Tuesday News Review

Don’t ruin it Nick

Relations between Labour and the Liberal Democrats were back in the deep freeze yesterday after Ed Miliband branded Nick Clegg a vote-loser and refused to share a platform with him. Liberal Democrats accused Labour of “student politics” after Mr Miliband declined to appear alongside Mr Clegg at a rally to campaign for a Yes vote in the May referendum on electoral reform. Both leaders support a switch to the alternative vote (AV) and, despite Labour’s anger at the Liberal Democrats for entering into a coalition with the Conservatives, figures in both parties who want to keep alive the prospect of a Lib-Lab deal after the 2015 election had hoped that co-operation on electoral reform might break the ice. Mr Miliband had agreed to share a platform with the former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy, but pulled out after Mr Clegg insisted on taking part. Today’s rally has now been called off. Labour is worried that a high-profile role for Mr Clegg could harm the Yes campaign, but their squabble is a setback for supporters of change.the Independent

It should have seen a kickstart to the yes to AV campaign, with Ed Miliband, Charles Kennedy and Caroline Lucas happily sharing a platform in the cause of reform. These three yes leaders share quite a few other core values. But then Nick Clegg demanded to be there, and the whole thing fell apart. Miliband’s people say their man will share a platform with anyone who will draw support towards the yes campaign – but not with someone who repels voters. These days Clegg is about as voter-repellent as it’s possible to be. As far as Labour is concerned, if Clegg wants to win this referendum he had better get under his duvet and stay there until his alarm clock goes off when it’s over. Can Clegg swallow his pride and stay away? Even though the remnants of his political career may depend on winning this referendum, the auguries are not good. Ed’s people claim that Clegg banned Kennedy from appearing. The Cleggites deny it – to which the Edites reply, then fix another day for Kennedy to appear without Clegg. If not Kennedy, sendPaddy Ashdown or Shirley Williams. Send popular faces the public trust – just don’t send the most toxic man in British politics, the man who promised “new politics” then broke more promises than most politicians ever make in the first place. Nobody believes a word he says. He is the no-to-AV campaign’s golden asset. – Polly Toynbee, the Guardian


Ed Balls sparked fury yesterday by using the Japanese earthquake to attack George Osborne. He claimed the Chancellor will use the tragedy as an excuse for Britain’s poor growth. The Shadow Chancellor said: “It won’t be good enough if George Osborne stands up next week in the Budget and says the reason he has to downgrade his growth forecast is the cold winter, or the Irish bailout or because of the spike in world oil prices or the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake.” Mr Balls waded in as he and and leader Ed Miliband launched Labour’s plans to use a £2billion bank tax to create 110,000 jobs. Shocked Labour and Tory MPs said it was unacceptable for Mr Balls to exploit the horror in which 450 Brits are missing. Senior Labour MP Roger Godsiff, chairman of Parliament’s all-party British-Japan group, said: “I would not have said what he said. – the Sun

Six months after becoming Labour leader and four months after saying that “in terms of policy, we start with a blank page”, Ed Miliband has finally started to fill the void. His joint press conference yesterday with Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, was billed as a pre-Budget economic policy statement. It was nothing of the sort. About the crippling deficit Labour left behind, there was barely a word. Instead, we were treated to another round of banker-bashing populism combined with a promise to spend large amounts of money. Has Labour learnt nothing from its decade-long spending spree that left the country in penury? Mr Miliband claimed that another levy on bankers’ bonuses would raise £2? billion to fund house building, youth employment and the regional growth fund, creating 110,000 new jobs, a figure that seems to have been plucked from the air. The plan conveniently ignores the fact that his predecessor Gordon Brown said the “one-off” levy on bankers’ bonuses he introduced in 2009 could not be repeated because the banks would restructure their remuneration packages to avoid a second hit. And even if it did produce the £2?billion claimed by Mr Miliband, that would still be less overall than the Coalition’s own permanent bank levy generates. But then the feasibility of the proposal is not relevant – for Labour is not currently in the business of credible economics. Look at the stern injunction Messrs Miliband and Balls issued to the shadow cabinet last month, insisting that all policy statements with financial implications be cleared with them. Since then, Labour has – according to detailed new Tory costings – made £12?billion of unfunded spending commitments. Its addiction to spending is as powerful as ever. – Daily Telegraph

Doctors take on health reforms

Doctors are set to deliver another blow to Andrew Lansley’s faltering NHS reforms today – by lambasting them at a specially convened conference. Some 350 delegates have been summoned to London for an emergency meeting of the British Medical Association to discuss dozens of motions highly critical of the Health Secretary’s policies/ And the medical profession may even declare at the meeting that it has no confidence in Mr Lansley. The meeting is expected to confirm that most doctors are firmly opposed to the controversial proposals to hand £80billion of the Health Service budget to GPs. Doctors are expected to claim his changes will worsen patient care, squander billions of pounds and threaten the principles of the NHS. Their motions will lay bare a nightmare scenario under which services could be cut, waiting times could lengthen and hospital departments could close – as a direct result of the reforms. It tops an awful few days for the embattled Health Secretary, whose controversial NHS reforms are coming in for mounting criticism. – Daily Mail

A hastily-called meeting of the British Medical Association (BMA) will debate a series of motions that are highly critical of the Government’s health reforms. It is the first Special Representative Meeting in 19 years, a measure of how angry many doctors are over plans to give more power to GPs and introduce more private competition into the NHS. Mr Lansley faces three motions of no confidence. Another motion criticises the Health Secretary of cynical and misleading use of statistics to justify the reforms. And Mr Lansley is even likened to a used-car salesman in another motion, for implementing a radical shake-up when he had said before the general election that there would be no major changes to the NHS. – Sky News

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