Wednesday News Review

Wikileaks: Cameron and Osborne lack experience and are “light weight”

The head of the Bank of England privately criticised David Cameron and George Osborne for their lack of experience, the lack of depth in their inner circle and their tendency to think about issues only in terms of their electoral impact, according to leaked US embassy cables. Mervyn King told the US ambassador, Louis Susman, he had held private meetings with the two Conservative politicians before the election to urge them to draw up a detailed plan to reduce the deficit. He said the pair operated too much within a narrow circle and “had a tendency to think about issues only in terms of politics, and how they might affect Tory electorability”. He also predicted that economic recovery would be “a long drawn-out process”, since Britain had not been through an economic restructuring. – The Guardian

The disclosures could test the relationship between Mr King and the Prime Minister and his Chancellor. Labour is sure to exploit the embarrassment at Prime Minister’s Questions later today. Mr King’s fears, made in a meeting on Feb 16, were sent in a cable to the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and disclosed last night by the WikiLeaks website. The Governor complained that the future Prime Minister and Chancellor relied too heavily on a narrow circle of advisers. They also “had a tendency to think about issues only in terms of politics, and how they might affect Tory electorability [sic]”. Mr King also said he had held private meetings with the Tory leader and Mr Osborne before the election to urge them to draw up a detailed plan to reduce the deficit. – The Telegraph

The rightwing Conservative MP for Sevenoaks and now Conservative deputy chairman, Michael Fallon, also confided his doubts to US diplomats. His remarks were detailed in a cable sent in October 2008 titled: “Conservative party caught flat-footed by Brown’s quick manoeuvres on financial crisis, says senior Tory MP”. It stated: “The Tories’ response to the crisis has been regrettably tepid … The Conservative party felt the absence of a strong shadow chancellor and the party’s counter-proposals to Labour’s plans have been ‘all over the place’. Fallon particularly criticised Osborne’s op-ed piece in the October 28 Daily Telegraph as a ‘weak’, almost laughable, response to the economic crisis.” Mark Tokola, the embassy’s economic minister at the time, concluded: “Fallon’s comments to us reflected Conservative frustration – and some grudging admiration – for prime minister Brown’s skill in seizing the high ground during the economic crisis”. – The Guardian

Will they, won’t they?

NICK Clegg and Vince Cable yesterday hinted they may not vote on tuition fees – leaving their party in disarray. The Deputy Prime Minister refused to say if he’d back the Coalition’s plans to hike the fees to up to £9,000 a year. And Business Secretary Mr Cable – the minister in charge of the controversial plans – admitted he may ABSTAIN in the face of protests from Lib Dem MPs. Party sources also admitted they were listening to the views of student protesters, who held demonstrations against the plans yesterday. One senior Lib Dem said the party’s MPs were not “tone deaf” to the criticisms of the policy. – The Sun

Nick Clegg was asked several times in DPMQs whether he would vote for, against or abstain on tuition fees. He ducked the issue of his own vote, while pointing out that coalition government allowed for collective responsibility to be set aside. What was interesting was that the DPM made a notably stout defence of the policy, stressing it would help those on lower incomes and was much fairer than any upfront fees system. He really sounded like a man who genuinely believes the policy is The Right Thing To Do. And yet sources close to the leader were quick to clarify afterwards that the Lib Dem Parliamentary party has not agreed its line on this key issue. Earlier today, Vince Cable said that he was part of a team and I will observe team discipline”. That suggested that the party would thrash this all out and come to a common line. More importantly, his words suggested that there wouldn’t be the farcical situation where a few Cabinet ministers vote for, most abstain and some backbenchers vote against. – Paul Waugh

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