6.45pm WATCH Balls said the OECD doesn't support Osborne's plan.  The OECD says it doesn't support  Balls.

4.30pm Andrew Lilico on Comment: "The concept that there is something bad about competition should simply be rejected and dismissed as the antediluvian nonsense that it is.  Of course, subject to meeting quality requirements, firms should be able to compete on price!  We want more NHS output for the same cost.  Price competition doesn't mean healthcare being shoddy or unsafe – that's the point of having quality thresholds!"  Which bits of NHS reform really matter?

Screen shot 2011-05-26 at 15.55.44

4.15pm WATCH: Was the fifth person from the right asleep during Obama's speech?

4pm ToryDiary: Euroscepticism will triumph in the Conservative Party. It's just a matter of time.

2.30pm Martin Cakebread on Comment: Rather than cut the Forces' pay, isn't it time we cut final salary pensions for all MPs and civil servants?

1.30pm LeftWatch: Labour's Ed Miliband problem: polling indicates "he is looking less, and not more, like a Prime Minister as his time in office goes on."

11.45am ConHome USA WATCH: Karl Rove talks to Fox News' Bill O'Reilly about whether the GOP can beat Obama in 2012

REAGAN RONALDToryDiary: Dr Fox goes to Washington to pay tribute to the kind of president that Obama will never be

Ruth Lea on Comment: Britain needs to shift its focus on trade from Europe to the Commonwealth

Also on Comment: JP Floru: Poor savers make rich pickings

Local Government:

Gazette: Invitation to foreign policy event with Liam Fox, Andrew Mitchell and expert Q&A panel

Seats and Candidates: Six candidates will contest the Belfast West by-election on June 9th

WATCH: Obama hosts dinner for the Queen

Obama Westminster Hall speech and press conference probed for differences with Cameron over deficit reduction and Libya

Screen shot 2011-05-26 at 07.59.41
"Before an audience that included four British Prime Ministers, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Tom Hanks, Mr Obama gently teased the British about their anxiety over the health of the special relationship, then challenged what he called “one of the strongest alliances the world has ever known” to bury fashionable fears of decline and reassert its leadership of the free world, and of those seeking to join it. The speech was the centrepiece of his week-long tour of Europe and may prove his most important on any foreign trip this year." – The Times (£)

"Everybody he met … reached out, all hoping to grasp some stardust and sprinkle it over themselves. I was only surprised that they hadn't produced the halt and the lame to be cured.  As he moved up, spontaneous applause would break out. He was being clapped just for being there, for simply existing!" – Simon Hoggart, The Guardian

"Under the Norman hammer beams, a rumble as though from a punctured euphonium. Ken Clarke was snoring again!" – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

1) Deficit reduction

"Mr Obama said that while governments had to “live within their means”, they had to sustain growth by investing in education, science and infrastructure.  Although Mr Cameron insists those areas have been especially protected from the £81bn programme of cuts, Labour argues that it would have spent even more on areas to boost the economy’s potential in the long run." – Financial Times (£)

2) Libya

"Mr Cameron insisted that it was time to ‘turn up the heat’ on Colonel Gaddafi and repeated his insistence that the dictator must go.  President Obama, by contrast, suggested that seeing the job through might mean ‘at a minimum’ ensuring Gaddafi ‘doesn’t have the capacity to send in a bunch of thugs to murder innocent civilians’." – Daily Mail

Analysis of Cameron and Obama positions on Libya, deficits, the Middle East – Wintour and Watt, The Guardian

It's a flip-flop: leaders hand burgers to troops

"The pair stood casually behind the BBQs with their sleeves rolled up for the task, handing 150 guests their grub as they came up for burgers and sausages.  Wives Samantha Cameron and First Lady Michelle Obama also helped to dish out.  The menu was a mix of British and American favourites also including Kentish rosemary lamb chops, hot Jersey Royal potatoes and corn on the cob followed by a dessert of summer berries and vanilla ice-cream." – The Sun

Cameron: Sam was in New York on 9/11

"The Prime Minister told British and American journalists at London’s Lancaster House: "My wife Samantha was in Manhattan on 9/11 and I will never forget the five hours of trying to get hold of her and she will never forget the New Yorkers she met that day or the sense of solidarity that she felt that day and we have felt ever since that day.  "Today, as we come up to its 10th anniversary, we should remember the spirit of that city and the sympathy we feel with those who lost their loved ones." – Daily Telegraph

Screen shot 2011-05-26 at 08.20.16 Michelle Obama tells students: "Work hard and don't be afraid to fail"The Independent

Obama refuses to halt McKinnon extraditionDaily Mail

Obama comment:

> Yesterday on ConservativeHome

Military intervention in Libya to escalate

"Ministers will announce the deployment of Apache attack helicopters to Libya, a move seen as a significant escalation of Britain's role in the conflict despite government denials, according to Whitehall sources.  The decision will be officially announced on Thursday after a meeting of the cabinet and the national security council chaired by David Cameron, the Guardian understands.  HMS Ocean, with four Apaches on board, is expected off the Libyan coast within days." – The Guardian

Cameron to visit Russia

Screen shot 2011-05-26 at 08.30.18 "David Cameron is to go to Moscow in September in what will be the first visit by a British prime minister to Russia since the murder of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London.  The announcement by the Russian embassy in London is seen as a sign that diplomatic relations damaged by the high-profile killing are improving.  Alexander Sternik, charge d'affaires at the embassy, said Cameron would travel to Moscow in "early September"." – The Guardian

Director of Public Prosecutions to see Huhne file within month

"The sensitivity of the case means Keir Starmer, QC, will decide if the Energy Secretary will stand trial over claims he asked his wife to take speeding points for him…The Cabinet minister was grilled for two and a half hours at Belgravia police station in London on Tuesday after he agreed to meet detectives from Essex Police.  It is believed he was questioned under caution as a potential criminal suspect." – Daily Mail

  • Chris Huhne's ex-wife signs confession over points claim – Daily Telegraph
  • Huhne has made friends with Andrew Mitchell – The Guardian

Cable's latest daily breach of the Government line

"The Business Secretary said other economic “hydrogen bombs” were “out there” and accused the Coalition and other governments of failing to “get to grips” with the threat…He said he was most worried by the potential for a repeat of the recent global financial meltdown. “I was very impressed with that Warren Buffett metaphor that asset-backed mortgage lending was the atomic bomb, and that there are hydrogen bombs out there." – Daily Telegraph

"David Ruffley, a senior Tory on the Treasury Select Committee, said: ‘It is very unwise for a serving member of the British cabinet to talk the economy down and possibly spook the markets.  ‘If Vince Cable thinks his party is no good at politics he can start to remedy that by not giving any more unhelpful interviews on the economy.’ Mark Pritchard, secretary of the backbench 1922 committee, called on Mr Cable to quit if he wanted to sound off." – Daily Mail

Cable interview in full – New Statesman

Tyrie probes RBS collapse

Andrew Tyrie "An influential MP last night insisted Britons have a "right to know" the reasons for the collapse of the Royal Bank of Scotland.  In an unprecedented step he is sending in two experts who will determine if the FSA is guilty of a whitewash.  Taxpayers had to bail out RBS after it was taken to the brink by former boss Sir Fred Goodwin, who used an injunction to hide his affair with a colleague.  Mr Tyrie said: "The public has not had an adequate explanation of the reasons for RBS's failure." – The Sun

Clegg to set out his NHS plan tomorrow

"Nick Clegg will seek to maximise the Liberal Democrats' influence over the imminent changes to the government's NHS plans with a major speech on Thursday setting out his party's demands.  The deputy prime minister will outline the substantial revisions he expects to see made to the health and social care bill to ensure that his MPs feel able to support it when it returns to parliament.  He will also make clear why the NHS needs reform." – The Guardian

  • The much-maligned reform of hospitals is working – Julian Le Grand, Financial Times (£)
  • Patients suffer. Standards fall. So why is competition still such a dirty word in the NHS? – Ian Birrell, Daily Mail
  • The NHS "listening exercise" is a charade – Andrew Haldenby, Daily Telegraph
  • NHS bill response analysis – Nicholas Timmins, Financial Times (£)

Rape victim Browne meets Clarke

" 'I thought it was a very positive meeting,' she said, adding that she did not feel she had been 'rubber-stamped' or that Mr Clarke was just going through the motions.  'Without a shadow of a doubt I came away with the feeling he had listened to the trauma of my progress through the criminal justice system and fully accepted that there are some areas that need improving.'..Asked about the sentencing proposals, she said Mr Clarke… listened to her concerns and told her it was 'still a policy that's under review'." – Daily Mail

Louise Bagshawe MP says Government's localism agenda is in tatters after nuclear waste decision BAGSHAWE LOUISE NEW Politics Home (£)

Coalition and Other Political News in Brief

Ashton pledges £1 billion to Africa

"British Eurocrat Baroness Ashton provoked anger last night by pledging an extra £1billion of taxpayers’ cash in overseas aid to north Africa.  The European Union foreign affairs supremo will use the money to promote democracy and civil rights in Egypt, Tunisia and other Middle Eastern countries following the “Arab Spring” uprisings.  But the huge hand-out…intensified concerns about the growing ambitions of her Brussels diplomatic corps." – Daily Express

Clegg develops taste for foreign travel

"Nick Clegg’s critics claim that he is failing to exert much influence in Downing Street, but the Deputy Prime Minister is certainly making his presence felt on the world stage.  Mandrake can disclose that Clegg ran up a recession-busting £77,116 in travel expenses during the first nine months of the Coalition.  His Labour predecessor, Lord Prescott, who was often criticised for his globe-trotting, spent £61,268 during his last 12 months in the job." – Daily Telegraph

"The quiet Mr Gove is bringing a revolution in our schools"

GOVE MICHAEL NW "More than 450 academies have opened since last September. The total number has more than tripled since the Coalition took office: then, there were 203; there are now 658 in operation, while 1,070 schools have applied to join them. In all, a third of all secondaries are either now academies, or in the process of converting.  On current trends, the Coalition now expects that more than half will have converted not by May 2015, but by December next year. At current rates, who is to say it will not in fact be sooner?" – Benedict Brogan, Daily Telegraph

Other comment

Unite is Labour's biggest donor…

"About 87% of donations to Labour came from the unions…Figures compiled by the Conservative party show that in the same period last year, when Gordon Brown was prime minister, just 51% of donations were from unions. Donations to political parties registered between January and March this year reveal that the Tories received £3.6m, Labour £2.8m and the Liberal Democrats just £762,645. The union Unite is still Labour's biggest source of funding, donating £1,068,075 in the first quarter of 2011." – The Guardian

…And guess who's the largest private donor?

"Former spin doctor Alastair Campbell is the Labour party’s biggest private donor, according to figures revealed yesterday.  They showed that just two people had given money to Labour’s central coffers since Ed Miliband took charge, one of them Mr Campbell.  And having given £10,000 to the party last year, the former communications director was the more generous.  Conservative Party chairman Sayeeda Warsi said the figures showed Mr Miliband was driving the party into the arms of union barons." – Daily Mail

Unthrilling Miliband wedding detailsThe Independent