The Guardian reports new concerns over Lord Ashcroft, the Conservative party’s biggest donor. The Conservative leadership is accused of being “evasive and obfuscatory” over Ashcroft’s tax status in a ruling by the information commissioner, which states: “Lord Ashcroft could have ended the speculation about his residency by making a public statement to that effect. He has chosen not to do this. He has furthered the speculation by stating that it is a private matter and, as stated on his website, ‘If home is where the heart is Belize is my home’.” The Independent outlines that he has donated £5m to the Tories, and was by far their biggest donor during the lean years after the election defeat in 1997, earning the gratitude of the then party leader, William Hague, who nominated him for a life peerage in 1999.
Speaking on the Politics Show yesterday, David Cameron “softened” his party’s determination to slash public spending amid fears that his plan would plunge Britain back into recession. According to the Times, “his comments prompted accusations that he was backing away from his commitment to make early inroads into the deficit.” The FT reports that Lord Mandelson, the business secretary accused Cameron of being “unpatriotic” by making comparisons to a “Greek-style budget crisis.” Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, accused the Tories of getting themselves into a “terrible muddle” over economic policy and said “they seem to be retreating.’’
Gordon Brown will put two new £5 billion aircraft carriers at the heart of his vision for the military this week as he commits Labour to extra defence spending. The Times says that, “Mr Brown aims to display Labour commitment to the military while also forcing the Conservatives to say whether they would match such spending.” The Telegraph reports that the Green Paper on defence reform is likely to address the £35 billion overspend on defence projects. The paper also covers a “scathing attack on cost overruns and delayed delivery of kit” by Conservative think tank, the Centre for Policy Studies.
The latest YouGov tracker poll for the Daily Telegraph shows that the Tories would be 20 seats short of a majority if the election were held tomorrow. Mirroring polls over the weekend, the lead is down to seven points with with the Tories on 38 per cent and Labour 31. Meanwhile, the Times reports that Gordon Brown is planning to stay on as Labour leader after the general election even if his party is defeated. Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, Harriet Harman ruled herself out as a successor: “I have ruled it out. I am very happy to have been deputy leader, to serve as Gordon Brown’s deputy, and that’s it. It will be the first election that he has fought and won and of course he will carry on being Prime Minister.”
A Guardian investigation reveals that, “a global deal to tackle climate change is all but impossible in 2010.” The current impasse in the negotiations is described as “paralysis” and even its head, Yvo de Boer, has talked of a “cooling off period” after Copenhagen. Last night’s deadline for nations to submit their domestic targets is expected to have attracted about 25 to 30 responses. Meanwhile, the Independent that the Government’s former chief scientist, Sir David King has suggested that the hacking of emails from the Climatic Research Unit in East Anglia was probably carried out by a foreign intelligence agency: “I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that the stealing of the emails from the individuals involved in East Anglia was put out for publication one month before Copenhagen. That wasn’t a coincidence … It looks like possibly the work of an intelligence service.” He pointed the finger of blame at “the American lobby system which is a very likely source of finance.”
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