Politics Summary: Wednesday, January 6th

Lord Mandelson will today use a speech to the Work Foundation think tank setting out a new “go for growth” post-recession strategy. But the Guardian reveals that, “Mandelson told friends over the last month that Labour was in danger of resorting to a core vote strategy.” He used an interview with the Evening Standard yesterday to say, “We are not a sectarian party. We are not a heartlands-only party.” The Treasury Select Committee will today publish a study of the Treasury’s pre-Budget report. Sally Keeble, a Labour member of the committee, told the Telegraph: “It’s very important that the government gets out a clear message around the spending plans. They need to set out broadly what’s going to happen. Give the public the certainty they need.” But the Treasury is now expected to raise a net figure of at least £1bn from the bankers’ bonus tax – nearly double the government’s initial estimate and perhaps considerably more – as institutions plan to absorb the charge rather than reduce pay-outs. Meanwhile, the Tories voted against the second reading of the Government’s fiscal responsibility bill with George Osborne calling it a “completely feeble stunt”. Instead, Mr Osborne outlined plans to keep a future Tory government on a strict path to cutting the deficit, including the creation of a new three-person “budget responsibility committee.” The Guardian reports that the Tories have asked Bernard Gray, author of a recent report on defence spending, to advise them on wasted public spending.

The Independent reports that Gordon Brown and Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, moved yesterday to soothe a diplomatic row with the US over the sharing of intelligence on the Detroit plane bomb suspect. Downing Street said Britain had passed on information about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the failed plane bomber, in a move alleged to have angered the US government. President Obama is reported to have called the US intelligence failure “a screw-up that could have been disastrous”. The Guardian outlines new changes to British airport security including increased pat-down searches, more sniffer dogs in terminals, and a step-up in hand luggage inspections with home secretary, Alan Johnson, warning that flights face delays. The FT outlines that Lord Adonis, the transport secretary, will meet the owners of Britain’s main airports who are privately annoyed that the government has announced its plans so quickly without in-depth consultation. Left Foot Forward outlined last night how profiling and body scanners are “mere placebos in fight against terrorism.”

Nick Clegg has used his strongest language yet to attack both the Conservatives and Labour, saying a vote for either is a vote for “corrupt politics“. He told BBC’s Hard Talk programme that: “A vote for Labour or the Conservatives is a vote for tax dodgers in politics. A vote for letting guilty MPs off the hook. A vote for an unfair voting system.” The Times reports that Sir Ian Kennedy, chairman of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), may make some minor alterations to the changes recommended by Sir Thomas Legg. He told a Hansard Society audience that it was important to make clear that MPs were entitled to expenses rather than allowances or “some sort of grown-ups’ pocket money”. But the Telegraph have taken out of context comments by Sir Ian that “IPSA will keep at the front of its head what it was created for: that it exists to serve the interests of the public. One of those interests is in ensuring that MPs are properly remunerated and behave with integrity and honesty.”

The Times reports that Simon McDonald, Gordon Brown’s chief foreign policy adviser, told the Chilcot inquiry yesterday that British companies had “done pretty well” in a recent auction of oil rights and that Britain had “privileged access” to the Government of Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister. But he revealed that London had not been informed of the Iraqi Army’s operation in March 2008 to remove Shia militias from Basra, which had been controlled by British Forces. Meanwhile, a public ballot will be used to manage demand for the limited number of seats to watch Tony Blair give evidence to the Iraq inquiry.

Ólafur Grimsson, the President of Iceland, has vetoed the repayment of a £3.6 billion loan to Britain and the Netherlands. Grimsson said that the matter would be decided in a referendum among Iceland’s 243,000 voters but prime minister Johanna Sigurdardottir maintained that the money would be repaid. City Minister Paul Myners says Iceland risks isolation from the financial system while the Government warns that Iceland could be frozen out of the European Union.

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