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7.45pm ToryDiary: All pollsters now pointing to 10% to 12% Tory lead

7.15pm ToryDiary: George Osborne hit by quadruple whammy

6.30pm Alex Deane on CentreRight highlights an unlikely example of the welfare trap in action

1.30pm AmericaInTheWorld: Will Iran use Barack Obama's offer of negotiation to buy more time for their nuclear ambitions?

1.15pm Matthew Sinclair on CentreRight: Having supported the ban on Geert Wilders entering
the UK, George Galloway is a hypocrite for pleading he's being censored after his own ban from Canada

1pm Graeme Archer on CentreRight rails at "the automatic get-out clause" which he says religious people use "to free them from
the consequences of their, or their fellow adherents’, words and actions"

12.15pm WATCH: Ernst and Young releases an alarming assessment of prospects for the UK economy over the coming year

800px-Banana_republic.svg11.15am Suli Shah on CentreRight says America is acting like a "banana republic" in its reaction to the AIG bonus fiasco

11am Local Government: DCLG cash intended for faith groups given to atheists

ToryDiary:

Mark Prisk MP on Platform: Lifting the rates burden for small business

Local Government: Caroline Spelman praises Scottish Council Tax freeze

WATCH: Gordon Brown claims that EU leaders have "laid the foundations" for next month's G20 summit

CAMERON SERIOUS
David Cameron facing backlash over 45p tax proposals

"David Cameron is facing a backlash from grassroots supporters and his own MPs over plans to commit to Labour's proposed new higher rate of tax for top earners… Mr Cameron and his senior colleagues have reluctantly agreed not to reverse the rise which Labour announced at the Pre Budget Report in November. It would see those earning more than £150,000 paying a top level of 45p from 2011. Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, last night became the most senior Conservative to question the plan, adding to the pressure on Mr Cameron. He told the BBC's Any Questions programme that the 45p rise was not "economically sensible"… Tim Montgomerie, the editor of Conservativehome.com, the influential bellwether for Tory supporters and politicians, said George Osborne needed to "get a grip," after the shadow chancellor confirmed yesterday's Telegraph story that he would find it difficult to avoid raising the tax level to the 45p level promised by Labour." – Daily Telegraph

"The suggestion that they would impose the 45p top rate of tax that Labour favours is not a good start and should be reversed. It is hard to understand how penalising wealth-creators is going to bring about economic recovery." – Telegraph editorial

> Yesterday's ToryDiary: "George Osborne needs to get a grip"

The Conservatives will not publish a shadow budget before the election

"The Tories will not produce a shadow Budget in the run-up to the next election, amid deepening alarm about the state of the public finances… A senior party source said: "We have in the past gone into elections with a lot more detail than we will be going into at this election. There will be less this time because of the state of the public finances. Obviously we will set out proposals for the economy but the reality is if we win we will inherit a complete mess. We can't honestly know how bad things will be until we get in and look at the books." – Daily Mail

What can Cameron or Brown do to dig Britain out of £43bn hole?The Times

HAMMOND PHILIP
Latest public sector debt prediction vindicates Tory warnings

"British public sector debt is set to balloon to a colossal £180bn as the recession worsens in the next financial year, experts have warned. The prediction by a leading independent forecasting body suggests the Government will have to borrow some 12.6% of GDP in 2009/10 to counter a rapid surge in unemployment, a sharp increase in spending and a plunge in tax receipts. Borrowing nearly double the amount taken from the public funds this financial year would leave the Government a miniscule amount for further stimulus efforts, economists from Ernst and Young's ITEM Club said… Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Phillip Hammond, said the prediction backs up what the Conservative party has been arguing for months. "This is a devastating blow for what little is left of Gordon Brown's economic reputation," he said. "The leading independent economic forecasting body that uses the same model as the Treasury has now confirmed what the Conservatives have been warning for months – that a second fiscal stimulus package in the UK is not affordable". – Sky News

Charles Moore: David Cameron must emulate pre-1979 Thatcher

"Contrary to their expectations, the Conservatives find themselves where they were when they last gained power from opposition 30 years ago. The country is in the most terrible economic mess. Does this mean that Mr Cameron has to become like Mrs Thatcher? I would say, yes. But before Tory modernisers throw up their hands in horror, I should make it clear that I am talking about Mrs Thatcher as she appeared to the general public in 1978-79, not the Mrs Thatcher of subsequent legend. The Iron Lady who became famous for her boldness and fierceness was also capable of caution. As she geared up to fight her first election as party leader, she knew, just as Mr Cameron knows today, that her party would lose if people thought that it was divisive and selfish. Indeed, it was against selfishness – the wealth-destroying, job-destroying greed of organised labour – that she campaigned." – Charles Moore in the Daily Telegraph

Ken Clarke
Ken Clarke hits out at anti-smoking activists as he bemoans the number of pubs being forced to close

"The ban on smoking in public places was yesterday denounced as the “last straw” for the pub trade by former Conservative Health Secretary Kenneth Clarke. Speaking on a visit to Cardiff that took in Brain’s brewery and the city’s threatened 156-year-old Vulcan pub, he described the rate at which pubs are closing as alarming. He said: “It’s a combination of the extraordinary levels of tax that are imposed, changing social habits, undoubtedly, and the smoking ban was a large, last straw, and the rate at which they are closing has become really rather alarming… I do recall how Ash [Action on Smoking and Health] were extremely vehement that the smoking ban would have no effect on the licensed trade at all and produced the completely untrue assertion it had had no damaging effect on bars in Dublin… That seemed to be swallowed by most of the public and unfortunately – what mattered – the vast majority of Members of Parliament.” – Western Mail

Michael Gove raises prospect of Saturday school

"Schools will open for lessons on Saturdays under Tory plans to raise classroom standards. Heads would be allowed to make the working day longer and holidays shorter. Shadow Education Secretary Michael Gove said successful charter schools in the States were already reassessing hours. He added: “We should be open to doing the same. The rich have independent schools where children do prep in an orderly environment. They have a longer school day and Saturday school with a wider range of activities. Why should that not be available in the state sector?” – The Sun

Patrick Mercer
Tory anger as "preacher of hate" addresses London conference by telephone link

"Fury erupted last night after exiled preacher of hate Omar Bakri Mohammed was allowed to address a public meeting and warn of fresh terror attacks on Britain… Addressing a meeting held at an east London hotel by telephone, he said British troops had declared war on Islam and must suffer the consequences – along with innocent civilians. Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, the chairman of the Commons counter terrorism sub committee, said it was time the Government acted to stop such activities taking place… Former Conservative Home Secretary Ann Widdecombe said: “These people should be prosecuted for incitement. It is quite disgraceful. If I was to hold a meeting like this and make these kinds of comments about members of the Muslim community I would be prosecuted." – Daily Express

British hotels are vulnerable to Mumbai-style attacks, anti-terrorist officers warn

"British luxury hotels are vulnerable to Mumbai-style attacks, senior anti-terrorist officers are warning, ahead of a major relaunch of the Government's counter-terrorism strategy next week… Chris Grayling, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "The Government is right that the horrific events in Mumbai have highlighted the need for a different strategy in counter-terrorism. No part of the UK is free from threat – and we know that terrorists want soft targets." Patrick Mercer, chairman of the Commons' anti-terrorism sub-committee, added that he was concerned about the increased risk of attacks outside London." – Daily Telegraph

Andrew Grice questions how Eurosceptic a Cameron government would be

"Opinions of Mr Cameron differ sharply on the Continent. For some, he would head the most Eurosceptic British Government ever – and they still bear the bruises from Margaret Thatcher's handbag… Some senior Brussels figures who have held talks with Mr Cameron suspect his bite would be less strong than his bark, that he would prove a constructive European, realising that it would be in Britain's interests to cut deals and make compromises. "You cannot be a vegetarian in a beefeater club," one said this week. Close allies predict Mr Cameron will concentrate on the economic problems he will inherit and let sleeping European dogs lie." – Andrew Grice in The Independent

Fresh evidence that Lord Myners knew about Sir Fred Goodwin's pensionThe Times

DUP politician avoids prosecution over homophobic remarksBBC

Simon Heffer considers the possible Republican contenders to challenge Obama in 2012Daily Telegraph

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