Saturday News Review

Miliband to force NHS U-turn?

The government will be forced into a U-turn over its sweeping plans to reform the NHS, Ed Miliband will predict today. He will tell the Welsh Labour conference in Llandudno, that the backlash which forced a climbdown over the sale of England’s public forests will be dwarfed by protests over proposals to hand 80 per cent of the health budget to GPs. The Labour leader will say: “I warn David Cameron: the ill-feeling he created over the forests will be as nothing compared to the real anger that will build about his dangerous plans. The NHS is too precious for experiments in right-wing ideology.” – the Independent

The outcry over the proposal to transfer all of the nation’s woodlands out of public control led to a rapid reverse from ministers earlier this week, in a move which was described as “humiliating” for the Government. In a speech to Labour’s Welsh conference, Mr Miliband will predict that the forthcoming NHS reorganisation, which will see most of the health budget handed to individual GPs, would be greeted with an even greater response from voters. He will say: “I warn David Cameron and the Government: the ill-feeling he created over the forests will be as nothing compared to the real anger that will build about his dangerous plans for the NHS. Just like they wanted to sell off the forests to highest bidder, now they want health care sold to the lowest bidder. Some things are just too precious to be left to the market. The NHS is too precious for ill-judged reforms. It is too precious for experiments in right-wing ideology. Will these Tories never understand – health care is not a commodity to be bought and sold.” – Daily Telegraph

Dave’s new team

A new Downing Street team is to drive through a fresh approach to the spending cuts amid fears at senior levels in No 10 that the government is suffering severe damage as voters hear daily stories of cutbacks. In the biggest shakeup of the No 10 operation since the general election, designed in part to move the government out of the “prism of cuts”, two senior figures from the political and corporate worlds are being appointed to key roles. Andrew Cooper, a Tory arch-moderniser who was one of the first figures to persuade David Cameron of the need to “decontaminate” the Conservative brand a decade ago, will become head of political strategy. Paul Kirby, a partner at KPMG who was seconded to the Tories before the election to audit some of their plans for government, will be the civil service head of policy development at No 10. The new team arrives in Downing Street after a bumpy period which has seen the government face intense pressure over the scale of the spending cuts, particularly to local authorities, that will start in April. A series of U-turns, which culminated this week when the government abandoned plans to sell off English forests, also highlighted weaknesses in Downing Street, where the policy unit had been run down after the election. A new focus on political strategy, under the direction of Cooper, will try to show that the government has a vision that goes beyond imposing cuts. Sources talk of the need to develop a “narrative” to move the coalition out of what is being called the “prism of cuts”. – the Guardian

David Cameron is appointing a team of publicly funded strategists to help him avoid more disastrous policy U-turns. Downing Street will be beefed up with a head of policy development when Paul Kirby, formerly of KPMG accountants and the disbanded Audit Commission, joins. He will oversee eight civil servants and five special advisers. A Number Ten source said Mr Kirby’s specialty is ‘cost-cutting’. Pollster Andrew Cooper is expected to become director of strategy. Former BBC Global controller Craig Oliver has already replaced Mr Coulson. The three men are likely to pocket six-figure salaries. Mr Cameron wants to draw a line under a series of presentational disasters, including a climbdown over the sale of forests and anonymity for rape suspects. The Coalition made much of a cull of the political spinners Labour was addicted to. But Number Ten has calculated any criticism it gets for hiring more will be less damaging than having more policies unravel. – Daily Mail

Clarke loses his footing again

Ken Clarke took to the airwaves looking bruised today – sparking talk that he had perhaps been hit by a Prime Ministerial mobile phone or fallen into the clutches of No10’s tough new PR team. David Cameron joked that the injuries were not a result of rows over letting prisoners vote. In fact, said friends, the Justice Secretary, who was touring studios to oppose a switch to the Alternative Vote system, had cut his head tripping on a kerb on Wednesday morning. – Evening Standard

He alarmed guests at a Westminster event, where he introduced a David Cameron speech, sporting a painful-looking shiner and cut on his forehead. It prompted the Prime Minister to quip: “There’s absolutely no truth in the rumour we have been having a fight!” Later Mr Clarke revealed he had stumbled when getting out of his car at Parliament and hit his forehead on a step. The injury had not started out as a black eye but the bruise was spreading. “It’s like a lot of these daft things,” he said. “It was not a serious injury but it’s turned into a lovely black eye during the course of the morning.’’ The 70-year-old jazz fanatic and keen birdwatcher laughed off suggestions he might seek cosmetic surgery, declaring that he was “beyond all that’’. – Daily Express

Don’t talk about Europe

Labour will consider calling for a referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union, in its wide-ranging policy review. An “in or out” vote has traditionally been demanded by Conservative Eurosceptics, But some pro-Europe Labour figures, who believe the public would vote to stay in, are promoting the idea as a way of settling the question for a generation. The high-risk move opens up the possibility that all three main parties might support a referendum on Europe at the next election. Labour’s stance will be discussed today at a Fabian Society conference in London, “Britain and Europe: in, out or somewhere in between?” Sunder Katwala, general secretary of the Labour-affiliated society, said: “There is unlikely to be a referendum on British membership before 2015. But there must be a good chance of a referendum by the time of the 50th anniversary of the last referendum to stay in, in 1975, in order to settle the question of British membership.” Wayne David, the shadow minister for Europe, said: “The Labour Party is having a fundamental policy review and this is one of the things that will be considered.” He was “still to be convinced,” he said, but some Labour figures believed a referendum would “lance the boil” of Euroscepticism. – the Independent

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One Response to “Saturday News Review”

  1. Tacitus says:

    Well Gordon Brown was accused of bullying his colleagues, so perhaps cameron if following suit. If so, I wonder if the media will try and do such a destruction jobn on a Tory?

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