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7pm ToryDiary: Would unpopular legislation be harder to pass if Britain adopts AV?

Nolan

5.45pm Patrick Nolan on Comment: Project Merlin – Have we forgotten what got us into this mess?

4.30pm WATCH Cameron and Miliband clash at PMQs

2.45pm Local Government:

1.30pm Comment: Two new posts as tomorrow's votes-for-prisoners debate approaches –

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1pm ToryDiary: Did Miliband pass the Finkelstein test at PMQs today?

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10.15am Comment: Andrew Lilico joins the debate about conservatism and morality

9.45am Local Government: K&C, H&F and Westminster councils plan for combined services

ToryDiary: Do we really want to cast George Banks and his family out of 17 Cherry Tree Lane?

Comment:

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Andrew Bridgen MP: Retaining the 50p tax band amounts to slow motion economic suicide

Donna Edmunds: By axing some of its World Service transmissions, the BBC will be failing many in their greatest moment of need

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Local Government: Cllr David J Burbage – Windsor and Maidenhead: A vanguard council for the Big Society

Parliament: Three sharp questions for George Osborne from his backbenches

LeftWatch: "Ed Miliband's policy book is full of blank pages"

WATCH:  Meryl Streep prepares to play Margaret Thatcher 

Osborne throws Balls off-balance with bank tax dawn raid…

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"Bankers were stung for an extra £800m today, as Chancellor George Osborne declared they should pay more tax than planned this year.  George Osborne this morning declared he was scrapping a one-year cheap 'introductory rate' tax rate on banks' profits as they were returning to health sooner than predicted.  Announcing that the tax would raise £2.5m for the Treasury this year, Mr Osborne also said the levy would be 'permanent'." – Daily Mail

"Britain’s banks have reacted angrily to an increase in the UK levy on their balance sheets, criticising the move as an act of bad faith just ahead of a planned peace deal between the government and lenders.  Bankers and tax experts said the move by George Osborne, the UK chancellor, on Tuesday to increase the bank levy by 50 per cent – around £800m – ($1.3bn) was a politically motivated move that signalled greater unpredictability in the tax regime for companies operating in Britain." – Financial Times (£) 

…And beats him in the Commons later in the day…

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"Mr Balls got his Y-fronts in a twist. The chancellor should have spent less time on the ski slopes of Switzerland and more in the meeting halls of Davos, where he would have been able to hear the US treasury secretary explain why Labour was right. Mr Osborne grew even sneerier. "He had a lot of time to prepare that, and I'm not sure it came out as expected." Was there a winner? Osborne, I would say, but who cares? It means little." – Simon Hoggart, The Guardian

"Where Mr Johnson was relaxed and charming in the Chamber, Mr Balls boils. His time at the despatch box yesterday was rationed to little more than a couple of soundbites. For much of the rest of the time he sat there muttering at Mr Osborne and shaking his head while the Chancellor clattered on about Labour’s ‘deficit deniers’. It all made for an interesting bout. But it may not have won Labour many votes." – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

George Osborne in His Pomp Bashes Ed Balls – Iain Martin, Wall Street Journal

…But while the commentators agree it's clever politics, they ask: is it good economics?

"Will an extra 0.075 percent tax really make a difference? Yes, given how mobile this all is. What worries the City is the banker-bashing mood as a whole: regulation, personal tax, corporation tax, the lot. The Commission on Banking is examining the merits of separating institutions’ retail and investment banking divisions. Any moves along these lines will be deeply disruptive to Barclays, HSBC and RBS. The state-owned banks will stay put, but those who have fought hard to avoid any taxpayers’ help will resent such action." – Fraser Nelson, Coffee House

"It is a safe bet that Osborne will have made sure his lending targets for the banks are more demanding than the ones Alistair Darling imposed. Thus Mr Osborne will deliver on his pledge last year: "We will not allow money to flow unimpeded out of those banks into huge bonuses, if that means money is not flowing out in credit to the small businesses who did nothing to cause this crash and suffered most in it." His critics dismissed it as windy rhetoric and the bankers thought it a bluff; they may all have underestimated him." – Sean O'Grady, The Independent

"The previous Government seriously damaged business confidence with arbitrary changes in taxes and other policies that affect investment decisions.  In announcing his intention to demonstrate that Britain was “open for business”, the new Chancellor implied that he understood the need to rebuild trust. While his steady, planned reductions in corporation tax are helping to restore business faith in government, the rise in the banking levy will give the opposite impression." – Times Editorial

Timid, George – The Sun

Yesterday –

"50% of Tory funds came from the City"

"Financiers in the City of London provided more than 50% of the funding for the Tories last year, new research revealed last night, prompting claims that the party is in thrall to the banks.  A study by the Bureau for Investigative Journalism has found that the City accounted for £11.4m of Tory funding – 50.79% of its total haul – in 2010, a general election year. This compared with £2.7m, or 25% of its funding, in 2005, when David Cameron became party leader." – The Guardian

"Guido was a supporter of the BIJ when it was launched, this is very disappointing.  Sensationalist, misleading and wrong on the single most significant piece of data. Yuba Bessaoud is one of the hacks behind the piece, Guido can vouch that he is a great guy for a night out, but he isn’t a financial journalist, he is a Labour Party loyalist, who by his own admission doesn’t know the difference between inflation and interest rates." – Guido Fawkes

Gove makes Labour peer head of Ofsted

GOVE MICHAEL NW "A Labour stalwart who served at Tony Blair’s side for ten years is to become head of the schools watchdog.  Sally Morgan, the former prime minister’s political secretary, is the latest of his supporters to be appointed to a key position by the Coalition in its attempts to establish a broad political church.  Baroness Morgan, who worked as a geography teacher in secondary schools for four years in the 1980s, was made chairman of Ofsted by Michael Gove." – Daily Mail

Hague calls on Israel to drop its "belligerent" stance on Egypt

"The Middle East peace process is in danger of becoming a casualty of the revolutionary tidal wave sweeping the Arab world, and Israel is putting itself at risk by failing to compromise, William Hague told The Times yesterday.  Speaking on an emergency peace mission covering five countries in three days, the Foreign Secretary issued a blunt instruction to Israel to tone down the belligerent language used by Binyamin Netanyahu, its Prime Minister, since the uprising and protests, which have spread from Tunisia to Egypt and beyond." – The Times (£)

British Legion accuses David Cameron over U-turn on pledge to war heroes

"Last night, the head of the Royal British Legion, Britain’s biggest military charity, launched an unprecedented attack on the Government.  Director-General Chris Simpkins said: ‘The Legion is concerned that this looks like the beginnings of a Government U-turn.   ‘We hope for the sake of our Armed Forces, that the Prime Minister honours his explicit commitment to enshrine the military covenant in law.’  ‘Our politicians have the authority to send our Armed Forces into conflict, so their responsibility is the greatest." – Daily Mail

MPs rebel over giving the vote to prisoners

"Both the Conservatives and Labour are struggling to contain rebellions among their MPs over whether prisoners should get the right to vote at general elections.  A House of Commons debate on the highly charged issue will take place tomorrow. Labour wants to maximise the Tory revolt but has problems in its own ranks. Jack Straw, who has called tomorrow's debate along with the senior Tory MP David Davis, clashed with Lord Prescott, the former deputy prime minister, at a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party." – The Independent

Daily Mail claims Streep Thatcher film is a left-wing fantasy

Screen shot 2011-02-09 at 06.13.45 "The cameras have not even started rolling on a new film being made about Margaret Thatcher's life in which she is expected to be played by Meryl Streep, but already the project has been tainted by controversy over the negative way it intends to portray the former Prime Minister.   On first hearing about the production last month, a member of Lady Thatcher's family, who wishes to remain anonymous, said they were 'appalled' to learn that she will be depicted as a dementia sufferer looking back on her career with regret." – Daily Mail

Bus drivers shouldn't judge former Ministers, says Lord Lang

"Tory peer Lord Lang said ordinary people were not qualified to judge whether former ministers such as Lord Mandelson should be allowed to take well-paid jobs in the private sector.  He told MPs he might be prepared to accept a ‘lay member’ on to his committee.  But he added: ‘I would hope, however, it would be a lay member who had experience and proven success in a relatively important profession or trade – somebody who had achieved distinction – rather than a waitress or a bus driver.’ " – Daily Mail

Coalition and Political News in Brief

  • Poll of polls shows cuts denting PM's 'Teflon' image – The Independent
  • Fuel price discount pledge will take months to implement – The Guardian
  • Osborne considers Northern Ireland security fund – Irish Independent
  • Muslim anti-terrorism adviser to leave top civil service job, officials say – The Guardian
  • Courts must be able to question minister decisions, senior judge warns – Daily Telegraph
  • Oxford and Cambridge to join £9,000 club on fees – The Guardian

Hostility to Clegg's plans for University access

CleggNickDeclaring "Now Mr Clegg wants to push even more under-qualified entrants into the system.If you lower the entry bar like this, one of two things must happen. Either failure rates go up, or standards come down. Because universities don’t like failing people (especially when it means they lose fee income), it is the standards that usually suffer. We have already wiped out the intellectual heritage of the grammar schools; now top universities are in the firing line." – Peter Sanders, Daily Telegraph

"So now we have the worst of every world: fees tripled — but universities even less free to select on merit.  Says a spokesman for Mr Clegg (Westminster School and Cambridge): ‘Universities should be our greatest agent of social mobility.’  No, they should not. That is the vital job of schools, which ought to provide all children with the grounding they need to give them a fair chance of vying for places in higher education." – Daily Mail Editorial

Protection of Freedoms Bill to strike two blows for liberty

1) Clamping on private land will be a crime

"Home Office Minister Lynne Featherstone said: ‘For too long motorists have fallen victim to extortion and abuse from rogue clamping companies. I have been outraged by cases of drivers being frog-marched to cash machines late at night or left stranded by rogue operators who have towed their vehicles away.’  The ban will be introduced in Parliament in the Coalition’s flagship Protection of Freedoms Bill in the next few days." – Daily Mail

2) Council snoopers will be shown the door

"Police will be banned from routinely storing the DNA of innocent people in a significant scaling back of state powers.  There will also be a dramatic curtailment of the 1,200 powers that currently allow authorities to enter an individual’s home.  The measures will join the crackdown on wheel-clampers in Friday’s Protection of Freedoms Bill – along with tighter regulation of CCTV cameras and council snooping." – Daily Mail

Speaker hits out at MP expenses regime

Screen shot 2011-02-09 at 08.51.46 "John Bercow joined demands for reform of the tough new parliamentary expenses regime tonight, insisting it was stopping MPs doing their jobs and damaging their family lives.  Mr Bercow said politicians had "real grievances" about the way the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) was working, and the system should be less "prescriptive".  The damning critique came in a submission to a consultation being held by the watchdog." – The Independent

BBC Trust urges Radio 4 overhaul

"You might assume that being declared a ‘national treasure’ and boasting 10million listeners a week means Radio 4 is doing ­everything right.  Yet the station’s output is still not good enough for the BBC Trust.  In a performance review, it has ruled Radio 4 needs more northern presenters, a younger audience and to improve its appeal to ethnic minorities.  The BBC Trust says the station should appeal to a younger, more diverse audience." – Daily Mail

In praise of Iain Duncan Smith

"None of the policy substance is about tax breaks for married couples. Instead it is all about helping couples to stay together: a service available to all couples, not just married couples…As a Liberal Democrat, IDS's rhetoric on marriage is unappealing. The idea of financial incentives for people to get married is from a different age. But failing to look at the details of his proposals would be disrespectful to the time, effort and dedication IDS has shown to overcoming a critical problem in the UK today." – Olly Grender, New Statesman

Other Comment

Expenses fraud MP Eric Illsley resigns

"Barnsley Central MP Eric Illsley has resigned, two days before he is due to be sentenced for dishonestly claiming parliamentary expenses.  The MP had come under pressure to step down after admitting £14,000 of expenses fraud last month.  Illsley had earlier said he "deeply regretted" his actions and would resign before his sentencing, which is due at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday.  A Treasury spokesman confirmed that Illsley had resigned on Tuesday night." – BBC

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