Cameron unveils 'war cabinet' for general election battle ahead

Chess pieces

The new Conservative team around the top table could best be described as a "war cabinet" - and the battle they are fighting is the next general election.

Michael Gove, shuffled out of his beloved education department, gave the game away when he said now was the time to "embed beneficial reforms" - rather than to embark on a new round of radical change.

That suggests we are moving from the policy phase of government - his own hell-for-leather introduction of free schools, the controversial NHS restructuring, a new settlement on pensions and the launching of welfare reform - to the presentation phase.

In other words, how to make the agenda of the Conservative part of the coalition more palatable to the voting public.

In the absence of a second coalition agreement, some of the party's big hitters will be able to think about what's in the next Conservative manifesto, rather than simply implementing the last one.

Michael Gove: "It's a wrench leaving the job that I love"

Michael Gove didn't volunteer to leave his former department - with his customary eloquence, he confided that David Cameron had to "explain the allure" of the chief whip's job to him.

That explanation included the enhanced role of proselytising for his party on the airwaves - but he was also closely consulted on the choice of today's new ministerial team.

Some in that team might not be as closely involved as Michael Gove in devising the Conservative message - but they are seen as potentially very effective messengers.

There has been an immense amount of spinning of the statistics when it comes to the number of women at the top of government.

The bald fact is that there's a brace of new women at the very summit - the number of female full members of the cabinet goes up from three to five.

Those who are permitted to attend cabinet meetings rises from five to eight.

Seventeen of the 22 cabinet members are men.

But the Conservatives say that 30% of their cabinet members are women (there are no female Lib Dem secretaries of state) and that's very nearly true - 5 of 17 is 29%. (Michael Gove in his old job would have lauded my mastery of basic arithmetic).

However, the more significant shift today wasn't in the gender mix - but in the tone that we will hear as a result.

Polling - including surveys commissioned by the Conservatives' former deputy chairman, Lord Ashcroft - suggests women tend to be more downbeat about economic prospects and the cost of living than men.

So it's no coincidence that two relatively young working mums who might be perceived to understand those concerns - Liz Truss and Nicky Morgan - were given big promotions.

Esther McVey Ms McVey worked as a TV presenter before entering politics

And while the employment minister Esther McVey failed to secure a new job for herself, she will be given an enhanced role in speaking to the media.

Her timbre is not that of an old Etonian - she was born in Liverpool, has a background in the tabloid end of television as well as in business, and she speaks a little more like some of the very voters the Conservatives hope to attract - those whose aspirations are somewhat higher than their squeezed incomes.

The party, however, briefly exposed an Achilles heel.

While proudly proclaiming promotions for women, it transpired that the new leader of the Lords - Baroness Stowell - would be paid less than her male predecessor.

That's because of a limit to the number of taxpayer-funded cabinet salaries -so, rather hurriedly and inelegantly, the Conservative Party said it would cough up the difference itself.

While we might hear softer, more emollient or frankly less plummy Conservative voices between now and the election, behind the scenes there are plenty of ministers who will have time on their hands to draw up dividing lines with their current coalition partners as well as with Labour.

As well as Michael Gove being freed from the weight of ministerial office, Francis Maude, Oliver Letwin and Boris's brother Jo Johnson at the cabinet office, Grant Shapps - minister without portfolio but remaining as Conservative Party chairman - and William Hague as the new leader of a legislative-lite House of Commons - can all be deployed on campaigns.

The former foreign secretary, with his distinctively elongated vowels, is likely to be swapping exotic travel for trips to northern marginals.

But while this reshuffle clearly has the distinctive mark of David Cameron - those he didn't find convivial were pushed towards the exit door - some of the restructuring could so easily have been devised by the election strategist Lynton Crosby.

Nigel Farage Mr Cameron is keen to win over voters who have opted for Nigel Farage's UKIP in recent elections

With at least one eye on stemming support for UKIP, "soft" and "emollient" are not likely to be the best words to describe the tone towards the EU.

While the eurosceptic Owen Patterson has been badgered into leaving government, the new foreign secretary last year answered in the affirmative when asked if he would consider voting to leave the EU if there weren't substantial reforms.

Today Philip Hammond was more diplomatic - saying that while renegotiating the UK's relationship with the EU would be a priority, he wouldn't be issuing "threats".

It then transpired that Downing Street had also tried to persuade the eurosceptic Liam Fox to join the Foreign Office, too - though he turned them down.

It's perfectly possible that Philip Hammond won't still be at the Foreign Office if the Conservatives win the next election - and if there's a referendum in 2017.

But during the 2015 campaign, having a high-profile potential "no" voter at the heart of government might just persuade some of those mesmerised by Nigel Farage to return to the Conservative fold... or at the very least, as a minister told me, "reduce the reasons people might have to vote UKIP".

That's not to say today is simply all about elections rather than government.

Administrations which don't look competent often pay a political price.

To be fair, most of those fast-tracked for promotion haven't put a foot wrong in more junior roles.

Though Liz Truss previously had to backtrack on child care reforms, that was due to Lib Dem resistance rather than incompetence.

But while part of their role will be to help change the style of government, under greater scrutiny they will still have to deliver on the substance.

More Politics stories


Politics Live

    23:56: Look back

    A look back at Tuesday's main stories:

    • David Cameron set out proposals to tackle child sexual exploitation, saying he wanted to end a culture which allowed police and social services to "walk on by"
    • It followed revelations that as many as 370 children and teenagers might have been abused in Oxfordshire by men of mainly Pakistani origin
    • An independent investigation into care at Furness General Hospital in Cumbria found failures at almost every level at the maternity unit where eleven babies and a mother died
    • Turing's Law - Ed Miliband said there would be pardons for gay men with convictions for homosexual activity under historical indecency laws
    • That's all from the Politics Live Page for tonight. Join us tomorrow for the latest political news and comment - Goodnight.
    23:44: Hacking at Mirror

    Phone hacking was 'rife' at Mirror papers, a court has heard. At the High Court, Counsel David Sherborne said the hacking was on an industrial scale and far larger than that which took place at the News of the World. He said journalists at the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and the People hacked phones on a daily basis between 1999 and 2006. The hearing is for cases brought by eight high-profile figures.

    23:36: Tomorrow's i
    23:26: UKIP will not set arbitrary immigration target
    Nigel Farage

    The UK Independence Party (UKIP) will not set an "arbitrary immigration target" if it helps form the next government, Nigel Farage has said in an article for The Telegraph.

    The UKIP leader also committed the party to setting up a new quango called the Migration Control Commission, tasked with bringing down net migration, if it holds the balance of power after May's general election.

    Mr Farage is making a major speech on immigration policy tomorrow. He will say UKIP will seek to close the "open" border with Europe and try to attract doctors and skilled workers from Commonwealth countries.

    23:19: Lammy on theft BBC Newsnight

    London Labour MP David Lammy has been saying a bit more about his views on sentences given to thieves. He said it was not right that "impact" was not considered for what are seen as low-level crimes, such as thefts from small shops.

    He explained: "Shop keepers were saying to me, 'If I am robbed day after day, it really harms me'".

    23:06: 'No witch-hunt' House of Commons Parliament
    DJ and broadcaster Paul Gambaccini,

    The director of public prosecutions has denied conducting a "witch-hunt" against celebrities after broadcaster Paul Gambaccini claimed he and other showbiz figures were used as human "fly paper", to try to get more alleged victims of sex abuse to come forward.

    Mr Gambaccini told the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee people were being "left out to dry" and that police and prosecutors "sat on" his case for 12 months before telling him he would not be charged over an allegation of historic sex abuse.

    The DPP Alison Saunders told the committee: "We are not conducting a witch-hunt against anyone, be it journalists or celebrities. We do not make any distinction when we look at cases as to who it is we are looking at. What we look at is the evidence."

    22:58: Tomorrow's Sun
    The Sun
    @tnewtondunn Tom Newton Dunn, political editor The Sun

    tweets: EXCL: YouGov/Sun poll tonight - Tories maintain clear lead for 2nd day, 2% ahead. CON 36%, LAB 34%. Suggests movement Libs drop to 5%, a 25 year polling low.

    #tomorrowspaperstoday 22:36: Tomorrow's FT
    22:25: UK war on drugs has failed

    Sir Richard Branson and Nick Clegg have said the UK should begin decriminalising the use and possession of almost all drugs, following the example of Portugal.

    The Virgin founder and deputy prime minister will address a conference on fighting drug addiction on Wednesday, and in a Guardian article they argue that the "war on drugs" has failed.

    "As an investment, the war on drugs has failed to deliver any returns," they write. "If it were a business, it would have been shut down a long time ago. This is not what success looks like."

    #tomorrowspaperstoday 22:16: Tomorrow's Guardian
    22:05: Pure as the driven... Snow
    Jon Snow

    Later tonight Channel 4 road tests one particular strain of cannabis to see how strong it really is - and in so doing tests the case for legalising the drug or not. How? Well, it decided it would get its very own news anchor Jon Snow to take super-strength skunk along with The Times' Matthew Paris among others. One suspects Hadley Freedman in the Guardian sums up the views of many a parent: Matthew Parris and Jon Snow on skunk? That'll put kids off drugs.

    Although in case that were too subtle for you she continues: "Another drugs TV show is happening, people. Channel 4, obviously. And we all know what that means, don't we? That's right: we get to watch some celebrities get off their nut on TV in the name of showing what drugs do to all of our brains - or, at least what they do to celebrities' brains."

    #tomorrowspaperstoday 21:52: Tomorrow's Telegraph
    21:48: Cigarette packaging

    The Republic of Ireland has become the first country in Europe to pass legislation requiring cigarettes to be sold in plain packets. Tobacco products will be in a standard dark wrapper with large health warnings and images of disease. Ireland is the second country in the world after Australia to pass plain packaging laws.

    21:31: Save the Children apology
    Tony Blair

    Save the Children has apologised to those who were upset by its decision to give Tony Blair a "global legacy award" last year. The Charity says the prize was bestowed solely for the former British prime minister's work in Africa and was not intended as a celebration of his "wider legacy". The Guardian says Justin Forsyth, CEO of Save the Children UK and a former aide to Blair, admitted the move had damaged the international charity.

    21:17: Your comments - Oxford abuse

    Gillian Schonrock, Poole writes: "If teachers and social workers have the threat of criminal proceedings hanging over them, they will behave differently. While that may have the effect of preventing the Rochdale situation from happening again, it will also cause a lot of unnecessary referrals to social services, and investigations."

    Emma, County Durham comments: "This isn't anything new. Any person in care could tell you that. I left care in 1993. It was prevalent then, social workers weren't interested nor were the police - after all, you were in care."

    Gareth Hillary, Stockport says: "As someone who works in the social sector, I read plenty of abuse cases and Serious Case Reviews. These proposals are terrible. Social workers have enough on their plates as it is with case loads of up to 50 children, depending on the local authority. .. There is no culture of denial, there is a culture of blame."

    John, Bootle comments: "Am I completely out of touch here? Where is the role of parents in all this? We are talking about children. If they are being led astray under the noses of their own parents or guardians, why are these carers not castigated and punished with up to five years in prison?"

    Rob Miles, Poole says: "Every year, at least 200 children vanish from school registers without trace. For centuries, child abuse was ignored by the law, so we have no systematic approach to keeping records of where children are meant to be and who is meant to be looking after them."

    @BBCNewsnight Newsnight

    tweets: So it was meme of the day, but #WeaselPecker Newsnight playout will never get broadcast. One for the net. Good call?

    20:35: Gove on Boles LBC

    On LBC Radio Mr Gove said he disagreed with Mr Boles' reported criticism of the benefit sanctions regime but suggested his colleague had made a "verbal slip". He acknowledged that the use of the term "inhuman" was "provocative" but told LBC "I don't think Nick's intention was to provoke and I think all of us can, from time to time, occasionally as we reach for the right word in order to show that we don't necessarily approve or support every aspect of a particular policy, we can sometimes make a verbal slip."

    20:20: Lamps 4 London? LBC
    Frank Lampard

    Tory Chief Whip Michael Gove has said he would welcome a bid from ex-England footballer Sol Campbell to become the mayor of London. "I wouldn't mind if he threw his hat in the ring," Mr Gove told LBC Radio. "I don't know him though. My son, I think, would probably prefer if Frank Lampard threw his hat in the ring - my son, I'm afraid, is a Chelsea fan." West London v North London anyone? How about Regent's Park as a venue, it's almost half way between the two? We'll bring the jumpers for goalposts.

    20:16: Social media election

    This election is likely to see the political parties making more - and more sophisticated - use of social media. A quick sample of what is on Twitter at the moment:

    The Labour party (@UKLabour) tweets: RETWEET: They call it the politics of envy. We call it standing up for working people

    Labour promotion on Twitter

    While, for the Conservatives, housing minister Brandon Lewis (@BrandonLewis) tweets: Building a Britain where everyone who works hard can have a home of their own

    Conservative promo

    Over at the Liberal Democrats (@LibDems), this was a recent tweet: Our @LibDemsTeam2015 volunteers are back at HQ. Find out more & how to join here

    lib dems promo
    19:58: Lofty matters Guido Fawkes
    Ed Miliband and Toby Perkins

    The political blogger Guido Fawkes has published a blog post pointing out the relatively disparity in height between Labour leader Ed Miliband and Toby Perkins, Labour MP for Chesterfield. The two are pictured together appearing to be the same height, in what one can only assume is a photo that will could be used in electoral campaign literature.

    But Guido points out Toby Perkins is a towering 6 feet 6 inches, while Ed Miliband is a somewhat more diminutive 5 feet 10 inches.

    Guido describes his work as "important investigative journalism" in an exchange of texts between himself and Toby Perkins.

    19:51: Legal aid - Christian leaders Caroline Wyatt Religious affairs correspondent

    Christian leaders have called on political parties to review recent changes and cuts to legal aid, expressing concern that the current situation risks a division in England and Wales between "those who can afford to buy justice and those who cannot."

    In a foreword to a new report for the Theos think tank , they write: "Christians must continually remind government that it has a "fundamental responsibility" to secure justice for all. They also call on Christians to help people themselves if they can.

    19:41: Cost of drinking

    Alcohol misuse is costing the Welsh NHS more than £109m a year, the Welsh Assembly has heard.

    Deputy health minister Vaughan Gething says the latest figures showed 34,000 hospital admissions and 467 deaths related to alcohol in 2013.

    19:19: NUT on child protection plans

    The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has criticised plans to make it a criminal offence not to raise the alarm over child protection concerns. The prime minister set out the plans after a damning report in to abuse of young girls in Oxfordshire. Teachers, councillors and social workers in England and Wales could face up to five years in jail if they fail to protect children.

    The NUT's general secretary Christine Blower said such horrific cases showed systems in the agencies involved needed improving. But she cautioned: "Criminalisation of individual teachers, however, will not assist and will be counterproductive in prompting over-reporting so that identification of children at risk is actually more difficult."

    19:05: Gove on LBC LBC
    Michael Gove

    Chief Whip Michael Gove says the Tories are right to repeat the commitment to cutting net migration to the "tens of thousands".

    Later, he spoke about the Oxfordshire abuse scandal, saying some police officers had seen the victims as girls who were "no better than they ought to be".

    "These girls grew up in situations where the one thing they didn't receive from anyone was love," he said.

    "They were then vulnerable to exploitative men who would shower them with affection and money and then alcohol and then drugs and then do the most horrendous things to them, having groomed them they would then treat them in the most inhuman fashion."

    18:57: First Minister's Questions

    First Minister Carwyn Jones took questions at the Welsh Assembly earlier. There's a full run-down of what he said here.

    18:48: BBC Trust
    Rona Fairhead

    BBC Trust boss Rona Fairhead is to be questioned by MPs about her role at HSBC while the bank's Swiss arm helped wealthy clients evade tax. She will give evidence to the Public Accounts Committee alongside HSBC chief executive Stuart Gulliver next Monday.

    18:39: Young voters New Statesman

    Is voting the best way to influence politics?

    18:27: Child exploitation laws BBC Radio 4
    anonymous girl

    "It's very hard to prove wilful neglect," Anne Lawrence, a barrister who advises the campaign group Mandate Now tells PM, of today's government proposals to extend the legislation around child abuse.

    She says the danger with current proposals is that "they will scapegoat a couple of people and it will leave the culture the same as it is now".

    Mandatory reporting will require people in authority, such as teachers, to report concerns. Sociologist Frank Furedi, also on PM, warned mandatory reporting could create an environment of "institutional defensiveness".

    18:12: Yarl's Wood

    A second member of staff at the Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre has been suspended after guards were secretly filmed referring to inmates as "animals" and "beasties". An undercover report for Channel Four News also raised concerns about self-harm among detainees. The facility is run by the private security firm, Serco, which says it has commissioned an independent review. The government says the claims are "deeply concerning".

    18:01: 'Inflexibility' in welfare sanctions

    A Conservative minister has said there is an "inhuman inflexibility" to the way some welfare sanctions are applied, according to the Grantham Journal.

    Business Minister Nick Boles said the sanctions "do need to be looked at" and suggested a change after the election, the paper said. Mr Boles later said he was a "strong advocate of benefit sanctions in principle and in practice".

    @Demos Demos

    tweets: 3 million young people are undecided on who to vote for. Stat from our report #TuneInTurnOut in today's Independent …

    17:39: Ed Balls on the EU
    shadow chancellor Ed Balls

    Pulling Britain out of the European Union (EU) would be a "disaster" for London and is the biggest risk to prosperity the capital faces, Ed Balls has warned.

    The shadow chancellor says severing ties with Brussels would cost jobs, investment and influence and jeopardise future success. He told business organisation London First earlier: "The whole of Britain benefits from London's growth and dynamism.

    "We should have no truck with the argument that if the rest of the country is to get more jobs and investment then London needs to be less successful."

    @patrickwintour Patrick Wintour, Political editor, The Guardian

    tweets: God no longer a red line for Clegg. "It's not something that's happened to me, it's not happened to me yet and I would embrace it."

    17:25: IDS warns Tories over 'finger wagging' at the poor
    Iain Duncan Smith

    Work and Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith will use a speech in Washington this evening to warn his Conservative colleagues that they still have to show they are not driven by a desire to "punish" people on benefits, the Daily Mail reports.

    Mr Duncan Smith will warn that for too long his party has addressed the poor with "fingers wagging", instead of offering them "hope".

    He will say the Conservative pitch to voters has to be about more than tax, immigration and crime to show they are driven by "fairness, opportunity, and compassion".

    17:10: No abuse change before election Iain Watson Political correspondent, BBC News

    It's unlikely there will be legislation on "wilful neglect" before the general election, says BBC political correspondent Iain Watson. The prime minister's spokesman says the next step will be to consult and that the plan is to extend a law which says health workers can be prosecuted for neglecting patients.

    17:00: Re-cap

    A reminder of the main stories so far today:

    • A report reveals errors and misjudgements by social workers and police officers in Oxfordshire over 15 years, while more than 370 children and teenagers were abused
    • David Cameron says "It's important we take a step back and just recognise the horrific nature of what has happened in our country" and accuses people in authority of "walking on by"
    • The PM announces plans to make it a criminal offence for people such as teachers and social workers not to protect children if they spot signs of abuse
    • Labour says the plans don't go far enough and calls for a new offence of "child exploitation" and a new legal duty to report child abuse
    • A damning report has been published in to the deaths of mothers and babies at Furness General Hospital in Cumbria, identifying 20 cases of significant failures that led to the unnecessary deaths of eleven babies and one mother
    • Former prime minister John Major attends the funeral in Moscow of the Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, on behalf of the British government
    16:53: Netanyahu speech to US Congress

    Mr Netanyahu says the world should demand Iran stop its aggression towards its neighbours before any restrictions are lifted. He says: "For a year we've been told that no deal is better than a bad deal, well this is a bad deal. We're better off without it. Now we're being told the only alternative to this deal is war. That's not true. The alternative to this deal is a much better deal."

    16:45: Netanyahu speech to US Congress

    "The only difference between Iran and ISIS is that ISIS is armed with butcher's knives and captured weapons, while Iran is only a few steps away from having inter-continental ballistic nuclear weapons," Mr Netanyahu tells the US Congress. He says Iran and ISIS are fighting amongst themselves over who will be in charge of an Islamic state, adding in such circumstances that "my enemy's enemy is still my enemy".

    16:42: Netanyahu speech to US Congress

    Mr Netanyahu says any deal with Iran on its nuclear programme would include concessions that would leave it with a vast nuclear infrastructure that will allow it "a short breakout time" to construct a nuclear weapon. He says that Iran has proved time and again that it cannot be trusted.

    16:39: Netanyahu speech to US Congress
    Benjamin Netanyahu

    We're going to divert away from UK politics for a mo and bring you news from the US where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is addressing the US Congress right now. He starts by saying he regrets that his visit to Congress - his third speech to Congress - appears "to have become political". That was never his intention, he says.

    He adds the US has always stood by Israel, a statement which receives its first standing ovation.

    He begins his speech by praising US President Barrack Obama, telling Congress Mr Obama has been a friend to Israel in many ways - some of which are known, some of which are unknown and some of which may never be known.

    16:31: Falkland book wars

    Earlier today Conservative backbencher Michael Fabricant called on ministers to reject a book, 'Malvinas Matters', sent around to MPs by the Argentinean ambassador. 'Malvinas', of course, is their name for the archipelago we know as the Falklands. The book, Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire said, "seeks to discredit the Falkland Islanders' right to their own future". Now Damian Green MP has taken to Twitter to deliver his own diplomatic response: "Mine went straight in the recycling bin."

    16:18: Not just china plates BBC News Channel
    Marilyn Hawes

    Marilyn Hawes, founder of the Enough Abuse UK charity, has been voicing her concerns about today's proposals to extend the new criminal offence of "wilful neglect" of patients to children's social care, education and elected members. "Whose duty of care is it?" she asks on the News Channel. "Who now must provide the correct training so that people can recognise the behaviour of the abuser and the behaviour of the abused? How do you prove wilful neglect?" She says the number of apologies she's heard "sickens" her. Ms Hawes adds: "Quite frankly I think it's time people realise they're not apologising for breaking someone's china plates - you've broken a child's life."

    16:16: Matthew West Politics Reporter

    Right time for a shift change. Thanks to Alex and Victoria for what has been some pretty comprehensive coverage. Myself and Angela will be here to guide you through to midnight. Don't forget you can get in touch by emailing or you can tweet us @bbcpolitics.

    15:56: Compulsory ID cards and voting House of Lords Parliament

    Labour peer Lord Maxton argues that the best way of ensuring full voter registration and increased voter turnout is a "compulsory ID card with biological identifier" which will speed up identification and allow electronic voting form home.

    Cabinet Office Minister Lord Wallace of Saltaire says this type of ID card "may be coming" but that the "large question" about "how much data the government already has on citizens and how much it is able to pool that data together" must be answered first.

    15:46: Chuka Umunna's strategic Brazilian friend New Statesman

    Co-authoring articles with South American politicians is not exactly a mainstream tactic for British frontline politicians. But that is what shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna has done, penning a blog for the Staggers with Brazil's minister of strategic affairs, Roberto Mangabeira Unger. The article doesn't focus much on Brazilian affairs, instead outlining the details of Labour's 'plan for prosperity' out this week. "Only by joining inclusion to innovation - and so raising productivity across the economy - can Britain assure its future," they write.

    15:36: David Cameron on Oxford case

    "The most important thing, apart from all the policy changes and the legal changes, is this is a big change in culture. We need to say loudly and clearly abuse of children under the age of 16 is wrong. It's not consent, it's not normal relations, it's wrong and we have to be intolerant of it and not walk on by as happened in too many cases in the past."

    @DannyShawBBC Danny Shaw, home affairs correspondent for BBC News

    tweets: Paul Gambaccini "enthusiastically" supports 28-day bail limit. Says only reason for delay is to "get someone else to accuse you" #yewtree

    15:19: Harris stripped of CBE
    Rolf Harris

    Disgraced former children's entertainer Rolf Harris has been stripped of his CBE, an official announcement in the London Gazette states. Harris was convicted last year of indecent assaults, including one on an eight-year-old autograph hunter

    @DannyShawBBC Danny Shaw, home affairs correspondent for BBC News

    tweets: Paul Gambaccini says he lost £200,000 in income/legal fees after being arrested over sex offences allegations for which he was never charged

    @Jeremy_Hunt Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt

    tweets: Pleased #kirkup found new Chief Inspector regime means CQC fit 2 spot poor care 'for first time'. M.Bay legacy must be lasting culture change

    15:07: Oxford exploitation report

    A re-cap: More than 370 girls may have been the victims of child sexual exploitation in Oxfordshire over the past 15 years, a report has said. Both police and council officers are accused of not recognising that the girls were victims of crime and ignoring girls' and families' complaints and pleas for help. Thames Valley Police has apologised to victims and their families, saying the force is "ashamed" of its shortcomings. The key points of the report are here.

    @DannyShawBBC Danny Shaw, home affairs correspondent for BBC News

    tweets: Monitoring @CommonsHomeAffs where we're expecting to hear from Paul Gambaccini and his lawyer Kate Goold on Govt plans for police bail

    15:01: 30 years ago today... The Mirror
    1984 miners' strike

    Labour veteran Dennis Skinner is in today's Mirror writing about his thoughts and feelings 30 years ago today - when the miners' strike finally came to an end. It was, he writes, "one of the saddest [days] of my life". Even after the passage of three decades his anger against Margaret Thatcher and her government has not abated. "The legacy of what Thatcher did survives 30 years later in low pay, zero hours contracts, casual employment and insecurity," Mr Skinner says. "Thatcher was responsible for social breakdown. We're paying the price of her vindictiveness."

    @UKParlArchives Parliament Archives

    tweets: Did you know...#WinstonChurchill asked #LloydGeorge to be part of his war cabinet #WW2 More at LivingHeritage

    14:58: Question time

    It was Welsh First Minister's Questions earlier in Cardiff. Here you can read a blow-by-blow account of what happened.

    @sandralaville Sandra Laville, senior correspondent for the Guardian

    tweets: A police officer in desperate email to bosses asked how many more times did she have to raise concerns before one of girls was found dead

    14:53: 'Consequences for failure'
    David Cameron

    David Cameron has insisted he will end the "walk-on-by culture" that he says has blighted child sexual exploitation cases for too long. Speaking after today's Downing Street meeting, he insisted the role of the government was to "bring everyone together and make sure the lessons are being learned, and any legal changes that are necessary are passed". The prime minister defended the government's efforts so far, but said that "if professionals fail there needs to be consequences". And he added: "In the end, all the legal changes we make… none of that is a substitute for a healthy dose of common sense, rolling up your sleeves, getting stuck in and putting an end to this abuse."

    Cycling safety House of Lords Parliament

    Vice President of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents Lord Jordan uses the first question in today's House of Lords to highlight the recent YouGov survey commissioned by the society, which found 68% of people would support more safe cycle routes in their area, compared with just 16% against.

    Of 2,169 adults surveyed, 58% said they never usually cycled, but 39% said they would cycle more often if the roads were made safer.

    @BBCNormanS Norman Smith, BBC News assistant political editor

    tweets: We need to end walk on by culture over child abuse says David Cameron

    14:45: Sol Campbell not running in Kensington
    Sol Campbell

    Ex-England footballer Sol Campbell says he's not put his name forward to be Conservative parliamentary candidate in the safe Tory seat of Kensington, which is being vacated by Sir Malcolm Rifkind. But the former Arsenal and Tottenham footballer hasn't ruled out a new career in politics altogether. Instead, he says he has ambitions "elsewhere in the political arena". Mayor of London perhaps? We can't see that dividing opinion in north London at all.

    14:41: Ebbsfleet statement House of Commons Parliament

    Communities Minister Brandon Lewis is making the second statement of the day, which is on the government's plan for thousands of new homes in Ebbsfleet in Kent. He wants to hurry the pace of the development up.

    @BBCHughPym Hugh Pym, BBC News health editor

    tweets: Labour, if elected, want mandatory review of case notes for all deaths in hospital - Professor Nick Black to advise review

    @davidottewell David Ottewell, regional journalist

    tweets: Parliament of losers: the make-up of the Commons if candidates who finished LAST in 2010 had been awarded each seat:

    Parliament of losers
    14:33: Some ideas for Labour

    Labour's approach to the economy could go down better with voters if Ed Miliband actually comes up with some economic "ideas", Anatole Kaletsky, chairman of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, writes in Prospect magazine. "Miliband must explain that a new model of global capitalism has been evolving since the 2008 crisis and that Labour will support this evolutionary process, while the Tories will try to resist it," he urges. Only by unifying his policies around a 'new capitalism' will he succeed in "capturing the public imagination".

    14:31: The politics of crumpets Buzzfeed
    Ray Hall

    Bad news for the Beer, Baccy and Crumpet party, which has been told by the Electoral Commission it is going to have to change its name on the basis that "crumpet" could be "considered as describing women as a sexual object in a demeaning way and would cause offence". Leader Ray Hall has told BuzzFeed his party has been "nobbled" because its leaflets with the name on had already been prepared. He says he has a plan B though: "If they object to crumpet, because it's offensive and sexist, I'll add an 'S' to the end of crumpet which would not refer to females but refer to the crumpet cakes."

    14:29: Sheen for PM?

    As Hollywood star Michael Sheen is applauded for delivering a passionate political speech to a pro-NHS march on St David's Day, our colleagues over on the Wales team have had a look at whether he could make a move into politics.

    @BBCHughPym Hugh Pym, BBC News health editor

    tweets: Sir Bruce Keogh, of NHS England, to review professional codes of doctors and nurses to ensure incentives to prevent cover ups


    David Cameron says children have suffered horrific sexual abuse on an "industrial scale" with too many people and organisations "walking on by".

    @ayestotheright Tony Grew, Commons journalist

    tweets: if we have a sin bin then I can keep a list of naughty MPs. Which would be excellent.

    @BBCHughPym Hugh Pym, BBC News health editor

    tweets: Jeremy Hunt on Morecambe Bay : it was a second Mid Staffs, where problems, albeit on smaller scale, occurred largely over same time period.

    14:13: 'Won't come forward' BBC Radio 4 Today

    Tim Loughton, former children's minister and Conservative MP, is critical of the idea of mandatory reporting of all abuse allegations - an idea favoured by Labour. "Good social workers - and most social workers are doing a decent job in difficult circumstances - need to build up a relationship of trust with vulnerable girls, and boys in many cases as well, who're reluctant to come forward. If those victims now know that their concern is going to be escalated right to the police, and there will be implications from that, and it will be out of the control of that social worker, with whom they've got a relationship, in some cases it's going to mean that some of those victims don't come forward."

    14:04: 'Never again' House of Commons Parliament

    Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, responding to Jeremy Hunt's statement about maternity services at Furness General Hospital, says getting to the truth should have been more straightforward. "Bereaved families should never again have to fight in the way these families have to get answers," he says. He notes that the problems don't seem to have been fixed. He quotes the report saying further difficulties were noted as recently as mid-2014. The investigation into Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust found 20 major failures in care from 2004 to 2013.

    14:00: 'Only cardinal offence' House of Commons Parliament

    Jeremy Hunt says he is asking Sir Bruce Keogh to review the professional codes of both doctors and nurses in a bid to prevent further cover-ups. "Medical notes were destroyed, mistakes covered up, quite possibly because of a defensive culture because the individuals involved thought they would lose their jobs if they were discovered to be responsible for death," he tells MPs. "But… within sensible professional boundaries, no-one should lose their job for an honest mistake made with the best intentions. The only cardinal offence is not to report that mistake openly so that the correct lessons can be learned. "

    13:55: Furness General Hospital's future BBC Radio 4

    Just before Heath Secretary Jeremy Hunt began his statement on the unnecessary deaths at Furness General Hospital, Barrow MP John Woodcock spoke on The World At One about the importance of not jumping to close the maternity unit. That, he said, would put more lives at risk by requiring mothers to travel an hour to Lancaster. "We have to make the lasting legacy of this an actual sustained, improved maternity unit," he said. "Improvements have been made in recent months - they're fragile but we need to sustain them."

    13:54: 'No greater pain' House of Commons Parliament
    Jeremy Hunt

    In the Commons, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is now on his feet making a statement about maternity services at Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, after a report by Dr Bill Kirkup found a "dysfunctional" maternity unit's "substandard care" led to the unnecessary deaths of 11 babies and one mother. Mr Hunt begins: "There is no greater pain for a parent to lose a child, and to do so knowing it was because of mistakes that we now know were covered up makes the agony even worse… we can at least provide the answers to the family's questions about what happened and why, and in doing so try and prevent a similar tragedy in the future." Our story on Dr Kirkup's report is here.

    13:47: Fixing parliament BBC Radio 4
    Houses of Parliament

    Yesterday evening's warning from Speaker John Bercow that parliament will have to be "abandoned" if steps aren't taken to fix the Palace of Westminster in the next 20 years have got Westminster wondering what will actually happen to the building. John Thurso MP, the House of Commons commissioner, says patience is needed. "What we're determined to do is take a decision that offers the best value for money for the taxpayer," he tells The World At One. The problem is they won't know what that decision is until they've received professional advice, he explains. Read our story on John Bercow's comments here.

    13:40: Lobby latest Iain Watson Political correspondent, BBC News

    Some points from this morning's lobby briefing:

    • Cabinet this morning was treated to a presentation on "women and equalities" by Nicky Morgan and Jo Swinson; another on life sciences (particularly the human genome project) by Jeremy Hunt; and, given the Mexican state visit, the foreign secretary outlined British policy on Latin America.
    • Sir John Major has been asked to attend Boris Nemtsov's funeral in Moscow. The PM's spokesman denied this was a provocative act towards President Putin, saying: "We want constructive relationships... We thought it was fitting for him to represent us."
    • The PM's spokesman wouldn't be drawn on when parliament would be recalled after the election and if the PM felt it should be swift in order to give MPs involvement in any coalition negotiations. "Announcements will be announced when they are announced," said the PM's spokesman, helpfully.
    13:36: Men of Pakistani origin BBC Radio 4

    Chief Constable Sara Thornton, of Thames Valley Police, tells The World At One there's a clear pattern, as backed up by today's report, that the perpetrators of child sexual exploitation are mainly of Pakistani origin. "The report suggests somebody needs to do some independent research as to why this is happening," she says. "The government could commission it but it needs to be academically robust and it needs to be independent."

    13:27: Beyond the front line BBC Radio 4

    Maris Stratulis, from the British Association of Social Workers, says today's report on child sexual exploitation has identified that the culture change everyone agrees is necessary must extend well beyond the actions of junior staff. "There's a disproportion here of people focusing on the frontline practitioners," she tells The World At One. "We want leaders and governors to be asking the right questions." The serious case review into Oxfordshire indicated that practitioners had been working in isolation, rather than sharing information and working collaboratively.

    @rowenamason Rowena Mason, political correspondent at the Guardian

    tweets: Commons nearly empty for UQ on Yarl's Wood. No sign of the home secretary or immigration minister - Karen Bradley speaks for govt

    13:21: 'We are not a Rotherham' BBC Radio 4

    Oxfordshire County Council's former leader Keith Mitchell tells The World At One that he is "not sure I ever really understood the scale" of the abuse in Oxford. "Oxfordshire has been and remains a good council. I just wish we'd done it earlier," he says. "We are not a Rotherham, I won't have that said. We are a good council and we have put in place the measures that are necessary to stamp this abuse out."

    13:17: 'Inhuman' system

    Conservative MP and business minister Nick Boles has expressed concern about "inhuman inflexibility" in the benefits sanction system. The remarks were made to a group of charity volunteers and reported by the Grantham Journal.

    "With some of these cases it seems to me that there is an inhuman inflexibility that is imposed on them… The sanctions are a worry, and do need to be looked at," he said. "In the run-up to the election there is not a lot we can do, but we can get the case studies together where the sanctions seem to be most unreasonable… The beginning of a parliamentary term, when people are looking at things afresh, is the best time to make a change."

    13:09: Yarl's Wood urgent question House of Commons Parliament
    Yarl's Wood detention centre

    The next item on the Commons agenda is about Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre, which has come under scrutiny for the way it treats asylum seekers. Keith Vaz, chairman of the home affairs select committee, has called for inquiries into Yarl's Wood in the past. Now he and other MPs will seek to establish, via an urgent question, what the government will do after undercover filming showed one management team member describing inmates as "caged animals".

    13:05: Labour's pardons promise

    Here's our full story on Labour's plan to introduce a Turing's Law. "What was right for Alan Turing's family should be right for other families as well," Ed Miliband said.

    13:01: Cooper on child sexual exploitation
    Yvette Cooper

    Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has been speaking about the Oxfordshire serious case review. She says it's "yet another example of children simply not being listened to when exploited and abused". She adds: "I think the government's response is a bit of a missed opportunity, because we need stronger laws on abduction and exploitation to stop these crimes, stronger requirements for institutions to respond, but also stronger prevention with compulsory sex and relationship education in schools."

    12:58: Clegg talks religion

    Despite being well-known as an atheist, Nick Clegg has given an interview to Premier Christian Radio. The deputy prime minister said he attends mass most weeks with his wife and children and does so "with great joy". "I sometimes think it must be the most wonderful thing to be infused with faith. It's not something that's happened to me, it's not happened to me yet and I would embrace it." He said he might be an atheist but had "never had that much time for what I call vociferous secularism", adding: "I'm always a bit sceptical of anyone who acts with raging certainty about anything."

    12:55: Sex education response House of Commons Parliament

    Here's what Nicky Morgan had to say in response to Tristram Hunt's request for her support on sex education: "I am fully in favour of full PSHE education on consent. But it has to be excellent, it can't just be about ticking boxes."

    12:51: Sex education House of Commons Parliament

    Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, at the end of a long list of questions to Nicky Morgan, calls for "age-appropriate statutory sex and relationship education to teach young people about consent and healthy sexual relationships". Her agreement would result in cross-party backing for the idea, he says.

    12:51: 'Brave' victims House of Commons Parliament
    Nicky Morgan

    Oxford West MP Nicola Blackwood, who is a member of the home affairs select committee, asks Nicky Morgan to make it a "personal priority to ensure survivors [of child sexual exploitation] have the long-term and sustainable support they need". "We must not only pay tribute to the victims for their bravery in coming forward but we must also recognise such serious abuse has long-term and complex consequences," she says. The education secretary, above, says she can be reassured the government will do all it can to help them.

    12:47: Survivors' fund House of Commons Parliament

    There will be a £7m fund to support victims and survivors of child abuse and sexual exploitation, Nicky Morgan adds. But Labour MP for Oxford East Andrew Smith calls for a public inquiry, saying child protection services were "chaotic" and there was a "failure to act on clear evidence on sexual exploitation".

    12:45: 'Broken windows matter' Daily Politics Live on BBC Two
    David Lammy

    David Lammy, whose report for Policy Exchange has prompted debate today about police's ability to deal with crime, calls for a "debate with the public about whether we still take theft seriously or not". He insists that "broken windows matter" because failing to address low-level crime will only result in more serious crime taking place. Commentator Tim Montgomerie says crime is a "success story" for the government but accepts "there are parts of the country where crime is still a daily problem".

    12:43: 'Horrific abuse' House of Commons Parliament

    Nicky Morgan is summarising the measures the government is taking to ensure the "horrific abuse" detailed in the Oxford report is "stamped out" and never happens again. David Cameron will chair a meeting of ministers, police and council safeguarding officers later.

    12:39: Morgan abuse statement House of Commons Parliament

    Foreign Office questions has now come to an end. Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is now making a statement about the serious case review into child sexual abuse in Oxford, saying what has emerged in the report is "sickening". She says child abuse had been a "scourge in many communities around the country".

    12:36: Diplomatic language House of Commons Parliament

    Ever wondered how many UK diplomats speak Russian or Arabic? Tory MP John Baron is curious, suggesting that linguistic shortcomings may have contributed to the UK being "unsighted" over recent developments in Ukraine or the Middle East. Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood says there are 170 Arabic-speaking mandarins in his department and a similar number of Russian speakers.

    12:35: National security Daily Politics Live on BBC Two
    Margaret Beckett

    Margaret Beckett, chair of parliament's national security strategy committee, is on the Daily Politics explaining why she and her fellow parliamentarians have released a report criticising the government for its limited interest in developing a strategy. "What there doesn't seem to us to be is the kind of coordinated approach that we'd hoped for," she says. More broadly, she says fears about defence cuts are a "legitimate anxiety". The government hasn't been able to make decisions, having stepped back to consider the bigger picture. "They identify high-priority risks but they don't necessarily link them to the spending decisions," she says.

    12:30: Religious freedoms House of Commons Parliament

    Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander says a new job is needed in the Foreign Office: a global envoy for religious freedom, reporting to the foreign secretary, which he says a Labour government will create. Philip Hammond sounds unimpressed. "Our general approach is to try to get things done," he says, by using the tools already in place. "I don't think simply creating new posts delivers in quite the way the shadow foreign secretary thinks."

    12:27: Benefit sanctions The Guardian
    Nick Boles

    Business minister Nick Boles has criticised the government's "inhuman" benefit sanctions regime, the Guardian reports. It quotes him telling constituents the current system does "need to be looked at".

    12:20: 'Hidden from view' Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    The eye-catching move by the government to impose criminal sanctions on those who fail to ensure the children they're responsible for are protected from sexual exploitation is in line with rules already in place in the NHS, Cllr David Simmonds, from the Local Government Association, tells the Daily Politics. "It's absolutely clear this has been hidden from view - we need to make sure that mums and dads know the signs, that teachers know the signs when they pop up in the classroom."

    12:21: Wrong question House of Commons Parliament

    A little light relief in the Commons as Labour's Mary Glindon realises she has asked the wrong question. She apologises and changes tack - pressing ministers on the use of the death penalty around the world.



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