Politics Summary: Friday, April 9th

The Financial Times and Guardian report that the efficiency savings needed by David Cameron to pay for the cut in a planned National Insurance rise could cost 40,000 public sector job losses. In an interview with the FT, the Tory efficiency guru Sir Peter Gershon said that controls on public sector recruitment, which would include “driving down the use of agency and contract staff” and not filling empty posts, would save “perhaps £1bn to £2bn” in 2010-11. Colin Talbot, professor of public management at Manchester Business School, told the paper that it translated into “roughly 20,000 to 40,000 job losses”.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that, “City deficit hawks sound warning over Tory tax plan”. Tim Besley, a former member of the Bank of England monetary policy committee who led a letter of economists about the speed of fiscal consolidation in the Sunday Times, said too much “election froth” over tax reduction risked distracting voters from the importance of repairing the public finances. The Times reports that, “Gordon Brown pushed through next year’s planned rise in national insurance against the advice of senior Treasury officials”. Meanwhile, writing in the Guardian, David Cameron outlines that he will “ask [a fair pay] review to consider how to introduce a pay multiple so that no public sector worker can earn over 20 times more than the lowest paid person in their organisation.”

In a letter to The Independent, 22 scientists call on the Tories to spell out their plans for science and warn that Britain’s economic recovery depends on continuing the investment made under Labour. The letter says, “Many scientific developments can be linked to the doubling of the science budget from 1997: medical advances, stem-cell research, alternative energies, nanotechnology. Infrastructure investment has transformed laboratories from their neglected state of 1996 … The international science journal Nature agrees and in contrast recently called the Conservatives a ‘vision-free zone’.” Dr John Unsworth, an industrial scientist who organised the letter, told the paper: “A lot of people are concerned because cuts are in the offing. Labour has a good record. It ‘gets’ science. There is silence from the Tories.”

Politics Home reports that David Cameron’s National Citizen’s Service will cost £1,000 per teenager, according to Paul Oginsky, chairman of the Conservative working group on the scheme. He explained that there are 720,000 young people in the relevant age group each year, and that the Conservative ambition is to offer the scheme to all of them, each year. The Conservatives said they would initially fund a pilot scheme in 2011 and 2012, covering a total of 40,000 teenagers. A £50 million budget would be diverted from the ‘Prevent’ programme of the Department of Communities and Local Government but total costs could hit £720 million. Former tax exile, Michael Caine endorsed Mr Cameron’s plans yesterday. Daily Mirror political correspondent, James Lyons, tweeted yesterday: Caine to Cameron: “You’re only supposed to rip the bloody poor off”.

The Independent’s front page focuses on an appeal to Liberal Democrat voters from a Cabinet Minister. Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis writes: “The truth is that the Lib Dems, for all their local opportunism, have national policy that is similar to Labour’s. The difference is that Labour can implement its programme. The Lib Dems have no realistic chance to implement theirs without a Labour government … To avoid a Tory government after May 6th, it is vital to grasp now the fundamental Labour-Lib Dem identity of interest. This can best be served by Labour coming out of the election as strong as possible, able to form a government.” Lord Adonis was an Oxford city councillor for the Alliance/Liberal Democrats from 1987 to 1991.

Sticking with the Independent, which reports that the Electoral Commission are teaming up with Facebook to register young voters. From tomorrow, every Facebook user who logs on to his or her homepage will be asked if they are on the electoral roll. If they are not, they will be redirected to a registration page. The initiative has been prompted by research suggesting that 56 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds – many of whom are students – will not be able to vote next month. Richard Allan, Facebook’s director of policy, said its 23 million British users were drawn from every age group and ethnic background.

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