Tuesday News Review

13/09/2011, 07:48:54 AM

Osborne-Coulson relationship under spotlight

George Osborne faces questions over his relationship with Andy Coulson after it was suggested that he might have helped the former editor to get a job as David Cameron’s media adviser because he owed him “a favour”. A solicitor representing victims of phone hacking by the News of the World during Mr Coulson’s time as editor suggested Mr Osborne was “almost indebted” to Mr Coulson because of the way the newspaper had covered allegations made by a prostitute that the MP had taken cocaine with her. Mark Lewis said the newspaper had put “a gloss” on its reporting of Natalie Rowe’s claims that the Chancellor took the class A drug in the early 1990s, before he became an MP. “Andy Coulson had done George Osborne a favour,” he said. “Perhaps it was time for George Osborne to reciprocate and do a favour back.” The Chancellor’s aides yesterday dismissed any suggestion that Mr Osborne had felt obliged to Mr Coulson, and also denied a series of other lurid allegations made by Miss Rowe in an interview with Australia’s ABC television network. – the Telegraph

Boundary changes cause panic

George Osborne, Ed Balls and Vince Cable are among the most senior MPs to be hit by boundary changes, according to leaked reports of the proposals. Chancellor George Osborne’s Tatton seat is abolished, with many wards moving into Northwich constituency. Much of the safe Twickenham constituency of Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable is merged with the Richmond wards of Zac Goldsmith’s Richmond Park – with remaining wards going to a new Teddington and Hanworth seat, as Feltham and Heston is abolished. Justice Secretary Ken Clarke’s Rushcliffe constituency is scrapped, part of it joining a new marginal seat of Nottingham South and West Bridgford, which could have strong potential for the Conservatives. The majority of Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam moves to a new Sheffield West and Penistone seat, which is still likely to be notionally Liberal Democrat. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls sees his constituency split between new Leeds South West & Morley and Leeds South & Outwood seats. Former First Secretary to the Treasury, Liam Byrne, sees his Birmingham Hodge Hill seat split between Birmingham Ladywood, Birmingham Yardley and Meriden. – PoliticsHome

Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, will face a significant change in his Eastleigh seat, raising questions about his future in the Commons. Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, Steve Webb, the pensions minister, and Norman Baker, a transport minister, could also come under threat from moves to cut the number of MPs. The Coalition has promised to reduce the number of Commons seats from 650 to 600 in 2015, as part of a pledge to “cut the cost of politics”. Ministers say the changes will save £12?million a year and make the Commons fairer by standardizing the size of constituencies, giving them all around 75,000 voters. The changes will force some sitting MPs to fight one another for newly created constituencies. – the Telegraph

A series of clashes between high-profile MPs from the main political parties will take place at the next general election, after the boundary review unveiled bigger than expected changes to England’s parliamentary constituencies. As anxious Conservatives warned their whips on Monday night of a rebellion against the changes, which will have to be approved by the Commons, MPs across the house were ready for bruising battles. Vince Cable leads a list of senior Liberal Democrat MPs who face major changes to their constituencies. Large chunks of Cable’s Twickenham will be joined with Richmond, setting up a possible clash at the election between the business secretary and Zac Goldsmith, Tory MP for Richmond Park. Cable may decide to stand in the new seat of Teddington and Hanworth which takes in much of his old seat of Twickenham. – the Guardian

Miliband to confront the TUC

The Labour leader Ed Miliband will on Tuesday urge union leaders not to rush into premature strikes over government plans to cut their members’ pensions, as he warns unions in the private sector they risk irrelevance unless they can recruit more members. His remarks in a speech to the TUC annual conference in London will anger some leaders of public sector unions not affiliated to the party, following his disavowal of the strike action they mounted in June. Miliband knows he faces an acutely difficult political challenge if he disowns strike ballots organised by the main unions affiliated to the party such as Unite and Unison. He is already locked in talks on reforming the union role inside the party, which are due to come to a head next week. Those big unions are likely to call ballots on industrial action if talks with government fail at the end of next month. Miliband will defend Labour’s historic link with the unions, saying: “Of course, there are times when you and I will disagree. You will speak your mind. And so will I.” He will claim the union party link “is secure enough, mature enough, to deal with disagreement”. – the Guardian

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Sunday News Review

11/09/2011, 06:33:19 AM

10 years on

On this 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of ­September 11, 2001, we remember that 9/11 was not only an attack on the United States, it was an attack on the world and on the humanity and hopes that we share. We remember that among the nearly 3,000 innocent people lost that day were hundreds of citizens from more than 90 nations, including 67 from the United Kingdom. They were men and women, young and old, of many races and faiths. On this solemn anniversary we join with their families and nations in honouring their memory. We remember with gratitude how 10 years ago the world came together as one. Around the UK, entire cities came to a standstill for moments of silence. People offered their prayers in churches, mosques, ­synagogues and other places of worship. And we in the United States will never forget how the people of Britain stood with us in ­solidarity in candlelight vigils and among the seas of flowers placed at our embassy in London. We are touched that the UK will honour the victims again today – including by breaking with protocol and flying the Union Flag at half-mast at its ­embassy and consulates in the United States. – Barack Obama, the Mirror

Manhattan is always a hectic place. It is frequently gridlocked and its citizens are used to hustling their way through crowded streets and subways. But on Saturday it was different. As New York prepared to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a new terror alert provided a grim reminder that a decade of war and struggle has not removed the threat. The visible evidence was all over New York. In the wake of an unconfirmed but scarily specific threat that three terrorists, likely to be aiming to use a car or truck bomb, had entered the country to attack the Big Apple, the city went into a kind of security lockdown. Yet, through it all, New Yorkers were urged to keep calm and carry on. “If you do lock yourself in your house because you’re scared, they’re winning,” Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show. Most people seemed to agree. Even with a wary eye on the security efforts, people seemed to feel it was still business as usual. “They look like they know what they are doing. I’m going to keep acting normal,” said Izzie Garcia as she arrived in Manhattan’s Union Square for an early start to a morning of shopping in her favourite stores. Bloomberg was also leading by example. It was he who had appeared on the nation’s TV screens to give the first official public details of the new terror threat. At a press conference in New York he had warned of the dangers and had urged New Yorkers to keep taking the subway. – the Observer

In America they speak of the “lost decade”. The moment it began is obvious: the morning of 11 September 2001, when the world’s lone superpower fell victim to the most devastating terrorist attack of modern times. Its end, however, is harder to date. One answer is 1 May this year, when a team of Navy Seals tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden at his hideaway in Pakistan. A circle was complete; after almost 10 years of frustration, false leads and continuous war, the master planner of 9/11 had finally paid for his crime. But look at it another way and the answer is not so obvious. In these 10 years America has lost much, in terms of lives, treasure and reputation. Most of all, perhaps, it has lost its illusions. One, that its home territory was invulnerable, beyond the reach of hostile foreigners, vanished on that terrible Tuesday morning. But a decade on, another no less cherished illusion has disappeared as well: the certainty that whatever happened in the world beyond, America was a place of infinite opportunity and ever-growing prosperity. – the Independent

New Scottish Labour

The Scottish Labour Party has put in place the first building block for its fightback in Scotland. It decided that Iain Gray’s successor as leader will not, as now, just be leader of Labour’s MSPs but leader of the whole party in Scotland. The review group recognised that for an individual to have the authority to lead Labour in Scotland all sections of the party must be involved in his/her selection and know their views will count. So the base from which a future leader can be drawn has been expanded. No longer will a candidate have to be an MSP, instead any Labour parliamentarian will be free to stand – MPs, MSPs and MEPs. However, it will be clear that whoever becomes leader will be Labour’s candidate for First Minister of Scotland. Expanding the gene pool from which a future leader is drawn is a first but insufficient step. The basic building block of Labour Party organisation has always been its Constituency Parties (CLPs). These are based on Westminster boundaries. The consequence has been that gearing up to fight a general election has been much easier than preparing to fight a Scottish Parliament election. Often MSPs or candidates have had to deal with two, three or even four CLPs, wasting time, effort and money on internal organisation when their time would have been more productively spent linking into their local communities. The new organisational base for Labour in Scotland will be based on Scottish Parliamentary boundaries reflecting our determination to have an organisation fit for purpose to fight the Scottish Parliament elections in 2016. – Scotland on Sunday

Proposals by MP Jim Murphy will go before their ruling executive committee today which could “transform” the party. The blueprint is the result of a four-month review led by Murphy and MSP Sarah Boyack following Labour’s crushing defeat in the Holyrood election. Insiders who have seen secret presentations by the pair say the plans amount to Labour’s biggest shake-up since 1918. But some changes could prove so controversial with sections of of the party that there are no guarantees the committee of MPs, MSPs, union leaders, local party bosses and others will give their approval when they meet in Glasgow today. Under the radical plans, Scottish Labour would: Loosen ties with the UK party, Appoint a Scottish leader – who might not be an MSP – with unprecedented powers to shape policy and plan strategy north of the Border, Kick out long-serving MPs and MSPs and train a new generation of “top notch” candidates, Reconnect with the business world and Haul themselves into the 21st century by using social media for campaigning. – Daily Record

Don’t cut the 50p rate

One of the biggest names in British business has told the government not to scrap the new 50p rate of income tax. The former head of Marks & Spencer, Sir Stuart Rose has not only said he opposes the move but is happy to pay more tax to help the country out of its current financial difficulties. Rose is the biggest name so far to oppose the move which has been backed by a group of 20 economists on Wednesday, who feel the levy is hurting the UK’s competitiveness. Rose told BBC Radio 4’s Hard Talk yesterday: ‘I don’t think that they should reduce the income tax rate. How would I explain to my secretary that I am getting less tax on my income, which is palpably bigger than hers, when hers is now going down?’ Rose’s comments are in stark contrast to former Conservative Chancellor Nigel Lawson who urged George Osborne to axe the 50p top rate of income tax, warning it is ‘dangerous’ and ‘foolish’ to leave it in place. – Daily Mail

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Saturday News Review

10/09/2011, 06:16:03 AM

The world prepares to remember

Two thousand seven hundred and fifty three Flags of Honor – each baring the names of 9/11 victims in patriotic stripes of red and blue – are standing at the tip of Manhattan today as New York City prepares to mark the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks. The NYC Memorial Field, part of a five-day installation, was erected to give New Yorkers a public place to gather in remembrance of those who were killed in the horrific acts of September 11, 2001. It is among dozens of memorials, vigils and events organised throughout New York City this weekend, as citizens stand united, honouring their pledge to ‘never forget’ that tragic day. Yesterday in midtown Manhattan, 2,753 empty chairs, representing the lives lost on 9/11, were set to face south toward the World Trade on Bryant Park’s lawn for part of a project called Ten Years Later, A Tribute 9/11. The world will undoubtedly cast its eyes on the World Trade Centre memorial site on Sunday morning, when New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will join President Barack Obama and former President George W Bush for the reading of the names of the nearly 2,753 victims killed in New York, Washington, DC and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum memorial service will see family gather from 6:30am to 4pm.A moment of silence will be held at 8:46 a.m., when the first plane crashed into the North Tower, and then the names of the victims will be read.  Moments of silence will be held to mark the other attacks in New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania at 9:03am, 9:36am, 9:59am, 10:03am and 10:28am. The annual ‘Tribute in Light’ will begin from the WTC site at sundown, visible for more than 60 miles. Two blue beams, made up of 7,000 watt bulbs, were switched on for the first time this year on Tuesday night. – Daily Mail

A terror threat against the United States planned to coincide with this weekend’s tenth anniversary of 9/11 may be traceable to al-Qa’ida and possibly to Ayman al-Zawahiri who assumed the network’s leadership after the killing of Osama bin Laden, US terror officials indicated last night. Security precautions were being ramped up in New York and Washington DC yesterday as preparations were under way for tomorrow’s remembrance ceremony at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan to be led by both President Barack Obama and his predecessor George W. Bush. President Obama, who tomorrow will also travel to the Pentagon and to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the other two sites where hijacked plans came down, ordered a redoubling of security in the wake of the new terror warning. There will be six moments of silence at the Ground Zero ceremony tomorrow marking when the two airliners struck the Twin Towers and when they fell down but also the exact moments when the other two planes involved in that day’s tragedy crashed at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. Tomorrow will also be the first time that families of the victims will see the new memorial at the World Trade Center site. The day of remembrance will finish with a memorial concert in the Kennedy Centre in Washington where Mr Obama will also speak. The White House said none of his travel plans had so far been affected by the terror threat. – the Independent

Blair’s Arab Spring

Mr Blair said he had no regrets about setting aside decades of hostility between Britain and Libya and holding out an olive branch in 2004. In return, Col Gaddafi agreed to give up his programme of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). “No,” he said in an interview with the Reuters news agency to mark the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. “I always say to people it is absolutely simple – the external policy of Libya changed.” New details of the close relationship forged between the Blair government and Libya after MI6 negotiated the scrapping of the WMD programme in 2003 have emerged in Tripoli since the fall of the Gaddafi regime. But Mr Blair said it was a “great thing for the world” that Col Gaddafi had agreed to give up the weapons programme and, in addition, co-operate against terrorism. He added that in February as the uprising began he attempted to persuade Col Gaddafi to step down. “The trouble was in the end they weren’t prepared to reform internally,” he said. “They were less of a threat to the outside world, but inside they were a threat to their people and then when the uprising happened, again, there was a big choice. I remember actually speaking to Colonel Gaddafi at the time it happened and saying this is the moment to realise you are going to have to go and be the person that gives it up.” – the Telegraph

Tony Blair, the international statesman most closely tied to the response to the Sept. 11 attacks, believes the decade-long struggle to contain the threat from Islamic extremism is far from over, despite the killing of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden. The former British prime minister, who famously vowed to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the United States and took a leading role in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in the face of domestic unease, told The Associated Press that potent threats still persist — including in nations swept by the revolutions of the Arab Spring. “It’s completely wrong,” to think the struggle to defeat extremist ideology is won, Blair said in an interview. “We shouldn’t be under any doubt about this at all. Unfortunately, as I say, this ideology is far broader than the methods of al-Qaida.” Blair also expressed concern over the uprisings which have shaken the Middle East and North Africa, insisting that the West must act as “players and not spectators” to help democracy flourish from the Arab Spring. – Washington Post

History in Northern Ireland

The first Presbyterian minister to address a Sinn Fein party conference last night praised Martin McGuinness as one of the “great leaders of modern times”. On his arrival at the Waterfront Hall for the conference, the Rev David Latimer said: “I haven’t come here for soundbites.” But he was undoubtedly the star turn of the first night of the first Sinn Fein ard fheis to be held in Northern Ireland. Delegates asked to have their pictures taken with Mr Latimer on mobile phones and many shook hands with him. “I am among friends,” he said, stressing that people could work together whatever view they took of the border. Despite his protestation he did manage a few soundbites in the course of his speech. He was greeted with tumultuous applause when he borrowed the words of the Queen in Dublin to address delegates as “a chairde” (my friends). Mr Latimer was greeted at the door of the conference by Mr McGuinness with whom he has formed a friendship. He told how the Deputy First Minster supported the opening of his Church on Londonderry’s walls, overlooking the Bogside, and helped him secure a £1.6m grant for the historic building’s refurbishment. – Belfast Telegraph

Rev Dr David Latimer described Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness as “one of the true great leaders of modern times” when he addressed the Sinn Féin ardfheis in Belfast last night. History was made on the double in the Waterfront Hall in that this was the first time an ardfheis has been held north of the Border, and the first time a northern Protestant religious minister addressed the conference. Dr Latimer, who three years ago served for a period as a British army chaplain in Afghanistan, was enthusiastically received at the conference, earning a standing ovation at the end when he finished with what he called a “Celtic blessing” on all the delegates. He delivered a relatively short address without what journalists would call any major news content. But it was his simple presence on the stage with the likes of Mr McGuinness and Gerry Adams sitting behind him that made his speech, delivered with some evangelical verve, notable and newsworthy. Learning his lesson from Queen Elizabeth, his description of delegates as “A chairde” and his final Irish good luck wish of “Adh Mór Ort” demonstrated that here was a minister who knew how to work an audience. His description of Mr McGuinness as a great modern leader will infuriate some unionists. Dr Latimer nonetheless insisted it was a strong and genuine friendship he has developed with the Deputy First Minister. – Irish Times

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Friday News Review

09/09/2011, 06:59:13 AM

Cameron’s elitist education

David Cameron will signal a return to “elitism” in schools in an attempt to mend Britain’s “broken” society and secure the economic future. The Prime Minister will attack the “prizes for all” culture in which competitiveness is frowned upon and winners are shunned. In a significant speech, he will outline Coalition plans to ensure teaching is based on “excellence”, saying that controversial reforms are needed to “bring back the values of a good education”. Failure to do so would be “fatal to prosperity”, he will say. The comments mark the latest in a series of attempts to focus on education in response to the riots that shocked London and other English cities last month. They follow the announcement by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, of back-to-basics discipline in state schools. He plans to give teachers more freedom to search pupils suspected of carrying banned items and to let them use reasonable force in removing the most disruptive children from the classroom. – the Telegraph

David Cameron will identify discipline, “freedom for schools” and “high expectations” as the key factors that make for a good education system as he opens one of the first “free” schools today. “We want to create an education system based on real excellence, with a complete intolerance of failure,” the prime minister will say in a speech being seen by some as backing a return to elitism in schools. While there is no direct mention of the recent riots in extracts of the speech released in advance, he will say: “We’ve got to be ambitious too, if we want to mend our broken society. “Because education doesn’t just give people the tools to make a good living – it gives them the character to live a good life, to be good citizens. So for the future of our economy, and our society, we need a first-class education for every child.” Speaking at the opening of one of the first new “free” schools – set up by parents, teachers, faith groups, charities and others outside of local authority control – he will say that the country had been “bogged down in a great debate” for too long about how to provide that first-class education. “Standards or structures? Learning by rote or by play? Elitism or all winning prizes? These debates are over – because it’s clear what works,” he will add. – the Guardian

Co-ordinated action

A strike by millions of workers protesting at Government pension reforms will be called in November, a union leader revealed yesterday. Action by up to 10 unions will be finalised at next week’s TUC conference in London, said Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the civil servants’ Public and ­Commercial ­Services union. The strike would come after four unions staged a day of action on June 30, involving 750,000 workers. Mr Serwotka branded pension talks with the Government a “shambles”. He said: “The Government has a choice – to put its head in the sand or negotiate. We are prepared to talk.” The Government wants civil service staff to pay £1.1billion in extra contributions from April next year.  – Daily Mirror

In an interview with the Evening Standard before next week’s annual congress, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said there was a “very real prospect” other unions would follow suit. He spoke out as sources at the civil service PCS union, which joined teachers on strike in June in a row over the Government’s pension reforms, said its national executive had agreed to hold another one-day walkout in the autumn. Other unions are also threatening industrial action and the PCS it would consult on joint action before setting a date. It is a clear sign that unions feel their concerns over plans to make them work longer and pay more towards their retirement are being ignored, and raises the prospect of widespread disruption before the end of the year. “We have reached an extremely difficult point where at the moment there is absolutely no sign of the Government being prepared to really take a step back on some of the changes that they are preparing to force through which are very, very damaging to millions of public sector workers,” Mr Barber said. “On the industrial action issue, we may be heading towards a more difficult period.” – Evening Standard

Labour’s donations headache

Political parties face a £10,000 cap on donations but would be compensated by a big rise in state funding, under proposals from an inquiry into how politics is financed. The Committee on Standards in Public Life, the anti-sleaze watchdog, wants all parties to become less dependent on big donations. In a report next month, it is expected to propose small donations be matched by tax relief to encourage parties to recruit new members and supporters. The plan to channel millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to the parties may prove highly controversial at a time of spending cuts and squeezed household budgets. However, it may provide political cover for Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister responsible for political reform, to propose a rise in state funding, a long-standing Liberal Democrat goal. The proposed £10,000 ceiling, ending the £1m gifts from rich individuals, is much lower than the parties expected. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have backed a £50,000 cap. Labour may suffer the biggest headache from the review because of its heavy dependence on the trade unions, which provide about 80 per cent of its donations. – the Independent

Ed’s challenge

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader has been warned by leading Labour figures including Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas that he risks missing a huge opportunity to make Labour more democratic and ensure ordinary party members’ views are heard in planned reforms. The Labour national executive is due to meet on 21 September, four days before the start of Labour conference, to discuss the outcome of the “Refounding Labour” consultation undertaken by the party leadership through the summer. One Labour source involved in the talks with the unions said all options are still on the table. But there are growing signs that Miliband has stepped back from plans to dilute the size of the union vote at party conference, and is instead focusing on a series of reforms designed to make local parties more dynamic, and open up the party to a wider group of Labour supporters. In a letterCompass, the left-of-centre pressure group, together with Cruddas and other Labour activists, said: “It would be a hugely missed opportunity if the party reforms instigated fell short of the mark in making Labour more democratic.” – the Guardian

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Thursday News Review

08/09/2011, 06:59:08 AM

Do we really back you Dave?

David Cameron faced embarrassment when medical leaders rejected his claim that they supported the government’s health reforms. The row came hours before the health and social care bill was approved by MPs, after Cameron hailed the profession’s support at prime minister’s questions. “Now you’ve got the Royal College of GPs, the physicians, the nurses, people working in the health service, supporting the changes we’re making,” he said. The bodies questioned the prime minister’s claim. Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, told the BBC: “While we acknowledge that the government has listened to our members in a number of areas, we still have very serious concerns about where these reforms leave a health service already facing an unprecedented financial challenge. At a time when the NHS needs to find £20bn in efficiencies, tackle waste, work harder to prevent ill-health, and deal with an ageing population, we are telling MPs this bill risks creating a new and expensive bureaucracy and fragmenting care.” Clare Gerada, chairwoman of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), said: “The college supports putting clinicians at the centre of planning health services. However, we continue to have a number of concerns about the government’s reforms, issues we believe may damage the NHS or limit the care we are able to provide for our patients.” – the Guardian

Mr Cameron told MPs during prime minister’s questions on Wednesday that the RCGP, nurses and other health professionals were supportive of the NHS reform plans. His comments came as MPs prepared for a crucial second day of debates in the House of Commons on the Health Bill, ahead of a vote that will decide whether the Bill is passed. RCGP chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada said while the college supports putting clinicians at the centre of health service planning, it continues to have a ‘number of concerns’ about the government’s reforms. ‘As a college we are extremely worried that these reforms, if implemented in their current format, will lead to an increase in damaging competition, an increase in health inequalities, and to massively increased costs in implementing this new system. These concerns have been outlined and reiterated pre- and post-pause.’ Labour leader Ed Miliband said the prime minister was on a ‘different planet’ if he believed the health profession was on board with the NHS reform plans. He said: ‘Does he not read the newspaper? Only on Tuesday the BMA, RCGP and Royal College of Midwives all rejected his Bill. We are seeing a reckless and needless reorganisation of public services.’ – GP online

Right wingers frustrated at Lib Dem influence

Simmering concern among Conservative MPs about the Coalition Government’s direction boiled over yesterday as David Cameron was accused of making too many policy concessions to the Liberal Democrats. Tory backbenchers vented their anger at Prime Minister’s Questions amid concerns that Nick Clegg has forced Mr Cameron to water down policies on Europe, free schools, tax cuts, human rights, NHS reforms, elected police commissioners and abortion. Nadine Dorries, the Tory MP who proposed an amendment to the Bill, accused Mr Cameron of giving in to Liberal Democrat “blackmail” over abortion. She told the Commons that the Prime Minister was initially “very encouraging” about her move but was then placed in an “impossible position” by the Liberal Democrats. Ms Dorries was not amused and Labour accused Mr Cameron of being patronising towards women. Angela Eagle, a Shadow Cabinet member, said: “I thought that little comment about Nadine Dorries… was really nasty, premeditated and totally uncalled for.” One Tory MP added: “The Prime Minister’s behaviour was despicable. It was the worst of the Bullingdon [Club]. It was a total demolition of Nadine Dorries on a personal basis.” – the Independent

Right-wingers took the unusual step of protesting during Prime Minister’s Questions, reflecting annoyance that private complaints to No 10 have fallen on deaf ears. Mid Bedfordshire MP Nadine Dorries said: “Liberal Democrats make up 8.7 per cent of this Parliament and yet they seem to be influencing our free school policy, health, many issues and abortion. It’s about time [Mr Cameron] told the Deputy Prime Minister who is the boss.” Mark Reckless, MP for Rochester and Strood, called for a referendum on Britain’s position in the EU – contrasting the Prime Minister’s refusal to give one with Mr Clegg’s success in delaying elections for police commissioners. Senior backbench sources told the Standard that leading members of the party’s 1922 Committee have been warning Mr Cameron about simmering discontent since May. – Evening Standard

Sir Stuart Bell, the laziest MP in Britain?

Veteran Middlesbrough MP Sir Stuart Bell has come under fire from his local newspaper for failing to represent constituents. The Gazette reported that they had made more than 100 calls to Sir Stuart’s Westminster office and Middlesbrough home over the course of several months but received no response. The newspaper used several different landlines and mobile numbers to disguise where the calls were coming from. In contrast the newspaper rang other Teeside MPs, who all answered on the first attempt. Sir Stuart has not held a constituency meeting since he was physically threatened by a constituent in 1997. Despite this he has been re-elected six times, holding the seat since 1983. The Gazette said that the MP had claimed to meet members of the public by appointment instead and that he can be reached at any time by telephone. “Sir Stuart is paid an annual salary of £65,738 to serve as the town’s MP, and claimed £82,896 for staffing costs last year. Wife Lady Margaret was paid more than £35,000 to work as his office manager. But no-one appears to be available to answer the phone,” the newspaper added. Theyworkforyou.com, a website which provides a public record of MPs appearances in parliament, shows Sir Stuart to have only spoken in 11 debates over the course of the last year, well below average. He has also only voted in 41.69% of parliamentary votes, substantially below his fellow Teeside MPs who have all voted in 75% or over. – politics.co.uk

Getting in touch with Sir Stuart is the hot political talking point on Teesside. Yesterday the 73-year-old accused the local Evening Gazette of conducting a politically motivated campaign to unseat him after it reported the results of an investigation in which reporter Neil MacFarlane tried to speak to him on 100 occasions earlier this year. Despite phoning daily – 50 times to his constituency number and a similar amount at his Westminster office – he never managed to get through. The MP, who has claimed £82,896 in staffing costs, however insisted that the report was “a total mystery” and was yesterday readily fielding calls from journalists. Last night Labour sources said Ed Miliband was treating the allegations against Sir Stuart with the “uttermost seriousness”. If they are proved, they added, the Labour whip could be withdrawn. Pressure could also be put on Sir Stuart’s local party to deselect him. The latest allegations come after it emerged Sir Stuart had not held a surgery in Middlesbrough for 14 years and does not have a publicly accessible office in the town. – the Independent

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Wednesday News Review

07/09/2011, 06:59:53 AM

Testimonies put Murdoch in hot water

James Murdoch could be recalled to Parliament to face MPs after fresh phone hacking claims at the News of the World emerged. The paper’s former lawyer Tom Crone told the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee yesterday Mr Murdoch knew the practice went beyond “rogue reporter” Clive Goodman. Mr Crone said he was “certain” he told him about the “For Neville” email, which is thought to have been intended for reporter Neville Thurlbeck. It contained hacked information about Profesional Footballers Association chief Gordon Taylor, to whom Mr Murdoch authorised a damages payout of £425,000. Mr Murdoch had previously told MPs he was not informed about the email. He said in a statement yesterday he stood by his initial testimony. – Daily Mirror

James Murdoch is likely to be recalled to parliament to answer fresh questions after two former News of the World executives said on Tuesday they were certain Murdoch was told of an explosive email that indicated phone hacking at the paper went beyond one rogue reporter. Commons sources said Murdoch would probably be ordered to appear for a second time before MPs next month to clarify whether or not he was told about the now-notorious “for Neville” email, which blew apart the newspaper’s defence that phone hacking was isolated to its royal editor, Clive Goodman. In a tense session before the culture, media and sport committee, Tom Crone, who left as News Group Newspapers‘ legal manager in August, said he had told Murdoch about the email. It was after hearing the news of the email at a 15-minute meeting in 2008, he claimed, that Murdoch authorised a payment of £425,000 plus costs to Gordon Taylor, a football executive. This contradicts James Murdoch’s account of events. Giving evidence at the same session, Colin Myler, who became editor of News of the World after Andy Coulson resigned over phone hacking at the paper, said it was “inconceivable” that Murdoch was unaware that the email indicated hacking went beyond a single rogue reporter at the Sunday newspaper. – the Guardian

Osborne admits to economic woes but will stick to Plan A anyway

Britain is living through a ‘Great Contraction’ which will mean lower than expected growth – but would face disaster if it shifted course from tough austerity measures, George Osborne said last night. The Chancellor gave his clearest signal yet that official forecasts for recovery will have to be downgraded later this year, admitting: ‘We have all had to revise down our short-term expectations over recent weeks.’ Mr Osborne blamed Labour’s mismanagement of the economy – arguing that the ‘overhang of debt’ meant the recovery from the financial crisis was ‘slower and choppier’ than recoveries from other kinds of recession.  ‘That’s why economists… have called the period we are living through the “Great Contraction”,’ the Chancellor said. – Daily Mail

In boastful mood last night George Osborne said the Government’s tough deficit-reduction strategy meant Britain was “master of its own destiny” unlike other European nations which were at the mercy of the financial markets. In a defiant speech to the Lloyds insurance market in London, the Chancellor conceded that all countries had had to “revise down our short-term expectations over recent weeks”. That was a clear signal that the Office of Budget Responsibility would scale down its growth forecasts on 29 November, when the Chancellor publishes his autumn statement. He is expected to unveil a raft of measures designed to boost growth, some of which may be trailed at next month’s Conservative Party conference. Last night he argued that the lesson of the summer was that Britain had not suffered the same wobbles as Italy, Spain and France because the Government enjoyed the confidence of the financial markets. – the Independent

Moran faces 21 charges

Disgraced former Luton MP Margaret Moran is to face criminal charges in relation to her parliamentary expenses claims. Ms Moran was considered to be among the worst offenders in the 2009 expenses scandal and was forced to stand down at the 2010 general election. She is to appear at Westminster magistrates court on September 19th to face 15 charges of false accounting and six of forgery, the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed. Keir Starmer QC, director of public prosecutions, said: “Having thoroughly reviewed the evidence gathered by the police, we have decided there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to bring criminal charges against Margaret Moran. “These charges relate to fraudulent claims with a total value of more than £60,000.” Ms Moran is the fifth Labour MP to face criminal charges over expenses, following David Chaytor, Jim Devine, Eric Illsley and former minister Elliot Morley. – politics.co.uk

Another ex-Tory MP to appear on Strictly

Brendan Cole has admitted he would be happy to be partnered with ex-politician Edwina Currie on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. Brendan Cole would be happy to partner Edwina Currie on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. The professional dancer – who previously won the show with Natasha Kaplinsky in 2004 – is set to find out who his partner will be tomorrow (07.09.11), but admits he doesn’t care who he gets, despite predictions the 64-year-old ex-politician will struggle with the routines because of her age. When asked if he’d like to dance with Edwina at the launch for the Jeans for Genes campaign at Kettners in London last night (06.09.11), Brendan exclusively told Bang Showbiz: “I don’t mind who I’m partnered with, to be honest, young or old. – the List

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Tuesday News Review

06/09/2011, 06:49:16 AM

MPs to examine Murdoch’s claim

MPs will test James Murdoch’s assertion he knew nothing about a crucial email in the phone-hacking scandal when they quiz former News Of The World executives today. The News International chairman has reportedly cancelled a trip to Asia to monitor first-hand what is said at the select committee hearing because he knows his credibility as a witness and a business leader is on the line. When James Murdoch appeared with his father Rupert before the Culture, Media and Sport committee in July, he was asked if he knew about a document known as the “for Neville” email which is seen as critical to the hacking inquiry. The email indicates that the practice of hacking was more widespread than News International (NI) originally admitted. James Murdoch said he was unaware of the document at the time he sanctioned a payout totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Professional Footballers’ Association chief Gordon Taylor, whose phone was hacked by the News of The World (NOTW). His denial of knowledge of the email was subsequently contradicted by Colin Myler, the NOTW’s last editor, and the paper’s former lawyer Tom Crone, both of whom will give their side of the story to the committee. –  Sky News

The former legal manager of the News of the World (NOTW), Tom Crone and the paper’s former editor, Colin Myler, today face questioning from the Commons committee investigating phone hacking, after Scotland Yard confirmed no formal charges were imminent in their own criminal investigation into the scandal. MPs on the culture, media and sport select committee had been concerned that their probe into phone hacking was on the verge of being halted as police investigations throughout the UK intensified and threatened formal charges being brought against key figures at the centre of the hacking affair. However, the Metropolitan Police’s specialist crime directorate investigating phone hacking, will now allow MPs to pursue an uncompromised re-examination of Mr Crone and Mr Myler. In 2009, the two gave evidence to earlier hearings of the committee, saying James Murdoch, News Corporation’s chairman and chief executive, had been informed of the background behind an out-of-court settlement of £700,000 to a hacking victim, football boss Gordon Taylor. – the Independent

Rioters were known criminals

The justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, has blamed the riots that swept across England last month on a “broken penal system” that has failed to rehabilitate a group of hardcore offenders he describes as the “criminal classes”. Revealing for the first time that almost 75% of those aged over 18 charged with offences committed during the riots had prior convictions, Clarke said the civil unrest had laid bare an urgent need for penal reform to stop reoffending among “a feral underclass, cut off from the mainstream in everything but its materialism”. Writing in the Guardian, Clarke dismisses criticism of the severity of sentences handed down to rioters and said judges had been “getting it about right”. However, he adds that punishment alone was “not enough”. “It’s not yet been widely recognised, but the hardcore of the rioters were in fact known criminals. Close to three quarters of those aged 18 or over charged with riot offences already had a prior conviction. That is the legacy of a broken penal system – one whose record in preventing reoffending has been straightforwardly dreadful.” – the Guardian

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has blamed last month’s riots on a ‘broken penal system’ that has failed to rehabilitate what he describes as the hardcore ‘criminal classes’. He revealed that almost 75 per cent of those aged over 18 charged with offences committed during the riots had prior convictions. Mr Clarke said reform was vital to prevent reoffending among ‘a feral underclass, cut off from the mainstream in everything but its materialism’. He also expressed concern at ‘the instinctive criminal behaviour of apparently random passers-by’. His remarks will be seen as bitterly ironic by right-wing Tory MPs, who blame the Justice Secretary for threatening their party’s reputation on law and order with a series of ‘soft sentencing’ policy proposals, which had to be overruled by Downing Street. – Daily Mail

Cameras to be let in the courts

David Cameron is expected to pave the way for the move in a speech on crime planned for later this month. The televised coverage is expected to be limited and will not allow cameras to record witnesses giving evidence. Television cameras are currently banned from most courts in England and Wales, although the proceedings of the new Supreme Court can be broadcast. It is understood cameras will first be allowed in to the court of appeal. That move could be announced today, but the Government is keen to expand it to other courts and is in talks with the judiciary on how that might work. Lord Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, backed the move, comparing it to the broadcasting of parliament. “I’ve been a supporter of this for years,” he said. Baroness Kennedy QC, a human rights lawyer, has argued that cameras would distort trials. – the Telegraph

Lawson invited to join UKIP

With impeccable timing, the UKIP leader Nigel Farage today wrote to the former chancellor Lord Lawson to invite him to join his party. Farage fired off a letter after Lawson called on David Cameron to use any future EU treaty negotiations, in the wake of the crisis in the Eurozone, to call for an end to greater European integration. This is what Farage says: “Nigel Lawson has come to the conclusion that the very approach of the EU is against Britain’s interests, and is calling for the concept of ‘Ever Closer Union’ to be struck from the Treaty. He calls for a new Constitution that makes explicit the limits of EU power. He is also wise enough to know that his proposals have not a cat in hells chance of being accepted by the other 26 countries of the European Union. What Lord Lawson leaves unspoken is what happens when inevitably the EU rejects his idea. If the changes he calls for are not made, then Britain must reserve the right to leave the moribund European Union and strike out as a free-trading good neighbour of the European Union.” – the Guardian

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Monday News Review

05/09/2011, 06:03:57 AM

Ed to re-write clause I

Ed Miliband is to propose rewriting the Labour party’s 93-year-old founding principles, amending clause I of its constitution to explicitly put the principles of community organising at its heart. In the first redrafting of the party’s clauses in 17 years since Tony Blair famously scrapped clause IV, which until then had committed Labour to a programme of mass nationalisation, Miliband hopes to get party support for his wider ambitions for the party, which have so far been controversial with union leaders. The proposal, contained in the Refounding Labour document, which has been drawn up by Peter Hain, chair of the national policy forum, would also insert into the new clause I the statement that Labour is “a force for social justice”. The new clause would say the party exists to “bring together members and supporters who share its values to develop policies, make communities stronger through collective action and support, and promote the election of Labour representatives at all levels of the democratic process”. A leaked version of the speech David Miliband planned to make if he had become Labour leader shows the former foreign secretary would also have pushed for a new clause I. An attempt by Labour to try to make itself a movement with broader appeal is particularly acute as the parties all await a report into funding due to be published in October by the committee on standards in public life. – the Guardian

Clegg blocks profit making free schools

The Guardian today claims Tory education secretary Michael Gove had hoped to allow free schools to make profits in the government’s second term and quotes a supporter of Gove as saying “Gove has never had an ideological issue with profit in schools, whereas Clegg is ruling it out for ideological reasons.” Meanwhile, Fraser Nelson writes in the Spectator that some of David Cameron’s allies are “…keen to fit rocket boosters under the free schools programme – and that means including profit-seeking groups like Cognita and International Free Schools.” If Nick Clegg does indeed have a ‘victory’ in blocking the proposal it will be one of the deputy prime minister’s most significant achievement in office. More significantly, the cat is now out of the bag on free schools: the Tories do see free schools as a vehicle to turn schooling into business. What is surprising is that people ever doubted this. For free schools to be anything other than an expensive fad, with just a handful of schools run by charities, parents or as publicity seeking exercises for the likes of Toby Young, it is logical they would have to become profit-making. Michael Gove’s free schools policy was based on the free schools programme in Sweden, where the government’s initial plan was that free schools would either be set up by parents or charities. – Left Foot Forward

The deputy prime minister is to open up a new front in his disagreements with the education secretary, Michael Gove, criticising the recent decision by the Tories to heap responsibility for children’s development on to teachers. Nick Clegg‘s aides believe the Conservatives have placed too much emphasis on teachers as arbiters of authority over children in the wake of last month’s riots. In a speech to teachers and pupils, Clegg will say: “We already expect our teachers to be social workers, child psychologists, nutritionists, child protection officers. We expect them to police the classroom, take care of our children’s health, counsel our sons and daughters, guide them, worry about them – and on top of that, educate them too.” Clegg’s comments come as his party claimed to have reined in Gove’s desire to allow his free schools programme to become profit-making, and that any new wave of free schools had to be in deprived areas. In response to this Lib Dem assertion, Gove refused to rule out profit-making schools as a possibility in the future. – the Guardian

Performance pay myth

The rise in remuneration came despite a 71pc decline in average year-end share prices, according to a report by the High Pay Commission (HPC). The findings claim to lay bare the “myth” of performance pay as salary growth “bears no relation” to market capitalisation, earnings per share or pre-tax profit growth, the HPC claimed. Performance pay scales have escalated dramatically in the past decade. Lead executives now collect a bonus worth 90pc of their salary if they hit performance targets, compared to 48pc in 2002. At the same time, the base salary from which performance pay is calculated has risen 64pc. Deborah Hargreaves, chair of the HPC, said: “The evidence exposes the myth that big bonuses and high salaries result in better company performances. There has been massive growth in what has been termed as performance related pay, yet no such corresponding leap forward in company performance.” The findings of the report have reopened the row over boardroom pay in Britain’s biggest companies. Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC union, said: “Runaway pay at the top is not just unfair but helped cause the crash.” – the Telegraph

Fatcat bosses have seen their bonuses shoot up by a whopping 187 per cent in the past 10 years while the rest of the country struggles with pay freezes, it was revealed yesterday. With flagrant disregard for Government warnings to cut such payments in the wake of the banking collapse, top earners are continuing to pay themselves bigger and bigger bonuses. The report, by the High Pay Commission, shows the average annual bonus for a FTSE 100 director has increased by 187 per cent in a decade, while the average year-end share prices declined by 71 per cent. This inconsistency exposes the myth of the usual claims that excessive high pay is a reward for companies performing strongly. Finance analysts say there can be only one reason: Greed. The report shows that executives’ greed is growing. In 2002 the median maximum grant of shares that a FTSE 100 lead executive could be awarded was 100 per cent of salary. By 2010, this had risen to 200 per cent. – the Express

Ex Iceland PM faces charges for banking collapse

The dust from Iceland’s spectacular financial disaster — the failure of its three biggest banks and then the collapse of its economy in the fall of 2008 — had barely begun to settle when the country set about finding someone to blame. The bankers, surely: a government-appointed special prosecutor has named more than 200 people as official suspects in a case that appears bound to result in criminal charges. The politicians, certainly: voters expressed their disgust with the long-governing Independence Party by ousting it in the 2009 elections. But the desire for justice and retribution is deep and complicated, and Iceland has taken an unusual step in the strange annals of the world financial crisis: it is pursuing criminal charges against a politician, former Prime Minister Geir Haarde, for his government’s failure to avert the catastrophe. – New York Times

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Sunday News Review

04/09/2011, 06:29:12 AM

At each other’s throats

Gordon Brown repeatedly pressured Alistair Darling to change his economic forecasts almost from the outset of his premiership, it has emerged. As the former chancellor prepared to publish his memoir, Back from the Brink, former government insiders revealed the full extent of the split between the two men at the top of the Labour administration. From the autumn of 2007, as Brown agonised over whether to call a snap general election, Darling faced interference from Number 10 as he drew up his first pre-budget report, with the prime minister’s allies urging him to play down the risks of an economic slowdown in the wake of the collapse of Northern Rock. Northern Rock’s bosses blamed “extreme conditions” in the markets for the bank’s collapse, but Brown and Darling clashed over how hard the turmoil would hit the wider economy. Darling feared the impact would be severe, but Brown was determined to stick to the line that the “fundamentals” remained sound. Former insiders say Brown, who had kept Treasury officials on a tight rein during his tenure as chancellor, wanted Darling to overrule his cautious civil servants. “Gordon never understood why Alistair didn’t have the authority over his civil servants that he had,” one source told the Observer. The pre-budget report of October 2007 predicted that GDP would expand by 2% to 2.5% in 2008 as the UK shrugged off the effects of the credit crunch. In the event, it contracted by 0.1%. – the Observer

Gordon Brown came close to sacking his Chancellor, Alis­tair Darling, five times, senior Labour figures reveal today. The bombshell disclosure comes on the eve of a new book by Mr Darling about his relationship with the “brutal” and “volcanic” ex-PM. Mr Darling writes that he saw off a bid by the PM to replace him in 2009 with Mr Brown’s key ally, Ed Balls. And Labour sources have told the Sunday Mirror that he considered sacking Mr Darling five times in his almost three years as PM. The first doubts surfaced in 2008 when Mr Brown was unconvinced Mr Darling could handle the financial crisis, say senior Labour party officials. Mr Brown seriously considered sacking Mr Darling a second time in an October 2008 Cabinet reshuffle which saw the ­return of Lord Mandelson and key allies like “enforcer” Nick Brown. The third attempt – confirmed by Mr Darling in Back from the Brink: 1,000 Days at Number 11 – came in June 2009 when Cabinet Minister James Purnell quit after poor local election results. Mr Brown also thought about knifing his fellow Scot twice more in late 2009 and early 2010. – the Mirror

Scottish Tories could disband

Dramatic plans to disband the Tories north of the border were unveiled by the front-runner for its leadership in a move one senior party figure warned could encourage the break-up of the United Kingdom. Mr Cameron – who is spending the weekend in Scotland – faces the prospect of being the first British Prime Minister whose party has no Scottish MPs. Murdo Fraser, who is favourite to become leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, will announce that he plans to wind up the party if he wins a ballot of members next month. He would follow disbanding the party by launching a new Right-of-centre party that would contest all Scottish elections — council, Scottish Parliament and Westminster. Mr Fraser, a member of the Scottish Parliament, believes the Conservatives have become a “toxic brand” in Scotland since losing all 11 of their Commons seats in the 1997 Labour landslide. – the Telegraph

Tory leadership favourite Murdo Fraser is to launch a bid to scrap the current Scottish Conservative party and transform it into a distinct Scottish identity that is free from London control. The contest for the party leadership is to take a dramatic twist tomorrow with Fraser seeking a mandate to replace the party north of the Border with an alternative bearing a new name in the hope that a radical new approach will attract new members and voters. Fraser, currently deputy leader, believes that the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party brand is now so toxic that it cannot be revived in its current form and will argue that the best way to fight the SNP is to rebrand it as a new progressive tax-lowering party that is separate from David Cameron’s Westminster Tories. His plan has been discussed with senior London Conservatives, close to Cameron, who are sympathetic to the idea that something truly radical has to be done to break the centre-left consensus that has seen the SNP and Labour dominate Scottish politics. – the Scotsman

Chaos in the NHS

The future of the government’s health reforms has been plunged into fresh doubt as the Liberal Democrat peer Shirley Williams raises new concerns, and secret emails reveal plans to hand over the running of up to 20 hospitals to overseas companies. The revelations come as MPs prepare to return to Westminster on Tuesday for what promises to be a crucial stage of the flagship health and social care bill. Baroness Williams, one of the original leaders of a Lib Dem rebellion against health secretary Andrew Lansley’s plans – who appeared to have been pacified after changes were made over the summer – said she had new doubts, having re-examined the proposals. “Despite the great efforts made by Nick Clegg and Paul Burstow [the Lib Dem health minister], I still have huge concerns about the bill. The battle is far from over,” she said. Writing in Sunday’s Observer, Williams raises a series of issues that she says must be addressed. Chief among them is a legal doubt as to whether the secretary of state will any longer be bound to deliver “a comprehensive health service for the people of England, free at the point of need”. Some critics of Lansley believe the Tories are bent on a mission to privatise the NHS, gradually handing it to the private sector. They fear that moves to end the legal obligation on the secretary of state to deliver comprehensive services may be a deliberate part of the process. – the Observer

The political row over the coalition’s NHS reforms will wipe out hundreds of millions of pounds in planned cost savings, which will have to be found in further cuts elsewhere, ministers will be forced to admit this week. The rewriting of Andrew Lansley’s flagship plan to hand GPs control of £80bn in health spending is expected to mean projected benefits are downgraded by up to 10 per cent, putting in jeopardy a fiercely ambitious target to save £20bn by 2015. As a result, recruitment freezes will become more widespread, waiting lists are already on the rise and moves will be made to cut hospital stays, drugs bills and back-office staff. Under Mr Lansley’s original proposals, the changes were projected to secure £5bn in savings over this Parliament, and £1.7bn a year after that. But a new impact assessment, taking into account concessions to the Liberal Democrats, doctors’ leaders and patients groups, could slash that total by up to 10 per cent. – the Independent

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Friday News Review

02/09/2011, 06:17:33 AM

In it for the long hall

David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy have emphasised the on going commitment of Nato to the conflict in Libya. Speaking at a press conference at the end of the Paris summit, the Prime Minister expressed his pride in what British and allied forces had accomplished as part of Nato’s mission to stop Gaddafi’s attacks. However, he also emphasised that “it is the Libyan People who are responsible for the liberation.” “We pay tribute to your bravery and to the many who have lost their lives or been injured,” he said. Cameron also outlined three key commitments to the National Transitional Council, including the implementation of the UN resolutions by Nato and its allies, a commitment to international law, and a pledge to support the NTC in their aims to implement a democratic transition. “Freedom in Tripoli has brought to light unspeakable crimes,” he said. “These crimes must be investigated and the guilty brought to justice.” Both Cameron and President Sarkozy expressed gratitude to the Arab states that took part in the Nato coalition. – Huffington Post

Nato will remain on a war footing in the skies over Libya until the last remnants of the Gaddafi regime have been defeated, European diplomats have said. World leaders are converging on Paris on Thursday for a Friends of Libya summit intended to acclaim the National Transitional Council (NTC) as the country’s new interim government, and mark a pivot point in the international community’s efforts in Libya from war to reconstruction. The leaders will discuss a new UN security council resolution which will endorse the new status quo, lifting the sanctions regime on Libya to allow the NTC to get access to over $100bn (£62bn) in state assets frozen abroad since the start of the conflict, while handing the United Nations the lead international role in rebuilding the country. However, the NTC’s western backers, led by France, Britain and the US, want to continue Nato’s legal mandate to conduct military operations in Libya laid down in UN resolution 1973. The resolution, agreed in March, allows the alliance to use “all necessary measures”, short of deploying ground troops, to protect civilians. – the Guardian

Soft on knife crime

Only one in every five yobs caught with a knife is given a prison sentence, figures revealed yesterday. Despite David Cameron’s vow to get tough on armed thugs, most are given community punishments or cautions. Between April and June, 5,190 criminals were caught carrying a knife or other offensive weapon in England and Wales. Court statistics show that 1,024 of them – 20 per cent – were given an immediate jail term, the lowest proportion since 2008. Sentencing guidelines suggest that judges should jail for 12 weeks anyone caught with a knife, but this can be reduced for those who plead guilty or claim mitigating factors. Before winning power, the Tories said everyone caught with a knife would be sent to prison. But Justice Secretary Ken Clarke scrapped the policy to help take pressure off the prisons budget. – Daily Mail

Nearly one in four people caught carrying knives in the three months to the end of June was let off with a caution. And a third of those prosecuted for the offence received only a community service sentence, according to latest statistics. The Tory-led Government has said anybody convicted of possessing a knife should expect to be sent to prison. Most of those who were jailed were sentenced to just three months or less, the Ministry of Justice figures showed. Just 1,024 of the 5,190 offenders sentenced – 20 per cent – were jailed, down from 21% in the same period last year. The proportion of knife carriers locked up is now at its lowest in three years. Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan said: “David Cameron promised that anyone caught carrying a knife could expect a jail term. He broke that promise.” – Daily Mirror

Stealing from the poor to save the rich

Hospitals will be forced to treat wealthy foreigners to raise cash rather than treat poor patients as they are hit by cuts to the NHS budget and the government’s radical pro-market reforms, the leader of Britain’s doctors has warned. In an interview with the Guardian, Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association, predicted the government’s health and social care bill would see the NHS being rebuilt on a “philosophy that relies on a market-based health system rather like the one we see in the United States. “There, those who pay or are insured get a better service than those who do not and rely on state-funded Medicare. Until now our system has been built on social solidarity where patients get appropriate treatment in the appropriate time.” He said the government was forcing all hospitals to become foundation trusts and these would be gearing up to lure private patients from home and abroad as budgets were squeezed. This decision, he argued, would only be possible because the government plans to abolish the cap limiting the proportion of total income hospitals can earn from the paying sick. – the Guardian

Thomas’s challenge

Labour needs to sharpen its appeal in the crucial commuter land around London which could decide the next general election, Ed Miliband has been warned by one of his own frontbenchers. Gareth Thomas called on Labour to target the “suburban Sarahs and Simons” and “commuting Christophers and Chloes” in the 107 constituencies in outer London and near the M25 motorway, which include a high concentration of key marginals. In a stark message to Labour, he says it will not regain power on the back of opposition to spending cuts or the Coalition’s mistakes. YouGov, which carried out polling and focus groups for the report, found that 53 per cent of voters in this “outer metropolitan area” think Labour “used to care about the concerns of people like me”, but only 30 per cent believe the party still cares about them. For the Conservatives, the figures are 33 and 30 per cent respectively, a much smaller drop. “Whilst there are many marginal seats around the country, it is in London’s commuter belt that Labour needs to win more marginal seats if it is to return to power and where the battle for the hearts and minds of electors will be particularly tough,” Mr Thomas said. – the Independent

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