Mr Cameron’s speech this week on welfare reform was a thoughful and important contribution to the debate about the future direction of welfare policy.
He acknowledges that welfare accounts for almost £1 in every £3 the government spends. He rightly wishes to be generous to those in need through disability or ill fortune. He also wishes to promote work as the best kind of welfare for most people of working age. He identifies many of the perverse incentives in the system.
There are 400,000 more people in work than in 2010 when the government was formed. This is good progress, against a difficult economic backdrop. The private sector has comfortably created many more jobs than the public sector has shed, despite all the dire warnings to the contrary when critics saw the forecasts for job reductions by government. Mr Duncan Smith’s programmes to help people back into work are having some favourable impacts. The numbers for both employment and retail sales also make one wonder how accurate the GDP figures are, as they tell a different story.
Mr Cameron says he wants to carry on with his welfare reforms to show he is on the side of “those who work hard and do the right thing” He wishes to end features of the system which trap people in poverty and “encourage irresponsibility”.
This admission will probably strike the Editor as yet another embossed invitation to give me the sack, but I am simply not up to the task of conveying, to the unsporty among you, the seismic nature of the earthquake generated on Centre Court on Thursday night. No non-sporting analogy is adequate.
Elfin Treasury minister Chloe Smith duffing up Paxo so viciously on Newsnight that he resigns on air, mid-interview, citing his own incompetence? Bob Diamond beating a flaxen-haired three-year-old who fought off a gang of armed robbers with her dolly on the very day she discovered the cure for cancer, to a Pride of Britain Award? Two Ton Tessie O’Shea edging out Angelina Jolie to become the first posthumous International Celebrity Rear of the Year?
None of the above comes close to matching the outlandishness of Lukas Rosol’s five-set defeat of Rafael Nadal. David and Goliath isn’t in it. David had a catapult, and Jehovah as his cornerman. But had this Czech of previously unimpeachable obscurity deployed a dozen AK47-armed Taliban snipers cunningly positioned in the players’ box, you still wouldn’t have given him an earthly. In the early rounds of major tournaments, after all, the Spaniard is as invulnerable as Achilles. Not Homer’s Achilles, mind – the other Achilles, whose mother had the wit to dip his infant heel in the Styx along with the rest of him. Only Novak Djokovic had a prayer of beating the Raging Mallorcan Bull in a grand slam, and only then after a monumental struggle in the final. Or so the received wisdom held.
The judge in his case claimed that Lees was a hardened drug dealer who was also selling opium and heroin, although no evidence of this appears to have been produced in court.
Lees was born in Jeddah, where his father worked for the Saudi Yanbu Petrochemical Company, but has lived much of his life in the United Arab Emirates.
His mother, Abeba Gebebramlak, who is of Eritrean origin, was in court when the death sentence was imposed.
While Lees’s case file describes him as an “electrician”, he seems to have had no regular job and no education beyond secondary school.
Asked on the social networking website MySpace whether he wanted to go to college, he replied: “LOL [laugh out loud]. Just ask if I want to goto [sic] a 4 year party instead”.
Other than several shopping malls, Abu Dhabi offers few outlets for the young and is very different from its garish neighbour, Dubai. The sale of alcohol is tightly restricted and rigid social codes remain in force. A sign on the Corniche, a promenade beside the Gulf, reads: “Unruly behaviour will not be tolerated”. The accompanying picture shows a man and a woman holding hands, with a thick line drawn over them.
The Prime Minister expressed his anger after the four biggest high street banks — Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds TSB and the Royal Bank of Scotland — admitted culpability in the selling of punitive financial products to thousands of small businesses.
Sir Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, condemned the “shoddy treatment of customers” and “deceitful manipulation” which he said characterised the culture at leading banks.
Stephen Hester, the chief executive of RBS, agreed to waive his bonus for this year after customers were prevented from accessing their accounts last week.
Last night, Bob Diamond, the chief executive of Barclays, defied calls for his resignation after Mr Cameron again failed to back him. A major investor in Barclays threatened legal action against the bank’s board if Mr Diamond did not return bonuses.
On Wednesday, Barclays was fined a record £290 million after it admitted conspiring to fix global interest rates. The manipulation of the Libor rate is thought to have cost consumers, businesses and investors up to £30 billion.