Wednesday News Review

Labour turns up the heat over bonuses

Labour today stepped up the pressure on the government over City bonuses as the new chief executive of Barclays, Bob Diamond, stood firm against demands that he give up his potential £8m payout for 2010. Forcing George Osborne to the House of Commons dispatch box to defend his attempts to crack down on bankers’ bonuses, the shadow chancellor, Alan Johnson, said the coalition had gone “from the scent of rose garden to the stench of broken promises” since the election. The chancellor, who says we are all in this together, bows to the rich and powerful whilst bearing down on everyone else. His sneering arrogance will not get him out of this one,” Johnson said. – Guardian

George Osborne warned of stiff penalties yesterday unless banks cut bonuses and increase lending. The Chancellor said “nothing is off the table” if they do not comply. His emergency Commons statement to a packed chamber came after reports that the Government had given up trying to curb banks’ estimated £7BILLION bonuses. It was sparked by Barclays chief Bob Diamond, believed to be in line for an £8million payout, telling MPs that neither the Chancellor nor PM had asked him to limit his bonus. The Government appeared to be in disarray as officials refused to say what limits it would allow on bonuses. Mr Osborne said the Treasury is talking to banks about smaller bonuses, greater transparency and a fairer deal to customers. He added: “If the banks cannot commit to that I’ve made it very clear to them that nothing is off the table.” Mr Osborne was forced into his statement by Labour shadow Alan Johnson, who accused him of breaking a coalition vow to bring forward “robust” banking legislation. – The Sun

The coalition was in disarray over bank bonuses last night after Nick Clegg publicly demanded that the Treasury do more to slash sky-high payouts. Chancellor George Osborne responded by reviving a threat to hit the banks with new taxes unless they raise lending by £20billion this year and open their books to publish more details of bonuses. He told MPs ‘nothing is off the table’ if the banks are not more ‘responsible’. Mr Osborne intervened in an apparent attempt to placate Liberal Democrats furious at suggestions that the Government has abandoned hope of slashing the £7billion bonus pot to be paid by the big banks this year. Senior Lib Dems accused Downing Street of ‘waving the white flag’ over bonuses after months of tough talk. – Daily Mail

By-election number two

The Labour MP admitted dishonestly claiming more than £14,000 in taxpayer-funded expenses after being exposed by The Daily Telegraph. He is now expected to become the second MP to be sent to prison when he is sentenced until next month. The MP faces spending up to seven years in prison. However, Illsley will not automatically be banned from the House of Commons unless he is imprisoned for more than 12 months. There was growing pressure for the MP to resign his seat or for the Speaker to intervene to force him out of Parliament. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, called on the MP to step aside. Illsley was suspended from the Labour Party when he was charged but still sits in Parliament as an independent MP representing Barnsley Central. Mr Miliband said: “Eric Illsley has been found guilty of a very serious charge. He is no longer a Labour MP and I think he should now do the right thing and resign as an MP. I do not think he can be a credible voice for his constituents having pleaded guilty to such a serious offence.” – Daily Telegraph

Labour was tonight seeking to use parliamentary procedures that have not been used for 35 years to expel the disgraced MP Eric Illsley from parliament after he pleaded guilty to defrauding the taxpayer of £14,500 in expenses. There was widespread condemnation after Commons officials confirmed that the MP for Barnsley Central will only be automatically expelled from parliament if he is sent to prison for more than a year when sentenced next month. A lesser sentence would potentially allow Illsley to carry out some of his functions as an MP from prison, receive his salary and return to his seat on his release. The Commons could pass a resolution to eject Illsley, but this has happened on only a handful of occasions in modern times. Illsley’s election agent, Roy Miller, said the local party would discuss its next course of action later this week, but that they would not pre-empt the judicial process and his sentencing. “He has great regret about what he did. Whatever people think about Eric now, he’s been an excellent MP for Barnsley.” – Guardian

Tory Rebellion Fails

Prime Minister David Cameron survived a test of his party leadership on Tuesday after eurosceptic Conservative rebels failed to win backing for tougher curbs on the flow of power to Brussels from Britain. While the spotlight has largely fallen on troubles among the smaller Liberal Democrats since the coalition came to power in May, the European Union bill debate will remind markets of the tensions that exist on the Conservative side of the partnership. Infighting over Europe during the 1980s and 1990s played a big part in the demise of previous Conservative premiers Margaret Thatcher and John Major but, for now, the eurosceptics appear to lack the teeth to damage Cameron. Party rebels, who blame the Conservative leadership for diluting manifesto pledges on Europe, failed on Tuesday to win enough support for a more hawkish stance. Only 39 lawmakers voted for an amendment declaring the sovereignty of the UK parliament in relation to EU laws, while 314 voted against. – Reuters

Celebs come to the aid in Oldham

Celebrity Labour supporters have urged voters to turn out at this week’s by-election. Coronation Street’s Roy Cropper, Emmerdale’s Rev Ashley Thomas and Tom Hingley – former frontman of ‘Madchester’ group the Inspiral Carpets – all braved the cold to campaign in Oldham East and Saddleworth. John Middleton, aka vicar Ashley Thomas in Emmerdale, said: “As we see prices rising because of VAT it is everything to do with the ordinary person in the street. Get out there – every vote counts.” – Manchester Evening News

Soap stars came out in support of Labour yesterday, as Deputy PM Nick Clegg made a last-ditch attempt to avoid a humiliating by-election defeat in tomorrow’s vote. David Neilson, who plays Corrie’s Roy Cropper, and Emmerdale’s John Middleton (Rev Ashley Thomas) hit the campaign trail as the Lib Dem leader made a third desperate visit to Oldham East and Saddleworth. Mr Neilson, known to Street fans as Hayley Cropper’s docile husband Roy, said he was furious with the Tory-led Coalition for hitting the poorest hardest. He told the Mirror: “I’m angry because the people who can least afford it are being forced to suffer. They are going to suffer from the cuts and from the loss of public sector jobs. It’s purely a moral choice. What the Lib Dems and Conservatives are doing is unfair.” Tom Hingley, from Oldham rock group the Inspiral Carpets, was also at the campaign stop with Labour’s by-election candidate Debbie Abrahams. – Daily Mirror

Laws back heading Clegg’s ‘alarm clock Britain’ team

David Laws, who was forced to quit the Cabinet in May over his expenses claims, has been put in charge of a drive by Nick Clegg to support the citizens of “alarm clock Britain”. Liberal Democrat strategists have alighted on the phrase to describe the low and middle-income families that the Deputy Prime Minister views as the backbone of the country. They are the people who are awoken from their slumbers – often while it is still dark – to do an honest day’s work for modest pay. They do not depend on benefits, but rely on the state for healthcare and their children’s education. Mr Laws, who is still awaiting the verdict of the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, has remained in close contact with Mr Clegg since his resignation. He has been charged with devising fresh policies as the Government’s austerity measures bite. Mr Clegg’s phrase has echoes of Ed Miliband’s “squeezed middle” which, after initial confusion, Labour defined as households with an income of between £16,000 and £40,000-£50,000. It was devised at a recent brain-storming session with senior Liberal Democrats, including Mr Laws, at the Deputy Prime Minister’s grace-and-favour mansion at Chevening. – Independent

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