Politics Summary: Thursday, December 17th

The Government must bring the British public with it if Gordon Brown’s promise of finance for a deal at Copenhagen is to be sustainable.The more the public knows about the impact of climate change on developing countries, the more likely they are to finance measures to support them, according to a survey of attitudes in marginal constituencies for the Institute of Public Policy Research covered today by Left Foot Forward. But only 16 per cent strongly or very strongly support the idea of a global climate fund. The findings are consistent with a YouGov poll at the weekend for Left Foot Forward which showed that a Copenhagen deal is vital to domestic support on climate change. Meanwhile, Ed Miliband has warned that the talks are slipping into “farce” as world leaders arrive in Copenhagen. According to the Guardian, “For the first time frustrated negotiators spoke openly of – at best – reaching a weak political agreement that would leave no clear way forward to tackle rising greenhouse gas emissions.”

Surprising employment figures were published yesterday showing that the claimant count fell and employment rose. The Guardian attributes the fall to a “surge in the number of women taking part-time jobs” while the Independent ascribes a “rapid increase in what might be described as ‘hidden’ unemployment.” But a ComRes survey of 257 business leaders for the same paper found that the proportion detecting “green shoots” had dropped from 49 per cent in November to 36 per cent this month. There was also bad news for the Government with 65 per cent thinking George Osborne would make a better chancellor than Alistair Darling. But 74 per cent believe that Mr Osborne “lacks experience”. Speaking before the Treasury Select Committee, Mr Darling outlined that he aims to publish internal figures indicating the range of departmental spending cuts the Treasury expects to make in the next three to four years. He also urged bankers to demonstrate they “live on the same planet as the rest of us” by curbing bonuses as France outlined its plan to follow Britain’s one off tax.

The Independent outlines that the “Government seizes the initiative on non-doms” with a pledge to rush through a law to ensure that MPs and peers pay full taxes in Britain. Harriet Harman, standing in at PMQs said there should be “no representation without taxation.” David Cameron is on the back foot after it was revealed that a Tory amendment to the Constitutional Reform bill on Tuesday would not have required MPs and peers to pay tax on all their foreign earnings. Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrats’ Treasury spokesman, used Parliamentary privilege to claim that Lord Ashcroft, the peer at the centre of the row, was a non-domicile.

The Guardian and FT report the latest sessions of the Chilcot Inquiry. According to Sir John Sawers, the head of MI6 and former adviser to the prime minister, the Blair government might not have invaded Iraq had it envisaged the scale of violence it might provoke: “Frankly, had we known the scale of the violence, it might well have led to second thoughts about the entire project … It was not thought through.” Lieutenant General Sir Robert Fry said, “Neither the nation nor parliament nor even the cabinet were unified on the war.” Meanwhile, the Independent outline that Dr Brian Jones, the most senior WMD analyst who saw the original intelligence on the notorious 45 minute claim, told the paper it was vague, inconclusive and unreliable. Clare Short, an independent MP, said that Dr Jones needs to appear before the Inquiry: “If he contradicts earlier evidence, they will either have to call back John Scarlett or choose who they believe.”

Prince Charles is facing fresh accusations of meddling in government policy after it emerged that he had written directly to ministers in eight Whitehall departments over the last three years. The Guardian reveals that the heir to the throne “wrote to ministers in departments including the Treasury, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the education department.” The details of the letters have remained secret. Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said, “He has to be very careful to respect the traditional separation between the democratically accountable parts of the constitution and the ceremonial parts.”

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