The five things you need to know on Wednesday 16 October 2013...
1) POLITICIANS VS THE POLICE OVER 'PLEBGATE'
Momentum is now clearly building in favour of former cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell - and against police chiefs. From the Telegraph:
"Theresa May has called for disciplinary action to be taken against three police officers after a report accused them of lying in an effort to discredit Andrew Mitchell, the former chief whip, during the Plebgate scandal.
"The Home Secretary said the incident struck to the heart of public trust in the police and urged the Chief Constable of West Mercia to apologise to Mr Mitchell.
"She was speaking after a report by the police watchdog concluded that there was evidence to support allegations that three Police Federation representatives had deliberately set out to discredit Mr Mitchell following the Plebgate incident, in which he was accused of swearing at officers in Downing Street."
The paper explains:
"At the meeting, held in the Midlands on Oct 12, Mr Mitchell apologised to the Federation representatives but again denied using the word "plebs". In a transcript of the meeting, taken from a recording made by Mr Mitchell, he set out his version of events. He told the meeting: "I give you my word I did not call an officer a ––––ing pleb."
"He added: 'I did say under my breath, but audibly, in frustration, 'I thought you lot were supposed to ––––ing help us.'
"After the meeting the officers claimed the chief whip had refused to elaborate on what he had said and therefore had no option but to resign."
The three chief constables involved in this story, of Warwickshire, West Mercia and West Midlands, have refused to apologise and dismissed the criticisms from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
The Times splash headline says: "Police risk losing all public trust, warns May." The paper's lead editorial argues:
"Once again, the police have demonstrated an alarming inability to hold themselves to account.. The police are there to serve the public and the first scandal actually to take place at a gate is now doing the police severe damage."
2) 'THE BRINK OF DISASTER'
From the Guardian:
"A leading ratings agency put the US on notice of a downgrade yesterday amid political turmoil in Washington over how to resolve the budget crisis less than a day before the country's borrowing requirement expires.
"Fitch warned that it 'risks undermining confidence in the role of the US dollar as the pre-eminent global reserve currency.' The White House seized on the announcement, saying that it demonstrated the urgency of reaching a deal. But senior Republicans in the House of Representatives inched closer to the brink of a default last night when they abandoned a planned vote on a resolution, which would have extended the debt ceiling and reopened the federal government. It became clear John Boehner, the House speaker, could not muster enough votes to push through the plan. In an attempt to placate the conservative wing of his caucus, Boehner added a provision that would have stripped members of congress, the president and their staffs of their employer-provided health insurance."
The Telegraph headline pretty much sums up the situation: "America teetering on the brink of disaster."
I happened to visit Capitol Hill on Monday and witness the chaotic scenes for myself - you can read my take, 'The World Is Laughing At The United States Over The Government Shutdown', here.
3) THE NSA, GCHQ AND THE 'SNOOPERS CHARTER'
The NSA mass surveillance story rumbles on. From the Guardian's splash:
"A former Labour cabinet minister has warned that GCHQ and Britain's other intelligence agencies appear to be undertaking mass surveillance without parliament's consent because the coalition failed to get the so-called 'snoopers' charter' passed into law after Liberal Democrat opposition.
"Nick Brown, a former chief whip who sat on the parliamentary committee scrutinising the draft communications data bill, said there was an 'uncanny' similarity between the GCHQ surveillance programmes exposed by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden and proposals in the first part of the bill.
The paper adds:
"Brown, an ally of the former prime minister Gordon Brown, also called for 'grown-up cross-party discussions' to look at how to protect the privacy of individual citizens as the security services seek to expand their ability to monitor the internet."
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video of British actor Tom Hiddleston, aka 'Loki'. Turns out he CAN dance.
4) FOOD BANK BRITAIN
Hey, George Osborne, how's that economic recovery working out? From the Independent's splash:
The number of people resorting to food banks for emergency help to feed their families has more than tripled following the squeeze on benefits which intensified in April.
David Cameron’s own poverty tsar warned last night of the danger of food banks becoming an “institutional part” of the welfare state – and urged the Prime Minister to set up an inquiry into the issue. Frank Field, a welfare minister under Labour, told The Independent he was shocked by the steep increase in their use and added: “Something very serious is happening to people at the bottom of society.”
350,000 people going hungry in the world's seventh-richest economy? Now that's a scandal...
5) OXFORD VS MICHAEL GOVE AND GEORGE GALLOWAY
The independent also has two rather nice Oxford-University-related political stories. First:
"Education Secretary Michael’s Gove’s exam reform will 'wreck' the English education system, the head of admissions to Oxford University warned yesterday.
"Mike Nicholson told a conference in London that reforms to A-levels were 'another great example of the Government’s tendency to meddle in things they should probably really leave alone'."
"George Galloway’s constant thirst for fresh controversy reared again at the Oxford Union last night, when he was accused of racism during a heated debate by a student brandishing an Israeli flag.
"The student confronted Galloway after a typically bombastic, hour-long speech, speaking at first in Hebrew and then English, before announcing 'I don’t debate with racists' and storming out of the debating hall.
"Galloway’s response? The last time he saw an Israeli flag was at an EDL rally – and that it’s “not surprising” that 'fascists' should want to fly it, according to Oxford newspaper Cherwell."
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From the Sun/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 9
That would give Labour a majority of 60.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Geoffrey Wheatcroft, writing in the Guardian, says: "Why did so many of us believe the police over Andrew Mitchell?"
Alice Thomson, writing in the Times, says: "Is Cameron insane? Leave foxhunting alone."
Mary Riddell, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Whichever party puts a roof over people’s heads stands the best chance of winning the election."
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