Sunday News review

Ed meets the troops

Ed Miliband vowed yesterday he would not play “party politics” with British troops as he made his first visit to ­Afghanistan as Labour leader. Speaking in Helmand province, Mr Miliband backed PM David ­Cameron’s timetable to end combat operations there by 2015. He told troops: “Our mission is not a matter of party politics. It is about ­doing what is right for our country. A more stable Afghanistan will lead to a more safe Britain. You have our support, our respect and our admiration.” Mr Miliband toured Camp Bastion base, meeting the ­injured. He then went to Shawqat, scene of fierce f­ighting, with defence ­spokesman Jim ­Murphy and Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas ­Alexander. – Sunday Mirror

Ed Miliband pledged yesterday not to play ‘party politics’ with the military campaign in Afghanistan after making his first visit to the war-torn country. Addressing British troops in the volatile Helmand province, the Labour leader insisted that Britain was ‘united’ behind the military effort. But he also backed the Coalition’s plans to end UK combat operations by 2015, saying: ‘It is right that this is not a war without end.’ Mr Miliband said: ‘I want you to know that our mission in Afghanistan is not a matter of party politics. It is about doing what is right for our country. A more stable Afghanistan will lead to a more safe Britain. ‘Above all, I want you to know that you have our support, our respect and our admiration for what you are doing for our country.’ Accompanied by Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, the Labour leader toured the British forces’ main base at Camp Bastion and met injured soldiers. He then travelled to Shawqat, which has seen some of the fiercest recent fighting. Mr Miliband also met General David Petraeus, the American commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, and later held talks with Afghan president Hamid Karzai in Kabul. – Mail on Sunday

Balls shows bottle

There is no doubt that George Osborne is a highly-skilled political strategist – unmatched in today’s Tory party. And the political strategy he is implementing is straight out of the Margaret Thatcher 1980s manual: impose as much pain as you can straight after the election, raise taxes, cut spending, slash benefits, make people feel lucky to have a job, build up your war-chest, and then cut taxes just before the election, win a majority, and start all over again. He is following Mrs Thatcher’s strategy to the letter – right down to the immediate hike in VAT, even if it breaks a pre-election promise. But this strategy is irresponsible, and dangerous. Two decades ago our country paid a very high price because of the economic mistakes of the 1980s recession and the years of slow growth and rising unemployment that followed. Manufacturing capacity was lost permanently. A whole generation of young people saw their lives blighted by long-term unemployment. Our society was divided, child poverty soared and our infrastructure decayed. So when I hear George Osborne refuse even to countenance the idea of a Plan B, I can see no economic judgement at work at all – just a political gamble with the nation’s economy. We have a Chancellor shaping his economic plans around a fixed political strategy to win an election in 2015 and cut the size of the state – outweighing his constitutional responsibility as Chancellor to adopt a cautious approach rooted in sound economics to protect jobs, growth and homes. We badly need an alternative – and we need it now. – Ed Balls, Independent on Sunday

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has accused George Osborne of being in denial about the risks to jobs and growth from his plan to cut the deficit. Writing in the Independent on Sunday, Mr Balls said the chancellor’s plan to eliminate the deficit by 2015 was “irresponsible and dangerous”. It comes after figures revealed a surprise contraction of the UK economy. Mr Osborne has told the BBC there would be “financial turmoil” if he abandoned his cuts and tax rises. Their ongoing battle over economic policies intensified on Tuesday, when the latest GDP figures showed a shock 0.5% contraction in the economy in the final three months of 2010. Forecasts had been for growth of between 0.2% and 0.6% but ministers blamed the negative figures on the snow and exceptionally cold weather in December. In his article in the Independent on the Sunday, Mr Balls contrasted the growth figures in the US with the “shocking” figures in the UK. – the BBC

Bankers host ball for the Tories

A multi-millionaire banker is sponsoring David Cameron’s lavish £1,000-a-head Tory ball next week. Howard Shore, whose investment bank made £14.6million last year, has helped bankroll the bash. Mr Shore will be one of dozens of super-rich bankers toasting the Government’s failure to make a major dent in their ­£7billion ­bonuses. The star guests will be Prime Minister David Cameron and ­Chancellor George Osborne. Mayfair-based Shore Capital, founded by Tory donor Mr Shore, is sponsoring The Black and White Party – so-called because guests are supposed to turn up dressed only in black and white. Premier tickets for the event cost £1,000 each, or £10,000 for a table. The cheapest seats for less well-heeled Tories are £400 a head or £4,000 a table. Up to 1,200 ­people, including regulars Mr Cameron and his wife Samantha, will attend next Monday’s bash in South London, which aims to raise £2million for the Party. At Prime Minister’s Questions on ­Wednesday, Mr Cameron warned the country that it faces a “choppy” ride as it copes with soaring inflation and rocketing fuel and food prices. Despite this, his friends will glide to the glamorous party in a fleet of limos for drinks ahead of a sumptuous dinner, followed by dancing before their “carriages” arrive at 12.30am. This year’s committee members include Dorothy Angest, wife of Swiss banker Henry Angest, ­Elizabeth Brooks, wife of investment banker Rory Brooks, and Fiona Cruddas, wife of stockbroker Peter Cruddas. Film producer Matthew Vaughn and TV personality Trinny Woodall are also on the committee. Labour MP Michael Dugher ­condemned the event. “Now we know why ­Cameron and Osborne have reneged on promises to clamp down on bankers’ bonuses,” he said. “These people caused the global financial crash – it shows how arrogant and out of touch the Tories are.” – Sunday Mirror

11 point poll lead

There is an Angus Reid on in the Sunday Express. Their voting intention figures are CON 32%(-1), LAB 43%(+2), LDEM 11%(-1). Changes are from their poll at the start of the week. The 11 point Labour lead is the largest any pollster has shown since the general election, and the 32% the lowest any company has shown the Conservatives – although Angus Reid do tend to show lower Conservative figures than other companies and consequental higher Labour leads (somewhat ironically, considering prior to the election they tended to be an outlier in the opposite direction). – UK Polling Report

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