Politics Summary: Monday, September 21st

The Liberal Democrat conference starts in Bournemouth with two new announcements. The party is to propose an annual levy of 0.5 per cent on homes worth mo £1m, cutting tax reliefs that benefit the best-off, and raising the basic starting-point for income tax to earnings to £10,000 a year.Vince Cable will also say that Britain’s £158 billion public sector pay bill should be frozen.

A report for the Confederation of British Industry says tuition fees should be raised, students should pay higher interest rates on their loans, and maintenance grants should be scaled back. NUS president, Wes Streeting, explained how this would affect students on the Today programme. Charles Kennedy, the former Liberal Democrat leader, has warned Clegg not to abandon the pledge to abolish student tuition fees. Clegg, also speaking on the Today programme, has said there is a question mark as to “whether we can, in this environment, afford scrapping tuition fees.”

George Osborne has come under attack for claiming that the Government had secret plans to raise taxes. Lord Mandelson said Osborne looked “like a boy in a man’s job.” Vince Cable is expected today to say, “No one does political cynicism better than the Tories.” Research by the Liberal Democrats  has found that the Tories have racked up spending pledges of £53bn while pledging to make cuts. Meanwhile a senior Treasury official told The Times, “the idea that we are party to hiding something from the public has incensed people here.”

In tomorrow’s Newsweek, Gordon Brown will write, “Securing an agreement in Copenhagen [on climate change] will require world leaders to bridge our remaining differences and seize these opportunities. But I believe it can be done. And if it is necessary to clinch the deal, I will personally go to Copenhagen to achieve it.” This follows a campaign – supported by Left Foot Forward – pushing for him to attend the talks.

The Washington Post released a confidential assessment by the top American military commander in Afghanistan warning that “the overall situation is deteriorating.” General McChrystal’s report refers to government corruption in the country and cleary sets out that “failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near term (next 12 months) — while Afghan security capacity matures — risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.”

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