Monday News Review

Wikileaks release US cables

Britain’s politicians and diplomats are waiting to discover what their US counterparts really think of the special relationship. Over 250,000 classified cables from US embassies are to be released by the whistleblowing website Wikileaks over the next fortnight. They are already sending diplomatic shockwaves around the world. Pressure from Arab states urging military action against Iran and instructions for US officials to spy on UN leaders are among the most significant revelations.Concerns about the stability of the coalition government and criticisms of David Cameron’s premiership could be among the revelations which prove most significant in Westminster. –

The “revelations” in the latest download from WikiLeaks strike me as surprisingly dull. You would have thought that, in 250,000 pages of diplomatic cables, there would be insights that were a bit more startling than the suggestions that Angela Merkel is cautious, Silvio Berlusconi is vain, Nicolas Sarkozy is thin-skinned and David Cameron is a bit of a lightweight. Tell me something, I didn’t know. – The FT

Is it justified? Should a newspaper disclose virtually all a nation’s secret diplomatic communication, illegally downloaded by one of its citizens? The reporting in the Guardian of the first of a selection of 250,000 US state department cables marks a recasting of modern diplomacy. Clearly, there is no longer such a thing as a safe electronic archive, whatever computing’s snake-oil salesmen claim. No organisation can treat digitised communication as confidential. An electronic secret is a contradiction in terms.

Anything said or done in the name of a democracy is, prima facie, of public interest. When that democracy purports to be “world policeman” – an assumption that runs ghostlike through these cables – that interest is global. Nonetheless, the Guardian had to consider two things in abetting disclosure, irrespective of what is anyway published by WikiLeaks. It could not be party to putting the lives of individuals or sources at risk, nor reveal material that might compromise ongoing military operations or the location of special forces. – The Guardian

Vince “personally committed” to fees increase

Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable is “personally committed” to plans to raise university tuition fees, a Tory colleague has said. Higher education minister David Willetts said he was “confident” Mr Cable would back the measure in a Commons vote next month. Before the election the Lib Dems signed a pledge not to support any rise in fees, currently set at £3,290 a year. But Mr Cable’s department is overseeing an increase to as much as £9,000. Students at several universities are continuing sit-in protests against the plans. Twelve occupations reportedly on-going on Sunday included those at Plymouth, Leeds, Cambridge, Newcastle, Edinburgh and University College London. – BBC

Questions over style of reform

Mr Miliband sought to give new impetus to his two-month old leadership of the party, announcing a root-and-branch review of Labour’s processes, to run alongside a two-year overhaul of its policies. He promised to make Labour the “people’s party” and to reach out beyond its traditional supporters in the trades unions. Party aides told The Sunday Telegraph that the ordinary voters were likely to be given a say in electing Labour leaders in future, even if they were not paid-up members. But the suggestion was immediately rejected by Mr Johnson. In an interview the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, the shadow chancellor said: “I don’t agree that Conservatives and Lib Dems should vote for the leader of the Labour Party. – The Telegraph

UK to contribute £6.6bn to Irish bailout

George Osborne is on his way back to Blighty after doing Britain’s bit in Brussels to help the Irish economy. The Chancellor wants us to focus mainly on the headline stat that the UK is making a £3.2 bn loan directly to our “friend in need”. The Treasury are not giving out any specific figures about the other part of the deal, namely the UK’s exposure through the IMF and temporary EU bailout mechanism. But I’m told that a simple bit of maths is needed to get the total figure. The UK’s liability is 13.5% of the EU mechanism total of 22.5bn euros. Converted into sterling, that means we are underwriting a guarantee of £2.6 bn (13.5% of £19.27 bn). Our exposure to the 22.5 bn euro IMF bit of the deal is at a rate of 4.5%. So we are underwriting a guarantee of £0.86bn for the IMF. In total that means the UK is exposed to the tune of £3.46 bn through the IMF and EU. This liability is a very different animal from our direct loan, but if you put all the figures together you get a grand total of £6.6bn in theoretical and actual help Britain is giving to Ireland. As we struggle with our own deficit, that’s quite something. – Politics Home

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