The ten things you need to know on Sunday 5 May 2013...
1) DEPUTY COMMONS SPEAKER ARRESTED FOR RAPE
It's Nigel Evans MP.
"Top Tory arrested for rape," declares the Sunday Mirror.
"Deputy speaker in rape arrest," says the Sunday Times.
"Top Tory arrested over 'rape'," is the headline in the Sunday Telegraph.
"Tory deputy speaker in gay rape arrest," screams the Sun on Sunday.
The Mail on Sunday goes with: "Deputy Speaker arrested over gay rape."
The Mirror's Vincent Moss, who broke the story late last night, reports:
"Shockwaves reverberated around Westminster yesterday as news of senior Tory Nigel Evans' arrest emerged.
"The Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons was held on suspicion of raping one man and sexually assaulting another between July 2009 and March this year. Both are in their 20s.
"A Whitehall source said PM David Cameron and Mr Evans’ boss, Speaker John Bercow, had both been informed.
"Detectives swooped on the MP’s cottage in the Lancashire village of Pendleton yesterday morning.
Evans, a former vice chairman of the Conservative Party and ex-shadow Welsh secretary, has been deputy Commons speaker since 2010 and MP for the safe Tory seat of Ribble Valley since 1992. He revealed he was gay in December 2010, saying he was "tired of living a lie".
Having been bailed by the police last night, a pale, bespectacled Evans appeared outside his home in Pendleton this morning to express a "sense of incredulity" at the allegations. Referring to the complaints as "completely false", he said they had come from two men who "until yesterday, I had regarded as friends...and I cannot understand why they have been made, especially as I have continued to socialise with one as recently as last week."
Can Evans stay on as deputy Commons speaker as the criminal investigation continues? Defence Secretary Philip Hammond this morning suggested it might be difficult for him to do so "under such scrutiny".
2) ISRAEL HITS SYRIA
If you thought things couldn't get any worse in Syria, think again. While the rest of us have been arguing about whether or not the west should mount a military intervention in that country, Israel has gone and launched an attack on its own - from the Sunday Times website:
"Israeli rockets struck a military research centre on the outskirts of Damascus earlier this morning, Syrian state television reported, after a series of explosions shook the capital.
"An intelligence official in the Middle East confirmed that Israel launched an airstrike in Damascus and said the target was a cache of advanced guided Iranian-supplied missiles believed to be on their way to the militant group Hezbollah, based in Lebanon."
There has, as usual, been no condemnation whatsoever of Israel's actions from the US or UK governments - William Hague went on Sky this morning to say he "respected" Israel's right to defend itself. Can you imagine the reaction in Western capitals if, say, Iran had launched an aerial attack on Syrian rebels? Or the Lebanese government? The Jewish state, it seems, is the only state in the region which can violate its neighbours' borders and airspace at will, in pursuit of its own imagined 'national security'.
But the fact is that Israeli involvement in the Syrian civil war will only ratchet up tensions, further prevent a diplomatic settlement and increase the likelihood of a wider and catastrophic regional conflagration.
3) CAMERON'S UKIP HEADACHE
Westminster's man of the moment, Nigel Farage, has been on the Andrew Marr programme this morning and confirmed he'll be standing for a parliamentary constituency come the 2015 general election - but won't be standing for Ukip in any by-elections between now and then. He wants to concentrate on causing an "earthquake" in British politics in next year's Euro elections. The problem is, despite Ukip's strong showing in Thursday's local elections, it is still quite hard to take the party seriously - asked what cuts to public spending he'd make to try and balance the budget, Farage listed... wait for it... international aid, quangos and our contributions to the EU. That didn't quite add up to £120bn the last time I checked...
The Tory Party, however, does have to take the Ukip threat seriously - the Faragistes could cost the Cameroons a majority at the next election. The Observer splashes on "Tories call for rapid Europe vote to halt Nigel Farage surge". So does the Sunday Telegraph, which reports:
"Twenty Conservative MPs today step up pressure on David Cameron to hold a European Union referendum before the next general election.
"... The MPs want to see a 'mandate referendum' as early as next May in which the public will be asked whether they want the Government to negotiate a 'new relationship with the EU based on trade and political co-operation'.
"Senior Tories including John Redwood, Bernard Jenkin and David Davis are leading the campaign, which is gathering momentum..."
Defence secretary and arch-Eurosceptic Philip Hammond appeared on the Marr show to say that "we should do everything we can to reassure people" that the referendum will happen, that the Tories should publish a "draft bill" ahead of the general election but that "we could not get a bill through this parliament" because of Labour and the Liberal Democrats. That'll go down well with the Europhobes...
Meanwhile, the Ukip treasurer, Stuart Wheeler, has made a mischievous intervention in the Dave v Boris saga, telling the Sunday Times that his party would prefer to do a deal with the Tory mayor of London, rather than the incumbent (Tory) PM, in the run-up to the next general election:
"Stuart Wheeler, the multimillionaire former Tory donor, said it was 'much more likely' that his party could work with the mayor of London than the prime minister on a potential pact in certain constituencies in the 2015 general election.
"Nigel Farage’s party does not trust Cameron to deliver a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU and believes Johnson is a truer Eurosceptic."
"... Ukip insiders indicated last night that Farage shared Wheeler's view."
4) GOODBYE FOREIGN AID?
Talking of foreign aid, an under pressure David Cameron may now be on the same side as populist Nigel Farage - from the Observer:
"David Cameron is risking a major fracture in the coalition after deciding to renege on his promise to enshrine foreign aid spending in law as he attempts to pacify the right wing of his party.
"The Observer can reveal that the flagship policy – promised in the 2010 coalition agreement between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats – will not be in Wednesday's Queen's speech and will not now come to pass under this government. Under pressure from rebellious backbenchers, the prime minister has privately ruled out legislation to guarantee that 0.7% of the country's gross national product (GNP) is spent on helping the world's poorest countries."
Labour's shadow international development secretary Ivan Lewis tells the paper that the PM "is a weak leader vacating the centre ground to appease the right in his own party and stem the tide of Tory votes to Ukip. Not enshrining 0.7% in law will make it easier for the Tories to siphon off aid funds to military and tied aid instead of focusing on our unfinished mission to end global poverty."
5) WHEN YOU'RE IN A HOLE...
From the Independent on Sunday's splash:
"George Osborne is pushing ahead with a massive nationwide road-building programme despite high-level concerns from ministers and Department for Transport (DfT) officials that there is little evidence it will boost the economy.
"The Independent on Sunday has learnt of serious doubts across Whitehall about the Chancellor's insistence that new roads are built when public money could instead be used to mend Britain's crumbling highways and local streets... road use has been steadily falling for at least five years, undermining a key plank of the Chancellor's strategy. There is also a backlog of £10.5bn worth of repairs to roads – a fraction of what it would cost to build new highways."
Meanwhile, the Observer reports that a stubborn Osborne has no plans to change course on plan A for austerity:
"George Osborne will warn the International Monetary Fund that a U-turn on the government's budget plans would do more harm than good when officials from the Washington-based organisation arrive in London on Wednesday for two weeks of talks."
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video of a baby goat playing on the back of a pig. You know you want to...
6) WILL HAGUE DO THE DECENT THING?
Let's hope and pray this story on the front of the Observer is true:
"Foreign secretary William Hague is considering making a dramatic public plea for the return of the last former British resident held inside Guantánamo Bay, as fresh reports indicate that the treatment of prisoners within the camp continues to deteriorate.
"In the wake of President Barack Obama's renewed promise on Tuesday to close the prison, the foreign secretary has told MPs that he will escalate efforts to bring Shaker Aamer home to his family in south London.
"... Concern is rising about the health of Aamer, who has spent more than 80 days on hunger strike. The US authorities admit that about 100 of the 166 detainees within the prison are currently on hunger strike, although lawyers estimate the true total is closer to 140, with a growing number, currently 21, being force-fed."
7) DAMN HUMAN RIGHTS
Meanwhile, the right-wing press continues to foam and froth over Britain's Human Rights Act - from the Sunday Telegraph:
"Two foreign criminals jailed for their part in English riots have been allowed to stay in this country because of their 'right to family life' under the Human Rights Act.
"Concern over the apparent abuse of human rights legislation has now prompted Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to draw up new laws to stop foreign criminals avoiding deportation. The measures will be in a new Immigration Bill which will be announced in this week’s Queen’s Speech."
8) ASHCROFT DOES GOOD
According to the Sunday Telegraph, leftie hate figure Michael Ashcroft, Tory peer, former Tory donor and ex-non-dom, "will be unveiled as the latest of the world’s wealthiest people to sign 'The Giving Pledge', making a public promise to dedicate most of his fortune to charity.
"Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Lord Ashcroft says that his commitment will take shape over the “years and decades ahead”.
"He has made a will which leaves most of his wealth to a charitable foundation, which will be run by his family.
"'I have never been a great believer in inherited wealth,' he writes. 'During my career as an entrepreneur and businessman, I have been fortunate enough to have created wealth. It is the major proportion of these earnings that I intend to put to good causes.'
"The peer’s fortune, which he does not discuss, was recently valued in a newspaper rich list at £1.2 billion. The estimate suggests that charities will benefit from more than £600 million."
Perhaps Lord Ashcroft could have a word with the chancellor about the rate of inheritance tax if he's "never been a great believer in inherited wealth"...
9) ADAM AFRIYIE VS THE SUN
From the Sun on Sunday:
"A tycoon MP dubbed the 'Tory Barack Obama' has tried to gag The Sun.
"Adam Afriyie, 47 — at the centre of plot rumours against David Cameron — hit the roof as we researched his finances.
"The multi-millionaire, who owns two homes worth a combined £11.25million, even got lawyers to rush to the Press Complaints Commission just for us asking questions and BEFORE we printed a word."
I guess the Sun won't be backing Afriyie for leader if Dave crashes and burns come 2015...
10) NOT THAT CAMPBELL
From James Forsyth's Mail on Sunday column:
"A presentation by a member of the No 10 press office wouldn’t normally draw much of a crowd. But to the Civil Service’s surprise, a briefing on engagement with ethnic minority media drew huge interest... It was only when the invitation was shown to a member of Downing Street’s political staff that people realised the cause of the excitement: the talk was billed as being given by Alastair Campbell.
"But to the disappointment of many, it was not THAT Alastair Campbell but an unassuming press officer who shares the same name.
"However, as one source observed, the number of those wanting to come to see Campbell shows there are an awful lot of people in the bureaucracy pining for the old regime."
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From the Sunday Times/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 11
That would give Labour a majority of 110.
140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
@vincentmoss William Hague says UKIP is "popular vehicle at the moment for protest". But Tory MPs don't believe UKIP is a flash in the pan #Murnaghan
@PCollinsTimes If the Tories had been smart enough to back AV they'd have nothing to fear from UKIP. Serves them right.
@George_Osborne Just tried new beer from my local Tatton brewery. It's called Pennies from Eleven.
900 WORDS OR MORE
William Hague, writing in the Sunday Telegraph says: "If doing the right thing means a spell of unpopularity, so be it."
Adam Boulton, writing in the Sunday Times, says: "They’re all now making plans for Nigel."
Andrew Rawnsley, writing in the Observer, says: "David Cameron won't prosper by trying to outkip the Kippers."
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