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Cameron’s New Year Message: Stick to the plan

pmnewyearmessage“The UK faces “chaos” if it changes economic course in next May’s general election, David Cameron has warned. Supporting Labour would take the country backwards and jeopardise the recovery, the Conservative leader said in his new year message. Mr Cameron said the UK’s new year resolution should be to “stick to the plan” to ensure prosperity. “2015 can promise to be a great year for our country – if we make the right choices together,” he said.” – BBC

  • “On Friday the prime minister is planning to launch his first campaign event of the year, and on Sunday he is expected to be interviewed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.” – The Guardian
  • “British voters face a stark choice between “competence” and “chaos” at the general election in May, David Cameron said as he put the economy at the heart of his New Year message.” – The Independent
  • “If you put in, you will get out” – The Times(£)

100,000 attend the Boris fireworks party

“In London, a crew of more than 300 set off 12,000 fireworks as part of the annual display…It was the first time the display has been ticketed, with revellers paying £10 to cover the costs of running the display. It comes after an estimated 500,000 people tried to see the 2013-14 new year display, resulting in many being turned away for safety reasons. Mayor of London Boris Johnson tweeted: “London’s dazzling fireworks were a wonderful way to welcome in the New Year. Thanks to all who made it such a safe & fun event.” – BBC

Perry acts against “rip off” train fares

PERRY Claire“Train passengers will automatically be offered the cheapest tickets for their journeys, potentially saving hundreds on travel, after the Government intervened following a Daily Telegraph investigation into rip-off fares. Rail operators have been told by ministers that they must tell commuters and travellers that they could make huge savings if they use a ticket office rather than a self-service machine… Claire Perry, the rail minister, called an urgent summit of railway chiefs which led them to agree to the creation of the country’s first rail fare code of conduct.” – Daily Telegraph

  • British fares subsidise travel in Germany – Daily Mail

Blair’s reverse ferrets over Labour’s election prospects

“Tony Blair has insisted he is fully behind Ed Miliband despite appearing to suggest Labour risks being too left-wing to win the general election. The former prime minister told the Economist May’s poll could become one “in which a traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party, with the traditional result”. Asked if this meant a Tory win, he replied: “Yes, that is what happens.” He later said he expected a Labour victory and had been “misinterpreted”.” – BBC

  • “David Lammy said Mr Blair’s comments should be taken ‘very seriously indeed’ “- Daily Mail
  • Blair is “out of touch” says Lucy Powell – The Times(£)
  • Euan Blair won’t stand in May – The Times(£)

Labour MP says Miliband’s circle think northerners are thick

Miliband coffee“Ed Miliband’s inner circle think people with northern accents are stupid, a Labour MP has claimed. In a discussion of the Labour Party’s fortunes, Ian Lavery said he was “frightened” by a ruling “elite” in Westminster that has never held a manual job and looks down on working class people….”We’ve got an elite in, we’ve got an elite in Westminster which quite frankly frightens me. They haven’t been anywhere or done anything, and when you’ve got an accent like mine they think well that man doesn’t really know too much.”- Daily Telegraph

Corrupt nations receiving £1 billion in British aid a year

“Britain poured more than £1 billion of aid into countries run by the world’s most corrupt regimes in 2013 – despite warnings that much of it will go to waste. A study by the respected anti-corruption organisation Transparency International reveals that all but one of the 20 most corrupt countries receive aid from Britain. And figures reveal that British aid to these worst offenders rose by almost a quarter in 2013 compared to 2012 as ministers and officials raced to distribute cash in time to hit the Government’s controversial aid target.” – Daily Mail

Farage warns that links to a ‘racist age’ could ‘bury’ UKIP

FARAGE Nigel official“Nigel Farage has admitted that his party will be “buried” if people are able to link the UK Independence Party to a “racist age”. The Ukip leader made the unguarded comments at a meeting of senior party figures following allegedly racist comments made by a councillor on the internet.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Even UKIP don’t dare break the unhealthy consensus on the NHS – James Forsyth The Spectator

Butler-Sloss warns against giving victims too much influence

“Baroness Butler-Sloss has cautioned against giving victims too much influence over who runs the planned inquiry into historical child abuse. The retired judge, who stepped down as head of the public inquiry, said there could be “real problems” if they were to decide who is its eventual chair. She also told BBC Radio 4 she has “enormous sympathy” for the victims. The home secretary will decide who heads the inquiry, but the government says she wants to hear victims’ views.” – BBC

Scottish Conservatives say the SNP are soft on crime

“Criminals have dodged more than £25 million in fines imposed by Scottish courts since the SNP came to power, according to new figures that the Conservatives called an “insult” to victims….It also emerged that some of Scotland’s wealthiest criminals have failed to pay £5.3 million that was supposed to be confiscated from them for being the proceeds of crime….the figures coincide with the SNP encouraging courts to impose financial penalties instead of prosecution or short prison sentences, which ministers have argued do little to prevent recidivism.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Donald Dewar consulted The Queen over Catholic monarchy ban – Daily Telegraph

Free schools and faith schools increase divisions claims ex Blair adviser

School“Segregation between different classes and ethnicities in Britain is worsening due to increasing numbers of faith schools and the opening of free schools, a leading campaigner on social equality has warned. Matthew Taylor, the respected chair of the Social Integration Commission, called on governors to issue regular reports on how their pupils are mixing to prevent serious divisions in society – saying that Muslim schools were of particular concern as their intakes tend to be less diverse.” – The Independent

MOD scrapping equipment “has cost more than it saved”

“DEFENCE chiefs have been blasted after it emerged moves to slash their budget have actually cost taxpayers billions of pounds. Official figures show the Ministry of Defence is on course to post losses of nearly £3billion after the scrapping of key military equipment. They include the early withdrawal from service of the Harrier aircraft fleet, which was meant to save £2.8billion. According to the MoD’s annual report and accounts for 2013-14, the move is expected to lead to a loss of £1.3billion.” – The Sun(£)

  • “Defence Secretary Michael Fallon is one of the ablest ministers in the Cabinet. He needs to get a grip, fast.” – The Sun Says(£)

The newspapers offer their hopes for the New Year…

2015“Britain faces the most unpredictable – and arguably the most important – election in living memory. Indeed, there is even the nightmare possibility that we could get the result the country wants least. Who can imagine a worse outcome than a Miliband-led, quasi-Marxist government, kept in power by the Left-wing SNP – reversing the Coalition’s economic successes, breaking up the kingdom, abandoning welfare reform and denying us a referendum on the EU?” – Leader Daily Mail

  • “This country is growing quicker than most of its competitors and median household income is 10 per cent higher than it was before the financial crash. There is a fair chance that energy and food prices, which have held down the cost of living, will fall in 2015.” – Leader The Times(£)

…and their predictions

“This is the year that will probably see Ukip leader Nigel Farage and Scottish National party hero Alex Salmond stride grinning into the heart of the very Westminster establishment they profess to despise. Taking up his seat on the green benches of opposition, Ukip’s newest honourable member might even find himself squashed beside Caroline Lucas of the Greens, whose party split the Labour vote just enough to deny the new prime minister Ed Miliband a majority. And perhaps to the right of Salmond sits Boris Johnson, the newbie MP for Uxbridge and now clear favourite to win the Conservative leadership contest following the resignation of a defeated David Cameron.” – Rowena Mason The Guardian

  • “Much as I might not like it I have to face up to the cold reality that Labour are easily the favourites to win in five months. Speculation about the Tories sneaking home again is little more than wishful thinking.” – Leo McKinstry Daily Express
  • “Ed Miliband becomes prime minister of an unstable government. Second general election within a year.” Sam Coates The Times(£)
  • “Austerity cuts will bite even harder in 2015” – Amelia Gentleman The Guardian
  • “Prime Minister Ed McMiliband? It’s pure fantasy” – Dan Hodges Daily Telegraph

>Today:

Montgomerie: In praise of Sheridan Westlake

westlake“You won’t have heard of Sheridan Westlake but he is something of a legend in Whitehall. In opposition he showered the Department of Communities and Local Government with freedom of information requests. He was hated by the civil servants who had their large meal bills and expensive perks exposed. Now he’s a special adviser in the department, closing their £200,000 Parisian-furnished relaxation zones and asking them to submit weekly reports on whether they’ve implemented the tasks that Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, has given them. I can’t think of a better guardian of my taxes, or yours.” – Tim Montgomerie The Times(£)

Evans-Pritchard: Return to Drachma could mean collapse of EU monetary union

Euro meltdown“The underlying debt dynamics of the eurozone are still deteriorating, a repeat of Britain’s failed efforts to contract its way out of debt in the 1920s. All that has changed since July 2012 is that the European Central Bank (ECB) has been allowed to act as a lender of last resort; or at least, markets believe so. Whether this belief would survive an expulsion of Greece from the euro is an open question.” – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • France scraps 75 per cent income tax rate – Daily Mail
  • Home educating parents object to imposition of council visits – The Guardian
  • The number of NHS managers paid over £300,000 doubles – Daily Telegraph
  • Childcare costs hits half annual salaries says Labour – The Guardian
  • Home ownership levels to fall below France – The Times(£)
  • Nicholas Soames’ son guilty of drink driving – Daily Telegraph
  • 18-year-old chosen as Labour candidate – The Independent

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