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Russia 1) Hollande hits back at Cameron over the sale of warships

Russian flag“France branded the British as ‘hypocrites’ yesterday over David Cameron’s demands that Paris abandon its £1billion warship sale to Russia. … The Prime Minister says it would be ‘unthinkable’ for French president Francois Hollande to go ahead with the supply of two helicopter carriers to Moscow. … But Mr Hollande has vowed to press on with the deal, with an ally warning Mr Cameron that he should ‘start by cleaning up his own back yard’.” – Daily Mail

  • “Wobbling European leaders were branded ‘utterly useless’ last night after failing to slap ANY new sanctions on Vladimir Putin over the Flight MH17 atrocity. … Countries — led by France, keen to sell Russia £950 million of warships — could agree only on making new threats.” – The Sun (£)
  • “Energy bills would soar by nearly £100 if Europe turned its back on Russian gas – experts claim.” – The Sun (£)
  • “Russia should be stripped of the right to host major sports events to increase the pressure on President Putin after the shooting down of Flight MH17, politicians said today.” – The Times (£)

And comment:

  • “The selfish cowardice of Germany, France and Italy whose leaders have done so little to bring Putin and his Kremlin gangsters into line” – Simon Heffer, Daily Mail
  • “Economic meltdown scenario piles pressure on Russia and the west” – Larry Elliott, The Guardian
  • “Merkel’s big test: put the squeeze on Putin” – Roger Boyes, The Times (£)
  • “Contrast the spinelessness of EU leaders with the ruthless strength that makes Putin so dangerous.” – Sun editorial (£)
  • “Once again, tough talk followed by soft action against Putin” – Daily Telegraph editorial

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – A warning about Putin, Ukraine and Litvinenko

Russia 2) Is Britain still exporting arms to Moscow, too?

Putin huntingThe Government was last night accused of double standards over arms sales to Russia after it emerged that officials have approved a massive increase in weaponry to be sold to the country to more than £130m. … MPs warn today that at least 251 export licences for the sale of controlled goods – ranging from sniper rifles to night sights – remain in place despite a call from Prime Minister David Cameron for other countries, in particular France, to halt lucrative arms deals with Moscow. .. Downing Street insisted that any arms licences granted for equipment to the Russian military had been suspended in the wake of the MH17 disaster” – The Independent

  • “Russian oligarchs are moving money out of London following threats of tough financial sanctions in the wake of the attack on Flight MH17, Downing Street has said.” – Daily Telegraph

Russia 3) MH17 was likely shot down by accident, claim US officials

“US intelligence officials accused Moscow of ‘creating the conditions’ that resulted in the death of 298 people aboard the Malaysian Airlines jet shot down last week over a part of Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed separatists. … But in a partial declassification of US intelligence on Tuesday, officials stopped short of laying the blame for the disaster directly at the door of Russia. The assessment of the US intelligence community is that the separatists shot the plane down by accident.” – The Guardian

  • “British experts will play a key role in establishing what downed flight MH17 amid renewed suggestions the wreckage of the stricken airliner may have been tampered with.” – The Scotsman

Russia 4) The Tories attacked over donations

UK notes and coins“David Cameron was under pressure last night to return a £160,000 donation from the wife of a Vladimir Putin ally. … Calling for the donation to be reversed, Labour said the Tories should ‘come clean’ over an estimated £1million in payments from Russian individuals and businesses. … Conservative Party sources indicated last night however that the party will keep the Chernukhins’ money.” – Daily Mail

  • “Lord Ashcroft, the former Tory treasurer, mischievously posted a tweet early yesterday asking: ‘Should the Tory Party suspend taking donations from companies owned by Russians?’” – Daily Mail

Cameron announces new rules around forced marriages

Cameron1“Teachers and doctors will be under a legal duty to report if young girls in their care could be sent abroad and forced to marry under new rules, David Cameron announced yesterday. … They could be struck off or disciplined if they fail to tell the authorities about children being spirited abroad and made to marry strangers, or if they ignore concerns a girl may be subject to female genital mutilation. … Parents could be prosecuted if they fail to prevent their daughters being subjected to genital mutilation.” – Daily Mail

  • “Schoolchildren have been warned that they could end up with a criminal record if they send explicit pictures of themselves by text message or over social media.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “Liberating girls from FGM and forced marriage is a vital step to better lives” – Times editorial (£)
  • “What became of Cameron’s Big Society Network?” – Oliver Wright, The Independent

£100 billion: what VAT is worth to Osborne…

“One of Britain’s most controversial taxes, VAT, is worth more than £100billion a year for the first time ever, figures revealed yesterday. … The statistic, published by HM Revenue and Customs, means more than £1 in every £5 which is collected by the Government comes from Value Added Tax. … The bonanza is fuelled not just by Britain’s recovering economy, which sees people spending more, but also the Chancellor’s decision to hike the rate from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent.” – Daily Mail

  • “Income tax payments cost the average British taxpayer £4,985 a year, but research has revealed that those who reside in the leafier areas are paying up to three times that amount.” – The Independent
  • “Energy firms have been accused of failing to pass on the full windfall they have made from cuts to green levies, denying customers an extra £23 a year in savings.” – Daily Mail
  • “The future of a UK fund intended to prevent homes being left without flood insurance was thrown into doubt after insurers warned that details proposed by government were ‘unworkable’.” – Financial Times

> Today: The Deep End – Conservatives need to talk about the deserving and undeserving rich

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – The conservative truth at the heart of Osborne’s pension reforms

…but the deficit persists

OSBORNE Blackberry“George Osborne was hit with a fresh £12 billion black hole in the nation’s coffers after ministers abandoned the sale of the student loans book. … Offloading the scheme was abandoned after it emerged too many deep outstanding debts may never be repaid. … But economists from the independent Office of Budget Responsibility revealed the profits of the sale have already been factored in to future spending over the next five years. … In more bad news for the Chancellor, it also emerged his borrowing is up by £10 billion already this year.” – The Sun (£)

  • “A Government computer contract has gone more than £6 billion over budget, according to spending watchdogs.” – The Sun (£)

And comment:

  • “It isn’t daydreaming students but cynical ministers who are failing to deal with the world as it is.” – Guardian editorial

Morgan on the “compelling evidence” that Muslim hardliners tried to gain control of schools

School“Teachers at the centre of the ‘Trojan Horse’ plot to takeover Birmingham schools exchanged messages that the murder of soldier Lee Rigby was a hoax, it emerged today. … In a statement to the Commons, Mrs Morgan told MPs: ‘What Peter Clarke found is disturbing. His report sets out compelling evidence of a determined effort by people with a shared ideology to gain control of the governing bodies of a small number of schools in Birmingham.'” – Daily Mail

  • “Morgan pledged to strengthen regulations to bar unsuitable people from running academies and free schools after Labour said an alleged Islamist takeover of Birmingham schools was a ‘devastating indictment’ of government education reforms.” – Financial Times
  • “Nicky Morgan asked her top civil servant to sack the team of advisers she inherited from Michael Gove to bring in her own aides.” – The Times (£)

And comment:

  • “Stigmatising Muslims won’t solve problems in Birmingham schools” – Salma Yaqoob, The Guardian
  • “Labour needs to explain why Birmingham failed to stop the Islamist practices in the schools under its control” – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • “There can be no let-off for the staff or governors involved. … They must have nothing to do with teaching again.” – Sun editorial (£)

The ministerial plans that could push poorer children to the front of the schools queue

“All schools could soon let poor children jump the queue for places in return for hundreds of pounds in extra funding per pupil in a move that will hit middle-class families. … Ministers are planning to tear up admission rules that forbid selection on the basis of family finances and allow schools to give low-income families priority. … Each child admitted under the initiative would attract so-called pupil-premium funding worth £1,300 for primary pupils and £935 for secondary.” – Daily Mail

  • “Millions of people across England are destined to die nine years earlier than they should – and have their lives blighted by ill-health prematurely – because they are poor.” – The Independent

McVey’s advice for pupils: be your own boss

Esther McVey“Middle-class children should believe that setting up their own business is every bit as good as going to university and working for a big company, the employment minister has said. … Esther McVey told The Telegraph that self-employment should be given the same social status and respect as the more conventional university route into employment. … The Conservative Party should be championing those who have the ‘spark’ to create their own businesses and become ‘little engines’ of wealth creation in their communities, she said.” – Daily Telegraph

The reshuffle ruckus continues: Stowell declines extra cash

“The new leader of the House of Lords last night rejected David Cameron’s offer to top up her salary using Conservative Party cash amid a growing row over her downgraded status in Cabinet. … [Lady Stowell] believes her salary should come only from public funds in order to avoid any appearance of potential conflicts of interest. … There is now growing pressure on Mr Hague, who is quitting as an MP at the next election, to accept a downgrade in his status and a pay cut in order to make way for Lady Stowell’s position to be enhanced.” – Daily Mail

  • “More than half of women Tory MPs now have a job with the Government, after a slew of new Parliamentary aides were appointed.” – Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday: MPsETC – Reshuffle (continued): The full list of every PPS

ConservativeHome’s interview with Howard is reported in the papers

michaelhoward“Former Conservative leader Michael Howard has launched a rare attack on David Cameron, branding his decision to sack Michael Gove as Education Secretary a ‘mistake’ and ‘a great pity’. … His intervention, in an interview with the ConservativeHome website, reflects dismay on the Right of the party at the demotion of Mr Gove to Chief Whip. Senior MPs claimed last night that Mr Gove had expressed an interest in becoming Defence Secretary when Mr Cameron made it clear he wanted him to move, but was told the job had been earmarked for Michael Fallon.” – Daily Mail

  • “Terminally ill patients should be able to die with ‘dignity’ in hospices or their own homes instead of ending their lives in hospitals, Lord Howard has said.” – Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday: Interview – Michael Howard criticises the reshuffle: “I do think it’s a great pity that Michael Gove was moved.”

May announces four reviews, including into the police disciplinary system and into Litvnenko’s death

MAY Home Office“Dodgy cops will be hauled in front of public disciplinary hearings under a radical shake-up from the Home Secretary. … Theresa May appointed an Army Major General to lead a complete review of the police disciplinary system. … And she announced disciplinary hearings will be made in public to ‘improve transparency and justice’. … Announcing four reviews, the Home Secretary also promised changes to the way police handle complaints from the public.” – The Sun (£)

  • “‘It is more than seven years since Mr Litvinenko’s death, and I very much hope that this inquiry will be of some comfort to his widow Mrs Litvinenko,’ Ms May said.” – Financial Times
  • “David Cameron dragged his feet over a public inquiry in to the death of Alexander Litvinenko to protect relations with Russia, the poisoned dissident’s widow has claimed.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “The prime suspect in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko yesterday dismissed a public inquiry launched by Britain into the death of the fugitive Russian spy as ‘underhand’.” – The Times (£)
  • “The Government has lost 175,000 people who have no right to be in the UK – a damning report claims.” – The Sun (£)

And comment:

  • “There may be a couple of new female prefects; but Theresa May is still the head girl.” – Donald Macintyre, The Independent
  • “A renewed effort to discover the truth about Alexander Litvinenko’s death is both practically and politically motivated” – Independent editorial
  • “The belated announcement of an inquiry into the murder of the Russian exile demonstrates the failure of appeasement” – Times editorial (£)

Paul Goodman: Why even Boris Johnson can’t be sure of his next move

Paul Goodman portrait“The coming election is the hardest to call in modern times. And the Mayor’s colourful persona conceals a cautious personality. Furthermore, he hates being put under pressure: his instinct in such circumstances is to dig in. And as if these calculations were not convoluted enough already, there is another complication. The General Election takes place next year, the mayoral contest the year after.” – Paul Goodman, Evening Standard

Grayling reveals how – and how much – secret trials have been used

“Ministers have asked to hold controversial court cases behind closed doors five times in the past year – and been given permission for at least three. … The cases involve a terror suspect suing the Government over alleged torture, Iranian shipping officials suspected of transporting nuclear material, and an IRA mole suing MI5. .. In the first report on how the power had been used, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling revealed ministers had made five applications for the ‘closed material procedure’ in the year to June 24.” – Daily Mail

  • “UK anti-terrorism laws are so broadly drawn they are in danger of catching journalists, bloggers, and those it was ‘never intended to cover’ the counter-terrorism watchdog has said.” – The Independent
  • “Scotland Yard and crown prosecutors were tonight in talks as to whether to launch a criminal investigation into Mazher Mahmood, the so-called ‘Fake Sheikh’, after a judge claimed the undercover reporter may have lied and manipulated evidence in the Tulisa Contostavlos drugs trial.” – The Independent

Ministers to back the cause of three-parent babies

Baby shield“Babies with three genetic parents are no more genetically modified than people receiving organ transplants, the government said, as it confirmed plans to allow a pioneering technique that saves children’s lives. … Patient groups and scientists urged ministers to set a date before the election for a parliamentary vote to spare hundreds of parents the agony of seeing their children die of inherited mitochondrial disease.” – The Times (£)

The mysterious plot to oust Bercow as Speaker

“A mysterious poison pen plot to oust the Speaker of the House of Commons was revealed yesterday amid growing frustration over his ‘increasingly erratic behaviour’. … An anonymous motion has been drawn up calling for John Bercow to be replaced for failing ‘to live up to the tradition of impartiality established by his predecessors’. It also accuses him of ‘systematic bullying and humiliation of staff’ — a reference to allegations that he swore at a senior Commons official. … Mr Bercow denies the claims.” – The Times (£)

Ruffley faces “crisis meeting” about his future

“A Tory MP is facing a crisis meeting about his future as anger mounts over an assault on his partner during an argument. … Former shadow police minister David Ruffley was arrested and thrown in a cell before accepting a caution for common assault. … His local Conservative association has brought forward a meeting of its executive from September 9 to July 31 and he faces a reselection battle as he is grilled about his conduct.” – Daily Mail

Monbiot sees a British Tea Party movement in the Paterson’s words

PATERSON floods“Owen Paterson, the former environment secretary, can speak directly, and he now lambasts the ‘green blob’, against which he nobly fought and lost. … As one of those he blamed for bringing him down in his wild, minatory article on Sunday, I’m happy to join Blob Pride. But I also see something new emerging in his position and that of other disaffected rightwingers. It looks like the development of a Tea Party faction within the Conservatives.” – George Monbiot, The Guardian

  • “A group of MPs has produced a video showing piles of rubbish crawling with ants on Britain’s streets as part of an investigation into the ‘billion pound’ littering problem blighting our streets.” – Daily Telegraph

And further comment:

  • “Farmers don’t make much noise about politics, but those you might call the country-sports, country-landowning, countryside-conservation, Countryside-Alliance set do notice Westminster. … This set, mostly Tories, are furious at [Paterson’s] dismissal, and their corner of cyberspace is buzzing with consternation.” – Matthew Parris, The Times (£)

“Would I fire a rocket?” The anti-Israeli tweet that has a Lib Dem MP facing disciplinary action

Israel flag“A Liberal Democrat MP caused outrage last night after saying he would join the Hamas terrorists bombarding Israeli civilians with rockets if he lived in Gaza. … In an outburst on Twitter David Ward said: ‘The big question is – if I lived in Gaza, would I fire a rocket? Probably, yes.’ … Continuing his rant, he added: ‘Ich bin ein Palestinian – the West must make up its mind which side it is on.’ … Nick Clegg has now ordered a disciplinary inquiry into the comments.” – Daily Mail

  • “A series of international airlines halted flights to Tel Aviv and the US’s airline regulator banned all flights to Israel’s only international airport after rockets fired from the Gaza Strip landed within a mile of the airport on Tuesday.” – Financial Times
  • “Protesters gathered in London today to call for an end to Israeli military action in Gaza as the conflict in the troubled region shows no sign of abating.” – Daily Mail
  • “Jewish people are being attacked and abused on the streets of Germany as though the country were back in the Nazi era, political and religious leaders warned yesterday.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “The level of civilian deaths in Gaza is unacceptable” – Financial Times editorial
  • “As a British Jew, I am now scared to talk about Israel and Gaza” – Emma Barnett, Daily Telegraph
  • “A pointless Gazan war that neither side wanted” – David Gardner, Financial Times
  • “The world must respond to the cry of Iraq’s Christians” – David Alton, The Times (£)

> Yesterday: Garvan Walshe’s column – Hamaserdammerung: The twilight of Hamas’ wars

Lamb criticises care homes for ratcheting up their fees

Norman Lamb“Older people in their final days are being exploited by care homes ‘constantly ratcheting’ up the fees paid by relatives, said the Care Minister. … Councils, he said, were demanding ‘top ups’ from families in order to keep elderly or sick relatives in the same care. … Mr Lamb has now vowed to strengthen the rules to protect families after telling MPs there was ‘mounting evidence’ the top-ups were not being used for their intended purpose.” – Daily Mail

  • “The Government has been warned that replacing Atos, the company which assesses whether the sick and disabled are fit for work, will not solve ‘fundamental flaws’ in their treatment by the benefits system.” – The Independent

Labour pledges to increase the number of women in senior civil service posts

Labour-Party-Red-Rose-logo“The number of women landing senior posts in the civil service would be raised from 37 to 45 per cent if Labour wins power next year, the party has pledged. … Michael Dugher, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, told union leaders that the target would be achieved by 2020. Labour would also aim to ensure that at least eight per cent of senior civil service posts went to people from ethnic minorities – up from the current 4.7 per cent.” – The Independent

  • “Church of England selection boards will be encouraged to use a form of positive discrimination to appoint woman bishops, MPs and peers have been told.” – Daily Telegraph

And comment:

  • “So we all know women get paid less than men (20 per cent, on average, in case you’ve forgotten or find it too painful to remember). But here’s something I find surprising. Even in supposedly ‘girly’ professions – that is industries where women traditionally dominate – men still take home a bigger pay-cheque.” – Cathy Newman, Daily Telegraph

> Today: Dominic Raab MP on Comment – It’s time to bin this equalities red tape

Dobson to stand down as a Labour MP

“Veteran Labour MP Frank Dobson has confirmed that he will step down at the 2015 general election. … The former cabinet minister formally announced his decision not to seek a ninth straight general election win at a meeting of party members. … He was made health secretary by Tony Blair when Labour swept to power in 1997.” – The Independent

NHS staff to be balloted about strikes

NHS“More than 400,000 National Health Service workers in England are to be balloted over strikes in a dispute about pay, opening a new front in the government’s conflict with public sector staff. … Unison, the Royal College of Midwives, Unite and the GMB said they would ask members to back walkouts, following the government’s decision in March not to accept a recommended across-the-board 1 per cent wage rise for all NHS staff. … If approved, industrial action is likely to start in October. It is the first time midwives have been balloted in their history.” – Financial Times

  • “Sixty-five hospital trusts overspent their budgets by a combined £767m in 2013-14, with 35 of them sharing £536m in non-repayable bailouts in order to keep services running smoothly.” – The Guardian
  • “Lucrative hospital pharmacy services are being sold off to private companies such as Boots and Lloyds because a tax loophole puts the NHS at a huge disadvantage when bidding to keep them publicly operated, it can be revealed.” – The Independent

Daniel Finkelstein: “Blairism worked – but we can’t go back to it”

“The trick pulled off by Mr Blair — to keep both public sector and private sector, both low paid and well paid, both consumer and producer onside — was not a magic one. It wasn’t the result of his (admittedly strong) charisma. And it wasn’t the result of a hitherto undiscovered strategy that somehow dissolved all political differences and reconciled all interests. It was done by the money.” – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times (£)

  • “Ed Miliband’s leadership style could put him in No 10” – Rafael Behr, The Guardian
  • “Ed Miliband must rouse himself from the chloroform of caution” – Mary Riddell, Daily Telegraph

Coverage of Lord Ashcroft’s latest poll: UKIP set to win two seats

FARAGE eating“UKIP will win two MPs in next year’s general election, a new poll of Tory marginal seats has revealed. … The latest survey by ex-Tory donor Lord Ashcroft says Nigel Farage’s party will take the current Conservative berths of Thanet South and Thurrock. … But in an alarming development for Ed Miliband as well as David Cameron, that is because Labour are now losing voters to Ukip faster. .. The anti-EU party is also now second to the Conservatives in a third traditional Tory-Labour marginal, Great Yarmouth.” – The Sun (£)

  • “Selina Scott, the former television presenter, is poised to make the switch from the studio to the Commons. … Ms Scott, 63,will decide in the next 24 hours whether to put her name forward for the safe Conservative seat of Thirsk and Malton in North Yorkshire, her spokesman said.” – The Times (£)

> Today: ToryDiary – UKIP hasn’t gone away

> Yesterday: Lord Ashcroft on Comment – Battleground polling: Swing in marginals falls as UKIP pick up Labour votes

Salmond readies himself for the Commonwealth Games

“Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, has played down he political significance of Scotland hosting the 11-day event, which opens on Wednesday, but knows it has the potential to be a rallying point for nationalists ahead of the September 18 independence referendum. … Mr Salmond announced on Tuesday a ‘self-denying ordnance’ of not talking about Scottish independence during the course of the Games, but immediately promised that Scotland’s sporting teams would ‘flourish’ outside the UK.” – Financial Times

  • “The SNP’s hopes that the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow will promote nationalism are likely to backfire” – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph
  • “Speak out against homophobia, Mr Salmond” – Peter Tatchell, The Independent
  • “How would Robert Burns vote in the Scottish referendum?” – Chris Bambery, The Guardian

News in brief

  • House prices in the North are rising fast – Daily Mail
  • New book claims that Clinton’s phone calls with Monica Lewinsky were exploited by spies – Daily Mail
  • Peaches Geldof inquest to begin – The Guardian
  • Queen’s horse fails doping test – Financial Times
  • Biggest-ever UK fish caught off Isle of Skye – The Scotsman

And finally 1) Cameron’s cold BBQ

cameron-face“On Monday evening, Prime Minister David Cameron bravely carried on with his annual barbecue for Conservative MPs in the gardens of 10 Downing Street. … The timing could not have been worse, coming just days after he upset scores of ‘pale, male and stale’ Tory MPs by replacing them with rising star female colleagues. … One MP said the attendance was ‘significantly down on previous years’. Guests were unconsciously divided into those who were promoted – and those who were not.” – Daily Telegraph

And finally 2) Vine on McVey’s clock

“Anyway, McVey told Grazia that she hasn’t married or had children because she ‘never found anyone to wind her biological clock’. … It’s the kind of sharp remark that she specialises in. It’s also, I suspect, a bit of a fib. … If I remember rightly, half the current Cabinet would have cheerfully ‘wound her clock’ if she’d given them a glimmer of a chance.” – Sarah Vine, Daily Mail

20 comments for: Newslinks for Wednesday 23rd July 2014

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