Wednesday News Review

Please no return to the bad old days

Several hundred people gathered near interfaces close to the Newtownards Road. There were reports that three shots had been fired and a photographer had been shot in the leg. Michael Copeland, a member of the Ulster Unionist Assembly, said missiles had been hurled between the opposing sides. Police were also attacked with petrol bombs and stones. A major riot on Monday night in which police were shot at by loyalists in Northern Ireland was blamed on the Ulster Volunteer Force yesterday, despite the paramilitary group being on ceasefire. Before last night’s violence, political leaders appealed for calm. On Monday, about 500 people were involved in disturbances when there was hand-to-hand fighting and petrol bombs were thrown. Police said there were gun shots from the republican Short Strand area, while loyalists also opened fire. UVF members were blamed for starting the violence by attacking homes in the Roman Catholic enclave. – Daily Telegraph

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have condemned the riots, as well as a separate bomb attack aimed at police in west Belfast. Mr Robinson said: “At this time when many are working hard to build a better and brighter future for all in Northern Ireland, it is disappointing and deeply concerning to see this level of violence return to our streets. We have given clear commitments to continue to deliver progress for all within the community including in those areas most at need. This type of behaviour damages the local economy and unfairly mars the reputation of the community.” Mr McGuinness said: “A small minority of individuals are clearly determined to destabilise our communities. They will not be allowed to drag us back to the past. I call on all those involved to take a step back and to remain calm. I support the efforts of community leaders on all sides who have been working on the ground to restore calm in east Belfast.” The sudden upsurge in violence is being described as the worst the city has seen in years and loyalist community workers blamed simmering tensions at the notorious sectarian interface. – Belfast Telegraph

Cameron’s tough stance in tatters

Mr Cameron’s promise of automatic six-month sentences for anyone using a knife to intimidate or threaten also falls far short of his election pledge to jail anyone caught with a blade. But there was a bigger shock buried in the fine print of the reforms as it emerged that more than 3,000 criminals and suspected offenders will avoid jail each year as part of the Conservative-led coalition’s package. About 1,300 would have been jailed on remand but will now remain at liberty until their case is tried in a bid to save money. Around 250 ex-cons who would currently be put back in jail each year for reoffending or breaking the terms of their release will also be allowed to stay at large. Up to 800 foreign criminals will be freed early or let off with a caution on the condition that they go home, raising fears they could simply slip back into the country. Mr Cameron was desperate to talk tough yesterday after an internal Downing Street poll showed that the sentencing U-turn row has destroyed public faith in the Tories’ ability to tackle crime. – Daily Mirror

Ed’s message to Murdoch

Ed Miliband has told business leaders that Labour wants a “strong relationship” with them but there must be “responsibility” on pay at the top. The Labour leader told the Times CEO Summit in London: “I want to celebrate wealth creation in this country.” But he said there was an “issue about rewards at the top” while people on lower incomes had seen wages stagnate. He also backed his shadow chancellor Ed Balls’s call for a temporary VAT cut to help boost the economy. But he said scrapping the 50p top rate of income tax – paid on earnings over £150,000 – was “not a priority for us”. Mr Miliband addressed an audience including News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch and chief executives of Goldman Sachs, Santander and Vodafone, among others. – BBC News

Labour leader Ed Miliband has called for “responsibility” on pay from those at the top of society as he addressed a summit of business leaders in London. Mr Miliband said Labour wanted a “strong relationship” with business and promised there would be “no going back to the penal tax rates of the 1970s” if he won power. But he warned that the credibility of the free enterprise system was under threat if middle and lower-income workers see their living standards stagnate while the richest continue to enjoy ever-increasing wealth. Speaking at The Times CEO Summit to an audience including News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch and chief executives of companies such as Goldman Sachs, Santander and Vodafone – as well as Lord Mandelson, who famously said New Labour was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich” – Mr Miliband warned that there was “an issue about rewards at the top” in Britain. – Daily Mirror

Labour Lords take on Clegg’s plans

Nick Clegg’s plans to create an elected House of Lords suffered a big setback last night when Labour vowed to oppose the shake-up and peers from all parties lined up to attack it. Labour was accused of playing politics as it rejected Liberal Democrat pleas to set aside the differences between the two parties to force through Mr Clegg’s proposal for the first elected peers to be chosen in 2015. The Coalition Government wants the 828-member House replaced by 240 elected members, 60 appointed crossbenchers, 12 bishops and a small number of appointed ministers. But Labour favours a 100 per cent elected second chamber. The Deputy Prime Minister has led the charge for Lords reform. Although David Cameron has backed the change, there are doubts that the Conservatives will devote the energy and Parliamentary time needed to force through Mr Clegg’s Bill before the next general election against strong opposition in both Houses of Parliament. – the Independent

Mandelson shows his support

Ed Miliband needs to show more courage as a leader if he is to unite the Labour party behind him, Peter Mandelson has suggested. Speaking at a meeting of the Labour pressure group Progress, the former first secretary of state warned his party against returning to the infighting which characterised the Labour party during the 1980s. He said: ‘We need to take a few risks; talk more directly to the country; be more innovative and courageous. Our leader is a leader of the country, not of the party’s sections and factions, and it is to the country he needs to be given the space to prove himself.” Lord Mandelson’s support comes despite his backing of David Miliband during the Labour leadership election. –

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