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7.30pm WATCH: Cameron defends youth unemployment figures

4.30pm Patrick Nolan on Comment: Time to bite the bullet on paying for long term care

GRAYLING CHRIS NW 3.45pm ToryDiary: Chris Grayling fights back over Labour's record on youth unemployment – half a million jobless pupils

3pm –

1pm ToryDiary: Cameron at PMQs: commission on a British Bill of Rights to be set up "imminently"

12.45pm Local Government: LGA opposes councillor veto on Town Hall pay

ToryDiary –

(1) David Cameron risks becoming the Conservative Party's Lost Leader if Britain votes Yes to AV

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(2) CCHQ's anti-AV leaflets pull their punches

Comment:

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Interview: In the first of a new series of interviews, Theresa May tells Paul Goodman and Mark Fox that the Tories are no longer seen as "the Nasty Party" – and should fight every seat at the next election

Local Government: Should councillors be banned from serving on other authorities?

Parliament: Revolting Liberal Democrat MPs

Seats and Candidates: Have you offered to help James Hockney in Barnsley Central yet?

LeftWatch: Sadiq Khan helps to rescue Engage. Does Ed Miliband back him?

WATCH:

No to AV campaign targets Clegg

  Screen shot 2010-12-03 at 15.42.21 "The campaign against the alternative vote system has put Nick Clegg at the heart of its strategy as it hopes to capitalise on public hostility to the deputy prime minister in the wake of the tuition fees row.  Launching the NO2AV group on Tuesday, Matthew Elliott, campaign director, mocked the way that Mr Clegg was likely to take a back seat in the Yes campaign because of his low poll ratings.  "Clegg sold out students to have this referendum; Clegg is the absentee father of the referendum campaign,” Mr Elliott said." – Financial Times (£)

"The most likely [consequences] are that it will be easier for parties that are not Labour or the Conservatives to win seats at Westminster. There would not just be Lib Dems, but also Scottish and Welsh separatists, Greens, possibly even one from Nick Griffin and his chums.  It would become far less likely that a single party would be able to form a government. Therefore we would have more highly successful, productive and happiness-inducing coalitions like the one with which we are currently saddled." – Simon Heffer, Daily Telegraph

"MPs are finding it difficult to galavanise electors, or even to explain how the AV system works." – John Redwood's blog

Yesterday in Comment: Matthew Elliott – AV, expenses and the anti-politician message

Andrew Cooper confirmed as Cameron's new strategy head

"The appointment risks alarming the Tory Right, already anxious at the departure of communications chief Andy Coulson, seen as a standard bearer for traditional party policies in Number Ten.  Mr Cooper, who has been close to Mr Cameron for years, is seen by Conservative modernisers as one of their key thinkers who helped drive change in the party.  His new role is seen as a response to Number Ten's failure to spot potential controversies quickly enough." – Daily Mail

Couples who move in together to get £500

"[Duncan Smith] wants to reduce the current “couple penalty” in which individuals lose a substantial amount of their benefit when they share a home, and bring it in line with other countries, an idea that he mooted when he chaired the Centre for Social Justice think-tank.  But his move, to be written into the Welfare Bill, risks infuriating lone-parent groups who argue that many single mothers are living alone because their partners have run off or because they have been subjected to domestic violence." – The Times (£) 

Tens of thousand of migrant workers to avoid annual cap

"The limit…will not affect any migrant worker already in the UK even if they change jobs or visas.  Companies will also still be able to bring in overseas staff who earn less than a planned salary cap so long as they rotate them each year.  And foreigners earning more than £150,000 a year will be exempt from the new rules, the Home Office confirmed yesterday.  In a separate move, the system will make it easier for scientists and those with jobs where there is a shortage of UK staff to come and work here." – Daily Telegraph 

Osborne refuses to help sign off EU accounts…

OSBORNE WITH BBERRY
"The Chancellor yesterday refused to sign off the EU accounts in a symbolic gesture of protest against prolific spending.  He was joined by Sweden and the Netherlands in abstaining on a routine vote in Brussels to approve the 2009 books.  EU auditors have failed to clear the annual accounts for 16 years, pointing out ­widespread mismanagement of billions in grants and subsidies, most of it channelled via national authorities to the regions. But the UK has always joined formal endorsement of the findings until now." – Daily Express 

…and orders PFI squeeze

"George Osborne is to order an unprecedented squeeze on Labour’s controversial flagship funding scheme for schools and hospitals.  Spending watchdogs say hundreds of pounds a time is being charged just to fit a new plug socket or a lock under the terms of the private finance initiative (PFI).  Now the Chancellor wants to drive savings across PFI projects, threatening renegotiation of contracts if necessary. PFI firms are to be told they will get no future government business unless they agree to cut costs, sources say." – Daily Mail

Public projects obscured by private finance – John Kay, Financial Times (£)

Bank of England committee split on interest rates as inflation soars to highest level in 2 years

"But his letter of explanation to the Chancellor reveals the deep divisions within the Bank’s monetary policy committee about how to deal with inflation.  He refers twice to disagreements about what the Bank should do, admitting: ‘I do not wish to conceal that there are real differences of view within the Committee, reflecting different judgements about the risks to [the medium-term inflation] outlook.’
He also said inflation is ‘likely to continue to pick up to somewhere between four per cent or five per cent over the next few months’." – Daily Mail

Yesterday: WATCH Inflation hits 4 per cent – double the official target 

Conservative Co-Chairman calls for tax breaks for political donations

Screen shot 2011-02-16 at 08.38.47 "Lord Feldman's comments came in evidence to the Committee on Standards in Public Life which is leading an inquiry into how to improve public confidence that big money does not sway policies.  He backed the idea of limiting individual donations to around £50,000 but said taxpayers would not countenance increased grants to plug the gap at a time of cuts.  'I believe that political parties perform an incredibly important social function.' he said. – Daily Mail

Fox fury over army e-mail sackings

Defence Secretary Liam Fox said: "I am furious. This is no way to treat armed forces personnel."  An Army spokesman said: "We apologise for the distress this will have caused.  "Commanding officers have now spoken to the soldiers concerned to ensure that they receive all necessary advice and support."  Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey also apologised.  He said: "People should have been seen individually." – The Sun

In the firing line – Daily Mail Editorial

More than half a million of Labour's school leavers have never had a job

"More than half a million pupils who left school or college under Labour have never had a job, it emerged last night.  Department of Work and Pensions figures show 600,000 young people who entered the job market between 1997 and 2010 still do not work.  Employment minister Chris Grayling said it highlighted the party's failure to tackle youth unemployment – now at one million." – The Sun

Pickles to announce cap on council salaries

"Councils are to be banned from making secret deals to give senior officials six-figure salaries in a new town hall crackdown by ministers today.  Under the plan, councillors will have to vote at a public meeting on any staff salaries worth £100,000 or more.  Ministers hope the salary cap will help end the pay bonanza in the public sector.  Recent figures showed that over half of council chief executives earn more than the Prime Minister’s annual salary of £142,500." – Daily Express

"A number of rogue councils are risking their reputations and trying to pull the wool over the public's eyes by salami slicing jobs and slashing services without cutting out all the waste first.  This is unfair to the majority of councils who have gone about responsibly balancing their books and protecting the frontline services we all rely on…We all have to dip into our savings when things get tight to tide us over. Councils should too." – Eric Pickles, The Sun

Those wicked "Tory cuts" – women and children first – Richard Littlejohn, Daily Mail

Coalition and Political News in Brief

  • Offenders get right to challenge life term on sex register – The Times (£)
  • Trespassing laws to be used to evict bed-blockers – Daily Mail
  • ID card scheme to cost taxpayers 2.25 milliion in compensation – Daily Telegraph
  • Cable seeks Farepak bosses ban – The Independent
  • BMA leader could be toppled in revolt by doctors against NHS reforms – The Guardian
  • Single official to vet big Whitehall suppliers – Financial Times (£)

Head of election watchdog urged to quit

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"Britain’s elections chief has been urged to resign after presiding over a tenfold increase in complaints about abuse at polls.  Jenny Watson, chairman of the Electoral Commission, was accused of complacency after the watchdog issued a report describing its findings as “encouraging”.  There were a record 1,100 allegations of wrongdoing at last year’s general and local elections although only two cases resulted in prosecution." – The Times (£)

The scale of the challenge of getting older

Screen shot 2011-02-16 at 08.14.59 "In seven years as a hospital visitor I have heard countless people lament that “I never thought I would end up like this.”…This is a generation accustomed to steadily improving standards of living, and it will not accept the low grade of residential care currently available in many areas.  Individuals and society, then, must meet the challenge of our increased longevity; the government must assist and facilitate; and providers must meet the needs, expectations and desires of their residents." – Penny Mordaunt MP, Daily Telegraph

Question Time move in disarray as Dimbleby stays put

"The BBC’s plans to move Question Time from London to Glasgow are in disarray after it emerged that David Dimbleby will not visit the new Scottish office and the corporation will instead spend thousands of pounds flying staff to brief him in London.  The BBC’s decision to move the office of its main political programme from the doorstep of Parliament — as part of plans to ensure that 50 per cent of its programme expenditure is outside London by 2016 — has been criticised as misguided." – The Times (£)

Other Comment

  • The new breed of maverick Tory MPs – Paul Goodman, The Guardian
  • Gay marriage: such a conservative idea – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times (£)
  • Ministers cave in to political correctness – Ann Widdecombe, Daily Express

And finally: It's Day Two of Larry – at last, Cameron has his Claws Four moment

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"David Cameron has welcomed a cat named Larry to Downing Street and, after cross-party talks, rejected renaming him Winston, a figure that had both Conservative and Liberal ancestry.  The cat, aged between three and five, was chosen after a delegation from Downing Street went to Battersea Cats Home and staff from the home carried out a suitability check on No 10.  The cat's job is to deter the rats reportedly spotted in the building. He will be allowed to roam in No 11 too." – The Guardian

"However, it emerged last night that he had attacked at least one television reporter, Lucy Manning, ITV News political correspondent, who showed off her injuries on Twitter. She reported that she received “four big scratches” and that her only provocation had been trying to hold him. “Not the best welcome,” she said." – The Times (£)

Paw and Order – The Sun

Yesterday: WATCH – Meet Larry – Downing Street's feline enforcer

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