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7.45pm ToryDiary: Will Syria's Assad "step aside" now the world's leaders have told him to?

6.30pm WATCH: David Cameron congratulates A-Level students on results day

4pm Alex Deane on Comment: Tower Bridge, redux

3.30pm Sam Bowman on ThinkTankCentral: A Tobin tax would be an economic disaster

3pm ToryDiary: Theresa May, the OSCT, extremism – and attacks on British troops

2.30pm Gazette: Conservative Friends of Israel statement on terrorist attacks in southern Israel

2pm Cllr Geoffrey Theobald on Local Government: Green-run Brighton & Hove Council plan Council Tax hike and traveller camps on nature reserves

1.15pm WATCH: Andrew Mitchell on a 'risky' visit to Somalia pledges £29 million in aid

12.30pm ToryDiary: Nick Gibb welcomes record A-Level high

Noon ConHomeUSA:

Screen shot 2011-08-18 at 10.26.06

Today's American political news headlined by a collapse in approval of Obama's economic performance and ConHomeUSA readers back presidential bid by Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan urged to run for President by ConservativeHome readers, only 26% approve of Obama's handling of the economy and Republicans want more Americans to pay some taxes

10am LeftWatch: Livingstone says that Boris is like Hitler. Vote for him and go to hell – where "your skin will be flayed for all eternity"

ToryDiary: If you think we have trouble now, just wait until last week's looters are having their own kids

Matthew Sinclair on Comment: The political price the Conservatives are paying for embracing the green rip-off

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Eric Pickles MP on Local Government: How we're helping to rebuild communities hit by the riots

Blair Gibbs on ThinkTankCentral: The role of community policing in fighting crime

WATCH: ‪200,000 applicants to miss out on university‬

On the day A-level results are released, Willetts says that dance, photography and media studies are “not core academic subjects”, and should carry fewer Ucas points

Screen shot 2011-08-18 at 05.27.58 "He said a tariff system operated by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service sent out a “very bad message to young people” because it currently ranked all A-levels as the same. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, he suggested that the “classic A-levels” traditionally valued by top universities should be given higher ratings by Ucas and in school-by-school league tables published by the Government every year." – Daily Telegraph 

Pressure on students intensifies with over one in three young people unemployed

As unemployment hits almost 8 per cent, rate for under-25s is 36.7 per cent
"The pressure on students receiving their A-level results on Thursday intensified as unemployment data released on Wednesday show 950,000 under-25s are looking for work – a rise of 15,000 in three months. The unemployment rate for 16 to 18-year-olds seeking work is 36.7 per cent – compared with a rate of 7.9 per cent for the population as a whole. Among 18 to 24-year-olds it is 18 per cent" – Financial Times (£)

Financial Times: The Government's higher education policy is beginning to work

"Despite concerns that all universities would charge the maximum fee, the average course in 2012/13 will cost £7,793. This suggests that parts of the sector are indeed competing on price. Moreover, new providers, such as Kaplan and Pearson, which owns the Financial Times, are entering the market. Encouragingly, providers are innovating, offering accelerated two-year degrees, for example. New channels for learning are likely to be the best way to get disadvantaged people into higher education." – Financial Times Editorial (£)

IDS warns over migrant jobs boom…

"The number of British people of working age with jobs has plummeted by nearly 100,000 since David  Cameron took office – but nearly 300,000 foreigners have found work. Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith yesterday warned that the Government is in ‘the last chance saloon’ if it wants to get British people off benefits and into the workplace." – Daily Mail

  • All nine members of the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee agreed interest rate freeze – The Sun
  • Retail sales up in July – Press Association
  • Osborne must heed the misery index – Allister Heath, City A.M
  • Scots families are becoming happier and more content – Scotsman

…And tells the Spectator that the riots will transform Cameron as 9/11 transformed Blair

Screen shot 2011-08-18 at 07.52.06 "The abstract pictures he inherited from his predecessor, Yvette Cooper, have been replaced with scenes of the Duke of Malborough’s victories. When a group of officials came to visit him just after he changed the decor, they told him it felt like the Ministry of Defence. "That’s right," he replied. "I want you to know that from now on, this is the war room."

> Yesterday on ConservativeHome

Cameron Coulson apology (sort of)…

"Following Tuesday’s explosive new claims about phone hacking, the Prime Minister struck a contrite tone by saying ‘sorry’, admitting he would now have ‘taken different decisions’. Asked if it was time for him to apologise, the Prime Minister responded: ‘Well, I did actually say sorry in the House of Commons, very clearly. I said I was sorry for the trouble this had caused because of what had happened.’ " – Daily Mail

  • Coulson Commons evidence misleading on law firm investigation – Daily Telegraph
  • Hacking inquiry clears police chief as Met candidates named – The Times (£)

Yesterday:

…And the Prime Minister fights back against lawyers and Liberal Democrats over tough riot sentences

CAMERON SPEAKING "The Prime Minister dismissed claims from civil liberties campaigners and lawyers that swift moves to lock up offenders had been excessive. But, adding to Coalition discomfort, Lib Dems, including former leader Sir Menzies Campbell, questioned whether politicians should be “cheering” such punishments. Ministry of Justice figures showed that two out of three people charged after the riots were remanded in custody, while some who pleaded guilty had already been sentenced to up to four years in jail." – Daily Express

Riot comment:

  • Draconian sentences, weak-kneed liberals and why thugs need to fear the law – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • On social justice, the coalition is reasonableness personified – Tim Montgomerie, The Guardian
  • Theresa May is an obstacle to reform – Stephen Pollard, Daily Telegraph
  • Moral panic: here we go again – Bagehot, The Economist
  • "What these smug, complacent do-gooders forget is that it is working people on run-down estates who bear the brunt of yob crime every day, not smoked salmon socialists safe in their trendy million quid terraces" – Sun Editorial

> Yesterday on ConservativeHome

Merkel and Sarkozy want Britain to pay to save the Euro

Screen shot 2011-08-18 at 08.22.55
"German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said they wanted to slap a financial transactions tax on all 27 countries in the European Union – in order to prop up the 17 nations in the single currency. The ‘Tobin tax’ would disproportionately hit the City of London, which accounts for about 70 per cent of the financial services industry in Europe." – Daily Mail

  • Treasury will fight European tax on City deals – The Times (£)
  • Cameron must throw out Tobin tax plan – Daily Mail

Mitchell warns that 400,000 children could starve in Somalia

“If we don’t act now there are 400,000 children at risk of starving to death in Somalia,” Andrew Mitchell told The Times. “People are going to die. The question is how many?” Almost 30,000 children are already believed to have died and, with cholera and measles spreading through a malnourished population, many more are expected to succumb. “We are on the cusp of a disaster that we have the power to prevent,” Mr Mitchell added." – The Times (£)

Huhne speeding claim still stuck in slow lane

"Essex police handed an evidence file to the Crown Prosecution Service last month after Vicky Pryce claimed her former husband asked her to accept penalty points on his behalf. But the CPS said the dossier did not contain enough information for them to reach a decision on whether to prosecute the Lib Dem MP or not. A spokesman said: “We have asked Essex Police to carry out further inquiries. Our review will continue when those inquiries have been completed.” – Daily Express

Helmand drive criticised for lack of planning Financial Times (£)

A year on from the bonfire of the quangos, three in four surviveDaily Mail

Big Brother's Sally Bercow to hire Max Clifford…and she wants to meet Simon Cowell Daily Mail

Other Political News and Comment in Brief

  • Treasury Select Committee to probe role of new city watchdog – The Independent
  • "Let best NHS trusts form hospital chains" – The Times (£)
  • Fighting In Key City As Gaddafi Clings On – Sky News
  • Gorbachov says Russia needs free elections to stop it sinking back into communism – Daily Mail
  • Political climate turns against "big six" utilities – Financial Times (£)
  • Syrian security forces adopt shoot-on-sight policy – Daily Telegraph
  • 100 years on, the Lords is doing fine as it is – Vernon Bogdanor, The Times (£)

And finally…Owen Paterson follows Genghis Khan in completing a thousand kilometre horse ride across Mongolia

"Mr Paterson, 54, and wife Rose endured temperatures fluctuating from freezing to 35C, unforgiving terrain and hostile wildlife as they rode 14 hours each day on the charity trek across the Mongolian wilderness. "Good businessman that he is, the Chancellor promised me a cheque, but only on completion," Mr Paterson revealed as he recovered from his adventure in Ulaanbaatar." – Belfast Telegraph

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