Thursday News Review

Telegraph strikes again

David Heath, the deputy Leader of the House, said the Chancellor had the “capacity to get up one’s nose” and did not appreciate what it was like to lose £1,000 a year – the value of the cut in child benefit for higher earners. Paul Burstow, the care minister, told reporters from The Daily Telegraph: “I don’t want you to trust David Cameron.” And Andrew Stunell, the local government minister, said he did not know where the Prime Minister stood on the “sincerity monitor”. Norman Baker, the transport minister, even privately compared the Conservatives within government to the South African apartheid regime, claiming that it was his job to campaign from the “inside”. The disclosures come on the third day of this newspaper’s investigation into the true feelings of senior Liberal Democrats towards the Coalition. – Telegraph

Mr Baker is a minister in the transport department, working closely with the Conservative Secretary of State, Philip Hammond, and a junior minister, Theresa Villiers. “But what you end up doing in the Coalition, as much as we can is we play them off against each other. You try to get the Tories [to] do things. For example, telling you more than I should be telling you, in the Department for Transport, the rail minister, Theresa Villiers, is actually pretty sound on railways, the Secretary of State is more sceptical, so you know I’ll get Theresa Villiers to argue with him about that, because she can persuade him from the side of the Tory party, because she wants to deliver effectively what is Lib Dem policy.” – Telegraph

David Heath, the Liberal Democrat MP for Somerton and Frome, said that “the awful thing” about the General Election result was that it left his party with “no alternative” but to join forces with its Conservative rivals. He said his party would have been “wiped out” at the next election if they had refused to enter the Coalition, because voters would have asked, “What’s the point of the Liberal Democrats?” The former optician also said that some of his Tory colleagues “have no experience of how ordinary people live”. – Telegraph

Ed on the attack

Talk about a Christmas miracle: Ed Miliband has set about the task of Opposition with ruthless efficiency today. As both Guido and Nicholas Watt have noted, the Labour leader is all across the broadcast news this afternoon, after upping the heat on Vince Cable and the coalition. His party’s attack comes in the form of a letter sent by the shadow business secretary, John Denham, to the Cabinet Secretary, Gus O’Donnell. It asks, mischieveously, whether Vince Cable has broken the ministerial code by promising to wage war against Rupert Murdoch, and whether Jeremy Hunt is impartial enough to step into the breach. And while nothing is likely to come of these exhortations, they have already done their work in terms of grabbing Labour, and Miliband, some rare attention. – The Spectator

Ed Miliband’s new media advisers appear to be making their mark. Tom Baldwin and Bob Roberts have only been in their jobs for a few days but already the Labour party appears to have sharpened up its act. Miliband, who had struggled recently to develop a clear message, is dominating the headlines after outlining a sharp two-pronged attack on the government after the downgrading of Vince Cable’s position in cabinet. So far the signs indicate that Miliband is winning the media battle today but making no progress on substance. But Miliband has made a decisive mark in perhaps the most significant part of his intervention today – sharpening a broader strategic attack on the coalition. Miliband now wants to ram home a very simple message: Britain has a Conservative government, enacting Conservative policies that will alarm progressives by, for example, increasing child poverty. – Guardian

Those aged under 27 are now able to join the Labour party for just a penny. The offer, which is available until the end of polling day in 2011’s local elections, is part of Ed Miliband’s Speak Out For Your Generation campaign launched today. Shadow education secretary Andy Burnham said Labour’s focus was on reaching out to young people.
“Today, Labour issues a Christmas invitation to young people: join us and we will be your first line of defence.” Labour points to school sports funding as an example of the impact it has already made from the opposition benches. –

Goldsmith gets off

The Electoral Commission has written to Zac Goldsmith to tell him about its “concerns” over his election spending – but said the case was not serious enough to refer it to police. The independent watchdog, which reports directly to Parliament, said the Richmond and north Kingston MP’s returns had been “unclear in places”. The Electoral Commission’s report, published today, said: “Had the costs been apportioned in a way more consistent with our guidance, Mr Goldsmith would have exceeded the spending limit for the short campaign, though not the aggregate limit for both campaigns.” – Richmond and Twickenham Times

There is a by-election on after all

Who is going break the news to David Cameron? The Conservative party’s chairman Baroness Warsi has been caught campaigning for the Tory candidate in the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election. This picture proves it (hat-tip Tim Montgomerie). Warsi’s activities appear to be in direct contravention of the latest orders from Cameroon central. They are that the Tories, regrettably having to put up a candidate, should try and do everything to ensure their coalition partners the Lib Dems win the seat. Even though it’s a three way marginal, which the Tories might be able to win if they tried, Cameron wants above all to avoid the possibility of a Labour win boosting Ed Mili’s faltering leadership. So the Lib Dems are being given Tory assistance. But it’s clear — talking to Tories — that their central command wants a Lib Dem win, and this has communicated itself to the Tory machine in Oldham (goodness knows what the Conservative activists giving up their time for free are supposed to make of it). A rising-star Tory MP told me the other night that he had offered his services to the Tories in Oldham, promising to turn up and knock on doors, but had not had his phone calls returned. – Wall Street Journal

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