Tuesday News Review

Clegg faces rebellion and resignations

A Liberal Democrat grassroots revolt over the party leadership’s support for trebling tuition fees emerged tonight as members of the party’s policy committee demanded powers to rein in ministerial independence from Lib Dem policy. Separately, proposals were being put forward by some activists to make it easier for local parties to deselect Lib Dem MPs. The moves came as David Davis, the Conservative MP and rightwing standard-bearer, announced that he will rebel in the key Commons vote on Thursday by voting against the trebling in tution fees. Although Davis insisted he was “a rebellion of one,” provoked by the damage he said the fees rise will inflict on social mobility, his move prompted coalition fears that a few other rightwing Tories might also break ranks, so reducing, but probably not endangering, the coalition majority in Thursday’s Commons vote. – The Guardian

Nick Clegg’s attempts to hold his party together suffered another setback yesterday when three Liberal Democrats threatened to resign their government posts over plans to allow universities to charge £9,000 a year in tuition fees. Norman Baker, the Transport Minister, and two parliamentary private secretaries – Jenny Willott and Mike Crockart – may quit so that they oppose the fees rise in a crucial Commons vote on Thursday. They are among the Lib Dems who are agonising over how to vote because all its 57 MPs signed a pledge to oppose an increase in fees at this year’s general election. – The Independent

THREE Lib Dem ministers may vote against the hike in tuition fees, it emerged last night – plunging the coalition into chaos. Transport Minister Norman Baker, Home Office Minister Lynne Featherstone and Pensions Minister Steve Webb told Nick Clegg they are undecided. This comes despite his desperate efforts to talk party doubters round. Unless they resign, opposing the key Government bill would force the party leader and Deputy Prime Minister to sack them. All 57 Lib Dem MPs will have a final meeting in the Commons tonight for a showdown before the Thursday afternoon ballot. Mr Baker said yesterday he still did not know if he would vote for or against, or abstain. He said: “There are three options and I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to do.” – The Sun

Lansley pushes ahead despite Letwin review

The Health Secretary Andrew Lansley will press ahead with handing GPs control of £80bn of the £100bn health budget tomorrow despite No 10 and the Treasury undergoing a “wobble” over his controversial plan. Mr Lansley will announce the first wave of “pathfinder practices”, pilot schemes under which GPs will take charge of commissioning services for their patients. GP commissioning will be rolled out nationally from 2013 in changes that will eventually see the 152 primary care trusts (PCTs) disappear. However, there are jitters at the highest level of Government about what experts have described as the biggest shake-up in the National Health Service since it was set up in 1948. Oliver Letwin, the Cabinet Office Minister in charge of Government policy and one of Mr Cameron’s closest allies, has been asked by No 10 to review the plans. John Healey, the shadow Health Secretary, said last night: “If Andrew Lansley is going to test his high-risk plans, he should wait for Oliver Letwin’s review and make sure he has the full confidence of the Prime Minister behind him. This is the point for the Health Secretary to pause and listen to the chorus of concern about his plans, not press ahead with the first stage of implementation.” – The Independent

Can direct action close the loop hole?

What a clever, well-targeted protest. When the whistle blew and the protesters emerged from among milling shoppers perusing handbags and hats, it took just a few hundred people to shut down Philip Green’s flagship branch of Topshop, in London’s Oxford Street – and 22 other stores in his empire around the country. Summoned by Twitter, the UK Uncut movement brings together an instant army, peaceful, good-natured and witty in its songs and chants. For a while they stopped Green’s tills ringing on the year’s busiest shopping Saturday. Police and security guards made only a token attempt at bundling out demonstrators. Though some shoppers were irritated, many were supportive and a few joined in. No surprise there: tax-dodging by the rich angers most people, more so if the law allows it while everyone else pays their PAYE. That is what makes this campaign brilliant. It is not a special interest protest – though there will be plenty of those. Everyone has an interest when corporations employ accountants like KPMG or PwC to manufacture fiendish plans for (legally) avoiding tax that could pay for the universities or Sure Starts now being savaged. – The Guardian

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