Monday News Review

MPs to vote on Libya

Audience or inquisition? Echo chamber or debating chamber? Monday’s debate on the crisis in Libya is a chance for the Commons to show that politicians learned hard lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan. We are “at war”, but this isn’t a moment of national peril that obliges MPs to button their lips and patriotically applaud the prime minister. Far from it. If we have learned one thing from the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan, it is that you cannot impose democracy by bombing. A second lesson is that getting into a conflict is a lot easier than getting out. I would be much happier if the media and political cacophony about Libya was less about boys’ toys – fighter aircraft and different missile systems – and more about Libya’s unusual history and the hideously difficult political choices ahead. If the air strikes have cowed Muammar Gaddafi’s forces enough to keep them from invading Benghazi and causing a further bloodbath there, then that is good news. David Cameron and the other leaders are to be applauded for that. As a senior Labour MP put it to me on Sunday, when I asked him about the danger of us being drawn into a long stalemate, “a stalemate’s better than a slaughter”. – Comment is free

Now that we know what we know about Iraq I vowed I’d never take a prime minister on trust again. Yet this is what I’m going to have to do tomorrow. My vote will be with Sarkozy and Cameron – and the united nations. I have huge reservations. I have little choice. I have to believe that they’ll be true to their words: there won’t be a ground war. There won’t be an occupation. There has to be a plan, right? Parliament will be consulted regularly. Cameron assured the House that the arab league states want this. I have to believe him. And given that allied forces are already shooting out tanks, airfields and strategic targets, a vote against military intervention on Monday only undermines our country’s political strength on the world stage. – Uncut

Budget 2011

George Orborne, the chancellor, has promised not to announce any new tax increases or spending cuts in this week’s Budget. The Chancellor said he had already “asked what is required” to turn the economy around. He would now seek to “move on” and focus on securing economic recovery. The promise will come as a relief to workers who already face increases in National Insurance next month and reductions in the higher-rate tax allowance, following the sharp rise in Vat at the beginning of the year. These rises will still go ahead but the Budget overall will not raise any extra money. Mr Osborne is hoping to promote this week’s statement as a “budget for growth” amid mounting concern over the fragility of Britain’s economic recovery. In an interview yesterday, the Chancellor said: “Having undertaken the rescue mission last year, I don’t have to come back and ask for more this year. “So I can say in the Budget this week I am not going to be asking for more tax increases or more spending cuts. We have asked what is required of the British people in last year’s Budget and that enables us in this year’s Budget to move on to putting in place the policies that will help Britain compete, help Britain create jobs and growth in the future.” – the Telegraph

There will still be something Gladstonian about the budget on Wednesday because Osborne is determined to stick to a path of fiscal rectitude that would have pleased the Grand Old Man of British politics. Sure, there will be a shift of emphasis, with Osborne saying that the “rescue” phase is over and it is now time for “recovery” and “reform” but the principles of the government’s approach will be the same. Despite the feeble state of the economy, the chancellor will reiterate his determination to eradicate the structural part of Britain’s budget deficit by the end of the current parliament. This remains the same gamble it was when Osborne first sketched out his plans the weeks following the formation of the coalition government last spring. Perhaps even more of a gamble, since back then the economy was showing signs of bouncing back from its deepest and longest post-war recession and now it is back in the doldrums. But anybody expecting Osborne to come up with a Plan B on Wednesday, the demand made of him by the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, will be disappointed. Come what may, the government will stick to its chosen budgetary course. – the Guardian

NHS reforms “Trojan horse”

David Cameron has been warned by one of his own MPs that he is in danger of creating a “Trojan horse” that could destroy the NHS from within. Dr Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes in Devon, has issued a scathing reply to the Prime Minister’s boast, made in the Commons last week, that “we are not reorganising the bureaucracy of the NHS. We are abolishing the bureaucracy of the NHS”. Dr Wollaston, who worked as a GP for 18 years, forecast that a more likely set of events is that the NHS will pay out huge sums in redundancy to bureaucrats whose jobs have disappeared, only to re-employ them when when they find that they cannot get by without managers… Dr Wollaston said that doctors should not have the final decision on which patients receive treatment without an input from patients and “the wider clinical community”, and that GP consortia will need professional managers. – the Independent

Lib Dems to table amendments to health bill

Far reaching changes to the coalition health reforms are being drawn up by the Liberal Democrats, it emerged yesterday. The proposals to be circulated among senior Liberal Democrat health experts are designed to turn the motions passed at the party’s spring conference a week ago into detailed amendments to the health and social care bill before it reaches its report stage. Nick Clegg has signalled that he will support the changes in principle, and is among many cabinet ministers who recognise that the reforms need recasting if they are to survive. Those drawing up the amendments, including the former MP Evan Harris, are trying to ensure the proposals are in line with the coalition agreement. They are likely to focus on areas such as ensuring that GP commissioning boards have a duty to prevent cherry-picking by the private sector, and that the boards contain locally-elected councillors or are scrutinised by councils. They would also look at the structure, aims and membership of the proposed economic regulator, Monitor. – the Guardian

Leave a Reply