Morning Briefing – The Telegraph

Sir Malcolm and Mr Straw

Good morning. Unsurprisingly Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Mr Straw continue to dominate the news agenda, following our scoop yesterday and the airing of Channel 4’s undercover report last night.

“Straw to take job with firm he lobbied for in Commons,” is our splash . The Times lead with “Party grandees’ careers in tatters over lobbying sting” while the Daily Mirror splashes with “Top Tory: I am entitled to more than £67k salary”.

The fallout from the two men discussing using their privileged positions as politicians to help out a fictitious Chinese company in return for money is likely to stay on the news agenda for a little while. The only time many of the public care about politics is when they feel aggrieved and hard-done-by. Negative politics has an audience.

An Tory gent like Sir Malcolm stating “You’d be surprised how much free time I have” and describing himself as “self-employed” is likely to grind some gears for a while. In particular, his claim that he wanted “the standard of living that my professional background would normally entitle me to have” is not going down well with the public. If there is one thing the British like to be annoyed off about besides the lack of sunshine in this country, it is politicians who appear greedy and deny any wrong-doing. It sticks in people’s throats. It smells bad. People might not necessarily be able to pinpoint exactly what grates about it. It just does. In a sharp column in today’s Times, Rachel Sylvester quotes a Downing Street strategist who describes it as the ‘smell test’. Sylvester writes: “Perception matters as well as reality in politics… they unfortunately look like grasping grandees willing to sell their contact books, if not their souls, for £5,000… the whole thing fails what one No 10 strategist calls the ‘smell test’.” Richard Littlejohn also echoes this his Mail column, writing: “It can’t be right that any MP can double his money by acting as a glorified errand boy for a private company.”

So, besides the party suspensions and ongoing parliamentary investigation should anything be done to stop this happening again in the future? Or should we just accept that politicians having second jobs and outside interests is something that is part of our political landscape?

Dan Hodges says the answer is to whack up MPs pay to £150,000. But is this too simplistic a notion? Would this stop potential MPs from entering parliament? And, if so, would this stop our political lives being as enriched? Philip Johnston says we need MPs with experience of real life. While The Sun’s leader is slightly less generous with wages than Hodges but equally unequivocal about the negative impact of MPs having second jobs: “Ban MPs from any paid work beyond representing those who voted them in. Give them a generous, professional London wage…say £80,000. That ought to attract talent and reflect the responsibility and prestige of the job,” the tabloid thunders.

MPs pay is not an issue that is new, of course. It’s been around for a while. Jim Pickard and Elizabeth Rigby write in the Financial Times that Britain’s political leaders have been “agonising” about MPs pay for over a century since 1911 when David Lloyd George first introduced pay for members of parliament. The Liberal Prime Minister said at the time that the money was “not a remuneration, not a recompense, it is not even a salary.”

David Cameron echoed that sentiment yesterday, rejecting Labour’s calls for new restrictions on second jobs in the wake of another undercover sting on MPs. Miliband wrote to him asking him “follow my lead” by banning MPs’ paid directorships and consultancies. Mr Cameron said he opposed a complete ban on MPs’ outside interests, saying that these often enriched the knowledge base of parliament. This was the only answer he could give. Backing Ed Miliband on this point would indubitably cause trouble in his party. Indeed, of the 180 MPs with second jobs that we revealed in The Daily Telegraph yesterday – 112 are Tories, whilst just 43 are Labour. And of the top ten highest earning MPs, six of these are Tories.

MR STRAW AND THE REVOLVING DOOR

Our front page story about Jack Straw taking up a job when he leaves parliament with a company that won a government contract worth £75 million after he lobbied a minister on its behalf will raise fresh questions about the so-called ‘revolving door’. The former foreign secretary boasted to undercover reporters that he helped the furniture firm “get on the ladder” and secure government contracts. Mr Straw privately lobbied Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister on behalf of the company, Senator International and now he is set to join the firm’s board once he leaves parliament in May. Again, this will stick in people’s throats.

SIR MALCOLM’S POSITION “UNTENABLE”

Steven Swinford and Christopher Hope report that Rifkind’s colleagues are to call for him to quit his role as the chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC). Last night on Newsnight, the former chair of the ISC, Kim Howells, said that he thought the position was a “full time job” and claimed he was “bewildered” by Sir Malcolm’s comments. As he fights for his political career, Rifkind is to be told today by some colleagues at a committee meeting that his position as chair has become “untenable” and he should stand down. Francis Elliot and Sam Coates lead their Times coverage on Sir Malcolm being urged to stand down also as an MP, after Mr Cameron suspended him from the Conservative whip and ordered a disciplinary investigation. They report that, “one minister close to No 10 said: ‘Malcolm should spare himself and the rest of us a lot of pain and just stand down now.’ But Sir Malcolm is showing signs he will nor go out without a fight. Pull up a chair and put your feet up, it should start to get even more interesting.

MIND THE AGE GAP

The Financial Times splashes on “No country for young me – the UK’s widening generation gap”, which describes the “most dramatic generational change in decades” of young adults seeing their living standards slip whilst pensioners become increasingly better-off. The findings are based on official incomes data from more than £800,000 households stretching over 50 years. And in the Telegraph, Andrew Hood of the IFS explains how pensioners are now better off than the rest.

The statistics come just as David Cameron intensified his appeal to older voters yesterday at a party event hosted by Saga, the service provider for the over 50s in Hastings. He pledged to protect pensioner benefits costing billions from any cuts if he wins in May. Our leader described it as “questionable economics”. Unsurprisingly, The Daily Express gleefully reports that Cameron “rejected criticism that his plans to protect benefits worth more than £7.5billion a year would place an ‘unfair’ tax burden on young workers.” In the Times, Lucy Fisher writes that Cameron insisted young voters support propping up benefits for the elderly, such as free bus passes and television licences. “Ask anyone,” the PM said. “Do you want your parent or grandparent to be looked after as they grow old? They will say yes.” The question is emotive, sure, but also very disingenuous. Wanting the elderly to be treated with dignity and respect in care homes is perhaps not the same as gifting well-off pensioners with free perks. But the old vote. The young don’t. “You reap what you sow” is probably the political message here.

TORY SURGE?

The Daily Mail have carried out the first in their series of exclusive ComRes polls and found that the Tories have moved into a two-point lead over Labour, following an ebb in support for Ukip. James Chapman writes, “The poll confirms that with fewer than 75 days to go until the most unpredictable General Election for generations, Ed Miliband has become a significant drag on Labour’s fortunes.” The ComRes poll also found that more than half of Britons (55 per cent) don’t want the SNP to makes decisions on laws that do not have an impact on Scotland, if they are in a coalition government after May.

CAN TAYLOR SWIFT SAVE ME?

Buzzfeed’s Emily Ashton has an interesting long-form piece on Danny Alexander’s campaign trail in Inverness. She finds him in a little bit of a tricky position – Ashcroft put him 29 points behind the SNP and he admits he has a “big fight” on his hands. He goes on to tell Ashton that it “really p****es me off that the Tories try to claim credit for everything” the coalition government has achieved. He takes further aim at his Tory colleagues: “I’m somebody who came from a very ordinary background. But I look round the Cabinet table and I see a whole bunch of people who come from much more privileged backgrounds. And I think there should be more people like me round the Cabinet table.” During the interview he tells Ashton that he listens to Taylor Swift in repeat in his car (thanks to his young daughters). Perhaps her music will save him.

CAM DISTANCES HIMSELF FROM BACKBENCHER COMMENT

The Guardian reports that David Cameron has distanced himself from comments made by one of his backbenchers who dismissed Rachel Reeves’s plans to join the cabinet and take maternity leave immediately after the general election. Tory MP for Romford, Andrew Rosindell told the Daily Mail that a Cabinet role requires someone’s full attention after she said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph at the weekend that she would take a Cabinet position and before going on maternity leave. Reeves – whose child is due on June 15, five weeks after the election – said she wanted to abolish the bedroom tax before going on maternity leave. In the Daily Mail, columnist Belinda Brown goes for Mrs Reeves. “Her desire to ‘have it all’ trumps the well-being of the country and her own children,” she writes

There Will Always Be War

PA Pundits - International

Islam - muslim Warriors_AC
caruba_alan20080111 By Alan Caruba ~

We begin with the reality that the United States and many other nations are at war with militant Islamists. They are a growing army of religious zealots murdering Christians, Jews, others who are not Muslim, and even other Muslims.

In my youth America knew how to win wars. In Europe it bombed Germany into submission, leading its allies in an invasion that left Germany divided for decades until the Soviet Union collapsed. In Asia Truman dropped two atomic bombs on Japan because they didn’t get the message when Hiroshima was destroyed on August 6, 1945. It took a second bomb on Nagasaki on August 9 to bring about Japan’s surrender.

Millions died in World War II but the alternative would have been the loss of freedom for millions worldwide.

If one spends any time learning history, the primary lesson is that war has been a constant…

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The West has dealt itself a weak hand in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

WarSclerotic

The West has dealt itself a weak hand in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

By Ted Belman

February 24, 2015

via Articles: The West has dealt itself a weak hand in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

 

The Western countries have dealt themselves a weak hand, yet they are going all in. Israel need only call their bluff.  The pot they hope to win is an agreement, misnamed as a peace agreement, which will establish a Palestinian state on the ’67 borders with Jerusalem as its capital. But there are no takers on either side of the ’67 lines.

To win this pot, the EU is threatening Israel with sanctions and with an amendment to the existing Free Trade Agreement. They are also threatening to reduce economic cooperation. They want Israel to stop building settlements in places that will make the two state solution untenable. So far they have accomplished nothing with the…

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Islamic State in Syria abducts at least 90 from Christian villages

WarSclerotic

Islamic State in Syria abducts at least 90 from Christian villages
By REUTERS 02/24/2015


(They tell us this has nothing to do with religion or Islam. What a load of crap. Please pray for our Christian brothers. – LS)

Following beheading of 21 Coptic Christians in Egypt, IS kidnaps 90 Assyrian Christians in Syria.

AMMAN- Islamic State militants have abducted at least 90 people from Assyrian Christian villages in northeastern Syria, a monitor that tracks violence in Syria said on Tuesday.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the abductions took place after dawn raids in villages inhabited by the ancient Christian minority near the town of Tel Hmar, a mainly Assyrian town, in the western countryside of the city of Hasaka, a city mainly held by the Kurds.

The latest offensive coincides with a push by Syrian Kurds in northeastern Syria near the Iraqi border since Sunday that…

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You Ever Cheated On Me?

Sam and Becky are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Sam says to her;

‘Becky, I was wondering, have you ever cheated on me?’

Becky replies, ‘Oh Sam, why would you ask such a question now?
Forget it honey what was done is gone!’

‘Yes, Becky, I really want to know. Please?’

‘Well, all right. Yes, 3 times!’

‘Three? Well, when were they?’ he asked.

‘Well, Sam, remember when you were 35 years old and you really wanted to start the business on your own and no bank would give you a loan? Remember? Then one day the bank president himself came over the house and signed the loan papers, no questions asked?’

‘Oh, Becky, you did that for me! I respect you more than ever, to do such a thing for me. So, when was the second time?’

‘Well, Sam, remember when you had that last heart attack and you were needing that very tricky operation, and no surgeon would touch you?’

‘Then remember how Dr. Thomas came all the way up here, to do the surgery himself, and then you were in good shape again?’

‘I can’t believe it! Becky, you should do such a thing for me, to save my life. I couldn’t have a more wonderful wife, to do such a thing, you must really love me darling. I couldn’t be more moved.’

‘So, all right then, when was the third time?’

‘Well, remember a few years ago, when you really wanted to be president of the golf club and you were 12 votes short?’

Sam: ‘It was 2 votes short . . .’