Thursday News Review

Election Pact? Gove thinks so

Michael Gove has reignited talk of a Tory Lib Dem pact by urging people in Hull to vote Lib Dem to keep Labour out at the local elections. Gove’s intervention was not planned but it does reveal how he thinks. Gove’s department is the most coalitionised. Not only is there a Lib Dem minister there in Sarah Teather, tellingly the only Lib Dem minister not to moan to the Telegraph’s undercover reporters about her colleagues. But there is also David Laws, who is acting as an unofficial adviser to Gove. Anthony Wells’ thorough analysis of an electoral pact suggests that it could do well in the seats where it matters. Obviously, all this discussion of pacts could be overtaken by events if AV passes. Interestingly, Gove remains undecided on that issue. – the Spectator

Michael Gove today became the first member of the cabinet to urge people to vote tactically for the Liberal Democrats in the May local elections, as he fended off attacks on the abolition of the Educational Maintenance Allowance. In an attempt to spike the guns of Labour and Lib Dem critics campaigning against the scrapping of the £30 weekly allowance, Gove praised Lib Dem councils that help students with travel costs. The education secretary’s comments came ahead of a defeat in the Commons tonight of a bid by Labour to keep the allowance; it was defeated by 317 votes to 258, a government majority of 59. Gove’s remarks highlight the support among senior allies of David Cameron for greater co-operation with the Tories’ coalition partners. He hailed Lib Dem and Conservative councils that are helping students by upholding their statutory commitment to fund student travel. “Well they won’t if a Labour council takes power, I suspect. But if they’re wise enough to vote Liberal Democrat at the next local elections in Hull …” Amid gasps and laughter, Gove paused before adding, “… or for the Conservatives in any seat where we are well placed to defeat Labour, then they will have a council which is fulfilling its statutory duty. It is no surprise that there are Liberal Democrat and Conservative councils which are ensuring that all students receive the support they deserve. It’s striking that this is in addition to Education Maintenance Allowance.” – the Guardian

Warsi comments spark debate

Islamophobia has “passed the dinner-table test” and is seen by many as normal and uncontroversial, Baroness Warsi will say in a speech on Thursday. The minister without portfolio will also warn that describing Muslims as either “moderate” or “extremist” fosters growing prejudice. Lady Warsi, the first Muslim woman to attend Cabinet, has pledged to use her position to wage an “ongoing battle against bigotry”. Her comments are the most high-profile intervention in Britain’s religious debate by any member of David Cameron’s government. They also confirm the Coalition’s determination to depart from its Labour predecessor’s policy of keeping out of issues of faith. Lady Warsi will use a speech at the University of Leicester to attack what she sees as growing religious intolerance in the country, especially towards followers of Islam. – Daily Telegraph

The first Muslim woman Cabinet minister will today launch a controversial attack on Britain’s approach to Islam. Baroness Warsi will caution that Islamophobia is seen as normal and acceptable at dinner parties. The Tory Party chairman will warn that describing Muslims as ‘moderate’ or ‘extremist’, fosters prejudice against them. In a speech at the University of Leicester, she will pledge to use her position to wage an ‘ongoing battle against bigotry’. Lady Warsi will say: ‘It’s not a big leap of imagination to predict where the talk of “moderate” Muslims leads. Her high-profile intervention suggests that the Government is more willing than its Labour predecessors to tackle sensitive issues of race and religion. But Lady Warsi’s controversial speech will lay her open to the charge that she has sided with her own community at a time when Christian leaders are also concerned that public respect for their faith has diminished. The Tory chairman will say that terrorist offences committed by a small number of Islamists must not be used to condemn all Muslims. But she will also acknowledge concerns about the failure of some British Muslims to integrate into Western society. And she will warn that some Muslim communities must do more to ostracise extremists. – Daily Mail

Prisoner votes climb-down

A parliamentary revolt by David Davis and Jack Straw has left David Cameron facing his first Commons defeat since taking office. The two backbenchers have triggered a Commons debate on the policy next month, where dozens of Conservative MPs are likely to join Labour in opposing the change. Many inmates will be given the legal right to vote later this year after the Government conceded said it would accept a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights. David Cameron has said the prospect of prisoners voting leaves him “physically sick” and the change has angered many Conservative MPs. Under new parliamentary rules introduced by the Coalition, MPs help set the agenda for Commons debates and votes. Mr Davis, a Conservative former shadow home secretary, and Mr Straw, a Labour former justice secretary, used the new Backbench Business Committee in the Commons to trigger their debate. The move means that in mid-February, the Commons will debate a motion written by Mr Davis and Mr Straw which calls for the ministers to change course and abandon plans to let prisoners vote. – Daily Telegraph

Downing Street was today hoping to secure a compromise over votes for prisoners as David Cameron attempted to avoid his first Commons defeat since taking power. With the Government facing a possible £100 million bill for compensation payouts to inmates, ministers are trapped between being defeated in the courts or beaten in the Commons. Government whips hope to persuade rebels to agree a compromise motion stating that the number of prisoners getting the vote should be kept to a “minimum” rather than zero. A senior source said: “If the House says ‘keep it to a minimum’, that would be helpful because it would become part of our legal case and would reduce the number of payouts to prisoners.” Former home secretary Jack Straw and his former shadow, Tory MP David Davis, have united to put the Government under pressure to keep the current law that states that nobody can vote while serving time for crimes. They won time for a Commons debate in February when Mr Cameron’s majority could be in severe jeopardy. However, the Government would ignore a motion for a blanket ban because lawyers say that is now illegal under human rights laws. There are 2,500 compensation cases waiting for judgment. Mr Cameron said the idea of paying tens of millions to convicted criminals “sickened” him but officials say those serving short sentences are certain to win after a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. – the Evening Standard

Tory MP ties himself in a knot

The Conservative MP for Stratford-upon-Avon apologised to the House of Commons after his tie starting playing a song as he was addressing colleagues. Nadhim Zahawi was speaking in a debate about the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) when his tie emitted a tune, amplified by a microphone. He said sorry and explained that he wore it in support of a cancer charity. Deputy Speaker Dawn Primarolo said he should be “more selective” in his choice of neckwear in the chamber. The tie started playing a tune as he was stood up joining in the debate, causing him to pause mid-sentence. He said: “I apologise. It is my tie to support the campaign against bowel cancer that was making that noise. It is a musical tie.” – the BBC

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One Response to “Thursday News Review”

  1. oliver says:

    Out-and-out racism and xenophobia and religious intolerance is indefensible. However, it’s a bit rich Robber Baroness Warsi complaining about how Islamophobia has passed the “dinner-table test”.

    Thanks to the relationship between the Tories and the right-wing media in this country, it’s long been permissible to disparage and demonise benefit claimants and the under-classes in this country at the dinner-table and away from it. Warsi and her Tory colleagues have reaped the rewards of this.

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