5.45pm Local government: D-Day for Brighton & Hove Council Tax

5pm David Cameron's Somalia conference and William Hague's Syrian intervention comments lead our teatime newslinks

3.30pm Harriett Baldwin MP on Comment: We're getting closer to the day when every Ethiopian child has clean water and a nutritious meal

2pm Jeremy Brier on Comment: Economic measures will not stop the Syrian regime. Only a military response will work.

Screen Shot 2012-02-23 at 11.47.5911.45am WATCH: Cameron gives upbeat assessment of Somalia's prospects at London conference

11.45am ConHomeUSA: Race tilts back towards Romney after Santorum gets poor reviews for debate performance

10.45am Local government: In Peterborough two more Tory councillors quit as Council Tax rise approved

10am On ToryDiary Paul Goodman warns of a "backlash from natural Conservative voters" if spending isn't cut further – and in consequence there's too much budget tax-rise pain to bear

ToryDiary: What are your views on House of Lords reform?

In the eighth part of our Building A Conservative Majority series Tim Montgomerie calls for George Osborne to announce Shock-and-awe" tax cuts in next month's Budget, financed by a triple source of January's surplus, faster spending cuts… and wealth taxes

Columnist Andrew Lilico: The British government should not participate in legal torture

FLIGHT Howard 2Lord Flight on Comment: Deficit financing might get a lot harder so Osborne should cut faster now

Local government: Claims that Boris Johnson has cut the number of police officers are untrue. They're up by 1,000…

Also on Local government, Cllr Susan Hall, the Leader of the Conservative opposition on Harrow Council, describes her council's failure to produce an intelligible pay policy

Conservatives may agree to new taxes on expensive properties if Lib Dems agree to simpler employment lawsDaily Mail

The Times (£), however, reports that "Lib Dem ministers believe that they have killed off an attempt to allow companies to dismiss employees without explanation."

  • "Union leaders condemned Liam Fox, former Conservative defence secretary, and his allies as “zombie adherents to unrepentant Thatcherism’’ after the MP warned in Wednesday’s Financial Times that it was “too difficult to hire and fire” workers." – FT (£)

Tim Montgomerie: Osborne should announce "shock-and-awe" tax cuts in Budget

Montgomerie Tim on This Week"The Chancellor must deliver significant tax cuts both for industry and families facing an equally significant squeeze on living standards. The Lib Dems are urging him to give tax relief to the lower paid by increasing taxes on the wealthy. The Tory Right, led by Liam Fox, is calling for tax cuts to be financed by deeper and faster cuts in public spending. My advice to the Chancellor is to embrace both, so that he can afford a shock- and-awe reduction in the tax burden — without deviating from his central mission of cutting the deficit." – Tim Montgomerie in The Times (£)

"Osborne is committed to the Clegg/Laws tax policy. It is in the Coalition agreement. More cautiously, he has advanced some of the same case as Fox. I would not be surprised if, in the Budget, both sides get quite a lot of what they want." – Steve Richards in The Independent

"If there are better ways of allocating taxes and spending to get more growth for the same amount of deficit reduction, both the politics and practicalities behove [Osborne] to try" – FT leader (£)

  • Tory Right wants tax cuts – Express
  • In The Telegraph, Iain Martin says Tory leadership only responds to pressure: "The Treasury has begun making noises about so-called supply-side reforms that might make hiring new workers easier for firms. But ministers and MPs on the Tory Right believe that unless Mr Osborne is cajoled, he will opt for footling measures that would have little impact. During the rebellions on Europe, the Right discovered that to have a real impact on the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, it must apply public pressure. Force, several ministers have said to me, is the only language that the leadership understands. Liam Fox has this week intensified that pressure – expect to see it grow further as the Tories increasingly fall out of love with life in a coalition."

David Cameron condemns rhetoric of anti-business snobbery

Cameron Libya"David Cameron will signal his determination to produce a pro-growth budget by saying he is sick of the dangerous anti-business snobbery creeping into national debate, promising his focus is economic expansion and reducing joblessness among young people. In a speech to the Business in the Community charity, attended by the Prince of Wales, Cameron will mount a fierce defence of business." – Guardian

  • Cameron's speech will highlight some of the work that big business does to help society – Reuters
  • Property developers gave £500,000 to Tories over past six months – Telegraph

RBS will announce a pay freeze for up to 27,000 staff this morning, including all of its investment bankers and thousands of other executives, in a move designed to signal to the public and the government that it is embracing austerityCityAM

David Cameron letting Government get too close to big business, says David DavisTelegraph | Scotsman

Davis 470

"The former shadow Home Secretary David Davis has accused David Cameron of "shamelessly courting" the media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Mr Davis, the Conservative MP for Haltemprice and Howden, urged the Leveson Inquiry into press standards to look "as much at the behaviour of political leaders as at the behaviour of newspaper editors"." – Independent

Andrew Lansley wins battle to keep NHS risk assessment under wrapsGuardian

  • George Osborne fears NHS will need big bailout – Independent
  • "Andrew Lansley, has asked officials to look into claims that some doctors are granting women illegal abortions based solely on the sex of their unborn baby" – Guardian
  • The Telegraph is the source of the abortions story: "Doctors at British clinics have been secretly filmed agreeing to terminate foetuses purely because they are either male or female. Clinicians admitted they were prepared to falsify paperwork to arrange the abortions even though it is illegal to conduct such “sex-selection” procedures."
  • One way to save is to give everyone a statement of their NHS costs – Dr Phillip Lee MP in The Times (£)
  • NHS nurses and care workers should sign up to a new code of conduct which guarantees that elderly patients are treated with dignity and respec – Telegraph

David Cameron wants independence referendum in September 2013Telegraph

"Pro-UK parties have always preferred 2013 because it is a year without another election and follows on from the 2012 Olympics. The SNP preferred a later referendum to follow on from the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn in 2014." – Scotsman

HUNT JEREMY NWJeremy Hunt: Gay football stars should come out and set an example to rest of societyDaily Mail

  • "Promising gay footballers don't pursue a career in the game due to the homophobia that surrounds it, the Culture Secretary said yesterday" – Sun

> Yesterday's video: Homophobia can be tackled through football as "it reaches the parts that politicians can't, says Hunt

Cameron backs cycle campaign as calls grow for greater fundingTimes (£)

The PM needs to knock heads together in Downing Street and to find a way of giving greater coherence to his administration – Sue Cameron in The Telegraph describes dysfunctionality in 10 Downing Street

David Cameron is set to ignite fresh anger at Britain’s soaring overseas handouts bill today by pledging millions of pounds to war-torn Somalia

  • "He will unveil an extra £33million in aid to the country, infamous as a breeding ground for terrorism. The gift means that UK payouts to Somalia will rise to nearly £220million in the next three years" – Express
  • Somalia's future to be discussed at London conference – BBC

The BBC as well as Rupert Murdoch cannot have too much media power – Lord Fowler in The Guardian

Ken Livingstone rejects Thames estuary airportFT (£)

Jack Straw calls for European Parliament to be scrapped and replaced with an assembly made up of MPs from existing national parliamentsExpress

Screen Shot 2012-02-23 at 07.12.39A man, understood to be Falkirk's Labour MP Eric Joyce, has been arrested on suspicion of assault after a disturbance at ParliamentBBC

"A Labour MP was arrested late last night for assault after allegedly headbutting a Tory rival in a House of Commons bar. Witnesses allege Eric Joyce, 51, launched an unprovoked attack on Stuart Andrew, 40. It is claimed Joyce, MP for Falkirk, had to be held back by several Labour colleagues. A source said: "Stuart was given a Glasgow kiss."" – The Sun

And finally… Channel Five wants Sally Bercow back on the small screen soonTelegraph


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