3pm Thomas Cawston on ThinkTankCentral: NHS reform is a necessity but the Coalition chose the wrong reforms
2.30pm Alex Deane on Comment: In praise of the new Trade Union Reform Campaign
- Treasury minister David Gauke MP talks to BBC News after UK debt hits £1 trillion for first time ever
- Andrew Lansley insists NHS reforms are saving money and renews his attack on health unions
- William Hague regrets UN failure to act against Syria
1.30pm Local government: Windsor & Maidenhead cut Council Tax for third year in a row
11.30am Parliament: In his his latest report from the European Parliament, Martin Callanan MEP finds EU high ups in denial after the S&P downgrade of France
Columnist Stephan Shakespeare: Forget the Olympics. Forget Thames Estuary airport. Boris needs to focus on bread and butter stuff to win again.
Mark Field MP on Comment: Vince Cable needs to focus on ending the rewards for executive failure
Amber Rudd MP on Comment: Day one of the Council of Europe's meeting
Local government: Two more Tory councils snub offer of council tax freeze
- Talking to Cathy Newman, Nick Herbert MP gives upbeat assessment of police commissioners policy
- Liam Byrne MP tells Jeremy Paxman that Labour backs benefits cap WITH more safeguards
Conservatives at highest level in ICM poll since March 2010 – Guardian
The Guardian interprets its poll: "A worsening economy and coalition austerity give Labour many opportunities. The reward for principled and realistic long-term thinking remain. But the polls are a reminder that, right now, the coalition is still making arguments that resonate better with many voters, even in the squeezed middle."
- Labour lead back to 1% in YouGov/ Sun tracker survey.
- Angus Reid has Labour 2% ahead.
- Populus for The Times (£) has Labour 1% ahead but with more bad news for Ed Miliband: "The proportion of voters who say they “find it difficult to imagine Ed Miliband running the country as Prime Minister” has risen from 63 per cent in September to 68 per cent now. Amongst Labour supporters, this has jumped from 49 per cent in September to 59 per cent now. Just 37 per cent say they disagree with this statement."
Crude average of the four overnight polls puts the Conservatives on 37.75%, Lab on 37.5%, and the Liberal Democrats on 12%.
The Sun Says: "All we ever hear from the bishops is how unfair the Government is being to welfare claimants. Never a peep about how unfair it is to workers who slog all day to keep layabouts in beer and pizza."
- Opponents of the cap on benefits fail to see that it will raise self-esteem and break the cycle of poverty – Gavin Poole of the Centre for Social Justice in The Guardian
- "Limiting the hit on the taxpayer by capping benefits is one necessary thing. But the more difficult task will be to reverse decades of indifference to the poor dressed up as concern." – John Bird in The Times (£)
- Tories welcome extended debate on benefits cap – James Forsyth at The Spectator
- Labour’s reluctance to stand up for those in greatest need leaves it in no man’s land – Mary Riddell in The Spectator
- Conservatives are slamming the door on the truly desperate – Polly Toynbee in The Guardian
The National Audit Office says there is “a significant risk” that ministers’ assumptions about the numbers who can be found jobs may be “over-optimistic” – FT (£)
Cameron and Osborne stop Cable from putting employees on remuneration committees – Independent
"The business secretary vowed to shake up boards and insisted that companies inject more diversity by hiring non-executives from a broader pool of academics, public servants or lawyers. Serving executives will also be prevented from sitting on other companies’ remuneration committees." – FT (£)
Tory backbenchers describe Vince Cable's pay reforms as "drivel" and "left-wing claptrap" – Independent
- Who cares if Sir Fred Goodwin loses his knighthood? It's his huge taxpayer-funded pension that grates – Mark Field MP for The Telegraph
Commons Health Select Cttee says Lansley reforms were "complicating" efficiencies and were acting as a "disruption and distraction" – BBC
NHS reform should be dropped, before it's too late – Steve Richards in The Independent
"Andrew Lansley is like a conceptual artist who has become so obsessed by carving up the NHS and pickling it in formaldehyde that he has lost the ability to communicate the purpose of modernisation. Iain Duncan Smith is so busy reconstructing the welfare state that it is hard for him to convey his passion for helping the poor." – Rachel Sylvester in The Times (£)
- Cameron needs to get over the veto and get Britain back at the table – Philip Stephens for the FT (£)
Boris Johnson lined up for safe Tory seat of Reigate ahead of 2015 general election – Guardian
Iran threatens the 'peace and security of us all', say Cameron, Merkel and Sarkozy
"We will not accept Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. Iran has so far had no regard for its international obligations and is already exporting and threatening violence around its region." – Telegraph
- "The decision yesterday by the European Union to ban imports of Iranian oil makes even more perilous a confrontation that could yet lead to war" – Independent leader
David Cameron has recruited Sir Mick Jagger to help him sell Britain to world leaders – The Sun
Caught with six kilos of cannabis and you could still avoid jail – Telegraph
"DRUG dealers caught with up to 100 hits of heroin could dodge jail under new guidelines. But explosive plans to let off dealers carrying up to a THOUSAND hits with a community sentence were ditched in a victory for The Sun." – Sun
"Offenders who play only a minor role in gangs may be spared jail if they are found supplying only small quantities of drugs, according to official guidelines issued today. Recreational users caught with small amount of drugs intended for social use with their friends are also likely to avoid being sent to prison. People found with cannabis which they are using for “medicinal” reasons will be treated more leniently under the guidelines issued for the Crown and Magistrates Courts." – Times (£)
By 63% to 30% Scots say "the UK is stronger together", as against just 24% who believe England and Scotland "are proud nations in their own right", which could thrive on their own – Guardian
- An independent Scotland can be a beacon for progressive opinion south of the border and further afield – Alex Salmond in The Guardian
- "Salmond was last night embroiled in fresh allegations of “distorting the truth” in a row with a leading expert who clashed with the SNP over the independence referendum." – Scotsman
The Scotsman meets the new leader of the Scottish Conservatives: She may have Lady Gaga on her iPod and a Wii Fit beneath the telly but there’s something decidedly stale and politics-as-usual about Ruth Davidson
Blair signed 'secret deal' to hand over Gibraltar to Spain and end UK's 300-year control – Daily Mail
And finally… Cameron's daughter has entrepreneurial spirit
"David Cameron has revealed that his daughter Nancy is a budding entrepreneur who sold mince pies to his protection officers for £1 each. At the launch of a new business campaign, the Prime Minister told how his eldest daughter asked to make the pies on New Year's day and then flogged them to his detectives." – Daily Mail
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