9pm ToryDiary: Conservatives hit 40% with ICM

7.45pm WATCH: Iain Duncan Smith on the availability of jobs across Britain – including South Wales

OSBORNE behind CAMERON 5.45pm ToryDiary: Cameron seeks to shift debate from spending to growth

3.15pm WATCH: Norman Baker is interviewed after the release of information about David Kelly's death

1.30pm Graeme Archer on CentreRight: Why Hackney may be as good as it gets

12.15pm WATCH: Guido Fawkes' footage of protesting trade unionists eagerly being photographed with "Deficit Denying Dinosaurs"

11.45am Local Government: Luton Labour councillor defects to the Conservatives

10.15am LeftWatch: If you thought Alan Johnson was a weak Shadow Chancellor, you should meet his deputy…

CameronUnionFlagToryDiary: Why David Cameron's unlikely to push hard next week to freeze or cut the EU budget

Gareth McKeever on Platform: We must not compromise on fundamental Conservative principles to hold the Coalition together if such a move threatens Britain's prosperity

Local Government: Labour waste in Leicester – the story of 50,000 Medium Nib Black Biros

LeftWatch: Labour MP refers Ken Livingstone to Labour's National Executive Committee over his behaviour in Tower Hamlets

WATCH: French Senate votes to increase retirement age from 60 to 62

Voters "reject claims of fairness as majority say cuts hit poorest hardest"

"Voters reject George Osborne's claims that his spending cuts are "fair" and will hit the better off more than the poor, according to an opinion poll for The Independent. Six out of 10 people (59 per cent) believe the cuts the Chancellor announced in his government-wide spending review on Wednesday are unfair because they will hit the poorest people, while 36 per cent disagree." – The Independent

Matthew Parris: Fairness isn’t about arithmetic, it’s about morality

PARRIS MATTHEW GREEN "The essential point about the word “fair” is that it doesn’t add anything to words like “right”, “just”, “reasonable” or “ought”. “Fair” doesn’t (contrary to what the IFS assumes) imply a number, a quantity, a mathematical relationship between two different portions. It doesn’t (contrary to what the Labour Party thinks) imply equality: of outcome, opportunity, pain, gain, or anything else. When a speaker says “fair” he appeals to his hearer’s sense of what people do or don’t deserve." – Matthew Parris in The Times (£)

> Yesterday's coverage on ConHome:

Unions plan "biggest ever" demo against cuts

"The Trades Union Congress, the country's union umbrella body, said on Saturday it will stage the "biggest and boldest" demonstration in its history next March to protest against the government's spending cuts… Union-backed protests and rallies have already begun in cities and towns around Britain and these will culminate in a national demonstration in central London on March 26. "Together let's make that mobilisation the biggest, boldest and best event in our history," Brendan Barber will say." – Reuters

David Laws "would have made same cuts"

LAWS DAVID "Former treasury minister David Laws has said he would "not have done a lot differently" from George Osborne's spending cuts review. The Lib Dem MP for Yeovil worked closely with the chancellor in the early days of the coalition. He resigned from the government just weeks into his new job, over expenses." – BBC

NHS Confederation boss warns of bed-blocking crisis

"Patients will be left untreated as the NHS struggles to mop up the consequences of severe cuts in local authority funding, said Nigel Edwards, the head of the NHS Confederation… In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, Mr Edwards — whose organisation represents NHS trusts running hospitals and ambulance services — says the cuts in local authority budgets will force them to reduce care services for the elderly and vulnerable." – Daily Telegraph

Philip Hammond warns: ‘If you want better trains, you’ll have to pay’

Philip Hammond on Marr "Rail commuters face years of soaring ticket prices as subsidies are cut and price caps removed… Mr Hammond may have won over business but the middle classes, already reeling from losing their child benefit, are being clobbered again. “We’ve had to make a tough decision,” he admits. “We need to invest in additional rolling stock to relieve overcrowding on the commuter railway and the only way to do that is to ask fare-payers rather than taxpayers to make a contribution that will amount to a 10 per cent increase over four years.” – The Times (£)

Britain's most senior judge warns Government against court closures

"The country's most senior judge has appealed to Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke to halt the shutdown of more than 100 courts. Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge said on Friday the value of courts 'cannot be measured in the figures on a balance sheet'." – Daily Mail

Foreign aid "will cost each family £2,000" Daily Express

Downing Street backs Duncan Smith over "get on a bus" remark

Iain Duncan Smith speaking "David Cameron last night backed his Work and Pensions Secretary after Iain Duncan Smith said the unemployed should "get on a bus" to look for jobs. Downing Street said that Mr Duncan Smith was making the case for "flexible" working patterns and underlining that people had to be "active" when they look for work." – The Scotsman

"The implication that searching for employment is by definition an indignity is ridiculous in an age of developing economies. Britain’s journey from austerity to growth is more than a metaphor: it depends on a greater willingness to relocate and to travel to work. And if that involves catching a bus, so be it." – Daily Telegraph editorial

Horrified Cameron to put business brains in charge of MoD deals

"David Cameron is to take an active role in Ministry of Defence appointments to ensure that the fiasco of the £5.2 billion aircraft carrier contract never happens again. The Prime Minister told the Cabinet this week that the MoD required “a proper shake-up” after he was appalled at the arcane procurement deals revealed by the Defence review. Mr Cameron is determined that the Government seeks candidates with private sector experience for key jobs that fall vacant. He has made clear that he will take a personal interst in the appointments." – The Times (£)

Community sentences must be tougher, admits minister

Herbert-Nick-speaking "Community sentences must be made tougher if they are to replace short prison terms, the criminal justice minister has admitted. Nick Herbert said the public did not have the confidence that community sentences were effective and "must be strengthened". Figures yesterday showed just one offender is jailed for every 96 crimes committed and Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, wants fewer people sent to prison. But Mr Herbert told an audience in London that radical reforms to the justice system meant community sentences "cannot be a soft option". – Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday's ToryDiary: The coming Conservative clash about prisons policy

Patrick O'Flynn: The Tories are in danger of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

"The danger is that while the Government’s spending review was correct on substance it will lose the argument on style. This is not the fault of Osborne but of those sitting beside and behind him… At at the end of Osborne’s speech the Conservative benches became abraying mass of jubilation and waving order papers. Noticeably and to their credit the Lib Dem benches were much more restrained. This spectacle gave Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson a powerful emotional argument for his reply and he gratefully seized it, not least because he was entirely bereft of an intellectual argument." – Patrick O'Flynn in the Daily Express

Priti Patel MP: We must not underestimate the damage trade unions are planning

Patel Priti "Although the public will not be surprised by unions waging a political war on the Government, they will be appalled to know that public resources are being used to subsidise trade unions. When Labour was in power they allowed the unions to line their pockets with taxpayers’ money through various funding streams. Money was given to unions to help them modernise and organise while union leaflets attacking the Conservatives, promoting Labour and supporting the anti-cuts campaign have been sponsored by the Government, the EU and regional development agencies… It is simply shocking that throughout the public sector, thousands of union members are being paid by the public purse while they spend hundreds of thousands of days working for their trade unions on ‘facility time’." – Priti Patel MP writing in the Daily Telegraph

Unions told members to lie to employees so they could attend protestsDaily Telegraph

Andrew Grice: Osborne has placed a series of landmines on the road to re-election

"VAT will rise in January. Controversial cuts to housing benefit are due to take effect next April. In 2013, two years before the election, top rate taxpayers will lose their child benefit and the first sick and disabled people will lose their employment support allowance under the time limit introduced 12 months earlier. "George Osborne said it would be a hard road; what he didn't say was that he had planted lots of bomblets all the way along it," one minister said yesterday." – Andrew Grice in The Independent

Allister Heath: Yes, the cuts will be painful. But it's the rocketing cost of living that will hurt families most

Allister Heath "As the average voter focuses on the cuts in front of him  -  and not without reason  -  a meteor is hurtling towards him from behind. Since the recession started, there has been an increasingly large gulf between what politicians are focusing on (public spending and taxes) and what real voters are most worried about (low wages and rising inflation)… Inflation, supposed to be killed off in the new era of Bank of England independence, is running at an extraordinarily high 4.6 per cent a year on the Retail Prices Index. Once, this figure would have been a matter of national debate. Now, it goes almost entirely unnoticed. Yet its effects are real, and suffered nationwide: the purchasing power of wages is being slashed by stealth." – Allister Heath in the Daily Mail

Charles Moore: Honesty is the best policy before the bigger fuel bills start to biteDaily Telegraph

Where is Labour's economic policy?

"This week, Labour seemed to delegate the task of defending both the poor and the so-called "squeezed middle" to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. That is unfortunate given the public appetite for an alternative to the Coalition's dangerous rush to eradicate the deficit. To many people, the fact of coalition government means we have already gone from having three major political parties to just two. This is no time for Labour to go missing." – Independent editorial

Labour has created cynicism with its policy-making process, says Peter HainThe Guardian

Three boroughs to create UK's first 'super-council' as spending cuts hit home

Picture 5 "Three Tory councils in London yesterday unveiled plans to merge all of their services in an attempt to save taxpayers £100million a year. Hundreds of jobs will be lost but council leaders in Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea said the changes would preserve frontline services." – Daily Mail

"Yesterday's announced reforms in the west and central London councils look the most radical yet proposed. Major challenges will emerge as council officers examine the scope for full integration of services across three authorities with distinctive approaches. Even where councils are all controlled by one party, their cultures, values and political leaderships will often be very different. By far the biggest imperative will be to ensure councillors in each authority continue to be able to adapt services to particular neighbourhood circumstances." – Tony Travers writing in The Guardian

'Super-councils' plan would redraw the map of LondonThe Independent

> Yesterday in Local Government: Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith & Fulham and Westminster propose sharing services to cut costs

Suffolk councils merger backed by ministerBBC

Nick Clegg urges local councils not to start cutting jobs yetThe Guardian

Cameron to release partial list of visitors to Number Ten

"David Cameron will next week publish belatedly a list of people who have formally visited 10 Downing Street since he became prime minister, fulfilling a promise made soon before the Tories came to power. But the document will only include formal appointments at Number 10 – excluding private tête-à-têtes in the upstairs rooms – after Mr Cameron’s aides resisted full disclosure." – FT (£)

Drop in volunteering blow for Big Society plansDaily Telegraph

Councillor in Hitler "fancy dress" suspended from partyBBC

The first teacher banned for life for being uselessDaily Mail

And finally… Tea perk is axed in Number Ten cutbacks

Picture 6 "David Cameron has banned tea and coffee being served to No10 mandarins at their desks to help save taxpayers' cash. From now on the senior civil servants must queue for hot drinks alongside cops, secretaries and other staff in Downing Street's basement canteen. They'll have to pay for them out of their own pockets. The move could save several thousand pounds a year, beancounters hope." – The Sun


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