Politics Summary: Thursday, February 18th

On the fifth anniversary of the fox hunting ban, the BBC reports that Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has written to the Tory leader urging him to rule out a repeal of the ban. The letter outlines how the ban has worked and is supported by a majority of the population. In for Comment is Free, Benn writes: “The Conservatives’ ironically named ‘animal welfare spokesperson’ said recently that bringing back hunting with dogs will be something that a Tory government would do soon after the election – with a government bill, in government time.”

The Financial Times covers a report by the London School of Economics which concludes: “Importing the Swedish model may not make very much difference to the UK’s status quo.” The report also warns that, “the Swedish schools model championed by the Conservatives may not be cost-effective if imported to England.” The report – by Helena Holmlund of Stockholm University and Sandra McNally, a director at the LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance – contrasts Britain where “there is already much school choice and a diversity of provision” and Sweden in the early 1990s where there was “no school choice”. The Independent says that the report “raised doubts over the Tories’ claims that major spending would not be needed.”

The Guardian‘s front page details “Labour’s plan for first ‘John Lewis council’.” Ministers are to champion the south London borough of Lambeth as it becomes a “co-operative council”. The paper speculates that the move will put the borough head-to-head with Barnet’s “easy Council” model, ruled illegal last month, where the Tories are charging customers for services along the lines of the business model of budget airlines. Lambeth’s leader Steve Reed said: “We’ll give the voters a clear choice – cuts if you vote Tory but with us, not only fewer cuts, but also positive side-effects around community cohesion.” Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports that, “The Government had ordered local authorities to disclose the earnings of all executives after concerns were raised about the size of pay increases granted to council officers.”

According to to The Times, Peter Mandelson will today use a Cabinet meeting in Durham to visit Corus and try to persuade the company to sell its Teesside steel works, which is due to be “mothballed” tomorrow with the loss of 1,600 jobs. The paper also reports that “Labour uses Cabinet tour to rally party for election”. The paper has a leaked letter from Harriet Harman who made plans to meet local candidates, officials and trade unionists after a Cabinet meeting in Exeter. According to the paper, the Cabinet Office said that the regional visits gave thousands of people the opportunity to air their opinions. Meanwhile, a YouGov poll in The Sun gives the Tories a 9 point lead which the paper attributes to “David Cameron’s tactics to attack the Government”.

The Guardian reports that Britain “fired the first shot in a potentially explosive diplomatic row with Israel by calling in the country’s ambassador to explain the use of faked British passports by a hit squad who targeted a Hamas official in Dubai.” The former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell, a member of the Commons foreign affairs committee, welcomed the decision to confront the Israeli government directly. The Independent quotes the Israel foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman who said: “There is no reason to think that it was the Israeli Mossad, and not some other intelligence service or country up to some mischief.”

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