The ten things you need to know on Monday 10 June 2013...
1) MEET THE NSA WHISTLEBLOWER
Wow! From the Guardian:
"The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.
"The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," he said.
"Snowden will go down in history as one of America's most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world's most secretive organisations – the NSA."
The paper reports that Snowden, originally based at the NSA office in Hawaii, has been holed up in Hong Kong and "in the three weeks since he arrived, he has been ensconced in a hotel room. 'I've left the room maybe a total of three times during my entire stay,' he said. It is a plush hotel and, what with eating meals in his room too, he has run up big bills.
"He is deeply worried about being spied on. He lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping. He puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them.
"Though that may sound like paranoia to some, Snowden has good reason for such fears. He worked in the US intelligence world for almost a decade. He knows that the biggest and most secretive surveillance organisation in America, the NSA, along with the most powerful government on the planet, is looking for him."
Meanwhile, later today, the foreign secretary William Hague will give a statement to parliament over claims that Britain's GCHQ eavesdropping agency had links with the NSA's controversial mass surveillance programme.
2) GETTING WHIPPED
Forget Edward Snowdon, who 'outed' Tory rebel Andrew Bridgen, who told the Mail on Sunday yesterday that, yes, he'd signed a letter of no confidence in David Cameron because the latter had lost all "credibility"? From the Times:
"Conservative MPs have expressed fury after the party whips took apparent revenge on an MP who challenged David Cameron over Syria.
"The Whips' Office was accused of leaking the name of Andrew Bridgen as one of the estimated two dozen MPs who have demanded a no-confidence motion in Mr Cameron.
"MPs said Mr Bridgen was 'outed' in retaliation for his role in drafting a letter signed by 80 Tory MPs that has forced Downing Street into granting a Commons vote on the Prime Minister's readiness to arm Syrian rebels... Mr Bridgen's name was disclosed to a Sunday newspaper in an apparent attempt to make an example of him. The only people who knew that the MP for North West Leicestershire had written to Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, demanding a vote aimed at dislodging the Prime Minister were Mr Brady himself and the Tory Whips' Office. Mr Bridgen had told them as a courtesy."
So, how long till the number of letters hits the 'magic 40' that will trigger a no confidence vote in Dave? Looks like the Whips' Office might be, inadvertently, hastening the whole process...
3) BALLS UP
I guess he got carried away with his new austerity look! From the FT:
"Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, has been forced to clarify Labour's pensions policy after suggesting the state pension would be part of a welfare spending cap brought in if his party came to power in 2015.
"Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, announced last week that the party would limit structural social security costs for three years if he won the next election. Appearing on the BBC's Sunday Politics this weekend, Mr Balls was challenged on what would be included within the cap.
"'As for pensions, I think this is a real question,' the shadow chancellor said. 'George Osborne is going to announce his cap in two weeks' time. I do not know whether he would exclude pension spending or include it. At the moment our plan is to include it.' However, later in the day Mr Balls appeared to change his position when confronted by Conservative accusations that Labour was planning a raid on pensioners.
"He said Labour would maintain the coalition's 'triple lock', which increases the state pension by whichever is highest out of inflation, average earnings or 2.5 per cent."
4) TIME FOR PRIVATISATION?
From the FT:
"The Treasury is considering selling a first 10 per cent stake in Lloyds Banking Group before the end of the year, as the chancellor prepares to set out the government's exit strategy from the banking sector. George Osborne is expected to signal a desire to begin reprivatising both Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland before the 2015 general election when he delivers his Mansion House speech on June 19... [P]eople close to the process said reprivatisation of the government's 39 per cent Lloyds stake could be initiated by the end of 2013.
The paper adds:
"He will today face new calls to accelerate the reprivatisation of Lloyds and RBS through a radical pre-election share distribution to the public, which could give 20m-30m individuals shares in the two banks.
"The idea of the Treasury transferring shares worth between £1,100 and £1,650 in the banks to individual members of the public - who would only gain if the share price rose - is proposed by Policy Exchange, an influential think tank with close links to the Osborne team."
Here's a radical thought: why not use these state-owned banks to get lending going, support business and increase demand? Why obsess over when they're going to be sold off or privatised in some shape or form?
5) DAVE THE EUROPHILE
From the Guardian:
"David Cameron will risk provoking the Tory eurosceptic right on Monday when he joins forces with the arch pro-European Kenneth Clarke to argue that British membership of the EU remains a vital national interest.
"In a speech explaining Britain's standing in the world a week before he hosts the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, the prime minister will say that membership of the EU is crucial in guaranteeing Britain a seat at the "top table".
"Cameron's staunch defence of Britain's EU membership, a month after Michael Gove and Philip Hammond said they would vote to leave now, will be reinforced by Clarke who will warn that Britain will be 'reduced to watching from the sidelines' if it leaves the EU.
"The prime minister will indicate his sympathies lie with Clarke and not with his friend Gove when he outlines how Britain can improve its standing in the world."
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video of a little girl eating a raw onion.
6) OH YEO
From the Telegraph:
"The Conservative MP at the centre of the latest lobbying scandal has referred himself to the Parliamentary standards watchdog but stressed that he rejected allegations that he broke any rules.
"Tim Yeo, the chairman of the energy and climate change committee, told undercover reporters that he had helped the managing director of a firm owned by a company of which the MP is a paid director by telling him what to say when giving evidence before the committee.
"Last night, there was confusion over whether Mr Yeo could be forced to resign as the chairman of the select committee as calls grew for MPs holding such positions to be barred from holding outside interests relevant to their work.
"He denies 'coaching' the executive and said he would contest the claims."
7) BAILING OUT THE IRISH? EH?
From the Times splash:
"Britain has given a back-door bailout worth around £10 billion to the Republic of Ireland in an arrangement that was never explicitly approved by Parliament, it can be revealed.
"The money has been pumped into Ulster Bank, a subsidiary of the stateowned Royal Bank of Scotland which was rescued by a public cash injection of £45 billion five years ago.
"New figures show that Ulster Bank, which operates predominantly in the Republic despite its name, has accounted for approximately one in every four pounds of losses at RBS since 2008."
8) ARSON AT ISLAMIC SCHOOL?
Islamophobia is a myth, right? The threat to Muslims is all exaggerated, right? That's what the likes of Andrew Gilligan would have us believe. From the Huffington Post:
"Four teenagers have been arrested on suspicion of arson in connection with a fire at an Islamic boarding school in Chislehurst, south east London, Scotland Yard said.
"Scotland Yard said the two 17-year-olds and two 18-year-olds were detained late last night and taken to a south London police station, where they remain in custody.
"Almost 130 pupils and staff were evacuated from the Darul Uloom Islamic School in Chislehurst, south-east London, last night with teachers reacting quickly and extinguishing the flames."
9) 600,000 DISABLED AT RISK
From the BBC:
"A new system of benefit payments affecting disabled people has started rolling out across Britain.
"Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) are replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) as part of the government's welfare reforms.
"The government claims PIPs will target resources more effectively towards those who need it most.
"But a charity warns that almost a fifth of claimants - 600,000 people - could eventually lose their benefits."
10) 'WE HAVE AN IDIOT ON THE PROGRAMME'
From the Telegraph:
"Bilderberg conspiracy theorist Alex Jones flew into an uncontrollable tirade live on the BBC’s flagship politics programme after host Andrew Neil described him as an 'idiot'.
"Mr Jones, who runs a conspiracy theory website, began shouting and ranting after the Sunday Politics host told him to 'shut it'.
As he screamed 'freedom will not stop, you will not stop freedom' Mr Neil tried to bring the show to a close, telling him he was the worst guest ever, then stifling a laugh and pulling faces as he said: 'We have an idiot on the programme today.'
Mr Jones appeared on the Sunday morning show as the secretive Bilderberg Group - comprising politicians, economists, academics and business leaders - is meeting at a hotel in Watford."
Watch the video of the Jones 'meltdown' here.
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From yesterday's Sunday Times/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 9
That would give Labour a majority of 112.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Andrew Pierce, writing in the Daily Mail, says: "Will the Tories ever stop cosying up to Google?"
Boris Johnson, writing in the Daily Telegraph, says: "The proud moment when I realised I was worth hacking."
Owen Jones, writing in the Independent, says: "The People's Assembly will cohere the left - and finally give Labour some real competition."
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