8.45pm MajorityConservatism: Ten things we learn from Lord Ashcroft's latest mega poll on the path to a Tory majority

5.45pm Ben Harris-Quinney on Comment: The Bow Group at 60

Screen shot 2012-07-19 at 15.57.404pm Mark Hoban MP on Comment: We are delivering on our banking competition pledges – as today's sale of Lloyds branches to the Co-op proves

2.30pm WATCH: ‪David Cameron visits troops in Camp Bastion‬, Afghanistan

10.30am ToryDiary: Third (and final) question from Cameron's Telegraph interview: How will the Coalition manage its last year's business?

9.30am ToryDiary: Second question from Cameron's Telegraph interview: Why not rebel if you think you may be promoted anyway?

ToryDiary: If Cameron is against leaving the E.U in all circumstances, what will he do if renegotiation doesn't work?

Screen shot 2012-07-19 at 06.24.49Also on ToryDiary: Boris IS Batman, Caped Conservative

Columnist Andrew Lilico: A Tory vision of the union movement

Mark Field MP on Comment: How CEOs should adapt to the collapse of trust in the rules of capitalism

Also on Comment: Lady Berridge – Don't lose Generation 2012

Councillor Ralph Baldwin on Local Government: Local democracy and morality

The Deep End: Government to people: We’ve got a truth ray and we’re going to use it – on you

WATCH: Could the terror murder of Israelis in Europe help to spark war with Iran?

Prime Minister ready to speed armed forces exit as he visits Afghanistan

"David Cameron last night pledged to announce further reductions in the number of troops in Afghanistan by Christmas, despite the misgivings of military commanders. He flew into the Afghan province of Helmand on a surprise visit yesterday to meet Armed Forces personnel and thank them for their service.  “They’re doing a great job,” he said.  After touring the front line, Mr Cameron insisted that moves to hand over security to the Afghan army and police were making progress." – Daily Express

  • Cameron to meet Karzai and new Pakistan Prime Minister Ashraf – The Guardian
  • Prime Minister warned over speed of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan – The Guardian
  • Cameron: Wounded troops won't lost disability benefits? – Daily Telegraph

Unemployment fall follows inflation fall…

"Official figures show the jobless total fell by 65,000 to 2.58 million in the three months to May. The UK’s unemployment rate is now 8.1 per cent, down by 0.2 per cent and the number of people in employment is at its highest for almost four years – increasing by 181,000 to just under 30 million. Nearly all age groups have seen an increase in jobs this year, particularly the over-65s with a rise of 52,000 – the highest since records began in 1992." – Daily Express

…But Cameron warns that austerity will last until 2020

Screen shot 2012-07-19 at 05.08.45"In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Cameron says that he now expects the crisis in the eurozone to drag on for years, blighting the British economy. He indicates that the programme of spending cuts, initially planned to take five years, is now likely to last for the entire decade. Mr Cameron insists that he still wants to cut tax but that any reductions would have to be funded by even greater public spending reductions." – Daily Telegraph

Allister Heath: What's up? Is there a productivity slump? Is the labour market weaker than the figures suggest? Or is the economy simply doing better?

"There is something strange going on in the UK economy – or at least with the official statistics that we all have to rely on. The economy is shrinking – and yet employment and total hours worked are rising. Such a combination is possible, of course, but it implies a slump in productivity. The total number of hours worked per week reached 937.8m in the three months to May 2012, up 26.8m on a year earlier. This is partly explained by the timing of bank holidays. But a 2.9 per cent rise in working hours, combined with roughly zero growth in output during that time, simply doesn’t sound plausible." – City A.M

  • Wages are too low – John Redwood's Blog
  • The endless pleas for State dosh (and we're all guilty) that are destroying Britain – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

> Yesterday:

First new toll is on old road – Financial Times (£)

Prime Minister's drive to boost trade during the Olympics

CameronOnPhone"Downing Street has enlisted the heads of Britain’s biggest companies and exporters as it rolls out the red carpet for high-level business delegations from around the world. Sir Jonathan Ive, the Apple designer, Lord Rogers of Riverside, the architect, Stella McCartney, the designer, and Michael Morpurgo, the author, will take part in an unprecedented series of trade and investment meetings during the Olympic and Paralympic Games." – The Times (£)

  • Prime Minister vows to pursue G4S over shortfall – The Independent
  • Miliband seeks policing rethink in wake of G4S bungles – Financial Times (£)
  • Two guards protecting Olympic venue are arrested on suspicion of being illegal immigrants – Daily Mail
  • Olympics opening ceremony cut by half an hour – Daily Express
  • Get a grip on Olympics, MPs urge government – BBC
  • Time to explode the myth that the private sector is always better – Steve Richard, The Independent

Supreme Court backs migrant appeal against points-based systemThe Sun 

Terror 1) Five British Muslims face court on terrorism chargesThe Sun

Terror 2) Endgame approaches in Syria as Defence Minister killed in Damascus bomb attackFinancial Times (£)

Terror 3) Israel blames Iranian campaign of terror as bus bomb kills tourists in BulgariaThe Independent

For the first time since the 1970s, Britain is selling more goods to countries outside the EU than those inside

Eu_flag"We are exporting more goods to non-EU countries than those in the economic bloc for the first time in 40 years, figures showed…The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) said growth in Asian markets coupled with the crisis in the eurozone are key factors in Britain’s trading picture…Experts believe it is the first time since the 1970s that a smaller share of UK exports has gone to nations within the EU than outside it over a sustained period." – Daily Express

  • "Nearly half of small and medium-sized businesses want Britain to negotiate a looser relationship with the European Union, while remaining a member" – Financial Times (£)
  • A new world of hope beyond the statist EU – Daily Mail Editorial

…But Cameron says (in that Telegraph interview) that we shouldn't leave

"In the interview, on the final day of Parliament before the six-week summer break, Mr Cameron also discloses that…He does not believe that Britain should leave the EU and says he will never campaign for an “out” vote in any referendum. The Prime Minister warns that Britain would become a “sort of Greater Switzerland” which “would be a complete denial of our national interests. Mr Cameron indicates that he will seek to negotiate a “new settlement” with Europe which will be put to a referendum rather than offering an in-out vote." – Daily Telegraph

  • Lidington says that the Government's EU audit won't cause Britain to quit – The Sun

Health Select Committee says alcohol strategy targets wrong problems Financial Times (£)

U.S assures Hammond on fighter planes…

Hammond"Britain will be handed the keys to its first £100 million stealth fighter jet today after assurances from the United States that the most expensive military procurement programme in history would not be shut down by American budget cuts. Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, conceded that the final bill for more than 100 planes was still unknown but he said the price tag for each of the F-35Bs was expected to fall as more aircraft are manufactured over the next five years." – The Times (£)

…As LibDems push for Trident alternative

"The future of Britain's nuclear deterrent looks likely to be an issue at the 2015 election as the Liberal Democrats prepare to endorse a scaled-down version of the £25bn programme to replace the Trident system. An internal review by the Ministry of Defence is expected to produce a "menu of options" including putting the UK's nuclear weapons on "standby" so they could be reactivated at short notice…Supporters think an Astute submarine with nuclear weapons could be deployed within a week if there were a build-up of international tension." – The Independent

> Yesterday:

Yes.  No.  Er.  Maybe.  Salmond backs same-sex marriage but defends delay in cabinet decision Scotsman

Warehouse prisons "falling short of Clarke's rehabilitation pledge"The Guardian

One in seven MPs have never done a real job

"The study by the House of Commons Library reveals a dramatic rise in the number of so-called professional politicians, whose numbers have increased almost four-fold over the past 30 years.  Ninety MPs have never held a job outside politics, against 20 in 1982. The trend is led by Labour, which has twice as many MPs who have never worked outside politics as either the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats." – Daily Mail

Free Schools 1) Former Tesco boss says free schools should be grammars Daily Mail

Free Schools 2) Toby Young says free schools should be able to make profitsThe Times (£)

Screen shot 2012-07-19 at 08.29.37Cost of Rain Goddess Spelman: rainy days and stormy weather of the last month set to cost insurers £500 millionDaily Mail

Two national newspapers found guilty of contempt over articles about Levi Bellfield after Dominic "Judge Jeffreys" Grieve brings caseDaily Mail

Families 1) Cameron's childcare commission calls for curbs on childcare costs as average family faces £1,200 bill for summerDaily Mail

Families 2) Concern over ‘flaws’ in Prime Minister's shared parenting planThe Times (£)

No deal over parades without us: dissident republican Belfast Telegraph


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