Politics Summary: Thursday, May 13th

All the front pages feature pictures of Britain’s new “happy couple”, dubbed the “Ant and Dec” of British politics, in the garden of Number 10. The Guardian says that, “Nick Clegg is to take personal charge of a massive programme of constitutional renewal, including a referendum bill on electoral reform passed by summer 2011.” The Times outlines that, “The Lib-Con arrangement rewrites the Westminster rulebook … Mr Clegg will stand in for Mr Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions if he is away; and a Tory chief whip will demand discipline from Liberal Democrat MPs.” The Telegraph reports that, “some senior Tories were not given full Cabinet positions, including Chris Grayling, Dominic Grieve and Theresa Villiers.” According to the Daily Record the new Cabinet, ” were mostly private school and Oxbridge-educated” while only four women have been given seats at the table.

In the Financial Times, Chris Giles says the, “pain of deficit reduction is still hidden” by the new Government. He writes. “their plans for specific – and uncontentious – spending increases and tax cuts are well defined, while the broader objective of large net spending cuts and tax increases remains cloaked in secrecy.” He concludes that, “Mr Osborne will have to announce public spending cuts of £57bn a year by 2013-14 from a non-protected budget of about £260bn – cuts of about 22 per cent.” A BBC survey of influential economists suggests that VAT is set to rise under the new coalition government: “Of 28 independent economists currently used by the Treasury to assist its forecasts, 24 said they expected the rate to rise in the coming parliament.”

The Guardian details international reaction to the new Government. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France is reported to have said: “He’ll start out eurosceptic and finish up pro-European. It’s the rule.” Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission in Brussels and a centre-right free market liberal, said: “I’ve met David Cameron many times. I’m sure we’ll have a good working relationship.” Edward McMillan-Scott, a vice-president of the European parliament who quit the Tories and joined the Lib Dems two months in disgust at Conservative European policy said, “This coalition will constrain the eurosceptic tendencies in the Tory party.”

David Miliband yesterday became the first candidate to declare himself for the Labour leadership. Speaking after a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party with 15 supportive MPs alongside, Mr Miliband said, “The decision of the Liberal Democrats to join a Conservative government … creates an enormous responsibility for the Labour party, revitalised in the right way, to represent all shades of progressive opinion and present itself as an alternative government.” The former foreign secretary will visit constituencies lost by Labour. There is speculation that Ed Miliband, Ed Balls, Andy Burnham, and Jon Cruddas will all enter the race while Alan Johnson, Jack Straw, and Yvette Cooper have all ruled themselves out. The Independent reports that, “It looks likely that [Labour’s national executive] will decide to let [the contest] run until the party’s annual conference, which opens on 26 September.”

The Times reports that, “Alcohol abuse is a bigger problem than post-traumatic stress disorder for British servicemen and women deployed in war zones.” A study of 8,278 regulars and 1,712 reservists for The Lancet medical journal found that 13 per cent of the respondents said that they were drinking alcohol in quantities defined by researchers as hazardous but multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan did not seem to have an effect on rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. Nicola Fear, a lead author of the study from the college’s Academic Centre for Defence Mental Health, said, “We are not seeing this tidal wave of mental health problems as was predicted and has been seen in the US.”

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