Sunday News Review

Plan, what plan?

We could have had a different spending review. We could have ensured that we raised more money from the banks that caused the crisis than from cuts in child benefit. With a more measured pace of deficit reduction, there would still have been difficult decisions and cuts. But we would have done more to support the economy, defend frontline services and protect those in need.

Will they get away with the gamble? I don’t believe people are up for a dangerous and reckless gamble with our economic future. It is up to people of all political persuasions who fear for Britain’s society and our economy to stand up and commit to protect not just our values and ideals but the basics of our social and economic fabric. – Ed Miliband, The Guardian

As Cameron patronisingly told him in the warm-up for the spending review: “If you have not got a plan, you cannot attack a plan.” Labour politicians are being knocked about in the Commons, and in every broadcast studio into which they go, because their answer to the obvious question, “What would you do?”, starts off with “Not this”, before moving quickly on to: “We are in opposition.” Miliband does not have long to settle the doubts. Is he indecisive? Does he have a plan? – John Rentoul, The Independent

Did I really promise that?

Government spending cuts may become a matter of life and death, it was claimed last night, as it emerged that almost two million people could wait longer for cancer tests and up to 10,000 firefighters face the axe.
The highly charged claims appear to contradict pre-election promises made by David Cameron to protect frontline services.
John Healey, the Shadow Health Secretary, said: “Ministers have ignored official warnings and axed planned improvements in cancer care. Waiting times will rise for people desperate to find out if they’ve got cancer and get the treatment they need.” – The Independent

He has a conscience?

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has described how he wrestled with his conscience over the coalition’s spending cuts. The Liberal Democrat leader said that he found administering the biggest financial retrenchment in living memory “morally difficult”. But appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, he insisted there were no “pain-free alternatives” to the measures set out in Chancellor George Osborne’s spending review.

“I have certainly searched long and hard into my own conscience about whether what we are doing is for the right reasons. I am not going to hide the fact that a lot of this is difficult. I find it morally difficult. It is difficult for the country.” – Press Association

First throw of the Union dice

Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary Bob Crow told a London rally collective action was needed to fight the cuts. It comes after the TUC said a national demonstration will be held on 26 March next year in London’s Hyde Park. Demonstrators gathered outside the RMT head office to hear speeches from Mr Crow and Matt Wrack, leader of the Fire Brigades Union, which is also holding a strike in London. – BBC News

Organisers of today’s There is a Better Way demonstration claimed 20,000 people took to the streets of Edinburgh in a march against government spending cuts. Buses from all across Scotland brought people to the city centre for a rally between East Market Street and Princes Street Gardens.

The march, organised by the STUC, gathered members of workers’ unions together in a protest against the spending cuts announced by chancellor George Osborne this week. Local politicians at the march included the justice minister Kenny MacAskill, SNP MSP for Edinburgh east, Green MSP Patrick Harvie, Labour’s Ian Murray MP, Sheila Gilmore MP, Mark Lazarowicz MP, Iain Gray MSP, Malcolm Chisholm MSP and Sarah Boyack MSP. – The Guardian

Lordy, Lord

David Cameron and Nick Clegg plan to flood the Lords with another 44 new Coalition peers to stop Labour sabotaging their policies in the Upper House, it was claimed last night. Mr Cameron reportedly intends to award 29 peerages to Tory donors and other political allies, with 15 for Mr Clegg’s Liberal Democrats. By contrast, Ed Miliband will get just ten new Labour peers. – The Daily Mail

Labour edge ahead

Labour back ahead of the Coalition in today’s Mail on Sunday/BPIX poll. The poll shows support for Labour at 37 per cent, with the Tories at 35 and Lib Dems at a lowly ten. It puts Mr Miliband ahead of Mr Cameron for the first time since the lead he enjoyed in the afterglow of his Labour ¬leadership victory last month. – The Daily Mail

Mixed messages from Scotland

Forty-one per cent of Scots believe Alex Salmond would make a better First Minister than his main rival Iain Gray, the Scottish Labour leader. The SNP leader remains ahead of Gray in the popularity stakes, according to Scotland on Sunday’s exclusive YouGov poll. When the sample of 1,405 Scottish adults was asked who of the two men would make the “better” First Minister, 41 per cent replied Salmond, 24 per cent said Gray and 35 per cent said they did not know.

The poll also shows that Labour’s lead over the SNP remains solid. Voting intention figures put Labour at 40 per cent on the Holyrood constituency vote and 36 per cent on the regional list. The SNP lags behind on 34 per cent in the constituency vote and 31 per cent on the list. – The Scotsman

It’s alright for some

David Cameron will escape the cold by taking his family to Thailand over Parliament’s three-week Christmas break. The PM’s allies denied speculation that his host would be Thai leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. The trip is likely to be controversial because Mr Cameron will be flying off to a paradise hotspot just as the impact of his spending cuts starts to bite. Downing Street last night would not confirm the PM’s plans but sources close to the Camerons confirmed Thailand was pencilled in for “a well-deserved few days away” – The Mirror

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