Tuesday News Review

Royal mess

David Cameron was urged to “get a grip” on Monday night after Downing Street appeared to change its position on whether to support the Duke of York. On Sunday, an anonymous source within No.10 said that there would be no “tears shed” if the Duke stood aside from his role as Britain’s trade ambassador. But yesterday morning the Prime Minister’s official spokesman insisted that the Government was “fully supportive” of his decision to stay on. The spokesman added that ministers were not reviewing the Duke’s position, despite suggestions from within No.10 hours earlier that the Duke would have to stand down if more allegations emerged. The about-turn cast a shadow over Craig Oliver’s first full week as the Government’s director of communications. The assurances also appeared to contradict remarks by Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, whose department oversees the work of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI). – the Telegraph

David Cameron was forced to try to head off a rift with Buckingham Palace last night after his new spin-doctor appeared to question the Duke of York’s future as a British trade envoy. Downing Street sources – understood to be Craig Oliver, the Prime Minister’s new director of communications – briefed the BBC that Prince Andrew’s position might become “untenable” if further revelations about his links to the controversial American billionaire Jeffrey Epstein came to light. Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, then threw fuel on the flames by saying that it was up to the Duke to judge whether he should stay in the role – and that “conversations” would be taking place with him on that subject. Just a few hours later, however, Downing Street was in full retreat. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman insisted that Mr Cameron had full confidence in the Duke and was “fully supportive” of him remaining in the post. He also dismissed suggestions that Prince Andrew’s role could be downgraded following the furore over his other business connections. – the Independent

Police cuts will hit areas with highest crime rates

Police chiefs have privately told ministers that a total of 28,000 jobs will be lost from the 43 forces in England and Wales because of government funding cuts, the Guardian has learned. The confidential calculation from the Association of Chief Police Officers is the most authoritative so far about the effects on police numbers caused by a 20% reduction in government grants, and the first from police chiefs to be made public. It predicts the number of officers will fall by 12,000, while civilian staff will have to be cut by 16,000, several sources say. Urban areas, which have the highest crime rates, will be hit hardest because they are more reliant on government money, opening the coalition to charges that cuts will fall hardest on the poor areas. The figures come in one of the most tumultuous weeks for British policing in modern times and could herald a showdown with the government. – the Guardian

Hague faces the music

Amid mounting criticism of his handling of the Libyan crisis, William Hague yesterday had to accept the blame for a bungled SAS mission that the opposition called an “embarrassment” that could have led to tragedy. Nonetheless, attempting to downplay his own role in the process, the Foreign Secretary stressed that the military was responsible for the details of the operation. And he added that David Cameron was informed before two diplomats, guarded by six special forces troops, were sent to the east of the country. Mr Hague was forced to make a Commons statement following the fiasco, which led to the detention of the Britons by rebel leaders and the confiscation of their weapons and helicopters. Earlier Downing Street had confirmed the Foreign Secretary had approved the dispatch of the “diplomatic team” to Libya. MPs of all parties mocked the decision to send the Foreign Office advisers – who were charged with forging links with opposition leaders – to a location outside Benghazi at night. Although Mr Hague told the Commons he accepted “full ministerial responsibility” for the botched operation, he also sought to pass some blame to the Government’s military advisers. – the Independent

The Foreign Secretary told MPs he had authorised the “dispatch of a small British diplomatic team” to “initiate contacts with the opposition” and “to assess the scope for closer diplomatic dialogue”. “They were withdrawn yesterday after a serious misunderstanding about their role, leading to their temporary detention,” he said. “However, this situation is resolved and they were able to meet the council president.” Mr Hague said he had acted on military advice, and that Prime Minister David Cameron was “aware” of the operation. But he looked increasingly beleaguered as he was asked why there had been insufficient communication with Libyan rebel leaders in advance of the operation and why a diplomatic mission, if that is what it was, did not simply fly into Benghazi rather than land in a helicopter in the desert with the SAS. Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander wondered how Mr Hague would welcome new neighbours in his street: “Would he ring their front doorbell to say, ‘Hello,’ or climb over their back garden fence?” Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell described the operation as “ill-conceived, poorly planned and embarrassingly executed”. – Sky

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