Autumn Statement 1) £2 billion for the NHS

NHS‘Osborne will deliver a larger than expected boost to the NHS in this week’s Autumn Statement – injecting £2 billion to try to blunt Labour’s electoral advantage on the issue. Government sources say that the Chancellor has found the money for the windfall from budget surpluses across Whitehall departments. No 10 is acutely conscious that despite Ed Miliband’s rock-bottom personal ratings, the NHS remains the only policy area in which Labour consistently polls ahead of the Conservatives.’ – Mail on Sunday

>Today: Mark Field MP on Comment: Stealing Labour’s clothes has proved an ill fit for Conservatives

Autumn Statement 2) The Chancellor’s self-imposed difficulties

’In combination with weak wages growth, the allowance has made deficit reduction much harder. So did the repeated postponements of duty increases on petrol and diesel, which the chancellor acceded to under gentle pressure from his own backbenchers and white van man. The deficit could and should have been brought down more. Slow progress is better than no progress, and maybe part of Osborne’s calculation is that if the deficit had been eliminated voters might have concluded that the country was safe again for Labour. But that’s too subtle. On deficit reduction, the chancellor has failed.’ – David Smith, Sunday Times (£)

Autumn Statement 3) Osborne: We must stay the course

OSBORNE non-broken sword‘In my Autumn Statement on Wednesday, I will set out how Britain must stay the course to prosperity – with a long-term economic plan that works for you. I will also show that because we have a stronger economy, we can afford a stronger NHS. It all goes to show that thanks to the hard-working people of this country, our economy is in a much better place than it was four years ago.’ – George Osborne MP, The Sun on Sunday (£)

Autumn Statement 4) English councils demand fiscal devolution

‘England’s regions – including Tory shires – have joined forces to demand an end to austerity and a radical constitutional settlement that will give them the money and power to run their own affairs. The leaders of 119 English councils – of which 65 are controlled by Labour, 40 by the Conservatives and 10 by the Liberal Democrats – say in a letter to the Observer that the English people will not accept Scottish devolution unless it is matched by an equal redistribution of power south of the border. They also call on George Osborne to give them the ability and cash to run their own affairs, so that they are no longer at the mercy of financial decisions and diktats by a distant Whitehall.’ – The Observer

Immigration 1) Don’t expect any more from the Prime Minister

CAMERON POINTING‘Downing Street sources are stressing that the party won’t be campaigning on the issue in the coming months. One well-placed figure says: ‘The Prime Minister is very clear –that’s it on immigration, don’t expect him to say any more.’ But inside Number 10 there is recognition that the immigration issue has been mishandled in recent weeks. Part of the problem was that the Tory leadership falsely raised the hopes of hardline Eurosceptic backbenchers that Cameron was going to challenge the whole principle of EU free movement. But as one senior figure explains: ‘The more you looked at a cap, the more you realised it was not easy to deliver.’’ – James Forsyth, Mail on Sunday

Immigration 2) MPs warn he may have signed his own death warrant

‘Eurosceptic MPs said the prime minister has forfeited their trust. “Polls show that voters don’t trust what he says about Europe and immigration and now I don’t either,” said one. “He talks a good game but he opts for the path of least resistance.”’ – Sunday Times (£)

Immigration 3) Paterson: Leaving the EU offers the best of both worlds

EU Exit‘Leaving the European Union gives us more influence over the regulatory regimes that apply to trade within Europe. Not less. Outside the EU, we would not be bound by the European Court of Justice and its rulings on our benefits system, while participation in the EEA allows for “safeguard measures”, giving us an “emergency brake” on excessive migration – an option not available to us in the EU.’ – Owen Paterson MP, Sunday Telegraph

Mordaunt’s bet with the Royal Marines

‘A female Tory Minister made a spoof Commons speech on animal welfare in order to say an obscene word after a dare at a dinner with Navy officer friends. Communities Minister Penny Mordaunt said ‘c**k’ six times, ‘lay’ or ‘laid’ five times and mentioned the names of at least six officers during a debate on poultry welfare…Ms Mordaunt, 41, remained apparently unconcerned, saying: ‘If I have offended anyone I’m sorry. Feel free to beat me up over it.’’ – Mail on Sunday

>Today: ToryDiary: Make your mind up, Britain: do you want politicians to be ‘normal’ or not?

‘Highly unlikely’ Mitchell will return to the cabinet

MITCHELL Andrew ‘David Cameron has dashed Andrew Mitchell’s hopes of returning to the cabinet after the election in the wake of his defeat in the Plebgate libel trial. Senior sources in Downing Street said it was “highly unlikely” the prime minister would find a job for the former Conservative chief whip if he wins power again next year and that he would seek to promote rising stars instead.’ – Sunday Times (£)

Hitchens: Snoopers are a greater threat than terrorists

‘Now, because the drug-crazed killer Michael Adebowale made an unhinged threat on Facebook, we are asked to support the secret-police surveillance of the internet. On the same logic, we might as well allow MI5 to open all our letters, listen to all our telephone calls and bug our bedrooms, and for this creepy snooping to be allowed in evidence in court.’ – Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday

Farage in talks with Richard Desmond

UKIP logo‘Richard Desmond will meet Nigel Farage this week amid claims that the proprietor of Express newspapers is poised to throw his support behind Ukip at the general election. In what would be a coup for the Ukip leader, sources at Desmond’s company, Northern and Shell, said he was seriously considering having all three of his papers — the Daily Express, Sunday Express and Daily Star — formally endorse Ukip.’ – Sunday Times (£)

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: UKIP has peaked, and is in the process of becoming a party like any other

Labour row over devolving abortion law to Scotland

‘Ed Miliband has been caught up in a furious Labour row over plans to let Scotland decide its own abortion laws…But the suggestion that Scotland should be allowed to vary the current 24-week ‘upper limit’ for terminating pregnancies sparked a blazing row at last week’s Shadow Cabinet meeting.’ – Mail on Sunday

Up to 13,000 slaves in modern Britain

Police shield‘Up to 13,000 people in Britain are being held in conditions of slavery, four times the number previously thought, the Home Office has said. In what is said to be the first scientific estimate of the scale of modern slavery in the UK, the Home Office has said the number of victims last year was between 10,000 and 13,000.’ – Mail on Sunday

The Dutch ship that catches 23 per cent of English fish quotas

‘The super-trawler is one of about 3,000 UK-registered vessels, of which the vast majority are small in-shore boats that are based in traditional British fishing communities dotted round our coastline. But astonishingly, the Cornelis Vrolijk – which has reportedly stopped for less than ten hours in the UK over the past year – holds nearly 23 per cent of the entire English quota.’ – Mail on Sunday

News in Brief

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