Events in the Middle East
As tensions soared across Libya, David Cameron pledged to do all he can to get British citizens out of the country safely. However, Political Scrapbook notes that HMS Cumberland, the British frigate sent to Libya as part of the rescue mission, is set to be scrapped as part of cuts to the Royal Navy.
The Coffee House believes that events in the Middle East could provide a platform for the Prime Minister to show himself to be a genuine global statesman, and thetorydiary are also full of praise for his pro-active posturing. In a speech in Kuwait, Cameron noted that repression and extremism are false choices, and the Arab world can successfully build strong democracies. The Coffee House comments on the role of young Arabs in the process of forging democratic futures, and Women’s Views on News celebrates the resurrection of women’s voices across the region.
The Prime Minister’s arms deals have not got unnoticed, as Liberal Conspiracy accuses Cameron of wanting to promote the UK’s arms trade and not democracy. The Westminster Blog also warns that “the sales today could easily become the scandals of tomorrow”.
Public finance surprises
Figures out from the ONS showed that January’s public finance figures are in a much better state than expected. Left Foot Forward believes that buoyant tax revenues now give Osborne more room for manoeuvre, although Stephanomics shows that there are still limits. The Coffee House urges Osborne not to spend the extra money, as Labour Uncut considers the possibilities for re-investment as an epidemic of youth unemployment takes hold.
The Staggers believes that the positive figures are good for both Osborne and supporters of the 50p tax rate. Fraser Nelson at The Coffee House is yet to be convinced although Left Foot Forward suspects he may have got his numbers wrong.
The Westminster Blog notes that Osborne is dealt a hammer blow at the end of the week however, as the UK’s Q4 economic growth figures are downgraded. The IPPR’s Tony Dolphin provides further comment over at Left Foot Forward, suggesting that cuts may be crowding out business investment.
Cuts and more cuts
False Economy uncovers evidence of 50,000 NHS job losses despite Cameron’s explicit election promise to “cut the deficit, not the NHS”. Liberal Conspiracy notes that this figure is twice the previous estimate published by the Royal College of Nursing last year, and Left Foot Forward highlights further evidence of cuts to hospital resources in their discussion of the alarming removal of over 20,000 overnight beds.
Political Scrapbook recalls Cameron’s petition to save the NHS from cuts and the Conservatives’ claim that they alone could be entrusted with protecting this vital institution. Diane Abbott at Labour List argues that a recession is no excuse for dismantling the NHS, and on the same blog Tom Keeley wonders whether this issue could be the next government U-turn.
Left Foot Forward notes that Eric Pickles is coming under increasing fire from Tory council leaders as the cuts to local councils take effect. Citizens aren’t happy either, as in the last week major demonstrations in the London boroughs of Hackney and Haringey have taken place. Liberal Conspiracy believes the left must stand united against cuts.
The government-commissioned Davies Report recommends UK-listed FTSE 100 companies should aim to have their boards 25 per cent female by 2015, but Anna Bird of The Fawcett Society argues that the business world still has a long way to go on gender equality, outlining strategies that may help it to redress the balance.
New research by IPPR North concludes that the gap between the rich and the poor is growing across the country, but narrowing in the north.
Left Foot Forward deconstructs the claims about student migration and the number of illegal immigrants in Migration Watch UK’s new report, out this week.
Mike Smithson at Political Betting discusses the 2012 London Mayoral elections, noting that the voting system used is similar to AV and that switching it to a FPTP system could make huge savings.