Monday News Review

Referendum campaign kicks on

In one of the more curious pairings of the modern political era, David Cameron will today share a platform with the Labour former cabinet heavyweight John Reid as the battle over electoral reform escalates and cuts across party lines. At the same time, the Liberal Democrat cabinet minister Vince Cable will be sitting alongside the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, to make the case for changing the voting system. With 17 days to go to the referendum, politicians are to intensify hostilities in a contest that is too close to call. Tensions within the Coalition – inflamed last week by Mr Cameron’s warning that high immigration had damaged some communities – have been exacerbated by the referendum campaign. The differences were underscored yesterday by rival television interviews by the Prime Minister and his deputy. Mr Cameron claimed that first-past-the-post was straightforward and popular around the world, while Nick Clegg countered that the alternative vote was fairer and more democratic. – the Independent

The nationwide referendum taking place on 5 May – the first for 36 years – is our chance to change politics for the better. Like most political contests, the choice is coming down to hope vs fear. The hopes that a Yes vote can bring better politics and the fears being peddled by the Conservatives who are spearheading the No campaign. Our politics needs change: the reputation of politics is at an all-time low, turnout at general elections has been declining and many people feel disconnected and alienated from Westminster. My own view is that the alternative vote (AV) isn’t a panacea. It’s not perfect. But I hope and believe it will help improve our politics. It will make politicians more accountable, as every MP will have to seek out more than 50 per cent of the vote. – Ed Miliband, the Independent

The big society “feels like an empty vessel”

The Big Society is this Government’s Big Idea. Part philosophy, part practical programme, it is the glue that holds together the Coalition’s efforts to reduce the size of the state and make it work much better for the citizen. For this reason, those at the heart of government will have taken very seriously the criticisms of Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, reported in The Sunday Telegraph yesterday. He argued that the Big Society is “lacking a cutting edge” and “has no teeth”, and he was right to do so. My think tank, Reform, has been holding a series of sell-out meetings on this subject. But the main reason for such interest is that, a year on, people are still trying to understand what it means. Ministers – including Oliver Letwin, who is in charge of the programme – have told us that the Big Society means more volunteering, stronger local government and, most importantly, new ways of delivering public services. We have spoken to organisations that exemplify all of these ambitions – from charities providing health and education to private companies organising their employees to help in the community. But in truth these were things they were doing long before this Government was elected. Far from being a powerful political project, the Big Society feels like an empty vessel. – the Telegraph

Official secrets slip up

Secret information from at least three separate government departments is available on the internet because of incompetent handling of sensitive material by Whitehall officials, The Daily Telegraph can disclose. The Ministry of Defence, the Department of Health and the Department for Communities and Local Government have published sensitive documents online, but then failed to properly “redact” classified information. As a result, information that is supposed to be hidden from public view can be read by anyone with access to a computer. The Daily Telegraph discovered the security breaches yesterday after the Ministry of Defence admitted that secrets about Britain’s nuclear submarines were obtainable from a government report online. A technical error meant blackedout parts of the report could be read by “copying and pasting” its contents into another document. Details included expert opinion on how well the fleet could cope with a catastrophic accident. It was replaced with a secure version of the document yesterday, but a review of other documents on government websites uncovered four similar examples across three separate Whitehall departments. – the Telegraph

Surgeons warning over cost-cutting

Growing numbers of patients are being wrongly denied a new hip, a weight loss operation or even cancer treatment because of NHS cost-cutting, the leaders of Britain’s surgeons have warned. Increasing rationing of operations is forcing patients to endure pain, injury or disability because NHS primary care trusts (PCTs) are ignoring evidence about the effectiveness of certain treatments simply to balance their books. The warning from the Federation of Surgical Specialty Associations (FSSA), which represents the nine major types of surgeon in the UK, is in an open letter passed to the Guardian. It accuses trusts of letting down needy patients by branding forms of elective surgery as of limited clinical value in order to help them cope with the NHS’s tough financial climate. The FSSA, which represents about 15,000 surgeons, says it is “concerned that lists of surgical procedures and interventions, deemed of low clinical effectiveness or of ‘lower value’, are being used by PCTs to limit access to certain procedures … Review of the lists reveals that there is little or no evidence to support the view that many of the procedures are of limited value to individual patients”.- the Guardian

Leave a Reply