Sunday News Review

Cameron puts spin on EU back down

Eurosceptic Tories were meant to avert their gaze from a retreat in his campaign to freeze next year’s EU budget as the prime minister hailed his success in winning support from 12 EU leaders for a 2.91% increase in the budget. “As a result of Britain’s intervention, the spotlight has now shifted to reining in the excesses of the EU budget,” the prime minister declared as he hailed a British success in rejecting a call from the European Parliament for a 6% increase in the budget. The prime minister’s opponents saw the letter as chaff when they pointed out that he had been campaigning for a cut or a freeze in the EU’s £107bn budget. Glenis Willmott, the Labour leader in the European Parliament, said: “Cameron is trying his hardest to appear Thatcheresque. While I don’t have much positive to say about Britain’s first female prime minister, I doubt she’d have allowed herself to be caught out in the way Cameron has been this week.” Labour believes the prime minister’s belated decision to champion a position he had been campaigning against highlights the weakness of his overall position in the EU. Cameron is a marginalised figure, they say, after abandoning the main centre right grouping in the European Parliament. – The Observer

There was something very odd about the fiasco of David Cameron’s much-vaunted claim that he was going to bang the table at the European Council and demand a halt to the proposed £6 billion rise in the EU budget. No doubt Mr Cameron had in mind those heroic days when Mrs Thatcher spent five years at European Councils demanding her budget rebate. But the annual EU budget has nothing to do with the European Council. Under the Lisbon Treaty, the real power over this now lies with the EU Parliament, which voted for a 6 per cent increase – although this still has to be agreed with the Council of Ministers, a quite different body from the European Council. That is why Mr Cameron’s bid for glory was not even on the European Council ‘s agenda. If the Council of Ministers is now asking for the increase to be cut from 6 per cent to 2.9 per cent, the Parliament may still gets its way in the end, keeping the increase to the 6 per cent it voted for. – The Telegraph

Mitchell makes “intervention” for donor

A Conservative cabinet minister intervened on behalf of one of the world’s richest cocoa dealers to get a ban on trading lifted after receiving £40,000 in donations from the millionaire’s company to his parliamentary office. Andrew Mitchell, the international development secretary, reportedly made the intervention after he was asked for help by Anthony Ward, whose firm, Armajaro Holdings, had been banned from trading following allegations that a contractor was involved in smuggling cocoa out of Ghana. The minister telephoned the British high commissioner in Ghana on the issue, according to internal government documents cited by the Sunday Times, despite the fact it involved British business interests overseas, which is outside Mitchell’s remit. Officials in Mitchell’s office also contacted the Foreign Office to say that the matter required “urgent attention”. – The Oserver

Cameron’s luxury holiday dilemma

Campaigners are urging David Cameron to cancel his Christmas holiday in Thailand over claims the government there murdered protesters. Activists accuse Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva – an Old Etonian like the PM – of widespread persecution of “Red Shirts” during rallies this year. Opposition party The United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship has sent a report about alleged human rights abuses to the International Criminal Court and called on Mr Cameron to call off his visit. – The Mirror

Difficult decisions over terror and civil liberties

In the headlines, the thwarting of a transatlantic terror plot. Playing out behind the scenes in Whitehall, a story that the government doesn’t want you to read. An intense internal battle is being waged over how to respond to terrorism without compromising fundamental principles of justice and civil liberties. It is dividing the intelligence services, splitting the cabinet and has left David Cameron and Nick Clegg in a state of alarmed semi-paralysis. It is a big test of the unity of their partnership, their leadership mettle and their willingness to honour the promises they made in opposition. – The Observer

Difficult start for Miliband

Miliband ought to tell his MPs that they will gain nothing by opposing the principle of more equal-sized constituencies (and he could add, quietly consulting Professor John Curtice, that the new boundaries will do the Tories much less good than they think). Then there is the vote on housing benefit. And, finally, Vince Cable’s announcement on student finance, where the Liberal Democrats’ embarrassment has covered Miliband’s own. He backs a graduate tax that would not bring in additional revenue for years. On every single issue, the Prime Minister is on the side of the voters, and Ed Miliband, when he is visible, is on the wrong side, defending the sectional interest of benefit claimants, rich parents, Labour MPs or students. David Cameron and George Osborne ought to be vulnerable. They look too pleased with themselves, too much as if they are enjoying the student politics of it all. But, on the evidence of Miliband’s first five weeks, they have nothing to fear. – The Independent

Hunting ban has public support

Fewer than one in five people in the UK would support a repeal of the ban on hunting with dogs, according to a poll commissioned to coincide with the start of the hunting season this weekend. The YouGov poll of more than 3,400 people, conducted last week, reveals that 59 per cent oppose the ban being overturned. And 63 per cent disagree that it amounts to an infringement of civil liberties. A large majority, 77 per cent, want to see the hunting ban properly enforced. Opinion is divided on whether hunts are respecting the law – 32 per cent say hunts act within the law and 38 per cent believe they act illegally. The poll, commissioned by the League Against Cruel Sports (Lacs), shows that one in seven (16 per cent) are in favour of prison sentences for people who break the law, with almost half, 48 per cent, in favour of people being fined up to £10,000. – The Independent

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