8.45pm LeftWatch: Government forced to instruct councils to reduce gritting in order to preserve stocks

6.15pm Seats and Candidates: Mystery surrounds why "classic Labour-Conservative marginal" Hyndburn is yet to select a Conservative candidate

5pm ToryDiary: Tories "would give heads more power to fire weak teachers"

Picture 193.30pm WATCH: Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey says that Peter and Iris Robinson are now losing public sympathy as people feel they have been misled

2.45pm Seats and Candidates: Nominations open to seek a candidate for Suffolk Coastal – but applications have still not opened for Bromsgrove

1.30pm Seats and Candidates: Mel Stride welcomes former Lib Dem candidate to his campaign team in Central Devon

12.45pm WATCH: The man who had an affair with DUP MP Iris Robinson explains how she helped him obtain £50,000 for a business deal which she failed to declare

12.30pm Parliament: Speaker Bercow defends his wife's right to her own opinions – and backs the campaign to Save General Election Night

Noon LeftWatch: The public are divided as to whether ditching Brown would help Labour – but the vast majority agree there is no obvious successor anyway

10.45am LeftWatch: Harriet Harman fined £350 after pleading guilty to driving without due care and attention

10am Local Government: One local by-election result from yesterday

Picture 12ToryDiary: David Cameron's "Cameron Direct" meetings will make him all the more prepared for the TV debates

LeftWatch: "Serial bottler" David Miliband's Labour leadership hopes in tatters after dithering during failed coup

Caroline Spelman MP on Platform: The Government was woefully ill-prepared for the severe weather this week – because it sat on a report on contingency plans for five whole months

Foster Hannah Seats and Candidates: Hannah Foster, PPC for Exeter, explains why Gordon Brown and the Cabinet will not be missed in her city today

Also in Seats and Candidates: Why Michael Spencer should be awarded a peerage

Parliament: Greg Hands compares Gordon Brown's attitude to public spending with the behaviour of a binge drinker

Local Government:

ThinkTank Central: Policy Exchange proposes a "tube" line along the Thames

WATCH: George Osborne and William Hague promise to prioritise spending on the Afghan conflict during a trip to Helmand province

Tory poll lead rises to 12% after failed coup against Brown…

Picture 16 "Labour's bungling leadership plotters have given the Tories a huge boost, a new opinion poll for The Sun reveals today. It shows the Conservatives' lead rose from nine per cent to 12 per cent in just a few hours." – The Sun

> Last night's ToryDiary on the poll

…but Cabinet pressure mounts on the Prime Minister

"Gordon Brown has been told by two of his most senior ministers to change his leadership style, clarify Labour’s election strategy and abandon “class war” rhetoric if he wants to rebuild cabinet unity after Wednesday’s failed leadership coup. Harriet Harman, deputy Labour leader, and Jack Straw, justice secretary, demanded to see Mr Brown at the height of the drama, seeking assurances he would include them in a wider circle of advisers." – FT

Harriet Harman "encouraged Labour coup against Gordon Brown" – Daily Telegraph

Peter Mandelson the likely winner as Gordon Brown moves to tighten grip – The Guardian

Brown dismisses plot as "storm in a teacup" – BBC

"There has been nothing much new in the midwinter plot. It confirmed that the Labour Party is home to the world’s most inept conspirators. And it restated what Mr Brown’s premiership had already amply proved: that he is more tenacious than his enemies but unable quite to quell them; that the party is hopelessly beset by in-fighting, and has never managed to escape the old rancour between Tony Blair, Mr Brown and their supporters; that it is unable to see itself as the rest of the country sees it." – Bagehot in The Economist

David Cameron intensifies call for early election…

"David Cameron seized on the plotting in the Labour party to intensify his demands for an early general election. Amid Tory gloating, as cabinet ministers failed to disguise their unease about the prime minister, the Tory leader said Labour's difficulties arose from Brown's lack of a mandate." – The Guardian

… as expensive Tory commitments are reportedly "watered down" as manifesto is rolled out

"David Cameron dropped another two Tory proposals yesterday as he continued a "softly, softly" rewrite of his party's programme for government because of the economic crisis it would inherit. The Tory leader said he was no longer committed to providing an extra 5,000 prison places or to abolishing income tax on savings for people paying the basic rate of tax. Tory insiders admit that the party's draft election manifesto, which is being rolled out on an issue-by-issue basis this month, is being used to water down expensive policy commitments." – The Independent

Northern Ireland's First Minister on the ropes as the BBC reveals his wife's business dealings and affair with a teenager 40 years her junior

Picture 17 "Peter Robinson’s resignation as First Minister appeared almost inevitable last night as his MP wife Iris faced an investigation over her sex-and-money toyboy scandal." – Irish Independent

"The wife of Northern Ireland's first minister broke the law by not declaring her financial interest in a business deal. BBC Northern Ireland's Spotlight programme said Iris Robinson, an MP, an MLA and a councillor, obtained £50,000 from two property developers. The money was paid to her 19-year-old lover Kirk McCambley to help him launch a new cafe. She later asked him for £5,000 for herself." – BBC

"The TV documentary further alleged that Mrs Robinson's husband Peter Robinson, the Democratic Unionist Party leader, became aware of the situation but did not take steps to alert the appropriate authorities. The programme said that while he pressed his wife to return the money, he failed to tell the proper authorities about the transaction, despite being obliged to act in the public interest by the ministerial code." – Daily Telegraph

"Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey called for Iris Robinson’s immediate resignation following shock allegations made in last night’s Spotlight investigation." – Belfast Telegraph

Owen Paterson holds talk on Ulster justice stalemate

"Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson met key figures from Ulster's four main political parties yesterday in a bid to "push" forward devolution of policing and justice." – Belfast News Letter

Tories would give military key role in rebuilding Afghanistan

Picture 20 "The Armed Forces would have an expanded role in reconstruction and development
projects in Afghanistan under Conservative plans to give the military a lead
in traditional civilian aid work. On a visit to British troops in Helmand province yesterday, George Osborne,
the Shadow Chancellor, and William Hague, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, said
that a Conservative government would create a stabilisation and
reconstruction force within the Army" – The Times

MPs' expenses reforms may be watered down

"MPs will continue to profit from their taxpayer-funded expenses after the new parliamentary regulator said he was planning to water down the proposed reforms." – Daily Telegraph

Tories fear plot to destabilise Cameron's strategy chief, Steve Hilton

Picture 19 "Tories warned last night of a plot to destabilise one of David Cameron's most trusted advisers, after details of an expletive-fuelled row with train staff which led to an £80 fine for Steve Hilton, the strategy director, were leaked to Channel 4 News." – The Guardian

Cabal of Tory Right-wingers plotting to bring down Speaker Bercow

"Christopher Chope and Greg Knight, sit on the Commons procedure committee, which some observers expect to call for a fresh election by secret ballot for Speaker in the next parliament… Those agitating for Bercow's removal are few in number, but we should not underestimate their determination." – James Macintyre in the New Statesman

Boris opens up City Hall data

"Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, is following in the footsteps of Barack Obama and launching a bid to open up the data stored in City Hall to software developers. Modelled on America’s website, Johnson has launched and hopes that software developers will develop British “Apps for Democracy” like those that have been so successful in the USA." – Daily Telegraph

Antonia Senior: Gordon Brown looks like a Presbyterian but spends like a desperate gambler The Times

Harriet Harman due in court today over car crashDaily Telegraph


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