Woodhouse weekly pick of the papers 23/02/15- 01/03/15

1. Ed Miliband to cut fees and tax pensioners

Ed Miliband has set out a £2.7bn plan to slash tuition fees in England from £9,000 to £6,000 a year and increase maintenance support for students by £200m, funded by higher interest rates for wealthier students repaying their fees.

Learning from the Liberal Democrats Ed Miliband seems to have reneged on his promise to abolish fees, but lowering them will certainly be popular among young people.

The maintenance grant will be lifted from £3,400 to £3,800 a year for students for families who pay basic rates of income tax and will help about half of all students. The interest rate on loan repayments for the highest earning graduates will rise from 3% to 4% to pay for it.

The reduction in the cap on tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000, to be introduced from September 2016, (so this will hypothetically benefit students currently in Year 12) will help 1 million full-time students. The faster-than-expected pace of the changes will mean current first-year students will not pay as much in their final year.

However the higher interest rates for students will only raise £0.2 billion of the £3.1 billion needed to reduce fees and so the rest will be funded chiefly via reducing the tax relief for people on very high incomes.

Although this move has rightly been condemned as populist headline seeking and financially illiterate, and it may backfire given the youth mainly affected by it will not be able to vote come May the 7th, it does seem to reverse the inherent bias fiscal policy has in this country towards the old and wealthy compared to the young and poor

2. Net Migration hits 300,000

The Conservative Party manifesto promise in 2010 to reduce net migration to less than 100,000 lies in shatters as net migration for 2014 was announced to be just shy of 300,000.

624,000 people entered the country last year, with 327,000 people leaving, thus leaving the net figure at 298,000. For reference in 2013 net migration figures stood at 210,000 and in 2010 they stood at 252,000. Of the 624,000 immigrants who came to the UK, 251,000 were from the European Union – a rise of 43,000 on the year before. There was “statistically significant increase” in Romanians and Bulgarians coming to Britain – up to 37,000 from 24,000 in the previous 12 months- a fact UKIP will no doubt capitalize on after the hype they raised at the start of 2014 was initially unfounded.

Non-EU citizens made up 292,000 – up 49,000 on the previous 12 months

Reactions

1. Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said the Tories broken promised undermined the publics trust in politicians.

She said: “David Cameron and Theresa May have failed on​ their own measure, they have ramped up the rhetoric without ever bringing in practical measures to address the impact of immigration or make the system fair.

2. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the figures were “embarrassing” for the Tories.

Speaking on LBC radio this morning, he said: “I said to David Cameron he shouldn’t make the commitment because it was inevitable he was going to break it because you can’t control the net figure.

3. Ukip’s migration spokesman Steven Woolfe said: “The Government should be ashamed of its abject failure to keep control of the constantly rising numbers of those arriving here.

“They made that commitment – we said we were not going to do it as a coalition government .. and they are now going to have to suffer the embarrassment.

4.  Migrants’ Rights Network director Don Flynn urged politicians not to use the increase as an excuse to run divisive campaigns.

He said: “The latest migration figures reflect Britain’s growing economy and should not be used by the political parties as a launch-pad for their negative political campaigns shifting the blame for wider problems on to migrants.

 

3. Cash for access

Two MP’s, Jack Straw (Labour) and Malcom Rifkind (Conservative) have been kicked out of their parties on charges of wrongdoing in the wake of yet another “cash for access scandal”

Both MPs were filmed meeting undercover reporters from the Daily Telegraph and Channel 4’s Dispatches posing as a fictitious Hong Kong-based communications agency called PMR, appearing to offer to use their positions to benefit the firm in exchange for thousands of pounds.

Mr Straw, the former Labour Foreign Secretary, is said to have described how he operated “under the radar” to use his influence to change European Union rules on behalf of a commodity firm which paid him £60,000 a year.

Sir Malcolm, until last week the Conservative head of the parliamentary committee which oversees Britain’s intelligence agencies, also met with “PMR”.

“You’d be surprised by how much free time I have. I’m self-employed so nobody pays me a salary. I have to earn my income,” Sir Malcolm was filmed saying. For his services he discussed his usual fee of ‘somewhere in the region of £5,000 to £8,000’ for a half a day’s work. He earns £67,000 as an MP.

While both MP’s have denied wrongdoing both are expecting to stand down at this election. Jack Straw first entered Parliament in 1979 and in his 36 years as an MP, held the position of Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Leader of the House of Commons and Justice Secretary. Malcom Rifkind entered Parliament in 1974 and held the position of Transport Secetary, Defence Secetary and Foreign Minister. After losing his seat in 1997 he returned in 2005 and as stated earlier was the Chairman of the parliamentary committee which oversees Britain’s intelligence agencies.

This scandal tarnishing the reputation of two elder statesmen in both parties is expected to reduce the confidence mainstream politicians, since both figures were politicians, and deservedly so.

4. Boris Johnson criticizes May for being too libertarian

The supposedly libertarian Mayor of London Boris Johnson has criticized un-named politicians for relaxing control orders, which he thinks has given terror suspects like Mohammed Emwazi or “Jihadi John” the ability to evade the security services.

Mr Johnson did not name Mrs May but said that the politicians responsible “need to think very carefully about why they did it”.

It what seems like a prequel to a heated Conservative Party leadership contest should Cameron fall, Boris, the Conservative Party candidate for MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, said in his implicit attack of Theresa May, “The decision to modify the control orders, to water them down I think in retrospect looks as though it was a mistake because it is vital to be able, when you are controlling these people to be able to relocate them, (and) to take them away from their support networks”.

The control orders, introduced in the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 , were removed in 2011 and replaced with Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs). It ended the power of the home secretaries to order the virtual house arrest of terror suspects and to force their relocation.

However following May’s announcement that she will U-turn on this and reintroduce elements of Blairite control orders in response to Isis, Boris has said “We are now back on the right track”

This seems to be a contradiction of what he said 10 years ago, saying “I believe the control order – the suspension of habeas corpus – to be wrong”. He’s also famous for appearing in a documentary “Taking Liberties” in 2007, which was critical of control orders

5. School history biased in favour of the EU

Millions of children are being taught a “distorted” view of European history that deliberately promotes further integration of the European Union, one of Britain’s leading historians has warned.

Prof David Abulafia, a Cambridge University don, has said school textbooks are “papering over” past differences between European nations in favour of a misleading idea of European citizenship.

“There is a soft push to create a sense of European citizenship which is based on frankly an invented common history because the history of Europe is to a large extent the history of division, not the history of unity,” he said.

“When it has been the history of unity, as we’ve seen under Napoleon and Hitler or under the Soviets in Eastern Europe, it has gone disastrously wrong. It is a papering over the discordant elements in European history to create this idealised event.”

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of Business for Britain – the campaign backing renegotiation said the idea of a single European identity was “pervasive and dangerous”.

“The EU’s official motto is “United in diversity” – a laudable philosophy. Unfortunately, many of the EU’s policies seem intent on crushing that diversity, striving to replace Europe’s many historic identities with a single, artificial ‘European’ culture.”

 

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