Cameron 1) He returns from America enthusing about the special relationship…

obamacameron“The Prime Minister concluded a triumphant visit to Washington by paying tribute to the ‘special relationship’ between Britain and the US – and his personal connection to the man who calls him ‘Bro’. … In an interview with American TV, Mr Cameron paid tribute to the ‘very strong’ bond, adding: ‘Whether it was Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, or Churchill and Roosevelt, different relationships have been forged, but the underlying strength of this partnership is there for reasons of not just history, but of values’.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “During last week’s summit at the White House, Cameron agreed to double Britain’s unmanned drone capability over Iraq by sending two new aircraft to eavesdrop on militants with Isis — also known as Islamic State — and co-ordinate airstrikes in Iraq.” – Sunday Times (£)
  • “British troops will begin training Syrian opposition groups to fight Islamic State within weeks, as David Cameron steps up the UK’s military response to the jihadist threat around the world.” – Sunday Telegraph
  • “Senior figures in the Labour party are furious at the red carpet treatment given to David Cameron at the White House by Barack Obama.” – Sunday Times (£)

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – As Cameron talks better security in Washington, Clark plans more localism in Britain

Cameron 2) …takes on the Pope…

POPE FRANCIS Christmas Day“David Cameron clashed with the Pope yesterday by insisting people should be able to poke fun at religion. … The PM said living in a free society gives him the right to insult others — or be insulted. … He spoke out after Pope Francis warned those who mock other people’s faith should expect a ‘punch’, comparing it to insulting his mum.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

  • “An estimated 3 million people filled Manila’s main park and surrounding areas for Pope Francis’s final mass in the Philippines on Sunday.” – The Observer

And comment:

  • “Yes, words hurt, but that doesn’t excuse a punchy pope.” – Nick Cohen, The Observer
  • “The Pope throws a punch while our archbishops merely throw sand.” – Adam Boulton, Sunday Times (£)
  • “What ‘free speech’ didn’t tell us about Charlie Hebdo jokes.” – Christopher Booker, Sunday Telegraph

Cameron 3) …appeals to Germany on behalf of thalidomide victims…

German flag“Ever since the birth defects caused by the morning sickness pill were first revealed more than 50 years ago, the British ‘thalidomiders’ have sought compensation from Grünenthal, the drug’s German manufacturer. … Now a string of letters from Mark Allen, one of an estimated 10,000 people who suffered deformities caused by the drug globally, has led Cameron to raise the issue with the German government.” – Sunday Times (£)

Cameron 4) …and declines to reveal his tax details

“The pledge by David Cameron to release his personal tax return before the general election has been ditched, George Osborne has signalled. … Downing Street said in 2012 that the prime minister was ‘relaxed’ and ‘happy’ about publishing details of his tax affairs and indicated that other senior ministers such as the chancellor, the home secretary Theresa May and the then foreign secretary William Hague would also embrace transparency. … In an interview with The Sunday Times, however, Osborne said there were now ‘no plans’ to do so because it would violate the principle of taxpayer confidentiality.” – Sunday Times (£)

James Forsyth: The pact between Boris and the Tory leadership

Boris Johnson event“A year ago, a convivial dinner between Boris and the Whips would have been unimaginable. Downing Street was nervous about any attempt by the London Mayor to cosy up to Tory MPs, fearing a challenge to David Cameron’s authority. … But this invitation to dinner is evidence of a new, unspoken deal between Johnson and Downing Street. He will be supportive and campaign hard for Cameron. In exchange, it will allow him to cultivate Tory MPs, rectifying his biggest weakness ahead of any leadership contest.” – James Forsyth, Mail on Sunday

The law is lagging behind in the fight against terror, says former head of Mi5

Police shield“The legal powers under which the police and security agencies access communications for intelligence or evidential purposes have become outdated; they were not designed for the current digital world. Increasing areas of digital communications are beyond the reach of law enforcement and they are being exploited by those who wish us ill and prey on the vulnerable. … It is imperative that the laws that govern this issue be brought up to date. If nothing is done, things will not stand still – they will get worse.” – Jonathan Evans, Sunday Telegraph

Sir Malcolm Rifkind speaks to the Sunday Telegraph:

  • “‘If as we all accept, the problem is international jihadi terrorism, how do international terrorists communicate with each other? They communicate by the internet, by email, by social messaging. That’s the world we live in,’ Sir Malcolm says.” – Sunday Telegraph

Related news stories:

  • “A terrorist how-to guide urging lone wolf bomb attacks in the UK is being read 4,000 times a week by Brits.” – Sun on Sunday (£)
  • “A convicted al-Qaeda terror fundraiser with links to the Paris attacks is residing in the UK after using the Human Rights Act to prevent his deportation back to his native Algeria, The Telegraph can disclose.” – Sunday Telegraph
  • “Security at Parliament is being overhauled to help protect it from terror attacks, The Sun on Sunday can reveal.” – Sun on Sunday (£)
  • “Up to 800 more counterterrorism police could be deployed on Britain’s streets under plans being considered by Scotland Yard to combat the threat of a fresh terrorist atrocity.” – Sunday Times (£)

And further comment:

  • Newspaper mastheads“We must enable the security service to protect us.” – Sunday Telegraph editorial
  • “It is nearly 10 years since we experienced terrorist outrages by the Islamic enemy within. Only an optimist would say we are safer now than then.” – Sunday Times editorial (£)
  • “In this country, the pendulum is still swinging. Do we want to give our security services everything they need to stop a massacre like Paris happening here? Yes, indeed! Thank you! But do we want the Secret Intelligence Service to have access to our private lives in a way that could make George Orwell’s surveillance nightmare Nineteen Eighty-Four seem like a fairy tale with a happy ending? No way! Boo!” – Cole Morton, Independent on Sunday
  • “Fanatics fuelled by culture of denial and appeasement.” – Camilla Cavendish, Sunday Times (£)
  • “Let MI5 spy on granny and her azaleas; a jihadist may be lurking behind them.” – Camilla Cavendish, Sunday Times (£)

> Yesterday: Nicky Morgan MP on Comment – No Government has done more to tackle extremism in schools

Grayling taken to court by wrongly-convicted men

Prison bars“Victims of two of Britain’s most worrying miscarriages of justice of modern times are to take the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, to court over changes to the law stopping them from receiving compensation for the 24 years they wrongly spent behind bars. … The legal challenge is seen as a test case for a new stricter regime to compensate the victims of miscarriages introduced last year.” – Independent on Sunday

May warned over her policies for tackling FGM

“Plans by Theresa May to force health professionals to report cases of female genital mutilation to the police are unlikely to lower the extent of abuse and risk dissuading families from seeking medical help, according to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. … In a strongly worded intervention, the college has warned there is no “credible or conclusive” evidence that the move would better protect children.” – The Observer

“More British flags on our products!” Truss speaks to the Sunday Times

“Liz Truss, the environment secretary, has called on food firms to put the Union Jack on their packaging as part of a renewed push to convince the public to ‘Buy British’. … In an interview with The Sunday Times, the minister said: ‘What I want to see is more British flags on our products, not just overseas but here in Britain, because we need to have the same pride in our country that’s evident elsewhere in the world. … I would love to see more prominent British branding on our products. I want British consumers to know when they’re buying high-quality British products.'” – Sunday Times (£)

Garnier pushes for cheaper petrol in rural areas

Petrol pump“A leading Tory is pushing to give watchdogs the power to cut prices if retailers are not able to explain premiums at out-of-town pumps. … Treasury Select Committee member Mark Garnier wants to change the law after drivers in his Wyre Forest constituency were forced to pay 7p a litre more than in nearby Birmingham. … He argues that rural customers are being fleeced so companies can offer cheaper prices in cities where competition is more fierce.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

  • “Britain’s economy will experience the fastest growth in a decade in 2015 due to the slump in oil prices with household income expected to see a leap of 4%, according to economists.” – Mail on Sunday
  • “The number of people who say they have more to spend than a year ago has soared by a third in just two months. … But health and immigration have now become the top two issues the PM must tackle if he is to stay in power.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

And comment:

  • “North Sea oil at point of no return.” – Tom Peterkin, Scotland on Sunday
  • “How Westminster helped squander Scotland’s black gold.” – Kevin McKenna, The Observer

Opposition to Lansley’s potential UN appointment

“Efforts by David Cameron to parachute his former health secretary, Andrew Lansley, into a plum United Nations role have met with furious opposition from numerous of the world’s leading international disaster-relief organisations. … More than 80 of the world’s most important NGOs have signed a letter to the UN secretary general that implicitly criticises the appointment of a politician without long-standing experience of humanitarian crises to the role of emergency relief coordinator.” – The Observer

  • “Britain’s bill for tackling the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone has spiralled by at least £100m, to £330m.” – Independent on Sunday
  • “Foreign diplomats living in Britain have been accused of imprisoning domestic servants and forcing them to work for up to 18 hours a day without pay.” – Sunday Times (£)

Conservative-controlled Kingston upon Thames could become the first flagship independent authority

MANIFESTO Power“A local council is in secret talks to sever all links from central government and become a flagship independent authority, under a radical devolution plan being discussed in Whitehall, it emerged yesterday. … Officials from Conservative-controlled Kingston upon Thames council in south-west London are talking to ministers about losing all their central grant money in return for greater control over business rates and, ultimately, the freedom to set council tax.” – Independent on Sunday

  • “Citizens will be expected to pick up litter from the street, prune hedges in the local park and grit minor roads in winter, as funding cuts to local government bite.” – Independent on Sunday

The Conservative Party is still racist, claims former adviser

“A former Conservative party adviser and friend of David Cameron has launched a remarkable attack on the Conservative leader over his failure to defeat what he regards as the party’s racist attitude to immigration. Jamaica-born Derek Laud accuses the party of using ‘dog-whistle’ tactics to appeal to voters. … He says the attitude that allowed the approval of that ad ‘was essentially racist. [Cameron] knows it. We all know it.'” – Independent on Sunday

  • “An adviser to David Cameron has been arrested on suspicion of raping a 13-year-old girl.” – Sunday Times (£)

Clegg vows to end child illiteracy…

Curse of Clegg 2“Nick Clegg has condemned Tory spending plans and blasted illiteracy levels among British pupils a ‘national scandal’, confirming a dramatic collapse of relations within the coalition. … The Liberal Democrat leader turned his fire on David Cameron as he announced on Sunday that his party’s general election manifesto will commit to ending child illiteracy by 2025 and that he will protect the education budget from cuts.” – The Observer

  • “Nick Clegg has pledged that the Liberal Democrats will carry on funding the education of young people about the Holocaust, warning, in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, that anti-Semitism is a ‘light sleeper’.” – Independent on Sunday

And comment:

  • “It is hard to escape the feeling that this literacy target has been plucked from a brainstorming meeting on manifesto ideas.” – Independent on Sunday editorial
  • “The Deputy Prime Minister has two dozen taxpayer-funded special advisers and has added another.” – Guido Fawkes, Sun on Sunday (£)

…whilst the Lib Dems try to end Clegg

“The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is being ‘airbrushed’ from his party’s election campaign by his own MPs, research by the Tories reveals. … Clegg’s photograph was used in just 3% of Lib Dem election leaflets produced between May last year and this month, and he is mentioned by name in less than 2%. … Of 153 leaflets distributed in 45 constituencies, only five contained a picture of Clegg and just two named him.” – Sunday Times (£)

  • “…bear this in mind when you hear Clegg say, as he did last week, that ‘the broadcasters have made a proposal, and the rest of us will go along with it’. Since when does a group of broadcasters have greater constitutional status than the Boundary Commissions?” – Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times (£)
  • “Of course the TV debates are risky – that’s the whole point.” – Janet Daley, Sunday Telegraph

> Today: ToryDiary – An open letter to the Party Chairman: Let members approve any coalition deal

Miliband strikes back at the Prime Minister over pay…

MILIBAND Ed red background“Ed Miliband accused David Cameron of trying to ‘magic away’ families’ money problems, after the Prime Minister urged companies to pass on extra profits made from falling oil prices to their employees. … But the Labour leader says workers would be ‘choking on their cornflakes’ at this rhetoric – and warned the Tory’s only plan was to continue slashing state spending.” – Mail on Sunday

  • “David Cameron should be ‘much more worried’ about Ed Miliband than the threat posed by Nigel Farage, Lord Patten has said.” – Sunday Telegraph

And comment:

  • “When is good news not good news? When it’s about the economy and your name is Ed Miliband.” – Sun on Sunday editorial (£)

…but did the Labour leader keep quiet about the crash for electoral gain?

“The Labour leader did not deny an explosive new report that they both urged Prime Minister Gordon Brown to call a snap Election in 2007 because ‘the economy was about to fall off a cliff’ and it was Labour’s only hope of holding on to power. … Chancellor George Osborne said the revelation ‘exposed the cynicism’ of Balls and Miliband, adding: ‘They were more interested in saving their own skins than saving the British economy.’ … The disclosure comes in a new book by Miliband’s former ally and friend Martin Winter, the ex-Labour Mayor of Doncaster, where Miliband is an MP.” – Mail on Sunday

  • BALLS Ed looking left“Fallout, the forthcoming book by Martin Winter, a former Labour Mayor of Doncaster, serialised here, reveals a portrait of the young Ed Miliband that would be funny were it not so shocking.” – Mail on Sunday
  • “Tony Blair could be forced to reveal his mega-bucks earnings around the globe. … A Commons motion will this week call for greater scrutiny of Prime Ministers’ financial interests and work for foreign states after they leave office.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

And comment:

  • “Whether it’s the economy or immigration, Labour has lots that it would rather not talk about.” – Sunday Telegraph editorial
  • “A worrying glimpse of the ‘real Ed’.” – Mail on Sunday editorial

A Labour Government would consider replacing tuition fees with a graduate tax

Mortarboard“A future Labour government would consider scrapping university tuition fees in the long term and replace them with a graduate tax, Liam Byrne, the party’s higher education spokesman, has said. ‘The system is unsustainable — university funding is falling off a cliff,’ Byrne told The Sunday Times. ‘We want to bring the cost down, but this has to be funded. The right long-term shift is a move to a graduate tax.'” – Sunday Times (£)

Unite’s plan to infiltrate schools

“Labour’s paymasters have trained up more than 100 activists to peddle propaganda to schoolkids. … Internal Unite documents reveal an army of brainwashers are ready for action — with more recruiting due in the coming months. … It is part of a plan by Unite’s firebrand boss Len McCluskey and hardline teaching unions to infiltrate every secondary school.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

Hodge: Our voters are turning to UKIP because Farage seems more authentic

Nigel Farage“Labour supporters are being won over to Ukip because Nigel Farage strikes them as ‘more authentic’, one of the party’s senior MPs has warned. … Margaret Hodge, chair of the public accounts committee, said a “top-down agenda” meant Labour politicians were obsessed with staying on-message. … Speaking at the Fabian Society’s conference, the Barking MP also reportedly urged the leadership to talk more about the benefits of immigration.” – The Observer

  • “Britain’s religious, racial and community relations may be in peril during a general election campaign likely to be dominated by debates about Europe and immigration, an independent think tank has warned.” – The Observer
  • “Not enough Labour women are talking about the economy, defence and foreign affairs, a former No 10 adviser has warned Ed Miliband.” – Independent on Sunday

Iain Dale’s election predictions

DALE Iain Krieg“Obviously I am not an expert on each seat. But there’s a lot of information out there if you look for  it. Sites such as and UKPollingReport are mines of useful statistics and opinion. Lord Ashcroft’s excellent constituency-based polls also provide useful data along with other local factors I have researched. … The one prediction I am 100 per cent confident in making is that the Liberal Democrats will lose more than half of their 57 seats. A year ago I thought they would end up with 30-35. In October I revised that to 28-30. Now I have them on 24.” – Iain Dale, Independent on Sunday

  • “Which of them could yet find the voice to engage beyond their own political tribe, to come off the “grid” and do more than put out the line that the script demands?” – Sunder Katwala, The Observer
  • “Enough of the fatalism. It’s a great time to push for change in politics.” – Armando Iannucci, The Observer
  • “The fewer young people that vote, the worse for the future of Britain.” – Andrew Rawnsley, The Observer
  • “David Cameron is on course to lead the largest party after May’s general election — but it could be touch and go whether he can remain prime minister.” – Peter Kellner, Sunday Times (£)

And election-related news:

  • “The Conservatives are viewed ‘more favourably’ than Labour by voters, with less than four months to go until the general election, a poll for The Independent on Sunday reveals today.” – Independent on Sunday

The cost of Trident’s replacement (before a replacement has even been approved)

“The future of Britain’s nuclear submarine fleet is set to become a major election issue this week amid concern that billions of pounds is being spent on a successor before parliament has approved an upgrade. … MPs will not vote on Trident’s replacement, the largest UK submarine project in a generation, until 2016. But a Ministry of Defence report, slipped out over Christmas, reveals that spending on the project’s ‘assessment phase’ is to increase by a further £261m this year.” – The Observer

  • “MPs have had more than £1m lavished on a sauna, a ‘spinning studio’ and other improvements to their House of Commons gym.” – Sunday Times (£)

Is the NHS helpline adding to the burdens of A&E wards?

NHS“Calls to the non-emergency 111 number are up 46 per cent so far this year. … Operators told 526,520 people to go to casualty in the whole of 2013-14 — but have already given the same advice to 515,593 patients in just eight months of 2014-15. … While that is partly due to the rise in callers, the percentage of people sent to A&E is up from 7.5 to 7.9 per cent. … Dr Cliff Mann, of the College of Emergency Medicine, blames it for 95 per cent of the extra attendances at A&E.” – Sun on Sunday (£)

  • “Ed Miliband was accused by the Tories this weekend of ‘turning a blind eye’ to an NHS crisis in Wales.” – Sunday Times (£)
  • “Improving treatment for patients with mental health problems could ease the NHS crisis and save the country £3bn a year, research has revealed.” – Sunday Times (£)
  • “The number of nurses taking time off due to stress has soared as the NHS has struggled to cope with rising demand for care.” – The Observer
  • “All parents should be offered state-funded classes in how to bring up their families in a bid to tackle rising levels of child obesity, mental distress and underachievement, one of Britain’s leading doctors has said.” – Sunday Telegraph

> Today: George Freeman MP on Comment – How technology will transform care and debate about our NHS

Baroness Campbell’s speech against the Assisted Dying Bill

“There are times when one believes that one is going to die. That can be for weeks or even months. When and if you get through that period and if, as in my case, a new ventilation system is suddenly developed, you get better again. Perhaps you have a week, a month or, as in my case, you have another two years. … However, during the weary low period when everyone expects you are going to die, you could easily take advantage of an assisted dying exit.” – Baroness Campbell, Mail on Sunday

News in brief

  • “The death of Winston Churchill was the day the Empire died.” – Andrew Roberts, Sunday Telegraph
  • Parts of the UK face -15C temperatures – Independent on Sunday
  • Eurostar facing multi-£million compensation bill after Channel Tunnel fire – Mail on Sunday
  • Marine Le Pen set to speak at the Oxford Union – Mail on Sunday
  • Gay contender for London Mayor expecting baby with lesbians – Sunday Times (£)
  • Economic adviser quizzed by police over claims he attacked a vice girl – Sun on Sunday (£)
  • “We go into a room as two people, sign a book and leave as one.” Stephen Fry’s marriage – Sun on Sunday (£)

And finally 1) Dave’s dinner plans

The Camerons“David Cameron may get a tongue-lashing from wife Sam after setting out a novel way to boast about his economic record. … When Tory MPs told him at a private meeting it was important to campaign on other issues, he said: ‘No, when your wife asks what you want for supper, you must tell her – “I want steak please, darling, and don’t forget we can only afford it thanks to my wonderful long-term economic plan.”’ … He quietly added: ‘I hope Sam doesn’t hear I said that.’ Too late.” – the Black Dog column, Mail on Sunday

And finally 2) The pub landlord, interviewed

“Is it really racist to say: ‘Argh god no, no we don’t want any of you or your lot coming over here to live here Christ no thanks argh Jesus? Stay away stay away’? Actually when you put it like that it might be racist. Er. My press bloke is telling me to move on.” – Al Murray, speaking to the Indepedent on Sunday