Politics Summary: Monday, March 15th

The front pages of the Guardian and Telegraph cover the British Airways strike. The Guardian reports that the Prime Minister called union boss, Tony Woodley, to discuss potential solutions to the looming three-day walkout. The tone was different from that used by Transport Secretary. The Telegraph, Independent and FT all cover Lord Adonis’ criticism of Unite for threatening a “totally unjustified” series of strikes. On Friday, BA withdrew an offer which included a partial repeal of staffing cuts and a three-year pay agreement after Unite set strike dates. Unite accused Adonis of being “badly informed” and said BA had lost an opportunity to end the dispute. The BBC reports that air travel has fallen by 7.4 per cent, the second successive annual fall.

The Times reports that the Labour manifesto is likely to include five legally binding guarantees on public services, jobs and Britain’s deficit. The paper says, “There are fears that he may come under union pressure to make impossible spending commitments. Union leaders want to add promises to protect public sector pensions, cut taxes for the lower paid and end the privatisation of the welfare state.” Meanwhile, the Telegraph suggests that Gordon Brown is submitting himself to grillings from angry voters as part of a ‘masochism strategy’ similar to that used by Tony Blair in 2005.

The Guardian and Telegraph cover Nick Clegg’s speech to the Lib Dem spring conference where he said, “I am not the kingmaker. The 45 million voters of Britain are the kingmakers.” The Telegraph calls this intervention “disingenuous” and says that, “The only reason we have become interested in Mr Clegg is that, in the event of a hung Parliament, he could become the kingmaker.” The Guardian reports that aides explained the party thought it could reach a vote share percentage in the high 20s thanks to Clegg’s participation in the leaders’ TV debates. During his speech, Clegg mentioned his policy to raise the personal tax threshold to £10,000 three times. Left Foot Forward published analysis on Saturday of how only 6 per cent of the £17 billion would go to helping the poorest households.

The FT reports that Ministers are to unveil a draft bill for a wholly-elected 300-seat upper chamber within two weeks in “an attempt to wrongfoot the Conservative opposition, which backs a “mainly elected” Lords.” Under the changes the 746 peers would be replaced by US-style senators, elected for fixed terms of up to 15 years. A third of peers would defend their seats in an election every five years. Writing in the Telegraph, Professor John Curtice, says, “Labour’s proposed new elected second chamber would be perpetually without one party in control … [and] would likely be a more partisan body than the current chamber.”

The Times reports that “Gordon Brown is set to stay at the helm even if the Labour Party sinks”. The paper speculates that in a hung parliament or narrow Conservative majority, Gordon Brown could stay on to fight a second election or attack the new government’s handling of the recovery. The paper notes that “some Labour tacticians are drawing lessons from recent Tory transitions, noting that the swifter the exit of a defeated leader the less happy the succession: John Major giving way to William Hague, and Mr Hague to Iain Duncan Smith.”

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