Virgin Galactic

Never mind getting to Westminster, what about going to the stars? The Telegraph reports on the Virgin Galactic crash: worried passengers ask for refunds

Virgin Galactic customers have started to ask for refunds over safety fears following the crash which killed a co-pilot during testing, it has emerged. It is the first time that any of the 800 space tourists have pulled out, despite 10 years of delays.

Galactic Chief Executive George Whitesides said it was ‘unsurprising’ that some passengers were now cautious about the project. But he said that his resolve was ‘unshaken’ and claimed that allowing wider access to space was still a ‘deeply worthy goal’.

“A few people have asked for a refund,” Mr Whitesides told The Telegraph. “I don’t think that’s surprising and I think what is relevant is that the vast majority have said ‘don’t give up.

The Independent has an unlikely report asking is there still a future for space tourism … and will Stornoway be home to Europe’s first spaceport?

Terror Plot

The Telegraph reports that armed police arrest four men amid fears of Islamist Remembrance Day terror plot

Four suspected Islamist terrorists have been arrested by armed police on suspicion of plotting attacks in the UK – amid fears of a Remembrance Sunday plot.

Those arrested included a 19-year-old High Wycombe man who neighbours said had returned from a trip to Pakistan earlier this year and was described as having been recently radicalised.

Police would not discuss whether the men had a specific target in mind but the timing of the raids raises the prospect that they may have been planning an incident on Remembrance Sunday.

The Guardian also reports this. The Mail also has a story: Remembrance terror plot: Officers step up security at Cenotaph ahead of tomorrow’s ceremony after armed police arrest four suspects over alleged Islamic extremist plot

Ed Miliband

The Telegraph asks is Ed Miliband really Labour’s worst ever leader?

Labour’s leadership crisis has been a long time coming. Since taking the top job in his party, Ed Miliband has had trouble convincing anyone to take him seriously. As his poll lead and personal approval ratings leave Ed facing the prospect of throwing away an election that was his for the taking we ask if the Labour Party is looking at its worst leader of all time. Here are Ed’s contenders:

  • Jim Callaghan
  • Michael Foot
  • Neil Kinnock
  • Gordon Brown

Read the article in full to see their analysis. Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that Miliband will face more pressure to quit in case of byelection failure, critics say

Critics of Ed Miliband say he will face further pressure to step down as Labour leader if the party fails to put in a credible performance in the Rochester and Strood byelection later this month.

As he launched a pledge to win the general election “street by street”, one party source said a poor performance in an area held by Labour under Tony Blair would raise questions about Miliband’s ability to win over centre-ground voters.

The warning came as a series of shadow cabinet ministers rallied round Miliband after party sources confirmed that unease about his leadership had been passed to Dave Watts, the chair of the parliamentary Labour party. Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, declared Miliband was on course to become an “innovative, reforming, radical” prime minister.

The Mail says Bonfire plotter breaks cover: Ian Austin tells Ed Miliband to get tough on immigration

A senior Labour MP named as being involved in a plot to oust Ed Miliband breaks cover today to demand that the party toughens its stance on immigration.

Ian Austin, one of former prime minister Gordon Brown’s closest allies, said senior figures in his party had told him he ‘sounded like the BNP’ when he complained that too many people were coming to Britain.

He said the Labour leadership should embrace tough policies including a ban on benefit payments to new migrants who have paid nothing into the system, fingerprinting at the Calais border, and up-front payments by foreigners for NHS care.

Osborne and the EU

The Independent runs a story on the EU surcharge: Osborne accused of accounting trick to claim cut in EU bill

George Osborne was accused last night of stage-managing an alleged victory over Brussels by using an accounting trick to claim he had slashed a surprise £1.7bn bill from the European Commission.

The Chancellor emerged from talks in Brussels to declare he had halved the amount Britain owes to £850m and that the cash would be paid in stages over the next year. The bill fell because of the automatic rebate Britain receives on all payments to the EU.

But Mr Osborne’s declaration of victory was immediately challenged by other finance ministers and politicians who said the final amount remained unchanged. EU officials suggested the extra £850m “discount” had been found from moving forward part of the rebate Britain would have normally been due from the Union at a later stage.

The Guardian also reports this.

Energy

The Independent claims that there is power to the people: a revolution in Britain’s energy market

The energy market is poised for a revolution as councils and social housing landlords across the UK prepare to take on the Big Six providers by supplying their own electricity.

From Plymouth and London, to Nottingham, Bristol and Berwickshire, local authorities are working on plans to set themselves up as electricity and gas retailers, and promising to significantly undercut the traditional suppliers.

Some are promising to cut at least £100 from the average household dual-fuel bill of about £1,300 a year. Initially, the new suppliers will look to sell electricity generated by other power companies but in the longer term many plan to produce their own energy, through renewable sources such as wind and solar.

Iraq

The Guardian reports that Obama doubles US troop levels in Iraq for war against Isis

Barack Obama has authorized the doubling of US troop levels in Iraq for the war against Islamic State (Isis) militants, further straining his pledge against “boots on the ground”.

Obama ordered an additional 1,500 troops to Iraq on Friday to bolster the performance of Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting Isis in ground combat. The training, the Pentagon said, is expected to last the better part of a year, raising questions about when the Iraqis will be able to wrest territory away from Isis.

The new troops, the Pentagon emphasized, will not be used in a combat role, similar to roughly the same number of “advisers” who have been performing a similar role in Iraq since June. Troop levels in Iraq will soon stand at about 3,000.

Ukraine

In The Guardian, Ukraine says Russian military column has entered east of country

A column of 32 tanks, 16 howitzer artillery systems and trucks carrying ammunition and fighters has crossed into eastern Ukraine from Russia, the Kiev military said on Friday.

“The deployment continues of military equipment and Russian mercenaries to the frontlines,” spokesman Andriy Lysenko said in a televised briefing referring to Thursday’s cross-border incursion.

Nato said it has seen an increase in Russian troops and equipment along the Ukraine border was looking into the reports. “We are aware of the reports of Russian troops and tanks crossing the border between Ukraine and Russia,” a Nato military officer told Reuters. “If this crossing into Ukraine is confirmed it would be further evidence of Russia’s aggression and direct involvement in destabilising Ukraine.”

Immigration

The Express claims that EU migrants banned from claiming jobless benefits under new tory plans

Ministers believe the restriction, in the Whitehall blueprint for the new Universal Credit welfare system, is the best way to stop jobless migrants being attracted to Britain. They also hope the policy will signal to voters that immigration from other EU countries can be cut following growing concerns that anger at the influx from Eastern Europe is driving Tory supporters into the arms of Ukip.

The move, backed by Tory Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, is almost certain to trigger a fresh row with Brussels. But the Tories are set to argue that the move would not breach EU rules because it would not stop workers getting access to the British labour market and therefore would not conflict with EU freedom of movement. The curb is expected to be officially announced in a speech on migration by David Cameron later this year.

UKIP

The Express reports that  Tories are losing out most to Ukip

The Survation poll shows more than a quarter of those who voted Conservative at the 2010 General Election (27 per cent) now plan to back Ukip. The anti-Brussels party is also taking support from the other main parties, with 11 per cent of 2010 Labour voters and 21 per cent of Lib Dem supporters switching to it. But the shift of Tory voters has allowed Labour to climb four points ahead of the Conservatives despite questions over Ed Miliband’s leadership.

Matthew Goodwin, co-author of Revolt On The Right, said: “This poll provides further evidence that Ukip is primarily hurting the Conservative Party, but is also drawing a significant chunk of its support from disaffected Liberal Democrat and Labour voters.  We already know Ukip voters tend to be deeply dissatisfied with the established political parties, and so the fact that Nigel Farage is now drawing more support from voters who used to back the Liberal Democrats should not come as a surprise. But it does point to Ukip’s broadening appeal ahead of one of the most unpredictable general elections in British electoral history.”

Anti-Semitism

The Mirror runs a report on Neo-Nazis target Jewish MP as police arrest 10 for ‘anti-Semitic’ protest

Neo-Nazis have stepped up their intimidation of Jewish MP Luciana Berger as 10 far-right activists were arrested after organising an anti-Semitic protest outside her office. The Labour politician has become a target for extremists with abuse become so severe that Metropolitan Police are probing hundreds of vile messages sent to the 33-year-old.

Last month, Nazi sympathiser Garron Helm was jailed for superimposing a Holocaust insignia on Ms Berger’s forehead with the message ‘Hitler was right’. The 21-year-old, whose house contained a flag bearing the SS symbol, sent a tweet showing the controversial ‘Yellow Star’ image on the Liverpool MP’s face, referring to her as a ‘communist Jewess’.

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