Europe 1) Unemployed Britons in the EU could be sent home after welfare changes, warns Cameron

EU Exit“Downing Street yesterday warned that proposals to clamp down on so-called ‘benefit tourists’ would apply to unemployed British citizens living elsewhere in the European Union as well as EU migrants living here. New research yesterday revealed that more than 30,000 British nationals are claiming unemployment and related benefits in countries around the EU.” – Daily Mail

Europe 2) Clarke claims Eurosceptics are undermining reform

“Kenneth Clarke has accused Conservative Eurosceptics of undermining David Cameron’s attempts to secure a better EU deal for Britain by constantly “moving the goalposts” and ratcheting up their demands. The prominent pro-European criticised the “gleeful defeatism” of the sceptics, saying they are acting against “the national interest” as they try to push the UK towards the EU exit door.” – The Independent

Europe 3) Tory Bill of Rights aims to curb abuse of human rights law…

ARREST WARRANT European“Terrorist suspects, criminals and illegal immigrants would be barred from using human rights as a “get out of jail free” card under a Tory bill of rights being prepared for the general election. A draft bill drawn up by senior Conservative lawyers would stop the ground of “family life” being used to avoid deportation from Britain.” – The Times (£)

Prime Minister denies presiding over a ‘zombie Parliament’…

“Last week the Prime Minister rejected allegations that he was presiding over a zombie Parliament, saying that legislation being worked on includes new anti-terror laws. But the only Government business tabled for this week was last night’s piece of legislation to allow women bishops to be fast-tracked into the House of Lords. Debate on the uncontroversial measure finished hours early, allowing MPs to go home.” – Daily Mail

…and defends Pickle’s call for imams to highlight British values

PICKLES Eric smiling“David Cameron suggested that a major Muslim group had “a problem” yesterday after it attacked a call for imams to demonstrate how Islam and British values are compatible. The prime minister launched a staunch defence of Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, over an open letter he had sent to all Britain’s mosques that provoked bewilderment and anger from the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).” – The Times (£)

>Today: Rebecca Coulson’s column: To defeat the violent fanatics, we must hold fast to the truth

‘Big Society’ branded a failure by think-tank report

“In a brutal critique of what was once the prime minister’s most treasured project, an audit carried out by the Civil Exchange think-tank found that civic participation had fallen, more people felt as if they did not belong to their neighbourhoods and little more than a third felt that they could influence local decisions.” – The Times (£)

Osborne uses bank fines to fund new police memorial

Police shield“The Chancellor announced the plan – claiming the country had a duty to “honour them”. The memorial will be based at the National Memorial Arboretum near Lichfield, Staffordshire. It’s the latest example of the Chancellor using the money collected from the huge rate-fiddling penalties slapped on banks for good causes. Some £200million of Libor fines have gone to military charities.” – The Sun (£)

Morgan cites Poland as inspiration for education reforms

“The Coalition’s school reforms have been inspired by Poland, the Education Secretary has said after new figures suggested that immigrant children are outperforming poor British pupils. Nicky Morgan disclosed that the renewed focus on core academic subjects for all children has been influenced by the approach in Poland, which has jumped up international rankings in the past decade.” – Daily Telegraph

  • The Education Secretary is not as soft as her critics say – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

Javid unveils plan to commemorate the centenary of Gallipoli

JAVID Sajid BBC“Relatives of the half a million troops who fought in the Gallipoli disaster will march on the Cenotaph 100 years on. Culture Secretary Sajid Javid unveiled the emotional tribute with the Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers, whose ANZAC troops suffered huge losses. The badly bungled and then aborted invasion of Turkey in 1915 was one of World War One’s greatest disasters.” – The Sun (£)

Farage re-opens “insurance-based” health debate over ageing population concerns…

“Nigel Farage has warned that the NHS may have to be replaced with an insurance based system of healthcare, although he has previously accepted that he had lost the debate on the issue. The UK Independence Party leader said that although his party had “outright rejected” replacing the NHS, the ageing population meant that the issue would have to be revisited.” – Daily Telegraph

  • UKIP leader claims part-privatising the NHS is the only way to save it – The Sun (£)
  • Top doctor warns the NHS is not fit for the future – The Guardian
  • Britons support charging drunks and drug users for A&E – The Sun (£)

…as pressure mounts for investigation into Hitchingbrooke “stitch up”

NHS_Logo“A Tory MP wrote to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt calling for an urgent investigation into how the Care Quality Commission came to brand Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire ‘inadequate’. The demand came as it emerged that a CQC inspector was found guilty of professional misc
onduct while writing the damning report.” – Daily Mail

  • Clegg says look to the US for pointers on reducing NHS suicides – The Sun (£)

Ian Birrell: The NHS watchdog is not fit for purpose

“Yet the sad truth is that this bloated, blundering behemoth of a watchdog is simply not fit for its purpose — as many in politics, social care and medicine have pointed out during its miserable six-year existence. The CQC has an appalling record of failure that has left patients in pain, elderly people mistreated and individuals with learning difficulties abused.” – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Charlotte Leslie MP’s column: Immigration, the NHS, and all the other subjects we’re not meant to talk about

Davies attacks hypocritical Archbishop of Canterbury

WELBY, Justin“The Most Rev Justin Welby said that most businesses can afford to pay the living wage – which is at least £1.35 more than the minimum wage – and told them: ‘Just get on with it.’… However Archbishop Welby rapidly came under criticism for telling other employers to do what the Church refuses to do itself. One Tory MP, Philip Davies, accused him of hypocrisy, saying: ‘He should be getting his own house in order before he goes around lecturing everyone else.’” – Daily Mail

Baker pinned to the ground to promote self-defence classes

“A Conservative MP was filmed being wrestled to the ground and pinned down – all in the name of research. Backbencher Steve Baker posted videos online of himself attempting to wrestle a self-defence expert, but twice ended up with his face in the mud. Mr Baker joked that it ‘seemed like a good idea’ at the time to accept an invitation to attend a self-defence class on his day off.” – Daily Mail

Committees 1) Inquiry to call for the BBC Trust to be scrapped

BBC“The Commons culture, media and sport select committee is expected to throw its weight behind calls for the organisation to be abolished. The committee, chaired by Conservative MP John Whittingdale, is to publish its report on the future of the BBC, reportedly to be released within the next few weeks.” – Daily Mail

Committees 2) Public Accounts Committee savages Home Office over foreign criminals

“To MPs’ fury, the Home Office has not been deciding whether to deport foreign national offenders until 18 months before their earliest removal date. Inmates then submit countless appeals to further delay the process. Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: ‘This is a damning report of failure and incompetence in Theresa May’s Home Office. Previous home secretaries have resigned over this kind of thing.” – Daily Mail

  • Home Office released 151 thugs without even trying to deport them – Daily Telegraph

Lord Ashcroft Poll highlights fresh Miliband woes as Greens surge…

green20party (1)“The new survey by Lord Ashcroft puts the Greens up three points in just a week, ahead of the Lib Dems and just behind Ukip, after their profile was boosted by a row over being excluded from TV debates. The poll and focus group findings will make grim reading for the other parties, with Labour and the Tories both on less than 30 per cent and Ed Miliband likened to a zoo animal ‘you’re not bothered whether you see or not’.” – Daily Mail

  • Ed’s election chances poorer than polls suggest, claims expert – The Sun (£)
  • Fewer than half of votes would lend the party leaders a tenner, poll finds – Daily Telegraph
  • Only one in ten believe politicians want what’s best for the country – Financial Times

>Yesterday: Lord Ashcroft in Comment: The Conservatives return to a one point lead in my latest national poll

…and the Telegraph asks: what do they believe in?

“In the short term, a Green administration would impose a string of new taxes, ramp up public spending to unprecedented levels and decriminalise drugs, brothels and membership of terrorist groups. In the long term, they want to fundamentally change life as we know it.” – Daily Telegraph

Labour Abroad 1) Harman turns fire on Obama over Cameron endorsement

harman“Ed Miliband’s deputy has lashed out at Barack Obama after he praised David Cameron’s economic stewardship. The President of the United States “does not really know what is going on in this country”, Harriet Harman said. Mr Cameron received a significant pre-election boost on Friday after Mr Obama said Britain’s economic recovery is evidence he “must be doing something right”.” – Daily Telegraph

Labour Abroad 2) Party proposes “reset” with Europe

“Labour would “review, repair and reset” Britain’s relations with Europe if it wins the election, promising to increase the UK’s presence in the main decision-making forums in Brussels. Douglas Alexander, shadow foreign secretary, will say on Tuesday that David Cameron’s government has presided over “the most significant decline in British influence in Europe for a generation”.” – Financial Times

Mandelson hits out at ‘mansion tax’

Tax Take“Ed Miliband’s plan to impose a mansion tax is ‘crude’ and would end up ‘clobbering’ people, Lord Mandelson warned last night. The Labour grandee launched a stinging attack of the party leader’s flagship policy claiming it was ‘short-termist’. To add further insult, Lord Mandelson, one of the architects of New Labour, said he preferred the policy drawn up by the Liberal Democrats to introduce extra council tax bands for high-value homes.” – Daily Mail

Labour leader accuses Cameron of “empty promises” on jobs

“Mr Cameron hopes to make inroads into the Labour vote by highlighting the coalition’s strong record on job creation: unemployment is just below 6 per cent in the UK, almost half the eurozone level. But while the prime minister highlights job creation, Mr Miliband says the coalition has presided over a deterioration in the quality of jobs, and pay, with a growth in “exploitative” zero hours contracts.” – Financial Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Low pay is about more than just pay

>Yesterday: Watch: Cameron pledges full employment

Balls admits that tumbling oil price will help families…

LABOUR dead rose“Ed Balls admitted yesterday that the falling oil price will make people feel better off. The Shadow Chancellor said the plunging price of oil ‘will help’ households. His words were an apparent admission that the party’s cost of living campaign was being undermined by falling inflation.” – Daily Mail

…as it is suggested that flagship energy price freeze policy delayed price cuts…

“Millions of British Gas customers will receive a 5 per cent price cut, worth £37 a year, as energy giants finally start to pass on falling wholesale costs. The news will come as a fresh blow to Ed Miliband, who until recently advocated a 20-month price freeze. Last night industry experts warned that the Labour policy had made firms delay price reductions for fear of being locked into bad deals.” – Daily Mail

  • Price freeze threat still delaying further reductions – The Sun (£)
  • Another day, another body-blow to Labour’s election strategy – Daily Mail editorial

…and oil price leaves SNP vulnerable over “Home Rule” financing…

snplogo“Jim Murphy and Ruth Davidson have lambasted the SNP’s general election demand for control over all tax and spending after economists warned the tumbling oil price would create a Scottish budget black hole of up to £7 billion. The Scottish Labour and Tory leaders said the Nationalists’ call for full fiscal autonomy was “madness” as it would see the end of the Barnett formula and leave Scotland’s public services “entirely dependent” on oil revenues.” – Daily Telegraph

…yet Scots still favour Labour-Nationalist coalition

“An SNP-Labour alliance is more popular than any other Government after next May for Scottish voters, with 35 per cent backing the set-up. It raises the prospect of Mr Miliband agreeing to hand over a swathe of new powers to Holyrood and diluting his party’s position on Trident in order to enter Number 10.” – Daily Telegraph

Janan Ganesh: Fear of Labour can see the Tories back into Number 10

COALIT~2“It is just a nod to reality, expressed more in sorrow than in anger. We tried the left’s utopian schemes, it seems to say, and look where we are. Let the adults clean up. Thatcher was then elected to put Labour’s two-card trick of Keynesian largesse and corporatist meddling out of its misery, and ours. This is generally how Conservatives win and keep power.” – Financial Times

Next coalition negotiations must be swift, claims Laws

“The next government should be formed within a week, one of the coalition’s most senior ministers has argued, insisting voters will punish parties that drag their heels over negotiations. Speaking to the Financial Times, David Laws, the Liberal Democrat education minister, said parties would need to come to a rapid agreement in the event of a hung parliament after May, no matter how complicated the electoral maths.” – Financial Times

  • Lib Dem minister says any talks must be confidential – The Guardian

UKIP policy chief sacked over delayed manifesto

UKIP glass“Tim Aker has been sacked as Ukip’s policy chief after failing to complete the party’s overdue manifesto. It is understood that Ukip had set the beginning of January as the deadline to agree policies before sending off the manifesto to be checked and costed by an independent think-tank.” – The Times (£)

Farage accused of exaggerating rally attendance

“Nigel Farage was accused of exaggerating the scale of his support after claiming 500 people had attended a rally in South Thanet. Photographs of the event posted by the Ukip leader suggested no more than 100 people had in fact turned up to campaign in the Kent seat, which Mr Farage hopes to win from the Tories.” – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • Fury as anti-cuts activist joins Government’s welfare assessors… for £75k – Daily Mail
  • Number of British soldiers with mental illnesses increases by a third – Daily Telegraph
  • Shoplifting gangs in luxury goods rampage – The Times (£)
  • British and Irish armed forces work together – Financial Times
  • Paxman: Churchill would be unelectable nowadays – The Independent
  • The Sun calls time on Page 3 after 44 years – The Guardian

And finally… Grant Shapps dangles holiday with the Camerons in front of 2015 activists

“Young Tory activists are being encouraged to campaign ahead of the election with the promise of an Ibiza clubbing holiday with David and Samantha Cameron… He has even told the Prime Minister about his plan designed to bolster numbers for the Team 2015 campaign drive, admitting that he is only ‘slightly joking’.” – Daily Mail