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• David Cameron endured a torrid post-conference return to Westminster this week, over Andrew Mitchell, Rebekah Brooks and his muddled announcement on energy bills.
The prime minister continues to stand by the Tory chief whip, who remains in office – opening the door for Ed Miliband to launch a blistering attack on them both at PMQs yesterday – comparing Mitchell’s treatment to that which would befall a yob who’d sworn at police (“while it’s a night in the cell for yobs, it’s a night at the Carlton Club for the chief whip”), saying under Cameron “there’s one rule for those at the top, one rule for everyone else”. Watch the video of the exchange and read the full transcript here.
A ghost from the past also came back to trouble the Tory leader this week – with the revelation of ’secret’ emails between himself and Rebekah Brooks, an issue also raised at PMQs; read more on the messages hidded from the Leveson Inquiry, and watch Chris Bryant’s question to the PM here.
And policy-wise, today he had to witness what was meant to be a popular, good news story about cheaper energy bills unravel before his eyes, to widespread mockery from the press and opposition, with some comparing it to classic ”The Thick of It” farce; for more on the actual policy implications, read Will Straw’s article here.
• The leader of the US, by contrast, enjoyed an upturn in fortunes, President Obama casting aside his dismal performance in the first televised election debate two weeks ago to emerge the victor in the second contest on Tuesday.
The worst moment for Mitt Romney came in the exchange over the Benghazi consulate attack, with the Republican candidate’s myths corrected not just by Obama but by moderator Candy Crowley – watch the confrontation over Libya here, read our report on the debate overall here, and check out our latest campaign digests, featuring reaction to all this week’s events, here and here.
The third TV debate, on foreign policy, takes place Monday at 2100hrs EST, at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.
• The Scottish independence referendum is now a reality; in 2014, Scots will decide whether or not they wish to separate from the rest of the UK – the countdown to decision day has begun.
Polls show the “No” campaign in the lead as the two-year contest formally got underway this week with David Cameron and Alex Salmond signing the historic Edinburgh Agreement on Monday – 55% of Scots polled have objections to independence compared with 34% who ssupport such a move, with the same proporion believing Scotland’s economy will suffer if it became an independent nation, compared to 32% who disagree.
Read about the polling data here, read about this week’s historic events in Edinburgh here, and read about the issues at the heart of the debate from the Yes and No campaigns themselves – read the thoughts of the campaign director of Britain Together, Blair McDougall here, and see the views of the chief executive of Yes Scotland, Blair Jenkins, here.
Progressive of the Week:
General Secretary of ITUC Sharan Burrow, who spoke up for the many in warning the IMF and World Bank to halt their destructive austerity policies, pointing out “the idea that you can create ‘growth through austerity’ is an illusion that has destroyed million of people’s livelihoods”, adding “it is incomprehensible for the IMFC to tell Europe to pursue structural adjustment and fiscal austerity, even though it is in recession”. See our report here for more, and read Left Foot Forward tomorrow for more on Saturday’s TUC march.
Regressives of the Week:
UEFA, who once again proved themselves toothless in the face of racism following Tuesday’s racist abuse of black England players during and after an Under-21 match in Serbia. European football’s governing body has it in its power to suspend Serbia – for whom this was far from an isolated incident – yet there’s little chance they’d ever impose such sanctions, so spineless have they appeared in the past. See our report here for more.
Evidence of the Week:
The Opinion Matters survey of 500 teachers, which this week revealed a huge increase in the number of pupils coming to school hungry: a third of teachers say they take food into schools to give to the hungriest children; almost four out of five teachers say their pupils are coming to school hungry; and more than half say it has become an increasing problem over the last year, as the recession, unemployment, and benefit cuts take hold. See our report here for more.