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Newslinks for Monday 26th August 2013

8.30pm ToryDiary "One Cabinet member voiced the previously-made claim that Samantha Cameron influences policy on Syria. Another said that for Britain to be dragged into the conflict would be "mad"." The Commons must have a say on any strike against Assad

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5.30pm WATCH: We're clear that the Assad regime was behind last week's chemical attack, says Hague

4pm On Comment, Tom Hunt explains why next year's Euro elections matter a great deal: "The momentum coming out of these elections will have consequences. In other words, the European elections should not be viewed in isolation; they are inextricably linked to the general election of 2015."

2.30pm Local Government: Pickles cuts Council Tax for granny flats

1pm LeftWatch: British taxpayers' money to be used in a new Greek bailout – another reason to give Brussels the boot

10am MPsETC: Bridgen, Wollaston and Stewart among the Tory MPs pushing for Parliament to have a say in any Syria action

ToryDiary: Compulsory voting? It's politicians, not the people, who need to change their ways

AGOn Comment, Sir Andrew Green, our former Ambassador to Damascus, argues that blundering into war in Syria would be pure foolishness"If the regime were to fall, the result would be chaos followed by a power struggle in which the jihadists would be a major player. Who can say who would then control Syria’s huge stock of chemical weapons?"

Priti Patel's latest column: The Government must hold firm against anti-fracking extremists

Paul Osborn on Local Government: Finding out who put up your council tax? Good luck with that

The Deep End: Theresa May versus the modern day slave trade

Syria 1): Missile strikes could happen "within days"


"Although the White House has not commented on any plans, British sources indicated plans were advanced and would be finalized in a matter of days. ... British government sources indicated the cruise missile blitz is likely to be short and sharp and will not signal an intention to get involved in the bloody civil war in Syria." - Daily Mail

> Today, by Sir Andrew Green on Comment: Blundering into war in Syria would be pure foolishness

> Yesterday's ToryDiary: Will the National Union of Ministers form a bond over Syria?

Syria 2): UN inspectors allowed to visit chemical attack site

UN"The Syrian government has agreed to allow UN inspectors to investigate allegations of a suspected chemical weapon attack near Damascus. ... UK Foreign Secretary William Hague warned that evidence could have been tampered with, degraded or destroyed in the five days since the attack." - BBC

> Yesterday's video to WATCH: Syria to allow UN inspectors to visit chemical attack site

Syria 3): But the West could act without a UN mandate

"Given the absence of a UN mandate because of a split security council, the 1999 Nato Kosovo intervention would give the most apt precedent for action, on grounds of humanitarian intervention. ... Analysts and diplomats say the US will not want for justification for intervention if the White House decides on using force in Syria." - The Guardian

  • Russia warns America against bypassing the United Nation - Independent

Syria 4): Cameron contacts his European counterparts

Cameron"Mr Cameron and French President Francois Hollande said in a phone call that the 'crime must not be swept under the carpet'. ... In another phone call, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and Mr Cameron condemned the 'very grave' gas attack, saying there was 'little doubt' Assad was to blame." - The Sun (£)

Syria 5): MPs agitate for a recall of Parliament

"David Cameron was under pressure to recall Parliament last night to debate the Syrian crisis before Britain launches any missile strikes. ... Labour politicians, backed by Tory counterparts, said it was essential that MPs had their say on such a potentially momentous move." - Daily Mail

Syria 6): Paddy Ashdown says that the use of poison gas cannot go unpunished

"If the international community will not now find the means to make it clear that we will not tolerate the use of weapons of mass destruction, like poison gas, for the mass murder of innocent citizens, then the fragile structures of international law that we have painfully erected these last 20 years will be undermined, and the threat of the future use of weapons of mass destruction will be widened." - Paddy Ashdown, The Times (£)

Syria 7): A selection of other comment

  • TK"Britain and America are about to be sucked irreversibly into a cauldron of Middle East violence with unpredictable and potentially disastrous implications for world peace." - Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun (£)
  • "The Syrian government is a harder nut to crack than Muammar Gaddafi and his ramshackle state." - Patrick Cockburn, Independent
  • "For the Syrians’ sakes and for our own, we must not intervene" - Owen Jones, Independent
  • "If there are no limits in Syria, there will be none elsewhere" - David Gardner, Financial Times
  • "Britain can't act on Syria till it faces up to the spectre of Iraq" - John Kampfner, The Guardian
  • "Cruise missile strikes to destroy Assad’s airfields, chemical weapons delivery sites and other key targets may seem logical enough, but what then?" - Daily Mail editorial
  • "Failure to defend Syria’s civilians will mean that the fate of a captive population will be chosen not by themselves but by a psychopathic criminal regime." - Times editorial (£)
  • "The outcome of military intervention, probably missile attacks on government targets, is impossible to predict." - Daily Telegraph editorial
  • "...where there are questions about gassing and genocide, the conscience of people across Europe and America must surely be shaken." - Financial Times editorial
  • "...none of those advocating the use of force to expedite the fall of the Assad regime seems to have given much real thought to what kind of society they expect to replace the one that has been in power for several decades." - Independent editorial

"A British nuclear submarine has surfaced off Gibraltar as the row with Spain heats up, it was believed last night" - The Sun (£)

Another impediment to the MoD's plan for strengthening the Army Reserve

MOD"The Ministry of Defence wants the ban on operational staff in jails joining the reserve lifted as part of the drive to reach a trained Army Reserve of 30,000 by 2018. ... However, senior prison officials are concerned that reservist duties would create staffing problems which could threaten the stability of the overcrowded jail system." - The Times (£)

Ministers pledge to clamp down on benefits fraud – even beyond our shores

"Fraud investigators have been deployed to clamp down on the £60million a year lost to benefit crimes committed abroad. ... Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud said: ‘We are determined to catch anyone who commits benefit fraud - where ever they are in the world when they lie about a claim is irrelevant.’" - Daily Mail 

Pickles' latest summer opponent: the "anti-car" councils

Pickles"Councils should ban speed bumps in town centres and provide more parking spaces for shoppers, Eric Pickles will announce today as he targets ‘anti-car’ measures. ... The Communities Secretary will tell local authorities their parking rules must aim to rejuvenate high streets, rather than raising revenue from ‘penalising’ drivers." - Daily Mail

  • "We need more politicians like Eric Pickles." - Sun editorial (£)
  • "Listen to Pickles" - Daily Telegraph editorial

And that's not all Pickles is up to – he's also planning a bungalow revolution

"Councils are to be urged to build a new generation of bungalows as part of a planning revolution to create bespoke homes for people aged above 65, Eric Pickles will announce this week. ... The Communities Secretary is to publish rules to make town halls match development to the type of accommodation needed locally to cater for the ageing population." - The Times (£)

Anna Soubry criticises Labour's management of the NHS in Wales

AS"Patients in England are four times more likely to receive new cancer drugs than those in Wales, according to ministers. ... Public health minister Anna Soubry said: ‘By protecting the NHS budget, we have been able to provide life-saving treatment to over 30,000 patients in England since the last election. ... Welsh patients will be outraged that their Labour Government won’t offer the same service.’" - Daily Mail

  • Doctors warn about Government quotas that are forcing top students to study medicine abroad -Daily Mail

"The head master of Eton College has questioned the value of Britain’s 'Victorian' exams system and suggested GCSEs should focus more on workplace skills" - Daily Telegraph

  • "A top performing A-level student has sent Education Secretary Michael Gove an open letter - warning his exam reforms will leave pupils worse educated" - Independent

The Electoral Commission warns about the Government's Lobbying Bill

"In a private briefing sent to interested parties, the commission says that it has 'significant concerns' about the coalition's lobbying bill, that some parts of it may be unenforceable and that it is not at all clear how the new restrictions affecting charities will work." - The Guardian

Boris: Britain must look beyond the EU and towards the Commonwealth


"Britain must rekindle its relationship with the Commonwealth countries that it 'betrayed' in favour of the European Union, says Boris Johnson. ... Writing for The Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson calls on the Government to open its doors to an unlimited number of Australian immigrants by setting up a 'bilateral Free Labour Mobility Zone'." - Daily Telegraph

Read Boris's Daily Telegraph article in full

We need wider terrorism laws, says Lord Blair

"Britain’s anti-terror legislation should be widened to cover the publication and passing on of official government secrets, the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Blair has suggested. ... [He] told the BBC that someone could be assisting terrorists by publishing secret information – even if that was not their motivation." - Independent

Monetary Policy Committee member highlights the risks of forward guidance

"'The key point is that any policy can have risks as well as benefits,' Mr Weale said. 'The risk is that people in practice will interpret it as an increase in the inflation target. And obviously everyone at the BoE is doing their best to minimise that risk.'" - Financial Times

Outgoing Chief Rabbi warns that Britain is "losing the plot" as it becomes more secular

JS"Lord Sacks, who retires on Sunday, said society was failing to protect institutions such as marriage – with grave consequences. ... ‘I think we’re losing the plot actually,’ he said. ... ‘When you begin to lose faith and society becomes very, very secularised, you see a breakdown of institutions, whether they are financial or economic, or marriage as an institution.’" - Daily Mail

  • "An unholy war in the Guides and why we must all fight the secular bigots" - Melanie Phillips, Daily Mail
  • "Lord Sacks's mellifluous voice may have charmed millions. But he was unable convincingly to explain why the dignity of difference does not also mean the dignity of diversity." - Guardian editorial

Libby Purves: We are dumping society’s most vulnerable people in seaside towns

"The figures are damning: unemployment up to twice the national figure, family breakdown endemic and Ofsted confirming educational weakness (in Great Yarmouth 33 per cent of people have no qualifications). Blackpool has double the national proportion of children in care." - Libby Purves, The Times (£)

The badger cull begins in earnest today – protests are expected

Badger"Marksmen will begin culling thousands of badgers today amid a huge police operation to prevent disruption from protesters. ... Officers are braced for violent clashes between farmers and animal rights campaigners. ... Activists even plan to abuse health and safety rules by storming into cull sites, forcing shooters to hold their fire." - Daily Mail

Greece asks for another £8.6 billion – but won't accept more austerity

"Greece wants another £8.6billion bailout to stay afloat – but said  it will not accept any more  austerity measures. ... Finance minister Yannis Stournaras said the country requires more help on top of the  £206billion it has already received in two rescue packages." - Daily Mail

  • "Do not expect a Merkel win to be Europe's game changer" - Quentin Peel, Financial Times

News in brief

  • One-in-three care home businesses is at risk of going bust due to debts - Daily Mail
  • The average working week is 18 minutes longer than last year - Daily Mail
  • Voting should be compulsory for young people taking part in a general election for the first time, suggests IPPR - The Guardian
  • Give carers flexible working, says Andrew Marr - The Times (£)
  • Increasing pressure on the disgraced MSP Bill Walker to step down - The Times (£)
  • Pete Waterman backs HS2 - Daily Telegraph


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