Politics Summary: Monday, February 22nd

Allegations of bullying in No 10, an end in sight for AIDS, more strikes at BA, more allegations of torture against MI5 and the rush to beat the "super tax".

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

Lord Mandelson has leapt to the prime minister’s aid following damaging revelations in Andrew Rawnsley’s new book, serialised in The Observer. Speaking on yesterday’s Andrew Marr Show, the business secretary insisted that, although he could be “angry and demanding” he was no bully, reports the Mirror. Mandelson said: “There is a degree of impatience about the man but what would you like? Some sort of shrinking violet at the helm of the Government when we are going through such stormy waters?” When asked if he had been attacked or hit, he answered: “I took my medicine like a man.” Following fresh allegations that No 10 staff had called a bullying helpline, there were demands for evidence to be provided to back up the claims, Labour MP Anne Snelgrove telling the Mirror: “I have had some real swines as bosses and Gordon is one of the nicest people I’ve worked for.” Cabinet colleagues joined in the condemnation of Rawnsley’s book, adds The Guardian, with home secretary Alan Johnson, speaking on the Politics Show, saying: “I have got no knowledge of him effing and blinding at officials.”

The Independent leads on the news that AIDS could be eradicated “within 40 years”. According to experts at the South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis, using anti-rerotroviral drugs to stop transmission rather than just save lives could “stop HIV transmission and halve Aids-related TB within 10 years” – and is a better way to do this rather than waiting for the development of a vaccine or relying on people changing their lifestyles. The centre’s Dr Brian Williams explained that: “Each person with HIV infects, on average, one person every one or two years. Since people with HIV, and without treatment, live for an average of 10 years after infection, each person with HIV infects about five to 10 people … Treating people with ART within about one year of becoming infected would reduce transmission by about 10 times. Each person with HIV would infect, on average, less than one other person and the epidemic would die out.” With so much being spent on treating people with related diseasesa, and the economic loss to society of so many young people dying, it would also be a massive cost saving, said Dr Williams.

The Times reports that a fresh round of strikes at British Airways are likely following the failure of “last-ditch talks” at the weekend. Union officials are confident of another “yes” vote in the strike ballot, with industrial action beginning as early as next week, with Check-in staff, ground crew and even some pilots being trained to fill the gap left by BA cabin crew. According to an online poll of union members, “more than two-thirds of members want a strike lasting at least ten days,” adds The Guardian. Unite’s leadership, however, “has openly questioned the strategic wisdom of staging a lengthy walkout,” says The Guardian, joint general secretary Derek Simpson admitting that a 12-day walkout was “probably over the top”.

The Telegraph, meanwhile, reports that MI5 is facing “five more torture investigations”, which threaten to “paralyse” the security services. The allegations relate to the cases of five British men unlawfully detained and tortured in Pakistan “with the complicity of MI5”. One of the cases alleges that a man was “abducted off the street and tortured” in Karachi, with the other four all involving suspects “formally accused or convicted of involvement in terrorism”. Jonathan Evans, the director-general of MI5, insisted his officers would never take part in such actions, telling the Telegraph: “We in the UK agencies did not practise mistreatment or torture then and do not do so now, nor do we collude in torture or encourage others to torture on our behalf.”

And the Financial Times reports a “last-minute rush” to beat the 50p super-tax deadline. Bonus payments have been accelerated, dividends brought forward, compensation plans restructured and other payments deferred. The Association of British Insurers, however, have warned boards against protecting directors from tax rises “if investors have to foot the bill”, saying such schemes “risk causing damage to the reputation of the company and shareholders”. The FT adds that some of the more aggressive schemes are likely to expose companies to criticism “from investors and the tax authority”.

• US magazine Dissent hosts “Obama – what’s gone wrong?” on March 24 at 6.30pm for a high profile panel debate. Free. To RSVP email [email protected]

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