Politics Summary: Wednesday, November 25th

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President Obama will finally accept the recommendations of the McChrystal Review into Afghanistan next week, and commit to an increase of up to 35,000 troops, report the Guardian and Telegraph. In a press conference yesterday, the President vowed to “finish the job”, adding : “I feel very confident that when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we’re doing there and how we intend to achieve our goals, they will be supportive.” The news will be welcomed by the British Government, and follows the Defence Secretary’s criticism of the Administration in Parliament yesterday. Bob Ainsworth said the recent uncertainty had “mitigated against our ability to show progress” and that an announcement would allow the coalition to advance “to an extent that we have not been able to in recent months with those issues still hanging”, adds the Telegraph.

Plans for the invasion of Iraq were being discussed as early as 2001, report the Guardian and Independent, but were “dismissed as illegal”. Giving evidence on the opening day of the Iraq Inquiry, Sir William Patey, then head of the Middle East department at the Foreign Office, said:

“We dismissed it at the time because it had no basis in law.”

In his testimony, Sir Peter Ricketts, former chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee, added:

“We quite clearly distanced ourselves in Whitehall from talk about regime change.”

And the Telegraph reports that two Foreign Office chiefs will face questions over WMDs.

The Times reveals research into cancer and dementia could come under threat from plans to fund social care, with millions of pounds “reprioritised” from research and development. “Money will also be diverted from public health campaigns such as those on swine flu, sexually transmitted diseases and obesity,” says the report. Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, explained the consequences of such a decision:

“The NHS research and development budget funds vital infrastructure that supports cancer clinical trials. These trials have been instrumental in driving the improvements in cancer outcomes we have seen over the past 20 or 30 years. We would be very concerned to see cuts that affected these budgets given that they are an integral part of improving health outcomes for patients. This government investment ultimately benefits everyone.”

Better news from the Independent, however, with their front page report on the “official decline” of the AIDS pandemic. “The latest epidemiological data indicate that globally the spread of HIV appears to have peaked in 1996 when 3.5 million new infections occurred. In 2008 the estimated number of new HIV infections was approximately 30 per cent lower than at the epidemic’s peak 12 years earlier,” revealed two of the world’s leading health organisations, the Joint United Nations programme on HIV/Aids (UNAids) and the World Health Organisation.

Finally, the Mirror has an exclusive into the personal incentives behind the Conservatives’ inheritance tax proposals. They found that “18 millionaire members of the shadow cabinet will save up to £520,000 each” under Tory plans to raise the threshold to £2 million. “The estates of Mr Cameron, shadow foreign secretary William Hague and shadow chancellor George Osborne will all benefit by more than £500,000 each,” their investigation found. “In total Mr Cameron’s closest Tory chums will make more than £7million from his plans.”

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