The five things you need to know on Thursday 19 September 2013...
1) BEHIND ON THE 'BEDROOM TAX'
How's the 'spare room subsidy/'bedroom tax' doing? Not so well. The verdict, in fact, is in. From the Mirror:
"David Cameron faces fresh calls to scrap the Bedroom Tax after damning new research showed it is plunging hundreds of thousands of families into debt.
"About half-of those clobbered by the penalty were unable to pay their rent in the first three months after it came in, the study found.
"And one in four were in rent arrears for the first time, according to the National Housing Federation (NHF) survey.
"With 660,000 families affected across the country that means more than 330,000 will have fallen behind with their rent."
Come back, 'loopy leftie' lady from Brazil... all is forgiven...
2) NUKES? US? NOT INTERESTED
We've had a deal on chemical weapons in Syria. Could it, maybe, perhaps, fingers crossed, lead to a nuclear deal in Iran? From the Guardian:
"Iran's new president Hassan Rouhani has told an American television audience he is hopeful of a diplomatic breakthrough over Tehran's nuclear weapons programme, insisting his country had no intention of developing weapons of mass destruction.
"Speaking before a crucial visit to the United Nations in New York, Rouhani claimed his government had 'full power and authority' from Iran's supreme leader to negotiate over the nuclear programme, which the US fears is close to creating a bomb.
"'The problem won't be from our side,' said Rouhani in his first interview with western journalists since coming to power. 'We have sufficient political latitude to solve this problem.
"'Under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever,' he added in initial clips of the interview with NBC aired on Wednesday night."
3) FIGHTING 'TOOTH AND NAIL'
It was a defiant Nick Clegg that the Lib Dem spin doctors wanted us to see yesterday, as the deputy prime minister brought his conference to a close by revealing how many times he had stood up to those nasty, evil Tories - from the Guardian:
"Nick Clegg has ushered in a new era of brittle coalition politics as he denounced Tory "dogma" and reeled off a list of controversial policies blocked by the Liberal Democrats in what he characterised as an "endless battle" with their partners in government.
"In a dramatic escalation of his campaign to differentiate the Liberal Democrats from the Tories, the deputy prime minister told the Liberal Democrat conference in his keynote speech of how he fights "tooth and nail" to keep the coalition on the centre ground.
"'Sometimes compromise and agreement isn't possible and you just have to say no,' Clegg said as he listed 16 Tory policies blocked by the Lib Dems. Some of these, such as Tory plans to raise the inheritance tax threshold to £1m, date back to the coalition agreement negotiations in 2010. Others were more recent proposals such as Michael Gove's plan to revive a form of O-levels.
"The deputy prime minister said: 'It's an endless battle; we've had to fight tooth and nail. It was the same just this week with the decision to introduce a small levy to help Britain radically cut down on plastic bags.'"
Will it work? Will it woo back the Lib Dems who've defected to Labour since 2010? If it doesn't, the Lib Dems are dead in the water, no matter how smooth their party conferences go...
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video of a man who turns on his tap to find beer, not water, coming out of it.
4) SORRY, HOW MUCH DOES INDEPENDENCE COST??
More bad news for Alex Salmond as the answer, according to the IFS, is £5.9bn. From the Telegraph:
"Scottish households could face £3.4billion in extra taxes as well as major spending cuts immediately after any vote for independence, according to a report by senior economists published today.
"The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) calculated that an independent Scotland would have to cut spending by £2.5billion in the first two years of its existence if it wanted to match the UK's existing deficit reduction programme.
"But the financial black hole could be much larger in Scotland thanks to falling North Sea oil and gas revenues, it said, necessitating the extra cuts or tax rises. The two figures added together would mean a separate Scotland's finances being squeezed by £5.9billion in the two years from April 2016, when Alex Salmond predicts independence will occur."
5) MCCAIN TO PUTIN: I'M MORE 'PRO-RUSSIAN' THAN YOU!
Anything Vlad can do, John can do better. From the Huffington Post:
"Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for siding with 'tyrannies,' perpetuating bigotry, censoring the media and endorsing the Syrian regime in an opinion piece published on Russian news site Pravda.
"In the op-ed, titled 'Russians deserve better than Putin,' McCain claimed he's 'more pro-Russian' than the country's own leaders.
"'I make that claim because I respect your dignity and your right to self-determination,' he wrote. 'I believe you should live according to the dictates of your conscience, not your government. I believe you deserve the opportunity to improve your lives in an economy that is built to last and benefits the many, not just the powerful few.'
"Reminding readers that a Russian citizen would not have been allowed to publish such a statement, McCain criticized the Russian government for failing its constituents with an unsustainable economy, discriminatory laws and destructive alliances. He pointed to Russia's support for the Syrian regime as an example.
"... The op-ed comes a week after Putin wrote his own opinion piece for The New York Times, in which he warned against military intervention and American exceptionalism."
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
Today's Sun/YouGov poll shows Labour and the Tories neck and neck for the first time since March 2012:
Lib Dems 10
That would result in a hung parliament, with Labour three seats short of a majority.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Peter Oborne, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Ed Miliband is proving himself to be a brave and adroit leader."
Rafael Behr, writing in the New Statesman, says: "Miliband needs to convince his party – and the country – he can win on more than a technicality."
Hans Blix, writing in the Guardian, says: "Diplomacy over Syria brings another chance to talk with Iran."
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