Politics Summary: Tuesday, January 19th

Haiti, binge drinking, Alistair Darling, the Iraq Inquiry and Massachusetts.

Sign up to receive this daily email by 9am every morning.

The tragedy in Haiti continues to dominate the papers, with the focus now shifting to the problems of distributing aid and maintaining order. The Guardian reports on the jurisdictional politics hampering the aid effort, with Médecins sans Frontières insisting the confusion could have led to “hundreds of avoidable deaths” and the head of an Irish charity saying:

“You have the US military doing their thing at the airport. You have the United Nations saying we’re in control of food distribution but the United Nations is not taking the pro-active role that they should be taking. And you have a Haitian president saying he’s in charge and the Americans being politically correct and saying they will work under him. This is all going to lead to a situation of utter chaos.”

The Times also focuses on the Haitian President’s problems, the Independent asks “How can Haiti ever be rebuilt?”, the Mail and Telegraph cover France’s accusation that the US is “occupying” Haiti and the Sun and Standard report the British Government’s trebling of aid to £20 million.

The question of how to tackle excessive drinking is looked at by the Times, Guardian and Standard, who all report Alan Johnson’s announcement of a ban on “irresponsible” drinks promotions like free alcohol for women, all you can drink for £10 and speed drinking competitions. The Home Secretary said:

“Alcohol-related crime costs the UK billions of pounds every year and while the vast majority of retailers are responsible, a minority continue to run irresponsible promotions.”

Pubs, clubs and bars will also be forced to provide free tap water and offer wine in smaller measures. Yesterday Left Foot Forward examined the likelihood of minimum alcohol pricing as a means of curbing binge drinking.

The Financial Times has an interview with Alistair Darling, in which the Chancellor “sharpens the axe on spending”. He tells the paper that halving the deficit within four years is “non-negotiable”, failing to deny reports that all budgets bar health, education, police and overseas aid would face real terms cuts of up to 17 per cent. He also said the 50 per cent supertax on bankers’ bonuses was a one off and hinted Labour could reverse the new 50p top rate of income tax, saying it was not “a matter of ideology” but a way to fix the public finances.

Jonathan Powell’s appearance before the Iraq Inquiry is covered by the Telegraph, Guardian and Sun. Tony Blair’s former chief of staff told the hearing that intelligence on Saddam’s WMDs was not the key factor in the decision to go to war; there had long been an assumption the dictator had them because he’d used them in the past. He defended the conflict, insisting it would be for history to deliver the ultimate verdict on the war:

“It is too early to tell really yet what the overall historical judgement will be on Iraq. In 10 years’ time, in 15 years’ time we will have a better assessment of what has really happened in Iraq. But I do notice things are a lot better in Iraq now.”

Mr Blair will face the inquiry next Friday.

And the Times, Telegraph and Guardian report Democrat fears they could lose the Massachusetts Senate by-election caused by the death of Teddy Kennedy last August. Public anger over the struggling economy, depressed housing market and booming national debt are reasons for a possible defeat, says the Telegraph, while the Times believes President Obama’s very future depends upon the result, “because if the Democrats lose today they will also lose the 60-seat ‘supermajority’ that allows them to push through healthcare reform and other initiatives in the 100-seat Senate”. Republican candidate Scott Brown leads Democrat Martha Coakley 51%-46% in the latest poll. The result will be declared in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.