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Floods 1) Cameron declines to rule out sacking Chris Smith…

Flood“Lord Smith risked fresh controversy yesterday by appearing to suggest developers and buyers of homes in flood plains must take their share of the blame for the flooding crisis. … The embattled Environment Agency chairman insisted: ‘Anyone who builds in a flood plain, anyone who buys a property in a flood plain, needs to think about the flood risk.’ … David Cameron, who is struggling to contain a Cabinet war over the official response to the floods, yesterday refused to rule out sacking the former Labour Cabinet minister during a visit to stricken parts of south west England. … Asked whether Lord Smith should quit, the Prime Minister said: ‘There will be time later on to talk about these things.’” – Daily Mail

“David Cameron has ordered his feuding cabinet ministers to put an end to infighting and sniping at the Environment Agency as alarm spread in government about the potential scale of serious flooding along the Thames Valley later this week.” – The Guardian

  • “David Cameron insists that everyone is doing a  fine job and everything is for the best. I doubt he even believes it himself. Sadly, the entire business is British politics in microcosm, complete with a cast of handsomely paid but utterly hapless local government executives; inept, remote and unaccountable bureaucrats; and puerile, squabbling and self-interested politicians.” – Dominic Sandbrook, Daily Mail
  • “Yesterday, local Tory MP Richard Drax brought Mr Cameron into Amanda’s bar for coffee with councillors, flood wardens, clergy and the full panoply of hard-hatted, hi-vis officialdom. One of them introduced himself to the Prime Minister simply as: ‘Highways’. Perhaps it’s his real name.” – Robert Hardman, Daily Mail
  • “Who’s responsible for the hopeless response to the floods? In typical British fashion, it’s everyone and no one” – Steve Richards, The Independent
  • “Whether you blame goblins or Mankind, the climate is changing. We must be better prepared for extreme weather” – Hugo Rifkind, The Times (£)
  • “Inundated Britain does not need bickering politicians. We need an overhaul of weather-related contingency planning” – Independent editorial
  • “The Environment Agency is not directly to blame for floods but there are still problems with a body that is too large and remote” – Times editorial (£)
  • “The sight of agency chiefs and politicians vying for the moral high ground is unedifying” – Daily Telegraph editorial

> Today:

> Yesterday:

Floods 2) …but Smith fights back, saying that he warned the Government over cuts

SMITH Chris resign“The Environment Agency has had to endure ‘massive’ cuts to its budget since the Cameron government came to power despite warning this would affect its ability to defend the country against flooding, the agency’s chairman said on Monday. … As flood misery spread from the southwest to more densely populated London commuter towns, Chris Smith said he had told ministers there would be consequences when the agency’s funding was cut soon after the coalition came to power in 2010.” – Financial Times

  • “Water specialists condemned ministers for aggravating the crisis by cutting spending on environmental work and warned that dredging overflowing rivers in the Somerset Levels, which is now advocated by the Government, would make little difference to the problem.” – The Independent
  • “The Environment Agency yesterday advertised for a new chairman, offering £60,000 for two days a week. … Its board members were also revealed as getting paid thousands for only a few days a month. … Current chairman Lord Smith is expected to step down in June after a failure to drain Somerset farmland left a community fighting for its life.” – The Sun (£)
  • “Significant inconsistencies between the salaries of top managers in Wales’ public sector have been identified in a report from the Wales Audit Office.” – WalesOnline

Floods 3) Pickles speaks of more misery to come

“Thousands more homes face being flooded this week as a new wave of storms hits Britain. … The Government yesterday warned the situation would worsen as heavy rain and 80mph winds return. … Communities Secretary Eric Pickles told MPs there was a high risk of misery for communities along the Thames, Severn and Wye rivers over the next few days as water levels continue to rise.” – The Sun (£)

  • “[Pickles] claimed to be approaching the whole floods matter and its handling by the Environment Agency in a spirit of non-partisanship. Oh come off it, Eric.” – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

Floods 4) The Mail launches a petition to divert foreign aid money to British flood victims, UKIP-style

Daily Mail 11 February 2014“The Daily Mail today launches a petition to urge ministers to divert some of the UK’s £11billion foreign aid budget to the floods crisis. … As thousands are driven from their homes, there is growing anger that Britain is spending billions on foreign development projects, and so little on flood relief at home.” – Daily Mail

Sign the Daily Mail’s petition

  • “All that needs saying here is that Britain has given hundreds of millions towards flood relief overseas. Today, it is our own people who are enduring the misery. And the Mail believes there could no better use for the aid budget than alleviating the Third World conditions at home.” – Daily Mail editorial

MPs back a ban on smoking in cars carrying children

“Smoking in a car carrying children will become a criminal offence after MPs tonight backed a ban in the Commons by a large majority. … In an historic vote, Tory and Lib Dem MPs backed plans to make it a criminal offence to light up in a car in England, punishable by a £60 fine or points on a motorist’s licence. … It came after Prime Minister David Cameron the ’time has come’ for a ban, brushing aside claims from his Lib Dem deputy Nick Clegg who branded the ban illiberal and unenforceable.” – Daily Mail

  • “No one should fight for the right to force their kids to inhale harmful cigarette smoke.” – Sun editorial (£)

Hunt thanks NHS staff…

HUNT Doctor Carla Millar“Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has thanked NHS staff for their ‘amazing efforts to make hospitals safer and more compassionate’ in the wake of the Mid-Staffs scandal. … In a message sent to NHS workers a year after the public inquiry into the failings, he said the vast majority of NHS care offered ‘a world class service’ – but that the system needed to be more honest when things went wrong.” – Daily Telegraph

…but health experts warn that children aren’t getting the drugs they need

“Hundreds of children are dying needlessly from cancer or being left with debilitating conditions because life-saving drugs are only tested on adults, health experts have warned. … Since 2007, of the 28 new cancer drugs which have been given European approval, half cannot be licensed for children because youngsters were not included in their trials.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “Women are being wrongly warned during counselling sessions at allegedly ‘independent’ clinics that an abortion could lead to serious health damage, including an increased risk of breast cancer and a propensity to sexually abuse children, The Telegraph can disclose.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “NHS bosses allowed a lobbying company working for some of the world’s biggest drugs and medical equipment firms to write a draft report which could help shape future health policy.” – The Independent

Hague on Syria: “The world cannot allow the regime’s policies of starvation and repression”

“There can be no justification for any country standing in the way of a new Security Council Resolution that insists on innocent civilians getting access to food and medical aid. The Council has often been divided on the issue of Syria. But now is the moment for all 15 members to come together behind a resolution to improve the appalling humanitarian situation.” – William Hague, The Independent

  • “Syria’s government and opposition began a second round of UN-mediated talks in Geneva on Monday but failed to meet face to face…” – The Guardian
  • “British Muslims fighting in Syria claim to have tortured and murdered prisoners, according to video footage they posted on the internet.” – The Times (£)

> Today: John Baron MP on Comment – As Karzai holds talks with the Taliban, we must learn the lessons from Afghanistan

Lord Ashcroft cautions No.10 about the plight of former servicemen and women

ASHCROFT chest“Thousands of young troops leaving the forces after traumatic war tours are being dumped on the jobless scrapheap, a senior Tory peer today warns. … Lord Ashcroft was commissioned by the PM to carry out an exhaustive 18 month review of servicemen and women’s move to Civvy Street. … And he will this morning unveil a series of damning conclusions, making more than 50 different recommendations to No10 and the MoD.” – The Sun (£)

Benedict Brogan: Major and Brown could help Cameron to keep Britain united

“…the effort [John Major] put into demonstrating his commitment to the Union, when political logic told him it was of no value to him or his party, remains one of his proudest legacies, and gives him far more appeal north of the border than his better-bred successors. … As a voice that once helped to deepen the divide with England, Mr Brown will reach parts of Scotland that the Unionist case currently doesn’t.” – Benedict Brogan, Daily Telegraph

  • “Wrong place for the Prime Minister’s Scotland speech” – David Maddox, The Scotsman

Helen Lewis: Cameron must impose all-women shortlists

“Labour’s poll lead is just three points among men but nine among women. It takes more than calling yourself a feminist, as the prime minister does, to convince half the electorate you take women seriously. You have to back it up with policies and promotions. The Tories treat the presence of a minister for women in the cabinet like an embarrassing illness, to be endured but not talked about.” – Helen Lewis, Financial Times

Rachel Sylvester: Cameron and May are divided over stop-and-search – but the Home Secertary is right

Rachel Sylvester“Downing Street suspects leadership manoeuvring behind every stamp of Mrs May’s kitten heels. There has been such a breakdown in communication between the Home Office and No 10 that, during the recent parliamentary rebellion on the Immigration Bill, Mrs May was on her feet arguing against the rebel amendment even as the government whips were telling ministers to abstain. On stop and search, though, the Home Secretary is right. Mr Cameron should stop listening to the ghosts of his past, or fearing the phantoms of the future, and deal with this present iniquity.” – Rachel Sylvester, The Times (£)

Cable and Willetts decide on £125 million of university cuts

“Universities face a funding cut of £125m next year, which is likely to hit disadvantaged students but preserve scientific research, after weeks of wrangling over where the axe should fall. … In a letter yesterday business secretary Vince Cable and universities minister David Willetts announced that they would protect just under £4.7bn of science funding while reallocating £37m of funding for students facing financial hardship.” – Financial Times

  • “What will Labour say about the expansion of student numbers?” – Nick Hillman, The Guardian

Clegg versus Osborne

Curse of Clegg 2“George Osborne is launching an ‘assault on hardworking people’, Nick Clegg will say on Monday night, arguing that taxes should rise to help cut the deficit after 2015. … Speaking at Mansion House in London, the deputy prime minister will make an outspoken attack on his Conservative cabinet colleague, saying the chancellor’s plan to make cuts from budgets and welfare alone will hurt low earners.” – Financial Times

  • “The Liberal Democrats would demand a faster deficit-reduction programme than Labour is proposing if the two parties were in coalition after next year’s general election.” – The Independent
  • “Nick Clegg has spoken of the impact of his rise to power on his wife, revealing that it was ‘extremely difficult’ for her to see him coming under attack.” – The Times (£)

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – Killing the Liberal Democrats with kindness

Clegg versus UKIP

“There are  just 100 days to stop the UK Independence Party becoming a permanent major force in British politics, Nick Clegg warns today. … Writing in The Independent, the Liberal Democrat leader reveals a high-risk strategy in which his party will go head-to-head with Ukip at the European Parliament elections in May. He will contrast the Liberal Democrats’ unashamedly pro-European stance as ‘the party of “in”‘ with Ukip’s  policy of leaving the EU.” – The Independent

“Ukip can expect the support of one in five voters in May’s European elections, the latest Guardian/ICM poll shows, although Nigel Farage’s party remains in third place behind Labour and the Conservatives.” – The Guardian

Read Nick Clegg’s Independent article in full

  • “Lib Dems have cause to fear Ukip as the inheritors of their mid-term protest vote” – Andrew Grice, The Independent
  • “If the recent poll numbers remain the same until the elections – a big if – Ukip votes would not add up to a breakthrough” – Guardian editorial

> Today: Mel Stride MP on Comment – In most important ways, UKIP’s more like Labour than the Conservatives

British Gas loses £300 million after Davey moots a break-up

“Centrica’s share price see-sawed on Monday as markets tried to figure out the significance of the energy secretary’s threat to break up its subsidiary, British Gas, if regulators found evidence of market abuse. … After Ed Davey called for the profit margins and market dominance of the UK’s largest gas supplier to be investigated, its shares fell more than 3 per cent. However, by the time markets closed in London, this had reduced to 1.7 per cent, wiping £300m off the value of the company.” – Financial Times

  • “In just three short months, Davey has gone from championing the role of the regulator in holding the big six energy suppliers to account, to hinting publicly that Ofgem, the energy market regulator, has no teeth.” – Financial Times

Rennard’s legal ultimatum for the Lib Dems

“Lord Rennard, the former Liberal Democrat chief executive, will start court proceedings on Thursday to sue the party for damages unless his suspension and the threat of disciplinary action are lifted. … The party confirmed it had received a ‘letter before action’ from Rennard’s lawyers, which raises the prospect of making three senior party figures personally liable for damages for a breach of contract.” – The Guardian

Labour MPs try to pour salt on Harper’s wounds

“The former immigration minister who quit after employing an illegal migrant is in line for an £8,000 pay-off. … Mark Harper is entitled to the cash despite resigning for hiring a Colombian woman with no right to be in Britain to clean his London flat and do his ironing. … Labour demanded the ex-minister forego his pay-off and one of the party’s MPs even reported the issue to Scotland Yard, despite there being no suggestion a criminal offence has been committed.” – Daily Mail

Coverage of yesterday’s Thatcher-inspired Milispeech

“Ed Miliband vowed yesterday to govern with the conviction of Margaret Thatcher as he outlined plans to inject people power into the public services. … The Labour leader said handing local people more control over schools and hospitals would be a defining mission of his government if he wins the next election. … And he said he would emulate the former Tory Prime Minister by making sure voters and ministers are clear about where he stands.” – Daily Mail

  • “Stuart Hall, ‘godfather of multiculturalism’ who coined the term ‘Thatcherism’, dies aged 82” – The Independent

Miliband also wants a wider debate about British spying

Red Ed Miliband“A major overhaul of the oversight of Britain’s intelligence agencies, which could lead to an opposition politician chairing parliament’s intelligence and security committee and reform of the intelligence commissioners, needs to be introduced, Ed Miliband has said. … The Labour leader praised Barack Obama for starting an ‘important debate’ in the US – after the White House appointed a panel in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks – and called for a similar debate in Britain.” – The Guardian

  • “Ed Miliband has conceded that he will not be able to stop hospitals from closing after the election, as he promised to give patients a greater say over any plans to shut units.” – The Times (£)

MPs warn about the cost of cleaning up Sellafield

“Cleaning up nuclear waste at the Sellafield power plant is likely to cost more than £70 billion, MPs warn. … A damning report by Westminster’s Public Accounts Committee said progress on decommissioning the site had been ‘poor’. … They said the private consortium in charge of the project, Nuclear Management Partners, should have its contract ripped up if it doesn’t improve.” – The Sun (£)

  • “We need a new law to stop bureaucrats wasting our money” – Jonathan Isaby, The Times (£)

Report proposes a school certificate that’s about more than academic performance

“All teenagers should receive a school leaving certificate which details their extra-curricular activities and employability skills, according to a government-backed report. … The certificate would show that pupils – rather than just graduating from ‘exam factories’ – have developed traits such as perseverance, self-control and the ability to bounce back from setbacks. … The recommendations are contained in a report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility and the CentreForum think-tank.” – Daily Mail

Household incomes are set to rise, says the Resolution Foundation

“Household incomes will finally start to rise next year for the first time since the recession, a think tank claims. … But a new report warns millions of hard-up Brits remain ‘close to the edge’. … And it will be at least 2020 before spending power recovers to levels last seen before the credit crisis erupted. … The report by Resolution Foundation – a think tank which aims to improve families’ living standards – claims incomes will rise by 0.2 per cent on average in 2015-2016.” – The Sun (£)

  • “Ordinary Brits need to more than double their wages to keep pace with ‘out of control’ house prices, new figures claim.” – The Sun (£)

EU Commissioner claims that Brits are too misinformed to vote on Europe…

EU Exit“Viviane Reding, vice-president of the European Commission, said the British debate about Europe was so ‘distorted’ that people could not make an ‘informed decision’ about whether or not to stay in the EU. … Mrs Reding – who boasted that 70 per cent of the UK’s laws are now made in Brussels – also rubbished David Cameron’s bid to curb immigration from Europe, saying it was incompatible with membership of the EU.” – Daily Mail

  • “Barmy European Union chiefs were last night slammed for insisting drug dealing and prostitution must be counted in official figures on the economy.” – The Sun (£)
  • “Fewer than half the people in the UK realise that the First World War extended beyond Europe, a new report has shown.” – Daily Mail

…as the FT’s Gideon Rachman warns of another Euro crisis

“Two of the most respected institutions in Germany, the Bundesbank and the constitutional court, are now on record as registering profound objections to the policies underpinning the euro. … As long as the German economy is strong, such laments are unlikely to churn up mainstream German politics. But when things get tough, as they inevitably will at some point, the intellectual groundwork has been laid for a ‘stab-in-the-back’ theory that will explain Germany’s problems by reference to the illegal and improvident acts of the European institutions.” – Gideon Rachman, Financial Times

News in brief

  • Man jailed for plot to kill Prince Harry – Financial Times
  • Gove to meet 17-year-old campaigning against female genital mutilation – The Guardian
  • Decision due on whether there will be a public inquiry in Alexander Litvinenko’s death – The Guardian
  • British workers among the most stressed in the world – Daily Telegraph

And finally 1) Thatcher’s pallbearer, two goldfish and a pink swimsuit

“A soldier who carried Margaret Thatcher’s coffin wore a pink swimsuit and downed a beer with two live goldfish in for a Neknomination stunt. … Millions saw James Steel, 25, represent the Paras at the funeral of Mrs T, last year. Discussing his web boozing, he said last night: ‘It was funny.’ … James was filmed downing a Foster’s with the two live goldfish in it after a pal challenged him on the internet.” – The Sun (£)

And finally 2) The fur flies

“Things are bad between the Tories and Labour when they can’t even have a ‘best cat’ contest for charity without someone throwing their toys out of the pram. … Labour MP Andrew Gwynne has withdrawn his moggy, believing the Tory puss was benefiting from mysterious online vote-rigging. … He should launch a campaign — for a free and fur election.” – Sun editorial (£)

32 comments for: Newslinks for Tuesday 11th February 2014

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