All the papers focus on George Osborne’s big speech where he set out a one-year pay freeze for public sector workers earning over £18,000; deferral of the state pension by a year; withdrawal of the family element of child tax credits for households earning over £50,000; and abolishing child trust funds for all but the poorest third of families and disabled children. The Independent say the “Tories risk alienating four million voters” while there is agreement from The Guardian, who call it the “biggest political gamble in a generation,” and The Times for whom it is “a massive electoral gamble.”
Reaction to the speech focused on what it did not do. Robert Chote, Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said “If the deficit is to be halved by 2014, the cuts announced yesterday, if they raise what they say, is still one sixth of [what is required].” Jonathan Loynes of Capital Economics said, “This is small fry.” Rachel Reeves writing for Progress pointed out that Osborne’s pensions sums did not add up and that the speech did not sign up to three tax raising measures announced in the Budget including withdrawing the personal allowance on income tax for those earning over £100,000. Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: “It’s clear that the Tories want to use the economic recession as a stick to beat ordinary hard-working people.” But Richard Lambert, head of the Confederation of British Industry, came to Osborne’s defence describing the speech as a “serious and thoughtful” contribution.
David Cameron’s new European alliance came under renewed attack as the Board of Deputies of British Jews wrote to the Tory leader raising questions about their partnership. Ben Summerskill, head of the gay rights charity Stonewall, pulled out of a Pride event at the conference while comedians Eddie Izzard and Stephen Fry published a letter condemning the alliance. The views of the Poles and Latvians were, they said, at odds with the Tories’ new social liberalism. Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian writes “there is plenty of ground on which to attack Cameron, a man whose judgment allowed him to placate his Eurosceptics by aligning with people who excuse or celebrate some of the darkest events of the last century.” Green MEPs speaking exclusively to Left Foot Forward also rounded on the new grouping.
David Cameron said a Conservative government would give MPs the chance to repeal the hunting ban. Asked on BBC Radio 4 whether he enjoyed hunting, Mr Cameron said: “I was brought up in the country. I have taken part in a number of rural sports, including hunting, from time to time, but not for several years.
President Obama told Congressional leaders that he would not substantially reduce American forces in Afghanistan or shift the mission to just hunting terrorists there. According to the New York Times, Mr. Obama seemed to be “searching for some sort of middle ground. White House officials later described the remarks as seeking to “dispense with the straw man argument that this is about either doubling down or leaving Afghanistan.”
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