Saturday News Review

Mubarak has gone – what now for Egypt?

Everyone suddenly burst out singing. And laughing, and crying, and shouting and praying, kneeling on the road and kissing the filthy tarmac right in front of me, and dancing and praising God for ridding them of Hosni Mubarak – a generous moment, for it was their courage rather than divine intervention which rid Egypt of its dictator – and weeping tears which splashed down their clothes. It was as if every man and woman had just got married, as if joy could smother the decades of dictatorship and pain and repression and humiliation and blood. Forever, it will be known as the Egyptian Revolution of 25 January – the day the rising began – and it will be forever the story of a risen people. The old man had gone at last, handing power not to the Vice-President but – ominously, though the millions of non-violent revolutionaries were in no mood to appreciate this last night – to Egypt’s army council, to a field marshal and a lot of brigadier generals, guarantors, for now, of all that the pro-democracy protesters had fought and, in some cases, died for. Yet even the soldiers were happy. At the very moment when the news of Mubarak’s demise licked like fire through the demonstrators outside the army-protected state television station on the Nile, the face of one young officer burst into joy. All day, the demonstrators had been telling the soldiers that they were brothers. Well, we shall see. – the Independent

Spelman puts forest sell off on hold

The government is on the ropes over its plans to sell off England’s forests. Nearly half a million people have now signed a petition against the plans and local groups are springing up around the country. Last week I raised the issue of the sales in the House of Commons but I was told there was no turning back. A week is a long time in forestry politics. This Friday, the Tory-led government announced a stay of execution for the 15 per cent of forest land they were planning to put up for sale in April. This panic move is the latest embarrassment for the government. The campaign does not stop there. The public bodies bill giving ministers the power to dispose of 100% of the public forest comes back to the House of Lords in a few weeks time. The prize sought is the removal of the forestry elements of the bill by the government. – Mary Creagh, the Guardian

Controversial plans to sell-off 15 % of the UK’s publicly-owned forests have been put on hold, the Government revealed today. Labour leader Ed Miliband this afternoon described the potential sell-off as ‘outrageous’ and told supporters he believed the Coalition could be defeated on the issue. Caroline Spelman has pledged that no woodland will be put up for sale until a new review to ensure the forests are properly protected and have adequate public access is completed. “In light of the Government commitment to increase protection for access and public benefit in our woodlands, the criteria for these sales will be reviewed so that protections are significantly strengthened following the inadequate measures that were applied to sales under the previous administration.  Pending this review, no individual woodland site will be put on the market,” the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said. – PoliticsHome

Clarke warns of cuts pain to come

Mr Clarke’s downbeat prediction risks upsetting Downing Street after he clashed with No?10 over the plans to give prisoners the vote. Today’s interview is likely to further antagonise Tories who voted against the move. Mr Clarke asserts it is inevitable prisoners will get the vote and backs a plan that will see approximately 30,000 inmates, about a third of the prison population, enfranchised. He dismisses No?10’s hope of limiting the franchise to those serving one-year sentences and instead claims a four-year cut-off point is much more realistic. Despite the exasperation from some colleagues and rumours that the Prime Minister is preparing to sack him, Mr Clarke is unrepentant about his policies, which have led to howls of derision from the Tory Right. – the Telegraph

Mr Clarke, who was chancellor of the exchequer in the last Conservative government, described the current economic situation as “calamitous” and warned that there would be no “quick rebound”. “One reason we’re going to get some political difficulty is that (while) the public knows we’ve got to do something about it, I don’t think Middle England has quite taken on board the scale of the problem,” he said. “That will emerge as the cuts start coming home this year. We’ve got to get on with it (but) it’s going to be very difficult. If someone says it’s not as bad as all that, I say (they) just don’t realise the calamitous position we’re in. “We’re in for a long haul to get back to normality. There are so many uncertainties internationally, and I do not see a quick rebound.” Mr Clarke’s gloomy prognosis is likely to alarm both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in the coalition as they head for important local government and Scottish and Welsh assembly elections in May. They come after shock figures showed that the economy shrank in the last three months of 2010, raising new fears of a possible double-dip recession. Shadow treasury chief secretary Angela Eagle said that Mr Clarke’s comments underlined the need for the Government to change its economic strategy. – the Independent

IPSA under fire

The independent Committee on Standards in Public Life has become the latest body to argue that rules introduced after the 2009 MPs’ expenses scandal are too strict. David Cameron has already warned the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) to relax its rules, and John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, sent a similar message this week. In a submission to an Ipsa review of its rules, the standards committee said that it had received evidence that the current regime is an undue obstacle to MPs doing their work. Sir Christopher Kelly, Chairman of the Committee said that in it’s desire to prevent misuse of public money, Ipsa risked overlooking the need to “support Members of Parliament effectively in carrying out their important and difficult jobs.” – the Telegraph

Leave a Reply