Saturday News Review

Vince will vote…

Business Secretary Vince Cable will vote for a rise in university tuition fees, he revealed today. The Twickenham MP suggested earlier this week he may abstain in a House of Commons vote next Thursday if his Liberal Democrat colleagues wanted him to. But in an exclusive interview with the Richmond and Twickenham Times today, he said he had reconsidered his decision and had “no doubt” he should support the contoversial policy that will allow some universities to charge up to £9,000 in fees. – The Richmond & Twickenham Times

Vince Cable declared that he faced a “duty” to vote in favour of the rise in university tuition fees next week, guaranteeing a split in Liberal Democrat ranks when grandees oppose the policy. In a move which surprised senior party figures, who had thought Cable was prepared to abstain in the interests of party unity, the business secretary insisted that the rise in fees was the right policy. “Obviously I have a duty as a minister to vote for my own policy – and that is what will happen,” Cable told his local newspaper, the Richmond and Twickenham Times. Cable, who has the right under the coalition agreement as a Lib Dem MP to abstain in next week’s vote, has indicated to fellow ministers that he is minded to vote in favour of the rise on the grounds that he is the responsible minister. He also believes he has introduced fairness to the system by raising the salary level at which the fees are paid back from £15,000 to £21,000. – The Guardian

The party promised in its manifesto to abolish tuition fees, and senior figures including their leader, Nick Clegg, signed a pledge to vote against any increase. The party was yesterday forced to call off its London conference which was due to take place this weekend after students threatened to protest outside. In interviews earlier this week, Mr Cable said his “personal instinct” was to back the fees package in the Commons. But he said he was “happy to go along with” a mass Lib Dem abstention if all the party’s MPs agreed to it. On Friday, he told the Richmond and Twickenham Times he made this offer as an “olive branch” for colleagues who were “finding this difficult”. Mr Cable added: “There is a dilemma.”I’m very clear I regard the policy as right and as a member of the Cabinet I am collectively responsible for the policy. “There is no doubt that is what I should do.” – The Telegraph

Chaytor pleads guilty

David Chaytor became the first former MP to be convicted over the expenses scandal after pleading guilty today to three charges of false accounting, days before he was due to stand trial. The former Labour MP for Bury North had previously denied fraudulently claiming parliamentary expenses. His eleventh-hour change of plea at London’s Old Bailey came as he exhausted legal avenues to stop his case, due to reach trial on Monday, being heard in the criminal courts. The 61-year-old stood in the glass-panelled dock of court 11 as the three charges were read aloud, answering “guilty” to each of them. Afterwards, he was mobbed by photographers as he left court in a black taxi with his legal team, making no comment. – The Guardian

Chaytor stood down as an MP at the general election – having been barred by Labour from standing for them again. He was granted unconditional bail and will be sentenced on 7 January at Southwark Crown Court. He faces a maximum seven years in jail but is likely to receive a more lenient sentence because of his guilty plea. Two other former MPs, one current MP and two members of the House of Lords are due to face separate trials over their expenses claims. – BBC

Crunch time?

Ed Miliband’s best hope is the unpopularity of the Coalition. David Cameron’s Tories and Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats look likely to go down to heavy defeats in next May’s local elections. These triumphs may boost Miliband, just as they boosted Iain Duncan Smith during his two-year spell as Tory leader. At the very least, strong local election results (and a defeat for the Liberal Democrats on AV) will buy him time to build his leadership. And time is what he needs. In an earlier political age there would be no question of Miliband being forced out at this stage of his leadership. But today, events move much faster. To be fair, Ed Miliband has made mature judgments during his brief time as leader. He has refused to take the populist line on criminal justice policy and has not automatically condemned the Coalition’s economic cuts. He has even given a fair hearing to Iain Duncan Smith’s plans for welfare reform. All this shows that he is much more than an opportunistic politician. But he has got off to the worst possible start – and his career cannot take the blow of another public disaster like Wednesday’s PMQs. The Miliband leadership is in real danger of ending before it has truly begun. – The Telegraph

Speaker Griffin

Just a day after Labour’s own Twitter kerfuffle, here’s further proof that politicos can’t keep away from the medium. Tory MP Brooks Newmark has Tweeted that the Speaker of the House of Commons sometimes behaves like the tinderbox-tempered, British-accented, spoilt-brat baby character in the US cartoon Family Guy: “When agitated, the Speaker really does sound like Stewie in Family Guy!” What’s surprising is not the MP’s views (several other Tories agree with him), but that he feels bold enough to say them in public. Mr Bercow may not see the funny side of this latest jibe and it will be worth watching to see whether Mr Newmark will mysteriously fail to catch the Speaker’s eye in the Chamber in future. – PoliticsHome

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