7.30pm WATCH: ‪David Willetts on university tuition fees‬

3.30pm WATCH: Ken Clarke: "Nobody thinks I'm from the hanging and flogging wing of the Party"

12.45pm LeftWatch: The General Secretary of Unite: "I want to send a message to the Metropolitan Police. Keep your sleazy hands off our kids."

10.30am ToryDiary: Clarke's law: when under siege, blame the "right-wing press"

Screen shot 2011-02-20 at 06.58.28 ToryDiary: Cameron over-reacted to Blair's centralisation of government. As he corrects himself, the fightback begins

Comment: Dominic Raab MP: The Case Against China

Paul Maynard MP: More lessons from Australia on the realities of AV

Local Government: Reading Borough Council increases funding for voluntary groups

WATCH: YouTube film of Libya crackdown, William Hague expresses his concerns

After months of hands-off government and a week marked by U-turns…

"Last summer every department had to produce detailed reform plans, setting out month-by-month when they would make key announcements.  Two-thirds of government departments have fallen behind on targets, in a stark sign that ministers are finding it tougher to run the country than they expected…Key announcements and decisions due by the end of January covering council housing, the NHS, tourism, health and safety and cutting red tape were all missed. Some policies are five months behind schedule." – Independent on Sunday 

…Cameron drafts in new "sofa squad" at cost of £1m

"The move marks a dramatic reversal of the Prime Minister’s scathing criticism of Mr Blair and Mr Brown for relying on a small group of cronies with Cabinet Ministers sidelined. And it comes with a high price tag: the new No 10 ‘A’ team will cost around £1 million with average pay packets of close to £100,000 – most funded by taxpayers.  The initiative has already been criticised by some senior figures inside the Coalition." – Mail on Sunday

The Sunday Telegraph keeps firing at Spelman with both barrels…

Screen shot 2011-02-20 at 08.37.17"Tasmin Omond, at 26 already a veteran activist, wanted to do something but wasn't sure what. It was at a champagne reception at Altitude 360, a club at the top of Millbank Tower with views stretching across London, that she found her answer.  At the drinks party was Rachel Johnson, editor of The Lady and sister of London mayor Boris Johnson. "I went to that party with the sole purpose of finding somebody to help me in the cause," said Omond." – Sunday Telegraph

"The admission fuels fears that the amount of money spent on Britain's flood defences – expected to be £765 million this year – could face further severe cuts, as could the amount going on animal health – currently £330 million annually – as well as expenditure on national parks.  Such a move would be a fresh humiliation for Mrs Spelman, who admitted in the Commons on Thursday, as she announced the abandonment of plans for the forest sale, "I am sorry, we got this one wrong, but we listened to people's concerns"." – Sunday Telegraph

…As backbenchers urge that she be sacked, along with Clarke and Maude…

"Some would like to see the prime minister assert his authority by dismissing the environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, who had to admit in the Commons that she had got the policy on forests wrong.  Other targets include Kenneth Clarke, the justice secretary, whose liberal approach to sentencing angers the right, and Francis Maude, the cabinet office minister, who is struggling to sell Cameron's "big society" idea to the public. Michael Howard was being suggested as a replacement for Clarke." – The Observer

…While Downing Street mulls recalling Michael Howard

"Senior Tories have urged David Cameron to grant a dramatic Cabinet recall to law and order hardliner Michael Howard amid growing rumours that he has lost confidence in Justice Secretary Ken Clarke.  The Mail on Sunday understands that talks on whether former leader Lord Howard could be used to ‘beef up’ the party’s stance have been held at the highest level.  According to one report, the possibility of stripping Mr Clarke of one of his titles, Lord Chancellor, and giving it to Lord Howard, has been considered." – Mail on Sunday

Mr Howard may be the man to get prison working – Mail on Sunday comment

Lib Dems clash with Tory right over child justice

"Liberal Democrats are demanding an increase in the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14, setting them on a collision course with the Tory right who believe the coalition is already in danger of looking soft on crime.  Children under 14 would be kept out of the criminal courts and be dealt with instead by panels of experts, as part of a Lib Dem "key policy" to be officially adopted next month."  – The Independent on Sunday

Hague: Libya's actions are unacceptable and horrifying

"Hague said: "Governments must respond to legitimate aspirations of their people, rather than resort to the use of force, and must respect the right to peaceful protest.  "I condemn the violence in Libya, including reports of the use of heavy weapons fire and a unit of snipers against demonstrators. This is clearly unacceptable and horrifying.  "Media access has been severely restricted. The absence of TV cameras does not mean the attention of the world should not be focused on the actions of the Libyan government." – The Observer

Yesterday – WATCH: William Hague warns Libya, Yemen and Bahrain that the world will not ignore violence against demonstrators

Gove drafts former soldiers into classrooms

"One hundred ex-soldiers will go into schools to bring “boot camp” discipline to Britain’s most difficult ­teenagers.  Education Secretary Michael Gove will announce the first £1.5million pilot scheme within days.  Former military staff will be mentors to about 100 pupils who are at risk being kicked out of education.  They will also help a ­further 350 excluded teens get back in the classroom.  Mentors will include officers who have recently served in Afghanistan and Iraq." – Sunday Mirror

The flow of council waste stories rolls on

Screen shot 2011-02-20 at 08.44.40 "Champagne flowed at the £240-a-head black-tie dinner in a ballroom of the sumptuously restored Savoy hotel in London…The host, Kim Ryley, the £180,000-a-year head of Shropshire council, and president of Solace, the society of chief executives, said in his address that councils were “the most efficient part of the public sector”. Five days later his council said it would shut nine schools, on top of forecasts of 1,300 job losses." – Sunday Times (£)

"Samantha Cameron was last night at the centre of a row over the closure of a flagship symbol of her husband’s ‘Big Society’ policy.  The axeing of a community centre championed by Mrs Cameron has sparked an exchange of insults between Conservative Chairman Sayeeda Warsi and the Labour council leader who took the decision.  Ms Warsi claims Nasim Ali has pocketed almost £100,000 in expenses, allowances and perks since 2007 – money she says could have been used to help keep the centre open." – Mail on Sunday

"Pickles is looking at plans to introduce two tiers of council: “vanilla councils”, that will carry on as now, and “super-councils” with more freedom to raise and spend their own money. What he won’t do is bow to the Downing Street advisers who want almost every council to be run by a directly elected mayor…True, all the great cities in the world have one talented person in charge – but councillors are so powerful in both the Tory and Lib Dem parties that mayors-for-all is a reform even the combative Pickles won’t swallow." – Tim Montgomerie, Sunday Telegraph

Yesterday in Local Government: The fattest of the council fat cats (who took home £569,000 last year)

Margaret Eaton warns over public sector pension plan

Screen shot 2011-02-20 at 09.02.17 "The government's controversial plan to make public-sector workers pay higher pension contributions is in crisis as the Tory head of local government warns of "strong evidence" that employees will opt out en masse, with disastrous economic consequences.  The extraordinary warning – and call for an urgent rethink – has been made in a letter to the chancellor, George Osborne, from Baroness Eaton, the Conservative chair of the Local Government Association." – The Observer

Boris backs China £50m aid Olympic plan

"A Chinese company is offering Britain £50m of “aid” in the form of a mobile phone network in time for the Olympics…Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, has thrown his weight behind putting a mobile network underground as long as there is no cost to the taxpayer.  The offer has been made only two years after intelligence chiefs warned that China could have the capability to shut down Britain by attacking its telecom and utilities systems." – Sunday Times (£)

Coalition and Political News in Brief

Miliband and Balls to Shadow Cabinet: fill in this form before you speak

"Ed Miliband and Ed Balls were accused last night of treating their Shadow Ministers ‘like children’ after ordering them to fill in a form before doing or saying anything in public.  Shadow Ministers are banned from mentioning money without permission from Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and cannot open their mouths unless they have specific approval of their precise choice of words from the two Labour leaders.  Nor can they back non-parliamentary campaigns without clearing it with the two men." – Mail on Sunday

Sarah Brown: my war with the Cabinet Secretary

Screen shot 2011-02-20 at 08.46.52 "Mrs Brown has said she did not shake the Cabinet Secretary’s hand when she and Gordon Brown left 10 Downing Street for the final time last May amid emotional scenes in the wake of Labour’s general election defeat.  Sir Gus O'Donnell…was blamed for being behind the spreading of details of the former prime minister’s temper tantrums and alleged bullying of staff at No 10 – charges he has always denied." – Sunday Telegraph

We risk wasting an entire generation – Gordon Brown, Independent on Sunday

A simple question for David Cameron: are coalitions good or bad?

"I’m confused. Are coalition governments a good or a bad thing? Do hung parliaments produce undemocratic, unaccountable politics, or do they force parties into useful compromise and constructive policies? I have read the speeches and newspaper articles in which David Cameron deals (or proposes to deal) with these points and I’m afraid that I am none the wiser.  That is, I am still unclear about his opinion on these things: I know perfectly well what I think." – Janet Daley, Sunday Telegraph

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And finally…Boris: we need more euergetism (yes, you read that correctly)

Screen shot 2011-02-20 at 08.51.18
"Drawing on his background as a Classics scholar, the London Mayor called for a ‘greater sense of euergetism’ – a word derived from Classical Greek that means philanthropy.  He said the ‘orgy of hate’ directed at bankers and others who earned ‘shedloads of dosh’ was wrong but, in turn, billionaires and multi-millionaires should follow the example of Victorian England – or modern America – where wealthy individuals regard it as their duty to fund worthy civic projects." – Mail on Sunday

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87 comments for: Newslinks for Sunday 20th February 2011