A look back at the week's news: The Chile miners rescue, the Browne Review into university funding, Ed Miliband's first PMQs and more.
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• One of the great rescue stories played out to a conclusion this week. With the world watching, the 33 miners trapped 2,000 ft underground were hauled to the surface, slowly, serenely, spectacularly. Never before has so deep a rescue been carried out, seldom before have so many willed so few to safety. A new nation emerging from the darkness, the murderous tyranny of the vile Pinochet consigned to history, a beaming, ecstatic President Pinera the new 24-hour news hero. By chance, he visits LSE next week for a lecture, and he’ll also visit the prime minister.
On a lighter note, such was the intensity of the BBC coverage, the corporation, having spent £100,000 in Chile, is having to scale back its coverage of the Oscars and G20 summit – meaning they will only be able to send one of political editor Nick Robinson or business editor Robert Peston to Seoul!
• Domestically, the main story was the long-awaited publication of Lord Browne’s review into higher education. Analysis by Left Foot Forward showed that, under his plans, bankers would fare better than public servants; graduates in top paying jobs will end up making smaller contributions than students on middle incomes. The result of the changes would see students choosing career paths which pay under the national average doing relatively well from the arrangements, with graduates in the middle faring worse than those who choose lucrative careers in business or finance.
This week, we also reported how Lord Browne had got his numbers wrong, how we could afford to fund our universities but chose not to, how the Scottish government had rejected Browne’s findings, how investing in universities would help tackle the deficit, and how, post-Browne, Labour must strive harder for inter-generational justice.
• On Wednesday, Ed Miliband faced David Cameron across the despatch box for his first PMQs. During the historic session, the prime minister name-checked Left Foot Forward, and said Mr Miliband should put “both of his left feet forward and tell us what the plan is”. Responding, the Labour leader tore into the government’s child benefit policy, saying: “Let’s be honest, the Chancellor sits there, this policy has been a shambles from day one.
“The rest of the cabinet knew nothing about it, the local government secretary said he had found out from the media that it was being announced, the children’s minister, I can’t see him, he went on the run because he was too scared to defend the policy. I bet the Prime Minister wishes the BBC blackout had gone ahead it was such a shambles, his conference.”
Progressive of the week:
Former prime minister Gordon Brown, who returned to the global stage last weekend with a call for increased action on climate change, which he described as “economic common sense”. Mr Brown, in an article for the Huffington Post, wrote: “As I will argue in a forthcoming book, low carbon technologies, renewables and balanced energy polices — and their export potential — represent a new way of living that can help free Europe and America from today’s high unemployment and the specter of economic stagnation.”
Regressive of the week:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose provocatory visit to Lebanon yesterday raised the specter of war with Israel. Ahmadinejad, welcomed with open arms by his Hizbollah hosts, said Israel would “disappear“. Newsnight’s Mark Urban last night reported that Iran may only be a year away from developing the bomb, and that Israel was stepping up preparations to act unilaterally to disarm the regime, while in today’s Telegraph, Con Coughlin said the visit to Lebanon sent out “a menacing message “.
Evidence of the week:
Research on deaths and illness in the workplace, which Left Foot Forward reported today in response to Lord Young’s review into health and safety and ‘compensation culture’. Every year, some 1,500 people lose their lives in the UK through a fatal occupational injury, while (at least) 20,000-plus ie of occupational illness; if today is an average day, at least 60 people will have died due to work. An increasing number of them work in what Lord Young calls ‘low risk’ workplaces, and few of the families of those who died, like those who are injured and made ill, will gain any compensation at all. The research also looked at major injuries in the workplace: amputations, fractures, dislocations, concussions and internal injuries, lacerations and open wounds, contusions, burns, and poisonings and gassings.
Ed Jacobs’s Week outside Westminster:
Scotland: In the week the SNP launched their campaign for the Scottish Parliament elections, Alex Salmond was accused of being capable of “explosive rages”, Nicola Sturgeon conceded that NHS spending faced cuts which survey data for the BBC showed Scots were strongly opposed to.
Wales: As the leaders of the Welsh Tories and Lib Dems pledged to oppose unfair cuts from London, PricewaterhouseCoopers warned of 52,000 job losses as a result of the public sector cuts to come. In pledging to “explore with an open mind” Lord Browne’s review into higher education, education minister Leighton Andrews concluded that the review further shifts the burden of paying for higher education from the state onto the graduate and will, we believe, result in a largely market-based system where institutions increasingly compete “on cost, not quality”.
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