In an interview with the Independent, Mr Johnson admitted that Labour’s failure to debate immigration had “probably” boosted the BNP’s appeal: “My post bag is bigger on immigration than any other issue. It is a major public concern. The public deserves a rational debate on this, rather than what they sometimes get, which is at the extreme end of the scale.” Mr Johnson believes public fears are shaped by an out-of-date picture and that Labour’s reluctance to debate immigration has deprived it of the opportunity to show that the system has changed out of all recognition.
The Government will today identify further sites around Britain that could be suitable for building a nuclear plant. The Times report that radioactive waste will be buried deep underground in a storage facility that could cost up to £18 billion to build. Andy Atkins, the executive director of Friends of the Earth, said: “Building new nuclear reactors is not the answer to the challenges of climate change and energy security … Nuclear power leaves a deadly legacy of radioactive waste that remains highly dangerous for tens of thousands of years and costs tens of billions of pounds to manage.” The chairman of the Environment Agency, Lord Smith, will suggest today that “ more scientists and more engineers” will be needed to help Britain move to a low-carbon economy.
The FT suggests that Gordon Brown “rapidly backpedalled” from his proposal for a financial transactions “Tobin” tax after a chorus of criticism from the US, Canada, Russia, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. Tim Geithner, US Treasury secretary, said: “A day-by-day financial transactions tax is not something we are prepared to support.” But the Guardian report Alistair Darling insisting that Geithner was in “broad agreement” with the general principle: “He is very clear that institutions rather than individuals should bear the cost of this. Meanwhile, Harriet Harman has ordered a report into how to tackle entrenched wealth inequality including through a high pay commission or a tax on assets.
The Times report a senior Nato source claiming that military commanders in Afghanistan are considering a radical shift in policy that would see British and US forces conduct a tactical pull-out from most of northern Helmand. The source said that the plan would be considered if proposed reinforcements, currently being examined by President Obama, were not approved. General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander in Kabul, has asked for 40,000 more troops. The Guardian suggest that Obama is close to making a decision to send 34,000 more troops.
Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Swedish prime minister and current EU president, has been sounding out fellow leaders over their preferences for the posts of president of the European council and the high representative for foreign and security policy. The clear frontrunner, according to the Guardian is Herman van Rompuy, the PM of Belgium, while his main rival is Jan-Peter Balkenende, the Dutch premier. The Times suggests that Tony Blair has made a flurry of personal telephone calls to continental leaders in an attempt to revive his chances. He is believed to have spoken to José Manuel Barroso, the head of the European Commission, Brian Cowen, the Taoiseach, and Balkenende. Meanwhile, 27 members of the Jewish community have written to today’s Telegraph to demand a retraction from the Foreign Secretary over his attacks on Michael Kaminski.
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- The Conservative Party sought to defuse the controversy over its deputy chairman, Lord Ashcroft, yesterday by confirming that he is paying tax in Britain.
- Only 12 per cent of adults want university fees to be increased.
- Alan Johnson has rejected Liberal Democrat claims that he misled MPs in his account of the sacking of government drugs adviser David Nutt.
- MPs attacked the Press Complaints Commission last night after the regulator said there was “no new evidence” of widespread phone hacking at the News of the World.