10pm WATCH: French warplanes strike Libyan city

Screen shot 2011-03-19 at 22.03.14 4pm ToryDiary: Goldie pledges a £200 pensioner council tax cut each year

3.30pm WATCH: Sir Malcolm Rifkind – "The aircraft can attack tanks, military units – anything now advancing on Benghazi"

3pm ToryDiary: Halfon's hunt for Gaddafi's cash for British Universities

12.15pm WATCH: Plane shot down over Benghazi

11am David Roache on Comment: Public Sector Pensions – let’s have the facts

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ToryDiary: Ten things you should know about George Osborne


Martin Cakebread: Why I am optimistic about the Government’s plans for the Armed Forces

Karl McCartney MP: Lincoln’s Community Larder and the Big Society

Local Government: Harrow Council's transparency u-turn

Parliament: Conservative MPs line up to support Cameron on Libya – but he's probed about the arms embargo


As Paris Libya summit looms, Cameron says Gaddafi must go

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"Libya's Colonel Gaddafi  was given an ultimatum to  surrender power last night as British jets readied for military action against his murderous regime.  In a clear hardening of tone just hours after the United Nations backed a no-fly zone, the Prime Minister said: ‘It is almost impossible to envisage a future for Libya that includes him. Gaddafi must go, he has no legitimacy.’ " – Daily Mail

"Mr Cameron will meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Arab allies as UK planes are due to deploy to help impose a United Nations-backed no-fly zone.  The UN Security Council agreed to "all necessary measures", short of military occupation, to protect civilians from leader Col Muammar Gaddafi's forces…A joint statement by the UK, France and the US demanded that Col Gaddafi's troops stop their advance on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi and pull back from the towns of Ajdabiya, Misrata, and Zawiya." – BBC

The Prime Minister sweeps all before him in the Commons

"They talked glowingly of Mr Cameron's "breathtaking courage," and his "superb leadership." Even those who admitted they had doubted the Prime Minister were forced to admit he had brought off a "remarkable diplomatic success".  In the eyes of some, Mr Cameron has come a long way in fewer than three weeks – from naïve novice to bold statesman…as he travels to Paris this morning for a meeting of the European Union and Arab League, the Prime Minister has a right to feel vindicated." – Daily Telegraph

"The normally pugnacious Chris Bryant summed up the mood in the House as the former Labour foreign minister acknowledged that the government had the “support it needs”, following an hour’s debate over the UN’s resolution to implement a no-fly zone over parts of Libya.  Ed Miliband, Labour leader, also gave his backing, saying it would be “quite wrong” for Britain to “stand by and do nothing”." – Financial Times (£)

"Cameron's team hope his success in helping to shape the world's response to the Libya crisis, along with Nicolas Sarkozy, will be a defining moment of his early premiership. "I have always said that you would only see the mettle of David Cameron and the class act when he was challenged by his first international crisis," one of his oldest political allies said.  "The way he is emerging during this crisis has utterly vindicated our judgment in him." – The Guardian

"Mr Cameron and Mr Obama had not spoken for eight days, an unusual communication hiatus between the White House and Downing Street.  Downing Street officials insist that the Anglo-American wheels were being well oiled by regular conversations between William Hague and Hillary Clinton, Sir Peter Ricketts, the National Security Adviser, and his West Wing counterpart Tom Donilon, Sir Mark Lyall Grant, Britain’s UN ambassador, and Susan Rice, the US envoy." – The Times (£)

…And Tony Blair lines up to support him (while urging change across the region)…

BLAIR VERY LARGE "Events in Libya cannot be divorced from what is happening across the Middle East. It is here that Western policy is still evolving. The implications are vast…The key to making those decisions is to develop a strategic framework for helping to shape this revolutionary change sweeping the region. We need a policy that is clear, explicable and that marries our principles to the concerns of realpolitik.  It also has to recognise that we are not spectators in what is happening. History, attitude and interests all dictate that we are players." – The Times (£)

…But Cameron faces a newspaper squeeze from his left and right.  The traditional Tory papers, the Telegraph and Mail, are deeply sceptical.  The Guardian is opposed.

"Some of the praise for the UN’s robust resolution must go to David Cameron. He was one of the first Western leaders to call for a no-fly zone, laying out the compelling moral case for supporting and protecting those brave Libyans who dared to challenge their oppressor despite their lack of arms or aircraft…in the first real international test of his premiership, Mr Cameron has shown leadership." – The Times Editorial (£)

"At a time when the Government is desperately battling to restore sanity to our public finances, the last thing we need is a costly war. And are Britain's national interests best served by confronting another Muslim state? Gaddafi may be a ruthless oppressor of his own people but, now that he has stopped sponsoring terror groups and has renounced nuclear weapons, he hardly poses an immediate threat to national security." – Daily Telegraph Editorial

The commentators' take –

  • A good intervention is hard to pull off – but we should still try – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph
  • Remember Basra, and beware mission creep – Matthew Parris, The Times (£)
  • To have an impact, this kind of intervention needs clear objectives – Patrick Cockburn, The Independent
  • The first Libyan battle is won – Sir Malcolm Rifkind, The Guardian
  • Did the debacle of Iraq teach us nothing? – Sir Andrew Green, Daily Mail
  • Does Sarkozy deserve more credit than Cameron? – David Blackburn, Coffee House

> Yesterday's Conservative Home Libya crisis coverage –

Tory Diary:

Comment: Robin Simcox – What is it with Democrats and interventionism?



As next week's budget looms, the Financial Times profiles George Osborne

"George Osborne is assiduously building a formidable base inside and outside the Conservative party that could support a leadership bid once David Cameron steps down, the Financial Times has learnt.  The chancellor will deliver his second Budget next week with some senior Labour figures talking about him as the next Tory leader, even if they still believe his tough fiscal stance will cost Britain both growth and jobs." – Financial Times (£)

Read the full profile here

Latest budget stories –

  • Osborne to introduce new tax break for business giants' overseas earnings – Daily Mail
  • Red tape rethink to spur office conversions – Financial Times (£)
  • Green 'revolution' hit by new curbs on investment bank – The Guardian
  • Economic predictions to cast shadow over Osborne Budget – The Times (£)

In his first column for the Daily Mail, Iain Martin urges the Chancellor to cut taxes in next week's budget

Screen shot 2011-03-19 at 08.20.47"Since the war, electorally successful governments have tended to appeal to the ‘strivers’. Mrs Thatcher felt an instinctive connection with such Britons. Tony Blair realised he would have to connect with them even if his words were phoney.  So far, Cameron and Osborne, both drawn from privileged backgrounds, have not seemed interested in those who strive. This, then, should be Osborne’s chance to repair that damage." – Iain Martin, Daily Mail

Other pre-budget comment –

  • Osborne's black swan threat for Budget – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail
  • Why Osborne will struggle to sell his Budget of growth – Andrew Grice, The Independent

Yesterday in Comment –

Mark Field MP: Our economic mission needs an explicitly stronger moral dimension

Cable to receive hundreds of red tape complaints at FSB conference

"The submissions make for depressing reading, providing a glimpse into how civil servants tie up businesses in red tape, suffocating entrepreneurship and job creation.  From fines for those who conclude that running their business should take priority over filling in forms for the Office for National Statistics, to the insistence that a bat box must be heated. What has been most shocking has been the intransigence of officials." – Daily Telegraph

At the Scottish Conservative Conference, Goldie wants more powers to cut Scottish taxes…

Annabel Goldie "Scottish families could have their financial burden eased by tax cuts if Holyrood gets new financial powers, Annabel Goldie hinted yesterday.  But speaking ahead of her party’s spring conference the Scottish Tory leader insisted that any cuts could not be “irresponsible” and they would have to be specifically aimed at boosting the economy…The Tories promoted themselves as the straight talkers of the coming Scottish Parliamentary election." – Daily Express

…But Michael Forsyth warns that the tax plan could help to break up the UK

"Senior Tories are openly rebelling against David Cameron's plans to give the Scottish parliament greater tax-raising powers, days before the party goes into the Scottish election campaign.  Lord Forsyth, the party's former Scotland secretary, claimed new measures to give Holyrood control over income tax rates could lead to the break-up of the UK, a view backed privately by senior party figures in Scotland." – The Guardian

May to support case for gay marriage

"Heterosexual couples could soon win the right to form civil partnerships and gay and lesbians the right to marry in register offices under equality law reforms.  Theresa May signalled that the Government is to press ahead with the radical proposals in spite of fears among churches that it will undermine the concept of marriage.  The Home Secretary confirmed the coalition’s intention to move towards equalising civil marriage and civil partnerships in her first major speech on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality yesterday." – The Times (£)

The Euro-enthusiast tilt of the British Bill of Rights Commission

"A panel set up to challenge  the erosion of British sovereignty by European courts was branded a ‘con’ last night.  It emerged that the commission investigating the creation of a British Bill of Rights would be barred from considering whether Britain should withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.  Critics also claimed the commission was ‘dominated’ by Europhiles and human rights lawyers." – Daily Mail

Expenses watchdog to relax rules on MPs

"The post-scandal crackdown on MPs’ expenses is to be relaxed next week with a series of concessions that risk reigniting anger on all sides. The expenses watchdog is expected to rewrite some of the more draconinan rules after a ten-month campaign by mutinous MPs.  The changes will let more MPs claim second-home allowances, MPs with families claim more and MPs charge more on their parliamentary credit cards." – The Times (£)

Other Political and Coalition News

The Guardian profiles Ed Miliband as he prepares to end six months as Labour leader…

Screen shot 2010-09-30 at 08.47.01 On Friday, it will be six months since Miliband was elected Labour leader, having beaten his brother David, the favourite, by just over 1% of the vote. Yet, apart from those last three facts, for the new leader of a major party, strikingly little about Ed Miliband has registered with the public. "A quarter of the public have no opinion of him," wrote Tom Mludzinski of Ipsos Mori in late January, "while the same proportion (37%) are satisfied as are dissatisfied with his performance. " – Andy Beckett, The Guardian

…While the Daily Mail previews the first biography of the Speaker

"He didn't stand a chance. At almost a foot shorter than his tormentors, John Bercow was easily whisked up and carried — kicking and screaming — to the school pond. As the other teenagers laughed, he was tossed in. ‘Bercow can be in there with the other amphibians,’ mocked one of the boys in his class.  It was the late Seventies. Few could have guessed that the boy who emerged dripping and humiliated from the Finchley Manorhill comprehensive biology pond would one day occupy one of the most distinguished posts in the land." – Daily Mail

And finally…new papers expose Thatcher in Page 3 shocker

Margaret Thatcher 1979 "Cambridge archives have revealed how Margaret Thatcher was left spluttering over her morning coffee after her chief whip posted her a saucy photo of a topless woman…he accidentally attached another page featuring a Sun newspaper advert of a topless girl seductively lying in bed with her lover.  The light-hearted gaffe was made in a letter sent to Thatcher on January 20, 1980.  It was revealed for the first time today after the Churchill Archive Centre (CAC), Churchill College, Cambridge, released previously unseen documents." – Cambridge News

The Guardian has more Thatcher paper stories.  Read about how she stoked rebellion against her own Government, and about –

Read the new Margaret Thatcher private papers in full