Floods 1) Cameron denies North-South divide in flood defence spending

Flood‘David Cameron backed the government’s funding for flood defences yesterday, denying accusations of a “north-south divide”. The prime minister was forced on to the defensive during a visit to deluged areas in York. He insisted that Britain had spent “more per head of the population on flood defences in the north than we do in the south”…After an hour at the command centre he visited a sandbag-filling station on the outskirts of the city, where he was heckled by bystanders. One woman shouted “No more cuts to public services”, as Mr Cameron spoke to a team from the Scarborough mountain rescue, who had used a dinghy to rescue people from a flooded street in the city centre.’ – The Times (£)

Floods 2) Environment Agency chief believed to be in Barbados

‘Flood defences chief Sir Philip Dilley was sunning himself in Barbados yesterday as vast areas of the North remained under water. The £100,000-a-year Environment Agency boss chose to stay away as the country battled a worsening flood crisis. Flunkies said the three-day-a-week chairman’s annual leave with his family was a private matter…Tory MP Nigel Adams, whose Selby and Ainsty seat has been hit, said: “Hundreds of my constituents are struggling with the flooding. After Chris Smith’s mistakes, I would think Mr Dilley would want to be back as soon as possible.”’ – The Sun (£)

Floods 3) Sheen angers victims by attacking suggestion of using aid money at home

aidgraphic‘Actor Michael Sheen infuriated flood victims yesterday by saying he was sick of hearing foreign aid should be diverted to help them. As guest editor of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Sheen – best-known for his portrayals of Tony Blair – said that criticism of the £12billion annual foreign aid budget was an ‘ideological agenda’. His comments came as stark images emerged of flood-hit residents battling to prevent further damage to their homes and businesses. One picture shows a wine bar in York with flood water halfway up its window while another shows dirty water lapping over a woman’s doorstep.’ – Daily Mail

>Today: Nick Timothy’s column: Will Benedict Cumberbatch, Stephen Fry, Charlotte Church and Katie Hopkins please shut up?

Downing Street fears half of Tory MEPs could back Leave in the EU referendum

‘Fears that half of Conservative MEPs could campaign for Britain to quit the European Union are leading to “panic” in Downing Street, with David Cameron offering individual meetings to discuss EU negotiations…No 10 organised a private briefing for the party’s 20 MEPs by Mats Persson, a Downing Street adviser on the talks…One Tory MEP present said: “Some of my colleagues were very unhappy at the Tusk letter. They were underwhelmed by it, sad, distressed, depressed — they were all words used.”…Two hours after Mr Persson left what was described as a tense meeting, it is understood that Ed Llewellyn, the prime minister’s chief of staff, called a handful of “wavering” MEPs and offered to meet them one-to-one to hear their concerns. Now the prime minister has stepped up efforts to convince his MEPs to campaign for Britain to remain “in” during the referendum.’ – The Times (£)

  • Vote Leave calculates the net cost of EU membership is £5.4 billion – The Sun (£)
  • FTSE companies don’t seem concerned about Brexit – FT
  • The EU could collapse in 2016 – Leo McKinstry, Daily Telegraph
  • EU plan to ditch airline co-pilots – Daily Mail

The ‘Long-Term Economic Plan’ goes missing

growth flag‘It was the cornerstone of the Conservative election campaign: “The long-term economic plan.” During the last parliament, David Cameron used the phrase so many times it became a standing joke in Westminster. Since the summer, however, the prime minister appears to have consigned the phrase to the dustbin…Since the autumn Mr Cameron has not uttered the slogan once in 10 sessions of PMQs. Labour said the research proved “the long-term economic plan” was just a gimmick.’ – FT

  • The minimum wage gamble – FT Leader
  • OBR rates Osborne’s chance of hitting the deficit target as 50/50 – The Guardian
  • GMB: Gas and nuclear are essential to top up the shortfall from renewable energy - Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: The National Living Wage is ConHome readers’ Policy of the Year

I’d back Boris to beat Osborne, says Tory donor

‘Alexander Temerko, who has given more than £300,000 to the party, has vowed to make a significant donation to Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign. He said that it could be a disaster if the Tories went into the next election with the chancellor at the helm…’With George, it will be a disaster. If it’s Boris, we have a very good chance.” He added: “If he stands, I will definitely support Boris financially and personally… I will support Boris without his personal request, because I believe he is the right person after David [Cameron].’ – The Times (£)

  • Crosby deserves a knighthood for understanding the power of fear – Janan Ganesh, FT

Rate of young homeowners hits record lowHOMES Manifesto

The young homeowner total has slumped to a record low, new figures reveal. Just 44 per cent of 20- 30-year-olds own part or all of the property they live in. That is down from 63 per cent in 1999 and is the lowest since records began in 1996…George Osborne last month pledged £7billion to build 400,000 cheap new homes by 2020.’ – The Sun (£)

Fraser calls for a federal UK

‘One of Scotland’s leading Conservatives has said a “federal” system of government in the UK could provide a “lasting and stable” political framework after the upheaval of the referendum debate in recent years. Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser, who challenged Ruth Davidson for the party leadership four years ago, predicts that recent moves towards devolution for City Regions in England, including the “Northern Powerhouse”, will provide momentum for a further move towards a full federal solution.’ – The Scotsman

Vaizey: Technology is transforming life in Britain

VAIZEY Ed‘We want the UK to be synonymous with digital, a place where technology transforms day-to-day life. The potential impact is profound. It might mean that the best educators from around the world are made accessible to all — with virtual reality sets bringing Nobel laureates into the classroom. That we can build better houses, faster. That more power is given to the patient, and the care we provide for our elderly and sick is improved and made more affordable. That we use driverless robotic buses in rural communities or help people to find parking places using GPS technology.’ – Ed Vaizey, The Times (£)

  • Social media executives risk jail if they inform users of snooping requests - Daily Mail

Corbyn challenges Cameron to annual ‘state of the nation’ debate

‘Jeremy Corbyn has challenged David Cameron to take part in a televised debate between Britain’s national political leaders. The Labour leader said an annual ‘state of the nation’ debate would ensure Number 10 was held to account. He said it was the “key responsibility of all political leaders” to increase the public’s involvement in politics.’ – Daily Telegraph

‘Dozens’ of moderate Labour MPs are thinking about standing down

LABOUR holes‘One Shadow Cabinet minister told the Daily Mail that the real threat to Labour’s future was now an exodus of disillusioned moderate MPs, which would hand the party to the hard Left. ‘There are lots of headlines about people being deselected, and who will survive after boundary changes, but it’s all a red herring,’ the source said. ‘The real issue is going to be people just giving up and standing down. People in their thirties and forties, who should be looking at a ministerial career in the next Labour government, can see it’s not going to happen for them under Corbyn. These are talented people who could make a good living outside politics. Quite understandably they are looking at alternative careers.’ – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Left Watch: Labour’s moderates joined the Shadow Cabinet to try to make things better, but they have failed

European cities receive New Year terror warning

‘Major European cities have received a warning of a possible shooting or bomb attack before New Year’s Eve celebrations. Police in Vienna revealed the alert, which was provided to a number of cities by a “friendly” intelligence service before Christmas. Austrian police have subsequently stepped up security, but in London, where New Year’s Eve is already a heavily secured event, the Metropolitan police said yesterday that it was not planning any additional measures.’ – The Times (£)

  • Police union fears there aren’t enough armed officers – Daily Telegraph
  • Iraqi Prime Minister pledges to destroy ISIS within a year - The Times (£)
  • A timely victory in Ramadi – Daily Telegraph Leader
  • RAF drone destroyed extremist checkpoint on Christmas Day – The Times (£)
  • Are we watching the opening stages of World War Three? – The Sun (£)
  • Putin issues book of his own quotes – Daily Mail

News in Brief

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