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Newslinks for Friday 22nd February 2013

Moody;s9.45pm: MOODY'S DOWNGRADES THE UK'S CREDIT RATING

6.30pm LISTEN: The Lib Dem MP who thinks that freezing fuel duty would be "absolutely bonkers"

4.45pm Peter Hoskin writes this week's Culture Column: Next time David Cameron goes to India, he should take some artists with him

4.30pm Local Government: Labour MP Clive Betts criticises Mansion Tax

2.45pm Alex Morton on Comment: Turning housing round

1.15pm Local Government: Lancashire cuts Council Tax by 2%

1pm Some fun for a Friday afternoon: The Cameron cameo in One Direction's Comic Relief video

DutyToryDiary: It's almost Budget time – and, once again, George Osborne faces a fuel dilemma

Also on ToryDiary: Islamist terror and extremism: "They haven't gone away, you know"

Robert Buckland MP on Comment: Andrew Tyrie’s concerns about the Justice and Security Bill are understandable but wrong

On Local Government:

The Deep End's heresy of the week: Actually, the internet isn’t going to transform our democracy into a decentralised techno-utopia

WATCH: Margaret Hodge MP says that the Government's Work Programme has been "disappointing" so far

Yesterday's borrowing figures leave Osborne sweating...

"Official figures showed the government borrowed £97.6billion in the first 10 months of the financial year - £5.3billion more than at the same stage of 2011-12. ... The Chancellor could now face the humiliating task of admitting in next month's Budget that the annual deficit will rise again this year instead of fall from £121billion to £119.9billion. ... An increase in borrowing this year - the first under the Coalition - would be a bruising setback for Mr Osborne and could see Britain stripped of its gold-plated credit rating." - Daily Mail

...as the Chancellor faces calls to act on fuel duty (again)...

George Osborne"Petrol is set to rise by another 3p a litre as the plunging pound drives up prices for millions of motorists, the AA warns today. ... The AA is urging Chancellor George Osborne to remove a duty rise planned for September from next month’s Budget." - Daily Mail

"Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers’ Association, which represents independent petrol stations, said: 'We are heading to new fuel records by Easter. We have written to the Chancellor strongly asking him to cancel the duty rise due on September 1 and to start cutting duty from April 1. We have had no reply.'" - The Times (£)

  • Treasury needs to spend more on energy security - Guardian

> Today on ToryDiary: It's almost Budget time – and, once again, George Osborne faces a fuel dilemma

> Yesterday on ToryDiary: What would lower earners prefer – lower taxes or cheaper energy?

...and opens an Enterprise Zone in Birmingham

"George Osborne will join Lord Heseltine and Andy Street, the boss of John Lewis and head of Birmingham’s Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), in the city to officially open the zone that has promised to create 40,000 jobs and £2.8bn of extra growth." - Daily Telegraph

Has David Cameron diluted his EU referendum pledge?

Ed Flag"Speaking at a campaign event in Eastleigh ahead of a by-election in the Hampshire constituency on February 28, the prime minister told voters: 'To get an EU referendum you need to vote for a Tory-only government.' ... The statement contradicts his assertion last month when he told reporters after his speech on Europe: 'If I’m prime minister, the referendum will happen.'" - Financial Times (£)

Mr Cameron versus the BBC

"When a reporter for the corporation suggested [Maria Hutchings] was being shielded from electors because she was a liability, a bad-tempered Mr Cameron snapped that the BBC was ‘acting stupidly’ ... He said the issue of Mrs Hutchings’ effectiveness as a candidate had been ‘got up’ by the BBC, adding: ‘You’re not the most important thing in this by-election.’" - Daily Mail

  • BBC"Trust the biased BBC to whip up a controversy about the Tories’ Eastleigh candidate not showing up for a Radio 5 debate. ... What would they have done had the Labour candidate not turned up? ... Apologised on his behalf, no doubt... then made all his arguments for him." - Sun leader
  • Lord Patten under fire as "dysfunctional" BBC faces Savile report - Independent

> Yesterday's selection of Eastleigh posts:

Aid charities versus Mr Cameron

Cameron"Aid money should be spent on ‘schools, not soldiers’, charities said last night – as David Cameron faced a backlash over moves to divert hundreds of millions of pounds to the Armed Forces. ... [But] Mr Cameron’s plan was warmly welcomed by Tory MPs who have raised increasing concern about the policy of cutting back defence spending while pouring billions more into foreign aid." - Daily Mail

  • "The prime minister's remarks on aid and security this week were a typically Cameronian mishmash, one part good sense, one part fudge, and one part appeasement." - Guardian leader
  • "Better a strong military than more foreign aid" - Daily Telegraph leader

And military charities aren't too pleased with the Prime Minister, either

"Before the last election David Cameron promised to enshrine in law a new Armed Forces Covenant that would ensure that 'if we are asking our armed forces to do dangerous jobs in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, we are doing all we can for them in return.' ... But a year into the Covenant, army charities complain that in practice it is little more than political rhetoric." - Independent

Paul Goodman: The Eastleigh by-election is a horrible warning for the Tories

PG"Here lies the by-election’s real significance. Unless Ukip comes a very good third – or, heaven help Mr Cameron, second – the Tory caravan will pick itself up and move on. The Prime Minister’s critics will bide their time until after the local elections. But the state of the Tories in Eastleigh, a seat that was once solidly blue, is a ghastly projection of their condition in parts of the rest of the country." - Paul Goodman, Daily Telegraph

Nick Boles's plan to turn offices into flats is being undermined by councils

"Plans to allow developers to turn office blocks into residential flats without planning permission are being undermined as seven London boroughs and several leading city authorities demand exemptions from the controversial policy." - Financial Times (£)

  • "The planning shake up fails to spark homes boom as the number of new builds is down 11 per cent on last year" - Daily Mail

David Gauke sets about naming and shaming tax cheats

"Tax cheats were named and shamed by the Government for the first time ever yesterday. ... The five individuals and four companies have between them deprived the public purse of nearly £900,000. ... David Gauke, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said the move showed the Government’s determination to crack down on tax cheats." - The Sun

  • "Taxman names and shames small firms... while the corporate giants are STILL going unpunished" - Daily Mail

"Electing new police and crime commissioners for the first time on a cold November night was 'not in the interests of voters', a critical report has found" - Daily Telegraph

Liz Truss attacks Labour's record on education, as new report suggests we're lagging behind other countries

Liz Truss"Bright pupils in England are two years behind their peers in the Far East when they reach 16, according to a damning report ... Education minister Liz Truss said the report was a 'damning indictment' of Labour’s time in power. She said: 'It shows our top pupils lose ground as they get older, not just with peers in the Far East, but with those in every country studied.'" - The Sun

  • "State school pupils are winning places at the country’s elite universities with lower A-level grades than their privately educated counterparts, say researchers" - Daily Mail

MPs criticise the Government's Work Programme

"In a damning assessment, the powerful Commons public accounts committee said the £5billion Work Programme had made an ‘extremely poor’ start since its launch in the summer of 2011 ... during its first 14 months only 3.6 per cent of claimants on the scheme moved off benefits into lasting jobs." - Daily Mail

  • "While there’s work, we’ll put up with low growth" - David Lipsey, The Times (£)

> Yesterday on ToryDiary: Under this Government, we have what Gordon Brown called for during his – British jobs for British workers"

> Today's video to WATCH: Margaret Hodge MP says that the Government's Work Programme has been "disappointing" so far

And there's criticism, too, for the Government's Prevent strategy to combat terrorism

Mugshots"The Government’s programme for tackling Islamist terror was called into question last night after three known jihadis were convicted of plotting an attack to rival 7/7. ... Activities of Irfan Naseer and his co-conspirators were widely known in the Sparkhill area of Birmingham but no one contacted police or other agencies." - The Times (£)

  • "Budget cuts must never hamper those combating terrorists on our soil. Nor must their resources be diverted." - Sun leader

> Today on ToryDiary: Islamist terror and extremism: "They haven't gone away, you know"

Lord Davies calls for bigger childcare tax breaks to help mothers get on to company boards - Daily Telegraph

TwitterLord McAlpine is dropping his defamation case against those Twitter users with less than 500 followers – but, of course, that doesn't include Sally Bercow - Daily Mail

The Lib Dems face accusations that they "covered up" sexual harrassment claims

"Women activists claimed that Lord Rennard, the party’s ex-chief executive and election mastermind, propositioned them and touched them inappropriately. ... Senior figures in the party had been warned about the complaints but the women involved said they did not act. Lord Rennard has denied he behaved inappropriately towards the women." - Daily Mail

Labour's new idea for linking benefits to work

"People who lose their jobs after many years of work would receive higher benefits than those who have not held down a career, under proposals being drawn up by Labour. ... Jon Cruddas, the MP who is drawing up the party’s policy review, has put forward the idea as part of an attempt to revive the 'contributory principle' set out in the Beveridge Report of 1942." - Financial Times (£)

Galloway's Oxford University Walkout

GAlloway"Ranting left-wing MP George Galloway was accused of racism after walking out of a debate because his opponent was Israeli" - The Sun

  • "...to dignify his display by deploying arguments against it is to flatter the MP. The truth is that Mr Galloway’s abrupt departure was the childish act of an attention-seeker. He has become a circus sideshow: roll up, roll up to be entertained by his next piece of eccentric unreason." - Times leader (£)

> Yesterday on LeftWatch: Conservative MP refuses to share platform with Palestinian & storms out of debate

"Politics needs to grow up and stop putting the youngest first" - Mary Dejevsky, Independent

With impeccable timing, a two-year study identifies problems with the jury system

Wig"Two thirds of jurors do not understand a judge’s legal direction, research has revealed. ... The two-year analysis of trial by jury also found that jurors frequently used the internet to research trials, despite warnings not to do so because of the risk of miscarriages of justice." - Daily Mail

  • "Have juries had their day in court?" - Harry Mount, Daily Telegraph
  • "Juries? It's time they went the way of the ducking stool" - Simon Jenkins, Guardian

Barristers warn that the Leveson proposals could contravene European laws - Daily Mail

The NHS has spent £15 million in three years on gagging whistleblowers, claims the Mail - Daily Mail

  • "Culture of secrecy is killing trust in NHS" - Daily Mail leader
  • "...all that honey-laced talk of accountability in the NHS — a body that belongs to us, the people — turns out to be total tosh. Carry on as you are, folks, the boss is doing a fine job." - Ian Birrell, Daily Mail
  • "After the Mid Staffs disaster, the NHS needs to open itself up to the cutting-edge practices in place elsewhere" - Lord Darzi, Daily Telegraph

Surprise, surprise: Doctors attack plans to work at weekends - The Times (£)

A "blip" for bankers

"The financial crisis has been 'little more than a blip' for London bankers who were being paid more three years after it hit than before and were more likely to be employed than other workers, a report has found." - Financial Times (£)

And finally 1)... Call time during Question Time for Lord Heseltine

 Lord Heseltine"The former Conservative cabinet minister and deputy Prime Minister, was left speechless after his wife Lady Heseltine rang during the corporation's flagship live political debate show." - Daily Telegraph

And finally 2)... Clegg's on the way out

"Deputy PM Nick Clegg is one of a dying breed, experts said yesterday. ... His classic surname is among those in danger of disappearing — along with others including William, Cohen, Kershaw, Sutcliffe, Butterworth and Greenwood." - The Sun

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