Wednesday News Review

Forces “capability gap” revealed by minister

Armed forces minister Nick Harvey has admitted that the armed forces face “capability gaps” in the medium term due to stringent cuts. His remarks came after Defence Secretary Liam Fox denied that cuts to the armed forces would lessen Britain’s influence in the world. The Defence Select Committee warned that politicians risked “failing” the military. In a blow to David Cameron, the committee said it rejected the Prime Minister’s assurance that Britain retained a “full spectrum” defence capability. Committee Chair James Arbuthnot said that there were “real worries” that cuts jeopardise Britain’s international influence, and claimed that Coalition plans were not in line with promises made in opposition to “bring our resources in line with our commitments”. Dr Fox said that the cuts were necessary to ensure future investment. – PoliticsHome

The cuts also jeopardise national security and reduce the country’s international influence, they say. The loss of aircraft carriers, planes and 30,000 front-line troops has meant the Armed Forces are struggling to do “all that is asked of them”, a critical report finds. There is “mounting concern” that the military has fallen below the “minimum utility” needed to conduct present and future operations, says the defence select committee. The MPs suggest that the Government sacrificed national security to make savings. In a personal attack on David Cameron, they dispute the Prime Minister’s claim that the military could still carry out the “full spectrum” of warfare after last year’s defence review. – the Telegraph

It remains unclear as to how the SDSR’s seven military tasks and the Defence Planning Assumptions that underpin them can be aligned with decisions such as those on the Aircraft Carriers and Nimrod MRA . Quite clearly the need for savings over-rode the capability requirements of the Armed Forces. The justification, with some reason, was that our primary strategic security threat is the need to deliver the financial security of our country –without fixing the deficit we wouldn’t have a country worth saving.  Nevertheless, notwithstanding the tough decisions made in the SDSR, if we are not to be cut short we need to see greater clarity on how the gap will be filled in the next spending period and how the capabilities recently lost will be regenerated. – ConservativeHome

Ed goes to war

Ed Miliband is facing a tense battle with trade union leaders after tabling plans to lessen their influence within the Labour party, by reducing their voting power at party conference to below 50% and diluting their sway over leadership elections. The move, revealed to the Guardian by union sources, is part of a plan to democratise the party and make union general secretaries more accountable. It will face stiff opposition because unions see it as an attempt to weaken their historic links to Labour. Discussions about the proposals, part of the Refounding Labour project, will come to a head in the next month before the annual party conference opens in Liverpool on 25 September. The plans are likely to especially rankle with unions since it was their support that helped the younger Miliband defeat his brother David in the Labour leadership election. Miliband has told the unions that he is not going to back down on his plans to make the party more democratic, and maintains that to do so will require changes to Labour’s internal democracy and the role that unions play. – the Guardian

The Labour leader is expected to deliver an ultimatum to union general secretaries, telling them they will have less sway in leadership elections and at the party conference. The move is part of Mr Miliband’s drive to make the party more democratic and union leaders more accountable, and will come to a head at the Party conference next month. However, it is likely to be met with fierce opposition from the unions who will see it as an attempt to diminish their historic links to the party. It will also be seen as a betrayal as it was the unions that secured Mr Miliband’s victory over his brother David in the Labour leadership race. Under the plans, union leaders would have their voting power at the Labour conference cut down to less than 50 per cent. – the Telegraph

Watson – the man, the myth, the legend

A month ago, Tom Watson received word that the Guardian was about to expose the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone by the News of the World. With 72 hours to go, he cleared his diary; a few days later, he was averaging three hours sleep a night, as he and his staff picked through leaked documents, newspaper archives, personal testimony from phone-hacking victims, and more. As the MP who had been obsessively trying to cut through the murk surrounding News International for two years, he well knew that the most dramatic chapter in the two-year phone-hacking saga had arrived – and the imperative now was to work harder than ever. So how have the last few weeks been? “Sleep-deprived, totally crazy,” he says, sitting in his parliamentary office during what seems to be a rare moment of calm. “But also, there’s been a great sense of relief. I think I said something to David Cameron about a month before: that there were powerful forces trying to cover this story up. At some points over the last two years, I thought it might blow. But I’ve also thought that the lid could be welded back on. But when Nick Davies broke the Milly Dowler story, that was the point where I knew they’d never get the lid back on.” – the Guardian

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