Friday News Review

Government fails to get to grip on immigration

Labour have hit out at the Government over its failure to clear a backlog of asylum applications. Shadow Immigration Minister Gerry Sutcliffe told BBC News: “This Government came into power saying they were going to deal with immigration but they’ve cut the resources, cut the budget… The rhetoric doesn’t fit the reality.” Immigration minister Damian Green denied there was an “amnesty” on asylum seekers, saying: “There’s absolutely no amnesty. There’s been no change in policy – we look at each case on its merits and indeed the number of people applying for asylum is at a 20-year low at the moment.” The Home Affairs Select Committee said so many people had been granted leave to remain in the UK that it “amounts to an amnesty”. Figures show that only 9% of the 403,500 cases processed by the UK Border Agency resulted in removal, with 40% given leave to stay. – Politics Home

Government criticised over arts funding

The former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion accused ministers of adopting a “shoot first, aim later” policy towards cutting the arts, singling out Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Arts minister Ed Vaizey. “Jeremy Hunt… from the word go has seemed more determined to get into George Osborne’s good books as a macho money saver and quango-burner than to serve his sector well,” he said in the annual Romanes lecture at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre. “Ed Vaizey… does seem to have a genuine love of the arts but no ideas about how to defend them in difficult times.” He added that he could not recall “a single remark has ever been uttered about the arts and humanities by our Prime Minister and his deputy”. The result was wholesale closure of libraries, the axeing of bodies like the Film Council and the museum, Libraries and Archives Council and the slashing of funds to the Arts Council (£118 million had been cut from its budget). In addition, music services to schools had been cut by local authorities and Education Secretary Michael Gove was introducing a new English Baccalaureate certificate for which a\n arts GCSE would not qualify. – the Independent

Time for Labour to rethink aid policy

Little has emerged from the Labour party on international development in its first year of opposition, which is understandable given the priorities it is facing and the fact the shadow team has only been in place for six months. What we have heard has centred on a campaign to keep to the0.7% pledge, and a focus on women’s rights. All good, but perhaps a little conservative for a party expected to lead the agenda on poverty and international development. The world has changed beyond recognition, and the Labour opposition’s international development policy needs to change too. It will be reviewed as part of Ed Miliband’s comprehensive rethink of Labour policy. During his leadership bid, Miliband said the biggest question for Britain for the next decade is “whether we head towards an increasingly US-style capitalism – more unequal, more brutish, more unjust – or whether we can build a different model, a capitalism that works for people and not the other way around”. That’s a good question, but not just for Britain, for the rest of the world as well. Unfortunately, attempts to set out a distinctive Labour vision for international development are hampered by the desire of the main parties to project unity on major issues of development. – the Guardian

Council outsourcing

Union leaders have attacked a Tory-led council over its involvement in the “export” of up to 100 jobs to India, amid warnings that the move could be “the tip of the iceberg” that could see thousands of taxpayer-funded jobs go overseas. Unite claimed Birmingham city council, a Conservative-Liberal Democrat run authority led by the Conservative Mike Whitby, is the first town hall in the country involved in plans to move jobs to India for work paid for by taxpayers. A redundancy notice for 70 IT posts has already been served. Officials said they feared more council jobs in Birmingham and other local authorities could also go abroad as private companies delivering public services prepare to go to “any length” to cut costs for profit. Another union cited jobs being “shipped out” as it launched a strike ballot of nearly 10,000 members at Birmingham city council over job cuts, workers’ pay and conditions. Unison is balloting against plans known as the Birmingham contract, which it claims breaks away from nationally agreed terms and conditions, abolishes payments for weekend and out-of-hours working and weakens workers’ rights in grievances and disciplinaries. – the Guardian

And finally…

In what could be the plot of one her bestselling “chick lit” novels, Louise Bagshawe, the Tory MP, has married an American rock promoter 19 years her senior during the parliamentary recess. The wedding in New York was kept secret even from her children. “I am very happy,” she tells Mandrake. “It was a small, private ceremony in Manhattan and I’m back at work next Tuesday.” Bagshawe, who captured Crosby for the Tories last year, has married Peter Mensch, 58, who manages rock bands including Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Snow Patrol. “It will have to be a long-distance relationship to start with,” says the MP, who has homes in London and Northamptonshire, while her husband lives in New York. “Our work is important to both of us, but we will get together as often as we can. Peter does a lot of business in London.” Bagshawe, whose books include PassionGlitz and Career Girls, first met Mensch, a divorced father of teenaged children, in Oxford when she worked in the record business. – the Telegraph

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