The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

Post  eddie on Tue Apr 10, 2012 11:12 pm

George Osborne 'shocked' at level of tax avoidance among wealthy

Chancellor says he has found that some of Britain's richest people have regularly paid 'virtually no income tax'

Press Association

guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 10 April 2012 08.47 BST


George Osborne said he had seen tax returns submitted by multimillionaires using aggressive avoidance schemes. Photograph: David Jones/PA

George Osborne has said he was "shocked" to discover that some of the wealthiest people in the country pay "virtually no" income tax.

The chancellor said he had seen "anonymised" tax returns submitted by multimillionaires using aggressive avoidance schemes to dramatically reduce their tax bills.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) found that the income tax rate among some of the highest earners was, on average, only 10%.

Osborne said the HMRC study convinced him of the need to "take action" to ensure high earners pay more income tax.

In last month's budget he limited how much people could offset their tax bills by investing in businesses or donating to charity.

Anyone seeking to claim more than £50,000 of tax relief in any one year will have a cap set at 25% of their income from 2013.

HMRC found hundreds of millions of pounds of income tax is avoided by using legal loopholes.

The main methods included writing off business losses, offsetting the cost of business mortgages, and borrowing on buy-to-let properties.

Others took advantage of tax relief on donations to charity.

"I was shocked to see that some of the very wealthiest people in the country have organised their tax affairs, and to be fair it's within the tax laws, so that they were regularly paying virtually no income tax. And I don't think that's right," Osborne told the Daily Telegraph.

"I'm talking about people right at the top. I'm talking about people with incomes of many millions of pounds a year.

"The general principle is that people should pay income tax and that includes people with the highest incomes."

Charities have warned that limiting tax relief on donations will reduce philanthropic giving.

But Osborne said: "I was very clear in the budget that we are specifically looking at making sure we are still encouraging philanthropy and charitable giving. But that is a specific issue we can deal with."

Osborne has been criticised by Labour for cutting the top rate of income tax from 50p to 45p, in a move that will cut the tax bills of people earning more than £150,000 a year.

But he said the 50p rate introduced by the last Labour government was "spin over substance".

"You produce a press release which says Britain has a 50p tax rate while you preside over a tax system where some people are paying zero per cent tax," he said.

"I've come up with a budget that has reduced the 50p rate to 45p, so we don't have the highest income tax rate in the world. But I've also asked people who are currently paying zero to pay income tax."

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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

Post  eddie on Tue Apr 10, 2012 11:25 pm


Phil Disley on the coalition's Easter.

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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

Post  eddie on Tue Apr 17, 2012 8:58 pm

Steve Bell on the Tory party and the super rich

guardian.co.uk, Monday 16 April 2012 23.41 BST


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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

Post  eddie on Wed Apr 18, 2012 4:00 am


Hari and Jake

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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

Post  eddie on Wed Apr 18, 2012 4:08 am

On charity George Osborne must stand up to the self-interested super-rich

Tory donors fighting to keep tax relief on charity should instead campaign against tax avoidance if they really want to help others

Polly Toynbee

guardian.co.uk, Monday 16 April 2012 21.15 BST


Lord Fink, Conservative party treasurer. 'He knew how to tickle the pockets of fellow plutocrats. Forget any appeal to better natures, neglected children or gallant lifeboat crews – he got straight to the point: self-interest.' Photograph: Ray Tang / Rex Features

Lord Fink, the Conservative party treasurer, is in the curious position of leading the charge against his own chancellor's budget. With support from more than 40 of the biggest donors, he warns George Osborne that the proposed 25% cap on tax relief for charitable donations by the mega-rich will "put people off" giving – and that the amount he gives will fall if his tax relief is capped.

The government announced a "consultation" yesterday, but it should stand its ground. Osborne is absolutely right to cut the colossal sums the rich can off-set against tax. Treasury figures released on Monday prove the tax campaigner Richard Murphy right: he has always said tax avoidance is far higher than the Treasury has been willing to admit, until now. Some of the richest, who pay no more than 10%, are, as Warren Buffett says, taxed less than their secretaries.

There has been little to praise this government for recently, but here's a brave tax reform that is easier for Conservatives to do. After the disgrace of cutting the top tax rate on the spurious grounds that the rich avoid paying it anyway, Osborne has a duty to block these tax reliefs for the wealthy. Off-shoring money in tax havens, offsetting contrived business debts, converting income to capital gains via private equity, and scores more wheezes, should be stopped: a 25% cap is a modest start. But by including charitable donations, he has allowed the mega-rich to climb on to their high horses. Against him is a powerful combination of the rich and a charity world more publicly respected than any mere government.

Lord Fink is a generous donor, but as the man known as "the godfather of the UK hedge fund industry", he has a lot of money to be generous with. Fortunes earned from engineering financial transactions were famously described by Adair Turner, of the Financial Services Authority, as "socially useless", so Fink's return of some of that cash cascade to good causes is only right.

I met Fink at a Lord Mayor's breakfast in the City, where he gave a remarkably frank address exhorting other "high net worth" individuals to give more. His approach was singular – but he knew how to tickle the pockets of fellow plutocrats. Forget any appeal to better natures, forget tear-jerkers about raising the aspirations of neglected children or supporting gallant lifeboat crews – he got straight to the point: self-interest.

"I want to talk about what charity can do for us," he said. He sold charity as a door-opener to high society. "What do you do now you've got all the toys?" he asked. "You've already got all the houses, yachts, cars and jets you can use, so what comes next is charity." Charity is not just for the joy of giving: "I get invited to places I'd never have seen otherwise." It is the passport to the in-crowd, he said, listing the eye-popping names and places his philanthropy had taken him, including No 10.

Some donors signing protest letters against the budget are entirely selfless – shy, retiring, generous and ready to support unpopular and radical causes with no conceivable payback. Gordon Roddick and David Sainsbury are among these rare birds. But charities frequently complain at having to spend an inordinate amount of time begging, cajoling, and flattering the rich and their foundations, instead of getting on with their good work. Many complain of donors abusing their power, trying to run a charity as their plaything with no more expertise from than saloon bar sociology gleaned from the Daily Mail. Tony Blair gave bored billionaires the chance to play with schools at £2m a pop, selecting the head, governors and curriculum at whim. What fun! The time spent filling in long forms applying to private foundations for money, each with a different requirement, each charity competing against the others for short-term grants, is phenomenally wasteful.

How much should the taxpayer contribute to the charitable whims of donors? Every time anyone gives to charity the taxpayer contributes, willy nilly, with no public accountability. Every pound in the tin for the Japan Animal Welfare Society or the Odinist Fellowship attracts 25% extra from the Treasury, but why? Charity is a precious expression of public goodwill and concern for others, a wellspring of innovation and a beacon for better ways to provide public services. Societies without a voluntary sector or the charitable impulse are grim indeed. But it's not clear why tax relief for the wealthy is a necessary ingredient.

Here's another eccentricity: if a basic-rate tax payer – ie 87% of the population – gives £1, the state adds another 25p in gift aid to the charity, but the donor gets no tax relief. Only 40% or 50% tax rate donors can claim a personal benefit and get their tax bills cut. Since those in the bottom 10% give a higher proportion of their income than those in the top 10%, that seems unfair.

From the outcry of the big donors, you might think they were being banned from giving. Not at all. They are only being told to pay their taxes like everyone else and then donate out of their taxed income, just like every basic-rate taxpayer. Paying your taxes is the most communitarian thing we do, signing up to society and the democratic choices it makes about taxing and spending. Voters decide. Giving to charity may be altruistic or self-interested, may or may not do good – but the present system draws in taxpayers' money with no such accountability. Osborne is right to ask why anyone should get tax relief.

This is probably the most bungled budget in history, fiscally neutral yet politically incendiary – mainly for that 50p top tax cut. Even if, in theory, it makes little sense for the state to contribute to the random giving whims of rich donors, this must surely be the worst time to cut charity incomes by £300m. Already Osborne's cuts have caused an 8% drop in charities' incomes while demand for their services soars. The Red Cross suggests what might be a compromise for now: abolish all personal tax relief for donors, but give the money instead direct to the charity, as gift aid does for basic-rate payers.

I had an email exchange with Stanley Fink after that breakfast, pointing out that big time charitable donors could do far more civic good by campaigning among their own kind against tax avoidance and in favour of a living wage. Their weight and power could move mountains. But instead he is Tory party treasurer raising money for the party that is cutting benefits for disabled children, while he opposes reform of tax relief for the super-rich.

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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

Post  eddie on Fri Apr 20, 2012 1:29 am

Steve Bell on the Lib Dems seeking an alternative to cuts

Nick Clegg's aides to put forward other options rather than sign up to planned £10bn round of welfare cuts by Conservatives

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 18 April 2012 23.40 BST




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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

Post  eddie on Sun Apr 22, 2012 2:55 am

David Cameron's 'real discipline': one of his incoherent puffs of air

Cameron can't actually believe children should rise for their parents at home. But none of this feels real any more

Lucy Mangan

guardian.co.uk, Friday 20 April 2012 17.49 BST


David Cameron is surrounded by (standing) school children. Photograph: Andrew Parsons/PA

What – I mean, what – are we to make of David Cameron's latest public utterance? Speaking in Dumfries to party members as part of the Conservatives' local election campaign, he lauded the return of "real discipline" in British schools and singled out for particular praise the practice of children standing up when teachers come into the room … and the notion of them doing likewise with their parents at home. In the drawing room, presumably, perhaps after a kitchen supper with cook.

The teacher-thing you could almost get behind. Collective regulation, discipline, the symbolic acknowledgement of authority, the recognition of teachers as being worthy of respect simply because they are teachers – these things work only to the good of the whole. They help still the thousand storms that brew in a school day and grab back some time for learning. We used to have to do it at my school, so I know whereof I speak. Plus, done with enough enthusiasm, it can waste quite five minutes of double maths each time and give you a nice stretching of the legs while you scrape your chair noisily back and forth. It's one of life's rare win-wins.

But the standing up for parents at home? This is where we – and along with it reality – must part company. This is quintessential Cameron. It's not snarky, it's not snide, it's not blackly comic, it's not absurd, it's just life-emptying blurbage. At this point, it's barely even lies he's telling. Tony Blair was a liar, and a consummate one. Every untruth was in the service of the story he was writing or which he wished to be told. Everything he said furthered the narrative in question. It was the actor within that governed his governance. Cut him and he would have prepared for the eventuality and made sure he could bleed fake blood. Cut Cameron and he would emit nothing but little dry puffs of air.

Still, if it's not a lie he has still said something that even he surely cannot believe. And therefore, even though it may mean nothing in itself, it remains significant. He is, after all, standing in front of his party members (and, of course, the wider world, but I think it's a fair working assumption that he doesn't realise we can hear, believing that what goes on in far-flung outposts of Pictish land such as Dumfries remains there, with the pigeons he vaguely envisages carrying the news falling to earth exhausted long before they reach anyone in a civilised land who can decipher the runes they carry) saying, in effect: "I don't believe what I'm saying to you. You don't believe what I'm saying to you. You don't believe that I believe what I'm saying to you. I don't believe that you believe that I believe what I am saying to you. I stand before you, the yoghurty embodiment of all that is nothing."

This is all of a piece, of course, with a party that won nothing, stood for nothing and yet still – by a godforsaken conflation of bitter circumstances that we need not rehash here – ended up running the country.

To return to the actor trope for a moment, Blair was like the experimental theatre of the 1950s – some genuinely challenging stuff going on, getting inside your head, briefly forcing you think about things a different way even if, once you were back outside on the drizzling street, you could shake your head clear and see it for the tricksy arsery it was. Cameron is the 1960s – things have completely stopped making sense. Incoherence and self-indulgence hold sway and all stand poised on the edge of a fathoms-deep descent into madness. Complete with mystical children wafting about with wing collars, pretty smiles and a perfect mastery of empty gestures.

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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

Post  eddie on Sun Apr 22, 2012 3:22 am

Martin Rowson on the recent troubles of the Con-Dem Coalition government:


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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

Post  eddie on Tue Apr 24, 2012 4:18 pm

Steve Bell on the Tories and tax

One of the Conservative party's largest donors paid no corporation tax for three years

guardian.co.uk, Monday 23 April 2012 23.58 BST




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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

Post  eddie on Wed Apr 25, 2012 7:58 pm

Steve Bell on the Leveson inquiry

Emails released by News Corp appear to show the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and his office passed confidential information to the Murdoch empire over its bid for BSkyB

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 25 April 2012 07.43 BST




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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

Post  eddie on Fri Apr 27, 2012 5:55 pm


Steve Bell

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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

Post  eddie on Fri Apr 27, 2012 5:59 pm

Kipper Williams on the UK's double-dip recession:


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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

Post  eddie on Sun Apr 29, 2012 3:19 am

Rupert Murdoch may be a monster but David Cameron and co are far worse

Murdoch's contempt for politicians demonstrated at Leveson this week is perhaps the one thing we can all agree with him on

Marina Hyde

guardian.co.uk, Friday 27 April 2012 19.15 BST


'Murdoch's contempt for politicians seems largely borne of the embarrassing ease with which he is able to persuade them to fawn over him.' Illustration: Jim Sillavan

I know we're all ending this week desperate to find common ground with Rupert Murdoch, so I hope to be of assistance. After all, arguably the most striking feature of the News Corp boss's testimony before the Leveson inquiry was his radioactive contempt for the politicians with which he has been so inconveniently saddled. As someone who has long treated a change in government as the shuffling of junior personnel, Murdoch appears to have concluded that you really can't get the staff any more. And as an electorate that has concluded that you really can't get the overlords any more, we might ironically sympathise.

The list of things for which you could blame Rupert is hardly under-aired at present, but only the most piously naive would think self-interested politicking was worthy of a place on it. Blaming Murdoch for attempting to influence policy in his commercial favour is like disagreeing with gravity. He should be expected to behave like a rapacious corporate monster because that is what he is.

Where people have a right to expect far more, however, is from those notionally elected to look after their interests. The trouble with the Christian right is that it tends to be neither, runs a popular diss, and you could say the same for our "political elite". They are as cackiavellian as they are bottom-flight.

Indeed, Murdoch's contempt for politicians seems largely borne of the embarrassing ease with which he is able to persuade them to fawn over him. "I wish they'd leave me alone," he lamented of a succession of prime ministers during last year's select committee testimony.

For Leveson he removed one glove, sweetly observing that Gordon Brown was unbalanced, but reserving his most insouciantly withering dismissals for the current prime minister. Did he find David Cameron a "lightweight" on his first meeting, he was asked? A pause. "Not then," came the reply. Cameron's needy dash to pay homage at his holiday yacht was treated with the faux-pity it deserved. "Mr Cameron might have thought stopping in Santorini might impress me, I don't know," Murdoch sighed – the unspoken "It didn't" hanging derisively in the air.

(Incidentally, if Cameron still is nursing even the vaguest glow after his aggrandising visit to Washington, he may care to watch the clip of The Daily Show's Jon Stewart voicing incredulity that not only did the PM humbly call on Murdoch, but that the only way on to the old boy's yacht was a freebie trip in his son-in-law's plane. "In the States we're not even allowed to give congresspeople T-shirts and hats," Stewart marvelled, "and our country's corrupt as shit!")

Needless to say, the hapless Gordon Brown would have swum out to that yacht had he been furnished with its co-ordinates – just as he'd have raced Cameron to Simon Cowell's holiday boat, which has on at least one occasion been anchored right by Murdoch's. Yes, in a most unfortunate coalescence of circumstances for the political class, this week's Leveson revelations coincided with the publication of Tom Bower's biography of Simon Cowell, the TV music mogul in whom two successive PMs have invested astounding flattery. The book reveals that it is a Murdoch family member who introduces Cameron to Cowell, and thereafter the fawning seems to commence. "His easy manner and grasp of Cowell's career secured the star's sympathy," we learn.

Brown had long been greasing up, you'll recall, claiming he wanted to create "an X Factor Britain", so the rivalry for Cowell's affections intensifies. "Anticipating the general election", Brown and Cameron give the tabloids opposing views on Jedward. Meanwhile, a Brown aide tells the Mirror that Cowell might expect a knighthood post-election. The Labour leader is clearly antsy. "Hours after he was seen in Westminster with David Cameron," Bower relates, "Brown personally telephoned Cowell to check whether the Tories had sought his political endorsement." It doesn't end happily for Gordon, I'm afraid – but even Cowell is surprised to find the Sun splashing on election morning with a few quotes Rebekah Brooks has asked him to toss off in support of Cameron.

Other highlights of another edifying week for the top flight? I suppose you'd include the home affairs select committee calling Russell Brand to testify on drugs policy just so they could get their mugs on the telly. And Alex Reid – the erstwhile cagefighting husband of Katie Price – being invited to Westminster by Labour's shadow education minister to spearhead some school dinners campaign. Inevitably, Reid announced his desire to be an MP – and one has to ask, could he honestly do any worse than most of the incumbents? My records show that this is his third official visit to Westminster in seven months, making him a more familiar face than, say, Gordon Brown.

So you might be approaching the issue from a slightly different angle to billionaire mogul Rupert Murdoch, but chances are you hold your so-called betters in similar regard. "Cancer has Murdoch", ran the Private Eye headline when the old boy had some bother with his prostate 12 years ago, and a similar ironic reversal now seems apt. "Murdoch finds political class distasteful" certainly puts the governing elite into perspective.

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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

Post  eddie on Wed May 02, 2012 4:03 am

Rupert Murdoch 'not fit' to lead major international company, MPs conclude

Select committee also says James Murdoch showed 'wilful ignorance' of extent of phone hacking at News of the World

Dan Sabbagh and Josh Halliday

guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 1 May 2012 11.31 BST


Rupert Murdoch is "not a fit person" to exercise stewardship of a major international company, a committee of MPs has concluded, in a report highly critical of the mogul and his son James's role in the News of the World phone-hacking affair.

The Commons culture, media and sport select committee also concluded that James Murdoch showed "wilful ignorance" of the extent of phone hacking during 2009 and 2010 – in a highly charged document that saw MPs split on party lines as regards the two Murdochs.

Labour MPs and the sole Liberal Democrat on the committee, Adrian Sanders, voted together in a bloc of six against the five Conservatives to insert the criticisms of Rupert Murdoch and toughen up the remarks about his son James. But the MPs were united in their criticism of other former News International employees.

The cross-party group of MPs said that Les Hinton, the former executive chairman of News International, was "complicit" in a cover-up at the newspaper group, and that Colin Myler, former editor of the News of the World, and the paper's ex-head of legal, Tom Crone, deliberately withheld crucial information and answered questions falsely. All three were accused of misleading parliament by the culture select committee.

Rupert Murdoch, the document said, "did not take steps to become fully informed about phone hacking" and "turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications".

The committee concluded that the culture of the company's newspapers "permeated from the top" and "speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International".

That prompted the MPs' report to say: "We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of major international company."

James Murdoch is described as exhibiting a "lack of curiosity … wilful ignorance even" at the time of the negotiations surrounding the 2008 Gordon Taylor phone-hacking settlement and into 2009 and 2010. The younger son of Rupert Murdoch is criticised for failing to appreciate the significance of the News of the World hacking when the "for Neville" email first became public in 2009 and during subsequent investigations by parliament in February 2010 and a New York Times report in September 2010.

"We would add to these admissions that as the head of a journalistic enterprise, we are astonished that James Murdoch did not seek more information or ask to see the evidence and counsel's opinion when he was briefed by Tom Crone and Colin Myler on the Gordon Taylor case," the select committee said.

Even if James Murdoch did not appreciate the significance of the £700,000 Taylor payout, the committee concluded it was "simply astonishing" that he did not realise that the "one 'rogue reporter' line was untrue" until late 2010, after a previous inquiry by the culture select committee which ran during 2009 and reported in February 2010.

According to minutes published by the committee, the MPs were almost unanimous in their criticism of Hinton, Myler and Crone.

Rebekah Brooks, the former News of the World editor and News International boss, was largely spared from the MPs' criticism. The report said that it would not draw conclusions on evidence to the committee about Milly Dowler, the murdered schoolgirl whose voicemail messages were hacked by the News of the World in 2002, because of an ongoing police investigation into Brooks.

However, the MPs said that Brooks must take responsibility for "the culture which permitted" unethical newsgathering methods over Dowler in 2002. The MPs said: "The attempts by the News of the World to get a scoop on Milly Dowler led to a considerable amount of police resource being redirected to the pursuit of false leads."

Brooks is on police bail after being arrested as part of Scotland Yard's investigation into phone hacking on 17 July 2011 and, separately, on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice along with her husband, Charlie, on 13 March this year. Brooks denies knowledge of or involvement in phone hacking or other illegal activities.

The culture select committee charged Hinton with being "complicit" in a cover-up of wrongdoing at Rupert Murdoch's media empire.

MPs said that Myler and Crone deliberately withheld crucial information and answered falsely questions put by the committee.

The executives demonstrated contempt for parliament "in the most blatant fashion", the MPs said, in what they described as a corporate attempt to mislead the committee about the true extent of phone hacking at the News of the World.

The MPs said that Hinton, executive chairman of News International until December 2007, had "inexcusably" misled the committee over his role in authorising the £243,000 payout to Clive Goodman, the former royal editor convicted of phone hacking in January that year.

"We consider, therefore, that Les Hinton was complicit in the cover-up at News International, which included making misleading statements and giving a misleading picture to the committee," the MPs said.

Crone and Myler were accused of deliberately misleading the MPs on the culture select committee in 2009 and again in 2011 about their alleged knowledge that phone hacking went beyond a single "rogue reporter" at the now-closed Sunday tabloid.

"Both Tom Crone and Colin Myler deliberately avoided disclosing crucial information to the committee and, when asked to do, answered questions falsely," the MPs said in the report.

All three executives now face the prospect of being called to apologise before parliament, in a constitutional move that has not been used for almost half a century.

The report could prove especially problematic for Myler, who is only five months into his editorship at the New York Daily News.

The select committee said it would table a Commons motion asking parliament to endorse its conclusions about misleading evidence.

Myler said he stood by his evidence to the committee. "While I respect the work that the select committee has carried out, I stand by the evidence that I gave the committee. I have always sought to be accurate and consistent in what I have said to the committee," he said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.

"The conclusions of the committee have, perhaps inevitably, been affected by the fragmented picture which has emerged from the various witnesses over successive appearances and by the constraints within which the committee had to conduct its procedure.

"These issues remain the subject of a police investigation and the Leveson judicial inquiry and I have every confidence that they will establish the truth in the fullness of time."

Hinton has issued a statement denying the allegations. "I am shocked and disappointed by the culture, media and sport select committee's allegations that I have misled parliament and was 'complicit' in a cover-up," he said.

"I refute these accusations utterly. I have always been truthful in my dealings with the committee and its findings are unfounded, unfair and erroneous.

"To be clear, not once in my testimony before the committee did I seek to mislead it or pass blame for decisions to others. Nor did I participate in a 'cover-up'. Furthermore, there is nothing in my evidence to support the committee's findings that I did. I will be writing to John Whittingdale, the chair of the committee, to object formally."

News Corp said in a statement: "News Corporation is carefully reviewing the select committee's report and will respond shortly. The company fully acknowledges significant wrongdoing at News of the World and apologises to everyone whose privacy was invaded."

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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

Post  eddie on Sat May 05, 2012 3:53 pm

Local elections 2012: Thatcherism with a posh accent is a toxic proposition

The Tories aren't in existential crisis, but discontent among voters is focused on the leadership cabal and the issue of class

John Harris

guardian.co.uk, Friday 4 May 2012 14.35 BST


Local election results … 'Hand the party to blueboods rather than battlers, and the same basic plotline may well play out again and again.' Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Cast your eyes over these results, and feel the Tory pain. Harlow, Great Yarmouth, Reading, Plymouth, Thurrock – all southern bywords for the kind of places that decide British elections, and all lost to Labour. Ukip polling an average of 13% wherever it stood. Those half-baked plans for directly elected mayors met with a mixture of hostility and complete indifference.

The low chatter of Conservative angst that has been simmering since the budget has now suddenly risen in volume and urgency. So far, listening to such voices rather suggests that the critique of the Tories' woes needs a bit more work, but one thing is beyond doubt: almighty rows have broken out within the Conservative family.

There may be something in the idea being put about by those on the right of the party that Tory loyalists have been dismayed by the leadership's embrace of bits of metropolitan liberalism, but there again, do more hard-bitten Conservatives really have that much to complain about?

The idea of any leftward pull from the Lib Dems usually turns out to be a canard. The cuts highlight the fact that Thatcherism is in rude health. The welfare state is under assault. The NHS is being subjected to the outsourcing and fragmentation of Tory dreams, and our schools are falling victim to much the same, with the added bonus of a supposed return to old-fashioned discipline and academic rigour. Moreover, large swaths of the public remain in full accord with the supposed need for crushing austerity, are happy to watch benefit claimants being thrown the wolves, and are hardly sold on the idea of Labour coming back to power – with or without Ed Miliband's still cloudy vision of "responsible capitalism". So what is going on?

Three factors speak for themselves: the dreadful state of the economy, the rising cost of living, and the widespread impression of simple incompetence. But that third explanation blurs over into something even more troubling to the Tory soul: the shortcomings of the coterie who currently lead the party, and the torturous issue of class.

Could it be that if the Tories are going to stick to the ideology they pursued in the 1980s, their party is best fronted by the kind of people on whom it depends for votes, rather than those who give the party money?

Thirty years ago, when its project was piloted by politicians who had a keen sense of how millions of Britons thought and lived, the party was on to a inspired kind of politics that won it four elections. But Thatcherism with a posh accent is a potentially toxic proposition, revealing Conservatism not as the empowering, aspirational force that once seized so many imaginations but a tangle of cynical ideas that shores up the same old elites.

In London, Boris Johnson has smoothed over the issue of his background thanks to three things: his veneer of nonconformity, his shape-shifting politics, and his distance from the Osborne-Cameron cabal.

But since the budget, and the stupid decision to cut the 50p rate of tax, class-based Tory anxiety has defined plenty of the noise emanating from Conservatives. Nadine Dorries is easily dismissed as an irrelevant troublemaker, but her two attacks on the party's "posh boys" have palpably jangled nerves.

Rachel Sylvester, a dependably insightful Times columnist, recently wrote of the inner circle's "toe-curlingly patronising" attitude to such ministers as Eric Pickles and Sayeeda Warsi, both of whom embody a Conservatism reflective of working-class aspiration, rather than the expectation of power and privilege being handed from one moneyed generation to the next.

Tim Mongomerie, whose critique of where his party is going wrong grows more compelling by the week, expresses deep concern that the party leadership is in danger of neglecting the aspirational "grafters" whose votes are essential to any Tory victory in three years' time. Meanwhile, when Labour mocks the frontbench's backgrounds, the voices that would once accused them of stone-age class warfare are conspicuously silent. Class, after all, is back, and it was the Tories who put it there. Which self-respecting opposition wouldn't hammer it?

What should really exercise Tory minds is that whatever their problems, they do not add up to any kind of existential crisis. Conservatism – or, at least, support for it – remains something deeply rooted in the fabric of English life. It expresses a huge dislike of organised labour, a belief in private property as the foundation of civilisation, and a defining suspicion of the state. For the most part it is hostile to change – but at least once, it has risen to a moment that demanded it.

It will never go away – but as Conservatives endlessly concluded between the mid-1960s and the early 21st century, its best public faces are people with an instinctive understanding of ordinary lives, and the openings within them for Conservative ideas.

Hand the party to bluebloods rather than battlers, and the same basic plotline may well play out again and again – something manifested not just in this current turbulence, but their howling failure to win the last general election, and the fact that David Cameron and George Osborne have yet to communicate any sense of their vision for the country.

In its absence, the prime minister is reduced to either hammily claiming that he understands the nitty-gritty of ordinary lives or getting very angry, as if his troubles are an offence to the natural order of things. Was Norman Tebbit like that? More to the point, was Margaret Thatcher?


Five decades ago, grouse-moors Conservatism seemed to breathe its last with the doomed Alec Douglas-Home, chosen for the leadership via the old method whereby a charmed circle would disappear into a country house, and then pick its man. "We can't go wrong with a shooting gent," one of them said.

But they did, and at this rate, they will again.

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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

Post  eddie on Sat May 05, 2012 8:15 pm

The Guardian 5 May

If there was a symbol of the Liberal Democrats' discomfiture as their vote plummeted across Scotland and the rest of the UK, it came in the shape of a penguin.

In the Pentland Hills ward for Edinburgh city council, the Lib Dem candidate won fewer votes than Professor Pongoo, or independent candidate Mike Ferrigan, who ran his campaign in a full penguin suit.

Professor Pongoo, who stood to raise awareness of social and environmental issues, took 5.6% of first-preference votes to the Lib Dems' 4.7%.

Lib Dem officials were left having to explain why they were pipped at the poll by a man dressed as a flightless bird.

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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

Post  eddie on Sun May 06, 2012 8:47 pm

Chris Riddell on the Lib-Dems:


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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

Post  eddie on Sat May 12, 2012 6:31 am

Steve Bell on David Cameron and Nick Clegg

Prime minister and deputy reaffirm commitment to coalition

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 9 May 2012 00.04 BST




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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

Post  eddie on Sat May 12, 2012 6:39 am

Steve Bell on Andy Coulson at Leveson inquiry

Ex-News of the World editor says he may have had unsupervised access to papers, despite low-level clearance

guardian.co.uk, Friday 11 May 2012 00.06 BST


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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

Post  eddie on Mon May 14, 2012 3:49 am


Chris Riddell

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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

Post  eddie on Sat May 26, 2012 1:55 pm

Steve Bell on Rebekah Brooks being charged over phone-hacking 'cover-up'

Former News International CEO expressed her anger that those close to her have been 'dragged into the affair'

guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 15 May 2012 23.35 BST




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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

Post  Yakima Canutt on Sun May 27, 2012 6:32 am

How could civic ministers ever think Austerity Regimens would work fast enough to fit into election cycles and thereby not damn reelection chances? Do they think they're just taking one for the team? Don't Austerity Regimens give the public too much credit in the way of foresightedness? Budget balancing is nice but raising taxes while cutting spending can create a negative feedback loop wherein citizens go bananas. You have to mix in some kind of stimulus with the belt-tightening or things can go mingy. But David Brooks says Britton is not poised to handle a large debt load and is danger of really disappointing Martin Amis. Also too much of Britton economy is based on finance, this is a recipe for busto... the financial sector shouldn't grow too large because they don't actually make anything really. Also investment banking is neither investing or banking. Really it is hi-stakes video poker or Pokey as they say in Auztralia and it is just shuffling around a bunch of zeros so to get a donkey-shaped manmade island in United Arab Emirates. But structural flaws leading to 2008 crash are in many ways worse now so world is more or less bugggerred on bamboo floor, so pretend paper money must be converted to tungsten holdings.



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Re: The UK Con-Dem Coalition government

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