Ahead of an expected Cabinet reshuffle this week, David Cameron put pen to newspaper for an exclusive column on how he really is more ruler than rodent, and that the country is in safe hands.
“Yes, growth has been disappointing,” he wrote, “but in the past two years we’ve also seen more than 900,000 jobs created in the private sector. Yes, turning around our schools is tough – but hundreds of new Free Schools and Academies are opening every year. Yes, tackling welfare dependency is difficult – but there are more people in work now than at the last Election. This is a government with fighting spirit for our future.”
We must, he added, remember the “fundamental truth” at the heart of our difficulties: that you can’t borrow your way out of a debt crisis. “Countries across Europe have found there’s a tipping point where piling on more debt isn’t just counter-productive, it is lethal,” he said, “because you slam the brakes on growth. We are pulling Britain out of that trap. When I became Prime Minister our market interest rates were the same as Spain’s. Ours are now less than two per cent; theirs more than six per cent. Why? Because we threw a lifeline around the British economy and pulled it back from the cliff edge.”
Chancellor George Osborne has also been on the pre-reshuffle media prowl, and several papers covered his appearance yesterday on Andrew Marr’s BBC One morning show, where he declared that the economy is “healing”, and that the government is “getting on top” of the deficit.
Meanwhile, Cameron and Osborne’s erstwhile Parliamentary colleague Boris Johnson edged back into the frame as it emerged that his cherished “Boris Island” project for a four-runway airport in the Thames estuary could be completed within the same schedule as it would take to build a third runway at Heathrow. Rather helpfully for Johnson, the law firm that brought this fact to light as part of a feasibility study said: “This assumption that runway three is a quick win in terms of planning and policy process, let alone construction timescale, is incorrect.”
Harald Stock, chief executive of pharmaceutical manufacturer Grünenthal, created more outrage and tension than he could ever have hoped to cure with his apology to victims of the anti-morning sickness drug Thalidomide – prescribed to disastrous effect five decades ago. Stock appealed to sufferers of the drug’s side effects, whose development of limbs was severely restricted, to accept the “long silence” that his company had maintained on the subject as a sign of the shock it felt at their condition.
Campaigners for a formal compensation deal dismissed the apology as not good enough – among them former Sunday Times editor Harold Evans, whose paper lobbied heavily for financial restitution while under his management.
Speculation has mounted that bosses at London Metropolitan University will pursue the government to the High Court over its shock decision last week to authorise a mass cancellation of visas for foreign students, after a small number had been found to fail the entry criteria. Likely to affect up to 2,500 people who thought they would be starting at the Met in the next few weeks, the move has met with heavy criticism from heads of other academic bodies. Regent’s College principal Aldwyn Cooper said: “This sends negative messages to the market which is damaging for UK higher education.” His institution has opened up scholarships that may help students displaced by the cancellation find a new place to study – but their re-applications for visas are likely to be costly.
The Met faces a $20m budget shortfall as a result of the decision.
In an exclusive interview, John Cridland – director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) – says that the creativity behind Britain’s export market is key to the country’s economic recovery… and that a certain, cheese-loving inventor and his cheeky canine sidekick are valuable ambassadors for UK business.
“Germany exports five times as much as we do to China,” he said. “because it’s focused on selling things around the world. We can do that and we are beginning to do that. Just look at Jaguar Land Rover.” He added: “We’re also renowned for our creativity. That’s why you have British architects designing airports in China, that’s why British films are box office smashes and that’s why Wallace and Gromit are world figures.”
Rapper Jay-Z has distinguished himself on the staff-jolly front among his music-industry peers by handing out special treats to acts that played his recent Made in America festival in Philadelphia. Each of the 35 bands and solo artists who featured on the bill received a personalised, $400 bottle of champagne and a handwritten thank-you note for their contribution. Cheers, Jay!