Pattinson Stewart date

Pattinson Stewart date, Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart were seen on a date in Los Angeles, holding hands and putting at least a temporary end to the rumors that their relationship has fizzled.

The two were seen out with friends is the city’s Los Feliz neighborhood, going out for sushi before taking an intimate walk together. Pattinson and Stewart held hands on their date and looked “really happy and lovey-dovey,” a witness told PopSugar.

“Kristen grabbed his arm, and they were walking and joking,” the witness said.

Pattinson and Stewart’s date came after a long time apart for the couple. Robert was gone from Kristen for months while filming his upcoming movie The Rover in Australia. Since then they’ve been making up for lost time, going on several dates including a March 19 trip to a karaoke bar and an appearance following the March 23 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards.

Before Pattinson’s return, the couple had been plagued by rumors of a breakup. Already on shaky ground after Kristen’s very public affair last summer with married director Rupert Sanders, some insiders said the couple was on the rocks.

In fact, some went so far as to say the relationship between Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart was a sham and they were only pretending to be dating until the DVD release of Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2.

“Rob & Kristen were asked to not announce a break-up or any relationship trouble until the DVD has been out for a few weeks and everything has sold,” a source revealed to Hollywooodlife back in March. “Since the first couple weeks are the times when the DVD will sell like wildfire. The more DVDs sold, the more money for them. So they are abiding by the request.”

The couple had endured other rumors of a sham relationship in the past. Back in the summer some wondered whether Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart were concocting the entire affair, working with Sanders to build publicity for all involved. Of course, that theory blew up when Sanders and wife Liberty Ross split later in the year.

And the latest rumors of a breakup seem to be quieted by Pattinson and Stewart going on a date in Los Angeles.

NYC hepatitis scare

NYC hepatitis scare, If you ate dessert at a small plate restaurant on Manhattan's West Village, you should consider getting a hepatitis vaccine.

An employee handling sweets at the Alta tapas restaurant between March 23 and April 2 was infected with hepatitis A, New York City's health department said.

There are no confirmed cases of patrons contracting the disease, health officials said in a statement. But they advise guests who ordered dessert during the time in question to get a shot as a precautionary measure. The department did not say if there is concrete evidence the virus actually ended up in food.

The restaurant believes that about 3,000 people ate there during that time, and about 15% of patrons -- or 450 -- ordered dessert.

Hepatitis A spreads by mouth via traces of fecal matter from an infected person, the health department said. If someone with the disease does not wash his or her hands before preparing food, the food can become contaminated.

The disease infects the liver and causes jaundice, which is yellowing of the skin and eyes, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea. Since type A hepatitis is a virus, it cannot be treated with antibiotics, but it is rarely deadly, the health department said.

An average of 65 people per year in all of New York City contract the disease, according to the NYCHD. One or two of them are usually food handlers.

The restaurant owner said that the infected employee is no longer "on the premises."

FBI Petraeus home

FBI Petraeus home, FBI agents met with former CIA Director David Petraeus at his northern Virginia home as part of an investigation into whether an ex-lover improperly handled classified documents, USA Today reported.

Petraeus resigned in November after it emerged that he had had an extra-marital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, an Army reserve intelligence officer who is also married. It was a stunning downfall for a respected Army general who led troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and was considered a potential White House contender.

Friday's interview was part of an ongoing investigation into Broadwell's handling of classified information, a federal law enforcement source told the newspaper.

An official close to the FBI investigation told Reuters the report was "not inaccurate" but declined to elaborate. Petraeus' lawyer did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday.

Agents removed materials from Broadwell's North Carolina home in November as part of the FBI probe.

Petraeus and Broadwell have separately told investigators they did not share security secrets.Petraeus was credited with helping pull Iraq from the brink of all-out civil war as commander there and President Barack Obama turned to him to lead U.S. forces in Afghanistan before moving to him to the CIA in 2011.

Shakira ex-boyfriend

Shakira ex-boyfriend, Shakira has hit back at her ex-boyfriend's allegations he is owed a slice of her fortune for guiding her career, insisting she was already a superstar when they met in 2000.

Antonio de la Rua filed a $100 million lawsuit against the Colombian singer last November following the end of their 10-year relationship in 2010.

In his complaint, de la Rua argued he is due a chunk of her earnings after acting as Shakira's manager and helping her negotiate lucrative contracts.

Shakira has now submitted a request demanding the dismissal of his lawsuit, maintaining her ex-boyfriend advised her on some decisions but was never employed as her official manager.

The Whenever, Wherever hitmaker, who now has a baby son with Spanish soccer star Gerard Pique, insists the only agreement she signed with de la Rua was a 2006 document stating they would both keep their own assets in the case of a split.

Kerri Walsh baby

Kerri Walsh baby, Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings and her v-ball pro hubby Casey Jennings have a brand new prize to brag about today: They're proud parents of daughter Scout Margery Jennings, born Saturday morning. 

Kerri announced the news via her Facebook, sharing: "She's here! She's here! She's here! Our precious baby girl is finally here! Scout Margery Jennings is as beautiful as can be. She came in like lightening and is all ready a beautiful rainbow ;) so pink & lovely & healthy ♥ Thank you all so very much, with all my heart, for your love, support & prayers. I can't tell you how much it means to me & how very much it helped. Wishing you all a wonderful, blessed day as this day certainly is for us. Xo K."

And it looks like Kerri's history-making Olympic partner Misty May-Treanor couldn't be happier! The pro tweeted: "Yeah Scout Margery Jennings. Congrats to my teammate @kerrileewalsh & the new addition to the Jennings Fam. Luv u!"

The couple of seven years have two sons, Joey and Sundance. Get ready for a younger sister boys!

We all from the Nowmynews Core Team Greet her with A big Congratulations!.

Cooper, Neeson sue

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Cooper, Neeson sue, Bradley Cooper and Liam Neeson are suing two home cinema companies.

'The A-Team' co-stars have joined forces and filed a lawsuit, claiming their faces have been used in advertisements for the companies without their permission.

A screen shot of the duo from the action movie is featured on a big projection screen being used to promote Vutec Corp. and First Impressions Theme Theaters.

The 38-year-old 'Silver Linings Playbook' star and the 60-year-old Irish actor, who believe 'The A-Team' is an inappropriate way to sell a movie product, want the advertisements to be removed immediately and damages for being associated with the big screen companies without their permission.

According to gossip website TMZ.com, the 'Taken 2' actor points out in the lawsuit that he has won many acting awards and has been nominated for prestigious accolades, including Oscars and Golden Globes, more than 30 times, making his endorsements extremely valuable.

Bradley also points out in the court documents that he has also been nominated many times and won several awards including the ShoWest Convention Award for Comedy Star of the Year. The remake of the movie, featuring both stars, was released in 2010 and also starred actress Jessica Biel

Katey Sagal Glee

Katey Sagal Glee, Katey Sagal will bring some of her biker-badness to "Glee."

Show co-creator Ryan Murphy revealed on Twitter that the "Sons of Anarchy" star has joined the fourth season of Fox's musical hit to play Artie's (Kevin McHale) mother.

"So thrilled to announce my friend Katey Sagal is playing Artie's mom on Glee! There is nothing this woman can't do!" he tweeted late Thursday night.

Details are scant on how many episodes the former "Married... with Children" star will appear in, or when her run will begin, but McHale for one can't wait to get the mom he always envisioned for himself on the show, responding with the appropriate glee on his Twitter feed: "Wooo!"

According to The Hollywood Reporter, at last summer's Comic-Con, McHale said he always pictured Sagal to play the role of his mama (we guess her parenting skills on "Married... with Children" didn't worry him). While the role of his father has still not been cast, McHale apparently has an opinion on that matter too, saying that he would love to see Harry Connick Jr. in the role.

Sagal joins a long line of impressive parental figure guest stars on "Glee." Gloria Estefan plays Naya Rivera's (Santana) mother, Idina Menzel is coming back to play Lea Michele's (Rachel) mother, with Jeff Goldblum and Brian Stokes Mitchell as her gay fathers, and none other than Carol Burnett guested as Sue's (Jane Lynch) mommy dearest. Meanwhile, Victor Garber plays Will's (Matthew Morrison) dad, and Aisha Tyler has joined as Jake's (Jacob Artist) mother. That's a whole lot of famous mamas and papas.

"Glee" returns with all new episodes on April 11 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.

N. Korea warns embassies

N. Korea warns embassies, Embassies staying put. Word of the launch delay comes amid bellicose posturing and threats that have grown more dramatic by the day on the Korean Peninsula, including North Korea's warning to foreign diplomats in Pyongyang that if war breaks out, it cannot guarantee their safety.

On Friday, officials met with ambassadors to ask whether they needed help evacuating their personnel, several diplomatic missions said.

The same concern apparently does not extend to foreign tourists.

Amanda Carr, who works for a British travel company, wrapped up a pleasure tour Saturday of North Korea with a group of 20 tourists. Before leaving the country, they were able to take in a rally in Pyongyang.

The British Embassy in North Korea gave her company, Koryo Tours, some guidance in light of the international tensions. "We've been advised to continue with the tours," Carr said.

Her North Korean partners -- from the state's travel agency -- continue to accept tourists, she said. And their demeanor is friendly toward them, as it always has been.

Russia, a traditional ally of North Korea, may consider an evacuation of staff because of the tensions, Russian state media said.

The Swedish Embassy will remain open as well. It represents the concerns of the United States in North Korea and helps its citizens traveling there.

British, French and German diplomats also have no immediate plans to leave.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Asia next week where he is expected to discuss potential diplomatic incentives for North Korea once it stops its threatening rhetoric, senior administration officials told CNN on condition of anonymity.

"Secretary Kerry agrees that we have to have a robust deterrent because we really don't' know what these guys will do," said one senior official, who was not authorized to speak on the issue.

"But he also knows that the North Koreans need a diplomatic off-ramp and that they have to be able to see it."

Key dates in U.S. military moves near North Korea

Zsa Zsa Gabor mansion

Zsa Zsa Gabor mansion, The husband of ailing movie actress Zsa Zsa Gabor reached a deal on Friday that will allow the cash-strapped couple to stay in their Bel Air mansion for the remainder of her life.

A Los Angeles judge ruled that Gabor's ninth husband, Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, could sell the four-bedroom, five bathroom mansion in a deferred transaction.

Under the deal, the buyer will allow Gabor, 96, and von Anhalt to remain in the home for at least three years, or until the actress dies, and pay them $325,000 a year, Gabor's publicist John Blanchette told Reuters.

Gabor, the Hungarian-born star of 1950s films "Moulin Rouge" and "Lili", has been in and out of hospital since breaking her hip in 2010 and having her leg amputated in January 2011.

Von Anhalt put the house up for sale at an asking price of $15 million two years ago, citing financial difficulties and the costs of medical bills for Gabor.

"This decision is going to make her very happy," von Anhalt told reporters after Friday's court hearing. "Hopefully she will be with us for more than three years. Her mother lived to be 102."

Gabor's hillside home is in one of the most exclusive areas of Los Angeles. The grounds were used to film scenes for Ben Affleck's Oscar-winning movie "Argo" as well as an upcoming HBO film about the life of late entertainer Liberace.

Blanchette said Gabor remained bedridden but was in better health recently than previous years and had enjoyed a 96th birthday party at the house in February attended by more than 100 friends.

Tim Tebow Seahawks

Tim Tebow Seahawks, Tim Tebow deserves another shot in the NFL. That shot can't come in Seattle.

With Matt Flynn off to the Oakland Raiders (h/t Mike Garafolo and Robert Klemko of USA Today), the Seahawks are in need of a backup quarterback. There's plenty of options the team can try, but it has already crossed Tebow off the list, according to Danny O'Neil of The Seattle Times:

There's a prominent name not mentioned in that group, one who has been rumored to be a potential target of Seattle: Tim Tebow. He's not expected to be someone the team pursues as it looks to find a backup to starter Russell Wilson.

O'Neil brings up Seneca Wallace, Tyler Thigpen, Brady Quinn and Matt Leinart as viable backup choices. Any of those four would be far better than Tebow.

Bringing in the former Heisman Trophy winner doesn't make any sense at all.

Well, he would at least fit in with the Seahawks' running scheme. That's about the only positive you can think of in regard to the move.

Along with Tebow would come of the swarm of media and fan attention, which doesn't bring anything but bad vibes. Ask the New York Jets how having ESPN camped out at training camp worked out for them. Then came the documenting/analyzing on ESPN programming of every single move Tebow made.

The first incompletion Russell Wilson throws will have the Tebow fan base calling for his ascension to the starting role.

Of the five, who would be the best backup for the Seahawks?
Tim Tebow Tyler Thigpen Matt Leinart Seneca Wallace Brady Quinn Submit Vote vote to see results

Barring injury, there's no way Tebow would see the field unless the Seahawks were up about 50 points.

He sat the bench pretty much the entire season he has spent in New York. Unfortunately for the Jets, he's not been bashful with his displeasure over his role with the team.

It was criticism that shouldn't necessarily be aimed at Tebow. It just illustrates, though, that he wouldn't be content with another season of riding the bench.

Even with just one season under his belt, Wilson is much more solidified as the starting quarterback than Mark Sanchez was with the Jets.

Seattle is fresh off a playoff run.

It doesn't need to bring in a backup QB who has a career 75.3 passer rating and only completed 47.9 percent of his passes. Maybe Tebow can truly become a reliable NFL starter. Looking at those numbers, that isn't likely. And it's impossible when he's stuck behind one of the best young passers in the game.

Tebow is a headache the Seahawks simply don't need.

Pete Rose 'stupid'

Pete Rose 'stupid', Pete Rose was known throughout his career for his hard-nosed style of play, so when it comes to unwritten rules, he’s not listening. Rose recently sat down for an interview with Grantland, and he touched on a number of topics, including baseball’s unwritten rules, which seem to come to light for various reasons each season. Whether it’s throwing at hitters, bunting during a no-hitter or taking an extra base with a big lead, there’s always something that ruffles the feathers of those who consider such “rules” to be sacred.

Leave it to Charlie Hustle to tell it like it is.

“I used to get screwed when we had a seven- or eight-run lead, because I couldn’t bunt for a single or I’m ‘showing up the opposition,’” Rose reportedly said.

“Guys that are home run hitters can continuously just swing from their ass and trot around the bases,” he continued. “I remember one time we had a 7-1 lead in the sixth inning in Houston, and J.R. Richard was pitching. I hit a single to right-center and I went to second. He threw at the next two hitters because I was showing the team up! What am I supposed to do when I got a 10-run lead, just go up there and strike out?”

As mentioned, bunting against a pitcher who’s throwing a no-hitter is considered a big no-no in the minds of many. Perhaps the most well-known instance of someone trying this tactic came in 2001, when Ben Davis dropped down a bunt against Curt Schilling.

“[The unwritten rules] are stupid,” Rose reportedly said. “Who cares if you bunt for a base hit? The only guys who criticize him on that are losers. Now if it had been 10-1, maybe. But down 2-0? I’d bunt, too.”

Josh Hamilton's wife

Josh Hamilton's wife, Katie Hamilton, the wife of Los Angeles Angels right fielder Josh Hamilton, was forced to call stadium security because of the fan abuse Friday during the Texas Rangers' home opener.

Katie Hamilton and the kids remained in their seats the entire game, Josh Hamilton said, with two security guards present during the entire game. There were no ejections, the Rangers said.

HAMILTON: Greeted with chorus of boos, Ks

"She had to call security just because people were getting ugly,'' Josh Hamilton said prior to Saturday's game. "It's cool to get ragged on about normal things, but when you get a little swearing and jawing back at Katie, and saying inappropriate things, it's a little different story.

"They were saying personal stuff, stuff that was inappropriate with kids around. It's a good lesson for the kids, just about people in general, and not putting faith in them, but the man upstairs.''

A Rangers fan holds up a sign during Friday's game.(Photo: Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports)

Security won't be an issue for Saturday's game, the Rangers said, with plans to provide a suite for the Hamilton family.

Hamilton, in his first game since leaving the Rangers and signing a five-year, $125 million contract with the Angels, was vociferously booed and taunted during the game by the sellout crowd.

Hamilton conceded that he was upset with the taunts, but was grateful that it didn't appear to upset his kids.

"It was cool, they weren't upset when they got home,'' Hamilton said. "They kissed me and hugged me, and brought friends over. They played on a trampoline and I jumped on the trampoline with them. It was just like any other game coming home, and I was treating it like that.''

Kathy Griffin canceled, Bravo Shutting Down


Kathy Griffin canceled, Recently Bravo talk show is actually doing what many viewers wish they could do: shutting down Kathy Griffin.

On Friday, the actress/comedienne revealed the news during her stand up show in Cincinnati.

A Bravo rep tells TheWrap the network has no comment.

Update 2:46 p.m.: A source close to the production confirms the cancelation to TheWrap.

According to BravoRatings.com, an independent site which tracks viewership on the network's shows, "Kathy" averaged 417,167 viewers and 231,583 viewers in the ad-coveted 18-49 demo. In February, the series was moved out of its primetime slot at 10 p.m. on Thursdays to 11:30 p.m.

Over its two seasons, the weekly "Kathy" saw various format changes. For the majority of Season 1, which premiered in April 2012, the series avoided the usual late night celebrity guests in lieu of a panel of "real folks" discussing TV and newsy hot topics. It changed its tune later on the season and began booking celebrity guests alongside its panel. The "real folks" panel didn't return for Season 2, replaced by three celebrities.

"Kathy" was produced by Donut Run and Embassy Row for Bravo with Griffin and Michael Davies ("Millionaire Matchmaker," "Watch What Happens Live") serving as executive producers on the series.

Last month, it was reported that Griffin teamed up with her CNN New Year's Eve co-host, Anderson Cooper, for a one-hour talk show pilot for the cable news network.

Griffin has won two Emmys for her previous Bravo series, "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List" and four of her comedy albums were nominated for Grammys.

First time for Mormons

First time for Mormons, For the first time in the event's 183-year history, a woman has led a prayer at the semiannual gathering of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Jean A. Stevens led the morning session's closing prayer Saturday for the more than 100,000 church members gathered in Salt Lake City for the two-day general conference, and the millions more watching via satellite, radio or Internet broadcast.

A feminist group launched a campaign earlier this year asking church leaders to let women lead the opening and closing prayer — a first for the conference — as a symbol of gender equality.

In addition to holding other church roles, Stevens is member of a three-person board that advises and assists parents on teaching their children about the faith.

Women hold leadership positions in the church but aren't allowed to be bishops or presidents of Mormon stakes, which are geographic areas similar to Catholic dioceses.

In January, the "Let Women Pray" campaign was launched from the same group that drew national attention in December by urging women to wear pants rather than skirts or dresses to church to raise awareness about what they perceive as gender inequality within Mormon culture.

Women regularly give speeches during the general conference and can pray in the audience. But until Saturday, they had never led the opening or closing prayers.

Earlier in the morning, Thomas S. Monson, the faith's president, announced the church is planning to build two new temples in Rio de Janeiro and Cedar City, Utah.

Temples are considered sacred to Latter-day Saints and are used for religious rituals including proxy baptisms, marriage ceremonies and other rites designed to strengthen church teachings.

The exact locations of the new buildings will be announced later, the church said. Worldwide, there are 141 temples in operation and 29 under construction.

The newly announced temple in Rio de Janeiro will be the eighth planned or operating temple in Brazil, where there are more than 1.1 million Mormons. Six temples are up and running in the country, and a seventh is planned in Fortaleza.



The planned temple in Cedar City, in southwest Utah, will be the 17th temple operating or planned in the state. The church previously announced construction of temples in Payson and Provo. Nearly 2 million members of the faith live in Utah, where the church headquarters is located.

Monson also announced during his opening address Saturday that the church has created 58 new missions to accommodate swelling numbers of missionaries.

At the last general conference in October, church officials announced a lowering of the minimum age for missionaries: from 21 to 19 for women, and from 19 to 18 for men.

Church leaders and outside scholars believe that decision could be a landmark leading to many more women serving missions.

The church says applications for new missions are up twofold since the announcement. About half of all new applications have come from women. Previously, only 15 percent of missionaries were women.

"The response of our young people has been remarkable and inspiring," Monson said.

As of April 4, more than 65,000 Mormon missionaries were serving around the world, Monson said. More than 20,000 additional missionaries have been called to serve, while another 6,000 are in the interview process.The semiannual conference, taking place Saturday and Sunday, offers Mormons words of inspiration and guidance for daily living from the faith's senior leaders. Besides the thousands attending in person, millions more participate in the meeting through satellite, radio or Internet broadcast translated into more than 90 languages.

2 dead at day care, Canada Day Care

2 dead at day care, A man shot dead another man at a day care center in Quebec then killed himself, and the 53 children present were evacuated unharmed. Police said some may have watched the killings.

For a moment, Canada feared its own version of last year's deadly school shooting in the U.S., where 20 young children were killed.

Police on Friday received a call about an armed man with a shotgun threatening people, Gatineau Police Chief Mario Harel said. They arrived to find one man dead with a shotgun beside him and a second man, an unidentified employee of the day care, also dead.

Harel said the shooting seemed to be related to a recent separation between a couple but didn't elaborate.

The Racines De Vie Montessori daycare is located in two homes, and Sergeant Jean-Paul LeMay said police found a body in each one. LeMay said the children were safe at a nearby house.

Police were investigating the link between the men and the possibility of domestic violence, LeMay said. He wouldn't say if either was linked to a child at the day care.

Police speculated that some children likely witnessed the killings.

"It's a small area, it's a close space," said Harel. "For sure, they should have been witness (to) the event."

Parents sobbed and hugged while they waited for investigators to bring them to their children.

Omar Eltalawi rushed to the scene from his nearby home as soon as he heard about the shooting, fearful for his 3-year-old daughter, Zain.

"It was horrible," Eltalawi said as he described the fear of not knowing what was going on inside the day care. "You see these things on the news and you don't expect it to happen to you."

Gatineau city is just across the river from Ottawa, the capital.

Megan Fox redhead

Megan Fox redhead 
Megan Fox redhead, Megan Denise Fox an American actress is a redhead! According to an April 5 report by E! Online, the brunette beauty traded her dark locks to rock a rusty red look for her new role as reporter April O’Neil in the upcoming “Ninja Turtles” movie. But will the hair color be enough to convince “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” fans that Megan was the right choice for the role?

Perhaps she should have thrown on April’s signature yellow jumpsuit, because it’s unlikely that her hair color change will put an end to all the fanboy hate. She already helped to ruin one famous franchise that makes kids of the ‘80s and ‘90s feel all nostalgic by starring in a few of the “Transformers” movies, and she brought extra drama to that series of films by comparing director Michael Bay to Hitler and getting herself fired. But now all is forgiven, and Bay has invited her to help him turn the heroes in a half shell into caricatures of their old selves. But to be fair, Bay is just producing “Ninja Turtles,” so he’d probably appreciate it if all the hate could be directed at director Jonathan Liebesman instead.

Megan Fox just seems way too cold and sexy to play April -- someone warmer and spunkier would have worked much better, like “Suburgatory” star Jane Levy. The cute redhead recently won over a few fanboys by starring in another popular franchise -- she got to get buried alive in the “Evil Dead” remake. All Megan really has going for her is her sex appeal, so with her new red hair, movie audiences can look forward to seeing Jessica Rabbit meet the Ninja Turtles. Then again, Megan doesn’t have as much personality as that cartoon character.

Speaking of cartoon characters, Bay’s versions of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles aren’t going to be mutants like the cartoon and comic book turtles, so he’s definitely working hard at ruining childhood memories with this one. Instead the turtles are going to turtle-like aliens.

So are you looking forward to seeing Megan as a redhead fembot who flashes her cleavage to extraterrestrials in a half shell?

Mike Tyson wife lawsuit

Mike Tyson wife lawsuit, Mike Tyson's wife Lakiha "Kiki" Spicer files lawsuit against someone who's sending her threatening emails.

Mike Tyson's wife is suing someone -- or multiple people -- for harassing her over the Internet, according to TMZ.

Spicer, 36, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles yesterday (April 5), claiming she's receiving emails that are threatening her life and her family's life. The thing is, it's a mystery who Spicer is suing.

According to court documents obtained by TMZ, Spicer says the defendant -- who can only be identified by an IP address -- is "extorting" and "making false allegations and accusations" against her.

And although she has not listed any specific examples of these threats, Spicer insists the repeated contact is causing her emotional distress and has hired famed attorney Mark Geragos to handle her case.

3-year-old killed by garage door

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3-year-old killed by garage door
, The 3-year-old child has been killed by garage door in Maryland in what appears to be a tragic accident, according to authorities.

The toddler was reportedly left unattended for a short while, and managed to start playing around with the remote control to the garage door. The young girl is thought to have been opening and closing the door repeatedly for a while when she got caught under it as it came down on top of her.

The little girl's mother reportedly found her crushed and pinned down under the door. Tragically the toddler died from her injuries from the incident.

According to WUSA 9, Charles County Sheriff's officials explained that the girl's mother was inside the house at the time the little girl was crushed. It is believed that the girl was originally with the mother in the main part of the house, but managed to wander off and found a way to get into the garage. There, she found the remote control to the garage door.

Authorities are currently investigating the circumstances of the death, and have said that they are looking into whether the sensors on the door were working or not. The door was reportedly one with sensors that should have detected any objects beneath the door and stopped before hitting or crushing anything.

Police have confirmed that there is no indication of foul play in the accident and they are treating the death as a tragic accident. They also believe that the little girl died from asphyxiation.

Charles County Sheriff's spokesperson Diane Richardson has said, "The door came down and pinned her and ended up asphyxiating her. We're testing them now to see if there may have been any malfunctions."

When the mother found her daughter she was still alive. Emergency services were called and the girl was rushed to hospital, but unfortunately she later died from her injuries.

Gaga $1M GOP offer

Gaga $1M GOP offer, Stefani Joanne stage name Lady Gaga turned down a $1M GOP offer to perform at the Republican National Convention. On April 5, Starpulse reported that Lady Gaga refused to reach any kind of deal that would have her supporting Mitt Romney. Despite various efforts made by Romney's camp, Gaga wanted nothing to do with any of it. Perhaps because she's a huge Obama supporter...

"Representatives at the American Action Network, the group behind the convention, even tried to sway Gaga by offering to donate $150,000 to a domestic violence shelter in exchange for her participation," Starpulse reported. The money would have been great for the charity, but Gaga could easily donate that amount on her own.

The Gaga $1M GOP offer was added on to that $150,000 donation -- it sounds like the GOP really wanted to do something big. Barack Obama and his camp landed Katy Perry, Beyonce, and Oprah in the past, and really there was no competition from the other side. Lady Gaga, a huge gay rights advocate, may have not even been enough to sway votes. What do you think?

It's hard to imagine Lady Gaga performing in support of someone who has the opposite beliefs as she does but many are taking this news as the GOP's desperate attempt to get something going.

If Gaga took the $1M GOP offer would it have made a difference in the outcome of the election?

Stage management allowed Lib Dems to skirt real debate about economy



Choice offered delegates did not reflect real row about how to interpret fiscal mandate and whether to tolerate further cuts

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Lib Dem frontbenchers vote on a policy motion at the party conference in Brighton. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images


Much praise is being lavished on the Liberal Democrats' open policy-making, and how the party bravely confronted the big topic in British politics – whether to change economic course to relieve the recession. By a large margin, the conference decided to stick with George Osborne's deficit plans.

That account of Monday's debate is indeed broadly correct, but for students of party democracy in the UK, the truth is also more subtle. It is an everyday story of conference stage management.

A truer account goes as follows – the party's elected conference committee, as it normally does, met a fortnight before the conference to decide the amendments to be selected for debate alongside the main motion on the economy that was supportive of the current economic course.

One amendment tabled by Linda Jack, the leader of Liberal Left, a smallish pressure group that has opposed the coalition from the outset, called for the fiscal mandate to be scrapped. Another amendment tabled by Prateek Buch, from the more centre-left Social Liberal Forum (SLF) opposed "yet more public spending cuts, which will be counterproductive, particularly if capital investment and welfare spending are targeted again".

It also called on the coalition to "prioritise measures to boost demand through public and private investment, using all tools available to government including the flexibility in its fiscal mandate, over further spending cuts beyond those already in place that would suppress confidence and demand yet further".

The first amendment from Jack had the support of only 13 signatories while the other, more subtle but still pointed, motion from SLF had 29 supporters.

The conference committee selected for debate the motion with fewer backers, and decided the SLF motion should not go to conference at all. The committee argued the Jack amendment would lead to a clearer debate. Last-minute efforts to merge the two amendments were rejected.

As a result, the conference faced a polarised choice between maintaining the fiscal mandate or jettisoning it.

The choice offered the conference, albeit stark, hardly reflects the real debate going on in the coalition or in the party about how to interpret the fiscal mandate and whether to tolerate further welfare cuts.

Buch says: "I was very disappointed with the way the conference committee chose to handle the issue, and as a result the debate the conference was allowed to have. We want to put down some clear markers, not have such a polarised choice."

During Monday's debate, five ministers and the party president, Tim Farron, were duly wheeled out to denounce the idea of abandoning the mandate. Figures like Farron were able to present the conference with an apocalyptic warning about the consequences of scrapping the mandate – neither the debate being held in Whitehall nor even the one most in his own party wish to conduct.

He said: "I believe in John Maynard Keynes. I believe in a demand-led recovery. I want to see more investment in social housing, I want ambitious green projects, I want more money for low-paid people who will spend it. But scrapping the fiscal mandate would be absolutely flipping crackers. It is the credible deficit reduction strategy that stands between us and market chaos, interest rate hikes – that means businesses going to the walls, house repossessions and mass unemployment. I am in politics to avoid human misery. Scrapping the fiscal mandate would create avoidable human misery."

If the first part of his remarks were down-the-line Keynesian, the second passage was so orthodox it could have been written by Conservative Central Office in its pomp.

The irony was that when Vince Cable, the business secretary, came to speak after the vote had been taken, he offered a prescription very similar to the one proposed by the SLF but kept from the conference floor.

As an exercise in party democracy, it left a lot to be desired.

Royal privacy: 2-1 to the Windsors (with one own goal for Harry)



The Queen is entitled to protection when she's saying humdrum things – but the same doesn't apply to Prince Charlie's commercial interests
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'There good reason for the Queen keeping her political opinions to herself.' Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images


What an extraordinary tangle we seem to have created in the space of a few weeks over the thorny question of royal privacy. It's bad enough that the Guardian has to fight its way through the courts to gain access to Prince Charles's covert interventions into public policy. Now we have the BBC apologising to Buck House because one of its more distinguished correspondents let slip her wholly unremarkable view that the self-styled radical cleric Abu Hamza should be required to shut up.

All this and Prince Harry's willie on display in a Las Vegas hotel, not to mention the Duchess of Cambridge's boobs not on display but photographed in the private grounds of a French chateau. How could we fill acres of great national newspapers without them or Andrew Mitchell?

Quite easily actually, since major world events happen daily with little coverage or understanding. But that's another story. Each of these cases is different and required a more nuanced response. In the case of Frank Gardner, the BBC's estimable security correspondent, the issue is easily resolved. Gardner's misjudgment was surely not in what he said – "Queen horrified that mouthy cleric gets away with it" – but in sourcing his story to Her Maj.

When Radio 4's Today programme anchor, Jim Naughtie, asked Gardner how he knew what the Queen thinks, all he had to reply was, "I heard it from a pretty reliable source, Jim" and leave it at that. As a former Westminster lobby correspondent, Naughtie might helpfully have either not asked or steered him to safer ground. Instead Gardner said: "She told me."

No harm done, but I know from personal experience over the years that the suits at the BBC get very anxious whenever royalty is in the frame. Perhaps it's because they fear for their garden party invitations or because many of them are probably high-minded republicans and therefore have little instinct for their subject. Hence routine dropped catches, Peter Sissons's cheerful tie when the Queen Mum died or the corporation's woefully inept coverage of the diamond jubilee celebrations.

There's a good reason for the Queen keeping her political opinions – they are probably patrician liberal Tory ones of the old school – to herself and for others to do the same. Unlike wannabe president Mitt Romney, who wants to govern for 53% of Americans, she's all our Queen, whether we like it or not, and vocal opinions are bound to offend.

So Gardner was guilty of a small discourtesy, a show-off moment he probably regrets. He could have got the information into the public domain without breaching the rules. His standing is high and Fleet Street could easily have worked out where he got the story from without difficulty. Unsourced stories pop up in journalism all the time, not just in politics, as many innocents imagine – and rightly so in my view because sources often have to be protected. The issue is whether or not their information is true, important and worth reporting.

But we don't employ Her Majesty to do the heavy lifting. We elect governments to do that for her and to call MI5 to account for its tolerance – as Richard Norton-Taylor explains here of Abu Hamza's career at the Finsbury Park mosque.

Which is why Prince Charles, our king-in-waiting, has been persistently unwise in backing into a string of political controversies – from architecture to GM crops and the green agenda – even before the Guardian's Robert Booth revealed that civil servants have to consult him over Duchy of Cornwall-related issues, as they must also do the palace over others.

The Guardian won one round at an information tribunal last week, but the Cabinet Office has decided to appeal the case, which would otherwise have led to publication of a series of Charles's "black spider memos" to seven Whitehall departments during 2004-5. On today's edition of Today, John Kirkhope, a PhD student at Plymouth University, who is researching the powers of the duchy – it yields the prince an £18m annual income – reveals that if you die intestate in Cornwall the duchy may get your money. I don't think my ancestors, most of whom died in those parts, knew that.

So the Queen is entitled to a bit of protection, even when she's saying humdrum things about fraudulent preachers of a kind familiar the world over. British Muslims – many of whom like living in a monarchy, so a senior cleric said recently in my hearing – probably agree with her. That's not the point. But such protection does not apply to Charlie Windsor's commercial interests.

As for the young royals and their bits, Prince Harry invited complete strangers to his hotel room and got carried away, silly but fairly harmless. No national security issues were involved in internet photos of the Prince's dick, but nor was there any legitimate public interest in printing the photos. Seen one, seen 'em all, eh? Would the Sun's editor like it to happen to him or – heaven forfend – to his grizzly old proprietor, Rupert the Bear? No, he would not. I shudder even to contemplate it.

As for the covertly taken shots of Katie's boobs – intrepid Simon Hoggart assures me they are very hazy shots – I thought the best word to describe the action was "mean". Whichever way you look at it, an international pack of paparazzi helped drive Prince William's mother to her early death on French soil and to see similar treatment emerging towards his wife must have upset him, as it would anyone.

The usual pack of scumbags emerge from the drains to plead the public's right to know – and their right to make a quick buck – or in the case of porn baron Richard Desmond, to deplore it all in sanctimonious terms (arise, Sir Dick?), and the royals have gone to court to protect their privacy. Quite right too, and we must hope Lord Justice Leveson is watching so that he may realise the ineffectual nature of France's draconian privacy laws against calculated abuses. They work better to protect crooks.

So let's score this month's privacy dramas as 2-1 to the royals with one own goal (Prince Harry). That means that Prince Charles deserves the spotlight of unwelcome publicity. During a discussion I once heard of the money the NHS spends on homeopathy, a senior Whitehall official wrinkled his nose and explained that it might be a waste of money but that if they tried to do away with it, Prince Charles would make too much fuss. The new health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has pro-homeopathy form on the CV. Watch this space.

Politics live: readers' edition - Thursday 27th September



Share breaking news, leave links to interesting articles online and chat about the week's events in this open thread
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What's caught your eye today? Share your views, links and news in our open thread Photograph: Kieran Doherty/Reuters


I'm not writing my Politics Live blog today but, as an alternative, here's Politics Live: the readers' edition. It's intended to be a place where you can catch up with the latest news and find links to good politics blogs and articles on the web.

Please feel free to use this as somewhere you can comment on any of the day's political stories - just as you do when I'm writing the daily blog.

But it would be particularly useful for readers to flag up new material in the comments – breaking news or blogposts or tweets that are worth passing on because someone is going to find them interesting. A lot of what I do on my blog is aggregation – finding the good stuff and passing it on - and you can do this, too (as I know, because it happens every day when I'm blogging).

All today's Guardian politics stories are here, and all the politics stories filed yesterday, including some in today's paper, are here.

In cases such as the Rochdale sex gang, do we ask too much of social services?



Public servants are getting it in the neck from all quarters, particularly over child protection. But we must remember that the work they do is being threatened by ever-spiralling council cuts
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Shabir Ahmed was the ringleader of a gang of Asian men who groomed young white girls for sex in Rochdale and Oldham. Photograph: Greater Manchester police/PA


I've just been listening to a retired social worker and Rochdale council's chief executive being harried on Radio 4's Today programme over the failure of the town's police and social services to protect teenage girls from predatory sexual exploitation. It comes as a report is published in the wake of prison sentences for nine men involved in an organised sex ring earlier this year.

Alas, we're getting used to this sort of story. This week the Times, whose reporter Andrew Norfolk has done a lot of good work in this area, published a similar exposé in Rotherham, where again both social workers and police seem to have treated the teenagers not as victims but as complicit young adults, even as prostitutes.

It's shocking stuff and reflects the chaotic way morality ebbs and flows in a society as currently unrestrained as our own. It now transpires that the French police are not looking very hard for the missing 15-year-old schoolgirl Megan Stammers and her teacher boyfriend (30), because 15 is the age of consent in France, so what's the big deal? TV veteran Anne Diamond has fallen foul of the Daily Mail for saying as much on Sky News. What price European cultural relativism, eh? Catholic versus Protestant?

Apart from the human cost (one victim interviewed anonymously for Today sounded very frightened and very sad, after also being repeatedly failed by the authorities) the issue interests me for two reasons. One is the obvious one, about which I have written before: that group grooming, as distinct from solitary sexual predators, tend to be by British Asians of Pakistani Muslim background living in poorer communities in the north.

Clearly it's a sensitive subject, which the far-right is keen to exploit. Not all such grooming rings are so described, certainly not the eight men sentenced to between 44 months and seven years at Derby crown court this month if we judge them by their names. The BBC sets out the controversy here. .

But no amount of fair-mindedness can duck the conclusion that there's a cultural problem in the attitudes of some Asian men towards their own women that results in them abusing teenage white girls in industrial towns and cities.

It has to be addressed, not swept under a traditional village rug, and plenty of public figures – including British Asians and Martin Nairey of Barnado's – agree. We don't do people favours by condoning or pretending to ignore things we know are wrong because they offend sensibilities, whether it's intra-cousin marriage or – closer to home – casually broken family structure.

In a Times article (paywall) this week, Rotherham's Labour MP, Denis MacShane, identifies three areas of denial: by the police, social workers and a weak Crown Prosecution Service; by the South Asian community, whose response resembles that of the Catholic church when confronted with systemic child abuse; and by wider society, by ministers (who might want to consider a guardianship procedure for at-risk teens) and a media that treats prostitution more as a career choice than a grim necessity.

Not a bad list – perhaps you can do better? – but it leads to my second worry. Namely that we pile responsibility for sorting out the chaos we create in our own lives on overworked and overstressed professions, some of them understaffed and underpaid too. Never a day passes without the council, social services, harassed teachers or the police getting it in the neck.

It's not that, case by case, they don't deserve to be chided in print or on the Today programme. There are suggestions this week that Britain's tardy adoption practices are finally showing signs of improvement because comparative local authority performance tables are now available, and seem to act as a spur to greater activity.

But public officials bear fearsome burdens for individual human lives – and risk castigation when they get it wrong – which senior executives in an oil company or even a newspaper rarely bear. Nor do they pay such a price when they make mistakes, as they do. Tony Hayward, the ex-BP CEO who mismanaged the politics of BP's Gulf oil spill, is probably doing quite nicely on the conference circuit explaining his mistakes.

Financial cuts need not always mean cuts to frontline services; there are usually better, cheaper ways of doing things. I heard a few heartwarming tales on the Lib Dem conference fringe this week (Torbay seems to have cracked integrated care for the elderly) and expect to hear more at the Labour and Tory conferences.

But frontline services are being cut – I hear that on the fringe too. So more parents who lose control of their kids, for whatever reason, mean more work for hard-pressed public services that should respond more sensitively but may feel, mistakenly but very humanly, that they have got more deserving priorities than truculent teenagers.

Vince Cable is the answer to his own northern conundrum



Nick Clegg's leadership has run out of time to win back disaffected supporters in the north of England, says the Northerner's political commentor Ed Jacobs. Who might? Check the mirror, Vince
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Seeing the light. Might Cable have a chance where Clegg has none. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Addressing the party faithful in Brighton this week, Business Secretary, Vince Cable highlighted the north as an example of the difficulties that the Lib Dems are facing in being outflanked by Labour on the left. Speaking of the Labour Party's 'reasonable poll ratings', he declared to delegates:


We know from their union funded campaigns against us in Northern cities that Labour can still be a ruthless political machine.


In light of the internal party memo leaked to the Spectator's 'Coffee House' blog this week, pointing to the party having a chronic shortage of firm data to understand what the public across the north and elsewhere are thinking about them, the Northerner decided to step in by using the plethora of opinion polls which will be a hallmark of the conference season. All figures relate to findings from those surveyed across northern England and it should be noted that the margin for error increases when looking at the regional data from national polls.

Headline Results

At the heart of any polling are the questions around voting intentions at the next General Election. Taking an average from Ipsos Mori's analysis of how the country voted in 2010 by region, across the three northern regions the average Lib Dem support stood at around 7.3%.

With that in mind, this week's polling from ComRes for the Sunday Mirror and the Independent on Sunday,putting the Lib Dems in the north on 7%, and from YouGov for the Sun putting them on 11%, suggests that despite the headlines and Vince Cable's own assertion, support for the Lib Dems seems to be holding up across the region.

The Guardian's own monthly ICM poll, however, puts the Lib Dems on just 6% across the north, 1% behind the SNP who don't even field candidates in the region!

That Apology

Having become an internet hit in the loosest sense of the word, Nick Clegg's apology for the party's u-turn on tuition fees came to sum up his efforts to reverse public perceptions of his leadership this week. But did it have the desired effect? Lib Dem MPs such as Greg Mulholland in Leeds and John Leech in Manchester, with high numbers of students in their constituencies, will particularly be hoping so.

The figures, I'm afraid, provide them with gloomy reading.

YouGov polling for the Sunday Times suggested that far from making things better, the apology could well have worsened the situation for the Lib Dems in northern England, serving only to remind the public that the party which, during the 2010 election, made such a big thing about broken promises by Labour and Conservatives, had done the very same thing on tuition fees.

Asked how the apology had changed people's views in the north towards Nick Clegg, 11% said it made them look at him in a more positive light; 17% said it left them with a more negative impression of the Lib Dem leader whilst 50% said it made no difference whatsoever as they already had a negative attitude to the Deputy Prime Minister.

Further, just 16% said that the apology made Clegg look stronger this compared to the 48% who said it made him look weaker. and 16% said that the apology would make it less likely they would vote Lib Dem compared with 3% who were more likely to do so. Further, 48% said that the apology was not genuine, compared with 25% who said it was.

ICM's survey for the Guardian proved even grimmer for the Lib Dem leader, with 75% of respondents in the north saying that the apology made it less likely that they would listen to what he had to say in the future.

Sorry is often the hardest word to say in politics, but the danger for the Nick Clegg who sold himself to the electorate as different and new at the 2010 election, is that the public now seeshim as just another politician to whom they are not prepared to give the benefit of the doubt. The Lib Dems problem seems simple: whatever they have to say, the public has given up listening. It is a dangerous place for any political party to find itself in.

The leadership question

It was the elephant in the room during the entire conference. While Paddy Ashdown used a fringe event to declare Nick Clegg to be the best party leader in the last 100 years, there's little doubt that northern voters feel much less rosy. Nick Clegg. The north doesn't seem to be listening. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

Asked by ComRes in a poll for the Sunday Mirror and the Independent on Sunday to say which of a range of options best described Nick Clegg, top of the list came 52% who described him as 'inexperienced'. For a party which, the Deputy PM argues, has become one of three parties able to govern, this will be a worry. Party strategists had been hoping that the mere fact of their being in Government would overcome the accusation that a vote for a Lib Dem is a vote for a party that has no hope of gaining the keys to Number Ten.

This was followed by 44% who said they felt the Lib Dem leader was 'out of touch with ordinary people' while just 15% of respondents in the north felt that he was 'more honest than most other politicians.'

In YouGov's poll for the Sun meanwhile ,voters were given the following options to describe Nick Clegg and asked which they felt most applied to him – honest; in touch with the concerns of ordinary people; charismatic; sticks to what he believes in; a natural leader; decisive; strong; and good in a crisis. Worryingly for the Deputy PM , 64% of those polled in the north said that none of these applied to him

So if not Clegg, then who? Having laid down the challenge faced by the party in the north, Vince Cable is at this stage the likely answer to the very problem he posed.

The polls this week showed:

ComRes found for the Sunday Mirror and Independent on Sunday that 29% of northern respondents felt Vince Cable as leader would make a better job than Nick Clegg compared with 23% who disagreed.

Responses given to Ipsos Mori showed that 14% said that they would be more likely to vote Lib Dem with Cable as leader compared with 7% who felt the same if Clegg continued.

ICM's poll for the Sunday Telegraph found 33% of northern voters feeling Vince Cable was more electable compared with 20% who said they same for Clegg.

YouGov recorded that 21% of respondents from the north felt Cable would make the best leader compared with 10% who opted for keeping Clegg.

In his speech to the conference, Cable flagged up the north as an area where the Lib Dems are being particularly squeezed. However simplistic it might seem, the problem is not the "ruthless political machine" which he claimed his colleagues up here faced in the form of the Labour Party, but the fact that the party's own leader that has lost the trust and confidence of the north.

Having lost his and his party's unique selling point as a new, fresh, different party that, unlike the other two, kept to its promises, it is difficult to see how the Lib Dems in northern England can get themselves heard again without a new leader. We may only be halfway through the current Parliament but for activists and MPs alike the question is simple: at what stage does a leader become such a drag on the party that it becomes time for a man overboard moment?

What do you think? Is there any way that Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems can rehabilitate themselves?

Cameron doesn't get the north, argues shadow minister



Ahead of the Labour party conference in Manchester, Michael Dugher, Labour MP for Barnsley East and shadow minister without portfolio, argues that David Cameron and his policies are all at sea in northern England.
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David Cameron at Barnsley College. The north is looking like an electoral wilderness for his party. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Last week saw the news that David Cameron has allowed the appointment of Dr Tim Leunig as a new senior adviser to the education secretary, Michael Gove. Leunig was dubbed the "barmy boffin" when he co-authored a 2008 report that suggested giving up on regeneration attempts in 'failing cities' like Liverpool, Bradford, Sunderland and Hull (which he said were "beyond revival"), and switching investment programmes to booming parts of the south of England instead.

But the sense that senior people in this government have a hostility to the north of England built into their political DNA is by no means new. You may recall that in late 2010 the most senior Conservative politician in local government, Councillor David Shakespeare OBE, was caught telling colleagues at the Local Government Association that the way to deal with rising unemployment in the north was for out-of-work northerners to "replace the Romanians" by being put to work picking fruit in the "cherry orchards" of the south.


Comments like these are more than just out of touch gaffes. They speak to a genuine ignorance about the north of England inside the Conservative party. I remember chatting to a Tory MP before the election who admitted that he'd never visited the north "except for the occasional Conservative party conference in Blackpool". That MP is now a senior minister. The truth is that David Cameron, and many inside his Government, just don't get the north - and when you look at their policies, and what is happening in large parts of the north, it shows.


Cameron said that we were "all in this together", but the truth is how much you are "in it" depends greatly on where you happen to live. Long-term youth unemployment, for example, is a major problem across the whole of the country, but it is now at crisis levels in the north. The number of young people who have been claiming jobseekers' allowance for more than twelve months in the south east has increased by 135% in the last two years. But this figure is 193% for the north west, 208% for Yorkshire and the Humber and 598% for the north east.


In my own patch in Barnsley, the unemployment rate is now almost 3% higher than the national average. This means that 32,000 jobs are needed in the borough just to reach the national average for unemployment.


At the same time, the government's ongoing cuts are falling harder on poorer areas, leaving towns like my own struggling not to fall further behind. It is true that all local authorities are facing cuts of seven per cent a year over the next few years, but councils in poorer areas are disproportionally hit as their revenue from council tax is less and they are inevitably more reliant on central government funding.


This is not the worst of it. Starting in 2013, the government plans to 're-localise' business rates, meaning that councils will get to keep the money they receive from local businesses within their area. This little-reported change will have a big impact, undoubtedly resulting in an increased gap in wealth between rich and poor councils due to the amount raised via business rates varying so widely from council to council. Put simply, those that already have many thriving, prosperous businesses will be able to raise more and invest it back to further grow their local economies. For those that are already struggling, things will get worse. The outcome will be further strain on less affluent councils, particularly in those metropolitan areas outside London and the south east. This will also further reduce the ability of less well-off councils - who of course have higher needs - to deliver vital local public services.


The government has also proposed increasing local and regional differentiation in public sector pay. This would mean teachers, nurses and other public sector employees who live in less prosperous parts of the UK being paid less than colleagues doing the same job in wealthier areas. This would exacerbate the north-south divide. As well as the obvious unfairness, at a time when the economy is suffering a crisis of demand, taking more money out of regional economies that are already suffering the worst effects of the double-dip recession would be utterly self-defeating.


All of this exacerbates the broader inequalities that exist in our country. The TUC has said that life expectancy in deprived areas of the UK is increasing at half the pace of the wealthiest parts of London and the south of England. This means that people living in areas like Manchester, where delegates gather for this year's Labour party conference this weekend, can expect their retirement to be a lot shorter than those from more affluent parts of the UK.


The latest NHS local health profiles show the full extent of the divide and the challenges ahead. In Manchester, for example, the percentage of children aged under 16 years old living in poverty is 40%, whereas this figures is 11% in Surrey. Margaret Thatcher's cuts have not been forgotten in the north. Photograph: Dave M. Benett/Getty


So if the north is suffering under the Conservative-led government, little wonder that the Tories (and the Lib Dems) have done so badly in recent local elections in up here. Conservative strategists are right to be worried. Cameron's failure to win a majority at the last election can be put down, at least in part, to his failure to convince large parts of Britain, especially outside the south of England, that his was a changed Conservative party. Too many people remember the dark days of the 1980s when large parts of the country, especially in the north, were forced into rapid decline. And come the next election, the north will remain a key region for Labour. For example, Stockton South, Lancaster and Fleetwood, Morecambe and Lunesdale, Carlisle, Weaver Vale, Blackpool North and Cleveleys, Bury North, Chester, Warrington South, Dewsbury and Pudsey can all be won with a swing to Labour from the Tories of less than 6%.

This summer, the Olympics and the Paralympics were a celebration of all that is good about United Kingdom. They brought people together from across every part of the country. Far from being simply the 'London Games', there was a sense that our achievements were felt in every corner of the UK. In Yorkshire, with our typical immodesty, it was humbly pointed out that if Yorkshire was a country, we would have finished 12th in the medals table, coming ahead of the likes of the Netherlands, Spain and Brazil.

As delegates gather this week in one of our great northern cities, Manchester, for the Labour party conference, you are going to hear a lot more from Labour about reaching out to every part of the United Kingdom. It will be central to Ed Miliband's pitch to the country this week. The truth is that joblessness and economic decline in parts of the north of England not only damage our economy as a whole, but also offend the values that we have as a country - whether we live in Barnsley, Birmingham or Buckinghamshire. The contrast between David Cameron's divide-and-rule approach could not be greater.

Where are the customers' yachts? The lawyers have them



Libor rigging may spotlight casino banking, but PPI mis-selling shows the staid high-street side is no stranger to scandal
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Yachts at the Monaco Yacht Show … where's ours? Photograph: Sebastien Nogier/EPA


At the Lib Dem conference this week I bumped into an old chum, a financial consultant who was as keen as Nick and Vince to blame Gordon Brown and Ed Balls for Britain's debt hangover. My friend also remains an enthusiast for the euro, but there's not much we can do about that. What worries me more is that the banking crowd have shown even less repentance than the shadow chancellor for what went wrong.

Patrick Wintour interviews Balls for Friday's Guardian. He's always interesting, though his insistence on spartan spending discipline remains hard to square with his and GB's expansive record at No 11. Never mind, more important is the continuing fallout from the misconduct of the banks – for which two prime pieces of evidence float to the surface again.

One is what looks like a bold attempt – here's Jill Treanor's report – to restore confidence in the London interbank offered rate, better known as Libor, the amount banks charge each other to lend money, which turns out to have been manipulated for corporate or personal gain during the City's wild west decade. Instead of the system being sponsored by the British Banking Association (BBA), an independent regulator will do the job.

Good. Martin Wheatley, hired from Hong Kong, where he was securities regulator in that very sophisticated market, to head the new Financial Conduct Authority – part of the breakup of Brown's flawed regulatory regime – seems to have adopted a robust approach, as outsiders often find it easier to do.

He was made redundant at the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in 2004 and acquired a tough reputation chasing insider trading in Hong Kong. Now he's back, let's hope he keeps it up. This was a serious failure of cosy BBA governance – not to mention FSA and Bank of England regulation – in the face of concerns being expressed about Libor's probity. Wheatley's report proposes criminal sanctions. Good again.

Far less important in the big numbers end of the business – Libor is at the heart of $300 trillion worth of churning transactions – but more interesting because it affects so many more people directly is the Guardian report (I can't find it elsewhere, even in the banker-bashing Daily Mail) that complaints to banks have grown by nearly two-thirds in the first six months of 2012.

This is nothing to do with investment banking, the Las Vegas side of the business, but is about the way its poor ethical sense seems to have seeped into the retail arm of banking, what used to be the staid and respectable high street bank – its Captain Mainwaring side. As with pensions mis-selling in the deregulated financial services industry since the Thatcherite Big Bang of the mid-80s, pressure to make profits at any cost leads to shortcuts and bad behaviour. The customer suffers.

Yet, seriously successful business leaders – like leaders in most walks of life – know that putting the needs of the customer first is the way to sustain profitability, growth and long-term stability. That's what those boring middle-sized German firms are so good at, boring British ones too.

Lisa Bachelor's Guardian report is pegged to a survey by Which?, the consumer watchdog, which reports that 12,000 complaints a day (or 2.2m between January and June 2012) related to payment protection insurance (PPI), which was widely mis-sold with the result that the courts have ruled that any policy on which it would have been impossible to claim should warrant a refund. Hence the stampede.

For its part, Which? is warning that the £10bn which the big banks – Lloyds, HSBC, RBS and Barclays, all tainted one way or another by the wave of post-bust scandals – have set aside to deal with the problem may not be enough. No wonder they're not keen to lend to small businesses and others needing funds to help keep the economy afloat.

I recently had a minor run-in with Barclays, my own bank since 1963. The details are boring (not to me, of course), but they bounced a savings cheque I'd written on the last day of this financial year because they didn't like the look of my signature. One perfunctory check call was made to my home phone number (we still have one!) – no answer – but none made to the Barclay staffer supposed to look after my affairs who later told me the signature looked fine.

The money which was supposed to move from Barclays to an Isa stayed with Barclays. I suppose every little counts. I got the brush-off and it wasn't a life-and-death issue as it can be for a struggling small business. At least my complaint was heard – I expect they know what I do for a living – and I was told I could take it to the FSA. " I'd rather chop my arm off," I think I replied. The FSA now has 650 staff dealing with PPI claims alone, I'm not going to add to its burdens.

Yet I have a niggling bit of sympathy for the banks here. Why? Because in most black-and-white stories with an obvious villain, someone usually escapes lightly. The media, for example, always lets itself off the hook. That's why ex-Sun editor Kelvin McKenzie is busy demanding an apology from South Yorkshire police for misleading him into printing lies about the Hillsborough dead. They printed it because they wanted to believe it.

In this instance, Lisa Bachelor's report notes that specialist firms – you catch them advertising on cheap daytime TV channels – are whipping up custom (just as they do with accidents at work) by dangling large payouts in front of hard-pressed people, not all of whom are deserving. The banks claim that some such claimants are found never to have banked with them.

Well, they would, wouldn't they? But so would the lawyers and other ambulance chasers who stand to cream handy fees off the top of successful cases of mistreatment. As always, the correction of one of society's abuses – unfair dismissal, pneumoconiosis, arbitrary asylum verdicts, hospital errors – creates an opportunity for all sorts of rascals to pile in behind the deserving to exploit exploitative and careless exploiters, like the banks.

As the financialisation of daily life – here's one explanation (pdf) – creeps relentlessly forward (and more productive forms of economic activity recede in the old industrial west), we will see more such manifestations of desperation and opportunism.

Do you remember in Victorian novels, Dickens is a good example, how some characters were always waiting for a legacy that would put their lives right? Well, nowadays it can be a PPI or personal injury claim. Fine for lawyers, but as the old question goes, "where are the customers' yachts?"

Liberal Democrats in the firestorm - time to push the vision



As Labour gets up steam in Manchester, former Liberal MP Michael Meadowcroft urges Liberal Democrats to show faith and hold fast to the party's core beliefs, whatever the sneering of the media
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The greatest Liberal of them all: William Gladstone, four times Prime Minister, probably used the newspapers to line his bins. Photograph: Hulton Getty

The Liberal Democrat conference went exactly as I expected. Great solidarity, determined to stick to the task of government but the party seemingly unable to tackle its key role of promoting its own vision of a Liberal society.

For seventy years Tory and Labour parties did not need to focus their artillery on the Liberal party. Their political hegemony was not seriously threatened. And for all that time the press could patronise Liberals, praising their good ideas while noting their lack of serious political influence. Today it is very different. With Liberal Democrats in government both other parties desperately seek to undermine the party, and their allies in the media willingly lend their columns to facile denigration - sometimes, as with Polly Toynbee in The Guardian, from activists in one or other opposing party. It is certainly uncomfortable but it is a vivid sign of the party's potential strength.

What did Liberal Democrats expect? An easy ride? How could the party come into government at the worst conceivable time, even though being the only party with no responsibility for the economic crisis? And yet the party is in danger of falling into the elephant trap temptingly laid out in front of it. The falling standards of the press are not only seen in evidence to the Leveson enquiry but in its failure to treat politics seriously and, in particular, in its delight in its collective ability to taint the public mind against one or other politician. I am not speaking of corruption or of MPs' expenses abuses but of its unhealthy sneer or dismissive joke without any basis in fact. Nick Clegg goes down well at local meetings, where national reporters seldom care to tread. Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/PA

Ahead of the party conference the latest target was Nick Clegg. Poorly researched and slanted opinion surveys are hyped, accompanied by the inevitable comment by a solitary and unwary party member to keep the story running. Very occasionally in politics there comes the need to engender a broad consensus within a party for changes in its leadership, but this has always to have solid causes and never be in the fond hope that it can create some transformation in its immediate fortunes. And certainly never to try and assuage the malign nihilism of the press. Liberal Democrats need to understand the electoral dangers of disunity. The conference demonstrated the real support for Nick but the voices will continue.

The press, and those tempted by critical stories need to get around the country more and, in particular, to attend Nick Clegg's long 'town hall' meetings with party members where he deals with tough questions from anxious colleagues, and demonstrates with considerable capability and warmth why Liberal Democrats are in government and what is being achieved by them. How many members believed that there was any alternative in May 2010 or that the dire economic circumstances thereafter would make for an easy ride in government?

Over my many decades of campaigning for Liberalism there have always been those who believed in the 'magic bullet' theory of politics: that if only we could find such a device it would transform our fortunes. The new charismatic leader, the elusive slogan, the next gimmick, or whatever. The magic bullet does not exist and the real failure has always been the lack of a sufficient belief by Liberals in Liberalism.

Our society today is in the abject state it is because of the weakness of Liberalism as a political force over decades which has permitted Labour and Conservative governments to undermine communities, to destroy local self-government and to promote economic over human values. We are paying a heavy price but we now have the possibility of changing it. In Nick Clegg's words:


We are setting ourselves a high hurdle. To govern wisely on the basis of our distinct liberal principles and to set out a compelling vision for a more liberal future. We have to make this parliament a liberal one.

Of course the party is worried by its low standing in the polls and it is rightly infuriated by the illiberalism of its coalition partners but, whilst it certainly has the task of publicly praising Liberal Democrats in government for their achievements and of privately criticising them for what it believes are its failures, its key task is to keep promoting the party's underlying values and its separate vision. A party's membership and its campaigning zeal come from its beliefs and its heart. The party must always be the expression of these. It would be foolish to be diverted from this and to fall into the trap lovingly prepared by our enemies. Michael Meadowcroft was a Leeds City Councillor from 1968-1983 and the Liberal MP for Leeds West from 1983 to 1987. Over the past twenty years he has led or been a member of some fifty missions to thirty-five new and emerging de

Ed Balls struggles to win converts as two stage strategy ties Labour in knots



Generous Ed, who will promise spending to stimulate growth, will make way for austere Ed in run up to general election
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Ed Balls scored a controversial penalty as Labour MPs beat journalists 3-0 on Sunday. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images


Evan Davis showed on Monday morning why he is rapidly becoming a national treasure when he declined to question Ed Balls in any depth about his announcement of the day.

The Today programme interviewer had a simple argument: what is the point of talking about a policy that will never be introduced? Davis was much more interested in asking Balls what he would do if Labour wins the next general election.

So, with just a few seconds left in his Today programme interview, the shadow chancellor blurted out his announcement. This is that if Labour were in government now it would use the proceeds of the 4G mobile phone sell off to build 100,000 homes.

Davis, who says that economics and not politics is his comfort zone, put his finger on the two stage strategy Balls will follow in the run up to the next election. It goes as follows:

• Over the next two years Balls will announce a series of Keynesian measures that Labour would introduce, if it were in office, to stimulate growth. These are designed to create his fabled "dividing lines" between Labour and the Tories. Labour, in his eyes, would take action to stimulate growth while the coalition would press ahead with its cuts programme that has done so much to push Britain back into a double dip recession by cutting too far and too fast.

• In the run up to the 2015 general election, generous Ed will turn into austere Ed. He will announce that the economy is in such a parlous state - due to the coalition's cuts - that he sadly faces no choice but to accept the coalition's cuts programme for the first few years of the parliament. Balls gave a taste of this approach when he told Patrick Wintour last week that he would adopt a "zero-based" approach to spending.

In stage one Balls is laying the ground for the moment when, he hopes, the electorate reaches an irrevocable judgment that the coalition's deficit reduction plan has failed. In stage two, by which time this judgment will have been made, Balls will show that Labour has no choice but to adopt a responsible approach in light of the coalition's failings.

It will be a 2015 version of Gordon Brown's landmark declaration in the run up to the 1997 election that Labour would accept the Tory spending plans for the first two years of the new parliament.

This all looks great on paper. The challenge for Balls is to show that it passes the credibility test. Evan Davis seemed unconvinced. And Harriet Harman ran into trouble in a Spectator interview - when she suggested that a future Labour government would not accept the coalition's cuts - because she failed to clock that in two years time generous Ed will leave the stage to make way for austere Ed.

Is David Cameron really going to give each millionaire a £40,000 tax cut?



Reality check: Ed Miliband told the Labour conference today that the prime minister was about to write out a £40,000 cheque for every millionaire in Britain. But is he? Paul Owen checks it out
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Ed Miliband: 'Next April, Mr Cameron will give a tax cut of £40,000 to each and every millionaire in Britain. Not just for one year but for each and every year.' Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters


In his party conference speech today, Ed Miliband said that next April the coalition government was going to introduce a "tax cut for millionaires".


What do the government choose as its priority? A tax cut for millionaires, a tax cut for millionaires. Next April, Mr Cameron will give a tax cut of £40,000 to each and every millionaire in Britain. Not just for one year but for each and every year. That is more than the average person earns in a year.

So is it true?

Miliband was referring to the cut in the top rate of tax from 50p in the pound to 45p, due to take effect in April next year.

After April 2013, anyone earning above £150,000 will pay 45p in the pound on their earnings above that point.

So they will save 5p for every pound earned above £150,000.

If you are earning £1m, in 2012-13 you will pay:

20% on the first £42,475 = £8,495
40% on £42,475-£150,000 = £43,010
and 50% on the remaining £850,000 = £425,000

That's a total of £476,505 to pay in tax. (You lose your personal allowance after your wages top £116,210.)

But in 2013-14 you will pay:

20% on the first £41,450 = £8,290
40% on £41,450-£150,000 = £43,420
and 45% on the remaining £850,000 = £382,500

That's a total of £434,210 to pay in tax, a saving of £42,295.

So people earning a million pounds a year will save £42,295 a year in tax due to the change to the top rate of tax.

But that wasn't what Miliband said. He said millionaires would save £40,000 a year. And clearly if you have a million pounds in the bank or under your mattress but you are only earning, say, £20,000 a year, you won't make any such savings.

So Miliband's claim is wrong. All millionaires will not get a tax cut of £40,000. But all those who earn £1m a year will.

Miliband also said that David Cameron was not just writing these £40,000 cheques, but would be receiving one too:


Here's the worst part. David Cameron isn't just writing the cheques. He's receiving them. He's the one getting the tax cut.

Is he? As prime minister, Cameron earns £142,500, putting him under the top rate tax band. However, it is not clear whether he has other earnings that would take him over the threshold.

At prime minister's question time last month, Miliband asked Cameron directly whether his earnings made him a top-rate taxpayer, and the PM refused to answer.

For Miliband's claim to make sense, Cameron would have to not just be in the top-rate bracket (ie earning more than £150,000) but earning more than £1m a year. But we can't know whether this is true unless the prime minister confirms or denies it. I called No 10 and they said they would not discuss an individual's tax arrangements.

Let me know your thoughts below.

Should Justine Greening resign? - poll



Should the new international development secretary resign from the cabinet after the west coast fiasco happened 'on her watch' as transport secretary? Vote in our poll

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Looking pretty pleased Justine Greening leaves No 10 Downing Street after meeting with David Cameron to receive her new appointment as international development secretary in Cameron's first cabinet reshuffle. Photograph: Will Oliver/AFP/Getty Images


Although it was seen as a demotion, the former transport secretary Justine Greening, was moved to become the new international development secretary in the prime minister's latest reshuffle.

In comments Guardian readers have been calling for her resignation from the cabinet, as the west coast mainline debacle happened "on her watch".

SwindonNick writes:


Bob Diamond at Barclays resigned because of what happened 'on his watch', so there must be accountability at the top. After all if you can be in charge of something and yet not responsible for major errors then yoiu are not really in charge, are you?
Those in charge are responsible for having the right people and the right checks and measures in place to ensure that adequate control is in place. So I think Greening does bear considerable responsibility for this.

2345678 adds:



Absolutely, she should resign, she told her voters, look at me, here is my professional profile, I can do a good job for you.



Jurach writes:


I'm not saying in any way that she was corrupt or even without good intentions - but she is not up to the job of representing us, the people when she allows her department to perform so shabbily. And if she can't manage to keep a grip on what was surely one of the most pressing bits of business that she had to attend to, then I wouldn't want her trying to sort out any of the sorts of problems that I might go to her about as my mp.

DaTruthHurts adds to the debate:


Yes she needs to go.
When people started saying that the decision was wrong and there were errors that needed looking into she said everything had been checked and the decision was sound.
So she was either lying or incompetant or both.
Either way, she should not be running the country




Do you agree with our commenters Greening should resign?
89% Yes
11% No



This poll is now closed

Miliband showed the vision; now to add substance and detail




How well did the Labour leader's speech address the concerns shown in polls of northern opinion last weekend? The Guardian Northerner's political commentator Ed Jacobs reflects
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Delegates try to catch the leader's eye. Has he finally caught the northern public's? Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

As the Labour faithful gathered in Manchester for their annual get-together, we watched a conference that seemed to be somewhat flat, apart from the keynote speech by Ed Miliband which has been generally rated excellent.

Talk from last year's conference about the future of the leadership and whether Ed M could survive was non-existent, as poll ratings have consistently given the party a healthy lead over the Conservatives. If replicated at an election, this would hand the party the keys to Number 10 with a good majority.

Detailed policy announcements were never likely to be made, and despite huffing and puffing from the Tories and Lib Dems about a lack of such detail, the reality is, as William Hague's former adviser, Danny Finkelstein argued on Newsnight this week, that no opposition should show their cards so far from a general election.

So what was the point of the conference? In the words of the meerkat advert: simples. With poll ratings consistently showing Miliband trailing behind David Cameron when people are asked who would make the best Prime Minister, the Labour leader needed a speech that explained who he was; provided a vision for a Government under his leadership; and got the nation and the chattering classes comfortable with the idea of him in Downing Street. Ed Miliband and Ed Balls at the conference. Still plenty of ground to be made up. Photograph: Ray Tang/Rex Features

Did it work? And was the north in particular persuaded by his speech? As I write, polling figures on the impact have not yet been published and this weekend's numbers will be particularly interesting, especially given the ComRes poll for the Independent which, on the morning of the speech gave Labour just a 3% lead.

On Sunday, the Observer published its own polling data, compiled by Opinium, against which Miliband's speech can be judged: whether he properly addressed those areas identified by the north as being his weaknesses, and to what extent he played to his strengths.

The headline figures from the poll were fairly stark. Asked who would make the best Prime Minister, across all three regions, David Cameron polled just a few points higher than Miliband. Embarrassingly for the Labour leader, his lowest rating came with the mere 18% of people in Yorkshire and the Humber who felt he would make the best PM. This is the region in which both he and many members of his Shadow Cabinet including Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper have constituencies.

More difficult for the leadership will have been the findings that pointed to northern regions - those most supportive of the party - fairly clearly suggesting that they would be more likely to vote Labour without Miliband as leader - provided that the alternative was not the shadow Chancellor Ed Balls. Likewise, asked if they could imagine the Labour leader becoming PM, 61% of respondents in the north east said no; ditto in Yorkshire and the Humber and 60% in the north west.

Did the conference speech begin to change that? Asked for the Observer poll which of the three party leaders had a clear vision for the country, respondents left Miliband trailing Cameron, albeit slightly. With that in mind, putting aside the nine references to the word 'vision' in his speech, Miliband certainly succeeded in giving a clear label to his ambitions: One Nation. The critical task now is to put meat on the bones: what in practice 'One Nation' would mean for the everyday lives of northern voters. Dizzy. One Nation worked for him. Photograph: John Jabez Edwin Mayall/Getty Images

Asked which of the party leaders they would describe as weak, the polling for the Observer found Miliband trailing David Cameron significantly in the north and the Prime Minister also leading the Labour leader on who people feel is most competent. Addressing this point, Miliband launched a stinging and unambiguous attack on the Government, asking delegates:


Have you ever seen a more incompetent, hopeless, out of touch, u-turning, pledge-breaking, make it up as you go along, back of the envelope, miserable shower than this Prime Minister and this Government?

Expect Labour over the next two and half years to hammer home the point still further, using every opportunity available to crystallise in people's minds an association between the words 'incompetent' and 'Government'.

The good news for Miliband, particularly following Nick Clegg's admission last week that he had let people down by being unable to keep to his pledges on tuition fees, was that the Observer's poll put the Labour leader clearly ahead when voters were asked which party leader was most trustworthy. Whilst unlikely to use the same words, Miliband has space to carve out the position developed by Blair that he is a 'pretty straight kind of guy'. Public trust is likely to prove a major issue come the next election, even bigger than it is already.

Similarly, the 'One Nation' argument has the potential to tap into the belief in northern England that Miliband most cares about all sections of society, from, as he argued on Tuesday the


small business struggling against the odds to the home help struggling against the cuts.


Most significantly, with the battle over the economy always central to British politics, Labour will have been encouraged that Miliband and Ed Balls are seen in the north as a better team for the boardroom of UK PLC.

Being in opposition is difficult. You can say but not do, and opposition leaders always have trouble projecting themselves as future Prime Ministers. The person already in Number 10 at the time by default looks and sound more Prime Ministerial.

That said, Miliband needed a speech which got him noticed and articulated a vision, clear and free from policy mumo-jumbo, which Labour activists can now sell on the doorstop. That much he achieved. The questions now are what One Nation Labour would actually do with the levers of powers and crucially whether you, the voter, are convinced. For the politicians, that's the hard bit.