More woe for the Conservatives on Europe, Nick Clegg on coalitions, good news from Northern Ireland, the mad Tory youth group YBF and much much more.
The Week in Politics
• Europe was back on the agenda this week, with the Conservative party’s European policies and baffling Kaminski alliance again coming in for criticism, with everyone from the President of France and leading US figures to the Europe minister, foreign secretary and Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman joining the charge. Why? Just one look at Kaminski-phile climate denier Roger Helmer will tell you why.
The most damaging attack, however, came today, from former Tory MEP Edward McMillan-Scott – himself attacked by Helmer this week – who announced he was joining the Liberal Democrats, saying: “My reasons for joining the Liberal Democrats are that in Nick Clegg they have a leader whom I like, admire and respect. They are internationalists, not nationalists. They are committed to politics based on the values of fairness and change … From being a liberal Conservative I become a conservative liberal. Most of my family are liberals. I am pleased to join the liberal family.”
Clegg added: “I am delighted to welcome Edward McMillan-Scott to the Liberal Democrats. For many years he has fought for human rights and democracy world wide and he is rightly a respected politician across Europe. As someone of principle he has refused to cosy up to right wing extremists, despite pressure from the Tory machine.”
• It rounded off a pretty good week for Clegg, one in which he’s received a higher than usual level of coverage, all eyes on the Lib Dem leader with the polls narrowing and Westminster abuzz with talk of a coalition. Today’s papers, however, carried stark warnings for Clegg that if he formed a coalition with the Conservatives, it would split the party, work and pensions spokesman Steve Webb telling The Times: “The leader cannot simply decide this himself … We have to debate these things as a democratic party.”
Yesterday, Clegg had set down four “tests” for a coaltion – raising tax thresholds to £10,000, with higher taxes for the rich; a boost to education spending targeted at children from poor families through a “pupil premium”; a switch to a greener economy less dependent on financial services; and political reform including a new voting system for Westminster elections – which Left Foot Forward responded to in detail.
• Another big story was the announcement of the Budget date (and the virtual confirmation the election will be on May 6th) by the prime minister in a speech to Reuters in Canary Wharf on Wednesday. In his speech, he insisted he had the character to lead Britain to recovery, saying: “I have heard people say it is about policy and I have heard other people say it is about character. But I don’t think you can separate the two. It is for other people to judge.
“But I believe that character is not about telling people what they want to hear but about telling them what they need to know. It is about having the courage to set out your mission and take the tough decisions and stick to them without being blown off course, even when the going is difficult.” In response, Lib Dem Treasury spokesman Vince Cable said: “Gordon Brown’s speech shows he is leading with a weak hand.
“It’s very difficult to see how the man who claimed to have abolished boom and bust can campaign on his stewardship of the economy after the greatest bust for decades. The only reason he is, of course, is because the Conservatives are even worse.”
Progressives of the week
The members of the Northern Ireland assembly – all except David Cameron’s Ulster Unionist Party allies – who voted through the devolution of policing and justice powers on Tuesday. Ahead of the vote, Northern Ireland secretary Shaun Woodward had said: “A yes vote can send out the strongest possible signal to dissident republicans that politics is the only way forward in Northern Ireland and that violence has no place in the present or the future.”
Following the vote, pressure mounted on Cameron to sever his ties with the UUP, Lord Kilclooney calling it a “mongrel relationship” and Left Foot Forward’s Conor McGinn dubbing the alliance “an albatross around Cameron’s neck”.
Regressives of the week
The Young Britons Foundation, a far out, far-Right collection of young Tories with links to the party high command. Described by leader Donal Blaney – a man who doesn’t believe President Obama was born in America – as a “Tory madrasa”, the group preach a message that rubbishes the NHS, dismisses global warming and backs waterboarding.
Worryingly, Eric Pickles, Tory party chairman, addressed a recent gathering of the right-wingers, though he has since sought to distance himself from the pro-torture, anti-NHS climate deniers, who, The Guardian inform us, arrange trips “to meet neo-conservative groups in the US” and “to a shooting range in Virginia to fire submachine guns and assault rifles”.
Labour MP John Cruddas said of the group: “It beggars belief that the Conservative party should be so reliant for the training of some of its candidates and thousands of its young activists on an organisation headed by people with such extremist views.” John Prescott added: “Cameron must disown the YBF now. This calls into question whether this organisation reflects the true face of the Tory party.”
Evidence of the week
The TUC report “Women and recession a year on” which found women would be hit hardest by public spending cuts. The analysis showed that “around 40 per cent of female employees in the UK work in public sector occupations, compared to around 15 per cent of men – widespread public sector job cuts, and consequent job losses, would therefore have a disproportionate affect on female employees and their families”.
The research also revealed that “women’s earnings disadvantage in the labour market (the gender pay gap currently stands at 16.4 per cent) is still exacerbated in retirement, with women’s average income just 62 per cent the level of men’s”. The research came in the week the OECD published a report, released Monday to coincide with International Women’s Day, which showed that globally, women earn on average 20 per cent less than their male counterparts.
Conor Pope’s Blog The Week
This week, Conor once again tries to copy David Cameron, this time by flicking his hair back and looking pretty with the trees, and, just like Dave, once again fails to outline his plans for the economy… maybe next week eh?! 😛
What’s trending on Twitter
As mentioned above, Monday was International Women’s Day. With that in mind, and with Mother’s Day just around the corner, here’s a selection of tweets on the topic:
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