The Conservative Party had planned an extra £8 billion worth of child welfare cuts while in government but were blocked by the Liberal Democrats, Lib Dem Treasury Minister Danny Alexander has claimed. Plans included limiting child benefit and tax credit to two children. The Conservative Party has denied that such policies were ever proposed or supported by the Prime Minister or Chancellor. The Guardian reports that the proposals were in a paper circulated to the government’s four most senior cabinet members in 2012 by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith. The Conservative Party has said it plans to make £12 billion worth of cuts in welfare spending, but has dodged questions over where such cuts would be made. Alexander said that revealing former plans would help expose where the proposed unspecified cuts may be made. The Prime Minister, meanwhile, has called for his party to be more passionate while campaigning, revealing that he has turned away from the campaign script laid out for him by election director Lynton Crosby.
Protests are taking place across several US cities over the death of black American Freddie Gray, who died from injuries sustained in police custody in Baltimore. Gray died on 19 April, with a severed spine. Marches were held in New York, Boston, Washington DC, and Ferguson. A march was also held in Baltimore on Wednesday night, but ended before the city’s curfew was enforced. Authorities in Baltimore have been forced to release over 100 protesters who had been held for days without charge. Freddie Gray’s death, and the subsequent protests, are the latest chapters in an ongoing US debate over police powers and the use of force. The issue was thrust into the spotlight in 2014 after the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Chinese and South Korean media have criticised Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over his speech to the United States Congress on Wednesday. Both China and Korea have expressed anger that Abe did not issue a new apology for its conduct in the Second World War, or mention its use of wartime sex slaves, known as “comfort women”. Chinese state media outlet Xinhua reported that instead of a new apology, Abe only said he would “uphold” the apologies made on the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the end of the Pacific conflict. China also hit back on Wednesday at Southeast Asian nations critical of its land reclamation programme in the South China Sea, accusing other nations of carrying out their own illegal building work.
With one week to go until the general election, politics continues to dominate headlines. The Guardian reports on former Conservative plans “to slash £8bn benefits”. The news was leaked by Liberal Democrat Treasury Minister Danny Alexander, who decided to take the “extraordinary step” of revealing the plans from 2012 because he felt Britain was “being conned” by the party. The Lib Dems also make the headlines in The Times, with the paper reporting on a “revolt over fresh pact with Tories”. Lib Dem “insiders” are taking a hard line against any deal between party leader Nick Clegg and the Conservatives, the paper writes. The Daily Telegraph leads with news that Labour Party leader Ed Miliband is heading for a “wipeout in Scotland”. Party figures have criticised Miliband for his complacency on Scotland, where the Scottish National Party is poised to gain every Labour seat. The Independent leads with a report into “London’s secret exodus of the poor”. More than 50,000 families have been “pressurised into leaving” London in the past three years, the paper writes, in what the paper calls the “social cleansing” of the city. The Financial Times leads with news that the US Federal Reserve has admitted the “US recovery has lost momentum”. The banks comments on the country’s “weak 0.2% growth” have fuelled “expectations of delay in rate rise”.
British Media on China
On China, Japan and the US: the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the US has prompted some western media to focus on the two nations’ relationships with China. The Guardian features a piece today reporting that China and South Korea have criticised Abe’s speech to Congress. The paper reports that Abe “stopped short of issuing an explicit apology for Japan’s wartime actions”. The Financial Times also reports that Abe “stopped short of the reckoning with history his critics have called for”. Japanese talks with the US “have been invigorated by their mutual anxiety about a more powerful China”, the FT writes.