Here are the five things you need to know on Monday 12 May 2014...
1) DAVID CAMERON VS GARY BARLOW
Politicians from across the political spectrum are lining up to take pot shots at tax-avoiding songman Gary Barlow - including the prime minister himself. From the Times:
"[W]hen asked directly about the case of the Take That frontman, a Conservative party supporter who was appointed OBE in 2012 for his work for music and charity, the prime minister made clear his disapproval. 'I am opposed to all aggressive tax avoidance,' he told The Times. Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury, went further. Responding to the case, he said: 'People who don't pay the taxes that they should undermine the economy, damage our public services and place an extra, unfair burden on hardworking families and companies who play by the rules.' The Times revealed on Saturday that three members of Take That and their manager face having to repay tens of millions of pounds to Revenue & Customs after investing in two tax avoidance schemes... Margaret Hodge, the chairwoman of the Commons public accounts committee, who has waged war on corporate tax avoiders, suggested that Barlow 'might want to show a bit of contrition by giving back his OBE'."
Gary, over to you...
2) NOT SO FREE SCHOOLS
The education secretary - labelled a "zealot" by a senior Lib Dem source over the weekend, for trying to move £400m from the basic need budget to try and cover the £800m black hole in his free schools 'pet project' - is under more pressure this morning. From the Guardian front page:
"Michael Gove has been warned that the budget for free schools must be brought 'back under control' by Lib Dem chief Treasury secretary Danny Alexander and officials at the Exchequer, government sources have told the Guardian. Amid escalating coalition tensions over education spending, the sources said very senior Treasury officials had raised concerns with the Department for Education (DfE) about the cost of free schools, which the Liberal Democrats claim has led to a £800m black hole. 'This isn't just David Laws [a Lib Dem schools minister] and the Liberal Democrats who are very concerned about the free schools budget spiralling out of control,' a senior government source said. 'The Treasury has now made it crystal clear to Gove and the Department for Education that they want to sign off all future rounds of spending on free schools and won't do so until the capital budget for free schools is back under control.'"
On the subject of Laws, if he is so outraged by the behaviour of his Tory boss - and former mate - Gove, why doesn't he resign? Is this a real Tory-Lib Dem row or one of those confected rows to help with 'differentiation' in the run-up to the next set of elections?
3) CAMERON'S NEW 'CAST IRON' GUARANTEE
Not only did Dave admit yesterday that he won't try and cap the number of EU migrants coming into the UK because free movement of labour is an "important right" but he also had the nerve to offer another 'cast-iron' guarantee on Europe (after his cast-iron pledge in opposition to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty turned out to be more plastic than metal) - from the Daily Mail:
"Mr Cameron also gave a 'cast-iron' guarantee that he will hold an in-out referendum on Europe in 2017 if he is re-elected next year. He said he will refuse to form a coalition or lead a minority government unless he can ensure the referendum will go ahead. And he indicated that he could urge Britain to leave the EU if his attempt to claw back powers fails."
Nigel Farage, watching the PM on the Andrew Marr show yesterday, will have been rolling his eyes...
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video of a tap-dancing husky. You know you want to.
4) HOUSING MARKET ON 'HIGH ALERT'
That's the verdict of the CBI - from the Sun:
"Interest rates will have to rise early next year because of the overheating housing market, business leaders have warned. CBI chief John Cridland said in the organisation's annual assessment of Britain's prospects that property values were set to rise 8.2 per cent this year and 5.1 per cent in 2015. He said: 'We have to remain alert to risks posed by unsustainable house price inflation.' He stressed the Bank of England was 'poised to act when necessary' on interest rates."
The CBI join a long list of experts and forecasters warning the chancellor about the inflationary effects of his 'help to buy votes' scheme. But will George listen?
5) 'WE HAVE WON'
From the Guardian front page:
"Iran and its close ally President Bashar al-Assad have won the war in Syria, and the US-orchestrated campaign in support of the opposition's attempt to topple the Syrian regime has failed, senior Iranian officials have told the Guardian. In a series of interviews in Tehran, top figures who shape Iranian foreign policy said the west's strategy in Syria had merely encouraged radicals, caused chaos and ultimately backfired, with government forces now on the front foot. 'We have won in Syria,' said Alaeddin Borujerdi, chairman of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy committee and an influential government insider. 'The regime will stay. The Americans have lost it.'"
It's a view as cynical as it is complacent. Meanwhile, Iran's ally and Syria's other protector, Russia, and its militias on the ground in Ukraine continue to cause problems for the west - as the BBC reports:
"Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region have claimed a resounding victory in a "self-rule" referendum, saying 89% voted in favour... Ukraine's interim President Olexandr Turchynov has called the vote a 'farce' with no legal consequences for Kiev. The EU and US also said the polls were illegal."
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From yesterday's Sunday Times/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 9
That would give Labour a majority of 84.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Chris Huhne, writing in the Guardian, says: "There is a way to cut knife crime – the Tories just aren't delivering it."
Boris Johnson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "In our own modest way, we’re living in a Boko Haram world."
Robert Fisk, writing in the Independent, says: "The spread of British hypocrisy, from Gerry Adams and Northern Ireland to Syria."
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