1) OSBORNE BALLS ROW (OBR)
Labour has challenged George Osborne to back changes to the law to allow independent scrutiny of tax and spend proposals in the general election manifestos of the main political parties. Ed Balls announced at Labour’s annual conference in Brighton last month that the party intended to submit its manifesto to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) to confirm that it contains no uncosted spending commitments.
But the announcement was dismissed as a “stunt” by Conservatives, who said that the OBR’s charter did not allow it to do the work. Labour has now drafted a change in the law to allow the spending watchdog to scrutinise and certify the costings of proposals in manifestos of all parties with at least 5% of seats in the Commons and is urging the Chancellor to give his backing to the move.
The plan appears to have the backing of Andrew Tyrie, the chairman of the Commons Treasury committee. The Guardian reports he said Balls’ plan could “enhance the quality of debate on tax and spend”.
2) CONFERENCE? WHAT CONFERENCE?
Normal service as resumed and as YouGov’s Peter Kellner observes, as far as the polls are concerned the conferences may as well not have happened. Although writing in a blog, he notes that there has been one significant change. “Ed Miliband’s standing. At the start of the conference season, his rating was dire. Just 21% thought he was doing well as Labour’s leader. At the end of Labour’s conference week, it jumped to 30%,” he says.
However it is not all good news for MIliband. “His bounce has lifted his position from catastrophic to lousy,” Kellner adds. “The fact remains that Labour’s lead is too low for comfort for an opposition party 18 months before an election.”
3) SENATE CLOSES IN ON DEAL
Whatever deal emerges from overnight negotiations in the US Senate over the budget, Republican lawmakers said they weren’t sure it could pass quickly enough in their chamber to avert a default — or that it would ever see the light of day in the House.
The Huffington Post reports that the Treasury Department has warned that sometime on Thursday it may no longer have enough cash on hand to pay all the nation’s obligations, setting up a potential default that economists have warned repeatedly may have catastrophic economic consequences.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said there had been “tremendous progress” earlier in the day. His Republican counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), agreed. But the Senate likely is not the biggest problem in ending the standoff. The House has repeatedly retreated from attempts to pass measures that would keep the wheels of government grinding, opting for confrontations. Republicans there balked, for instance, at a short-term “continuing resolution” that would have kept government open until mid-November and removed at least that crisis while legislators slugged it out over debt.
4) NO TUITION RISE
Nick Clegg has promised the government will not increase tuition fees to £16,000. Last week the vice-chancellor of Oxford University, professor Andrew Hamilton, said the he should be able to charge more for tuition and pointed out that it costs £16,000 a year to educate a student at the university. Tackled on the issue yesterday at an event for young people, Clegg said: “Don’t worry, we’re not going to raise tuition fees to £16,000.” And he urged them to set aside the “controversy and polemic” against the £9,000 cap on fees and remember that students do not have to pay anything up front under the coalition’s system.
5) UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS
Pay rises within the Royal household have been slammed by MPs, after it was revealed that one senior member enjoyed a £7,000 boost in his annual salary while those on more modest wages had suffered a pay freeze.
Speaking at the Public Accounts Committee, Margaret Hodge grilled Sir Alan Reid, the Queen’s Keeper of the Privy Purse, over use of the Sovereign Grant, the annual disbursement from the public purse to the Royal Household. Hodge also highlighted a huge increase in gas use (14%), as well as a hike in electricity bills (3%). Yet is was the salary increases that appeared to rile Hodge most, with the veteran MP probing Reid about the why senior staff had given themselves “extra money” when “they were expecting staff on £21,000 not to have extra money”.
140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
@MichaelLCrick Plebgate: rumoured IPCC will today make statement on behaviour of 3 west mids Pol Fed officers who met Mitchell in Sutton Coldfield Oct 2012
@Mike_Fabricant I have never seen so much blatant schmoozing and had so many hand-written love letters as I have had from the Deputy Speaker candidates.
@patrickwintour Hunt to Gove on free schools: your policy is being exposed as a dangerous ideological experiment and has been allowed to run out of control.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Paul Goodman in the Daily Telegraph: David Cameron can’t count on the Tory truce over the EU lasting
Lord Baker in the Independent: We must give our young people the skills they need to fill the employment gap
Alistair Darling on The Huffington Post: Time to Change the Old Tunes
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