Sunday News Review

EU parachute for Clegg?

Nick Clegg (pic: PA)

Clegg's Sheffield seat will be targeted at election

Nick Clegg is being lined up for a top EU job in an “emergency exit” strategy as he faces a revolt in his party over tuition fees. David Cameron is ready to ­parachute the Lib Dem leader into Brussels as Britain’s EU Commissioner amid fears Mr Clegg will struggle to hold his seat as an MP at the next election, say Downing Street sources. The Deputy PM would ­replace Labour peer Baroness Ashton in the post which carries a £239,000 salary and perks package worth ­another £100,000 a year. The Foreign Affairs chief is due to stand down with the other EU ­Commissioners in October 2014 – just ahead of the next general ­election in May 2015, though there is speculation she could quit sooner. A Downing Street source revealed: “David Cameron owes Nick Clegg a huge debt for coming into the coalition and taking a massive personal hit over tuition fees. “If it looks like he will lose his Sheffield Hallam seat, there will be an emergency exit strategy which could see him land one of the big jobs in Brussels. – The Mirror

Lib Dem grassroots look towards Miliband

The depth of anger among the Liberal Democrat grassroots over tuition fees is laid bare tonight in an astonishing article by the party’s former director of policy. Richard Grayson claims that most Lib Dem members have more in common with their counterparts in the Labour party and the Greens than with their own leadership. Grayson, who was director of policy between 1999 and 2004, and until October a vice-chairman on the party’s federal policy committee, says the divisive issue of tuition fees should make ordinary Lib Dems “sit up and think”. He urges the party to seize the “exciting opportunity” of Ed Miliband‘s leadership and to engage more with its traditional enemy. He says the Labour leader is a genuine pluralist and points to the fact that he has signed up to the campaign for the alternative vote (AV). But he adds: “The current Liberal Democrat leaders will not always be our leaders. In time, the centre-left roots of the party should (or at least could) reassert themselves.” – The Observer

Research by Ipsos MORI for the News of the World underlines the damage from last week’s Commons showdown which saw the party’s MPs split three ways. Mr Clegg has appealed for the Lib Dems to come together in the wake of the bitter arguments, disclosing new details of the Pupil Premium for poor children in an effort to highlight the benefits of being in coalition with the Tories. But some backbenchers have been highly critical of his handling of the fees issue and there are even rumours of a leadership challenge. Labour leader Ed Miliband used an interview to try to capitalise on disaffection in the ranks, appealing for Lib Dem MPs to come and work with the Opposition. “I want to extend a welcome to them to work with us,” he told The Sunday Times. – PA

Labour ahead in poll of polls

For nearly a fortnight the YouGov daily poll has had the Tories equal or ahead making it out of line with all the other firms. Now that has changed tonight with the Politicalbetting All Pollsters Index (PAPA) showing a Red-Blue gap of more than three points. For the Lib Dem the polling woes continue with YouGov having them down once again into single figures. The hit that the party has taken is enormous and we’ll be able to see the full impact when the other December polls come in. – Politicalbetting

Tories at war over justice reforms

The reaction from the public – and from Fleet Street – has already forced the Coalition to toughen its policy: 24 hours after Clarke announced the abolition of minimum sentences for murderers, he was ordered by Cameron to reinstate them. A fascinating battle is raging between Andy Coulson, Downing Street’s tabloid-attuned head of communications, and the Justice Secretary. Clarke is not, however, a man to be bullied. Like Iain Duncan Smith, he has no ambitions for promotion. If he isn’t allowed to deliver the reforms he wants, he will simply light one of his favourite cigars, slip on his famous hush puppies, and walk out of the Government. – The Telegraph

Coulson under fire for fees

Coulson, while he was in court last week, as a witness in the Tommy Sheridan perjury case in Glasgow, he gave the impression that, having taken legal advice, his fees had been paid by his former bosses at News International. This has caught the eye of Labour MP Tom Watson, who suspects any such payment may constitute a “gift” (or at least may invite suspicion of a lingering outside influence), and therefore needs to be declared to his civil service bosses. Just to make absolutely certain (many a slip, and all that), Watson has dropped a line to Cabinet Secretary, Gus O’Donnell. Independent on Sunday

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