Politics Summary: Friday, November 20th

Britain landed one of the top two EU jobs last night as Baroness Catherine Ashton became EU high representative for foreign and security policy and promised to pursue a strategy of “quiet diplomacy“. Belgian PM, Herman Van Rompuy, becomes Council President as expected in what the FT sees as a win for the “supremacy of the nation state”. The Times reports that the deal went through “swiftly” after Gordon Brown abandoned his support for Mr Blair at a meeting of Socialist leaders before the summit. The Guardian says Ashton’s job “while formally the junior of the two, is potentially the more powerful”. Both Gordon Brown and William Hague agree that the appointment is in the “national interest“.

The Independent outlines that Britain is heading for borrowing of more than £200 billion a year as both the ONS and OECD released new economic figures. The Times says this will “dash” hopes for a “feel-good” pre-Budget report next month. The Guardian show that the OECD’s growth projections are lower than the Governments, but Left Foot Forward showed that long-term projections show that Britain’s net debt would rise no higher than the OECD average by 2017. Nonetheless, the FT suggests that CBI Director General, Richard Lambert is backing the Conservative approach to deficit reduction.

The Government accused the Tories of “scaremongering” and “gutter politics” according to The Guardian as Health Secretary Andy Burnham sought to defended the creation of a new National Care Service from accusations that the policy would mean scrapping the attendance allowance and the disability living allowance. The Times quote a No 10 spokesman: “It is wrong to claim that we are funding our care reform proposals by cutting benefits. All the proposals are funded through efficiencies and reprioritisations in the Department of Health and in local government.” Labour peer, Lord Lipsey accused the government of peddling a “pernicious myth” that people were better cared for in their own homes than in a nursing home.

The Guardian report that the high court rejected claims by David Miliband, the foreign secretary, that releasing evidence of the CIA’s inhuman and unlawful treatment of UK resident Binyam Mohamed would harm Britain’s relations with the US by giving away intelligence secrets. The secrets are reported to have been released by Obama earlier this year. A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are appealing the judgments … The issues go to the heart of the UK’s intelligence sharing relationship with other countries and efforts to defend UK security.” The judges revealed that the foreign secretary had so far agreed to pay Mohamed’s costs up to September last year amounting to more than £189,000.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton yesterday met with Afghan President Karzai in Kabul with the intention of setting a softer tone in the tense relationship between the Obama Administration and Karzai’s government.
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