Cameron moves against online child abuse…

Cameron1“Paedophiles who currently solicit explicit pictures of children routinely escape punishment if it can’t be proved they have received an illegal image. … But the new law will allow police and prosecutors to pursue those who send text messages or ‘fish’ for victims online, irrespective of the outcome of their behaviour … The Prime Minister will use a summit with internet firms and experts in Downing Street today to announce that a Serious Crime Bill currently going through Parliament will introduce the broad new offence, punishable by two years in jail.” – Daily Mail

  • “A new joint NCA-GCHQ specialist unit is to be established to crack down on paedophiles who are using the so-called ‘dark web; to disguise their identities and to encrypt illegal images of children that they share with peers in what the prime minister describes as a ‘horrific crime’.” – The Guardian

And comment:

  • “David Cameron was criticised for not funding the war on child sex abuse images on the web. To his credit he now has.” – Sun editorial (£)

…commemorates the victims of the Holocaust at Auschwitz…

Auschwitz“David Cameron today penned a note in the Auschwitz memorial book describing the site as a place ‘where the darkest chapter of human history happened’. … During his first ever trip to the concentration camp the Prime Minister paid his respects to the millions of Jews who died in the Holocaust. … He lit a candle in memory of those who were killed and spent time walking round the site in Poland where so many were murdered in World War II under Nazi rule.” – The Sun (£)

  • “David Cameron has admitted that he does not know when the official inquiry into the Iraq war will be published, saying he is ‘not in control’ of its timing.” – The Times (£)

…joins Halfon in calling for lower petrol prices…

Petrol pump“Drivers are being ripped off by a postcode pumps lottery with 10p gaps between nearby garages, motoring groups have said – even as the Prime Minister warned retailers to pass on tumbling oil costs. … David Cameron’s remarks came after experts predicted the price of crude oil would continue to fall, having already dropped 40 per cent over the past six months.” – Daily Mail

  • “Asda sparked a petrol price war by taking fuel below 115p – in a huge victory for the Sun. … And it came as the No.2 at the Treasury said prices should fall by another eight pence per litre by the New Year.” – The Sun (£)
  • “The price of internationally traded oil fell below $65 for the first time in more than five years on Wednesday.” – Financial Times

…and prepares to meet his Irish counterpart in Belfast

Ireland flag“David Cameron will join his Irish counterpart, Enda Kenny, in Belfast on Thursday morning to lend their support to all-party talks aimed at solving toxic issues hanging over from the Northern Ireland peace process. … The prime minister and the taoiseach are expected to meet the parties at Stormont in a bid to push forward negotiations on issues such as disputed marches, the flying of flags and the legacy of the Troubles.” – The Guardian

  • “The euro is heading for disaster – what luck for David Cameron!” – Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph

May gets caught up in a row over press freedom

MAY Home Office big“Ministers had promised safeguards to prevent police misusing anti-terror powers to unmask potentially embarrassing confidential sources who blow the whistle to reporters. … But proposals unveiled by Home Secretary Theresa May made clear forces could continue to authorise their own applications for journalists’ telecoms data under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.” – Daily Mail

  • “Police forces are to be stripped of the power to manage public complaints made against their own officers, the home secretary will announce on Thursday.” – The Guardian
  • “Prisoners and their guards should meditate together to reduce violence and improve behaviour, an MP has suggested.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “A woman gave evidence in a rape trial for an hour before anyone realised she was not speaking English.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “It turns out that the Government is not remotely serious about protecting journalists’ sources from the police’s prying eyes.” – Sun editorial (£)

Coverage of Davis’s article for ConHome, accusing the Blair Government of a “secret policy of complicity in torture”

David Davis“The Blair Government was last night accused of operating a ‘secret policy of complicity in torture’ after 9/11 as demands grew for the UK to hold a full judicial inquiry. … Amid the fallout from the US Senate’s explosive report into the barbaric techniques used by the CIA, ex-shadow home secretary David Davis said the UK had ‘turned a blind eye’ to what America was doing. … He said this included ‘allowing people initially under our control to be taken and subjected to torture’.” – Daily Mail

  • “The brutal and systematic torture of terror suspects during the war on terror was authorised by the White House, US intelligence officials said last night.” – The Times (£)
  • “A report released on Tuesday by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee accusing the CIA of torturing terrorism detainees behind former President George W. Bush’s back is a ‘terrible piece of work’ that is ‘deeply flawed,’ former Vice President Dick Cheney said on Wednesday.” – Daily Mail
  • “Britain must follow the lead of the United States and hold an independent inquiry into British complicity in CIA torture, MPs and human rights campaigners said last night.” – The Times (£)
  • “Tony Blair is to be hauled before MPs to explain the so-called ‘comfort letters’ sent to IRA fugitives.” – The Sun (£)

And other terror-related stories:

  • “Two former British soldiers who flew to Syria to fight Islamic State fanatics were held at Heathrow as terror suspects after flying home for Christmas.” – Daily Mail
  • “A ground-breaking study has revealed that a shocking 664 jihadi attacks were carried out around the world in November alone, resulting in the deaths of more than 5,000 people.” – Daily Mail
  • “Terror-group ISIS is allegedly trying to sell the body of beheaded American photojournalist James Foley for $1million, according to a new report by Buzzfeed.” – Daily Mail
  • “A 35-year-old man has been arrested by counter-terrorism police at Luton Airport.” – The Sun (£)

And comment:

  • Newspaper mastheads“The Senate report into torture by the CIA raises many questions for Britain. If we are to live up to our liberal sense of ourselves they must be answered.” – Times editorial (£)
  • “Stain of shame on the land of Magna Carta.” – Daily Mail editorial
  • “Obama should reconsider his de facto amnesty for the CIA’s excesses.” – Financial Times editorial
  • “There is a second scandal here.” – Guardian editorial
  • “America did terrible things, but the truly shocking thing is that it’s still doing them.” – David Usborne, The Independent
  • “It is our indignation, not that of the Arab world, that torturers fear. We are the bad guys too.” – Robert Fisk, The Independent
  • “Forget that it’s evil. The brutal truth is torture never works.” – Max Hastings, Daily Mail
  • “We’re as barbaric as our enemies – in private.” – Rod Liddle, The Sun (£)
  • “Sending troops to protect dictators threatens all of us.” – Seamus Milne, The Guardian
  • “Britain must face the truth on torture too.” – Jenni Russell, The Times (£)
  • “Why are we abandoning the Middle East’s Christians to Isis?” – Douglas Murray, The Spectator

> Today: The Deep End – The torture still taking place in American prisons

> Yesterday: David Davis MP on Comment – We have damaged our national interest by turning a blind eye to torture

Fallon pays tribute to the Armed Forces ahead of the Sun’s Millies awards

FALLON Daily Politics“Defence Secretary Michael Fallon cheered Our Boys and Girls at a special Downing Street reception – telling them, ‘I’m proud of you.’ … The Defence Secretary stepped in to host The Sun Millies nominees as PM David Cameron was on official business in Turkey to discuss the threat of Islamic State. … Fallon praised the amassed ranks of soldiers, sailors, Royal Marines and airmen, who selflessly served in Afghanistan and in ongoing conflict zones across the globe.” – The Sun (£)

Read the list of winners in full

Crabb named Welsh politician of the year

“Secretary of State for Wales Stephen Crabb has been named Welsh Politician of the Year in a ceremony at Cardiff City Hall. … Organised by the Wales Yearbook Online, the Welsh Political Awards were celebrating their 10th anniversary. … The panel of judges was chaired by Dr Denis Balsom, who said, ‘Post the Scottish Referendum, the panel felt that Stephen Crabb had revitalised the political debate in Wales.'” – Wales Online

Did “being brown and a woman” count against a prospective Tory candidate?

Rosette shield“The head of a Conservative constituency association said a would-be MP was not selected partly because of the ‘double whammy of being brown and a woman’. … John Barnes, a local councillor and president of the local association, told the Financial Times Ms Fernandes had put in a ‘wowzer performance on the night’, but added that her gender and race had been a ‘handicap’ in such a strong field. ‘The double whammy of being brown and a woman probably handicaps her still,’ he said.” – Financial Times

  • “…as the first selected transgender parliamentary candidate to stand in the general election in May as a Labour candidate, she’s happy to accept her new position as ‘a positive role model’.” – The Independent

Questions over the fate of Universal Credit

pound-coin“Questions over the fate of the government’s flagship welfare reform programme will continue until after the election as it was revealed on Wednesday that the Treasury has still not signed off the business case for universal credit and will not decide whether to do so until summer next year. A final decision might not come until 2016. … The Treasury said it would not be able to firm up the numbers until at least the summer of 2015.” – The Guardian

  • “Benefit chiefs say they have identified the ‘most normal’ place in Britain: Sutton in south London.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “Mothers raising children are more likely to have jobs than women without young families, according to a report.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “Shame on Iain Duncan Smith — he has presided over a system which has led to widespread hunger.” – Andreas Whittam Smith, The Independent

Davey wants tougher rules for companies investing in fossil fuels

Ed Davey“Britain’s energy secretary has called for tougher rules to be applied to companies holding “risky” fossil fuel assets that could plunge in value because of global action to tackle climate change. … Ed Davey’s move makes him one of the first senior politicians to weigh into a growing debate on the future of oil, gas and coal companies as governments work on sealing a global climate deal in Paris next year.” – Financial Times

  • “British funding for green projects overseas is going to major economies such as India, Brazil and South Africa, a report reveals.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “Trust the Greens to ban us from having a Christmas swim.” – Ross Clark, The Times (£)

George Eaton: The Tories and Lib Dems are preparing for another Coalition

COALIT~2“The greatest irony of the coalition’s internecine warfare is that its members are quietly preparing the ground for a post-election renewal of vows. Both parties are consciously avoiding policy commitments that could prove impossible to maintain in a future negotiation. While railing against the Lib Dems’ proposed ‘mansion tax’, Osborne has not ruled out introducing a version in the future (having privately supported the option of higher council tax bands in opposition to Cameron).” – George Eaton, New Statesman

  • “Of course, few expected this coalition to be as stable as it has been. In its four-and- a-half years, it has lost only one vote on its own legislation — on a minor measure about pub tenancies. All its fiscal measures have been passed comfortably. Salmond’s SNP minority government, formed in 2007, also surprised critics by delivering four years of stable government. Britain’s politics might be more adaptable than people think.” – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • “Electioneering for the Lib Dems must be like panda-spotting in Sichuan. Some days you will strike lucky and find a potential Lib Dem in the undergrowth. Other days: nothing.” – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

> Yesterday:

Miliband takes aim at “extremist” Osborne…

MILIBAND Red Ed“Ed Miliband will today brand George Osborne an ‘extremist’ for his plan to reduce state spending to a share of national income last seen in the 1930s. … The Labour leader will insist a government under his party would be ready to impose years of unspecified spending cuts to reduce the huge deficit run up under Gordon Brown. … But in a major speech on the economy, he will condemn the Conservatives for pledging to take spending cuts even further and faster to start bringing down Britain’s towering debts.” – Daily Mail

  • “Voters believe that government spending should be cut to its lowest level since the 1930s, according to a new poll by ComRes and ITV News.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “A new ‘Google tax’ on giant US firms shifting their profits abroad was ridiculed today after it emerged businesses will have to report themselves to the taxman.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “Labour and the great privatisation fraud.” – David Aaronovitch, The Times (£)
  • “UK’s George Osborne goes it alone on corporate tax avoidance.” – Financial Times editorial

> Today: ToryDiary – The story of Osborne’s Chancellorship, as told by his Budgets

…as Balls vows to cut spending

BALLS Ed looking left“A Labour government will cut unprotected departmental spending every year until the deficit is cleared, the party says, toughening its stance on borrowing. … Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, believes George Osborne has opened up an opportunity for Labour to gain ground with voters, saying they are uneasy about the chancellor’s ‘increasingly extreme and unbalanced plan’ to balance the books.” – Financial Times

UKIP 1) Bird’s text messages

UKIP glass“Ms Bolter accused Roger Bird, the party’s general secretary, of making an indecent proposition on the day he assessed her suitability as a candidate. She quit the party and Mr Bird was suspended pending an internal inquiry. … However, The Telegraph understands that senior Ukip figures expect the investigation to find in favour of Mr Bird after he released a cached of more than 100 text messages showing he did ‘nothing wrong’.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “Whatever the truth about Roger Bird’s conduct, he should never have made public Natasha Bolter’s text messages.” – Jane Merrick, The Independent

UKIP 2) Hamilton exits selection race, amid questions about his expenses

“Neil Hamilton stepped down from Ukip selection tonight as it emerged he was facing questions over expenses claims he made as deputy chairman of the party. … The former Tory MP is under scrutiny from the Ukip finance committee over expenses he allegedly claimed for staying at his wife Christine’s London flat.” – Daily Mail

> Today: UKIP Watch – So is Farage Blue UKIP, Red UKIP, Grey UKIP, Khaki UKIP or Purple UKIP? The answer is…

> Yesterday: UKIP Watch – The five tribes of UKIP

Scotland is “unprepared” for new tax powers

Scottish flag“The Scottish government is unprepared for new tax powers coming into force next April, with the potential for chaos as payments take longer to process and costs escalate, according to an independent report published on Thursday. … In a strongly worded report, Audit Scotland warned that delays in hiring staff and setting up an IT system ‘increased the risk that new taxes for Scotland will not be effectively managed’.” – The Guardian

  • “Political parties have been urged not to slap any further property taxes on homes and businesses after it was revealed that £1 in every £8 collected by the taxman comes from property. This means British households already pay the most out of all developed nations.” – The Times (£)

> Yesterday: Henry Hill’s column – Pitfalls for the SNP as Sturgeon’s class war wages on

Thousands of pupils “going backwards” at state secondary schools

School“Tens of thousands of bright children are going backwards at secondary school, a damning Ofsted report said yesterday. … High-achievers too often find themselves repeating topics they have already studied and enduring noisy lessons that are disrupted by increasingly poor behaviour. … In a ‘state of the nation’ report, Ofsted warned that almost two-thirds of high-fliers at age 11 – about 57,000 pupils – fail to convert their early promise into A and A* grades at GCSE.” – Daily Mail

  • “UK employers are being asked to take the lead in a new government-funded careers company that aims to foster links between schools and businesses.” – Financial Times

And comment:

  • “How to increase the number of top-quality teachers.” – Independent editorial
  • “What does the fact that half our schools fail to send any pupils to study as doctors say about Britain?” – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • “Britain will learn nothing by trying to emulate China’s schools.” – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian
  • “We don’t need education reform – we need a whole new system.” – Martin Stephen, Daily Telegraph

> Today: John Bald on Local Government – Grammar Schools. How we got where we are. And what to do next.

> Yesterday:

$100 trillion: the potential cost of drug resistance

Pills“Without global action, drug resistant infections will cause 10m deaths a year worldwide by 2050 — more than cancer — and will cost at least $100tn during the next 35 years, according to the first economic analysis of the problem. … The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance was set up by David Cameron, the UK’s prime minister, in July and will be closely scrutinised by politicians.” – Financial Times

  • “Almost half the population in England is taking prescription medication, with more than a fifth on at least three separate drugs at the same time, statistics revealed yesterday.” – The Times (£)
  • “Dozens of dementia patients were moved out of a nursing home in their pyjamas after regulators branded it ‘dangerous’ and shut it down at short notice.” – Daily Mail
  • “Breastfeeding could cut the chance of breast cancer by up to one fifth, a major international study has found.” – Daily Telegraph

The NHS needs migrant workers, says OBR board members

NHS“The NHS would be in ‘dire’ straits without immigrants and Britain has ‘masses of room’ for more people, Britain’s official economic forecaster has warned. … Stephen Nickell, one of the leaders of the Office for Budget Responsibility, said that the urban area of Surrey occupies less space than its golf courses as he rejected claims there was not enough room for migrants.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “The OBR’s support for mass immigration ignores the real-world consequences.” – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • “How to fix Britain’s immigration crisis (without leaving Europe).” – Paul Collier, The Spectator

Rusbridger to step down as Guardian editor

“Alan Rusbridger is to stand down as editor-in-chief of the Guardian after 20 years, leaving the news organisation to become the chair of its ultimate owner, the Scott Trust. … He will stand down next summer after his successor is appointed and will replace Liz Forgan in 2016 at the end of her term as the chair of the trust, the body that safeguards the title’s editorial future and independence.” – The Guardian

Tim Montgomerie: BBC’s biased drama needs a reality check

MONTGOMERIE Tim offical“I understand guidelines on drama output will come under intense scrutiny next year when the BBC charter is due for renewal. Leading Tory ministers know that a nation’s long-term values are forged in drama, documentaries and comedy. We all remember stories more than we remember facts. It is, after all, why Jesus told parables.” – Tim Montgomerie, The Times (£)

News in brief

  • Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution is brought to an end – The Times (£)
  • Boris invites Qatar World Cup committee to invest in London – The Guardian
  • One in five children believe that Jesus Christ is a Chelsea footballer – Daily Mail
  • Did Juncker assist Amazon with its tax affairs? – Daily Mail
  • Financial Conduct Authority accused over bungled press briefing – Financial Times
  • Over five trillion pieces of plastic are floating in the world’s oceans, say scientists – The Independent
  • The US Navy’s new laser gun – The Independent

And finally 1) Parliamentary sex scandal

PARLIAMENT“Around 500 people are to simulate sex at Old Palace Yard in Westminster on Friday, as MPs debate the recent changes to UK pornography regulations and the effective banning of certain sex acts the government deems morally damaging.” – The Independent

And finally 2) Assange’s self-regard

“The WikiLeaks founder has used the whistleblowing website’s official Twitter account to publicise a funding drive for the creation of a life-size bronze public artwork featuring himself, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, described as a ‘a monument to courage’.” – The Independent