Milliband ‘a catastrophe’

Sky news reports on an opinion that the Labour leader would be a bad Prime Minister if he gets to Number 10.

The boss of Boots has said Labour leader Ed Miliband would be a “catastrophe” for Britain if he became prime minister.

Stefano Pessina said Mr Miliband’s plans were “not helpful for business, not helpful for the country and in the end it probably won’t be helpful for them”.

Mr Miliband has also come in for criticism from within the Labour fold, with donor John Mills launching a fresh attack on the party’s direction.

Mr Pessina, who is acting chief executive of Boots, told The Sunday Telegraph: “If they acted as they speak, it would be a catastrophe.

“The problem is would they act that way or not?

“One thing is to threaten and to shout but it is completely different to be in charge and to manage the country day to day.”

Mr Pessina also warned Britain leaving the European Union would be a “big mistake”.

David Cameron has promised an in/out referendum by the end of 2017 if he is returned to power after polling day on 7 May.

Former health secretary Alan Milburn said earlier this week that the party’s focus on extra funding for the NHS without plans for reforms could prove to be a “fatal mistake”.

Mr Mills, the founder of JML and Labour’s biggest individual donor, endorsed the warning and underlined his criticism of Labour’s mansion tax plan.

Mr Mills told the Mail on Sunday: “I agree with Milburn – if you look at the Continental model, they have a much greater mix of public and private provision.”

The story is echoed in the Telegraph.

In a significant blow to Labour’s general election campaign, Stefano Pessina, the boss of Boots, says Mr Miliband’s plan for power is “not helpful for business, not helpful for the country and in the end it probably won’t be helpful for them”.

Under Mr Miliband’s leadership, Labour has pledged a series of reforms that have prompted accusations that it is “anti-business”. The party has campaigned against high levels of executive pay, described capitalists as “predatory”, announced plans to restore the 50p top rate of income tax, pledged a “mansion tax” on homes worth more than £2 million and promised to freeze energy companies’ prices for 20 months.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Mr Pessina said: “If they acted as they speak, it would be a catastrophe.”

It is exceptionally rare for a business figure as senior as Mr Pessina – whose company employs tens of thousands of people – to be so outspoken so close to a general election.

He was the driving force behind the $70 billion trans-Atlantic merger of Alliance Boots and the American pharmacy giant Walgreens and is now acting chief executive of Alliance Boots, one of Britain’s largest private sector employers, with 2,500 stores and 70,000 staff.

Miliband attacked

The Mail claims the Labour leader is not appreciated by his party.

Ed Miliband’s hopes of winning the General Election were fading last night after his leadership came under heavy fire from his own party.

The embattled Labour leader faced a new crisis as the party’s biggest private donor joined the withering attacks on his NHS policies.

And Mr Miliband was described as looking ‘haunted’ because he knew that his party was on course to lose the Election, according to the editor of Britain’s leading Labour-supporting magazine.

The twin blows came as Labour MPs privately admitted they feared Miliband’s Election campaign was in danger of collapsing. His credibility was further eroded as it was revealed that:

  • Insiders said Miliband’s aides had held secret ‘war gaming’ talks on how he could cling on as leader if David Cameron wins in May.
  • Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy accused of defying Miliband by ordering Labour’s Scottish MPs to quit Westminster now and return to their constituencies to fight for their seats in May’s Election.
  • Allies of Miliband accused former Blairite Cabinet Minister Peter Mandelson of masterminding a plot to ‘destablise’ him.
  • Miliband faced claims of paranoia from Shadow Ministers after telling them: ‘I know they’re coming for me and I am ready for it.’

The new pressure on Miliband over his controversial vow to reverse Coalition NHS reforms came from millionaire businessman John Mills, the brother-in-law of former Minister Tessa Jowell. Mr Mills backed the attack on the policy made by former Labour Cabinet Minister Alan Milburn last week, exposing rifts within the party.

The tycoon said Labour was wrong to decry the increasing involvement of the private sector in the NHS, adding: ‘I agree with Milburn – if you look at the Continental model, they have a much greater mix of public and private provision.’

Labour’s high ground

The Independent claims Labour will fight a clean campaign.

David Cameron is to be airbrushed out of Labour’s general election campaign in an attempt by Ed Miliband to rise above Conservative negative tactics of “falsehood and smear”, the party’s election chief said last night.

Highly personal attack posters, traditional for all parties, will be ditched by Labour strategy chiefs, who will instead focus on Mr Miliband’s “four million conversations” campaign. The Prime Minister will not feature in any posters, according to a “state of the race” campaign memo by Labour’s chair of election strategy, Douglas Alexander.

Labour, suffering from a lack of funds, will limit the number of posters because they are expensive, both to create and to place, and reach relatively few people. Instead, they will focus on doorstep campaigning, co-ordinated via social media – dubbed a “go online to get offline” strategy.

Yet, refusing to use the Prime Minister’s face could be seen as a tacit admission by Labour that Mr Cameron could count against them – because he remains more popular than Mr Miliband in the polls.

With the election still three months away, the Conservatives launched a poster last week showing Ed Miliband with his arm around Alex Salmond in front of No 10 with the slogan: “Your worst nightmare… just got worse” – claiming that Labour could only govern  if “propped up” by the Scottish National Party. And after reports – denied by Labour – that Mr Miliband was courting Sinn Fein MPs for a rainbow coalition, Tory HQ released a second poster, with the Labour leader, Mr Salmond and Gerry Adams, and the headline: “Your worst nightmare… just got even worse”.

So does the Mirror 

Labour has blasted David Cameron’s bid to win the General Election with “falsehood, fear and smear”.

Election chief Douglas Alexander vowed Labour would not sink to “desperate” Tory tactics ahead of May 7 – which include personal attacks on Ed Miliband.

Last week the Tories mocked up a poster of the Labour leader at Downing Street, with his arm around ­Scotland’s former first minister Alex Salmond and a ­grinning Gerry Adams.

It came after false reports Labour was considering a coalition with Sinn Fein.

A senior Tory said: “We’ll continue our ­criticisms of Ed Miliband. It’s not about fighting dirty but winning.”

In his “State of the Race” campaign memo to Labour activists, Mr Alexander condemned a desperate Mr Cameron for plumbing “new depths”.

Labour’s chief election strategist also pledged the party would not run “attack” posters about the PM – despite the personalised onslaught against Mr Miliband.

Mr Alexander said: “There are 95 days to the general election – and the different approaches that the two main parties will take to this election has never been clearer.

“We’ll focus our campaign on issues not personalities – we won’t run any billboard posters with pictures of David Cameron on them. “

But Tories vowed they would not halt their attacks on Mr Miliband in the run-up to polling day on May 7.

General Election – The marginals

Sky News claims the margins will be vital for the parties.

Sky’s Joey Jones is travelling the country looking at the issues that matter to voters in some of the marginal constituencies.  Here he focuses on concerns about housing in Thurrock, Essex, one of the 150 seats that could play a deciding role in May’s General Election.

There is a widespread assumption that in a general election campaign the parties deal with the issues that matter to people.

The economy, the cost of living… in the aftermath of a financial crisis these are issues in the forefronts of people’s minds.

Immigration has been thrust to the top of the agenda as UKIP’s success has demonstrated their competitors’ failure to grasp the mood of the British people on the issue; the NHS, education and so on – central to the fabric of people’s lives.

However, some issues that you might expect to feature strongly will not.

They will feature, but not as central themes. I have been looking at one example – housing.

The youth vote

Sky News looks at voting intentions of young people.

Britain’s political party leaders will tomorrow engage in an unprecedented live effort to engage under 25s in the political process.

As part of Sky News’ Stand Up Be Counted campaign, party leaders will be quizzed live on TV news and on Facebook by groups of young voters.

It is the first major multiparty TV event in what is set to be a long election campaign.

In recent elections, the popular wisdom has been that young people don’t vote, won’t vote, and there’s less of them.

That wisdom was and still is true. Elections have been all about older voters.

Greece in the EU

With the deteriorating situation in Greece, Sky News looks at the so-called ‘Grexit’.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has ruled out a writedown of Greece’s massive debt, as EU officials threatened a funding cut-off to Greek banks.

Mrs Merkel and European Central Bank (ECB) policymakers have hardened their stance on the weekend over fears the Greek government does not agree it renew its bailout package in February.

“There has already been voluntary debt forgiveness by private creditors, banks have already slashed billions from Greece’s debt,” Mrs Merkel said on Saturday.

“I do not envisage fresh debt cancellation.”

In a thinly veiled threat to Athens and rising anti-austerity political movements such as in Spain, she added: “Europe will continue to show solidarity for Greece, as for other countries hit particularly hard by the crisis, if these countries undertake their own reforms and savings efforts.”

Greece’s newly elected anti-austerity government earlier said it would not co-operate with its international “troika” of creditors – the EU, ECB and the International Monetary Fund.

Greece’s finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said that despite warnings his country would shortly run out of money, his government preferred to do without fresh funds and instead renegotiate its entire €240bn (£180bn) bailout package.

Athens has been promised another €7.2bn (£5.4bn) in funds from the troika if it completes reforms required by its lenders by 28 February, when the bailout programme runs out.

The Telegraph reports that the problems in Greece could affect the Prime Minister’s plans to renegotiate the UK’s position in the EU.

The stand-off between Angela Merkel and the radical Greek government of Alexis Tsipras over austerity could derail David Cameron’s plans to overhaul Britain’s membership of the European Union, Norman Lamont has warned.

The former chancellor, now Lord Lamont of Lerwick, said European leaders would not welcome the Prime Minister’s demands for a better deal for Britain while they were struggling to resolve the crisis over Greek debts and prevent another economic crash.

On Saturday Mr Tsipras insisted his country would fulfill all of its loan obligations to creditors, saying it had “never been our intention to act unilaterally on Greek debt.”

However, in an article for The Telegraph, Lord Lamont calls on European leaders to agree to write off Greek debts in order to resolve the crisis, instead of offering another “fudge” solution of lowering interest rates on some loans.

Mr Cameron has promised to negotiate with Brussels to claw back powers for Britain, before putting a new deal on EU membership to voters in an in/out referendum by 2017.

But Lord Lamont warned Mr Cameron that European leaders may be preoccupied with the increasingly “bleak” crisis over Greece when he is trying to negotiate new terms for Britain.

“The longer the crisis goes on, the more Europe’s politicians will be focused on Greece,” the Conservative peer said.

“Their irritation with what they might see as unreasonable demands or a diversion from the main issue could count against Britain.”

The Guardian also covers the story.

Angela Merkel has ruled out the prospect of Greece securing further debt cuts from its creditor nations, potentially putting the country’s new leftist government on a collision course with Brussels. The German chancellor’s uncompromising stance will not be welcomed in Athens, where the new ruling party, Syriza, insists that it will make good on its promises to halve the country’s €320bn (£240bn) debt obligations and scrap a range of swingeing budget measures that were imposed in exchange for the loans.

Athens is refusing to cooperate with the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund – the troika of institutions overseeing the loans, which total about 175% of Greece’s gross domestic product. Instead its new government is looking to meet with individual creditor nations as it seeks concessions that it claims are vital if Greece is to emerge from years of austerity.

However, such unilateral measures will be fiercely resisted by Germany, which is adamant that eurozone creditor nations must hold the line on Greece’s debt. When asked in a newspaper interview published yesterday whether there could be further concessions for Greece, Merkel said Athens had already been forgiven billions of euros by private creditors. “I don’t see a further debt haircut,” she said.

Birmingham school

The Telegraph reports on another school suspected of involvement in the ‘Trojan Horse’ plot.

Another Birmingham school has been placed in special measures by Ofsted – with its head and governors likely to be removed – as fears grow of a resurgence of the “Trojan Horse” plot.

In a report to be published this month, Small Heath, a previously “outstanding” non-faith state secondary, will be downgraded to “inadequate”, the lowest possible score.

Inspectors who visited 10 days ago found a “narrowing of the curriculum” and staff in turmoil after the previous – secular – head left.

Shanaz Khan, the new head teacher, who started in September, was heavily backed by several of the key plotters in Trojan Horse, which drove out non-Muslim head teachers and imposed hard-line Islamic practices at a number of state schools in Birmingham.

Mrs Khan was previously deputy head of Cathays High School in Cardiff, the alma mater of Reyaad Khan and Nasser Muthana, the British jihadis in an Isil propaganda video, revealed last summer.

As The Telegraph revealed, extremist preachers from a mosque accused of radicalising the two men were welcomed to Cathays High to give regular classes. The sessions, entitled “Reminding Cathays High”, included teaching the children that music and “free mixing”, contact between boys and girls, was “not permitted in Islam”.

Small Heath, the pupils of which are largely Muslim, was one of 21 Birmingham schools inspected last spring.

Under its then head teacher, Peter Slough, it was given the all-clear and judged “outstanding”, the highest grade, a rating it had held for many years.

However, Mr Slough stepped down in July, saying he was “not retiring” but wanted to do something else. Asked whether he had been forced out, he laughed and said: “I’ve been here for 19 years, and before I get to the point that I can’t contribute to education, I want to do something else.

“I’m looking forward to the next stage of my career.”

Ukip

The Express claims UKIP will complain about being including in a school’s  lesson on the Nazi Holocaust.

UKIP will lodge a formal complaint about “political indoctrination in schools” after a picture of its leader Nigel Farage was used during assemblies about the evils of the Holocaust.

Hundreds of students saw the presentations timed to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day.

They included details of Nazi death squads, Jewish ghettos and the rounding-up of millions of Slavs and Romany gypsies.

Asking children how the Holocaust could have happened, teachers at Chellaston Academy in Derby displayed slides with the words Evil, Bloodthirsty, Monsters and Murderers and referred to Melita Maschmann, a German diarist whose work recounts her time in the Hitler Youth and as a propagandist for the regime.

It was the next slide, however, that caused fury with Ukip.

Entitled “There’s no way modern Britain could repeat Melita’s mistakes… right?” it displayed an image of Nigel Farage, with the caption “I wouldn’t want to live next door to a Romanian!” and “Blames bad traffic on eastern Europeans”.

The party was alerted after a pupil told his parents.

Falklands

The Express reports on possible new problems in the South Atlantic.

THREE hundred extra troops are to be sent to the Falklands as the islands reach their highest state of alert in almost 20 years.

They are part of a force of more than 1,000 soldiers being prepared for duty in the south Atlantic and will be sent out in five tranches of 150 to 300.

They will include members of the Royal Artillery and 3 Commando, Royal Marines, with each group staying on the islands for three to six weeks.

Military chiefs are mounting a series of “high readiness reinforcement” exercises to plug a strategic gap until the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier is operational in 2020.

Senior military sources say the war games will be “low profile” as part of a commitment to ensure the UK can secure its overseas garrisons.

Currently the islands have a core military presence of 1,200 troops, four Typhoon fighter jets and a missile battery.

A senior source said: “The aim is to put more than 1,000 troops from five different cap badges into the islands by November but they will deploy in small groups from 150 to 300, for short tours.”

Russia

The Express claims the Russian plain seen over the English Channel was carrying nuclear bombs.

A RUSSIAN bomber intercepted over the Channel last week was carrying a nuclear missile designed to destroy Trident submarines, it emerged last night.

RAF Typhoon fighter jets were scrambled on Wednesday after two long-range TU-95 “Bear” bombers were detected flying over the English Channel.

The incident was last night described as “yet another in a series of deliberately provocative” measures by President Vladimir Putin which confirmed that Nato’s status had moved firmly from “rival to adversary”.

Sources within the Ministry of Defence last night revealed that one of the two long-range bombers was carrying at least one air-dropped “seek and find”d nuclear warhead-carrtying missile, designed to seek and destroy a Vanguard submarine.

Both Prime Minister David Cameron and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon were alerted after cockpit conservations confirming the bomber’s nuclear payload were intercepted by a Norwegian military listening post, and shared with the Ministry of Defence.

The missile was not armed, and the aircraft’s crew would have required a direct order from President Putin before making it live.

The other bomber was said to have been acting in the role of “mothership”, overseeing the military exercise.

One senior RAF source said:  “We downloaded conversations from the crew of one plane who used a special word which meant the would-be attack was a training exercise.

“They know that we can pick up their transmissions and it would only be of concern if the often used release weapon order was changed.

“We also knew from another source that one of the aircraft was carrying a nuclear weapon long before it came anywhere near UK airspace.”

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