Towering Cameron-1 9pm ToryDiary: Cameron doing more than Thatcher, says Michael Fallon

8.45pm Parliament: Scottish Tories add to the pressure on George Osborne to cancel the fuel duty increase

7.15pm Parliament: Edward Leigh and John Glen demand that the right to free speech includes the right to be "insulting"

5.45pm WATCH Update Mystery MP identified as Graham Evans

5.30pm Two new posts on Comment –

5.15pm WATCH: Mystery Conservative MP plays air guitar in the Commons.  (Watch for the black-and-yellow striped tie behind Liam Fox.)

4.15pm Paul Goodman on Comment: The martyrdom of Shahbaz Bhatti and the poisoning of Pakistan

2.30pm WATCH: ‪Internet goes viral on Gaddafi‬

1pm ToryDiary: Miliband perfunctory on Libya, happier on Surestart at PMQs

10.30am Robert Halfon MP on Comment: The LSE-Libya links can be traced back to 2003

ToryDiary: Who are the party's trainee attack dogs?

Richard Benyon MP: We need a radical reform of the failed Common Fisheries Policy

Matthew Sinclair: Beware of multi-billion pound projects bearing jobs

Local Government: Local Elections 2011: Teignbridge Conservatives set out their stall

Parliament: Why did no-one ask how military intervention in Libya would work?

Seats and Candidates:  Nigel Adams MP – Help make Labour pay for their negative, backward-looking, disingenuous campaign in Barnsley Central

International: The battle has begun between fiscal conservatism and America’s public sector unions. Only one side can win

WATCH: Andrew Mitchell defends the international aid budget 

Afghanistan front line troops told they may be fired…

Screen shot 2011-03-02 at 06.04.57 "The Ministry of Defence has announced the full scale of redundancies that will take place in the Army, RAF and Royal Navy in an attempt to cut billions of pounds from the department’s budget.  Military experts and former officers said that the “crass” decision to tell troops that they may be sacked while putting their lives at risk to fight the Taliban would inevitably damage morale.  The announcement came as a soldier from the Royal Army Veterinary Corps was shot dead in Helmand province yesterday." – Daily Telegraph

"The Ministry of Defence faces further embarrassment today with the revelation that only one in seven of Britain’s next generation of fighter pilots are fully trained because of a lack of money and a shortage of spare parts to keep the Typhoon fighter airworthy.  The National Audit Office, in a damning report, also said that the aircraft, which would be the spearhead of any British contribution to a no-fly zone over Libya, would not reach its full attack potential until 2018." – The Times (£

…As Defence Select Committee mauls withdrawal deadline

"The Commons foreign affairs committee also urges ministers to accelerate attempts to negotiate with the Taliban and reach a “political settlement” with the insurgents.  Britain has 10,000 troops in Afghanistan and has suffered 358 deaths since the invasion that ousted the Taliban regime from Kabul. In a report published today, the Conservative-led committee raises serious doubts about the way the Prime Minister has developed and communicated the Coalition’s strategy for withdrawing Britain’s forces." – Daily Telegraph

  • Now Cameron's Afghan policy is under fire – Benedict Brogan's blog, Daily Telegraph
  • Military farce – The Sun

Prime Minister reverses over Libya no-fly zone

"Britain has backtracked from its belligerent military stance over Libya after the Obama administration publicly distanced itself from David Cameron's suggestion that Nato should establish a no-fly zone over the country and that rebel forces should be armed. As senior British military sources expressed concern that Downing Street appeared to be overlooking the dangers of being sucked into a long and potentially dangerous operation, the prime minister said Britain would go no further than contacting the rebel forces at this stage." – The Guardian 

…As refugees flee the country in rising numbers

"Border guards fired into the air above the heads of thousands clamouring to escape from Libya into Tunisia yesterday amid warnings of a humanitarian crisis as foreign workers flee from pro-Gaddafi forces. And there was an appeal for EU countries to open their borders and provide sanctuary to refugees fleeing the violence.  Aid staff have warned of a 'humanitarian crisis' in the border area with 2,000 people crossing every hour." – Daily Mail

"European countries must 'step up to the plate' to help North African countries such as Libya and Egypt achieve political reform, Nick Clegg is to say.  In a speech in Brussels, the deputy prime minister will call for a new response to ensure greater freedom.  On Monday, David Cameron promised to leave "all eventualities open" if Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi's regime continues to kill rebels.  Mr Clegg said North Africa was facing a "defining moment"." – BBC

Libya comment –

  • Why we should do nothing about Colonel Gaddafi – Max Hastings, Daily Mail
  • He who pays the University piper – Mary Dejevsky, The Independent
  • David Cameron cannot go into Libya will all guns blazing – Daily Express
  • Sit with dictators but sup with a long spoon – Jeremy Greenstock, Financial Times (£)

Yesterday –

LISTEN: Sir John Major expresses his fear of a "full scale civil war" in Libya as he discusses the West's options for intervention

Chancellor searches for ways to put brake on runaway fuel prices

Osborne and notes
"George Osborne is examining whether he can afford to cushion the cost of petrol as the price of oil continues to rise.  Road users have urged the Government to abandon the increase in fuel duty planned for April 1 and stabilise prices, which have reached a record high. The average price per litre reached 130.3p for unleaded petrol and 135.44p for diesel yesterday. Prices have been driven by three rises in duty since last April, a rise in the price of crude oil because of turmoil in the Middle East, and a fall in sterling." – The Times (£)

Fuel up to 130p – The Sun 

May to cut police pay packets…

"Theresa May will today make an explosive pledge to cut police pay packages.  The Home Secretary – who has been told to slash Home Office spending by a fifth – will say keeping officers on the frontline must come before pay and perks.  She will commit the Government to the biggest overhaul of terms and conditions for a generation.  The most likely target is overtime payments worth almost £400million a year. Housing and travel allowances will also come under the spotlight." – Daily Mail 

…and remove a million names from the DNA database

"Almost one million innocent people will have their names removed from the Government's DNA database.  The Home Secretary made the announcement as she revealed detailed plans to curb the state's right to intrude in private lives.  Theresa May said Labour's decision to store the DNA profiles of more than five million people, many of them innocent, was "not a proportionate response" to protecting civil liberties." – ITN

Shapps accuses Labour of immigration cover-up

Grant Shapps "Immigration under Labour had a "negative impact" on the wages of the worst paid British workers.  That was the headline from one of ten research reports released by the Department for Communities and Local Government on Tuesday.  There are more reports, and stories, like that to come.  A government source says ministers found more than 100 unpublished research papers at that department alone after the election.  The local government minister Grant Shapps has accused the previous government of a cover-up." – BBC

Ministers pull back on quango powers

"Ministers have backed down over plans that would have given the government sweeping “Henry VIII” powers to abolish, merge or modify quangos without the need for primary legislation.  The move to take the powers had been criticised in the House of Lords and by the Institute for Government, which warned it would undermine the “fearless independence” that bodies such as Ofcom, the Office of Fair Trading and the Low Pay Commission needed to do their job." – Financial Times (£)

Aid budget to target "fragile states"

"Britain is to pour billions of pounds of aid into the world’s most corrupt countries in a bid to tackle poverty, terrorism and illegal immigration.  International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell yesterday announced the results of a review of the aid budget – and revealed future funding will be focused on helping so-called ‘fragile states’.  But the beneficiaries will include many of the world’s most corrupt countries, raising fears that much of the money may never reach those it is intended for." – Daily Mail

Coalition and Political News in Brief

  • Christian couple barred from fostering children speak out – Daily Telegraph
  • £500 a week benefit cap ‘will force families out of their homes’ – The Times (£)
  • Scots chiefs fear English students will be priced out – Scotsman
  • NHS reform could see GP surgeries on stock market – The Guardian
  • Hundreds of Oxbridge dons demand inquiry into tuition fees – The Independent
  • DfT to press on with £4.5bn train order – Financial Times (£)
  • £4.5bn Hitachi deal to bring 500 jobs to County Durham – Northern Echo

Clegg lashed by Commons, mocked by sketchwriters

Screen shot 2011-03-02 at 08.13.40
"A more confident politician might have laughed off the ribaldry but Mr Clegg failed to see the funny side.  He said that he had only taken off two days from work and claimed to have returned to London the moment it became clear his services were required here.  It was ridiculous, he argued, to think that David Cameron ceased to act as PM just because he was abroad.  Did football managers cease to wield power when they travelled overseas for away matches?" – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

  • Nick Clegg runs out of credibility – Andrew Gimson, Daily Telegraph
  • Nick Clegg's nightmare at question time – Simon Hoggart, The Guardian
  • I can't get enough of Clegg – and with AV, that won't be a problem – Simon Carr, The Independent
  • Run the country? Are you clegging? – Ann Treneman, The Times (£)

Small businesses campaign against localisation of business rates

"Small businesses have come out against the re-localisation of business rates as part of calls to the Treasury to make the March Budget “business friendly”.  The business rates policy, proposed by the Department for Communities and Local Government and backed by Business Secretary Vince Cable, is a key plank in the Coalition’s plan to reduce local authority dependency on Whitehall for funding.  However, the Federation of Small Businesses… is campaigning against the move as part of its Budget submission." – Daily Telegraph

In the Guardian, Simon Jenkins rides to the defence of the spending scaleback

"Labour's tactic is merely to suggest it has no cuts in mind, and is a caring custodian of the nation's generosity. Ed Miliband and Ed Balls imply that this is the duty of opposition. Surely the duty of opposition is to be plausible, even if not responsible. I carry no can for the Treasury, but politics is not improved when the entire political community, media included, tries only to see how many hits it can score in opposing action to correct what was commonly agreed to be a budgetary crisis. I was recently in Greece, where the quality of debate was much the same, with dreadful consequences. We do not want that here." – The Guardian

Other Comment

  • The man not afraid to tell Cameron the truth – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times (£)
  • My view of pornography – Jacqui Smith
  • The Department of Energy and Climate Change is employing more civil servants – John Redwood's Blog

Brown blocked Steve Jobs honorary knighthood

BROWN RESOLVED "Steve Jobs was denied an honorary knighthood in 2009 because of a then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown grudge against the Apple head, according to former senior Labour MP.  It was revealed today that the proposal to knight Jobs reached final stages, but was blocked by a Downing Street after Jobs subbed an appearance at Labour’s annual conference.  It is unclear why Jobs rejected the invitation to speak at the conference, which was to occur as Brown’s Labour government was at one of its lower levels in popularity." – Daily Mail