Look Left – Browne Review begins to bite

More details of the impact of the Browne Review emerged this week. Twenty four universities look set to see their entire teaching grants scrapped, including LSE and SOAS, with 73 universities seeing their teaching budgets slashed by more than 75 per cent.

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• More details of the impact of the Browne Review emerged this week. Twenty four universities look set to see their entire teaching grants scrapped, including LSE and SOAS, with 73 universities seeing their teaching budgets slashed by more than 75 per cent. The headline news on tuition fees this week, announced by univerisities minister David Willetts, is the cap on fees will rise to £9,000 by 2012.

Vince Cable, however, was surprisingly quiet this week. When asked by Labour’s Gavin Shuker during a Commons debate on Wednesday why this was the case, Willetts replied: “We work so close together we are for all practical purposes interchangeable.” Just like their parties, some might say…

• David Cameron signed a defence treaty with French president Nicolas Sarkozy this week. The deal raises some interesting points, not least that of the legality of co-operation on nuclear warhead technology, which could run contrary to the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, which, as Left Foot Forward reported yesterday, states: “Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly.”

To rub salt in right-wing Eurosceptic Tory wounds, the Anglo-French defence pact follows the prime minister’s Brussels budget settlement last week, in which he agreed to a 2.9 per cent rise in the European Union budget. Left Foot Forward would like to welcome Monsieur Cameron into the pro-European club; he’s a Eurosceptic no more!

• A good week then for Britain’s leader; not so for America’s. President Obama, in his own words, suffered a “shellacking” in the midterms, with the Republicans seizing control of the House of Representatives and narrowly clinging on to the Senate, to leave Obama with a tricky two years to navigate ahead of the 2012 presidential elections. He said: “What is absolutely true is that without any Republican support on anything it’s going to be hard to get things done.”

It would be wrong, however, to lay the blame for defeat solely on Obama. As one of our correspondents in the States, Frank Spring, observed: “Fingers are already pointed – directly or by proxy – at the Democratic leadership, headed by Obama. One line of argument goes that Democrats over-promised and under-delivered after 2008. This position is technically indefensible – the Obama White House and Democratic Congress have had one of the most active and successful two-year stretches in history – but the appearance of inaction, particularly in Congress, had credence with the electorate…

“The heart of the problem lies in the nature of Democratic achievements. Credit card regulation, financial reform, student-loan help, and the Ledbetter Act in pursuit of equal pay for women – these are real accomplishments, but they are marginal in the face of 9.8 per cent unemployment. Even the two titanic accomplishments of this Congress and White House – the economic stimulus and health care reform – do not lend themselves to political messaging in a staggeringly difficult economic climate.”

Progressive of the week:

Ian Birrell, David Cameron’s election speechwriter, who this week turned on his former boss over the immigration cap, calling it a “daft idea” and describing it as “the sort of gesture politics that makes some sense in opposition but turns out to be nonsense in government”. On Wednesday, immigration minister Damian Green was grilled by David Cameron on Newsnight over the impact of intra-company transfers, which David Cameron said would be exempted from the cap – despite the Home Affairs Committee’s recommendation that “to make any significant reduction in non-EEA economic immigration, a cap would have to include intra-company transfers”.

Regressive of the week:

Phil Woolas, who was thrown out of parliament today, barred for three years and suspended by the Labour party for spreading lies about his Liberal Democrat opponent and stirring racial tensions with an election day leaflet which said: “Extremists are trying to hijack this election. They want you to vote Lib Dem to punish Phil for being strong on immigration. The Lib Dems plan to give hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants the right to stay. It is up to you. Do you want the extremists to win?”

Woolas, who was appointed shadow immigration minister by Ed Miliband just last month, has said he will apply for judicial review. This morning, the excellent Liberal Conspiracy website revealed that it was Woolas, when in office, who authorised the use of force to deport immigrant children.

Evidence of the week:

This week, Irish government bond yields reached their highest level since the start of European Monetary Union, with Dublin criticised both for not cutting its budget deficit quickly enough and for not supporting economic growth sufficiently. Parallels have also been drawn with the UK, as Left Foot Forward’s Tony Dolphin explained: “According to the OECD, Ireland’s debt in 2010 will be 82.9 per cent of GDP; the UK’s 82.3 per cent (though the UK’s debt has a much longer maturity, so less has be re-financed every year). And government borrowing in Ireland will be 11.7 per cent, compared to 11.5 per cent in the UK.”

Ed Jacobs’s Week outside Westminster:

Scotland: Labour leader Iain Gray told his party’s conference in Oban that he was “ready to serve” whilst MSPs vote to end Thatcher’s “right to buy” policy in Scotland.

Northern Ireland: First minister Peter Robinson called for a two year pay freeze for those in the public sector more than £21,000 a year. In the Commons, meanwhile, MPs got the chance to debate the Bloody Sunday inquiry report, with Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson telling MPs: “Helping families and wider society achieve greater understanding and closure is vital, however difficult that may be.”

Wales: As new polling showed the Welsh feel the cuts are unfair, one academic said: “It appears that the worst fears of those Welsh Liberal Democrats who opposed the deal with the Conservatives are being realised.”

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