The ten things you need to know on the most anticipated day of the year, 12/12/12 (yep, you read that right)...
1) DO YOU KNOW WHO MY BOSS IS?
Yesterday's Telegraph revealed that the parents of culture secretary Mary Miller were living rent-free in a property designated as her second home - a story that prompted Labour MP John Mann to report her to the parliamentary commissioner for standards.
Today's Telegraph reveals that Miller's special adviser said she wanted to “flag up” her boss’s connection to any new system of press regulation, in response to the paper's initial inquiries into the culture secretary's expenses claims. Uh-oh!
From the paper's front-page story:
"The Daily Telegraph has decided to disclose details of the private conversations amid widespread concern about the potential dangers of politicians being given a role in overseeing the regulation of the press.
"... When a reporter approached Mrs Miller’s office last Thursday, her special adviser, Joanna Hindley, pointed out that the Editor of The Daily Telegraph was involved in meetings with the Prime Minister and the Culture Secretary over implementing the recommendations made by Lord Justice Leveson.
“'Maria has obviously been having quite a lot of editors’ meetings around Leveson at the moment. So I am just going to kind of flag up that connection for you to think about,' said Miss Hindley."
I'm guessing Joanna Hindley may end up joining Adam Smith down at the job centre in the not-too-distant future; this particular spad has committed political hara-kiri on behalf of her beleaguered boss.
I'm also quite sure that this story will now repeatedly be used by the papers as an example of why Lord Justice Leveson's proposals are so wrong and why politicians should be kept far away from regulation of the press. Annoying...
2) CAMERON VS "THE VILLAGE PUB"
Will David Cameron's decision to legalise same-sex marriage cost him votes? Provoke mass resignations by Conservative Party activists and members in 'the shires'?
Ukip seems to think so - and the Guardian splashes on the anti-EU party's "plans to derail PM over gay marriage" in the run-up to the June 2014 European elections which will, the paper reminds us, "take place a few months after the legislation is due to come into force".
Ukip leader and pub-landlord-lookalike Nigel Farage tells the Guardian:
"David Cameron's proposal has the potential to rip apart the traditional rural Tory vote. While Ukip wholly respects the rights of gay people to have civil partnerships, we feel the prime minister's proposals will present an affront to millions of people in this country for whom this will be the final straw.
"The division between city and rural is absolutely huge. In my village pub in Kent they are just completely against."
Meanwhile, the Times splashes on the government's decision to exempt the Church of England from its gay marriage proposals, accusing ministers of trying "to appease senior Anglicans and Tory MPs".
The Telegraph, however, in its leader, says: "Mr Cameron may come to rue the day he embarked on this reform. Sad to say, but in a country that prides itself on its tolerance, he risks sowing division where none previously existed."
3) REGIME CHANGE
From the FT:
"Mark Carney, the next governor of the Bank of England, has suggested that he will act much more aggressively to revive the UK economy when he takes charge next summer, including dumping the BoE's much-vaunted inflation target if growth fails to pick up.
"In a clear break with the views of the BoE's current top management, Mr Carney, the Bank of Canada's governor, said yesterday that central banks should eye more radical measures - such as commitments to keep rates on hold for extended periods of time and numerical targets for unemployment - when rates are near zero.
"If those measures fail to have the desired effect, Mr Carney said that central banks should consider scrapping their inflation targets - a cornerstone of economic policy around the world in recent decades, including in the UK.
"'If yet further stimulus were required, the policy framework itself would likely have to be changed,' Mr Carney said in Toronto in his first speech since being named as successor to Sir Mervyn King last month."
So far, so good.
4) BANKSTERS UNDER FIRE. FINALLY.
Talking of bankers - Carney is ex-Goldman Sachs - it's worth taking a look at the front page of the Guardian, which should embarrass most apologists (Boris Johnson?) for the financial sector:
"The reputation of Britain's banking industry took a fresh battering yesterday when HSBC was slapped with a record $1.9bn (£1.2bn) fine, the first arrests were made in the Libor-rigging investigation, and Northern Rock handed the taxpayer a £270m bill to compensate customers affected by a mistake in its paperwork.
"The US department of justice (DoJ) detailed how HSBC, Britain's biggest bank, allowed drug traffickers to launder billions of dollars in the US and billions more to be moved across borders to countries facing sanctions, such as Burma, Cuba and Libya."
Sickening and shameful stuff from the banksters in the City. But, hey ho, let's have another go at those benefits scroungers, shall we?
On a side note, dare I ask: why is Stephen Green, the former HSBC chairman turned Tory peer and coalition trade minister, still in his job?
5) OUR GERMAN FRIENDS
From the Times:
"Britain is leaving itself with 'no voice in Europe' by drifting to the margins of the EU, according to one of the Continent's top politicians.
"Wolfgang Schäuble, the German Finance Minister, made the unguarded remarks at a private dinner in front of the British Ambassador and several other guests, one of whom told The Times that he was struck by the ferocity of the outburst.
"But despite rising German frustration at calls from London for more concessions and a looser relationship with the EU, it is understood that Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has told David Cameron that she will do everything she can to keep Britain in the 27-nation organisation."
Awww, thanks Angela...
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video of a cat helping out a baby with Spanish lessons.
6) DO CUTS COST VOTES?
It's perhaps the single most important question in British politics.
From the Times:
"George Osborne’s decision to cut benefits in real terms for millions of families could cost the Conservatives dozens of seats, Labour claimed last night.
"Research by the party shows that the size of Tory majorities in their 60 most vulnerable seats is dwarfed by the number of working families whose tax credits will be curbed. On average there are 15 working families receiving tax credits for every one marginal voter.
"The disclosure came as Labour confirmed that it would vote against the 1 per cent cap for three years for many benefit claimants — unless the Government returned the top rate of tax from 45p to 50p."
7) NORTH KOREA VS THE REST OF THE WORLD
All eyes may be on Iran's nuclear programme but, as the BBC reports,
"North Korea has defied international warnings with an apparently successful launch of its rocket.
"The rocket, launched at 09:49 local time (00:49 GMT), appears to have followed its planned trajectory, with stages falling in expected areas.
"North Korea says a satellite has been placed in orbit; the US confirmed an object had been put into space."
The Beeb says that
"...Japan has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. Reports suggested this could take place later on Wednesday."
8) "AN ATTACK ON DEMOCRACY"
From the FT:
"Theresa Villiers, Northern Ireland secretary, has condemned Loyalist violence against political representatives in Northern Ireland as 'an attack on democracy'.
"Speaking after more than a week of violent protests by Loyalists sparked by a decision by Belfast councillors to stop flying the Union Jack every day at City Hall, Ms Villiers said there was no justification for the 'thuggish and lawless' behaviour."
Meanwhile, the BBC reports:
"A senior lawyer's review of the extent of security force collusion in the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane is being published later.
"Mr Finucane was shot by loyalists in front of his wife and children at his north Belfast home in February 1989.
"It was one of the most controversial killings of the Troubles."
We await the Prime Minister's statement on the report in the House of Commons later today.
9) "CHANGING OF THE TIMES"
That's the headline on the front of the Telegraph, above a picture of Jatinderpal Singh Bhullar - the Sikh soldier who yesterday became the first guardsman on parade at Buckingham Palace to be allowed to swap the famous bearskin headwear for a turban. He has described guarding the Queen as "the best thing in my life".
Bhullar's photo also appears on the front of the Times and the Guardian. Eat your heart out, Monty Panesar...
10) I'M PLASTICINE... AND PROUD!
Oh dear. From the Times:
"At first, he dismissed the taunts as 'childish'. Then, reluctantly, he accepted that 'some can see a resemblance'. Now the Ed Miliband camp has gone one step further, proving that not even plasticine-inspired insults are immune to political spin.
"Comparisons between the Leader of the Opposition and a bug-eyed, jugeared study in haplessness, it has been decided, do not only leave the Labour brand unharmed: they are positively flattering.
"'What's wrong with Wallace?' asks Mr Miliband's press secretary, Tom Baldwin. 'He's a man of principle, who achieves what he wants to do, and he prevails in the end because he's honourable, decent, a great British hero.' And as Mr Miliband points out in an interview in the fashion magazine Grazia: 'He's got a nice dog.'"
The paper adds:
"Mr Miliband told the magazine that the most romantic gift he had ever bought his wife was 'a wedding ring', but balked when asked whether he would buy her perfume, underwear or a good book for Christmas.
"'Oh god, none of the above. I bought her a fantastic Gaggia coffee machine for her birthday. She loves it. She said it was a great present.'"
What a romantic...
"Has the government considered introducing other forms of marriage, such as polygamy? And if not, when can minorities who believe in such a practice expect their consultation?" - Tory MP Matthew Offord responds to the government's same-sex marriage proposals.
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From the Sun/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 10
That would give Labour a majority of 118.
140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
@oflynnexpress Following the precedent of Jeremy Hunt it seems Maria Miller's special adviser may have to resign. That's the way it works these days.
@Ed_Miliband Disappointed govt are making same-sex marriage illegal in C of E, but delighted all people who love each other will be able to marry
@SJacksonMP Turned down media "opportunity" to go head to head with Leftie wunderkind @owenjones84 on gay marriage. Why would I? #Life'stooshort.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Gaby Hinsliff, writing in the Guardian, says: "Gay people are still being denied marriage, while straight people are deserting it in droves. The institution itself is a mess."
Iain Martin, writing in the Daily Telegraph, says: "The Prime Minister’s modernist zeal for gay marriage is creating uproar among his backbenchers and the grassroots."
Paddy Ashdown, writing in the Times on Syria, asks: "Who should we back in this Sunni-Shia war?"
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