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6.30pm LeftWatch: Polly Toynbee leads Topshop protesters on to picket Guardian office (Not)

5.45pm WATCH: ‪Tax protests close flagship TopShop store‬

Screen shot 2010-12-04 at 14.28.53
2.30pm LeftWatch: Polly Toynbee snapped at Topshop protest – captions, please

2.15pm LeftWatch: Miliband v Johnson.  Round 94.  Seconds Out.

Noon WATCH: Cable to vote for his own policy on tuition fees

STRATHCLYDE TOM ToryDiary: Spiffing innings by Lord Strathclyde in The Times

In Comment: Benedict Rogers reviews the Bush and Blair memoirs: Compassionate, intelligent George Bush. Humane, purposeful Tony Blair.

Also in Comment:  Steve Baker MP: If one is a child of Thatcher, "this is what one believes"

Local Government: The Good Tweet Guide for Councillors

Parliament: The sun shines on the second reading of Rebecca Harris's Daylight Saving Bill – but darkness is set to engulf it in committee

LeftWatch: Gordon Brown's book boasts clunking title – and will be serialised next week

WATCH: ‪HMS Ark Royal returns home for the last time‬ 

Cable tells his local paper that he'll vote for his student finance proposals…

Vince Cable Commons "Business Secretary Vince Cable will vote for a rise in university tuition fees, he revealed today.  The Twickenham MP suggested earlier this week he may abstain in a House of Commons vote next Thursday if his Liberal Democrat colleagues wanted him to.  But in an exclusive interview with the Richmond and Twickenham Times today, he said he had reconsidered his decision and had “no doubt” he should support the contoversial policy that will allow some universities to charge up to £9,000 in fees.  Dr Cable said: “Obviously I have a duty as a minister to vote for my own policy – and that is what will happen.”  However, he stressed the Liberal Democrat Party has yet to decide how it will vote next Thursday." – Richmond and Twickenham Times

…but the Liberal Democrats say that he may abstain…

"Cable told his paper that he had considered abstaining as an "olive branch" to colleagues who are "finding this difficult".  [He] said: "There is a dilemma. I'm very clear I regard the policy as right and as a member of the cabinet I am collectively responsible for the policy. There is no doubt that is what I should do."  There was further confusion when the Lib Dems said Cable could still abstain. A party source said: "A final decision has not been made. It is still possible Vince could abstain."  If the business secretary does back the rise, there is likely to be a three-way split in the Lib Dem vote. Cable, Alexander and other senior ministers will vote in favour, other MPs will abstain and the likes of Kennedy will oppose the rise." – The Guardian

…And look set to split three ways

"His decision will pile pressure on Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, who has refused to reveal how he will vote, to follow suit.  Mr Cable is the minister in charge of the proposals and has spent weeks defending them in the media.  But he stunned Westminster earlier this week by saying he would not vote at all in next week's debate in a desperate bid to stop a Lib Dem split.  Mr Cable's decision to abstain in a vote on his own plans was widely ridiculed.  Stung by the criticism, he executed his latest U-turn. He said: "Obviously I have a duty as a minister to vote for my own policy – and that is what will happen."  His decision means the Lib Dems could split three ways.  MPs such as ex-leader Charles Kennedy have vowed to vote against, while others have said they will abstain." – The Sun

Liberal Democrats call off conference over fear of student protests – Daily Telegraph

Yesterday in ToryDiary: Nick Clegg can survive and even prosper if he's hated.  What would destroy him as a politician is being made ridiculous.

No 10 to beef up Con-Lib Policy Unit and work on common programme

Hilton-Steve "David Cameron and Nick Clegg have ordered the creation of a beefed-up policy unit at 10 Downing Street to tighten their grip on government and act as an engine for ideas for the coalition in the second half of this parliament.  Mr Cameron’s allies talk of forming a “strong but tight” unit at the heart of government, reflecting concern that Number 10 has lacked sufficient control over radical plans for public sector reform. The 15-strong unit, comprised of Conservative and Liberal Democrat political advisers and “the brightest and best” civil servants, will also be charged with developing policies that reflect a distinct coalition philosophy.  The prime minister and his deputy believe that the coalition agreement…will have been largely implemented by mid-parliament." – Financial Times (£)

Side by side against a common enemy – Financial Times (£)

Annabel Goldie intends to stand for re-election as Scots Tory leader

"Annabel Goldie is planning to seek re-election as leader of the Scottish Tories next May in order to shore up her position in the party.  Ms Goldie has told friends she intends to stand in an internal leadership contest after May’s Scottish elections.  The tactic should help dampen criticism of her party’s electoral failures to date, and quell speculation about her future.  Ms Goldie’s position appeared to be undermined last week by a report into “major weaknesses” in the Scottish Conservatives.  A commission led by Lord Sanderson called for a root-and-branch reform of the Scottish party in light of its “diabolical” performance in the General Election. Despite Tory swings across the rest of the UK, Scotland returned just one Tory MP from 59 candidates." – Herald Scotland

Michael Fallon spoils for a by-election fight with the Liberal Democrats

"[William] Hague said: "Well they should vote for the best candidate for their seat in a by-election…They can indicate what sort of government they want in the future." Hague's comments fuelled speculation that the Tories would field a paper candidate to help the Lib Dems who narrowly missed out to Woolas in the general election…But the Tories adopted a different approach today after a byelection became all but inevitable when Woolas lost his appeal. This is what Michael Fallon, the Tory deputy chairman, told Radio 4's The World at One:  "We will be fighting this extremely vigorously…We will stress our achievements – the enormous progress we have made on the deficit reduction plan, fundamental start to welfare reform. I am sure the Liberal Democrats will point to things they have achieved like the pupil premium and taking lower paid people out of tax." – Wintour and Watt, The Guardian

Wikileaks latest: Hague and Fox promised US a "pro-American regime"

"Tory frontbenchers promised US diplomats they would run a “pro-American regime” and buy more arms from the US if the Conservatives won the general election this year, according to the latest leaked US embassy cables.  Both William Hague, now the Foreign Secretary and Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary went out of their way to try to curry favour with the US by pledging closer cooperation if they got into power.  But despite this ingratiating stance, the dispatches also disclose how US diplomats in London are amused by what they call Britain’s “paranoid” fears about the so-called special relationship." – The Times (£)

Yesterday in LeftWatch: The American Embassy's view of Labour: Brown was "abysmal", Harman "lightweight", Balls "dull", and McBride "a particularly unpleasant person"

Other Coalition News in Brief

  • Health Minister backs Mail campaign to end NHS neglect of the elderly – Daily Mail
  • Works by banned hate preacher available in public libraries – Channel 4
  • UK gives £37m to aid overseas farmers on climate change – BBC

 Spelman urges shoppers not to stockpile food

SPELMAN CAROLINE "Britain's families were last night urged by the Government not to panic buy as the big freeze brought fears of shortages in bread, milk and fuel.  Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman insisted there was no problem with food supply.  But even as she spoke, millions around the country were stockpiling staple foods, with supermarkets rationing some products.  Petrol suppliers warned of ‘critical shortages’ as garages began to run out of fuel. And there were reports that cash machines were running out of bank notes ahead of one of the year’s busiest shopping weekends of the year." – Daily Mail

Polish government rejects David Cameron EU budget cap demand

"Radek Sikorski, the Polish foreign minister, told Britain it should "stick" to negotiating procedures rather than seeking a defined cut that would bring the EU budget into line with British austerity measures.  "First the commission proposes a draft budget, then the presidency conducts negotiations, then we have our food fight over the sum and then we come to a compromise over the sum; not the other way round," said Mr Sikorski.  "We believe that there is a correct procedure and that we should stick to it." EU prime ministers meet on December 16-17 for a summit seen as vital given the perilous financial state of some members, and the need to bail out Greece and Ireland." – Daily Telegraph

Europe is in trouble. Why isn’t this country trying to put it right? – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

The Daily Mail works itself into a frenzy about food from cloned animals

"The spectre of a clone food free-for-all came a step closer yesterday.  Ministers want to allow the unrestricted sale of meat and milk from so-called Frankenfarm animals.  They are ready to reject the idea of a ban as "disproportionate in terms of food safety and animal welfare".  The move was immediately condemned by campaigners who warned that cloning poses a serious threat to animal welfare.  It will also trigger a fierce consumer backlash, with evidence that the vast majority of people oppose clone farming on welfare and ethical grounds." – Daily Mail

"David Cameron isn't a Thatcherite"

"To view the Government's public service reforms as a logical conclusion of Thatcherism is not the same as saying Mr Cameron is a Thatcherite. He is not. I am told that Lady Thatcher would not have entered a full-blown coalition with the Lib Dems if she had found herself in Mr Cameron's position, preferring to soldier on as a minority government until a second election. Mr Cameron looks entirely at ease in the Coalition. His social liberalism and Nick Clegg's economic liberalism make a happy marriage, even if some of their backbenchers and grassroots members do not approve." – Andrew Grice, The Independent

Other Comment

  • If Fifa were a country, it would be Russia – Alistair Campbell, Daily Telegraph
  • Members of Parliament: Westminster vice and virtue – The Guardian
  • Still no real attempt to enforce the law – Ann Widdecombe, Daily Express

Ex-Labour MP David Chaytor faces jail after guilty plea protects daughter

Screen shot 2010-12-04 at 09.12.57 "His decision meant that his daughter, Sarah, would avoid the risk of being dragged into a criminal inquiry. Chaytor had named her as his landlady when he falsely claimed £12,925 for rent on a London flat he owned.  The Daily Telegraph has learnt that police obtained evidence of emails between Chaytor and his daughter discussing the rental agreement, and sources close to the case confirmed that Miss Chaytor could have been investigated if she was in any way incriminated during a trial.  It can also be disclosed that another false rental agreement, drawn up on a property owned by Chaytor’s mother, Olive Trickett, bore what purported to be her signature even though she was in a care home at the time suffering from Alzheimer’s." – Daily Telegraph

Yesterday –

Yvette Cooper calls for Israeli settler labelling on food imports – The Guardian

The woes of Ed Miliband continue

Ed Miliband, the Labour Party's invisible man"Miliband’s poor public performances are far from the only problem. His office organisation appears to be a shambles, with key jobs vacant. Katie Myler, his chief press officer, has resigned. Meanwhile Stewart Wood, his campaign chief, has been ennobled and will take up a front bench post in the Lords. “Where is the Jonathan Powell? Where is the Anji Hunter? Where is the Alastair Campbell?” asks one close observer, referring to the key advisers who sustained Tony Blair in opposition.  His political advice is weak. Miliband prepares for Prime Minister’s Questions with three advisers who are surprisingly junior: MPs Chuka Umunna and Ann McGuire, and ex-journalist Polly Billington."  – Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph

"Even if the charge begins to stick, and lots of voters decide that Mr Miliband is a bit hapless, I have a hunch that—at a time of global economic alarm and domestic austerity—it would look stunningly self-indulgent for Labour to start squabbling about its leadership. It is not as if he was parachuted into the job by some emergency fast-track procedure: Labour held a grinding round of hustings and debates that dragged on for months, during which Mr Miliband's strengths and weaknesses were fully on view." – Bagehot, The Economist

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