Published:

5pm Teatime newslinks including David Cameron's "no surrender" message to the Falklands, Nick Clegg's plan to take the lead at the next European summit, and the latest on the Eurozone crisis

2.30pm Local Government: Council by-election results from this week

2.15pm ToryDiary: The Coalition's twenty biggest achievements in 2011

Havel funeral12.30pm WATCH: World leaders including David Cameron and Sir John Major attend Václav Havel's funeral

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

ToryDiary: The business fightback in favour of Cameron's veto begins

Columnist Andrew Lilico: What Christmas has to say about the nature of order

Michael Burnett on Comment: I have seen the Big Society at work…but it just happens to be in Germany and the Netherlands

ThinkTankCentral: In new year policy blitz, Centre for Policy Studies suggests cutting public sector pay and cutting taxes for the low-paid

Local Government: Bin collection is a class issue

WATCH: Mark Hoban: "I think [credit card charges] have got to be a reasonable charge, it's got to be a fair charge to the consumer"

Michael Gove calls for tougher exams after exam board coaching scandal

GoveinClassroom
"Exams will be toughened in the wake of the scandal over teachers being ‘coached’ by examiners in how to improve marks, Michael Gove has warned. The Education Secretary said he was concerned that teachers and pupils had ‘too much certainty over which elements of the curriculum will be tested’. Exam watchdog Ofqual yesterday ordered the rewriting of a GCSE exam paper and threatened further action as part of an investigation into allegations that exam boards are giving unfair advice to teachers." – Daily Mail

Business backs PM over euro veto row and 77% call for looser relationship with EU

"Britain's business leaders have overwhelmingly backed David Cameron’s decision to veto a new EU treaty. A poll of members of the Institute of Directors found that 77 per cent support the defiant stand he took at Brussels summit earlier this month. In a further boost for the Prime Minister, business bosses said they want the UK to loosen ties with Brussels." – Daily Mail

  • "Irrespective of the fate of the euro or the ability of weakened southern European economies to prosper under severe austerity programmes, it is most welcome that the prime minister has shown himself willing to stand up for an outward-looking and competitive Britain." – A letter to the FT (£) signed by business leaders including Simon Wolfson of Next, Anthony Bamford of JCB, and John Hoerner of Tesco.
  • Britain may be outvoted on red tape – The Times (£)

Cameron to attend Vaclav Havel's funeral in Prague todayPA

> Yesterday on Local Government: Sandwell Labour councillors back free school

Mark Hoban cracks down on credit card fees

Screen shot 2011-12-23 at 08.26.55"Air fares, train tickets, concerts and car insurance will soon be cheaper as the Government cracks down on excessive credit card surcharges. … Mark Hoban, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said: "We want consumers to be able to shop around. They have a right to understand the charges they may incur up front and not be hit through a hidden last-minute payment surcharge."" – Independent

"Few Government measures will bring more joy than the axing of rip-off charges for debit and credit card payments. Fees imposed by the likes of the budget airlines cause anger because they are seen as a sneaky way to bump up fares rather than quote transparent prices." – The Sun editorial

> Yesterday on WATCH: Eurozone banks rush to take three-year ECB loans

Grant Shapps increases right to buy discount to £50,000

"Discounts for council tenants who buy their homes will be increased to a maximum of £50,000 in England under a government plan to revitalise the "right to buy" scheme. The housing minister, Grant Shapps, said restrictions on discounts over the past few years made right to buy meaningless in many places, with fewer than 3,700 sales last year compared with a peak of 84,000 less than 10 years ago. He said the increased discounts would help to stimulate house building" – Guardian

MoD reforms aim to cut waste in procurement

"The Ministry of Defence is considering hiring hundreds of experts from the private sector to help cut waste in defence procurement. … Last year the MoD's top 15 projects came in £6bn over budget." – BBC

  • MoD to lose arms buying role – The Times (£)
  • "Procurement decisions are made by those without the expertise to negotiate the best deal; meanwhile, the Services clamour for the latest and shiniest pieces of kit, whether or not they are suited to the nation’s needs." – Daily Telegraph editorial
French police investigate Tory MP's Nazi stag partyThe Times (£)

Daniel Hannan is the most-watched British politician on YouTubeBBC

Fraser Nelson: How can we remain silent while Christians are being persecuted?

Nelson Fraser Feb 2010"When challenged, ministers deplore persecution in general – but, seemingly, not so much that they’d do something like pick up the phone to Ankara. Yet there is plenty Britain can do. Countries could be denied aid until Christians (or Jews, or Sunnis) are allowed to worship freely. British diplomats could be empowered, even instructed, to advocate freedom of religion. When a peer of the realm alerts the Foreign Office to some persecuted Anglicans, a red alert ought to sound." – Fraser Nelson in the Daily Telegraph

Chris Huhne says the Tory right wants Britain to be a semi-detached member of the EU

"Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat cabinet minister, has urged David Cameron to stand up to Conservative Eurosceptics … The former MEP said: "I am worried there is a tendency on the Conservative right wing, a significant part of its parliamentary party, that does not appreciate the importance of being at the table in Brussels when it comes to negotiating the rules for the single market – and does not understand the strength the EU gives us globally in tackling problems like climate change."" – Independent

Ed Balls says voters will turn to Labour

Balls Ed Feb 2010 2"Ed Balls has claimed that the autumn statement, in which the government was forced to admit that its deficit reduction plans were badly off course, will prove to be a game-changer that will see voters increasingly turn to Labour. The shadow chancellor says he believes his party is ahead of the electorate on the issue, and will reap the benefits in 2012." – Guardian

Civitas: New equality laws have no economic benefit and only a questionable effect on discrimination

"The study published by the think-tank Civitas (pdf) says that the supposed economic benefits of recent human rights legislation are “imaginary” and that even their symbolic value is “debatable”. It claims that rather than saving the country £65million a year, as Government estimates suggest, the Equality Act 2010 will actually cost at least £10m annually while tying small businesses in red tape." – Daily Telegraph

Whitehall considering giving Holyrood the power to call an independence referendum

"The SNP government has pledged to hold a referendum in the second half of its parliamentary term. But a debate has focused on who should be allowed to call it. Whitehall sources have now confirmed that they are discussing the possibility of using a special clause in the Scotland Act which would allow Holyrood to run the poll." – BBC

  • Our marriage to the Scots could be heading for the rocks – Nick Wood for the Daily Mail

Argentina draws up secret plans to grab the Falklands Daily Express

Screen shot 2011-12-23 at 08.30.27
RAF could give support in Somalia intervention
Independent

How BBC wrongly predicted bad news for British economy (and then relegated the story when the figures were actually good)Daily Mail

Only 6% of new mothers believe Government is family-friendlyDaily Telegraph

Patients to get online access to their medical recordsThe Times (£)

And finally… 'I'd never ever use my children in a photoshoot': Ed Balls in thinly-veiled attack on Labour leader Miliband for fluffy newspaper interview

"Shadow chancellor Ed Balls today launched a thinly-veiled public attack on Labour leader Ed Miliband after he posed for pictures at home with his family for a newspaper. Mr Balls said he would 'never ever' allow photos of his family to be used, no matter how 'short term, tactical and tempting' it might be. The Labour leader was seen on the front page of the Daily Mirror yesterday cuddling his young son Samuel, while wife Justine held two-year-old Daniel." – Daily Mail

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