Here are the five things you need to know on Friday 30 May 2014...
It's not often I agree 100% with the splash headline on the front of the Daily Mail: "This shabby whitewash". The paper explains:
"The Iraq War inquiry was condemned as a whitewash last night after more than 150 crucial messages from Tony Blair to George W Bush were censored. Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood has vetoed the release of the letters and phone calls in the run-up to the 2003 conflict, officials revealed. In them, Mr Blair is said to have promised the US President: 'You know, George, whatever you decide to do, I'm with you.' The decision raises the possibility that the long-delayed findings of the £10million inquiry will be published before the general election.The official reason for the censorship is that publication would deter prime ministers from speaking freely in private. But critics said it was a shabby compromise that could fatally undermine public confidence in the findings."
Even Sir John Major, a former prime minister and supporter of the Iraq war, has said the decision to hold back the full texts will cause suspicion.
More than 11 years on from the invasion, almost five years years after the Iraq Inquiry was set up, with 179 dead British soldiers, hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis and billions of pounds squandered, we're now told we're going to be told only the "gist of Blair’s messages to Bush. Sorry, what is the point of this futile inquiry?
2) HEY NICK, LOOK WHO'S BACK
Remember Lord Rennard? The Lib Dem peer is back in the public eye at the very worst moment possible for the crisis-hit Lib Dems - from the Times front page:
"Nick Clegg’s woes deepened last night after an apology by the Liberal Democrat peer accused of harassment was turned down by the women he allegedly targeted. Lord Rennard, the party’s former chief executive and one of its best-connected figures, sought to end a 15-month saga with a limited admission that he “may well have encroached upon the personal space” of four alleged victims, inadvertently causing them distress. The move was rejected for failing to go far enough, and three of the four women who claim they were sexually harassed have urged Mr Clegg to kick the peer out of the party."
Is this Clegg's worst week ever? The Telegraph, on its front page, reports:
"Vince Cable should be stripped of his role as the Liberal Democrats' voice on economic affairs over his links to a plot to undermine Nick Clegg, colleagues have said. Senior Lib Dems are pushing Mr Clegg to sideline Mr Cable in the party's general election campaign next year, giving control of economic policy to loyal younger ministers. That could mean Mr Cable is denied a role in any pre-election television debates or a major position in any new coalition government the Lib Dems might join next year."
Poor ol' Vince...
3) SIR JOHN BACKS DAVE
Sir John Major was on the Today programme this morning, giving his support to David Cameron. Reminded by interviewer John Humphreys of his own travails with Tory Eurosceptics on his backbenches and in his cabinet (the 'bastards'), Major rejected the comparison and said Cameron was in a much stronger position to negotiate EU reform due to the rise of far-right, eurosceptic, anti-establishment parties across the continent.
"I think the results of these negotiations right across Europe have made a renegotiation much easier. It’s apparent now to governments right across Europe that reform of the European Union is necessary – it isn’t working as it should, it isn’t working in the way in which European citizens think it should," he said. "And I think that gives a great deal of power to the British determination to renegotiate because they will have allies today which in the 1990s we, frankly, didn’t have.”
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video of footballer Joey Barton on Question Time last night, comparing voting for Ukip to picking the least 'ugly' of 'four girls'. Oh dear...
4) BAD LUCK, NIGE
The big problem for Ukip now is managing expectations. The party, for example, came top in Newark during the recent Europeans elections. So that must mean they're going to win the seat in next Thursday's parliamentary by-election, right? Wrong. From the Sun:
"UKIP is losing its appeal just eight days after its Euro elections success, a survey for The Sun revealed last night. The first opinion poll on the all-important Newark by-election next week predicts the Tories will win with a 2,300 majority... The survey by pollster Survation puts the Conservatives comfortably ahead on 36 per cent, with Ukip eight points adrift on 28 per cent. Labour is one point behind, with 27 per cent, and the Lib Dems are in a distant fourth place on just five per cent."
If, as this poll suggests, Ukip don't win in Newark then journalists and commentators might - just might! - start dialling down the 'Faragemania' and acknowledge the age-old truth that European election results are a pretty poor guide to parliamentary/general election results.
5) FOR RICHER OR POORER
From the Guardian:
"Alex Salmond’s claim that Scotland is one of the richest countries in the developed world has been challenged in a study by Glasgow University academics which finds it is a middle-ranking economy with high levels of foreign ownership... According to the study, the level of outside ownership means that Scotland’s actual income is as much as $5,000 (£2,990) less per head than Salmond suggests. The study uses a measure for national income that puts Scotland at 20th among the 34 countries in the OECD group of developed nations, behind Ireland, Denmark and Japan. Salmond’s argument that Scotland’s gross domestic product (GDP) places the country 14th in the OECD has been a crucial plank in the case for independence."
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From today's Sun/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 7
That would give Labour a majority of 84.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Philip Collins, writing in the Times, says: "The crushed Lib Dems have a bright future."
Iain Martin, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Vince Cable: from leader in waiting to loser."
Nigel Farage, writing in the Independent, says: "A brief celebration, and then back to Brussels - but what's really changed?"
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