The ten things you need to know on Friday 22 March 2013...
1) IMMIGRATION - CABLE VS CLEGG
From the Sun:
"A spectacular clash between Nick Clegg and Vince Cable over immigration plunged the Lib Dems into chaos last night.
The Deputy PM is set to unveil a 'tough' stance on migrants today in a bid to win voters.
"He will announce plans to tackle those from 'high-risk' countries, making them pay bonds worth thousands of pounds which will only be returned when they leave.
"Mr Clegg will also call for fines to be doubled to £20,000 for employers who hire illegal immigrants. But his proposed crackdown was torpedoed by Mr Cable, who slammed the drive to cut immigration.
"The Business Secretary said a Tory pledge to cut net migration to 'tens of thousands' was 'unattainable' — and not Coalition policy.
"He told The House Magazine that it would cause 'enormous damage'.
"Mr Cable claimed students in countries like India and China think 'Britain is Closed'.
Putting aside the Lib Dem split on this issue, it's depressing that the deputy prime minister has chosen to go down this particular road. The Times reports that Clegg's speech "will raise fears in some quarters that a political arms race on migration is under way. All three parties are alarmed by the rise of UKIP, which has capitalised on public concern over migrant numbers. The Prime Minister is preparing an immigration speech for Monday in which he is expected to address the issue of how to deter migrants from Bulgaria and Romania heading to the UK from next January."
On a side note, as the Huffington Post reports, Cable told the House magazine that "he would stand for election again in 2015, pointing out he was in the company of great prime ministers by continuing in politics at an older age.
"Asked if Gladstone was his role model: 'Yes, well, he became Prime Minister when he was over 80, didn't he? I think Churchill was over 70, wasn't he?'"
2) MAULED BY MUM
Clegg's got other things to worry about. From the Mail's splash:
"A stay-at-home mother who ambushed Nick Clegg on live radio tore into Coalition family policy last night. Laura Perrins, who gave up work as a barrister to look after her two children, said ministers viewed her role as 'worthless'. Articulating the views of thousands of mothers who feel betrayed by the Government, she said traditional families were being insulted and discriminated against.
"The 32-year-old has already lost her child benefit and will not gain from new child care payments announced in the Budget which are only for families where both parents work.
"Mrs Perrins confronted the Deputy Prime Minister with her views on his weekly LBC radio phone-in yesterday, when her son Matthew could be heard playing in the background... [She] told Mr Clegg: 'I'm just wondering why the Coalition is discriminating against mothers like me who care for their children at home. You probably think what I do is a worthless job.'
"Mr Clegg, whose wife Miriam is a highpowered lawyer, clearly floundered as he insisted he does not have a problem with mothers who choose to give up work to raise their children."
3) THE CLOCK IS TICKING
Forget Clegg, poor Cyprus! From the FT's front-page story:
"Cyprus announced plans yesterday to overhaul its banking sector and force losses on big depositors as the European Central Bank threatened to withdraw crucial funding if the island's government failed to agree on a bailout.
"Panicos Demetriades, Central Bank of Cyprus governor, said parliament would be asked to wind up Laiki, the island's second lender, and split it into a "good" and "bad" bank, with larger deposits folded into the latter...
"Long queues formed at cash machines across Nicosia, the capital, yesterday as Laiki imposed a €260 limit on cash withdrawals. Scuffles between police and protesters were reported outside parliament."
"Earlier in the day, the ECB told Cyprus that emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) to the island's two biggest banks would be cut off if the government did not agree a plan to raise billions of euros for its bailout by Monday. Cyprus, which joined the euro area in 2008, has been scrambling to find the €5.8bn required to unlock a €10bn EU bailout."
4) THE TORIES' 'TAX BOMBSHELL'
Yesterday, our own finance minister, the chancellor George Osborne, decided to make an absurd comparison between the economies of the UK and Cyprus:
"You only have to watch your news bulletins to see other countries, not far from here, who have not confronted their problems and who are worried about getting money out of the bank."
Is it really wise to compare the world's 6th biggest economy with the world's 91st biggest economy? Really?
Perhaps it's all part of the chancellor's cunning plan to soften us up for what the Mirror calls "a £480-a-year tax rise [per household] to plug a black hole in the Government's finances".
On its front page, the Guardian reports:
"Tax rises of up to £9bn – equal to a 2p increase in the basic rate of income tax – could be imposed after the next general election to limit further cuts in public spending, experts warned on Thursday.
"... The IFS, which produces a keenly watched analysis of the chancellor's budget, gave its warning after the Treasury's independent forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility, warned that growth would halve this year to 0.6% and the recovery would be weaker than predicted only in December."
"There was speculation in the City following the poor figures that the UK could face its second credit downgrade as soon as the weekend."
Meanwhile, my colleague Ned Simons reports:
"George Osborne has been sharply criticised by the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) for shifting spending into next year in order to avoid political embarrassment.
"Paul Johnson said the chancellor wasted civil servants' time by asking them to find a way to allow him to say he will be able to bring borrowing in this year below last year's total - down from £121 billion to £120.9 billion.
"'There is every indication that the numbers have been carefully managed with a close eye on the headline borrowing figures for this year. It is unlikely that this has led either to an economically optimal allocation of spending across years or to a good use of time by officials and ministers,' Johnson said."
However, the former Tory chancellor Norman Lamont told me yesterday that he did not believe there had been a "fiddling of the accounts" as Treasury officials "don’t let you get away with" such "tricks".
5) DANNY DENOUNCES DOUBLE DIP
From the Sun's splash:
"[T]he Oscar-winning director, who helped trigger a feelgood fever among proud Brits during that glorious fortnight, admits the warm glow which the nation felt about itself has since faded.
"And he blames the loss of that positive Olympic legacy on the bitter economic winter.
"In an exclusive interview with The Sun he says: 'I think it would be naive to say it could last. It is nice to have a fillip like that to feel good together, then you get back to your own private battles.
“'Obviously we are in tough economic times, which means it is difficult to find jobs for people.
“'I think the most important factor for a country’s cohesion is that people have jobs that young people can go into.
“'You can’t keep hoping the optimism of the opening ceremony and the Games will last.'”
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video of a monkey that really loves its owner.
6) MICHAEL GOVE VS THE 100, PART 2
From the Telegraph:
"The Education Secretary accused 100 dons behind high–profile criticism of the Government's new national curriculum of peddling 'bad academia'. Earlier this week, academics from university education departments in England rounded on Mr Gove for attempting to prioritise knowledge over skills in the updated curriculum.
In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, it was claimed children would be forced to memorise 'endless lists of spellings, facts and rules' – stifling creativity and damaging development. But in a speech yesterday, the Education Secretary said professors felt it was 'a tragedy the Secretary of State would like children to learn things'."
7) SCOTLAND'S DATE WITH DESTINY
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a date. Finally. From the Huffington Post:
"Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond, has announced that the country's independence referendum will take place on Thursday September 18th 2014.
Salmond said this would be the day 'we take responsibility for our country' and 'stand on our own two feet'.
There had been speculation over whether it could coincide with significant events such as the Commonwealth games or the anniversary of Bannockburn when patriotism would be high, but the date does not have any particular resonance.
"... Scottish Labour leader, Johann Lamont, took her turn to ask questions on starting with a jibe.
"Lamont said: 'If the hand of history is on Salmond's shoulder, I wish it would give him a shove and tell him to get on with it.'"
8) 'MINISTER'S WAR ON COUNTRYSIDE'
That's the headline in the Tory-friendly (!) Telegraph:
"Nick Boles, the planning minister, attended a meeting with some of the country’s biggest property developers hours after George Osborne’s speech on Wednesday in which he told them he was prepared for an acrimonious battle with countryside campaigners.
"The Telegraph has obtained a recording of the meeting in which Mr Boles discloses that he is poised to axe the planning permission requirement for many developments. He indicates that the main purpose of a £15.5 billion government package to support homebuyers is to create a building boom.
"The planning minister said he "couldn’t care who owns the bloody things'."
9) SYRIA, SARIN AND SOIL SAMPLES
From the Times front page:
"Government scientists at Porton Down are examining a soil sample smuggled out of Syria after a suspected nerve gas attack on rebels in the country's civil war.
The sample was obtained in a covert mission involving MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service.
Experts at the Ministry of Defence's chemical research establishment in Wiltshire are testing the soil for traces of sarin nerve agent.
"... If experts at Porton Down discover evidence of chemical agents in the soil, pressure on the international community to take military action against the Syrian regime would increase."
Here's the problem: what if it turns out that, yes, chemical weapons have been used in Syria BUT used by the rebels, not by the regime? By 'our' guys? What then?
10) THATCHER CONFIDENTIAL
From the Mirror:
"Argentina's invasion of the Falkland Islands caused deep divisions in the Tory party over how to respond.
"West Devon MP Peter Mills led the gung-ho brigade by insisting his 'constituents want blood' while others warned going to war with Argentina would be a mistake.
"The Cabinet was plunged into chaos after the 1982 invasion, according to Margaret Thatcher's private papers - which are today published for the first time.
"... Kenneth Clarke, then a junior minister, warned: 'We should blow up a few ships but nothing more.' Five unnamed MPs called on PM Mrs Thatcher to 'keep calm', adding: 'We can get away without a fight.'
A note a few days after Argentina took the Falklands on April 2 described Stephen Dorrell, later Health Secretary, as 'wobbly'.
The Mirror adds:
"The papers also reveal how Lady Thatcher sang the praises of hated Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe after attending a 1982 lunch held in his honour.
"He became a murderous dictator, but the former PM described him as a 'friendly and open' leader who would 'contribute to the peace and stability'. She told him: 'We wish you well in your endeavours.'"
Meanwhile, the Telegraph reveals:
"Baroness Thatcher argued with Foreign Office officials about whether sea slugs and jam sandwiches should be served at a banquet for Chinese dignitaries.
"She also queried the cost of the event and proposed a cheaper menu, but was eventually persuaded by the British Ambassador in Beijing that skimping on the meal could offend their guests."
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From today's Sun/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 11
That would give Labour a majority of 96.
140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
@George_Osborne Just met Emily & Rick - great couple who bought flat through shared equity. Want to help many more like them
@oflynnexpress Exposure of Lib Dem immigration policy at the last election by a free press is what killed Cleggmania stone dead.
@TomHarrisMP How soon after 18/9/14 will Lord Salmond of Banff be introduced to the Lords?
900 WORDS OR MORE
Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian, says: "Do people get Osborne and co yet? Even Thatcher wouldn't have gone this far."
Fraser Nelson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Our fortunes rest on the Bank’s great money-printing machine."
Philip Collins, writing in the Times, says: "This Government badly needs a full-time political strategist to stop the rot."
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