Sunday News Review

At each other’s throats

Gordon Brown repeatedly pressured Alistair Darling to change his economic forecasts almost from the outset of his premiership, it has emerged. As the former chancellor prepared to publish his memoir, Back from the Brink, former government insiders revealed the full extent of the split between the two men at the top of the Labour administration. From the autumn of 2007, as Brown agonised over whether to call a snap general election, Darling faced interference from Number 10 as he drew up his first pre-budget report, with the prime minister’s allies urging him to play down the risks of an economic slowdown in the wake of the collapse of Northern Rock. Northern Rock’s bosses blamed “extreme conditions” in the markets for the bank’s collapse, but Brown and Darling clashed over how hard the turmoil would hit the wider economy. Darling feared the impact would be severe, but Brown was determined to stick to the line that the “fundamentals” remained sound. Former insiders say Brown, who had kept Treasury officials on a tight rein during his tenure as chancellor, wanted Darling to overrule his cautious civil servants. “Gordon never understood why Alistair didn’t have the authority over his civil servants that he had,” one source told the Observer. The pre-budget report of October 2007 predicted that GDP would expand by 2% to 2.5% in 2008 as the UK shrugged off the effects of the credit crunch. In the event, it contracted by 0.1%. – the Observer

Gordon Brown came close to sacking his Chancellor, Alis­tair Darling, five times, senior Labour figures reveal today. The bombshell disclosure comes on the eve of a new book by Mr Darling about his relationship with the “brutal” and “volcanic” ex-PM. Mr Darling writes that he saw off a bid by the PM to replace him in 2009 with Mr Brown’s key ally, Ed Balls. And Labour sources have told the Sunday Mirror that he considered sacking Mr Darling five times in his almost three years as PM. The first doubts surfaced in 2008 when Mr Brown was unconvinced Mr Darling could handle the financial crisis, say senior Labour party officials. Mr Brown seriously considered sacking Mr Darling a second time in an October 2008 Cabinet reshuffle which saw the ­return of Lord Mandelson and key allies like “enforcer” Nick Brown. The third attempt – confirmed by Mr Darling in Back from the Brink: 1,000 Days at Number 11 – came in June 2009 when Cabinet Minister James Purnell quit after poor local election results. Mr Brown also thought about knifing his fellow Scot twice more in late 2009 and early 2010. – the Mirror

Scottish Tories could disband

Dramatic plans to disband the Tories north of the border were unveiled by the front-runner for its leadership in a move one senior party figure warned could encourage the break-up of the United Kingdom. Mr Cameron – who is spending the weekend in Scotland – faces the prospect of being the first British Prime Minister whose party has no Scottish MPs. Murdo Fraser, who is favourite to become leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, will announce that he plans to wind up the party if he wins a ballot of members next month. He would follow disbanding the party by launching a new Right-of-centre party that would contest all Scottish elections — council, Scottish Parliament and Westminster. Mr Fraser, a member of the Scottish Parliament, believes the Conservatives have become a “toxic brand” in Scotland since losing all 11 of their Commons seats in the 1997 Labour landslide. – the Telegraph

Tory leadership favourite Murdo Fraser is to launch a bid to scrap the current Scottish Conservative party and transform it into a distinct Scottish identity that is free from London control. The contest for the party leadership is to take a dramatic twist tomorrow with Fraser seeking a mandate to replace the party north of the Border with an alternative bearing a new name in the hope that a radical new approach will attract new members and voters. Fraser, currently deputy leader, believes that the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party brand is now so toxic that it cannot be revived in its current form and will argue that the best way to fight the SNP is to rebrand it as a new progressive tax-lowering party that is separate from David Cameron’s Westminster Tories. His plan has been discussed with senior London Conservatives, close to Cameron, who are sympathetic to the idea that something truly radical has to be done to break the centre-left consensus that has seen the SNP and Labour dominate Scottish politics. – the Scotsman

Chaos in the NHS

The future of the government’s health reforms has been plunged into fresh doubt as the Liberal Democrat peer Shirley Williams raises new concerns, and secret emails reveal plans to hand over the running of up to 20 hospitals to overseas companies. The revelations come as MPs prepare to return to Westminster on Tuesday for what promises to be a crucial stage of the flagship health and social care bill. Baroness Williams, one of the original leaders of a Lib Dem rebellion against health secretary Andrew Lansley’s plans – who appeared to have been pacified after changes were made over the summer – said she had new doubts, having re-examined the proposals. “Despite the great efforts made by Nick Clegg and Paul Burstow [the Lib Dem health minister], I still have huge concerns about the bill. The battle is far from over,” she said. Writing in Sunday’s Observer, Williams raises a series of issues that she says must be addressed. Chief among them is a legal doubt as to whether the secretary of state will any longer be bound to deliver “a comprehensive health service for the people of England, free at the point of need”. Some critics of Lansley believe the Tories are bent on a mission to privatise the NHS, gradually handing it to the private sector. They fear that moves to end the legal obligation on the secretary of state to deliver comprehensive services may be a deliberate part of the process. – the Observer

The political row over the coalition’s NHS reforms will wipe out hundreds of millions of pounds in planned cost savings, which will have to be found in further cuts elsewhere, ministers will be forced to admit this week. The rewriting of Andrew Lansley’s flagship plan to hand GPs control of £80bn in health spending is expected to mean projected benefits are downgraded by up to 10 per cent, putting in jeopardy a fiercely ambitious target to save £20bn by 2015. As a result, recruitment freezes will become more widespread, waiting lists are already on the rise and moves will be made to cut hospital stays, drugs bills and back-office staff. Under Mr Lansley’s original proposals, the changes were projected to secure £5bn in savings over this Parliament, and £1.7bn a year after that. But a new impact assessment, taking into account concessions to the Liberal Democrats, doctors’ leaders and patients groups, could slash that total by up to 10 per cent. – the Independent

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2 Responses to “Sunday News Review”

  1. swatantra says:

    Why do they do it?
    We’ve had Blunket Blair Prescott and Darling spilling the beans on Labours years in power, and surprise surprise Labour slides in the Polls.
    Not an ounze of loyalty to the Party.
    At least we’ve been spared Browns account of what actually happened, if he keeps his promise not to go into print.

  2. paul barker says:

    Oddly you didnt mention the revelations from Libya, that the last, Labour Government collaborated with Gaddafis Secret Police, spying on Libyan dissidents in Britain & sending Agents to help “Interrogate” suspected Islamists in Libya.

    Not really a big story is it ?

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