3.15pm MPsETC: There's one place in Europe which is a stranger to austerity. Guess where?

1.30pm WATCH: Louise Mensch MP says local newspapers should be subsidied by a 1% tax on BSkyB and Virgin

1.15pm ToryDiary: Cameron puts in strong performance at PMQs while Jeremy Hunt enjoys full support from Tory MPs

11.45am ConHomeUSA: Romney kicks off general election campaign

Osborne conservatives.com11am Columnist Andrew Lilico: Some quick reactions on the return to recession

10am ToryDiary on -0.2% growth data: Attention Mr Osborne! Britain's economic recovery begins when the €urozone breaks up

ToryDiary: New video reminds us of Ken Livingstone's Far Left agenda

Columnist Jill Kirby: Can Cameron get his government back on track?

Christopher Pincher MP on Comment: We need an energy bill – and new nuclear power stations – as a matter of urgency

Also on Comment: Polling project alert from Lord Ashcroft — Ethnic Minority Voters And The Conservative Party

Euro meltdown

Martin Callanan MEP on MPsETC: Europe has put an expensive sticking plaster on the €urozone but its fundamental weaknesses remain

Local government: 3,097 council staff earning over £100,000

WATCH: Jeremy Hunt insists Lord Leveson should hear his side of evidence before we all rush to judgment

WATCH: Ed Miliband says he wants to be known as a politician who doesn't make promises that he can't keep

Cameron wants to give Jeremy Hunt the chance to answer the charges against him when he appears before the Leveson inquiry shortlyIndependent


"Jeremy Hunt was supposedly the impartial government arbitrator tasked with deciding whether to allow News Corp to take control of BSkyB. But dozens of devastating emails between Mr Hunt’s office and James Murdoch’s chief lobbyist Frederic Michel have laid bare an astonishing secret relationship between the media empire and the minister." – Daily Mail

Despite repeated public assurances of neutrality, an explosive cache of emails released to the Leveson Inquiry suggested Mr Hunt always backed the plan – The Sun

Jeremy Hunt hits back

"Mr Hunt’s allies said that he had been misrepresented in the e-mails from Mr Michel, who admitted in a statement to the inquiry that references to conversations with “JH” were shorthand for the Culture Secretary’s team. Most of the contact was with Mr Hunt’s advisers Adam Smith and John Zeff, he said. “It’s pretty clear that the e-mails were exaggerations and embellishments and not an accurate portrayal of what happened,” a friend of the Culture Secretary said." – Times (£)

> See Hunt's statement within yesterday's Rolling blog (7.30pm update)

Harriet Harman MP has called for the resignation of her government counterpart, Jeremy HuntITV

Jeremy Hunt's cosy relations with News Corp executives shocked even cynical Leveson watchers – Tom Watson MP for The Guardian

James Murdoch DID discuss BSkyB takeover with David Cameron… over a Christmas dinner at Rebekah Brooks's houseDaily Mail

Comment on Jeremy Hunt

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  • Times leader (£): "At best, his office was providing a running commentary on a deal on which Mr Hunt was supposed to be adjudicating. At worst, he was betraying the confidences in government, offering market sensitive information to the bidder and helping to frame remedies that would help to secure the bid. These are the questions that Mr Hunt must now answer."
  • The Independent leader: "Even if Mr Hunt was not in direct contact with News International himself, he must take responsibility for the wholly inappropriate activities of his staff. After all, this was no single incident, this was pages and pages of emails, an entire relationship of such staggering impropriety as to leave Mr Hunt yesterday charged with acting as a "cheerleader" for News Corp within the Government."
  • "The coalition’s strange, cack-handed relationship with the media – either far too close, or far too distant – is an extraordinary paradox. Cameron and his advisers are slaves to the school of media manipulation that began with Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Cameron is a former PR man himself. Yet they have fallen into every possible trap. It is truly baffling." – Allister Heath in City AM
  • "Now that the true extent of his cosying up to Rupert Murdoch has been exposed, the questions about Mr Cameron’s style are morphing into ones about his judgment and are coming perilously close to touching on his integrity." – Benedict Brogan in The Telegraph

Salmond Alex Oct 2011Alex Salmond is also accused of secret Murdoch dealThe Herald

The government borrowed £126bn in 2011/12, bang in line with the Office for Budget Responsibility's forecast in the March budget, and far below the £136.8bn deficit run up last yearGuardian

  • Britain's debt soared to a record £1.02TRILLION yesterday – The Sun
  • The Chancellor told MPs that sticking with Labour’s plans would have meant borrowing £200billion more and paying £36billion extra debt interest by 2015 – The Express

Osborne is preparing to climb down on plans to impose VAT on improvements to churches and cathedralsTelegraph

Theresa May has insisted that she had “unambiguous” legal advice from governement lawyers about Abu Qatada’s appeal deadline to the European Court of Human RightsTimes (£)

Good teaching ‘stops pupils going off rails’: Gove praises power of traditional subjectsDaily Mail

You'd never know it from the biased BBC, but the housing benefit bill's going UP not DOWN

BBC Labour megaphone
"There are no cuts to the housing benefit budget, only cuts to the projected increase. I should like to place a dunce’s hat on Mr Naughtie’s head and make him repeat that three times a day. It may also astonish him and his BBC colleagues  to learn that overall there  has been no cut in public spending, though, of course, some individual departments have suffered." – Stephen Glover in the Daily Mail

> Yesterday's Local government blog: Shapps complains to BBC over Newham coverage

More than half of sickness benefit claimants given an official health test were found to be capable of workingExpress

Two years into its term [the Coalition's] reforms seem half-hearted and agonisingly slow. And it is lily-livered on central issues such as immigration and EuropeThe Sun Says

David Aaronovitch in The Times (£): "A critique of the Cameronian settlement has been coalescing for some time now. It too is expulsive, though its scapegoats vary slightly from the French. It doesn’t want any more money spent on bailouts through the IMF, it blames Europe for many of our ills, it loves not migration and it wants to stop the world and step off."

Economy, tax, pensions and health are the four most important issues for votersYouGov

It’s not immoral to try to reduce your tax bill – Adam Afriyie MP in The Times (£)

WIDDECOMBEinGARDENAn elected House of Lords would inevitably challenge the House of Commons – Ann Widdecombe in The Express

Twitter users tell David Cameron how to 'keep it real' after Tory backbencher calls him an 'arrogant posh boyDaily Mail

Queueing at Heathrow is becoming a major economic problemTelegraph leader

Ed Miliband insists he intends to be "methodical" as Labour leader and not make rash promises – to win over a public that has lost trust in politicsBBC

  • A new Hansard Society survey confirms that loss of faith in public life – with 42% interested in politics, down 16% on 2010 and the lowest figure since the audit was first carried out – BBC
  • "A year ago 72 per cent of Liberal Democrat voters said that they were interested in politics but that has now fallen to just 50 per cent. The number of Conservative supporters interested in politics has fallen to 65 per cent while Labour support has dropped 12 points to 48 per cent." – Independent

Balls Ed 225Ed Balls seizes on anti-austerity feeling across EuropeFT (£)

"Last week the French electorate said no to more austerity and the Dutch government fell for the same reason. Spain faces a similar crisis, and the streets of Athens hold untold dangers. Even in Britain polls suggest an electorate unconvinced by the longevity of what by any standards is mild austerity." – Simon Jenkins in The Guardian

Dan Hannan in The Telegraph: "It is now clear to almost everyone that the euro is a recessionary mechanism. It is causing deflation and emigration in the southern states, and threatens massive tax rises in the north."

FT leader (£): "The Dutch case is a horrific display of Europe’s self-harming. In rpressurised states with no fiscal space, deficit cuts are of course imperative, but countries that can should let deficits widen to buoy aggregate demand in the eurozone until the recovery is firm."

Britain must find £900m in additional EU paymentsTelegraph | BBC

Labour's Lord Winston said Mr Livingstone was “a tricky sort of customer” who had “espoused some disastrous causes” The Sun

Britain has world's third highest proportion of sexually active teensGuardian


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