Politics Summary: Monday, January 11th

Gordon Brown has set up a 10-member “inner cabinet” to oversee Labour’s general election campaign following last week’s failed coup. In the FT, Ed Balls says, “I’m totally against a class war strategy” and insists Labour must be honest about cuts. He says David Cameron’s Eton education is “not at all relevant”. Writing in the Guardian, James Purnell says he, “argued in cabinet that we needed to talk about cuts.” Purnell also sets out the need for a radical manifesto including using one per cent of the bailout to recapitalise local areas; introducing a living wage; and capping interest rates. The Times reports that despite his failed attempt to unseat the Prime Minister, Geoff Hoon indicated yesterday that he would continue as Britain’s representative on a top-level Nato panel. A Downing Street official said that the matter was unresolved. The Telegraph trails a Brown speech today on “aspiration” in which he will pledge £300 million to ensure every British family and school have access to a broadband connection.

The Guardian reports that Vince Cable, Lib Dem economics spokesman, said he backed Labour’s belief that cuts this year would damage the recovery: “My party takes the view that the government’s eight-year plan, with a four-year halving of the deficit, is a reasonable starting point … The time to start cutting the budget deficit and its speed must be decided by a series of objective tests … [rather than the Conservative] basis of political soundbites and dogma.” In a Times interview, Nick Clegg says, “History tells me that it would be daft for the Lib Dems to get involved in dalliances [with other parties] … We were betrayed by Blair’s Janus-faced approach.” Meanwhile, an ICM poll for the Independent shows that the Green’s Caroline Lucas on 35 per cent holds an eight-point lead over the Conservatives in Brighton Pavilion. Labour are on 25 and the Liberal Democrats on 11 per cent. The UK remains the only major European country which has never had Greens in its national legislature.

David Cameron told Andrew Marr yesterday, “I don’t support our population going to 70 million.” He said net migration to the UK each year should be limited to “tens of thousands” rather than “hundreds of thousands”. The Times reports that the Tories are also moving towards a tougher regime for foreign student visas with bonds of up to £2,000 paid by students attending lesser known institutions. Students would also be required to leave Britain after their course in order to apply for a separate visa to work in the UK. The Telegraph discloses a report from an immigration intelligence unit to the Home Office which says education institutions are effectively deciding who is allowed to enter, rather than immigration entry clearance officers. Meanwhile, the FT report outline that, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Conservative proposal to introduce a married couples’ tax allowance would do little to achieve the party’s goal of reducing child poverty. Spending the same amount of money on the working tax credit or the child tax credit would be a far more effective measure.

Islam4UK has cancelled plans to march through Wootton Bassett, the town which has come to symbolise the fatalities sustained by British forces in Afghanistan. The Telegraph says that leader, Anjem Choudary, a former lawyer from East London, has previously admitted his plan was just a publicity stunt. But the Guardian reports he remains defiant and pledged to ­continue to highlight Muslim fatalities in the Afghanistan conflict. The News of the World reported that the home secretary, Alan Johnson, plans to ban the group – Left Foot Forward set out last week how this could take place.

The Telegraph reports that, “Political parties must select female candidates or face all-women shortlists.” A final report of the Speaker’s conference on parliamentary representation found that although half the UK population is female, the number of women MPs is 19.5% lower than in Rwanda, Mozambique, Sweden, Cuba and Denmark. It also recommends greater use of deferred divisions, allowing MPs to return home to their families earlier in the evening, and suggests a grant of £100 an MP to help parties recruit extra members. A cap on the amount a candidate can spend to get selected as a party candidate is also proposed as a way of addressing the cost of becoming a candidate.

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