9.30pm ToryDiary: Boris Johnson unanimously re-selected as London Mayoral candidate for 2012

5.30pm Thomas Cawston on CentreRight: How to scale back welfare spending – and close the deficit

5pm ToryDiary: Cameron's seven vulnerabilities: (3) People don't know what the Coalition is trying to achieve

4.45pm Peter Aldous MP in Parliament: The future of the inshore fishing fleet on the East Coast

Picture 262.45pm Captions please: Cameron and Schwarzenegger on the steps of Number Ten

2.30pm Mark Field MP on CentreRight: "Reforms to our welfare state are essential. But they are also likely to cost the taxpayer considerably more than is currently envisaged."

1.45pm Parliament: David Nuttall's attempt to relax the smoking ban falls at the first hurdle – but 77 Tory MPs vote for his Bill (with 38 opposing it)

1.15pm WATCH: Francis Maude defends the abolition of 192 quangos

Noon Parliament: A small Conservative rebellion took place on Tuesday over the date of the AV referendum

11.15am Jim McConalogue on CentreRight: Bill Cash is right – we must insist Government rejects European Parliament proposals to increase the EU budget

10.45am ToryDiary: A Thatcher Birthday tribute? Francis Maude makes his presence felt as the Government announces that almost 200 quangos will go

10.15am Gazette: Happy Birthday Maggie!

ToryDiary: "We have to stop targeting that group, the people who just hit the higher tax rate."

Euro baton
Parliament: Despite massive whipping operation, 37 Conservative MPs vote to cut UK contribution to EU

GREEN-ANDREWSir Andrew Green on Platform: The impact of recent immigration on our education system runs into tens of billions of pounds

Local Government: Opinion poll shows strong backing for localism

ThinkTankCentral: Reform warns that Coalition's child benefit plan risks bringing targeting of benefits into disrepute

Dominic Schofield in International: Spain's socialist minority government is making the late Brown Administration look fresh, decisive and visionary

Melanchthon on CentreRight: Are you a liberal or a libertarian?

WATCH: William Hague urges Britain and Russia to resolve their differences through diplomacy during a visit to Moscow

Francis Maude to abolish nearly 200 quangos today

MAUDE looking right "Nearly 200 public sector bodies are set to be axed in a “bonfire of the quangos”, ministers will announce. However they are expected to say that the move will save only a few hundred millions of pounds. Instead, Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, is expected to stress that the move will make the public bodies more “transparent and accountable” in a Commons statement this morning." – Daily Telegraph

"Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, said: "Cutting these bodies will worsen public accountability and will have a huge impact regionally, economically and socially." – The Guardian

"Britain’s competition regime is to be revamped in a shake-up under which the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition Commission will merge. The restructuring of the competition bodies, to reduce costs and speed up investigations, will probably be one of the most contentious cuts to public bodies to be announced on Thursday in the government’s “bonfire of the quangos”. – FT (£)

"There will be few tears shed today when Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude sets alight his long-promised bonfire of the quangos… The cull seems far less draconian, however, when we learn that more than 400 are expected to survive unscathed." – Daily Mail editorial

Police forces reportedly facing "deep cuts" to number of frontline officers as Theresa May finalises budget settlement

Theresa May Home Secretary "Britain's police forces are expected to have to make deep cuts in officer numbers after a Treasury decision to protect Home Office spending on counter-terrorism above all else, the Guardian has learned. Theresa May, the home secretary, is believed to be very close to a final settlement on her budget that protects counter-terrorism funding from immediate cuts, though not from the effects of inflation over the next four years." – The Guardian

IoD urges Osborne to be "more radical"

"The Institute of Directors (IoD) urged the Chancellor to ditch the protection which the Government has promised to the NHS and overseas aid budgets, in order to preserve investment in transport, energy and IT infrastructure." – Press Association

Coalition considers cuts to cold weather payments

"Millions of pensioners could be left unable to pay heating bills this winter after it emerged the Coalition is considering slashing cold weather payments. The £25 benefit is handed out if the temperature in the claimant’s area falls below zero for seven consecutive days – and is considered vital by countless poor families and elderly people. Yesterday David Cameron declined to deny rumours that his Government may slash the payment by two thirds, to only £8.50 – at a time when energy bills are soaring." – Daily Mail

Government moves to sell off Royal Mail

Royal Mail logo "The government began moves on Wednesday to sell off upto 90 percent of state-owned letters delivery business Royal Mail, with the remaining stake reserved for the company's staff. Introducing a bill to parliament, the government said it would take on a pensions deficit which had been valued by trustees at £10.3 billion." – Reuters

Whitehall spent £1bn on wasteful consultancy contracts, says audit office…

"The government spent more than £1bn on consultants and temporary staff last year, hiring them on wasteful contracts and failing to manage them properly, according to the spending watchdog. Although spending on consultants fell slightly in the last four years, the National Audit Office concludes the government is not getting value for money because it does not keep tabs on what they do once they are hired." – The Guardian

…and the waste didn't end in May

"The coalition took out 50 new contracts with consultants worth £10 million in less than 12 weeks despite the Chancellor’s clampdown on outside experts in May, the public spending watchdog discloses today. George Osborne announced in May that any new contract over £20,000 had to be deemed an “operational necessity” and approved by ministers… But a highly critical report from the National Audit Office claims that in the 12 weeks after the Chancellor promised to cut costs on consultants, dozens of new contracts were approved." – The Times (£)

Hague warms up Russian relations

"Britain and Russia "have had some serious differences" in the past but should seek to resolve their issues through "dialogue and diplomacy", Foreign Secretary William Hague said yesterday as he sought to rebuild the UK's battered relationship with Moscow." – The Independent

The media assess Ed Miliband's first outing at PMQs

Picture 22 "Ed Miliband made a pitch for the support of “middle income Britain” in his first clashes with David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions today. In what appeared to be a well-judged tactical move, the new Labour leader used the first PMQs since his election to spell out his opposition to plans to remove child benefit from families which have a higher rate taxpayer from 2013." – Sam Coates in The Times (£)

"Miliband had the best gag, about how Cameron might have wished for the threatened BBC blackout during the tumultuous Tory conference last week. By the volume of Labour-versus-Tory cheers at the end, Ed Miliband looked to have won the first clash inside the chamber. Most independent observers scored it as a win for him, too." – Tom Newton Dunn in The Sun

"It was Ed Miliband's first prime minister's questions, and he wasn't bad at all. This clearly came as a surprise to many of his backbenchers, who've been chuntering on for weeks about union members foisting on them a lefty who looks like a nervous panda on his gap year." – Simon Hoggart in The Guardian

"His performance was a reminder of how easy Cameron has had it as a leader, facing Blair when his party wanted him out, Brown mainly in a state of despair following the non-election in 2007 and finally Harriet Harman as a stand-in. It felt yesterday as if battle had been joined at last, although not without big dangers for Miliband too. One Labour frontbencher expressed concern to me afterwards that Miliband was in danger of getting on the wrong side of the debate about fairness, both in relation to child benefit and tuition fees. We shall see." – Steve Richards in The Independent

>Yesterday's ToryDiary: Child benefit issue gives Ed Miliband victory during his first PMQs

> WATCH: Highlights of Ed Miliband's PMQs debut

New sentencing guidelines could mean 3,000 fewer jailed for assault

"New guidelines could mean 3,000 fewer people each year being jailed for assault, the Sentencing Council has said. The proposed changes could save the prison service more than £16m a year and the probation service £3m." – BBC

David Cameron picks Marines colonel to advise on militaryThe Times (£)

David Cameron and General Petraeus to meet in London today to discuss Linda Norgrove's deathBBC

Fifa boss Sepp Blatter in Downing Street discussion about England's 2018 World Cup BidThe Sun

A recent pronouncement by Grant Shapps has upset the Mail's Stephen Glover

Grant Shapps 2010 "In a little reported speech on Tuesday, Mr Shapps warned middle-class families that they should not rely on the value of their homes to fund their retirement. He said — admittedly without supplying any details — that the Government would try to ensure that property prices will rise more slowly than incomes so as to avoid another housing boom. ‘People should think of homes as a place to live rather than a pension,’ he informed the Housing Market Intelligence Conference." – Stephen Glover in the Daily Mail

Clegg urges MPs to think hard before opposing fees rise

"Nick Clegg has urged his MPs to look at "all the facts" before deciding whether to oppose a rise in tuition fees. The deputy prime minister said he would "understand" if fellow Lib Dems felt they could not back it, after signing a pre-election pledge not to do so." – BBC

Sir Menzies Campbell joins Lib Dem revolt against rising tuition feesThe Guardian

Stephen Pollard: At last Cameron's Tories learn to love Baroness Thatcher

Thatcher Cameron statue "This evening David Cameron will celebrate Baroness Thatcher’s 85th birthday by hosting a reception at 10 Downing Street for the former prime minister. Her successors as leader of the Conservative Party have all at various points tried to distance themselves from her – not least Mr Cameron himself….  So it is especially welcome that tonight Mr Cameron will honour her contribution to the country. Because far from being ashamed of her legacy Conservative politicians should cherish it and learn critical lessons from her experience." – Stephen Pollard in the Daily Express

Nick Clegg defends five-year fixed-term parliaments The Guardian

Lib Dem MP bailed after assault complaintThe Independent

How Alan Johnson spent £17,000 on 19 office chairs The Sun

EPP organsies £350,000 "study break" to Madeira for 400 MEPs and staff Daily Telegraph

And finally… The Queen cancels Christmas to save money

Queen unmoved "Faithful royal staff were devastated last night after the Queen axed the Buckingham Palace Christmas party in a cost-cutting drive. Hundreds were looking forward to the lavish bash as it is the one time they can mingle with senior Royals. But Her Majesty was determined to show solidarity with a nation struggling with hardship and called it off after consulting senior courtiers… Some 1,200 guests were due at the £50,000 party, scheduled for December 13." – The Sun


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