5pm LeftWatch: Lib Dem President Tim Farron says the Tories could "go off to the far right"

3.45pm WATCH: John Whittingdale: "The BBC needs to take account of the public feeling" over retaining key Savile investigation staff

11.15am MPsETC: Conservatives dominate the top 20 most mentioned politicians of 2012

ToryDiary: Osborne said to be considering introducing tolls on motorways

Kawczynski danielDaniel Kawczynski MP on Comment: UK Trade and Investment is not doing enough to spur on the export-led recovery Britain needs

Thinkers' Corner: Roger Scruton reflects on the conservative neglect of culture

Local Government: Primary schools are still not teaching our island's story

WATCH: Barack Obama nominates John Kerry as next US Secretary of State

Mrs Thatcher recovering from operation

ThatcherOnTank"Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher is recovering in hospital after having a growth removed from her bladder. She is understood to have undergone a minor operation to remove the growth. The former prime minister's spokeswoman said Baroness Thatcher is doing "absolutely fine". … Friends of the former Conservative prime minister told the BBC they expect her to remain in hospital for a number of days." – BBC

Osborne wants more toll roads to fund road investment

OsborneGreenTie"George Osborne, the chancellor, is considering a levy on motorists to drive on Britain’s motorways and main A roads, in an attempt to unlock investment in the creaking highway network. … David Cameron is attracted to the idea but only if he can devise a scheme which avoids a backlash from middle Britain; motorists will be highly sceptical about paying more to drive on a network which is already built and bursting at the seams." – FT (£) | BBC

  • "The move would… trigger a major political backlash… but the blow could be softened by a cut in fuel duty and excise duty for car owners who use their vehicles only around towns" – Guardian
  • Chaos makes highways charge a hard sell – FT (£)

> Today on ToryDiaryOsborne said to be considering introducing tolls on motorways

Plebgate: David Cameron was shown CCTV – but still allowed Mitchell to resign…

Mitchell"David Cameron left Andrew Mitchell "swinging in the wind" when he allowed his political career to come to an end knowing that a police account of a confrontation with armed officers was open to question… Friends of Mitchell said it was "bloody astonishing" that Cameron had allowed him to resign even after No 10 officials had suggested CCTV footage raised concerns about accounts of the 19 September incident." – Guardian

…Mitchell was told the footage did not clear him

CCTV"The Independent understands that Mr Mitchell himself did not see the CCTV footage before he resigned, instead being told by officials that the tape was "of low resolution and you couldn't lip-read" what was being said. He was not told by either Mr Cameron or Downing Street officials that the footage contradicted police statements about the affair." - Independent

  • MPs set to question Met Commissioner about handling of Plebgate – Times (£)
  • PM praises ex-chief whip’s ‘calm reponse’ to plebgate – Yorkshire Post
  • Depression, panic attacks – but then Mr Mitchell vowed to clear his name – Independent

Plebgate comment:

  • The Andrew Mitchell affair is to the police what the McAlpine scandal was to the BBC – Charles Moore for the Daily Telegraph
  • When the police lie about politicians, we should ALL be very worried – Simon Heffer for the Daily Mail
  • Tales of tarnished coppers make the case for reform, writes Max Hastings – Sir Max Hastings for the FT (£)

Tories pledge to cap rises in welfare for six years if they win the next election

IDS TO CSJ"A cap on welfare could last six years if the Tories are re-elected, senior officials suggested yesterday. They claim the policy would be a vote winner because it would save the equivalent of £700 for every working family. A three-year squeeze on benefit payments beginning next year was announced by the Chancellor in the Autumn Statement. But yesterday a government source raised the possibility of extending it to 2018 – saying the move would save the Exchequer more than £11billion." – Daily Mail

Borrowing rise could cost Britain's credit rating

"George Osborne faces an uphill battle to maintain Britain’s top notch credit rating next year following the release of data showing the economy is doing less well than hoped. New government borrowing rose sharply to £17.5billion in November. This suggests the Chancellor will find it hard to bring the total deficit for 2012-13 down to £80.5billion as projected in the Autumn Statement just two weeks ago." – Daily Mail

Cameron hints troops could leave Afghanistan faster

Cameron troops"David Cameron said withdrawal plans could be speeded up if Afghan security forces continue to make good progress. Nearly half of our 9,000 troops will return within the next 12 months, with all combat forces home by the end of 2014. … He said: “There is flexibility, all the commentators are seeing how fast Afghan forces can take over. We may be able to move a little faster, let’s see how things go.”" – The Sun

  • "[G]iven the outstanding calibre of these young men and women the prospect of losing more to a conflict whose outcome can no longer be decisively altered is a miserable one." – Daily Express editorial
  • Defence cuts put us in danger, warns Archbishop of York – Daily Telegraph

> From yesterday - WATCH: David Cameron visits troops in Afghanistan

Theresa May interview: I probably was a Goody Two Shoes at school

May Theresa Abu Qatada"The Hamza deportation, and a determination to reduce immigration “to the tens of thousands”, has led to her being hailed as the new standard-bearer of the Right. She is even talked of as a future leader, though the Right has never really forgiven her for telling the Tories that they were “the Nasty Party” as chairman, in 2002. Mrs May told the faithful they needed to look like 21st-century Britain instead of “hankering after some mythical place called Middle England and descending into glib moralising and hypocritical finger-wagging”." – Theresa May interview with the Daily Telegraph

  • "Asked about having children, she said: “It just didn’t happen. I mean, this isn’t something I generally go into, but things just turned out as they did.”" – Daily Telegraph
  • Theresa May's Christmas message stokes ire of police – Guardian

> Yesterday on MPsETCIn a letter to Theresa May, Dominic Raab MP sets out Tory backbenchers’ concerns about the Communications Data Bill

David Davies MP interviewed on gay marriage

DAVIES DAVID"When I ask why he hopes none of his children will be gay, he admits again, "I don't know why. I find it hard to explain, frankly. But I'm uncomfortable with it. I suppose it's a grandchildren issue, perhaps?" he offers doubtfully. "Isn't it a natural instinct? Maybe that's the problem – it's hard to rationalise an instinct with politics in a logical way, which you're trying to do. But I've got this sense of unease. I think it's widely shared – I know it's widely shared; you should see the emails I get. I think a lot of people have this slight sense of unease, which isn't very well articulated. And I'm afraid I haven't articulated it very well."" – David Davies MP interviewed for the Guardian

Boris Johnson's idea for an outer tier of the EU has more subtlety than it might first appearGuardian

Baroness Newlove to be adviser on crime

Newlove helen"Baroness Newlove, whose first husband was kicked to death outside his home, is to be the new Victims’ Commissioner, the Government announced yesterday. She has campaigned for victims of crime since Garry died after confronting a gang of youths outside his house in Warrington five years ago. Lady Newlove, a Conservative peer, has been appointed for three years to advise ministers on victims’ views on the justice system" – Times (£)

MPs to investigate plans to rip up thousands of pages of planning guidance Daily Telegraph

Farage seizes threat of new mass migration

Farage on Sky"The threat of another wave of mass migration from Eastern Europe to Britain is to be deployed by the UK Independence Party to broaden its appeal to disgruntled voters. Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP, said that 29 million Bulgarians and Romanians would have an “open door” to Britain when restrictions on their free movement across Europe came to an end in 2014." – Times (£)

RSPCA broke charity rules over David Cameron hunt prosecution Daily Telegraph

Oh dear: Arthur Scargill loses rent costs case

"Arthur Scargill, the firebrand former miners’ leader, has lost his fight for the union he ran for 20 years to go on paying for his London flat. The National Union of Mineworkers successfully argued that Mr Scargill was not entitled to free rent at the Barbican complex for his lifetime." – FT (£)

Uh-oh: Argentina complains to UK over Queen Elizabeth Land 'imperialism'


"Argentina has presented a formal note of protest to the UK ambassador over the naming of a large area of Antarctica as Queen Elizabeth Land. The note… criticised the UK's "anachronistic imperialist ambitions that hark back to ancient practices". The newly named area has long been claimed by Argentina as its own, along with other contested areas in the south Atlantic including the Falkland Islands" – Guardian

  • Falkland Islanders have historic opportunity to 'seize' their own destiny, Cameron says – Daily Mail

Scottish-flag1Scottish quangos spend £113 million on PR, overseas travel, consultants and hospitalityDaily Telegraph

  • Scotland should not be wasting time on blaming the English any more – Deborah Orr for the Guardian
  • The Catalan bid for independence has been handled shockingly by Madrid. Spain could learn a lot from the UK – Matthew Parris for the Times (£)

Cuts to hit deprived councils hardestFT (£)

UK needs more houses not higher benefits, thinktank saysGuardian

> Yesterday on Local GovernmentPickles advises council on 50 ways to save

At the root of the Mayan hysteria is our desire to have the slate wiped clean – Graeme Archer for the Daily Telegraph

Visa delays leave foreign students stranded in UK for ChristmasGuardian

Italian PM Mario Monti quits after his budget is approvedDaily Mail

'Being raised Catholic is worse than child abuse' says Richard Dawkins - Daily Mail


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