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7.30pm ToryDiary: Labour and Tories neck-and-neck in opinion polls but Cameron enjoys big lead over Miliband

6pm ConHomeUSA: Nine Republican Senators ensure gay Americans will be able to serve openly in military

Screen shot 2010-12-18 at 16.50.43
5pm WATCH:

Screen shot 2010-12-18 at 17.06.48 1.45pm WATCH: Santa Claus launches political attack video to expose the Easter Bunny!

1pm ToryDiary: The strengths and weaknesses of Operation Coulson

10.30am WATCH

ToryDiary: Fifty Conservative MPs demand a free vote on tobacco shop display ban

Screen shot 2010-12-18 at 07.00.16Comment: Antonia Cox: Bernard Gray may have previously advised a Labour Defence Secretary, but Liam Fox was right to appoint him as Chief of Defence Materiel

Local Government:

Parliament: The dog that didn't bark on Thursday during energy questions

WATCH: David Cameron claims victory over EU budget

In public, Cameron pushes for an EU budget cap…

"David Cameron provoked a backlash from smaller European Union countries last night by proposing a tight cap on European Union spending until 2020.  Although he won the backing of France, Germany, the Netherlands and Finland, the Prime Minister was accused of "grandstanding" by eastern European nations who are normally seen as Britain's natural allies. Labour accused him of pandering to Tory Eurosceptics." – The Independent

…And in private, moves to keep Britain's rebate and France's subsidies

"Officials and diplomats have suggested that behind the budget freeze agreement lies a secret deal to keep Britain's £3 billion rebate in return for maintaining the high levels of farm subsidies received by France. "Sarkozy said that if Cameron leaves farm subsidies alone, then he, in turn, would leave the British rebate alone," said a diplomat involved in the Anglo-French talks.  Mr Cameron yesterday denied a stitch-up. "There are no backroom deals or secret agreement," he said." – Daily Telegraph

Treaty Amendments – John Redwood's blog 

Cameron risks tensions in party as he wishes Lib Dems well at the polls

  Screen shot 2010-12-18 at 08.55.27 "David Cameron risked increasing Tory tensions over the coalition by wishing the Liberal Democrats well in the Oldham East & Saddleworth by-election.  Three times, the Prime Minister sent his good wishes to Nick Clegg’s party despite next month’s contest being a three-way marginal.  “In a coalition, you always wish your partners well,” said Mr Cameron, before he spent more time advancing the case of the Liberal Democrat candidate than the local Tory." – The Times (£)

Yesterday in Seats and Candidates: Is CCHQ taking the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election seriously? 

Prime Minister threatens banks over bonuses

"David Cameron warned banks on Friday that they faced higher taxes if they continued to pay “unjustified” bonuses, adding to a growing political and regulatory pressure on the City before the industry’s bonus season early next year.  The prime minister, speaking after a European Union summit in Brussels, said that the public found such payments “galling”, adding: “Every decision the banks make like that makes it more difficult to keep a tax regime that they might favour.” – Financial Times (£)

"But while there are perfectly legitimate arguments to be made about bank bonuses, the sums being lent and the tightness of the regulatory structure, the Coalition is sending out mixed messages about the sort of economy it wants… Every article by Mr Osborne that pledges a competitive business environment can easily be cancelled out by a speech from a Lib Dem minister castigating the banks, which all makes for a very nervous financial sector." – Daily Telegraph Editorial 

Theresa May loses on the temporary immigration cap in court

Theresa May NW"Home Office ministers announced their intention to introduce the temporary cap to parliament but did not detail how it would operate or the level of the limit on skilled and highly skilled migrants until it came into force. Details were then posted on the Home Office website but not presented to parliament." – The Guardian

"While the judgment is highly embarrassing for the coalition, ministers insisted it rested on a “technicality” that will be “set right” within the next few days.  The ruling will have no impact on the introduction of a permanent cap, due to come into force in April…Even so, the practical implications of the ruling could still be significant, especially given the potential for legal challenges to past decisions." – Financial Times (£)

Yesterday in ToryDiary: High Court rules temporary immigration cap on non-EU immigration unlawful

UK Border Agency to make new attempt to deport child killer Mohammed ­Ibrahim

 The UK Border Agency will launch a fresh appeal against a tribunal ruling that serial offender Aso Mohammed ­Ibrahim should stay in Britain to protect his human rights, Immigration Minister Damian Green announced. The Government’s renewed efforts to kick out the 33-year-old Iraqi Kurd came after Prime Minister David Cameron told of his great anger over the case.
 - Daily Express

High-speed rail rebellion in the shires

"Ministers are preparing to face down a backbench rebellion, possible ministerial resignations and fierce opposition from the Conservative heartlands when they table plans next week to run a £34 billion high-speed railway from London to Birmingham.  The most extensive compensation scheme yet seen in Britain will be central to the Government’s charm offensive as Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, presents detailed route proposals to Parliament on Monday for the fastest railway in Europe." – The Times (£)

Health Secretary to scrap simple targets

LANSLEY ANDREW NW "Simple waiting time targets for patients to be seen in hospital casualty departments and those for ambulances to reach less urgent 999 calls are being scrapped in favour of measures that will focus on the quality of care, Andrew Lansley, the health secretary, announced on Friday. The target of waiting for no more than four hours in accident and emergency is being replaced from next April by eight new “clinical quality indicators”. They include a measure of the time a patient waits to a full initial assessment and time to treatment." – Financial Times (£) 

Other Coalition and Political News

  • Flu crisis fears – elderly and pregnant most at risk – The Independent
  • Michael Gove "backtracks over schools sports funding" – The Guardian
  • Patients denied treatment as NHS makes cutbacks – Daily Telegraph
  • David Cameron mocks parliamentary expenses body as a four letter word – Wintour and Watt, The Guardian
  • "I must admit that I worry that the Coalition is whacking the poor" – Shirley Williams interview, The Times (£)
  • BNP and equality group both claim victory in legal wrangle – The Guardian

Our coverage on immigration and Europe was weak, admits BBC Director General 

Screen shot 2010-12-18 at 08.59.01 "BBC coverage of issues such as immigration and Europe had been weak in the past, admitted the corporation’s Director General Mark Thompson.  He confessed the BBC had been nervous about tackling issues regarded as sensitive.  But he claimed the broadcaster had corrected that position and forced reluctant politicians to address the matter of immigration during this year’s General Election…His admission comes only a few months after he accepted the corporation had been guilty of a ‘massive’ Left-wing bias." – Daily Mail 

Huhne admits that energy bills will rise

"The shift to producing more low-carbon energy would push up bills ‘in the medium term’, energy secretary Chris Huhne said yesterday.  But the changes in the electricity market would bring lower prices in 20 years, he told the Commons, as he launched a consultation on green energy reforms…The move to low-carbon energy would ‘lay the foundations for the sustainable economy of the future, bringing jobs up and down the supply chain’, Mr Huhne added." – Metro. 

Nigel Evans "to announce that he's gay"

Screen shot 2010-12-18 at 09.15.46 "Nigel Evans, who is a Commons Deputy Speaker, has decided to come out in a newspaper interview because he is fed up with living his life as a ‘lie’.  David Cameron has been informed of the decision of Mr Evans who has never been married and who does not have a long-term male partner.  The Prime Minister and Mr Evans’s constituency party have both pledged their full support to the MP, whose homosexuality has been an open secret at Westminster for many years." – Daily Mail 

Labour candidate bombarded gay colleague with 33 homophobic texts after losing out to him in election

 "David Bradley sent rival Ed Bramall homophobic messages after members had selected Mr Bramall to fight a seat at this year’s local elections.  Bradley, who contested the Weston-super-Mare seat for Labour at this year’s General Election, sent 33 texts using references to homosexuals.  At Bristol Magistrates’ Court Bradley, of Warmley, Bristol pleaded guilty to a charge of harassment without violence by sending the text messages to Mr Bramall’s phone between March and August." – Daily Mail 

The beleaguered masses are wondering who is on their side

"When [David Cameron] addressed the '22 on Wednesday, he disarmed all criticism.  But his link with his MPs is convenient, not umbilical. Failure could quickly sever it. "Cameron will only realise we matter when it is too late," says one backbencher bitterly. The Prime Minister has put admirable diplomatic skill into forging a coalition with his opponents. He needs to be equally welcoming to those who are, in principle at least, his friends." – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph 

Other Comment

  • The climate bugaboo is the strangest intellectual aberration of our age – Christopher Monckton, Daily Telegraph
  • We trumpet pieties, but whisper the truth – Matthew Parris, The Times
  • Restless backbenchers are a problem for all three parties – Andrew Grice, The Independent
  • Why don't Britain's rich give to charity like wealthy Americans? – Dominic Sandbrook, Daily Mail

The Daily Mail welcomes Tom Baldwin: "Meet the champagne (and coke snorting) socialist who is Labour's new Alastair Campbell"…

Screen shot 2010-12-18 at 09.00.41 "Campbell was known to liaise with Baldwin in endless attempts to ­discredit the Labour government’s enemies, the results of which regularly ended up prominently in The Times — a paper once admired for its thundering independence. ‘Tom was a ruthless operator and obsessed by the power his friend Alastair wielded in Downing Street,’ says a ­colleague. ‘I think he envied him.’  Even so, who could have imagined, when the appalling era of mendacity that marked Campbell’s tenure in Downing Street finally ended, that a new one would start a few years later?" – Daily Mail

…While Andy McSmith in the Independent has some advice for him

"When Tom Baldwin starts his new job, he will keep mostly out of sight, while the day-to-day job of talking to journalists will be delegated to Roberts. Baldwin has attracted an unusual amount of attention for someone whose job was to report the news rather than be the news…So, as the new media advisers take office, they should keep this in mind: spin doctors are like poisoners. There are famous poisoners, and successful poisoners, but there are no famous, successful poisoners." – The Independent

And finally…Party leaders play the family (Christmas) card

CARDS
"Despite ending the year with far more important jobs than they had 12 months ago, it is the image of family men that will begin landing on the doormats of friends and supporters.  The Prime Minister… and his wife Samantha are clearly standing on the threshold of Number 10, shortly after the birth of Florence Rose Endellion in August.  Mr Miliband, in a neutral setting, is cradling baby Samuel, born in November, in one arm while his wife Justice holds Daniel.  Yet it is the Clegg boys, Antonio and Alberto, who arguably steal the show." – The Times (£)

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54 comments for: Weblinks for Saturday 18th December 2010

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