helpline we have set up for anyone who wishes to make a complaint or seek advice.

As a result of the inquiry we have made a number of changes to make it clearer and easier to make a complaint; to improve our party’s HR practices; and change our party’s rules to make clear that such behaviour will result in disciplinary action.

Any suggestion that we have been anything other than completely open is wrong. Every part of this process has been transparent and the recommendations have been debated and approved this weekend, in the conference hall and in front of live TV cameras.

Polling

The latest Ashcroft poll of marginal seats only sampled Tory held seats, 32 which are Labour facing and 8 Lib Dem. Those 8 are Oxwab, Montgomeryshire, Camborne & Redruth, Truro & Falmouth, Newton Abbot, Harrogate, St Albans and Watford.

In those 8 seats we are almost neck a neck with the Conservatives. Voting intention is Con 32 Lib Dem 29 Lab 18 Ukip 12.

Asked whether each party shares their values, 37% of people in those seats agreed the Lib Dems did, 35% agreed Labour did and 30% Tories. Asked whether they agreed that each party was ‘on the side of people like me’ 40% agreed that the Lib Dems are, 40% Lab and 25% Tories.

We are seen as particularly strong on the environment, with 45% saying we would do the best job of protecting it, 20% Cons and 19% Lab.

We are the most active party in these seats. In the last few months we’ve knocked on the door of 14% of homes in these seats (Con 12% Lab 8%); telephoned 3% (Con 2% Lab 1%); delivered to 41% (Con 36% Lab 23%).

Conference narrative

The Liberal Democrats go into conference in confident mood. We are the most united of the major parties, with a proud record of achievement in Government. At this conference we will begin to set out our stall for the local and European elections next year and the General Election in 2015. We are planning for a second term in Government as the only party capable of delivering a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life.

There will be a number of important debates that will form the basis of our policy platform for 2015, including on the economy, fairer taxes, higher education, Europe, nuclear power and defence.

We are a party with a clear priority – jobs and easing the squeeze on household budgets. Liberal Democrats have cut taxes for working people and helped businesses to create more than a million jobs – now we want to help them create a million more.

We are in Scotland just a year before the country votes in the independence referendum. Liberal Democrats are proud of our United Kingdom and strongly believe our two nations are better together. A vote to stay in the UK is not a vote for no change. Liberal Democrats want to see further powers transferred to Scotland as part of the UK.

Key achievements in Government

In Government, Liberal Democrats have:

·         Given a £700 tax cut to more than 20m working people and lifted 2.7m of the poorest workers out of paying Income Tax altogether

·         Helped businesses create more than a million jobs

·         Created a record 1.2m apprenticeships

·         Given extra money for the children who need it the most through the £2.5bn Pupil Premium

·         Introduced radical plans for shared parental leave

·         Given generous rises in the state pension through our ‘triple lock’ – now worth an extra £650 since Labour

·         Given the poorest two-year-olds and all three-and-four year-olds 15 hours of free childcare per week

·         Passed a Bill introducing Equal Marriage for all couples

·         Invested billions in renewable energy and energy efficiency, supporting thousands of green jobs

How we are helping to create jobs

In Government, we have helped create:

·         Jobs for young people- 1.2m apprentices and 110,000 work placements for young people out of work

·         Jobs in manufacturing- £5.5bn extra into science, high-tech manufacturing and renewable energy

·         Jobs across the country - £2.6bn in our Regional Growth Fund, giving money to growing businesses around the country

·         Jobs building Britain- £15.3bn to improve Britain’s roads, railways and housing

·         Help for job creators- £2,000 cash back to employers on the tax they pay on their employees, to make it more affordable for businesses to take on staff

·         Green jobs- £3bn to fund the world’s first Green Investment Bank, putting extra money into renewable energy

·         Rural jobs- £530m to improve access to superfast broadband, creating jobs and helping rural businesses

Now we are campaigning to double the number of workplaces who offer apprenticeships in the UK – from 100,000 to 200,000.

The SNP Government is allowing Scotland to fall behind on apprenticeships.The percentage of employers offering apprenticeships in Scotland is lower than in England and the growth of apprentice new starts in Scotland has slowed, compared to a big rise in England.

We are also campaigning for the Welsh Government to fund a programme to highlight the benefits of apprenticeships for businesses and young people.

Labour

Labour cannot be trusted to build a stronger economy. They crashed the economy and have no answers on how to create jobs and get the economy growing.

·         “There’s no money left” – Labour nearly bankrupted Britain. We are cleaning up their mess.

·         Labour let the banks run wild. They cosied up to gamblers in the City of London and left us all with a huge bill when the banks collapsed

·         Labour’s numbers don’t add up. Their extra spending and unfunded tax cuts would break their own debt rules and add £201bn to the UK’s debt for our children and grandchildren to pay off (source: IFS)

Ed Miliband is a weak leader of a divided party that has nothing to say about the big issues of the day. Despite scaremongering for years, they have been proved wrong. Wrong on the economy. Wrong that unemployment would soar.

Time and time again Ed Miliband has been called upon to make a decision and time and time again he has ducked it. He has no answers to some of the biggest questions facing the country:

·         Where do Labour stand on the economy?

·         Where do Labour stand on welfare?

·         Where do Labour stand on Europe?

·         What is the Labour policy on schools?

·         What is the Labour policy on the NHS?

Conservatives

The Conservatives on their own cannot build a fairer society. In Government we have blocked Tory plans to:

·         Allow bosses to fire staff at will

·         Give an inheritance tax cut to millionaires

·         Let schools be run for profit

Tory backbenchers have shown their true colours in recent months, not least when a group of them released their Alternative Queen’s Speech, which included plans to:

·         Bring back the death penalty

·         Ban the burka

·         Privatise the BBC

·         Introduce an annual ‘Margaret Thatcher Day’

Independence

·         Scotland has the best of both worlds as part of the UK with a Scottish Parliament that makes domestic decisions and a strong voice in the UK Parliament.

·         Devolution delivers for Scotland and we are doing well as part of the UK family.

·         We are campaigning to win the referendum on 18 Sept 2014.

·         A vote to stay in the UK is not a vote for no change. Liberal Democrats want to see further powers transferred to Scotland as part of the UK.

FAMILY DOCTORS ARE BACK…TO SOLVE A&E CRISIS

By DAVID WOODING
TRADITIONAL family doctors will to make a comeback under plans to tackle the A and E crisis.
GPs will be relieved of box-ticking chores and given more time to care for patients.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt hopes it will divert A THIRD of people away from over-stretched casualty departments.
Up to 6.5 million people go straight to hospital because they can’t see their GP, chemist or paramadic.
But Mr Hunt believes the return of old-style family practitioner responsible for their patients 24/7 will ease the pressure.
ImageReforms to be unveiled this week will put GPs “back in the driving seat” of health care.
From next April, old and vulnerable patients will be guaranteed a “named” GP who knows their medical history.
It is the first step towards tearing up Labour’s controversial contract which he blames for queues outside A&E units.
The right will be rolled out to other groups over the next four years.
In an exclusive interview with The Sun, Mr Hunt said; “Since 2004, we’ve made it easier and easier to get into A&E and harder to go and see a GP.
“The average wait in an A&E is 50 minutes. Compare that with how hard it is to get an appointment with your GP when you phone up.
“It’s not because GPs aren’t working hard, it’s just that Labour changed the nature of their job.
“Now they are only responsible for people on their list when their doors are open. Once they close up shop it’s someone else’s job.”
Mr Hunt also wants to phase out targets will force GPs to take a certain number of blood pressure readings or ask people how much many they smoke or drink – whatever their ailment.
He said: “I’m not joking. They get paid by asking people on their list a series of questions and the taxpayer pays them. This is what the contract introduced.
“You get the situation where a patient comes in with a fever and the GP says I need to ask you 16 other questions. That’s got to change. You’ve got to feel when you see your GP that the GP is there for you and is looking at the whole of you.”
He stressed: “It’s not about saying GPs must work harder, it’s about changing the structure which makes it impossible for them to be the family doctors they wanted to be when they joined the profession.
“If you go to a GPs’ surgery now, it is like a mini A&E and some feel they are fending off the hoards at the gate and the moment the phone lines open there is a whole queue of people trying to get through.”
The pressure on GPs has in turn led to people going straight to casualty for out of hours problems that could be dealt with by a family doctor.
Seven in ten unplanned admissions are over-65s. They also take up more time because some have multiple conditions which a family doctor could deal with quicker.
Hospitals also feel the pressure on bed space because consultants are less willing to release a patient unless they are sure they have got care at home.
Image
Mr Hunt added: “There is a group of patients who most of the time probably shouldn’t be going to A&E at all and these are the people who we’d look after much better if we proactively supported them so they didn’t need to go to hospital in the first place.
“Labour’s GP contract changes in 2004 destroyed the personal link between patients and their GPs by abolishing named GPs. As a result we have too many forgotten old people being pushed from pillar to post between hospital, social care and their GP surgery.
“That is the biggest single thing we can do to make A&E sustainable going forward.”
Mr Hunt said his aim was to tackle health issues outside hospitals as well as inside.
He has introduced Ofsted-style ward inspections to prevent a repeat of the Mid-Staffs scandal.
But he added: “It is also about people being left alone who actually need our NHS to be there for them. This is what will transform the NHS in the long run and make it a sustainable organization.
“The changes I will announce next week will mean there is someone looking out for you them the whole time, someone from the NHS who is there for these people.”
But last night doctors’ leaders warned the plan would fail without extra funding.
Mike Pringle, president of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: “They are overwhelmed by the workload they are expected to deliver.
“We have got to start to build general practice, not blame it, not victimise it.
“We have to invest in it if we are going to solve these problems. And I am sure the Secretary of State recognises that.”