The Week in Politics
Head of Political Intelligence Cath Warren looks back at the week in politics.
The agenda this week has been dominated by next week’s referendum on Scottish independence. Campaigning and concern stepped up a level after a YouGov poll at the weekend showed support for independence pulling ahead for the first time with 51% of the vote. Another poll published on Monday evening put the two campaigns on equal footing, but two polls towards the end of the week showed No as narrowly back in the lead. As Fraser Nelson points out in today’s Spectator Coffeehouse blog, it looks like young people and women seem to be turning back to “No” as the referendum date approaches. YouGov found that the under-25s have switched from a 20-point lead for ‘yes’ to a 6-point lead for ‘no’ in under a week. All three Westminster party leaders went to Scotland on Wednesday in order to boost the campaign, and the former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been active on the campaign trail, promising further devolution in the event of a No vote. In an unlikely turn of events, Peter Dominiczak reported in The Daily Telegraph on Thursday that the former Prime Minister has suggested he could stand as an Member of the Scottish Parliament, ‘if Alex Salmond continues to “peddle lies” about the NHS’. The pound fell as polls indicated an increase in support for independence, but rose again later in the week. The Treasury Committee pressed the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, on how Bank reserves may be split, and RBS, Lloyds, and three other banks said that they had contingency plans to take on new headquarters in the UK if Scotland voted to leave. There were also calls for further devolution to English regions in the event of independence, and reports that there could be a recall of Parliament.
President Obama said that he would authorise US airstrikes against IS, and there were reports that the UK would support him, although suggestions that Cameron would seek parliamentary approval for airstrikes in Iraq, but not Syria. Despite fears that the UK would be sidelined in the allocation of portfolios, Lord Hill, the UK’s European Commissioner, was given the important financial services brief in Brussels, although he will now face a tough approval hearing with the European Parliament. Kate McCann profiled Lord Hill in yesterday’s City AM.
Opponents of the Speaker of the House, John Bercow, succeeded in launching a new Committee on the Governance of the House to investigate his attempts to appoint Carol Mills to the post of Commons Clerk. The Committee, led by former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, will hold a nine week inquiry into the appointment. The Government finally published their Recall Bill, which would allow voters to demand an MP face a by-election if they are convicted of an offence or are suspended from the Commons. However, the Bill has been criticised by those who want the power of recall even for MPs who have not broken any rules.
Elsewhere, the Lib Dems published their pre-election manifesto, the contents of which led Harry Phibbs on Conservative Home to conclude that the party intends to fight the next election as a left wing party. The Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid, announced a review into the licence fee penalty. The Alzheimer’s Society warned that those suffering from dementia face disproportionately high care costs of up to £21,000 a year which is needed to top up state assistance. Energy firms are to pay back £153m to customers who overpaid for gas and electricity. The National Audit Office has published a report suggesting that healthcare services have been left underfunded due to the Government’s system of allocation. Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Margaret Hodge, described the Government’s system as ‘outrageous’.