Friday News Review

Offensive Lord sparks row

The Prime Minister’s enterprise adviser said a drop in mortgage rates “since this so-called recession” had left most people better off. Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, the Conservative peer also said “people will wonder what all the fuss was about” when looking back at the Government’s spending cuts, the deepest in more than 30 years. He described the loss of about 100,000 public-sector jobs a year as being within “the margin of error” in the context of the 30 million-strong job market as a whole. – Telegraph

In a sign of Number 10’s desperation to pour cold water on the comments, Lord Young’s apology was issued before the newspaper carrying the interview containing his remarks had even hit the news-stands. He wrote a letter to Mr Cameron to “apologise profoundly” for his “insensitive and inaccurate” comments. – Independent

His remarks were seen as an offensive throwback to Thatcher-era harsh rhetoric, and are bound to lead to Labour calls for his dismissal as enterprise tsar on the grounds he is totally out of touch with the squeeze on living standards almost all voters are experiencing. Lord Young wrote to Cameron last night to apologise and express his “profound regrets”. He described his comments as insensitive, adding: “I am not a member of the government and played no part in the spending review. I deeply regret the comments and I entirely understand the offence they will cause. “I should have chosen my words more carefully. Low mortgage rates may have eased the burden for some families in this country. But millions of families face very difficult and anxious times.” – Guardian

Rift in the ranks

Shadow chancellor Alan Johnson today denied he is rocking Labour’s boat by urging new rules to weaken union influence. He told a journalist that future leadership contests should be changed to prevent members of trade unions and affiliated organisations from having more than one vote. “We did not go far enough, the party was half-reformed and we need to return to it,” he said, referring to Tony Blair’s internal reforms in the 1990s. Tories seized on his comment as evidence of a new rift between him and leader Ed Miliband, whose victory over brother David was achieved with strong union backing. – Evening Standard

Labour may be riding high in the polls, but according to Labour insider Dan Hodges in this week’s New Statesman, there is growing discord within the party supposedly united after Ed Miliband’s election. “Ed Miliband’s team are terrified of Ed Balls and Yvette. They think they’re going to come and try and kill him. And the reason they think that is because they will,” he told Hodges. “There’s a sense of a vacuum developing,” he continued. “People are looking for leadership and direction. And at the moment, they’re not getting it,” according to one shadow minister. – New Statesman

As Alan Johnson sparks off a debate on Labour party democracy, how might the party reform itself? With a recent history of expanding fairness in the country, Labour should now turn to its own internal workings. How democratic is a system where one person, who isn’t necessarily a member of the Labour party, has a number of votes, depending on how many trade unions or socialist societies they are members of? Yet a Labour party member of 60 years’ standing receives only one? How fair is it that 9 per cent of the membership of affiliated trade unions carries the same electoral weight as 72 per cent of Labour party individual membership? How fair is it that some people are allowed to vote on the basis of being ‘Labour party supporters’ but all L5s aren’t allowed to? The answer is it is not very fair at all. – Teddy Ryan, Progress

No regrets for Rahman

I was elected as the candidate by 433 members of Tower Hamlets Labour Party. All I wanted was that the members should assert their right and decide who led them. If they had chosen someone else, I would have fallen behind that person and served the party loyally. A small clique in the NEC, only seven or eight members, decided to get rid of me on the basis of a dossier based on false allegations, hearsay and unsubstantiated allegations. We live in a democracy where the rule of law prevails; I am a lawyer and they should have given me a chance to refute the allegations against me in front of an independent panel. I am sure I would have disproven each and every allegation. What’s so sad is that they then didn’t impose the candidate who came second, John Biggs, but instead imposed the candidate who came third, Helal Abbas, who made these false allegations against me in that dodgy dossier and who received only 117 votes. – Lutfur Rahman, New Statesman

Collins and Bakewell in new Lords intake

Labour Party general secretary Ray Collins has announced his plan to step down from the post, amid speculation that he is to be elevated to the House of Lords. It is understood that Mr Collins will be among about 50 new working peers on a list that is widely expected to be published today. Also reported to be on the list are David Cameron’s chief fundraiser Andrew Feldman and Conservative Party joint treasurer Stanley Fink – both major donors to the Tories. It is expected that the bulk of the new peers will be Conservatives, with smaller numbers taking the Labour or Liberal Democrat whip. – Scotsman

Joan Bakewell, the broadcaster known as “the thinking man’s crumpet”, is expected to be made a Labour peer tomorrow – one of 10 appointments to the House of Lords recommended by the opposition leader Ed Miliband. Bakewell was the tsar for the elderly in the last Labour government and will now become a working peer, even though her support for a means-tested winter fuel allowance is at odds with Miliband’s stated commitment to universalism. – Guardian

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