Friday News Review

Calamity Clegg

It was supposed to be all about promoting the Budget plans for economic growth. Twenty-one Enterprise Zones are being set up in unemployment hotspots and David Cameron and Nick Clegg were at the Boots HQ in Nottingham to celebrate one of the first of them being set up right next door. Then at the end of a question and answer session with Boots employees, the PM and the DPM were asked about where we’d all be in 2015. David Cameron said in a jokey closing remark that they’d probably be having election TV leaders’ debates and that this time it might be ”a bit better natured between the two of us.” The two men then take the applause and walk off the stage … BUT Nick Clegg forgets he has his microphone on and says to David Cameron as they leave the room: ”If we keep doing this we won’t find anything to bloody disagree on in the bloody TV debates.” David Cameron laughs then Nick Clegg looks down at lapel realising, a la Gordon Brown and “bigot-gate,” that he’s forgotten to take the mike off. His press chief, Lena Pietsch, gives an anxious sideways look to Ed Lewellyn, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff. – Gary Gibbon, Channel4 News

A gaffe by Nick Clegg looks likely to fuel fears among backbench Coalition MPs about his enduring friendship with David Cameron. After a question and answer session with members of the public, the Lib Dem leader was recorded yesterday telling the Prime Minister: ‘If we keep doing this, we won’t find anything to bloody disagree on in the bloody TV debates.’ Mr Cameron laughed, before Mr Clegg realised he had left his lapel microphone on. Gordon Brown suffered a similar fate during the General Election campaign when he was recorded describing angry Labour voter Gillian Duffy as a ‘bigot’. It will intensify fears among both Lib Dem and Tory MPs that the pair’s close relationship shows they are happier with each other than with their own MPs. Some fear their partnership could even lead a so-called ‘purple plot’, with the Coalition continuing beyond this Parliament. – Daily Mail

The Labour Party last night threatened to pull the plug on three-way televised debates at the next General Election after Nick Clegg was inadvertently recorded telling David Cameron that the pair “won’t find anything to bloody disagree on”. His remarks were immediately seized on by Labour who suggested that it would be inappropriate to have a three-way televised debate as Mr Clegg was effectively now just Mr Cameron’s deputy. “What we think should happen is that David Cameron debates with Ed Miliband while Nick Clegg debates with our deputy leader Harriet Harman. Clegg’s comments have reinforced our view that the next election will offer the choice between two directions for the country: a Tory led coalition and a progressive majority represented by Labour.” He added Labour’s concerns would be raised in negotiations with the broadcasters over the next set of TV debates. – the Independent

Cameron’s broken promises

David Cameron stood accused yesterday of breaking two key election promises in the Budget. The Government is set to axe NHS funding by nearly £1billion – despite a vow to increase health spending. And millions of pensioners will lose up to £100 in winter fuel payments in a cut sneaked out in the Budget small print. An analysis by the highly-respected Institute for Fiscal Studies showed yesterday rising inflation means NHS funding will fall 0.9% over the next four years, equivalent to a cut of £900million. Chancellor George Osborne has helped to cook the books by reducing the baseline from which the Government measures health spending. But the IFS said that even with the new baseline Mr Osborne will struggle to maintain NHS spending above “zero” and was “sailing very close to the wind”. The organisation also warned public services face an extra £4billion cut due to inflation, and household incomes will fall by £1,500 over the course of the Parliament. Gemma Tetlow of the IFS said: “There is a 30% chance that further tax increases or deeper spending cuts will be needed.” Shadow Health Secretary John Healey said yesterday: “The small print of the Budget confirms David Cameron is letting the NHS down, and has broken his promise to protect the NHS. With the Office for Budget Responsibility’s new inflation forecasts, NHS England is in fact facing a real-terms cut of £1billion.” – Daily Mirror

The coalition is embroiled in a row over its health pledges after it emerged that the budget contained a cut in the NHS‘s spending power of almost £1bn.Labour accused ministers of reneging on their repeated promise to increase the NHS’s budget in real terms every year throughout this parliament. Revised upward predictions of inflation in the budget by the Office for Budget Responsibility show that the NHS in England will undergo a cut of £1bn in its spending power by 2015. It also reveals that its budget will be cut in each of the next two financial years, alleged shadow health secretary John Healey. He was supported by Professor John Appleby, chief economist at the King’s Fund, who calculated that the NHS would have £910m less to spend over that period. “It looks like the government won’t meet its pledge to give a year-on-year real rise to the NHS each year during this parliament,” he said. – the Guardian

How are you getting to the march tomorrow?

But tomorrow tens of thousands of people will come to a march and rally in London to show there is an alternative. It should be a march of the mainstream. Nurses, cleaners, care workers and council staff should be there to urge the ­Conservative-led administration to have a change of course. There are expected to be 600 coachloads, nine special trains and thousands will attend by public transport. One man is walking from Cardiff. And I will be joining them in Hyde Park to add my voice to the many. For me there is one thing that links all our concerns. It is the threat that these cuts pose to the next generation. This is what I have called the betrayal of the British Promise. If anybody wants a reason to join this Saturday’s demonstration, there are many – the need to show there is an alternative, to save our services, to show the cuts are going too deep and too fast. But I would also urge people to join us to protect the promise we in the past have made to our children. This is what Saturday should be about. Let us make Saturday a one-nation demonstration against the politics of division. – Ed Miliband, Daily Mirror

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