Politics Summary: Wednesday, November 18th

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Labour’s key priorities of health and education will take centre stage in today’s Queen’s Speech, report the Independent and Telegraph. “Victims of strokes and serious accidents will be given specialised help to cope with their new circumstances,” says the Independent, adding that a “£670m-a-year plan to provide free personal care to 400,000 mainly elderly people … will include a £130m scheme to enable people who suffer life-changing illnesses to remain in their own homes.”

On education, a bill that includes “one-to-one tuition for pupils struggling in the basics, five hours of PE every week, the right to ‘high quality’ cultural activities and a promise that all schools will promote healthy eating, active lifestyles and mental wellbeing” will be unveiled, reports the Telegraph. However the Guardian reports Conservative plans to “kill off” the bills in the Lords with the Times’s Daniel Finkelstein calling the public mood “serenely indifferent” to the speech.

The Guardian, Independent and Telegraph all report a “catastrophic warning” that global temperatures will rise 6°C by the end of the century. Were this course not to be altered, explains the Independent, the consequences for the planet would be “very dangerous indeed”. Science writer Mark Lynas tells the paper:

“It would catapult the planet into an extreme greenhouse state not seen for nearly 100 million years, when dinosaurs grazed on polar rainforests and deserts reached into the heart of Europe. It would cause a mass extinction of almost all life and probably reduce humanity to a few struggling groups of embattled survivors clinging to life near the poles.

“With the tropics too hot to grow crops, and the sub-tropics too dry, billions of people would find themselves in areas of the planet which are essentially uninhabitable. This would probably even include southern Europe, as the Sahara desert crosses the Mediterranean. As the ice-caps melt, hundreds of millions will also be forced to move inland due to rapidly-rising seas.

“As world food supplies crash, the higher mid-latitude and sub-polar regions would become fiercely-contested refuges.The British Isles, indeed, might become one of the most desirable pieces of real estate on the planet. But, with a couple of billion people knocking on our door, things might quickly turn rather ugly.”

With the Presidency of the European Council set to be decided this week, the Times carries an interview with the only woman in the frame, Latvian president Vaira Vike-Freiberga, in which she hits out at the “male elite” running Europe, and calls for more transparency in the process. “The first step would be to stop hiding behind their fans and come out and say they would be ready to take the job,” she says. “They should say they are a candidate, not just to 27 [the EU leaders] but to the whole of Europe so its citizens know what’s going on.” On comparisons with Mrs Thatcher, Mrs Vike-Freiberga adds: “People say my hair is styled like hers, or my dress, but I am not imitating anyone.”

The Financial Times reports an apology from Goldman Sachs for its role in the financial crisis. “We participated in things that were clearly wrong and have reason to regret; we apologise” Sachs chief exec and CEO Lloyd Blankfein is quoted as saying. He had earlier courted controversy by saying he was a “just a banker doing God’s work”. In addition to the apology, they have pledged $500 million over five years to help 10,000 US small businesses to recover from the recession.

And the Independent reports plans to cut police budgets “by 20 per cent”. This would involve merging some of Britain’s 43 police forces – an idea first suggested by former Home Secretary Charles Clarke in 2005, who proposed 17 larger police regions. “This country is in a recession,” Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, told the paper. “There is no more money for the public sector and I can confidently predict cuts in police budgets of 10 to 20 per cent over the next few years. We really have to focus on what is important – what keeps people safe, what works and what does not.”

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