Friday News Review

UN votes for no fly zone

No more fear, no more hesitation. The moment of truth has come. That address by Colonel Gaddafi to the people of Benghazi finally prevailed on the UN security council. A body bedevilled by fear and hesitation faced its own moment of truth last night and voted for military action against Gaddafi’s troops. The resolution could, in the circumstances, not have been stronger. Whereas the magic words “all necessary means” were missing from the Resolution 1441 that Tony Blair tried, and failed, to interpret as a legal mandate for war, this authorisation sanctioned “all necessary measures”, barring ground invasion,  to protect the people of Libya. Doubters said that, if the UN ever acted, it would be too little and too late. Perhaps it will be. Huge problems lie ahead not only in helping those under siege in Benghazi but in using the levers the world has seized. It is not yet clear whether civilian protection is the only objective or whether the coming operation will not stop short of the removal of Gaddafi from power. If so, then who will take his place? – the Telegraph

RAF ground attack aircraft are ready to help impose a no-fly zone overLibya as ministers ordered defence chiefs to finalise plans enabling Britain to take part immediately in military action against forces loyal to Colonel Gaddafi. Tornado all-weather attack aircraft, equipped with precision weapons, were almost certain to be the first British assets used in any military operation, officials said. They are based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland and RAF Marham in Norfolk. Though due to phased out under the government’s defence their performance has been tested in operations over decades. It was not immediately clear whether they would fly from a military base in southern France or from RAF Akrotiri, in one of Britain’s sovereign base areas in Cyprus. It was also unclear whether Eurofighter Typhoons would take part in an operation. Britain has two ships off the Libyan coast, and Chinook helicopters and early-warning aircraft equipped with long-range radar based in Malta, but would need permission from the Maltese government to use them in action over Libya. – the Guardian

Darling warns Osborne on economy

Mr Darling’s thoughts now on the economy and the banking system, which we report today, deserve a wide audience. Mr Darling knows the Treasury from the inside. So his view that officials there will be working on a “Plan B”, to be used in the event that the economy crashes because of the Chancellor’s ambitious deficit reduction strategy, is significant. It raises an important question: will Mr Osborne quash Treasury suggestions of an alternative fiscal course for his own political reasons? Mr Darling’s argument that the banking sector has not fully learned the lessons from the financial crisis – and that banks are still over-reliant on wholesale funding – is also accurate. This is intimately connected to the question of the sustainability of the national finances because it is doubtful whether the state could afford another banking crisis. The Coalition will doubtless dismiss Mr Darling’s intervention as the usual partisan Labour critique of its economic policy. But that would be a mistake. Mr Darling has been proven right. – the Independent

70% favour slower cuts

British voters fear the Governments cuts are coming too fast to protect public services, but just under half blame the former Labour Government, a poll for Ipsos Mori has shown. The survey showed that 70% of people would favour cutting more slowly to reduce the impact on beleaguered public services. Just 28% of respondents said the Government had found the right balance between increasing taxes and reducing spending. Polling also revealed that Ed Miliband is the least popular party leader, with an approval rating of 36% against David Cameron’s 47% and Nick Clegg’s 40%. – Politics Home

Clegg defiant on AV role

Nick Clegg will defy calls for him to “lie low” in the referendum for voting system reform when he speaks at the launch of the Liberal Democrats’ “Yes To AV” campaign. Mr Clegg will insist the issue is not about party politics, and will set out his determination to argue the case for a change to the alternative vote (AV) “with passion”. Changing to a form of proportional representation for parliamentary elections has been a cornerstone Liberal Democrat demand for decades. A vote on AV – which is not a proportional system – was a compromise they secured in coalition negotiations with the Tories. The “Yes” campaign puts Mr Clegg into battle against Prime Minister David Cameron, who, along with most of his MPs, opposes the change. – Sky

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