Friday, 16 August 2013

Today's ConservativeHome top features
IDIn his latest column, Iain Dale's asks: did I ever tell you about the time I felt my buttocks needed to be a bit perkier? "Having learned more than I ever needed to about Andrew Pierce’s follically-challenged head, in Saturday’s Daily Mail he regaled us with tales of how he injects botox into his armpits to stop him sweating so profusely. Can you imagine if any politician had written about such things? Piercey would have spent his entire column ridiculing them."
Today's ConservativeHome newslinks
Tougher subjects; a decline in As and A*s; 386,000 students accepted onto university courses – the papers cover yesterday's exam results
Exam"Teenagers switched in their droves from communication studies, PE and general studies in favour of tougher subjects such as maths, economics and the sciences. ... Overall, 26.3 per cent were awarded the top two grades – down 0.3 per cent on last year, the second biggest fall in A-level history. ... There was a modest rise this year in A* to B grades to 52.9 per cent, which helped fuel a record 386,000 students winning places at university..." - Daily Mail
"The dismal science of economics has experienced a surge in popularity since the recession, with a 50 per cent increase in candidates studying the subject at A-level since the credit crunch first hit in 2007." - Financial Times
  • Telegraph"The drop in A-level grades indicates that Michael Gove's reforms are having an effect" - Daily Telegraph editorial
  • "For those who did well in exams the A level is a prized currency. It is important, however, to cater for those who do poorly." - Timeseditorial (£)
  • "It’s not often an apparent drop in educational standards is promising news. ... But the fall in the number of top A-level grades will help restore faith in our 'gold standard' exam." - Sun editorial (£)
  • "...even the dip in A*s reflects a positive trend, namely that more students are taking trickier “core” subjects rather than easier options such as media studies or PE." - Independent editorial
  • "Even among some ministers who talk about the importance of broadening access, there is a perception that Britain has in practice a two-tier university system..." - Guardian editorial
> Yesterday:
Cameron plans to concentrate on benefit curbs during EU negotiations
"Downing Street will put curbing the right of EU migrants to benefits at the heart of impending discussions with Brussels aimed at winning back powers for Britain. ... In recent months the Government has made significant headway building a pan-European agreement on benefit reform. ... Some MPs want David Cameron to go public over the progress as soon as the German elections are out of the way on September 22..." - The Times (£)
As the Mail hails Merkel's support for our Prime Minister
"How inconvenient for the Prime  Minister’s opponents that he can now point to the support of the most influential country in mainland Europe. ... Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, announced on Wednesday that she wants talks on whether the European Union should ‘give something back’ to member states this autumn." - Daily Mail editorial
  • "Even Germany is adding its voice to a campaign for a reformed EU" - Daily Telegraph editorial
  • "Merkel’s re-election will be a victory for austerity and unshowy politics" - Timeseditorial (£)
And the FT describes the eurozone's return to growth as a "cause for relief"
Euro"The eurozone’s two largest economies grew at a respectable pace in the second quarter: an annualised rate of 2.8 per cent in Germany; a surprisingly good 2 per cent for France. This puts an end to six quarters of contraction in the single-currency area. A patchwork of problems remains to be tackled but the eurozone’s return even to modest growth – 1.2 per cent annualised – is cause for relief." - Financial Times editorial
> Yesterday:
Eric Pickles' war on wheelie bins
Wheelie bin"Every new home should have a hiding place for a wheelie bin to stop streets being blighted by ‘ugly clutter’, Eric Pickles said yesterday. ... The Local Government Secretary called for ‘bin-tidy’ spaces to be built into the front of houses and flats, or for space to be made available for bins in the back yard." - Daily Mail
Ministers applaud a 6 per cent increase in housebuilding
"The government has declared an end to the half-decade slump in housebuilding after cheap borrowing and the Help to Buy scheme prompted a 6% increase in the start of work on new homes in the three months to June. ... The communities minister, Brandon Lewis, hailed figures showing that housing starts rose to 29,510 in the second quarter of 2013 as evidence that the market had turned the corner." - The Guardian
  • "Here’s how to avoid thousands in tax - don’t buy a house" - Matthew Sinclair, Daily Telegraph
> Yesterday on Local Government: Why does Labour oppose converting offices to homes?
But the number of people waiting for hospital treatment has risen too
NHS"The number of patients waiting for hospital treatment is at a five-year high, with almost 2.9 million people on the list. ... Figures for June show the waiting list for operations and other admissions in England has grown by nearly a quarter of a million since the same time last year." - The Guardian
"Only 3.6 per cent of prisoners referred to the Government’s work programme found lasting jobs in the first year the scheme operated" - The Times (£)
Douglas Carswell, and others, criticise ruling that has allowed a convicted terrorist to stay in the UK
"He cannot be booted out of the UK because his ‘life and liberty’ are judged to be in jeopardy if he returns to his home country, where he was convicted in 1993 of complicity in the bombing of Algiers airport, which killed nine people. ... Mr Carswell added: ‘It’s not just AH who should be in the dock, it is the immigration tribunal system which prevents us from removing a convicted killer.’" - Daily Mail
  • The family of Abu Qatada have now also left the UK for Jordan, after dropping bid to stay - Daily Mail
Julian Brazier questions the computer system used for recruiting Army reservists
JBThe overall strength of the Army Reserves has dropped 5.3 per cent in the past year, from 25,460 to 24,110. ... “What we are hearing from units is that they are getting plenty of applicants but the computer system is not working properly,” [Julian Brazier MP] said. “They are losing large numbers who are waiting to get in and can’t. We are very concerned about it.” - The Times (£)
The Tories should talk about race, says Shaun Bailey
"Shaun Bailey, a Tory and former Downing Street aide, spoke out after a survey showed Britain's minority ethnic vote might determine the outcome of the 2015 election. ... The Tories still have to 'win the political game' by persuading people 'you can join us, we are no more or less racist than the other bunch', he told a Telegraph podcast." - The Guardian
"Prime Minister David Cameron’s target of a third of his ministers being female risks a 'tokenism’ reshuffle" - Isabel Hardman, Daily Telegraph
Tell Obama to end military aid to Egypt, says Douglas Alexander to ministers
Flag 2
"British ministers are being urged by Labour to press Barack Obama to halt the supply of arms to Egypt because of the 'horrific bloodshed' that has cost hundreds of lives. ... Douglas Alexander, the shadow Foreign Secretary, also called for a European Union meeting to review all the aid it gives to the Egyptian government." - Independent
"The Egyptian capital Cairo is poised for renewed protests as supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi call for marches after Friday prayers. ... It comes two days after authorities broke up Muslim Brotherhood protest camps in the Egyptian capital with the loss of at least 638 lives." - BBC
  • "The world’s policeman isn’t answering calls" - John O'Sullivan, The Times (£)
  • "Barack Obama declines to correct his Egyptian mistake" - Ian Bremmer, Financial Times
  • "Egypt risks meltdown in the wake of such needless army brutality" - Shashank Joshi, Daily Telegraph
  • "The generals’ killing spree is a reckless denial of the lessons from the Arab spring" - The Economist
Philip Collins: Miliband should argue for his egalitarian vision
PC" is not good advice to ask, in the abstract, what Mr Miliband should do. That question carries the invisible rider 'assuming he agrees with me'. The right question is: 'How do we help to get the best Ed Miliband we can?' The advice offered has to be something that the leader can realistically do, given who he is." - Philip Collins, The Times (£)
Nigel Farage distances himself from Stuart Wheeler's remarks about women in business
"He made the comments after the Stuart Wheeler, the Ukip party treasurer, claimed that women are not competitive enough for the board room. ... Speaking to The Telegraph, Mr Farage distanced himself from Mr Wheeler's comments. He suggested instead that women chose not to 'sacrifice' their family life for business success." - Daily Telegraph
"Salmond's government has been accused of misleading voters over the viability of its plans for joining Nato while also closing down the Trident nuclear base" - The Guardian
Mass protest planned for fracking site
Fracking"Around 1,000 protesters, including anarchist groups, plan to descend  on the Balcombe drilling site next week. ... They plan a five-day ‘Reclaim the Power’ camp in the Sussex village, attended by veterans of the violent Dale Farm eviction in October 2011." -Daily Mail
  • "Cuadrilla, the fracking company, is temporarily suspending operations in the West Sussex village of Balcombe as anti-shale protesters gear up for a campaign of 'mass civil disobedience' near its drilling site." - Financial Times
  • Church wants share of fracking bounty - The Times (£)
Now the Charity Commission finds its own spending under question
"The watchdog, which received £22million of taxpayer cash this year, recently criticised wasteful spending by UK charities. ... But details of its spending on corporate credit cards, released under Freedom of Information laws, reveals that the Commission has racked up bills of more than £38,000 in less than two years at exclusive hotels." - Daily Mail
Ian Birrell: Forget the nostalgia for British Rail – our trains are better than ever
Train"For all the defects of a rushed privatisation, rail has evolved into a privately run public transport system playing a critical and successful role in the economy. The reality could hardly be more different to perception: passenger numbers booming, productivity rising, the number of services soaring, and customer satisfaction at near-record highs. Even those hated fare rises are not all they seem." - Iain Birrell, The Guardian
News in brief
  • Jeremy Hunt could make £15 million from the sale of his company, becoming the richest Cabinet minister - Daily Mail
  • BBC bosses may have misled the inquiry into the Jimmy Savile scandal, suggests the inquiry's director - Daily Mail
  • Ukip accepts £25,000 donation from e-cigarette firm - The Guardian
  • Mervyn King's leaving gifts from the Bank of England included a £10,000 portrait (that the Bank paid for itself) - Financial Times
  • Wales is the prescription capital of Britain - Daily Telegraph
And finally 1)... Gimme back my chains!
"...the Mayor of Mansfield insists that his ceremonial chains are not items of anachronistic "bling" after being stripped of the historic baubles by a group of Labour councillors. ... In what is becoming an increasingly bad tempered and personal spat, Mr Egginton's opponents have now ordered that the civic jewels are locked up in a council safe until the dispute is resolved." - Independent
And finally 2)... Ed Miliband tops a very scientific Sun poll of the leaders you'd most like to egg
Egg"The Labour chief was splatted for real at an east London market on Wednesday so we took along pictures of the four main party supremos to EGHAM in Surrey. ... As our main picture shows, ten of the chuckers went for Ed, six for Tory PM David Cameron, four lined up Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and two had UKIP’s Nigel Farage in their sights." - The Sun (£)
  • "Poor Ed Miliband, he couldn’t even come out decisively against an egg being chucked at his head." - Mark Steel,Independent
> Yesterday on MPsETC: Heath's egg joke