8pm Gazette: ConHome's Graeme Archer has won the Orwell Prize for blogging

5pm Lord Risby on Comment: "Israel has a choice. Either to remain in a comfort zone of caution or indecision, backed up by its enormous military and security capabilities, or produce a fresh agenda for engagement with its neighbours."

4.15pm ToryDiary: Nick Clegg sets out his proposals for Lords reform

3.30pm Jill Kirby on Comment: The Coalition should resist the allure of declaratory legislation

2.45pm Neil O'Brien on ThinkTankCentral: How to fix Britain's railways

1.30pm Andrew Taggart and Samuel Emery, representing the Bow Group, warn against an elected House of Lords on Comment

Noon ToryDiary: A lesson of the Huhne affair: Cameron isn't in full charge of the Cabinet

Johnson Boris On Tube 10am Local government: Boris interviewed for Metro – "Q. Who do you admire the most? A. Aristotle, Marilyn Monroe and Scarlett Johansson – in fact, I think she might have overtaken Marilyn Monroe – and my wife, of course. My wife is way ahead of Aristotle. She’s beaten him in the final furlong."

10am Paul Goodman on ToryDiary: "The Conservative right has no leader. It has prominent figures on both the front and back benches – Iain Duncan Smith, David Davis, John Redwood. Whatever its source, an effect of the leak will be to remind Tory MPs and activists of Dr Fox's credentials" – Liam Fox, leader of the right?

ToryDiary: Another Liam Fox letter leaks, this time registering his concerns about the aid budget

Mark Field MP on Comment: Clegg may soon be facing an unpalatable choice of holding the Coalition together or keeping his Party intact

Local Government:


The ConservativeHome gallery of the Coalition's first year

Liam Fox objects to plans to spend more on overseas development

Fox & Cameron "The Defence Secretary challenged the Conservative manifesto commitment and the coalition agreement, rejecting plans to set in law the promise to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income on aid. “I have considered the issue carefully and discussed it with Andrew [Mitchell] and William Hague, but I cannot support the proposal in its current form,” Dr Fox told the Prime Minister. As well as raising his concerns with the International Development Secretary and the Foreign Secretary, Dr Fox has also made his points in meetings at Downing Street and the MoD." – The Times (£) | Daily Mail

Read the letter in full – The Times (£)

SNP anger over Tory warning on defenceThe Herald

Chris Huhne's wife "is ready to swear on oath" that he asked her to take his speeding points…

Huhne Politics Show "Chris Huhne’s career was hanging by a thread last night after his estranged wife agreed to testify that he asked her to take speeding points for him. A close friend said Vicky Pryce would swear in court that she was busy all day in central London when the offence was committed 40 miles away in Essex. As political support ebbed away from the Energy Secretary at Westminster, Essex Police appointed a senior detective to look into the allegations that Mr Huhne broke the law." – Daily Mail

> WATCH: Chris Huhne denies speeding points allegations

…but David Cameron distances himself from Huhne

"David Cameron’s official spokesman initially said that the Prime Minister had ‘full confidence’ in  Mr Huhne. But when Mr Cameron answered questions after a major speech on health, he refused to go so far. Asked if he had confidence, the Prime Minister simply said only: ‘Chris Huhne has denied that.’ The terse responses were an attempt to distance Mr Cameron from the fallout of a potential resignation. Aides made clear that he had no evidence to confirm or deny the veracity of the Energy Minister’s claims." – Daily Mail

Elected House of Lords reform plans to be unveiled

Lords_Chamber "The draft bill will be tucked discreetly at the back of a White Paper containing as many options as there are proposals. The government will not specify whether the whole chamber should be elected or whether some – 20% – should be appointed. It will not specify the chamber's name, which form of PR should be used for the elections, the size of the multi-member constituencies and – most contentious of all – what should happen to the 800-odd existing peers. One option is for all but 200 to be expelled immediately, with the survivors elected from among their own number. Another would see their expulsion phased in more gradually with a third nominated out as a third elected come in. Another option would see them all staying on until 2025, at least those who survived." – BBC

  • Peers warn Clegg they will fight Lords reform – The Independent
  • "Lords reform seems as distant as ever. Even the Lib Dems are backing off, realising there’s little public support" – Rachel Sylvester, in the Times (£)

£600 per family – the sum contributed towards European bailouts

"Chancellor George Osborne will agree Britain will contribute £4.3billion to [Portugal]. Taxpayers have already had to stump up £7billion as part of an EU-wide bid to help rescue Ireland from bankruptcy. A further £1.2billion has been given to Greece, with an extra £2.6billion of help likely. That brings the UK's potential liabilities to an eye-watering £15.1billion – or £600 for each family." – The Sun

NHS may take charge of social care budgets

Cameron-and-NHS "Councils could lose some control of their multibillion-pound social care budgets to the NHS as part of the changes to the Government's health reforms. At present, the NHS is only responsible for funding hospitals and GPs and does not control the budget for long-term care – particularly for the elderly. But yesterday, in a speech to healthcare professionals, David Cameron signalled that this divide could end as part of the Government health reforms." – The Independent

Coalition to reveal long-term carbon target

"The UK's fourth "carbon budget" has been agreed following recent disputes among ministers on the possible impact such changes will have on business. It will set targets for 2027, following recommendations from the government's official advisory body. But there is expected to be an "opt-out" for the UK if European competitors fail to stick to similar aims." – BBC

"New Coalition targets for tackling climate change promise only a succession of own goals" – Andrew Turnbull, in the Daily Telegraph

Washington alarmed by David Cameron's push for early Afghanistan withdrawal

Cameron + Starts&Stripes "Senior American military figures have warned Britain that a hasty exit from Afghanistan could strain relations between the two countries. The Daily Telegraph last week revealed that David Cameron has ordered British commanders to draw up plans to start pulling hundreds of British troops out of Afghanistan within weeks. The Prime Minister is expected to discuss a co-ordinated Afghan withdrawal in London next week. The prospect of an imminent British withdrawal is understood to have alarmed American generals, who are trying to resist political pressure for a major reduction in US troop numbers." – Daily Telegraph

MPs call for forced marriage to be made a criminal offence

SelectCommittes "Forced marriage should be made a criminal offence to send a stronger message that it will not be tolerated, says a report by a cross-party group of MPs today, which criticises the lack of progress by successive governments on the issue. Organisations such as the Southall Black Sisters and the Honour Network Helpline, which provide vital support to those at risk of forced marriage, are under threat of closure because of funding cuts, warns the report." – Guardian

Business to have say in local planning

"London’s South Bank and Trafford Park in Manchester are among eight areas that will act as pilots for new business-led “neighbourhood plans”, the government will announce this week. The plan reflects a last-minute alteration to the localism bill after business groups complained that companies were being sidelined from the process." – Financial Times (£)

UK border agency has "no grip" on people with expired visas

Immigration "The UK Border Agency has not done enough to ensure that an estimated 181,000 migrant workers and students whose visas have expired since December 2008 have actually left the country, MPs say. The report by the Commons public accounts committee says UKBA has so little grip on the problem that it cannot even verify the 181,000 estimate, and does not try to enforce the duty of employers to ensure that the people they recruit from abroad leave the country when their visa expires." – Guardian

Andrew RT Davies and Nick Ramsay will run for the leadership of the Welsh Conservatives

WELSH-LOGO "The contest to lead the opposition in the Welsh assembly is a two-horse race, it has been confirmed. Conservative AMs Nick Ramsay and Andrew RT Davies are in the running to lead their party's 14-strong group in Cardiff Bay. The vacancy was created when former group leader Nick Bourne lost his seat at this month's assembly elections." – BBC

Drug addicts receive benefits amounting to more than £1billion pear year

Grayling-Chris-On-Politics- "About 270,000 serial users of heroin and crack cocaine are estimated to be jobless and living on state handouts, according to the Whitehall statistics. A further £162million a year is being handed to convicted criminals who go straight on to jobless benefits after they are released from prison. (…) Employment Minister Chris Grayling will today pledge to step up the Coalition’s blitz on benefits dependency by expanding the involvement of charities and private-sector organisations. In a speech to the think-tank Politea, he will announce voluntary groups already working with the Government to cut the benefits bill will be allowed to take on challenging cases including drug abusers and former inmates." – Daily Express

Coalition and UK politics in brief:

  • Queen begins historic Ireland visit – Guardian
  • Downing St to drop fake names on letters, says Cameron – BBC
  • David Cameron urged to back UK copyright law shake-up – Daily Telegraph
  • Northern Ireland's coalition government appoints ministers – Guardian
  • Brown upbeat on chance of taking top IMF post – Financial Times (£)
  • Sir Elton John in charity talks at No10 – Belfast Telegraph
  • Police warned not to misuse anti-terror laws to round up innocent people – The Independent
  • Labour MP urges limit on union role in Scottish party leadership race – The Times (£)
  • Tory peer "claimed for hotel – but was on plane to India" – The Scotsman

The Big Society isn't electorally compelling. The Conservatives need a superior moral story.

"Buried in last year’s speech to the autumn Tory conference Mr Cameron had the basis of this superior narrative. He said that family, school and work were the three routes out of poverty and to the good life. That formulation must now be brought alive. I would call it the British Deal. We, the people, commit ourselves to look after our families, acquire skills and earn a wage. In return Conservative governments will protect family life, invest in world-class education and remove barriers to job creation. These three pillars of society aren’t just necessary for Britain’s survival in a competitive world economy; they also give Conservatism a moral story that can rival Labour’s heavy emphasis on welfare and government spending." – Tim Montgomerie in the Times (£)

"The Lib Dems' troubles may also blight the Conservatives" – Steve Richards in the Independent

"Miserable times for Europe’s centre-left" 

"What started out as a failure of liberal market capitalism has turned into a crisis of public debt and government deficits. The popular fury justly directed at bankers has not been accompanied by a restoration of faith in government. Voters rage at the plutocrats of the financial services industry, but they are also unconvinced that politicians, above all politicians of the left, will spend their money wisely. (…) What is striking is that the centre-left has failed dismally to capitalise on the discontent. With one or two exceptions, those progressives who are still in government are also in difficulties – think of Greece, Spain and Portugal." – Philip Stephens in the Financial Times (£)

And finally… Education Minister John Hayes "copied speech from Wikipedia"

HayesInParliament "Responsibility for responding for the government fell to Hayes, who is minister of state for further education, skills and lifelong learning. But his potted history of bank holidays appeared to be lifted almost word for word from the internet encyclopaedia – not exactly a glowing example for students: ‘Before 1834, the Bank observed about 33 saints’ days and religious festivals as holidays but in 1834 the number was reduced to just four: 1 May, 1 November or All Saints day, Good Friday and Christmas day.’ The Wikipedia entry on bank holidays says: ‘Prior to 1834, the Bank of England observed about thirty-three saints’ days and religious festivals as holidays, but in 1834, this was reduced to just four: 1 May (May Day), 1 November (All Saints Day), Good Friday, and Christmas Day.’" – ePolitix