The five things you need to know on Monday 21 October 2013...
1) CLEGG VS THE ORANGE BOOKERS
Has Nick Clegg, leader of the centre-right Orange Book Lib Dems, gone to war with... the Orange Book Lib Dems? Huh?
From the Guardian:
"Nick Clegg was accused of opportunism after the deputy prime minister announced his party wanted to end Michael Gove's ideological experiment and require all free schools and academies to be subject to the national curriculum... The tenor of Clegg's remarks appear to clash with the enthusiastic support for unqualified teachers in free schools expressed by the Liberal Democrat schools minister David Laws last Thursday in the Commons.
"Laws had said unqualified teachers were doing a superb job in schools, and said the best backstop to teaching quality was not formal qualifications, but Ofsted inspections."
So Clegg may have, wittingly or unwittingly, undermined his close ally David Laws. Oops.
Is this a tactical move to the left by the Lib Dem leader? An attempt to try and woo back Lib Dem voters who've defected to Labour since 2010? Leading Orange Booker and the Tories' favourite Lib Dem MP, Jeremy Browne, sacked by Clegg from the government in the recent reshuffle, seems to think so and isn't happy. Browne told the Guardian:
"I don't think we should be instinctively statist and I don't think we should be instinctively in favour of the status quo. I want us to have a restless, radical, energetic, liberal reforming instinct that is about putting more power and responsibility and opportunity in the hands of individual people."
Ouch. Meanwile, Conservative education minister Elizabeth Truss has weighed in too - from the BBC:
"Mrs Truss said it was a 'shame' some Lib Dems did not back free schools.
"She said the 'whole point' of the schools 'is they have these freedoms... that's what's helping them outperform maintained schools'.
"'You shouldn't kill off the goose that's laid the golden egg,' she said."
And a senior "government source", according to the Mail, has savaged Clegg (on behalf of Cameron?):
"Yesterday Mr Clegg was accused by one Government source of trying to cling on to ‘chauffeurs and people greasing up to him’ by pandering to Labour in the hope of keeping his job in a Lib-Lab coalition after 2015.
"In the strongest condemnation of Mr Clegg since the Coalition was formed, the source said his name had ‘become a byword for cheap sanctimony, opportunism, gimmicks and lying’."
(On a side note, it's worth pointing out that free schools actually centralise, rather than decentralise, power - whether they live or die, how much money they get, their level of inspections, etc, is all in the hands of the Education Secretary in Whitehall, not in the hands of parents, teachers or local communities.)
2) THE FRENCH CASH IN
From the Times:
"Ministers are to subsidise a French company to build Britain's first nuclear power station in a generation, guaranteeing to pay twice the level of today's wholesale energy price.
"The decision, to be publicised today, will provoke a new row over rising energy bills, with gas and electricity suppliers expected to announce further price increases this week.
"The deal with the French company EDF Energy was completed yesterday after a year of negotiations. Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, will herald the agreement as a key step in Britain's energy security."
The paper adds:
"Two Chinese companies are understood to have taken stakes worth up to a total of 30 per cent."
Here's the thing: if French and Chinese government-owned firms are willing to invest in UK nuclear energy, why isn't the UK government? Also, will UK firms be able to invest, in a similar way, in the French and Chinese nuclear industries? Ed Davey struggled to give a straight answer to this rather simple question on the Today programme this morning.
Finally, isn't it amusing to see Ed Miliband dismissed as a "socialist" and a "Marxist" by the same Tories who gleefully welcome investment in the UK from actual (Chinese) communists?
3) TAX AVOIDANCE AT THE TOP
Boo! From the Independent's splash:
"Companies receiving lucrative government contracts to run care services looking after tens of thousands of vulnerable people are avoiding millions of pounds in tax through a legal loophole.
"The firms are cutting their taxable UK profits by taking high-interest loans from their owners through the Channel Islands Stock Exchange, an investigation by Corporate Watch and The Independent has found. By racking up large interest payments to their parent companies, they are able to reduce their bottom line and cut their tax bills.
"The news will increase concern about NHS reforms that are seeing private companies take more responsibility for services."
You can say that again...
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video of an elephant jamming on a piano. It's a sight to behold.
4) CHRIS HUHNE, THE NSA AND THE MILIBANDS
From the Guardian's splash:
"The former cabinet minister Chris Huhne has called for an investigation into which Labour cabinet ministers signed off GCHQ's Tempora programme, the clandestine electronic surveillance programme revealed by leaks from the former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
"Huhne... has revealed the cabinet was not informed about Tempora, which was tested in 2008 and fully implemented in 2011.
"Writing in the Guardian, the former member of the coalition's national security council asks whether the Labour cabinet was similarly kept in the dark and suggests the decision to authorise the programme could yet be made subject to judicial review."
But what if former foreign secretary David Miliband was the guy who signed off on it?
"Huhne writes: 'If it was David Miliband, this may well explain why the Labour frontbench has been so muted. Though Ed Miliband has been happy to admit past Labour errors on Murdoch and other matters, his appetite for political fratricide may be sated.'"
5) LABOUR'S LATEST IMMIGRATION WHEEZE
I guess if Labour feels it has to 'crack down' on immigration, and look 'tough' on the issue, it could do far worse than targeting dodgy employers and the way in which they exploit foreign workers.
From the Guardian:
"Labour will ban shifts to which only foreigners currently have access as it seeks to shift the immigration debate away from benefit tourism and towards the way in which British people can be locked out of the UK labour market... In a wide-ranging package cracking down on the exploitation of foreign workers and curbing unlawful immigration, Labour also plans to raise the minimum penalty for illegally employing foreign workers to Â£10,000. Fines currently can be as low as Â£3,300.
"The party will also call for an end to employers exploiting foreign workers by paying them the minimum wage, but then charging them extortionate amounts for accommodation."
"A flourishing economy is necessary but not sufficient... A healthy society flourishes and distributes economic resources effectively, but also has a deep spiritual base which gives it its virtue." - Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby speaking to the Telegraph from Nairobi, ahead of this week's GDP figures.
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From yesterday's Sunday Times/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 10
That would give Labour a majority of 78.
140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
@David_Cameron A landmark in our economic growth plan - Hinkley nuclear power plant means billions in investment, thousands of jobs and energy security.
@Mike_Fabricant Sunday Times survey says majority trust police. Important we do not generalise despite appalling behaviour in Sutton Coldfield re A Mitchell
@davidschneider I'd respect Michael Gove's passion for unqualified teachers more if he agreed to be operated on by an unqualified surgeon.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Boris Johnson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "It's mad to blame our housing crisis on 'blooming foreigners'."
David Blanchflower, writing in the Independent, says: "The PM’s been fibbing and the Coalition’s labour market policies are ruled by prejudice."
Gary Younge, writing in the Guardian, says: "Race is central to the fear and angst of the US right."
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