7pm Local Government: Tories attack Labour-run Leicester Councl for spending £7000 on 30 different models and makes of pen

Screen shot 2010-12-07 at 18.42.05 6.30pm ToryDiary: Ken Clarke moves to scrap some minimum murder terms. Will "Ben's Law" be one of them?

5.45pm Tim Montgomerie on Comment: The biggest public spending cuts in a generation + use of the internet to mobilise scattered individuals = TROUBLE

4.45pm WATCH: Philip Davies MP and Jonathan Aitken discuss the implications of the Government's plans to jail fewer offenders

4.15pm LeftWatch: New OECD league table is a damning indictment of Labour's record on education

2.30pm WATCH: John Bercow and Government Chief Whip Patrick McLoughlin have a very public disagreement in the chamber

Picture 71pm On the day of Ireland's crisis Budget, John Phelan in Comment considers How Ireland's 88-year experiment in self-government came to an end

Noon Daniel Hamilton on Comment: Mikheil Saakashvili’s path to peace in Georgia

11.30am Parliament: Damian Green "punctures the myth" that most immigration to the UK comes from within the European Union

HOWARD-MICHAEL9.30am LISTEN: Michael Howard tells the Today Programme that he still believes that Prison Works

ToryDiary: Cabinet league table for end-November

In Comment:

BALLOT BOX 1 Parliament: Peers defeat Government to pass amendment which could delay the AV referendum until next autumn

Local Government:

ThinkTankCentral: Instability of cohabitation is driving epidemic of family breakdown

Gazette: Winchester MP Steve Brine becomes a father for the second time

WATCH: During a pre-Christmas visit to Afghanistan, David Cameron hints that troops could start returning home next year

Government drops pledge of mandatory jail for carrying knife

Ken Clarke pointing "A key Conservative election pledge that anyone caught carrying a knife could expect a jail term has been dropped by the Justice Secretary. Kenneth Clarke said he would put sentencing policy in the hands of judges, not newspaper pundits. But he said those guilty of using a knife would face a "serious" jail term. His comments came ahead of a Green Paper aimed at reducing jail numbers in England and Wales through changes to sentencing policy and rehabilitation." – The Independent

  • Thousands of rapists and violent offenders will spend less time behind bars under plans to review sentencing powers – Daily Telegraph
  • Tories talk tough to deflect row about Clarke plan to cut prison population – The Times (£)
  • Howard League says lawbreakers should not be called "offenders" – Press Association

> Last night's ToryDiary: Ken Clarke abandons knife crime pledge

Nick Clegg fights to contain tuition fees revolt…

"Nick Clegg is braced for resignations over Thursday’s tuition fee vote as he attempts to contain the biggest revolt since the formation of the coalition. Three high-profile ministers on the left of the Lib Dems are all understood to be discussing the possibility of abstaining in, or even opposing the vote for the rise in university fees from £3,000 to a maximum of £9,000 a year. The party will discover at a meeting this evening whether Lib Dem ministers who fail to vote for the policy will lose their government job." – The Times (£)

  • Nick Clegg writes for the FT (£)
  • Paddy Ashdown backs Clegg on fees – The Guardian
  • Norman Baker, the Transport Minister, and two parliamentary private secretaries – Jenny Willott and Mike Crockart – may quit so that they oppose the fees rise in a crucial Commons vote on Thursday – The Independent

…as David Davis confirms he too will join the rebels

DAVIS DAVID "Former Tory leadership contender David Davis is to join forces with Liberal Democrat rebels to vote against plans to treble university tuition fees, it emerged last night. The bombshell announcement threatens to plunge the Coalition into turmoil ahead of Thursday’s crunch vote. The former shadow home secretary said he believed the Government’s plan to allow universities to charge up to £9,000 a year in fees ‘is going to hurt the aspirant working classes’." – Daily Mail

  • Ben Brogan: David Davis is auditioning for leader of the opposition – Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday's ToryDiary: David Davis joins tuition fees rebellion

David Cameron hints at Afghanistan troop withdrawal

"David Cameron has said British troops could start coming home from Afghanistan as early as next year, during a visit to the country. The prime minister is there to assess the situation on the ground. He said progress against the Taliban and in training Afghan military and police made him optimistic about the prospects for the first withdrawals." – BBC

Andrew Lansley hands 80% of health budget to GPs despite Treasury fears

"The Health Secretary Andrew Lansley will press ahead with handing GPs control of £80bn of the £100bn health budget tomorrow despite No 10 and the Treasury undergoing a "wobble" over his controversial plan. Mr Lansley will announce the first wave of "pathfinder practices", pilot schemes under which GPs will take charge of commissioning services for their patients." – The Independent

William Hague warns EU over spending at opening of its new London HQ

William Hague serious square "The European Commission on Monday formally opened Europe House, its new London base, in Smith Square, Westminster, the former home of the Conservative Party… Speaking at the London office's official opening, Mr Hague warned European officials to curb their spending in the same way that national governments are doing. He told EU officials that the credibility of the union itself will suffer if taxpayers do not see signs that European institutions are curbing their spending." – Daily Telegraph

"Some within his own party had urged him to boycott the event. Former party chairman Lord Tebbit said: “It is a very sad day, to see what was once the home of a great democratic party fall into the hands of those who rule us undemocratically.” And Eurosceptic Tory MP Bill Cash said: “I cannot think of any place less appropriate than the former Conservative headquarters, the praetorian guard of euro-realism, to be usurped physically by European institutions.” – Daily Express

> Yesterday's ToryDiary: William Hague should stay away from the opening of "Europe House"

Other Coalition news in brief:

  • Government moves to end sale of ‘sexualised products’ to children – The Times (£)
  • Disabled people claiming benefits face new medical checks – The Guardian
  • Michael Gove pledges exam overhaul as school standards slip – Daily Telegraph
  • Philip Hammond seeks rail investment incentives – FT (£)
  • Treasury to review tax avoidance rules – The Guardian

The Telegraph marks David Cameron's fifth anniversary as Tory leader

Picture 5
"In five years as Conservative leader, David Cameron has been a successful moderniser and a brave, no-nonsense Prime Minister… The Tory leader had never served as a minister, let alone in the Cabinet, yet the job of Prime Minister has fitted him like a glove. He oozes an easy confidence and a refreshing can-do approach that is the diametric opposite of the chronic risk-aversion of his Labour predecessor… His critics still say they don't know what he really stands for. It is no great mystery. He is a traditional One Nation Conservative with a hint of steel, a flair for leadership and a no-nonsense, pragmatic approach to problem-solving. His mettle has yet to be tested by events, of course. That time will come – and only then will we get the full measure of the man." – Daily Telegraph editorial

Rachel Sylvester on Cameron and Clegg's current woes

Nick Clegg David Cameron Downing Street "As the Lib Dems dither over whether to support the rise in tuition fees or abstain in the Commons vote on Thursday, Mr Clegg seems to be not waving but drowning… David Cameron is also risking a confrontation with his party’s traditionalists this week, although his battle has not yet become so high-profile. Ken Clarke, the Justice Secretary, will today announce reforms to sentencing that mean the end of the Tory commitment to the mantra “prison works”… There is a symmetry in the difficulties being faced by the Prime Minister and his deputy. Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg have formed a coalition based on economic and social liberalism, but both their parties are uncomfortable with the combination." – The Times (£)

Other Comment:

  • Paul Goodman: Nick Clegg's choice – a new Steel, or a second Tebbit? – The Guardian
  • Melanie Phillips: If this is the great Coalition dream, Lord help us – Daily Mail
  • Philip Stephens: Clegg learns the lesson of a breach of trust – FT (£)

Other news in brief:

  • MP's Russian reseacher insists she is innocent of spying accusation – Daily Telegraph
  • "No action" against Labour MP over his "John Prescott moment" – BBC
  • Irish coalition set to win crucial austerity budget vote – The Guardian

And finally 1… Red faces at Radio 4 over presenters' four-letter word blips

Picture 6 "Accidentally mis-pronouncing the first letter of Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s surname landed the BBC in all sorts of trouble yesterday… The first on-air stumble came on BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today programme when presenter James Naughtie (that’s his real name, by the way) appeared to get his Cultures and his Hunts confused… Little more than an hour later the Corporation’s ex-political editor Andrew Marr made precisely the same mix-up on his Start the Week programme when the conversation turned to Freudian slips." – Daily Mail

> LISTEN: Jim Naughtie's "Dr Spooner" moment

And finally 2… Red faces at Radio 4 over interview with builder masquerading as Lib Dem MP

"Further embarassment followed a few hours later, when the World at One programme was fooled into interviewing a Yorkshire-born builder who was mistaken for a Scottish Liberal Democrat MP. The impostor, who was telephoned by mistake, sounded decidedly startled when he was introduced to listeners as Mike Crockart, the MP for Edinburgh West. The builder appeared to create a fresh political headache for Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, when he told James Robbins, the presenter, that he was “prepared to resign” over the Coalition’s tuition fees policy. But in fact he was a Yorkshire man on a building site in Manchester. As he took the call, 14 of his colleagues were listening in fits of laughter in a workers’ cabin." – Daily Telegraph

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