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6.30pm International: Zoe Healy writes that Garret FitzGerald, the former Taoiseach who died today, helped to liberalise and modernise the country – thus preparing the way for the Queen's visit.

5.30pm Catherine Marcus: Slutwalk – feminism taken to its most absurd conclusion

Screen shot 2011-05-19 at 17.34.56 4.45pm Dr Rachel Joyce on Comment: How to make the most of the NHS reforms

3.45pm WATCH:

1.30pm Local Government: Hackney Labour councillor defects to Conservatives

11.45am Matthew Sinclair on Comment responds to Tim Montgomerie: Let's show we don't always support the rich by attacking crony capitalism

10.30am Peter Cuthbertson on Comment: Review – How to Use Politicians To Get What You Want by Scott Colvin

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ToryDiary: If Conservatives can convince voters that we have hearts as well as brains we can dominate politics in the 21st century, as we dominated the 20th

Mark Seddon on Comment:  When are the people going to get the referendum on Europe?

Also on Comment: Andrew Lilico – What Clarke got wrong, and what he got right

Local Government: Trade unions target Southampton Council

Parliament: Two Conservative backbenchers mock the Liberal Democrats over Trident

WATCH: ‪Strauss-Kahn resigns as IMF Chief amid sex charges‬

A day of pressure on the Government over policy and personnel

1) Policy: On the NHS, Clegg pushes for yet more health bill changes.  The '22 backs Lansley against the "Yellow Bastards".  Cameron wants the bill overhauled.

Andrew Lansley 2010 "David Cameron insists he will not be cast in the role of being moderated by the Liberal Democrats, while Clegg contends that it is the Lib Dems who are driving Cameron to revise the least popular parts of the health and social care bill. Lansley is determined not to see the bill gutted and was greeted with sustained applause at a meeting of the Conservative backbench 1922 committee. One Tory MP was heard shouting: "We've had enough of those yellow bastards." – The Guardian

"Clegg told Lib Dem MPs and peers on Tuesday night he would ‘never let the profit motive get in the way of the essential purposes of the NHS’.  ‘No to establishing Monitor as an economic regulator as if health care was just like electricity or the telephone,’ he added.  Mr Clegg’s policy document says: ‘We cannot treat the NHS as if it were a utility, and the decision to establish Monitor as an “economic regulator” was clearly a misjudgment…‘I have come to the conclusion we must not make this change.’ " – Daily Mail

"The debate about the NHS changes in England has "lost contact with reality", a leading Tory MP says.  Ex-health secretary Stephen Dorrell also warned that the "nonsensical" row about competition could lead to concessions that harm patients.  He told the BBC competition was already a key part of the NHS – and was being used to improve services.   Mr Dorrell was speaking out after Nick Clegg suggested he would oppose the promotion of competition in the NHS." – BBC

Boris plans to chair new London health board – Evening Standard

>Yesterday on ConservativeHome:

2) Policy: On Trident, the Liberal Democrats get a independent review of alternatives.

"At about the same time, Liam Fox, made an announcement on a replacement for Trident; in it he revealed Lib Dems were to develop their own official policy development inquiring about alternatives to Trident. Armed forces minister and Lib Dem MP Nick Harvey will take charge and will report to Nick Clegg. This will be done, Lib Dem sources said, to ensure the findings of their independent report do not get buried by what they called "the conservative establishment, with both an upper case and the lower case C". – The Guardian

>Antonia Cox got the story of an impendingTrident announcement on ConHome last Saturday: Trident expert claims announcement on successor submarines imminent

3) Policy: On Crime, Conservative MPs press for "soft" proposals to be ditched after Clarke rape row

"The Cabinet's most experienced minister Kenneth Clarke kept his job last night, but there is growing speculation he will be moved from the Ministry of Justice after provoking outrage by suggesting that some rapes were less serious than others…Some allies of Mr Cameron fear that Mr Clarke's "prison isn't working" mantra is alienating natural Conservative supporters who want a "tough" line on crime. Last night Tory MPs stepped up the pressure on Mr Cameron to ditch the "soft" sentencing proposals." – The Independent

Personnel: 1) Clarke engulfed by fury over rape remarks.  Cameron forces him to apologise.

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"In a radio interview earlier on Wednesday the justice secretary implied that some instances of rape were more serious than others. “I don’t think many judges give five years for a forcible rape. Frankly, the tariff is longer for that and a serious rape where there’s violence and an unwilling woman, the tariff’s much longer than that.” Asked whether “rape is rape”, Mr Clarke replied: “No, it’s not." – Financial Times (£)

"Mr Clarke’s attitude appeared to change during the day. While he was waiting to appear on the BBC Two Daily Politics show he was shown images of Prime Minister’s Questions. After seeing the issue dominate the debate he walked out of the studio, a mug clutched in his hand. During rounds of interviews he said that he regretted what had happened but refused to apologise. Then, later in the day, the Ministry of Justice released his letter to the Radio 5 caller with the word “sorry”." – The Times (£)

Clarke roasted by "The Quad" – the Sun, Mail, Telegraph and Express

"David Cameron says he still has confidence in Mr Clarke. He must be the only person who does.  Ever since his appointment, the Justice Secretary has displayed how dangerously out of touch he is.  He is now inflicting serious harm on the Coalition and betraying its supporters.  Axing Mr Clarke is an important test of Mr Cameron's leadership." – Sun Editorial

And if you thought you'd seen the last of the Justice Secretary for the time being…

Clarke to appear this evening on "Question Time" in front of an audience of prison inmates – BBC

>Yesterday on ConservativeHome:

Personnel: 2) Huhne: Clegg may have been on key flight

"Yesterday it emerged that Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg could now be dragged into the affair. The Deputy Prime Minister may be asked to give evidence after it was revealed that he may have shared a flight home from Strasbourg with Mr Huhne on the night of the speeding offence." – Daily Mail

Screen shot 2011-05-19 at 07.44.35 "Essex Police said that they will be questioning “key individuals”, including the Liberal Democrat minister and his estranged wife Vicky Pryce, to establish whether an offence had been committed.  Mr Huhne said he had arranged to be interviewed by police next week. Detectives also said they may be able to uncover records of the alleged speeding offence, which they hope to publish by the end of the week. They previously thought that images and other records relating to the alleged offence had been destroyed." – Daily Telegraph

Huhne bullied wife into taking points – The Sun

"It would be a serious setback for the coalition if it now proved that this was not the case, and that Mr Cameron was forced to allow a minister to behave as a freelance, because the Prime Minister’s political writ does not run across the Government, only stretching to Conservatives.  Mr Cameron is at the height of his political power and influence…The Prime Minister must insist that every minister in his Government behave as voters have a right to expect." – Times Editorial

Clarke's woes overshadow May's rough ride at Police Federation conference

"Delegates accused Mrs May of betraying the police and her speech was greeted with silence.  Mrs May faced ridicule when she tried to defend big increases in the foreign aid budget.  There was mocking laughter when she declared: "If you get aid right in certain parts of the world, such as Pakistan, it will reduce the possibility of terrorism on the streets of the UK." – The Sun

Railway shake-up to be published today Press Association

David Brooks, author of "The Social Animal", will meet Cameron and Miliband this weekThe Guardian

Coalition and Political News in Brief

  • Dominique Strauss-Kahn quits – BBC
  • Women on march over pension age – Daily Express
  • US imposes sanctions on Syria's Bashar al-Assad – Daily Telegraph
  • Salmond to name SNP cabinet – BBC Scotland
  • Vince Cable set to launch business growth fund – Scotsman
  • Coastguard stations saved – The Independent
  • Two men to stand trial for Stephen Lawrence murder after court ruling – The Guardian
  • Matthew Hancock MP backs Tote offer from Broughton – Financial Times (£)
  • British tourist faces year in Dubai jail after calling prophet Muhammad a 'terrorist' in row with shopkeeper – Daily Mail

Unemployment falls to 2.46m

Grayling Chris Newsnight "Unemployment in the UK fell by 36,000 to 2.46m in the three months to March, the lowest level since last September, indicating that the government’s austerity measures are not yet feeding through into a higher jobless total…Chris Grayling, employment minister, said the figures were a “step in the right direction”, but he warned that the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance was likely to continue to rise." – Financial Times (£)

81% of new jobs go to foreigners – The Sun

The Queen acknowledges the “sad and regrettable” mistakes of Britain’s troubled relationship with Ireland

"Although she stopped short of an outright apology for the “heartache, turbulence and loss” of the past century, the Queen said: “We can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all.”  The landmark speech during a state dinner at Dublin Castle included a direct reference to the murder of the Duke of Edinburgh’s uncle, Earl Mountbatten, by the IRA, when the Queen said the “events have touched us all, many of us personally”." – Daily Telegraph

"The Prime Minister said he was particularly pleased to be visiting the country at the same time as the Queen and believed: “this visit will set the seal on what is already a very strong friendship.”  Mr Cameron praised the 'sensitivity' of the Queen's visit in how it addressed the past but was also focused on the 'opportunities and excitements of the future'.  The Queen has been in Ireland since Tuesday 17th May on her first state visit to the country." – Daily Telegraph

Former Taoiseach Dr Garret FitzGerald has died at the age of 85 – RTE News

Yesterday: WATCH – Violent clashes during Queen's state visit

Salmond power play over Scotland Bill

"Alex Salmond has put the future of the Scotland Bill at risk by demanding ever-increasing powers for his SNP Administration at Holyrood, according to sources from the coalition Government at Westminster.  They have warned the First Minister that if he persists in demanding that the Bill be changed to include all his demands, the entire legislation could be dropped, depriving Holyrood even of the limited tax-raising powers first outlined by the Calman Commission." – The Times (£)

David Cameron has lost his zeal for the radical in favour of retreat

Ben Brogan "The argument being pushed by the chief engineers of the Coalition project, such as Oliver Letwin, is that it is necessary to retreat in order to advance. But while Mr Cameron’s capacity for moments of daring remains undiminished, it is no longer possible to say unequivocally that this is a radical Coalition steering a course towards difficulty and danger. Of course, the Prime Minister may surprise us still. But for the moment, he gives every impression of being a politician who has had enough of revolution, and now wants results." – Benedict Brogan, Daily Telegraph

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