What the papers say…

Civil  servants are as bad as bankers … The Telegraph trumpets Gladstone’s anniversary … Tories support Labour’s school Sats Tests … Another dodgy Tory donor exposed … Labour split on voting reform … Lords skim expenses cream … BBC to make film on Thorpe tragedy … what Chris Huhne thinks of Prince Charles … Unions sit on money for Labour … look at who says Hauge is Vauge …and the only thing the final polls of the year can agree upon is that Liberal Democrat support is holding up

Now Civil Servants join bankers in ludicrous bonuses – Daily Mail,, 24.12.09

“Civil Servants enjoyed a record £130 miillion in taxpayer-funded bonuses last year – and are in line for an even bigger sum this year. More than £350,000 a day went on performance-related pay for Government staff in 2009-9, it has emerged. Some mandarins were given payouts of almost £50,000 – twice the threshold of Chancellor Alistair Darling’s ‘supertax’ on bankers introduced earlier this month.

“And despite an unprecedented state deficit, several Whitehall departments have set aside even larger sums for 2009-10. While under equipped troops are killed in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence is ready to offer almost £6 million more to increase its bonus pot.

“Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat treasury said: ‘When the whole bonus culture is being discredited, it’s absolutely ridiculous for civil servants to be awarded these kinds of payments.  What kind of message does it send when the Government talks tough on bonuses for the City while allowing Whitehall these bonus pots?”

How the great Mr. Gladstone rescued our country – Daily Telegraph, 23.12.09

“Gladstone was born 200 years ago next Tuesday. He had a combination of wisdom, scruple, erudition, perspective, integrity and dedication that possibly no statesman in our history has been able to match. What has always struck me most about Gladstone is that he was so utterly right.

“Three things seem to underpin his genius. The first is his economic policy. It was not just Gladstone’s belief in free trade, it was his recognition that if you cut taxes, you raise more revenue, because of the provision of the incentive to work and take risks.

“His second vital policy was the 1870 Education Act. Compulsory education to the age of 12 was a Liberal deed. Gladstone’s Act made literacy and numeracy the right of every child, equipped a workforce for a higher degree of sophistication, and kick-stated the growth of the middle-classes. Its contribution to our country can not be overstated.

“Gladstone’s third policy was his scepticism about imperialism of all sorts. Although the British empire expanded much under his rule, he did nothing to encourage it. Nothing would prove this more than Ireland. Had home rule been granted at either attempt by him, in 1886 or 1893, would it have caused Britain such trouble over the following 120 years? Of course it would not. “

Liberal Democrat MP hits out at shoddy army homes – Daily Mail, 23.12.09

“Military accommodation is in such a woeful state that the typical Armed Forces family makes an emergency call for repairs every two months. The Ministry of Defence is forced to send out maintenance men to patch up crumbling barracks and married quarters nearly 650 times a day. Families of troops, including those in Afghanistan, have complained about their homes being blighted by overflowing drains, broken windows, leaking roofs, and boilers breaking down leaving them cold.

“Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Willie Rennie said: ”This is yet more evidence of the poor conditions of forces housing. With their loved ones risking their lives on the front line, the very least service families deserve is a decent home. The MoD needs to get its act together.”

Arms dealer gives £100,000 to Tories – Daily Mail, Exclusive, 23.12.09

“The Tories have received £100,000 from a company controlled by a former arms dealer who was at the centre of one of the party’s most notorious scandals. The donations have come from the tiny British arm of Future Pipe Industries, which is controlled by billionaire Lebanese businessman Fouad Makhzoumi.  He was a key figure in the furore that topped former Conservative Cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken and which came to typify an era of Tory sleaze.

“The party’s decision to re-establish financial links with him is likely to raise serious concerns about its vetting of potentially controversial donations. The firm previously made a £50,000 donation to the Tories one month before the 2005 election. In that year it made a pre-tax profit of just £21,000. “

Big cash cuts to hit teaching at universities – The Times, 23.12.09

“Universities will have to make severe cuts after Lord Mandelson abruptly slashed teaching budgets by millions of pounds yesterday.

“Departments are expected to close, degree courses will be scrapped, and students will have to pay higher fees.

“Academics were furious at the plan to claw back £135 million and condemned the timing of the announcement. Universities had already been ordered to find £180 million in savings in the next 18 months.  When savage spending cuts were announced in the Pre-Budget Report, schools were given immunity but universities were not.

“The cuts mean that funding per student has fallen in real terms of the first time in ten years. “

Scandal of £5,000 gift to foreign prisoners – Daily Express, 23.12.09

“Foreign criminals are being sent home with £500 cash as part of a taxpayer-funded package worth up to £5,000. As well as the standard £46 given to everyone released from a British prison, foreign inmates who agree to be deported will be given cash-cards loaded with £454 to use once they are sent home.

“The extra payment has been introduced as part of support packages – which some critics are calling bribes worth up to £5,000 to help offenders start businesses or train in their own countries. The generous payouts were last night condemned as it emerged British pensioners will be receiving  a £10 Christmas bonus this year – the same amount awarded when the bonus was first introduced nearly 40 years ago.”

Voters say Tories are a party for the rich – The Independent, front-page, 22.12.09

“David Cameron has failed to seal the deal with the British public, who believe the Conservatives would govern for the well-off and are not an attractive alternative to Labour. In a remarkable snapshot of national opinion just months ahead of the general election, a ComRes poll for The Independent found that by 52 to 44 per cent, the public agrees with the statement that ‘a Conservative Government would mainly represent the interests of the well-off rather than ordinary people.’

“The survey gives the Tories a nine-point lead over Labour, down one point on last month. If repeated at a general election, the figures would leave the Tories five seats short of an overall majority. According to ComRes, the Tories are on 38 per cent, Labour 29 per cent and the Liberal Democrats 19.

“The findings will add to the jitters in the Tory high command after the gap between the two main parties closed in recent weeks. Amid fears that the Tory message has been too ‘austere’ because of the economic crisis, Mr. Cameron will try to paint a more positive vision of life under a Tory government in a new year campaign.”

IBM signs £5bn deal to run Tory council service – The Times, 22.12.09

“A Conservative council has signed a pioneering deal with IBM worth up to £5.4 billion to manage and provide public services in a new wave of privatisation supported by David Cameron.

“The eight-year deal between the technology giant and Essex County Council is expected to transform the way that public services are provided across the county, and save 20 per cent of the authority’s annual £1.2 billion budget within three years.

“The contract is being widely seen as a model for local government under a Cameron administration and has the enthusiastic backing of Eric Pickles, the Tory party chairman. Other Conservative authorities such as Hammersmith and Fulham, and Barnet, are also slashing costs by privatising and outsourcing services.”

Tories’ Licence to Kill A Burglar – Daily Mail front-page, 21.12.09

“Homeowners would be handed a licence to kill violent burglars by a Tory Government. Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling raise the election stakes on crime by promising law-abiding citizens extra rights to defend themselves.

“If the Tories win the election, he said, they would tear up the law which lets householders use only ‘reasonable force’ to defend their families against intruders. The move comes amid public outrage at the 30,-month sentence handed last week to Munir Hussain, who chased and beat a member of a gang who had held his family at knifepoint in their home.

“Mr. Grayling said homeowners should escape conviction even if they kill a burglar – unless they use ‘grossly disproportionate’ force. His intervention put the government on the back foot and forced Home Secretary Alan Johnson into a pledge to review the law.”

Lockerbie bomber’s Swiss bank account – Daily Express, 21.12.09

“Lockerbie bomber Abdulbaset Al-Megrahi had almost £2million in a secret Swiss bank account at the time of his conviction, it emerged yesterday. It is a blow to those who have protested the Libyan’s innocence since he was released from Greenock Prison on compassionate grounds in August he has prostate cancer.

“Scotland’s Crown Office has revealed it refused to grant bail in November 2008 because he might go and pick up £1.8 million from his account. It knew about the cash since June 2000. They were suspicious how Al-Megrahi, head of security for Libyan Airlines, could have earned so much.”

School league tables are here to stay, says Top Tory – The Independent, 21.12.09

“A pledge to keep controversial tests for 11 year olds and league tables will form a key plank of the Conservatives election manifesto, their schools spokesman Michael Gove reveals today.

‘We will make it clear that the tests and league tables will be here to stay if you elect a Conservative government,” he says in an interview with The Independent.

“The pledge threatens to plunge a new Conservative government into major conflict with teacher unions. Michael Gove said the Sats tests would be kept as parents need ‘robust data’ on the performance of schools.”

100 peers claim £50,000 each – Daily Telegraph, 21.12.09

“More than 100 peers each claimed in excess of £50,000 in expenses to work in the House of Lords last year, official figures seen by The Daily Telegraph indicate. They included 18 members who claimed more than £30,000 in housing costs – significantly more than the maximum £24,000 that MPs receive to run a second home.

“The figures show that 17 peers claimed more than £60,000, 11 more than £65,000, and the cross-bencher Lord Laird, a total of £730,000. More than 300 claimed in excess of £25,000.

“The second most expensive peer, Baroness Adams of Craigielea, who, as Irene Adams, was a long-serving Labour MP, claimed £67,000, despite having not taken part in a House of Lords debate since making her maiden speech nearly four years ago. “

In an earlier Daily Telegraph: Lord Greaves, Liberal Democrat, described the proposed reforms for claiming expenses for mortgage-interest payments on second homes as “crackers.”

Tory undermines Cameron’s pitch – The Times, 21.12.09

“David Cameron’s attempts to convince voters that the Tories are not taking victory for granted were undermined yesterday when a senior ally said: “I think Gordon Brown has lost the election.”  Ed Vaizey, the Shadow Arts Minister, gave remarks that were starkly at odds with the line taken by the Tory leadership.

“Mr. Vaizey told Sky News: “I think Gordon Brown has lost the election. I don’t think there will be a Labour majority after the election. It’s over for Labour.” Hours earlier, Eric Pickles, the Conservative Party Chairman, and Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary, were saying the Tories had no more than a “good chance” of winning.”

And the winner is….Jackie Ashley column, The Guardian, 21.12.09

“I still expect the Tories to form a majority government next spring. Public anger about the financial crisis, or rather its consequences, and dislike of Brown, should let the Conservatives in. But if Labour found some energy, and won over more of the media, we could see a hung parliament. The surprise winner from this year’s mayhem could turn out to be … Nick Clegg, who has tried valiantly, but failed, to make his voice heard.”

Mandelson eyes up London Mayor job – The Guardian, 21.12.09

“Labour insiders have become gripped by rumours that  Peter Mandelson  may throw his hat in the ring for the 2012 mayoral election in London if the Tories win the general election.

“Such a move by the business secretary to seek the Labour nomination to stand for mayor would allow him to try and follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, Herbert Morrison, who ran the London county council in the 1930s.”

Cabinet revolt on voting reform – Sunday Times, 20.12.09

“Gordon Brown may be forced to abandon his flagship plan to reform the voting system after a revolt by some senior ministers. The Prime Minister faced heavy criticism at last week’s cabinet meeting for plans to rush through legislation on scrapping the first-past-the-post system.

“The scheme was outlined by Jack Straw but five Cabinet members, including Ed Balls, expressed doubts. Gordon Brown reasoned that a switch to a more proportional system would help clean up British politics. “

Tories breed a Harman clone – Mail on Sunday, 20.12.09

“Conservative loyalists who still don’t realise that David Cameron’s Tories are Blairism reborn should pay more attention. Mrs Theresa May, who gained prominence by describing her own party as ‘nasty’ and wearing silly shoes, is a key part of the Cameron project.

“And she is visibly turning into Harriet Harman, a person the Tory loyalists claim to loathe. So why do these loyalists plan to vote for a party that promotes Mrs May to a top position? It’s no good saying you can’t stand another five years of Labour. Because that’s exactly what you’ll get under Mr. Cameron. The supposed ‘Conservative Party’ is now entirely in the hands of the politically correct movement.” Etc. Etc.

Developers are grabbing back gardens – Sunday Telegraph, 20.12.09

“Domestic gardens have been concreted over to build more than 180,000 homes in the past five years, a Government study obtained by The Sunday Telegraph suggests. ‘Garden-grabbing’ developers won planning permission for 100 new dwellings every day within the grounds of existing houses.

“In some areas, up to 94 per cent of residential development was on gardens. The practice has fourished since the introduction of Government rules which made no distinction between gardens and ‘brownfield’ sites. “

Cameron fires election gun – The Observer, 20.12.09

David Cameron is ready to launch a long and fierce election campaign in the New Year after a new poll extends their lead. The Conservatives are said to be preparing a nationwide poster campaign costing some £500,000, to be unveiled on January 4, that will be seen as an opening bid to oust Gordon Brown.

The news comes as an Ipsos MORI poll for The Observer shows that the pre-budget report has halted Labour’s recovery. It puts the Conservatives on 43 per cent (up six since last month), Labour on 26 per cent, (now five), and the Liberal Democrats up two, on 20 per cent. Support for other parties has dropped from 14 per cent to 11.

BBC to make film on Thorpe scandal – Sunday Express, 20.12.09

Adam Helliker gossip-column: “It’s not the best Christmas present for the former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, who has been living quietly since his political career ended 30 years ago when he was accused of attempted murder and pilloried for having an alleged gay love affair.

“The dignified Thorpe, who is now in a wheelchair and rarely leaves the London flat he shares with his wife Marion, has been dismayed to learn that the BBC is making a “salacious” film about the events which led to his downfall, delving into the intimate details of his alleged affair with a male model.”

“Sense of panic” grips top Tories – The Times, 19.12.09

“David Cameron will publish a draft election manifesto early in the New Year as he tries to recover momentum before the General Election. The document has been approved for launch and is set for January 4th.

“Described as a ‘big-bang’, the manifesto will offer a policy-a-day blitz throughout January as Mr. Cameron seeks to convince voters that he has a substantial programme. The decision was taken at a crisis meeting of the Tory high-command after a Populus poll for The Times earlier this month showed that the Tory lead had narrowed to eight-points. Strategists fear that warnings of the need for years of austerity have frightened voters.

“Behind the scenes, there is a ‘sense of panic’ as one insider called it, adding: ‘There is a bit of tension at the top, and there is nervousness at the speed at which the document has been pulled together.”

“Do the sums add up? George Osborne has said that reversing the planned rise in National Insurance is the tax measure the Tories most want to avoid. But will they pledge to scrap it, and how will they find the £3 billion it would raise? David Cameron has committed to raising the threshold of inheritance tax to £1 million, while saying it is not an early priority. When in the next Parliament would this measure be introduced?”

“Tories dereliction in the extreme” – Daily Telegraph, 19.12.09

Simon Heffer on Saturday Column:  “ It was quite right to attack Labour for re-calibrating defence policy this week, but the Tory party is no better – its recent casual assertion that it will take troops out of Germany took no account of how the Army is trained. Labour must also be criticised for not spelling the fundamentals on which it must build its defence policy – namely our foreign policy and how it expects potential threats to our security to develop.

“But what do we know of Tory policy in this area?

“I admire William Hague, but other than his recent thwarted policy towards the Lisbon treaty, he and his party don’t seem to have a foreign policy. At a time when the world is more dangerous than it has been since the depths of the Cold War in the early 1960s – some say it is even more dangerous than that – this is dereliction in the extreme.

“If the Tories expect to be in power in just over four months, they might share their world view with us as a matter of urgency.”

Disgraced Tory MP fails in come-back bid – Daily Telegraph, 19.12.09

“Julie Kirkbride, who stood down from Parliament along with her husband over questionable expenses claims, has abandoned her attempt to seek re-selection.

“Last month the Tory back-bencher said that she would like to reverse her decision to resign at the election and seek re-adoption in a ballot of party members in her Bromsgrove constituency. Tory sources said that Miss Kirkbride made her decision after a conversation with David Cameron, who had “expressed his views” but that the choice had been hers to stand down.

“The MP had been called “selfish” and “contemptible” by activists after she made it known that she had changed her mind about standing down.

3,000 victims of home snatchers, Daily Mail, front page, 18.12.09

“The scale of Labour’s betrayal of pensioners was laid bare last night as it emerged that every year at least 3,000 elderly people are forced to sell their homes to pay for residential care. The scandal of Britain’s crumbling care system has reached such proportions that a third of all those paying the cost of their care end up without their house. After more than a decade of Labour promises, a record number of people who have saved all their lives are still having to put their houses up for sale, while those who have squandered their money get free care.

“Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb, who uncovered the figures, said: ‘This Government’s treatment of older people is its shameful legacy.

“Ministers have turned their backs on thousands of older people who are forced to sell their homes each year to pay for the costs of care. We are facing a crisis in funding for care. We need a complete overhaul of the current unfair system so that people’s homes are no longer considered fair game to cover care bills.”

CCTV numbers treble: Daily Telegraph, 18.12.09

“Taxpayers are funding a CCTV camera for every 1,000 people, the most detailed breakdown of the surveillance state has revealed. In some parts of the country there is now one camera for every 100 people, after the Government and councils spent hundreds of millions of pounds to treble the number in the last 10 years.

“Town halls control 60,000 cameras, compared with 21,000 in 1999. The figures were uncovered by Big Brother Watch, which campaigns on privacy issues.”

Minister in secret slush-fund to sister: Daily Telegraph, 18.12.09

“A Minister secretly paid more than £40,000 in taxpayer funded expenses to his sister, the Daily Telegraph can disclose today. Sion Simon told parliamentary officials that a rented north London property was his “second home” for expenses purposes.

“The flat was owned by the Culture Minister’s sister, a management consultant. MPs have been explicity banned since April 2006 from renting properties from family members at taxpayer’ expense. However, Mr. Simon continued to make improper claims of £1,000 a month until 2008.”

“Attempts by the House of Commons to draws a line under the expense scandal were dealt a blow by 80 MPs yesterday, who defied demands to repay hundreds of thousands of pounds. Around 200 MPs are thought to have been asked to return money, but a third has submitted appeals by the deadline of 3.0pm.”

Chris Huhne on “meddling” Prince Charles: Daily Mail, 18.12.09

“Prince Charles has been accused of ‘meddling’ in government policy after it emerged he had written to eight Whitehall departments in three years. He sent personal letters to the Treasure, the Foreign Office and the Education Department – while his aides sent letters to other senior Cabinet members.

“Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: ‘He has to be very careful to respect the traditional separations between the democratically accountable parts of the constituency and the ceremonial parts. The Prince of Wales is entitled to ask about what is going on, but if he is urging a particular point of view, then that’s a different matter.”

Unions refuse cash for Labour: Daily Mail, 18.12.09

“In a sign that the unions have all but given up hope of a Labour victory, they are holding back money from the party’s election campaign and instead building up a £25 million war-chest to ‘unleash hell’ on an incoming Tory government.

“Sources say the money will be spent campaigning against cuts in the public sector workforce and pay, which is continuing to grow under Labour. Union leaders are pushing for a wave of industrial action.

“With donations from wealthy individuals having all but dried up, unions are now paying more than 70 per cent of Labour’s bills and will bankroll its election campaign. “

Philip Young is a former Fleet Street News Editor, past Editor of Liberal News, a founder-editor of Liberator, and has been a PPC and District Councillor.

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