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8pm Andrew Lilico on Comment: The economy isn't a "moderniser" issue

4.15pm ToryDiary: Fisking Ian Birrell: He's wrong about Mainstream Conservatism

4pm Two new posts on Comment –

3.30pm WATCH: Will the VAT rise hit the rich or poor more?

3pm Charlie Elphicke MP on Comment: Do small businesses really matter?

12.15pm WATCH: Bob Neill weighs into rubbish row

Screen shot 2011-01-05 at 12.21.37 11.30am ToryDiary: Should we keep control orders? How is Vince Cable doing? Is strong defence a top priority for conservatism?

9.45am ToryDiary: Tories beef up CCHQ media operation

ToryDiary: The good and bad of the Coalition's growth agenda

Ben Howlett on Comment: How Conservative Future has been re-energised since the election of a new National Executive

Local Government: Labour Council leader says uncollected rubbish not a problem

Gazette: Lord Forsyth reaches the summit of Antarctica's highest peak – raising hundreds of thousands of pounds along the way

WATCH: New CCTV images of Charles and Camilla student protest attack

Osborne defends VAT hike…

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"In a fierce political row, the Chancellor indicated that income tax would be reduced before value added tax was restored to its pre-emergency Budget rate. He said the 2.5 percentage point increase was less damaging to the economy than other tax rises, would be less bad for employment and was "progressive". [He insisted]: "It is a reasonable rate to set, given the very difficult situation we find ourselves in. The VAT rise is a tough but necessary step towards Britain’s economic recovery." – Daily Telegraph

…As small businesses call for the rise to be temporary…

"VAT should be returned to 17.5% once the UK's public deficit has been "significantly reduced", the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has said.  Despite Chancellor George Osborne insisting that the increase to 20% is permanent, the FSB is calling for the rise to be reviewed in the future.  Its comments came after a survey of 1,600 of its members found that 71% expect the rise to harm their business." – BBC

"Shops have a little-known get-out clause which gives them 28 days to adjust their prices. As a result, shoppers in some of the country’s biggest chains…and at small independent retailers will see one price on the item on the shop shelves, but get hit by a higher price when they come to pay.  Experts warn this will lead to chaotic scenes with queues forming as shoppers argue with the checkout assistant, or refuse to pay the higher price." – Daily Mail

…While Alan Johnson defends the poor at breakfast and drops into the Savoy for lunch

"Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, accused Osborne of "misleading the British people" over the impact of the rise in VAT.  He told the BBC the chancellor should "stop treating the British people like fools", and pointed out that David Cameron had admitted before the election that VAT rises were unfair.  Miliband said: "Everybody knows that it's poor and middle-income families that will be hit hardest" as he challenged Osborne to "come out and say that he got it wrong this morning"." – The Guardian

"In the morning he was…protesting that the VAT rise would hit the poorest hardest.  But Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson made a series of gaffes, including committing Labour – apparently accidentally – to an increase in National Insurance to replace the VAT rise.  And by lunchtime his concerns seemed to have evaporated as he was spotted enjoying a lavish lunch washed down by pink champagne a bottle of fine red wine in the glamorous surroundings of the Savoy Bar and Grill." – Daily Mail

  • No-one likes a VAT rise but Labour gave us no choice – Stephen Pollard, Daily Express
  • Save the economy? No, VAT's pandering to the powerful – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian
  • Measuring the VAT squeeze – Stephanie Flanders, BBC

Yesterday on ThinkTankCentral: Free market think tanks unite against increase in VAT

In the meanwhile, shares soar, home loans ease and manufacturing recovers

Screen shot 2011-01-05 at 06.44.39 "Britain is set for a booming new year, with share prices surging and home loans easing, as key indicators suggested last night that the feared double-dip recession has been avoided.  Back with a bang yesterday, the Stock Exchange saw the FTSE 100 Index gain more than two per cent. At one stage shares rocketed by nearly 150 points.  The positive economic news helped lift the gloom over yesterday’s hike in VAT as manufacturing recorded its strongest performance for 16 years last month." – Daily Express

  • Don't let the doom-mongers ruin recovery – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail
  • Growth was always going to turn out to be higher than most commentators believed – Allister Heath, City AM

Telegraph and Mail pull "Artful Dodger" anti-evasion Osborne advert

"The advertisements, which allege Mr Osborne himself avoided £1.6 million worth of inheritance taxes on money received from his father by using off-shore trusts, were published in the Guardian , the Independent and the Independent ’s 20-page publication, the i .  However, the Daily Telegraph refused to publish the advertisement when it finally saw the text, while the Daily Mail “upped its quote hugely, despite having agreed prices”, 38 Degrees spokesman David Babbs told The Irish Times." – The Irish Times

Cabinet members return to their desks…

"David Cameron returned to work in Downing Street on Tuesday after an almost complete political shutdown over Christmas. While Philip Hammond, the transport secretary, took the flak over Britain’s snowbound infrastructure, most of the cabinet retreated quietly from the political front. But the respite is likely to be short lived. After the frenetic pace of 2010, the political challenges facing the coalition in 2011 are considerable." – Financial Times (£)

…As Cameron calls crisis meeting over control orders

David Cameron perturbed "David Cameron has been forced to intervene to put national security ahead of civil liberties in a discussion on the future of control orders.   The Prime Minister will stage a crisis summit with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Home Secretary Theresa May to thrash out their differences over the treatment of terror suspects.  A furious row has broken out within the Coalition over control orders amid the ongoing review of Britain’s counter-terror legislation." – Daily Mail

"A review of terrorism legislation has been under way since the summer, and has the potential to become another political disaster for the Liberal Democrats. Sir Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of the intelligence and security committee, today became the latest grandee to weigh in behind control orders, saying they were the "least unsatisfactory method" of controlling dangerous terror suspects." – The Guardian

Oldham by-election: Kashif Ali says he's fighting to win, Andrew Mitchell makes mystery trip…

"Then, just when I thought I might not see any Conservative campaign activity at all, the party's candidate, Kashif Ali, rather disarmingly invited me to his house for tea.  Over tea in his sitting room, Mr Ali made a credible-sounding case that he has not, in fact, been abandoned by his party leadership. There are (still-to-be-confirmed) plans for a host of high-level visitors in coming days, including the Foreign Secretary William Hague and Mr Cameron himself, he pointed out." – Bagehot, The Economist (£)

…As Clegg makes second visit today…

"Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is set to insist that the crunch by-election in Oldham East and Saddleworth is a two-horse race between his party and Labour.  The Deputy Prime Minister is paying his second visit to the constituency during a campaign seen as the first chance for voters to pass judgment on the Lib Dems' decision to go into coalition with Conservatives." – Press Association

…With Cameron to follow later this week

"David Cameron and Nick Clegg will use next Thursday’s Oldham by-election to bury claims that they are secretly plotting to merge their two parties.  The Prime Minister and his Lib Dem deputy will campaign in the town to convince voters and supporters of their rivalry at the next general election…Mr Cameron will follow later in the week to placate rising fury on the Tory backbenches about claims the Prime Minister has given tacit approval to ‘purple plotters’ who want to keep the Coalition going for ten years." – Daily Mail

Liberal Democrat support slumps to all time low

Screen shot 2011-01-05 at 06.44.19 "Support for the Liberal Democrats has slumped to its lowest level since the party was formed in 1988, according to The Independent's "poll of polls".  The Liberal Democrats' 11 per cent rating in the first poll of polls since last May's election highlights the dramatic slide in their fortunes since they entered the Coalition with the Conservatives.  The 57 Liberal Democrat MPs would be reduced to a rump of just 15 at the next election if this level of support were to be repeated then." – The Independent

Clegg's private office is beefed up

"Before the break, rumours swirled that Mr Clegg’s tiny team was overwhelmed by floods of cabinet papers, and lived in terror of unscrupulous Tory ministers rushing through unpopular rightwing diktats. Now the team has been beefed up with half a dozen bright young things from the recently disbanded prime minister’s strategy unit, entrusted with thinking up wheezes on areas under Mr Clegg’s control, such as the constitution and “localism”." – Financial Times (£)

Coalition and other Political News in Brief

  • Revealed: conspiracy of silence on UK sex gangs – The Times (£)
  • Contraceptive implant alert: Hundreds of women fall pregnant after birth control fails – Daily Mail
  • One in three will miss out in rush for University – Daily Telegraph
  • Bed blocking on the rise as care cuts leave elderly stuck in hospital – The Guardian
  • Northern Ireland water boss expected to quit – Sky News

The Sun moves to back IPSA as it launches review

Screen shot 2011-01-05 at 08.53.00 "Sir Ian Kennedy's rallying call comes as shameless politicians launch a concerted drive to muzzle their tough new expenses watchdog. Defiant MPs passed a motion last month warning they would take action unless there was a "simpler" and "fairer" system.  And IPSA staff have already been reduced to tears by bullying MPs.  Prime Minister David Cameron also criticised IPSA at a meeting of Tory backbenchers at the end of last year." – The Sun

Expenses watchdog launches review – BBC

Spelman calls for farming subsidies scaleback

"The environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, will today call for fundamental reform of the European system of subsidies for farmers.  Landowners who take steps to protect the environment and enhance the countryside should get more rewards, Spelman will say, suggesting that there should be less reliance on giving Britain's farmers direct payments…Spelman will tell farmers that rising global demand for food and increases in food prices make it possible to reduce subsidies and "plan for their abolition"." – The Guardian

Cameron bids to turn the jobless into business stars

"David Cameron will today announce a bid to turn up to 40,000 jobless people into successful entrepreneurs.  The Prime Minister is to unveil a major expansion of the Government’s New Enterprise Allowance scheme to provide support for launching new businesses.  Budding entrepreneurs are to get guidance and advice from local business mentors under the plan.  The expansion of the New Enterprise Allowance…will give people who have been unemployed financial support for their early months of self-employment." – Daily Express

Hague packs off ambassadors for lessons in diplomacy

"British embassy staff around the world are to get "diplomacy lessons" – or training in the pursuit of excellence – in extensive reforms being carried out by the Government, The Independent has learnt.  The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, believes that essential diplomacy skills have been neglected in the past, such as obtaining the maximum advantage for the UK in negotiations with foreign states, as well as improving internal efficiencies." – The Independent

Labour abused our prison system

WIDDECOMBEinGARDEN "When I was serving on the Home Affairs Select Committee in the early years of this century, the then governor of Maidstone prison revealed that quotas were being set for transfers of prisoners to open jails in order to relieve the  pressure on closed places. She was concerned because she believed it would result in unsuitable transfers.  When I raised the matter ministers denied that this was happening but it seems obvious that it was and that people were being sent prematurely to open conditions." – Anne Widdecombe, Daily Express

Other comment

Taxpayers get £4,000 limo bill for ex-Cabinet minister John Reid's trips to football matches as "£50,000-a-year" Celtic chairman

"Former Labour Cabinet minister John Reid has charged taxpayers thousands of pounds for luxury limousines to take him to a string of football matches.  The former Home Secretary, now chairman of Celtic Football Club, travelled in style to 14 matches last season at public expense.  The Mail’s revelations will trigger controversy over how taxpayers’ money is used to cover the travel expenses of former ministers and last night there were calls for the money to be repaid." – Daily Mail

And finally…Look who I bumped into on my New Year stroll: The Prime Minister and the Bonham Carters (and some bloke called Gove)

Screen shot 2011-01-05 at 08.55.07 "When John and Annette Taylor decided to take a New Year's Day stroll up a hillside, they reached a rather different type of summit than they expected.  It was in fact a star-studded cast of politicians and celebrities, including the Prime Minister himself.  Also enjoying a lunchtime stroll atop Coombe Hill in the Chilterns, near Wendover, Buckinghamshire, were Mr Cameron's wife Samantha and new baby Florence as well as actress Helena Bonham Carter with her film director husband Tim Burton and Education Secretary Michael Gove." – Daily Mail

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65 comments for: Newslinks for Wednesday 5th January 2011

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