The Intelex team look back at highlights from the weekend, and what’s coming up this week:
The story this weekend: The Sunday Times Business section included a great article by Danny Fortson on Ofgem’s proposed investigation of the energy market by the Competition and Markets Authority. With an overview of the political pressures facing the Big Six, and the possible implications for investment, the article is a must read for anyone interested in regulation and the politics surrounding energy policy.
The debate this weekend – Saturday’s Guardian will have made for difficult reading for the leaders of the Better Together campaign, which is overseeing efforts to convince Scots to vote no in September’s independence referendum. The paper revealed comments by an unnamed Minister that an independent Scotland could in fact be allowed to keep the pound – despite claims to the contrary by all three Parties and the Governor of the Bank of England. The Minister, who The Times speculates was Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond, and others suggest was Oliver Letwin, said that since the UK wants to keep Trident in Scotland and the SNP want a currency union ‘you can see the outlines of a deal’. The Labour Leader of Better Together, Alistair Darling, told the Today Programme that currency union can only work ‘if you have a single Government’. The SNP has predictably seized on the comments, with the Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon responding that the No campaign may be reaching a ‘common sense’ view and deriding Better Together for relying on ‘bluff’. The Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael admitted on Sunday Politics that it is ‘not impossible’ that the yes campaign could triumph – and the general consensus after this weekend is that with less than six months to go until Scots vote on whether to sever their ties with the rest of the UK, Better Together need to step up their game.
The analysis this weekend: Andrew Rawnsley’s excellent piece in The Observer casts light on the five main internal rifts threatening the Labour Party. Labour’s internal differences are no longer traditional ‘left vs right’ internal issues, as they were ‘in the good old, bad old days when Labour had a strange compulsion for committing suicide in public’. Instead they ‘are more complex and various’ and include: ‘Thirty Five Percenters v Majoritarians’; ‘Transformers v Realists’; ‘Devolvers v Centralisers’; ‘Ed v Ed’; and ‘Gloomsters v Zennists’. An intriguing read for both those who wish to see a Labour government in 2015 and those who want to see the Party’s support vanish into the haze as the election approaches.
Coming up this week: Reform has today published a new report entitled ‘Solving the NHS care and cash crisis’, co-authored by Lord Warner, a former Health Minister in Tony Blair’s Government. The report calls for radical changes to funding and care to prevent the NHS destabilising other public services. Speaking on the Today Programme this morning, Lord Warner argued that ‘the mood is changing…we cannot go on funding from income tax an NHS that is not fit for purpose’. These sentiments are reflected in the report in which he argues that NHS funding from general taxation should rise only with inflation to avoid starving the rest of the public sector of resources. The report also argues for higher ‘sin’ taxes on alcohol, tobacco and sugary foods, means-testing of NHS ‘Continuing Care’, plus a £10 per month NHS membership charge and other patient contributions are needed for the NHS to survive the next five years of austerity. Labour have already dismissed the suggestion, as they believe in an NHS ‘free at the point of use’.