Wednesday News Review

A year on

Nick Clegg will risk the wrath of Coalition colleagues by boasting that the Liberal Democrats have blocked a string of flagship Conservative pledges. In a transparent attempt to cheer his battered troops as the Government marks its one-year anniversary, the Deputy Prime Minister will describe the union as one of ‘necessity, not of conviction’. He will reel off a list of Tory manifesto promises – including scrapping the Human Rights Act, replacing Trident in this Parliament, cutting inheritance tax and building more prisons – that have been prevented by the Lib Dems. ‘None of these things has happened,’ the Lib Dem leader will say. ‘They haven’t happened because the Conservatives are not governing as a majority party. They are in a coalition, and coalition requires compromise.’ His remarks reflect intense Lib Dem frustration that they are being punished by voters for ripping up their pledge to scrap university tuition fees, while Tory support has held firm despite their failure to deliver key promises. – Daily Mail

In a speech later today, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg will review the first year of the coalition Government and promise a clear party identity, which he is calling “muscular liberalism”. The Deputy Prime Minister will say he understands the anger over tuition fees, but will again repeat his point that the Lib Dems did not win the election. He will explain that with just 8% of the MPs in the Commons, they cannot deliver on all parts of their manifesto – but in a coalition, neither can the Tories. Mr Clegg believes the Liberal Democrats need to be seen as a distinctive voice within the coalition Government. Mr Clegg claims the Lib Dems are “punching well above our weight” on policy, delivering 75% of their manifesto promises, but he wants his party to be more assertive over the next year. “You will see a strong liberal identity in a strong coalition Government. You might even call it muscular liberalism,” he will say. – Sky News

What a U-turn

Samuel Beckett was once asked why he quit his job as a university lecturer teaching the cream of Irish society. Indeed, the rich and the thick, was his riposte. The Tory minister, David Willetts, was forced into an embarrassing climbdown before the House of Commons yesterday after suggestions that he wanted to introduce a two-tier system in English universities which would apparently favour those with money over those with academic ability. Politicians who fly kites take the risk that they might be struck by lightning. That was what happened yesterday to Mr Willetts. By mid-morning he was back-pedalling furiously on an idea that critics portrayed as a daddy’s chequebook exercise in old-style Tory privilege. In Parliament, Mr Willetts was forced to state categorically that the scheme to allow businesses and charities to fund extra places would not allow rich students unfair access. Public schools, many of which have charitable status, would not be able to buy places, he promised, but he failed to dispel fears that family trust funds and the old boy network would buy preference in a system where almost a third of applicants now fail to secure a university place. – the Independent

It has to go down as one of the fastest U-turns in ­the history of politics… Blundering David Willetts dropped plans to let rich students buy a place at university just four hours after he announced them. The Universities and Science minister had suggested those from well-off families should be treated like foreign applicants who pay up to £28,000 a year for places. But critics immediately slammed the idea, warning it would create the sort of elitist higher education system campaigners have fought for decades to abolish. Mr Willetts tried to justify the ­ludicrous idea at 10am by claiming it would free up more college spots for poorer children as the wealthy would not count as part of the strict quota of students because they would pay their own costs in full. But by 2.05pm, he was forced into a humiliating climbdown after his announcement sparked a furious backlash. David Cameron had angrily slapped down the minister, sparking fresh questions about his volatile temper. The university farce is just the latest in a long line of Coalition U-turns that also includes ­flogging off forests, granting rape-suspect anonymity, Mr Cameron’s vanity photographer and cutting school sport. – Daily Mirror

MPs to review Scottish defeat

Labour leader Ed Miliband has moved to exert his authority over the party in Scotland following the disastrous Holyrood election campaign. At a meeting of Labour MPs, Mr Miliband vowed “never again” to allow them to be cut out of a Scottish campaign. The Labour leader has also ordered a review panel, to be led by former Scottish secretary Jim Murphy MP and Edinburgh MSP Sarah Boyack, to produce an interim report by June on the future for the party. The review will also involve Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary, and shadow Scottish secretary Ann McKechin. The move by Mr Miliband suggests a reversal of a leadership campaign promise to allow the Holyrood party to run itself without Westminster interfering. But it comes as the Labour leader has to explain to his own internal critics how the party lost so heavily in Scotland. – the Scotsman

Tributes pour in

Westminster was in mourning at the sudden death of Labour MP David Cairns, aged just 44, from acute pancreatitis. Tributes poured in to Inverclyde MP, a former Catholic priest, whom party leader Ed Miliband said would be “missed beyond measure”. His death leaves Labour facing a by-election battle against the resurgent Scottish Nationalists in what was one of their safest seats. Popular Mr Cairns won in May 2010 with a huge 14,416 majority – but the same area in last week’s Scottish elections saw Labour win by a wafer thin 1.8 per cent, or 500 votes. Mr Cairns leaves behind his partner Dermot, father John and brother Billy. “David will be missed beyond measure as a former minister, as an MP, as a friend and a colleague by many people,” said Mr Miliband. Former prime minister Tony Blair added: “David was, quite simply, a good man, with time for everyone and a wonderful sense of humour, which made him a delight to be around.” To enable him to enter the Commons,Parliament had to reverse a law dating back to the 19th century which banned former Catholic priests from taking up a seat. – Evening Standard


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2 Responses to “Wednesday News Review”

  1. Is it not Wednesday?

  2. Editor says:

    Yes, it is Wednesday. The headline initially said Thursday. It was a mistake. We have changed it now.

    Well spotted. You win the prize for most (only) observant reader. 🙂

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