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10pm Ruth Lea on CentreRight: Government help for bank lending – just “get on with it”

8.15pm ToryDiary: Latest YouGov poll puts Tory lead at 7%

8.15pm Alex Deane on CentreRight: Q. When is a closed railway line not "closed"?

Duncan_alan_new3.15pm ToryDiary: Alan Duncan remains popular with grassroots despite ‘friendly fire’ from CCHQ

1.15pm Andrew Lilico on CentreRight on Quantative easing and inflation targets

Noon

11.30am WATCH A further cut in interest rates would mark a record low

10.30am Local Government: Councils pay £600 an hour to Council Tax debt chasers

10.15am Jonathan Isaby on CentreRight: MEPs sent a message in snowy Brussels

ToryDiary: Doctors’ faith in the Conservative Party has been restored

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Philip Cowley on Platform: What will the Conservative Parliamentary Party be like after the next general election?

Seats and Candidates Search for 100 Peers: Algy Cluff

Local Government: Municipal Lingo No. 1 – Judgemental

Jonathan Isaby on CentreRight: Employment Minister Tony McNulty has a Paxman moment

AmericaInTheWorld: Gaza is Obama’s first big foreign policy headache

WATCH President Bush host lunch for Barack Obama at the White House yesterday with all three living former presidents 

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Conservatives are the progressives now, say Clark and Hunt

"Instead of leading Britain deeper into debt, a progressive government must return the financial system to its true purpose: to be a responsible provider of investment in wealth-generating activities. It must attack the root causes of broken-society issues, so reducing the mushrooming costs of social breakdown. Most of all, it must ensure that any economic recovery is sustainable. The last decade has shown that fostering dependency on the state is as unsustainable and damaging as relying on trickle down to deliver social justice. In all areas of policy, the progressive party isn’t the one that peddles dependency on government, but the one that seeks to strengthen the people and institutions of this country from within." – Greg Clark and Jeremy Hunt writing in the Guardian

Reshuffle speculation continues

"Alan Duncan and other key party figures who missed the Conservatives’ recession tour of Britain have been targeted for dismissal or demotion in the shadow cabinet reshuffle. Mr Duncan, the shadow business secretary, has borne the brunt of David Cameron’s anger in private over his absence from Tuesday’s meetings across the country to promote Tory policies to help families and business in the economic slump. Mr Duncan, the chairman of the all-party parliamentary skiing team, was already in Davos in Switzerland for the annual parliamentary skiing holiday. Last night he was back in Britain having cut short his trip." – Daily Telegraph

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Osborne attacks Darling over growth forecasts

"Alistair Darling has admitted that Britain is “far from through” the recession and hinted that the Government is preparing to ditch its forecast for a recovery in the second half of this year." – Times

"It appears that Alistair Darling is already trying to wriggle out of the economic forecasts he made just weeks ago which, as we pointed out at the time, were more optimistic than most commentators believed. It’s an admission that he sees what the country sees: Labour’s policies for the recession are not working." – George Osborne quoted in The Independent

Tories discover £132million "invisible army of Whitehall civil servants"

"Taxpayers are footing a bill of more than £100million for the salaries of nearly 5,000 bureaucrats with no job to do, the Tories claim… In total, 15 departments said they employed 4,634 staff – one in 100 of all civil servants – without an official job… More than half of the staff were at HM Revenue & Customs which is employing 2,874 "pre-surplus staff". This is defined as staff "whose post or work is no longer being carried out". The answers from other departments show that staff with nothing to do are described as members of "People Action Teams", "Redeployment Pool", "Priority Movers", "Corporate Pool" or "Career Transition Centre" – Daily Telegraph

Andrew Mitchell accuses DfID of trying to usurp Foreign Office powers

"The Department for International Development has usurped the power of the Foreign Office and would be reined under a Conservative government, The Independent has been told. The shadow International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, said DFID had begun to encroach on the work of other departments and to come "perilously close" to setting its own foreign policy, a role he said should be reserved for the Foreign Office. He said the Foreign Office will be given much greater influence over the use of overseas aid should the Tories win the next election." – Independent

Tories to switch track on rail

"The Conservative party looks set to reverse one of its highest-profile transport policy stances of recent years by accepting the railway industry’s structure should remain largely as it is. The change, expected in a policy document on the railways, reverses the stance taken in July 2006 when Chris Grayling, then transport spokesman, called for an end to the separation of track and train operations." – FT

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Fraser Nelson wants to hear more from the Tories on foreign policy

"If the Conservatives were in a more assertive mood, they could spell out why this conflict has such implications for British foreign policy… Mr Cameron has been quiet on Israel, and no policy is discernible from what William Hague has had to say. Last week Cameron promised to protect defence spending from the cuts he will have to make in government. But this still leaves him far from an answer to the question Mr Blair posed before leaving Number 10: is Britain to have a war-fighting or a peace-keeping military?" – Fraser Nelson in The Spectator

Scotland "to escape Tory cuts"

"Scotland will escape the worst of the spending cuts imposed by a future Conservative government, the Scottish Tories claimed last night… A Scottish Tory spokesman said last night that the plans had been drawn up in such a way that Scotland would only have to find £28 million of cuts – far short of its £500 million population share." – Scotsman

Labour Assembly Member instigates investigation into Boris over "Greengate"Daily Telegraph

Treasury denies it plans to "print money"BBC

Further interest rate cut expected todayDaily Mail

Nick Clegg: Give fathers a year’s paternity leaveDaily Mail

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And finally… Gordon Brown warns his Cabinet to get in shape

"Prime Minister Gordon Brown has warned Cabinet ministers face a visit from TV fitness guru Mr Motivator if they fail to keep up their new year’s healthy living resolutions… Mr Motivator, best known for his appearances in colourful leotards on GMTV in the 1990s, burst into Downing Street to promote the campaign following the launch of the Government’s own anti-obesity initiative earlier this week. Mr Brown told him: "I’ll tell the Cabinet Ministers that you’re after them – you’re coming!" – Daily Telegraph

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