Ebola arrives in Britain: Cameron speaks to Sturgeon, Hunt chairs Cobra

Screen shot 2014-12-30 at 05.54.01“Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has chaired a meeting of the emergency Cobra committee, while Downing Street said David Cameron had spoken to Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon and made clear the Government would help in any way possible. ‘The Prime Minister and the first minister discussed the UK’s robust and practised response procedures in place and how these were being strictly followed,’ a spokesman said.” – Daily Mail

  • Prime Minister 64th out of 141 runners in constituency charity race – Daily Mail

First signs of a Cabinet revolt over Cameron’s EU referendum plan. At least nine members said to favour exit.

“A senior government figure said the prime minister should offer the same licence to his cabinet. “[Harold] Wilson did just the same as David Cameron: promised to renegotiate and then hold a referendum.” “He will be very wise to suspend collective responsibility on the issue . . . It is the only way to avoid resignations and to ensure that once the referendum result is in, everyone comes back together.” – The Times (£)

Oliver Kamm: If Greece derails the Euro, it will be Germany’s fault

Screen shot 2014-12-30 at 08.38.33“Early in the crisis, [Germany] should have agreed sweeping debt relief for Greece in return for reforms by the Greek government to cut costs. It refused, as did France. Ever since, Greece has been trying to squeeze real wages and costs to gain competitiveness. Moderate Greek governments deserved much greater financial and political support. Having failed to secure these, they may now be succeeded by a populist movement that imagines itself immune from the laws of arithmetic. The obduracy and myopia of eurozone policymakers are hard to exaggerate.” – The Times (£)

  • Eurozone’s weakest link is the voters – Gideon Rachman, Financial Times

Registering mouldy food, grey squirrels and child minders as “food businesses”: Hancock takes an axe to red tape

“The Government says its war on red tape has saved businesses £10billion over the last four years by freeing them from time-wasting admin duties and bureaucracy. It means bus companies must no longer hold on to property, including decaying food left behind on seats, for at least 48 hours and can decide themselves which items will be re-claimed.” – Daily Mail

Union flag to appear on driving licences, says Perry

PERRY Claire“The change is one several improvements, the Department of Transport said. Others include a drop in fees for those applying for a licence online and, from next June, the axing of the requirement to have a paper counterpart. The DVLA said the new Union flag licences will be issued as soon as stocks of the existing photocards are exhausted.” – Daily Express

IDS: I will root out benefit cheats

“A rogues gallery of 10 of the most outrageous con artists caught this year includes people who claimed to be too ill to work, or even walk, but were caught jetskiing, Morris dancing, trampolining, bodybuilding, playing golf and even performing on TV’s The X Factor spin-off The Xtra Factor. Latest figures show £1.2billion was lost to fraud last year. Ministers say that the move to universal credit – combining several benefits into one – will make it easier to catch fraudsters.” – Daily Express

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – IDS tops our Cabinet league table again, May falls, and Javid is now third

The Telegraph picks up Theresa May’s continuing lead in ConHome’s future leader poll

MAY Warhol“According to a survey by the influential ConservativeHome website, 27 per cent of Conservatives believe that the Home Secretary will succeed David Cameron to become party leader. Boris Johnson is in second place on 20 per cent, while Sajid Javid, the Culture Secretary considered to be a rising star in the party, is in third place with 12 per cent. George Osborne, the Chancellor, received 11 per cent of the vote.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Number of Romanians and Bulgarians who live in Britain has increased fivefold in last eight years – Daily Mail
  • Romanian and Bulgarian migrant numbers remain steady – Financial Times
  • Judges rule foreign criminals can be kicked out of Britain – The Sun (£)

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – In the wake over the row over her SpAds, Theresa May once again tops our future leader poll

Labour HQ revolt after Miliband calls in election consultants

“In a leaflet advertising its services obtained by The Times, Labour People says: “In the run-up to the 2015 election, ‘Labour People’ is providing a set-changing communications strategy and support service to PPCs in key marginal seats, ensuring that the candidate’s personal narrative and Labour’s central messaging is tailored and deployed to maximum effect in the constituency.” – The Times (£)

  • Tristram Hunt: More than 400,000 schoolchildren being taught by unqualified teachers – The Guardian

Bow, bow ye lower middle classes: Tatler lists the people’s party’s top toffs…

Screen shot 2014-12-30 at 08.42.02“Top is Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn. He is the son of the late peer-turned-Labour-minister Tony and described as “a toff with beautiful manners and an inherited fortune”. He is followed by deputy leader Harriet Harman. Her aunt Elizabeth was the Countess of Longford. Ex-Tory Shaun Woodward, who moved to Labour in 1999 and has his own butler, and public accounts committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge, make the list.” – The Sun

…And, talking of the hereditary principle, will it be Bush v Clinton in 2016?

“The former Florida governor led with 23 per cent of the vote in a poll asking Republicans across the US who would be their preferred candidate for the 2016 election. His closest competitor, Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor, gained only 13 per cent…On the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton remains the favourite with 66 per cent of support. Elizabeth Warren, the liberal senator from Massachusetts, came ahead of Joe Biden with 9 per cent of support, compared with the vice-president’s 8 per cent.” – The Times (£)

Carmichael fights back against the SNP

CARMICHAEL Alistair Marr“Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said the Scottish Government’s oil revenue forecast for the first three years of independence would have been plunged into turmoil.  He claimed the latest UK Government analysis showed that 100 days after the referendum, an independent Scotland would have been facing the shortfall following a drop in oil prices.” – Daily Mail

Janan Ganesh: The SNP is winning

“Now imagine the aggravation if Labour had to govern in coalition with the SNP. The decisive votes in the House of Commons would not just come from MPs from another jurisdiction, but MPs opposed to the existence of the UK as it is. And the man co-ordinating their efforts would be Ms Sturgeon’s mischievous predecessor, Alex Salmond, who is standing for Westminster. He says he will seek to maximise the powers devolved to Edinburgh. The more that is devolved, the greater the inequity between English and Scottish MPs.” – Financial Times

> Today: Peter Duncan on Comment – Five factors that will count in Scotland next May

Helmer defends the Big Six

UKIP glass“In an interview with The Independent, Mr Helmer dismissed “climate alarmism”, suggested that predicted rises in global temperatures were “grossly exaggerated” by many scientists, and pledged that a Ukip government would scrap legally binding targets to curb carbon emissions…Mr Helmer, Ukip MEP for the East Midlands and a former businessman, also defended the Big Six energy firms saying they had been scapegoated for high gas prices, and urged the country to get a move on with franking.” – The Independent

The Mail continues its campaign on torture

“In the end, there was not a single mention of Britain’s security and intelligence services when the dossier was published this month, highlighting horrific mistreatment of detainees by the CIA including beatings, waterboarding and rectal feeding. No 10 has admitted that MI5 and MI6 held negotiations with the committee about blacking out any passages that might compromise ‘national security’.” – Daily Mail

  • Guilty silence on the UK’s role in torture – Daily Mail

And it’s Thatcher Tuesday! A mass of material is released under the 30 year rule

She tries to stop O-levels being scrapped…

Screen shot 2014-12-30 at 08.56.22“Other documents sent to the prime minister by Joseph and his officials feature the prime minister scrawling “No”, criticising the “jargon” of the education department and questioning the rationale of the GCSE system.” – The Times (£)*

…Mulls stockpiling chemical weapons…

“The prime minister, by training a research chemist, acknowledged that the government might be considered negligent for failing to acquire a “retaliatory capability” at the height of the cold war.” – The Guardian

…Wrestles with Ireland’s government over joint sovereignty…

Screen shot 2014-12-30 at 08.57.33“On a report from Dublin in November 1984 containing plans to establish a “standing joint committee”, the prime minister noted: “Bad – too near joint sovereignty.” An Irish suggestion that there should be joint north/south courts was dismissed by Thatcher’s handwritten “No” and the note: “They are asking far too much. Possibly this is deliberate.” – The Guardian

…Wants the BBC to take advertising…

” The home secretary believed an inquiry could expose the weaknesses in the BBC’s traditional defence against advertising — that it would threaten journalistic standards and objectivity. Thatcher scribbled on a note about the inquiry; “The terms of reference are far too limited, perhaps I might be consulted?!” – Financial Times

…Is strong in defence of Soviet defector Gordievsky…

THATCHER Che“Mrs Thatcher demanded the expulsions of 25 known KGB agents exposed by Gordievsky. She also wrote to the spy, who was eventually reunited with his family years later: “There is always hope. And we shall do all we can to help you.” – The Sun

…Compassionate to Falklands leaker Ponting…

“Mrs Thatcher’s intervention came in a note to David Barclay, a Downing Street private secretary, in response to a briefing on Mr Ponting’s case. She said: “Would you query this. I think it is a bit rough. He and his family have to live on something.” – Daily Telegraph

…And leaks material to Yes Minister

Screen shot 2014-12-30 at 08.58.58“The reply drew a sharp response from Mrs Thatcher. At the top of the letter she wrote: “Seldom have I received a more unsatisfactory letter. A bureaucratic gem. I will show it to Antony Jay.” She added: “Send the letter back. The answer won’t do.” – Daily Telegraph

Thatcher v Football hooligans. Bernard Ingham’s plan

“It was envisaged that Mrs Thatcher would target key opinion formers – among them Jimmy Hill and Bobby Charlton – to lead a groundswell against the violence. Mr Ingham saw an opportunity in recruiting the nation’s more eloquent goalkeepers on the basis that they were “often first in line of hooligan fire”.” – The Independent

How Charles Powell kept her in the loop over Westland

“Powell constantly kept Thatcher in the loop, telling her in one typical note: “Although not strictly for your eyes, you might like to glance at this helpful account of the lengths to which the MoD are going.” – The Guardian

Gorbachov denounced critics as “turds” to Kinnock; Mrs Gorbachov told Michael Jopling that Russians have 500 ways to cook a potato

Screen shot 2014-12-30 at 09.06.02“But while Gorbachev, who three months later would become Soviet leader, discussed human rights and the arms race, his wife Raisa was left dealing with a different diplomatic hot potato – how many ways there are to cook spuds. She told Agriculture minister Michael Jopling over lunch at Chequers: ‘We have 300 recipes to cook potatoes.’ In a letter to him after returning home, Mrs Gorbachev wrote: ‘It seemed to me that you were doubtful about it and I promised to send you a book.  ‘My apologies for being somewhat inaccurate: in fact, there are 500, rather than 300, recipes.'” – Daily Mail

Ghosts of the past in the files for today’s politicians.  Willetts and Redwood took different views on the Big Bang

“David Willetts told the prime minister in a memo in 1985 that sudden financial deregulation could lead to “unethical behaviour” and ultimately to “boom and bust”…But John Redwood, reassured the prime minister that greater competition would minimise wrongdoing in the City. “The basic common sense of the British public . . . will not be tempted into Get-Rich-Quick Limited,” he told her.” – Financial Times

And: Letwin’s role in championing the poll tax re-heated. Lawson and Hurd pushed to scrap it. He lobbied to keep it.

LETWIN Oliver“Oliver Letwin, then a policy wonk at Number 10 and now an MP, persuaded the Prime Minister to defy both her Home Secretary and Chancellor and retain the Community Charge, according to correspondence from the time. The papers show that the Prime Minister was deluged with warnings about the “catastrophic” political consequences of the policy but Mr Letwin’s intervention appears to have guided her decision to trial the Charge in Scotland in 1989 and roll it out nationwide in 1990. – Daily Telegraph

Guardian Editorial attacks Letwin for poll tax role

News in Brief

  • Russia’s economy has started shrinking for first time since 2009 – Daily Mail
  • Six babies for each new home since 2010 – The Times (£)
  • Faulty Virgin plane makes emergency landing – Daily Express
  • Hunt for missing AirAsia jet enters third day – Financial Times
  • Ferry fire: fears of rising death toll – The Guardian
  • Friends turn on France’s black, anti-Semitic comedian for forming political party with far-right activist – The Independent
  • Adams: I have no plans to step aside as Sinn Fein leader – Belfast Telegraph
  • Royals “block BBC film on Diana” – The Sun (£)
  • MPs to investigate bonuses at Network Rail – Daily Telegraph

* P.S: Business leaders call for GCSEs to be scrapped – Wales Online

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