Politics Summary: Tuesday, January 12th

Peter Robinson’s resignation as Northern Ireland First Minister is the lead story, the papers reporting on his decision to step down to clear his name.

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Peter Robinson’s resignation as Northern Ireland First Minister leads many of today’s papers. The Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Independent, Express and Standard all report on his decision to step down to clear his name in the wake of sleaze allegations following the revelation of his wife’s affair with a teenager. He is accused, explains the Times, of:

“Failing to report his wife’s unorthodox financial affairs to the parliamentary authorities when he became aware of them, breaching codes of conduct.”

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster takes the reins, with the Independent saying she is one of three contenders who may take over permanently should Mr Robinson fail to be exonerated. The other two are Deputy DUP leader Nigel Dodds, MP for North Belfast and formerly an aide to Iain Paisley, and East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell. Left Foot Forward will today take a more detailed look at what this means for the future of Northern Ireland.

The Telegraph, Guardian and Independent report the Prime Minister’s appearance before the Parliamentary Labour Party, during which he said a “hard won recovery” would lead Labour to victory, telling the assembled MPs that he was “not a team of one” but “one of a team”. Lord Mandelson, Labour’s new chief election strategist, added:

“The country feels increasing confidence that we are coming through to the other side [of a recession].”

There was dispiriting news for the Government from the Times, however, which today publishes a poll showing Labour down two on 28 per cent and the Tories up three to 41 per cent – though Mr Brown’s personal ratings are up. 71 per cent of Labour voters believe that he is “the best leader that Labour could have at present” – up nine points from September.

The failure of the Yemen to tackle al-Qa’ida is reported by the Telegraph and Independent, while the Times looks examines Jordan’s role in the fight against terrorism. At home, the Mail and Guardian report the conviction of a group of extremists who screamed “rapists” and “murderers” at returning soldiers on the streets of Luton. The Guardian also reports new legislation, set to be introduced this week by the Home Secretary to ban Islam4Uk and al-Muhajiroun:

“Home Office lawyers were believed to be drawing up the necessary parliamentary order implementing the ban so that it can be debated by MPs within days.”

Last week Left Foot Forward investigated the difficulties in proscribing Islam4Uk under current anti-terror laws.

The Guardian has an exclusive claiming universities would be “brought to their knees” by the Government’s proposed £2.5 billion higher education spending cuts. They publish a letter from the elite Russell Group of Britain’s leading universities, comparing the UK with abroad:

“Perhaps the prime minister should consider what his international counterparts regard as being priorities … an investment of €11bn in higher education in France … Germany pumped a total of €18bn into promoting world-class research alongside university education, whilst Barack Obama ploughed an additional $21bn into federal science spending, as well as announcing a decade-long budget doubling $42.6bn for science, technology and energy.”

The Tories “could not promise to reverse the cuts” if they won the election, adds the report.

And the Telegraph reports a crackdown on middle class tax evasion, with doctors, dentists, solicitors, barristers and accountants expected to come under the spotlight. “Anyone who refuses to reveal their unpaid earnings, and tax and is caught after the deadline has expired, faces criminal prosecution,” reports the paper. “They could also find themselves ‘named and shamed’ on HMRC’s website. In certain circumstances, those found guilty of tax evasion can face a prison sentence of up seven years.” Tax evasion costs the UK economy around £3 billion a year.

• The Fabian Society New Year Conference takes place at Imperial College this Saturday, featuring 50 top speakers including a keynote speaker – a Senior Cabinet Minister. Tickets can be purchased online.

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