8pm WATCH Commons clashes, students protest over EMA

6.30pm ToryDiary: Has Michael Gove just come out for a general election pact with the Liberal Democrats?

Screen shot 2011-01-19 at 15.27.16 3.30pm Ben Howlett in Comment: EMA – Making a tough but fair decision

3.15pm WATCH: Gay couple in hotel discrimination court case interviewed

2.30pm In Comment –

2pm ToryDiary: Miliband raises unemployment and the NHS at PMQs

11.45am Two new pieces in Comment –

10.30am ToryDiary: The myths and the facts about the NHS reforms

10am Local Government:

ToryDiary: MPs' expenses are Cameron's Perfect Storm

In Comment:

In Local Government:

Parliament: Rehman Chisti and Fiona Bruce raise the persecution of Christians abroad

Seats and Candidates:

WATCH: Barclays to pay £60 million compensation

Speaker in double trouble.  He knocks the Government's bill which culls constituencies…

Screen shot 2011-01-19 at 08.29.41

"Last night, John Bercow…questioned whether moves to reduce the number of MPs by 50 to 600 would save money.  "It may well be that [MPs] will have to work harder to scrutinise effectively if the balance between backbenchers and ministers is squeezed more in favour of ministers. Would that concern me? It would," he told an audience at the Institute for Government.  My concern is that we should have a better quality of representation and of scrutiny. I'm not myself concerned with the issue of cutting the cost of politics." – The Guardian

The neutrality of the Speaker has been called into question after he declared that hunting foxes for sport is wrong, on the day that his wife told a Labour website that she felt the same way, The Times can reveal…On the Speaker’s official stationery, he wrote that the ban was enforceable, backed by a “compelling” argument and in no need of review. He added: “The public as a whole support the legislation and consider that hunting foxes with a view to killing them is wrong in the 21st century. I support that view.” – The Times (£)

…As Labour tries to delay it in the Lords

"Exhausted peers will today gird themselves for another marathon session with the help of camp beds, in-house entertainment and aspirin as a stand-off over new Commons constituencies threatened a major headache for the coalition.  The House of Lords spent 21 hours through the night debating just eight amendments as Labour peers engineered a go-slow and dared the Government to trample convention in order to hold the AV referendum on May 5." – The Times (£)

Screen shot 2011-01-19 at 08.52.30

He had gone completely, he was so fast asleep – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

The last thing the House of Lords needs is a mass of elected members – Simon Heffer, Daily Telegraph

Yesterday in Comment" Lord Strathclyde – Labour is preparing to deny the people of this country their say on whether AV should be used to elect MPs

Three front papers pages feature "the biggest monthly rise in the cost of living since records began"

Screen shot 2011-01-19 at 06.49.25

Inflation Comment –

Yesterday in Comment –

WATCH: George Osborne defends Bank of England on inflation and promises to 'pay off nation's credit card'

NHS patients to get free private treament under Lansley reforms

"NHS patients will be able to get free treatment almost anywhere they want – public or private – under radical reforms unveiled today.  Health Secretary Andrew Lansley will change the law to allow the public to choose where they would like to be treated, as long as it meets NHS standards and doesn’t cost the taxpayer more." – Daily Mail

Yesterday –

WATCH: Stephen Dorrell responds to charges that NHS reorganisation was not in Tory or Lib Dem manifesto

Relations between Cameron's two closest aides "go from bad to worse"

Andy Coulson "Relations between David Cameron's two closest aides are said to have reached a new low as they battle for the Prime Minister's ear and one of them fights to keep his Downing Street post.  Andy Coulson, the director of communications at No 10, is under a cloud because of the allegations over the hacking of celebrities' telephones…Whispering in Mr Cameron's left ear is Mr Coulson's rival Steve Hilton, the Prime Minister's director of strategy. His allies wonder whether Mr Coulson should quit to limit the damage the hacking controversy is causing the Government. "It is making it difficult for the No 10 machine to function properly," one claimed." – The Independent

Justice Department studies plan to slash number of young offenders in custody

"The Times can reveal that Crispin Blunt, the Prisons Minister, has already expressed interest in pursuing the idea and even asked the authors to produce more detail on particular aspects of the scheme. The Ministry of Justice admitted last night that it wanted to cut the number of young people in custody to a minimum. But the view could place ministers on a collision course with the Tory Right, with many MPs already concerned that their party will be seen as soft on crime." – The Times (£)

William Hague pledges "new era" of relations with neglected Australia

"Mr Hague, who is the first serving British foreign secretary to visit Australia in almost 20 years, said the coalition government wanted to reconnect with the nation and begin a "new era" in bilateral relations.  "It's hard to believe that no British foreign secretary has been to Australia for more than 17 years," he said.  "This visit should be taken as a clear signal of the determination of our coalition government in Britain not just to reach out to new allies but to renew and deepen relations with closest friends." – Daily Telegraph

Hague – Don't fear the Commonwealth – Sydney Morning Herald

Laws on succession could be ripped up: Threat to 300-year-old rule that favours male heirs

"David Cameron is looking at overhauling ‘discriminatory’ laws governing succession to the throne to avert a constitutional crisis if Prince William’s first child is a girl.  In a move that is said to have caused the Queen concern, the Prime Minister is consulting Commonwealth leaders on whether the 1701 Act of Settlement should be changed to stop favouring boys.  Currently the first-born boy in a family takes precedence, even if he has an elder sister." – Daily Mail

Coalition and Political News in Brief‬

Conservatives fall in love with Nick Clegg…

Screen shot 2011-01-19 at 08.38.20 "Tory voters have fallen in love with Nick Clegg, making him their second choice to be the Coalition's next PM.  The Lib Dem leader was beaten only by William Hague, a YouGov poll for The Sun reveals today.  He got 17 per cent of Tory support compared to the Foreign Secretary's 39 per cent.  No other Cabinet minister hit double figures.  The news is likely to infuriate Tory bigwigs including Chancellor George Osborne (five per cent) and Defence Secretary Liam Fox, who got just one per cent." – The Sun

…As their hero demands that local councils are given powers to impose their own taxes

"Among the levies he suggests are for fuel, alcohol, office parking, landfill and even speeding.  But the Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister is being blocked by Eric Pickles, the Tory minister who is in charge of local government.  Hard-pressed taxpayers – who have witnessed enormous council tax rises over the past decade, and are now struggling to cope with the effect of the recession – will be angry at any sign the Government is planning to impose additional local charges." – Daily Mail

The LibDem poll collapse: fact or fiction? – Nick Sparrow, Political Betting

Cable loses bigger slice of his brief

"Vince Cable has lost a substantial part of his business portfolio, including responsibility for broadband, in the fallout over his remark to undercover reporters that he had “declared war on Rupert Murdoch”.  The Business Secretary was forced to hand over all responsibility for the media to Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, after his comments but yesterday a written statement from the Prime Minister indicated that a much larger portion of his duties than originally expected would be taken over by Mr Hunt." – The Times (£)

Tweeting has made politicians such twits

"…This episode is the inevitable result of the Conservatives’ “modernisation” programme and it is no good the powers that be advising a modern woman to “keep her head down”.  I was born in the age of stiff upper lip reticence when it comes to private matters and David Cameron was born in the class that favours it too. We were taught that it is not only undignified but positively vulgar to air family matters or to wash one’s dirty linen in public. Nadine, who is not the fool some try to suggest, has simply embraced the values of an entirely different age." – Ann Widdecombe, Daily Express

Other comment‬

  • It's time to derail the PFI gravy train – Jesse Norman, Daily Telegraph
  • It's marriage, not paternity leave, that gives our children the best start – Sandra Parsons, Daily Mail
  • "The protesters’ encampment in Parliament Square pretends to be democratic when it isn’t." – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times (£)

Iraq memos to remain hidden after Cabinet Office discussion with Tony Blair

Screen shot 2011-01-19 at 08.41.41 "Private memos sent between Tony Blair and George Bush in the months leading up to the Iraq invasion are to be kept secret after the head of the Civil Service consulted the former prime minister and refused to allow their publication.  The Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, vetoed attempts by the Iraq Inquiry to publish "key extracts" from the telegrams, which are regarded as highly significant by the inquiry team. The inquiry chairman, Sir John Chilcot, described Sir Gus's decision as a serious blow to transparency." – The Independent.

  • At last, the damning evidence that should bury Blair for his lies over Iraq – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • Gus O'Donnell is right – John Rentoul, The Independent

Mandelson lines up Lazards job

"Peter Mandelson has been lined up to become an adviser to a top investment bank, it emerged last night.  He is apparently in talks with Lazard, although how much he will be paid for his services is unknown.  The former Business Secretary has already been raking in the cash since Labour was ousted last year.  Indeed he is now earning more than £205,000 a year – so much that he is no longer eligible for a lucrative taxpayer-funded EU allowance which goes to former Brussels commissioners." – Daily Mail

And finally…How can she sleep at night?

Screen shot 2011-01-19 at 06.37.31 "Cherie Blair tried to use taxpayers’ money to buy a £3,500 bed for her family’s Downing Street apartment a month after taking office.  The then-prime minister and his wife only backed down and agreed to pay for it themselves after details of the king-size Swedish-built bed emerged in newspapers.  The 6ft by 6ft 7in bed frame cost £2,502 and the mattress £970, according to newspaper reports at the time." – Daily Mail

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