8.45pm Melanchthon on CentreRight: The Conservatives should fight hard and fight to win in Oldham East and Saddleworth
6.30pm Mike Magan on AmericaInTheWorld: Rejecting today's cheap headlines, Bush is right to wait for history’s considered judgement
"Questions were asked in the press yesterday about whether he will raise the issue of the human rights of Nobel peace prize winner, Liu Xiaobo. But in a country where experts estimate that about 100 million girls have been aborted, murdered, disappeared or trafficked I sincerely hope he will be raising this far greater human rights travesty."
Also on CentreRight, Alex Deane has a question for the BBC.
The Daily Mail speculates: "Ministers are heading for a showdown with teachers over their pay deal and plans to rank schools by staff qualifications and sickness rates. The Coalition could break up national deals on teachers’ pay, allowing heads to dictate salary levels and severely weakening the power of the unions. The plans emerged yesterday in a five-year blueprint issued by Education Secretary Michael Gove’s department."
Benchmarks and milestones are in, but they look like slimmed-down targets by another name – Andrew Grice, analysing the Whitehall business plans, in The Independent
The FT(£) agrees: "The documents are littered with “impact indicators” and “outcomes”, many of which are targets by another name – measuring educational attainment at key ages, how many trains run late, or reducing premature deaths, for example."
Nine Whitehall departments have lost their most senior civil servant – Rachel Sylvester in The Times (£)
MEPs determined to get even bigger budget for EU
"The Prime Minister claimed victory after organising a letter from a dozen EU leaders last month limiting the headline increase in the EU’s €123 billion (£106 billion) annual budget to 2.9%. The European Parliament is pushing for 6.2% extra but appeared to soften its position yesterday, suggesting that it could settle on 4.5%. If a 2.9% increase were to be agreed, however, the MEPs’ chief negotiator said that member states knew full well that extra cash would have to be added during the year to meet existing commitments." – Times (£)
Meanwhile John Redwood questions William Hague on EU plans for new economic powers: "I have been reading the lengthy documents on EU Economic Governance which the Uk administration invites Parliament to take note of. I do not think I can in any way support them…" Read Mr Redwood's full blog.
George Osborne set to close one thousand tax loopholes – Telegraph
Cameron vows to double UK trade to China
"David Cameron arrived in China early this morning vowing to double UK trade to the country to $100bn (£62bn) a year by 2015, and predicting that the army of British business leaders accompanying him on his two-day visit would sign more than 40 deals worth billions of pounds. In an article for the Wall Street Journal, the prime minister lauded China, saying it was lifting billions of people out of poverty at a rate unprecedented in history, and made only passing reference to the need to address human rights." – Guardian
David Cameron should be focusing on intellectual property theft not human rights says The Telegraph's Business Editor: "As Sir Anthony Bamford, chairman of JCB, says on Tuesday: "The machine designs of JCB products have been copied on many occasions by unscrupulous Far Eastern competitors. The practice is now commonplace in many industries. It is just not acceptable that one company's R&D effort is ruthlessly exploited by another elsewhere in the world." Sir Anthony has complained to Chinese premier Wen Jiabao but it should be Cameron doing the complaining."
David Cameron has handed out 26 civil service jobs without publicly advertising them
"[The PM] has appointed staff – including a web guru, filmmaker, policy adviser and his personal photographer – to key Government posts on short-term contracts, allowing the coalition to bypass strict rules that recruitment should be opened up to external candidates… One Labour MP has claimed that Mr Cameron may have breached Civil Service rules by not ensuring that external candidates had the opportunity to apply for the jobs." – Daily Mail
Philip Stephens: Cameron the pragmatist
In his regular FT(£) column, Philip Stephens says that Tory pledges are "colliding with reality" and on the EU, immigration and prisons Cameron is choosing the pragmatic and correct options.
James Purnell backs his successor Iain Duncan Smith on welfare reform
"Iain Duncan Smith’s universal credit, the plan to merge many current benefits into one, is a good reform. The present system is too complicated not only for claimants, but also for officials. We lose more money in mistakes than in fraud. Before I resigned from the Cabinet, I proposed a similar plan to Mr Brown. But he was scared that there would be losers, and his refusal to give me any answer made me think that there was no point in staying inside the Government to try to influence him." – James Purnell in The Times (£)
Unlike the Archbishop of Canterbury who gets the Daily Mail treatment this morning: "On the great moral and religious issues of our time, from social breakdown to the many attacks on the sanctity of life by the pro-euthanasia lobby, the Archbishop of Canterbury has been all but silent. Yet, when it comes to something which he knows little about, he rushes in – unwisely likening the Coalition’s housing benefit cuts to ‘social zoning’."
> Jill Kirby on CentreRight yesterday: Why was the Archbishop of Canterbury silent when Iain Duncan Smith set out an agenda for the family?
Housing benefit will cost each family £1,500 if it is not reformed – Telegraph
Unacceptable train overcrowding to get worse, MPs say – BBC
Defence minister to warn that cyber attack could be as devastating as cruise missile strike
"Defence Minister Nick Harvey is due to highlight the cyber attack threat facing Britain in a speech to a leading think tank. In his address to Chatham House, he is expected to warn that, in the wrong hands, a laptop could be as effective a weapon as a cruise missile." – BBC
Polly Toynbee endorses a Conservative policy…
"No sooner was he appointed to the Ministry of Justice than Ken Clarke did as much with a few wise words to cauterise some Conservative toxicity as Cameron managed in years of scrubbing away at the party's nasty image." – Polly Toynbee in The Guardian
> David G Green on CentreRight: Why Polly Toynbee and Ken Clarke are wrong
In The Telegraph Phillip Johnston is sceptical about Cameron's new promise to deport thousands of foreign prisoners: "The problem is that under the Repatriation of Prisoners Act 1984, offenders must agree to the transfer and most prefer to stay put. And why not? The chances are that the jails in their own countries are more crowded than ours and the regime less progressively benign. Mr Cameron wants to force prisoners to go back – but so did the last government. It signed a new European Council convention last November enabling the UK to transfer prisoners, without their consent, to 34 signatory countries. This deal could potentially affect more than 3,000 prisoners, so how many have been sent home? As far as we know, not one."
The €uro and bank guarantees destroyed the Irish economic miracle
"Ireland’s first error was to join the euro; its second was to guarantee all bank creditors. These two errors have destroyed the country. Joining the euro led to an immediate halving in interest rates and a surge in growth and inflation – had Ireland retained an independent monetary policy, its currency would have soared and it would have jacked up interest rates. Plenty of countries have suffered a property bust – only some have been bankrupted as a result. Not all were euro members, of course, but those peripheral economies that did join are all now in terminal crisis. Andrew Lilico of Policy Exchange, one of London’s most interesting economists, has been arguing for years that Ireland’s dalliance with the euro would end in disaster. He wrote an eerily accurate piece in 2001 in the European Journal." – Allister Heath in City AM
Warning that 'alarming' level of UK debt of £10 trillion may prove hard to deal with if interest rates increase – Guardian
And finally… David Cameron's A-Z of looking one's best
The Daily Mail's Craig Brown takes a mocking look at Cameron's decision to hire a perasonal photographer.