Politics Summary: Monday, May 17th

The front page of several papers focuses on the first cuts of the new Government. The Guardian reports that Chancellor George Osborne will set out plans for an audit of the country’s finances and begin the process of cutting public spending and will set out this week how he intends to find £6bn of efficiency savings this year. David Blanchflower, a former member of the Monetary Policy Committee told the Guardian: “Why the government wants to scare everybody and talk down the economy I really don’t know. Why would you want to talk down the economy? I don’t understand it.”

The Independent reports that Mr Cameron appears ready to bow to pressure from his Liberal Democrat partners for Capital Gains Tax on the sale of shares and second homes to be raised from 18 to 40 per cent. The Daily Telegraph reports that David Cameron will save £15 million a year by restricting bonuses to the top 25 per cent of civil servants. In a Financial Times interview, Mr Osborne claims that under Labour “forecasts were fiddled in order to help the government to present the sort of Budget it wanted to present”.

The Times reports that David Cameron and Nick Clegg will create more than 100 peers to ensure that controversial legislation gets through Parliament: “None of Labour’s 211 existing peers can be removed, so the coalition must appoint dozens of its own to rebalance the upper chamber. Lib Dem estimates suggest that the number of Tory peers would need to rise from 186 to 263 and Lib Dem peers from 72 to 167.” Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, a Lib Dem peer, said: “The coalition agreement entitles us to at least 50 more new Lib Dem peers to reflect our share of the vote on May 6. This is a key part of the coalition package for Liberal Democrats and a real test of our new Government’s good faith.” Labour’s Chris Bryant MP said, “This is a massively illiberal step to take … The single largest simultaneous act of political patronage probably since Charles II came to the throne in 1660.”

The Times reports that David Miliband will today formally launch his leadership campaign with a speech in his South Shields constituency. Left Foot Forward reported from Ed Miliband’s speech at the Fabian conference on Saturday where he criticised Labour’s record on immigration. In the Independent, Ed Balls writes, “I have not rushed to a decision on whether to stand in this contest.” The same paper outlines that David Lammy MP wants 25 per cent of the votes in Labour’s electoral college handed to ordinary people. In an article for Fabian Review he says New Labour’s “command and control” culture “hasn’t just stifled our electoral prospects, it is suffocating our party … Our volunteers are wonderful but our candidates are still selected by fewer than a hundred people sitting in a room.” In the Times, James Purnell challenges the new Government’s claim to be progressive: “No mention of abolishing child poverty. Of reducing inequality. Of protecting education funding. Of guaranteeing jobs for the long-term unemployed.”

The Guardian reports that a meeting of Lib Dem activists in Birmingham yesterday “voted overwhelmingly to ratify the coalition deal but also passed a series of motions to reaffirm the Lib Dems’ manifesto pledges where they differ sharply from the Conservatives.” This included a “sharp reminder not to betray the party’s key promises” to scrap tuition fees, protect the Human Rights Act and campaign for radical electoral reform in their coalition deal with the Conservatives. Former leader Charles Kennedy revealed that he abstained in the vote that cleared the way for the coalition to be formed. John Healey, the former housing minister, is proposing that Labour offers cut-price membership to anyone who can present a Lib Dem membership card.

The Daily Mail reports, “Eurosceptics in plot to force vote on Lisbon Treaty”. The Foreign Office confirmed yesterday that plans for a minor increase in the number of MEPs would require a change in the law in this country. Backbencher Douglas Carswell revealed that he and other Eurosceptic Conservatives hope to take advantage of a technical change to the treaty to force a public vote. Mr Carswell said this gave the party a duty to try to force a referendum if at all possible: “I’ve spent my entire adult life listening to politicians and professional diplomats in the Foreign Office telling us that the changes they are making are just tidying-up exercises, merely refining and streamlining the European architecture. I don’t think this will do … I think we need to put it to the British people.”

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