Thursday News Review

Cameron adds fuel to the fire

David Cameron will today make the provocative claim that communities across Britain are being damaged by the record levels of immigration of the last decade. He will accuse some new arrivals of not wanting to integrate with their neighbours, leaving some areas suffering “discomfort and disjointedness” following dramatic population shifts. He will also risk accusations that he is inflaming tensions over race in a local council elections campaign speech asserting that immigration has been too high for too long.  But an unrepentant Mr Cameron will insist he is right to speak out on an issue that concerns millions of people – and accuse the last Labour government of fuelling support for the British National Party by refusing to address popular concerns on the subject. – the Independent

And in words that will alarm many of his Lib Dem partners he will claim many immigrants don’t want to fit in – accusing them of fuelling social pressures and dividing communities. He will say: “It has placed real pressures on communities up and down the country. “Not just pressures on school, housing and healthcare – though those have been serious – but social pressures too. When there have been significant numbers of new people arriving in neighbourhoods, perhaps not able to speak the same language as those living there, on occasions not really wanting or even willing to integrate, that has created a kind of discomfort and disjointedness in some neighbourhoods.” He will warn that the Government will never be able to properly control immigration without first tackling welfare dependency. He describes them as “two sides of the same coin”. – the Mirror

The Downing Street press team will no doubt know what they were doing, and the type of coverage that they were aiming to achieve, so there may be a view that there are short-term political benefits to this – the Telegraph reports says the timing of the speech is influenced by wanting a popular theme for the local elections, and the well informed Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome also emphasises tensions with the Tory grassroots and right-wing presss seeing this as an “attempt to steady a panicking ship with a tough speech on immigration” as the local campaigning begins, also tweeting: Increasingly nervous about core Tory vote, Cameron makes immigration speech. – Next Left

How long till Lansley’s P45 arrives?

Health secretary Andrew Lansley apologised to nurses yesterday after they backed a vote of no-confidence in his controversial NHS reforms. Almost 99 per cent of delegates at the Royal College of Nursing said they did not support the Health Secretary – the first time such a motion has ever been passed against a minister. Mr Lansley later said sorry to the nurses several times and admitted the no confidence vote was a ‘rebuke’. It is the latest blow for the beleaguered Health Secretary, whose plans to scrap Primary Care Trusts and give GPs greater control of NHS cash have come under sustained attack from leading doctors, MPs and even members of the Coalition. – Daily Mail

Andrew Lansley coupled an apology to Britain’s nurses for failing to explain his health reforms with an impassioned statement of his commitment to the NHS. Hours after the Royal College of Nursing voted 99% in favour of a motion of no confidence in him at the RCN congress in Liverpool, the health secretary told nurses that he would have voted with them if he thought his plans would undermine the health service. The health secretary sought to underline his commitment by making clear that his only ambition in politics is to serve as health secretary. He said he had told the prime minister of this “publicly and privately”. Downing Street fears that Lansley’s failure to sell the reforms, which are designed to transfer commissioning powers from Primary Care Trusts to new GP-led consortiums by 2013, is jeopardising years of work in neutralising the NHS as an issue. Clegg must secure major changes to the bill to win over his party, which voted against the reforms at its spring conference last week. – the Guardian

Ed plots to kill off NHS reforms in the Lords

Labour has held secret talks with independent peers in a bid to ‘kill’ the Coalition’s controversial health reforms in the House of Lords, Ed Miliband revealed yesterday. The Labour leader said shadow health secretary John Healey had held a series of joint briefings with crossbench peers in recent weeks in a bid to sabotage the Health Bill when it arrives in the Lords in the summer. The Government does not have a majority in the House of Lords and the crossbenchers could play a key role in watering down the planned reforms. Some Coalition peers, including senior Lib Dem Shirley Williams and former Tory Party chairman Norman Tebbit, have also voiced serious concerns about the health plans. Mr Miliband said the legislation was already in ‘intensive care’ and now needed to be ‘killed off’. He added: ‘The answer to a bad Bill is not to slow it down but to junk it.’ – Daily Mail

Osborne wades in to the AV battle

The chancellor has launched an extraordinary attack on the Yes to AV campaign, highlighting alleged conflicts of interests in its funding.  George Osborne’s accusations are just the latest dispute in an increasingly bitter and bad-tempered campaign which has seen both camps fling insults and accusations of assisting the far-right.  “What really stinks is actually one of the ways the Yes campaign is funded,” Mr Osborne told the Daily Mail. The Electoral Reform Society, which is actually running some of the referendum ballots, and is being paid to do that by the taxpayer, stands to benefit if AV comes in. That organisation, the Electoral Reform Society, part of it is a company that makes money – is funding the Yes campaign. That stinks frankly and is exactly the sort of dodgy, behind the scenes shenanigans that people don’t like about politics.” –

George Osborne was at the centre of a legal row last night after his attack on voting reform backfired. The Chancellor was accused of demeaning his position, and lawyers were called in to separate the opposing sides in the impending referendum on changing how MPs are elected. Mr Osborne claimed that the Yes campaign to scrap the first-past-the-post voting system was involved in “dodgy shenanigans” in funding – raising the temperature in an increasingly acrimonious contest. Electoral reformers called in solicitors to try to stop the dispute escalating any further, ahead of the 5 May ballot on whether to switch to the alternative vote for Westminster elections. The Yes campaign has pointed to the many wealthy Conservatives handing large sums to the opponents of electoral reform. Backed by Mr Osborne, No to AV countered by alleging that the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), which has given £1.1m to the pro-AV campaign, faced a financial conflict of interest in pressing for a Yes vote. No to AV claimed that the society and its subsidiaries had received more than £15m in contracts from the public purse over the past three years. – the Independent

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