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• A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas came into force last night, with life gradually returning to normal – as ‘normal’ as can be – in Gaza and southern Israel.
There is relief and measured optimism in the region and throughout the world the terms of the ceasefire - for Israel and Palestinian factions to “end all hostilites”; Gaza Strip crossings to be opened; and Egypt to receive assurances - will hold and progress will be made on a concerted push for permanent peace.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz sums it up best, saying:
“It’s time to push back against those who believe a comfortable status quo exists and can be maintained – it doesn’t exist, and the situation keeps deteriorating. Why, then, not give peace a chance?”
A sentiment all Palestinians and Isrealis must surely share.
• Domestically, it was another mixed week for one of the coalition’s more contentious and shambolic areas of disagreement - energy policy.
On Monday, energy select committee chairman Tim Yeo likened the coalition’s confusion over energy policy to “a laughable plot line from The Thick Of It”, criticising the uncertainty over policy, which leads to greater risk for investors. The following day, energy secretary Ed Davey appeared before Yeo’s committee, insisting he was “in charge” of energy policy, in the wake of the wind farms row with energy minister John Hayes. There was, however, some good news for the government on energy today, with IPPR praising the new energy tariff policy.
This week’s events follow ‘energygate’; the windfarms row between John Hayes and Ed Davey; Head of the Committee on Climate Change John Gummer’s remarks; the energy bills row; and energy companies’ threats to withdraw hundreds of millions of pounds of investment - all of which occured in the last month. With the Energy Bill due shortly, expect more wranglings between Tories and Lib Dems.
• In two weeks’ time, George Osborne delivers his Autumn Statement, and once again, he’ll be doing so against a worrying backdrop.
Yesterday, it was announced borrowing had risen more than expected to £8.6 billion for October, hitting the chancellor’s chances of meeting his 2012 deficit reduction targets. In October 2011, the figure was £5.9bn. The latest figures were described as “an unpleasant feeling of déjà vu for the chancellor” by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The IFS warned that, if trends continue for the remainder of the financial year, borrowing will come in £13 billion higher than forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibilty in March.
Looking at how the chancellor might escape the hole he’s in, writing on Left Foot Forward, CentreForum outlined a £17bn savings package of progressive tax reforms and marginal welfare cuts for the better off, aimed at asking the wealthiest to pay their fair share - savings which would enable Mr Osborne to stick closer to fiscal target of debt as a proportion of GDP falling in this parliament, whilst steering clear of the most vulnerable in society. Read it here.
Progressive of the Week:
Foreign secretary William Hague, who this week officially recognised the Syrian national coalition, calling it “the sole legitimate representitve” of the Syrian people, and a “credible alternative to the Assad regime”. Hague, who welcomed opposition leaders to London last week – describing the formation of the coalition as “very encouraging” – also hinted at action against the Assad regime to “save innocent lives”.
Regressive of the Week:
Lynton Crosby, the man appointed by David Cameron to lead the Tory election campaign this week. Crosby, who used to work for Boris Johnson, is reported to have used the phrase “f****** Muslims” during the London election campaign, saying the Tories should concentrate on “traditional” voters rather than Muslims. He has a long track record of anti-immigration scaremongering, dating back to his time with former Australian prime minister John Howard. His appointment has alarmed Conservative modernisers, aghast at prospect of the return of an anti-immigrant, anti-everything Romney-esque “nasty Party”.
Read our report here for more.
Evidence of the Week:
This week’s IFS report, Scottish independence: the fiscal context, the first in a series of research papers looking at the fiscal implications of Scotland going it alone, which concludes that, in the long run, the likelihood of revenue from North Sea oil and gas falling “would lead to Scotland facing a much more substantial fiscal adjustment that the rest of the UK”.
Read our report here for more.