Wednesday News Review

Osborne unwilling to consider alternative

A shaken coalition government today lashed itself to the mast of multi-billion spending cuts and rejected calls for a change of economic course in the face of shocking figures that showed the economy contracted by 0.5% in the last quarter of 2010. The figures, raising fears of stagflation – high unemployment and inflation with stagnant growth – mark the first serious challenge to the coalition’s political and economic edifice. In an attempt to reassure volatile markets, Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, urged the cabinet to stand firm and warned of many shocks to the economy before it settled down to a consistent pattern of growth. The markets had been expecting growth in the final quarter of 2010 in the region of 0.3% and 0.7%. Ministers blamed the coldest weather in a century or a survey error by the Office for National Statistics. But even if the effect of the weather is stripped out, the economy was flat in the final quarter after a year of recovery.

David and Ed to team up?

David and Ed Miliband are combining to create a 10,000-strong “army” of community organisers in the first formal rapprochement for the pair since Ed beat David to the Labour party leadership. The Movement for Change, set up by David during his leadership campaign, is to be relaunched in March and expanded, initially under the wing of the Labour party. The brothers want to increase tenfold the 1,000 activists trained through that campaign to organise people, such as patients, parents and tenants, to resist change imposed by state or the private sector in their neighbourhoods. Lord Sainsbury of Turville is poised to donate £250,000 as the first stage of funding for the training. The move is significant because Sainsbury, a supporter of David Miliband who has bankrolled Labour with £13m in the last 10 years, is one of several big donors who have said they are not keen on continuing to back Labour with Ed in charge. – the Guardian

Tory MP forced to apologise over “questionable sexual standards” remarks

An MP has had to rewrite an entry on his blog after saying plans to teach children about homosexuality would impose “questionable sexual standards”. Conservative Richard Drax said a state-funded plan to use maths, geography and science lessons to instruct about same-sex relationships was “ludicrous”. He later removed the posting following a complaint, saying he had not “intended to be homophobic”. But Labour said the MP’s views were “astonishing”. Mr Drax, MP for South Dorset, wrote the original entry in response to a recent article in the Sunday Telegraph which said the lesson plans had been drawn up as part of LGBT History Month – an initiative designed to encourage teaching about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual issues. – BBC

Another Conservative MP has attacked plans to encourage schools to include references to gay people in maths, science and geography. New South Dorset MP Richard Drax said the voluntary lesson plans were “ludicrous” and would impose “questionable sexual standards” on children. The guidance, drawn up by gay charity Schools Out, encourages schools to use gay people and same-sex parents as examples in instances such as maths problems and why people chose to live in certain cities. There is no suggestion that the lesson plans will involve talking about sex. – Pink News

Lord Taylor found guilty

Lord Taylor of Warwick is facing a possible prison sentence after becoming the first parliamentarian to be tried and found guilty by a jury over the expenses investigation. The 58-year-old, who was ennobled by the Conservative party, was said to be “devastated” after a seven-man, five-woman jury today convicted him of dishonestly claiming £11,277 in allowances by an 11-1 majority verdict. The barrister and sometime television presenter had falsely claimed travel and overnight subsistence by telling the Lords members’ expenses office that his main residence was in Oxford, when he had only one address in Ealing, west London. He told jurors at Southwark crown court, London, he was following advice given to him by fellow peers that it was acceptable to nominate a main residence outside the capital and claim the allowances “in lieu of salary”. – the Guardian

Lord Taylor has been found guilty of making false expenses claims. The Tory peer said he had fallen foul of unclear guidelines and that many of his colleagues in the House of Lords had treated the expenses system as a replacement salary.  Lord Taylor had claimed for travel expenses between a home in Oxford and the Houses of Parliament in London, but it emerged during the trial that he had never stayed the night at the Oxford residence.  – PoliticsHome

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