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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Any Spain Bailout Will Test EU Mettle

Sky News Australia

Any Spain Bailout Will Test EU Mettle
Wall Street Journal
By STEPHEN FIDLER And GABRIELE STEINHAUSER BRUSSELS—Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has Europe on tenterhooks over whether and when he will apply for a government bailout—a step that would set the stage for a first, critical test of the euro ...
Germany told to 'come clean' over
Greek PM stresses urgency of austerity dealAFP
Austerity Has Failed in Europe, but What's Next?Huffington Post
New York Times -Forbes -Economic Times
all 229 news articles »


Amid Greece's Worries, the Rise of Right-Wing Extremists

Amid Greece's Worries, the Rise of Right-Wing Extremists
New York Times
ATHENS — The video, which went viral in Greece last month, shows about 40 burly men, led by Giorgos Germenis, a lawmaker with the right-wing Golden Dawn party, marching through a night market in the town of Rafina demanding that dark-skinned ...
'A Flaming River': The World Should Watch Greece's Rising Neo-Nazis, Golden ...New York Observer
Greece: Neo-Nazis Golden Dawn Given 'Police Powers' over

all 6 news articles »


Golden Dawn’s Popularity Rising Rapidly in Greece

With anger rising over austerity measures, the popularity of the extremist Golden Dawn party is growing, even as it undertakes a campaign of vigilantism.


Greek Economy to Contract By 3.8% in 2013 -Sources


Greek Economy to Contract By 3.8% in 2013 -Sources
Wall Street Journal
The budget will also include a large chunk of the 13.5 billion euros ($17.4 billion) in spending cuts and revenues measures international inspectors will assess Monday as they resume meetings with Greek government officials on steps needed to open the ...
Greek PM stresses urgency of austerity dealAFP
Greek PM Antonis Samaras stresses urgency of austerity dealEconomic Times
Samaras Says Greeks Now Have HopeGreek Reporter

all 229 news articles »


Samaras vows to fight Greek corruption

Samaras vows to fight Greek corruption
Financial Times
The Greek prime minister on Sunday called for “zero tolerance” of corruption after reports surfaced for the first time of named politicians being investigated on suspicion of taking kickbacks and evading taxes while in office. In an interview marking ...


Greek PM stresses urgency of austerity deal


Greek PM stresses urgency of austerity deal
By John Hadoulis (AFP) – 6 minutes ago. ATHENS — Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Sunday stressed the urgency of sealing an austerity pact with the nation's so-called troika of international creditors, who are deciding whether to unlock a vital ...
Greek PM Antonis Samaras stresses urgency of austerity dealEconomic Times
Samaras Says Greeks Now Have HopeGreek Reporter
Greek Premier Sees Hope, but Only if Europe HelpsNew York Times

all 218 news articles »


Steinbrück attacks Merkel's euro-crisis management

Chancellor Angela Merkel's election rival, Peer Steinbrück, has attacked the government's handling of the eurozone debt crisis. Steinbrück said Germany needed to give Greece more time to implement economic reforms.


Too Expensive: Fewer Greeks Studying Abroad

Greek Reporter

Too Expensive: Fewer Greeks Studying Abroad
Greek Reporter
With a crushing economic crisis cutting back purchasing power, fewer Greeks are able to afford going abroad to study at universities. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Education at Glance for 2012 report showed the ...


UPDATE 1-Credit Agricole to pick Alpha for final talks on Emporiki sale -source

UPDATE 1-Credit Agricole to pick Alpha for final talks on Emporiki sale -source
ATHENS, Sept 30 (Reuters) - France's Credit Agricole is expected to pick Alpha Bank as the preferred bidder for its ailing Greek unit Emporiki Bank, a banking source close to the talks told Reuters on Sunday. "They picked Alpha as the preferred bidder ...

and more »


Greek PM stresses austerity deal urgency

Greek PM stresses austerity deal urgency
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has stressed the urgency of sealing an austerity pact with the nation's so-called troika of international creditors, who are deciding whether to unlock a vital new loan package. Speaking to the centre-left weekly ...


Greek food takes the cake at festival [Scenes from the Pit]

Greek food takes the cake at festival [Scenes from the Pit]
UTA The Shorthorn
It included a medley of traditional entrees and sides; Chicken Oreganato, Keftethes (Greek meatballs), Spanakopita (spinach in filo), Tiropita (cheese in filo),rice pilaf, and tangy Greek salad with feta, olives, and pita bread. Spanakopita (pronounced ...


Greek PM Antonis Samaras stresses urgency of austerity deal

New York Times

Greek PM Antonis Samaras stresses urgency of austerity deal
Economic Times
ATHENS: Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Sunday stressed the urgency of sealing an austerity pact with the nation's so-called troika of international creditors, who are deciding whether to unlock a vital new loan package. Speaking to the centre ...
Samaras Says Greeks Now Have HopeGreek Reporter
Greek Premier Sees Hope, but Only if Europe HelpsNew York Times
More Austerity Looms For Weary GreeksNPR

all 209 news articles »


Greece Legitimacy of Dissent

Greece Legitimacy of Dissent
It is apparent that the journalist's mission is to nullify the legitimacy of principled dissent expressed by political forces that oppose the austerity measures and want to re-negotiate the terms of Greece's bailout package. Arguably, the primary ...


Hy-Vee Recipes: Greek Yogurt

Hy-Vee Recipes: Greek Yogurt
Have you tried Greek yogurt yet? If you are not a big fan of conventional yogurt, you may want to consider trying Greek yogurt. It's fast becoming mainstream with Americans with its unique texture and health benefits. So what are these unique benefits ...


Labour party conference opens: Politics live blog

• Labour coverage in the Sunday papers
• Ed Miliband's interview with Andrew Marr - summary

3.22pm: Sandel is now asking delegates to consider what they feel about advertising to children on TV.

A delegate says any adverts directed at children should be banned. Adverts are ruthless, she says.

3.09pm: Sandel is now effectively chairing an audience debate on gambling.

It is difficult to know what the audience makes of this, although I'm rather enjoying it. It makes a change from the usual conference platform fare, and it does show that Miliband is sincere when he says that he believes ideas matter.

Here is some reaction from Twitter.

From Daniel Wood

Michael Sandel is exactly the kind of intellect that all political parties should be engaging with - an original, enquiring mind #Lab12

From Paul Richards, a former Labour special adviser

When there isn't enough time for CLP delegates to have their say, I hope no-one blames this fascinating Harvard politics seminar. #lab12

From the BBC's Ben Wright

Labour conference kicking off with rousing speech by...a Harvard political theorist. Ed looks gripped by Sandel performance, others less so.

From the Labour commentator Dan Hodges

Anyone looking for what's wrong with Ed's leadership should be in the hall right now.

An afternoon with Michael Sandel is the most self indulgent thing I've ever seen at a major party conference.

3.03pm: Sandel turns to super-casinos in Manchester.

These could create new jobs, he says. But other people oppose them.

He asks members of the audiences if they would favour super-casinos. Most people in the audience are opposed.

He asks someone in favour to explain why he supports the idea. Someone called Patrick says "jobs".

A woman opposed to super-casinos says the state should invest in something more productive. She says they would encourage gambling.

2.59pm: Are there things money can't buy, Sandel asks.

Friendship, he answers. In theory you could hire friends. But we would all sense that friends acquired on that basis were not proper friends.

Nevertheless, you can enhance friendship with money. For example, if you have to give a wedding speech, you can buy one on the internet. It costs about £100, he says.

But what would you feel if you were getting married, and you learnt that your best friend's tribute was one bought online. Would you value it less? Would it depend on how much you paid for it?

It would not be as good as an authentic one, he says.

Sandel says this shows money and markets have the capacity to corrode social practices that people value.

2.57pm: Sandel says the move to a market society has happened without a public debate.

It has been taken "almost as a matter of faith" that markets are the best way of achieving a public good.

There has been little public debate about where markets serve the public good.

Sandel says today he is going to explore these questions.

Markets can bring real benefits. But they can "bump up against" other norms and values, he says.

2.54pm: Michael Sandel is talking about other extreme examples of marketisation.

People have taken to putting advertising tatoos on their heads. The Mail recently featured some people who are carrying adverts for firms that no longer exist.

Sandel says these may seem like trivial examples. But the market is extending in other areas. In Iraq, private contractors outnumbered the military.

We have gone from a market economy to a market society, he says.

2.51pm: Michael Sandel is speaking.

He says he wants to talk about what money can buy.

Money can buy almost anything, he says.

In California if you are in jail you can buy an upgrade. How much does it cost? He invites the audience to answer the question. It's $90 a day, he says.

And you can jump the queue by paying extra in other places, like at the London Eye, he says.

If you can't pay extra to jump the queue, you can hire someone to queue for you. In the US there are now "line-standing companies" that will hire someone to queue on your behalf, he says. In Washington lobbyists use them to reserve places in queues for congressional hearings.

2.50pm: Ed Miliband has just introduced Michael Sandel. He said he asked Sandel to speak because he believes ideas matter.

It's going to be "an hour with a difference", he says.

An hour! That will test my blogging.

2.48pm: Paul Owen has just been to see the shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna, interviewed by Gary Gibbon of Channel 4 News.

It was quite a personal interview about Umunna's life and family background, much of which was covered in this morning's Mail on Sunday interview with the shadow business secretary.

Umunna is likeable and a good communicator - not qualities the Labour frontbench is drowning in at the moment - and he discussed where the party had gone wrong in communication during the last election, "underplaying" its achievements, which was "maybe where we have come a cropper, because we have not connected enough politics enough with people's lives." He added: "There is a tendency to talk in jargon and billions and percentages - you've got to relate it to people's lives and make it real." In his own constituency of Streatham, south London, he said, he tried to speak to people in concrete terms, about safer neighbourhood teams, improved health services, Sure Start centres and the Building Schools for the Future project.

Gibbon asked him what his impressions of Ed Miliband had been when they first met in 2006/07. "Ed is a lovely guy. He is a very approachable person," Umunna said. "Compared to a lot of people you come across in politics he's pretty ego-free … I backed him early because I was convinced that Ed would lead change and do a thorough-based questioning of how we had sought to apply social democratic values … over the few years leading up to that [2010] election, and that he would be prepared to question things that we had come to regard as accepted wisdom, in a way that I didn't think the other candidates would do." He gave immigration and capitalism as examples of areas where Miliband had asked such questions. "I'm not sure everybody else would have done this."

Would Umunna like to be leader one day? "I feel so uncomfortable with these questions," he said. "I think there's something very unhealthy about presupposing that you alone would be the best person to make very big decisions involving life and death decisions for this country at some point in the future. It would be incredibly arrogant of me or anybody else to say: 'In two or three years I'd be the best person to lead this country.'"

Gibbon seemed to suggest that Umunna had gone on a journey from the Compass group on the left of the party to the Progress group on the right. He is speaking at both groups' rallies tonight, and seemed able to bridge the gap between them, praising Progress for its "unapologetically pro-business stance", but adding: "The problem is … we weren't discerning enough about the kind of business models and behaviour we wanted to see … There are varieties of capitalism and they have different outcomes."

He also said he was "ashamed" of how much Labour paid his staff - these wages were so low, he said, because they had to be paid through the MPs' expenses system. "The people who work for me are underpaid," he said bluntly. "They work 24/7, seven days a week for the Labour party. I think it's outrageous. I am ashamed of what we pay the people who work for us."

2.46pm: Councillor Maggie Mansell has just delivered a moving and tearful tribute to Malcolm Wicks, who died yesterday.

2.41pm: Ed Miliband is not worried about his reputation as a political geek - he said as much on the Andrew Marr show today - and we're going to get proof of this shortly, when Michael Sandel, the American political philosopher, addresses the conference.

Miliband read Sandel's most recent book, What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, on holiday in Greece this summer and I presume we're all about to get a short synopsis.

I've never blogged a political philosophy lecture before, but there's a first time for everything. And it should be good. Sandel's Harvard lectures on Justice became an online hit.

2.32pm: Michael Cashman, the Labour MEP and former actor, is addressing the conference now, in his capacity as chair of the conference. He says he will be standing down as an MEP in 2014. He pays tribute to what Labour governments have achieved, particularly in relation to gay rights, and he says Ed Miliband displays the same "spirit of boldness" as previous Labour governments of the past.

There work of the Labour party will go on, he says. "There will always be another individual to lift up," he says, and always another injustice to fight.

2.21pm: Lord Glasman, the "Blue Labour" thinker who was depicited as Ed Miliband's guru until he wrote an article for the New Statesman earlier this year saying Miliband seemed to have "no strategy, no narrative and little energy", is now back on message. He was on Sky's Dermot Murnaghan show this morning and he praised Miliband lavishly. Here are some of the key quotes.

There's been a big change because of this fixed term parliament thing with the government, which is a loveless marriage held together by a hasty pre-nup which really slowly unravels. Ed's got time to genuinely grow into the position. When he won the leadership election, the dominant mainstream media narrative was unthinkable, last year it was implausible, this year is possible, next year will be compelling. You know, it's a growing story of him and gradually building up trust within the party and then within the country ....

I think he's done an extraordinary job of unifying the party. There is no threat to his leadership at all and he is very clear, he is the change candidate ...

The longer I know him the more I like him ... Ed's growing up in public. He is genuinely in a different position now than he was two years ago, he is much more attentive to private sector reform and public sector reform, he is much more genuinely patriotic in his instincts. I mean the Olympics had a really big effect on him, so he's growing up and as he grows up that affection will grow with people.

The full transcript is here.

2.12pm: Here's the full quote from Paul Kenny on Ed Balls. Kenny was speaking to Iain Dale on LBC.

A lot of people who voted for Ed [Miliband, for the Labour leadership], saw things in him; values, decency, and those shine through. If you look at the Labour party now, its a much better organisation a year on than it was last year. Next year is the test [for the Labour Party], but if you ask me about Ed Balls I'd say he'd give an aspirin a headache.

Ed Miliband and many other senior Labour figures have recognised mistakes have been made, and the Labour party is moving on. But the trouble Ed Balls has he's still stuck in this time mode as if we were doing the prawn sandwich offensive around the City. You can't stimulate the economy if the poorest people in the land are effectively being wage freezed for three years.

Asked if he would like to see Balls replaced, Kenny said:

What I want to see from Ed Balls is less talking, more listening. If he listened to people more, rather than giving you a long lecturer about why he's right, he needs to stop doing and start listening to him.

2.08pm: The conference has now started. Tony Lloyd, the Labour candidate for Manchester police commissioner, is giving an opening speech. He says Labour values public servants like the police. "We don't want to see our public services prostituted on the market," he says.

1.30pm: Here's a lunchtime summary.

• Two union leader have attacked the Labour leadership for endorsing pay restraint. Len McCluskey, the Unite general secretary, and Paul Kenny, the GMB general secretary, both singled out Ed Balls for particular criticism. McCluskey made his comments in an interview in the Sunday Times (see 10.25am) and Kenny spoke later. This is what Kenny said.

Ed Balls, he would give an aspirin a headache, wouldn't he? Being truthful about it, he comes here and he's not really in touch with the argument. He really needs to get closer to what's happening on the ground."

[Labour is] losing ground with core supporters by continuing to ignore the fact that millions of people are suffering. Labour has to give them hope, and telling them there's nothing down for them isn't hope.

Ed Miliband has insisted that he will not let the trade unions prevent Labour acting in the national interest. "There's no future for this party as a party for one sectional interest of society," he said. "We must be the party of the private sector, just as much as the party as of the public sector." He made the comment in a wide-ranging interview with Andrew Marr.

Ed Miliband has said that threats by banks to leave the UK would not stop Labour legislating in 2015 to force them to ringfence their retail operations from their investment operations. Although the government says it is implementing the Vickers report proposals for a ringfence, Miliband said that the Vickers proposals had actually been watered down. Labour would legislate if the banks did not address this problem themselves, he said. And he insisted that he would not be put off if they threatened to leave the UK.

This is a very clear message I have for the banks: Either they sort it out themselves - so that once and for all the High Street bank is not an arm of the casino operation - or the next Labour government will, by law, split those banks up so that once again we return to the best traditions of British banking, which is banks that serve the customer.

Here's an extract from the Labour briefing note explaining in more detail what this means.

If the real separation Vickers sought is to be achieved we will need a tougher ringfence than this Government envisages

• Corporate governance: the government's requirements in this area are neither detailed or tough. Executive directors will be able to be on the boards of both the retail bank, parent company, and other boards within the group. There is no requirements for instance to have separate chief executives.

• Staffing: when it comes to staffing there is nothing in the government's requirements to stop senior staff moving back and forth between retail and investment arms.

• Large businesses: Vickers set out principles to judge whether the products and services supplied to large businesses should be in or outside the retail bank ringfence. It is not clear that the Government will have a tough ringfence in this area.

Instead of toughening the ringfence up, the government has watered it down because it is too weak to resist lobbying from the big banks.

• The government has broadened the ringfence to allow high street banks to sell derivative products to small businesses.

• Recommendations for stronger limits on banks' leverage have been abandoned all together.

• Miliband has left open the option of supporting the coalition's planned cuts for post-2015 at the time of the next election. In his Marr interview, he said there was no need to make a decision on his now. Last week Harriet Harman suggested in a Spectator interview that Labour would refused to accept coalition cuts post-2015, but today she drew back from that and said that a decision would have to be taken nearer the election.

The economy is going from bad to worse, and therefore we will have to shape our promises and our proposals as to what we can do in the light of the economic circumstance as they prevail as we come up to 2015.

• Miliband has rejected suggestions that he is too much of a policy wonk to be an effective leader.

I'm my own person and I'm going to do it my own way. I think in the end people respect somebody who has seriousness of purpose, a clarity of ideas and let me just make this contrast: Four years ago, David Cameron was saying 'I want to hug a hoody and I want to hug a husky'. And now, he wants to lock up the hoodies and he doesn't give a damn about the huskies. People are always going to know where I stand - that is the most important test of leadership.

• Jon Cruddas, the head of Labour's policy review, has said that Labour wants an "early warning system" to alert the government when immigration is causing a problem.
He made the comment on the Sunday Politics.

A city like London can deal with [extra migrants], as long as the state supports those local authorities that are disproportionately taking the strain ... We want an early warning system so that we know if there's trouble brewing in certain areas or certain sectors in terms of real pressure around the labour market conditions or access to housing or whatever.

Miliband has led tributes to Malcolm Wicks, the Labour former energy minister who has died.

12.30pm: There are at least two polls in the papers today.

Opinium in the Observer

Labour: 39% (down 3 points from Opinium last week)

Conservatives: 29% (down 1)

Lib Dems: 10% (up 2)

Ukip: 10%

Labour lead: 10 points (down 2)

But the Observer says some of the figures in the poll are gloomy for Labour.

Depressingly for Labour, 29% say the current coalition government is responsible for the present state of the economy against 46% who blame the last Labour government.
Even among Labour voters there are real doubts about Miliband's ability to be prime minister – 29% of Labour supporters say they "definitely" or "probably" can't imagine him as prime minister.

YouGov in the Sunday Times

Labour: 40% (down 3 points from YouGov on Friday)

Conservatives: 35% (up 4)

Lib Dems: 10% (down 1)

Ukip: 7% (down 1)

Labour lead: 5 points (down 7)

Goverment approval: -36 (up 3)

On his UK Polling Report blog Anthony Wells has been looking in more detail at the YouGov figures. Here's an extract.

On Ed Miliband's leadership in particular, only 23% of people say he has made it clear what he stands for, 58% think he has not. 31% think he has been too close to the trade unions, 35% think he has not been close enough to business – surprisingly perhaps, given the often hostile attitudes polls find towards big business. While people saying Miliband is too anti-business are largely Conservative supporters, even 20% of Labour voters think Miliband has been too anti-business.

While Miliband's ratings remain poor, he is seem as a much more appealing leader than Ed Balls or Yvetter Cooper. In both cases more people say Balls or Cooper would make them less likely to vote Labour than say they would make them more likely to vote Labour. Ed is, however, still seen as less appealing than his brother. 18% of people say they would be more likely to vote Labour with David Miliband as leader compared to only 7% who would be less likely.

12.14pm: And here's Harriet Harman on the Sunday Politics talking about Ed Miliband. She said: "A lot of people do not know who the leader of the opposition is." That does not sound particularly helpful, but she was making the point that Miliband has the chance to tell the public more about himself.

This week is a very big opportunity for the public to see Ed Miliband as he is. Having seen, over the last 30 years, a lot of leaders from all different parties up close, I can say without too much psychobabble I think the thing about Ed Miliband is that he is very much in touch with people's concerns. Right away he was raising about the squeeze on living standards and the real fear people have got on living standards.

He is also very robust. I do not think he will change and just blow with the wind, and do phoney photocalls. He is as he is, while recognising that people do actually need to get to know him better. A lot of people don't know who the leader of the opposition is, especially only two years into his role.

12.11pm: Lord Prescott, the former deputy prime minister, told Sky News that Len McCluskey, the Unite general secretary, should "grow up".

I can't understand people saying 'the Blair era was bad'. Even to Len McCluskey I'd say 'eh, Len, more of your people were in work in the areas where we need them, in public services, in education and in hospitals. think about it again' ... [Blair] fought and won three elections. Tell me another Labour leader who did that? Tell me another one who gave us minimum wage? Tell me another one that got as many people back to work? Come on, grow up.

11.03am: Here's a summary of the key points from Ed Miliband's interview with Andrew Marr. I've taken the quotes from PoliticsHome and from the Press Association.

• Miliband rejected the call from the Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, for Labour to reject pay restraint in the public sector.
Miliband was responding to the interview that McCluskey gave to the Sunday Times. (See 10.25am.) "I think he's wrong, he's wrong," Miliband said. "He's entitled to his view, but he's wrong." He also said that he thought McCluskey was wrong to want Blairites pushed out of Labour.

There's a bigger message also I think, about the Labour party that I lead. I'm not for pushing people out of the Labour party, I want more people in the Labour party.There's no future for this party as a party for one sectional interest of society. We must be the party of the private sector, just as much as the party as of the public sector. I think I'm pretty clear on that.

He confirmed that Labour would, if necessary, legislate to implement the Vickers report recommending the separation of investment banking from retail banking in full. This was the subject of Miliband's interview in the Observer. (See 10.25am.) (I thought Miliband had made this clear in the summer, when the Libor scandal was dominating the news, but Labour aides say that although he criticised the government then for not implementing Vickers in full, the commitment to legislation is new.)

• He implied that he would be happy to see international banks leave the UK as a consequence of his reforms. He played down the prospect of this happening. But, when pressed, he suggested he would be willing to accept this. He would stand up to vested interests, he said.

• He confirmed that Labour would repeal the Health Act. Yesterday the party's policy was thrown into confusion when Miliband, during his Q&A said it would not be sensible to reject the coalition's reforms in their entirety, only for Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, to say the bill would be repealed. (The Lib Dem blogger Mark Pack explains this clearly on his blog.) This morning Miliband said the Act would be repealed.

We will repeal the NHS Bill. Why? Because it puts the wrong principles at the heart of the NHS. It puts competition, markets and money as the central defining principles of the NHS. That's the wrong west of principles. I want a different set of principles.

I want hospitals to be able to cooperate with each other, not to be taken to court for colluding with each other, which is one of the things in this bill – they can be fined up to 10% of their income.

But Miliband also said that he would not repeat the mistake David Cameron made of having a costly top-down NHS reorganization. And he suggested that some of the Andrew Lansley reforms could be retained because he did not want to "just shuffle the deck chairs all over the place". Aides said later that this meant that new structures created by the legislation, like clinical commissioning groups, could stay, but that the legislation forcing them to compete with each other would go. Instead they would be told to cooperate.

• He played down the prospect of David Miliband returning to the shadow cabinet. Asked about his brother, Miliband said: "He made a decision not to join the shadow cabinet and that continues to be his view, that he wants to be in the frontline but not on the frontbench." Asked whether the door was open for David to return, Miliband said: "I think he is a huge asset to the Labour Party but I'm not getting into all that."

• He insisted that he would be his own person and resist attempts to manipulate his image.

• He refused to say whether Labour would accept the coalition's plans for spending cuts after 2015. "We'll set out our plans at the next election, for what we're going to do, in the next parliament," Miliband said. It was too soon to do so now. "We don't know what the government's going to be spending or doing in the next three months, frankly."

• He said Labour would not commit itself to spending money it would not have. "One of the things about Ed [Balls] is that he is going to be iron in saying you cannot make commitments, both he and I are absolutely clear about this, you cannot make commitments unless we have an absolutely clear idea where the money is coming from," Miliband said.

• He confirmed that if Labour were in power now, it would take the top rate of tax back up to 50p in the pound.

• He played down the value of talks with the Lib Dems about a possible coalition after the election.

This is way overdone. I want a majority Labour government, I'm working for a majority Labour government. If there are areas where people can co-operate across the divide in politics, fine ... The problem about the Lib Dems, including Vince I'm afraid, is that they are an accomplice to this Government, not a brake on it.

• He said Labour deserved credit for not tearing itself apart.

This is a party that is a more united party than any other in British politics. It hasn't taken leave of its senses or leave of the electorate. We are a party on the way back. We have a long way to go but I feel quite confident about our position - knowing there is a huge mountain to climb, but knowing we are scaling it.

• He rejected claims that Labour received most of its money from the trade unions. And the money that did come from the unions came from individuals, he said

At the moment it's about 40% comes from trade union members. Let's be clear about this. This is nurses, and engineers, and shop workers around the country. About 40% from our members. Members of our party. About 20% from other sources.

• He said that he would not break Labour's links with the trade unions.

I'll tell you why I'm not going to do that. Because think about politics and what people think about politics – it's detached from the lives of most people. What does that give us, at its best? The link with trade union members.

10.36am: And here are some of the best columns from the Sunday papers about the Labour conference.

• Matthew D'Ancona in the Sunday Telegraph says Miliband wants to win the next election by promising radical change from the past.

What can be said with certainty is this: Miliband grasps that, to stand a chance of winning, he must campaign as vigorously against the last Labour government as he does against Cameron. Thatcher understood this: she was fighting Heath, as well as Callaghan, distancing herself not only from the Labour government's failure but also from the managerial mediocrity of the Tory past. In Miliband's case, the task is probably even harder.
Parties are, by definition, aggregations of people that symbolise continuity of belief. Even when the tribe has been defeated, it accepts change with reluctance. Its members ask, as a reflex: what precisely are you disowning? Are you "moving on" or "selling out"? And what does the Great Break with the party's recent past involve when its two most senior figures – Miliband and Ed Balls – are both the political children and erstwhile protégés of its most recent failed leader?

• Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer says Ed Miliband needs to persuade the public that he would be a plausible prime minister.

Call it the "close your eyes test". The challenge faces every leader of the opposition. Whether or not they pass is invariably crucial to their eventual success or failure. Can voters close their eyes and imagine this person standing on the threshold of Number 10 telling the country that Her Majesty has just invited them to form a government? So when Toby Helm, our political editor, and I went to interview Ed Miliband for today's Observer, I asked the Labour leader whether he thought people saw him as a future prime minister. After a pause, he replied: "Well, that's for them to decide", a response that did not ooze confidence.

• John Rentoul in the Independent on Sunday says Miliband could easily be the next prime minister.

It is true that if pollsters remind people of the names of the three party leaders before asking them how they would vote, the effect is a swing of about 1.5 percentage points from Labour to Tory, compared with the usual, unprompted, question. If that mimics the effect of an election campaign focused on the leaders, it may be that Labour's lead is really seven points rather than 10. But that would mean a Labour majority of 80.
So Ed Miliband may be irredeemably wonkish; he may say he looks like Wallace; but when people say that they intend to vote Labour, I am inclined to believe them. Miliband could well be prime minister in 2015. We should judge him this week in that light.

• James Forsyth in the Mail on Sunday says Miliband's speech will be highly personal.

Ed Miliband's conference speech this year will be highly personal: a statement of who he is and what his values are. Going into it with Labour ten points ahead in the polls, Miliband believes he now has a chance to connect with the country.

• Martin Ivens in the Sunday Times (paywall) says that "fuzzy Ed" is likely to to better than "red Ed" and that Miliband should resist the temptation to be too specific.

"When the spotlight has been off Ed, the better he has done," laughs a former Labour cabinet minister. A backbench MP from the north adds that an official from party HQ was gloating over the opposition's consistent 10 point lead over the Conservatives (down to five in our YouGov poll today): "Now all we need to do is to introduce Ed to the voters." The MP cynically replied "leave well alone". Hampstead intellectuals have little appeal outside north London.

Could Her Majesty's opposition snooze to victory under an underwhelming leader while the coalition tears itself apart? It is not inconceivable. Churchill jeered that "an empty taxi pulled up and Clement Attlee got out", but his anonymous Labour opponent won a landslide against the great wartime leader.

10.25am: Here's a round-up of the best Labour stories in the Sunday papers.

• Miliband tells the Observer in an interview that Labour would insist on a full separation of retail banking from "casino" investment banking.

In an interview with the Observer, the Labour leader says he will confront the City of London with what is seen as the nuclear option for reform if the banks fail to separate their "casino" investment operations from services to account-holders, savers and businesses.
In terms that will incense the investment banking industry, Miliband says a Labour government, as one of its first acts, would push through a modern-day equivalent of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which split the commercial and investment operations of US banks after the 1929 stock market crash ….
Miliband said: "Either they can do it themselves – which frankly is not what has happened over the past year – or the next Labour government will, by law, break up retail and investment banks.
"The banks and the government can change direction and say they are going to implement the spirit and principle of Vickers to the full. That means the hard ringfence between retail and investment banking. We need real separation, real culture change. Or we will legislate."

• Miliband refuses to say in an interview with the Observer that Ed Balls will definitely be chancellor if Labour wins the election.

"Look, we go back 20 years." That could be a lot of the problem. "We work incredibly closely together and we have an incredibly good relationship." Balls wasn't his first choice as shadow chancellor (his pick was former home secretary Alan Johnson). So will Balls definitely be chancellor if there is a Labour government? "I think I'll make my cabinet when it comes to ... I think measuring the curtains is not my style."
So Balls is not guaranteed to be chancellor? "Oh come off it. No." Why not? "You start with one member of the cabinet and then you move on to all of them. Look. Ed and I work incredibly closely together and we're a team and we're going to be a team going into the election."

• Len McCluskey, the Unite general secretary, tells the Sunday Times (paywall) in an interview that Miliband should ignore the "siren voices" of Blairites in the Labour party.

McCluskey said Progress and David Miliband had a "defeated and discredited philosophy" and urged Ed Miliband to ignore their advice. "He has got to reject the siren voices that still might come from the Blairite dead because the truth is they offer no hope for the future," he said.
The union leader also took a swipe at Balls for his recent attempts to court Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat business secretary. "I would much prefer Ed Balls to be cosying up to ordinary working people."
And in a clear threat, McCluskey said that Unite would be prepared to end its affiliation with Labour if it decided it was no longer being listened to. "The Labour party has no God-given right to exist. The Labour party can only exist if it is the voice of ordinary working people and in particular of organised Labour."

• Mehdi Hasan and James Macintyre say, in extracts from the updated version of their Ed Miliband biography in the Mail on Sunday, that David Miliband has predicted that his brother will "crash and burn".

But opinion is divided on whether Ed will persuade David to return to the front bench before the next Election in May 2015. 'I don't think he feels able to work under Ed in Opposition,' says a member of David's inner circle.
David is still 'psychologically scarred' by losing, claims a friend of Ed. 'The number of grudges he holds is unbelievable.'
The elder Miliband is said to view members of 'Team Ed' with disdain and has been known to 'blank them' in the corridors of Westminster. 'He thinks we're all useless,' says one of Ed's most senior advisers …

Towards the end of last year, David was overheard telling a member of his inner circle: 'Ed will crash and burn.'

The two authors also says that, after Miliband's conference speech last year, Vince Cable texted him to tell him it was 'the most important social-democratic speech for 40 years'.

David Miliband responded on Twitter last night.

Judging by extracts about me in the Mail on Sunday, updates to Ed's biography should be filed in the fiction section - i.e. made up

• Ed Balls tells the Sunday Telegraph in an interview that he wants a two-year stamp duty holiday for first-time buyers buying homes worth less than £250,000.

He insists it is a fully costed measure and that he will use his conference speech tomorrow to spell out how it would be funded.
The previous Labour government introduced this measure during its last months in office, but the scheme has run out. "Bring it back," demands Mr Balls. "We can do something to help aspirational men and women who want to get on the housing ladder and are finding it really hard at the moment."

• Rachel Reeves, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, says Labour would review the use of consultants in the private sector.

Labour is to begin the fight to rebuild its economic credibility with a radical reform of public-sector spending, including axing wasteful expenditure on private consultants and a shake-up in the way social care is funded, one of the party's rising stars told The Independent on Sunday today.
Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, announced four reviews into public-sector efficiency, to begin immediately, and which will aim to save the state hundreds of millions of pounds a year if Labour takes office in 2015.

• Simon Walters in the Mail on Sunday says Miliband will use a broadcast this week to highlight the fact that he is not as posh as David Cameron.

The political battle between David Cameron and Ed Miliband turned into a class war last night after the comprehensive-educated Labour leader targeted the Prime Minister's Etonian background.
A TV film dubbed Ed: The Movie by aides, in which he talks of his days at the tough Haverstock School in North London and life with his children and wife Justine, is to be broadcast on Wednesday.
The aim is to hit back hard at Mr Cameron's decision to target him personally as 'Labour's weakest link' to halt the Tories' slide in the polls.

• Laura Donnelly in the Sunday Telegraph says Miliband hinted in his Q&A yesterday that he would like to cut tuition fees by more than Labour has already promised.

Labour has already signalled it would look for ways to cut the maximum level of fees that can be charged from £9,000 a year to £6,000.
However, during a question-and-answer session on the eve of the party's conference, Mr Miliband said: "We've said we will cut [tuition fees] to £6,000 and in my view that is not enough – but it is a start. I would like to go further."

• Jim Murphy tells the Sunday Times in an interview (paywall) that the party will make it easier for former servicemen and women to become Labour candidates.

Soldiers often find their nomadic existence, which makes it difficult to put down roots, counts against them — with some notable exceptions including Dan Jarvis, the former paratrooper turned Barnsley Central MP. In future local parties will be advised that a military background must not be a barrier to selection.

• Chuka Umunna tells the Mail on Sunday in an interview that he would not rule out sending his children to a private school.

Would he send his children to a private school if they were doing badly at a State school? 'I wouldn't rule it out. I hope to get married and have children. What I'd like is for us to make private schools redundant.'
All well and good, but few Labour MPs would dare say they would send their child to a private schools. Umunna weighed his words, but did not flinch: 'I didn't say that, but I wouldn't rule it out.'

• Anji Hunter tells the Sunday Times (paywall) in an interview that people like Alastair Campbell have downplayed the role she played in the Blair administration in their memoirs.

"Reading their diaries there are all these meetings that Tony and others seem to have had on their own," Hunter said. "Well, they didn't. I was there. I wasn't just the one making the tea, as in Alastair's diaries" …

In her interview with The Sunday Times Magazine, Hunter discloses how she and Sue Nye, a senior aide to Gordon Brown, used to meet to patch up rows between Blair and his chancellor. This goes unacknowledged in books about the period, which usually credit John Prescott, the former deputy prime minister, with the fence-mending.
"It was us who usually sorted it," said Hunter. "The fact that it isn't out there is proof of how successful Sue and I were. We didn't talk about it . . . we just got on with it and fixed it . . . Why would they [memoir writers] put it in? Because of course it was they who sorted it," she added ironically, chuckling to emphasise her point. "Women don't put themselves forward enough."

10.09am: Here is some Twitter reaction to the Ed Miliband interview.

From the Labour commentator Owen Jones.

Finally, total clarity from Ed Miliband on the Andrew Marr Show: "We will repeal the NHS Bill". Let's hold the next government to it

From the Daily Mail's James Chapman

'I'm my own person and I'm going to do it my own way.' Ed Miliband channels Sinatra #marr

From PoliticsHome's Paul Waugh

Wonder how EdM is going retreat on NHS msg yday? He will have spent some time working out a form of words.#marr

EdM on the word "predistribution":"I love it" #marr

EdM says 'yeah' when asked if he happy to see banks up sticks over his planned crackdown. Says that's diff btw him and Cam

Whenever he is uncomfortable/irritated, EdM has habit of closing his eyelids for a whole second.

EdM answer on David M sounded v much like "I invited him onto front bench two years ago, he sulked off, he's had his chance"

From Nick Bourne, the Welsh Tory

Dreadful interview from @Ed_Miliband on @MarrShow. Coming across as manic. Who advises him? Cutting across Andrew Marr.

From Charlie Whelan, the Labour former spin doctor

Very impressed with @Ed_Miliband on #marr. Strong, determined and dare I say it Prime Ministerial. #lab12

From the Daily Mail's Tim Shipman

This conference was supposed to be about making Ed more human. But he seems intent on being authentic instead and he is authentically geek

From the Sun's Tom Newton Dunn

Ed Mili says Labour flirting with Libs "is way over done". Slap down for Balls.

9.57am: The Miliband interview is over. I'll post a summary soon.

9.55am: Miliband says he does not mind being described as a "pointy head". He says he takes this as a compliment.

But he does not read his press coverage, he says.

Q: Margaret Thatcher made an attempt to change her image.

Miliband says he is not interested in doing this.

He will not be doing photo opportunities with huskies, he says.

Hugging a huskie was good at the time for David Cameron. But now it has made people cynical, he says.

9.51am: Marr asks Miliband about his personal ratings.

Miliband says the Tories produced polling figures about Miliband personally. He takes that as a compliment.

He will be his own person.

People will know where he stands. Unlike David Cameron, who used to want to hug hoodies and save huskies. Now he wants to lock up hoodies and he does not care about huskies.

"I'm going to keep doing this in my own way," says Miliband.

Q: Will David Miliband came back to the shadow cabinet before the next election?

Miliband says his brother decided he did not want to be in the shadow cabinet.

9.47am: Marr turns to the NHS.

Q: Would you repeal the NHS bill?

Yes, says Miliband. The bill puts the wrong values into the NHS. He wants hospitals to cooperate.

Q: But in your Q&A yesterday you suggested you might keep the bill.

Miliband says he was saying that he would not introduced a top-down reorganisation of the bill in the way that the coalition did.

Q: What do you discuss with Vince Cable by text?

Miliband says he has changed his mobile phone. "I'm trying to get away from him."

He has discussed many issues with Cable. Politicians from different parties should work with each other, he says.

But he says the Lib Dems, including Cable, have taken the wrong course.

Q: Would you do a deal with the Lib Dems after the election?

Miliband says that is an insider question. He is not interested in it. The election is a long way away.

9.44am: They are now on banking.

Q: You would separate retail banking from investment banking.

Yes, says Miliband. The banks need to sort this out for themselves, so that casino banking is not an arm of retail banking. If the banks do not do this, a Labour government would force them to do that.

Q: Are you worried about banks leaving the UK?

Miliband says he does not think this would happen.

The public need clarity, he says.

The Vickers report has been watered down.

Q: So you would be prepared to see the banks go?

Miliband says people want a government that would stand up to vested interests.

9.39am: Marr is asking about spending.

Q: Would you follow the coalition's spending plans after 2015.

Miliband says that's a political game question.

Q: It's a fair question. People want to know.

Miliband says that he does not know what the government's spending plans will be then. So he cannot be expected to answer the question.

Miliband says he accepts that a Labour government will not have a great deal of money to spend.

9.20am: The Labour conference is formally opening in Manchester this afternoon, but Ed Miliband was here yesterday doing a Q&A with "ordinary" people (ie, non-delegates) and he has just started the traditional pre-conference interview on the Andrew Marr show. I'm sorry I'm a bit late launching. I've had technical problems.

Marr asked Miliband about this story, in the Sunday Times.

• Len McCluskey, the Unite general secretary, tells the Sunday Times (paywall) in an interview that Miliband should ignore the "siren voices" of Blairites in the Labour party.

McCluskey said Progress and David Miliband had a "defeated and discredited philosophy" and urged Ed Miliband to ignore their advice. "He has got to reject the siren voices that still might come from the Blairite dead because the truth is they offer no hope for the future," he said.
The union leader also took a swipe at Balls for his recent attempts to court Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat business secretary. "I would much prefer Ed Balls to be cosying up to ordinary working people."
And in a clear threat, McCluskey said that Unite would be prepared to end its affiliation with Labour if it decided it was no longer being listened to. "The Labour party has no God-given right to exist. The Labour party can only exist if it is the voice of ordinary working people and in particular of organised Labour."

Miliband rejected McCluskey's argument. He said Labour needed to be a broad-based party.

I'll pick up the rest of the interview now.

The conference opens at 2pm. We've got speeches from Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, Iain McNichol, the general secretary, Angela Eagle, the shadow leader of the Commons, Jon Cruddas, the policy review coordinator, and Tom Watson, the deputy party chair. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


Greek general strike anti-austerity protest turns violent, by CTV News:

Greek general strike anti-austerity protest turns violent, by CTV News:
September 30, 2012 Permalink Tweet: Greek general strike anti-austerity protest turns violent, by CTV News: click here. Submitted by Billy Butterfield. Tell A Friend. submit to reddit · submit to stumble upon. Post Tweet Comment. These discussions are ...

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Will François Hollande's big gamble with the French economy pay off? | Pierre Haski

In his 2013 budget the president's ambitious plan is to reform French finances while avoiding the pain of cuts like Spain's

It took just over four months for the tide of public opinion to turn against François Hollande: at the start of September a poll revealed that 68% of French people were pessimistic about their country's future under their new president. And that was the common line before Friday's announcement of the 2013 budget, which will find him even fewer friends in the country.

Pierre Moscovici, the finance minister, has boasted that no previous government has attempted to reduce the budget deficit by 1.5% in a single year – from 4.5% to 3% – and all that with almost nonexistent growth. But it is precisely this kind of ministerial pride that French people are worried about – whether they belong to the group who will be heavily taxed or are one of those 3 million unemployed who can't see how the austerity budget will help them find a job.

Admittedly, a drop in popularity will have always been part of Hollande's calculations. With no elections for another two years, his government will feel it is wiser to take tough measures now rather than later, hoping that positive results will show when voters go back to the polls. Two years: that's the period president Hollande has said would be needed to turn the clock back on unemployment.

Still, the proposed budget is far more of a shock than anyone could have predicted only a few weeks ago. It promises to achieve the eurozone-wide 3% budget deficit ceiling as early as 2013, a target Hollande has maintained despite the deterioration of the economy, with a mild recession under way.

To do so will require a major effort, whose chance of success has divided opinions. The government needs to find an additional €30bn next year, and has chosen to divide this amount in three: one-third in spending cuts, and two-thirds in new taxes – half for businesses and half for individual taxpayers.

Liberal economists criticise this division: they argue that state spending should have been cut much further, with fewer new taxes in a country that is already one of the bigger taxers in Europe. They fear job creation will suffer as both businesses and consumers are forced to tighten their belts. Technology entrepreneurs have been particularly vocal since Friday, complaining about a 60% tax on profits when selling a company – a sharp increase which, they say, will discourage the innovation sector.

On the other side, leftwing critics of the socialists such as the former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon denounce an austerity package designed to satisfy financial markets and Europe's liberal vision, which is not what Hollande promised the French in his campaign against Nicolas Sarkozy.

The "left of the left" is showing its muscle today, with a major demonstration planned in Paris against Hollande's choice to ratify the new European budgetary treaty in parliament, and not by referendum. The austerity measures in the new budget will have given leftwing voters an additional reason to join the march.

Government spokesmen defend their approach as both orthodox and fair. Moscovici made a passionate plea for the reduction of the budget deficit – and therefore the French debt burden – in an interview with Le Monde this weekend. He defended a "just" approach in which the tax burden will fall on big corporations and not small and medium-sized companies, and called upon the 10% richest French people to save the nation's social system. "Rigorous but leftwing", cheered the left-leaning Libération, in a rather Pravda-like fashion.

Unlike the worst-affected states of southern Europe, France has apparently not given up on saving its generous social system – while simultaneously following an orthodox path of deficit reduction. The budget has allowed the country to gain time, and France is currently borrowing on financial markets at record low, sometimes even negative, rates.

All this is a far cry from former president Sarkozy's gloomy warning during last spring's election campaign: "Vote for Hollande and you'll have a Greek-style situation in less than two weeks."

Hollande's gamble is to put the country's finances in order without having to go through the deep and painful cuts that Spain is imposing on its people, or the hard and equally painful social reforms that Germany underwent years ago.

Mission impossible? The answer will emerge in the next few months, in the toughest economic environment possible. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


Bulgaria to make up delays in gas link projects

An employee walks at Bulgartransgaz gas compressor station near the town of ProvadiaVARNA, Bulgaria (Reuters) - Bulgaria pledged to make up for delays in connecting its gas network with neighboring Balkan countries and hopes to have links with neighboring Greece and Turkey by the end of next year, the economy and energy minister said on Sunday. A new gas development plan of the state network operator Bulgartransgaz earlier on Sunday revealed it expected a one year delay in the project until the end of 2014, but Dobrev said the operator was being too conservative. "Bulgartransgaz presented only a plan. ...