Politics Summary: Friday, May 21st

The Times and Telegraph lead with the 34-page “programme for government” from the Coalition, which supersedes either manifesto. Under the headline,”Higher taxes on holidays, marriage and driving”, the Telegraph highlights planned increases in capital gains tax, and changes to the way flights and fuel is taxed. The paper notes that, “The coalition agreement failed to address whether an increase in VAT would be necessary.” The Times headline reads “Coalition leaders set out their lofty aims”. In a separate article they report that, “Defendants in rape cases are to be granted anonymity in an unexpected move that women’s groups immediately branded an insult.”

The Guardian identifies 27 policy reviews, some “on central issues of government policy” including banking, Lords reform, and the renewal of Trident. The paper says, “Eye-catching proposals include a crackdown on alcohol prices, an injection of private capital into the Royal Mail, [and] 12 directly elected mayors in England’s largest cities”. The Mail says, “Tory pledges kicked into the long grass” and identifies 34 reviews while Neil O’Brien writing on Conservative Home finds “45 areas to ‘review’, ‘investigate’ or ‘consider’.” Left Foot Forward detailed yesterday that the plan says nothing about the tricky issue of prisons policy.

The Guardian front page reads: “Hague orders inquiry into torture claims”. The paper reports that, “A judge will investigate claims that British intelligence agencies were complicit in the torture of terror suspects”. The paper says the announcement was “welcomed by civil liberties campaigners” but that it “appear[ed] to have caught the Foreign Office by surprise” as no details were available. The Mail reports that, “The announcement of a judge-led inquiry will be deeply troubling for security chiefs at MI5 and MI6, who have continued to insist – in the face of overwhelming evidence – that British spies do not condone torture.”

The Financial Times reports that, “Cameron promises co-operation with EU” as he “vowed to provide ‘very focused and practical’ co-operation with France and other European Union partners” after meeting President Nicolas Sarkozy on his first overseas visit since taking power. The paper covers remarks by a French official who said Mr Sarkozy is expecting “real projects” to underpin a partnership with London and not just “warm words”. The paper says, “The French government hopes Mr Cameron will give new impetus to bilateral defence co-operation and will play a constructive role in supporting tighter financial market regulation in the EU and in the G20 group of leading economies.” The Times reports that, “Cameron talks up the ‘great partnership’ with Sarkozy”. The paper outlines that, “The two men set British and French officials to work on drafting proposals for returning growth to the European economy”.

The Guardian reports that the Prime Minister, “bounced through” rule changes to the backbench 1922 committee. One MP told the paper, “David Cameron has lit a fuse. It will go off at some point in the future, when there are clouds over Westminster, and Cameron will regret his decision.” Another senior MP said: “This is a very clumsily executed move that has split the party. A lot of re-elected MPs are astonished and deeply offended.” The Independent goes further and says, “His internal critics, who suspect that the Prime Minister is trying to silence the Tory Right, likened his plans to Robert Mugabe’s attempts to crush resistance in Zimbabwe.” Meanwhile, the Telegraph report that Lords Mandelson and Adonis have stepped down from the shadow cabinet to be replaced by Pat McFadden and Sadiq Khan. A party spokesman said it was “very difficult” to act as the lead opposition member from the House of Lords. Rosie Winterton has replaced acting leader Harriet Harman as shadow leader of the House of Commons.

The Financial Times reports that, “Senate approves Wall Street reform bill”. The legislation bans deposit-taking banks from proprietary trading, introduces a consumer financial protection bureau to police the sale of credit products, and empowers the government to seize a failing systemically important firm. The New York Times reports that, “The vote was 59 to 39, with four Republicans joining the Democratic majority in favor of the bill. Two Democrats opposed the measure, saying it was still not tough enough.” It will now take several weeks to combine the Senate measure with a version approved by the House in December. The paper says, “Passage of the bill would be a signature achievement for the White House, nearly on par with the recently enacted health care law.”

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