Sunday News Review

Last minute decision to ditch the Harriers

The highly-controversial cut to the Harrier force – condemned last week by several former heads of the service as “perverse” and risking “national humiliation” – was decided only three days before the final announcement of the defence review, sources said. Until then, the plan had been to scrap the RAF’s Tornado fleet, the oldest strike aircraft currently in service. In a tense meeting, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, the First Sea Lord, told Mr Cameron that he “could not endorse as his military advice” the decision to axe the Harriers and considered it a “political, not military decision. Senior defence sources said much of the £4.7 billion of cuts in the review was only decided in a series of meetings at 10 Downing Street over the weekend of 16/17 October, two to three days before it was announced. “There was little more than some PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets for financial planning,” said one source. He said the MoD was left “starting from scratch” that weekend on some of the contentious issues,” – The Telegraph

NUS launch strategy to oust Lib Dems

The National Union of Students will launch a “decapitation” strategy aimed at ousting Nick Clegg and other top Liberal Democrats from parliament in protest at the party’s U-turn on student fees. The move aims to build on anger about coalition policies – which spilled over into violence on Wednesday – in Lib Dem-held constituencies with large student populations. The key targets will be Clegg in Sheffield Hallam, Simon Wright in Norwich South, Stephen Williams in Bristol West and Don Foster in Bath. Aaron Porter, president of the NUS, said the campaign would aim to force out Lib Dems who break their pre-election pledge to oppose any rise intuition fees. The move has echoes of the Lib Dems’ own “decapitation strategy” in 2005, when the party threw resources into efforts to oust leading Tories with narrow majorities, including Michael Howard and Theresa May. Porter said the NUS will make use of a coalition idea for holding MPs to account that was championed by Clegg himself. The “right to recall” initiative, which has yet to became law, proposes that a byelection can be called if an MP is judged guilty of serious wrongdoing and 10% of constituents want him or her removed. – The Observer

Lib Dem president says pact would be “raving mad”

The new president of the Liberal Democrats last night dismissed the idea of a long-term pact with the Tories as “absolutely stark raving mad”. In comments likely to raise the hackles of traditional Conservatives, Tim Farron told The Independent on Sunday his politics is “very much built upon an anger at the injustice” of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership. “The fact there’s a good working relationship is something we should celebrate, but not assume there is any kind of attempt to assimilate,” he said, just hours after defeating ex-MP and former London mayoral candidate Susan Kramer to the presidency by 14,593 votes to 12,950. “You would have to be absolutely stark raving mad to think there’s any chance of a merger or closer relationship or a pact with the Conservatives.” Lib Dems will contest every seat, he added. – The Independent

“Big Society bull****”

The Behavioural Insight Team, a small group of specialist officials whose task is to find “cost-effective and less bureaucratic ways of changing behaviours in ways that give citizens, consumers and communities more control”. For some, including Conservative ministers, this is just “Big Society bull—-”. For others, it’s the very heart of the Coalition’s work to transform both state and society. Either way, it’s overseen by Steve Hilton, the No 10 strategy chief (and former ad man) who habitually attends Whitehall meetings tieless, shoeless and folded cross-legged into his chair. And no appointment has turned stomachs like that of Andrew Parsons, the PM’s personal photographer, to provide an official visual record of his premiership. The PM gamely defends Parsons’s job as a cost-saving measure. But it looks to some more like an attempt to control the message, the sworn mission of Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor who is now Cameron’s communications chief. In that, it has failed, utterly. Parsons has become the story, a significant political liability. As symbols go, it could hardly be worse: the premier who slated Labour for waste and spin is now paying his own “vanity” snapper from your taxes. – The Telegraph

Conservative councillor arrested over twitter jibe

Conservative councillor from Birmingham has been arrested over a message on his private Twitter account calling for a newspaper columnist to be stoned to death, police have said. Gareth Compton, councillor for Erdington, Birmingham, was questioned and released on bail following his arrest on Wednesday night. A spokeswoman for West Midlands Police said: “We can confirm a 38-year-old man from Harborne has been arrested for an offence under section 127 (1a) of the Communications Act of 2003 on suspicion of sending an offensive or indecent message. He has been bailed pending further inquiries.” The Conservative Party said Mr Compton had been suspended indefinitely over the alleged tweet. A spokesman said: “Language of this sort is not acceptable and as a result Gareth Compton’s membership of the Conservative Party has been indefinitely suspended pending further investigation.” – Selby TImes

Leave a Reply