Politics Summary: Thursday, July 15th

Facebook is refusing to take down a tribute page to killer gunman Raoul Moat - despite a request by the prime minister.

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Facebook is refusing to take down a tribute page to killer gunman Raoul Moat – despite a request by the prime minister. At PMQs yesterday, David Cameron condemned the praise being lavished on “callous murderer” Moat, on the “RIP Raoul Moat You Legend” Facebook group.

He said: “It is absolutely clear that Raoul Moat was a callous murderer, full stop, end of story. I cannot understand any wave, however small, of public sympathy for this man. There should be sympathy for his victims and the havoc he wreaked in that community. There should be no sympathy for him.” However, as the Telegraph, Independent, Mail and Standard all report, Facebook released a statement last night refusing to listen: “Facebook is a place where people can express their views and discuss things in an open way as they can and do in many other places, and as such we sometimes find people discussing topics others may find distasteful. However, that is not a reason in itself to stop a debate from happening. We have 26 million people on Facebook in the UK, each of which has their own opinion, and they are entitled to express their views on Facebook as long as their comments do not violate our terms.” The Sun, meanwhile, reveals that PC David Rathband, who was shot by Moat – losing the sight in both his eyes – had arrested the killer a year ago, and the Mirror reports that three more men have been arrested on suspicion of helping Moat, taking the total number of arrests to 13.

A graduate tax will replace tuition fees, with two year degree courses set to become the norm, the business secretary will announce today. Vince Cable, in his first speech on higher education since becoming a minister will say that the new economic climate means the university experience will become leaner and more results oriented. The Telegraph reports that Mr Cable will say traditional undergraduate arts courses involving just six or seven hours’ teaching a week will no longer be seen as offering good value for money, though he will make clear he is not “advocating” students take on two year degrees, but will say that the current climate means that they will become the logical choice for many. The Guardian reports that in his speech, at London South Bank University, Mr Cable will outline his thinking on the balance to be struck between maintaining the number of student places and protecting government funding for research. Director general of the Russell Group of elite universities, Wendy Piatt, said: “All the disadvantages of a graduate tax that we outlined in our evidence explain why no other country has implemented this system of graduate repayments. There are other issues to consider too. For instance, it can be problematic even to define what is meant by ‘a graduate’.” While Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “If the government thinks it can get the public to swallow higher fees as some sort of graduate tax it is living in a dream world. We need a proper debate on how to fund our universities, not an exercise in rebranding.” Today on Left Foot Forward the president of the National Union of Students will give his response to the plans.

The two-week cancer guarantee could be scrapped, the prime minister has revealed. The Telegraph reports that the two-week goal might be dropped if doctors and health officials think it is not improving cancer care. Responding to questions from Harriet Harman yesterday, David Cameron had said: “We will only keep targets where they actually contribute to clinical outcomes. For some people two weeks is too long. If a target contributes to good clinical outcomes, it stays. If it doesn’t, it goes.” The report says: “Under Labour, the NHS offered a ‘guarantee’ that anyone referred by a GP for cancer treatment will be seen within two weeks. While Labour was frequently criticised for creating many unnecessary health-care targets, advocates of the two-week guarantee say it is a helpful means to limit the anxiety felt by patients whose GPs suspect they have cancer. During the general election campaign this year, Labour repeatedly challenged the Conservatives to say if they would keep the target.” Responding to the news the cancer guarantee might be abolished, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: “This debacle confirms what we suspected — that the Tories are making up health policy as they go along. The Government’s position on the cancer guarantee is now a complete shambles.” However Katherine Murphy, director of the Patients Association, backed its scrapping if it meant quicker referrals – but was worried some patients would end up waiting longer: “If the new Government wants to review targets, my concern is that some of the people who need urgent access to treatment and specialists could fall through the net. There are some conditions where you cannot afford to delay.”

Billionaire Tory donor and long-time non-dom Lord Ashcroft is to release a book laying bare the “simmering tension” inside the Tory party. The Independent reports: “At Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron had fun gloating over the problems that memoirs like those of Lord Mandelson are causing the Labour Party. But he may not be laughing for long, because there is a book in preparation by a very senior Conservative which is expected to lay bare some of the simmering tension inside the Conservative Party. Lord Ashcroft, the billionaire who bankrolled the Tories when their political fortunes were at their lowest, is still Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, although he has fallen out with David Cameron and no one in the higher ranks of the party seems to know what his long term plans are. He has also been working on a book.” The report adds: “Lord Ashcroft is said to be determined to retain an influential role in UK politics. One ambition is to become a media mogul by building up an online presence. He has bought into the websites Conservative Home and Politics Home. This month, he formally gave up his non-dom status, after a law passed by the Labour government came into effect which confronted non-dom peers with the choice of resigning their seats or being taxed as UK citizens.”

And the Financial Times reports that Europe’s targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions are set to be “drastically toughened”. Ministers from Britain, Germany and France write in the FT to call for the EU to “slash emissions by 30 per cent by 2020”, going much further than the current 20 per cent target. They say moving to the higher target unilaterally would not be difficult and would prevent Europe from lagging behind in the global race for green technology, explaining that: “If we stick to a 20 per cent cut, Europe is likely to lose the race to compete in a low-carbon world to countries such as China, Japan or the US, all of which are looking to create a more attractive environment for low-carbon investment.” The report adds: “The move by the three countries has reopened a debate most businesses regarded as settled. In May, the European Commission reported a 30 per cent reduction would be €22bn a year cheaper than thought because the recession had trimmed emissions. But an outcry from businesses forced a concession that raising the target would have to wait ‘until the time was [email protected] Thursday’s move marks a U-turn for Germany, which has long opposed a unilateral move to 30 per cent, favouring the EU’s previous pledge to raise its target only if other countries showed similar ambitions, which they did not at last year’s Copenhagen climate summit. France also had strong reservations, but the UK’s Liberal Democrat party scored a coup when the ruling coalition of which they are a part backed the change.”

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