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Obama has discussed trade and human rights with Chinese President Hu Jintao. The FT reports that Obama “nudged” the Chinese to allow the yuan currency to appreciate while the Chinese warned against protectionism. The Times says Obama urged Beijing to resume dialogue with the exiled Dalai Lama. Although Mr Hu was the first to bring up human rights, Obama stressed his belief that human rights were universal and should be available to all and to “all ethnic and religious minorities” – a reference to Tibetans and the Muslim Uighur minority.
The Telegraph reports that Gordon Brown will deliver a report next week into “lean government” which will see parts of Whitehall departments merged, quangos broken up, and new asset sales. Brown wants a data revolution with over 2,000 data sets available for public use including property prices, motoring offences, farm survey data, and all legislation on a database. The Queen’s Speech is expected to focus on social care for the elderly by introducing free care for some of the most needy pensioners in their own homes at a cost of about £700m. Meanwhile, the Government has hit back at Nick Clegg’s call for tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech to be scrapped, accusing the Liberal Democrat leader of “pointless political posturing“.
Tony Blair still stands an outside chance of becoming president of the European council. British officials believe that the former PM could emerge victorious at the last minute because there is no consensus on a candidate among the EU’s 27 leaders. The favourite – Herman Van Rompuy – is already considering new EU taxes to fund the rising cost of Brussels and the welfare state. This intervention will alarm non-federalist countries such as Britain and Denmark. William Hague described the proposal as “totally unacceptable” and now opposes both candidates. Meanwhile, the centre-left have so far failed to find a credible candidate for the post of foreign policy high representative.
Gordon Brown used a speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet to explain that he wants to use a London-based UN conference in January to set a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan, which could start in 2010. He claimed that almost half of al-Qaida’s leadership had now been killed, but said al-Qaeda remained the biggest threat to Britain’s security. On Iran, Brown said it was now right and necessary for the world to apply concerted pressure to the Iranian regime. He also attacked the Conservative’s position on Europe by claiming they were unpatriotic in forming an alliance away from the main centre right grouping in the European Parliament. Meanwhile, the Times reveals that British forces should buy off potential Taleban recruits with $10 “bags of gold”, according to a new army field manual published yesterday.
The Guardian reports that, “David Cameron is closing the deal with voters over his suitability to serve as Britain’s next prime minister.” A new ICM poll shows that although Labour has closed the gap by two points, the Conservatives are on 42 per cent to Labour’s 29 per cent – the same lead as Labour’s in November 1996.
And the rest:
- BBC sees off plan to use licence fee for regional news on commercial channels
- Spy bosses to give evidence to Iraq war inquiry
- FSA ready to show teeth on pay while wholesale banks ‘must shoulder more risk’
- Tory A-list candidate escapes deselection
- Gordon Brown suffers increase in backbench rebellions