Leaders of Britain’s opposition parties have rounded on Prime Minister David Cameron for stating that he will only appear in one televised debate ahead of the general election. Downing Street has said the Prime Minister would not appear in a head-to-head debate with Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband, and would only appear in a seven-leader debate that included the leaders of the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru, Wales’ nationalist party. While a Downing Street spokesman criticised the chaotic negotiation process with broadcasters for the debates, rival parties have accused the Prime Minister of cowardice. The Prime Minister has also been accused of trying to impose his own terms on broadcasters for the format of the debates, after a ‘final offer’ from Downing Street of one 90-minute debate before 30 March. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has offered to stand in for the Prime Minister in a one-on-one debate with Labour Leader Ed Miliband.
UK authorities put the public at risk by failing to prosecute an Islamic extremist who plotted to blow up a Manchester shopping centre, a former detective has said. The plotter, Abid Naseer, was found guilty by a US court on Wednesday of planning a failed bomb plot on the New York subway. Retired Detective Chief Inspector Allan Donoghue has said that Naseer should have been charged with planning a terrorist attack in 2009, when he was arrested for his planned bombing in Manchester. Instead, an attempt to deport Naseer had failed and Naseer was released. Naseer was deported to the US in 2013, after US officials were able to name him in a broader indictment for involvement in the New York subway plot. Naseer had pleaded not guilty in court. Documents taken from Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, which was raided by US Navy SEALs in 2009, were also used as evidence for the first time.
China has set out its economic goals for 2015, with a growth target of 7 percent and higher government spending on the agenda. The policies were unveiled by Premier Li Keqiang at the opening of the annual legislative meeting of the National People’s Congress (NPC). In his speech, Li also stressed the need for structural reform of China’s economy to avert further problems. China seeks to move from export-driven growth to growth driven by domestic demand, though it still faces difficulties in achieving this. Tougher action on the environment was also unveiled by Premier Li during his speech.
No prevailing themes in the headlines today. The Independent leads with former Civil Service chief Lord O’Donnell’s criticism that “Out-of-touch MPs ‘don’t get it'”. Gus O’Donnell launched a “scathing attack on ‘chauffeur-driven’ politicians”, the paper reports, with too few MPs able to empathise with those on benefits. The Times leads with news that Chancellor George Osborne is meanwhile planning a “tax cut for workers”. The paper writes that the Labour Party now fears the Conservatives that Osborne will unveil a “giveaway budget” before the election. The Daily Telegraph leads with news that “Anti-drug lessons lead pupils astray”, over fears that the lessons “may be inadvertently encouraging children to take up illicit substances”. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has called for responsibility for drugs policy to be shifted from the Home Office to the health department. The Guardian leads with news that the chair of the BBC Trust has joined critics in both main political parties in calling for an “external regulator to oversee BBC”, after “Damaging scandals at the corporation”. The Financial Times reports that the Serious Fraud Office may launch an investigation into the potential rigging of money-market auctions set up in 2007 by the Bank of England.
British Media on China
On China’s environment pledge: China’s pledge to take more action on the environment at the opening of 2015’s National People’s Congress meeting received coverage from the BBC, Guardian and Daily Telegraph. Despite Premier Li’s speech focusing on the economy, UK media outlets have tended to focus on Li’s environmental message. The BBC notes that in his speech, “the most heartfelt language focused on environmental pollution”. The Daily Telegraph reports that “activists said they were encouraged” by Li’s emphasis on the environment. The Guardian’s agency piece, however, notes that the speech did not “announce any significant new environmental measures”.