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Merrychristmas Noon MERRY CHRISTMAS!

10.15am Graeme Archer posts a Christmas Eve thought on CentreRight: "I think there's something worth considering about words that might unite both Christians and their non-believing friends. It is the idea that words are real things, with power, in the Universe."

10am Seats and Candidates: Chris Philp takes out giant billboard ads to remind voters that he fought to save local police stations in Hampstead and Kilburn

ToryDiary: Michael Gove moves to reassure independent schools about their charitable status

LeftWatch: The surge in foreign nationals granted student visas – and associated rise in fake colleges – under Labour

Grant Shapps MP on Platform: The 83,000 children without a permament home this Christmas should weigh heavily on the Government's conscience

Paul Scully in Local Government: Sutton Council's road cuts adds to icy chaos

David T Breaker on CentreRight believes a mini-miracle has occurred: Lord Mandelson has got something right (for once)

WATCH: A hilarious festive musical offering from Artists United for Santa: "Gordon Brown Stole Christmas"

Francis Maude: Civil servants should not be rewarded for failure

MAUDE FRANCIS 2 "Analysis of parliamentary questions and government departmental accounts found the Whitehall bonus pot for 2008-09 added up to £129,393,139 — about £2 for every man, woman and child in the country and an increase of almost 25 per cent on the previous year… The Conservatives said some departments, such as the MoD and now-defunct Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, have been under-performing and should not have paid out bonuses. Francis Maude, the shadow cabinet office minister, said: “It is unjustifiable that Whitehall departments which have failed to deliver have still been awarding bonuses. There should be no rewards for failure, either in the private sector or public sector.” – Daily Telegraph

Tories attack Government for cutting Armed Forces training

"One in ten military exercises have been axed, raising fears that British troops are not being properly prepared for war. Defence chiefs have scrapped 38 training deployments for soldiers, sailors and airmen in 2009 – 9 per cent of those planned… Tory defence spokesman Liam Fox exposed the information a week after Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth revealed that training exercises that were 'not relevant' to the war in Afghanistan will be axed." – Daily Mail

"Patrick Mercer, the Conservative MP for Newark and a former infantry battalion commanding officer, said: “Any reduction in training means a deterioration of basic skills that will always be necessary for Afghanistan or for whatever lies ahead on the horizon. Training is the bedrock of operational success. As it is said, you train hard and fight easy.” – The Times

Hague questions delay in Brown's evidence to Chilcot Inquiry

HagueSquare "Gordon Brown was told yesterday that he would not have to give
evidence to the Iraq inquiry until after the general election,
prompting claims of an establishment stitch-up… William Hague, the
shadow foreign secretary, said: "Everyone will want to know whether
this decision was influenced by ministers. It is becoming clear why
Gordon Brown delayed setting up the inquiry for so long after it should
have begun its work." Mr Hague said Mr Brown had always intended that
the inquiry should not report until after the election, but it was now
clear that the prime minister would not even be called to give evidence
before polling day." – FT

"The former foreign secretary Jack Straw is to face potentially explosive questioning at the Iraq inquiry next month over a private letter he sent to Tony Blair on the eve of the invasion" – The Guardian

Benedict Brogan: David Cameron goes back to Witney for Christmas to prepare for government

"He has been studying how past prime ministers approached the job in the early stages. He does not want to repeat the well-rehearsed mistakes of Mr Blair, who now acknowledges that he threw away his first term trying to work out what he wanted to do. Mr Cameron is rereading The Downing Street Years, the second volume of Margaret Thatcher's memoirs. He is taken by the mistakes her government made in its first two years, including giving the police a 20 per cent pay rise, which appeared to pander to special interests." – Benedict Brogan in the Daily Telegraph

Bruce Anderson: How David Cameron changed the Conservative Party

"Mr. Cameron did not start out to be a radical party reformer. A man
who came to political consciousness during Mrs. Thatcher's premiership,
he was an instinctive Thatcherite, believing in low taxes, smaller
government, a tough line on law and order — plus a skeptical approach to
the European Union. By 2004, however, he had concluded that Thatcherism
was not enough." – Bruce Anderson in the Wall Street Journal

Steve Richards: Some predictions for 2010

Steve Richards "I do not expect the leaders' televised debates to change very much, although they will dominate the election campaign because of their novelty and the media's fascination of a media event. There will be no "gaffes" from Brown or Cameron in the debates but Clegg will be more vulnerable, unused to the intensity of such exposure. We will learn nothing new because by then there will be nothing left to learn." – Steve Richards in The Independent

Government encouraging people to report each other for "hate crimes"

"Ministers have drawn up plans to encourage people to lodge
complaints about hate crimes, which they say are being
under-reported… David Davies, a Tory member of the powerful Commons
home affairs committee, said there were already public order laws to
deal with verbal abuse. He said: “Unpleasant name calling goes on a lot
but it should not be necessarily a police matter." James Clappison, a
Conservative MP and another member of the committee, added: "While I
deprecate hate crime, we have to be very careful about where the law
goes. We don't want to criminalise impolite behavour."  – Daily Telegraph

Conservative MSPs want sunset clauses in all new laws at Holyrood

"A 'sunset clause' should be included in all Scottish legislation to ensure its effectiveness is reviewed after five years, the Conservatives have said. Under the plan, each new piece of Scottish law passed by Holyrood would be dumped should civil servants not be able to prove its effectiveness." – The Scotsman

£370,000 salary of a local NHS boss condemned as an "appalling waste of money"

"Professor Salman Rawaf, who was director of public health at NHS Wandsworth, was paid £370,000 last year – making him one of the highest-paid public sector workers in the country… Mark Clarke, Tory prospective parliamentary candidate for Tooting, said: "It is an appalling waste of public money that a middle-ranking NHS manager is paid twice the Prime Minister's salary. No wonder our nation's finances are in such a state." – Evening Standard

Cameron "under pressure to explain £100,000 funding linked to Lebanese former arms dealer"The Guardian

Lord Adonis under scrutiny over 'misleading' Parliament on National ExpressDaily Telegraph

Boris announces designer of new RoutemasterPress Association

Scottish Tories call for council cash incentives to help out new businessesThe Scotsman

BNP in trouble for filing 'inadequate' accountsThe Independent

Lord Ashcroft saves Watford FC from administrationFT

And finally… Man dressed as Santa robs bank "to pay elves"

Picture 12 "An armed bank robber pulled off a daring pre-Christmas heist — dressed as Santa. The man escaped with a sack full of cash following his raid in the US. He told customers in the SunTrust bank he was robbing in Nashville, Tennessee, that he needed the money to "pay his elves". Afterwards the robber escaped in a grey car — rather than a sledge drawn by reindeer. The FBI are hunting the man who wore dark sunglasses and demanded money at gunpoint." – The Sun

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