Woodhouse Pick of the Papers 16th March-23rd March

1. Debate format finally agreed 
The following format has been agreed

26th March (6 weeks before election) : Live Q and A between Ed Miliband and David Cameron on Channel 5 and Sky News presented by Jeremy Paxman and Kay Burley
2nd April (5 weeks before election)- Main 7 Party leaders (Labour, Liberal Democrat, Conservative, UKIP, Green, SNP, and Plaid Cymru) all debate on ITV, moderated by Julie Etchingham
16th April (3 weeks before election)- Five opposition party leaders (Labour, UKIP, Green, SNP and Plaid Cymru) all debate on the BBC, moderated by David Dimbleby
30th April (1 week before election)- BBC Question Time programme with David Cameron, Ed Milliband and Nick Clegg

Farage is unhappy with the media surrendering to the demands of Cameron, and that his only means of challenging Cameron is with 5 other party leaders present.

Clegg is unhappy he has been shunned from 2 of the main debates.

Galloway, the DUP and Sin Fein are unhappy THEY are not being invited to any of the debates.

But everyone will FINALLY go along with the plans and we can (touch wood) finally stop talking debating about the debates and actually watch the debates. Now for news that is actually important

2. Dodgy Donors not just for the right.

Since UKIP and the Tories seem to get a large amount of mudslinging in the press for having dodgy donors, it seems only fair to expose some dodgy donors behind the other three main parties in this country, stories that have broken in just the last week.

Labour

The Labour Party has attempted to conceal the identity of a Martin Taylor- a hedge fund manager who has given the Labour party at least £600,000 since 2012, and has met Ed Miliband at least once. Officials in the Labour Party tried to hide his identity out of respect for his privacy but under the present rules all donations exceeding £7500 must be declared- and thus it is clear that the Labour Party have at least bent the rules when it comes to their 4th largest donor.

Liberal Democrat

The Liberal Democrat peer Paul Strasburger resigned from the party on Friday night after he was told Channel 4’s Dispatches will report “a £10,000 donation was paid by the stepfather of an undercover businessman which would be against the rules on donations”. He claims to be a victim of entrapment. Nick Clegg were also filmed meeting the fake businessman. An investigation is underway.

Green

Activists from the Youth Wing of the Green Party have voted to ban Dame Vivienne Westwood (73) from a proposed tour of British universities after it was revealed the company she owned was dodging taxes by placing their money in an offshore account in Luxembourg. A central plank of The Greens’ election manifesto will be a ‘Tax Dodgers Bill’ that would outlaw payments to offshore companies in jurisdictions including Luxembourg. The Green Party also has a long-standing policy of refusing money from companies or individuals who do not pay their full share of tax. However their is no sign of the party returning the money Dame Vivienne Westwood has given to the party, or suspending entirely their involvement with her.

Now one could argue these infractions are not as severe as those of the Tories or UKIP. But if the offices of these parties are constructed with glass, hurling stones may not be the best idea.

3. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne Announces Budget 

The Chancellor of the Excheuquer George Osborne announced his new budget last Wednesday. Key policies include:

1. The income tax personal allowance is to rise to £10,800 next year and £11,000 the year after, making typical working taxpayer £900 a year better off and cutting tax for 27 million people.
2. New policies to clamp down on tax dodging to raise £3 billion a year by 2020
3. Above-inflation rise in threshold for 40p income tax rate from £42,385 this year to £43,300 by 2017/18
4. A penny a pint will be knocked off beer duty, cider duty will be cut by 2% and duty on Scotch whisky and other spirits also cut by 2%. Wine duty frozen and duties on tobacco and gaming also unchanged. No increase in fuel duty
5. Law change to allow pensioners to access their annuities with 55% tax charge abolished and tax applied at the marginal rate.
6. Annual savings limit for Isa increased to £15,240 and a new fully flexible Isa created.

This budget has been considered to be a very political one- with Osborne sending key messages to older voters and voters who save more that the Tories are on their side, as well as appealing to working class people by reducing their taxes and beer prices (marginally). The Liberal Democrats responded with a “yellow box” budget- in which they unveiled an agenda which will be in their manifesto, for higher taxes and more spending than Osborne. Ed Balls has declared Osborne to be “out of touch”. Nigel Farage has condemned the budget as a budget which kicks a lot of the big issues into the long grass.
4. SNP- We have a right to dictate policy for all of Britain 

The SNP, a party that denies the legitimacy of the United Kingdom, has a right to influence policy for all of the United Kingdom, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
With the party poised to hold the balance of power after May’s election, the Scottish First Minister said she would aim to bring “change right across the United Kingdom” and not just Scotland.Ms Sturgeon’s has pledged that she will seek to drive British politics to the left, easing austerity and abandoning the Trident missile system. This comes as Labour has ruled out a formal coalition with the SNP but not a confidence and supply arrangement.
Ms Sturgeon said voters in England should vote Green – or for Labour if their candidate is “progressive”. She insisted that voters in England could “trust” her not to use a hung Parliament as part of a plan to break up the country. While she still believes that independence is inevitable, it can only happen with a referendum, she said.

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