Thursday News Review

Child benefit backlash

George Osborne’s announcement on cutting child benefit for those on higher tax rates was meant to signal that the party is willing to hurt even its own people in the pursuit of fair cuts. But it caused outrage in the ranks among back-benchers, and seemed only to confirm that David Cameron and his inner circle had in reality bought into the Lib Dem view of life and were “essentially anti-marriage”. In fact it has turned out to be the Conservatives’ 10p tax moment – similar to the fury caused when Gordon Brown scrapped the bottom rate of income tax to help fund a basic rate cut to help the better-off. – The Scotsman

The collateral damage from the Government’s ham-fisted plan to withdraw child benefit from higher-rate taxpayers has been severe. It has overshadowed the first party conference in 14 years at which the Conservatives can celebrate being in power. David Cameron was forced to spend much of yesterday touring the broadcasting studios on a firefighting mission; George Osborne had to write to all Tory MPs explaining that he had no alternative but to use such a blunt instrument because a fairer mechanism based on household incomes would “create a new complex, costly and intrusive means test”. Both men hinted that tax breaks for married couples or even a transferable tax allowance would be introduced by the end of this Parliament to soften the impact of the benefit withdrawal. – The Telegraph

Cameron’s big moment

David Cameron pressed all the essential pulse points for committed party members, slating a lengthy list of Labour’s failings, pledging to roll back the power of the state, emphasising fairness, promising to create an environment in which the Tory virtues of entrepreneurship and self-reliance would thrive and describing Baroness Thatcher as Britain’s greatest peacetime Prime Minister of the past century. It all received the standard standing ovations but will have done nothing to reassure the wider public, particularly floating or Liberal Democrat voters apprehensive about the cuts to be set in motion by the public spending review in two weeks. – The Herald

The body of the speech was full of warnings about what the cuts would mean. But it was also full of jokes. So it resembled a cake made of slugs, snails, puppy dogs’ tails and toxic effluent, but with chocolate sprinkles on top… The awful offal inside the cake was cunningly disguised. Fairness was important. But you couldn’t measure fairness as if the poor were products with a price tag and imagine that “the more we spend on them, the more we value them”. So the poor are to resemble one’s old mother. “I thought of buying you a cashmere cardigan, Mum, but I decided on a box of thin mints, because it’s the thought that counts.” – The Guardian

David Cameron fell flat on his face yesterday when his party answered a plea to unite behind his cuts with sullen silence. In his unremarkable first conference speech to the Tories as Prime Minister, he failed to bring them to their feet once and got only obligatory standing ovations at the beginning and end. At least twice he paused desperately hoping for applause – but none came. – The Mirror

The shadow cabinet

No one in Labour ranks is expecting any serious upsets. One theory is that two places will end up being fought for by former ministers Pat McFadden, Liam Byrne and Ben Bradshaw and new but returning and experienced MPs Stephen Twigg and Chris Leslie. Former minister John Healey is also thought to have pushed very hard for election and could end up making the grade. – The Guardian

“Ed [Miliband] wanted to give the job to Yvette, but she indicated that she would not accept it,” an ally of the new leader tells Mandrake. “It’s about their marriage. Obviously, Ed won’t now give it to Balls.” This would explain a comment Balls made to Mandrake at the launch of Ken Follett’s latest novel,Fall of Giants. “The Labour Party has had enough soap operas within families to last us a lifetime, so I don’t think that Yvette and I will be providing Act Two,” he said at Claridge’s in Mayfair. “Our lives are about continual balance and negotiation.” – The Telegraph

Labour’s new leader faces a difficult job in deciding who is suited to each portfolio. The MPs will be in their new positions by Monday, when Parliament returns after the conference season.The departure of some of Labour’s biggest beasts, including Lord Mandelson, Alistair Darling, Jack Straw and Bob Ainsworth, has left opportunities for fresh faces on the front bench, but household names such as Alan Johnson and defeated leadership contenders Ed Balls and Andy Burnham put themselves forward. – Press Association

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