Cameron: Militants in Iraq and Syria pose a grave threat to Britain

Cameron1“Militants in Iraq and Syria pose the gravest threat to Britain today, David Cameron has warned. … The Prime Minister said the police service and spy agencies have been ordered to focus their efforts on the Islamic insurgents, particularly those returning to Britain. … It comes after MailOnline revealed more British citizens have signed up to fight in Iraq and Syria than joined the Army Reserve last year. … Several hundred Britons have travelled to the region to join militants in fighting, but just 170 extra reservists enlisted over the past year.” – Daily Mail

  • “In a surprise announcement, William Hague told MPs Britain is reopening its embassy in Tehran after three years.” – The Sun (£)
  • “Police are on heightened alert for terror plots directed or inspired by the jihadist group leading the brutal campaign of violence in Iraq, the country’s most senior counterterrorism officer said yesterday.” – The Times (£)
  • “Since 2012 the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, (known as Isis) has issued annual reports, outlining in numerical and geographical detail its operations…” – Financial Times
  • “Tony Blair has raked in up to £20 million from work linked to the Middle East since he quit as Prime Minister — despite claims he helped create the region’s current crisis.” – The Sun (£)
  • “American special forces have captured one of the suspected ringleaders of the 2012 terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi” – The Times (£)

And comment:

  • “Foreign Secretary William Hague defends the former prime minister’s warmongering. … Isn’t this typical of a Foreign Secretary who appears increasingly detached?” – Daily Mail editorial
  • “David Cameron says the 400 Britons fighting alongside the maniacs rampaging through Iraq are the greatest danger to our country. … He’s right.” – Sun editorial (£)
  • “The US cannot afford to abandon Mr Maliki at this moment.” – Financial Times editorial
  • “Britain should have insisted on compensation for damage inflicted on its Tehran embassy before reopening it” – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • “A thaw in diplomatic relations with Iran is a silver lining” – Independent editorial
  • “Iraq is slipping over the edge into a future dominated by sectarian massacres and counter-massacres…” – Patrick Cockburn, The Independent
  • “Our Middle East policy is mired in confusion” – Con Coughlin, Daily Telegraph

> Today: Rehman Chishti MP on Comment – We shouldn’t work with Iran in Iraq until or unless it gives up terror

> Yesterday: Garvan Walshe’s column – Seven mistakes to avoid over Iraq

The Prime Minister deals with China over nuclear power stations and HS2

CHINA flag“China is to be allowed to design, own and operate a new generation of nuclear power stations in Britain despite concerns about  the implications for national security. … A deal signed yesterday during a visit by China’s premier Li Keqiang will let Chinese state-owned nuclear firms control British power plants if they meet the requirements of regulators. … Mr Li and David Cameron also agreed that the £50billion HS2 high-speed rail project could involve massive Chinese investment.” – Daily Mail

  • “Li Keqiang has become the latest world leader to oppose Scottish independence, with the Chinese premier using his first trip to London to back a ‘strong, prosperous and united United Kingdom’.” – Financial Times
  • “Britain is an ‘eccentric’ and ‘petty’ empire in decline that criticises China in order to mask its own deficiencies, a Chinese newspaper claimed on Wednesday as Li Keqiang, the country’s prime minister, began day two of his UK tour.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “A scientist working on a new power source has agreed an out-of-court settlement with Britain’s atomic agency after claiming they sacked him because his research could halt global warming.” – Daily Mail

And comment:

  • “On arrival at the Foreign Office, I had somehow managed to get into the wrong slipstream and found myself in a queue of British ministers waiting to sign £14billion worth of deals with China.” – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
  • “Chinese Premier Li turns on the charm as he inspects his new property” – Donald Macintyre, The Independent
  • “The world is still hooked on fossil fuels” – Hamish McRae, The Independent

And he also vows to fight Juncker’s appointment “to the end”

EU FLag“David Cameron has pledged to fight the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as the next president of the European commission ‘right up to the end’. … As UK officials admitted that the prime minister faces a tough battle, Britain suffered a fresh setback when it was confirmed that Italy will demand a relaxation of European austerity policies in return for agreement on the appointment.” – The Guardian

Good news for Osborne: Food costs are falling…

“The Office for National Statistics said grocery prices were 0.6 per cent lower in May than they were 12 months before, as inflation fell to its lowest level in nearly five years. … The first annual drop in food bills since March 2006 shows that the supermarket price wars are starting to cut costs at the checkout. … Analysts said the figures will ease the pressure on the Bank of England to push up interest rates.” – Daily Mail

  • “Mark Carney’s move from Canada to London cost the Bank of England nearly £200,000 – making him Britain’s first  £1million Governor.” – Daily Mail

Bad news for Osborne 1) …but livings standards still aren’t great

UK notes and coins“Britain’s poorest families are among the worst off in Europe, a shock survey revealed yesterday. … They are on a par with the most deprived households in the Czech Republic and Slovenia. … The poorest fifth of UK families are ‘much worse’ off than in other western European countries, the High Pay Centre think tank found.” – The Sun (£)

  • “The cost of an average house in the UK is ten time bigger than the average salary, rising to fourteen times bigger in the capital, according to the latest figures.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “Britain is in the grip of an invisible housing squeeze with millions of people living in homes that are too small for them, according to new research…” – The Independent
  • “Families are likely to be ripped off by £130 on their energy bills this year after wholesale costs plummeted, figures show.” – The Sun (£)
  • “Customer complaints to the big six energy companies have reached their highest-ever levels.” – The Guardian
  • “UK house prices rose by 10% over the last year, with a near-19% increase in London” – The Guardian

And comment:

  • “The Coalition has turned the economy around. But we hope they remember those still left behind.” – Sun editorial (£)

Bad news for Osborne 2) He’s accused of breaking Treasury rules

help-to-buy-logo-jpg“George Osborne broke his own department’s rules when introducing his flagship Help To Buy home ownership subsidy scheme, a report by an influential group of MPs has found. … Treasury guidelines state that new policies should be compared with possible alternatives to establish which is most effective, but a report by the Commons public accounts committee says the chancellor failed to do this.” – Financial Times

  • “Plans for a ‘bubble-free’ housing market with cheap homes and a fixed-rate sales return were proposed by a leading campaign group yesterday.” – The Times (£)
  • “A cross-party review of universal credit is being launched amid new evidence that funding for the project has been cut so severely that its original aim to provide incentives for people to get into work could be undermined.” – The Guardian

> Today:

Leadsom moots new banking reforms, including instant account-switching

LEADSOM Andrea blue“Banks could be forced by a future Conservative government to allow customers to switch current accounts immediately if a regulator’s analysis shows this is worthwhile, says Andrea Leadsom, the City minister. … Most banks oppose such a plan, saying it would cost the industry up to £10bn to update computer systems to accommodate the change. … Much will depend on the outcome of a cost-benefit analysis of full account portability by a new payments regulator” – Financial Times

  • “The 50-year-old mother-of-three has no illusions about the problems facing the City, which she must now oversee and regulate in her role as economic secretary.” – Financial Times
  • “The head of Royal Bank of Scotland’s unit for dealing with distressed loans to small businesses has clashed with MPs over whether the division was a ‘profit centre’ of the bank with staff incentivised to maximise its income.” – Financial Times

And comment:

  • “The Pope’s attack on capitalism shows he knows nothing about how the world really works” – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph

NHS 1) Hunt’s crackdown on health tourists

HUNT Doctor Carla Millar“The NHS loses almost £500million a year because hospitals treat foreigners for free, Jeremy Hunt revealed yesterday. … The Health Secretary launched a crackdown on the thousands of visitors and migrants who are treated on the NHS each year, but leave without paying. … Ministers estimate that they cost the health service between £1.8billion and £2billion a year, of which around £500million is thought to be recoverable.” – Daily Mail

  • “Cosmetic surgery such as breast enlargements, nose jobs and tummy tucks should no longer be made available on the NHS, Jeremy Hunt has said.” – The Independent
  • “Doctors must involve patients in life-or-death resuscitation decisions unless doing so would actively cause them harm, three senior judges have made clear” – Daily Telegraph

And comment:

  • “Drunks in A&E don’t deserve to be treated” – Sarah Vine, Daily Mail
  • “Here is one example of many as to why voters feel disconnected. It is because they are disconnected. Public services are so fragmented there are no clear lines of accountability.” – Steve Richards, The Guardian

NHS 2) Medical records for sale

“Millions of NHS medical records were sold to 178 firms including five insurance companies without sufficient checks, health officials admitted yesterday. … The ‘intensely private’ information includes dates of birth, postcodes and diagnoses and was used for such things as calculating insurance premiums. … Incredibly, the details of up to 1.3million patients effectively went missing on at least two occasions because no record was kept of which firms they were given to.” – Daily Mail

  • “More than 40 whistle-blowers report concerns about bad hospital care and problems in the NHS every day, the chief executive of the Care and Quality Commission has said.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “More than than a million people with a common heart condition have been told not to take aspirin to guard against stroke, in a reversal of previous NHS advice.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “The NHS has been declared the world’s best healthcare system by an international panel of experts who rated its care superior to countries which spend far more on health.” – The Guardian

NHS 3) Labour goes on the attack over finances

NHS“The government has lost its grip over the finances of the NHS after the ‘disastrous reorganisation’ of the health service led to a dramatic increase in the number of hopitals falling into deficit, Labour will claim on Wednesday. … New figures analysed by the shadow social care minister, Liz Kendall, show that more than one in three acute NHS trusts were in deficit in 2013-14, compared with just one in 10 at the last general election.” – The Guardian

  • “Patients should be charged up to £10 to see their GP, according to nurses. … They argue the fees would generate vital NHS funding while also deter patients from making appointments and then failing to show up.” – Daily Mail
  • “The NHS should look to Tesco and BMW for lessons on how to deliver care more cheaply and efficiently, according to a former health adviser to Tony Blair” – Financial Times

And comment:

  • “There is no such thing as free healthcare, and sooner or later NHS patients may have to accept that this means charging for doctors’ appointments” – Times editorial (£)

de Bois succeeds in his bid for tougher knife laws

DE BOIS Nick pink shirt“A crackdown will mean mandatory prison terms for anyone found carrying a blade for a second time. … The amendment tabled by Tory backbencher Nick de Bois was backed by a huge majority in the Commons – 404 to 53. … While Tory minsters abstained, and Lib Dems voted against, Labour and Tory MPs backed the crackdown.” – The Sun (£)

  • “The Lib Dems have a death wish. … It’s the only explanation for a party with catastrophically low poll ratings opposing a knife crime crackdown which will be universally popular and has a cast-iron justification.” – Sun editorial (£)

> Yesterday: Nick De Bois MP on Comment – To cut crime, we must stamp out the carrying of knives

Charles Moore on the retreat of freedom since the Thatcher years

“During the Thatcher era, her economic beliefs combined with the collapse of Soviet Communism, in which Ronald Reagan and she had such success, to change the movement of history. In her famous Bruges speech of 1988, she put it thus: ‘Freedom is on the offensive… for the first time in my lifetime’. … The number of democracies in the world, which grew all through the second half of the 20th century, has actually fallen in the 21st. Freedom is in retreat. High time, therefore, to give it some iron once again.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

  • “The Centre for Policy Studies’ Margaret Thatcher Conference on Liberty offers a timely reminder of the problem with the Labour Party” – Daily Telegraph editorial

> Yesterday:

In, out, shake it all about: Clegg could offer an EU referendum

EU Exit“Nick Clegg is on the brink of matching David Cameron’s pledge to hold an in-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, senior Liberal Democrats say. … The Deputy Prime Minister is understood to be considering a dramatic shift in his party’s position after the Lib Dem wipeout in last month’s European elections. … The move would leave Labour dangerously exposed as the only major party opposing an EU referendum.” – Daily Mail

  • “The Lib Dems would be much better to allow the British people a say and get out to make the case.” – Times editorial (£)
  • “So what exactly is wrong with second homes, Mr Clegg?” – Ross Clark, The Times (£)

> Yesterday: Stephen Tall’s column – Why I believe Nick Clegg should stand down as Liberal Democrat leader

Miliband’s new low

MILIBAND soulful“Ed Miliband has scored his lowest-ever personal popularity rating in the latest poll, with figures that suggested he was more unpopular than Nick Clegg. … In findings that indicate the Labour leader has paid the price for a series of unforced errors, his net satisfaction rating has fallen 14 points since last month. The difference between those who think he is doing a good job and those believing he is doing badly is now at minus 39 points.” – The Times (£)

  • “[Miliband’s] speech, in which the contours of a Labour society finally emerge from the fog of uncertainty, is being trailed as the end of the beginning. Should he fail to chart the route to a post-Beveridge Britain fit for the century ahead, tomorrow may instead be remembered as the beginning of the end.” – Mary Riddell, Daily Telegraph
  • “Don’t shoot the adviser. Ed’s the one to blame” – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times (£)

The new political class: Labour’s candidates for 2015

“About half of Labour’s candidates selected to fight in marginal seats at the next election have links to Westminster as former special advisers, party workers, researchers, lobbyists or MPs, research by the Guardian reveals. … The initial findings of a new project to map the backgrounds of candidates for 2015 suggests Labour and Liberal Democrats are choosing more from the political classes than the Conservatives, whose contenders are overwhelmingly male and drawn from business and finance.” – The Guardian

Commons committee pushes for longer school opening hours

School“Children should be kept in school for up to ten hours a day to help reverse the ‘real and persistent’ underachievement of white working-class pupils, an influential group of MPs says today. … In a major report, the Commons Education Select Committee said evidence suggested that longer school days could give pupils the equivalent of two months’ extra progress over an academic year.” – Daily Mail

  • “Qualifications in subjects such as woodwork, textiles and electronics will be dramatically toughened up to stop schools promoting ‘meaningless’ vocational courses, it has been announced.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “Many involved in the arts are convinced that Mr Gove is undermining the creativity and artistic flair on which the country’s future depends.” – The Times (£)

And comment:

  • “Seaside schools are struggling against the tide” – Alice Thomson, The Times (£)

I’m sorry, says Passport Office boss

“Passport Office boss Paul Pugh offered a belated apology yesterday and admitted he had considered resigning over the shambles. … Under hostile questioning from MPs, the chief executive – who is paid more £100,000-a-year – said he was ‘sorry’ for every case where service standards had not been met. … But he denied presiding over an organisation in chaos – and insisted a backlog of around 480,000 cases was ‘work in progress’.” – Daily Mail

  • “The backlog of UK passport applications waiting to be processed has reached nearly half a million, having risen by 200,000 in just three months, MPs have been told.” – Financial Times
  • “A junior civil servant has been fired for making offensive Wikipedia edits on a webpage about the Hillsborough disaster while at work, Francis Maude confirmed today.” – The Independent

Scotland Yard chief: Snowden has made the world a more dangerous place

Police shield“Cressida Dick said the former US National Security Agency contractor’s disclosures, printed by The Guardian newspaper, caused ‘enormous damage’ and ‘hand[ed] the advantage to terrorists’. … The Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner added: ‘The so-called Snowden revelations have made our work more difficult. The actions he took helped to signal to people who may try to do us harm  how to avoid surveillance and other techniques.” – Daily Mail

  • “GCHQ is allowed to spy on British citizens’ use of Facebook, Google and Twitter without an individual warrant because the firms are based overseas, it emerged last night.” – Daily Mail
  • “Police are under increasing pressure to record ‘playground high jinx’ as crimes, one of the country’s most senior officers said last night.” – Daily Mail

> Today: Henry Hill’s Red, White and Blue column – Young Scots deliver fresh rebuke to Salmond’s manifest destiny

Lutfur Rahman faces corruption claims

“Britain’s first directly elected Muslim mayor has been accused in the High Court of involvement in electoral fraud and illegally smearing an opponent. … Groups of people were paid to gather outside polling stations and persuade voters to back Lutfur Rahman on election day last month in Tower Hamlets, east London, an election petition claims.” – The Times (£)

Scotland’s referendum, dividing families

Scottish flag“Half a million Scots have fallen out with friends and family over whether their country should quit the UK, an exclusive shock poll for The Sun has revealed. … The YouGov survey also shows that one in eight of them are more likely to vote No to independence after JK Rowling was abused online by vile “Cybernat” trolls. … Ten per cent of Scots – around 500,000 – have rowed with those closest to them as the debate intensifies in the run-up to the September 18 referendum.” – The Sun (£)

  • “Sir John Major has accused the Scottish Nationalists of trying to exploit anti-English sentiment by staging the independence referendum in the same year as the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “Clan chiefs agree to stay neutral on independence” – The Independent
  • “Half of Scots believe that Holyrood will get more powers after a No vote in the referendum, a major study has found.” – The Scotsman
  • “BBC Scotland has been criticised for paying a Labour MSP to co-present a new programme which will debate key independence referendum issues.” – The Scotsman

News in brief

  • Twitter kills thoughtful reflection, says the Archbishop of Canterbury – Daily Mail
  • Have I Got News For You cleared over Prince Harry jibe – Daily Mail
  • Piers Morgan handed ITV contract after CNN dismissal – The Sun (£)
  • Al-Jazeera journalist released from Egyptian prison – The Guardian
  • Georgia carries out first US execution since botched Oklahoma lethal injection – The Guardian
  • Tornados ravage the American Mid-West – The Independent
  • Three guilty of plot to fix English football matches – Daily Telegraph
  • £750,000 fund for lost Glasgow School of Art work – The Scotsman

And finally 1) Boris and Paxo

Jeremy Paxman“Jeremy Paxman will bow out of Newsnight on a bicycle made for two with his old adversary Boris Johnson. … Paxman will present his last edition of the BBC Two programme on Wednesday night after 25 years at the helm. … As a goodbye gift, the Newsnight team have reunited him with the Mayor of London.” – Daily Telegraph

And finally 2) Gyles Brandreth on the perils of being an MP

“You just can’t win. Almost my last duty as a constituency MP was to unveil a plaque at a refurbished doctor’s surgery in my constituency. I turned up at the right time in the right place and said all the right things. Then I unveiled the plaque. It read: ‘This plague was unveiled by Gyles Brandreth MP.'” – Gyles Brandreth, Daily Telegraph