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Newslinks for Tuesday 3rd September 2013

Screen shot 2013-09-03 at 22.10.0410pm ToryDiary: What Britain can do to help Syrians

6.15pm We end the afternoon with two opposing points of view on the Lobbying Bill:

5.45pm ThinkTankCentral: IEA, TFA, CPS, TPA, PEN, BBW and the ASI write to the Government about the Lobbying Bill's "fundamental failings"

5pm Jonathan Lindsell on ThinkTankCentral: Here are some ideas for renegotiating our relationship with Europe, Mr Cameron

4pm ToryDiary: Over two-thirds of Tory members now believe Cameron will be Prime Minister after 2015

GG2pm On Comment, Gillian Guy says that the cost of living is the nation's most pressing issue"The danger of familiarity is that it breeds complacency. The squeeze on living standards becomes more, not less, urgent in the face of strong jobs figures and raised growth predictions. Good macro-economic news must not be permitted to mask problems in the real economy."

11.30am On ToryDiary, we report that Boris, Gove and May are all up in our next Tory leader poll"The explanation of Gove's rise must be that he is seen by respondents as one of the Government's most effective Ministers. ... May is gaining admirers as a strong Secretary of State who delivers. Boris will be watching her progress closely."

10.45am ToryDiary: This talk about the minimum wage reflects the Tories’ growing optimism about the recovery

ToryDiary: Today, we are taking our concerns about the Lobbying Bill to Parliament

Also on ToryDiary, Tim Montgomerie argues that UKIP is part of a global splintering of the Right and is probably here to stayUK Aid 2On Comment, Philip Davies MP provides the second piece in our new series debating the case for and against UK Aid: Overseas aid is a failed policy – we should put our own people first

Garvan Walshe's latest Foreign Policy column: Miliband's moral bankruptcy

Columnist Marina Kim: If you can't afford to have kids, don't have kids

John Bald on Local Government: Raising standards for school leavers in English and maths is crucial

The Deep End: How quantitative easing in the West screws up the rest of the world

Hammond leaves the door (only very slightly) ajar for another Syria vote, as MPs push for just that

PH"Senior Tory and Labour MPs last night called for a second Commons vote on military action in Syria despite polls showing most voters oppose British strikes. ... Defence Secretary Philip Hammond became the first senior Government figure to admit that MPs could be asked to return to the issue" - Daily Mail

  • "As Congress deliberates, Parliament should reconsider" - Times editorial (£)
  • "After the Syria vote last week the UK is now distanced from the US and increasingly detached from Europe" - Rachel Sylvester, The Times (£)
  • "Britain’s wish to intervene will survive a lost vote" - Janan Ganesh, Financial Times
  • "For Syria's sake, end Iran's isolation" - Shirley Williams, The Guardian
  • "So who still thinks Israel is the root of Middle East problems?" - Dominic Lawson, Independent

> Yesterday:

But Miliband has, apparently, toughened his criteria for accepting air strikes

Syria"Ed Miliband has hardened his position over Syria by saying that Labour would only support military action against the Assad regime if Britain's national security was threatened or al-Qaida and its affiliates gained possession of large stockpiles of chemical weapons." - The Guardian

  • "British military chiefs are being ejected from US meetings about Syria in the first direct consequence of David Cameron’s refusal to join military action." - The Times (£)
  • "Vladimir Putin is to be confronted at the G20 summit of world leaders in St Petersburg this week with an array of western intelligence including damning new French evidence directly linking Syrian government forces with a massive and co-ordinated chemical attack on 21 August that led to hundreds of civilian deaths." - The Guardian
  • "Syrian strongman Bashar Assad has challenged the U.S. and France to prove that he used chemical weapons against his own people." - Daily Mail
  • Two-thirds of British people oppose strikes on Syria, suggests poll - Independent

> Today, by columnist Garvan Walshe: Miliband's moral bankruptcy

Tories considering ways to raise the minimum wage, reports Newsnight's Allegra Stratton

"Measures being considered include offering tax breaks to companies paying a wage level higher than the current national minimum of £6.19 an hour. ... And a possible demand for companies above a certain size or profit level to pay employees more than the minimum. ... However, sources say this is meeting some resistance inside government amid fears it may alienate business leaders." - from Allegra Stratton's BBC blog

Andy Coulson says that the "vulnerable" Tories need to tackle UKIP (and Tim Montgomerie responds)

UKIP"David Cameron is failing to address the Conservatives’ 'vulnerability' to Nigel Farage and the UK Independence Party and has not yet done enough to reassure the public on Europe, Andy Coulson says this week. ... The Prime Minister’s former director of communications makes the comments in the latest issue of GQ, which goes on sale this week." - The Times (£)

  • "UKIP, like the Tea Party in America and other anti-globalisation movements, will be hard to eliminate. Four-party politics is probably here to stay. The Coulson recipe may be the best short-term management tactic available to Mr Cameron but the genie is out of the bottle. What UKIP represents is unlikely to go away." - Tim Montgomerie, The Times (£)

Downing St rejects claims that the Lobbying Bill will harm charities

"Downing Street has rejected warnings by charities that its new lobbying legislation would restrict voluntary organisations from campaigning on matters of public interest. ... Ministers met representatives of National Council for Voluntary Organisations .. But they refused requests to make changes to the legislation which charities fear will have a 'chilling effect' on their ability to campaign." - Independent

  • "The Lobbying Bill is shameless, shameful and shaming" - Guardian editorial
  • "This Bill rewards rich lobbyists and penalises charities" - Stephen Bubb, The Times (£)

> Today on ToryDiary: Today, we are taking our concerns about the Lobbying Bill to Parliament

Manufacturing up, retail sales up, mortgage lending up... lending to small busineses down

Upturn"Retail sales in August were up by 3.6 per cent on the same month last year, driven by purchases of furniture and flooring linked to the housing market recovery. ... Separately, manufacturers reported the biggest rise in new orders and output since 1994, prompting claims that ‘UK factories are booming again’." - Daily Mail

"Net lending to businesses dropped by £2.3billion in the year following the launch of the controversial Funding for Lending scheme, says the Bank of England. ... But at the same time the measure has fuelled a boom in mortgage lending, favouring homebuyers at the expense of entrepreneurs." - Daily Mail

Uh-oh. Universial Credit is "plagued by problems", says the man tasked with overseeing it

"Britain's welfare reforms have been undermined by a series of 'missteps' with officials in denial over emerging problems, says the man overseeing the introduction of Universal Credit. ... The Daily Telegraph understands that the National Audit Office will this week publish a report into Universal Credit which will highlight widespread problems." - Daily Telegraph

HS2"Of course, improvements are needed to other transport connections, and we should do those, too. But if we are to retain even a smidgen of national ambition, let’s get on with HS2" - Daily Telegraph editorial

The Government should have backed my plan for supporting the British High Street, says retail guru – but it didn't

"Big chains will never return to the High Street due to the rise of online shopping, according to the government’s retail czar tasked with turning them around. ... Miss Portas told MPs yesterday she was ‘naïve’ to think the government would act on her proposals and sometimes wished she ‘hadn’t put my name to it.’ She had written to the Prime Minister about the tepid response." - Daily Mail

"Bungling penpushers cost taxpayers £74million by forgetting to add VAT to the cost of refitting two new aircraft carriers" - The Sun (£)

Ministers prepare to axe the traditional census

"Ministers are to risk a major row over immigration by scrapping the ten-yearly National Census after more than 200 years. ... An announcement axing the survey is expected this month, together with moves to find cheaper ways of counting the population. ... But the Government faces accusations of trying to hide the truth about immigration." - Daily Mail

  • "Arguments for scrapping UK census do not add up" - Financial Times editorial

Claire Perry joins the Telegraph in calling for better sex education

CP"Children should be taught about the 'negative impact of online pornography' in the classroom, one of David Cameron’s main advisers has said as leading charities call for an overhaul of sex education. ... Claire Perry, the Conservative MP, said that sex education in secondary schools should be updated to reflect the digital age." - Daily Telegraph

Paternity leave rules for fathers are "Edwardian", says Nick Clegg

"The Deputy Prime Minister said that fathers should be able to do more of the 'heavy lifting' if mothers want to return to work after having a baby.... He said that current parental leave rules were 'crazy' and that mothers and fathers should be able to 'chop and change' - allowing men to use some of their wife’s maternity leave allowance." - Daily Telegraph

Margaret Hodge leads the calls for an investigation into Vodafone's taxes

"The British mobile phone giant is selling its US business for £85 billion. ... But there was fury when it emerged the UK taxman won’t get a penny. ... Labour’s Margaret Hodge said Vodafone had 'a duty not to aggressively avoid tax' and called for a probe." - The Sun (£)

What's this?! An SNP-commissioned poll suggests strong support for Scottish independence...

Flag"The Scottish National party has declared it 'game on' for next year’s referendum on independence from the UK after a poll it commissioned found support for a ‘Yes’ vote outnumbering that for ‘No’ by 1 percentage point. ... The result of the Panelbase poll, which found 44 per cent favouring independence to 43 per cent against..." - Financial Times

  • "Gordon Brown has rejected the SNP’s claim independence is the 'only positive choice' for Scotland by arguing that being part of the UK shows far more ambition." - Daily Telegraph

Poor white children are falling further behind at school, says the Centre for Social Justice

CSJ"It said the performance of white British boys from the poorest families – already the lowest achievers – has slipped further over the past five years. ... They are now half as likely as boys from impoverished Chinese or Indian families to get good qualifications and far less likely to succeed than boys from the worst-off black Caribbean or African families." - Daily Mail

"Thousands of pupils are being squeezed into extra classes at primary schools struggling under a huge influx of children." - Daily Mail

93 more free schools to open their doors to pupils this week - The Guardian

  • "Grammar school was a way out for David Frost, but for white working-class boys today the door is closed" - Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • "The number of hospital mistakes deemed so serious they should never have happened has almost doubled in a single year" - Daily Mail
  • Millions of letters and parcels could be delayed in pre-Christmas Royal Mail strike - Daily Telegraph
  • Law to be toughened up to stop companies benefiting from fraud - The Guardian
  • Bus test case looms as Tyne & Wear seeks to wrestle back routes - The Guardian
  • Thousands of cycling protesters descend on Parliament Square - The Guardian
  • Sri Lanka snubs UN as it bids for more trade links with the UK - Independent
  • Nigel Kennedy faces police inquiry over "voting fiddle" - The Times (£)

And finally 1)... "Sorry, wrong Rory!"

Text"Comedian Rory Bremner was flattered to receive a text last week from Tory MP Zac Goldsmith confessing he had no idea what to do about the Syria vote and appealing for advice. Before Bremner could compose a reply, he received another message: ‘Sorry, wrong Rory!’ Goldsmith had intended to text his Eton contemporary Rory Stewart..." - the Daily Mail's Ephraim Hardcastle column

And finally 2)... Diane Abbott's speaking fees ain't got nothing on Blair's

"Tony Blair faced angry street protests in Thailand yesterday after jetting in to advise the country on peace and reconciliation. ... The former prime minister was heckled after local news reports claimed he was being paid more than £400,000 to speak at a one-day conference in Bangkok." - Daily Mail

> Yesterday on LeftWatch: Blair is finished in Britain. He should move to America.

And finally 3)... Please hold

Switchboard-operator"Stressed Britons spent a total of 76 centuries on hold to Government phone lines last year, it was claimed yesterday. ... MP Fiona Mactaggart came up with the startling statistic at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee in which mandarins were questioned over the use of premium rate phone lines by Government offices." - Daily Mail

And finally 4)... Boris, sans shirt?

"London Mayor Boris Johnson is to pose for a £20,000 bronze statue — with a sculptor desperate for him to go topless. ... Frances Segelman, 64 — whose previous subjects include the Queen and Prince Philip — said of Boris: 'He doesn’t know it yet, but I’ll be asking him to remove his shirt.'" - The Sun (£)

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