Politics Summary: Monday, January 25th

Shadow Cabinet splits, city bankers, Afghanistan, elected mayors and expenses.

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David Cameron’s iron grip over his Shadow Cabinet looked in danger of disintegrating over the weekend with public disagreements over spending cuts, education and prisons. The Independent reports Shadow Education Secretary Michael Gove’s failure to endorse Cameron’s “brazenly elitist” teachers’ plans and Shadow Justice Minister Alan Duncan’s distaste at his leader’s plans to introduce prison ships to reduce overcrowding, arguing that a “lock ’em up” strategy was “Key Stage 1 Politics” – what was needed was a “rehabilitation revolution”, he said. The Sunday Times, meanwhile, had an interview with Ken Clarke, in which the Shadow Chancellor warned against making “damaging and unsupportable” spending cuts, suggesting VAT may have to rise to help close the budget gap.

City Minister Lord Myners, writing in the Guardian, has called for an end to the Gordon Gekko ‘greed is good’ bank culture, warning the industry it cannot continue relying on taxpayers’ “charity”. On the eve of city giants Goldman Sachs revealing their annual bonus payments, he says:

“When recessions hit, many businesses get into trouble. And some businesses fail, taking many jobs with them. Banks, however, were for the most part protected from the rules that applied to everyone else – and protected at great cost to public funds … Any institution that thinks it will always be bailed out when the going gets tough is an inherently dangerous ­institution. If you never have to face the consequences of bad decisions, you are less likely to be as careful as you should be when making important choices.”

Two leading US Generals have used interviews in British newspapers to discuss the new troop surge in Afghanistan. General David Petraeus, head of Central Command, tells the Times that the surge will take longer than the quelling of the Iraqi insurgency three years ago, saying:

“It will get harder before it gets easier … I have not assessed that Afghanistan could be turned as quickly as Iraq was turned … it will be difficult to assemble all the same factors that we were able to bring together in Iraq to reduce the violence as rapidly.”

The Times also claims that British troops “will have to fight the Taleban for another five years” according to a leaked communiqué to the London conference this week. General Stanley McChrystal, NATO commander in Afghanistan, adds that he believes the surge will lead to a negotiated peace with the Taleban, telling the FT that “there’s been enough fighting” and he thinks they need to “shape conditions which allow people to come to a truly equitable solution to how the Afghan people are governed”.

Elected mayors “should govern every big city”, the New Local Government Network will say today. According to the Times, the think tank’s new report calls for elected mayors to have powers to vary local business taxes by 4p, with candidates selected by US-style primaries. The 4p levy could raise up to £30 million for Birmingham, £10 million for Newcastle, £26 million for Leeds and £11 million for Milton Keynes, with the money being ploughed into economic development. Explaining the need for primaries, the report says:

“If we are ever to see a renaissance of civic involvement, we need everyone to have the chance to identify with somebody in a position of power.”

And the Telegraph reports the police investigation into Labour MP David Chaytor’s ‘false claims for consultancy work’. He is said to have claimed £1,950 for work carried out by his constituency treasurer – work the treasurer, Paul France, says was done “voluntarily”, with “no money involved”. “Mr Chaytor is among three MPs who have been investigated by police and had files sent to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). His lawyer has told police that Mr Chaytor will not answer questions because of ‘Parliamentary privilege’,” adds the report.

• The Progressive London Conference takes place at the TUC this Saturday, with Ken Livingstone, Ed Miliband and Left Foot Forward’s Joss Garman among the speakers. Tickets can be purchased online.

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