Midnight Lord Ashcroft on Comment: Conservatives 3% ahead of Lib Dems in first Eastleigh by-election poll
7pm Jeremy Hunt MP on Comment: A narrow focus on finance and targets was a large driver of the Mid Staffs tragedy
4pm Jill Kirby on Comment: Michael Gove is right to change course
12.45pm Local government: Cutting the spare room rent subsidy is fair
Noon Chris Skidmore MP on Comment: Richard III's remains should lie in state at York
10.30am Lord Ashcroft on Comment: My memorable night at the inaugural Paddy Power and Total Politics book awards
ToryDiary: Why Cameron must win Eastleigh
Henry Hill's Red, White and Blue Column: The fate of the UUP is a warning to Scotland's Conservatives
Lord Risby on Comment: How Cameron's use of trade envoys is boosting business for Britain abroad
The Deep End: Would a shale gas bonanza be bad news for Britain?
As the LibDems go for a quick win in Eastleigh, Clegg helps to block Gove's English Baccalaureate plan (useful timing for the junior Coalition partner)...
"Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, will announce a major climbdown over his controversial plans to scrap GCSEs in favour of a new English Baccalaureate. In a surprise statement in the Commons, Mr Gove will reveal that he is abandoning plans to introduce the new qualification in 2015. GCSEs will remain, although they will be reformed in an attempt to restore confidence in them as an internationally respected qualification." - The Independent
...(Gove will announce changes to GCSEs today)...
a statement to MPs today, he will say he is now pressing ahead with
more modest plans to reform the existing GCSE system. He has already
watered down an idea for a two-tier exam system based on the old
0-Levels and CSEs. But he will insist he can still make changes to GCSEs
and ensure they match up to the best exams in the world. He wants to
slash coursework and focus on more rigorous end-of-year exams. A report
by the cross-party Commons education committee last week criticised him
for trying to do “too much, too quickly”." - The Sun
(Elsewhere, the Twitter war between Toby Helm of the Observer and Tory Education News goes on - see here and here.)
...And the Deputy Prime Minister excludes top earners from childcare vouchers...
"Britain’s highest earners will be excluded from a new government scheme to help families pay for childcare after the Liberal Democrats insisted that top rate taxpayers should not receive any handouts. Any parent who earns more than £150,000 will not be eligible for childcare vouchers, according to government officials, as the Treasury finalises a financial package of up to £1.5bn to help parents pay for the soaring cost of childcare. Families with young children could receive a tax break worth up to £2,000 per household." - Financial Times (£)
...As he winds up to fight his partners over the mansion tax. Shapps fights back.
"It emerged Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg plans to accuse Tories in a speech today of protecting the rich by blocking his mansion tax proposal. But Tory party chair Grant Shapps has hit back, slamming shamed former Lib Dem MP Huhne for lying to constituents, adding: “They’ll welcome the opportunity to express the way they feel about it very soon.” The clash came as the Eastleigh, Hants, by-election was pencilled in for February 28 last night. Mr Clegg will launch the Lib Dems’ campaign today and their candidate will be selected Saturday." - The Sun
> Today: ToryDiary - Why Cameron must win Eastleigh
Same-sex marriage vote fall-out: Cameron comes out fighting...
"After staying on the sidelines before Tuesday night’s vote, the Prime Minister used the first opportunity to give the Bill his unvarnished backing. The great thing about the vote is that two gay people who love each other will now be able to get married, and I think that is an important advance,” he said. But he ruled out allowing straight couples to enter civil partnerships, saying that such a move would weaken marriage. “I am a marriage man. I am a great supporter of marriage. I want to promote marriage, defend marriage, encourage marriage.” - The Times (£)
(...A day late...)
"Yesterday Tim Montgomerie, editor of the unofficial party supporters’ website, ConservativeHome, criticised David Cameron for failing to take part in Tuesday’s Commons debate – instead doing a short clip for the evening news. He said: ‘He took a principled stand on equal marriage but didn’t then fight for it. He didn’t even turn up for the debate." - Daily Mail
Burrowes "fights on to win"
"David Burrowes, a leading Tory opponent of the Bill, who will now sit on the committee that will examine it, said he would be “constructive” as he sought amendments but added: “I am in it to win it.” He believed three-quarters of the 40 Tory MPs who abstained on Tuesday had major concerns about the measure, and even some of those who supported it did so with “a heavy heart”. Mr Burrowes said: “We succeeded in one objective – sending a message very clearly and loudly to the Lords.” - The Independent
Peter Oborne: The Prime Minister's plan is to fight the next election like a President - not as the leader of his party
"It is time to remind the Prime Minister that the Conservative Party, which he has the temporary privilege of leading, has been one of our great civic institutions for the past 200 years. Throughout this period, it has gained its strength and durability from its deep provincial roots rather than its metropolitan centre, allied to the strong sense that it represents the British nation as a whole. There is something ugly about the casual way that Mr Cameron and his allies are disdainfully trashing the organisation he leads in order to promote his own popularity." - Daily Telegraph
Prime Minister: Pro Union poll in Northern Ireland will lift spirits - Newsletter
The choice after 2015: 3p on income tax (or the equivalent). A raid on pensioner benefits…or the deficit lingering for longer
"Households face the threat of tax increases equivalent to an extra three pence on income tax as the Government struggles to put the brake on its ever-heavier borrowing, a respected think-tank has warned. The Green Budget published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies said that the next government may have to impose “substantial” rises in taxes after the 2015 election because the hole in the public finances will prove to be too large to cure entirely through spending cuts. Alternatively, the Government could raid pensioner benefits for savings or simply borrow more money for longer." - The Times (£)
Francis Report 1): Cameron pledges shake-up
"David Cameron apologised for the failings yesterday and promised to end the culture of complacency that allowed truly dreadful care. He plans an overhaul of regulators who allowed systematic failings, including a new Chief Inspector of Hospitals, a beefed-up complaints process and a system to sack managers who preside over bad care. The Prime Minister also announced an immediate investigation into five hospitals with persistently high death rates, the warning sign that finally exposed the scandal at Stafford Hospital." - The Times (£)
Francis Report 2) Why has no-one been sacked?
"Relatives of victims and MPs lined up to castigate the conclusions by Robert Francis QC that no one should be scapegoated over the disgrace. They said Sir David and former Stafford managers should ‘carry the can’ for the Health Service’s abject failure to ensure a proper standard of care at the hospital. As many as 1,200 patients are feared to have died from neglect at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust between 2005 and 2008 with thousands of others subject to ‘inhumane’ and ‘degrading’ treatment." - Daily Mail
Martin Kettle: Will anything really change?
"A bipartisan approach is fine if the approach is a good one. But what if it repeats the errors of the past? That is the danger with the response to the Francis report. If the problem that spilled into patient mistreatment and neglect in Stafford was, as Cameron says, an excess of attention to financial and management targets at the expense of patient care, it is not evident from today's exchanges that the solution will be much better. Change the culture, said Cameron. Miliband agreed. Ensure staff levels are benchmarked, said Miliband. Cameron concurred. More training. More regulation. A place for targets. The frontbenches were as one on these too." - The Guardian
More than half of public sector staff do not trust their bosses - Financial Times (£)
Carney to make first Select Committee appearance today. Osborne presses more QE...
"George Osborne let slip his frustration with the Bank of England on Wednesday, calling for looser monetary policy to boost economic recovery. In an extremely unusual move on the day before the BoE’s monetary policy committee announces the outcome of its monthly meeting, the chancellor put pressure on the bank to take action. Mr Osborne said decisive moves by the government on the deficit “means that . . . monetary policy action by the BoE can and should continue to support the economy”. - Financial Times (£)
...But Jesse Norman asks: Is there too much already?
"The evidence is that QE is becoming less effective and less fair with the passage of time. Meanwhile, a policy introduced to support business has been targeted at gilts, while the banks have struggled to pass on the benefits in more loans or lower costs to companies. A policy of easy money has hugely cushioned the blow of recession, but it has also suspended the business cycle and may be slowing down recovery." - The Times (£)
There is no wall of hostility to our EU plans, says Hague
"Giving evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee Mr Hague said that Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has a “passionate belief” that Britain should remain in the EU. “Governments have reacted in a wide range of ways,” Mr Hague said. “Chancellor Merkel has reacted in a pragmatic way and that is true of many other European capitals.” He added: “The French government, which very clearly has many different views about the future development of Europe, has said very clearly they want to keep the United Kingdom in. The idea that there is some wall of hostility to the ideas we have put forward I think would be a mistake.” - Daily Telegraph
Dominic Raab MP: Why the Tories need a meritocrat's manifesto
"A Conservative message of self-help must reach beyond the middle classes – and give those who have had a rough ride a second chance. Fight for Peace in East London – where I volunteer – helps disaffected teenagers out of a rut. It combines boxing and martial arts, personal development, numeracy and literacy, and youth support…Pollsters are right that fairness remains a Tory blind spot. But we don't need to ape Labour. Strengthening consumer clout, promoting mutual tolerance and giving the underdog a shot would help define the stubborn optimism that tough times demand." - Dominic Raab, The Guardian
Maggie's home town split over whether it wants her statue - Daily Mail
Jemima Khan: Julian Assange risks becoming 'Australian L Ron Hubbard' - The Guardian
Uprising in Tunisia as regime critic is murdered - The Independent
House prices are rising at fastest rate in three years thanks to Government's £80billion boost - Daily Mail
Former Northern Rock chairman Matt Ridley joins Lords - Financial Times (£)
And finally...Prescott blows a fuse as Mandelson beats him to becoming High Steward of Hull
"Lord Prescott, who recently failed in his bid to become Humberside’s first elected police and crime commissioner, responded by firing off a letter to city hall demanding to know why he had not been consulted. One source said councillors who saw the letter were ‘rolling about on the floor laughing’ at his self-important tone." - Daily Mail
> Please use the thread below to provide links to news topics likely to be of interest to ConservativeHome readers and to comment on political topics that haven't been given their own blog. Read our comments policy here.
9.30pm ToryDiary UPDATE: 70% of Tory backbenchers didn't vote with Cameron
7.45pm ToryDiary UPDATE: More Conservative MPs vote against Cameron than with him
7.30pm ToryDiary UPDATE: Cameron fails to win the support of half the number of Conservative MPs - 152
7.15pm ToryDiary: SAME-SEX MARRIAGE VOTE - AYES: 400. NOES: 175.
3.30pm Greg Clark MP's weekly Letter from a Treasury Minister: "For instance, one can easily imagine that, in place of the can-do attitude of the Victorians, Bazalgette would have faced one long planning inquiry after another." Lessons for modern government from Victorian visionaries
10.30am Alistair Lexden on Comment: On this day, 225 years ago - the birth of Robert Peel, the first Compassionate Conservative
9.30am Andrew Haldenby on Comment: Yes, Ministers need to reform Whitehall. But they're going the wrong way about it.
Columnist Stephan Shakespeare: Don't believe the polls that say gay marriage means certain doom for the Conservative Party
And as MPs prepare to vote on today's same-sex marriage bill, two Conservative MPs put the case for and against:
Cllr Jonathan Glanz on Local Government: Let councils choose where they build
Cameron tells Shapps to go all out for Eastleigh...
"Nick Clegg is facing the nightmare prospect of an unprecedented by-election loss to his Coalition partners after David Cameron ordered Tory high command to ‘go for the kill’ in the battle for Chris Huhne’s marginal seat…Sources said that far from ‘soft-pedalling’ to spare Lib Dem pain, the Tories had decided to go all out for victory – a foretaste of the 2015 election campaign, when they need to win 20 Lib Dem seats to achieve a Commons majority." - Daily Mail
...But Peter Oborne claims: the Prime Minister would prefer to give Clegg a clear run. But he can't. His position within his party is too weak
"I have no doubt that in private the Prime Minister would love to avoid a contest, and allow the Lib Dems a free run…If the Coalition were healthy, perhaps David Cameron and Nick Clegg might indeed find a way to reach such an agreement. Both men probably know they would be wise to do so. The truth is that the Prime Minister lacks the authority to attempt anything of the sort. The Tory party in its present febrile and disloyal state would not allow it." - Daily Telegraph
Will Maria Hutchings be the Conservative candidate again?
"Charlie Daniel-Hobbs, an activist at the Eastleigh Conservative Association, said: “We’re looking forward to the by-election and have been working very hard on the ground and knocking on lots of doors and are confident we can fight a clean campaign.” He also added that Maria Hutchings, the local Conservative spokeswoman, would be a “good choice” to run again in the by-election and explained that “obviously the economy, as everywhere, is high on people’s minds, but gay marriage is not something that comes up on the doorstep in Eastleigh very much”." - The Times (£)
The fall of Huhne: "An unbearable human tragedy"
"The spectacular downfall of a Cabinet minister was sealed yesterday as Chris Huhne faced the prospect of going to jail after he admitted perverting the course of justice. Huhne’s abrupt change of plea brought to an end a two-year political and personal saga that has embarrassed the Lib Dems and torn apart his family. One friend of the family who knows Huhne and Vicky Pryce said that the case was “an unbearable human tragedy”." - The Times (£)
The texts from his son that helped cause Huhne's downfall - Daily Mail
Vicky Pryce will return to court today to face trial for perverting the course of justice - Daily Mail
Dominic Lawson: Is Huhne like Richard III?
"Chris Huhne’s political annihilation occurring on the day that archaeologists confirmed the discovery of Richard III’s skeleton naturally prompts thoughts of the nature of dramatic tragedy, as set out by William Shakespeare. The convention is that a man of unusual ability and forceful personality in a position of great power (actual or potential) is ultimately destroyed by a flaw in his character. Yet my thoughts, following Mr Huhne’s confession of guilt to perverting the course of justice over claims that another person had taken his motoring speeding points, went more to one of Shakespeare’s comedies." - Dominic Lawson, The Independent
Same-sex marriage: As MPs prepare to vote on same-sex marriage, YouGov finds majority support for the measure...But that, in introducing it, Cameron has widened a split which Miliband is exploiting. Labour soars to 15 point lead.
"The exclusive YouGov survey for The Sun makes David Cameron’s feuding Conservatives appear their most divided for a decade. A huge 71 PER CENT of voters branded the party as split. In a knock-on effect, Labour has soared into a huge 15 per cent lead over its main rival. The findings came on the eve of today’s Commons vote on giving gays the same marriage rights as straight couples…Our poll showed a comfortable majority of Brits — 54 per cent — support gay marriage. Only 38 per cent are against." - The Sun
> Today: Columnist Stephan Shakespeare - Don't believe the polls that say gay marriage means certain doom for the Conservative Party
Osborne, Hague and May push for the bill with a letter to the Telegraph...but David Jones is against...
"In an unprecedented joint letter amid a Cabinet split before tomorrow’s parliamentary vote, the ministers, who hold the three great offices of state, have written a letter to The Telegraph saying that “attitudes to gay people have changed”…David Jones, the Welsh Secretary, yesterday emerged as an opponent to gay marriage. In a letter to a constituent in March last year, he wrote: “I believe that marriage is an institution ordained to sanctify a union between a man and a woman.” - Daily Telegraph
...Owen Paterson will oppose the bill...but IDS emerges to back it...
"At least two Cabinet ministers – Owen Paterson and David Jones – are expected to oppose the plans and Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, another opponent of the Bill, is absent abroad. But sources close to Mr Duncan Smith said he has decided to vote Yes today because it is not an issue where he wants to cause trouble for Mr Cameron…And in an outspoken intervention in support of gay marriage, Chris Grayling last night argued that the ‘collapse of marriage and families’ has ‘absolutely nothing to do with homosexuality’." - The Times (£)
...Pro-bill Tory activists fight back...
"Grassroots Tories yesterday mounted an eleventh-hour appeal in favour of same-sex union, urging their MPs to broaden the party’s appeal or risk losing out at the ballot box. “Please do not allow the impression that all Conservative Party activists are opposed to gay marriage. Many of us strongly agree with the proposal,” said a letter signed by more than 50 activists, including Paul Swaddle, president of the party’s national convention." - The Times (£)
Will David Burrowes lose his PPS post?
"The decision of the whips to impose a three line whip means that David Burrowes, aide to Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin and a leading member of the no camp, is expected to abstain in the "programme motion" vote. Burrowes will vote against the second reading without jeopardising his position as parliamentary private secretary. Burrowes' supporters expressed anger at the government's tactics. "David Cameron has made great play of how he is offering us a free vote," one said. "But it is highly qualified. We are being whipped to enable this bill." - The Guardian
Hate mail complaints from both sides - The Independent
Three Conservative Cabinet Ministers fight Osborne over spending squeeze...
"Mr Osborne knew he would face a backlash from the departments at risk, but he may not have predicted such an immediate and co-ordinated counterattack from his colleagues…Philip Hammond, defence secretary, Vince Cable, business secretary, Theresa May, home secretary and Chris Grayling, justice secretary, all told the chancellor in blunt terms that he should rethink his strategy. At the heart of the dispute is the decision by the leaders of both coalition parties to continue making cuts at the same pace and in the same proportions as those already made." - Financial Times (£)
...As the Chancellor sets out his plans for banking
"Brits could soon be able to transfer money instantly to pals using mobile phones without the need for fiddly account details. The move would allow friends to split a restaurant bill easily by paying into each other’s bank accounts via one simple text on a smartphone. It is part of a massive overhaul of the banking system by Chancellor George Osborne aimed at helping people transfer cash more quickly." - The Sun
> Yesterday: Mark Field MP - Bash the banks and global companies if you must, but we need them more than ever
Retail sales rise strongly in January - Reuters
Cameron demands more cuts to the EU budget
"David Cameron was facing another showdown in Brussels last night as he demanded more cuts in the next European Union budget. Downing Street said the Prime Minister was determined to ‘secure further reductions’ in a proposed £810billion EU budget covering the years 2014-2020. No 10 added that Mr Cameron had secured the crucial backing of German chancellor Angela Merkel for his demands during a phone call on Sunday." - Daily Mail
Mitchell to sue the Sun over "Policegate"
"Andrew Mitchell is set to sue the Sun for libel over its report that claimed he had called Downing Street police officers "plebs" during an argument as he left Number 10. The Tory MP's lawyer has sent the Sun a "letter before action", the first stage in litigation, putting them on formal notice that he intends to sue over its scoop last September which revealed the row Mitchell had with police over taking his bicycle through the main gates." - The Guardian
McLuskey to Miliband: we want more power
"When Ed Miliband asked the leading union baron what three wishes he could grant if Labour wins power, the answer was straightforward. ‘Trade union freedoms, trade union freedoms, trade union freedoms’ came the immediate response from Len McCluskey, who runs the giant Unite union. Leaked details of the conversation last night sparked claims that a Labour government would seek to usher in new pro-union laws." - Daily Mail
Labour MP Thomas Docherty in wrangle with lobbyist - Herald Scotland
Reform says that Ministers should appoint their own staff to overcome 'amateurism' - The Times (£)
MoD errors blamed for jump-jet fiasco - The Times (£)
Karzai refuses to criticise prince for remarks comparing war to video games - The Guardian
We’ve been mugged, say Yorkshire villagers over HS2 rail route - Yorkshire Post
Enforcer for Islamist rule in Timbuktu captured by rebels after French air strikes - The Independent
NHS flaws that led to Mid Staffs scandal - Daily Telegraph
Ten-inch deluge of snow on the way - Daily Express
Actress who played the young Thatcher says that former PM had 'psychopathic tendencies' - Daily Mail
> Please use the thread below to provide links to news topics likely to be of interest to ConservativeHome readers and to comment on political topics that haven't been given their own blog. Read our comments policy here.
Midnight Lord Ashcroft on Comment: The Europe speech has cheered Tories... but it has not moved votes
5.45pm Christopher Howarth on Comment: Two Unions, two borders, two islands – why the future of the EU and UK places the British Isles at a decision point
4.15pm The fourth part of our #LittleGuyConservatism series focuses on Lord Baker of Dorking... and a revolution in technical education
3.15pm WATCH: David Cameron is welcomed into Libya
1.45pm Local government: John Bald says The Education Select Committee is wrong to defend the GCSE
1.30pm Jeremy Lefroy MP on Comment: The case for a UK Development Bank
12.45pm Chris White MP on Comment: An Act that stands up for social value
10am ToryDiary: Dean Godson is the new Director of Policy Exchange
Henry Hill's latest Red, White and Blue column: A question of Scotland's referendum question
Matthew Groves on Comment: When it is not necessary to change it is necessary not to change
Local Government: The cost of adoption is too high
From Algeria, David Cameron suggests that he'll protect the defence budget from further cuts
"David Cameron ruled out further defence cuts last night, saying that military spending would rise in real terms after 2015. ... During a historic trip to Algeria, the Prime Minister sought to quell a mounting backlash from Tory MPs and military top brass. ... Mr Cameron’s defence pledge piles pressure on him to end protections granted to health, schools and foreign aid spending." - Daily Mail
"British special forces are set for a role in any future hostage crisis in North Africa as part of a Downing Street plan to join the 'generational struggle' against terror in the region. A deal to forge a new security pact with Algeria, which is set to allow British special forces to train its counterparts in the country, is an element of a plan to stem the terrorist threat growing from groups linked with al-Qaeda." - The Times (£)
> Today's video to WATCH: "The answer is not purely a military one," says David Cameron from Algeria
> Yesterday's video to WATCH: David Cameron slaps down George Galloway over Syria
The MoD's shopping list
"The Ministry of Defence has revealed how it intends to spend £160bn over the next decade on new weapons systems, including a fleet of Trident nuclear missile submarines, two large aircraft carriers, helicopters, armoured vehicles, and unmanned drones." - Guardian
Iain Duncan Smith's ideas for broadening out the definition of child poverty
"In a speech today, he will suggest broader ways of calculating child poverty – including whether or not parents are in work, educational failure, family breakdown, problem debt, gambling and poor health. .... In remarks ahead of the speech, the Work and Pensions Secretary said Labour had ‘spent an unprecedented amount of money in their pursuit of child poverty targets, with some £170billion paid out in tax credits alone’ – but still missed their aim of halving child poverty." - Daily Mail
> Today on ToryDiary: IDS is working to tackle real poverty, not just Gordon Brown’s idea of it
George Osborne's pessismistic quip: "In three years’ time we will be sitting around the shadow cabinet table"
"One minister urged Mr Cameron to act promptly on the plans, saying: ‘We don’t want to be sitting around the Cabinet table having this conversation in three years’ time.’ ... At that point Mr Osborne piped up: ‘In three years’ time we will be sitting around the shadow cabinet table.’ ... Those present said the Chancellor was ‘only half joking’ when he made the crack and that he provoked ‘nervous laughter’ from other ministers." - Daily Mail
> Yesterday on ToryDiary:
"Tory traditionalists" set to back gay marriage
"Tory traditionalists in the Cabinet are preparing to back gay marriage despite continuing anger among the party’s grassroots. ... Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, one of the Government’s most senior Right-wingers, indicated yesterday he will vote in favour of legalising same-sex unions next week, while Baroness Warsi, who has previously expressed concern, also revealed she is to back the reform." - Daily Mail
Ken Clarke warns against British disengagement from Europe
"Britian would be making a 'fatal mistake' if it left the European Union, Ken Clarke said yesterday as Europhile heavyweights launched a campaign for deeper UK engagement with Brussels ... 'We need to concentrate on what are are in favour of and not just what we are against,' he said." - The Times (£)
> Yesterday, by Dr Lee Rotherham on Comment: Some questions for the new "Centre for British Influence Through Europe"
Eric Pickles takes a swipe at the "gullible" BBC
"Eric Pickles has accused ‘gullible’ BBC journalists of working with Labour to maximise the ‘political damage’ over the Coalition’s spending cuts. ... In one of the most outspoken attacks on the Corporation by a senior minister, he said regional programmes gave ‘unquestioning’ airtime to Labour councils complaining about cuts." - Daily Mail
> Yesterday on Local Government: Pickles attacks BBC
Fiona Bruce announces a cross-party commission into the abortion law on disabled babies
"A cross-party commission will seek to 'establish whether there is room for a review of this legislation bearing in mind both medical advances and advances in our attitudes to disability over recent years', Fiona Bruce, the Tory MP who will chair the inquiry, said yesterday." - Daily Telegraph
The chairs of five select committees write to David Cameron, urging him to leave out students from his migration target - Guardian
Police officers attack Government plans to allow foreigners to take charge of British forces
"The Association of Chief Police Officers insisted there was no shortage of talent in the police and worried that existing officers would be frustrated in their efforts to seek promotion. ... Policing Minister Damian Green said it would be ‘years not decades’ before a foreign national took charge of a force in England and Wales." - Daily Mail
"Ministers should be prepared to miss their controversial foreign aid target if they cannot ensure the cash will be spent effectively, MPs said yesterday" - Daily Mail
Ministers come under question for their role in the West Coast Main Line debacle
"Ministers were to blame for the West Coast rail fiasco, according to a report by MPs published on Thursday. ... The Commons transport committee report said there were 'serious questions' about the roles of ministers and civil servants at all levels. ... These findings are at odds with statements from both Downing Street and Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, saying no minister was at fault for the cancellation of the contract to run the UK’s busiest intercity railway." - Financial Times (£)
Robert Halfon attacks the Office of Fair Trading's inquiry into fuel prices
"Tory MP Robert Halfon, who spearheaded the Commons campaign against rip-off fuel prices, said the scandal still needed to be addressed. ... He insisted: ‘Whatever the OFT says, high prices at the pump are crushing families across Britain. Oil companies bear responsibility as well as the Government.’" - Daily Mail
Steven Norris: "If we are serious about big projects like HS2 we must drive a bulldozer through red tape" - Steven Norris, The Times (£)
Consultants who advise the banks on their salary packages? "A profession which makes prostitution seem thoroughly respectable," according to Lord Lawson - Daily Mail
The Coalition should ditch the Justice and Security Bill, reckons Peter Oborne - Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph
Steve Richards: David Cameron is suffering from fixed-term parliaments
"Before fixed-term parliaments it was assumed that a Prime Minister would call a general election after four years. Even if it did not happen the assumption that it might would concentrate minds. ... But this year is different. There will be no election in 2014. ... There is still plenty of time to be disloyal, to speak up for principled conviction, to plot and plan against a leader." - Steve Richards, Independent
Ed Davey says that nuclear's still on track – even though a new radioactive waste dump has been blocked
"Britain’s long-term nuclear plans have been thrown into disarray after the only county willing to store radioactive waste pulled out of the running. ... Energy secretary Edward Davey said: ‘I am confident that the programme to manage radioactive waste safely will ultimately be successful, and that the decisions made in Cumbria today will not undermine prospects for new nuclear power stations.’" - Daily Mail
Quentin Letts versus Labour and the Lib Dems: "In 23 years as a parliamentary reporter, I've never felt such disgust for our political class"
"Nick Clegg broke manifesto commitments faster than a harlot hopping into a kerb-crawler’s Monteg. Tuesday should act as a stern lesson to Fleet Street not to cave in to the prim strictures of the Leveson age. ... We journalists must redouble our scrutiny of politicians. They are plainly not to be trusted." - Daily Mail
> Yesterday on ToryDiary: The Coalition risks breakdown if it doesn’t unite around some new big ideas
Ed Miliband's plan for tackling youth unemployment
"We need a new generation of skilled workers and new apprenticeships. ... So Labour’s plan is to say that every big firm that gets a contract with the Government must commit to training young people for high-skilled jobs." - Ed Miliband, The Sun
The SNP agrees to change the wording of its referendum question
"The Scottish government has accepted an amended referendum question for the 2014 vote on whether Scotland should end its three century-old union with England. ... The UK independent Electoral Commission on Wednesday opposed the Scottish government’s plan to ask voters 'Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?' It said the use of 'Do you agree' could encourage them to answer 'yes'." - Financial Times (£)
> Today, by Henry Hill: A question of Scotland's referendum question
Andy Maciver: It's all too little, too late for the Scottish Tories
"Ruth [Davidson] made a speech acknowledging that the party’s problems are more fundamental than bad marketing, and accepting that Scotland doesn’t trust the Tories. ... The large elephant in the small room remains the impotence of the Scottish Tory party. During the leadership election, Murdo make clear that a new captain was not enough; we needed a new ship. It is no less true now than it was then." - Andy Maciver, The Scotsman
A member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee speaks out against NGDP-targetting
"In an interview with The Independent, Martin Weale argues that 'in the present circumstances', where inflation has been higher than the Bank's official two per cent target for several years, the negatives of switching to a so-called NGDP target outnumbered the positives." - Independent
"Millions of low-income households face a rise in their council tax bills costing them up to £600 a year from April under a 'poll tax bombshell', according to new study" - Independent
Chief executive of the NHS apologises for Mid Stafford failings
"The chief executive of the NHS apologised yesterday for catastrophic failings that led to hundreds of deaths at Mid Stafford NHS Foundation Trust from 2005 to 2009. ... Sir David Nicholson said the NHS 'had let people down in the most devastating way'." - The Times (£)
British burgers could have been contanimated with horse meat for over a year - The Sun
The Times reports that one of Britain's biggest charities is a "front for tax avoidance"
"Wealthy donors used the Cup Trust to avoid £46 million in tax in an extensive abuse of Gift Aid incentives designed to encourage charitable donations." - The Times (£)
"Britain's top taxman – who stepped down after he was accused by MPs of lying – has been hired by HSBC to advise it on honesty" - Daily Mail
A report from the LSE calls for an overhaul of Britain's "mediocre" education system
"Failing schools and poorly performing teachers lead to a ‘waste of human resources on a grand scale,’ causing long-term damage to the UK, the scathing document says. ... Local councils which do not let failing schools close must see their wings clipped, and the system for assessing teachers must be revamped, it argues." - Daily Mail
The number of applications for university places has risen by 3.5 per cent - Financial Times (£)
"Polish is Britain's second language and nearly one in five people in London only speak English as a second tongue" - Daily Mail
> Yesterday, by Andrew Lilico on Comment: Tell Conservatives to avoid attacking "multiculturalism" when they attack multiculturalism
And finally 1)... The judge who paid a thief's debt to court
"Daniel Northridge admitted stealing two letters from a shared mailbox in his block of flats because he was 'skint' and looking for money in Christmas cards. ... District Judge Tim Devas gave him a six-month community order with supervision and said he must pay a £1 surcharge. ... However, after hearing of Northbridge’s limited means, he put his hand in his pocket and gave a £1 coin to the clerk at Mansfield magistrates’ court to clear the debt." - Daily Telegraph
And finally 2)... The joke's on Justin Welby
"The new Archbishop of Canterbury said yesterday that he regarded his application for the job as a 'joke'. He described how he was ordered by the Church of England to apply after just seven months as Bishop of Durham, even though he thought it ridiculous." - The Times (£)
> Please use the thread below to provide links to news topics likely to be of interest to ConservativeHome readers and to comment on political topics that haven't been given their own blog. Read our comments policy here.
6pm Andrew Lilico on Comment: Tell Conservatives to avoid attacking "multiculturalism" when they attack multiculturalism
4.30pm Local government: Pickles attacks BBC
2.45pm WATCH: A PMQs double-bill:
1.45pm ToryDiary: Miliband targets Osborne (and Osborne’s fiscal policy, natch) in PMQs
10.15am Local government: Braintree cuts Council Tax
Jeremy Wright MP on Comment: The state doesn't have a monopoly on good ideas when it comes to cutting reoffending
Dr Lee Rotherham on Comment: Some questions for the new "Centre for British Influence Through Europe"
On MajorityConservatism, the third in our six-part series looking at Conservatism for the Little Guy: Robert Halfon MP, champion of tax cuts for the poor
Brandon Lewis MP on Local Government: Staffordshire is champion council of the week
David Cameron orders 330 British to Mali – amid concerns about defence cuts
"As David Cameron ordered 330 troops to the troubled West African state to support the French-led assault on Al Qaeda-affiliated insurgents, alarmed military commanders raised fears of a ‘mission creep’. ... Ministers insisted the troops’ role would be limited to training African soldiers and providing experts in intelligence, surveillance and logistics, while Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said there was ‘no intention’ of UK units being involved in combat." - Daily Mail
"George Osborne is under pressure from Tory MPs to shield the armed forces from further defence cuts in this year’s spending review, as the military is dispatched to a new war zone in Mali." - Financial Times (£)
"The Telegraph understands that senior commanders fear that the quality of Britain’s world-class special forces could be undermined if defence spending is cut again in 2015." - Daily Telegraph
> Yesterday, by Garvan Walshe: We may not be interested in ungoverned spaces, but they are interested in us
"IRA assassins are plotting a terror outrage as world leaders gather for a G8 summit in Northern Ireland, MI5 chiefs fear." - The Sun
Ministers are pushing for a married couples tax break to avert a revolt over same-sex marriage
"David Cameron is under mounting pressure to push through tax breaks for married couples as a way of averting a Tory rupture over gay marriage. ... Ministers are pressing Downing Street to make a Budget announcement in March implementing the party’s promise to reward married couples in the tax system. Cabinet sources told The Times that George Osborne should act 'sooner rather than later' and that the Budget would be 'a good time to placate an awful lot of people'." - The Times (£)
> Yesterday, by Jonathan Isaby on Comment: This Conservative-led Government has raised tax more than twice as often as it has cut it
Tory MPs attack Nick Clegg after the boundary reforms are voted down
"Tory MPs accused Mr Clegg of ‘spite’ and ‘bitterness’ as MPs voted by 334 votes to 292 to delay any change to boundaries until 2018 – a majority of 42. ... It was the first time the Liberal Democrats have voted with Labour to destroy a piece of Government legislation." - Daily Mail
And there's more intra-Coalition tension on the way... this time over Mary Seacole
"Senior figures in the coalition government are on a collision course over the fate of the 'greatest black Briton', The Independent has learned. ... Sources close to the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he is determined to put a stop to plans reportedly put in place by Education Minister Michael Gove to remove Mary Seacole, renowned for giving sanctuary to soldiers during the Crimean War, from the National Curriculum." - Independent
Michael Gove's English Baccalaureate has been rejected by the Welsh Government - Independent
Tory plans to reach out to ethnic minorities and other groups
"With the Europe question temporarily resolved by the prime minister’s promise to hold a future referendum, the Tory leadership is again trying to emphasise its modernising credentials in the run up to the 2015 election. ... Its strategy to target these different voter groups is already building. ... Alok Sharma, the Tory vice-chairman and MP for Reading West, is meanwhile being asked to come up with ideas to appeal to black and Asian voters." - Financial Times (£)
> Yesterday on ToryDiary: How can the Conservatives win over more ethnic minority voters?
Elizabeth Truss summarises her childcare reforms for the Guardian
"Our plans will give parents the confidence they crave – that they can leave their children with people who know what they are doing. They will give women who want to work more choice and a greater chance of being able to build a career. They will offer professionals more respect and better pay. And they will let children enjoy an environment where they can learn and grow in safety." - Elizabeth Truss, Guardian
"A senior adviser to David Cameron has said a minister 'got a little bit ahead of herself' when she indicated that 'all families' could get child care tax breaks." - Daily Telegraph
The HS2 row steams on, dragging George Osborne along with it
"Yesterday – in a press release issued by Tory-run Cheshire East Council – its leader Michael Jones suggested that Mr Osborne had fought to keep the line away from the eastern side of the seat. This avoids Tatton’s so called ‘Golden Triangle’ of Tory-voting Prestbury, Wilmslow and Alderley Edge. ... A spokesman for Mr Osborne said: ‘Cheshire East put something out but corrected it when they realised they were wrong. We have made clear throughout the process that George has never sought to influence the route.’" - Daily Mail
Theresa May looks to fast-track the best new police recruits
"New recruits could be fast-tracked to be chief constables within ten years under plans announced today to attract the brightest and the best into policing ... The proposal is part of a package of measures under which foreign police chiefs would be able to become chief constables and buisnessmen could join the police at the rank of superintendent." - The Times (£)
The Government is in a "spin over sugar", suggests the FT
"Owen Paterson, environment secretary, has told his French counterpart that Europe’s 'counterproductive' quotas and tariffs on sugar – which European lawmakers last week voted to extend through 2020 – should be scrapped. 'They are bad for business and bad for consumers,' he said. ... However, the message from the health department is that it is sugar itself that is bad for consumers: a 'hidden nasty' lurking in all sorts of processed foods and fizzy drinks." - Financial Times (£)
Is the RSPCA becoming a "political prosecutor"? Sir Edward Garnier fears so; Dominic Grieve says not
"The RSPCA risks becoming a ‘political prosecutor’ rather than an animal welfare organisation, a senior Tory warned yesterday. ... Sir Edward Garnier, the former solicitor general, said the costs of a recent case involving David Cameron’s local hunt were far too high. ... But Dominic Grieve, speaking for the Government, told MPs the charity had the right to bring private prosecutions and that it performed a ‘valuable role’ bringing cruelty cases which might otherwise go unprosecuted." - Daily Mail
Baroness Verma speaks out on behalf of motorists
"Motorists are being 'ripped off at the pump' as a result of price-fixing by petrol companies, the Energy Minister has said ... Speaking in the House of Lords, Lady Verma said that ministers were looking at how energy companies could be 'encouraged' to pass on savings'." - The Times (£)
"Boris Johnson’s chief economic adviser has hit out at the credibility of rating agencies as he backed the London mayor’s proposals to boost investment in the capital’s infrastructure." - Financial Times (£)
MPs warn of councils sinking under the weight of cuts yet to come
"Whitehall’s financial watchdog has raised the spectre of 'multiple failures' of councils against the backdrop of more cuts into the next parliament. ... Local auditors have concluded that 12 per cent of local authorities were at an 'ongoing risk of being unable to balance their budgets', according to the National Audit Office." - Financial Times (£)
> Yesterday on Local Government:
"Child asylum seekers are living in destitiution in Britain – with their mothers forced into prositution – because of failures in the support system, a Parliamentary report has found." - Independent
Did Miliband Major talk Miliband Minor out of an In/Out Referendum?
"The under-fire Labour leader’s refusal to offer a nationwide vote on Britain’s membership has infuriated some senior party figures. ... One claimed Ed vetoed an In-Out poll after his older sibling sneered it was 'too populist'. ... Ex-Foreign Secretary David — who lost out to his brother in the party leadership contest — also warned the risk of the nation voting to quit was too great. Pal Douglas Alexander, the shadow Foreign Secretary, also backed the view, it was claimed." - The Sun
> Yesterday, by Greg Clark MP on Comment: EU renegotiation can be achieved
Labour wants an extra tax on bankers' bonuses
"Labour has urged ministers to impose an extra tax on bankers, as the party turned on the 'bumper bonus round' about to be paid in an industry mired in rate-fixing and mis-selling scandals. ... Chris Leslie, the shadow City minister, said: 'There should be fair rewards for performance, but these bonuses follow the Libor-fixing and mis-selling scandals that have been exposed in recent months.'" - Financial Times (£)
And Labour also wants all new gas-fired power plants to install technology to reduce their carbon emissions - Independent
Ivan Lewis outlines Labour's plans for a "social contract without borders"
"Our overarching aims should be measurable: by 2030 we want to have eliminated absolute poverty, begun to reduce inequality, protected scarce planetary resources and ended aid dependency." - Ivan Lewis, Guardian
Cash for policy? Labour under fire for taking money from anti-badger cull campaigners
"John Glen, a Tory MP, said: 'We already know Ed Miliband’s union paymasters dictate Labour policy. These donations bear all the hallmarks of more cash for policy. Labour, yet again, have serious questions to answer over how their financial backers influence the way Labour vote in our Parliament.'" - Daily Telegraph
Teachers ignore their unions
"Most teachers are ignoring a 'work-to-rule' ordered by their two biggest unions as the battle to reverse the Government's education reforms falters ... a survey seen by the Times suggests that teachers are ignoring their unions in almost three quarters of schools. Another 18 per cent said that staff were boycotting some duties but that this was having little or no impact." - The Times (£)
The new Archbishop of Canterbury compares today's poverty to that of the 1930s
"In a farewell service as the outgoing Bishop of Durham, he said: ‘Children are going without sufficient food which I found particularly shocking and distressing. ... ‘This was something I had thought would have been eradicated by now.’ ... He added: ‘We are seeing things we thought had disappeared in the Thirties. Not on remotely the same scale but traces here and there.’" - Daily Mail
The House of Lords is in a mess, reckons Alice Thomson
"The House of Lords has become more acrimonious than the Commons. There are now 760 peers, and there are not enough ermine robes available to rent for the opening of Parliament. The peers now squabble about everything from coat pegs to parking spaces and whose legislation they will thwart." - Alice Thomson, The Times (£)
The head of the Met believes that people should face mandatory drug tests at work - Daily Mail
"People who have been given police cautions for theft will be free to work in care homes, schools and hospitals despite their criminal past, under a human rights ruling." - Daily Mail
Daniel Finkelstein draws some important lessons from the Holocaust
"Wouldn't it be good if no one ever had to die to allow others to live, and freedom didn't need to protect itself with a rifle, and little girls could go to school in Pakistan without being shot? I want that world as fervently as anyone else. ... But one of the lessons of the Holocaust is that wanted it is not enough." - Daniel Finkelstein, The Times (£)
And finally 1)... Nick Griffin's fundraising ideas
"Nick Griffin, leader of the cash strapped far-right BNP, once fed his family on a rabbit that had been killed on the road. .. This was one of the strange revelations from an hour long speech he delivered in Coventry at the weekend ... he [also] urged every local BNP branch to have 'an eBay officer' – presumably to keep an eye out for bargains that could fill the party’s empty coffers. He also shared a fund raising idea with his audience. 'We are going to begin collecting scrap. Have you any idea of the price of copper?' he said." - Independent
And finally 2)... A Brit does well abroad: civil servant wins French award for his cheeses
"Though judged to be one of France’s foremost experts on the food, 30-year-old Matt has been in the cheese business for little more than a year. Until 2011, he was working for the National Audit Office as an accountant. ... When he learned his employer was offering unpaid sabbaticals of up to two years — a kind of ‘trial separation’, as he puts it — he seized the chance to swap his calculator for a cheese wire." - Daily Mail
And finally 3)... Another Brit does well abroad: Tony Blair receives an award from Poland
"In Britain, his ‘open door’ immigration policies have been criticised by all sides. ... But in Poland, which was transformed by entry into the EU, Tony Blair is feted as a hero. ... And yesterday the former Prime Minister was handed a special award for helping hundreds of thousands of Poles come to live in the UK." - Daily Mail