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31 Oct 2010 09:01:31

Weblinks for Sunday 31st October 2010

Google-earth-5-screenshot 7.15pm Parliament: An 'internet bill of rights' should be considered to protect people from "Big Brother Google", suggests Robert Halfon MP

6.15pm WATCH: Theresa May says terrorism will be defeated by combination of physical security, police work and intelligence

3pm ToryDiary: Will Cameron curb the "judicial jihadists" so that the security services can hunt down the real jihadists?

12.45pm WATCH: Ann Widdecombe is spun around the dancefloor to tune of 'Wild Thing'

Noon Roger Helmer MEP on CentreRight reviews an uncomfortable encounter with the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia: Who are the deniers now?

Screen shot 2010-10-31 at 11.48.1911.45am International: Is Angela Merkel the new Iron Lady of Europe?

ToryDiary: When every 'child in care' costs £25,000pa why are rates of adoption falling?

Rebecca Harris MP on Platform: We must now revisit the idea of permanent Daylight Saving Time

ThinkTankCentral: Conservatives and Liberal Democrats meet together to discuss 'Coalition 2.0'

David Mitchell on Local government: Spending on consultants needs to be checked

WATCH: Jon Stewart hosts anti-Tea Party rally in Washington

Conservatives open up 5% lead in overnight Sunday Times/ YouGov poll - YouGov graph

The EU has ordered a fleet of 150 bomb-proof limousines costing up to £33m for its new army of ambassadors - The Sunday Times (£)

EU-FLAG "The full staggering scale and cost of the European Union’s new global diplomatic corps can be revealed today. The so-called European External Action Service (EEAS) will have an annual budget of £5.8 billion and an army of ambassadors across 137 embassies, with up to 7,000 Eurocrats trained to pursue the EU’s foreign policy. It will be run by Baroness Ashton, the obscure Labour quangocrat and Blair-appointed peer who last year was surprisingly nominated by Gordon Brown to be the EU’s foreign secretary – even though she has never been elected by British or European voters." - Mail on Sunday

'Relations between Osborne and IDS hit new low'

"Relations between Iain Duncan Smith and George Osborne have sunk to a new low after they clashed over scrapping child benefit. The Work and Pensions Secretary is furious he was not consulted by the Chancellor over the move to axe the allowance for higher-rate taxpayers." - Mail on Sunday

David Cameron should not be so pleased about cutting the BBC - Observer leader

Peter Hitchens discusses last week's speculation that the Coalition may continue after the General Election

"Mr Cameron is the willing prisoner of Mr Clegg. He loves to have a permanent excuse to tell the shivering, lonesome clumps of real conservatives in his party that he cannot do what they want him to do." - Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday

Fraser Nelson examines three accounts of the "car crash" that was the 2010 Tory general election campaign

Nelson Fraser pink shirt "The best chapter is "Losing it in January" which details the launch of the Tory campaign and its flaws. George Osborne was, in theory, the election co-ordinator, but "regarded himself as a chairman, rather than director of the group". The impulsive Steve Hilton would launch a phrase (like "great ignored"), then discard it the next day. Andy Coulson, the press chief, was at loggerheads with Hilton. Cameron stood back from it all – and the result was an all-too-discernible lack of direction. Cameron's standing amongst the electorate fell, as the Tory campaign muddled along." - Fraser Nelson in The Observer

> Key conclusions of ConservativeHome's General Election Review

An argument over counterterror laws is raging within the Coalition - Andrew Rawnsley in The Observer

Our security services need support from the Government and the courts - Sunday Telegraph leader

The Secretary of State for International Development intervened to help a cocoa trader beat sanctions for smuggling in Ghana - The Sunday Times (£)

Cameron urged to sign EU ban on slave trafficking - Independent on Sunday

John Rentoul: Ed Miliband's very poor start as Labour leader

"On every single issue, the Prime Minister is on the side of the voters, and Ed Miliband, when he is visible, is on the wrong side, defending the sectional interest of benefit claimants, rich parents, Labour MPs or students. David Cameron and George Osborne ought to be vulnerable. They look too pleased with themselves, too much as if they are enjoying the student politics of it all. But, on the evidence of Miliband's first five weeks, they have nothing to fear." - John Rentoul in the Independent on Sunday

Gordon Brown to give first Commons speech since leaving office

BROWN PUZZLED "Gordon Brown is to step out of the shadows tomorrow and make his first speech in the Commons since standing down as Prime Minister. He will attempt to save 1,500 naval shipyard jobs near his Scottish constituency and stop maintenance work on Britain’s two new aircraft carriers going to France. Mr Brown has not spoken in Parliament since April, before he lost Labour the General Election a month later." - Mail on Sunday

Jacqui Smith has been given a job by a firm that won a big contract while she was Home Secretary - The Sunday Telegraph

Young, gifted and broke before they start - Ed Howker in the Independent on Sunday notes the student debts and high house prices that await young people starting out in life

Janet Daley on America's Tea Party Movement

Daley-Janet-black-backgroun "There were plenty of people in New York who wanted to believe that Tea Partiers were just a new incarnation of the gun-totin', gay-bashing right-to-lifers whom they found it so easy to dismiss as risible throwbacks. This is a huge political miscalculation, which quite misses the point of what makes the Congressional midterm elections this week such an interesting and historic political event. This is so much more than the predictable to-ing and fro-ing of party control midway through a presidential term. What the grassroots rebellion is really about is an attempt to pull the Republican party back to its basic philosophy of low-tax, low-spend, small government: the great Jeffersonian principle that the best government is that which governs least." - Janet Daley in The Sunday Telegraph


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30 Oct 2010 08:47:51

Weblinks for Saturday 30th October 2010

7.45pm Local government: Labour councillor calls for Baroness Thatcher to "burn in Hell"

7pm WATCH: In advance of putting the clocks back an hour tonight, Rebecca Harris MP and John Scott MSP discuss whether double summer time should be introduced

5pm Archie Manners on CentreRight takes a light-hearted look at the official list of gifts and hospitality received by the Cabinet

4.15pm WATCH:

3.45pm Gazette update: Watch Damian Green's address to the TRG 35th anniversary conference in full

Picture 33.15pm Twenty years ago this very day Margaret Thatcher memorably told the Commons: "The President of the Commission, Mr. Delors, said at a press conference the other day that he wanted the European Parliament to be the democratic body of the Community, he wanted the Commission to be the Executive and he wanted the Council of Ministers to be the Senate. No! No! No!" Click here to relive highlights of that famous statement

1.30pm Martin Sewell on CentreRight: Who is putting the positive case for an expanding EU Budget?

Picture 211.30am Gazette: Damian Green heads the line-up at TRG's 35 anniversary conference, delivering an address emphasising the need for the Conservative Party to remain moderate and progressive

ToryDiary: How the Right-wing press have reviewed David Cameron's performance at the European Council

James Brandon on Platform: Exposing Islamic extremism on British university campuses – and what we can do about it

Local Government: The overwhelming majority of councils plan shared services

Parliament: Jacob Rees-Mogg is fast becoming the star orator of the 2010 intake

WATCH: Barack Obama's statement on the security alert relating to planes heading for the USA from the UK and Dubai

David Cameron insists he is a 'Eurosceptic' following EU 'deal'...

EU and BRITAIN "David Cameron has tried to reassure Conservative MPs about his approach to Britain's place in Europe, by declaring openly for the first time since becoming Prime Minister: "I am a Eurosceptic". The Prime Minister made his most explicit statement of opposition to further European Union integration, at an EU summit in Brussels. The EU does not spend its money well and must not be allowed to become a "superstate," he said." - Daily Telegraph

Cameron claims victory in Europe - but budget battle isn't over yet - The Times (£)

> ConHome coverage: he sparks row over 'delicious' BBC cuts

"David Cameron has ignited a furious row about the funding of the BBC, after he described the corporation’s six-year funding freeze as “delicious” and poked fun at it sending three reporters to his Brussels press conference yesterday." - Daily Telegraph

"Cameron under fire from all sides as Coalition’s honeymoon ends"

David Cameron Nick Clegg serious "If David Cameron and Nick Clegg ever really enjoyed a honeymoon, this was the week when it ended... The Government endured sustained criticism of plans to cut housing benefits led by the London Mayor Boris Johnson, who likened the policy to ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. It faced difficult questions over child benefit reforms and suggestions it was watering down the planned immigration cap. And Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, stole Mr Cameron's thunder at the CBI by mocking his Tory partners' lack of economic judgement. As Mr Cameron travelled back from Brussels, the mood in the Coalition camp reflected the reality of running a two-party government in a country with no money." - The Independent

Cameron predicts 'no problems' with child benefit cuts

"Prime Minister David Cameron says he does not "predict a problem" in implementing child benefit cuts, amid claims plans are unenforceable. He was quizzed about plans to stop payments to families with higher earners, after it emerged they could face fines if they do not declare it." - BBC

Osborne's tax adviser warns against child benefit changes - Daily Mail

New fear for state pensions - Daily Express

Volunteers could get 'care credits' - Press Association

Hysterics over housing

PARRIS MATTHEW GREEN "Don’t believe the hype, don’t believe the prophecy and don’t believe the numbers. Nobody knows the numbers. The media and political world have been guilty over the past week of swallowing hook, line and sinker some bizarre prophecies about social housing let fly by stakeholders in triumph or disaster; speculation, flying under the colours of fact." - Matthew Parris in The Times (£)

"Something disturbing is happening to political discourse in Britain. Opponents of the Coalition, most of them on the Left, have adopted the hysterical language of the student activists who manned barricades in the 1960s or screamed obscenities at “Thatcher” in the 1980s. One of the hallmarks of those young revolutionaries was a willingness to fling the words “fascist” or “Nazi” at anyone who provoked them (by, for example, telling them off for missing an essay deadline). This week, Polly Toynbee, grande dame of the Left, used the phrase “final solution” – the Third Reich’s euphemism for the massacre of six million Jews – to describe the cap on housing benefit. Supposedly liberal pundits are using increasingly illiberal language in an attempt to whip up popular anger against the Coalition." - Telegraph editorial

Iain Duncan Smith "Minister demanded an end to the ‘hysteria’ over housing benefit cuts last night. Official figures made a nonsense of claims that the reforms are designed to ‘cleanse’ the inner cities of poor people. Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith told the Daily Mail that scaremongering and in some cases blatant lies about the money-saving plans had spiralled out of control... Figures seen by the Mail show that 96 per cent of 642,200 claimants whose handouts will be reduced will face rent shortfalls of £20 a week or less, and 79 per cent of £10 or less." - Daily Mail

> Tuesday's LeftWatch: "The vicious Tory determination to make the poor suffer"

> Thursday's ToryDiary: Three questions about Coalition housing policy

> Colin Barrow yesterday in Local Government: Reforming Housing Benefit must not be ducked

Theresa May: Flights to UK from Yemen suspended after terror alert

Theresa May Home Secretary "Examinations have begun on the explosive devices found on planes at airports in Britain and Dubai, which have sparked a major international terror alert. Loaded printer cartridges with wires attached were intercepted by staff at cargo hubs at East Midlands Airport and in the Middle East after setting off from Yemen, bound for the US. Home Secretary Theresa May announced all direct flights from Yemen to the UK have been suspended after confirming the package found in the UK contained explosive material." - Sky News

Coalition facing split over detention of terror suspects

"A top-level government review of counter-terrorism laws has been delayed amid deep divisions among ministers over controversial orders to detain terrorist suspects. Ministers are facing an intense behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign by the security services, who warn that abolishing the orders would put public safety at risk of terrorist attack." - The Times (£)

UK and France to sign formal defence treaty

"David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy will next week sign a formal defence treaty between Britain and France that ensures a new drive for military co-operation between the two nations cannot be reversed by their successors. As the two leaders prepare for the most important declaration of Franco-British defence co-operation in more than a decade, a deal to co-ordinate deployments of the countries’ aircraft carriers and ground troops looks set to be the centrepiece of their summit in London." - FT (£)

Ministers draw up plans to end school admission free-for-all

Michael Gove pensive 2010 "Figures show that 100,000 families did not get first-choice place, as recession pushes more parents towards state sector Reforms to make the secondary school admission system fairer are being planned by ministers and council leaders, The Times has learnt, as analysis reveals that 100,000 families did not get their first-choice place this year. Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, wants to scale back the 86-page School Admissions Code, which his predecessor Ed Balls toughened up two years ago." - The Times (£)

"Most schools" to have budget cut

"Two-thirds of English state schools will have their day-to-day budgets cut in this parliament, in spite of government claims to have protected resources for education, Financial Times research has revealed. The planned squeeze on funding will be made worse by a forecast increase in the number of pupils and a 60 per cent reduction in capital spending on infrastructure." - FT (£)

Government's drug rationing body, Nice, to lose powers to decide on new drugs

"The government's drug rationing body, Nice, is to be stripped of its power to turn down new medicines for use in the NHS, ending emotive battles with patient groups but raising the spectre of a postcode lottery for care. The health secretary, Andrew Lansley, believes that Nice, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, should continue to write guidelines for doctors on the best treatments for their patients, but the Guardian understands he will remove its controversial power to ban the use of drugs it considers too expensive for the benefit they offer." - The Guardian

Tory MP Charlie Elphicke calls on Big Society to run Port of Dover

Charlie Elphicke 3 "The Conservative party’s free-market ideals and its latest intellectual big idea promise to clash this weekend when Dover’s Tory MP launches a campaign to block the privatisation of the town’s port. Instead of being sold to private sector investors, Europe’s busiest ferry port should transfer to a company owned by Dover’s townspeople, Charlie Elphicke will argue. The plan accords with the prime minister’s Big Society rhetoric, he says... Dame Vera Lynn, best known for her sentimental second world war-era hits, will join supporters of Mr Elphicke’s “People’s Port” plan on Saturday." - FT (£)

Nick Clegg: 'I'm so hated that people put dog mess through my door'

"Nick Clegg claims that voters angry about Government spending cuts have pushed dog mess through his letterbox and spat at him in the street. In a candid interview, the Deputy Prime Minister says he had to ‘swallow pretty hard’ when he realised what needed to be done to bring down the budget deficit left behind by Labour." - Daily Mail

Boris Johson - why Tories love him and David Cameron is terrified of him

Boris Johnson smiling "Is David Cameron afraid of Boris Johnson? Not really, no. He's terrified of him, because the Conservative party loves its Boris Johnsons, and rather despises its Dave Camerons. They know the Camerons have their uses – when you've been out of power for 13 years, you want one of them. Dave has the party's head, but Boris has its heart – Thursday's outburst notwithstanding." - Francis Beckett in The Guardian

Boris Johnson vs David Cameron: populist maverick against political insider - Andrew Gimson in the Daily Telegraph

Boris Johnson may be forced to shelve key projects due to scrapping of LDA - The Guardian

Sinn Fein member speaks in House of Commons chamber

"A teenage student has become the first Sinn Fein member to speak in the House of Commons. Connor Morgan, 18, spoke in Gaelic as he addressed a meeting of the UK Youth Parliament (UKYP) sitting in the Commons chamber." - Belfast Telegraph

Ann Widdecombe talks about Strictly Come dancing and life after the Commons

"Let us make one thing quite clear: Ann Widdecombe will not be making her entrance on tonight’s Strictly Come Dancing on horseback. No way, no how — and not ever. “They wouldn’t allow the hooves on the dance-floor,” she crisply points out." - The Times (£)

And finally... As we prepare to turn the clocks back an hour tonight, Boris backs calls for more daylight

Picture 24 "Britons face a day of chaos tomorrow as the clocks turn back an hour, plunging the country into evening darkness... Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, said the economy could be boosted if the clocks were in line with Central European Time. He said: “It’s barmy that a great trading city and leading global financial centre like London is so out of kilter with the rest of Europe. We do immense amounts of trade with our partners across the Channel and all the evidence shows we have little to lose and much to gain by setting our clocks in line with Paris, Frankfurt and other big cities.” - Daily Express


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29 Oct 2010 08:20:52

Weblinks for Friday 29th October 2010

4.45pm Tim Montgomerie on CentreRight: The most under-rated blog in Westminster?

4.15pm ToryDiary: Paul Goodman presents a five point plan for Conservatives to win over the 'squeezed middle'

2.30pm Local government: Westminster Council leader Cllr Colin Barrow says Reforming Housing Benefit must not be ducked

2.30pm New survey: Did Cameron get a good deal at the EU summit? How can the Tory Party increase membership? Would you vote Democrat or Republican if you lived in the USA?

Screen shot 2010-10-29 at WATCH: Britain has prevented "crazy" 6% increase in EU budget, claims Cameron

Noon Natalie Elphicke on CentreRight is furious with Boris: Passion-politics is good; piffle-politik is not

11.45am Local government: Another Lib Dem councillor defects to the Conservatives

11.30am Lee Rotherham's verdict on David Cameron's EU "deal": "Imagine you rented a house or flat where the rent kept going up, year after year. But your landlord was the worst sort. He never mowed the front lawn. The ornamental pond had lots of dead fish floating around in it. You had no locks on the doors and your co-tenants with impunity raided your fridge and your tool collection and never brought anything back. Then one day you came back from work to find that he’d gone into your flat and taken £100 out of your wallet to increase the rent. Getting £50 back would not, I suggest, be a triumph, nor for that matter a permanent solution to your housing issues."

10am ThinkTankCentral: "Cameron may well have severely underplayed the UK's hand" says Open Europe

Local Government: No seats changed hands in yesterday's council by-elections

HandsUpToryDiary: Don't believe the Downing Street spin - Cameron is not getting a good deal for Britain in Europe

Mark Clarke on Platform: We must make the NHS even more whistleblower-friendly

Local government: By 68% to 23% voters support the Coalition on Housing Benefit

Eric Pickles MP on Local government: The Comprehensive Spending Review offers councils a choice - slash and burn services or create a flexible and innovative council

Robert Halfon MP on CentreRight: Most Whitehall departments don't know how much they spend on conferences.... and those that do spend a small fortune

WATCH: Nick Clegg and Downing Street "fury" over Boris Johnson's "Kosovo-style cleansing" remarks

"The Prime Minister was said to be “bristling” with anger after the Mayor of London suggested that capping housing benefit at just under £21,000 a year would lead to the poor being “pushed out” of their homes." - Telegraph

JOHNSON & CAMERONBoris and Cameron in happier times >

"Boris does not speak by accident. His blunders are always calculated, and suit his style of drive-by politics. No10, where Boris is loathed, sees nothing accidental or inadvertent in his remarks about Kosovo. Both his words and his choice of subject for a row with the PM are described as “strange”, but the tone is icy cold. This is war." - Benedict Brogan on Telegraph blogs

"For far too long we have tolerated a welfare state that gives a better lifestyle to benefits claimants than to hard-working families who pay their own way. After all, countless immigrants, including Kosovars, manage to live and work very successfully in London while paying their own way without recourse to the state. That is what Boris Johnson should be devoting his undoubted eloquence to arguing." - Daily Mail leader

Housing benefit cuts are a vote-winner among the commuting classes - Andrew Gilligan in The Telegraph

> Yesterday's ToryDiary: "The Coalition's housing benefits policy is not only morally right it is a big first test of its determination to bring the deficit under control."

> Tim Montgomerie in The Guardian: "As soon as possible, we must move to a system where people on benefits are not able to afford a better lifestyle than those who are working. I would say that 99% of Conservative MPs understand that. They also understand that this is the first big test of the government's determination to make difficult spending decisions. They know that Cameron cannot weaken or every lobby will smell weakness and attempt to reverse other pledges. On this first battle of the deficit, Cameron must show that he's not for turning."

Higher rate taxpayers must declare if their wife receives child benefit... but will they always know?

Osborne on AM "Families could face draconian fines under Government plans to enforce child benefit cuts. Couples with one higher-rate taxpayer will be required to inform the taxman whether or not the mother is claiming child benefit. And fathers will be liable for financial penalties if their partners have quietly kept on taking the allowance without telling them." - Daily Mail

"Child benefit was designed specifically to bypass husbands or partners and is paid directly to the mother. In the interim, fathers could be forced — by law — to fill in an additional form to declare their income, which undermines George Osborne’s promise that the system will be less bureaucratic. This would then be enforced by a new law threatening legal sanctions if they failed." - Times (£)

> Iain Martin at the Wall Street Journal broke this story yesterday: "How can the government easily prove the connection between mothers who pay no tax or earn less than £44,000 and the higher rate taxpayer she might live with?"

'Twenty Tory MPs will help keep the foxhunting ban'

Fox_Hunting "Mike Weatherley, the MP for Hove and Portslade, is one of around 20 new Conservative MPs who are in favour of retaining the 2004 Hunting Act, which outlaws hunting with dogs. "The likelihood is that the ban will stay," he told the Guardian. "I think there's enough of us to ensure that the ban will remain. A lot of people who decided not to vote Conservative will be surprised to find that it's Conservatives who will stop it [being repealed]." - Guardian

Councils may get extra money if they approve wind farms

"Local councils are to get extra funding if they give the go-ahead to new wind farms, under plans to stop local communities sabotaging renewable energy projects. Ministers are worried at the vast number of wind farm projects that are being turned down by councillors in the face of local opposition." - Independent

"Ministers may give councils the power to keep the business rates they collect locally in an attempt to stimulate economic growth in the regions, Vince Cable has revealed. The measure – which will be welcomed by local authorities – was announced in the government’s white paper on regional economic growth on Thursday." - FT (£)

Police failed to make a single arrest for suspected terrorism after stopping and searching more than 100,000 people last year - FT (£)

No evidence that people support mandatory life imprisonment - BBC

Pubs could be banned from opening in poor areas in a planned blitz on binge drinking - The Sun

Family holidays will be “beyond many people’s reach” after tax hikes add up to £340 to the cost of getaways - Express

"Airport tax will leap by up to 55 per cent from Monday, adding hundreds of pounds to the cost of family holidays abroad. The increases in Air Passenger Duty (APD) for all flights out of UK airports, which come into force next week, will push up the tax on a family of four’s trip to the Far East or Australia by £240 to £680. Those in economy face an increase of £120 to £340." - Daily Mail

Turkey's EU accession bid is going nowhere soon - Martin Kettle in The Guardian

And finally... Wine, tennis rackets, a rug and iPad among gifts from other world leaders to David Cameron

Screen shot 2010-10-29 at 07.11.12 "Somewhere in the cellars of Downing Street a post-election celebratory hamper from the designer Kelly Hoppen sits unopened, as does a rug from the prime minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ties from Silvio Berlusconi and tennis rackets and wine from Nicolas Sarkozy. A £429 iPad from Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, is down in the cellars too – but that's because Cameron already had purchased one previously given to him by the headphones tycoon Mike Faith. If this had been the Blairs, that one might have found itself on eBay faster than you could say comprehensive spending review." - Guardian

But, notes the Daily Mail, NOTHING for Nick Clegg.


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28 Oct 2010 08:54:42

Weblinks for Thursday 28th October 2010

6pm WATCH:

Picture 18

5.45pm LeftWatch: Exposed - Labour MEPs voted against freezing the EU Budget as their shadow Europe minister claims they support such a move

4.45pm Local Government: Labour-run Newham condemned for "glitzy" £18.7 million office refit

Iain Duncan Smith on Breakfast4.15pm ToryDiary: Iain Duncan Smith explains how his department was preparing to implement his welfare agenda before the election by following the work of the Centre for Social Justice

3.30pm ToryDiary: Three questions about Coalition housing policy

3pm Patrick Nolan on CentreRight: Anti-business policies delay recovery

12.15pm LISTEN: Europe Minister David Lidington's eve-of-European Council interview with the Today Programme

10.45am Melanchthon on CentreRight: "It appears that when I and others said that Cameron and Hague were genuinely convicted Eurosceptics who understood what must be done and would not let us down, we were wrong."

10.30am WATCH: President Obama was heavy on policy as he appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

CameronUnionFlagToryDiary: David Cameron heads for Brussels summit with Tory eurosceptics' expectations at a low ebb

Chris Philp on Platform: Business (not government) can deliver new, real jobs – and with it prosperity and social justice for the nation

Cllr Spencer Drury in Local Government: Greenwich - A Labour Council leading the way in abolishing security of tenure

Parliament: Scottish Secretary shuns Tory's call for "English votes for English laws"

Mark Field MP on CentreRight: Why Conservatives should support flexibility on economic migration

WATCH: President Sarkozy's pension reform bill passes the final hurdle in the French Parliament

Boris Johnson lays down challenge to Cameron over housing benefit

CAMERON & BORIS Boris Johnson has challenged David Cameron over his plan to cap housing benefit payments and called for working families and those with children at school to be protected from the cut, The Times has learnt. The Mayor of London, who has condemned the policy as “draconian”, called on the coalition to back a programme costing tens of millions of pounds to help families in the centre of the capital to remain in their homes." - The Times (£)

"Ministers are locked in negotiations with the mayor of London's office searching for policies to soften the impact of the government's changes to housing benefit on the capital. The talks included discussion of a possible return to the system of landlords rather than tenants being paid the benefits, which may lower rents." - The Guardian

"David Cameron refused to budge over cuts to housing benefit last night as Ed Miliband defended handouts of up to £104,000 a year for jobless families. The Prime Minister insisted it was simply ‘not fair’ for claimants to live in taxpayer-funded properties that many who work for a living could only ‘dream of’." - Daily Mail

"The Coalition's proposals, as with its wider package of welfare reforms, might be radical, but they are also both necessary and – in the end – compassionate. We urge ministers to stand firm." - Daily Telegraph editorial

Miliband calls on Lib Dems to crush cuts - Daily Mirror

> Yesterday's ToryDiary: Ed Miliband challenges David Cameron on housing benefit at PMQs

Ministers to spell out growth plan for English regions - BBC

Hague says British troops in Afghanistan face increased levels of violence

William Hague Commons "The Foreign Secretary said that troops would confront more sniper attacks and direct fire as they countered the Taleban and al-Qaeda insurgency. Issuing the coalition’s first quarterly report on Afghanistan, he said that security remained “extremely challenging” and progress against corruption had been only “modest”. Mr Hague said that British combat troops would be withdrawn by 2015. But as he spoke in the Commons, the outgoing head of the Armed Forces warned ministers against pulling out British troops too quickly." - The Times (£)

Sir Jock Stirrup to be ennobled - Daily Telegraph

Philip Hammond may allow changes to UK airport security checks

"The transport secretary has signalled his willingness to change the regulations on security checks at British airports. Philip Hammond was responding to senior figures in the airline industry who had backed BA chairman Martin Broughton's attack on measures imposed by the US." - BBC

Door closing on ‘brightest’ migrants as most take menial work

Damian Green 2010 "The Government is considering the closure of a special immigration scheme for the brightest and best foreigners after it found that just one in four was in a skilled job. Highly skilled migrants with degrees and postgraduate qualifications were found to be working as shop assistants, security guards and supermarket cashiers, the UK Border Agency said last night. Damian Green, the Immigration Minister, said the findings would play a key role in influencing the level of a permanent cap on the number of skilled migrants from outside the EU allowed to come to Britain." - The Times (£)

Andrew Lansley to double number of young families getting support

"The health secretary Andrew Lansley will today pledge to double the number of disadvantaged young families who will get intensive support from a health visitor for the first two years of their baby's life. The Family Nurse Partnership has been shown in the United States to raise the life chances significantly of a child born into poverty, reducing their risk of abuse or neglect at home and improving their language ability and fitness to start school." - The Guardian

Robert Halfon MP: Individuals need protection from Google

Robert Halfon "Millions of private Wi-Fi addresses captured. Millions of passwords and email addresses plucked out of thin air. The Google Street View episode is starting to look very serious indeed. The first rumours came earlier this year, when Google admitted that “fragmentary” data had been picked up by some patrol cars. This was an innocent mistake, it said. But it wasn’t the whole truth. The news prompted me to request a debate in the House of Commons. Thanks to the backbench parliamentary committee, my debate is finally to be held today." - Robert Halfon MP in the Daily Telegraph

> Dan Hamilton on CentreRight yesterday: Privacy and the internet - a call to arms

Benedict Brogan: The biggest threat now facing free schools is the enemy within

"The Education Secretary's optimism is unshakeable. He considers creating new secondary schools that offer all the benefits of grammars, minus the selection, to be his mission. Wherever he goes, he finds parents and teachers clamouring for the chance to create a free school – free to teach, free to expand to meet demand, free to get rid of bad teachers and pay more to good ones, free from bureaucratic tyranny and union bullying. Yet around him, and in Downing Street, there are fears that momentum is fast being lost – and that it is largely due to resistance from inside Mr Gove's own organisation." - Benedict Brogan in the Daily Telegraph

Partisan opponents of the Government question role of New Schools Network in setting up Free Schools - The Guardian

> Michael Gove announced the process for setting up Free Schools in June

Jeremy Hunt MP: An Olympian plan to accelerate innovation

"What can we do to turn today’s innovative East London companies into tomorrow’s global giants? We know what we shouldn’t do. In the 1980s, the Government tried and failed to make British Telecom and Cable & Wireless “national champions” by sheltering them from competition. We must do the opposite, strengthening competition to encourage innovation and the growth of dynamic new entrants." - Jeremy Hunt  in The Times (£)

Neil O'Brien: The cost of living is the next big squeeze

O'BRIEN-NEIL "If you are a member of the “squeezed middle”, get ready to be squeezed even harder. Inflation is running at about 5 per cent per year. The cost of many train tickets will be going up by more than 10 per cent in January. Remember that Labour Chancellor who talked about pressuring the middle classes “until the pips squeak”? With oranges costing a third more than they did last year, it seems to be happening quite literally." - Neil O'Brien in the Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday's ToryDiary: Who are "the Squeezed Middle"?

The Daily Mail investigates how DfID spends its budget

"The extent to which Britain’s foreign aid budget has been wasted was laid bare last night. A Mail investigation reveals how the Department for International Development, which distributes overseas aid, has thrown away millions on consultants, office refurbishments and private school fees." - Daily Mail

Baroness Warsi was 'pressured' to skip France veil ban debate

"Baroness Warsi had been booked to appear in front of a global television audience of around 350 million people, as part of a two-person debating team opposing the motion that France is right to seek a ban on wearing the Islamic full-face veil in public. But the Conservative Party chairman cancelled her appearance at the "eleventh hour", in what has been viewed as an illustration of the Coalition Government's determination to distance itself from any possible links or suspicions of sympathies with radical Islam." - Daily Telegraph

Small Business reacts angrily to new pension plan

"Small businesses reacted with anger and dismay yesterday to the announcement of a vast national pension scheme forcing firms to pay an extra £3.2billion a year. In a drive to make Britain save more, ministers said that all companies will be required to enrol their staff into a retirement fund from 2012." - Daily Mail

Councils slow on care budgets says Audit Commission - BBC

UK's wind farm plans in disarray - The Independent


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