Friday News Review

Pension decision due

Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, tells millions of trade union members that only by agreeing to the Coalition’s new terms will they be able to keep “the best pensions available”. Writing in The Daily Telegraph, he warns that opposition to the change – that will require many in the public sector to work longer and pay more into their retirement funds – will mean a worse deal in future. “The history of reform is littered with examples of people simply denying the facts,” he writes. “Eventually reality bites. And when it does, change is urgent and uncompromising.” The Government’s offer, he says, is “by far the best that is likely to be on the table for years to come”. It will still leave them with retirement deals that are more generous and more certain than most in the private sector, he says. – Daily Telegraph

The government is to spare the lowest paid public servants from the worst of the increases in their pension contributions in a rush to avoid a mass opt-out. But the decision to protect people earning up to £18,000 from the average increase of 3.2% of their salary, made after warnings that the pension reforms could price some people out of saving for their future altogether, will mean the higher paid will pay up to 5% more. Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, will set out details of the plans to increase 6 million public sector workers’ pension payments, and will attack union leaders who have announced a joint strike on 30 June. Alexander will announce that workers earning less than £15,000 will be spared any increase and those earning less than £18,000 will have their contributions capped at 1.5%. The increases will be phased in over three years from next April to lessen the blow. Teachers, medics and local government managers could face a doubling in their contributions from next April. – the Guardian

The Falklands is an issue again

The Argentinian president has criticised David Cameron for insisting the Falkland Islands should remain a British territory. Cristina Kirchner described the prime minister as “arrogant” and said his comments were an “expression of mediocrity and almost of stupidity”. Cameron had been prompted by Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell during prime minister’s questions to remind Barack Obama that the British government would not accept any kind of negotiations over the south Atlantic islands, which Argentina and Britain fought a 10-week war over in 1982. Cameron told the Commons: “I would say this: as long as the Falkland Islands want to be sovereign British territory, they should remain sovereign British territory – full stop, end of story.” In her criticism of his comments, Kirchner said that Britain “continues to be a crude colonial power in decline”. She has insisted that the two countries should negotiate over the islands, which have been a British territory since 1833. The 1982 conflict cost the lives of 649 Argentinian and 255 British troops. – the Guardian

Clegg in electoral scrap

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg Thursday shrugged off the drubbing his party has received since joining the Conservatives in government, and said the British tradition of two-party politics was over. The Lib Dems have been battered by accusations they have compromised their principles to join the Conservatives in power after last year’s general election, and Clegg in particular has seen his star plummet in opinion polls. The deputy prime minister has been excoriated for going back on his election pledge to abolish university tuition fees, one of several compromises he says were necessary to achieve the coalition’s aim of eliminating Britain’s budget deficit. The coalition has made eliminating the deficit, which had topped 10 percent of national output, by the end of the current of the current parliament in 2015 a key pledge, and Clegg said his party would be rewarded in future. – Reuters

Many angry ex-Liberal Democrat voters in the North will not return to supporting the party, Mr Clegg admitted. The deputy prime minister acknowledged that some voters were so disillusioned – over the decision to enter coalition with the Conservatives – that his party had lost them for good. That collapse in support has been most severe in Northern areas such as Liverpool, where lingering anti-Tory sentiment is most common. But Mr Clegg insisted his party would still be a fighting force at the 2015 election, vowing: “I think we are going to have to get used to coalition.” He said: “Of course some people who used to vote for us absolutely hate the fact that we are in coalition with the Conservatives. As, by the way, if we had gone into coalition with Labour, a whole lot of people who had voted for us would absolutely hate that we had gone into coalition with Labour. “Of course. these people have peeled away – and many of them might not come back.” However, Mr Clegg said he was “relishing” the chance to present his party as one that had helped rescue Britain from economic disaster. – Liverpool Daily Post

Brothers partying together, whatever next…

The nation’s most visible sibling rivalry drifted into public view when Ed and David Miliband were seen together at a party. The brothers joined guests at a pub in Pimlico, central London, to celebrate a friend’s birthday. They have rarely been seen together since Ed unexpectedly pipped his older brother to the Labour party’s top job last year. Their joint appearance seemed designed to scotch rumours that David might try to oust his sibling, who has put in a poor political performance in recent weeks. A party source insisted the pair remained ‘brothers first and politicians second’. Speculation of a continuing rift between the brothers was fuelled at the weekend by claims in an unauthorised biography that the pair were barely on speaking terms. The rift allegations came amid reports of unrest among Labour MPs about Ed Miliband’s performance, which he has dismissed as ‘Westminster tittle tattle’. – Daily Mail

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