Defence

The Telegraph leads with Women soldiers to serve in front-line combat units

Women will fight alongside men on the front line for the first time after a Government review into relaxing the restrictions on female troops joining combat units.

The Ministry of Defence is moving towards the historic change after a six-month study into whether women are suitable for the rigours of front-line combat jobs.

The report, while making no firm recommendation, is said to have removed doubts within the MoD. Senior sources have told The Telegraph that they are now prepared to open up front-line combat roles to women.

EU and Euro

The Telegraph reports that Draghi’s authority drains away as half ECB board joins mutiny

The European Central Bank is facing a full-blown leadership crisis. Mario Draghi’s authority is ebbing, with powerful implications for financial markets and the long-term fate of monetary union.

Both Die Zeit and Die Welt report that three members of the ECB’s six-strong executive board refused to sign off on Mr Draghi’s latest statement, an unprecedented mutiny in the sanctum sanctorum of the ECB’s policy making machinery.

The dissenters are reportedly Germany’s Sabine Lautenschläger, Luxembourg’s Yves Mersch, and more surprisingly France’s Benoît Cœuré, an indication that Paris is still hoping to avoid a breakdown in relations with Berlin over the management of EMU.

The reality is that a full six months after Mr Draghi first talked loosely of a €1 trillion blitz to head off deflation risks, almost nothing has actually happened. The ECB balance sheet has shrunk by over €100bn.

Nigel Farage

A Telegraph leader writer, Iain Martin, is surprisingly upbeat with Nigel Farage’s breastfeeding comments will do UKIP little harm

Nigel Farage has suggested that a leading London hotel could have asked a woman breastfeeding to sit in the corner. On a radio phone-in today he was asked about a recent case in which staff asked one of their guests (taking tea and feeding her baby) to deploy a napkin in case any other residents were offended by the sight.

There is much outrage about Farage’s comments. On Twitter various people are asking whether this is the moment that he has “jumped the shark.” The implication, according to Farage’s critics, is that this row illustrates what is really wrong with the Ukip world-view. See, they say, it is a party of men in covert coats asking all women to sit quietly in the corner.

But this row will, I suspect, do him and his party almost no harm. I hasten to add that I am NOT agreeing with Farage’s comments (it is obligatory in a Twitter storm to pay homage early on to orthodoxy or one must prepare to face the consequences).

The Guardian is more scathing with Sit in the corner: Nigel Farage’s tips for mothers breastfeeding in public

Five days later, the outrage provoked by her tweets had swirled into a political storm involving the prime minister, the shadow home secretary and Ukip’s leader, Nigel Farage, and led to a protest that will gather on Saturday outside the luxury hotel to demand a change in its policy.

Downing Street was initially reluctant to be drawn into commenting on the incident, saying only that women should be free to breastfeed their babies in public.

But after Farage told a radio interviewer on Friday that breastfeeding mothers could “perhaps sit in a corner”, a question that had sparked heated debate on social media and parenting websites became a political one too.

The Express also covers the story. And predictably, the Mirror puts the worst spin on it with Mumsnet slams UKIP leader Nigel Farage over claim women should breastfeed out of sight

BBC Bias

The Telegraph reports on a Tory MP claim that BBC wants Labour to win General Election

The BBC wants Labour to win the General Election because it is in a “fight to the death” over the future of the licence fee, Conservative MPs have claimed. David Cameron and George Osborne earlier this week launched an unprecedented attack on the corporation’s coverage of the Autumn Statement, describing it as “nonsense” and “hyperbolic”.

One senior Tory MP suggested that the BBC coverage is influenced by concerns that a future Conservative government will use the Royal Charter review to cut the licence fee in 2016. He claimed that the corporation believes that it will be “business as usual” if the Labour Party wins the election and that the £145.50 payment will be maintained.

BBC_DESKTOP

(Image from article in Telegraph)

Simon Heffer in the Mail has a go at the BBC as well: Shame on the BBC’s Lefties for talking Britain down

The British economy is on a knife-edge. Depending on the course now taken, we can either consolidate the recovery that has already reduced unemployment and strengthened sterling and the stock market, or we can revert to profligacy, recession and a loss of international credibility.

After four years of regrettably slow deficit reduction there will, as George Osborne said in his Autumn Statement, have to be more cuts in state spending if the recovery is to be completed.

At least he understands what must be done — unlike the Labour Party, which wants to tax wealth creators almost out of existence, as Ed Miliband’s fellow Socialist, Francois Hollande, has done in France.

State Snooping

The Independent reports that UK democracy undermined by police power to snoop, say MPs

Secretive snooping powers that have been used by police to blow the cover of whistleblowers are “not fit for purpose”, MPs warn today amid serious concerns about the use of surveillance in the UK.

British democracy is being undermined by the abuse of terror laws which saw the police sign off more than 500,000 requests last year to retrieve communications data, says the influential Home Affairs committee.

The current powers, which have also been exploited by councils to spy on ordinary citizens, must be overhauled urgently, the MPs argue in a report published just hours after judges ruled that GCHQ’s current system of intelligence collection is lawful.

The Guardian contains a similar warning, but fro m a senior policeman: Chief constable warns against ‘drift towards police state’

The battle against extremism could lead to a “drift towards a police state” in which officers are turned into “thought police”, one of Britain’s most senior chief constables has warned. Sir Peter Fahy, chief constable of Greater Manchester, said police were being left to decide what is acceptable free speech as the efforts against radicalisation and a severe threat of terrorist attack intensify.

It is politicians, academics and others in civil society who have to define what counts as extremist ideas, he says. Fahy serves as chief constable of Greater Manchester police and also has national counter-terrorism roles. He is vice-chair of the police’s terrorism committee and national lead on Prevent, the counter radicalisation strategy.

The Mirror also reports that MPs rap use of anti-terror laws to snoop on media

Osborne’s Tax Changes

The Independent reports on the results of an analysis of Osborne’s tax changes that Women bear 85% of burden after Coalition’s tax and benefit tweaks

Women have been hit much harder than men by the tax and benefit changes since the Coalition took office, according to research by the House of Commons Library.  A study taking account of the measures in George Osborne’s Autumn Statement shows that £22bn of the £26bn of the Treasury revenue raised from tax and benefit reforms since 2010 has been taken from women – 85 per cent of the total, with only 15 per cent contributed by men.

Labour, which commissioned the research, will highlight it in the run-up to next May’s general election to demonstrate its claim that David Cameron has “a problem with women”. The policies that have had the biggest impact on women include cuts in tax credits, which took £8.3bn from women but only £2.3bn from men, reductions in housing benefit, under which women lost £2.3bn and men £1.5bn, and the three-year freeze in child benefit, which costs women £3.5bn and men £346m.

The Mirror also has this story with The Government took £22BILLION from Britain’s women in spending cuts

The Maldives

The Independent asks whether it will be “Climate Change” or Islamic Extremism that destroys The Maldives?

With an eye for headlines and oration that made Obama look amateurish, Nasheed had elevated a sinking country to the top of the global climate change debate. A year after his 2008 election, he convened an underwater cabinet meeting to sign a document demanding cuts in carbon emissions before the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen. “This is what will happen to the Maldives if climate change is not checked,” he warned world leaders as parrotfish and TV cameras circled….

…Journalists and activists who warn that politics and religious extremism are not only threatening democracy and lives here but, as one editor puts it, “forcing the environmental issue on to the fossil-fuelled back burner”.

Conservative and Labour

The Guardian reports the thoughts of Ed Balls: Osborne is now more extreme than Thatcher

George Osborne’s approach to deficit reduction as revealed in this week’s autumn statement will mean the destruction of the post-second world war consensus about the role of the state, the shadow chancellor has said.

In a Guardian interview, Ed Balls promised that Labour would cut the deficit year on year. But he said David Cameron and Osborne had vacated the centre ground of politics and were emerging as more extreme than even Margaret Thatcher. “If, at the end of the next parliament, George Osborne actually got his way and brought spending back down to the level of the 1930s, I don’t think this would be the kind of country any of us would want to live in. I don’t think it is the kind of country I would want my children to grow up in.”

Islam in Britain

The Mail reports that Lord Mayor walks out of Islamic charity lunch after his lady consort was told she had to sit downstairs at the event

A Lord Mayor walked out of an Islamic charity lunch after discovering that he would have to be segregated from his female consort. Labour councillor John Thomas, 70, arrived at the function last Sunday with consort Margaret Corley, 72.

But Councillor Thomas, the Lord Mayor of Leicester, was said to be upset at being told he would have to dine in an upstairs function room with male guests, while his consort would be seated downstairs with the other women.

The lunch was held to mark the end of Charity Week – an annual fundraising event supported by around 20 university Islamic societies in the UK, and others in Canada and Qatar. It took place at a wedding and conference venue near Leicester railway station.

Child Sex Abuse

The Daily Mail also reports that Scotland Yard ‘hid top MP’s name’ in sex abuse inquiry: Police ‘buried young boy’s testimony in Establishment cover up’, says author of book about Cyril Smith scandal

Police were accused last night of covering up allegations that a senior politician abused a boy at a notorious gay brothel. Interviewed by detectives, the youngster suggested he was molested by an MP at Elm Guest House, which was allegedly frequented by numerous paedophiles with Westminster connections.

But the Daily Mail has learnt that the schoolboy’s comments – heard by a social worker – were mysteriously left out of his Scotland Yard statement. Retired detectives believe his 1982 testimony may have been ‘sanitised’ at the request of Special Branch and the security services, which feared Soviet spies would exploit the hugely embarrassing claims.

The cover-up allegations will deepen the controversy surrounding the guesthouse in Barnes, south-west London, and the wider scandal involving an alleged VIP paedophile ring in the 1980s.

(Editor: Also, not Keith Vaz MP was solicitor for Richmond Council [covering Barnes] in that period) The Mail has another article on the Elm Guest House.

Foreign Aid

The Express reports on Tory anger as Britain’s foreign aid bill moves closer to being enshrined in law

MPs today gave their backing to a Bill enshrining the commitment in law. The hugely controversial bill to gold plate Britain’s annual £11.5billion aid budget now goes to the Lords and could become law within months.

It comes as new figures show the economy’s size has increased in several areas meaning that the UK’s aid commitment, which is to pay 0.7 per cent of GDP, has also increased. While other departments have seen their spending slashed over the past four years, foreign aid has been ring-fenced and was set to hit £12billion by the end of this year.

Under the new calculations, it should rise to £12.4billion this year to meet the target – effectively giving the Department for International Development three weeks to spend another £400million.

Editor: This report is disingenuous, as only 5 MPs voted against the Bill. The real fight against it was by Mark Reckless: see this Youtube video, worth watching the full 13 minutes

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