Politics Summary: Monday, November 16th

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In light of political divisions in the Senate and lack of firm commitments by countries like India and China, the New York Times reports that Barack Obama admitted in Singapore over the weekend that a comprehensive climate change deal may be out of reach this year. He did voice support for a nonbinding political agreement proposed by the Prime Minister of Denmark which will lay the groundwork for a binding global pact on reducing emissions in 2010. But agreement is unlikely to be reached on emissions targets, financing, and technology transfer.The Times suggest the Queen’s speech this week will “fire the starting gun” for the general election. On measure will see City regulators given powers to tear up individual bankers’ contracts that place too much emphasis on rewards for risk-taking. But the legislation will not apply to bonuses for this year, which are expected to increase 50 per cent to £6 billion. Other proposed enforcement powers include enhancing the FSA’s ability to hold executives personally responsible for misconduct and disciplining individuals who perform key “control” functions without the necessary regulatory approval. In the Independent, Nick Clegg calls for the speech to be scrapped and replaced by an emergency programme of reform designed to “clean up politics once and for all.”

Gordon Brown will use a speech today to claim that more has been done to disable al-Qaida this year than in any year since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. The Guardian suggest that his remarks are designed to bolster waning support for the war as a Comres poll in the Independent on Sunday showed 71 per cent of the British public want troops to leave Afghanistan within a year. Brown will also use his speech to attack the Tories’ isolationist position in Europe. William Hague, writing in the FT, says the EU should not appoint a “limelight-hungry” heavy-hitter such as Mr Blair, arguing that he would “skew” power away from elected national leaders. But in a blow to the eurosceptic Conservatives, the Telegraph reveals that the new front-runner to be EU President – Belgian PM Herman Van Rompuy – is committed to a European national anthem and the replacement of a range of nationalistic symbols.

The Independent reports that Ministers were in retreat yesterday over plans to abolish tax relief on childcare vouchers paid to working families. On Sky News, Ed Balls, children’s secretary, said it was “good for the Treasury to listen” to the concerns raised about the scheme. “Gordon Brown has been, in the past, criticised for not listening and not moving fast enough, and I think what’s happening here is we’re listening.”

The leader of the British National Party, Nick Griffin, is to challenge Margaret Hodge for the Barking constituency at the next General Election. The party claims it will stand in more than 200 seats. Margaret Hodge received 13,826 votes at the last election, a majority of 8,883. The BNP finished only 27 votes behind the Conservatives on 4,916.

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