Friday News Review

World Cup heart break

For the last five days in Zurich, Jack Warner’s chauffeur-driven Fifa limousine has nosed its way through the city’s traffic to take the 67-year-old former school teacher to meetings with Prince William, David Cameron and David Beckham, who have treated Warner like a friend and ally. Yesterday, Warner delivered a lesson to Britain’s young Prime Minister and its even fresher-faced heir to the throne that there are no politics in international sport more brutal than those of Fifa – where men will say one thing to your face and do quite another when they approach the ballot box in the boardroom at Fifa House. Cameron was fortunate that he was out of Zurich and away from the television cameras when Warner delivered his stitch-up of the English bid in which neither he nor his Concacaf colleagues, representing North and Central America and the Caribbean, voted for England. In Cameron’s gilded political career it would be difficult to remember a more blatant humiliation than the one dealt him by Warner. – The Independent

The result, worse even than the failed 2006 bid that made it into the second round before being ejected, exposed the confidence engendered by the work of England’s ‘Three Lions’ and an outstanding final presentation as illusory. There was resentment too that the strong technical merits of England’s bid – it was the most highly-rated on technical and economic grounds – had apparently been ignored. Cameron, who spent three days pressing England’s case in Zurich, said Fifa had ignored the bids merits: “According to Fifa we had the best technical bid and the strongest commercial bid and the country is passionate about football. But it turns out that is not enough.” – The Telegraph

Frank Field report published

The biggest transformation of anti-poverty programmes since the war – which will “require a testing of some of the 1940s welfare state’s sacred cows” – is today proposed by Frank Field in a report commissioned by David Cameron. Field, a Labour MP and a long-term anti-poverty campaigner, proposes the government switches focus from Labour’s anti-poverty measure, based on material income, to a set of life chance indicators. He writes: “Poverty is a much more subtle enemy than purely lack of money,” adding he does not believe poverty is the dominant reason why disadvantage is handed down from one generation to another. Parenting was more important than income or schooling to a child’s life chances. The findings will be strongly supported by the Liberal Democrat policy team, as well as by Oliver Letwin, the Conservatives’s chief policy thinker. Cameron and Nick Clegg, in a joint letter to Field, praised the report as “a vital moment in the history of our efforts to tackle poverty and disadvantage”. – The Guardian

Child benefit and child tax credits would be frozen and the money switched to improving the life chances of disadvantaged children before they start school, under plans being considered by the Government. In a report today, Frank Field, the Labour MP and the Government’s anti-poverty tsar, recommends a change away from boosting the incomes of poor families. Instead, his inquiry proposes improving public services and breaking the cycle to “prevent poor children from becoming poor adults”. – The Independent

Could Oldham be just the tonic?

Parliamentary by-elections are generally a good thing for leaders under a bit of pressure. For in the run-up to such important electoral tests even the most dissident members of their own parties tend to hold their tongues. No one wants to be accused of saying or doing anything that could undermine their chances. So if today’s court announcement in the Phil Woolas case does open the door to an early contest then it’s probably good news, in the short-term at least, for both Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg. After that it all depends on the result. And for Ed Miliband a by-election in Oldham East and Saddleworth provides the platform for him to demonstrate to his party and the wider Westminster village he is an election winner. An emphatic victory in line with current polls would be an ideal start to 2011. – Political Betting

This charming man…

David Cameron has become the latest to run the gauntlet of the uneasy and usually unrequited relationship between politician and musical muse. Johnny Marr, a founding member and the lead guitarist of The Smiths, yesterday called on the prime minister to stop saying that he liked the band. “Stop saying that you like The Smiths, no you don’t,” he wrote on Twitter, adding: “I forbid you to like it.” Cameron has made no secret of his love of the Mancunian group, who since the 1980s have been acclaimed as one of the best British bands. He picked This Charming Man – a track composed by Marr with the group’s lead singer, Morrissey – when he was a castaway on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs four years ago. – The Guardian

True blue

Yes, tuition fees, what a nightmare. Still, they do give us an opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with Keith Mitchell, the Tory leader of Oxfordshire county council. Among his specific duties are “community leadership” and “strategic communications”. He is a master of the message. Thus the protesting students are an “ugly, badly-dressed student rabble”, according to Mitchell on Twitter. “God help us if this is our future,” he says. They’re “oiks”, he rants on his blog. And furthermore: “I suspect the hard left are working up a campaign to make such lawlessness appear to be the norm and therefore to become acceptable. I wonder how many of our teachers in Oxfordshire are working for this hard left agenda?” But then, he ever was the low-grade Jeremy Clarkson. Last year he noted that talking to environmental protesters would be “about as helpful as having a conversation with a blind, deaf mute”. If anyone embodies Big Dave’s new politics in the home counties, it’s Keith. – The Guardian

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