Conservative Diary

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It's counter-attack Sunday. Tory ministers promise action on the school curriculum, foreign prisoners, immigration and troubled families.

By Tim Montgomerie
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You can't read the Sunday papers without getting a strong sense that the Tory half of the Coalition is mounting something of a counter-attack. After months of being on the back foot a range of ministers appear to be fighting back...

George Osborne and the economy: Top of the pops is George Osborne with an article in The Sunday Telegraph in which he defends the Coalition's economic record - arguing quite accurately that alongside Germany and the USA, Britain has become one of the world's safe havens for investors - but that all of this is endangered by continuing turmoil and dither in the €urozone.

Michael Gove and the curriculum: Next up is Michael Gove promising a return to basics in education. In advance of his unveiling of a new curriculum for English primary schools we learn that the Education Secretary wants more teaching of foreign languages, lists of words that children should be able to spell and also detailed requirements for maths and science. At the same time that he is giving schools more freedom to choose how they are run he appears to want more control over what those same schools achieve. Freedom of means but not of ends. The BBC and Sunday Times (£) have more.

Theresa May and foreign criminals: Third in this morning's chart we have Home Secretary Theresa May (who'll be on the Andrew Marr show) who is issuing new guidance to ensure faster, simpler deportation of foreign prisoners. Mrs May is determined that courts should not be able to interpret the right to a family life in a way that it trumps other objectives including fighting crime, protecting national security and safeguarding the rights of others. A motion in the House of Commons will be debated tomorrow in the first attempt to encourage courts to take a different view in deportation hearings.

Theresa May and immigration: The Home Secretary is also a new entry at number four in my initiatives chart. She will unveil new rules to stop sham marriages and make it harder for spouses of migrant workers to settle in the UK. Her measures, according to The Sunday Times (£) include a new minimum salary of £18,600 to bring in a non-EU foreign spouse, rising to £27,200 for three children and also an extension of the probationary period for a non-EU spouse from two years to five.

Eric Pickles and problem families: Finally, in at number five, is Eric Pickles. On the eve of unveiling his long-awaited troubled families initiative he previews his ambitions in an interview with the Independent on Sunday. As part of a £450 million payment-by-results scheme "councils will receive £3,900 for achieving at least 85% attendance in schools among these families, a 60% reduction in anti-social behaviour and a cut of a third in youth offending." The newspaper concludes: "Getting one adult in the family off benefits and into work for three months would net the council £4,000." See more on the local government blog from Harry Phibbs.

The Government will ultimately be judged on its economic achievements, its overall reputation for competence and its sense of mission. The public take a sceptical view of announcements but today is further proof that the Government still has a lot of forward momentum.


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