The five things you need to know on Thursday 17 July 2014...
1) LIAR, LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE
You can tell a general election is around the corner. From the Times:
"Labour accused David Cameron of lying about its tax plans after he claimed that the party would increase taxes on the middle class if Ed Miliband won the general election. Speaking at prime minister's questions yesterday, Mr Cameron repeated comments made in an LBC radio interview this week by Harriet Harman, Labour's deputy leader, when she said that people on 'middle incomes should contribute more through their taxes'. Mr Miliband hit back, saying that the prime minister's decision to pounce on Ms Harman's words was 'totally desperate stuff'. A Labour party spokesman added later that Mr Cameron had 'twisted her words'."
Harman's point, which she later reiterated in a letter to the PM, was that the system of progressive taxation that we have in this country, in which people pay more tax as they earn more money, is fundamentally fair and correct. Are the Tories saying they don't agree with that? Are they going to propose a flat tax instead? I think not.
The Mirror reports:
"Ms Harman later wrote to Mr Cameron to accuse him of undermining public trust in politics. She said: 'This is not true. It is a lie.' The MP included a full transcript of remarks she made on an LBC radio phone-in on Monday night. She added: 'It is utterly clear this is not a call for higher taxes, but a defence of a system which has commanded wide support, in which people on middle incomes contribute more than people on lower incomes.'"
Quoting people out of context is pretty indefensible - doing it at PMQs when you're the prime minister is even worse. Check out my colleague Asa Bennett's collection of five Cameron and Osborne out of context quotes which seem to show they agree with Harman on tax.
2) 'UNBELIEVABLE HYPOCRISY'
You'll never believe it but Nick Clegg has done a U-turn. Yes, really. On the bedroom tax - sorry, spare room subsidy. His 'axeman', the Lib Dem chief secretary of the Treasury Danny Alexander has penned a piece for the Mirror:
"Our revised proposal is that new tenants in the social rented sector would receive housing benefit based on the number of rooms they need. But those already in the social rented sector would only see a reduction in benefit if they are offered a suitable smaller home and, crucially, turn it down. Disabled adults should be treated the same as disabled children, by permanently exempting them."
Labour have accused the Lib Dems of "unbelievable hypocrisy". Meanwhile, the Times notes:
"The move, which will isolate the Tories on the issue, comes just a few days after the Lib Dems dropped to 6 per cent in YouGov polling. It also came a day after the publication of an internal government review that showed almost 60 per cent of households affected by the housing benefit changes were in arrears as a result and a shortage of smaller properties meant just 4.5 per cent of tenants had been able to downsize to avoid it."
3) MR MILIBAND GOES TO WASHINGTON
Guess who's got a meeting with the Leader Of The Free World? Go on, guess? Yep, Edward Samuel Miliband. Who says hiring David Axelrod was a waste of money? From the Guardian:
"Ed Miliband is aiming to stage a high-stakes visit to Washington next week that is expected to include a drop-in meeting with Barack Obama, the same level of courtesy offered to David Cameron in 2008 when the then-leader of the opposition met Obama's predecessor, George Bush. The meeting will not be Miliband's first encounter with the US president but the visit to Washington will be his first in his official capacity as leader of the opposition. It is expected to take place on Monday and will include a speech to a Washington thinktank the Centre for American Progress highlighting the confluence in Labour and Democrat thinking about the broken link between economic growth and shared prosperity."
The Guardian uses the phrase 'drop-in meeting', the BBC goes with 'brush by', i.e. an informal, supposedly 'chance' encounter with the president in a corridor of the White House, or maybe in the midst of a formal meeting between between Miliband and one of Obama's aides. The US president can't be seen to be interfering too much in the domestic political debate in the UK, especially nine months out from a general election.
Remember also: despite their political differences, Barry and Dave are supposed to be pals.
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video of Sky News presenter Adam Boulton swallowing a fly live on air, outside Number 10 Downing Street. You know you want to.
4) EURO VETOES
Could Lord Hill, the rather unknown Tory peer picked by David Cameron to be his candidate for EU commissioner, be about to be blocked because of his supposedly eurosceptic views? The Times reports that "the president of the European parliament launched an outspoken attack on the former lobbyist and self-declared Eurosceptic, warning that he could be blocked when MEPs vet candidates in September. 'I cannot imagine Hill — whose views, in as far as he’s got any, are radically anti-European — getting a majority in the European parliament,' Martin Shultz, a German Social Democrat, said."
Oh dear. Meanwhile, the Tories aren't wasting any time in terms of a post-reshuffle challenge to the hated European Convention on Human Rights and the court in Strasbourg that enforces it - the BBC has this exclusive:
"The Conservatives have drawn up plans designed to limit the power of the European Court of Human Rights and to reassert the sovereignty of Parliament. David Cameron has been presented with the proposals that would mean Parliament decided what constitutes a breach of human rights. Strasbourg rulings on issues like votes for prisoners have angered many Tories. Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, sacked in the reshuffle, is thought to have warned against the planned change."
5) 'THEY ARE ONLY CHILDREN'
Anyone who has any doubts about whether the Israeli military is committing war crimes in Gaza should have a read of the gut-wrenching, eyewitness account filed by the Guardian and Observer's Jerusalem correspondent Peter Beaumont:
"The first projectile hit the sea wall of Gaza City's little harbour just after four o'clock. As the smoke from the explosion thinned, four figures could be seen running, ragged silhouettes, legs pumping furiously along the wall. Even from a distance of 200 metres, it was obvious that three of them were children... the second shell hit the beach, those firing apparently adjusting their fire to target the fleeing survivors. As it exploded, journalists standing by the terrace wall shouted: 'They are only children.' In the space of 40 seconds, four boys who had been playing hide and seek among fishermen's shacks on the wall were dead. They were aged between seven and 11; two were named Mohammad, one Zakaria and the youngest Ahed. All were members of the extended Bakr family."
On a side note, my latest column is on the subject of the west's complicity in Israel's war crimes against the Palestinian people and why it matters.
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From the Sun/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 9
That would give Labour a majority of 32.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Tim Montgomerie, writing in the Times, says: "Crosby’s growing power did for ‘toxic’ Gove."
Martin Kettle, writing in the Guardian, says: "An untested and unready Ed Miliband faces Cameron’s redrawn Tory ranks."
Andreas Whittam Smith, writing in the Independent, says: "Little that the Prime Minister says about the reshuffle bears scrutiny."
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