Politics Summary: Thursday, October 15th

Reaction to Gordon Brown’s announcement to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan by 500 to 9,500 has been mixed. Left Foot Forward outlined last night how a lack of clarity on both sides of the Atlantic has clouded the deployment. John Hutton said the reinforcements should have been dispatched in the spring – when he was still in government. But Ministry of Defence sources told the Independent there were not enough trained troops at that stage. Another source told the Times that, “It could take several weeks before they leave for Afghanistan.” The White House last night denied BBC Newsnight reports, covered today in the Telegraph, that Obama will announce 40,000 extra troops next week. The FT has a useful interactive graphic of the region.

The Telegraph reveals that Conservative MP, David Wilshire, paid £105,500 of taxpayers’ money to Moorlands Research Services – a company he owns with his partner. Between 2005 and 2008, Mr Wilshire paid up to £3,250 a month to the business. Despite having a constituency 20 miles from Westminster, he has consistently claimed the maximum second home allowance for a flat in central London. The Guardian reports that Harriet Harman was warned by Labour whips in early September that the Legg inquiry into MPs’ expenses was “going off the rails.” The Independent quote Martin Salter, a Labour Party vice-chairman, saying: “This review appears to be riddled with flaws … [It] is the price of the party leaders indulging in an arms race to appear as draconian as possible.”

Ministers are expected to announce that the European Union’s agency workers directive will not be implemented until October or December 2011 – the last possible commencement date under EU law. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said, ‘This is extremely disappointing. Agency workers are even more in need of protection during a recession.” The Mail says Peter Mandelson has “argued the laws would put an unacceptable burden on businesses struggling with the economic downturn” while the Financial Times says the cost is £3.5 billion a year but does not mention the considerable benefits.

City minister Lord Paul Myners yesterday agreed a deal with the biggest foreign banks operating in the City of London to show pay restraint. Myners said: “They will fully enforce the G20 agreement on remuneration with effect from the current year.” It comes as the Times report that investment bankers are about to enjoy a record bonus season as confidence surges in the financial markets. Meanwhile, the Guardian has learned that Lloyds, 43 per cent owned by the taxpayer, is seeking £25 billion of extra capital so it can escape the multibillion-pound cost of the government’s toxic asset insurance scheme. Regulators are apparently considering selling new shares worth up to £5 billion to the Treasury.

The “public option” continues to embroil the US health care debate. Following the Senate Finance Committee’s approval of a plan on Tuesday that did not contain a government-run coverage option, Barack Obama is seeking to resolve differences in his party on the issue. Obama is also reaching out to Senator Olympia Snowe, the single Republican to vote for the plan.

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