Ed Balls upset 6.45pm WATCH: Balls – we cannot reverse spending cuts

3pm WATCH: Newt Gingrich attack ad assails Mitt Romney for speaking French

11am LeftWatch: Balls says his sums add up. Voters suspect they don't. He's not well placed to change their minds.

ToryDiary: Cameron's challenge to Osborne: build a new bureaucracy to means-test child benefit

Andrea Leadsom MP on Comment: You should be able to switch your bank account at the touch of a button

Local Government:

WATCH: Cameron – Syria's Assad is "appalling"

Friday the 13th brings French downgrade as Standard & Poor's reignites Eurozone crisis.

Screen shot 2012-01-14 at 08.06.13"The eurozone debt crisis returned with a vengeance on Friday as Standard & Poor’s, the credit rating agency, downgraded France and Austria – two of the currency zone’s six triple A rated countries – as well as seven nations not in that top tier, among them Italy and Spain.  S&P, under political fire since it announced a review or eurozone debt in December, gave 14 of 16 countries – including France, Italy and Spain – a negative outlook, which it said meant a one-in-three chance for each country of a further downgrade this year or next." – Financial Times (£)

> Yesterday WATCH – The Telegraph's Jeremy Warner explains why the S & P downgrade is so dangerous to the French economy

Labour's woes 1: Balls to Shadow Cabinet – assume that Tory spending cuts will stay

"Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, has moved to challenge accusations that Labour is not credible on the economy by telling the public sector unions that he endorses George Osborne's public sector pay freeze until the end of the parliament, and that he accepts every spending cut being imposed by the Conservatives. His remarks on pay are likely to infuriate unions, including some of the party's biggest financial backers." – The Guardian

Balls interview in full 

Labour's woes 2: Rachel Reeves says Labour isn't ready to govern

"Her comments, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, come amid questions about Labour’s performance and Mr Miliband’s leadership. Eric Joyce, a Labour MP, yesterday likened Mr Miliband to Steve Coogan, the comedian, saying some of his leader’s statements were “laughable”. Miss Reeves praises Mr Miliband’s leadership but admits that the party still has “a lot of work to do” to regain public confidence." – Daily Telegraph

Reeves interview in full

Labour's woes 3: Kinnock blasts Labour "cowards" for attacks on Miliband

"In an interview with BBC Radio 4's The Week in Westminster, Lord Kinnock gave a staunch defence of his party leader, and launched a stinging attack on "Mr Anonymous" – his off-the-record Labour critics. "Ed is highly intelligent. His intellectual strength is one of his greatest accomplishments. He is courageous," Lord Kinnock said." – BBC

Miliband has become a national laughing stock – Patrick O'Flynn, Daily Express

> Yesterday: Columnist Bruce Anderson – Miliband is mere comic relief. Labour should promote Dan Jarvis.

I never did enough to remove teachers who weren’t up to the job, says Blair

BLAIR head looking left"In an interview with The Times, he said that the quality of teaching was a concern throughout his premiership and he ought to have done more to raise standards in schools. He hit back at critics who claim that he failed to fulfil his promise to make education his priority, saying that academies would form the basis of school reform for a generation, although he wished that he had gone “further and faster”." – The Times (£)

"I know I will ruffle feathers, and I’m jolly well prepared to" – Margaret Hodge interview, The Times (£)

Salmond makes nationalist pitch in Ireland

"On a visit to Dublin, he drew a parallel between the Irish situation prior to its independence in 1921 and the “bullying” he claimed his government was experiencing at the hands of Westminster politicians. In Ireland, politicians from both sides of the religious divide criticised his remarks, which were made before he met Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at the yesterday’s British-Irish Council summit. The political storm crossed the Irish Sea, where the First Minister’s opponents described his remarks as “incredible”." – Scotsman

Salmond accuses Cameron of bullying Scotland over referendum – Daily Telegraph

The national flag with Scotland removed

Screen shot 2012-01-14 at 06.55.03
"Nearly 400 years of history may be lost if the blue and white St Andrew's Saltire is removed. The UK would be left with an odd-looking white flag with two red crosses — the St George's Cross of England and Ireland's Cross of St Patrick. The revelation came as Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and Deputy PM Nick Clegg clashed over Scots' independence yesterday.  Mr Salmond accused London of trying to "intimidate" Scotland as he arrived in Dublin for a British-Irish Council meeting." – The Sun

  • Wales and Ulster make unity plea – The Guardian 
  • Former Labour First Minister McLeish breaks ranks with Labour over referendum – Herald Scotland
  • What if Scotland did go it alone? – Andrew Roberts, Daily Mail

Moore, Parris, Heffer: all three commentators raise England's part in Scotland's future.

Screen shot 2012-01-14 at 08.50.44"It could be that, like a marriage which was once successful but has now become acrimonious, our component nations should part. But we have done a great deal together. What is certain is that the break would be traumatic. Nothing could be sadder than the sense, as in some divorces, once it is too late, that this need never have happened. That is surely a real risk if Mr Salmond is the only one allowed to set the tone of the conversation. The important things get forgotten in the pettiness of the current quarrel." – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

  • We’re all in the Union. We must all have a vote – Matthew Parris, The Times (£)
  • Hang on, Mr Salmond. The English must have a say on Scotland's future too – Simon Heffer, Daily Mail
  • Osborne – The SNP's secret weapon – Andrew Grice, The Independent

Chancellor: child benefit cuts will happen – and be fair

"But the Chancellor gave the clearest hint yet that ministers would be looking at the way that the plans are implemented when the changes come into effect next year. His intervention came after David Cameron sparked speculation of a major rethink when he acknowledged the potential “unfairness” on some families just above the 40-per cent tax threshold who stood to lose thousands of pounds." – The Times (£)

> Yesterday: Columnist Andrew Lilico – For a family on £80,000, Child Benefit is a tax rebate

Cameron visits Saudi king on first trip to country

"The Prime Minister is meeting King Abdullah at his Riyadh palace for discussions that Downing Street hopes will 'broaden and deepen' the UK-Saudi relationship. Saudi Arabia is Britain's biggest trading partner in the Middle East with bilateral trade worth £15billion a year and Saudi investment in the UK worth more than £62billion." – Daily Mail

Prime Minister's vow over Iran oil threat – Daily Express

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – Cameron's visit to Saudi Arabia undermines William Hague's call for Islamic democracy in the Middle East

Cable faces police quiz over Huhne speed case

HuhneSnarl"The Business Secretary is understood to have been named as a confidant of Vicky Pryce, the Energy Secretary’s ex-wife, in explosive emails she forwarded to a newspaper. Prosecutors are considering whether any charges should be brought against Mr Huhne, 57, over claims he dodged a driving ban by making her take penalty points when he was caught speeding on the M11 in 2003." – Daily Mail

  • Simon Hughes warns of Lib Dem revolt over benefit cap that "will break up families"The Times (£)
  • How insatiable greed proved the undoing of the playboy who bankrolled Nick Clegg's party – Daily Mail

Lobbyists will be forced to sign up to a register and sign code of conductDaily Mail

Big Society committee lapses into inertiaFinancial Times (£)

Other Political News and Comment in Brief

  • Hundreds of historic houses will be flattened or ruined by new high speed train link – Daily Mail
  • Army will be the smallest since the Victorian era – The Times (£)
  • Npower ramps up energy price war – Daily Express
  • Film industry awaits Cameron direction – Financial Times (£)
  • All aboard the Boris bus – but someone should man the doors against Ken Livingstone – Graeme Archer, Daily Telegraph

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