Politics Summary: Monday, December 14th

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Foreign affairs once again dominate the front pages, following Gordon Brown’s trip to Afghanistan and his predecessor’s remarks that he “would have gone to war without Iraqi WMD”. The Times reports the Prime Minister’s £150 million pledge of 400 high-tech handheld devices to detect roadside bombs in Afghanistan. The Guardian, however, reports bad news for the mission, in that a key hydroelectric turbine project “may never be installed” because the coalition is unable to secure a 30-mile stretch of road in northern Helmand, while the Independent carries a despatch from the front line detalining the “strategy for the Afghan surge” – namely reconciliation with Taliban forces willing to renounce extremism.

On Iraq, the Guardian gives reassurances that Tony Blair’s evidence to the Chilcot inquiry will be “very much in public” following reports over the weekend that it would be given in secret. Writing in the Times, former Director of Public Prosecutions Ken MacDonald voices his displeasure at the latest developments, saying that Mr Blair “engaged in an alarming subterfuge with his partner George Bush and went on to mislead and cajole the British people into a deadly war”, with the Independent reporting former UN Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix’s remarks that the former PM’s statement gave the impression of a “lack of sincerity”.

To Copenhagen, and the Independent’s report that sunspots “do not cause climate change”, debunking another key tenet of the climate sceptics. Scientists, led by a Nobel prize-winner, say evidence claiming sunspots cause global warming is “deeply flawed”. At the summit itself, the chances of a global emissions deal being struck are fading, report the Guardian and Independent, with the Times saying a deal could be stalled “for up to six years”. Yesterday Left Foot Forward published a poll which found that a global deal at Copenhagen is critical to winning over public support for key domestic measures, also reported in the Independent on Sunday.

The Financial Times reports that flaws in the UK tax system cost the country “£40bn a year”. The figure comes from an HM Revenue & Customs estimate of the “tax gap”, which revealed that “8 per cent of the expected tax due goes uncollected for a variety of reasons ranging from simple errors to criminal attacks”, though it is not as bad as the “14 per cent gap in the US, the 10 per cent gap in Sweden and 6 per cent in Denmark” – but some estimate Britain’s tax gap to be as much as £100bn or 20 per cent.

And the Telegraph reports President Obama’s TV interview on Sunday in which he slammed “fat cat” Wall Street bankers. Ahead of a meeting with executives from 12 banks today he said: “I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street,” before adding:

“They’re still puzzled why it is that people are mad at the banks. Well, let’s see. You guys are drawing down 10, 20 million dollar bonuses after America went through the worst economic year in decades and you guys caused the problem.”

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