Screen shot 2010-08-21 at 18.27.09 6.15pm WATCH: And now Nick Clegg responds to speculation that Charles Kennedy is considering defecting to Labour

2.30pm LeftWatch: Will Charles Kennedy and any other Lib Dems defect to Labour?

1.30pm WATCH: Ed Miliband responds to speculation that Charles Kennedy is considering defecting to Labour

Noon International live blog: Australian election result still too close to call

ToryDiary: Clegg's Telegraph interview shows commitment to Cameron – and anger at Labour

Azeem Ibrahim on Platform: Why We Must Keep Trident

Local Government: Labour leadership contenders flunk localist challenge

COLLINS-DAMIAN Q. Who is your political hero and why? A. I have always thought Thomas More to be a heroic figure. He tried to use all his intelligence and political skill to reconcile himself and his master, but when there was no way out, put his conscience before his life. – Damian Collins MP answers ConHome's Twenty Questions for the Class of 2010

WATCH: Veterans pay tribute to Churchill on the 70th anniversary of his inspiring speech recognising the debt owed "by so many to so few"

Voting has just ended in Australia's knife-edge general election…

Gillard and Abbott "One of the last opinion polls before election day has put Julia Gillard, the Labour prime minister, and Tony Abbott, the leader of the Liberal-National Coalition, on 50 per cent of the vote each… Up until yesterday, the Labour leader had maintained a wafer-thin lead in the polls for most of the five-week campaign, but a late surge of support for Mr Abbott has made the election result too close to call. While the bookies put Ms Gillard slightly ahead, the vote was also split in Friday's newspapers, with News Limited tabloids endorsing Mr Abbott and the country's second-largest newspaper group Fairfax supporting Ms Gillard." – Daily Telegraph

…with first exit poll giving Labor the narrowest of leads

"Australia's Labor party looks to be inching its way to the lead in the country's general election, according to a Sky News Australia exit poll. The poll of marginal constituencies puts Labor in the lead with 51%, highlighting the close nature of the race. However, a further poll suggests 8% more Australians would have voted for the party if former prime minister Kevin Rudd had still been the Labor candidate." – Sky News

> WATCH: ABC News interviews Liberal Leader Tony Abbott and Labour Prime Minister Julia Gillard on the eve of the Australian General Election

Tory backlash over how David Rowland was appointed treasurer

"Tory MPs last night demanded a change in the way the party is run after the resignation of David Rowland as treasurer. They pointed the finger of blame for the affair at David Cameron and his Oxford University friend Andrew Feldman, the party's co-chairman… 'The whole thing was a complete joke,' one source said.  'The board got an email from Central Office effectively saying: "This man is going to be the new treasurer, we need our approval."' Another senior Tory said: 'This is supposed to be a professional outfit. There should have been interviews and a vetting process but there was not'." – Daily Mail

The corrosive Tory infatuation with wealthy businessmenIndependent editorial

Lord Ashcroft "in talks with David Cameron over future role"

ASHCROFT Michael "Lord Ashcroft may retain a significant role in the party organisation despite announcing at the general election three months ago that he would step down from politics altogether. The billionaire peer is in talks with David Cameron's office about his future in the party and has kept his position as deputy chairman… A spokesman for Lord Ashcroft declined to comment." – The Guardian

William Hague welcomes new Middle East peace talks

"Foreign Secretary William Hague warmly welcomed the resumption of direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians on Friday as a "courageous step" towards peace in the region. He called for "urgent progress" and appealed to the parties to refrain from any activity that could undermine the talks, which are backed by the diplomatic quartet of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States." – AFP

> WATCH: Hillary Clinton announces that Middle East peace talks will resume next month

Lib Dems scotch rumours of Charles Kennedy defecting to Labour…

KENNEDY Charles looking right "Labour whips have held talks with Charles Kennedy, the former Liberal Democrat leader, to try to persuade him to defect, opposition sources said last night. They are targeting a handful of Liberal Democrat MPs disillusioned over the party's decision to form a coalition government with the Conservatives." – The Independent

"Senior Lib Dems and allies of Kennedy were quick to dismiss rumours that he is poised to rejoin Labour – the party of his pre-SDP youth – as dirty tricks by rightwing bloggers seeking to destablise the coalition, though some MPs, also unhappy with coalition policies, admit "Charles is in a funny place at the moment." Labour confirmed its ambition to woo any disaffected Lib Dems and claimed to have talked with Kennedy, who later dismissed the rumours as "the silliest of silly season stories". – The Guardian

"Mr Clegg's team admit a 'mass defection' is their 'worst nightmare'. Others on the LibDem hit-list include Mr Clegg's immediate predecessor Sir Menzies Campbell and MPs Mike Hancock and Bob Russell. Labour officials believe recent deputy leadership candidate Tim Farron is also worth 'cultivating'." – Daily Mail

…as Nick Clegg insists Coalition will survive even if AV referendum is lost…

Nick Clegg on Marr 2 "Nick Clegg is warning restless Liberal Democrat activists that he will not walk away from the coalition with the Conservatives, even if he loses next May's referendum on adopting the alternative vote method of electing Westminster's MPs. Admitting that a well-funded No campaign with active Tory support might thwart the Lib Dems' hopes of modifying the traditional first-past-the-post system, Clegg explained: "If [voters] say no, they have said no. It's an opportunity, finally – heaven knows we have been talking about this long enough." He added: "The Liberal Democrats aren't a sort of glorified form of the Electoral Reform Society" – a pointed reference to the most ardent advocates of reform." – The Guardian

…and rules out election pact with the Tories

"Nick Clegg yesterday tried to defuse Lib Dem anxiety by ruling out a “non-aggression pact” with the Conservatives at the next election. “We will fight this as an independent party – we already are,” he insisted. “We are fighting local elections against the Conservatives now.” The Deputy Prime Minister acted amid growing concern within his party that it is being “swamped” by its coalition partners and fears that it will be damaged electorally." – The Times (£)

The happy couple are still doe-eyed. Shame the in-laws loathe each other – John Kampfner in the Daily Mail

Coalition tensions scupper tax avoidance crackdownThe Times (£)

Clegg loses his cool with Lib Dem voterMetro

Theresa May bans Bradford marches

Theresa May Home Secretary "A ban on marches in Bradford over the Bank Holiday weekend has seemingly blocked planned demonstrations by the English Defence League and Unite Against Fascism. With the opposing groups preparing to march in the city on August 28, Home Secretary Theresa May has agreed to impose a blanket ban." – Sky News

Andrew Lansley blames Labour for rise in NHS consultancy fees

"Health trusts spent more than £300m on management consultants last year – almost the same amount of money that the NHS puts aside for skin cancer and lung cancer services combined and enough to pay for 10,000 nurses – new figures reveal… Health secretary Andrew Lansley blamed the last Labour government for the rise in consultancy fees. "I am staggered by the scale of the expenditure on management consultants in the NHS. Even at a time when it became clear that the nation's borrowing was out of control, Labour allowed wasteful spending to blossom," he said." – The Guardian

GCSE league table will face shake-upDaily Telegraph

Claims that pension age could rise to 72

"Millions of people will have to work until 72 to stop the cost of pensions spiralling out of control, a report has claimed. Ministers have already said they intend to raise the pension age to 66 within six years. But research compiled for the Government by analysts at the Pensions Policy Institute shows that unless the change to 72 is made within 20 years public finances will buckle under the strain." – Daily Express

"The time has come, once again, to try to apply the principle that benefits are not there for people who like them, but people who need them." – Times (£) editorial

"Welfare reform is expensive. The middle classes, of course, will have to foot some of the bill. That may strike them as unfair; but what should bother us more is the sheer stupidity of further handicapping higher earners with taxes levied for ideological rather than economic reasons." – Daily Telegraph editorial

Warsi calls for turning Pakistan flood situation into opportunity

WARSI-BARONESS "Sayeeda Warsi has said that though flashfloods have caused widespread destruction in Pakistan, however, the situation could be turned into opportunity if the sitting leadership desire. In an interview with a newspaper here, Sayeeda Warsi said that in accordance with the International Monitory Fund (IMF), Pakistan could be made a stable country through proper usage of funds and rehabilitation." – Pakistan Daily Mail

> WATCH: Andrew Mitchell addresses UN, attacks the international Pakistan flood response as "woefully inadequate" – and announces that Britain's contribution will double

Tory MEP raps BBC for giving cash to Gypsy charity

"The BBC has been slammed for giving £28,000 raised through its Children in Need telethon to a charity project teaching gypsy children. Children In Need awarded the money to the Travellers' School Charity in Derbyshire which aims to teach 330 youngsters in the county. The move has been criticised by East Midlands Tory MEP Roger Helmer, who said 'some people would be surprised to discover where their money had gone to'. Mr Helmer said: 'It's not a charity I would have top of the list to receive cash. The taxpayers pay a lot of money for state education. Providing it is the job of the State, not of charities'." – Daily Mail

Anne Applebaum: Why the American Right has high hopes for David Cameron

"Although the term “special relationship” has gone out of fashion, the British Prime Minister matters to Republicans. Perhaps it sounds melodramatic, but his success or failure in managing Britain’s debt – and in getting re-elected after inflicting an austerity budget on his country – could shape American conservatism in profound ways." – Anne Applebaum in the Daily Telegraph

100 of Baroness Ashton's EU diplomats are paid more than William HagueDaily Telegraph

Ed Balls admits his closeness to Brown is a burdenThe Herald

John Prescott accuses Alan Milburn and Frank Field of collaborationThe Times (£)

David Cameron may face calls to interrupt holiday to help 2018 World Cup BidDaily Telegraph

And finally… David Cameron makes up for his pay cut by renting out his Notting Hill home

Samantha and David Cameron "David and Samantha Cameron are pocketing up to £6,000 a month by renting out their London home while they live in No 10… Mr Cameron sought to convince the public of his frugality when he became Prime Minister by announcing that he and his ministers would take a 5 per cent pay cut and a pay freeze for the next five years… But the lucrative rental arrangement – which could earn them up to £72,000 a year – means that Mr Cameron will more than make up the shortfall as a result of his move to Downing Street." – Daily Mail


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