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Is an NHS “winter crisis” coming at last? Cameron sends in Heywood and Letwin to stave one off…

Screen shot 2014-12-24 at 07.18.21“Sir Jeremy Heywood, the UK’s most senior civil servant, and Oliver Letwin, minister for government policy, have been spending large amounts of time liaising with health department and NHS leaders to ensure that hospitals and doctors can cope with the additional pressures of winter, according to Whitehall sources.” – Financial Times

…As A & E departments come under “unprecedented strain”

“A&E units are facing unprecedented strain and last week recorded their worst waiting times on record. On Monday, Sir Bruce wrote to hospital managers warning of a ‘worrying increase’ in patients spending more than four hours on trolleys in casualty.” – Daily Mail

> Today: Adrian Hilton Comment – Is 24/7 access to my GP on your Christmas List?

Prime Minister: Let’s celebrate Christian values this Christmas

CAMERON straight at you“Thousands of churches, whether in the smallest village or biggest city, will hold open their doors and welcome people of faith and none to give thanks and celebrate together. So this Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of Christ with friends, families and neighbours, let us think about those in need at home and overseas, and of those extraordinary professionals and volunteers who help them.” – Daily Express

  • Church of England guilty of serious institutional homophobia, says bishop – Daily Telegraph
  • Christianity facing Middle East wipeout – The Times (£)

> Today: The Deep End – Don’t be annoyed by Xmas

> Yesterday:

Matthew Parris: Cameron should beware the martyrdom of Theresa May

MAY Police Federation 2014“Were I a cheerleader for David Cameron to go on and on, or were I part of the (as yet unformed) Team Osborne, or a keen Boris-ite, or a Carmelite follower of Santa Theresa, I would be amazed and bewildered at the boost to Theresa May’s chances that Downing Street handed the home secretary this week. How crass. To gift her a massive grievance to nurse by expelling her two advisers from the Tory candidates’ list (on what most will see as a pretext); to do this in the most public and humiliating way; to make her the injured party . . . whatever was Mr Cameron thinking? Why didn’t the chancellor stop him?” – The Times (£)

> Yesterday: Columnist Garvan Walshe – May warned of the “Nasty Party”. Her new student immigration policy would make it the stupid one.

Oborne: Our short-term attention span blinds us to the longer-term achievements of this Government

“I am certain that historians will marvel at the Cameron-Clegg Coalition and its superlative achievements in welfare, education and police reform…The sheer scope and audacity of its ambition take the breath away. Cameron and Clegg have reshaped the relationship between individual and state in a way which neither Margaret Thatcher nor Tony Blair ever dared to do.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “The rate at which news is reformatted and shared and the volume of potential iterations render old models of message discipline obsolete.” Rafael Behr, The Guardian

Osborne’s growth forecast set to be missed

Osborne-Headshot3“A series of official revisions to UK economic output estimates showed the annual rate of gross domestic product growth in the third quarter falling from 3 per cent to 2.6 per cent…High quality global journalism requires investment. The UK setback came only weeks after the chancellor told MPs the country was on track to be the “fastest growing of any major advanced economy in the world”.” – Financial Times

The long election campaign continues as Danny Alexander attacks the Chancellor again

“In an interview with The Independent, the Chief Treasury Secretary said: “The Tory agenda to keep reducing public spending beyond what is necessary would result in the wilful destruction of important parts of our public services. That is not appropriate or right for this country. “People are prepared to go along with deficit reduction when they see it is necessary. When you are past that point, to where it is an ideological choice, people don’t agree with that.” – The Independent

Balls meets Treasury Permanent Secretary, discusses proposed Mansion Tax

BALLS "Couldn't give a toss"“Mr Balls said at yesterday’s talks that he was “sure the Treasury will be gearing up to make sure we can deliver” Labour’s signature policy of taxing high-value properties to fund increased spending on the NHS. Sir Nicholas Macpherson, the permanent secretary to the Treasury, has already met Mr Balls, a spokesman confirmed yesterday, although he played down claims that the Treasury was preparing to deliver Labour policy.” – The Times (£)

  • Emma Reynolds attacks housing shortage – Financial Times
  • Lilian Greenwood branded a ‘hypocrite’ for condemning privatisation but accepting rail sponsor – Daily Express
  • Helen Goodman says that thousands of refugees will be homeless this Christmas – The Independent
  • Alan Williams obituary – The Guardian
  • Labour’s 60-year fault line is opening up again – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times (£)

Fresh from his well-publicised meeting with Farage, Danzcuk takes aim at Miliband

“Complaining that his leader had a “35% strategy” aimed at scraping by with just enough of the vote to become the senior party in a ruling coalition, Danzcuk said Miliband should listen to working-class MPs such as himself rather than ignoring them in favour of what he described as sycophants who cut their teeth as special advisers.” – The Guardian

UKIP’s Roger Bird is cleared…and then quits

UKIP glass“Confusion surrounded the basis of the decision. A disciplinary hearing concluded that Mr Bird had entered into a consensual relationship with Ms Bolter but that this “did not compromise the integrity of its candidate selection process”. Ukip sources have previously said that it is against party rules for an official involved in the selection process to be in a sexual relationship with a candidate.” – The Times (£)

  • Party donor registers controversial site – Daily Mail
  • Only UKIP will stand against mass immigration – Nigel Farage, Daily Express

Northern Ireland’s political leaders reach agreement

“The deal – which has been called the Stormont House Agreement – comes after 100 hours of formal talks, which First Minister Peter Robinson described as “an exhausting period”. But he said the Executive had made a “monumental step forward”. “I believe the work carried out has been productive. We have a document presented by the governments, a three-stranded format agreed by the parties and a significant section dealing with financial matters,” he said.” – Belfast Telegraph

> Today: Henry Hill’s Red, White and Blue: Stormont deal staves off collapse

News in Brief

  • Soldier’s account of the Christmas football truce of 1914 released – The Independent
  • Met accused of breaking the law to track down source for the Sun’s Political Editor – The Sun (£)
  • Sony to show The Interview in some cinemas – Financial Times
  • Glasgow lorry crash victims named – Scotsman
  • George H.W. Bush, 90, rushed to hospital with shortness of breath – Daily Mail
  • Ukraine angers Russia with landmark step towards NATO – The Guardian
  • Government tells teenagers: explain Westminster to aliens – Daily Telegraph
  • Ministers urged to back carbon ambition – Yorkshire Post
  • Chris Heaton-Harris’s puns continue – Ephraim Hardcastle, Daily Mail
  • Gale force winds and flood warning in North Wales – Daily Post
  • White Christmas on the cards in the big chill – Daily Express

 

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