Woolwich report 1) Security officials made blunders

Lee Rigby“Security officials made a string of blunders in tracking the fanatics who butchered Lee Rigby, an official report said yesterday. … Agents dismissed Michael Adebolajo as a drug dealer who was not a threat to national security weeks before the merciless killing outside Woolwich barracks in London in May 2013. … Following a series of errors, including paperwork delays, neither of the Muslim converts was under intrusive surveillance at the time of the murder.” – Daily Mail

  • “A former leader of Ukip has been accused of ‘diabolical’ behaviour after he responded to the publication of a report on the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby by calling on Muslims to ‘address the violence’ in the Qur’an and in ‘the life and the example’ of the prophet Muhammad.” – The Guardian
  • “Lives are being lost to terrorists because Edward Snowden hampered security service operations, according to terror experts.” – Daily Mail
  • “Another British person has been killed in Syria, according to reports currently being investigated by the Foreign Office.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “The Conservative minister is right to opt for new anti-terror laws.” – Financial Times editorial
  • “Better intelligence is needed, not new powers.” – Guardian editorial

Woolwich report 2) MPs criticise Facebook

Facebook“British lawmakers have rebuked Facebook and other US tech companies including Apple, Google and Twitter for withholding information on potential terror suspects as part of an official report into the jihadi-inspired murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby on the streets of London 18 months ago. … This month Prime Minister David Cameron said internet companies had a ‘social responsibility’ to tackle extremist content online and report suspicious activity to authorities.” – Financial Times

  • “The family of Lee Rigby last night accused Facebook of failing to help stop his killers. … They said the internet giant had ‘blood on its hands’ because it had hosted exchanges between one of the soldier’s murderers and an Al Qaeda extremist, in which the former said: ‘Let’s kill a soldier.’” – Daily Mail
  • “David Cameron has long faced criticism over how he has made Downing Street far too close to internet giants since he became Prime Minister.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “MI5 cannot blame internet firms for Lee Rigby’s murder.” – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • “Facebook and the other internet companies need a complete change in attitude. … They have to start acting responsibly or the next murders will be on their heads.” – Sun editorial (£)
  • “Some people – among them, no doubt, the occupants of the Kremlin – will consider it a sign of weakness that we are so ready to flay ourselves in public and discuss the blameworthiness of our secret agencies. Well, let them. Watching this exercise in parliamentary accountability yesterday, it felt pretty good to be British.” – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

May warns against the rise of violent pornography and video games

MAY Home Office big“An increase in violent in video games and pornography means that many young people ‘simply do not understand what a healthy relationship is’, the Home Secretary has said. … Theresa May said that many young people now think it is ‘OK to hit, for the boyfriend to hit the girlfriend’ and the Government must do more to ensure young people know when there is something going wrong in their relationship.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “Some 16 per cent of kids aged 11 to 16 have accessed websites containing ‘adult content’ at school.” – The Sun (£)
  • “The future of the BBC licence fee was thrown into further doubt yesterday as it emerged children watch half the amount of live television as their parents.” – Daily Mail

IDS suggests that Universal Credit will be withheld from new migrants…

Border“Jobseekers from the European Union are to be barred from having their wages topped up by the state, Iain Duncan Smith has revealed. … The Work and Pensions Secretary told MPs people who come to the UK will not be able to claim universal credit, which is replacing all of the main out-of-work benefits and tax credits. … Mr Duncan Smith’s intervention fuelled speculation that a bar on access to the new credit will be a centrepiece of a keenly-anticipated speech by David Cameron…” – Daily Mail

  • “The UK’s flagship welfare programme faces more delays, with the National Audit Office warning that the universal credit’s new IT system is six months behind schedule.” – Financial Times
  • “The cost to taxpayers of border controls at Calais has shot to £17.5million, it emerged last night.” – The Sun (£)
  • “Immigration is responsible for 84 per cent of the surge in Britain’s population this century, a report claims today.” – Daily Mail
  • “One in ten employees feel so overworked they would happily take a pay cut if they could do fewer hours.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “Nothing Cameron can say on taxes or immigration is likely to sway Farage’s sceptical and disillusioned supporters.” – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times (£)
  • “Our children need to emulate the determination of émigrés such as Arminka Helic if we are to rejuvenate Britain.” – Alice Thomson, The Times (£)

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – The Conservatives won’t win by banging on. And on. And on. And on. And on and on and on about Europe.

…and does Clegg agree?

Nick Clegg portrait“Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, has cleared the way for a coalition crackdown on the welfare paid to EU migrants, pre-empting David Cameron by backing plans to curb access to benefits. … His intervention underlines the hardening attitudes at Westminster towards immigration, as the main parties try to fend off the threat of the UK Independence party by promising to make Britain less attractive to migrant workers.” – Financial Times

  • “As we build on the reforms the coalition has already made, our aim must be to return freedom of movement to its original intention: a right to work.” – Nick Clegg, Financial Times

Pro-Europe Tories launch a new group

EU Flag“Exasperated by eurosceptic Tories making all the running, pro-European Conservative MPs have finally decided to fight back with their own lobby group. … Former minister Damian Green and other prominent pro-Europeans say they are mobilising to dispel the popular view that the ‘vast majority of the Tory party are gagging to get out of Europe.’ … Mr Green said there was 60 MPs in the European Mainstream Group but declined to release a list of the members.” – Financial Times

  • “The Tories should do more to appeal to young people who are ‘relaxed about drugs, sex, alcohol and different family structures’, [Damian Green] will say today.” – Daily Telegraph

And comment:

  • “Anti-EU forces are battle ready: the fightback must start now.” – Rafael Behr, The Guardian

Osborne to make it easier for savers to switch banks…

OSBORNE non-broken sword“Savers could soon be able to switch current accounts within five days instead of seven. … Last year ministers cut the time limit from 30 days to a week. More than 1.2million people, frustrated with rock-bottom interest rates, switched banks as a result. … Now the Chancellor may reduce the time limit to five days in his Autumn Statement next Wednesday, according to Sky News.” – Daily Mail

  • “Overhauling the broken culture of high street banking will take a generation to achieve, according to a report that found UK banks have received 20m customer complaints since the financial crisis.” – The Guardian
  • “Figures from the British Bankers’ Association showed a sharp slowdown in mortgage approvals, while Nationwide building society has reported a drop in lending volumes.” – The Guardian

And comment:

  • “Radical cures for unusual economic ills.” – Martin Wolf, Financial Times

> Today: Peter Hoskin on Comment – How Osborne changed into White Van George

> Yesterday:

…and wants deficit reduction recognised in law

“George Osborne will next week announce plans to put into law a promise to balance Britain’s underlying budget deficit by the middle of the next parliament, in a move partly intended as a trap for Labour. … In a rare example of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats agreeing policy beyond the next election, the two coalition parties are expected to set a formal target to eliminate the headline deficit by 2017-18.” – Financial Times

  • “George Osborne is right to attack Labour’s deficit plan – but his ruse is too political.” – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph

Hunt admits taking his children to A&E rather than a GP

HUNT Doctor Carla Millar“Jeremy Hunt has admitted taking his children to A&E over a weekend because he didn’t want to wait for a GP appointment. … The Health Secretary revealed he had ignored his own department’s advice that casualty should be used for urgent or life-threatening cases. … He tried to explain why he had not heeded NHS guidance, saying that it is not always clear when emergency care is necessary.” – Daily Mail

  • “A&E departments should relieve pressure on emergency staff by having GPs on hand to see patients with less serious health problems, leading doctors have said.” – The Independent
  • “NHS watchdogs have stepped in after they found patients suffering from life-threatening conditions left for hours without any assessment at an Accident and Emergency unit in Kent.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “NHS hospitals built using the Government’s new private finance model will be saddled with even more debt than under the previous system – already blamed for crippling trusts – while investors enjoy greater rewards, according to a report published today.” – The Independent
  • “Ministers are giving qualified support to a report on Wednesday calling for £30m of bank fines to be used to kickstart a drive to close hospital units such as the one at the centre of the Winterbourne View scandal and move 2,600 people with learning disabilities or autism into alternative accommodation in the community.” – The Guardian
  • “Britain is the fourth worst in the world for cancer caused by obesity among men, according to a major Lancet study.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “Smoking rates among young men have seen their biggest yearly rise in more than a decade, new stats show. … Male youths aged 16 to 24 are bucking the trend of an overall fall in smoking across Britain.” – The Sun (£)

Javid writes to FIFA over report into suspect World Cup bids

“The British government has intervened in the row over Michael Garcia’s report into the Controversial 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding process, saying Fifa risks damaging the reputation of football if it does not publish it in full. … The culture secretary, Sajid Javid, has written to Fifa president Sepp Blatter in support of the FA’s call for Garcia’s report to be published in full, with appropriate redactions to protect whistleblowers.” – The Guardian

> Today: ToryDiary – May and Javid. A tale of two future Conservative leaders?

Grayling hails the Government’s efforts to monitor sex offenders

GRAYLING collarless“Sex offenders are being sent back to jail after confessing to new offences in lie detector tests. … Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘Under this government more sex offenders are going to prison, for longer. … But when they are released it’s vital we monitor them closely, and get them back behind bars if they breach their licence conditions.'” – The Sun (£)

  • “More than 100 names have been put forward as possible heads of the Government’s child sex abuse inquiry, it has emerged.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “A former Ukip regional chairman has been jailed for almost five years for grooming children as young as 12 and possessing almost 200,000 indecent images of children.” – The Independent
  • “Some of the UK’s biggest police forces have recorded a rise in the number of violent homophobic crimes this year, according to new figures.” – The Guardian

> Today: The Deep End – How we emptied the hospitals and filled up the prisons

Ministers considering cutting bird flu checks

chicken“Ministers have been privately considering plans to cut back on health inspections to fight avian flu, as well as a swath of other animal welfare and farm inspections, even though a new bird flu strain has been found in the UK and is considered to pose a significant risk to the poultry sector. … Papers leaked to the Guardian show the cuts were discussed at a meeting on 20 November among civil servants at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.” – The Guardian

Grieve “acted unlawfully” over Prince Charles letters, court told

“The government’s most senior legal adviser acted unlawfully when he overrode a court and blocked the publication of secret letters written by Prince Charles, the supreme court has been told. … Dinah Rose QC, for the Guardian, said Dominic Grieve, when he was attorney general, had behaved ‘contrary to fundamental constitutional principle’. She said Grieve could not override a court simply because he disagreed with its verdict.” – The Guardian

Labour policy backlash 1) Hunt accused of “offensive bigotry” by his old school

LABOUR dead rose“The headmaster of Tristram Hunt’s former school yesterday accused Labour’s education spokesman of ‘offensive bigotry’ after he threatened to strip private schools of tax breaks worth £700million. … Mark Beard, head of £17,835-a-year University College School in Hampstead, North London, said the policy by one of his old boys was ‘tasteless’.” – Daily Mail

  • “Private headteachers have warned that Labour’s threat to strip tax privileges from independent schools will harm rather than advance social mobility by sapping funds available for bursaries and scholarships and increasing fees.” – Financial Times

And comment:

  • “The shadow education secretary should wave carrots at private schools, not sticks.” – Times editorial (£)
  • “Labour’s education policies need to focus on the state sector.” – Financial Times editorial
  • “Tristram Hunt has resorted to the politics of class envy.” – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • “So here’s the World of Whitehall According to Dom[inic Cummings]: disaster strewn, dystopic, dangerous to know.” – Ann Treneman, The Times (£)

Labour policy backlash 2) Party split over income tax powers for Scotland

Scottish flag“The frontrunner to be Labour’s new leader in Scotland yesterday demanded full control over income tax for Edinburgh despite deep splits in the party over the implications of the move. … Shadow Chancellor Mr Balls is said to have warned colleagues it is also likely to mean Scottish MPs being barred from voting on tax affairs at Westminster – a move that could make it impossible for a future Labour government to pass Budgets.” – Daily Mail

  • “Labour needs to bridge the gulf dividing it from its own voters.” – Mary Riddell, Daily Telegraph

> Today: Henry Hill’s column – Scotland’s leading ladies set out competing visions

Charity staff rebel against Blair award

“Nearly 200 employees [of Save the Children] have signed a letter condemning the decision to give the former Prime Minister a ‘global legacy award’ as ‘morally reprehensible’ and ‘a betrayal’ of the charity’s principles. … Mr Blair was presented with the award – for the last Labour government’s aid spending – by the charity’s US arm at a star-studded ceremony in New York last week.” – Daily Mail

Letts: The smug elite despise the rest of us

Quentin Letts“Not as nice as he looks, David Mellor. The vainglorious former Tory Cabinet minister turned broadcaster is again in the mire. … And after Labour frontbencher Emily Thornberry’s mockery of ‘white-van man’ last week, does it not demonstrate the gulf that exists between the working people of this country and the legal-political class of the post-Thatcher era?” – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

  • “We shouldn’t blame David Mellor for getting angry.” – Joan Bakewell, Daily Telegraph

And related news stories:

  • “Stuck-up David Mellor has been banned from black cabs until he apologises for his foul-mouthed rant at a driver.” – The Sun (£)

News in brief

  • Police investigating Lord Hanningfield over alleged expenses fraud – Daily Mail 
  • Australian cricketer in coma after being struck by ball – Daily Mail
  • “The process is broken.” Michael Brown’s family respond to Ferguson verdict – The Guardian
  • A mansion tax could dissuade Angelina Jolie from moving to the UK – The Guardian
  • Beware of the killer grey seals – Daily Telegraph

And finally: A divine intervention against the European Union

POPE FRANCIS Christmas Day“The Pope has dubbed Europe ‘an infertile Grandma’ in a savage attack on its mountains of bureaucracy. … In an address to the European Parliament, Pope Francis said Europe had to reinvent itself and do more to create jobs. … Speaking in Strasbourg the Pope said the EU was in danger of being seen as ‘downright harmful’ to Europeans.” – The Sun (£)

  • “The new president of the European Commission will today attempt to turn the Union’s fortunes round with a £250 billion spending plan to prime the economy and revive morale in the face of spreading popular revolt.” – The Times (£)

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