6pm Martin Parsons on Comment: In 2012, sharia enforcement continued to spread around the world

3.30pm ToryDiary: Will Jeremy Hunt and Andy Burnham break (organic, non-fattening, nutritionally-balanced) bread together?

12.30pm ThinkTankCentral: The Centre for Social Justice warns that the Government’s child benefit plans are “another blow to marriage”

ToryDiary: Chris Grayling is right to raise one of the key elements in the EU debate — doubt

CamflagRoger Scruton on Comment: When will the Conservative Party fight for England?

And on Thinkers' Corner, Mark Dooley considers gay marriage: "Dominating political and cultural debate in 2013 will be the contentious issue of gay marriage. On the one side, you have a self-confident liberal lobby supported, ironically, by the Conservatives. Opposing them is the silent majority supported by real conservatives, including certain members of the Christian clergy."

David Cameron to be sold as the "most eurospectic Prime Minister ever"

CAMERON"Downing Street is to portray David Cameron as the most Eurosceptic prime minister Britain has ever had when he demands “real change” in Britain’s links with Brussels this month. … Although Mr Cameron believes in Britain’s EU membership and is passionate about the economic benefits of the single market, his aides demurred on whether he would go as far as Mrs Thatcher. 'There’s a view that being at the heart of Europe is everything — that isn’t his view,' said one. 'He is probably the most Eurosceptic prime minister we have ever had.'" – The Times (£) 

  • "So long as Germany wants us, we’ll carry on as a full member, grumbling and dragging our feet; and old Eurosceptics will die and new ones will be born. And only this is certain — Mr Cameron’s promised speech on Europe will settle nothing." – Matthew Parris, The Times (£)
  • "The Europe speech Cameron should give" – Janan Ganesh, Financial Times (£)

> From yesterday, the Deep End's Heresy of the week: An in/out referendum will not solve all of our problems

"David Cameron [yesterday] admitted having an intense conversation with Rebekah Brooks at a Christmas party, but insisted it was ‘not a big deal’." - Daily Mail

And the PM also threatens a clampdown on companies such as Amazon and Starbucks to make sure they pay tax in the UKThe Times (£)

Mr Cameron and Nick Clegg's pension reforms are previewed in the Daily Mail

CC"David Cameron and Nick Clegg will next week outline plans for a new, more generous flat-rate pension, expected to be worth £155 a week. … But the sting in the tail is that the state pension age – already set to rise to 67 for both men and women between 2026 and 2028 – will increase further in the years  … Iain Duncan Smith said women, who often fail to qualify for the full basic pension because they have taken time out from work to bring up children and have not built up enough national insurance contributions, will benefit from the reform." – Daily Mail

And the same paper contains other possible snippets from the forthcoming mid-term review of the Coalition

"Other expected measures include: i) Childcare reforms to reduce costs for working families; ii) An overhaul to the way that Britain cares for its elderly, with a cap on the sums people have to pay towards their care, and iii) Private firms and investment funds to compete to build, operate and maintain new tolled motorways and trunk roads, and plans to reduce youth unemployment." – Daily Mail

  • "Tensions between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats may create a 'perform storm' in Whitehall which blows the Government off course in 2013, according to the Institute for Government." – Independent

The IFS confronts George Osborne's child benefit policy

Budget Box"With the benefit starting to be means-tested from Monday, the Institute for Fiscal Studies issued a withering verdict on the ‘incoherence’ of the policy. … Its report warned that larger families will face crippling marginal tax rates – the effective tax rate on every extra pound of income, taking into account both extra tax paid and withdrawn benefits." – Daily Mail

> Yesterday on ToryDiary: Osborne should say that the child benefit restriction is temporary

And more disheartening news for the Chancellor… we could be facing a triple-dip

"Interest rates will stay at rock bottom for another four years as the economy struggles to recover, experts warned last night. … The warning came as Britain’s fragile economy lurched towards an unprecedented triple-dip recession in a major setback to George Osborne. A gloomy report suggested the economy shrank by 0.2 per cent between October and December – leaving Britain on the brink of a third recession in just five years." – Daily Mail

Chris Grayling: Don't let hardened criminals out early

Chris Grayling"He wants to toughen up prison and ensure that 'honesty' is returned to criminal sentencing, with the ultimate goal of stopping automatic early release from jail. He is also about to start work on plans to reform Britain’s human rights laws. He says that, at the very least, the reach of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) should be limited in Britain – and that after a series of controversial rulings the Tories may ultimately leave the system." – from the Daily Telegraph's interview with Chris Grayling

> Today on ToryDiary: Chris Grayling is right to raise one of the key elements in the EU debate — doubt

Another mix-up over illegal immigrants

"Capita was last year awarded a contract by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) worth up to £40 million to track down more than 174,000 immigrants who may be living illegally in Britain. … But the firm has been accused of wrongly pursuing people who have the right to stay in the UK and others who left long ago." – Daily Telegraph

Anger as the MoD asks Bloody Sunday soliders to volunteer their names and addresses to a new investigation

"Army chiefs have made an extraordinary appeal to dozens of former paratroopers at the centre of the Bloody Sunday controversy to volunteer their names and addresses to a new investigation by police in Northern Ireland. … The move has sparked a bitter backlash from some Parachute Regiment veterans who fear that the identities will become known of those involved on the streets of Londonderry in 1972 when 14 people died." – Daily Mail

Ministers have approved the first "drugalyser" test kit for police use

"The Government hopes to introduce by 2014 a new offence of drug-driving that will carry a six-month sentence, a 12-month ban and fines of up to £5,000. At present, police have to prove that a motorist is unfit to drive after taking drugs to secure a prosecution. The technology approved yesterday is expected to speed up the process." – The Times (£)

Justin Tomlinson spearheads the push for compulsory finance lessons in schools

JT"The MP Justin Tomlinson said the new plan had a good chance of inclusion as part of the current review of the curriculum. … 'The government wants a streamlined national curriculum and we have taken that into account by asking for financial education to be embedded in subjects such as maths,' he said." – Financial Times (£)

Philip Davies accused of failing to properly declare his ties to gambling companiesGuardian

  • "More than £5bn was gambled on high-speed, high-stakes gambling machines in northern England cities and London boroughs with high levels of unemployment last year" – Guardian

This is a year for the Tories to restore their reputaion, says the Telegraph

"…this must be the year the Conservatives set out their stall as the party that delivers – that is doing all it can to fix the economy, whatever the impact on its short-term popularity. That may require measures more radical than any yet attempted. But in laying the building blocks for growth, the Tories will also make the strongest possible case that they deserve the public’s votes in 2015." – Daily Telegraph leader

The Lib Dems hope to win it on the ground

Lib Dems"Liberal Democrats, apparently ambling towards an electoral cliff at the next election, hope an intensive localised ground war based on individual MPs' track records will avert the loss of the 30 or so seats predicted by polls. … The party hopes its 57 MPs will in effect fight 57 varieties of campaigns to prevent the Lib Dems slipping back to the kind of 20-strong force they were in the early 1990s." – Guardian

  • "Lib Dems thrive on south coast despite problems in Westminster" – Michael White, Guardian

Financial experts round on Labour's latest welfare proposal

Ed balls"Labour's plans to pay for welfare changes by raiding the pension perks of higher earners will discourage people from saving for their retirement, financial experts warned yesterday. … They said the proposals would create a ‘cliff edge’ for top rate taxpayers that could suddenly leave them £10,000-a-year worse off." – Daily Mail

  • "Labour are misjudging the mood of the country over benefits." – Sun leader
  • "When will they stop raiding our pensions?" – Daily Mail leader
  • "…the problems and questions with the new policy outweigh the positives." – Guardian leader

> Yesterday on LeftWatch: Three problems with Ed Balls’s new welfare proposal

Ed Miliband to focus on train fares (amid concern from Tory MPs)…

"Ed Miliband is to make rising train fares the focal point of a campaign this month highlighting the rising cost of living, as the Labour party draws up policies aimed at helping squeezed rail commuters. … The move comes as Tory MPs in some marginal seats in the region are increasingly concerned about public anger over rail fares that seem always to rise faster than pay." – Financial Times (£)

…and on pubs

Beer"Labour is calling for the Government to introduce a statutory code of conduct to regulate 'pubcos', the large firms that own thousands of bars and control them through agreements with tied landlords." – Independent

Andy Burnham versus sugary breakfast cereals

"Sugary breakfast cereals such as Kellogg’s Frosties should be BANNED to stop kids getting fat, Labour is demanding. … Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham called for a 30 per cent cap on sugar content." – The Sun

Chuka Umunna is interviewed in the Times

"Government shouldn’t be frightened of shaping the corporate life of the nation, according to Mr Umunna. 'Innovation is absolutely key. David Cameron talks about there being a global race, I agree with that, but the question is what are you going to do to ensure we are winning in that race? You can’t will the ends if you’re not prepared to will the means. Government has to have an active role.'" – The Times (£)

Labour MPs criticise the scope of the Plebgate investigation

Met"The size of the operation — likely to cost about £64,000 — was slammed by MPs as 'madness'. Labour MP Steve McCabe said: 'To spend time and money questioning officers who can’t possibly know anything is madness.' Labour’s John Mann MP added: 'It’s totally absurd. It’s an investigation into the actions of a pompous politician who swore at the police.'" - The Sun

  • As the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation brands it a "waste of time" – Independent

The Labour councils that are wasting while wailing

"According to Government figures, under the new settlement Liverpool will see a reduction in spending power of 1.7 per cent — spot on the national average. Newcastle fares slightly better and Sheffield slightly worse. … Given the wailing emanating from the three cities, it might be expected that every spare penny is accounted for. But is that really the case?" – Daily Mail

> Yesterday:

Unite ponders a spring of discontent

Unite"New documents suggest senior figures at Unite, which has given the Opposition more than £7.5million since Ed Miliband became leader, believe Britain’s first general strike since 1926 should be a ‘tool in our armoury’ in the fight against Government public spending restraint." – Daily Mail

Damian McBride: Politicians don't tend to lie; they obfuscate – Damian McBride, Independent

Simon Heffer reckons that Brits deserve more than the "glib solutions" being offered by politicians – Simon Heffer, Daily Mail

Charles Moore: Our once great RSPCA is being destroyed by a militant tendency – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

The Church of England has ended its ban on gay clergy in civil partnerships becoming bishops - Independent

Malala Yousafzai has been discharged from hospital

MY"A fifteen-year old Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban has been discharged from a Birmingham hospital after making 'excellent progress' in her recovery." – Financial Times (£)

It is time to reasses Richard Nixon's legacy, says Jonathan Aitken - Jonathan Aitken, Daily Telegraph

The Sun burns in Argentina

"Angry Argies burn a British flag in Buenos Aires yesterday after The Sun warned: 'Hands off the Falklands.' … A seething mob took to the streets to set fire to the Union Jacks — and copies of our full-page advert in a local paper." – The Sun

  • "Hundreds of passengers were prevented from leaving their vessels by protesters angry at the 'illegal' visits to the disputed South Atlantic islands." – Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday's video to WATCH: David Cameron: "The future of the Falkland Islands should be determined by the Falkland Islanders themselves"

And finally… MPs want to look their best

MPs"MPs have backed plans for new cameras to get more “flattering” shots of them in the Commons. … Filming is currently limited to eight cameras in fixed, high positions. … But there have been complaints the angles make MPs look bad, showing up bald spots, bags under the eyes and extra weight." – The Sun


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