Sunday News Review

Clegg and Cameron’s choreographed war

Nick Clegg is spoiling for a fight with just about everyone – David Cameron, Andrew Lansley, all Tories, Ed Miliband, John Reid, universities, the Daily Mail, Germany, even his own MPs. Rivals will dismiss this as mere pre-election posturing: creating false dividing lines in a desperate attempt to avert a bloodbath in town halls the length of the country. But it seems to go deeper than that. After he has attacked in all but name by every Tory from the PM down, the rules of engagement have changed. Aides say Clegg has woken up to pleas from his party to make clear the Liberal Democrat influence in government, even if that means rocking the coalition boat. As a final effort to save his own skin, it could be too late. But he is going down fighting. The main battleground is over his attempt to ditch first past the post for the alternative vote in 5 May’s referendum. The stakes are high, which explains the escalation of tensions at the heart of government. The Prime Minister, in particular, gets both barrels: accused of telling “lies”, using big Tory money to fund “the very nastiest reactionary politics”. – the Independent

The criticism is seen by some in Westminster as an attempt by the Liberal Democrats to create clear dividing lines between the Lib Dems and the Tories in the run-up to the local elections. It follows yesterday’s public spat between Cameron and Clegg over internships which centred on comments made in an interview in which the prime minister admitted to recently giving work experience to a neighbour’s son. Cameron said he was “very relaxed” about the situation and that he would continue to help friends by offering their children internships. The remarks appeared to contradict a policy unveiled by Clegg earlier this month that seeks to reduce the number of unpaid internships, described by the deputy prime minister as a bar on social mobility. Yesterday, Clegg admitted he disagreed with Cameron. “I’m not relaxed about this at all,” he said. “It just can’t be right that plum internships are decided by who you know, not what you know.” – the Observer

Cameron’s new lords cost tax payer £18.25million a year

DAVID Cameron has broken his pledge to slash the cost of politics by packing the House of Lords with his cronies. The PM vowed the Coalition would bring in a plan to save £12million a year by cutting the number of MPs from 650 to 600 at the next election. But Mr Cameron’s move to appoint 117 new peers since the last General Election a year ago will cost taxpayers a staggering £18.25million a year – £6.25million a year more than his promised savings. Each new peer will cost an average of £156,000 a year, according to figures ­released by the House of Lords. The total cost of the 117 new peers will land ­taxpayers with an extra bill of at least £91million over a five-year ­Parliament. Labour MP Thomas Docherty said: “David Cameron said he wanted to cut the cost of politics. But, by creating a record number of new peers, he’s the one making the cost of politics go up.” – the Sunday Mirror

David Cameron has broken his manifesto promise to cut the cost of politics by creating an unprecedented number of peerages, Labour claimed last night. New figures show that the taxpayer will have to foot the £6m-plus balance from the creation of 117 new peers by the Prime Minister since the election. In the Conservative manifesto last year, Mr Cameron promised to slash the number of MPs from 650 to 600, saving £12m a year. But the cost of swelling ranks in the House of Lords – at £156,000 per member – was £18.25m, more than £6m more. A report last week claimed that Mr Cameron’s decision to elevate 117 people to the Lords, more than any other PM in his first year, had led to a cramped upper chamber, with 792 peers. No 10 indicated he will continue to create peerages to redress the balance in the Lords, where Labour is the main party. – the Independent

Mandelson says ‘Yes’

The ruthless and increasingly shrill determination they have shown in protecting their party interest in the AV campaign is part of a wider ambition to rebuild the same foundations for electoral success in this century that saw them dominate the last. I do not criticise them for it. Long-term majority Conservative government is their project and it will be greatly emboldened by a no vote on 5 May.  Equally, a yes vote would greatly undermine Cameron and spark a rupture in his party. The strains are already starting to show and we need to understand what’s going on. Cameron is fighting to retain the long-term advantage of a split between the progressive parties. But at the same time he is fighting to retain the unity of his party and his job. That’s why we have seen his more rightwing crowd-pleasing interventions of late. If he lost the referendum, a sin the Tory right would not forgive, it could fatally weaken and shatter his leadership. So progressives must wake up, including Liberal Democrats who need to reassert their own interests and self-confidence, just as their coalition partners are doing. Labour needs to recover the hunger we had in the 1990s, born from years in the wilderness. That means, above all, doing the hard work to regain trust in our capacity to manage the economy and public finances responsibly. – the Observer

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