Another blow for Cameron’s renegotiation plans…

CAMERON EU fence“European judges dealt a hammer blow yesterday to David Cameron’s attempts to crack down on the abuse of Britain’s visa system. … Strict rules forcing foreign family members of European Union residents to get a permit before visiting the UK were scrapped by the European Court of Justice. … The ruling by the court, which interprets EU law, also makes it less likely the Prime Minister will be able to renegotiate rules on freedom of movement.” – Daily Mail

  • “On Thursday a government spokesperson said it was ‘disappointed’ with the ruling and that ‘it is right to tackle fraud and the abuse of free movement rights’.” – Financial Times
  • “Almost 3,000 attempts to enter Britain are made each month by illegal immigrants, figures released by the Home Office have revealed.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “…in case after case, it is clear that the relationship between the EU and the UK is flawed and that Mr Cameron has just cause to fight for better terms.” – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • “…a referendum in 2017 is the only way out. And only one main party offers it.” – Sun editorial (£)
  • “EU meddling opens our borders to abuse.” – Daily Mail editorial
  • “Surprise, surprise: tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have ‘dropped off’ the Home Office’s radar.” – Nigel Farage, The Independent

…and could there be more to come?

EU Exit“Poland has warned that it will veto David Cameron’s plan to curb benefits paid to EU migrants in Britain. … Writing in The Independent, Rafal Trzaskowki, Poland’s Secretary of State for European Affairs, describes Mr Cameron’s proposals as discriminatory, unfair and illegal under EU rules on the freedom of movement. … Poland’s strong opposition is a big setback for the Prime Minister because reassuring the British public about EU migration will be a crucial aim when he negotiates a new deal for Britain ahead of an in/out EU referendum in 2017.” – The Independent

  • “David Cameron has accused Brussels of putting airline passenger lives at risk by stalling legislation that would enable the security services to monitor potential jihadists travelling across Europe.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “David Cameron and six other EU leaders have joined forces with European business leaders to try to inject new life into flagging talks on a trade deal between Europe and the United States.” – The Independent
  • “Millions of fat Brits will be able to sue their bosses for discrimination after an EU court ruling.” – The Sun (£)

And comment:

  • “Poland is open to dialogue, but EU benefits restrictions are illegal and unfair.” – Rafal Trzaskowski, The Independent
  • “Welfare in Britain isn’t fair, as UKIP knows.” – Philip Collins, The Times (£)

We should stand up for freedom of speech, argues the Prime Minister in response to the Sony hack

CAMERON straight at you“David Cameron has appeared to criticised Sony Pictures for pulling a controversial film about the assassination of North Korea’s leader after cyberhackers threatened reprcussions if the movie was released. … The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Mr Cameron gave a ‘very high importance’ to the principle of freedom of speech and said people should ‘never be shy’ about defending it when asked about the announcement.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “Nick Clegg has suggested Sony was wrong to bow to North Korean ‘intimidation’ by cancelling the release of its controversial film The Interview in the wake of a hacking attack by agents working for the repressive regime.” – Daily Telegraph

And comment:

  • “A ‘cyber war’ sounds fantastical, but it’s real – and we’re losing.” – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph
  •  “The Sony leak unearthed juicy gossip, but the blackmailers must not win.” – Gaby Hinsliff, The Guardian

SpAd controversy 1) May’s allies blocked from safe seats? Coverage of yesterday’s ConHome story

TIMOTHY Nick“A long running feud between the Conservative leadership and Theresa May burst into the open on Thursday when two senior advisers to the home secretary were removed from the party’s approved list of parliamentary candidates after they refused to campaign in the Rochester and Strood byelection. … In a letter leaked to the ConservativeHome website, Timothy wrote: ‘This decision cannot be valid because, as Theresa May’s chief of staff, I am bound by the code of conduct for special advisers.'” – The Guardian

  • “Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood was last night at the centre of claims that his office relaxed rules to allow Tory special advisers to campaign in the Rochester by-election. … The row erupted after Theresa May’s aides Nick Timothy and Stephen Parkinson were blocked as parliamentary candidates by Tory HQ.” – Daily Mail

> Today: ToryDiary – Two SpAds, Cameron, May, bad blood – and the short-termism of CCHQ

> Yesterday:

SpAd controversy 2) They’re everywhere and they’re costing more money

“Figures published yesterday show that there are now 103 so-called ‘spads’ working in Whitehall, at an annual cost to the taxpayer of £8.4million. … This is 17 per cent up on the £7.2million cost the year before, and much higher than the £5.9 million bill in Gordon Brown’s last year of power. … The number of special advisers is up on the 98 that were in place a year ago and 71 just after the Coalition took office.” – Daily Mail

The Home Secretary plans to put a 28-day time limit on police bail

MAY Warhol“Plans by the home secretary, Theresa May, to introduce a 28-day time limit on the use of police bail before a suspect is charged have been delayed by two months while a coalition dispute over its implementation is resolved. … The change in the law cannot go ahead until a dispute is resolved between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats over how extensions beyond the new 28-day limit should be approved.” – The Guardian

  • “Police warned yesterday that time curbs on bail could leave officers struggling to investigate crime fully unless other delays in the justice system were also addressed.” – The Times (£)
  • “Photographs of hundreds of thousands of innocent people are being kept on a giant database intended to help police to fight crime.” – The Times (£)
  • “The home secretary, Theresa May, announced on Thursday that a new domestic abuse offence of ‘coercive and controlling behaviour’ is to be introduced, carrying a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine.” – The Guardian

> Today: Tony Hogg on Local Government – We have 250 more police in Devon and Cornwall than planned by the Police Authority

Osborne recoups another £1.36 billion of taxpayers’ money from Icelandic bank

OSBORNE Blackberry“The UK government has recovered a further £1.36bn of taxpayers’ money, six years after bailing out thousands of British depositors after Icelandic lender Landsbanki collapsed. … The Treasury said on Thursday it has now recovered 85 per cent of the money it paid out to compensate savers with deposits in Icesave, the UK arm of Landsbanki, after it went bust in October 2008.” – Financial Times

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – What’s Osborne’s real record on deficit reduction?

Truss postpones the badger cull

s216_Elizabeth-Truss“A decision on spreading the badger cull to up to 40 more areas has been postponed indefinitely after a pilot cull failed to kill enough of the animals. … Farmers fear that Liz Truss, the environment secretary, will renege on a commitment to make the decision before the general election. … Delaying the decision until after the election would make it more difficult to extend culling next year to Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and other counties where hundreds of farms are blighted by tuberculosis in cattle.” – The Times (£)

Morgan to downgrade discredited courses

“Discredited vocational qualifications that teach basic career planning and even how to claim benefits will today be downgraded to push more students into traditional subjects. … So-called ‘personal effectiveness’ courses will be removed from the list of approved qualifications by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan. … She said it was ‘unimaginable’ they had been deemed equivalent to an AS-level in subjects such as physics or maths.” – Daily Mail

CCHQ raising funds for two elections next year

Pay“Sources close to the Tories say that party officials, wary that opinion polls show it is likely that neither major party will have overall control, have been told to begin raising funds for a second poll within months of the first. … ‘Extra fundraising is under way as a precaution in case there is a second election next year,’ a Tory source said. ‘It is sensible contingency planning given the possibility of a hung parliament.'” – The Guardian

  • “Nigel Farage’s personal approval rating has plummeted to its lowest ever level, with a new poll suggesting the Ukip leader is now as unpopular as David Cameron.” – The Independent
  • “The popular Channel 4 show Gogglebox has sacked one of its families because the father is running as a parliamentary candidate for Ukip.” – Daily Telegraph

And comment:

  • “The politicians seeking power in the 2015 election have never been so powerless.” – Steve Richards, The Guardian
  • “How Farage and Salmond – but not Miliband – ran Cameron ragged in 2014.” – John Crace, The Guardian

> Today: Mark Field MP on Comment – Would an inconclusive election result stoke support on the right for electoral reform?

> Yesterday: Lord Ashcroft on Comment – Moderate Tory cheer and a fright for Labour in my final marginals poll for 2014

Tory council chief warns of cuts to services

Scissors“Bins could be collected just once a month across large parts of Britain, a senior Tory council leader warned yesterday. … Gary Porter said cuts to frontline services such as rubbish collections were inevitable after funding for local authorities was slashed again. … Council chiefs said Communities Secretary Eric Pickles’ latest cuts – part of wider plans to tackle Britain’s budget deficit – would reduce funding by around £2.6billion next year.” – Daily Mail

  • “Kris Hopkins, the local government minister, said the settlement for 2015-16 was ‘fair for all parts of the country’ with no authority seeing a cut of more than 6.4 per cent.” – Financial Times
  • “Nearly two thirds of local authorities will have to cut out at least one service entirely because of an 8.6 per reduction in central funding next year, council chiefs warned yesterday.” – The Times (£)
  • “Housebuilding levels have hit a post-2008 high thanks to private construction, but levels of public building have been falling sharply, according to new figures.” – Financial Times

And comment:

  • “The days of endless handouts to local authorities are over, but central government has much to learn from its local counterparts.” – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • “More such rumbles will run through Whitehall, as vast general cuts are translated into specific proposals.” – Guardian editorial

> Yesterday: Local Government – Councils face a funding cut of just 1.8 per cent next year in a “fair settlement”

Quentin Letts on Bercow’s love for Urgent Questions

John Bercow“Speakers in the past were often gnarled old beaks, hard to impress. They understood the difference between public interest and cheap politics. They would usually tell the MP ‘sorry, chum, I can see it is important to you but I am not persuaded it is so pressing to the public that we need to drag the Secretary of State to the Chamber this afternoon’. … But Speaker Bercow loves to grant Urgent Questions. They are in his power! And they cause inconvenience to ministers. Bercow loves that. It makes him feel big.” – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

Twitter should block racist words, says Berger

“Luciana Berger, the shadow Minister for Public Health, has expressed her disappointment with the social media site’s handling of abuse and called for it to ban racist words such as ‘kike’, (a derogatory term for Jews) ‘which can never be used in a positive way’. [She said:]’Online hate needs to be taken as seriously as offline hate – but it isn’t. Twitter’s response isn’t good enough.'” – Daily Telegraph

Labour ministers rail against high energy prices

Labour-Party-Red-Rose-logo“A simmering row about high domestic energy prices was reignited on Thursday as figures from the industry regulator, Ofgem, showed total customer debt to suppliers had risen to more than £900m. … The Labour party said this and a 23% increase in electricity disconnections ‘lay bare the full scale of the cost-of-living crisis and David Cameron’s failure to tackle rip-off energy bills’.” – The Guardian

The SNP would vote on English laws to support a Labour minority government, suggests Salmond

Scottish flag“In an interview with The Independent, Mr Salmond suggested that SNP MPs could rethink their normal practice of abstaining in English-only legislation at Westminster if their support was required to prop up a minority Labour administration after the May general election. … Such an arrangement – on a ‘vote by vote’ basis – could allow Ed Miliband to survive as prime minister, if Labour emerges as the party with the largest number of UK seats but is outpolled by the Conservatives south of the border.” – The Independent

  • “Scottish and UK ministers have been urged to head off a ‘huge crisis’ in the North Sea amid warnings that it is on the brink of collapse thanks to plummeting oil prices.” – Daily Telegraph

And comment:

  • “Steady, Mr Salmond.” – Independent editorial

Cleared British soldiers speak of their “anguish” over Iraq investigations

CAMERON soldiers“Soldiers and their families yesterday said they had been left ‘disturbed’ and ‘angry’ after enduring a five-year inquiry into false claims that British troops murdered, tortured and mutilated Iraqis. … Former troops said their reputations had been tarnished and their relatives had suffered years of anguish due to the allegations, which the £31million investigation eventually exposed as ‘calculated lies’.” – Daily Mail

  • “Labour has taken £33,625 from one of the shamed law firms that smeared Army heroes.” – The Sun (£)
  • “An Afghan veteran and another soldier have been convicted of running an illegal payday loans business.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “Our enemies are using the courts as a weapon of war.” – Thomas Tugendhat, The Times (£)
  • “…this is simply part of the much wider human rights racket, a scandalous conspiracy by unscrupulous Left-wing lawyers designed to turn justice upside down.” – Richard Littlejohn, Daily Mail

Women could be fighting on the front line by 2016

“Women will be called up to fight on the front line as early as 2016 after a review into female combat soldiers, the government will announce today. … In a step towards lifting the rule that excludes female troops from hand-to-hand combat, the study found that putting women and men together would not harm the effectiveness of a ground combat team.” – The Times (£)

  • “Legislation has been tabled allowing women bishops to jump the queue and take the next available seat in the House of Lords.” – The Guardian

How British teenagers are being groomed for terrorism

ISIS“Extremists in Britain with links to Islamic State jihadists are offering cash payments to teenagers so they can travel to join terrorists in Syria, an investigation by The Times has found. … A three-month undercover operation, in which reporters posed as two schoolgirls, has exposed the ease with which young British Muslims are being groomed, radicalised and facilitated in making the journey to join the foreign conflict.” – The Times (£)

  • “Links between a fugitive NHS surgeon and commanders of the Taliban suicide cell who massacred 132 school children are being investigated by Pakistani intelligence officers.” – Daily Mail
  • “US counter-terrorism officials backed a high-stakes negotiation involving two of the world’s most prominent jihadi clerics as well as former Guantánamo detainees in an attempt to save the life of an American hostage held by Islamic State, the Guardian can reveal.” – The Guardian

And comment:

  • “The techniques of entrapment and grooming are potent.” – Times editorial (£)
  • “The splintering of the old order is at its most stark, and brutal, in the Middle East.” – Philip Stephens, Financial Times

Are NHS doctors delaying cancer tests to meet targets?

NHS“Patients with suspected cancer are being refused urgent tests by NHS managers in a ploy to meet waiting times targets, senior doctors have warned. … Some patients have their cancer risk ‘downgraded’ and are told they do not qualify for the two-week track. They are then not seen for up to six months.” – Daily Mail

  • “Healthcare experts have welcomed news that the NHS will provide financial incentives to GPs who wish to bring pharmacists into practices, as part of a £200m budget to kickstart primary care initiatives to be announced on Friday.” – The Guardian
  • “Flu levels have risen to their highest seasonal level for three years, official figures show.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “The controversial boss of two ambulance services has announced he is stepping down from one just 11 months into the job.” – Daily Mail

The Beeb’s director of news on the country’s inequality of news

BBC logo“BBC News better serves ‘rich, old, white people’ than those from poorer backgrounds and ethnic minorities, its most senior executive has claimed. … James Harding, director of news, said the corporation must ‘redress the balance’ and cater for all licence fee payers equally. … In a speech yesterday, Mr Harding said: ‘There is a real issue of information inequality in this country. Rich, old, white people are getting a better diet of news than poorer, younger, non-white people.’” – Daily Mail

  • “The BBC is failing to address the ‘awesomely difficult questions’ facing Britain, including the economy and the threat of radical Islam, according to the corporation’s former chief.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “Lesbian women earn more than straight employees – but gay men are paid less, a study has found.” – Daily Mail

Allegations about a Westminster paedophile ring are “credible”, say police

Police shield“Police yesterday described claims that a Conservative MP strangled a boy of 12 as ‘credible and true’. … Officers investigating three alleged murders linked to a VIP paedophile ring also backed claims that a Tory minister watched as another boy was murdered. … Scotland Yard has now launched an extraordinary appeal for information from celebrities, politicians and foreign dignitaries who lived at or visited the exclusive Dolphin Square estate in central London in the 1970s and 1980s.” – Daily Mail

  • “An MP heading the campaign to uncover sexual abuse allegations involving politicians has accused David Cameron of being ‘dismissive’ of the issue.” – The Independent

News in brief

  • The White House declines to implicate North Korea in the Sony hack – Daily Mail
  • And Blair declines to answer questions about his relationship with Wendi Deng – Daily Mail
  • Putin blames the West for Russia’s economic woes – Financial Times
  • Hollande seeks a softer line on sanctions against Russia – The Times (£)
  • Eight children found dead at a house in Australia – The Guardian
  • 100 women and children kidnapped in Boko Haram raid, according to reports – The Guardian
  • We’ll drink 114 per cent more than usual tonight – Daily Telegraph

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