MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph)
EU Finance ministers meet today in Brussels, ahead of tomorrow’s showdown between Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel in Berlin.
The Times (£) and Guardian have both splashed on the coming 48 hours for Europe. The Times includes a quote from Vince Cable warning that the UK will experience a “massive” economic impact should the eurozone fail.
Meanwhile, the FT (£) reveals that Eurozone central bankers are finally discussing how to manage a potential Greek exit publicly.
The encounter will be watched closely here. Ministers are growing increasingly anxious about the impact of the political turmoil raging across the Channel. Yesterday Angela Merkel took a beating in North Rhine-Westphalia (the most populous state of Germany), adding to the chaos in the Greek election aftermath. Political uncertainty is encouraging the clamour against austerity.
Our business splash reports that Germany has drawn up plans to make Britain pay a share of the multi-billion pound clean-up costs if Greece is ejected from the euro. Something that would go down very badly with Dave’s (already disgruntled) backbenchers. The Times (£) details more on the trouble brewing in the 1922 Committee.
No 10 will also note with a degree of foreboding the FT item claiming that Tony Blair is about to join forces with those calling for a new approach to stimulate growth.
With the unlikely pairing of Ed Balls and Peter Mandelson teaming up in the Guardian, it begins to look as if Ed Miliband is successfully organising a rallying round of the (successful) old guard to put pressure on David Cameron and George Osborne.
A Labour reshuffle is almost certain now that Peter Hain has announced his departure. Read our report. The Guardian’s Jackie Ashley says that if Ed plays this well, he could be left with a winning hand.
IDS WIELDS THE AXE
But if there’s one person not frightened of starting a political fire it’s Iain Duncan Smith. We’ve splashed on news that he’s about to crack down on abuse and fraud in the disability benefits system. This could result in 500,000 losing their benefits.
Our leader column is supportive, but warns that this will be a test for the Government, saying:
“There will inevitably be distressing stories of people, including soldiers, with disabilities losing their allowance that will test the Government’s resolve to see this through.”
GO GREEN LEADER
Caroline Lucas is stepping down as the leader of the Green Party to make space for another high-profile candidate. She was making the move “in order to broaden opportunities for the range of talent in the party and to raise the profiles of others aspiring to election”.
The party’s victory over the Lib Dems in the London Mayoral race has clearly raised their ambitions for 2015. Read the Guardian’s report.
CLEGG SOCIALLY MOBILE?
The Lib Dems are working on a fightback strategy though. Nick Clegg gives a speech today announcing the pupil premium, and adding:
“The Liberal Democrats are in this government to play our part in rescuing and reforming the economy . . . But we are not going to miss our chance to make Britain a better, fairer place too.”
He’ll claim that the idea has travelled from a pamphlet via “the Liberal Democrat manifesto” into the schools budget.
An interesting judgement call, given that the pupil premium was in the Tory manifesto too.
BO JO’S BACK
Now election season’s over, Boris’s column was back in the Telegraph as of last week. And characteristically, he’s started off with a bang, calling for the next director general of the BBC to be a Tory.
He calls the BBC “statist, corporatist, defeatist, anti-business, Europhile and, above all, overwhelmingly biased to the Left.”
He makes a compelling argument, but this is clearly another calculated tilt at the sensibilities of robust-minded Tories.
The Mail has picked up on yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph story, echoed by Eric Pickles, on William Hague’s urging that we must all work harder. Presumably that applies to ministers too? The Mail’s leader column suggests they should give it a try.
The FT (£) says this is “a sign of deteriorating relations between the coalition and business,” including quotes from John Longworth, the director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, who said that ministers were “losing the plot” on growth.
CAM BACK ON COST OF SOCIAL FAILURE
The Mail has also made supportive noises about the family vouchers project being put to trial by No 10, giving it a “a cautious welcome” in its leader column today. This is a Steve Hilton valedictory project that many predict will soon pass from the scene (a bit like him).
But Mr Cameron is invested in it and it speaks to the Government’s aim of pushing structural change that might over time reduce the costs of social failure (remember those?).
TWEETS AND TWITS
Kerry McCarthy, the Labour government’s one-time Twitter Tsar, lets us know what keeps her up at night:
“@KerryMP: Can’t sleep. Reading about emperor penguins’ love lives…”
Latest YouGov/Sunday Times: Conservatives 31%, Labour 43%, Lib Dems 10%
Overall government approval rating: -39
In The Telegraph
John Sentamu: Let’s not be afraid to talk about death
Best of the rest
Ed Balls and Peter Mandelson in the Guardian: We agree about Europe
Nick Pearce and Jo Johnson in the Financial Times (£): Foreign students are key to UK prosperity
Jackie Ashley in the Guardian: A wise reshuffle could leave Ed Miliband with a winning hand
Mary Ann Sieghart in the Independent: Get new fathers to stay at home with the baby and we all gain
Today: Commons debates the Queen’s Speech, focusing on business and the economy
Today: Lords debates the Queen’s Speech, focusing on constitutional affairs
Today: A seven-year-old girl delivers a letter to David Cameron at Downing Street asking him to reverse the proposed 20 percent VAT on listed buildings alterations. She wrote the letter after costs stalled building work at Wakefield Cathedral.
Today: Philip Hammond gives a speech on infrastructure security, Westminster
10am:News conference with the Dalai Lama in advance of him receiving the 2012 Templeton Prize. St Paul’s Cathedral
10am: Nick Clegg gives a speech on the Pupil Premium. New North Academy, 32 Popham Road, Islington
10am: Alastair Campbell and Lord O’Donnell to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry. The Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand
6pm: Parliamentary Labour Party weekly meeting, Committee Room 14, House of Commons
In 1999, Sugata Mitra – now Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastlle University in the UK, was working in Delhi when he had a crazy idea.
The complex in which he worked was surrounded by a slum and he wondered what would happen if he embedded an internet-enabled computer in the wall of the complex at kid-height, so that the children running around outside could reach it? Would the children ignore the computer? Break it up? Or – most unlikely of all – would the children learn to use the computer? (Preposterous notion given that these were slum children who hardly ever went to school, never saw the internet and didn’t speak or read English)
So – what do you think happened?
Have a look for yourself.
P.S. – Fun fact – when Vikas Swarup read about Sugata Mitra’s experiment he began to think about slum children educating themselves and…
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He saw Sergio Agüero kneed in the leg by Joey Barton and then strike a brilliant winning goal in a campaign that lifted a 44-year shadow over the club he picked off an international investment menu.
With no space in his diary to permit a trip to the district of Manchester that is his other fiefdom, the Sheikh must have marvelled at what fun money can buy you in the opera of the English game.
He saw an enfant terrible who recites Nietzsche to the people act like a thug and depart the stage (Barton).
Manchester City’s absentee owner then observed a relegation-threatened 10-man team hold off champions-elect until five minutes of madness rewrote the sporting history of Manchester.
Imagine how powerful he felt. All those people in the stands with chest pains and short of breath. All those asking themselves how they would cope with another United title win. And then all that happiness breaking the dam of 44 years.
To die with dignity has become inextricably associated with a campaign for “assisted dying”, but for me dignity is actually about valuing life – life, as Jesus demonstrated, “in all its fullness”. In a society where people are living longer and medical science is enabling us to add more years to our span of life, we should not have to live in fear – we should celebrate and live life to the full. But in evading one of the most important discussions of our lives, we lose sight of the fact that a good death is also part of a good life.
Until this Monday morning you were probably not thinking about the meaning of life and the inevitability of death. Why would you? Even when there is time to sit back and consider the important things in life, we very rarely talk about death, even though sooner or later it catches up with all of us, regardless of our ethnic background or status. Death is the most democratic of all happenings.
It’s not that I want to depress you. Rather I want there to be an open discussion about the way our society deals with dying. Neither am I going to remonstrate with you on the importance of getting your spiritual and practical affairs in order. I simply want to ensure the fears and taboos surrounding death are challenged.
Who secured the greatest comeback of last week; Sergio Aguero and Roberto Mancini? Nope, it was in fact 28-year-old Hamdi Hafez al-Nubi, of Luxor. Pronounced dead of a heart attack, the Egyptian waiter was being washed and dressed for his burial when a doctor noticed he was still warm. Hamdi was quickly resuscitated, at which point, “rather than cancel the funeral, mourners turned the party into a celebration.”
There were apparently similar scenes at Saturday’s Progress conference, where members of the New Labour pressure group gathered in an equally upbeat mood to celebrate Ed Miliband’s own Lazarus-like resurrection. At least that was the plan, except Labour’s leader hadn’t quite read the script. Or more to the point, he hadn’t written it.
“Dreadful”, was the verdict of one shadow cabinet source on Miliband’s speech; “totally content free”. “I read it, and I thought, is that it?”, said another shadow cabinet insider. “It was just full of meaningless generalisation,” said a third: “some sort of Ed Miliband bingo, hitting the buzz words. There was nothing about the deficit or the eurozone crisis or Hollande.”
Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said the fact that the gang of nine men convicted of abusing girls as young as 13 were Asian and their victims white must not be ignored.
He said it would be a “national scandal” if the authorities had failed to intervene to protect the children because of fears that it would lead to the “demonisation” of the Muslim community.
And he voiced fears that the “closed community” the men came from may have turned a blind eye to their activities, either out of fear or because the girls concerned were from a different background.
A gang of nine Muslim men from Pakistan and Afghanistan was last week found guilty of plying girls as young as 13 with drink and drugs so they could “pass them around” and use them for sex.
Judge Gerald Clifton, who heard the case, said in his sentencing remarks that they had treated their victims as “worthless and beyond all respect” at least in part because “they were not of your community or religion”.
Phillip Hammond will tell a conference that money needs to be spent on defences that “cannot be seen on the parade ground.”
Dependence on electronic networks “creates vulnerability” he will say, adding that the response cannot be based on “infantry, or jet planes or destroyers.”
There is an increasing possibility that a rogue state could use an “E-bomb” that would release a devastating electromagnetic pulse (EMP), experts will tell a two-day conference in London.
In the worst case scenario, a nuclear missile could be fired in to space that would release a pulse large enough to paralyse Britain’s infrastructure.
“One of the challenges we face, particularly at a time of limited resources, is to make the case for spending on defence and security solutions that cannot readily be seen by the public – that cannot be shown off on the parade ground – that could be digital, not necessarily physical,” Mr Hammond is expected to say.