9pm WATCH: Peter Mandelson says that Gordon Brown remains in charge of the country and dismisses press stories on the issue as "a ridiculous song and dance"

8.30pm Jonathan Isaby on CentreRight: Is it politically incorrect for MPs to take holidays overseas?

5.15pm Latest audio and video on PlayPolitical:

3pm Patrick Nolan on CentreRight: How should the deficit be reduced?

2.45pm ToryDiary: Nick Herbert exposes how we have become more dependent on food imports under Labour

12.30pm Reform's Dale Bassett on CentreRight: Dropping university entrance requirements won’t even help disadvantaged kids

Righton CarolineNoon Seats and Candidates: Carnivals, canvassing and tackling
binge-drinking all feature in this week's diary from Caroline Righton,
PPC for St Austell and Newquay

ToryDiary: Rupert Murdoch's "representative on earth" rubbishes claims that Barack Obama does not see David Cameron as a man of substance

Local Government: Tory councils threaten to break away from national pay deals

Also in Local Government: Westminster councillors pose threat to Abbey Road zebra crossing used by The Beatles

Matthew Barrett on Platform: There is space to cut the health budget, but we must still embrace the NHS

LISTEN: Radio 4's Westminster Hour talks to Tories, fox hunters and 'cruel sports campaigners' about the Conservatives repealing Labour's Hunting ban


The denial of a Tory "plan" to increase VAT to 20% fails to convince the press that it won't happen

"Senior Tories left the door open to major tax rises yesterday, refusing to rule out an increase in VAT to 20 per cent. High ranking figures in the party believe the rise, which would cost each family around £5 a week, is necessary as part of the 'strong medicine' needed to pull Britain out of recession." – Daily Mail

"Knocking down reports that an "emergency budget" was being drawn up as a Conservative government's opening salvo, Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, said there had been no discussions about the tax rise at a senior level. But the shadow foreign secretary William Hague – described by Cameron as his "deputy in all but name" – was more circumspect, stopping short of categorically ruling it out." – The Guardian

HAGUE WILLIAM CLOSE-UP "Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague said a VAT hike had not been discussed. “Given the shocking state of the nation’s finances, but also the rapidly changing state of those finances, you can’t prepare that Budget now,” he said. “We have had no discussions about a 20 per cent VAT rate. There are no plans in existence in the Conservative Party for such a VAT rate.” – Daily Express

"The Conservative Party denied reports it was considering raising the rate of VAT to 20 per cent yesterday, although it refused to rule the move out for future Treasury budgets." – City AM

> The weekend's ToryDiaries:

More coverage of Conservative proposals to put patients' medical records online

"A Conservative government would give patients online access to their medical records and greater control of them through private sector products such as Google Health, the Conservatives said on Sunday . “Giving patients greater control over their health records is crucial if we are to make the NHS more patient-centred,” said Stephen O’Brien, shadow health minister." – FT

"The Conservatives have said they would create huge cost savings for the NHS by scrapping plans for a central database of patient records. Their plans would include electronic medical notes being stored locally by GPs and hospitals and patients having online access to their medical records." – BBC

Listen to Stephen O'Brien discussing the plans on this morning's Today Programme

> Yesterday's ToryDiary: Tory "wiki-health" plan would let patients access, amend and share medical records online

> WATCH: Andrew Lansley discusses plans to give all patients access to their medical records

GOVE MICHAEL NW Michael Gove answers Independent readers' questions about streaming, the Labour politician he most admires and a variety of other topics…

"I am a strong believer in setting and streaming within comprehensive schools. More children should be taught by ability in more subjects. And more children, overall, should be pursuing a traditional, "grammar-style" academic education in any case… The Labour politician I most admire is Gisela Stuart, for talking sense on almost every issue I can think of." – The Independent

…and uses his Times column to consider Big Brother's influence on contemporary life

"I know viewing figures for the tenth Big Brother are in free fall, the red-tops can barely be bothered to scrutinise the sex lives of the inmates, even Heat has relegated its BB coverage to page seventy-something. But BB’s success is nothing to do with viewing figures or how many column inches it can still command in sleb magazines. No, Big Brother’s real victory is the total takeover of contemporary life by the trends pioneered on the show." – Michael Gove in The Times

Every 60 seconds a request is made to use snooping powers

"Councils, police and other public bodies are seeking access to people’s private telephone and email records almost 1,400 times a day, new figures have disclosed. The authorities made more than 500,000 requests for confidential communications data last year, equivalent to spying on one in every 78 adults, leading to claims that Britain had “sleepwalked into a surveillance society”. – Daily Telegraph

"This level of surveillance would be familiar to the stasi in the old East Germany but in a liberal democracy that prides itself on its freedoms, it is deeply troubling." – Telegraph editorial

BROKENSHIRE JAMES 11.45am update: Shadow Home Office Minister James Brokenshire issued the following response to the report by the Interception of Communications Commissioner:

"This report underlines public concerns about the scope and breadth of snooping powers.  Trust and confidence in the use of surveillance is being eroded by their disproportionate use.  It is astounding that the Home Office should be considering expanding the rights of public agencies to obtain even more of our email and communications data without addressing these fundamental issues. Conservatives will protect the rights of law-abiding citizens from Labour's growing 'snooper' state. That's why we would change the law to end abuse of powers which should only be used to tackle terror and serious crimes."

More on Lord Strathclyde's pledge to block law which would allow Mandelson to return to the Commons

"The Conservatives have pledged to try to block a new law that could allow Lord Mandelson to return to the House of Commons and seek the Labour leadership. The Government's Constitutional Renewal Bill would allow life peers to resign their seats in the Lords… The Conservatives have now signalled that they will seek to block the Bill in the House of Lords, potentially delaying it until the general election next year." – Daily Telegraph

> Saturday's ToryDiary: The Conservatives will seek to prevent any attempt to allow Lord Mandelson to return to the Commons

William Hague responds to news that the English Badminton team has pulled out of the world championships in India

"Wherever possible we should err on the side of going ahead with normal life, in the face of terrorist threat." – Shadow Foriegn Secretary William Hague quoted by The Guardian

Picture 4 William Rees-Mogg: Why the whips will have a hard job after the next election

"The next election is likely to see the biggest shift in the composition of the House of Commons since the Labour landslide of 1997, perhaps since the postwar Labour landslide of 1945… Open primaries and the disarray of the older generation in Parliament will make the 2010 intake difficult for the Whips to manage. The altar of undue deference to authority has already been kicked over in the House of Commons." – William Ress-Mogg writing in The Times

Mark Stuart: Why David Cameron's Tories won't be following in Thatcher's footsteps

"David Cameron is politically sensitive enough to see the dangers of
"riots in the streets", as he put it a few months ago. Like John Major,
he wants to be seen as "Thatcherism with a human face", preserving
social cohesion, and avoiding a repeat of the civil disturbances that
Thatcher experienced in Brixton and Toxteth in 1981… Back in 1977, [Ian] Gilmour wrote
Inside Right, a very good book about the Conservative Party, in which
he gave an excellent piece of advice: "For a Tory, politics are more
important than economics."  I've a feeling that Cameron and Osborne, both intensely political animals, will follow that approach in government." – Mark Stuart in the Yorkshire Post

MPs plan to use taxpayers' money to help pay for childcare

"John Bercow, the Speaker, is backing plans for the Commons to offer a "short-term, short-notice" child-minding service for MPs. The "core funding" of the new childcare service is to come from public money. Members will also pay a fee for using the service." – Daily Telegraph

More coverage of David Willetts' accusation that college building projects are only going ahead in Labour constituenciesBirmingham Post

> Friday's ToryDiary: David Willetts idenitifies the constituencies where Labour is "playing politics" with education

Whistleblowers need greater protection, say MPs

"Greater protection from police for civil service "whistleblowers" is demanded today by MPs in the wake of the arrest of Conservative frontbencher Damian Green." – The Independent

Mandelson talking Mandelson: "I'm a pussycat"

"I don't really see myself as a big beast. More as a kindly pussycat." His aides start to giggle, but Mandelson continues, warming to his theme, "Yes, a kindly pussycat. I'm a kindly pussycat, with strong views about what we need to do." – Lord Mandelson interviewed in The Guardian

Twelve Ministerial ‘bag-carrier’ posts go unfilled

"Gordon Brown has failed to fill a dozen vacancies on the lowest rung of government in a vivid sign of MPs’ waning ambition ahead of an expected general election defeat. Research conducted for the Financial Times shows that, after a spate of resignations, 12 cabinet ministers and secretaries of state are lacking a parliamentary private secretary. PPSs – known as ministerial “bag-carriers” – receive no extra pay on top of their MPs’ salary. Many have quit the government in recent months in protest over everything from the part-privatisation of the Royal Mail to the expansion of Heathrow." – FT


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