Ukraine crisis 1) Hague warns that Putin is risking war

HAGUE William looking right“Vladimir Putin risks war if he takes another step into the Ukraine, Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned. … He said there was a ‘real danger of a shooting conflict’ if Russian forces moved beyond Crimea to invade Eastern Ukraine. … But he admitted that none of the sanctions drawn up so far by EU leaders would force Russian troops out of Crimea.” – The Sun (£)

  • “Russian troops took over a Ukrainian border post in the west of the region, detaining 30 Ukrainian troops, and now occupy a dozen such posts, according to the Ukrainian border guard.” – Financial Times

> Today: The Deep End – Forget sanctions – Russia will pay dearly for Crimea anyway

Ukraine crisis 2) Energy prices could rise

“Energy bills could go up if the instability in Ukraine drags on, a minister warned yesterday, as others scrambled to deny that there was ‘tacit acceptance’ of the Russian takeover of the Crimean peninsula. … David Cameron spoke once more to President Putin to urge him to ‘deescalate’ the situation in Ukraine and pull back troops. However, there appeared to be little attempt by the Prime Minister to say that Crimea’s future could not be with its eastern neighbour.” – The Times (£)

Ukraine crisis 3) Obama prepares to meet with the Ukrainian Prime Minister

OBAMA headshot blue“President Barack Obama will meet this week with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk at the White House in a prominent show of U.S. support for Ukraine’s fledgling new government. … Obama’s White House meeting with Yatsenyuk will focus on options to peacefully resolve Russia’s military intervention in the Ukrainian region of Crimea, the White House said, adding that the resolution must respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” – Daily Mail

“Chinese president Xi Jinping has urged a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine and for all parties to exercise calm and restraint, during separate telephone calls with US president Barack Obama and German chancellor Angela Merkel.” – The Guardian

  • “Through his words, Mr Obama suggests he is reluctant to use his vast capabilities. Through his actions, he conveys the opposite.” – Edward Luce, Financial Times
  • “Is Vladimir Putin the new Stalin? Not now the USSR has fallen apart” – Boris Johnson, Daily Telegraph
  • “Western leaders cannot face a ‘looming’ war. So I guess they’ll patch something up – and let Russia gobble part of Ukraine” – Robert Fisk, The Independent
  • “There is no moral equivalence between Moscow and Kiev” – Ian Birrell, The Independent

Downing St wants an investigation into alleged Sri Lankan war crimes

“Britain is to join the US and three other countries in pushing for a full international inquiry into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka after the government there failed to satisfy international calls for a such an inquiry, Downing Street announced on Sunday.” – The Guardian

The Camerons will send their daughter to a state secondary school

The Camerons“David Cameron has decided to send his daughter Nancy to a state secondary school as his wife is ‘very keen’ to give her children a ‘normal’ education, friends of the couple have claimed. … Nancy Cameron is now ten years old and her parents will have to submit their choice of schools in November. … Samantha Cameron is said to want her daughter to meet people outside their usual circle, claiming she wants her children to be judged ‘for who they are’ rather than being defined by their rarefied social status or their father’s job.” – Daily Mail

  • “Attacking private education as Mr Gove’s wife did is easy when your child’s state school is like an Anglican Hogwarts” – Libby Purves, The Times (£)

> Today:

Let’s hope they never have to pay a truancy fine

“Parents who allow their kids to play truant will be docked child benefit under Tory plans. … The radical move was first proposed two years ago with support from Education Secretary Michael Gove — but it was vetoed by Nick Clegg. … Now Tory chiefs plan to put it in their 2015 manifesto to ensure Brits know they have a responsibility to get their kids to school.” – The Sun (£)

The Prime Minister pledges more money for tech advances

“David Cameron has pledged an extra £45million to futuristic projects he said will let ‘everyday objects talk to each other over the internet’. … The PM announced the funding on a visit to Germany — a country he said can help us lead ‘a new industrial revolution’. … He wants the next generation of ultra-fast 5G internet connections to become a reality — allowing movie downloads in less then a second.” – The Sun (£)

“Britain aims to double to £100bn by 2025 the amount of economic benefit generated by making full use of unused ‘white space’ digital frequencies, David Cameron will pledge on Monday.” – The Guardian

  • “Coding is just the latest facet of a rush to embrace technology in education that risks cutting children off from the real world” – Jay Griffiths, The Guardian

Osborne urged to do more to encourage exports…

Osborne New Year speechGeorge Osborne is under pressure to push through reforms to the UK’s export finance system in this month’s Budget amid concerns in the Treasury that the recovery remains far too heavily reliant on domestic demand. … Lobbyists representing manufacturers and banks have been urging the chancellor to increase the scope and range of finance options available to support overseas sales, in the hope of chipping away at the country’s heavy trade deficit.” – Financial Times

  • “The UK economy will exceed its pre-recession peak this summer, according to the latest predictions from British businesses, despite warnings that the recovery is on shaky foundations as a booming housing market stokes consumer confidence.” – The Guardian

…and to support both middle-earners and the North

“More than two million middle-class workers would get a tax cut of up to £2,000 a year under radical Conservative proposals to scrap the 40 per cent higher rate of income tax. … Middle-earners would benefit under a overhaul of the tax system drawn up by Renewal, a Tory pressure group. … Instead there would be a 45 per cent rate which would apply to earnings exceeding £62,000. At present, that level is applicable to income which exceeds £150,000.” – Daily Telegraph

“Conservative MPs and activists have joined Liberal Democrats in warning Coalition ministers not to widen the North-South divide by allowing London and the South East to reap most of the benefit from the economic recovery. … Leading figures in both parties have appealed to the Chancellor, George Osborne, to take action in his Budget on 19 March to ensure a ‘fair recovery’ that spreads to all parts of the UK.” – The Independent

  • “More and more people on middle incomes have been dragged into paying the 40 per cent rate of tax over the past decade. That includes teachers, nurses, bricklayers, police officers and Tube drivers.” – David Skelton, Daily Telegraph

Pickles under fire over bin collections

PICKLES Eric smiling“Communities Secretary Eric Pickles declared two years ago that having bins emptied once a week was a ‘fundamental right’ – but cutbacks to the service have accelerated under his watch, with 60 councils introducing a fortnightly waste collection since May 2010. … By the time of the election next year, 18.5million families will have lost weekly bin rounds.” – Daily Mail

Councils to receive an extra £146 million to fix potholes

“Councils are being given an extra £146 million to fix roads damaged by the winter floods, the Government announced yesterday. … Local authorities welcomed the help, but warned that they were already facing a £10 billion backlog in repairs to the local roads network and large compensation claims from drivers who hit potholes last year.” – The Times (£)

The Government advises hospitals and schools to buy British

“Schools, hospitals and prisons should buy British food even if it is more expensive, new Government guidelines will say. … Current rules which make price the overriding factor in public sector purchasing will be scrapped this summer. … They will be replaced by new guidance designed to boost British agriculture and improve quality, under which public bodies will be obliged to prioritise other factors, including local sourcing.” – Daily Mail

  • “The coalition is planning to put calls by the emergency services on commercial mobile phone networks, in a move that some fear could put lives at risk by forcing police, fire and ambulance workers to share airwaves with the general public.” – The Guardian
  • “The NHS is embarking on its biggest and most wide-ranging outsourcing of services so far by inviting companies to bid for £1.2bn in contracts to provide frontline cancer treatment in district hospitals and care for the terminally ill.” – Financial Times
  • “Care for elderly and disabled people will be jeopardised by a £135 million gap in funding for a long-awaited overhaul of the system, an alliance of council leaders, care chiefs and charities is warning.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “A minute amount of money is being used to combat childhood obesity, despite it being a top health priority, according to new figures released Monday.” – The Independent

MPs will be allowed a free vote on assisted suicide

“MPs and peers will be given a free vote on whether to change the law on assisted suicide, the Government said on Sunday. … The decision is a boost for campaigners who want to amend the 1961 Suicide Act, under which people still face 14 years in jail for helping someone to take their own life.” – The Independent

Lib Dems in York 1) Clegg sings a love song to Britain…

Nick Clegg portrait“Nick Clegg today sang a hymn of praise to Britain, including tea, the Shipping Forecast and football, as he warned freedom and tolerance are at risk from a tide of far-Right extremism which is sweeping Europe. … The Liberal Democrats are the true party of patriots that will defend British values from a ‘dangerous’ trend of hostility to foreigners.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “Such platitudes are uttered by the leaders of political parties everywhere – possibly even South Korea, Mexico, Colombia or Ethiopia.” – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
  • “Nick Clegg has forgotten his history: Britain was free and outward-looking before the EU” – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • “Lib Dem ministers want the red box but not the blame” – John McTernan, The Times (£)

> Yesterday:

Lib Dems in York 2) …and fuels further leadership speculation

“Nick Clegg sparked frenzied speculation about the Lib Dem leadership last night after failing to give a clear answer on when he might stand down. … The Deputy Prime Minister insisted he planned to lead the party until 2020 – but only after his team had put forward three different possibilities as to when he will quit. … The farcical mixed message came amid growing speculation that Danny Alexander and Vince Cable are manoeuvring to replace him.” – Daily Mail

Labour reveals how it will fund its jobs guarantee for young people – with a raid on pensions

LABOUR dead rose“Labour is to launch a new tax raid on pensions to pay for the party’s guarantee to find a job for young people who have been out of work for a year. … Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls will today reveal that Labour’s election manifesto next year will include measures to slash pension tax relief to 20p in the pound for those earning more than £150,000. … The jobs pledge will also be paid for with a fresh windfall tax on bankers’ bonuses.” – Daily Mail

  • “A staunchly left-wing trade union that has fought a bitter campaign to protect the pay and conditions of 250,000 public-sector workers is poised to impose draconian terms on its own staff’s pension plans.” – The Independent

> Today: Priti Patel MP’s column – Labour’s threat to you, your family and the country

Umunna criticises the rise in zero-hours contracts

“Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, attacked the government after the revised figures released by the Office for National Statistics found that 582,935 workers were on the contracts in 2013. … The big increase in the figures, which is three times higher than the number given for the year the coalition was formed in 2010, follows a change in the way that the ONS assesses zero-hours contracts.” – The Guardian

Huzzah! Pay rises all round for Co-op executives!

“The troubled Co-operative Group sparked outrage yesterday over plans to give senior staff ‘obscene’ pay deals despite the near collapse of its bank. … New chief executive Euan Sutherland is in line to get £3.66million – despite the fact that only last month he admitted that 2013 was ‘perhaps the worst year’ in the mutual’s 150-year history. … And a dozen senior executives will enjoy huge pay rises despite plans to cut 5,000 jobs and the biggest losses ever recorded by the group.” – Daily Mail

UKIP grandee encouraged MEPs to divert funds to the party coffers

UKIP glass“A leading member of the UK Independence party, which has railed against the European ‘gravy train’, has demanded its MEPs contribute £10,000 each from their parliamentary allowances and salaries towards the costs of the party’s British headquarters or risk being deselected. … Bown’s proposals prompted a furious response from the party’s MEPs, who feared they would be at risk of breaking the law if they diverted funds.” – The Guardian

  • “Ukip has become an important party in a fragmented British political scene. The more the light is trained on the party, the odder it is starting to appear” – Times editorial (£)

Will expat Scots be able to vote in the independence referendum?

“Alex Salmond may have acted illegally by denying expat Scots the right to vote in the independence referendum, a top lawyer has claimed. … Aidan O’Neill, an expert in European law, said the rules imposed by Scotland’s first minister had ‘good prospects’ of being overturned in court.” – Daily Mail

  • “Gordon Brown will on Monday call for the British constitution to be re-written to give binding protection to a more powerful Scottish parliament, able to set its own tax and welfare policies.” – The Guardian
  • “Andy Murray will not make his views on Scottish independence known because he does not want a repeat of the furore that followed his comments about the England football team.” – The Scotsman
  • “More than a third of Scottish firms may relocate outside Scotland in the event of independence, a poll suggests.” – The Guardian

And comment:

  • “Despite devolution, Britain and Scotland are still vastly over-centralised states.” – Chris Deerin, Daily Mail
  • “Artists in all disciplines, and the rest of us, will lose out by being only Scottish” – Brian Monteith, The Scotsman

Salmond demands an apology over radiation leak

SALMOND on Marr “Alex Salmond has demanded an apology from David Cameron for failing to tell Scottish ministers about a radiation problem at a nuclear submarine test reactor. … The first minister said the UK government had ‘disrespected’ Holyrood and the people of Scotland by not alerting the Scottish government to the problem for almost two years.” – The Guardian

Further claims about police misconduct

“Hillsborough campaigners may have been spied on by police through a centralised ‘tapping unit’, a leading lawyer has claimed. … Elkan Abrahamson has lodged a series of complaints with the police watchdog over the claims. … The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) confirmed it has received three referrals about officers spying on campaigners following the 1989 tragedy in which 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives.” – Daily Mail

  • “The Met’s problem isn’t bad apples, it’s the whole barrel. Abolish it” – Owen Jones begins a new column in The Guardian
  • “Corruption: the cancer that’s killing the Met” – Melanie Phillips, The Times (£)
  • “The police are stretched, mistrusted and in need of reform” – Peter Neyroud, Financial Times

News in brief

  • FBI fears that terrorists destroyed missing airliner – The Times (£)
  • A fourth runway at Heathrow would block flight paths to other airports, claims report – The Times (£)
  • Oxford and Winchester are the least affordable cities in the UK – Daily Mail
  • Bookies slash odds on a royal engagement, between Prince Harry and Cressida Bonas, this year – Daily Telegraph
  • Suicide bomber kills at least 45 people in Iraq – The Guardian
  • Surprise, surprise: Kim Jong-un wins 100 per cent support in North Korean vote – The Guardian