The Independent reports that the Queen’s speech will include measures to improve social care for the elderly, create jobs, curb bankers’ bonuses, and cut the huge public deficit. Meanwhile, the Guardian says that Tessa Jowell was among a number of cabinet ministers who mounted a last-ditch effort to include a referendum on electoral reform in the package. Gordon Brown is reported to have seen polling showing that 31 per cent of Lib Dem voters and 30 per cent of Labour supporters are more likely to vote Labour if it delivers a referendum, and that 67 per cent of Tory supporters back a referendum. A separate package of reforms will shake up parliament with votes for MPs on select committee chairs, public petitions to trigger debates, and more power for MPs to set the parliamentary timetable.
The Prime Minister has defended the Government’s Afghanistan strategy on the Today programme. The Telegraph reports that Brown has ordered Bob Ainsworth, the Defence Secretary, and Simon McDonald, the senior foreign policy adviser, to get agreement from at least 10 different nations to supply an extra 5,000 troops. Meanwhile, a key adviser to NATO forces, David Kilcullen, tells the Guardian that Barack Obama risks a Suez-style debacle in Afghanistan if he fails to deploy enough extra troops. He said Obama’s delay in reaching a decision over extra troops had been “messy” and added: “If you have 40,000 troops it would be do-able. Anything less than 25,000 is throwing good money after bad.”
Left Foot Forward asked yesterday whether Gordon Brown was answering the wrong question on immigration. He announced that more than 250,000 skilled jobs will be closed to non-European overseas workers. An official review of student visas will look at raising the minimum level of course, introducing mandatory English language tests, and blocking overseas students from working part-time in temporary jobs. Brown dismissed Tory plans for an annual quota of migrant workers. Frank Field and Nicholas Soames, heads of the cross-party Balanced Migration Group, said: “The prime minister misses the big picture. The points-based system has no limit, affects just 20 per cent of immigration, and will not stop the UK’s population hitting 70m in 2029.” Keith Best of the Immigration Advisory Service said he was “very worried” that any clampdown on student visas could harm the UK’s lucrative English-language teaching sector.
Victory for Labour in the Glasgow North East by-election is described as “emphatic” and “unexpectedly comfortable.” Labour’s candidate Willie Bain won a majority of 8,111 and 59.4 per cent of the vote. The Conservative’s Ruth Davidson pushed the BNP’s Charlie Baillie into fourth place. She gained 1,075 votes to his 1,013. Turnout was 33 per cent, against 45 per cent in 2005, and a record low for a Westminster by-election in Scotland. The FT says “Loyalty collides with disgust in Glasgow poll.”
Lord Mandelson has been awarded The Spectator’s politician of the year award. The Telegraph says he was “visibly amused by his prize.” According to Mandelson, this is the first time since 2006 that the prize has been won by someone “who’s not actually a member of the Bullingdon Club” and said that he and Boris Johnson shared a “driving ambition to do all we can to undermine David Cameron.” The full speech is available on Left Foot Forward.
And the rest:
- Judges’ torture ruling harmed UK security, says Foreign Office
- Gordon Brown faced accusations today of spinning official statistics after he used “speculative estimates” to claim that the government had saved jobs during the recession.
- MPs in expenses claims row get final bill for £1m
- Nick Griffin joins Le Pen to create new pan-European party of the far Right
- Tony Blair to give evidence to Iraq War inquiry early in 2010
- Ed Balls faces backlash from teachers over licence plans