Massacre in Iraq: The UK starts to respond…

Iraq flag“Pictures posted on a militant website appear to show masked fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) forcing captives to lie down in a shallow ditch. … Further photos appear to show the bodies of the men soaked in blood after being shot. … William Hague, the foreign secretary, who spoke with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday, ruled out sending British troops into action, but said they could help Iraqi counterparts with ‘counter-terrorism expertise’. … David Cameron, the prime minister, spoke with the secretary general of Nato about the security situation in Iraq.” – Daily Mail

  • “As Islamic militants continue their bloody march across Iraq, the Obama administration announced plans for an unlikely allegiance with Iran as a way to provide a coordinated response to the violence.” – Daily Mail

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – Iraq: the limits of western responsibility. The limits of western power.

…as Blair comes in for further criticism, including from Boris

BLAIR EuropeFormer deputy PM John Prescott accused Mr Blair of trying to take the West ‘back to the Crusades’. … Tory MP Charlotte Leslie described Mr Blair’s views as ‘dangerous’. ‘Believing Blair on the Middle East feels about as safe and wise as referring patients to Harold Shipman,’ she said. … And Ukip leader Nigel Farage said the former Labour leader has become ‘an embarrassment’ and suggested his friends should urge him to take ‘an extended period of silence’.” – Daily Mail

  • “Sweeping gains by Islamist militants in Iraq prove that the west must intervene in Syria, Tony Blair said today” – The Times (£)
  • “Former UK prime minister Tony Blair has compared the alleged attempt by hardline Muslims to take over schools in Birmingham to the Islamist extremism practised by Nigerian terror network Boko Haram.” – Financial Times
  • “Sources close to Ed Miliband refused to endorse Mr Blair’s analysis.” – The Independent

And comment:

  • borisfringe“I have come to the conclusion that Tony Blair has finally gone mad. He wrote an essay on his website on Sunday that struck me as unhinged in its refusal to face facts. In discussing the disaster of modern Iraq he made assertions that are so jaw-droppingly and breathtakingly at variance with reality that he surely needs professional psychiatric help.” – Boris Johnson, Daily Telegraph
  • “He remains in complete denial over the disaster he inflicted not only on the people of Iraq, but also on many millions throughout the Middle East as a result of the 2003 invasion.” – General Sir Michael Rose, Daily Mail
  • “Tony Blair was only unstoppable because of a democratic flaw” – Chris Huhne, The Guardian
  • “Tony Blair has moved beyond parody in his latest attempt to absolve himself” – Ian Birrell, The Independent
  • “Assad’s enemies, whom Blair’s bombing of Damascus would have helped, now threaten Iraq” – Robert Fisk, The Independent
  • “Don’t panic! Don’t panic! Mr Blair says it’ll all be okay…” – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun (£)
  • “Britain is in denial over creeping Islamisation” – Melanie Phillips, The Times (£)
  • “Having Blair as peace envoy is an obscenity” – Daily Mail editorial
  • “Let’s not make Iraq even worse” – Independent editorial
  • “In the Middle East, pragmatism is wise” – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • “Once in, the occupiers could have done far more to remedy the deficiencies they had helped to cause. Instead, they compounded them. That is why we are in the situation we are in today.” – Guardian editorial

> Today: ToryDiary – Tony Blair, the Rector of Stiffkey

The current Prime Minister faces criticism, too: 1) From Dominic Cummings, over schools reform

School“Michael Gove’s closest ally has accused a ‘bumbling’ David Cameron of holding back the education secretary’s radical school reforms. … Dominic Cummings said that the prime minister’s failure to give greater support showed that he lacked ‘the slightest sense of purpose’ about what he wanted to achieve in government. … In an interview with The Times, he called Mr Cameron ‘a sphinx without a riddle’ surrounded by sycophants.” – The Times (£)

  • “Critics think that the education secretary is alienating the very people he needs to implement his revolution.” – The Times (£)
  • “The growth in private companies and voluntary groups providing public services poses ‘a live risk to ethical standards’, according to a government-appointed watchdog.” – Financial Times
  • “Schoolchildren as young as five as will be taught how to set up their own businesses and make profits under plans to be unveiled this week.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “Children taught to read using traditional methods are more than two years ahead of their peers, figures show, despite fears large numbers of schools shun the approach in favour of more ‘progressive’ teaching.” – Daily Telegraph

And comment:

  • “Conservative achievements in education have been steady and considerable but sweeping reform is still required” – Times editorial (£)
  • “Sorry, David Cameron, but your British history is not mine” – Owen Jones, The Guardian

> Today: The Deep End – Islamism is far from being the biggest extremist threat to our schools

And 2) From Dominic Lawson, over sexual violence in Britain

“Thus both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary posed with ‘Dame’ Angelina in Downing Street: David Cameron pledged to ‘protect victims and punish perpetrators of rape’ in countries such as Somalia and the Congo, while William Hague declared that rape as a weapon in war was the ‘moral issue for our generation.’ … It would be more realistic and useful if our most senior politicians put as much emphasis on the problem of sexual violence within our own society — and if our courts did more to protect those victims.” – Dominic Lawson, Daily Mail

  • “Forced marriage is ‘a tragedy for each and every victim’, home secretary Theresa May said as a new law outlawing the practice came into effect.” – The Guardian
  • “New laws coming into force which criminalise forced marriage could deter victims from coming forward because they do not want to see parents and family members jailed, campaigners have warned.” – Daily Telegraph

Cameron to meet the Chinese premier to discuss trade

CHINA flag“China’s premier will arrive in London today on a mission to change ‘mis-perceptions and misgivings’ about his country. … Mr Li is accompanied by Chinese business leaders and is expected to discuss up to £18 billion worth of deals, investments and memorandums of understanding. Several of these are likely to be in sensitive areas, such as energy, where China has encountered opposition elsewhere in the world.” – The Times (£)

  • “China and Britain are on a winning course” – Li Keqiang, The Times (£)

And he wants CCHQ to raise £100,000 a day to take on Miliband

“David Cameron has ordered Tory fundraisers to build a £30 million election warchest to keep Ed Miliband out of power. … Tory chiefs have been told they need to raise £100,000 a day between now and the election to pay for what is set to be the most expensive campaign for years. … Insiders say the demanding target is being achieved as entrepreneurs alarmed by Ed Miliband’s anti-business rhetoric reach for their chequebooks.” – Daily Mail

Osborne to fund free Normandy trips for D-Day veterans

OSBORNE SWORD“Veterans of the D-Day landings will receive public funding to make the annual pilgrimage to the Normandy beaches where they fought for our freedom, George Osborne will announce today. … The Chancellor has set aside money raised from fines on the big banks to ensure that veterans can continue making the trip to France each year for as long as their health allows. … Treasury sources said Mr Osborne had been moved to act by the scenes in Normandy earlier this month when around 650 veterans gathered with world leaders to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.” – Daily Mail

UK defence spending to fall below NATO target

“Figures drawn up by an independent consultancy and seen by the Financial Times show the UK’s military expenditure will hit 1.9 per cent of the size of the country’s economy by 2017, below Nato’s target of 2 per cent. … The analysis has been commissioned from within the British armed forces and will be used to bolster the case made by many of their senior members that cuts in the defence budget will endanger the close UK-US military partnership.” – Financial Times

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – Tax cuts versus defence versus austerity: Conservatism’s conflicting priorities

Javid indicates that the licence fee could be cut

JAVID Sajid BBC“The BBC licence fee could be cut after the Culture Secretary warned that it was a big expense for families and that ‘nothing should be ruled out’ when it is reviewed next year. … In the clearest signal yet that the Conservatives are preparing to overhaul the Corporation’s funding and governance if they remain in government after the general election, Sajid Javid said the annual £145.50 payment would be scrutinised.” – Daily Mail

Tax avoidance advisers should face prosecution, says Elphicke

“Lawyers and accountants who promote aggressive tax avoidance schemes should face criminal prosecution, according to a Conservative MP. … Charlie Elphicke, the MP for Dover and a former tax lawyer, has tabled a series of amendments to the Finance Bill that would make it illegal to help clients to invest in schemes designed to avoid tax.” – The Times (£)

John O’Sullivan: Today’s Tories have forgotten the need for hard thinking

“Many of our current problems are little better, sometimes worse, than under Harold Wilson or Jim Callaghan. Yet they continue under a largely Tory government because in Opposition it forgot the need for intellectual investment in new policy thinking or squandered it on modish fantasies. Worst of all, the fatalistic sense of inevitable national decline that we thought had been banished is creeping back. So there is a backlog of serious Tory re-thinking to be done and some uncertainty as to whether the current crop of Tories is either energetic or creative enough for the task.” – John O’Sullivan, Daily Telegraph

Clegg: Britain needs change

CURSE OF CLEGG one“Nick Clegg will promise that his party’s election manifesto will be written solely to highlight the big changes Britain still needs, and not with an eye to setting out plans that either Labour or the Conservatives might accept in a post election coalition negotiation. … In his remarks today, Clegg will argue that ‘more, not less change, is what Britain needs now’ as he states that ‘our manifesto will be about the future not the past’ because ‘Britain doesn’t want or need simply “more of the same.”‘” – The Guardian

  • “The initiative has sparked recriminations between the parties, with the Liberal Democrats accusing their Tory partners of a ‘vindictive attack’ designed to hamper union activities.” – The Independent

But the Lib Dem leader is embroiled in a cash-for-honours row

“Nick Clegg was embroiled in a fresh ‘cash-for-honours’ row last night after the extent of the party’s financial dependence on millionaire backers who have been made peers became apparent. … Of all cash donations to the party in 2012, more than £600,000 – or 40 per cent – came from just three wealthy supporters – and all three have recently been appointed to the House of Lords by Mr Clegg, a Daily Mail investigation found.” – Daily Mail

Davey hails plans to cut energy switching time to three days

“Energy firms could be landed with hefty fines if they fail to cut switching time to three days by the end of the year, Ofgem said today. … Energy secretary Ed Davey said ‘making the process much quicker will encourage more people to shop around, increasing competition and driving down energy bills’.” – City AM

Watson voices concern about Miliband’s “unforced errors”

Miliband Sun“Ed Miliband is making ‘unforced errors’ that are leaving Labour ‘in difficulty’, a senior MP warned last night. … Tom Watson, who was Labour’s deputy chairman until last year, said Mr Miliband’s controversial decision to pose for pictures holding a copy of the Sun newspaper last week was a ‘serious mistake’ that had damaged the party, particularly on Merseyside. … He hit out at the Labour leaders aides, saying that members of the Shadow cabinet were ‘worried’ about the performance of the team paid to advise him…” – Daily Mail

  • “Some of the most influential figures in Labour politics are people the public may not have heard of. … They are not, in the main, elected MPs, and all operate outside the glare of publicity. But they are core members of Ed Miliband’s team and if Labour wins the next general election they will wield formidable power in government.” – Financial Times
  • “Ed Miliband has called for a ‘proper investigation’ into alleged police malpractice during and after the most notorious confrontation of the 1984-85 miners’ strike, at the Orgreave coking plant 30 years ago this week.” – The Guardian

Cooper wants May to compensate those who paid the fast-track passport fee

“Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has called on the Government to repay the £55.50 fast-track fee many people have paid for their passports. … Despite Home Secretary Theresa May announcing measures to help clear the 30,000 passport backlog this week, including waiving the fast-track fee, a number of people had already paid the extra £55.50 to upgrade to the service.” – The Independent

Andrew Gimson responds to Labour’s policy for more paternity leave

GIMSON Andrew Krieg“Several times in recent weeks, fathers have said to me that they must go home to help their children prepare for exams. Some of these fathers have acquired such a command of the syllabus that it is a pity they are not themselves sitting the papers. … I cannot approve of such unremitting parental involvement in actual school work. Fortunately for her, our older daughter is in any case sitting exams in scientific subjects with which I am incapable of helping.” – Andrew Gimson, The Guardian

Scottish leaders to make joint appeal for No

“The Scottish leaders of the three main UK political parties are to appear together to show voters they are serious about transferring powers from London if Scotland rejects independence in September’s referendum. … The photo opportunity on Monday comes after three polls suggested a narrowing in the No camp’s lead, indicating that promises of more devolution have not yet had much impact.” – Financial Times

  • “Alex Salmond has announced plans for a local income tax in an independent Scotland despite warnings middle class families would face large hikes in their council bills.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “…the accusation highlighted a bitter dispute over online conduct that has for days dominated Scotland’s independence debate with just three months to go until the September 18 referendum.” – Financial Times

And comment:

  • “A Yes vote will give Scotland the opportunity to flourish, while a No vote may prove stifling” – Pat Kane, The Scotsman
  • “Public services after independence” – Brian Monteith, The Scotsman
  • “If the Conservative proposal for further Scottish devolution is the one finally adopted, this would not be the end of the matter. A shift to far greater fiscal devolution north of the border would have to be mirrored across the rest of the union.” – Financial Times editorial

Greens tracked by the police

Police shield“Two Green party politicians, including its candidate for mayor of London at the last election, have criticised police chiefs who recorded their political activities on a secret database that was set up to track campaigners deemed to be ‘domestic extremists’. Neither politician has a criminal record.” – The Guardian

  • “Police forces are not treating allegations of racism against officers robustly, a police watchdog has said after an investigation found less than one per cent of complaints to forces were upheld.” – Daily Telegraph

Calls for a “health tax” on fizzy drinks

“A tax could be put on fizzy drinks and biscuits could be emblazoned with health warnings in a new strategy to slash the nation’s sugar intake. … A report commissioned by a Government agency says that targeting soft drinks would be an easy option in the war on sugar. … It estimates that a 20 per cent tax on fizzy drinks – which would raise the price of a can from 70p to 84p – would cut the number of overweight Britons by more than a quarter of a million.” – Daily Mail

  • “A left-wing health group wants shops to weigh customers trying to buy booze, The Sun can reveal.” – The Sun (£)
  • “Figures obtained by The Telegraph show that hospitals have spent at least £5.5 million over the past three years to adapt allow them to treat larger patients.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “Pay and rewards for NHS managers have risen at four times the rate of nurses’ salaries in the past two years, a new report has revealed, as frontline staff accused the Government of ‘double standards’ over pay.” – The Independent
  • “An NHS boss was handed a £45,000 bonus – despite presiding over a scandal in which 800 suspected cancer patients were wrongly discharged from his hospital.” – Daily Mail
  • “Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is to meet six NHS whistleblowers who claim he is not doing enough to help them.” – Daily Telegraph

And comment:

  • “When authorities want to curb activities they disapprove of, they always turn to the same old blunt weapon. Tax rises.” – Sun editorial (£)

Tim Montgomerie: The Pope should give his attention to church, not state

MONTGOMERIE purple background“Last week Pope Francis linked the ‘idolatry of money’ to the youth unemployment scarring southern Europe. Personally, I blame the eurozone. … History will judge Francis on whether he overcomes his church’s blackest hour. His running commentary on world affairs must not distract him from what he must regard as his defining mission.” – Tim Montgomerie, The Times (£)

News in brief

  • Israeli Prime Minister accuses Hamas of kidnapping three teenagers – Daily Mail
  • Ukrainian President calls for new sanctions against Russia – Financial Times
  • US petroleum production hits a 44-year high – Financial Times
  • MP in tears after boyfriend dumps her by text message – The Times (£)
  • Both candidates in Afghanistan’s presidential election are trying to claim victory – The Guardian
  • Fifa investigates England 2018 World Cup bid over £35,000 payment – The Guardian
  • Parliament light show proposed to mark Magna Carta – Daily Telegraph
  • Prince George walks! – Daily Telegraph

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