Politics Summary: Wednesday, November 11th

The Guardian, Telegraph, and Mail cover a revolt by nine former ministers who have told Gordon Brown that he is threatening marginal Labour seats in the run-up to the election by axing popular childcare support for hard-working parents. The group includes Patricia Hewitt, Estelle Morris, Hilary Armstrong, and Denis MacShane. The letter said: “Childcare vouchers are an essential support to over 340,000 parents enabling more than 33,000 employers to help their employees, especially women, balance family and work responsibilities.” Over 70,000 people have signed a petition on the Downing Street website criticising Brown’s decision and urging him to reconsider.

The Guardian says that Ken Clarke is “evidently sceptical about his leader’s plans to repatriate EU powers” which Clarke described as matters of “reassurance”. Clarke also said that a Labour victory would be preferable to a hung parliament. A source close to David Cameron told the Times: “Mr Clarke is advocating a strong government. He is not saying that the British public should vote for a hung Parliament.” Meanwhile Douglas Carswell MP, a prominent Conservative backbencher, is launching a campaign for a referendum on Lisbon. The Times reports that Europe’s first president is expected to be named after a dinner in Brussels on November 19. Belgian Prime Minister, Herman van Rompuy, has become the favourite after he was talked up by President Sarkozy yesterday. Britain is likely to hold neither of the top 2 posts.

All the papers report David Cameron’s speech which sought to explain how a “big society” rather than Labour’s “big state” could make Britain more equal. The Tory leader floated ideas ranging from encouraging civil servants to act as “civic servants” to asking Facebook, the social networking website, to include “social action” as a category in profiles. The FT says that costings and the role of the voluntary sector are “two areas where more answers are needed.” The Independent says, “though he describes the destination well, Mr Cameron is less convincing when it comes to setting out the journey.” A series of poverty campaigners, including Kate Green of the Child Poverty Action Group, have written for Progress outlining that the plans do not go far enough

A new opinion poll for The Independent shows that four out of five do not believe that British involvement in Afghanistan is keeping the streets of Britain safe from terrorist attacks. The Times says President Obama is poised to confirm a surge of more than 30,000 US combat troops and will ask members of Nato to provide up to 4,000 more troops. Britain may send 500 more troops while simultaneously handing over control “district by district” in Helmand. Meanwhile, the mother who accused the Prime Minister of being disrespectful over the death of her soldier son has accepted his apology after he invoked the memory of the death of his daughter in a press conference. The Guardian reveal that The Sun’s new political editor wanted a softer line from the paper, which has been criticised for its coverage. Pollster Peter Kellner of YouGov tells the FT: “There may be quite a lot of sympathy for Brown [over the letter].”

Iran denounced the University of Oxford yesterday, reports the Times, because one of its colleges has established a scholarship honouring Neda Soltan, the Iranian student killed during street protests in Tehran over the alleged rigging of the presidential election. The regime claimed that Miss Soltan’s death in June was staged by its enemies and accused the university of joining a “politically motivated” campaign.

And the rest:

  • Intimidating and out-of-date laws are silencing free speech and scientific inquiry, a new report claims.
  • The head of Britain’s climate change watchdog predicted that households will need to spend up to £15,000 on a full energy efficiency makeover if the government is to meet its ambitious targets for cutting carbon emissions.
  • Three more government drugs advisers quit.
  • Professor Sir Ian Kennedy, head of the new watchdog charged with cleaning up Parliament, has refused to publicly endorse the recommendations of an independent inquiry into reforming the system of MPs’ expenses.
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