Gay marriage passes – now the Tories must move on

MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph).

Good morning. Cast your eyes along the waterfront this morning after the night before and you might conclude that things are fairly dire for Dave. He’s suffered another major rebellion (I know, I know it was a free vote, but he still failed to persuade his colleagues to follow his lead), there’s lashings of backbiting, and he’s been reduced to sending a pleading ‘Dear Mr Loon, I still love you’ letter to his members, something even American commentators have picked up on as a bad look. Nick Watt, a keen reader of Tory runes, spots a sea-change in attitudes to Dave among MPs and raises the prospect of a move against him in The Guardian, with more letters going in to Graham Brady. As I mention in my column, grown ups inside No10 realise that they are stuck with a number of what they refer to as ‘legacy issues’, from not winning the 2010 election to the gay marriage idea.

But there is no reason why the situation should not improve. Much of what has excited us in recent weeks will have passed the voters by, and after tonight’s vote gay marriage will be on its way to becoming law, and passing out of the current political debate. With the economy slowly improving and Labour wallowing, the Tories surely should be able to claw themselves off the rocks. This will require a fair wind, and a commitment by Mr Cameron and those around him to sharpen up. It also means not surrendering to the bullying disguised as advice from those agitating against Dave, whether it’s David Davis or Lord Ashcroft. The recess starts today, a good opportunity for everyone to calm down and for the PM to have a think about how he organises himself from now on.

That “personal message”, here in all its glory, might not be a bad start. Sure, many will feel it’s more than a little late – there has been a chasm apparent between the leadership and the grassroots since the grammar school row five years ago – but that doesn’t mean it’s too late. The fightback could just start here. Though from a low base if you believe a new Survation poll in The Guardian. It has the Tories down to 24 pc – just two points above Ukip.

Gay marriage served as a stark reminder of just how far removed Dave’s world view often seems from his troops. As The Guardian notes, the inter-generational divisions in the Tory party were particularly stark . Sir Gerald Howarth, the former defence minister last year knighted on the PM’s advice, warned in yesterday’s debate of an “aggressive homosexual community” in the country. Edward Leigh lamented that the “outlandish views of the loony left of the 1980s” had become “embedded in high places”.

Yes, it passed easily. Tim Loughton’s “wrecking” amendment was defeated 375 to 70. But passage of the Bill really owed to the deal passed with Labour, including on an immediate civil partnership review. No wonder the Mail describes it all as a “humiliation”.

It’s not too late for a Tory electoral recovery but, as I highlight in my column, a little more brutal self-assessment certainly wouldn’t go amiss:

At times his operation shows insufficient guile, at others a lack of interest in the mechanics – and in the people on whom his leadership should depend, notably his MPs. It is a fundamental weakness at the heart of Mr Cameron’s leadership, and one which his skills as a statesman and his undoubted sincerity as a public servant struggle to counterbalance.

To Janan Ganesh in the FT (£), all this squabbling only reinforces a truth:

The people who should have been vindicated by the Tories’ failure to win in 2010 were the Cameron modernisers

A RATHER BETTER DAY FOR ED

Meanwhile it was a rather better day for Ed Miliband. It was the perfect opportunity for him to take a cute and clever line on gay marriage, supporting the Loughton wrecking amendment for the sake of a little short-term tactical gain. Instead, as Dan Hodges blogs for us, Ed took a position that seems dangerously close to principled. Rather than win a few cheap political points, he’s got what he wanted: gay marriage.

APPEAL COURT OUTS BORIS

The Appeal Court yesterday said that the public does have a right to know about Boris Johnson’s extra-marital lovechild, who was born in November 2009, as the Daily Mail reports.

PROGRAMMES NOT WORKING

The government’s flagship Work Programme isn’t helping the most difficult cases, the Work and Pensions Select Commons committee has found. As The Independent reports, there is “growing evidence” that disadvantaged jobseekers are being ignored, and that Work Programme advisers had to deal with up to 180 jobseekers at a time. The one perk? In a payment-by-results scheme in which all 18 providers failed to meet their targets in the first year, the Government has spent £248 million less than anticipated. Meanwhile, Jonathan Aitken has attacked the “big yawning gaps” in plans to get former criminals to take on probation work – an idea that uses similar outsourcing methods to the Work Programme, as we note.

HUNT ATTACKS SURGERIES

In a speech to the King’s Fund health think-tank on Thursday, Jeremy Hunt will call for a new chief inspector of GPs to increase their quality. As the Daily Mail reports, Mr Hunt will attack “out-of-hours services where you speak to a doctor who doesn’t know you from Adam and has no access to your medical record” and complain that surgeries have become “mini A & E units” in which doctors cannot cope. Under his plans, there would be one GP per family who the “buck stops” with.

BERLIN PLANS EU TREATY CHANGE

More bad news for Dave comes from Berlin. The FT (£) reports that Angela Merkel is drawing up plans to streamline decision making in the eurozone but not going as far as a wholesale renegotiation. Two recently adopted standalone treaties – one enshrining fiscal discipline in a “fiscal compound”; another creating the €500 billion eurozone rescue fund – would be the models.

DAVE’S GOOGLE GO-SLOW

Dave has also faced criticism after treading very softly around Google during his meeting with Eric Schmidt and other business leaders yesterday at No 10. As The Times (£) reports, Dave did not seek a one-on-one meeting with Mr Schmidt despite making the case for tax transparency to the council.

UKIP BLAMED FOR CLIMATE CHANGE

Ed Davey has warned that the rise of Ukip risks populist “saloon bar” politics extending to climate change scepticism. Davey told The Independent of the dangers of the Conservatives pandering to a party that “don’t want to say that things here have to change”.

SCHOOLS – MORE BUCK BUT NOT MORE BANG

There is “no correlation at all between spending and outcomes”, according to new research from Reform, as we report. Some schools spend twice as much as others to receive the same “value-added” scores. Cue the carping from ministers of non-protected departments to begin again – that’s if it ever stopped. Reform have already argued for an end to the ring-fence in the education budget.

TWEETS AND TWITS

Apparently Diana Abbott doesn’t do subtlety:

@steve_mccabe: One of our lighter moments Diane Abbott caught tweeting about being in same lobby as David Cameron by PM who was reading over her shoulder

TOP COMMENT

In the Telegraph

Ben Brogan – Cameron shouldn’t blame our rowdy press for his own failings

Iain Martin – It feels like the Right has split irrevocably

Gillian Guy – Redemption awaits Britain’s battered banks

Telegraph View – A belated olive branch – but will it be enough?

Best of the rest

Rachel Sylvester in The Times (£) – Those aren’t loons, they’re just the over-60s

Jenni Russell in The Guardian – Politics needs mavericks, not just the same old chumocracy and groupthink

Dominic Lawson in The Independent – Hide behind the EU and the electorate will flush you out

Janan Gamesh in the FT (£) – Tories misunderstand the last election

THE AGENDA

09:30 am: Latest inflation figures for April released by ONS.

10:00 am London: Lord Deighton at Treasury Select Committee. Commercial Secretary Lord Deighton and Geoffrey Spence, Chief Executive, Infrastructure UK, HM Treasury will give evidence as part of the committee’s review of private finance.

12:00 am London: The London boroughs of Richmond and Hillingdon are announcing the Heathrow referendum results. Boris Johnson the Mayor of London, Lord True the Leader of Richmond Council and Cllr Ray Puddifoot the Leader of Hillingdon Council are due to attend. City Hall.

David Cameron to Tories: ‘I’m not sneering at you’

The Prime Minister tonight sent a “personal message” to thousands of party volunteers, insisting that despite their differences over Europe and gay marriage, the leadership and the party had “a deep and lasting friendship”.

Mr Cameron’s email was his first comment since The Daily Telegraph and other newspapers disclosed on Saturday that a member of his inner circle had described Conservative association members as “mad, swivel-eyed loons”.

The Prime Minister did not refer explicitly to the remark, but insisted that he admired and respected his party’s activists.

“I am proud to lead this party. I am proud of what you do,” he said. “I would never have around me those who sneered or thought otherwise. We are a team, from the parish council to the local association to Parliament, and I never forget it.”

More….

David Cameron: From Euro triumph to gay marriage disaster in just two weeks

How does the David Cameron scorecard look now? I can’t keep up. Was that a triumph over the EU budget, or not? And if it was a success, does it cancel out the ghastly calamity of the earlier half of the week? That depends on whether the cleverness and determination of the second half was more revealing of the Prime Minister’s true character than the bloody-minded foolishness of the first.

Making my way through Westminster last Wednesday was a slow process. There I was, heading along Millbank from Westminster Tube station, being waylaid every 20 yards or so by Conservative MPs who wanted to tell me – in considerable detail – about their dismay at the events of the previous night. Then, when I arrived at my lunchtime destination, there were more of them eager to confide their exasperation and despair.

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Tories split apart by gay marriage vote

MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph).

Good morning. The first Commons vote on homosexual marriage was passed by a large majority last night, splitting the Conservatives in the process. More Tories voted for than against, and those supporting David Cameron amounted to barely a third of the parliamentary party. The key numbers are as follows (the BBC has a breakdown by name on both sides):

  • Votes for: 400 (Con 127, Lab 217, Lib Dem 45, Other 11)
  • Votes against: 175 (Con 136, Lab 22, Lib Dem 4, Others 13)
  • Abstentions: 63 (Con 40, Lab 16, Lib Dem 7)
  • Significant opponents: Owen Paterson, David Jones, David Lidington, Andrew Robathan, Mark Francois, Jeremy Wright, Adam Afriyie
  • Significant abstentions: Philip Hammond, Dominic Grieve
  • Split on whipped votes: Programme Motion – 499/55, Money Resolution 481/34, Carry Over Motion 464/38

While gay marriage is being pulled apart in the other place, David Cameron finds himself in need of some marriage counselling of his own, as I blogged yesterday. The modernisers love him (Tom Chivers writes for us this morning explaining why he might now break a habit of a lifetime and vote Tory), but Mr Cameron set a course, and his party steered hard in the opposite direction. Not speaking yesterday was a mistake – the PM limited himself to a valedictory tweet – a move which implied a certain indifference to the arguments arising from six hours of debating. Sending Francius Maude on Newsnight didn’t help, either. The Conservatives may frequently walk behind “prevailing social attitudes”, a criticism he levied, but then, isn’t that conservatism?

Both the Telegraph and the Mail leaders criticise Dave’s ability to sow the seeds of discord in his own ranks, while the Guardian‘s Simon Jenkins makes the point that in both yesterday’s debate and the Conservative leadership, the cost of the “metrosexual” agenda has been an intolerance of other views. For all the talk of equality yesterday, there is very little between the Cameroon and the traditionalist in the modern Conservatives.

NEGLECT SCANDAL REPORT PUBLISHED

The report into neglect at two hospitals in Mid Staffordshire between 2005 and 2009 is published today and there is Labour anxiety that the report will be terrible for the party’s record on health. The report is likely to trash the policy of targets driving financial cuts. Patricia Hewitt, Alan Johnson and Andrew Burnham are all in the firing line – it’s why Mr Burnham set out proposals to overhaul the NHS last month. As the Sun reports, there will now be a new chief inspector of hospitals, while our story adds that the inquiry’s findings will include a mandatory reporting system for poor care, but will also exonerate Sir David Nicholson, the head of the NHS who was previously in charge of the strategic health authority responsible for Stafford and Cannock Chase hospitals. In crisis, Mary Riddell suggests that Ed Miliband may find opportunity:

“The Staffordshire scandal…was, at heart, the story of a care crisis endemic in a system equipped to deal with the quick cures and early deaths of the past century – but not with an ageing population. Whatever the human failings involved, our nurses have not simply grown nastier. An NHS unfit for purpose has become institutionally brutal.”

BLUE MACHINE GEARS UP IN EASTLEIGH

Things are looking up for the Conservatives in the Eastleigh byelection fight. Firstly, Nigel Farage will not run. His article for us explains that he wants to concentrate on the national picture, although you could also see this as a nod to Downing Street in exchange for Dave’s referendum pledge. Then there the reports this morning that Grant Shapps has already dispatched CCHQ staffers to Eastleigh before the start of campaigning this weekend. The Tories are going to throw the kitchen sink at this one, and the stakes are higher still as a result.

PEERS CALL FOR LEVESON LEGISLATION

The Lords is “bloated” argues one of its members, Frances D’Souza, in today’s Times (£), claiming that it will soon “collapse under its own weight” if the PM follows through with his peer creation plan. Bloated it may be, but it can still be a mighty irritant for the Government. Yesterday it defeated the Coalition’s plan to secure the Leveson reforms via Royal Commission. As we report, the upper chamber voted to legislate, passing an amendment to the Defamation Bill to introduce a cheap arbitration service for those who feel wronged by the press. Perhaps they were aggrieved by allegations that News International targeted Labour staffers, revisited in today’s Independent.

ARGENTINA SETS 2033 DEADLINE FOR FALKLANDS CONTROL

Britain’s tenure in the Falkland Islands is equivalent to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Argentina’s foreign minister Hector Timerman told the All Party Parliamentary Group on Argentina yesterday. As we report, Mr Timerman added the he didn’t “think it will be 20 years” before Argentina takes control of the islands. As form the views of the islanders: “I don’t have to persuade them”. Perhaps Mr Timerman genuinely believes that the world will come to believe the British are Argentina’s colonial oppressor. Perhaps he understands that by 2033 the armed forces will consist of a microlite mounted to a pedalo and a couple of young offenders on an apprenticeship placement. Either way, we’ve been warned.

PM LACKS ENERGY FOR TARIFF FIGHT

The mis-management and poor planning which has hallmarked British nuclear policy in the last two parliaments rears its head again this morning, with the Times (£) reporting that Tim Yeo, chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, believes that consumers will have to guarantee a profitable energy tarrif to EDF if they want to get two new stations built. Consumers were hit again yesterday by the failure of Dave’s lowest energy tarrif scheme to appear in yesterday’s simplification Bill. Only customers on old packages unavailable to new households will be switched to the cheapest deal for gas and electricity. The Sun’s leader pulls no punches, claiming that “No10 has misled the country on an issue as vital as power bills.” A good day to bury bad energy policy.

VINCE REVIVES RBS PLAN

The outgoing head of the FSA, Lord Turner, has given an interview to the FT (£) calling for permanent money printing, denying that it has significant inflationary effects. Helpfully, the paper includes a sidebar detailing similarly progressive policies and how they played out in the Wiemar Republic, Latin America in the 1970′s, Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe… Elsewhere in the paper, there’s a report that Vince Cable will use 9am speech at Bloomberg to re-float his idea of free RBS shares for every household. Treasury officials call the plans “interesting”, a comment which could also be read as “no”.

WORK IN PROGRESS

The Miliband revolution is still a “work in progress” according to his own policy chief Jon Cruddas. The Mail reports that Mr Cruddas’s interview with the BBC’s Daily Politics also contained the disarming admission that “to be perfectly blunt, if the party simply put forward an agenda that I would want then it wouldn’t win.”

JONES TAKES THE PRESCOTT PATH

David Jones, the Welsh Secretary, has twice used his official car for the 100 yard trip between his departmental office and Downing Street, the Mail reports. If it’s good enough for Pauline Prescott…

GEORGE OSBORNE, ARTIST

Described as “a work of charming simplicity”, the Chancellor’s contribution to a charity auction of celebrity doodles fetched £20,000, the Times (£) reports. The picture, catalogued as “a crude drawing of the Chancellor’s budget box” was sold to raise money for East Cheshire Hospice on Mr Osborne’s Tatton constituency. Tory fundraising efforts are not limited to Number11′s artistic output. The Sun reports that Dave has flogged a meeting with Justin Bieber for £10,000. The Bieber auction took place at the party’s annual black tie ball. Ominously, reports Richard Kay, not everyone stood to applaud the Prime Minsiter.

TWEETS AND TWITS

Unlike many of his collagues, Chris Heaton-Harris was able to look on the bright side of life last night:

@chhcalling: “Bought a dog from the local blacksmith. As soon as I got him home he made a bolt for the door.”

TOP COMMENT

In the Telegraph

Mary Riddell – Labour can turn NHS scandal into a platform for revolution

Tom Chivers – Let’s sign up to an age of Tory enlightenment

Des Browne & Ian Kearns – Trident is no longer key to Britain’s security

Telegraph View – Cameron has sown needless discord

Best of the rest

Simon Jenkins in The Guardian – Tory metrosexuals won the vote – but at what cost?

Daniel Finkelstein in The Times (£) – It’s human to dread change and fear loss

Nick Bosanquet in the FT (£) – Britain’s ageing taxpayers owe the iPod generation

Daily Mail Comment – Can Cameron heal his self-inflicted wounds

THE AGENDA

TODAY: MEPS to vote on reform of Common Fisheries Policy. Supporters say the reform will end overfishing. The vote is the final opportunity to reach agreement before the final, closed door, stage of negotiations.

08:00 am: Halifax releases its house price figures for January.

09:00 am: Vince Cable speech on banking, followed by Q&A. Bloomberg, 39-45 Finsbury Square.

10:00 am: Institute for Fiscal Studies launches its Green Budget. Beveridge Hall, Senate House, Malet Street.

10:30 am: DPP Keir Starmer gives evidence to the Lords EU Committee on UK home affairs opt-out. Committee Room 3, House of Lords.

12:00 pm: Prime Minister’s Questions.

02:30 pm: Foreign Secretary William Hague gives evidence to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee on future EU policy. Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House.

02:30 pm: Treasury and Scottish Public Pensions Agency give evidence to Commons Scottish Affairs Committee on impact of independence. Committee Room 8, House of Commons.

03:00 pm: Chancellor George Osborne and OECD head Angel Gurria launch OECD UK Economic Survey. Reporters asked to arrive by 1430. HM Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road, London.

High-ranking Conservatives back gay marriage amid Cabinet split

In an unprecedented joint letter amid a Cabinet split before tomorrow’s parliamentary vote, the ministers, who hold the three great offices of state, have written a letter to The Telegraph saying that “attitudes to gay people have changed”.

Their intervention represents a late attempt to persuade other Conservatives to drop their deep-seated opposition to legalising gay marriage. The issue threatens to divide the Conservative Party with more than half of MPs and about four members of the Cabinet refusing to support David Cameron’s decision to champion the move.

David Jones, the Welsh Secretary, yesterday emerged as an opponent to gay marriage. In a letter to a constituent in March last year, he wrote: “I believe that marriage is an institution ordained to sanctify a union between a man and a woman.” Letters written by six government whips, all opposing gay marriage, were also released by campaigners. Although the measure is likely to pass through the Commons with the support of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs, the Prime Minister is facing increasingly personal attacks from some Conservative MPs over the legislation.

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Tory rift deepens over Cameron’s gay marriage gamble

MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph).

Good morning. There’s no sign that David Cameron is making any progress towards his goal of securing the support of at least half his MPs in tomorrow’s vote on gay marriage. Current estimates suggest 120 will vote against, and a further 60 will abstain. It may be a free vote, but that will not diminish the embarrassment. All manner of rumours and accusations are flying around, not least Iain Dale‘s claim that a number of the MPs who will vote against gay marriage are in fact gay – two of them married. He has no truck with outing, he says, but the threat hangs in the air.

No one has yet produced any evidence that Mr Cameron will derive any political benefit. Instead the rebellion is being absorbed into the wider tale of Dave’s dire relations with his backbenchers. No10 must hope that publication of the Mid-Staffs NHS report on Wednesday will give us something else to chew on, and a reason to turn the focus onto Labour’s failings. In fact, this is a big week all around – George Osborne’s banking reforms are being announced in a speech in Bournemouth this morning, while Thursday and Friday see Dave in Europe talking budgets at a Brussels summit.

Maria Miller’s article in the Times (£) this morning is part of a last-gasp effort to persuade the rebels that they will be “on the wrong side of history”. For most, it’s being on the wrong side of the shires voter they can’t countenance. With backbenchers reporting hundreds of letters and emails each day last week, mostly hostile, the disintegration of local associations is more salient for most than Dave’s modernising agenda. As we report this morning, they also have the new Archbishop of Canterbury on board – he will launch his broadside against the plans in a series of interviews today. Phillip Blond’s ResPublica are also set against. Their report, published today, argues that homosexual marriage will destroy the institution of heterosexual marriage, as the FT (£) notes.

The Bill is going to become law – Labour and Lib Dem support will ensure that. The question is, will the Tory split last, and how damaging is it? The Mail claims to have detected two additional plots on Mr Cameron’s leadership – one by ex-army Tories planning a “military coup”. It suggests that Dr Liam Fox is poised for a comeback as the party disciplinarian. I’m sceptical – relations between Downing Street and Fantastic Dr Fox are still strained, and the extent of Dr Fox’s travels among the grass roots suggests he’s more interested in being the next Tory leader than sustaining this one. Our leader strikes a stern tone, warning the rebels that they are turning the party into an “ill-disciplined rabble” and asks the boys on the backbenches to “keep things civil”. As opposed to keeping things civil war, which I suspect is more likely.

NO MORE BAILOUTS

George Osborne’s banking reforms dominate the financial pages, and they’re big ones. Firstly, there’s language that sounds like a pledge (the Mail has taken it as such) to stop bailing out troubled banks, although it may simply refer to losses incurred through investment banking activities. The end of too big to fail, or a case of public finances now being too weak to bail? In any case, the Chancellor will also warn banks that failure to “electrify” the ring-fence around retail banking activities will lead to them being forcibly broken up by the Bank of England, as the FT (£) reports. On the consumer side, the Chancellor will also announce reforms making the process of switching bank accounts swifter, news the Independent splashes on.

It’s just as well that the banking system is now on a more secure footing than in 2007. The same cannot be said of the public finances. The flat-rate public sector pension promise will cost £1,600 per household, per annum more than has currently been accounted for, according to the Centre for Policy Studies. Our report will add to the impression that spending discipline is not as tight as rhetoric on the topic. Gaby Hinsliff, writing in the Guardian, makes the point that Dave’s pledge to stick with George until 2015 may not have been his most tactically astute:

“Cameron has narrowed his options. He can’t swap chancellors – installing William Hague, say, or Philip Hammond – in the event of a triple-dip recession, without terrible loss of face. He has gambled his own authority on protecting Osborne’s… So far, the plotting against him is largely a rebellion in search of a cause. But in clinging to his chancellor even as the economy chokes, Cameron should be careful he doesn’t unwittingly give them one.”

THRASHER LASHES OUT

The follow-up to the acclaimed Dispatches documentary on plebgate will be screened at 8pm on Channel 4. This edition features an interview with an angry Andrew Mitchell, trailed in today’s Independent. Thrasher will accuse Downing Street officials of conspiring to hide evidence of his innocence by obstructing his attempts to access CCTV footage of events. He names Sir Jeremy Haywood as the prime mover, not surprising given the criticisms of the Public Administration Select Committee, and hardly another victory for the perma-bungling Number 10 machinery.

BLAIR AVAILABLE ON A FREE TRANSFER

Being a pretty straight kinda guy, Mr Tony doesn’t go in for anything as vulgar as political tribalism. Speaking on the Marr show yesterday, he said he was equally available to “David” and “Ed” if they wanted to have a chat. He gave Mr Miliband until the end of the year to set out a “clear orientation”, the implication being that he has done no such thing so far. The Sun‘s Trevor Kavanagh writes that Tone regularly chats to the Prime Minister and has “no wish to see a union-dominated government unravelling all he tried to achieve in Downing Street.” The new Conservative election strategist? In truth, as I write in my blog, he seems seized by a need to serve again in Labour colours:

“From talking to his friends I get a clear sense that Mr Blair would dearly like to find a way to make himself useful to the party… He hopes that the party might yet find a use for his campaigning skills and what he learned both about governing, but also about winning elections. The question is whether Labour or Mr Miliband want him back, and if then in what capacity. Now that would be a comeback.”

OH POWER FROM SCOTLAND

Boundary reform might “halve the value” of Conservative votes in some constituencies, as we report, but activists should fear not. They’re going to stage a Scottish resurgence. The party’s decline north of the border, turning 11 seats in 1992 to one today is the subject of an FT (£) report stating that the Conservatives will offer further devolution of powers in order to woo the Albannach vote. Of course, by the time of the next election, there may be no Scottish MPs at Westminster. The paper also reports on the constitutional confusion which the independence referendum has created. The polling prospects are more confused than at first glance. Only a fifth of voters favour outright independence, but a clear majority favour further devolution of tax and welfare spending, a difficult pill for austerity London to swallow.

THIS IS GOING TO HURT ME MORE THAN IT HURTS YOU

As Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling’s disciplinarian credentials have seldom needed burnishing. Even so, he has occasionally found it necessary to “send a message” to his children by smacking them, we report. Spare the rod, spoil the child, and all that. Given rampant indiscipline in the ranks, it sounds as though the Whip’s office could do with taking some lessons from Mr Grayling in the art of doling out tough love.

POLICE ALMOST AS BAD AS JOURNALISTS SAYS POLITICIAN

You know things are bad when Scotland Yard’s finest are being compared to the denizens of Fleet Street, but Damian Green believes it’s going that way. The policing minister has told the Times (£) that unless the force reforms and shows more “integrity”, officers will find themselves as lowly in the public eye as journalists and bankers. Not as lowly as politicians, mind, but bad all the same.

HUHNE TRIAL

The Chris Huhne trial starts today, as the Times (£) notes. Mr Huhne has pleaded not guilty to a charge of perverting the course of justice.

TWEETS AND TWITS

The depth of feeling on both sides of the debate has been draining for most MPs, not least Conor Burns who seems to have attracted the ire of both camps:

@Conor_BurnsMP: “The abuse I have had today from pro and anti on gay marriage has led to an absence of sleep tonight. Really hateful thoughts. Thanks both”

TOP COMMENT

In the Telegraph

Iain Martin – As the Tories revolt, Ed is given an easy ride

Jill Kirby – Our abortion law is being undermined

Boris Johnson – Blaming the outsider is the first instinct, but mustn’t be the last

Telegraph View – Mr Cameron needs a more civil partnership

Best of the rest

Gaby Hinsliff in The Guardian – Cameron may live to regret his backing for Osborne

Trevor Kavanagh in The Sun – Blair may be the one to save Dave

Tim Montgomerie in The Times (£) – Cameron’s safe, but he urgently needs a plan

Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail – Why failing to stand up for marriage is the reason the Tories are always in crisis

THE AGENDA

TODAY: George Osborne gives a speech on banking reform at JP Morgan’s Bournemouth office. Vice President Joe Biden visits Europe with his wife Dr Jill Biden. The Vice President will meet French President Frangois Hollande before travelling on to London.

09:00 am: Culture Secretary Maria Miller and Alan Davey unveil exceptional items accepted in lieu from the estate of Lucian Freud. The National Gallery, Room 41.

02:30 pm: The Prime Minister will meet the President of Somalia in Downing Street. 10 Downing Street.

03:15 pm: Ministry of Defence permanent secretary Jon Thompson gives evidence on major procurement projects to the Commons Public Accounts Committee. Committee Room 15, House of Commons.

04:00 pm: Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin gives evidence on rail franchising to Commons Transport Committee. Other witnesses from Atoc, Transport for London, Passenger Focus, Rail Delivery Group Thatcher Room, Portcullis House.

04:30 pm: Parliamentary Banking Standards Commission takes evidence from Lloyds chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio and chairman Sir Winfried Bischoff. Wilson Room, Portcullis House.

08:00 pm: Channel 4′s Dispatches follow-up to “Plebgate” investigation, with interview with Andrew Mitchell.

Conservative party ripped apart by gay marriage vote

The Sunday Telegraph has established that around 180 Conservative MPs, most notably including six whips and up to four members of the Cabinet, are ready to defy the Prime Minister’s plan to legalise gay weddings.

Meanwhile, 25 chairmen or former chairmen of Conservative party associations across the country have signed a letter to Mr Cameron warning that the policy will cause “significant damage” to the Tories’ 2015 general election campaign.

One chairman, who has quit over the issue, said “this is a policy dreamt up in Notting Hill”, while a serving chairman said it had angered the grassroots more than Europe.

The vote on Tuesday is the first parliamentary vote on the gay marriage legislation and a test for the Prime Minister. However Downing Street now expects that only around 120 of Mr Cameron’s MPs will vote in favour of legalising homosexual unions. This leaves around 180 Conservative members likely to abstain or vote against. They include:

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Christians face ‘lawful exclusion’ from jobs despite cross victory, lawyers warn

Campaigners claimed that “millions” of people who hold traditional “politically incorrect” views could now face new restrictions because of rulings against three other Christians involved in the European Court of Human Rights case.

They claimed that the judgment actively increases the risk that those who dissent on the issue of same-sex marriage will not be free to voice their dissent.

Their comments came as the court in Strasbourg ruled that Britain had failed to protect the right of Nadia Eweida, a British Airways clerk, to manifest their faith by wearing a small cross.

The judges accepted for the first time that wearing a cross was an important expression of Mrs Eweida’s faith which deserved protection under the European Convention on Human Rights – even though it is not an explicit tenet of Christianity.

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Gay marriage: Cameron’s plans are ‘divisive’ and ‘ill-thought through’, says Liam Fox

Liam Fox, the former Defence Secretary, said that the European courts will “drive a coach and horses through the legislation” and over-ride legal protections which are designed to stop the Church of England conducting the ceremonies.

In a letter to his constituents seen by The Daily Telegraph, Dr Fox describes the legislation as being “made on the hoof” and says it risks undermining religious freedoms.

The decision by the former Cabinet minister, who previously challenged Mr Cameron for the Conservative leadership, to intervene in the growing row over gay marriage marks a significant challenge to the Prime Minister.

More….

Pope says future of mankind at stake over gay marriage

“In the fight for the family, the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question,” the Pope said in Italian during an end-of-year speech.

“The question of the family … is the question of what it means to be a man, and what it is necessary to do to be true men,” he said.

The Pope spoke of the “falseness” of gender theories and cited at length France’s chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim, who has spoken out against gay marriage.

“Bernheim has shown in a very detailed and profoundly moving study that the attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper,” he said.

He cited feminist gender theorist Simone de Beauvoir’s view to the effect that one is not born a woman, but one becomes so – that sex was no longer an element of nature but a social role people chose for themselves.

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