What the papers say…

Ministers are trying to get their hands on hospital charity-cash … Labour kick up over calls for an immediate by-election … a quarter of all MPs now  plan to quit … and there are 20,0000 council officers with the powers to search your home.

Tories trying to buy power, says Straw – The Independent, 30.12.09

David Cameron is today accused by a senior Cabinet minister of attempting to “buy” victory at the general election with a US-style campaign dominated by advertising. Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, predicts the Tory campaign will the most lavish in political history and denounces Mr. Cameron for relying heavily on cash supplied by the party’s deputy chairman, Lord Ashcroft, who has extensive business interests in Belize.

“At the same time that Mr. Cameron tells people we face ‘austerity’, he has ordered his party to fight the most expensive campaign in British political history.  It’s an American-style campaign, with wealthy suitors paying £50,000 to join David Cameron’s dining club, and British high streets covered in billboards bankrolled from Belize,” he said.

Ministers ‘to take control’ of hospital charity cash – The Times, 29.12.09

“Millions of pounds of charity donations to hospitals are to be ‘nationalised’ under an NHS accounting change, which critics say will make it easier to slash health budgets. Ministers are imposing new rules on NHS charities requiring all donations, from those to specialist children’s and cancer units to local fundraising campaigns, to be listed on a hospital’s balance sheet.

“Jenny Willott, a Cabinet Office spokeswoman for the Liberal Democrats, said: “This could lead to hundreds of millions of pounds of charitable donations being effectively nationalised under the NHS.

“The Government has no right to get its hands on any charitable NHS funds. People make donations on the understanding that it is up to charities to decide how to spend it, not ministers.”

Fury at by-election calls  – Daily Mirror, 28.12.09

“Labour last night angrily hit out at claims the were ‘bottling’ a by-election in the seat left vacant by the sudden death of backbench MP David Taylor. Mr. Taylor, 63, MP for North West Leicestershire, had a heart attack while walking with his family on Boxing Day. His death leaves Labour facing the possibility of a difficult fight in a seat where the party’s majority is just 4,477 over the Conservatives.

“The Liberal Democrats have called for a vote. Campaign manager Danny Alexander said: ‘Gordon Brown is running away from giving people the chance to pass judgement on his failed government.”

Quarter of MPs to quit at next election – Daily Telegraph, 28.12.09

“More than one quarter of MPs will stand down at the next election in the wake of the Parliamentary expenses scandal, The Daily Telegraph can disclose. The taxpayer faces a bill of more than £10.8 million in redundancy payments for the departing MPs, who may total more than 170.

“The resignations will mark the biggest exodus from the Commons in living memory and lead to a younger and more diverse group of MPs. The numbers will far surpass the 128 MPs who retired in 1945 at the end of the 10-year-war Parliament, and will be twice as many as usual.”

20,000 state snoopers who can walk into your home – Daily Express, 28.12.09

“Labour has allowed the creation of a massive army of state snoopers who can enter anyone’s home at a moment’s notice, it was revealed yesterday. Thanks to ‘powers of entry’ legislation set out by the Home Office, an average of 47 officials within every local authority have the right to enter law-abiding households without consent, without a warrant or even a police escort.

“An estimated 20,000 officials can intrude on families to check if a range of petty regulations are being followed, including whether pot plants have pests, if fridges meet energy regulations or if hedges are too high, according to campaigners Big Brother Watch. For example, Kent County Council inspected 23 garden sheds for illegal storage of petrol cans.

“Liberal Democrat MP Chris Huhne said a key priority for his party after the next election would be a Freedom Bill that would “roll back the intrusions into our hard-won liberties introduced by this meddlesome Government.”

The £6m bill to keep Blair safe – Daily Telegraph, 26.12.09

“It is costing British tax-payers more than £6 million to keep Tony Blair safe – exceeding the cost of Gordon Brown’s protection – the Daily Telegraph can reveal. The former prime minister is understood to be the most expensive person in the country for the police to guard because of his regular foreign excursions. More than 20 officers are thought to be assigned to protect Mr. Blair at a cost of more than £115,000 a week.”

Tories to clear streets of ‘plastic police’ – Daily Telegraph, 26.12.09

“Police Community Support Officers, often derided as ‘plastic bobbies’, could be removed from the beat under plans being drawn up by the Conservatives.  However, Tory insiders say policing is one area where policy has not been as fully developed as if should be, and with crime always a key election issue, the need is now pressing. Earlier this year a report found that PCSOs accounted for more than half of all police staff gross misconduct cases during the last financial year, despite only making up about a fifth of the workforce.”

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