Cameron plans to reintroduce the EU Referendum Bill, as its current incarnation is killed off…

CAMERON EU fence“David Cameron must start from scratch in his attempts to pass legislation guaranteeing a referendum on Britain’s EU membership after it was killed off by Labour and the Liberal Democrats yesterday. … The Prime Minister will re-introduce a Bill committing whoever is in government to holding a vote by 2017 later this year. … He suggested he would use the Parliament Act to force the plans into law against the wishes of the House of Lords, where peers voted last night by 180 to 130 to end the debate.” – Daily Mail

  • “Only a Tory majority will give the people an EU referendum” – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • “Mr Cameron has many good ideas about reforming the EU, and he does have the public support of Ms Merkel and, sometimes and on some questions, other leaders. But as was proved yesterday, he does not have enough powerful allies in Europe to ensure that his ambitions have a good chance of being realised.” – Independent editorial
  • “…the Tories, the party most damaged by UKIP’s rise, remain the only one committed to an in-out vote, whether or not David Cameron ever gets it enshrined in law. … There’s the irony. Every UKIP vote will be a nail in the referendum’s coffin.” – Sun editorial (£)
  • “As blokeishness is an important part of Mr Farage’s appeal, he should be careful before he tries to sanitise and deblokeify his candidates.” – Bruce Anderson, Financial Times

> Yesterday: Peter Wilding on Comment – Britain can be a leader in Europe, not a loser

…but Hollande probably won’t approve…

“French President Francois Hollande has said the European Union cannot be expected to ‘follow the example’ of one country after talks with David Cameron. … He described Mr Cameron’s demands for EU treaty changes by 2017, as a prelude to a referendum on the UK’s membership, as ‘not a priority for the time being’.” – BBC

“François Hollande made it clear at an Anglo-French summit in Oxfordshire that he would not agree to a significant change to the EU treaty this side of the 2017 presidential elections.” – Financial Times

  • “700 Britons fighting in Syria terror groups, warns Hollande” – Daily Telegraph

… particularly now that the British press has quizzed the French President about his love life

“Minutes earlier those vilipendious vipers of ze British press had done it again. … Chiens! Roquets! They had raised the unmentionable. They had contravened  the carefully constructed, Scotchgarded, bullet-proofed niceties of presidential etiquette. … They had asked about – zut, eek, aiee – le legeauver.” – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

The Prime Minister wants a long-term strategy to combat flooding

Flood“Like everybody across the country I feel enormous sympathy for the people who live on the Somerset Levels and are suffering from the devastating impact of the flooding. … Dredging will also begin as soon it is safe to do so – and the Environment Agency will spend the coming months improving river flows across the south west, including dredging and weed clearance. … But we need long-term action to reduce the risk of this happening again. That is why Owen Paterson is working with the Environment Agency and local agencies in Somerset to deliver a robust plan for the next 20 years.” – David Cameron, Western Daily Press

  • “A tiny corner of Somerset may have the answer to flooding” – Geoffrey Lean, Daily Telegraph

But can he trump the meerkats?

“Meerkats and an annoying opera singer, beware — David Cameron is coming for you. No 10 is drawing up plans for a state-run price comparison website. … The not-for-profit service would “turbo-charge” the switching market, say supporters of the proposals being drawn up by the Downing Street policy unit. … The option of a state-run comparison website is spelt out in a leaked paper from the No 10 policy unit, which is headed by Jo Johnson. It points out that the Government already offers a similar service on financial services to those run by commercial operators.” – The Times (£)

Matthew Parris: “In the worst of times Cameron has succeeded”

“He didn’t bring a mission. I think he feels the mission was handed to him with the job. ‘I hope I’ll be remembered,’ Mr Cameron has said, ‘as someone who did everything they could to get the British economy back on track, to strengthen Britain’s society and Britain’s place in the world, and to secure Britain’s place in a reformed European Union.’ … Philip Collins, a brilliant speechwriter, may find that prosaic. I hear in it the quiet poetry of a man who may confound us all.” – Matthew Parris, The Times (£)

IDS to cut payments to British pensioners in warmer climes

idspic“Almost 100,000 British pensioners living in warm countries including Spain, France and Greece are to lose their winter fuel payments in a crackdown on ‘sunshine benefits’. … Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has hammered out details of a new ‘temperature test’ that will remove the handout, worth up to £300 a year, from such expats. … In total, it will mean that payments are stopped to 92,983 residents of Spain, France, Greece, Portugal, Malta, Cyprus and Gibraltar, he revealed. Taxpayers will save almost £17million a year.” – Daily Mail

  • “It is no surprise that unemployment among the 800,000 UK residents who don’t speak English is as high as 48 per cent” – Graeme Archer, Daily Telegraph

> Today: ToryDiary – IDS turns up the volume: the sequel

Grayling to raise the maximum age for jury service

“The maximum age for jury service in England and Wales is to be increased to 75, it has emerged. … Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said the move was in recognition of the fact that people are living longer. … At the moment, only people aged 18 to 70 are eligible to be jurors.” – The Sun (£)

  • “Town Hall chiefs have banned staff from using the term ‘the elderly’ and suggested ‘older people’ as an alternative.” – Daily Mail

Gove to dismiss the chair of Ofsted

GOVE, Michael blue sky“Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is to dismiss Baroness Sally Morgan, a Labour peer, as chair of Osfted, the schools inspectorate. … Mr Gove has decided he wants a fresh face at the watchdog, The Independent can disclose. Her three-year term at Ofsted, which was due to end this month, will be extended to the autumn while a successor is found but she will not be given a second spell. … The surprise move has infuriated the Liberal Democrats, who are increasingly at odds with Mr Gove over education policy.” – The Independent

  • “Surprise inspections will be targeted at schools where parents have complained online about appalling behaviour.” – Daily Mail

Children aged 4 could face exams, under Government proposals

“Children aged just four could sit exams soon after starting primary school, under proposed education reforms. … Under the Government plans, ‘baseline’ tests to monitor pupils’ progress will be moved forward from age seven to reception year by 2016, it was reported. … The new tests are expected to encourage teachers to make sure younger children make quick progress in their learning.” – Daily Mail

  • “English is no longer the first language for the majority of pupils in more than one in nine schools, new figures have revealed.” – Daily Telegraph

Heffer: Why some Tories want Miliband to run the country

“Another option for Mr Cameron, if he and Mr Clegg cannot agree on a programme to see out the final 15 months of the coalition, is to resign and let Ed Miliband be given the chance to run Britain until May next year. … Indeed, a hardcore of Tory MPs favour such a radical move. They believe a brief period of Labour incompetence and profligacy might be just what is required to cause people to vote Conservative at the election.” – Simon Heffer, Daily Mail

  • “Even allowing for the grotesque  pro-Labour bias in the boundary system, an outright Tory victory in 2015 is no longer unthinkable. … Yet, instead of pulling together to secure electoral success, the Conservatives have spent the past week doing their best impression of an ill-disciplined, strategically-inept rabble.” – Daily Mail editorial

McIntosh deselected – will other Tory women walk out?

Anne McIntosh“A senior Tory woman MP became the first to be axed by the party for almost a decade last night after a bitter deselection battle. … She is the fifth of the 49 Conservative women MPs who will not be standing for the party in 2015. … Pollster Andrew Cooper, a Tory Party adviser and a leading moderniser, expressed despair at the loss of another woman, writing on Twitter: ‘Five down, 44 to go.’” – Daily Mail

  • “[McIntosh] has decided to fight the official party candidate at the next general election, potentially opening the way for Ukip or the Liberal Democrats to win the seat.” – Financial Times

> Yesterday: MPsETC – Anne McIntosh MP deselected by Thirsk and Malton Conservatives

And what about Lib Dem women? Clegg warned they could dwindle, too…

“The Liberal Democrats could be left with no women MPs after the next election unless they change tack now, Nick Clegg has been warned. … Senior figures are urging Mr Clegg to adopt a ‘fortress strategy’ to protect the party’s existing seats, rather than trying to continue to compete as a national force. … The warning is a fresh blow to Mr Clegg who is already reeling from criticism of his handling of sex scandals involving the party’s former chief executive Lord Rennard and Portsmouth MP Mike Hancock.” – Daily Mail

…as one of his chief aides quits

“Nick Clegg was plunged into fresh chaos last night after one of his closest aides quit less than two months after taking up her job. … Emma Gilpin-Jacobs has stood down from her six-figure role as the Deputy PM’s director of communications.” – The Sun (£)

Davey demands another audience with the energy companies

“Power network chiefs panned over the Christmas blackouts are to be hauled before the Energy Secretary again- for going slow on setting up an emergency line for customers. … Furious Ed Davey will demand to know why it is taking the industry so long to establish a plan for a 999-style phone number that customers across the UK can call during power failures.” – The Sun (£)

Miliband puts forward his Labour Party reform proposals

MILIBAND Ed red background“Ed Miliband pledged to ‘complete unfinished business of the past 20 years’ as he unveiled sweeping reforms designed to recast Labour’s historic link with the trade unions and allow wider participation in the party’s leadership and other internal elections. … He said the new breed of affiliated members – drawn from the ranks of the 2.7m political levy-payers who chose to pay a £3 fee – would be entitled to attend party meetings, and promised the elections for leadership would be conducted by one person one vote with each candidate gaining equal access to the membership.” – The Guardian

Read the Guardian’s interview with Miliband in full

  • “In some respects all this is a compromise with the union leaders who partly created the problem. That will inevitably arouse suspicion.” – Guardian editorial

“We managed to trump our own story on the deficit”

“What Labour insiders call the ‘tough stuff’ on spending cuts to balance the nation’s books was trailed in the newspapers on the morning of the Balls speech. But the 50p announcement was made in the speech, guaranteeing it would immediately eclipse the party’s harder line on spending. … But the presentational cock-up was no laughing matter among Labour MPs. One, a Miliband loyalist, told me: ‘We managed to trump our own story on the deficit. A golden opportunity to regain trust on the economy was missed.'” – Andrew Grice, The Independent

Labour calls on the Government to be firmer about Russia’s gay rights abuses

“Labour is urging the Government to take a much tougher line against Russia’s stance on gay rights during the Winter Olympics in Sochi starting a week tomorrow. … The Opposition is worried that ministers attending the Games will adopt a ‘softly, softly’ approach for fear of jeopardising David Cameron’s attempts to rebuild relations with President Vladimir Putin after a frosty period in recent years.” – The Independent

Straw wants us to re-establish diplomatic relations with Iran

“Britain should re-establish full diplomatic relations with Iran within months, according to Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary who has been instrumental in helping thaw relations. … Speaking to the Financial Times after his return from Tehran, Mr Straw said the Foreign Office should push to reopen its embassy in the Iranian capital as soon as possible.” – Financial Times

  • “I would have done a better job than Gordon Brown” – Straw is interviewed in The Guardian

Salmond stands firm over currency and taxes

Scottish flag“Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has defied critics of his plans for a post-independence currency union with the rest of the UK, insisting such a pact would leave Edinburgh in full control of taxation. … In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Salmond waved aside concerns about the working of such a currency union, which were highlighted this week by an unprecedented intervention in Scotland’s independence debate by Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England.” – Financial Times

Read the Financial Times’s interview with Salmond in full

  • “Mark Carney is a supreme technocrat, but politicians must take the lead” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

The Times urges legislators to crack down on cyber-bullying

“Cyberbullying is not less serious for being online, but more. It is insidious, unmediated by normal human restraint and all too often viral. … Libertarians may say the law has no place stripping private citizens of the masks they choose to wear online. The truth is masked bullies are driving children to kill themselves and neither the law nor government can turn a blind eye.” – Times editorial (£)

  • “Experts in child protection and internet safety have called for social networks to be regulated by law after an investigation by The Times revealed that cyber bullying was implicated in at least nine teenage deaths investigated last year.” – The Times (£)

The wages squeeze is the longest for 50 years

“The Office for National Statistics said average wages have fallen 2.2 per cent a year since the start of 2010 after inflation is taken into account. … The four-year slump in ‘real wages’ is the longest since records began in 1964 and will fuel the political row over the so-called ‘cost of living crisis’ facing millions of families across the UK.” – Daily Mail

  • “So, are we all in it together? Not at all. For, as the IFS has also written, lower-income groups will fare much worse over the post-recession period, mainly because of welfare cuts.” – Guardian editorial

Almost half of all NHS trusts believe they will sink into debt

NHS“NHS hospitals face having to cut staff and services amid the worst financial outlook for almost a decade – with almost half forecasting they will end the current financial year in debt, records show. … Board reports covering all 145 hospital trusts in England disclose that 44 per cent expect to end the year in deficit – with a combined ‘black hole’ of more than £330 million between them.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “Cancer patients’ lives are being put at risk by a huge rise in delays for vital treatment,  figures show. … The number waiting more than two months after an urgent referral has soared by 20 per cent since the Coalition took over.” – Daily Mail
  • “But, new research suggests people are risking their health and putting extra pressure on already stretched A&E services by avoiding the dentist. … The data, from the Health and Social Care Information Centre, shows that since the coalition government came to power, the number of people seeking emergency dental treatment at A&E has increased four-fold.” – Daily Mail
  • “Ambulances are taking longer to reach patients with life-threatening conditions after receiving a 999 call, NHS performance data reveals.” – The Guardian
  • “Girls and women who have undergone female genital mutilation will be formally logged under an overhaul of NHS recording systems.” – The Times (£)

And comment:

  • “The Edward Snowden revelations could prove bad for our health, thwarting a vital NHS scheme to gather clinical information” – Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian

News in brief

  • Relatives of Meredith Kercher want Amanda Knox extradited to Italy to serve her 28-year sentence – Daily Mail
  • Syrian peace talks fail to make any real progress – The Guardian
  • Wales and the South-West are likely to bear the brunt of oncoming storms – The Guardian
  • “Show us Jesus & Mo. It’s the price of freedom” – Janice Turner, The Times (£)
  • Climate change deniers are “headless chickens”, reckons Prince Charles – Daily Telegraph
  • Clashes between the police and protestors, as a community centre in Belfast hosts the Brighton bomber – Belfast Telegraph

And finally 1) Sun, sea, sand and a union baron with his feet up

coconut“Sipping contentedly from a coconut and baking on a golden beach in his Bermuda shorts, union boss Bob Crow enjoys a £10,000 holiday as his members prepare to go on strike. … While his comrades working for London Underground prepare to lose money in a bitter dispute, Crow found time for a luxury cruise from Barbados to Brazil.” – Daily Mail

And finally 2) MPs’ hot air

“While the country braces itself for more storms and freezing temperatures, the politicians in the House of Parliament are found to be throwing their heat away. … Thermal images have revealed that the government building is wasting ‘copious’ amounts of energy due to a suspected lack of proper insulation.” – Daily Mail

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