Politics Summary: Thursday, November 19th

The shortest Queen’s Speech since 1900 receives a mixed reaction in the papers. The FT and Guardian lead on a scheme to help young people find work using “windfall savings from lower-than-expected unemployment.” According to The Guardian, the social care pledges for elderly received a cautious welcome from groups like Help the Aged while the Times suggests that Labour Lords Lipsey and Warner “savage” the plan. David Cameron attacked the absence of any measures to implement the Kelly report on MPs’ expenses while Sir Christopher Kelly himself protested that the “relatively straightforward” legislation essential to establish the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) was absent. The Independent points out that electoral reform was missing from the speech and that the Lords Reform Bill was relegated to draft status.

In the comment pages, the Guardian says that Brown “seems to have no grasp of the scale and importance of public disaffection with MPs and the political system.” The Times suggests that, “all the hard choices were left over for another day … The serious economic work was also postdated to the Pre-Budget Report” while the FT accuses the Government will confusing “passing laws with bringing about real improvements in a way that is damaging and pointlessly divisive.” David Hughes in the Telegraph says that, “Cameron was in turn cocky and contemptuous as he skewered the failings of the Government. But there was no real structure to his speech.”

The Independent has an exclusive on Lord Ashcroft. They reveal that companies linked to the “billionaire deputy chairman of the Conservative Party” provided a $5 million loan to help finance the lavish lifestyle of the disgraced prime minister of Turks and Caicos islands, an Independent investigation has found. A senior Turks and Caicos politician wrote to the Conservative leader David Cameron to demand assurances that Lord Ashcroft will not be in a position to influence the government of the islands should the Tories win the next election and should the peer’s ally William Hague take charge at the Foreign Office.

The FT believes that EU leaders are still split over the European council president but German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that Germany and France will strike a deal today. The Guardian report that Germany’s ambassador to Belgium, Reinhard Bettzuege, broke ranks by stating Berlin’s support for Van Rompuy. The Belgian PM is opposed to Turkey joining the EU, a key policy for both Labour and the Conservatives. The British government criticised Van Rompuy for the first time for harbouring “a federalist agenda”.

US Senate leaders unveiled their plan to overhaul the American health care system, report both the New York Times and the Washington Post. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office announced last night that the $848 billion proposal, which would extend health care coverage to 31 million people, would also reduce federal deficits by $130 billion over the next ten years. Debate and votes on the bill are expected to begin on Friday.

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