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Newslinks for Saturday 24th August 2013

7.30pm WATCH: Post Office workers prepare to strike

4.30pm On 8th July we published a piece by Andrew Bridgen MP, asking: Could Labour shoot the Government's fox – or, rather, its white elephant – HS2? We republish it today in light of increasing speculation that Labour will do just that.

12.45pm LeftWatch: Ed Balls so badly wants the Government to fail, he can't even celebrate Britain's successes

ToryDiary: The battle lines have been drawn over the minimum wage – but will the battle ever be fought?

Matthew Groves on Comment: Monarchy is the institution that holds this nation together

Local Government: Council by-election results from Thursday

Chemical weapon attacks in Syria are "not something that a humane and civilised world can ignore," says Hague


"The Foreign Secretary refused to rule out any response to Wednesday’s atrocity in Damascus. ... And he laid the blame for the attack – which is reported to have killed up to 1,700 people – squarely at the door of tyrant Bashar al-Assad. ... It comes as American media report that the U.S. military is preparing for a long-range missile attack on Syrian government targets." - Daily Mail

  • "Today’s America won’t pay to send troops to the other side of the world to sort out other countries’ problems" - Giles Whittell, The Times (£)
  • "The Arab Spring has failed because constitutional democracy needs nation-states" - Daniel Hannan, Daily Telegraph

Osborne hails yesterday's revised growth figure

Upturn"George Osborne last night declared that Britain ‘is on the right track’ after figures showed the economy is growing faster than previously thought. ... Output rose by 0.7 per cent between April and June, according to the Office for National Statistics. ... This is better than the 0.6 per cent  initially reported and more than double the 0.3 per cent seen in the first three months of the year." - Daily Mail

  • "Even when the economy grows, people find incomes stagnant, the cost of living rising and credit very expensive" - Times editorial (£)
  • "Stamp duty is unjust, and a brake on growth" - Daily Telegraph editorial

> Yesterday's video to WATCH: The ONS revises growth upwards

"A row has broken out between Downing Street and four national newspaper editors over their decision to publish candid pictures of David Cameron on a beach" - The Guardian

  • "Let’s hear it for David Cameron’s Mickey Mouse look" - Matthew Norman, Daily Telegraph

Hunt urges employers to support workers who care for elderly relatives

Jh"Employers should allow their staff who look after elderly parents to work flexible hours, Jeremy Hunt said last night. ... Mr Hunt warned large numbers of men and women currently have to give up work to look after relatives – and urged employers to act in order to avoid damage to the economy." - Daily Mail

  • "Either we forgo the fatty diet, or our NHS will have a heart attack" - Graeme Archer, Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday, by Lord Flight on Comment: Don't let today's anti-business establishment freeze out tomorrow's entrepreneurs

Peter Bone calls for tougher immigration controls at Calais

"In a huge security downgrade,  Border Force officials no longer  photograph or fingerprint immigrants found stowing away in lorries at the Channel ferry port. ... Instead, they are handed to French police, who free them, enabling them to try again and again until they succeed. ... Tory MP Peter Bone last night called for the ‘extraordinary’ and ‘disturbing’ loophole to be closed." - Daily Mail

"Landlords have attacked plans to make them police the immigration status of new tenants, warning that the proposals were bureaucratic and unworkable." - The Times (£)

  • "...for all the rhetoric, far from being strengthened, Britain’s borders are continuing to crumble." - Daily Mail editorial

Taxpayers' cash 1): John Bercow's hotel bill

JB"John Bercow has billed the taxpayer for stays at some of the world’s most exclusive hotels, it emerged yesterday. ... Documents reveal that the Commons Speaker has stayed at a string of five-star establishments during official travels costing the taxpayer £96,000 since 2010." - Daily Mail

  • John Bercow turns entertainer as he mimics Tory colleagues - The Guardian

Taxpayers' cash 2): The MoD's phone bill

"The Ministry of Defence has rung up an astonishing £40,000 bill for using the speaking clock, despite imposing a ‘ban’ on the service. ... Staff at the cash-strapped department have made 130,000 calls to check the time during the past two-and-a-half years – equal to around 150 a day, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act." - Daily Mail

  • "If there was a competition to find the most pointless way of throwing taxpayers’ money away, the idea of spending £40,000 on the speaking clock would be dismissed as just too ridiculous." - Sun editorial (£)

Taxpayers' cash 3): The latest council non-job

Crystal healing"A Labour council has been blasted for wasting taxpayers’ cash by hiring a £22-an-hour crystal headling tutor. ... It is advertising the post to teach adult education courses. ... But campaigners said it was a 'non-job' and public money should be spent on training to help people find work." - The Sun (£)

  • "A council has become the first in the country to reveal it denies emergency hardship payments to tenants affected by the ‘bedroom tax’ if they are seen to spend too much on ‘luxuries’ such as cigarettes, alcohol and satellite television." - The Independent
  • "Bedroom Tax costing more than it saves as housing benefit bill soars by £1.5bn" - Daily Mirror

"I share the concerns about David Miranda's detention," says Nick Clegg

"...a balance must be struck between a libertarian "anything goes" approach, which sees new technology as a way to escape from the reach of the law, and an authoritarian view that sees technology as a new opportunity to intrude into our lives. ... As long as Liberal Democrats are in government, I will ensure that our individual rights are not cast aside in the name of collective security." - Nick Clegg, The Guardian

  • "Imagine that, after thorough scrutiny, the entire legal process turns out to have been hunky-dory. Would you then expect outspoken critics of Mr Miranda’s treatment to withdraw their protests? Of course not. They would at once re-frame them..." - Matthew Parris, The Times (£)

Danny Alexander announces more money for coastal towns

DA"Danny Alexander, the Treasury secretary, announced on Friday that funding for a government programme to boost growth in coastal areas would be increased by 5 per cent next year to £29m. The Coastal Communities Fund is financed by revenues the Crown Estate makes on marine activities, with the additional money available due to rising revenues from renewable energy such as offshore wind and tidal power, as well as from ship moorings." - Financial Times

The Lib Dems target rising living costs...

"A compulsory 'living wage' for government workers, a more generous childcare system and cheaper train travel for part-time workers are among Liberal Democrat proposals that aim to tackle rising living costs. ... The ideas will be put to delegates at the party’s autumn conference in Glasgow next month, where the leadership faces an expected grassroots uprising over its plan to stick with a £9,000 university tuition fees cap." - Financial Times

  • "On Friday Jo Swinson, the business minister, announced that from October any firm caught not paying the minimum wage by HMRC will be publicly identified" - The Guardian

> Today on ToryDiary: The battle lines have been drawn over the minimum wage – but will the battle ever be fought? does Ed Miliband

Pounds"Ed Miliband has blamed the last Labour administration for failing to properly address falling wages, promising to make it a priority for the next Labour government to introduce a national living wage. ... Speaking in Edinburgh, the Labour leader returned to one of his major themes by accusing David Cameron of presiding over an 'unprecedented living standards crisis'" - The Guardian

Might Labour withdraw its support for HS2?

"Labour’s leadership has put the coalition on notice that it will withdraw support for the controversial High Speed 2 rail line if costs continue to spiral. ... A day after Alistair Darling reignited a debate over the project by using an article in The Times to call for it to be halted, both Ed Miliband and Ed Balls made clear that their backing was conditional on the Government proving that the line would provide value for money." - The Times (£)

  • "If the Government remains committed to high speed rail, it must say so" - Times editorial (£)

> Yesterday on ToryDiary: Scrap HS2 and scrap it now

Simon Heffer: Labour will let Red Ed lose, then simply dump him

EDM"What should the Labour leader do? His trump card is that there is no obvious person to replace him. ... After all, to resort to the titanic self-regard of business spokesman Chuka Umunna or the sententiousness of Yvette Cooper would simply be to hand the party over to another divisive upstart. ... And to give the job to Ed Balls would be to consign Labour to five more years in opposition on the spot." - Simon Heffer, Daily Mail

  • "There's no mystery why Ed Miliband hasn’t backed a referendum on our EU membership. ... He’s afraid of the result." - Sun editorial (£)

> Yesterday:

UKIP is less sexist than Labour and the Tories, claims UKIP candidate Janice Atkinson

"Janice Atkinson, a Tory defector who is one of UKIP’s top female candidates for next year’s European elections, says that she would never have joined the party if it was full of misogynists. ... 'If you think about the political parties and the type of people that belong to them, I came across more sexism in the Tory party than I ever have done in UKIP,' she says." - The Times (£)

  • "He describes the Prime Minister as 'pigeon-chested; the sort of chap I used to beat up' and says Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister — 'the other guy' — is a 'vacuous young man with no experience of anything'." - Godfrey Bloom is interviewed in the Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday, Iain Dale's column: UKIP – a ragtag and bobtail pressure group of well-intentioned and enthusiastic amateurs

Steve Richards: Scotland is going it alone – regardless of the referendum

Scotland"In its political culture and its powers to define what form that culture takes, Scotland is already so incomparably different from England that a form of separation is taking place in front of our eyes. ... Scotland is going its own way, a course of travel triggered in 1997 and with some distance to go." - Steve Richards, The Guardian

  • Pro-independence group paid academic to write opinion article for newspaper - The Independent

> Yesterday on ToryDiary: Michael Fabricant is right, we must give political equality to England

News in brief

  • Nasdaq crash triggers fear of data meltdown - The Guardian
  • About one-in-five Britons have had their online accounts hacked - Daily Mail
  • Charity projects in Scotland receive nearly three times as much funding per head of population - Daily Mail
  • BT lobbies for legal changes over online pornography filters - Financial Times
  • Everyone to pay more to insure flood risk homes - Daily Telegraph
  • Judge refuses to let woman wearing burka enter a plea - The Times (£)

And finally... Boris's ambition for after he leaves politics? A rip-roaring romantic novel

"Boris Johnson has confessed he dreams of writing a 'rip-roaring' bonkbuster after he leaves politics. ... The London mayor joked he would use the pen name Rosie M Banks — a cheesy romance novelist in PG Wodehouse books." - The Sun (£)

  • And the Telegraph's Michael Deacon has somehow got his hands on an exclusive extract of this as-yet-unwritten book.


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