Osborne is cautioned against pension changesOSBORNE blue tie

‘George Osborne has been warned by a leading Tory MP not to set old against young by carrying out a major overhaul of the pension system…The chancellor is considering ending the more generous tax rebates for higher rate taxpayers on pension contributions. Instead, Mr Osborne could create a flat-rate tax of between 25 and 33 per cent, under which high earners would lose some of their rebates….Amid growing concern about the impact on middle-class savers, David Davis, the former leadership contender, said the mooted plan was problematic.’ – The Times (£)

  • Webb accuses Osborne of ‘raiding the piggy bank’ – Daily Mail
  • He is milking our pension pots dry – Paul Johnson, The Times (£)
  • 1.5 million savers face 55 per cent pension tax – Daily Telegraph
  • This will increase savings, argues the Treasury – FT
  • Buy-to-let landlords rush to beat tax rise – FT

>Today: ToryDiary: Tax breaks for saving should help poorer people most

Economy 1) Slump wipes £50 billion off the stock market

‘Pensions funds and savings were clobbered yesterday as the UK stock market lost £52billion in one day. It means London’s FTSE 100 is in a slump called a “bear market” for the first time since the height of the global credit crunch in August 2008. The FTSE closed down 203.22 points or 3.46 per cent at 5673.58 — its lowest level for more than three years. It marks its worst ever start to a year. In April it was at 7,103.98, meaning it has fallen more than 20 per cent from its recent peak — the definition of a “bear market.”’ – The Sun (£)

Economy 2) The Chancellor welcomes record employment figures

growth flag‘George Osborne hailed the 74 per cent employment rate as an “important milestone on the road to full employment.” The figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed that there were 31.39 million people in work in three months to November, 267,000 more than for June to August and 588,000 more than for a year earlier. More women were recorded as being in work than ever before, with 61.9 per cent employed, while unemployment fell fastest among the 18 to 24 age group, with 130,000 fewer young people unemployed than the same time last year.’ – The Times (£)

  • Unemployment falls below pre-crash levels – Daily Mail
  • The over-50s are fuelling the jobs boom – The Sun (£)

>Today: Peter Hoskin on Comment: Osborne’s rebalancing act continues. It may never reach the desired conclusion.

>Yesterday: Steve Hughes on Comment: Osborne’s record. Some progress on the deficit. Slower going on rebalancing. But now he has a chance to deliver.

EU 1) Cameron begs Davos magnates to back the pro-EU campaign

‘David Cameron will warn business leaders today that they can’t duck a “high-stakes” campaign to keep Britain in the EU. Mr Cameron will also use a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos to tell industry figures to help him to win reforms, including scrapping regulations, and then sell the agreement in the EU referendum expected later this year. “If you want a more competitive Europe,” he says, “join me in making that case. If you believe, like I do, that Britain is better off in a reformed EU then help me make that case for Britain to stay.”’ – The Times (£)

>Today: Daniel Hannan’s column: Cameron’s strategy for winning the EU referendum – use the word ‘security’ as much as possible

EU 2) The Government will oppose Brussels’ migrant quota plans

Border‘David Cameron is to oppose a plan to scrap European refugee rules that allow Britain to return asylum seekers to the first EU country they entered, typically those along the Mediterranean coast. The contentious proposal by Brussels to spread the burden of the refugee crisis more evenly across Europe comes at a highly awkward moment for Mr Cameron, as he tries to conclude his EU renegotiation.’ – FT

  • Human rights ruling opens the door to more asylum seekers – The Times (£)
  • We must toughen our border controls – Charles Wardle, Daily Telegraph
  • Refugee quota system will make Calais even worse, warn MPs – Daily Mail
  • If Brussels treats us like this now, imagine how much worse they will be if we vote to Remain – Dan Hannan, Daily Mail
  • The IMF predicts four million more migrants – The Sun (£)


>Yesterday: George Grant on Comment: Cameron is right – poor English language skills do contribute to segregation and radicalisation

EU 3) IDS plans to campaign independently for Brexit

‘Iain Duncan Smith is to campaign independently for Britain to leave the European Union, spurning the rival campaigns seeking to act as the main group pushing to quit in the EU referendum. Amid growing confidence in Downing Street that David Cameron is closing in on an EU deal, the Guardian understands that the work and pensions secretary believes that he should act alone as a “great big voice” in the campaign.’ – The Guardian

Forsyth: What is Cameron’s secret?Cameron superhero 1

‘It is not only in America that the right is in crisis. In Canada, Stephen Harper’s government was defeated by Justin Trudeau. In Australia, the Tony Abbott experiment has been brought to an end by his own party. New Zealand’s John Key is the only other centre-right leader in the English-speaking world who can claim to be a success now.The troubles of the centre-right aren’t limited to the Anglosphere. Angela Merkel has plunged her continent, her country and her chancellorship into crisis with her refugee policy…In France, despite François Hollande’s unpopularity, polls suggest that Nicolas Sarkozy would be knocked out in the first round of the presidential election. So, why is Cameron succeeding when other centre-right leaders are not? In part, it is because the British economy is continuing to grow and create jobs.’ – James Forsyth, The Spectator

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: How Cameron is shaping the political week

Blunt: I use poppers, and the Government’s ban is ‘stupid’

‘A Conservative MP has revealed he uses poppers during a speech in the House of Commons and criticised the government’s “manifestly stupid” plan to ban sale of the drug. Crispin Blunt, who is gay, warned that the government’s proposals would force homosexual men to deal with criminals if sale of the drug was outlawed. Poppers, a slang term for amyl nitrate, is popular in the gay community and used as a recreational club drug or to enhance a sexual experience. In a rare personal moment in Parliament, Mr Blunt revealed his use of the drug and said he was “astonished” at what the government was about to do.’ – Daily Telegraph

£600 for chicken suits, £2.4 million for Crosby…but the price of the Edstone remains a secret

lynton-crosby‘Labour spent £600 on fancy dress chicken suits and £5,000 on their ‘pink battle bus’ during their failed general election campaign – but the cost of the ‘Ed Stone’ remains a secret today. The Electoral Commission has published all details of the £40million splashed out by the main parties – but Ed Miliband’s 8ft 6in monolith carved with his six key pledges was mysteriously left out. Tory election guru Lynton Crosby was the real winner because he was paid £2.4million for getting David Cameron into Downing Street – and was later handed a knighthood.’ – Daily Mail

  • The Conservatives spent £1.2 million on Facebook avertising – The Times (£)
  • Labour and Lib Dem peers defeat the government on party funding – FT

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The full scale – and focus – of the Facebook General Election campaign is revealed

Leading Corbyn aide quits after row with Milne

‘One of Jeremy Corbyn’s top aides is understood to have resigned because of internal feuding in the Labour leader’s office. Neale Coleman, head of rebuttal and a former aide to Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson, quit after a row with Seumas Milne, the Labour leader’s media and political adviser. The departure highlights the split in the leader’s office over how left wing the Labour leader should be. A party spokeswoman said it did not comment on staffing issues.’ – The Times (£)

  • Labour MPs attack Corbyn for forgetting his eurosceptic roots – The Sun (£)
  • Labour’s new members are mostly wealthy urbanites – The Guardian
  • ISIS need to be defeated, not negotiated with, Benn tells Corbyn – Daily Mail
  • British food aid stolen by Syrian extremists – The Times (£)

Most council tax bills to rise by the maximum amount allowed

Tax Take‘Two thirds of Britain’s biggest councils are set to raise council tax in April by about 4 per cent, the maximum allowed, a survey reveals. The study shows that 63 per cent of the 150 councils who are responsible for providing social care plan a 2 per cent levy to help to pay for residential accommodation and care in people’s own homes. This is on top of the 2 per cent rise to cover other services, the maximum that most other councils can increase their tax without triggering a referendum.’ – The Times (£)

Litvinenko inquiry will link Putin to the murder

‘President Putin will be linked to the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in the findings of a British inquiry into the death of the former Russian spy, The Times has learnt. The extent of his alleged involvement in one of the most controversial and diplomatically damaging killings on British soil will be left unclear but the mere mention of his name will raise tensions between London and Moscow. The report, which sets out the conclusions of a judge who conducted the investigation, will also name a former bodyguard in Russia’s security service and a Russian army veteran as the prime suspects.’ – The Times (£)

Montgomerie: Americans will dump Trump

TRUMP hair‘Last year, I nailed my colours to the mast and declared that Trump “won’t be America’s next president. He won’t even be the Republican nominee”. Doubling down, I still think that — even in the face of six successive and unprecedented months of him beating Ted Cruz (Trump without the charm), Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and the other would-be challengers to a Hillary Clinton presidency. I still think that because as much as America often baffles us, it didn’t become the richest, most technologically innovative and militarily powerful country on Earth by putting clowns like Trump in power.’ – Tim Montgomerie, The Times (£)

BBC Savile report leaked

‘The BBC fostered a culture that allowed Jimmy Savile to carry out his predatory paedophile activities on its premises, a damning draft report is set to reveal. Dame Janet Smith criticised the corporation for its “very deferential culture” that made its stars “untouchable” and put children at risk. News website Exaro said that the report outlines multiple rapes and indecent assaults on girls and boys, with three victims aged as young as nine years old.’ – The Times (£)

News in Brief

  • Gas wholesale prices plummet – so why are consumers’ bills only falling a little? – Daily Mail
  • Monkey head transplant raises hopes of human trials – The Times (£)
  • Civil service attack on FoI comes under fire – Daily Mail
  • Portrait immortalises Nick Clegg looking sad – Daily Telegraph
  • Scientists are searching for a ninth planet in the solar system – FT
  • Tory councillor names his son Thatcher – The Sun (£)

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