The five things you need to know on Tuesday 10 December...
1) NOT SO FREE SCHOOLS
Yet another blow to Michael Gove's education 'reforms' - this time from the National Audit Office (NAO) and on the issue of 'free schools'. The Independent reports:
"Michael Gove’s free schools cost twice as much to build as the Government originally estimated and are failing to tackle the shortage of classroom places in many parts of the country, a damning report by the public spending watchdog will say today.
"An analysis of the scheme by the National Audit Office has revealed that each school costs £6.6m to set up and that by March the whole programme will have cost £1.1bn – £743m of which is capital costs.
"Half the districts with the most pressing need for extra places do not have a single application for a new free school, while the report also shows that the 64 free schools that responded have almost three times as many unqualified teaching staff as the average for the state sector."
2) DAVE VS DEMENTIA
From the BBC:
"The UK will aim to double its annual funding for dementia research to £132m by 2025, up from the 2015 target of £66m, David Cameron has said.
"The prime minister's announcement comes before a dementia summit which is part of Britain's presidency of the G8... The global number of dementia sufferers is expected to treble to 135m by 2050."
Cameron also asked charities and businesses to step up to the funding plate; however, the Alzheimer's Society - which has promised to spend at least £100m on research in the next decade - says his proposal doesn't go far enough and has called for an "injection of ambition".
3) THE PM'S 'LITTLE BLACK BOOK'
The Prime Minister has been speaking to the Spectator and reveals he has a 'little black book' - but, fear not, SamCam, it's not that kind of little black book. From the Mail:
"Mr Cameron said the coalition had been strong and radical, but added: ‘Because of what I see as the problems facing Britain - and what I want to do next as Prime Minister - I feel very passionately that I want single party government.
"‘I don’t believe that you succeed in government by sitting around whingeing about what you can’t do. But I’m happy to tell you... that there’s a good list of things I have put in my little black book that I haven’t been able to do which will form the next Tory manifesto.’"
Talking of future coalitions, the former Lib Dem cabinet minister Michael Moore has done an interview with my HuffPost UK colleague Ned Simons in which he says a Labour-Lib Dem deal post-2015 is still on the cards - despite the vitriolic abuse that the two sides have heaped on each other in recent months:
"Has anybody looked back to how David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown dealt with each other before the last election? Come on. This is robust politics... PMQs and other oral questions times are gladiatorial moments where you have to be out there, you have to make your case. That's the way our political system is."
"As all the parties demonstrated in the aftermath of the last general election, if the electorate deals a hand that says none of you has a majority, you have to make things work in the national interest."
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this spoof video of Barack Obama singing 'Jingle Bells'.
4) FRACK YEAH
It was inevitable - from the Times splash:
"Britain should press ahead with fracking, the chairman of the Government's climate change advisory body said yesterday.
"Lord Deben dismissed claims by green groups that fracking would cause significant damage to the environment, adding that Britain needed to drill shale wells to reduce reliance on foreign imports of fossil fuel. Lord Deben, who as John Gummer served as Environment Secretary in John Major's Government, told The Times: 'It just isn't true that fracking is going to destroy the environment and the world is going to come to an end if you frack. And yet to listen to some people on the green end, that's what they say.'"
"Greenpeace argues that gas and toxic chemicals used in fracking could contaminate water supplies and that exploiting mineral reserves impairs efforts to cut emissions."
5) 'NO SELFIE RESPECT'
That's the splash headline on the Sun, attacking "disrespectful" David Cameron, as well as Barack Obama and Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt, for posing and smiling for a cheesy snap on the latter's camera phone in the middle of the Mandela memorial in Soweto. The picture instantly went viral yesterday afternoon; the HuffPost UK splashed on it with the headline, "Selfie Centred". The Mirror this morning goes with the headline, "Idiotic", while the pic also appears on the front pages of the Times, the Telegraph and the Daily Mail.
As the Sun reports, the picture "came as VIPs from around the world flocked to the emotional ceremony for Mr Mandela in Soweto, South Africa. But Mr Obama's wife Michelle didn't look impressed — and was later seen glaring at her husband as he chatted with 46-year-old Helle."
"Snaps of the selfie soon went viral, with some Twitter users calling it 'tasteless'."
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From the Sun/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 9
That would give Labour a majority of 60.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Matthew Parris, writing in the Times, "No, I’m not mad. MPs should get their pay rise."
Mary Riddell, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Now Labour could become the party of marriage and the family."
Zoe Williams, writing in the Guardian, says: "Make no mistake: Iain Duncan Smith wants the end of social security."
Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Ned Simons (email@example.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol