Wednesday News Review

Creep and compromise

After a day-long conference in London on how to move forward the political process in Libya, other developments included: An admission the Coalition did not yet fully know who made up the opposition, which came after Nato said American intelligence had shown “flickers” of al Qaeda among the rebels; A suggestion the Coalition would be prepared to see Colonel Gaddafi go into exile if a country was willing to take him; A claim by the Italians that several nations were working on a deal involving a ceasefire, exile for Gaddafi and a talks framework between Libya’s tribal leaders and opposition figures; Nick Clegg warning about the “danger of overreaching” during a speech in Mexico, but stressing liberal interventionism must be upheld. – Daily Herald

David Cameron today promised a “new beginning for Libya” was within sight as Britain held open the door for Colonel Gaddafi to flee into exile. He vowed that the UK and other allies would not abandon the people rising up against the dictator. Foreign Secretary William Hague had earlier made it clear that Britain may be willing to allow Gaddafi to flee into exile. Piling the pressure on the dictator, America and Britain also refused to rule out arming the rebels. Mr Hague signalled that Britain may be willing to allow the tyrant to escape to a safe haven as part of a deal to end the bloodshed. “We are not in control of where he might go. I am not going to choose Colonel Gaddafi’s retirement home,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. Italy has already proposed an exit route into exile for Gaddafi – and Turkey has offered to act as a mediator to end the conflict. – Evening Standard

Police cuts hit the frontline of politics

About two-thirds of the police workforce in England and Wales should be classed as involved in the “frontline” and will be very hard to retain in the face of 20% cuts, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) warns. In the first official attempt to define what constitutes the frontline in policing, the HMIC study says that 68% of police officers and civilian staff are involved either in everyday “visible” contact with the public or in specialist roles intervening directly to keep people safe and enforce the law. HMIC says in its report, Demanding Times, that it will be a big challenge to make cuts without damaging the frontline.”Even if you imagine that the back office and middle office are ripe for reform, you have only got one third of them to do it with,” said O’Connor, implying the rest were off-limits as frontline roles. “The cuts across England and Wales do not cut the same way for every force. For some it is a much bigger challenge. It remains difficult for the frontline to remain in its current form for a number of forces. In its present form it looks very hard to retain.” – the Guardian

Police officers at one of the largest forces in the country have reacted with fury after being made to retire from their posts because of funding cuts. West Midlands police have told Sergeant Dave Hewitt, Police Constable Ian Rees, and detective constables Tony Fisher and Tim Kennedy they have to go. The so-called A19 rule allows for officers who have notched up at least 30 years pensionable service to be pushed out even if they want to stay on. None of the officers wanted to retire but are being given no choice as the force battles to make necessary savings. The Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington, Jack Dromey, accused the Government of putting chief constables in an ‘impossible position’ which had resulted in the loss of some of the best and most experienced officers. He said: ‘By front-loading 20 per cent cuts to the police budget, the frontline is being hit hard and it’s clear that the A19 forced retirements are taking police off our streets. The Government should think again.’ – Daily Mail

AV fight heats up

Tortuous efforts to set up a cross-party platform in favour of the alternative vote have finally borne fruit with Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat president, and Caroline Lucas, the Green party leader, joining forces to back reform. Miliband insisted that voters should not decide which way to vote based on particular personalities. He said, it is not about Nick Clegg, it is about changing your voting system, and not a stick with which to beat the government. In his speech, Miliband said that despite the current Lib Dem coalition with the Conservatives, he still believed that AV would help progressive centre-left parties to “build bridges not barriers. The tragedy for progressive politics in Britain has been that division on the centre and left has handed a united right victory after victory,” – the Guardian

The Yes campaign handed its £4m advertising brief to Iris, a relatively young London agency led by Paul Bainsfair, one of the best-known figures in British advertising. Iris fought off competition from better-known agencies Mother and Leagas Delaney to win the business. Bainsfair is a former chairman of TBWA and managing director of Saatchi & Saatchi in its Eighties heyday when it represented the Tories. In the No corner is the award-winning Edinburgh advertising agency Family, which has been heavily involved in political work north of the border and includes the SNP and the Scottish Government among its client roster. Controversially, the No campaign has already published advertisements showing a screaming, new-born baby, with the message: “She needs a maternity unit NOT an alternative voting system.” The image was accompanied by the line: “Say No to spending £250m on AV.” The No campaign has hired a separate agency, Message Space, a London-based digital specialist which has previously worked with all three of the main political parties and the Electoral Reform Society. Closer to Referendum Day the No campaign will begin an electronic billboard campaign that will seek to emulate the success of the “My David Cameron” digital posters, where internet users were encouraged to mock the Conservative leader by creating their own versions of official posters. – the Independent

Would you still join the ‘refounded’ party?

Why bother spending £41 to join Labour? Thousands of members will wonder when Peter Hain wants to give the public free votes in the party. So sly Lib Dems could register gratis as supporters to decide policy. Sneaky Tories sign up for nothing to pick the leader and Westminster candidates. While £41 buys the Labour faithful an invitation to clap like performing seals when Edward Miliband yawns. In other words, there’d be little or no reason to fork out. Labour, like all political parties, needs to extend involvement. But don’t take for granted long-suffering stalwarts who deliver leaflets, knock on doors and keep the party alive. Young Miliband’s picking a ¬needless fight if he insults loyal members and treats steadfast unions like lepers. The lifeblood of Labour is its members and they deserve to be heard clearly, not muted or ignored. – Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror

Brown’s obsession

Gordon Brown was so “obsessed” with trying to win the support of Rupert Murdoch while he was Prime Minister that he drew up his tax policies to appeal to the media magnate, according to a book published tomorrow. Lance Price, who was Alastair Campbell’s deputy at Downing Street during Tony Blair’s first term, discloses Mr Brown’s remarkable preoccupation with Mr Murdoch in a new edition of his book “Where Power Lies” published tomorrow. It says Mr Brown’s disastrous decision to abolish the 10p starting rate of tax, which alienated many working class Labour supporters, stemmed from his desire to pander to Mr Murdoch. The money saved was used to cut the basic rate from 22p to 20p in the pound, and Mr Brown insisted there would be no losers. The book reveals that No 10 aides would take bets on how long it would take Mr Brown to mention the Murdoch empire at meetings on unrelated subjects – often just a few minutes. “He was obsessed with News International, completely obsessed,” said Patrick Loughran, a former Downing Street aide who was special adviser to Lord Mandelson. “We would go into meetings on election strategy or the pre-Budget report or some big announcement we were doing and within a minute Gordon would turn it into News International and Rebekah Brooks [the company’s chief executive]. He was absolutely obsessed that it was a News International conspiracy and they were in bed with the Tories.” In the run-up to last year’s election, Mr Brown decided to appoint his former press secretary Charlie Whelan as Labour’s director of communications. But the move was blocked by Lord Mandelson, an old enemy of Mr Whelan. “Charlie wanted to do it and Gordon wanted him but Peter vetoed it,” Mr Loughran told Price. – the Independent

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