10.30pm ToryDiary: Tories deny plans for 20% VAT

6.30pm WATCH: 35 years ago today, Richard Nixon resigned as US President

3.45pm WATCH: Sky News's Peter Spencer tries to establish who exactly is in charge of the country right now

Noon Seats and Candidates: The fight for the Yorkshire marginals

Picture 8ToryDiary: The Conservatives will seek to prevent any attempt to allow Lord Mandelson to return to the Commons

Carl Thomson on Platform: We should be wary about jumping to Mikheil Saakashvili’s defence

Local Government

David T Breaker on CentreRight shares Quentin Letts' doubts about Lord Sugar's "enormous intellect"

WATCH: The Classic Yes, Minister sketch in which Hacker explains to Sir Humphrey and Bernard the importance of the papers and who reads which one

FOX LIAM NEW Liam Fox rejects suggestion of decades-long mission in Afghanistan as "unaffordable"

"Britain’s mission in Afghanistan could last for up to 40 years, the next head of the Army warns today in an exclusive interview with The Times. General Sir David Richards, who becomes Chief of the General Staff on August 28, said: “The Army’s role will evolve, but the whole process might take as long as 30 to 40 years.” Liam Fox, the Shadow Defence Secretary, said that 30 to 40 years in Afghanistan was “unaffordable”. “Any idea of maintaining military involvement for that length of time is not a runner. It would require a total rethink of our foreign and security policy,” he said." – The Times

Hammond backs Treasury Select Committee attack on FSA

"In a stinging attack on the Financial Services Authority, MPs on the treasury select committee said the regulator appeared to take a "leisurely" approach to its job while many homeowners were being left at the mercy of lenders who charged excessive fees and moved quickly to repossess when borrowers fell into arrears… The Conservative treasury spokesman, Philip Hammond, said the FSA had forfeited its right to remain the regulator of the finance industry. "It is clear the behaviour of some mortgage lenders towards vulnerable homeowners has been completely unacceptable – yet the FSA has failed to intervene effectively," he said." – Guardian

Eric Pickles responds to the news that Lord Mandelson is running the country from Corfu using his  Blackberry

“Lord Mandelson’s vice-like grip on power means he’s untouchable and can do what he wants. You really know the country is in a shambolic state when we have an unelected official calling the shots from his holiday hideout. This is hardly reassuring for the public who want and deserve strong leadership during the recession.” – Conservative Party chairman Eric Pickles quoted in the Daily Express

Policy Exchange suggests Brown’s debt hits us all for £26,000

"PM Gordon Brown is spending £4 for every £3 he takes in tax – racking up £26,000 of debt for every man, woman and child in the country, a shock study has revealed. The UK will be spending more on interest payments than defence by 2013, according to the dossier by the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange. A family of four will be lumbered with a share of national debt worth £104,000." – The Sun

In a Guardian interview, "Red Tory" Philip Blond gives his three-way breakdown of modern British history

"First, he says, there was the postwar expansion of the state, which eventually "atomised and separated" once-strong communities. Next came the left's embrace of what was supposedly all the rage in the 1960s – hedonism, moral relativism, "the politics of desire" – which Blond thinks trickled down to the most vulnerable layers of society and spread chaos. Finally, Thatcherism unleashed the free market, which fused with 60s individualism to squash the last vestiges of public morality, and in turn, fed the growth of the state, since society was now so out of control that government had to grow even more intrusive." – Philip Blond interviewed in The Guardian

Picture 4 David Willetts complains about being bombarded with announcement on South West Trains

"David Willetts has complained to the rail watchdog, claiming he endures around 50 announcements on his 80 minute journey from Havant to London Waterloo… Mr Willetts said: "I remember when there used to be a great advertisement on the TV for railways which showed someone relaxing with a book and enjoying the view out of the window as he travelled on the train. Such relaxation is almost impossible on the Havant to London service because of all the announcements."  – Daily Telegraph

Simon Hoggart is unconvinced about the prospect of MPs being selected by Primaries

"Suppose it catches on, and all candidates for all major parties are chosen by all the voters? Won't we wind up with a collection of bland, acceptable, uncontroversial, middle-of-the-road, white bread MPs, holding no very strong opinions about anything?" – Simon Hoggart in The Guardian

Mary Wakefield calls for an end to "tedious and expensive" CRB checks

"Does Dave Cameron really mean it when he bangs on about Conservatives creating a "post-bureaucratic age"? If he does – and let's pretend he does so as to keep from crying – then the very first thing he'll do is to put an end to the crazed zeal for Criminal Records Bureau checks that's taken hold of this government." – Mary Wakefield writing in The Independent

Gordon Brown insists Britain is still Christian countryDaily Telegraph

State pension age "could hit 70"BBC

Silvio Berlusconi says he has
"no skeletons in his closet"
Daily Telegraph

And finally… Ever wondered what happens behind the scenes on the BBC's Question Time?

Picture 2 "Some politicians don’t like the programme, and refuse to do it. Without naming names, regular viewers of Question Time know that some senior figures never seem to appear, and it’s not through want of asking. The expenses row made life more difficult too: ministerial diaries were suddenly very full indeed. Once the programme is over, the off-the-record banter begins. Some guests go hell for leather. Charlie Falconer, the former Lord Chancellor, and Tory education spokesman Michael Gove once gave a masterclass in how to dissect an opponent’s argument with forensic logic." – Outgoing Question Time editor Gill Penlington writing in the Daily Telegraph


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