Posts Tagged ‘Wen Jiabao’

Monday News Review

27/06/2011, 06:33:48 AM

Tory tragedy

Christopher Shale, David Cameron‘s constituency chairman, was warned by Downing Street officials that a sensitive memo written by him had been leaked to a Sunday newspaper shortly before he died at the Glastonbury festival. The prime minister said that he was “devastated” by the news that Shale, aged 56, had been found dead in a portable toilet at the festival, after apparently suffering from a heart attack. Early rumours that he may have committed suicide were rejected by police. It has emerged that two Downing Street officials tried to reach Shale around lunchtime on Saturday to warn him about the note, in which he described parts of his local party as crass and grasping and said that it offered people no reason to join, had been passed to the Mail on Sunday. One official contacted him by text just after 12.30pm to advise him not to speak to reporters; another suggested he get in touch with Conservative headquarters. Shale subsequently contacted the Witney constituency agent Barry Norton, a West Oxfordshire councillor, who said that Shale had been aware of the Mail article but was “quite confident that this was not really an issue”. – the Guardian

That politics is a tough game is a much-used cliche, but it’s true. Like Harold Wilson’s phrase about a week being a long time in politics or Enoch Powell’s observation that all political careers end in failure, the old saying is accurate. The riddle of the untimely death in a Glastonbury VIP toilet of Cameron’s right-hand man, Christopher Shale, is a moment to reflect on the ­pressures of political life. Avon and Somerset Police are investigating and an inquest could be held. Conspiracy theorists have jumped to ­conclusions and will refuse to budge, as they did with Iraq weapons scientist Dr David Kelly. Mr Shale’s death is first and foremost a tragedy for his family. So out of respect to them we should avoid instant verdicts, although police suspect a heart attack. A senior figure in any ­political party would feel under pressure should a damning private assessment receive a public airing. That Mr Shale died after Downing Street rang him may well prove a coincidence, the call and his death hours later two unconnected events. Mr Shale’s conclusions – Tories come across as graceless and always on the take – were uncontroversial to anyone who sees the modern Conservatives up close. What made them controversial was his position as a ­prominent Tory in the PM’s backyard – a close friend. Did telling the truth have tragic consequences for a respected local politician? – Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror

Trade over rights as Wen Jiabao visits number 10

Mr Wen, who is on a three-day visit to the UK, has already said he wants to welcome more UK products to China. On Sunday he visited the Longbridge MG car plant, where he faced a small human rights protest. Downing Street said there was potential to create more jobs and investment opportunities for British businesses. The two leaders are expected to sign an agreement to help UK companies work with China’s regional cities, in architecture, civil engineering and research and development. British poultry farmers are being allowed to export to China and the visit is expected to see agreements reached for the supply of pigs. Chancellor George Osborne and Foreign Secretary William Hague are due to join Mr Cameron for the talks and Mr Wen is accompanied by other senior members of the Chinese government. They are also likely to discuss improving cultural and educational relationships between China and the UK and global issues such as international security and climate change. A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “China’s rapid economic rise is good news for the UK. It means more money flowing into our economies and has the potential to create more jobs and investment opportunities for British business at home and in China.” – BBC News

Whitehall officials are firmly focused on improving Britain’s trade links with China as Wen Jiabao visits London – to the frustration of human rights campaigners. The Chinese premier and other senior officials are meeting David Cameron and other coalition figures in a summit this morning, as British officials seek to further their goal of securing $100 billion of bilateral trade with China by 2015. Deals worth over £1 billion are expected to be signed later, following up the $1.2 billion Rolls-Royce deal made when a UK delegation led by Mr Cameron visited China last November. The UK will raise human rights issues, but is not prepared to compromise its trade interests by souring relations with Beijing. “Our support for freedom of expression, development of independent civil society and our conviction that the transparent and consistent application of human rights under the rule of law, are essential prerequisites for China’s long term prosperity and stability,” No 10 said. China has released artist Ai Weiwei and dissident Hu Jia in the last eight days, but a strong police presence outside the latter’s home has kept journalists away from his home. –

The talks before the strike

Crucial talks aimed at averting autumn strikes will be held today between the Government and unions – with one official admitting the negotiations are “fraught with difficulties”. The meeting follows weeks of an increasingly bitter war of words over pay and pensions reform and ahead of Thursday’s industrial action involving 750,000 public sector workers. Unison leader Dave Prentis has already warned that his union will ballot over a million workers for industrial action if the dispute is not resolved. Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, sparked anger earlier this month when he made it clear the Government would press ahead with plans for public sector workers to pay more into pensions and work longer. We have rigorous contingency plans in place to ensure that essential services are maintained during the strike action on Thursday. Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “What we are looking for is some sign that the Government is prepared to move on the three central issues – paying more, working longer and getting less.” The Government has based its proposals on a report earlier this year by former Labour minister Lord Hutton, which recommended increased payments, a switch from final salary schemes to those based on career-average earnings, and rises in the pension age. But in a speech last week, Lord Hutton warned that people could be forced out of pension schemes if government reforms were too punitive. – Sky News

This week the Coalition government faces its first great trial of strength with the unions as about 750,000 teachers, lecturers and civil servants prepare to walk out over reforms to public pensions. No one can describe the forthcoming battle as unexpected. David Cameron may not espouse the same shrilly ideological grudge against unions in principle that Margaret Thatcher appeared to evince in the 1980s. But the whole thrust of Mr Cameron’s and George Osborne’s agenda, which strives towards a grand rebalancing of the economy, away from the public sector and towards private enterprise and the voluntary sector, necessarily implies a clash with the unions. When the Government talks of “the country” bearing the weight of cuts in spending, this is shorthand for cuts to the numbers, wages and pensions of civil servants. So, neither side is sleepwalking into combat; it was a question of where and when. Each side is banking on public support swinging gradually if not immediately behind it. The unions hope that this week’s industrial action will be start of rolling strikes that gather strength as summer shades into autumn, tapping into a deep vein of public discontent with the handling of the economy that has hitherto struggled to find expression. With any luck, they may calculate, the strikes will expose new strains in the Coalition, adding to the unhappiness already felt by many Liberal Democrats with Government policies and so precipitating the collapse of the Coalition. – the Independent

Hain hails to the chief

Shadow Welsh Secretary Peter Hain yesterday said Labour is on course for the biggest changes in “living memory” as the party prepares for major reforms. UK leader Ed Miliband pressed for sweeping changes when he addressed the National Policy Forum in North Wales on Saturday and called for the creation of a mass “movement”. Mr Hain, who has chaired the National Policy Forum, said: “What we are embarking on here is a really serious transformation of a political party , the biggest one undertaken in living memory, because politics has changed and we are a party – like the others are – that is stuck in the past.” A key proposal is to throw open annual conferences to non-affiliated charities and community organisations in an attempt to build a wider movement. Support for reform also came from former prime minister Tony Blair. He said: “Parties that succeed do so by constantly modernising.” – Western Mail

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