Monday News Review

Huhne attacks Warsi over AV

Cabinet tensions over the electoral reform referendum burst into the open last night after a senior Liberal Democrat minister challenged the Conservative Party chairman to disown the “scaremongering” and “gutter politics” of the “no” campaign. Chris Huhne tore into its claim – reinforced in an advertising campaign – that a “yes” result in the poll on 5 May over replacing the first-past-the-post system with the alternative vote (AV) would cost Britain £250m. He targeted his anger at his Tory Cabinet colleague, Baroness Warsi, in a bluntly worded letter that exposed the growing strains between the Coalition partners on the issue. Mr Huhne challenged her, as the Tory chairman and a patron of the “no” campaign, to pull the plug on its “scaremongering and misleading” publicity. He attacked the £250m claim, which has been backed by the message that the money could be used to treat sick babies or buy body armour for soldiers, as the “politics of the gutter”. Mr Huhne, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, wrote: “When David Cameron launched his ‘no’ campaign, he said this should not be a source of tension between us or risk breaking the Coalition. It won’t, if your ‘no’ camp now withdraws these disgraceful advertisements and campaigns on facts not fears, substance not smears.” – the Independent

Cable confirms 50p tax to go

The business secretary, Vince Cable, has confirmed the 50p rate on tax will be abolished – and revealed the government would consider bringing in a ‘mansions tax’ to ensure the wealthiest pay their way. The chancellor, George Osborne, ordered a review of tax on top earners in the budget last week, restating that the 50p rate on those who earn above £150,000 was only temporary, and triggering speculation that the rate could be wound down as soon as 2013. Cable in two interviews raised the issue of the rate and alternatives to it. The move would leave the government exposed to accusations that it is softening taxes for the rich, amid intense public anxiety about the fairness of the cuts. The business secretary’s intervention comes just a day after up to 500,000 people took to the streets to demonstrate against the government’s economic plans. Labour pointed out that the coalition would be reducing the tax for the richest while forcing the poorest to lose the largest proportion of their pay packets through the VAT hike. – the Guardian

Fox denies splits

Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, hit back yesterday at reports that he had been “frozen out” of talks in Whitehall over the military onslaught against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces. He also strongly denied accusations of tension in his working relationship with General Sir David Richards, the Chief of the Defence Staff. He broke off from negotiations in Brussels over the full transfer of command to Nato for the military action in Libya to dismiss the claims. The minister rejected charges he was playing only a peripheral role in planning the action as “tittle-tattle”, insisting he was working very closely with David Cameron. He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: “Some of us are more concerned at actually what’s happening in Libya, what’s happening in Afghanistan, the problems in the Yemen, how we look after our armed forces more than media tittle-tattle. “If what I read in the papers is true this morning, I must’ve been imagining all these meetings I’ve been at in the last three weeks and the phone calls late at night, including from the Prime Minister.” – the Independent

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