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31 Jan 2011 09:01:11

Newslinks for Monday 31st January 2011

6pm ToryDiary: Publicly-owned forests good, privately-owned forests bad?

5pm Robin Simcox on Comment: "We have to encourage democracy, and should no longer be in the business of propping up dictators for short-term gains which only foster longer-term resentment in these countries. However, if full and fair elections were held throughout the Middle East tomorrow, not too many of these newly elected democracies would be pro-Washington."

3.15pm Charlie Elphicke MP on Comment: A new fund to deliver growth from smaller businesses

2pm WATCH: David Cameron insists the NHS is not being privatised

1.15pm ToryDiary: Tory members back stronger trade union laws and (narrowly) a more flexible immigration cap

12.45pm Local government: Tory councillor opposing free schools is married to union leader

12.30pm WATCH: Paul Goodman tells the BBC how John Bercow aimed for the Speakership after his ambitions to lead the Tory Party ended

GeorgiaNoon Comment: Daniel Hamilton interviews Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili: "To his supporters, he’s “Misha”, a modern-day King David IV who has battled his country’s enemies - internal and external - while at the same time putting Georgia on the path to real democracy, economic prosperity and international respect. To his enemies, he’s a hot-headed autocrat whose provocative choice of language and pig-headed obstinacy has imperilled not only Georgian democracy but the country’s very survival as an independent nation state..."

10am LISTEN: Caroline Spelman defends her plans for forestry privatisation on Radio 4


ToryDiary: Show us you are a tax cutter George, please

Lord Mackay of Clashfern on Comment: Christians should not be forced to act against their beliefs by equality laws

Steve Baker MP on Comment: Radio 4 Analysis tonight - Radical Economics: Yo Hayek!

Seats and candidates: MPs have thus far had more chance of being promoted if they were an "A-Lister"

Cllr Martin Curtis on Local government: Why we kept free Home to School Transport for Young Offenders

UK and US call for an "orderly transition" in Egypt - BBC

850,000 more people will be dragged into the 40% income tax bracket

Screen shot 2011-01-31 at 08.00.59 "Analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies today reveals that changes in April will drag 750,000 people into the 40% tax bracket. Meanwhile, little-publicised tax credit cuts will push the marginal rates of 175,000 working parents up above 70%. In theory, effective tax rates in Middle Britain could reach 83%, the rate that Labour levied on Britain's top earners before 1979." - Guardian

"As well as battling against rising prices, with inflation forecast to spiral to 5 per cent this year, the average family will see its income shrink by an average £200 a year because of the tax changes in April, the IFS said. This comes on top of the extra £480 a year that households that are paying because of the higher rates of VAT and fuel duty introduced this month." - Times (£)

"The richest tenth of the population will on average lose 3 per cent of their net income from tax and benefit changes in April compared with an average of 1 per cent for the population as a whole, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies." - FT (£)

We are all about to feel poorer - Mary Ann Sieghart in The Independent

David Cameron busts five myths about the Coalition's NHS reforms

Cameron David This Morning "The second myth is that we plan a revolution at the heart of the NHS. This is not revolution. It’s evolution. GP-led commissioning, patient choice, payment by results and Foundation Trusts have all existed in one form or another over the past 15 years. And the NHS has always worked with a range of social enterprises, charities and private companies. The difference is that we plan to make these changes effective right across our NHS. Under the previous Government, it was all far too piecemeal and far too half-hearted.We understand that all parts of the NHS are connected, and they all need to be developed together in a clear and consistent way." - David Cameron in The Times (£) | Or see BBC summary

> Recently on ToryDiary: The myths and the facts about the NHS reforms

How 600 die of thirst in care homes: Damning report exposes the rising number of elderly killed by neglect - Daily Mail

The Government will this evening take the unprecedented step of curtailing a House of Lords debate if Labour refuses to compromise over major constitutional changes - Telegraph

MAY-THERESA Theresa May unfolds new 'toolkit' to tackle antisocial behaviour and drops ASBO term - Guardian

Tens of thousands of migrants are to lose the right to live in the UK permanently under an overhaul of the settlement system - Telegraph | The Sun Says

Treasury seeks to stop Chris Huhne turning green investment bank into fully fledged bank - FT (£)

A fair fuel stabiliser would be straightforward and should be implemented - Andrew Lilico in The Telegraph

  • The FFS is one of a number of growth measures backed by John Redwood on his personal blog this morning.
  • For growth, it's often best that the state does nothing - Julian Glover in The Guardian

Teacher training places are to be reduced significantly and generous grants to tempt students into the classroom will be cut as the Coalition steps up its austerity drive - Telegraph

"The entrenched attitudes and fashionable Left-wing orthodoxies of the educational establishment have gone unchallenged for 40 years or more. Despite the constant upheaval in the state sector in recent years, power has remained in the hands of those who oppose selection, competition, excellence and discipline... The Coalition wants more teachers to learn their skills on the job in schools rather than in training colleges where they are fed the discredited nostrums that have held back so many schools." - Telegraph leader

More than 100 MPs have joined forces to call for financial education to become compulsory in schools

Screen shot 2011-01-31 at 08.16.10 "Justin Tomlinson, chairman of the group, said: "Young people are entering an increasingly complex financial world of store cards, mobile phone tariffs, credit agreements and financial marketing. Through my MP casework, I have seen first-hand the implications for those who have made poor decisions, too often through a lack of understanding. I am passionate that financial education is the best way to equip all young people with the relevant skills to make informed decisions and empower them as consumers." - Express

Even the Aussies want to bend the knee to the Queen - Boris Johnson in The Telegraph

The Independent focuses on Labour's links to Murdoch

"Labour has not been exactly lily-white in its own relations with Mr Murdoch. As Opposition leader, Tony Blair flew half-way around the world to court the media tycoon; in power, New Labour was as susceptible to the dubious charms of the Murdoch media as the Conservatives appear now." - Independent leader

Ed Balls says Bank Governor Mervyn King doesn't mean what he says publicly - Video

"Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, has been "leant on" to support the Government's policy of rapid spending cuts against his own better judgement, the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls suggested yesterday." - Independent

Piers Morgan asks Ed Miliband "How many women have you slept with?" and "When did you lose your virginity?" - The Independent's Andy McSmith examines the Labour leader's responses.

"Ed Miliband has said he will not get married for political expediency, joking he had a choice about taking paternity leave because he has yet to tie the knot with his partner Justine Thornton." - Express

The flood of hate that greeted my article on gay intolerance - Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail

"Infection rates for sexually transmitted diseases were significantly higher in areas where schoolgirls, including under-16s, were given free access to [morning-after] pills." - Daily Mail leader

Portillo, Parris and Widdecombe are among the ex-MPs to follow TV careers - Mark Lawson in The Guardian

And finally... Paul Staines is interviewed in The Guardian

Screen shot 2011-01-31 at 08.17.04

"Since Guido's Order-Order blog went live in 2004, it has exposed MPs' petty expenses fraud, forced Peter Hain to resign from his cabinet post over undeclared campaign donations and, most spectacularly, brought down Damian McBride, Gordon Brown's political enforcer, in the Smeargate affair. But Staines's tentacles reach much further. He is that rarest of beasts – an independent publisher making money out of the internet..." - The Guardian's Adam Sherwin talks to Guido Fawkes

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30 Jan 2011 08:52:55

Newslinks for Sunday 30th January 2011

6.30pm WATCH: Ed Balls: Bank Governor Mervyn King doesn't mean what he says publicly

1.45pm WATCH: "I think it’s bad for the country, frankly, to have a former president criticize his successor": George W Bush says he is done with politics and will not be campaigning for GOP candidates in 2012

12.15pm ToryDiary: An overview of recent opinion polls shows Labour still trailing on economy and 'best PM' ratings

Warsi-BW11am LISTEN: Radio 4 profiles Baroness Sayeeda Warsi

ToryDiary: Ministers mustn't be talked into backing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (or anywhere else)

Robert Kaye on Platform calls for more drug addicted offenders, the mentally unwell and foreigners to be removed from Britain's prisons

Local government:

WATCH: Osborne warns of immediate "financial turmoil" if he reverses spending cuts plan | BBC

George Osborne may accelerate tax cuts for the poor

Screen shot 2011-01-30 at 08.37.36 "The income tax threshold is already set to increase by £1,000 to £7,457 from April 1. However, Osborne is expected to raise it by about a further £500. Details of the additional concession are still being worked on, but it marks a victory for the Liberal Democrats, who have been arguing within government for tax cuts for the poor." - The Sunday Times (£)

In a leader The Sunday Times (£) calls for tax cuts: "Sir Richard Lambert, head of the CBI, and Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, say there should be a prospect of lower taxes. High taxes destroy incentives and stultify growth. Britain became a high tax economy under Labour and is becoming a higher tax economy under the coalition. The long-term growth strategy should include lower taxes. Never mind Plan B; that should be Plan A."

The Institute of Directors (IoD), Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) call on Osborne to deregulate and cut tax for business. The News of the World (£) also reports Charlie Elphicke MP's backing for a Dragon's Den-style enterprise fund that small businesses could access.

Ed Balls: George Osborne is doing everything Thatcher did

Osborne as Thatcher In the Independent on Sunday Ed Balls paints George Osborne as an unreconstructed Thatcherite: "There is no doubt that George Osborne is a highly-skilled political strategist – unmatched in today's Tory party. And the political strategy he is implementing is straight out of the Margaret Thatcher 1980s manual: impose as much pain as you can straight after the election, raise taxes, cut spending, slash benefits, make people feel lucky to have a job, build up your war-chest, and then cut taxes just before the election, win a majority, and start all over again. He is following Mrs Thatcher's strategy to the letter – right down to the immediate hike in VAT, even if it breaks a pre-election promise."

Andrew Rawnsley in The Observer paints Osborne as a fiscal conservative: When it comes to public finances, tax and spending, there are broadly three types of Conservatives in the world. The followers of Reaganomics who essentially think that the answer to any economic question is a tax cut. Big Government Conservatives who like state spending as much as politicians of the left except that they spend a lot on rightwing causes such as the military and Conservative-inclined voter groups like the elderly. Messrs Cameron and Osborne are neither Reaganauts nor Bushites. They are fiscal conservatives.

Government to launch £400 million drive to revolutionise mental health treatment

"Ministers want the doctors to stop simply prescribing pills to patients with a range of conditions including eating disorders, self harm, addictions, attention disorders and post-natal depression – a practice which has led to claims the NHS is turning Britain into a "Prozac nation". Instead they are targeting a massive take-up of "personalised" services, including one-to-one counselling and group therapy. The coalition believes at least one million people will take up these options over the next few years." - The Sunday Telegraph 

Overnight polls have Tories 11% and 4% behind - From Sunday Express and YouGov for Sunday Times

YouGov: By two-to-one public oppose greater role for profit-making companies in NHS

LANSLEY ANDREW NW "The YouGov survey found that only 27% of people back moves to allow profit-making companies to increase their role the NHS. The health secretary, Andrew Lansley, plans to allow groups of GPs in England to commission £80bn a year of care for their patients after April 2013 from "any willing provider". Overall, 50% of the 1,892 respondents opposed the policy. But hostility was more evident among Lib Dem voters, 56% of whom said they were against, with just 30% in favour. Conservative supporters were also split: while 46% backed the use of private firms, 32% were against." - Observer

In The Sunday Telegraph Janet Daley asks why voters believe that government is inherently good and private is inherently bad.

Ring-fencing Scottish NHS will mean harsh cuts in other services, report warns - Scotland on Sunday

Water meters could be made compulsory in all British homes

Spelman Caroline Green "Caroline Spelman, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is understood to have accepted in principle that charges for water should in future be based on metering, with the aim of cutting water use... Tory MP Anne McIntosh, admitted that a more widespread introduction of metering will mean there are "winners and losers... and some, including groups of vulnerable customers, could see significant rises in bills."" - Independent on Sunday

Plans for one of the Government's flagship "free" schools to be set up within the Department for Education's headquarters in central London were revealed yesterday - Independent on Sunday

> Yesterday's ToryDiary: In praise of the plan for Woodpecker Free School

Oliver Letwin is turning to left as well as right-wing think tanks in search for new ideas - Independent on Sunday

Tory MP renews warning about Tory/LibDem merger

"[Mark Pritchard MP] obeyed an order to ‘stop rocking the boat’ in return for a promise that Mr Cameron and his allies would keep the Tories as a completely independent party. But he claims that Cabinet Ministers have since covertly carried on encouraging Press speculation that some kind of election pact or merger is on the cards... Mr Pritchard said: ‘I was told that this nonsense about joining with the Lib Dems would stop, but it hasn’t. ‘I am not prepared to have unnamed Cabinet Ministers putting about stories of pacts and mergers while party traditionalists like me are gagged." - Mail on Sunday

> Friday's ToryDiary: David Cameron's particular issue with his ultra-modernising wing

David Cameron's revolution will take years – he should say so - Matthew d'Ancona in The Sunday Telegraph

Equality and human rights in Britain are adrift from their natural moorings - Dominic Raab in The Sunday Times (£)

Ed Miliband joins opposition to forest privatisation

MILIBAND ED PRESS CONF "This Conservative-led government argues that we cannot afford to keep the forests public. The Forestry Commission costs each of us 30p a year. What sort of cheapskate nation are we now, that we cannot agree to spend 30p a year for every person in this country to preserve its ancient oaks, ash and beech?" - The Labour leader in The Sunday Times (£)

  • Cyclists and riders may lose access to woodland - The Sunday Telegraph
  • These are our forests – how can they be for sale? - Rachel Johnson, Trudie Styler and Tamsin Omond in The Sunday Telegraph
  • "One of the nation's best-loved broadcasters, Lord Bragg, has given his support to the growing campaign to prevent the government sell-off of 30 forests and woodlands in the Lake District." - Observer

Nick Clegg's red box closes at 3pm most weekdays and noon on Fridays - The Sunday Telegraph

LAWS DAVID Rumours are whirling around Westminster that Cable will soon be replaced by the far more business – and Tory – friendly David Laws - James Forsyth in the Mail on Sunday

Second marriage of Lord Taylor of Warwick, facing jail, ends - The Sunday Telegraph

Yes to AV campaign plans to spend £6.1 million - The Sunday Telegraph

'Flush Gordon' nets £250,000 in last three months

"He may have been the “invisible man” at Westminster since leaving Downing Street, but Gordon Brown’s globetrotting has helped him quietly earn £250,000 in just three months. Despite his low profile in Britain, speeches on the international lecture circuit, an honorary post at a university in New York and a book deal have recently enabled the former prime minister to generate a small fortune." - The Sunday Times (£)

Mandelson coached Barclays' boss Bob Diamond for Commons grilling - The Sunday Times (£)

NUS leader faces barrage of anti-Jewish abuse at rally as protesters accuse him of being a Tory - Mail on Sunday

And finally...

"Tonly Blair's son Nicky has set up in business... as a football agent, the News of the World (£) can reveal. The 25-year-old former teacher is understood to be scouting for talent in the Middle East - where his father is a UN peace envoy."

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29 Jan 2011 09:02:57

Newslinks for Saturday 29th January 2011

9pm WATCH: Tourists witness Egypt protests

5.30pm ToryDiary: In praise of ‪Woodpecker Hall Free School‬

1.30pm WATCH: Charles Clarke: Ed Balls is not the right person to be Shadow Chancellor

11am David T Breaker in Comment: The Left blame class, they should blame themselves

David Cameron perturbed ToryDiary: "A government with 20 priorities has no priorities"

Brook Whelan in Comment: A fully-appointed second chamber is not ideal, but it's the least worst option available in our parliamentary system

Local Government: -

Parliament: Michał Kamiński's resignation letter as ECR group leader in full

LeftWatch: Stammer struggle Balls shifts swiftly in Times interview


Cameron and Hague step up pressure for reform as Mubarak sacks Egyptian Government amidst turmoil

Screen shot 2011-01-29 at 06.14.31 "William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, urged the Egyptian government to heed the "legitimate demands of protesters. Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, said she was "deeply concerned about the use of force" to quell the protests.  In an interview for the American news channel CNN, to be broadcast tomorrow, David Cameron said: “I think what we need is reform in Egypt. I mean, we support reform and progress in the greater strengthening of the democracy and civil rights and the rule of law.” - Daily Telegraph 

Can Mubarak survive?  Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt's view on Newsnight -

“I don’t think anyone knows at this stage. What we didn’t hear was anything about enabling people to have freedom of expression, which was being curtailed today through the removal of the internet and social networking sites – we think that’s wrong, we don’t think that will help. It remains to be seen whether what’s being offered is enough…“I think the tide is turning very strongly. It’s not for us to sit here in London and work out where that tide is going to go.” - Politics Home (£)

"The Egyptian, Jordanian and Moroccan governments, for example, are forces of moderation in the region, urging dialogue with Israel and a peaceful two-state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian dispute. But the Arab people are far more radical, and more hostile to Israel. If they obtain political power, they may create governments in those countries with foreign policies closer to those of Iran or Syria." - Sir Malcolm Rifkind in The Times (£)

Hague Egypt travel advice - Sky News

The Independent returns to the Tory election pact story

"A plan for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to encourage anti-Labour tactical voting at the next general election is being discussed privately by Tory Cabinet ministers.  Although David Cameron and Nick Clegg insist the two Coalition parties will fight the election as separate parties, some Tory ministers want their party to soft pedal in the seats held by the Liberal Democrats." - The Independent

Liam Fox defends decision to scrap Nimrod

"The single MRA4 aircraft that had been delivered to the RAF was so riddled with flaws it could not pass its flight tests, it was simply unsafe to fly. I am not prepared to put our service personnel into any plane that isn’t safe. It would have taken more money and more time to rectify all the problems, if it was possible at all, and the onward cost of sustaining even the reduced fleet over the next ten years was a prohibitive £2bn. So we took the decision not to throw good money after bad. In the final analysis, it had to go." - Liam Fox, Daily Telegraph 

Osborne delays public sector pension reform

"Ministers have delayed the announcement of a crackdown on ‘unsustainable’ gold-plated public sector pension funds amid threats of a general strike from union leaders.  Details of changes to state employees’ retirement funds had been due to be unveiled by Chancellor George Osborne in his March Budget.  But, with increasing signs that pension cuts is the issue that could prompt co-ordinated walkouts across the public sector, talks with unions on how the pain should be spread will now go on until June." - Daily Mail

 Maude threatens to fire Suzi Leather...

Screen shot 2011-01-29 at 08.01.43 " 'Quango queen' Dame Suzi Leather has been warned her reign at the Charity Commission will be cut short unless she ends ‘politically motivated’ attacks on Coalition policy.  The controversial Labour sympathiser has until the end of the year to drop her vendetta against independent schools and end her public opposition to spending cuts.  But senior sources say Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude is set to fire her with a notice period if she does not change her attitude by the end of the year." - Daily Mail

"Opinionated and self-important, drifting from one cushy public job to the next, Suzi Leather represents Labour’s bloated quangocracy at its worst. Now ministers say that unless she keeps her opinions to herself, they’ll ‘terminate’ her reign as the Quango Queen.  What are they waiting for? As a symbol of all that’s rotten about the system, shouldn’t she be the first into the flames of the ‘bonfire of the quangos’?" - Daily Mail Editorial

...And fails to back Boris on tougher union laws

"Boris Johnson, privately backed by several Cabinet ministers, is leading the charge for tougher union laws. But Maude, a key player in the Coalition’s dealings with the public sector, is reluctant. Tightening Thatcher’s labour laws is a “last resort” he says. In the meantime, the Government should have faith in rank-and-file trade union members to embrace the Coalition agenda even as their leaders are roaring their opposition." - Daily Telegraph

Gove in charter schools move

"The Education Secretary has invited prominent figures involved with setting up or authorising the charter schools to address a conference today for groups seeking to start new schools in England.  He drew parallels between the challenges for school reform in England and the US, and said that he “drew inspiration” from its charter schools, which are independent, public-funded schools…He is likely to heighten tensions with teaching unions by modelling academies on charter schools in the US." - The Times (£)

Eight free schools close to final approval - BBC

Nigel Lawson interview: "I do not think all this Hiltonism is as successful at winning hearts and minds as they thought it might be."


  • The Coalition: "I think it would be far better not to have one."
  • The Conservative election campaign (1): "Inept".
  • The Conservative election campaign (2): "Silly."
  • The Conservative election campaign (3): "They should have got an overall majority and they didn't because they made a number of mistakes. One was agreeing to the three-way television debates."
  • The Conservative election campaign (4): "They stopped talking about the economy and talked instead about the Big Society, which nobody understood anyway."
  • AV: "Crazy."
  • On Osborne: "He must stick to his guns...I think we'll be all right in the end." - Daily Telegraph

 Cameron and Osborne Davos visit follow-up

"David Cameron last night launched an extraordinary attack on the ‘authoritarian capitalism’ of China and Russia as he warned businesses to invest there at their peril.  Mr Cameron poured scorn on those who see ‘political leaders with the powers of juggernauts’ forcing through decisions elsewhere in the world and believe that the democratic values of the West are ‘outdated, ineffective – even an obstacle to success." - Daily Mail

OSBORNE GEORGE PORTRAIT "In a separate session of the WEF, Mr Osborne said it was time to "move on" from the hostility directed at the banking sector – but only if a deal could be reached with the City on pay and bonus restraint, and on greater support for the economy in the form of more lending.  The Chancellor also promised that…his Budget, due in less than eight weeks' time, would lay some of the foundations required. "The ambition ... will be to turn the tide on the forces of stagnation." - The Independent

"The Prime Minister insisted that it was the responsibility of the Eurozone “club” to aid failing members, adding that the Irish Republic had received support only because it was an “old friend” of the United Kingdom.  Interviewed at the World Economic Forum in Davos… he told CNN’S Fareed Zakaria that there would be no further bailouts beyond liabilities guaranteed as part of the European financial mechanism agreed by the last government." - Daily Telegraph

'Fatwa' on Theresa May in Tooting is investigated

"Wanted-style posters which declared a "fatwa" on the home secretary are being investigated by police in south London.  Several posters have been displayed around Tooting, criticising Theresa May "for the abduction, kidnapping and false imprisonment" of radical clerics.  These include Abu Hamza, the preacher imprisoned in 2006 for inciting murder and racial hatred.  The Metropolitan Police said it was "working to find out who put them up" and hoped the posters would be removed." - BBC

Other Coalition and Political News

  • National Trust ready to 'step in' and save English woodlands - The Guardian
  • Surgeons question NHS reforms - Daily Telegraph
  • Banned hate preacher Zakir Naik to address Oxford Union by satellite - The Guardian

Pickles and Cable clash over localism

Eric Pickles cheerful "Eric Pickles, the larger-than-life communities secretary, has fallen out with other ministers across Whitehall since the summer over issues including rubbish collection, home insulation and regional development agencies.  But a row to eclipse all of these is looming at the top of the government over Mr Pickles’ “localism” agenda…Mr Pickles and Mr Cable have clashed over the creation of local enterprise partnerships…with their departments issuing conflicting advice to councils and companies vying to set up the new bodies." - Financial Times (£)

Express raises Clarke's prisons policy after Judge's verdict

"In attacking sentencing guidelines that effectively prevented him from sending a burglar to prison, Judge Julian Lambert has spoken up for the law-abiding majority.  His verdict on the 80 hours of community work he was advised to hand down to housebreaker Daniel Rogers was brutally frank: “I have never seen anything so wet in all my life. We live in soft times now.” Only political pressure for a tougher approach can reverse this dismal trend and while Kenneth Clarke is ensconced as Justice Secretary there is precious little chance of that." - Daily Express editorial

Other Comment

  • Watch out – Gordon’s gang are back in town - Matthew Parris, The Times (£)
  • Never have our politicians been posher, or more prolier-than-thou - Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

Is Gordon Brown fuelling Labour's phone hacking claims?

Gordon Brown morose 2010 "The former prime minister, who is rarely seen in Westminster, is understood to have been in contact with sympathetic journalists to discuss the phone-hacking allegations.   He was furious when Mr Murdoch’s newspaper The Sun switched allegiance from Labour to the Tories, wrecking his last party conference before the election. Yesterday, in the latest stage of an apparently carefully co-ordinated series of claims, former Cabinet minister Nick Brown claimed his phone had been bugged." - Daily Mail

Cabinet Secretary: Blair kept Cabinet in the dark over Iraq

"Tony Blair was ‘reluctant’ to discuss Iraq with his Cabinet because he did not trust his ministers to keep the details secret, Britain’s top civil servant said yesterday.  The then prime minister was paranoid that private conversations about going to war would be leaked by unhappy colleagues, said Sir Gus O’Donnell.  His remarks contradicted Mr Blair’s claim that he held frequent and robust Cabinet discussion about toppling Saddam Hussein." - Daily Mail

Sir Gus O'Donnell urges GCHQ spies urged to open Facebook - The Times (£)

And finally (1)…Jacqui Smith - "Porn Again"…

"Jacqui Smith is to cash in on her dodgy expenses claims by presenting a documentary about pornography.  The former Home Secretary was caught up in the expenses scandal after she charged taxpayers for the cost of hiring two blue movies watched by her husband.  She is to present a documentary for BBC Radio 5 Live, entitled Porn Again to be to be aired on March 3.  The BBC says the programme will see Miss Smith question her own opinions and experience along the way." - Daily Mail

And finally (2)...Cameron children to choose Downing Street anti-rat cat

Screen shot 2011-01-29 at 06.24.53
"So it is likely to fall to Mr Cameron’s two elder children, Nancy, aged 7, and Elwen, 4, to choose a cat to chase the rats that avoided the traps and excited the hacks outside.  The Times was given a preview yesterday of the likely candidates for the position of No 10 ratter by Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, the Camerons’ cat supplier of choice. Ros Davies, a cat “rehomer” at Battersea, identified five cats that have the combination of hunting instinct and statesmanlike charm to succeed as the nation’s rodent car." - The Times (£)

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28 Jan 2011 09:00:24

Newslinks for Friday 28th January 2011

Screen shot 2011-01-28 at 21.02.27
9pm WATCH: Hague on Egypt: "Repression is not the answer"

5.45pm ToryDiary: Second Buckinghamshire Conservative Association quits the Party's Premier League of donors over High Speed 2

3pm Andrew Lilico on Comment: What to do next on the economy

2.45pm Local Government:

12.30pm Local Government: Council byelection result from yesterday

Noon WATCH: David Cameron speaks at Davos

11am Matthew Sinclair on Comment: Fairness in fiscal policy

In ToryDiary -

Screen shot 2011-01-28 at 08.52.29
In Comment -

David Morris MP: The sexualisation of our children in the name of marketing need to be tackled

Lord Flight: Without Britain’s financial services industry we would all be a great deal poorer

In Local Government -

In Parliament -

LeftWatch: BBC reported to Ofcom over "TV experiment" that sees all local services withdrawn in one street

WATCH:  ‪Tessa Jowell claims that her phone was hacked‬

Boris urges Osborne to tread path to lower tax…

Boris Johnson smiling "In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, the Conservative Mayor of London urges the Chancellor to state “a clear direction of travel” that will include how taxes will be reduced over the course of this parliament.  Mr Johnson admits that he is shocked by the high levels of income tax that workers currently have to pay and says that he never thought he would see the day when other large European countries had lower personal tax rates than Britain. He fears it is harming Britain’s competitiveness." - Daily Telegraph

…and tells him to remove crash helmet before skiing

“I don’t have any problem with him popping off to Klosters to ski in his free time, but lose the crash helmet,” he jokes.  The London Mayor has no truck with the new breed of wimpish skiers who don a hard hat rather than a woolly one when on the piste.  “It is astonishing now many people are wearing those things now. Get a grip.”  Mr Osborne…gave a speech last night in Davos at the annual pow-wow for bankers, politicians and worthy do-gooders. So did Mr Johnson who beat the Chancellor into town by a day."  - Daily Telegraph

Cameron, Osborne and Clegg stick to their guns in Davos

"Confronted by a survey showing the biggest monthly slump in consumer confidence since 1992, David Cameron and George Osborne will prepare the country for a slow, painstaking rebuilding of the economy, insisting there is no alternative but to stay the course.  Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Cameron will respond to the sudden slump in growth by insisting there is no easy way out: "We can't just flick on the switch of government spending, or pump the bubble back up." - The Guardian

"The Chancellor will also ask for time, saying that Britain had become the most acute example of a big economy unbalanced by a housing boom, leveraged banks and a budget deficit. “Recoveries from this kind of debt-fuelled boom and bust tend to be slower and more protracted than those from other kinds of recession,” he will say.  Their caution shows how Tuesday’s figures showing that the economy had shrunk by 0.5 per cent in the past three months of 2010 have shaken the Government." - The Times (£)

"Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, yesterday refused to accept that this week's disappointing economic growth figures were an indication that austerity cuts were damaging Britain's recovery from recession, launching an unapologetic defence of the Coalition Government's policies.  Speaking to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr Clegg dismissed suggestions that the Government had taken a gamble on the recovery by introducing much larger cuts than previously expected." - The Independent

As the Education Bill's published, Gove announces plan to publish list of banned teachers…

"A list of those barred from teaching will be available to the public for the first time under new legislation which also scraps the profession’s watchdog.  The Bill, published yesterday, puts the Secretary of State for Education in charge of judging teachers’ conduct instead of the General Teaching Council (GTC), which will be abolished.  It also gives greater power to heads to dismiss teachers for serious misconduct." - The Times (£)

… threatens to close failing academies…

"Sponsors of government academies will be stripped of their powers to run schools if they fail to raise standards, Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said yesterday.  Mr Gove made it clear he would not hesitate to replace them with alternative sponsors if necessary. He said the Government had already intervened at one academy – St Michael's and All Angels Church of England in Lambeth, south London – "where the rate of progress at that school was inadequate"." - The Independent

…and moves to root out extremists from schools

"Education Secretary Michael Gove unveiled the move amid fears of Muslim jihadists hijacking learning and Christian extremists teaching creationism.  He said the special team would monitor groups setting up new free schools, as well as checking on how existing schools are being run.  The unit will check for hardline political as well as religious views.  Mr Gove said yesterday: "A due diligence unit will monitor applications for new schools and arrangements in existing schools so there's no risk of extremism taking hold." - The Sun

Class Action - Times Editorial (£)

Osborne hints at fuel duty freeze

"George Osborne gave millions of drivers hope yesterday by revealing he may throw out a hated tax hike on petrol.  The Chancellor gave his strongest hint yet he was ready to freeze duty on crippling fuel prices.  It came after he received a 100,000-name Sun petition calling for a fair deal at the pumps – and as diesel hit an average of 133.21p a litre, 0.04p below an all-time high." - The Sun

"Not only does the rapidly rising price of petrol leave a huge hole in straitened family budgets, but it also does real damage to our already fragile economy.  Which is why we welcome...indications from the Coalition that they are taking the issue seriously.   The Chancellor is apparently considering scrapping the 1p increase in fuel duty which is due to come into force in April.  That would be a gesture in the right direction, but with the price of filling a typical family car heading towards £70, not nearly enough." - Daily Mail Editorial

"Yet postponing this planned tax rise will achieve at least four positive things: it will provide a modicum of relief for motorists and hauliers, it will let them know that finally they have a Government that does not wish to punish them for going about their lawful business, it will remove a potential barrier to getting the becalmed economy moving again and it will avoid another self-inflicted rise in the rate of inflation." - Daily Express Editorial

UK baffled by Big Society

Screen shot 2011-01-28 at 08.41.41
"DAVID Cameron still has a mountain to climb to sell the "Big Society" to baffled Brits, an exclusive poll for The Sun reveals. Well over a year after the PM started to promote the cornerstone of his election campaign, 63 per cent of people say they still don't know what it means.  While 46 per cent think it is a good idea in principle, 68 per cent think it will not work." - The Sun

Hammond to move £23bn of rail debt on the public books

"Ministers are prepared to put £23 billion worth of Network Rail debt back on to public books to secure greater leverage over the private company…Such a move could also be seen as an attempt to increase transparency in an organisation that critics say remains shrouded in secrecy.  Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, is preparing to sit down with leading figures from the rail industry to forge a future framework for Network Rail. Aides say that nationalisation is unlikely, but that all options remain on the table." - The Times (£)

Hague joins German Foreign Minister in urging Belarus sanctions

"There is a serious crisis in the European neighborhood. We must act.At the upcoming European Union Foreign Affairs Council we will call for the EU to reinstate a harsh package of sanctions against Belarus and to consider further measures against Alexander Lukashenko's regime. We cannot turn a blind eye to what is happening today in a fellow European country. President Lukashenko has made his choice and we have no choice but to respond accordingly." - William Hague and Guido Westerwelle, Wall Street Journal

Theresa May seeks to put down Dominic Raab

"Mr Raab asked, mildly enough, if making parental leave transferable would help eliminate anti-male discrimination in the workplace. The home secretary was enthusiastic.  "We should try to get away from gender warfare and the politics of difference," she said, "but I suggest to my hon friend that labelling feminists as 'obnoxious bigots' is not the way forward."  At this the Labour frontbench, all but one of them women, gave a mighty cheer." - Simon Hoggart, The Guardian

The advance of women is still work in progress - Philip Collins, The Times (£)

The return of Dominic Cummings

Screen shot 2011-01-28 at 05.30.56 "David Cameron offered Gove the position of education secretary on the condition that he sacked Cummings. Gove did not take it well.  The reason for the veto? Coulson suspected him of leaks….Little wonder then that as Coulson leaves No 10, Cummings is finally taking up a berth at the education department. After months of staying in the shadows, today he could be seen at Gove’s right hand as he briefed journalists on the education bill. He’ll soon take a salary as a special adviser." - Financial Times (£)

A significant victory for Michael Gove - Iain Martin, Wall Street Journal

Coalition and Political News in Brief

If you're Vince Cable, speaking to journalists, and in doubt…

CABLE Vincent "The business secretary, addressing a press gallery lunch for the first time since ill-advised comments to undercover journalists saw him stripped of his role in media regulation, was undiminished despite his public dressing-down from David Cameron, the prime minister. “The lesson is you stick to things. You don’t give up,” he said on Thursday, promising to push through a five-year programme for growth." - Financial Times (£)

…Stick to bashing bankers

"At a Westminster lunch, the Business Secretary admitted he had ‘dark thoughts’ about bankers and said during one meeting a story popped into his head.  ‘There are two dead bodies on a motorway. One cat and one banker,’ he said.  There was very little difference between the corpses, he added, except for ‘skid marks around the cat’ – a suggestion that a driver would have tried to avoid the cat but not the banker." - Daily Mail

Oborne blames Maude for Forestry Commission sell-off…

"Even Maude’s allies acknowledge that his Public Bodies Bill is a shambles. The Conservative-dominated Commons public administration committee has been scathing, warning that the process has been rushed, poorly handled and badly planned. One only needs to consider that Maude has left untouched the nightmarish Suzi Leather, head of the Charity Commission, while including plans to sell off Britain’s forests in his Public Bodies Bill, to get the full, troubling sense of his priorities and, indeed, basic competence." - Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph

...Which John Redwood defends

"I look out at home at trees in my neighbours’ gardens. I suspect my neighbours like trees as well. I have never had any trouble with a neighbour wanting to cut them down. I now discover that these trees, shock horror, are private sector trees. Private sector trees, according to all so many active campaigners, are not the same as public sector trees. They are either not so attractive, or they will be cut down as soon as possible to be replaced by an office block." - John Redwood's blog

Yesterday in ToryDiary: Caroline Spelman promises to protect public access rights when the state relinquishes control of England's forests

Other Comment

  • How Rupert Murdoch lost control of his own story - Stephen Glover, The Independent
  • This will be Ireland's chance to move on from 1921 - Martin Kettle, The Guardian

Lord Levy tells Labour to cut funding "umbilical cord" to the unions

"The controversial peer said union members should be able to tell their bosses to give money to the Tories and Lib Dems as well as Labour.  He also backed a cap on large donations from individuals, and said there should be more public funding for political parties…today he said Labour, which has been heavily dependent on Unite and other unions under Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband, must prevent union leaders handing over unlimited donations." - Daily Mail

Harman wants to target the south

"It is the first test of this government. There are large areas where people have voted Lib Dem as the progressive choice but perhaps now they are unlikely to want to vote with a party that has broken so many of their promises," she said.  "One of our key aims is to ensure we are fielding candidates across the country – even in those areas where we may not have previously done very well – to ensure people have the option of voting Labour." - The Guardian

Screen shot 2011-01-28 at 05.53.14 And finally…The Daily Mail gives the Home Secretary the benefit of its fashion advice

"When Home Secretary Theresa May addressed the Commons in a multi-coloured blazer on Wednesday, it wasn’t the first time her clothes had attracted more attention than her politics.  The jacket, with its red, brown and green jigsaw-effect pattern, was too busy for the 54-year-old.  So what should Theresa wear and what can her ­fashion mistakes teach other women of a certain age?  With just a few tweaks, her almost-on trend ensembles could be flattering and attention-grabbing for all the right reasons. Here’s how…" Daily Mail

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