10.30pm CentreRight posts:
- Neil O'Brien: Is the black hole in the defence budget worse than we thought?
- David T Breaker: Is Twitter the Conservatives' big election weakness?
- Bob Seely: Is the Bishop wrong to understand the Taleban?
ICM poll shows Tory lead narrowing to nine points
"The Conservatives' lead over Labour has been reduced to single figures, according to a Guardian/ICM poll which increases the pressure on Gordon Brown to call an early general election… After 12 months of unbroken Conservative dominance in the polls, the figures – showing the Tories on 40%, down two, Labour on 31%, up two, and the Liberal Democrats on 18% – are likely to intensify calls for Brown to go to the country on 25 March next year, rather than the 6 May polling day that most at Westminster have been expecting." – The Guardian
Non-dom tax law is not a problem for Lord Ashcroft, say aides
"Lord Ashcroft may be forced to declare or confirm his tax status before the election after the Conservatives indicated that they were ready to push through changes to prevent non-tax residents sitting in Parliament, The Times has learnt… A spokesman for the peer, who is one of the Conservative Party’s largest donors, said that the emergency law announced by David Cameron on Sunday “will not represent a problem for Lord Ashcroft”. – The Times
"David Cameron was challenged yesterday not to wait for an election before enacting his plan to compel MPs and peers to pay taxes in the UK. The Liberal Democrats offered him the chance to use their two parties' combined majority in the Lords to rush a bill through in the New Year." – The Independent
"Voters are still unsure whether Mr Cameron really calls the shots with his rightwingers. If he can’t even force his own vice-chairman to say where he lives for tax purposes, then it is fair to wonder whether he could assert himself on things that really mattered if he got to No 10." – Rachel Sylvester in The Times
Cameron: Now is the last best opportunity in Afghanistan
"The Prime Minister has announced a £150m package to tackle roadside bombs in Afghanistan… Tory leader David Cameron said the situation in Afghanistan was the "last best opportunity to get this right". "Everything now needs to be brought together, including having the right concentration of troops in every part of southern Afghanistan," he said. It was "absolutely vital" to ensure British troops were covering fewer areas in greater density." – Yorkshire Post
Liam Fox on the MoD's "shambolic" equipment programme
"The Ministry of Defence is facing a £36 billion “black hole” in its equipment programme, forcing cuts in helicopter numbers and delays in other vital equipment, an official audit has found… Liam Fox, the Conservative shadow defence secretary said: “This constant failure to contain cost and keep to timetable means that taxpayers’ money is being wasted and our armed forces are being denied vital equipment which has meant a reduction in capability. It is shambolic." – Daily Telegraph
Sir Malcom Rifkind said the prospect of defence cuts was "deeply dangerous" on this morning's Today Programme
Owen Paterson increase double-jobbing pressure on Northern Ireland's MPs
"The Conservatives have introduced amendments at Westminster that could lead to the end of double jobbing. If the move is endorsed it would prevent an MLA being paid a salary or allowances if he or she is also an MP." – BBC
What kind of Tory is David Cameron?
"If his big idea of social responsibility owes much to Macmillan, his commitment to a decentralisation of power lies within the Thatcherite tradition. I am less than convinced. So too, it seems, is the electorate. Mr Cameron remains firm favourite to be Britain’s next prime minister, but my guess is that the voters want the Tory rather than the radical." – Philip Stephens in the FT
'Free schools' offer political rewards
"As the leader of a parent group in Acton trying to set up a new state school, I was delighted to read in the Guardian about how many other groups are planning to do likewise… Given how popular the "free school" policy is already proving to be, the smart thing for Balls to do would be to take ownership of it himself, thereby denying his Tory counterpart Michael Gove an easy political win." – Toby Young writing in The Guardian
Can Cameron match the pledge to protect schools spending?
"The question, really, is: can the Tories wrest the schools vote back from Labour and the Liberal Democrats? They have certainly been trying hard. Indeed the shift in rhetoric has been remarkable. The party that introduced the national curriculum and centralised testing because it did not trust the teaching profession now prefers to trust the grassroots teacher ahead of the Whitehall experts." – Mike Baker in The Guardian
The problem with Home Information Packs
"Is our relationship with the Home Information Pack (Hip) almost over before it has really begun? Shadow housing minister Grant Shapps has vowed to abolish the compulsory seller’s pack within weeks of coming to power, and replace it with a more robust 'ready pack’ that will include a draft contract and other legal documents." – Daily Telegraph
Mike Penning condemns the Department of Health's £2,500 Christmas tree
"The Department of Health has been criticised after spending almost £2,500 on a Christmas tree… Mike Penning, Shadow Minister for Health, said: "This is astonishing at a time when you would expect austerity from the department. Frontline services are struggling for funding – this is where money should be going." – Daily Telegraph
100 reasons why global warming is natural
"Campaigners yesterday attempted to pour scorn on “tenuous” global warming theories by issuing a dossier detailing 100 reasons why climate change is natural and not man-made. The list includes the controversial claim that there is “no scientific proof” that rising levels of greenhouse gases are caused by human activity." – Daily Express
Stop having babies to save the world, says (father of four) Boris – Evening Standard
Arnie, Boris and Ban Ki Moon pull out of event with Alex Salmond in Copenhagen – The Scotsman
Gordon Brown heading for Copenhagen – Daily Mail
Proposed £200-a-day peer's allowance described as an "utter insult" – Daily Telegraph
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