Friday News Review

The alternative

Prime Minister David Cameron pursues his plan to fix the battered British economy with austerity, his main foil in the debate over how deeply to cut government spending will be Ed Miliband, the young, untested leader of the opposition Labour Party. Mr. Miliband is an unlikely standard-bearer in the global debate over how best to pull nations out of economic doldrums. One of the loudest arguments in that debate came Wednesday, when the U.K. laid out £81 billion ($127 billion) in budget cuts over the next four years—the latest European government to demonstrate a belief that recovery will be built on austerity measures and a balanced budget.Mr. Miliband is among those counter-arguing that slashing spending will sap demand and forestall a fragile economic recovery. “This is a global economic battle and people will be citing the U.K. around the world. So Ed Miliband has to stand up and say, ‘There is an alternative”‘ to steep cuts, said Joseph Stiglitz, a Columbia University professor and winner of the Nobel Prize for economics. But Mr. Miliband may disappoint anyone expecting him to fully torpedo Mr. Cameron’s plan. Unlike the Obama administration in the U.S., which continues to look at ways to prime the economy with government intervention, Mr. Miliband has less room to take such a position. – Wall Street Journal

In an outline of the basic foundations of the party’s alternative to the coalition’s record £83 billion in spending cuts, Mr Johnson said investment would be a more effective way of reducing the £155 billion national deficit and producing economic growth. Radical plans to make banks pay a £7.5 billion levy towards a “push for growth” are contained in the broad strategy. It was the first time since the 2009 Budget that Labour’s official policy has focused on investment as part of the solution to the current crisis. Mr Johnson accused the Government of “taking a huge gamble with growth and jobs” but in a radio interview said that the threat of a “double-dip” recession may yet be averted. – Tribune

Broken Promises

Both Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg ate humble pie before the audience. Mr Cameron acknowledged that he had gone back on an election pledge not to cut child benefit. “I had to eat those words. But is it right to go on asking people on £15,000, £20,000 or £25,000 a year to keep paying so that Nick and me and [Labour leader] Ed Miliband can go on getting child benefit?” On the decision to sharply increase tuition fees for university students from 2012, when they will double in most cases and, perhaps, more than double, Mr Clegg, whose party has longed wanted their abolition, said: “It’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do – to own up to pledging things I now feel I cannot deliver.” In a bid to shore up support among Liberal Democrat MPs and supporters, Danny Alexander, the party’s chief secretary to the treasury, wrote to party members, saying: “We have made the tougher choice, no doubt, but we should be proud of the way we have taken responsibility and we have done the right thing.” – Irish Times

David Cameron and Nick Clegg today expressed regret for breaking election pledges when they faced an audience at a question-and-answer session in the aftermath of the government’s spending cuts announcement. The prime minister admitted he had to “eat his words” over child benefit, under questioning from audience members who were angry that both parties had reneged on promises made before the election. Clegg said he felt “really bad” when asked by a sixth-former about his U-turn on tuition fees. – Guardian

Who gets a peerage?

On the Labour side, I’d tip Dick Caborn, former Sports Minister and an energtic campaigner for England’s World Cup bid and other sports causes, and Adam ingram, never a Cabinet minister but a hard-working minister of state who was Mo Mowlam’s loyal deputy in Northern ireland. I’m told that Alan Milburn, who saw his old pal John Hutton get a peerage in the list published at the end of May, has turned down a seat in the House of Lords. On the Tory side, Michael Ancram, another former Northern ireland minister, missed out earlier this year because a pamphlet he wrote in 2007 attacking David Cameron caused great offence in the leader’s inner circle. Time to forgive now, perhaps? Ed Miliband has, I can confirm, vetoed a peerage for Derek Simpson, outgoing joint general secretary of Unite, who has been his leading cheerleader in the union movement for the past year. – Sky

Labour lose in Tower Hamlets

I’m writing this from York Hall in Bethnal Green where the fraught, often farcical and sometimes vicious campaign to become the first executive mayor of this extraordinary East End borough has ended with a wounding defeat for Labour. Independent candidate Lutfur Rahman has become the first directly-elected executive mayor of Tower Hamlets by a big margin, securing more than 23,000 first preference votes to take him past the winning post with 51.76 percent of the vote on a turnout of just 25.6 percent (the exact vote total was obscured by cheers)*. His Labour rival and former friend Helal Abbas finished a distant second with 11,254. The Conservative Neil King was third with 5,348 followed by Liberal Democrat John Griffiths with 2,800 and the Green Party’s Alan Duffell with 2,300. – The Guardian

It was not a victory for any sort of democracy. It was the execution of a careful and sophisticated plan by a small, well-financed and highly-organised cabal to seize control of a London borough. It deployed not just volunteers from the IFE and other bodies but also people paid to campaign by Lutfur’s business backers. Someone also paid for tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of copies of the most pernicious literature ever seen in a British election, in which Mr Abbas was falsely smeared as a wife-beater, a bankrupt, a racist and and an insulter of Islam. – The Telegraph

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