Sunday News Review

All eyes on Libya

Libya-watchers are now waiting anxiously to see if protests spread to the capital, Tripoli. Most violence is confined to the east of the country where unemployment is high and Mr Gaddafi’s grip said to be weaker. But they stressed that his regime had survived 41 years through brutality and he showed no signs of losing his nerve. William Hague, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, condemned Libya for firing on demonstrators. “This is clearly unacceptable and horrifying. Governments must respond to the legitimate aspirations of their people, rather than resort to the use of force, and must respect the right to peaceful protest.” However, experts admitted the British Government and business interests were watching the situation closely. BP declined to comment on the situation last night but said it was concerned for its 140 employees in Libya. Security experts said all UK companies in Libya had contingency plans if the uprising spread. Douglas Alexander, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, said: “From Libya to Bahrain, many past assumptions have been dissolved by these demonstrations. Britain should speak out against violence, speak up for human rights in all countries and make clear that moves towards democracy are the best guarantee of long-term stability.” – the Independent

Cameron is losing his grip, and his way

Mr Cameron’s strength, that he seemed comfortable with the responsibility of leadership, is beginning to look like anarrogant sense of entitlement and a petulance about his personal reputation. The slogan, “We are all in it together,” never very convincing, is beginning to look like a caddish joke at the expense of the majority. The Independent on Sunday is not persuaded that Mr Cameron is an ideologically driven Thatcherite whose ruling purpose is to shrink the state. He may be, but it seems more likely that he does not in fact believe in much at all. We were once prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt over his claims to be greener than Gordon Brown’s government. Since May, and with the exception of Heathrow, we have seen little evidence of the “greenest government ever” and the doubts have grown. We are beginning to wonder whether the deeper, and just as worrying, truth is that the Prime Minister is simply somewhat incompetent. – editorial, the Independent

The Prime Minister’s clearly decided that enough’s enough.  So he’s executed one of the biggest U-turns of all, drafting in a head of strategy and a deputy and beefing up his policy unit.  And in the News of the World (£), Fraser Nelson writes about a three-part plan to accompany it.  Phase One (currently under way) is to “deal with fat-cat council leaders”.  Phase Two to take the fight to NHS officials who cut services rather than waste.  And Phase Three is to deal with Balls by getting “better at political arguments”. The aim, Nelson writes, is “to minimise the damage for the Tories in the May local elections”.  Andrew Cooper, the new head of strategy, will try to give the Government a sense of direction (whatever happened to: “Together in the National Interest?) while the job of Paul Kirby, heading a beefed-up Policy Unit, is “to cut the U-turn rate – currently a calamitous one per week.”  In short, Cameron’s acknowledging that he over-reacted against the way Blair ran government.  In doing so, the Prime Minister’s marking the end of the first phase of his. – ConservativeHome

Pressure on Cameron to reshuffle pack

Senior Tory MPs are urging David Cameron to reshuffle the cabinet to quell discontent in the party and draw a line under policy blunders during the coalition’s first eight months in power. Messages were relayed to No 10 by backbench envoys last week after MPs – mainly from the right of the party – concluded that the government did not appear “competent” in key departments and was “out of step” with grassroots members in several policy areas. Following the latest U-turn, over plans to sell off the nation’s forests, Cameron has acted to improve policy co-ordination and presentation by beefing up the Downing Street policy unit, with Andrew Cooper, the co-founder of the polling firm Populus, in the new post of director of political strategy. But Tory MPs, many of whom increasingly resent the influence of Liberal Democrats in ministerial jobs they had sought themselves, want Cameron to go further and remove those they see as incompetent or too far to the left. – the Observer

Top Tory attacks Osborne over public sector pensions

The government’s controversial plan to make public-sector workers pay higher pension contributions is in crisis as the Tory head of local government warns of “strong evidence” that employees will opt out en masse, with disastrous economic consequences. The extraordinary warning – and call for an urgent rethink – has been made in a letter to the chancellor, George Osborne, from Baroness Eaton, the Conservative chair of the Local Government Association. In the letter, written last week and leaked to the Observer, Eaton demands urgent talks, and says that a “significant level of opt-outs” from the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) – which has 3.5 million members – would call into question its “sustainability and viability” as well as harming the economy. She also warns that with fewer people making provision for their retirement, the government would be left to pick up the bill in the long term as a result of “further reliance on the state via means-tested benefits in retirement”. – the Observer

Leave a Reply