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CAMERON-blue-background7.30pm ToryDiary: David Cameron: "We are a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so"

5pm ToryDiary: Experimenting with a new approach to comments

5pm Teatime newslinks, featuring David Cameron's speech on the King James Bible, reaction to the Feltham and Heston by-election, and French attacks on the British economy

4.30pm ToryDiary: Sir Iqbal Sacranie

Screen shot 2010-01-26 at 08.29.084pm MPsETC: Baroness O'Cathain withdraws attempt to delay regulations allowing religious groups to hold civil partnerships

1.45pm Feltham and Heston reaction VIDEOS:

Young George House1.15pm MPsETC: Three cheers for Sir George Young, defender of legislative restraint

12.15pm Lord Ashcroft on Comment: The Conservative leadership knows better than to push Europe up the campaigning agenda

Noon ConHomeUSA: Today's top Republican and American political news

Afriyie Adam house11.15am MPsETC: Government forces MPs to abandon implementation of Adam Afriyie's IPSA recommendations

9.15am LISTEN: Bernard Jenkin MP: "If the Euro goes down, and we suffer a decline in economic growth as a consequence, our [credit] rating may well be affected"

ToryDiary: The nothing-in-it-for-anyone by-election

Andrew Lilico on our Columnists Page: Further thoughts on a currency union with Ireland

NORMAN JESSEJesse Norman on Comment: To get back to real capitalism, we need to pay attention to both cultural and economic values

Also on Comment, Samantha Callan: The Government is missing a coherent policy to challenge family breakdown

Richard Mabey on ThinkTankCentral: The Government should look again at the 2009 HS2 plans, in order to build a cross-party consensus for a better route

Local Government: Cumbria considers Council Tax rise

WATCH: Labour wins Feltham and Heston by-election

Britain will join next round of Eurozone discussions

Cameron Union Flag + EU"British officials are to take part in "technical discussions" on new arrangements to govern the eurozone economies, despite David Cameron blocking a new EU treaty at last week's Brussels summit. The move – agreed on Thursday night in a telephone call between Mr Cameron and the President of the European Council, Herman von Rompuy… "The Prime Minister reiterated that he wants the new fiscal agreement to succeed, and to find the right way forward that ensures the EU institutions fulfil their role as guardian of the EU treaty on issues such as the single market," a No 10 spokesman said." – Evening Standard

  • "French leaders have launched outspoken public attacks on Britain, calling for the UK to lose its AAA credit rating and comparing its economy with that of Greece." – Daily Telegraph
  • "We wisely kept our own currency, outside the Euro calamity, and set our own interest rates. Monsieur Noyer, you're a AAA-rated fool." – The Sun Says
  • "David Cameron’s veto of the proposed new European constitution was the right decision, possibly for the wrong reasons." – Samuel Brittan in the FT (£)
  • Blighty will yet be free of Europe's chains – Frederick Forsyth in the Daily Express

> From yesterday: Columnist Bruce Anderson: There is only one important group of happy politicians in Europe – British Conservative MPs

Lib Dem Cabinet members privately urged business leaders to oppose David Cameron's veto

Daily mail 16th dec 2011"Nick Clegg and Lib Dem Cabinet ministers are today accused of plotting to persuade business leaders to undermine David Cameron’s historic stand against a new EU treaty. In an email leaked to the Mail, the heads of blue chip firms are asked to sign up to a letter demanding that the Government ‘re-engages’ with Brussels. It is being circulated by leading City lobbyist Roland Rudd following a meeting with Mr Clegg, Vince Cable, Danny Alexander and Chris Huhne. It says it is ‘imperative’ that Britain is not left on the ‘outside’ when important  decisions are taken on the future of Europe." - Daily Mail

  • "Didn’t Mr Cameron predict some time ago that lobbying would be the next big scandal at Westminster? The activities of the treacherous Mr Clegg are potent evidence that reform of this dark side of politics cannot begin soon enough." – Daily Mail editorial

David Cameron's new family fund may only help 20% of troubled households

Cameron David DCLG"David Cameron faced charges yesterday of failing to put enough money behind an ambitious drive to "get to grips" with 120,000 of the country's most dysfunctional families. … The Government is providing just under £450m over the next three years, with the rest of the cash coming from councils. Critics warned that the spending squeeze on town halls would undermine attempts by local authorities to find the cash for the scheme. They also said that £450m would only be enough to work successfully with between 20,000 and 25,000 families."  - Independent

  • "To get the £450m from Whitehall, local authorities will have to find £675m over the next three years from council budgets" – Guardian
  • "You can’t save troubled families on the cheap" - Camila Batmanghelidjh for the Times (£)

> From yesterday:

Education minister Nick Gibb says celebrity culture and obsession with wealth is harming children

Gibb nick"In an attack on contemporary values, Nick Gibb argued that a “got to have it now” culture was breeding unrealistic expectations of wealth in young people. The schools minister said millions of children were being raised with the wrong priorities and equated wealth with success. … “Young people are growing up in a materialistic world for which they are often not fully prepared,” Mr Gibb said." – Daily Telegraph

Fraser Nelson: Profit needn’t be a dirty word when it comes to education

Nelson Fraser pink shirt"…politicians may balk at profits, but parents care only about the quality of education and don’t see why a deprived corner of Suffolk should not have the world’s best. It might just catch on. If Britain’s education sector were to emerge as an education industry, it is easy to see sink schools – our national shame – being eradicated within five years. The only obstacle is political squeamishness. As Sweden found, tolerating profit is the price you pay for helping the poor. The question is whether this is a price the Liberal Democrats are willing to pay." – Fraser Nelson for the Daily Telegraph

  • "Thousands of primary schools are likely to merge or form partnerships with nearby schools in response to falling budgets and government pressure to improve results." – The Times (£)
  • "Teaching unions are on the brink of an agreement to settle the long-running dispute over cuts to their pensions… Teachers would earn their pension entitlement faster and rises in pension contributions would be limited for younger and lower-paid teachers under the new deal on the table" - The Times (£)
  • Exam board competition should be axed, Education Select Committee told – Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday on Local government: 1,310 primary schools are failing

Treasury pay cap for Armed Forces could be challenged

Soldiers"The Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body could tell ministers to find the money to go beyond a 1 per cent pay limit announced last month, Government sources have said. … The review body’s legal terms of reference commit it to “consider” the overall Ministry of Defence budget, as well as the need to recruit and retain the right staff. The body’s remit means it is free to tell ministers to find the money for larger increases. That could leave ministers facing the embarrassment of rejecting the recommendations of its own advisers." – Daily Telegraph

> From yesterday: John Glen MP on Comment: Caring for our casualties

MPs back down from calling for IPSA's abolition

COMMONS-sitting"MPs on both side of the House attacked the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), which pays their expenses, for being over-bureaucratic and expensive to the taxpayer. But instead of provoking a head-on confrontation, the Commons decided that Ipsa should consider the proposals of a cross-party committee which recommended it could be stripped of some of its functions as part of its annual review." – Independent

  • "MPs are plotting to set up their own trade union to fight for better pay and expenses – amid claims that a tough new expenses regime has imposed a ‘huge burden’ on them." – Daily Mail

> Yesterday on ToryDiary: If we want a low-turnover Commons, Adam Afriyie's IPSA reforms make sense

Iain Martin: The Eurozone crisis has exposed the SNP's Europhile weak spot, giving David Cameron a way back into the Scottish argument

MARTIN IAIN"Little appreciated in England is the extent to which the Scottish Nationalist offering has been built, since the Eighties, on the foundations of the SNP’s European policy, termed “Independence in Europe”. Scots could, the Nats told nervous voters, leave behind what they described as the tired, broken-down UK and swap it for membership of the forward-looking, expansive EU… It is high time that Mr Cameron made a series of thoughtful, serious speeches on the constitution and the future of the Union, using the eurozone crisis as a backdrop. For while the SNP leader seemingly sweeps all before him, with poll ratings in the stratosphere, Mr Salmond has a rather large, soft, pro-European underbelly that makes him vulnerable." – Iain Martin for the Daily Telegraph

Labour MPs seething at Ed Miliband's failure to capitalise on the Coalition's Europe splits

Miliband Ed House"Many Labour MPs are leaving Westminster in downbeat mood after the final Prime Minister's Questions before Christmas on Wednesday. Several fear David Cameron's demolition of Mr Miliband is a symbolic moment that will haunt the Labour leader. … As they trooped out of the chamber, Labour MPs rued their leader's failure to hit his target. "Everyone had their heads down," one admitted. "If we can't score goals when the economy's in such a bad state and the cabinet is split, we have a problem."" – Independent

  • "Mr Miliband’s inner circle has ‘convinced him he is Bobby Kennedy’ and encouraged him to behave like Jed Bartlett in the West Wing, nestling gently in his political comfort zone." – Daily Mail
  • Simply blaming the cuts won't cut it any longer. The spending party must present a credible alternative for voters – Martin Kettle in the Guardian
  • Despite the grumbling, Labour will soldier on with a leader who is dead in the water – Dan Hodges for the Daily Telegraph
  • Enter Ed M, the Accidental Prime Minister – Philip Collins in the Times (£)
  • "Have you heard the one about Labour leader Ed Miliband's chief gag writer? She's quit." – The Sun

Labour hold Feltham and Heston by-election in low turnout poll

Lab Feltham and Heston"Labour today comfortably held Feltham and Heston in the by-election with an increased majority over the Conservatives. The Labour candidate Seema Malhotra was returned with majority of 6,203 – a net swing of 8.6per cent from the Conservatives." - Daily Mail

Former Labour MP Margaret Moran "not fit to stand trial", court toldGuardian

  • Jailed ex-MPs ordered to pay back legal aid – The Times (£)
  • Disgraced MP jailed for expenses fiddle still has Commons pass – Independent

The enemies of freedom will be cheering the loudest as US troops withdraw from Iraq – Tim Montgomerie for the Times (£)

Transport Select Committee refers Bombardier contract to spending watchdog - FT (£)

Criminals expected to skip £1.4billion in fines and confiscation ordersThe Sun

  • Police authorities spend tenth of budget on chief executivesDaily Telegraph

Olympics security to be boosted by 13,500 troopsGuardian

> From yesterday: WATCH: Philip Hammond: 13,500 military personnel will assist civilian security staff during the Olympic games

Cash payments for scrap metal to be banned to stop theftThe Times (£)

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