Wednesday News Review

Huhne warns Cameron over “reprehensible and underhand” campaign

A Liberal democrat Cabinet minister has warned David Cameron that the “outrageous” Conservative-led No campaign ahead of next month’s referendum on the voting system risks inflicting permanent damage on the Coalition. Chris Huhne, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, told The Independent that the Prime Minister should intervene to stop the No camp telling “downright lies”. He cited its claims that a switch to the alternative vote (AV) would require electronic counting machines and cost £250m that could be spent on vital public services. “There is no truth whatever in these outrageous allegations,” he said. “It is absolutely astonishing that it could come from our Coalition partners. I fear it could damage the Coalition and diminish the respect his Coalition partners have for him [Mr Cameron]. There is no doubt that if you behave in a thoroughly reprehensible and underhand manner you are going to lose the respect of people.” – the Independent

Balls: Osborne’s plan just isn’t working

Next Wednesday’s growth figures for the first quarter of 2011 will give us a picture of our economy over the last six months – since the spending review and VAT rise, but before the impact of the bulk of the cuts has been felt. If the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast of 0.8% growth for the first quarter is proved right then, with Osborne’s plan now in place, Britain’s economy over the latest six months will have grown by a paltry 0.3%. This compares to growth of 1.8% in the previous six months. The fact is that over recent months the economy has been flatlining, when it should be growing strongly. Slower growth plus higher unemployment will make it harder to get the deficit down. And however shrill and spurious the international comparisons from the chancellor become, I fear George Osborne’s plan is not working. He is increasingly out of his depth. – Ed Balls, the Guardian

Miliband calls for phone hacking review

Labour leader Ed Miliband wants an independent review of the regulation and practices of newspapers in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal. He said the review should begin once the police inquiry into phone hacking and any legal cases had been completed. The News of the World has apologised to some victims, including actress Sienna Miller, and set up a compensation fund. Three journalists have been arrested and bailed as part of the latest police inquiry. Speaking in the Guardian, Mr Miliband said the police investigation was the immediate priority but once it was finished, wider lessons needed to be learned. “I think it is in the interests of protecting the reputation of the British press that these matters should not simply be left to rest, and lessons have to be learned,” he said. – BBC

Labour is aware that Lord Fowler, the chairman of the Lords communications select committee and a former Conservative party chairman, has been calling for a judge-led inquiry into the newspaper industry. Miliband added: “I would separate out the backward looking issue of who did what wrong, and any criminalitity, on the one hand and the forward looking issue of what lessons need to be learned.” He stressed: “The immediate priority is to have this police inquiry, for it to do its work and to get to the bottom of what really happened. We now know because News Interantional have said so the media did some things they regret. This inquiry has got to take its course and it is very important it does that”. He added: “My clear view is that self regulation continues to be the right thing. We do not want the government regulating the press.” He was also pleased the police were investigating suggestions that newspapers regularly paid police for stories. “The first police investigation clearly did not uncover the full facts, but in the second investigation they seem to be going about it the right way, and I am sure they too will want learn lessons from it.” – the Guardian

Hospital waiting times rise dramatically

Hospital waiting times have hit their highest level in three years as the financial strain on the National Health Service begins to show, a quarterly monitoring report said on Wednesday. The report is the first regular update from London-based health think-tank The King’s Fund and comes as the NHS strives to meet government deficit-reduction targets by making 20 billion pounds in productivity improvements by 2015. “With hospital waiting times rising, the NHS faces a considerable challenge in maintaining performance as the financial squeeze begins to bite,” said Professor John Appleby, the Fund’s chief economist. “It highlights significant concern among NHS finance directors — who are well placed to report on the stresses in the system — about the prospects for the year ahead.” The report surveyed 26 finance directors from NHS trusts in all the English regions and found that although most were confident they had met their productivity targets for 2010/11, more than two-thirds said they may not do so for 2011/12. Research from February 2011 showed nearly 15 percent of hospital in-patients waited over 18 weeks for treatment, the highest level since April 2008. – Reuters

Leave a Reply