Monday News Review

Action on EMA’s

Tens of thousands of teenagers, college lecturers and teachers will take to the streets tomorrow to protest against the abolition of a grant that helps young people from low-income households stay in education after the age of 16. Demonstrators have organised lunchtime marches across the country – from Hackney in north-east London to Gateshead – in a last-ditch effort to reverse the government’s decision to scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance. Almost 647,000 of England’s 16- to 18-year-olds receive the allowance, which was introduced in 2004, in return for agreeing to remain in education: £30 a week when household income falls below £20,817; £20 a week if household income is between £20,818 and £25,521; and £10 a week if it is between and £25,522 and £30,810. In some parts of the country, such as Birmingham and Leicester, four-fifths of 16-year-olds receive the allowance. Campaigners say black and minority ethnic students will be particularly affected by its abolition because a high proportion claim the grant. David Cameron announced in October the allowance would be stopped at the end of the academic year, and it closes to new applicants next month. Before the general election, Michael Gove, now education secretary, denied that his party intended to end the benefit. – The Guardian

Warning siren for Lib Dems

Extensive polling of 2,000 people who voted for Nick Clegg’s party in May suggests just 54 per cent will back the Lib Dems in five years’ time. Some 22 per cent of Lib Dem voters say they will chose Labour. The polling, conducted by Lord Ashcroft, the former Tory deputy chairman, and revealed exclusively by The Sunday Telegraph, also shows that 44 per cent of Lib Dem voters in May say their view of the party has “got worse.” The findings will make grim reading for Mr Clegg and his fellow Lib Dem ministers. The polling, all in Lib Dem-held seats, was done 10 days before last week’s key parliamentary vote to increase university tuition fees to up to £9,000 a year, which saw the party’s MPs split three ways and the coalition’s Commons majority slashed by three quarters. Mr Clegg faces a series of further tests of his leadership, starting this week when the House of Lords votes on the tuition fee rises. Insiders predict the result could be “even tighter” than last week. – The Telegraph

A Liberal Democrat MP has warned Nick Clegg that he needs to convince his party that he remains the right person to be leader. In an open attack on Mr Clegg, Greg Mulholland, a former schools spokesman for the party, who voted against raising tuition fees on Thursday, questioned the wisdom of the party being in the Coalition. And he warned Mr Clegg that the party was “hurting”. “It is very important that Nick gets out to the wider party and reassures people that the Coalition is not only doing a good job for the country but also that it is the right thing for the Liberal Democrats as a party,” he told the BBC’s The World This Weekend programme. “He has done a very good job as Deputy Prime Minister but he also needs to show that he remains the right person to get out and communicate with our members.” It emerged that Labour is to step up its efforts to woo the 26 Liberal Democrat MPs who refused to support Mr Clegg on tuition fees. “I want to make a clear offer to them that I want to work with them,” said Labour leader Ed Miliband. – The Independent

Theresa May to report back on protests

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has refused to rule out the use of water cannon for the first time in Britain if future student demonstrations result in further violence. There were renewed demands last night for an urgent rethink of the policing of student protests as the Government admitted that even more severe methods of clamping down on demonstrators could be used. Police have been repeatedly criticised for their use of “kettling” to contain protesters. However, the Home Secretary suggested that tougher measures could be used by police following last week’s violent clashes. She refused to rule out the use of water cannon, despite previous Scotland Yard investigations which found they were too cumbersome to use during such chaotic events. – The Independent

AV campaign

Labour’s YES campaign for the AV referendum kicked off on Wednesday with a letter in the Guardian. Around 50 figures from across the party declared that “first past the post isn’t working” and that “it’s time for change”. It was a bold, unambiguous statement in favour of reform. What implications does it have for Labour, May’s result and politics generally? Labour has been facing a dilemma. Despite the 2010 manifesto pledge and the party’s reforming instincts, the temptation to embarrass Clegg has been hard to resist. Whilst some members retain doubts; the supporters of AV now appear to have the upper hand. Since Ed Miliband has already committed himself to campaign for change, Labour will be making a significant contribution towards a yes vote. A positive result is more likely with Labour on board. For a campaign probably to be decided on turnout, having two party leaders is a great advantage. A shock ICM opinion poll released last week showed the yes campaign leading the race. Not long ago, a victory looked very unlikely. It now seems possible that 2010 was the last election fought under First Past the Post. – Politicalbetting

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