May faces off against Cameron over stop-and-search…

MAY Warhol“Theresa May is in a stand-off with Downing Street over stop-and-search powers used by police. … The Home Secretary wanted to announce sweeping curbs of the controversial tactic before Christmas but has been blocked by No 10, senior officials have told The Times. … The clash threatens to become a battle between David Cameron and Mrs May, tipped as a potential Conservative Party leader.” – The Times (£)

  • “Theresa May yesterday refused to confirm six terror suspects who will soon be free to walk the streets are no longer a threat to the public.” – The Sun (£)
  • “Theresa May is under growing pressure to ban the leader of an extreme Hungarian nationalist party from entering Britain to host a rally in London this weekend.” – The Independent

…as it emerges that crime figures could rise

“Crime figures are likely to increase sharply following revelations about police ‘fiddling’ the data, MPs were warned yesterday. … The UK’s statistics watchdog revealed there has been no proper audit of the figures recorded by the police for an astonishing five years. … The experts predict that, when the figures are thoroughly checked, it will lead to crime once again beginning to rise.” – Daily Mail

  • “The policing of the anti-fracking protests in West Sussex last summer cost taxpayers £3.985million.” – Daily Mail

Bankers are facing off against the Prime Minister, too, over Europe…

EU Exit“The British Bankers’ Association has sent a submission to a Treasury review that counters fears over the split of powers between London and Brussels, saying the current balance was ‘broadly appropriate’. It added there was an ‘overwhelming’ case for more resources to be devoted to relations with Europe and warned that the UK was significantly underpresented in Brussels. … In a sign of the concern in the City over the outcome of David Cameron’s pledged referendum on EU membership, Citigroup has separately made an explicit warning to the Treasury about the costs for the UK economy if Britain were to leave Europe.” – Financial Times

  • “There will be Tory trouble on Europe unless David Cameron sends a Right-winger to Brussels” – Benedict Brogan, Daily Telegraph

…as Labour peers table over 50 amendments to Wharton’s Referendum Bill

“David Cameron’s plan to give the public a vote on membership of the European Union could be defeated within weeks after Labour peers tabled dozens of outlandish amendments that could halt its progress in Parliament. … More than 50 amendments were tabled for the committee stage of the EU Referendum Bill, including holding a petition of a million voters, posing the questions in Cornish and giving prisoners the vote, the Telegraph has learnt.” – Daily Telegraph

Was Cameron right to describe a link between climate change and flooding? 19 scientists suggest not

“David Cameron ignited a row at the height of the recent UK floods by proclaiming that he ‘very much’ suspected the devastation had been caused by climate change. … The 19 scientists, from prestigious universities and institutes in Britain, the US, Japan, Australia and across Europe, said that while greenhouse gas emissions are ‘strongly linked’ to flooding, there is insufficient evidence to accurately describe the connection. … They said that until there is firm evidence about the role of climate change, it is better to concentrate on what we do know – that the way we are changing our physical landscape is making flooding worse.” – Daily Mail

  • “Gas and electricity bills are high only because households waste so much power, an energy boss claimed yesterday.” – Daily Mail
  • “Millions of households are paying £100 a year more for their gas and electricity – because they’re LOYAL customers.” – The Sun (£)

The Prime Minister may give Iran’s President the cold shoulder in Davos

“David Cameron is likely to rebuff a request for a meeting from the President of Iran when the two come together in Davos later this week. … The President is one of the key speakers in Davos and will appear tomorrow, hours after an address by Binyamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel. … Government sources indicated that a meeting between the Prime Minister and Mr Rowhani was unlikely.” – The Times (£)

Warsi warns that the persecution of Christians has become a “global crisis”

Sayeeda Warsi“Britain’s most senior Muslim politician, Sayeeda Warsi, has warned that the persecution of Christians has become ‘a global crisis’. … Minister for Faith Baroness Warsi described ‘a rising tide’ in attacks on Christians in the war-torn regions of Egypt, Iraq and Syria where they often become ‘scapegoats’ for events taking place thousands of miles away.” – Daily Mail

MoD suggests that Camp Bastion wasn’t always sufficiently funded

“A secret Ministry of Defence (MoD) report on a Taliban attack at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan in which 18 soldiers were killed or wounded admits that funding to protect the base was ‘not always forthcoming despite warnings’. The revelation is in stark contrast to denials by defence officials that security recommendations were rejected on cost grounds.” – The Independent

  • “Red-faced defence chiefs squandered millions of pounds on 6,000 pistols that were scrapped after just five years.” – Daily Mail

Grayling’s policies attract critcism

  • “Proposals to raise nearly £200m by increasing court fees have been condemned as ‘not fit for purpose’ by an internal government review in a highly unusual, public rebuke of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).” – The Guardian
  • “The UK justice secretary’s plans to outsource up to 70 per cent of probation services have prompted ‘major concerns’ about the tight timescale and lack of testing to determine whether the cost-cutting reforms are possible, MPs have warned.” – Financial Times

McVey advises young jobseekers to start at the bottom and work up

Esther McVey“Esther McVey said jobseekers need reminding that they have to start at the bottom and work their way up, rather than expecting to walk into their dream job. … In an interview with the Mail, she admitted that young Britons are less prepared for the world of work than foreign migrants and need to learn the basics, such as turning up on time. … But she insisted that those who want to work hard can succeed if they are prepared to learn the ropes and ‘be realistic’ about their abilities.” – Daily Mail

Morgan: Tories cannot win if they hate everything

“In a damming assessment of her party’s negative pitch to the electorate, Nicky Morgan said the Conservatives had to do more than attack people ‘we don’t like’ including immigrants and people on benefits. … Miss Morgan, the Economic Secretary in George Osborne’s team, warned that if the Tories are to win in 2015 they must set out a ‘positive long term plan’.” – Daily Mail

  • “5 ways to cheer up the Tories (and kill off the ‘nasty party’)” – Melissa Kite, The Guardian

> Today: ToryDiary – Nicky Morgan has a point

Uppal triggers row over Amritsar papers

“Sir Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary, became embroiled in a party political row after Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs were initially excluded from a meeting to discuss Margaret Thatcher’s 1984 decision to send an SAS officer to India to advise on the expulsion of militants from the Golden Temple in Amritsar. … The row broke out when [Paul] Uppal announced on the Sikh Television Channel in a round-table discussion with Labour MPs Pat McFadden and Tom Watson over the weekend that he was due to meet the cabinet secretary.” – The Guardian

Lawson urges the pensions industry to come clean over charges

Nigel_Lawson_006“Former chancellor Lord Lawson has increased pressure on the government to deliver cheaper pensions by calling for fund managers to disclose a wide variety of opaque charges. … The Tory peer’s broadside against the industry comes as Steve Webb, the pensions minister, is poised to admit that plans for a cap on pension charges will be delayed, a blow to thousands of savers.” – Financial Times

  • “Millions of employees should be forced to pay some of their salary into a workplace pension scheme, with no option to opt out, according to a centre-right thinktank.” – The Guardian

And comment:

  • “It’s time to reject crony capitalism and embrace the real thing” – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph

The Times quotes Paul Goodman on the subject of Jessica Lee’s departure

“The news that the Conservative MP Jessica Lee will step down next year after just one term in Parliament has prompted soul-searching in the party. … Paul Goodman, the former MP who is now editor of ConservativeHome, said that the financial pressures on those who leave high-salary jobs to become an MP were also a problem.” – The Times (£)

  • “The steady loss of good women MPs is a worrying development for politics” – Times editorial (£)

> Yesterday:

Finkelstein: It’s time for Dave and Nick to prepare their divorce papers

Nick Clegg and David Cameron“The advice I would provide the Tories, and actually the Lib Dems too, is this — you need a divorce agreement. A proper divorce agreement. I don’t mean for a second that the coalition should break up. It won’t end until the election and nor should it. … What I mean is that staying together all the way until the election causes problems of its own. And these problems can be sorted only with a formal agreement on the terms of parting. An agreement as carefully considered as the original marriage contract in 2010.” – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times (£)

Calamity Clegg 1) Now he’s rounded on by Rennard’s allies

“Nick Clegg was last night warned by allies of Lord Rennard he faces a legal ‘bloodbath’ that will rip his party apart. … The peer has instructed a senior QC and plans to seek an injunction unless Mr Clegg halts an inquiry into the charge that he has brought the Lib Dems into disrepute by refusing to apologise over sex pest claims. … Lord Steel last night raised the stakes by saying the threat of expulsion should be withdrawn from Lord Rennard.” – Daily Mail

  • “A former Lib Dem parliamentary candidate who says she was the victim of inappropriate behaviour by Lord Rennard has called for the matter to be closed by the party after the Metropolitan police concluded there was no criminal case to answer.” – The Guardian
  • “Most Lib Dem voters believe that Lord Rennard should quit the party after refusing to apologise over allegations of sexual harassment, it has emerged.” – The Times (£)
  • “Miriam Clegg helped shape her husband’s decision to take on Lord Rennard after being left ‘furious’ by the Liberal Democrat peer’s failure to apologise to his alleged victims, sources have said.” – Daily Telegraph

And comment:

  • “Now that Rennard has been toppled and apparently disgraced, the Lib Dems are again a joke. It could not have happened to a riper bunch of bananas. Nick Clegg, in particular, richly deserves this public embarrassment. The whole carry-on has been a wonderful illustration of this inadequate and sly man’s character.” – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
  • “A personal recollection of Lord Rennard: He was an anorak with a political purpose” – Sean O’Grady, The Independent
  • “No, Lord Greaves, it’s not run-of-the-mill for politicians to cop a feel” – Jane Merrick, The Independent
  • “The Lord Rennard shambles proves that the Lib Dems are still unfit for government” – Dan Hodges, Daily Telegraph

Calamity Clegg 2) His childcare plan could lower standards, claims charity

Curse of Clegg 2“Nick Clegg’s flagship childcare policy to double the number of free nursery places for two-year-olds will lower standards and should be delayed, a leading education charity is warning. … the Sutton Trust said many of the extra 20,000 staff needed will be drawn from the army of childminders who are generally less qualified than nursery workers.” – Daily Mail

  • “Hard-up councils could be forced to cut services to pay for the Lib Dems’ flagship policy of free school meals for six and seven-year-olds” – The Sun (£)

The Lib Dems won’t abide another cut in the top rate of tax, says Alexander

“Danny Alexander, the most senior Liberal Democrat in the government after Nick Clegg, said there was ‘no prospect’ of the 45p rate being cut in this Parliament. …He gave a strong indication that the Lib Dems would never agree to reduce the rate, even in the event of another coalition government with the Conservatives.” – Daily Mail

Lamb tries to rein in expectations about the Government’s care reforms

“Ministers and senior officials had hoped insurers would rapidly embrace the opportunity to devise policies to cover people for costs up to the level of the cap, which takes effect in April 2016. … But on Tuesday, in a joint ‘statement of intent’, Norman Lamb, care and support minister, and the Association of British Insurers acknowledged that the market for long-term care products was ‘currently limited’.” – Financial Times

  • “England’s top doctor has said that there are fears in the NHS that a flagship government fund aimed at helping the health service work more closely with local authorities to provide social care, will be wrongly used by councils for ‘filling in potholes and other significant things’.” – The Independent

And comment:

  • “Let’s stop being careless in the community” – Alice Thomson, The Times (£)

Cable approves Pryce’s return as a Government adviser

“Vicky Pryce, who was jailed for falsely accepting the speeding points of her former husband Chris Huhne, has quietly returned to an official role advising the Government. … Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, has approved the decision to appoint Dr Pryce to a panel of economists, it was confirmed last night.” – The Times (£)

  • “Hard-up Brits have spent more than £3 million holding on premium rate phone lines to speak to the Taxman about tax credits.” – The Sun (£)

Miliband close to announcing union reforms – but are they a fudge?

MILIBAND Red Ed“With a little more than a fortnight before the plans must be published, party sources say that most union leaders have agreed to scrap the electoral college, which gives MPs, union members and local parties a third of the vote each. In return Mr Miliband is set to agree that the scrapping of automatic affiliation, so that union members must choose if they want to support Labour, will be introduced gradually. Other rule changes will also be delayed, meaning, for example, that union bosses will keep block votes at the party conference.” – The Times (£)

Balls draws more fire, after talking down the IMF forecasts

“Ed Balls came under fire yesterday for dismissing new figures showing the UK economy is the fastest growing in Europe and for branding the recovery the ‘slowest for 100 years’. … Last night critics branded the Shadow Chancellor’s reaction ‘disgraceful’ and accused him of ‘talking down the economy’.” – Daily Mail

  • “Until his blustering intervention yesterday, the Shadow Chancellor had been strangely silent since his humiliation in the Autumn Statement debate. … With every new forecast and set of indicators exposing the bankruptcy of his policies, a more prolonged period of silence would be heartily welcome.” – Daily Mail editorial

> Yesterday:

The life-and-death differences between NHS trusts

“Thousands of patients suffering from cancer and other serious illnesses are being denied the drugs they need from the NHS, according to a report. … Even though the treatments have been approved by the health service rationing body, at least 14,000 patients a year are not receiving them. … As many as one in three of those suffering from some types of cancer are going without medication that could extend their lives, the figures show.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “Staff morale in England’s NHS is approaching an all-time low and may be affecting the care that doctors and nurses are providing their patients, leading health experts have warned.” – The Independent
  • “Private firms will be asked to take on some of the NHS’s workload if the service cannot cope with demand this winter, it has emerged, as hospital bosses warned that emergency services were on a knife edge.” – The Guardian

Scots feel frozen out of the independence debate

“Scots are being frozen out the biggest decision the country will face in 300 years because they are not interested in the issues dominating the referendum campaign, according to new research. … Voters want to know what the economic impact of leaving the UK would be, the latest Scottish Social Attitudes Survey found. However, the debate among the rival Yes and No camps over issues such as EU membership, the pound and welfare has ‘little or no impact’ on how they will vote.” – The Scotsman

  • “Danny Alexander, the most senior Scot in the UK Parliament, has challenged First Minister Alex Salmond for a TV showdown on the independence debate.” – The Scotsman

Syria peace conference set to start

Syria“A major conference aimed at finding a political solution to the three-year conflict in Syria that has left 130,000 dead is due to start in Switzerland. … The Syrian government and the main opposition are attending the Geneva II summit along with international allies. … The key issue, on which neither side appears willing to budge, is the future of President Bashar al-Assad.” – BBC

  • “The cache of evidence smuggled out of Syria showing the ‘systematic killing’ of 11,000 detainees in Syrian jails may only be the tip of the iceberg, international aid agencies have said.” – The Guardian

And comment:

  • “This evil should shame us into halting Assad” – Roger Boyes, The Times (£)
  • “Assad’s torture camps expose Ban Ki-moon’s naivety” – Con Coughlin, Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday: Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP on Comment – Our visit to victims of the humanitarian disaster in Syria

News in brief

  • Remember that whole Aidan Burley/stag do/Nazi uniform brouhaha? One of the attendees has been fined £2,000 – Daily Mail
  • A record one-in-three men aged 20 to 34 live with their parents – Daily Mail
  • The worst trains stations in Britain are in South Wales, according to poll – WalesOnline

And finally: Do we all live on Benefits Street?

“Let’s face it, we all live on Benefits Street. The Channel 4 series may be raising hackles to left and right, but I doubt if there is a person reading this column who is not “on the take” in some sense. We may work a bit, mostly obey the law and not look a total mess, but then we are not really poor. We can still be ‘on benefit’, and some of us are rich because of it.” – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian