Politics Summary: Thursday, April 8th

Sir Peter Gershon, a Tory party "independent" efficiency expert, chairs a private healthcare company that "admits it will benefit from NHS spending cutbacks".

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Sir Peter Gershon, one of David Cameron’s “independent” efficiency experts, chairs a private healthcare company that “admits it will benefit from NHS spending cutbacks”. Following the first full day of the election campaign, The Guardian reveals Gershon’s role as chair of General Healthcare Group, Britain’s largest private sector health firm. Cameron has relied on his analysis of efficiency savings to enable the Tories to pledge they would scrap Labour’s planned increase in National Insurance contributions.

The disclosure, says the report “will open the Tories to the charge that they have not been transparent about the interests of a key adviser”. The NI issue dominated yesterday’s exchanges between Cameron and Gordon Brown at the last prime minister’s questions of the current parliament, with the Telegraph reporting accusations that Mr Brown was “waging a war against business”. It says: “Tax is rapidly becoming the key issue of the election following the Conservative announcement that the party will partly reverse next year’s 1p in the pound proposed increase in employer and employee National Insurance Contributions… In total, 68 businessmen, representing some of Britain’s biggest firms, have now declared that they are backing the Tory NI policy… Mr Brown is also facing pressure over the deteriorating relationship with big business, which New Labour spent years cultivating.”

The Times reports the findings of its latest poll, which reveals voters “still doubt the Tory leader”. The Populus poll, undertaken since the announcement of the election, “shows that the Conservative leader has still not sealed the deal with voters”. The headline figure puts the Conservatives on 39% (down 1), Labour on 32% (up 2) and the Liberal Democrats on 21% (up 1) – a result that would leave the Tories with 30 more MPs than Labour but about 25 seats short of an overall majority. It found that “a big majority of the doubters believe that the Conservatives have not made a strong enough case for a change from Labour and half think that Mr Cameron is too inexperienced to be prime minister – within that group 45 per cent disagree with Tory proposals to reduce the planned increase in national insurance contributions”. The poll also shows that the number of voters expecting a hung parliament up to nearly 40%. The Sun’s YouGov Daily Tracker, meanwhile, has the Tories on 37% (down 3), Labour on 32% (unchanged) and the Liberal Democrats on 19% (up 2).

The Independent reports that the founder of the Conervative party’s biggest gay rights group is voting Labour in protest at David Cameron’s failure to take action against Chris Grayling. Anastasia Beaumont-Bott, the first chairman of the LGBTory group, said: “I feel guilty because as a gay woman affected by LGBT rights I am on record saying you should vote Conservative, and I want to reverse that … I want to go on record to say don’t vote Conservative. I’d go as far to say that I’ll vote Labour at this general election.” Her endorsement of Labour “will be an embarrassment for the Tories” says the Indy, adding: “She had been picked out as one of the faces of Mr Cameron’s young, modern Conservatives for her work in promoting gay rights within the party.” Grayling had been secretly recorded telling a right-wing think tank that B&B owners should have the right to bar gay couples from their premises. Ms Beaumont-Bott adds: “If you make a comment like [those made by Mr Grayling], you should be out. This isn’t a question of party lines – it is disgusting. I don’t like doing this to Mr Cameron. I like him, but the insides of his party are not what the people are led to believe.”

The main policy development yesterday was the prime minister’s pledge to reform parliament and the political system. The Times reports that Gordon Brown, in a speech at the CBI’s Centre Point headquarters, “promised referendums on both a proportional voting system for the Commons and a fully elected House of Lords as he used the first full day of campaigning to address the expenses scandal”. He also said that MPs “would be forced to seek approval before taking a second job and would be banned from working for lobbying companies”. Mr Brown also “offered 16-year-olds the prospect of the vote, committed Labour to fixed-term Parliaments, probably of four years, and said that he would ‘chart a course’ towards a written constitution” says the report. He said that he wished to repair “the fundamental rupture in the bond of trust between those who serve and those who they are sworn to serve”, that his plans were “the most comprehensive programme of constitutional reform for a century” and would “change our politics for good”, pointing out that the Tories were opposed to both an elected upper chamber and the alternative vote (AV) system.

The major overseas news is the developing story of the “revolution” in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, with many agencies reporting that the opposition have seized control. Reuters says that Kyrgyzstan’s opposition said “it had taken power and dissolved parliament” following deadly protests which have “forced President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to flee the capital [Bishkek]”. Roza Otunbayeva, leader of the interim government, said: “People in Kyrgyzstan want to build democracy. What we did yesterday was our answer to the repression and tyranny against the people by the Bakiyev regime … You can call this revolution. You can call this a people’s revolt. Either way, it is our way of saying that we want justice and democracy.” Reuters adds: “The uprising, which spread to Bishkek on Wednesday a day after starting in a provincial town, was sparked by discontent over corruption, nepotism and rising prices in a nation where a third of the 5.3 million population live below the poverty line.”

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