8.30pm WATCH: Farewell to Iraq: Last UK troops pull out‬

Screen shot 2011-05-22 at 20.26.40 5.45pm Steve Baker MP on Comment: "Mark Reckless MP has bravely given colleagues an opportunity to discuss these matters before recess with his back-bench motion on Eurozone Financial Assistance….It's a good start but there may be a better way." Bailouts are a dead end but bilateral debt cancellation could transform the European crisis

4.30pm WATCH: The True Cost of the Royal Family Explained‬ – "The United Kingdom earns £160 million in profit every year from the royal family." (Hat-tip Cranmer.)

3.30pm Gazette: Who is the youngest Conservative Councillor in the country (reprise)? Could it be Cllr Stuart Green of Breckland?

2.30pm WATCH: Obama: The Queen is "the best of England"

1pm ConHomeUSA: Five reasons why Mitch Daniels’ decision not to run for the Republican presidential nomination makes today a sad day for America

12.30pm WATCH: David Davis: "We should be one of the leading examples of freedom of speech in the world, not a good place to come for libel tourism."

11pm Thomas Neumark: The Big Society must be built from the bottom up. It can't be from the top down

ToryDiary: "If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same…"

John Stevens on Comment: Higher interest rates. Uncertainty for Ulster. Anglo-French defence – the vast implications of an independent Scotland

Local Government: Andre Walker – Lancashire Police Authority should be the first to go

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LeftWatch: Who's top and bottom of the Yellow B**tards League table?

WATCH: Ulster blast hits shopping centre

Is Huhne about to reach the exit at last?

1) Scree-eech! Climate Change Secretary performs U-turn on offence denial

Screen shot 2011-05-22 at 05.21.48 "The cabinet minister is to tell police he “cannot be sure” he was not behind the wheel of the vehicle when it was clocked exceeding the limit in Essex.  The surprise admission from his team casts fresh doubt over his insistence that he did not pressurise his wife, Vicky Pryce, into accepting penalty points to avoid a driving ban.  A member of his team said: “Basically, he can’t say he definitely wasn’t driving. He doesn’t remember what he did that day. He hasn’t got a diary about whether he drove or not.” – Sunday Times (£)

"Observers pointed out that, if the minister is interviewed this week by police under caution, the "can't remember" position would be more easily defensible in law if the case ever went to court." – Independent on Sunday

2) Clunk! Wife's driving licence is otherwise clean

"Pressure on Chris Huhne over the ‘penalty points affair’ intensified last night following the emergence of his former wife’s driving licence.  The document is clean apart from the 2003 offence at the centre of the furore.  The disclosure comes as the embattled Energy Secretary prepares to be questioned by detectives this week over claims that he allowed Vicky Pryce, 57, to take his punishment for speeding." – Mail on Sunday

3) Prang! She claims "another person" took rap for separate offence

"Miss Pryce, 57, has told friends that Mr Huhne not only persuaded her to take points for him – but that he also got another person to do the same on a separate occasion.  A source said: “Vicky has been telling people she is not the only one to take points and that Chris had got someone else to do it before her. She has said she will do whatever is 'necessary’ and 'appropriate’ to help the police investigation and that means telling them everything she knows.” – Sunday Telegraph

Huhne’s child may testify against him – Sunday Times (£)

Secret talks to sidestep Huhne’s green taxes

The Government has been forced to negotiate with the Energy Intensive Users Group because the Energy Secretary’s aim could effectively cripple these industries, forcing them overseas.   The group calculates that to meet the Government’s target of halving their emissions by 2025, their energy bills would have to rise by up to £3.5 billion a year by the 2020s."..A group official said it was not clear how the Government would mitigate its green measures. ‘We will either be exempted from the taxes or be compensated,’ he said." – Mail on Sunday

Clarke plan could see lags free in ten weeks

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"Violent criminals will serve a fraction of their sentences under the law chief's shake-up.  Burglars, for example, will be freed within ten weeks instead of nine months if they confess straight away. The full impact of the barmy bid to reduce jail sentences is exposed by a News of the World probe.  It heaps further pressure on Mr Clarke, who was under fire last week for claiming that some rapes are less serious than others. Our figures show thousands of serious offenders would be out quickly if they admit guilt early." – News of the World (£)

"Ministers show no sign of backing down in an amendment tabled for debate on Monday when Labour sets the business for the Commons.  Labour’s proposed motion opposes “changing the maximum discount for custodial sentences to up to 50 per cent for those who plead guilty.”  The coalition’s amendment instead asks MPs to “welcome the government’s intention to overhaul sentencing to deliver more effective punishment for offenders and increased reparation for victims.” – Sunday Telegraph

The commentators' view: Matthew D'Ancona points out that the Coalition Agreement promises "honesty in food labelling", but not in sentencing

"Page 55 of the Tory election manifesto pledged that "we will introduce honesty in sentencing".  Yet in office, this commitment has faded…There are two reasons why the Justice Secretary should have been sacked on Wednesday. First, what he said was intrinsically outrageous, and his apologies insufficient. Second, he managed to reinforce and compound the impression, always toxic to the Tory party, that senior Conservatives do not grasp the traumatic impact of crime and fear of crime upon the electorate, not all of whom live behind a moat." – Matthew D'Ancona, Sunday Telegraph

  • Don't dismiss my rape ordeal, Ken Clarke – Anonymous rape victim, Sunday Express
  • Speak up on crime, PM, or be punished – Martin Ivens, Sunday Times (£)
  • Why drown Ken Clarke in this tidal wave of phony anger? – Rachel Cooke, The Observer
  • Some rapes ARE worse than others… there, I've said it – Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday

Fraser Nelson: Clarke will be fired.  As will Lansley, Cable, Huhne and Spelman

"Ken Clarke is a dead man walking.  That's the verdict of most of the Cabinet, after the Justice Secretary's blunder over rape last week…But Ken will be in a packed exit lounge. He'll be beside Andrew Lansley…And near Vince Cable…Next, Chris Huhne… Finally Caroline Spelman." – Fraser Nelson, News of the World (£)

Cameron blames Crispin Blunt in Commons dining room row

Blunt Crispin "In extraordinary scenes over lunch in the Commons Members’ Dining Room, an angry Mr Cameron told Mr Blunt he had blundered by using rape to illustrate Government plane to halve sentences for criminals who immediately admit their guilt. Witnesses said Mr Cameron made it clear that he blamed the Minister for first using the rape example – the day before Mr Clarke sparked outrage by suggesting that some sexual assault crimes were worse than others." – Mail on Sunday

New Poll: "30% think David Cameron’s government is less tough on crime than Labour"

"According to YouGov, 62% of people opposed the idea of reducing sentences by as much as 50% for early pleas, compared with 26% who supported it…The poll showed that 64% of people thought he was wrong to differentiate between different types of the offence.  Despite disagreeing with him there was little sign of any desire for his resignation, as demanded by Ed Miliband, the Labour leader. Most people — 52% — thought he should not quit, compared with 32% who thought he should." – Sunday Times (£)

Davis says the Conservatives are in danger of losing their reputation on crime…

"David Davis, the Conservatives' former home affairs spokesman, expressed fears that the party was in danger of losing its reputation for being tough on crime and that public confidence was being dented by cuts to the police and justice systems combined with new liberal sentencing policies…Davis said: "There is a serious risk that the Conservative party will lose its clear 20 to 30 point opinion poll leads [over Labour] on crime and immigration if it does not take a clearer stance on these issues." – The Observer

Long jails sentences work – Sunday Express

…and takes a shot at the judges over superinjunctions

"So are British judges going to be engaged in hunting down thousands of people who gossip on Twitter? I think not. Or are they going to press on with an approach which will amount to one law for the print media and another for the e-sphere?  This cannot stand. Parliament needs to put it right.  It will not be easy. A free Press is often pretty uncomfortable, particularly for politicians. But in the words of the US politician Adlai Stephenson: ‘The free Press is the mother of all our liberties and of our progress under liberty.’ " -   David Davis, Mail on Sunday

  • Douglas Carswell says judiciary is "making itself look a bit of an ass" – The Observer
  • Who are the standard-bearers of the Tory Right? – Tim Montgomerie, Sunday Telegraph

Campaigners livid as Whitehall axes Breastfeeding WeekIndependent on Sunday

Clegg's latest bid to wreck Lansley's plan

CleggNickDeclaring "A leaked blueprint of proposed Liberal Democrat changes to the government’s NHS reforms would curb the power of private companies to make profits and allow ministers to stop the closure of accident and emergency departments, maternity wards and other key services.  The internal Lib Dem list of amendments, being circulated in Whitehall, says ministers “need to be clear that we will not allow new private providers to undermine essential NHS services”. – Sunday Times (£)

"Clegg told senior Liberal Democrats that he would scupper Lansley's bill unless the Tories agreed to the new demand…Speaking at a meeting of his party's leadership – attended by Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, Norman Lamb, policy chief, and Paul Burstow, health and social care minister – Clegg said: "Everybody accepts the need for reform, but nothing is more important to me than getting these reforms right." – The Observer

> Yesterday: WATCH – Michael Fallon says there is "unease" about Lib Dems now opposing the NHS reforms they voted for

Lib Dems move HQ from rabbit warren to 'The Thick of It' – Independent on Sunday

Obama wants Cameron to back Palestinian state with pre-1967 borders

"Barack Obama will seek a joint Middle East agreement with David Cameron, insisting that a Palestinian state should be based on pre-1967 borders – a proposal rejected by Israel's prime minister as "unrealistic" and "indefensible".  The issue will be raised in private talks between the two men during the state visit by Obama and his wife to London, only the third by a US president in 100 years. Afghanistan, Libya, relations with Pakistan and the global economy – as well as the vacancy for the top job at the IMF – will also make up the agenda." – Sunday Telegraph

  • Samantha Cameron and Michelle Obama to take charge of Number 10 barbecue – Mail on Sunday
  • America still loves us – Andrew Sullivan, Sunday Times (£)

> Yesterday: Parliament – Conservative MPs insist Hamas must respect the State of Israel's right to exist, and accept Quartet Principles

Osborne blocks Brown, backs Lagarde

Screen shot 2011-05-22 at 08.28.24 "George Osborne delivered a crushing blow last night to Gordon Brown’s hopes of running the ­International Monetary Fund.  The Chancellor threw his support behind France’s finance minister Christine Lagarde to replace ­disgraced Dominique Strauss-Kahn.  Mr Osborne’s ­intervention effectively kills the former prime minister’s chances of landing the job…Mr Osborne said: “On the basis of merit, I believe Christine is the outstanding candidate for the IMF – and that’s why Britain will back her.” – Sunday Mirror

> Yesterday: ToryDiary –"Osborne needs a rocket up his rear" says Tory MP

Big Society (1): Hilton wants everyone to fly the flag

"The Mail on Sunday has learnt that Mr Hilton is working on secret plans for a campaign to restore the country’s national pride by building on the patriotic fervour generated by last month’s Royal Wedding.  Government departments, quangos and local councils are to be ‘encouraged’ to display the Union Jack on their websites, together with the slogan ‘Putting The Great Back Into Great Britain’, sources have revealed." – Mail on Sunday

Big Society (2) You've volunteered – have a loyalty card

"People who give up time to help their communities will be given discounts on shopping, cheap swimming sessions and free theatre tickets as part of a major relaunch of the Big Society project.  After a barrage of negative publicity, ministers are focusing on tangible examples of ways to change the public view of the role of the state. In a scheme modelled on supermarket loyalty cards, volunteers will be able to redeem Big Society credits against a range of goods and services." – Independent on Sunday

£1bn scandal of civil service Gold Cards on the taxpayer

"Ministers are on a collision course with top mandarins over an extraordinary demand for them to publish their credit-card statements – to prove they have not been abusing their expenses.  The row erupted after the Government discovered that civil servants have been using official cards to pay for fast-food meals, drinks in the pub and even shopping trips to Tesco, with all bills sent straight to the taxpayer." – Daily Mail

Political and Coalition News in Brief

Miliband: We made mistakes

Screen shot 2011-05-22 at 08.36.04 "Labour leader Ed Miliband has issued a damning critique of his own party, insisting that it needs to acknowledge its past mistakes if it is ever to regain the trust of the electorate.  In a hard-hitting speech that observers will no doubt see as a wake-up call for the Opposition, Mr Miliband condemned the last Labour administration for being 'too relaxed' on immigration and for allowing the gap between rich and poor to widen on its watch. He added that it time for the party to show humility and honesty." – Mail on Sunday

  • Miliband is Harold Camping, the doomsday cultist who predicted that the world would end yesterday – John Rentoul, Independent on Sunday
  • Cable pops into "Back Miliband" Fabian conference – Mail on Sunday

Cuts may slice Miliband nose jobNews of the World

House of Lords could allow breastfeeding in the chamber (and if so, would the Commons follow suit)?

"The House of Lords is preparing to allow female peers to breastfeed their babies during debates in a move to modernise the 800-year-old institution and make it more family friendly.  The Lords authorities say they are “sympathetic” to the needs of women who may want to feed their babies in the chamber.  Baroness Worthington is the only current working peer with a baby. However, the concession could encourage more mothers to enter the Lords after the proposed government reforms to create a largely elected House." – Sunday Times (£)

"Ireland's old enemy has turned out to be our most valued and trusted ally"

"Ireland, in its weakened state, needs real friends, who seek to do right by us, and at present, Britain is such a friend.  Enda Kenny and his Government should explore, to the fullest, any such alliance, as in my view it can only be in Ireland's interests to pull away from the abuse we are currently suffering at the hands of Germany, France and the ECB.  As this country rightly and proudly celebrated the visit of the Queen here last week, it must be remembered that our oldest enemy has shown itself to be our closest friend." – Daniel McConnell, Ireland's Sunday Independent

Other comment

  • The case of a doctor reprimanded for discussing his religion is a worrying one – Sunday Telegraph Editorial
  • Economic recovery comes first, cuts come second. Just ask the Canadians – William Keegan, The Observer
  • Billions down aid drain – Nick Ferrari, Sunday Express
  • Inside Blair's nest of vipers – Bob Marshall-Andrews, Mail on Sunday

And finally…New blackballs, please: was Clegg vetoed at local tennis club?

"David Halls, the manager of the Putney Lawn Tennis Club, confirms that he spoke to Clegg about his competing in the “playings”, the sessions which help to decide who can join.  “He spoke to me about taking part in our playings, but he did not then apply formally to join,” Halls says, carefully. “Nobody gets automatic membership. The playings are not the only way in which we decide who can join. The club committee meets to discuss other criteria, but I am not at liberty to discuss what they are.” – Sunday Telegraph


Five reasons why Mitch Daniels’ decision not to run makes Sunday May 22 a sad day for America