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Fears of a fracturing of Libya‘s opposition heightened after units loyal to the ruling National Transitional Council stormed the base of what it said was a renegade unit in the rebel capital, Benghazi.
Four fighters were killed and six wounded in the attack on the al-Nidaa Brigade, blamed for Thursday’s assassination of army commander Abdul Fatah Younis.
NTC spokesman Mahmoud Shammam said the attack on the base was ordered two days after the brigade, which officials claim is Islamist, attacked two Benghazi jails, freeing more than 200 inmates.
“Thirty men surrendered and we took their weapons,” Shammam said. “We consider them members of the fifth column,.”
One unverified rumour in Benghazi is that the al-Nidaa brigade received secret coded orders communicated through an announcer, Yusef Shakir, on Muammar Gaddafi‘s Libyan state television.
Three Libyan state TV transmitters were bombed by Nato on Saturday night. Gaddafi’s regime claimed three journalists were killed and a further 15 people wounded. “We are not a military target,” said Libyan government spokesman Khalid Bazelya. “We are not commanders in the army and we do not pose a threat to civilians.”
However, the Ministry of Defence defended the attack on the transmitters. He said: “This strike was an attempt to disrupt the broadcast of Gaddafi’s murderous rhetoric, which has repeatedly sought to incite violence against fellow Libyans.”
Outwardly, foreign backers of the rebels insist the NTC is sound, with French defence minister Gerard Longuet saying that Paris was not pushing for an immediate resolution: “Impatience is never a good adviser.”
He insisted an end to the conflict rested with the people of the Libyan capital: “Things have to move in Tripoli. To put it clearly, the population has to rise up.”
Nerves remain frayed in Benghazi and questions remain over the role, if any, of NTC officials in the death of Younis, following an admission that he had been arrested for questioning on treason allegations just hours before his death.
In London, the defence secretary, Liam Fox, would not be drawn on which group may have been responsible for the assassination of Younis.
“It’s not yet clear who carried out the killing and there are claims and counter-claims,” he said. “It will be at least several days until we know exactly what the situation was. There has always been a mixture of people who make up the opposition forces in Libya – hardly surprising given the history of the country – and it would be for the Libyans themselves to sort out exactly how any power structure develops post-Gaddafi.”
Sir Menzies Campbell, former leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the killing raised questions about the stability of the NTC and demonstrated the need for a “wholesale” review of policy.
He told Sky News: “The assassination has thrown into fairly sharp focus the whole question of the transitional national council. What kind of government [it would be], for example, [if] it ever got to Tripoli.
“I also think that claims of success have always got to be taken with a certain amount of scepticism because it’s not about just taking ground temporarily, its taking it permanently. I’ve been saying I think we should take this period for a wholesale examination of policy.
“I supported the military action – I continue to support the British government’s involvement – but I think we have to have a pretty clearer view about what the NTC would be like were they ever to get to Tripoli.”
In stark contrast to the tension and uncertainty in Benghazi, rebel forces in both Misrata and the Nafusa mountains reported significant breakthroughs against government forces.
West of the besieged city of Misrata, rebel units aided by intensive Nato bombing broke through the front line in several places, advanced nine miles and captured abandoned tanks, artillery and truck-mounted grad rocket launchers near the town of Zlitan.
Four of the huge 155mm guns were seen by the Guardian being hauled by grad trucks from the front line late on Saturday night. Fierce fighting for Zlitan continued on Sunday, bringing the death toll of rebel fighters over the weekend to 23, with more than 100 wounded and three civilians killed in shelling of Misrata city.
Rebel commanders claim that government forces appear to be disintegrating in many sectors. “The resistance today was not that much. I don’t know, maybe he doesn’t have an army,” said Mohammed Elfituri of the Faisal (Sword) Brigade. “We thought that it would be hard work [but] we moved 15 kilometres.” Similar gains were reported by rebel units pushing north from bases in the Nafusa mountains, who say they have captured one town, Hawamid, and surrounded a second, Tiji, 150 miles south west of Tripoli.
The notion that maternity leave should be abolished is easy to dismiss as a ludicrous piece of “blue sky” thinking by one of the prime minister’s inner circle of trusted advisers. Steve Hilton, David Cameron’s director of strategy, is known for thinking the unthinkable. Portrayed as a maverick who wanders around No 10 in his socks, he is said to have nine mad ideas for every good one. A spoof website, The Steve Hilton Policy Generator, throws up suggestions such as “Return to VHS to abolish online piracy … just to see what happens” or “Make children sweep chimneys to make things more fun”.
No need to worry, then. “He comes out with this stuff all the time,” one senior Whitehall source said after news of the idea emerged last week. “He is madder than any of the caricatures around.”
But what then of the government’s cuts to childcare provision, Sure Start services and working tax credits? And what are women to make of recent research from the Fawcett Society, the gender equality group, which found those hardest hit by the triple whammy of cuts to jobs, benefits and services were single mothers?
Despite all the talk of family-friendly policies, and Cameron and Nick Clegg insisting on taking paternity leave and doing the school run, perhaps Hilton’s remarks are just further proof of the Conservatives‘ blind spot when it comes to motherhood.
“There are serious signs across the government not just of a carelessness about women’s lives but of an ideological approach which risks turning the clock back,” said Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary and minister for women. “It is hard to imagine anyone who has any idea about working mothers or their importance to the British economy proposing the abolition of maternity leave – unless, of course, they think mothers shouldn’t work at all.”
Cooper’s intervention could be passed off as party politicking, but even within the coalition there is some evidence that Hilton’s plan was following a direction of travel not entirely alien to the government. This month, the minister for equalities, Lynne Featherstone, a Liberal Democrat, publicly warned government departments and local authorities that they will be in breach of equality laws if they do not examine the potential for cuts to fall disproportionately on women. Last year the Fawcett Society said that of the £8.1bn in savings (from cuts to jobs, benefits and services) announced in the emergency budget of June 2010, £5.7bn, or 72%, was being borne by women, compared with 28% by men.
Featherstone rejects the “blind spot” thesis, but when asked to justify the fact that women were being hit hardest by public sector job cuts, she said: “You can’t make an omelette without cracking eggs.” Critics say there have been too many omelettes. Many families have seen their income fall thanks to changes to working tax credits and a lowering of the threshold for receiving them. The proportion of childcare costs that a parent can claim back from the government has already been reduced and the Observer revealed earlier this year that ministers are considering almost halving the childcare allowance for some parents. It would reduce the amount a family with two children can claim from £210 to about £120 a week.
There has been a £20m (28%) cut to Playbuilder funding, a Labour government programme to build more playgrounds. A 22% cut to funding for childcare provision and Sure Start, with the removal of ringfencing, has resulted in many councils withdrawing, scaling back or charging extra for services such as holiday childcare and leisure activities. Justine Roberts, co-founder of the website Mumsnet, said: “It seems rather ironic that the coalition government agreement included a promise to make our society more family-friendly. We’ve yet to see much evidence of this. Parents are struggling with some of the highest childcare costs in Europe, static wages and the prospect of reduced child benefit and tax credits for many.”
Siobhan Courtney, 28, who has a four-month-old son, Alban, has given up the job she loved as a television journalist because the numbers do not add up. She and her partner live in St Albans, Hertfordshire, and both work in London. “We are on the threshold and aren’t entitled to any tax credits,” she said. “If I send my son to nursery, I’ll be going to work just to cover his nursery fees and my commuting fares. That’s bonkers. Many new mothers I’ve met say the same. I’m going to freelance, but the trouble with ad hoc work is that you have to pay for childcare whether or not any work comes in. I don’t want to come across as some sort of middle-class, bleating woman but it does seem unfair. It’s a really tricky time.”
Luciana Berger, the Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree, said the squeeze on women and families was a constant topic of discussion in her constituency surgeries: “From cutting funding for childcare and working tax credits to closing Sure Start centres and changing the state pension – affecting women aged 56 and 57 particularly hard – this Tory-led government has systematically pursued policies that disproportionately affect women. I’ve been inundated with representations from female constituents.”
A year on from the coalition’s first budget, research from the Fawcett Society and the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that single mothers are the most affected and, after all the changes, can expect to lose 8.5% of their net annual income by 2015. Anna Bird, acting chief executive of the society, said: “Childcare is getting more expensive, incomes are falling and the tax credits that add to low income are being reduced. Single mothers are facing difficult decisions about whether they can afford to go out to work. These women want to be role models for their daughters too. It’s the role models we’ll lose that will have the biggest impact.”
One lone parent who is finding life a financial struggle is Victoria Hopkins, a human resources manager from West Yorkshire. “I would really like to see the government offering more assistance in the way of tax relief to single working mothers like myself,” she said. “I get no financial assistance from my daughter’s father because his business went into administration. My annual salary is £28,000, which I appreciate is OK, but by no means is it a huge wage. I have to cover my outgoings and on the weeks that my daughter is on school holidays I have to pay £130 a week for childcare. This equates to nearly £2,500 a year, and the contribution from the government via tax credits is £345 a year – pitiful.
“I am contributing to society by working, I am contributing to the economy through my taxes, I’m being a good role model for my five-year-old daughter. Where is the incentive for me to work? I’d be better of being a stay-at-home mum living off benefits. It’s ridiculous.”
Siobhan Freegard, co-founder of the website Netmums, calls women in this situation “ledgers”. “It sums up what a huge proportion of the working mothers who talk to us feel,” she said. “They are on this ledge where they are just coping but if one thing changes – for example, when they get a tax credit review and are told they are going to be £40 worse off, or they have to take unpaid time off because a child is sick, or there’s a snow day – it tips them off the ledge. We have women with jobs telling us they are worse off than if they didn’t work but they are hanging on because in a year’s time one child will start school and their childcare costs will fall.”
Sharon Hodgson, the Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West, said she believed the government was targeting women with children because they were the demographic least likely to vote. “The worst things they did last year, people have forgotten about. Getting rid of the child trust fund, the baby bond, the health in pregnancy grant, added to all the things they have done recently, is all targeted at women and families.”
Tory MPs reject the notion that the government’s way out of economic problems is to make women suffer more, and the latest intake of the parliamentary party insist that they are different from their predecessors. Certainly, they claim, there is no ideological motivation. “I would say this is more woman- and family-friendly than previous governments,” said Damian Hinds, the MP for East Hampshire. “It is probably an evolution over time, but also [the result of] having a man in Downing Street with a young family and Nick Clegg with a young family too. Of course, there have been cuts but I genuinely think there is a real will to address problems such as multigenerational worklessness and dysfunctional households. The design of the new benefits system is an enormously ambitious project and there are obstacles we need to overcome but there is nothing ideological about this, not at all.”
Shortly after the coalition took power, Hilton spoke at a staff meeting in Downing Street. Described by one of those who attended as inspirational, Hilton stressed he was interested in three things: “Transparency, big society and family.”
The Fawcett Society said last week it was hugely encouraged by the Modern Workplace consultation, which is looking at extending the right to request flexible working and changing parental leave so fathers can take a greater role in their child’s first year. But perhaps the government should look to France for truly family-friendly policies. Mothers there are helped by free pre-schools, family allowances, tax deductions and four months of maternity leave on full pay. Or would this be too much for even the wackiest of blue-sky thinkers?
Louise Mensch can’t be having much of a holiday in Florida.
The Tory MP, who was forced to apologise to Piers Morgan after linking him to phone hacking, has been tweeting throughout the day after the journalist who challenged her over her drug-taking past surfaced this afternoon.
Perhaps I should say that David Jones has (sort of) surfaced. Jones, who challenged Mensch to say whether she had taken drugs with the violinist Nigel Kennedy while she worked at EMI in her twenties, appears to have sent an identical email to journalists. We were furnished with his email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Mensch’s PR adviser Tom Steiner. I blogged about this on Friday evening.
David Allen Green blogged at 5.30pm this afternoon that Helen Lewis-Hasteley, assistant editor of the New Statesman, received a reply from Jones after sending him an email. I received an identical email – the only difference was it began Dear Nick, as opposed to Dear Helen – at 2.18pm this afternoon. This is what it says:
Thank-you for your message.
The people who passed me this information about Mrs Louise Mensch were concerned that:
1. Louise Mensch supports the criminalisation of the drugs trade. They feel that Mrs Mensch may have further questions to answer with regard to the type of drugs she took. Their feeling is that the blogger jd-baker summed up the situation better than any other report from yesterday or today. “The only gripe I have with Louise Mensch is that she still supports criminalisation of the drugs trade. As such she is saying that young people such as her former self should have their lives ruined by a criminal conviction, and possible custodial sentence. Would her life have panned out in the same way with such a tarnish on her record? If not then how can she condone this happening to other people? In supporting criminalisation she sadly defends a policy that has failed to effectively tackle addiction rates, or associated criminal behaviour.”
2. Louise Mensch is part of a committee looking into law-breaking. The taking of drugs is also serious illegal activity, one that kills and destroys millions of lives each year.
It is encouraging we live in a country with a free press, where illegal activity can be published.
The blog cited by Jones was posted today on the site: A blog from Royd by James Baker. So Jones is saying that the views of the “people” who prompted him to email Mensch on 22 July were summed up in a blog posted eight days later.
Mensch issued a quick response to the Jones email. This is what she told David Allen Green:
This is wholly disingenuous. My comments on drug use were posted yesterday, after this expose; as a search of Hansard will confirm, I have never spoken about drugs prior to this story.
Secondly, what possible relevance does “Mr. Jones” points 2 or 3 in his email to me have to this excuse?
Thirdly, in using the name “David Jones” he is using the name of a well-known investigative journalist at the Daily Mail.* He additionally copied my Chief Whip, knowing who that person was and his email address, and the Chairman of my party. Those are actions of a journalist, who would understand such things.
His defence of a “free press” is nonsense. Let him state which paper or magazine was proposing to publish this story and let him give his real name and a phone number to the rest of the press.
I’ve just sent another email to David Jones asking him to respond to Mensch’s points.
Perhaps he will respond to Mensch with care. Nigel Kennedy told the Daily Telegraph that Mensch is a formidable opponent:
I am a socialist myself but do remember having some great times with my beautiful and very clever Right-wing friend when she was at EMI. Louise is pretty scary and I would warn anyone that it’s not a good idea to mess with her.
Kennedy will have his moment in the limelight a week tonight when he plays Bach in a “live and unplugged” late night concert at the BBC Proms. Perhaps he’ll use it as an opportunity to rally to the defence of his friend.
* I wrote this on Friday night about David Jones of the Daily Mail:
There was mystery about the identity of the journalist because the Daily Mail is understood to have established that the email had nothing to do with David Jones, a prominent writer on the paper. He is in Norway reporting on the aftermath of the shootings.
Oliver Letwin, the coalition’s policy minister, has revealed the government’s determination to instil “fear” among those working in the public sector, who he claimed had failed for the past 20 years to improve their productivity.
Letwin, architect of the coalition’s plans to reform public services, told a meeting at the offices of a leading consultancy firm that the public sector had atrophied over the past two decades.
In controversial comments angering teachers, nurses and doctors, he warned that it was only through “some real discipline and some fear” of job losses that excellence would be achieved in the public sector.
Letwin added that some of those running schools and hospitals would not survive the process and that it was an “inevitable and intended” consequence of government policy.
“You can’t have room for innovation and the pressure for excellence without having some real discipline and some fear on the part of the providers that things may go wrong if they don’t live up to the aims that society as a whole is demanding of them,” he said.
“If you have diversity of provision and personal choice and power, some providers will be better and some worse. Inevitably, some will not, whether it’s because they can’t attract the patient or the pupil, for example, or because they can’t get results and hence can’t get paid. Some will not survive. It is an inevitable and intended consequence of what we are talking about.”
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCSU), reacted angrily to Letwin’s comments, describing them as “nonsense”.
He added: “Public sector workers are already working in fear – fear of cuts to their job, pension, living standards and of privatisation. Far from improving productivity, the cuts are creating chaos in vital public services.”
Letwin was speaking at the launch of a liberal thinktank’s report at the London headquarters of KPMG, one of the biggest recipients of government cash, which won the first contract for NHS commissioning following the decision to scrap primary care trusts and further open the health service to private companies.
Letwin’s recent white paper on public sector reform had been dismissed as watered down earlier this month amid speculation that the Liberal Democrats had vetoed radical change. But Letwin said on Wednesday that he believed he was prosecuting “the most ambitious set of public service reforms that any government in modern Britain has undertaken”, adding that productivity had improved across the economy except in the public sector in the past 20 years.
A spokesman for the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said he did not know where Letwin had sourced his figures. However, an ONS analysis that works back to 1997, shows that productivity in public services fell on average by 0.3% a year between 1997 and 2008 because the level of inputs, such as staff and equipment, increased faster than the output, such as operations performed and numbers of pupils taught.
Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, said last night that she did not recognise Letwin’s portrayal of the public sector. “Death rates in hospitals have been falling, satisfaction levels have been rising,” she said. “What hasn’t changed is the Tories’ antipathy to public services. And the idea that the way to improve public services is to put fear into those who provide them is absolutely grotesque.”
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “It is widely acknowledged that there is a problem with productivity in public services. The government’s policy is to improve it and provide the best value for the taxpayer.”
About Albert R Hunt
Albert R. Hunt is the executive editor of Bloomberg News, directing coverage of the Washington bureau, which includes more than 250 reporters and editors. He hosts the weekly television show “Political Capital with Al Hunt” and writes a weekly column for Bloomberg and the International Herald Tribune.
More about Albert R Hunt
Third-Party Chestnut Won’t Fix Broken U.S. Politics: Albert
The disgust with Washington and the
U.S. body politic is palpable as Republican and Democrats play
petty games that imperil the nation’s full faith and credit.
With a system that looks broken, there are rising calls for
basic change. Predictably, an old saw, the need for a new party
and a centrist presidential candidate, is gaining new currency.
One plan, by a new political force, Americans Elect, aims to
enlist millions of citizens to vote online for a third-party or
independent candidate for president and to acquire ballot access
in all 50 states. One of the most influential American
columnists, Tom Friedman of the New York Times, embraced this
initiative, arguing that it could create a “radical center”
alternative in American politics, much in the same way that
Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) revolutionized the book business.
This is an idea whose time hasn’t come, and may never,
despite the understandable public revulsion with the nation’s
The most basic problem, one that often afflicts such
movements, is that it’s top down; find a charismatic
presidential candidate and all flows from there. If fundamental
change is the purpose, the emphasis instead should be on a
bottom-up approach to building local candidates and grassroots
infrastructure that subsequently could wage a serious
“Charismatic candidates can help, but if you want a
sustained movement there has to be a lot of work and effort
building at the local level, creating an institutional
structure,” says Edward H. Lazarus, who more than a quarter-
century ago co-wrote “Third Parties in America.”
There rarely has been a more charismatic candidate than
Teddy Roosevelt, he notes. TR ran as a Bull Moose independent in
the 1912 election, lost and not long afterwards “his movement
In 1992, the independent candidate Ross Perot received 19
percent of the presidential vote; this top-down effort to create
a Reform party failed miserably. Governors, such as Jesse Ventura of Minnesota, and Connecticut’s Lowell Weicker, were
elected as independents; they left no enduring legacy.
Third- or fourth-party movements aren’t unusual in U.S.
politics, from the Prohibitionists to the Communists.
Sustainability requires a rationale and support from a committed
slice of the electorate.
Some of today’s strongest advocates for an alternative
political force say there is an opening for a party that isn’t
beholden to special interests, governed from the center, a
position called common sense by some, a radical center by others.
Sounds interesting. Is there a middle-ground consensus, not
amply represented by Republicans or Democrats today, on the war
in Afghanistan, or Medicaid, or a carbon tax, or the
controversial social issues?
Actually, a more compelling case can be made that there’s a
vacuum for a populist neo-right-wing movement: one that is anti-
immigration, anti-Wall Street, anti-welfare state and opposes
foreign entanglements and aid. This would share little in common
with a common-sense centrist party.
Americans Elect is undeterred by these obstacles. This is a
well-intended group with a blue-ribbon advisory board that
includes a few top officials from both Democratic and Republican
administrations and prominent citizens such as Irv Hockaday,
former chief executive officer of Hallmarks Cards Inc., and
William Webster, a former director of the Federal Bureau of
The goal is to register, through the Internet, millions of
delegates who, next June, will nominate a presidential and vice-
presidential candidate and establish 15 to 20 major policy
“The American people know they’re not well served by
duopoly in the American political system, and with the Internet
and social media we can extend to politics the competition
that’s in other facets of our lives,” says Elliot Ackerman, the
chief operating officer of Americans Elect. The group says it
already has gathered 1.6 million signatures to get the ticket on
the California ballot and vows it will do the same in the other
Americans Elect stresses transparency, and vows to get away
from secret deals and smoke-filled rooms. Yet it changed its tax
status and doesn’t disclose the identities of all of its funders.
“We’re playing by the rules,” says Ackerman, who adds that all
of the money goes to the organizing effort, not to the eventual
They have no intention of fielding candidates at any level
below the national ticket. “We think the focus has to be on the
level of leadership at the national level,” says Kahlil Byrd,
the group’s CEO.
Certainly, the debate over the debt fiasco fuels the
contempt and disdain that many Americans feel for Washington.
Veteran politicians of both parties say they can’t remember a
time when the system was more broken.
America’s two political parties are too often captives of
narrower interests and a my-way-or-the-highway base. That flaw
afflicted Democrats a generation ago, and today the central
cause of political dysfunction are the unyielding, out-of-the-
mainstream elements of the Republican Party that often call the
Sharp disagreements, disputes and divides are healthy in
democratic societies. The debt ceiling, however, isn’t the stuff
of earlier battles over war and peace, or civil rights or the
New Deal. And when it comes to unsustainable deficits, Democrats
and Republicans both are culpable.
Still, for more than a century and a half, these two
parties have served America well, creating a more stable
political system than most democracies. Sometimes they have
benefitted from independent or third-party movements, absorbing
ideas and disaffected voters.
It may be that this time, one or both these parties have
gone too far and the new technology affords opportunities for
sweeping change. If so, independent or third-party advocates
should focus next year on electing hundreds of state legislators,
dozens of members of Congress and perhaps even a statewide
office holder or two. That might provide the start of the
necessary infrastructure of a new movement, or force the major
political parties to adapt.
That’s less sexy and a lot tougher than tapping someone to
run a quixotic campaign for president. It also is more serious.
(Albert R. Hunt is the executive editor for Washington at
Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
To contact the writer of this column:
Albert Hunt in Washington at
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Max Berley at email@example.com.
Opinion Former News
PCS: Strong unions needed to prevent another phone hacking scandal
At its meeting today (14) the Public and Commercial Services union’s national executive committee agreed the following statement about the ongoing phone hacking scandal engulfing News International:
Unlock Democracy: 3,500 people ask police to widen inquiry on press intrusions
A growing number of people have cosigned a letter to Assistant Police Commissioner Cressida Dick asking for clarification of the role of Operation Weeting and Operation Tuleta, and calling for the Metropolitan Police to widen their investigation to all reported incidences of illegal media intrusion.
RHA News – RHA Road Shows – Dates and Venue
From September until November 2011, the Road Haulage Association, supported by Iveco, will be running a series Road Shows focusing on the latest compliance issues affecting UK road hauliers.
The row over phone-hacking has widened dramatically, with the police now investigating computer hacking in addition to their pre-existing inquiries.
Gordon Brown has hit out against Rupert Murdoch and the broader media, in an extraordinary Commons intervention.
The judge leading the inquiry into phone-hacking has pledged to compel witnesses to provide statements and relevant documents “as soon as possible”.
Related Analysis and Comment
Read Ed Miliband’s speech on phone-hacking in full on politics.co.uk.
Read the prime minister’s full statement on the phone-hacking inquiry and see the full terms of reference.
Follow all the twists and turns of another dramatic day in Westminster with politics.co.uk’s live phone-hacking blog.
Sunday, 31 July 2011 11:19 AM
By politics.co.uk staff
Alleged instances of computer-hacking will now be assessed by police alongside the ongoing phone-hacking investigation.
Operation Tuleta will take place while Operation Weeting continues, allowing police to look into claims that Trojan emails were used to extract information from individuals.
“Operation Tuleta is currently considering a number of allegations regarding breach of privacy, received by MPS [the Metropolitan police] since January 2011, which fall outside the remit of Operation Weeting, including computer hacking,” a spokesperson from Scotland Yard said.
“Some aspects of this operation will move forward to a formal investigation. There will be a new team reporting to DAC Sue Akers [lead on Operation Weeting]. The formation of that team is yet to take place.”
The decision to expand the investigation means three police inquiries are now taking place at once. The third, Operation Elveden, is currently looking into payments to the police from journalists in return for information.
Trojan emails infect a recipient’s computer with a virus that can give the hacker remote access to files.
- phone hacking
‘If I want to read a book, I write one,” said Benjamin Disraeli, the first political “outsider” to become Tory prime minister. Few of those to follow Disraeli into the House of Commons over the last century and a half can have taken that Victorian lesson to heart as strongly as Kwasi Kwarteng. That the new MP will have no fewer than three books coming out in the space of a month, just a year and a half into his parliamentary career, suggests that this self-styled “black Boris” (as in Johnson) also sees scribbling as a route to the top of the greasy pole.
Kwarteng is often said to be a very different type of Tory, though this is almost entirely due to his Ghanaian parentage. In most respects, his background is as traditional as it gets, his path from Eton through Cambridge resembling the histories of the imperial administrators whom he sketches in his new book Ghosts of Empire, to be published by Bloomsbury next month.
Kwarteng’s father was educated in what was then called the Gold Coast, in a leafy Anglican school emulating the English public school, down to its Winchester-educated English headmaster, becoming an administrator of post-imperialism as a Commonwealth Secretariat economist. Kwasi, born in London, was sent away to board at prep school at eight. “Probably too young, but I loved it,” he has said.
As his book revisits the Victorian confidence which made the empire, its author has rarely been thought short of confidence himself. “Scholars’ house at Eton was a competitive intellectual hothouse,” said one contemporary. “But everyone said that probably the greatest brain of the lot was the guy with the extraordinary name.” Kwarteng’s interview at Trinity College, Cambridge, became the stuff of an oft-retold Eton school legend. A relatively young tutor ended a slightly nervy interview by mentioning that this was his first time interviewing entrance candidates. “Oh, don’t worry, sir, you did fine,” smiled the 18-year-old Kwarteng reassuringly.
He proved less unflappable as a University Challenge contestant two years later, swearing: “Oh f****, I’ve forgotten” after buzzing in. Somehow it was missed by the production team. Cue viewer complaints and a starring role for Kwarteng in a “Rudiversity Challenge” news story on page three of the Sun no less. It proved a very minor glitch. Kwarteng’s friends were not surprised when the college quiz quartet ended the series as national champions, another accolade for this habitual acquirer of school and university prizes. But Kwarteng’s reputation was as a rather personable swot, enjoying arguments over the dinner table, combining charm with the impression of being better read than everybody else.
After a masters as a Kennedy scholar at Harvard, and a Cambridge PhD in economic history, he went to work as a fund manager, but the scholarly bug still bit. Ghosts of Empire seems unlikely to join a recent fashion for historical pro-empire boosterism. Kwarteng is billed to speak in a London debate this autumn against the motion that “Britain’s former colonies should stop blaming the empire for their ills”, the Tory MP taking what would traditionally be the left’s line. Kwarteng’s instinctive position is on the fence of such a polarised debate, less interested in “good thing” versus “bad thing” polemics about empire and more in the value of studying how we became the societies that we are today.
“This is his first book,” says Bloomsbury’s jacket and publicity material preparing for the 15 August launch. But it may take a photo-finish to verify that. In its riverside offices last week, rival publisher Biteback received the first copies of another Kwarteng tome, Gridlock Britain, a wonkish polemic about Britain’s transport problems. Kwarteng, a member of the transport select committee, believes in markets rather than integrated planning and demands road pricing on the eyecatching ground that tax-funded free roads represent the last gasp of “socialism”.
On the very same day that his other new book was winging its way to Kwarteng, the MP’s office was submitting, just a few days late, the manuscript of After the Coalition, a book with which seven members of the Tory class of 2010 will seek to make the party conference weather this autumn. He has been a key player behind the book, alongside Liz Truss MP; he pitched the book for publication and has been the point man in its co-ordination.
Kwarteng is economically “dry”, but his politics are less clearly defined than others in the group, such as the independent-minded rightwinger Priti Patel or the formidable lawyer Dominic Raab. (Charlie Elphicke, Brandon Lewis and Chris Skidmore, another historian, complete the group). Unusually, all seven MPs will claim joint responsibility and do not plan to reveal who has written which chapter, in an attempt to pitch a coherent manifesto.
It is a calculated gamble. Those who present themselves as the voice of a new generation must have plenty to say. They want to talk to their own party about the radical reforms they might attempt without those pesky Lib Dems to placate, though Kwarteng will be among those keeping an ambitious eye on the Downing Street reaction.
There is nothing new about a non-white Conservative MP. In 1895, Sir Mancherjee Bhownagree won Bethnal Green with a strongly pro-empire pitch. But it took a century to elect his successors. Beyond Nirj Deva’s brief spell in Parliament after 1992, it took two Conservatives of Asian origin breaking through in 2005 to diversify the all-white benches. David Cameron has been eager to promote proof that the party has changed, but MPs worry about being pigeonholed by tokenism. The answer to this conundrum has been strength in numbers. After the 2010 election, there are no longer two non-white Tory MPs but more than a dozen, liberated to be able to strike a wide variety of approaches in engaging (or not) with race, and the range of issues that motivated each of them to enter politics. The declining novelty value may dampen the tendency to hail any black politician as our first black prime minister in the quest to identify a “British Obama”.
Kwarteng cannot complain that his selection as a Tory candidate was reported with references to the “black Boris”, since his own campaign team had enthusiastically propagated the label, his friendship with his fellow old Etonian featuring in his pitch to a “primary” selection meeting of 400.
Strength in numbers brings its challenges too. The Tory class of 2010 – with nearly 150 new MPs – is a great competitive hothouse, especially once MPs start thinking about boundary changes that will shrink the Commons.
Kwarteng has a little work to do to stand out in this highly talented cohort. Despite his multiple volumes, foreign affairs specialist Rory Stewart appears the most academically gifted, a mixed political blessing, while Louise Mensch has been the loyalist with the highest media profile.
Many new Tory MPs are remarkably confident in disdaining the traditional route of leadership loyalty. Few now see getting a junior ministry in an overcrowded coalition as a way to win definition in the party. Kwarteng has been a confident Commons performer, though some thought him a little too eager to assist the whips with helpful questions. More than a quarter of the class of 2010 have already rebelled against the whip, though Kwarteng has yet to blemish his loyalty copybook.
Is the “black Boris” tag that apposite? He is a more diligent character, keener on the library than the Bullingdon. “He reminds me more of Ken Clarke than Boris, with a confidence to argue any point in the Commons, whether you feel he believes it or not,” says one MP.
Other contrasts may prove to Kwarteng’s advantage too. Johnson has thrived as a directly elected London mayor but, like Ken Livingstone, struggled in the Commons, having been famous before he arrived.
Kwarteng has built an impressive reputation, trusted on the inside, though remaining off the radar of a surprising number of Westminster players. His habit of being seen in the tea rooms with grandees and senior MPs reminds one colleague of the quiet, assiduous networking of John Major. He is thought to have his eyes on the whips’ office too, though publishing books is not the usual route in.
With such a crowded field wanting to be noticed as the voice of this Tory generation, a name to remember won’t do any harm.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2011
In a nearly useless face-saving maneuver, House Speaker John Boehner managed to twist enough arms to narrowly pass his bill that was instantly rejected in the Senate.
Was there any point to this? If so, what was it? Since everyone knew his plan would be rejected in the Senate, why bother?
The only conceivable answer is to save face, but how much face could possibly have been saved when Boehner had to twist the arms of every Republican to narrowly pass his gaseous proposal?
As long as his proposal was going to be rejected anyway, Boehner would have been better served to come up with a rock-solid plan that Republicans would have loved to sign.
If Boehner wanted to make a statement, that would have done it. Instead, Boehner came out looking like a limp dishrag.
Senate Quickly Kills Boehner Debt Bill
The New York Times reports Senate Quickly Kills Boehner Debt Bill
After a 24-hour delay and concessions to conservatives, the House on Friday narrowly approved a Republican fiscal plan that the Senate quickly rejected in a standoff over the federal debt ceiling that was keeping the government on a path to potential default.
Demonstrating the deep partisan divide coloring the budget fight, the House voted 218 to 210 to approve the plan endorsed by Speaker John A. Boehner to increase the federal debt ceiling in two stages. No Democrats supported the measure; 22 Republicans opposed it. The White House condemned it as a “political exercise.”
In the Senate, Democrats filed a motion on Friday that started debate, running down the procedural clock while Republicans expressed their opposition. The first vote on overcoming the procedural hurdles would come early on Sunday. Unless the Democrats can win over enough Republicans to cut off debate and move to approve the Reid bill or some variant, the Republicans would be forced to hold the floor continuously, awaiting some kind of deal.
The main legislative focus was on the search for an acceptable “trigger” that would guarantee that no second installment of a debt limit increase would be provided without consideration of further spending cuts or program policy changes. Democrats say they are willing to allow a new special committee to consider sweeping deficit reduction and tax policy changes but want the debt limit increase assured; Republicans do not want President Obama to get a second increase without meeting some standard, which would be passage of a balanced budget amendment through Congress under the new House plan.
Notice that the New York Times in the very first paragraph repeated the Obama hype regarding defaults. The odds of default at this stage are roughly zero%.
I discussed that at length on Thursday in Not Raising the Debt Ceiling Would be Blessing; Debt Limit Analysis; Interactive Map, You Decide What Not To Pay
Contrary to popular belief, the US would not default. Troops would still be paid. Medicare and Medicaid would not stop. The Bipartisan Policy Center has a nice analysis in a PDF on Debt Limit Analysis.
Obama’s, Geithner’s, and Bernanke’s statements about default simply are not credible. Nor are threats of cutoffs to military pay or Social Security. Indeed those totals allow Medicaid and Medicare to be paid. ….
Idle Threats and Fear Mongering
Caroline Baum repeated my message on Friday in Obama, Geithner May Regret Threats of Default
The Treasury is not going to default in August, nor in subsequent months for that matter. An estimated $172.4 billion of tax revenue next month is more than enough to cover the $29 billion of August interest payments. For fiscal 2011, which ends Sept. 30, the Treasury is expected to take in revenue of $2.2 trillion, while only $214 billion is needed to service the debt.
And even if it lacks the authority for new borrowing, the Treasury can continue to roll over existing debt.
Instead of dangling the default threat every chance they get, Obama and Geithner should be telling the world that the U.S. has every intention, and the resources, to meet its debt obligations. They should shout it from the rooftops, put a banner on the Treasury Direct website, and use the Sunday talk shows to reassure investors, not frighten them.
The administration’s stated desire to remove the uncertainty hanging over the economy flies in the face of their saber-rattling. Why, one might even conclude that they are — perish the thought — playing politics with the debt ceiling!
Fear Card vs. Common Sense
Notice the common sense approach of Caroline Baum vs. that of Geithner, Obama, and Bernanke. Yes, a default would be a monstrous disaster. However, we are months, not days away from that.
Why Republicans do not call the president on his fear-mongering is certainly a mystery. Are Republicans that bamboozled by Presidential BS?
One of the more interesting political posts of the week is The Great Divide by Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer.
We’re in the midst of a great four-year national debate on the size and reach of government, the future of the welfare state, indeed, the nature of the social contract between citizen and state. The distinctive visions of the two parties — social-democratic vs. limited-government — have underlain every debate on every issue since Barack Obama’s inauguration: the stimulus, the auto bailouts, health-care reform, financial regulation, deficit spending. Everything. The debt ceiling is but the latest focus of this fundamental divide.
The sausage-making may be unsightly, but the problem is not that Washington is broken, that ridiculous ubiquitous cliche. The problem is that these two visions are in competition, and the definitive popular verdict has not yet been rendered.
I have every sympathy with the conservative counterrevolutionaries. Their containment of the Obama experiment has been remarkable. But reversal — rollback, in Cold War parlance — is simply not achievable until conservatives receive a mandate to govern from the White House.
Consider the Boehner Plan for debt reduction. The Heritage Foundation’s advocacy arm calls it “regrettably insufficient.” Of course it is. That’s what happens when you control only half a branch. But the plan’s achievements are significant. It is all cuts, no taxes. It establishes the precedent that debt-ceiling increases must be accompanied by equal spending cuts. And it provides half a year to both negotiate more fundamental reform (tax and entitlement) and keep the issue of debt reduction constantly in the public eye.
Obama faces two massive problems — jobs and debt. They’re both the result of his spectacularly failed Keynesian gamble: massive spending that left us a stagnant economy with high and chronic unemployment — and a staggering debt burden. Obama is desperate to share ownership of this failure. Economic dislocation from a debt-ceiling crisis nicely serves that purpose — if the Republicans play along. The perfect out: Those crazy Tea Partyers ruined the recovery!
Why would any conservative collaborate with that ploy? November 2012 constitutes the new conservatism’s one chance to restructure government and change the ideological course of the country. Why risk forfeiting that outcome by offering to share ownership of Obama’s wreckage?
Refreshing Talk of Keynesian Gamble
It is marvelously refreshing to see a mainstream media writer trashing Keynesian nonsense. That paragraph alone makes me want to stand up and salute.
However, after careful reconsideration I still come to the conclusion Boehner screwed up badly.
- Boehner wanted to compromise, announced a compromise, then walked out on talks with Obama.
- Boehner submitted a $3 trillion deficit cutting package the CBO said came in at mere $850 billion. The Tea Party rejected his proposal and rightfully so.
- The best Boehner could do in a rework of that bill was to come up with a total of $950 billion.
- Boehner announced he had votes for passage. In a feat of massive humiliation, Boehner could not twist enough arms to secure passage.
- Boehner lost whatever credibility he had in that pathetic set of maneuvers.
- In a face-saving attempt, Boehner was barely able to scrape up enough votes to pass a bill on Friday that was immediately rejected by the Senate
Those are the indisputable facts of the matter and I covered them at length in the following set of posts.
- Not Raising the Debt Ceiling Would be Blessing; Debt Limit Analysis; Interactive Map, You Decide What Not To Pay
- Boehner’s Credibility Gone in Revised Proposal; Boehner Tells Congress to “Get Your Ass in Line”; Best Deal Republicans Can Get?
- Boehner Humiliated, Cancels Vote, Stock Futures Tank; Stocks and Treasuries Unusually Correlated
No one knows for sure whether Obama can win another election or not. If he does win, Republicans will probably not get another chance at 3-1 spending cuts vs. tax hikes.
Indeed, unless Republicans win a filibuster-proof Senate and the Presidency they may not get another chance.
Many contend the chance was an illusion, that Democrats were not really offering 3-1 cuts. They are correct.
However, nothing was stopping Republicans from making sure the cuts were real. Moreover, and as I have stated many times, Obama said he was willing to make “hard choices”.
Republicans did not even put Obama to the test. In return for $1 trillion in tax hikes, Republicans could have asked for virtually anything.
Deal of the Century
I would gladly trade $1 trillion in tax hikes for …
- The scrapping of Davis Bacon
- The end of collective bargaining of public unions
- National right-to-work laws
Would Democrats have gone along? If not, Obama and the Democrats would have been seen as the deal-killers, not Republicans. If the Democrats accepted, it would have been well worth it.
Instead, no one knows what will happen in the next election, and Republicans will likely compromise on some meaningless plan that will not do a damn thing to fix the deficit.
Unless some miracle happens, the Republicans flat out blew it, and Boehner is one of the reasons. He may not be the next speaker, even if Republicans retain the House.
Mike Shedlock / Mish is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management . Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction.
Visit Sitka Pacific’s Account Management Page to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.
When not writing about stocks or the economy I spends a great deal of time on photography and in the garden. I have over 80 magazine and book cover credits. Some of my Wisconsin and gardening images can be seen at MichaelShedlock.com .
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The new sure sign of a star’s arrival? A perfume. Even teen heartthrob Justin Bieber is pitching a scent.
Bieber pitching perfume, says it’s a scent he likes on girls
Macy’s Herald Square is teeming with tweenage girls this muggy, late June afternoon. One of them, Miranda Santiago, has chosen to spend part of her vacation from Argentina camped outside the store, near a life-sized cardboard cutout of singer Justin Bieber promoting his just-released fragrance for women, Someday. Never mind that most of the “women” here today are in middle school.