1.30pm WATCH: Taxpayers should not be charged £15 for Big Ben tour, says Robert Halfon MP
11.30am ConHomeUSA: Signs of weakness in the Obama campaign?
11am Local government: All Londoners will have lower Council Tax bills this year
Columnist Andrew Lilico: How the Republican nomination race strikes me
David Burrowes MP on Comment: My hopes and fears for the gay marriage consultation
Eric Ollerenshaw MP on Comment: Tackling the North-South divide
On Local government the new leader of Westminster Council, Philippa Roe, sets out Eight budget measures needed to boost local growth
US visit ends with Barack Obama paying quiet tribute to David Cameron's strength as a parent following the death of his son Ivan
Raising his glass before hundreds of celebrities, generals, politicians and business leaders gathered at the White House, the President told the Prime Minister: "All of us have seen how you as a parent along with Samantha have shown a measure of strength that few of us will ever know. Tonight I thank you for bringing that same strength and solidarity to our partnership."" – Telegraph
"Among the guests invited for the 280-strong dinner were foreign secretary William Hague, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, actor George Clooney, Olympian Denise Lewis, Warren Buffett and Vogue editor Anna Wintour. There were a total of 45 British guests who attended the event, including entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, Apple designer Sir Jonathan Ive, golfer Rory McIlroy, Homeland star Damian Lewis, actors Carey Mulligan and Idris Elba." – IBTimes
It's VERY tactile – The Daily Mail watches the Obama/Cameron bromance in full flow
Meanwhile Sam and Michelle dazzle with their state dinner outfits – Entertainment&Stars
And what about the substance?
- Obama pledges to review extradition treaty – Times (£)
- Obama and Cameron pledge not to delay Afghanistan withdrawal – Guardian
- John Redwood hopes the two leaders speed up the exit from Afghanistan and "pause to reflect on how it might be better to avoid a further military intervention in the region for a bit".
- Peter Oborne accuses David Cameron of becoming an "accomplice" to America's "barbarism" – Telegraph
- In the Guardian Martin Kettle writes about "a long withdrawing roar of disengagement" as Obama and Cameron turn away from Bush/Blair era style interventions in Syria or Iran
- Coalition will be harder now for a PM who yearns to be a President – Steve Richards for The Independent
The Fitch credit ratings agency has joined Moody's and put the UK's top AAA rating on "negative outlook" – BBC
- "Fitch moved the country's rating from stable after deciding its exposure to a fresh eurozone crisis made it more likely than not that it would be stripped of its cherished top rating by 2014" – Independent
- Rating blow must act as wake-up call – Allister Heath
British Airways Chief to attack Coalition's lack of growth strategy while head of CBI attacks record on red tape
"Willie Walsh, the British Airways chief executive, will launch an excoriating attack on the government on Thursday for the absence of a coherent growth plan, accusing ministers of "warm words and cold action". At the British Chambers of Commerce conference in London, he will say this government and the last Labour administration "produce a growth strategy every week, but none of them up add up to anything"." – Guardian
So far the Coalition is a better law-maker than a deregulator – John Cridland in The Times (£)
Cut Corporation Tax Now: The economic gains of a 20% rate in the U.K. would be enormous – Phgilip Booth for the Wall Street Journal
> On ToryDiary yesterday Tim Montgomerie set out his "Great Britain Growth Plan"
Britain needs to suspend foreign access to its labour market to give unemployed Britons who want to work a fair chance of getting a job – Express leader
David Cameron warned to 'urgently reconsider' plans to cut child benefits
"Reg Bailey, of the Mothers’ Union, a family support charity, suggested the cut means Mr Cameron is guilty of breaking promises to protect child benefit and help families. Mr Bailey, who advises Mr Cameron on childhood issues, has signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, calling on him to abandon his plan to take child benefit from better-off households." – Telegraph
Six former Armed Forces chiefs are today calling on George Osborne to reverse his "unjust" pay cut for Britain's war-weary troops in next week's Budget – The Sun
MPs given a free vote on gay marriage to stop Tory rebellion – Daily Mail
Theresa May writing in The Times (£): "I don’t believe that the State should stop people getting married unless there are very good reasons — and being gay isn’t one of them. If we believe that commitment, fidelity and marriage are good things then we should not restrict them, we should let them flourish."
Ministers asked to consider cutting the number of Whitehall civil servants by two-thirds – Daily Mail
Edinburgh-born IDS attacks ‘SNP pick-and-mix plan for independence’ – Scotsman
Eric Ollerenshaw challenges Tory Party to address northern weaknesses
"Voters in the North of England are shunning the Conservative Party – threatening its victory chances at the next election – because they see the Tory leadership as "Southern, posh, white men" who are not "one of us", an influential MP has warned… [Eric Ollerenshaw MP] called for more Northerners to be promoted to high-profile positions, including the Cabinet, and for the party to moderate its rhetoric about trade unions and public sector workers." – Independent
Read more about Eric's paper.
Commons authorities defend £15 charge for Big Ben tours on day when Robert Halfon holds debate to establish that people should not be charged "to see our ancient democracy" – BBC
Whoever takes over as the Deputy Prime Minister’s top mandarin needs to help Nick Clegg define his role – Sue Cameron in The Telegraph
- The greatest risk to the Coalition is that the Lib Dems are bearing an unequal share of the risks – Guardian leader
Labour HQ staff are exasperated at what they regard as the lack of leadership, strategy and direction coming from the top of their party – Guardian
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