Downing St defends itself against accusations of political favouritism – from Sally Morgan AND the Lib Dems

Libdem bird vs TORY“Baroness Sally Morgan has claimed she is being forced out of as chairman of schools watchdog Ofsted in a Government move to oust non-Tories from key posts. … A source close to Lib Dem Schools Minister David Laws said: ‘The decision to get rid of Sally Morgan had absolutely nothing to do with her abilities and everything to do with Michael Gove’s desire to get his own people on board.’ … A No 10 spokesman admitted that Mr Gove had taken the decision, but denied that it was political. … ‘This Government appoints people on merit. For example, Sally Morgan herself,’ he said.” – Mail on Sunday

“Until now Laws has scrupulously avoided public disagreements with his boss. However, Gove’s decision to remove Morgan, a former aide to Tony Blair, appears to have ruptured their relationship.” – Sunday Times (£)

  • “However civilised and charming Mr Gove seems, his achilles heel is now fully on display – and it is not a pleasant sight.” – Observer editorial

> Yesterday: LeftWatch – Presumably, Baroness Morgan didn’t complain when 77 per cent of politically-active public appointees were Labour affiliated

Gove wants tougher discipline in schools

“Unruly pupils will be forced to mop floors and scrub graffiti off walls in a crackdown on classroom chaos. … Teachers will get the go-ahead this week to impose the new sanctions. … Currently many shy away from chastising kids with ‘community punishments’ because of health and safety myths. But they can order them to complete hard graft under the new guidelines. … Education Secretary Michael Gove will unveil a list of potential punishments for truants and troublemakers.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

  • “We are determined to give every child the sort of education previously reserved for the rich. … Of course, that means better facilities, a stretching curriculum and world-class exams. … But these changes can only make a decisive difference if schools are well-ordered environments.” – Michael Gove, Sun on Sunday (£)
  • “For too long discipline has been a political football. … At last there’s common ground.” – Sun editorial (£)

Hunt plans to back the car smoking ban

“The health secretary Jeremy Hunt is to back moves to ban parents from smoking in cars carrying children. … In a coup for the campaigners, the cabinet minister has concluded that there is a compelling case for protecting youngsters from tobacco smoke while they are in an enclosed space. … His decision to support new legislation comes as a surprise, since he has previously rejected the case.” – Sunday Times (£)

Paterson braces himself and the country for more storms

Flood“The Government braced itself for a further onslaught of storms and flooding last night, as the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, promised that ‘everything possible’ was being done to help potential flood victims and prepare for the further storms and tides forecast to hit the UK today. … Mr Paterson, speaking yesterday afternoon after the latest meeting of Cobra, the Government’s emergency committee, promised that the Government was ‘offering full assistance’ to emergency services and local councils.” – Independent on Sunday

  • “Despite a flood of ill-informed sniping from the Environment Agency, and its ‘green’ allies in the media, the Environment Secretary has pulled off a blinder” – Christopher Booker, Sunday Telegraph

Switch off the excessive motorway warnings, demands Goodwill

“Motorway chiefs will be banned from flashing pointless alerts on electronic signs amid fears they distract drivers. … They are being ordered to stop issuing messages such as ‘check your fuel level’. … Roads minister Robert Goodwill plans to limit their use to vital alerts such as ‘Incident. Slow down’ or ‘Congestion’. … He believes general messages could lessen the impact of important signs if motorists stop paying attention.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

Defence chiefs encourage Gurkhas to fill the reserves shortfall…

“Senior officers are facing growing pressure to increase the size of the Army Reserve as the regular force is cut from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2020. … Despite a major campaign to attract recruits to hit a target of 30,000, the number joining dropped last year for the first time in a decade. … Colonel James Robinson, who leads the Gurkhas, is urging retiring soldiers to make up the 10,000 part-time shortfall by the end of the year.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

  • “The Iranian government is taking a Ministry of Defence-owned company to the High Court to end a £400m row over British-made Chieftain tanks that has dragged on for 35 years.” – Independent on Sunday

…and question Karzai’s latest pronoucements

“The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has been accused of ‘spitting on the graves’ of British soldiers after he said Helmand would have been better off if UK forces had never set foot there. … In an interview with The Sunday Times, Karzai described the Taliban as ‘brothers’ and America as ‘rivals’ as he criticised the record of the West during the 12-year war. … Asked about Karzai’s comments, Britain’s most senior commander in Afghanistan, Lieutenant-General John Lorimer, said: ‘I don’t agree.’ He said al-Qaeda had been denied a safe haven in the country and that Afghan security forces had been developed into a ‘pretty impressive’ force.” – Sunday Times (£)

Could Raab be promoted to Cabinet?

RAAB judo“The surprise is that having lost the vote, almost split his party and seriously upset the home secretary’s staff, Raab is still being tipped for a future cabinet post and is ambitious enough to want one — but only on his own terms.” – Sunday Times (£)

  • “Migrants from the European Union are defrauding Britain of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money through false welfare claims, sham marriages and organised crime, according to a secret government dossier.” – Sunday Telegraph
  • “Immigrants must have compulsory health checks for diseases such as HIV before they enter Britain, Tory MPs demand. … They want automatic screening for tuberculosis to be extended to cover blood-borne illnesses hepatitis B and HIV. … Tory MP for Bracknell Phillip Lee said: ‘Screening programmes are already in place in many countries. It has become a major public health issue.'” – Sun on Sunday
  • One foreign criminal applies for asylum in Britain every day – Mail on Sunday

James Forsyth: The Tories’ internal divisions will distract from the recovery

“Those close to Cameron argue that these parliamentary manoeuvrings are of little interest to the voters. The reality, though, is that every Tory rebellion, every bit  of parliamentary chicanery, is a distraction from what the Tories need to be the biggest story in town: the economic recovery. … In the past week, we’ve found out that the economy grew faster in 2013 than it has since 2007. But when Tory Ministers head to the TV studios today, you can bet your mortgage it will be the  party’s internal divisions and not its economic success that will dominate the interviews.” – James Forsyth, Mail on Sunday

  • “David Cameron is showing true leadership in his pledge to give voters a say on the EU, but his retreat over the Immigration Bill was not his finest hour” – Matthew d’Ancona, Sunday Telegraph
  • “Fudge is more of a threat than Dominic Raab’s rebellion” – Janet Daley, Sunday Telegraph
  • “All hail the new awkward squad: The Raabels. Raab’s organisational skills saw him offered a job in the Tory Whips Office at the last reshuffle. … They will be cursing him turning it down.” – Guido Fawkes, Sun on Sunday (£)
  • “With every prod of their pitchforks, Tory rebels leave Cameron weaker” – Adam Boulton, Sunday Times (£)
  • “Tory rebels sense the time to pipe down is nigh” – John Rentoul, Independent on Sunday
  • “An etiquette guide on how to rebel, revolt or have an insurrection” – Rafael Behr, The Observer

Mitchell silenced by prosecutors

Andrew Mitchell“‘Plebgate’ MP Andrew Mitchell has been blocked from telling a court how the scandal has damaged his life. … it can be revealed today that Mr Mitchell’s own account of the incident will not be put before the judge.
In an extraordinary intervention, prosecutors have told the former Chief Whip that they will not submit his ‘impact statements’ because they do not agree he was the victim of a police conspiracy.” – Mail on Sunday

Shapps responds to the Mail on Sunday’s claims about Burley

“The row over the Tory MP who attended a Nazi-themed stag night intensified last night after party chairman Grant Shapps was forced to intervene – and admitted that Aidan Burley had given a version of events that ‘conflicted’ with The Mail on Sunday’s eye witness account. … However, in a letter to The Mail on Sunday, Mr Shapps insists: ‘While you have highlighted a conflict around the factual account of the precise events of the evening, this conflict does not impact on the report’s substantial conclusion’ – that Mr Burley had not been motivated by racism or anti-Semitism.” – Mail on Sunday

The Sunday Telegraph presents the “inside story” of McIntosh’s deselection

“The campaign against Miss McIntosh – who is only the fourth Conservative MP to be deselected by membership ballot in the past 25 years – saw her being accused of being ‘divisive’, ‘non-communicative’ and even ‘bad-mannered’. Such was the level of resentment against her that a letter-writing campaign was initiated in the pages of local newspapers by disgruntled Conservatives.” – Sunday Telegraph

Nearly half of Tory activists support a pact with UKIP: the newspapers report on ConHome’s latest poll

Tory-UKIP pact“Almost half of Conservative activists now want David Cameron to forge some sort of pact with Ukip before the 2015 general election, in a sign of mounting nervousness over the threat they face from Nigel Farage’s anti-EU party. … A poll of more than 1,000 activists taken by the ConservativeHome website and obtained by the Observer found that 41% favour a pact, while 54% reject the idea. The number in favour has risen by 7% compared with last May, when the same questions were last asked.” – The Observer

  • “Ukip’s rise threatens the left as well as the right” – Nick Cohen, The Observer

> Today: ToryDiary – Two out of five Tory members want a pact with UKIP

If the Tories keep on fixing the economy … it could help Salmond’s cause

“The majority of Scots in favour of remaining part of the UK will be slashed by half if the economic revival leads to a major surge in David Cameron’s popularity, according to a new poll. … The boost for Scottish Nationalist leader Alex Salmond comes after a claim that he could use the ‘hated Tories’ to pull off a surprise victory in the independence referendum.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “Nationalists say Scotland and England have different values. That’s not true” – Alistair Carmichael, Secretary of State for Scotland, is interviewed in The Observer
  • “So, despite all his bluster, the real consequence of the SNP leader’s current position is that an independent Scotland will have to clear its budgets either with Westminster or with Berlin.” – Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times (£)

More Scotland polling

  • “The independence referendum is ‘way closer to call than anyone thinks’ following a new poll indicating a swing towards the Yes campaign, according to a Scottish entrepreneur.” – Scotland on Sunday
  • “Almost a third of Scots are unaware of the existence of Alex Salmond’s White Paper and almost nine out of ten people have not bothered to read it, a poll commissioned by the Scottish philanthropist Sir Tom Hunter has claimed.” – Scotland on Sunday

Another woman steps forward to accuse Rennard

“A fifth woman has come forward to claim that Lord Rennard behaved inappropriately towards her, threatening to deepen the scandal that has brought Nick Clegg’s leadership of the Liberal Democrats into question. … The party activist’s claim is particularly damaging because she alleges that the party initially ignored her when she raised her concerns. … Tim Farron, president of the Lib Dems, is understood to have forwarded the email complaint from the woman to David Allworthy, the party’s head of compliance, and asked him to investigate the matter immediately.” – Sunday Times (£)

Miliband’s reforms could lose Labour £4 million, apparently

Ed Miliband stare“Ed Miliband’s flagship reforms to Labour’s union links could leave a multi-million-pound funding black hole for the party, officials admitted last night. … They revealed the shake-up could lead to a £4 million cut in income, sparking Tory claims the change could leave Labour even more at the mercy of wealthy union barons.” – Mail on Sunday

“Senior union activists fear that Labour’s reforms to the way the party leader is selected will result in centrist, ‘white, middle-aged, grey-suit’ candidates in the future.” – Independent on Sunday

  • “If he can win support for these reforms at the special conference in March, he will have recast the relationship with the unions and got further in democratising his party than any Labour leader for many decades. This is bolder than anyone, himself included, had anticipated from Ed Miliband.” – Andrew Rawnsley, The Observer
  • “Vision, policies, and new unity: has Labour got its act together?” – Toby Helm, The Observer
  • “So we should not applaud too much. The Tory response, that ‘after these changes it will be even easier for the union barons to buy Labour’s policies, even easier to pick the leader and even easier to fix the selections’, is political knockabout but it has some truth in it.” – Sunday Times editorial (£)
  • “What is Milibandism?” – The Observer

>Today: Francis Maude MP on Comment – How we are cutting trade union work on the taxpayer

Balls left out of a trip to India – is there tension at the top of Labour?

“Ed Miliband has left his shadow chancellor Ed Balls out of a key Labour trip to India — fuelling talk of a bitter split between them. … The party leader has instead invited his rising star, shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna. … Colleagues see it as a snub to Mr Balls, with strained relations between the pair said to be at rock bottom.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

  • “Labour has a seven-point lead over the Tories, with Ukip continuing to hold on to a strong level of support, according to the latest Opinium/Observer poll.” – The Observer

Birmingham is the welfare capital of Britain

“Telly’s Benefits Street is aptly set in Birmingham — exposed yesterday as the welfare capital of Britain. … Brummies claimed a colossal £2.7billion in handouts last year — dwarfing everywhere else. … The total shelled out in Jobseekers Allowance — £173million — was more than double the sum in any other local authority. It is equivalent to £157 for every adult there.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

  • “Up to 70,000 low earners, single parents, and disabled people are being pursued by bailiffs over their failure to pay the ‘new poll tax’, according to figures revealed for the first time.” – Independent on Sunday

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

Care watchdog warns of an “alarming” culture within the NHS

NHS“The NHS will ‘go bust’ without radical change to drive up standards and rid hospitals of a ‘toxic’ bullying culture that damages patient care, the head of its official regulator has warned. … David Prior, the chairman of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), says the safety of the most vulnerable patients is being jeopardised by a ‘dysfunctional’ rift between NHS managers and clinical staff.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • “My prescription for healing the NHS is radical change” – David Prior, Sunday Telegraph
  • “Competition and transparency can rescue the NHS” – Sunday Telegraph editorial

Camilla Cavendish: We shall all suffer for paying care workers so little

“But while the big brains ponder how to square the hellish circles of social care, we are losing a generation of people who were passionate about their jobs, who had a vocation to care, but are too jaded to go on. The idea that we cannot muster the money even to pay for travel time is ridiculous. How can this government rustle up a free school meal for every young child, but deny care workers the minimum wage?” – Camilla Cavendish, Sunday Times (£)

News in brief

And finally 1) Clegg’s £10,000 portrait

“Commons chiefs have commissioned a £10,000 painting of the Liberal Democrat leader to be hung in the Palace of Westminster. … But last night Mr Clegg faced calls to follow the example of Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, who two years ago pulled out of a similar taxpayer-funded project because it would not be right in the current economic climate.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “Ed-Deputy PM John Prescott spent £3,450 of public money on 20,000 pens emblazoned with his department’s name.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

And finally 2) Norman Tebbit, children’s author

Norman Tebbit“Norman Tebbit, known for his robust approach to political opponents, has written a children’s story. The former Tory cabinet minister, now Lord Tebbit, won’t reveal the name of the book (and, frankly, I’m not brave enough to press the point). But it’s about a little boy and his dog, and will be published in spring.” – Roland White, Sunday Times (£)

And finally 3) Cameron may have met Hollande in a pub, but he ain’t got nothing on Churchill

“During a Christmas visit by Churchill to the United States in 1941, President Franklin D Roosevelt called on Churchill in his White House quarters and found him naked after his bath, pacing about the room giving dictation. The President made to leave, but Churchill stopped him with the line: ‘You see, Mr President, I have nothing to hide from you.'” – Independent on Sunday

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