Politics Summary: Thursday, February 25th

A cross-party bid to restrict carbon dioxide emissions from new power stations has narrowly failed in the Commons, according to the Press Association but unreported elsewhere. Labour backbenchers joined with the Tories and Liberal Democrats in calling for an Emissions Performance Standard (EPS) for every new electricity generating plant. The move was defeated by 252 votes to 244 – slashing the Government’s 57-strong majority to just eight. Left Foot Forward this week published responses to letters from the Confederation of British Industry and Energy Minister Joan Ruddock who opposed the EPS.

The Financial Times reports that Chancellor Alistair Darling cleared the payment of £1.32bn in bonuses to staff at Royal Bank of Scotland, in a “politically contentious decision on the day before the state-owned bank reports losses expected to be about £6.5bn.” RBS had intended to pay £1.6bn-£1.7bn to its 17,000 staff in investment banking, but the figure was cut after negotiations. RBS boss Stephen Hester, who has waived his own £1.6 million bonus, writes in The Sun: “I understand the anger about bankers’ bonuses, but we cannot ask people to take on this turnaround challenge while paying them much less than they would get elsewhere … And, while RBS does have highly paid people, the majority of our UK staff earn less than the average bus driver.” The paper gets his name wrong calling him Stephen Lester.

The right-wing press cover George Osborne’s Mais Lecture last night. Osborne said said it would “undermine credibility” to try and argue that cuts are not needed. The Telegraph leader says, “Having blown hot and cold on the need for swift – indeed swingeing – action to cut the deficit, the Opposition has left itself vulnerable to Labour accusations that its policies threaten to plunge the country into an age of austerity.” But the Times believes Osborne was right to “make reducing the public debt the Conservative Party’s defining economic message.” But Alex Brummer in the Mail says: “despite the Shadow Chancellor’s strident message, leading figures in the City and top economists are worried whether he would actually deliver the necessary cuts if he moves into the Treasury after a Tory election victory.” Last night Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman, said: “George Osborne’s latest economic commentary shows just how out his depth he is when it comes to the important economic issues.” Left Foot Forward yesterday set out five questions which Osborne failed to answer last night.

A Guardian exclusive reveals that David Cameron’s communications director, Andy Coulson, “will come under fresh pressure to defend his editorship of the News of the World and his knowledge about the illegal activities of his journalists amid new allegations about the paper’s involvement with private detectives who broke the law.” The paper has learned that while Coulson was still editor of the tabloid, the newspaper employed a freelance private investigator even though he had been accused of corrupting police officers and had just been released from a seven-year prison sentence for blackmail. In addition, the paper reports that 19 people have now been positively identified as victims of telephone tapping by the News of the World.

President Obama today hosts a cross-party health-care summit at the White House, which he is billing as an opportunity for Republicans to air their ideas for reform. But according to the Washington Post, Democrats are unmoved by the talks. Senator Christopher Dodd said: “If it’s just coming to repeat a lot of the stuff we’ve heard for six months, then I don’t expect much out of it.” Instead, Democrats are “looking beyond” the summit. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid along with White House officials, have spent recent weeks weighing potential “fixes” to the legislation that would address House Democratic objections.

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