Politics summary: Friday, September 11th

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Plans to hold a referendum on election day to change Britain’s first-past-the-post voting system are being seriously considered by No. 10. One cabinet source said: “The idea of a referendum on election day is on the agenda. It is a very live issue.” For the first time in 90 years the Trade Union Congress will next week debate the issue at its conference with its executive supporing the move. Paul Kenny, the GMB’s general secretary, said: “If you’re looking at something that could wrong-foot David Cameron, this could be it. I was always a first-past-the-post supporter, but we are coming to the stage where electoral reform needs greater debate.”

Lord Mandelson is planning to ban the ‘Phoenix Four’ investors from holding directorships following publication this morning of a report into their handling of the collapse of Rover in 2005. The report is expected to show that five executives took £42 million in pay and pensions. In an interview with the Guardian Derek Simpson, General Secretary of Unite the Union, said: “Labour has got to be more clear that it is on the side of working people, rather than give the impression it backs big business.”

The Institute of Directors and TaxPayers’ Alliance have produced a report calling for £50 billion in cuts including £1.4 billion from Surestart, £2.3 billion from school building, and £6.2 billion from a one-year freeze in the pay of all public-sector workers £6.2bn. Tony Travers of the London School of Economics writes in the Guardian that, “George Osborne is encouraging Conservative councils that have delivered tax reductions and/or spending reductions. Surely this tells us something about his likely actions as chancellor?”

In an interview with the Times former Cabinet Minister, Lord Robertson, criticised the Ministry of Defence’s procurement process. He said that many equipment programmes were not properly costed, specifications were constantly being changed and one of the most important — for armoured vehicles — was stuck “in limbo”.

On the eighth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, said he was against sending more American combat troops to Afghanistan until the United States speeded up the training and equipping of more Afghan security forces.

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