Cameron urged to speak up for a Guantanamo inmate in talks with Obama

cameron-face“David Cameron was last night urged to raise the case of Guantanamo detainee Shaker Aamer with Barack Obama in face-to-face talks early next year. … Any solution could be part of an expected push by the US president to shut the base, as he had pledged to do when taking office nearly six years ago. … Downing Street has not confirmed the talks will go ahead, but insisted the issue had been raised at the ‘highest levels’. A source said: ‘It’s a priority for us and continues to be one.'” – Daily Mail

  • “Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve has said the CIA’s interrogation of al Qaida suspects would not occur in Britain because of the European Convention on Human Rights.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “A controversial report into the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in Britain will not be published in full, the government has confirmed, with a summary likely to come out six months after it was originally meant to be released.” – Financial Times
  • “Al Qaeda has called for a new generation of ‘lone wolf’ terrorists to blow up easyJet and British Airways planes using bombs made in their kitchens.” – Daily Mail

The Tories will win BOTH of next year’s elections, predicts Trevor Kavanagh

Rosette shield“So, my first prediction: David Cameron will still be Prime Minister on May 8, with the Tories the largest party, perhaps even with a narrow majority. … My second: There will be no new Tory-Lib Dem coalition. … Third: There will be another election in October. … Fourth: The Tories will win convincingly. The election result is a no-brainer.” – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun (£)

Whitehall is missing its targets for women’s employment

“Only two Whitehall departments met the government’s target of appointing as many women as men to top public jobs in 2013-14, official figures have shown. … The data showed that less than 40% of appointments made by Whitehall departments went to women in that financial year and 10 departments performed worse than they did in the previous one.” – The Guardian

  • “Seven out of ten people found guilty of failing to buy a TV licence last year were women.” – The Times (£)

And comment:

  • “Working-class women and low-paid cinema workers became leaders last year. Now it’s time for the rest of us to follow.” – Owen Jones, The Guardian

The Government favoured Murdoch, claims outgoing Ofcom chief

Murdoch“Media power in Britain must not be allowed to fall into ‘too few hands’, the retiring head of Ofcom has warned – as he accused government representatives of showing favouritism to Rupert Murdoch’s companies. … In a rare interview, Ed Richards said he was ‘surprised’ by the informality, closeness and frequency of contact between executives and ministers during the failed bid by Mr Murdoch’s News Corp for BSkyB in 2011.” – The Independent

Lewis raises his concerns about Britain’s nuclear deterrent

D5LAUNCH“The decision to axe Britain’s fleet of maritime patrol aircraft has raised fears that the country’s nuclear deterrent is at risk as the Russian navy steps up efforts to track the submarines that carry Trident missiles. … ‘The loss of Nimrod has created a potentially lethal gap in our defensive armoury. Even defence ministers admit that,’ said Julian Lewis, a Conservative member of the UK parliament’s defence committee.” – Financial Times

  • “Nato and the US formally ended their combat mission in Afghanistan yesterday, leaving the main burden of combating the Taliban on the shoulders of the Afghan forces who are dying in record numbers.” – The Times (£)

And comment:

  • “We can’t always afford women’s anti-war anger.” – Melanie Phillips, The Times (£)

Soames wants rail bosses sacked after last week’s disruption

Network-Rail“Rail bosses should be sacked after tens of thousands of passengers endured a weekend of misery because of over-running engineering work and signal failures, a senior Tory MP said yesterday. … Sir Nicholas Soames said the disruption proved there had been a fundamental breakdown in the running of Britain’s railway industry. … Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, condemned the chaos as totally unacceptable and said he had been assured by Mr Carne that ‘everything is being done to ensure the remaining engineering work is completed on schedule’.” – The Times (£)

  • “The boss of the rail firm behind the great Christmas train fiasco is on track for a £135,000 bonus. … He has refused to cut short his holiday at his £800,000 second home in Cornwall, from where he was forced to issue an apology last night.” – Daily Mail
  • “Tory transport minister Claire Perry has drawn ridicule for ‘toasting the success’ of the railways when thousands of passengers faced hours of delay in the bitter cold.” – The Independent

And comment:

  • Newspaper mastheads“Who cares about the fare-paying public?” – Daily Mail editorial
  • “The only way lessons can be learned from the Network Rail fiasco is if there is real accountability for failure.” – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • “The misery that railway travellers endured this Christmas is a scandal that should not be shrugged off.” – Independent editorial
  • “Rail passengers faced inconvenience and danger. Big fines and more competitive pressures must follow.” – Times editorial (£)

Tories turn on Laws

LAWS David Yeovil

“Tory MPs expressed shock at Mr Laws’ attack, as he is widely seen as right wing and had a brief stint as Treasury chief secretary when the 2010 spending review was devised. … Conservatives also drew on Mr Laws’ own words on the subject of spending cuts yesterday, pointing to an interview he gave The Sunday Telegraph in 2012 in which he called for spending to be cut to 35 per cent of GDP, which falls in line with Tory plans to reduce it to 35.2 per cent in 2019-2020.” – The Times (£)

Clegg is the most gay-friendly leader, suggests poll (but gay people aren’t so keen on his party)

“Nick Clegg is seen as the most ‘gay-friendly’ party leader, a survey by PinkNews reveals. … Despite that, just 16.9 per cent of readers plan to vote Lib Dem — down from 39 per cent at the 2010 general election. … The poll shows support for David Cameron has surged after he championed same-sex marriage. … More than one in three gay voters — 36.7 per cent — like him being PM. … That beats the 28.6 per cent who back Ed Miliband for No10 — even though Labour is the party most favour.” – The Sun (£)

  • “44% of 18- to 25-year-olds have not decided which party to vote for.” – The Guardian

Labour pledge to have the Magna Carta taught in every classroom

School“Magna Carta will be taught in every classroom if Labour wins power. … Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt makes the pledge in The Sun today in an attempt to reignite young people’s faith in politics. … It comes as we mark the 800th anniversary next year of the document that established basic legal freedoms when it was signed by King John in 1215. … Writing for us, the TV historian turned MP says: ‘We should champion our proud past of liberty and justice.'” – The Sun (£)

  • “More than £20,000 was spent on each pupil in a group of free schools and academies last year, sparking accusations that the government is lavishing money on its flagship education policy.” – The Times (£)
  • “Students wishing to safeguard their careers against changes in the job market should opt for science rather than arts degrees, according to a survey of undergraduates.” – Daily Mail

Wanted: Someone to line up celebrity endorsements for Miliband

Ed Miliband stare“The Labour party is advertising for a £33,000 a year endorsement officer to forge new relationships with celebrities for Ed Miliband. … The Labour leader is hiring the aide to show he is in touch with the people of Britain in the run up to the general election. … A job advert on the Labour party’s website says the candidate will need to ‘deliver an effective General Election endorsements programme with specific focus on real people and celebrity endorsements.'” – Daily Mail

  • “Ed Miliband wants a counter-revolution, but doesn’t know how to get it.” – Jason Cowley, Daily Telegraph

“Westminster paedophile ring”: Mann hands two more names to the police

Police shield“Scotland Yard has been handed the names of two more former Government ministers accused of sexually abusing children. … Campaigning MP John Mann said he was approached last week by a victim who claims to have been abused by the politicians – one a peer – in the 1980s and has passed the detailed allegations to detectives. … The latest phase in his search for the truth about a suspected Westminster child sex ring came as he called for retired detectives to be granted an unprecedented amnesty from the Official Secrets Act to help lift the lid on alleged VIP abusers.” – Daily Mail

  • “The Ministry of Defence has paid out more than £2million to settle claims of sex abuse against youngsters in the cadet forces over the past three years, it has emerged.” – Daily Mail

Farage warns Labour against elevating Salmond to the Cabinet

Scottish flag“The English will not stand for Alex Salmond becoming a Government minister in May, Nigel Farage warned last night. … Farage said: ‘If Alex Salmond becomes a Government minister he could hold England to ransom. … Some 86 per cent of the population of the UK is in England and they clearly want a fairer deal. … If they don’t think they are getting one they are going to be very upset. Miliband’s backbenchers won’t wear it.'” – The Sun (£)

  • “Ed Miliband was snubbed on the eve of the Scottish referendum when his request to speak at a pro-Union rally was turned down, it was claimed yesterday.” – The Times (£)
  • “Scots believe that the devolution settlement will be beefed up if the SNP holds the balance of power at Westminster after next year’s general election, according to a new poll.” – The Times (£)

And comment:

  • “The irony being that it’s the popularity of Farage’s party which makes this appalling prospect more likely. … Ukip will hurt the Tories more than Labour.” – Sun editorial (£)

Politics poses the greatest threat to Britain’s prosperity, reckons the FT

GROWTH Krieg“Politics also poses the greatest threat to Britain’s prosperity. Its most enduring supply side problem concerns land. A dysfunctional planning system, held hostage by local politics, has led to chronic housing shortages. Major projects like high speed rail or a new airport runway take years too long to complete. Britain’s openness to trade is at risk from a nativist backlash against immigration and a referendum that may lead to exit from the EU.” – Financial Times editorial

  • “All my life I have been told that Britain is in decline. But stand back and take a long, hard look. Even by relative standards, it just is not true. We have recently overtaken France (again) as the fifth largest economy in the world and are closing on Germany.” – Matt Ridley, The Times (£)
  • “Stay ahead of the curve and cut taxes.” – Tim Montgomerie, The Times (£)
  • “Why we should all learn to love paying our taxes.” – Zoe Williams, The Guardian

> Today: Lord Flight’s column – What has happened to productivity? > Yesterday: ToryDiary – Who will take over this troubled EU renegotiation?

Leading public figures call on politicians to legalise assisted dying

“Political leaders must agree a plan to legalise assisted dying as one Briton a fortnight is now travelling abroad to end their lives, an alliance of prominent figures from across public life warns today. … In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, some 80 doctors, writers, actors, clerics and politicians say an ‘overwhelming majority’ of the public now supports a change in the law and that Parliament must allow time to finally resolve the issue.” – Daily Telegraph Read their letter in full

Rose report to criticise the health service’s “over-complex” management structure

NHS“The NHS is being hampered by an over-complex management structure which is quashing initiative within the service, a delayed government report by the former Marks & Spencer chief Sir Stuart Rose is expected to conclude. … The report was due to be published in November but is now expected early in the new year before the general election and amid growing concerns about the pressures being placed on hospital accident and emergency departments.” – The Guardian

  • “The NHS plans to ease pressure on GPs ‘on the cheap’ by doubling the number of semi-qualified surgery assistants.” – Daily Mail
  • “More than 3,000 ops were axed in the first two weeks of December — as pressure on the NHS hit an all-time high.” – The Sun (£)
  • “Drunks who abuse hospital staff should be arrested rather than fined, a top medic has said.” – The Sun (£)
  • “The number of NHS managers being paid the equivalent of more than £300,000 a year has doubled in just 12 months, it can be disclosed.” – Daily Telegraph

> Today: Harriet Maltby on Comment – Here’s how New Zealand can help to save the NHS

Councils in Portsmouth and Southampton working towards a new “combined authority”

Handshake“Councils in Portsmouth and Southampton are working on plans to create a new ‘combined authority’ along the lines of similar groupings in the north, putting aside the traditional rivalry of the two cities on the UK’s south coast. … The move, if it is signed off in the new year, would mark the first of its kind beyond the north of England, where there are five combined authorities in Manchester, Sheffield, West Yorkshire, Merseyside and the northeast.” – Financial Times

  • “Almost 7,000 homes and buildings will be sacrificed to the rising seas around England and Wales over the next century, according to an unpublished Environment Agency (EA) analysis seen by the Guardian. Over 800 of the properties will be lost to coastal erosion within the next 20 years.” – The Guardian

Rising concern about immigration

Border“Immigration is now consistently the most important political issue of concern to voters, pollsters have revealed. … Over the past year it has moved ahead of the economy as the British public’s top priority, according to YouGov. … At one point, in September, it was selected by 58 per cent of voters as one of the three most important issues for the country while only 48 per cent had the economy in their top three.” – Daily Mail

  • “Scores of asylum seekers are being ‘dumped’ on poorer parts of Britain, it was claimed last night. … Of the 27,000 asylum seekers pending a decision on their status, most are being housed in cities such as Glasgow, Liverpool or Cardiff.” – The Sun (£)
  • “A corner of South Devon has been named as the baby boomer capital of Britain, with a third of residents in the South Hams area aged between 50 and 68.” – Daily Mail
  • “Almost a third of Londoners buying their first home did so outside the capital this year as house price growth soared by double digits, blocking many out of the market.” – The Times (£)
  • “House prices across Britain will fall in 2015 after a year in which they soared, a leading independent forecaster warns.” – Daily Mail

> Yesterday: Daniel Kawczynski MP on Comment – It’s time to stand up for the free movement of peoples within Europe

Taxpayers may have to pay for City Link redundancies

pound-coin“The private equity dealmaker who failed to turn round City Link has been forced on the defensive as it emerged taxpayers will pick up the redundancy bill for the 2,760 workers who are expected to lose their jobs at the parcel delivery business. … Jon Moulton, who founded City Link’s owner Better Capital, told the FT he had explored ‘every possible way’ to save the company before its collapse into administration on Christmas Eve and that he had lost ‘several million pounds’ of his own money.” – Financial Times

British man among the passengers on missing AirAsia flight

“The family of a British businessman and his two-year-old daughter who were on a missing AirAsia jet said yesterday they are ‘preparing for the worst’. … Millionaire Chi-Man Choi, 48 and originally from Hull, and little Zoe are among 162 passengers and crew feared killed after Singapore-bound Flight QZ8501 apparently went into the sea after trying to climb to avoid a fierce storm. … But it sent no distress signal and no wreckage has yet been identified.” – The Sun (£)

  • “Helicopter crews vowed to work through the night in a daring operation to rescue hundreds of terrified passengers stuck on a burning ferry.” – The Sun (£)

News in brief

  • Glasgow crash victims remembered – The Guardian
  • Jeb Bush leads his rivals for the Republican Presidential candidacy, according to a new poll – Daily Mail
  • Limited edition £100 coin to feature an image of Big Ben – Daily Mail
  • Top managers’ pay reveals weak link to value – Financial Times
  • ‘The Interview’ makes $15 million in digital sales – Financial Times
  • Temperatures to drop to minus-10 – The Sun (£)

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