Far from quiet on the politics front...

A potential police strike, a tricky climate deal and a contentious EU treaty - it's been a busy week

A relatively quiet week for the government, in the context of the past couple of months: only threatened police strikes, a contentious EU treaty and a tricky international climate change deal to negotiate.

Jacqui Smith’s decision not to backdate a 2.5% pay rise for police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, prompted Lenin’s Tomb to write: "While public sector workers are ‘valued’ in a sentimental fashion, the general implication is that union leaders should shut their mouths and accept a period of belt-tightening in order to keep Brown's ‘Miracle Gro’ economy afloat."

Less sympathy can be found at A Tangle Web: "I say the police should damn the law and strike. It’s not as if we’ll miss them if they withold their labour. We learn today that they are on the beat for one hour in seven - as much as that, eh? Ministers often make the claim that there are more police officers than ever before and they speak the truth. There are more officers than at any other time, yet the police has never been less visible to Britons."

This hyperbole is perhaps explained when the post later reveals: "Yesterday a turd in a police uniform stepped from behind a bush and recorded me driving at 38mph whilst leaving a 30mph zone on my way out of a small rural town."

Daniel Finkelstein queries Brown’s defence that the decision was made to keep inflation low: "The deal isn’t big enough to cause inflation by forcing the government to borrow. So he can only mean that a large amount being paid to police would encourage other large pay increases. Fair enough. Except that the headline amount, the permanent part of the increase, is the one that will drive other wage claims and any increases based on comparability. If inflation was the issue it would have been better, surely, to have offered a smaller headline figure and then backdated it. So it seems more likely that public."

With Eurosceptics among the most conspicuous in the blogosphere, the signing of the Lisbon Treaty did not go unnoticed. For The Huntsman, it was "surely one of the most dishonourable and dishonest acts by a British Prime Minister since the early hours of 30th September 1938 when Chamberlain effectively signed away Czechoslovak independence to Germany".

While, Cranmer writes: “Nations tend to get the leaders of which they are worthy, and there is little doubt that the people of the United Kingdom deserve this - for their apathy, ignorance, and indifference. The reality is that so few care because so few understand, and so few understand because they are more absorbed by Big Brother, X Factor, Come Dancing and the National Lottery, than they are by matters spiritual and political."

As environmental concerns took centre stage in Bali, despite the US and Canada holding out on agreeing to emission cuts, John Redwood manages to lay the blame at the EU's feet: "The EU should grow up, and learn that if the world is to reduce its carbon output it requires goodwill and understanding on all sides, not a combination of bullying and vain posturing. We will not cure the world’s CO2 problem unless India and China, Japan and Russia are involved as well as the USA."

Owen Walker is a journalist for a number of titles within Financial Times Business, primarily focussing on pensions. He recently graduated from Cardiff University’s newspaper journalism post-graduate course and is cursed by a passion for Crystal Palace FC.
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We're running out of time to stop a hard Brexit - and the consequences are terrifying

Liam Fox has nothing to say and Labour has thrown the towel in. 

Another day goes past, and still we’re no clearer to finding out what Brexit really means. Today secretary of state for international trade, Liam Fox, was expected to use a speech to the World Trade Organisation to announce that the UK is on course to leave the EU’s single market, as reported earlier this week. But in a humiliating climb-down, he ended up saying very little at all except for vague platitudes about the UK being in favour of free trade.

At a moment when the business community is desperate for details about our future trading arrangements, the International Trade Secretary is saying one thing to the papers and another to our economic partners abroad. Not content with insulting British businesses by calling them fat and lazy, it seems Fox now wants to confuse them as well.

The Tory Government’s failure to spell out what Brexit really means is deeply damaging for our economy, jobs and global reputation. British industry is crying out for direction and for certainty about what lies ahead. Manufacturers and small businesses who rely on trade with Europe want to know whether Britain’s membership of the single market will be preserved. EU citizens living in Britain and all the UK nationals living in Europe want to know whether their right to free movement will be secured. But instead we have endless dithering from Theresa May and bitter divisions between the leading Brexiteers.

Meanwhile the Labour party appears to have thrown in the towel on Europe. This week, Labour chose not to even debate Brexit at their conference, while John McDonnell appeared to confirm he will not fight for Britain’s membership of the single market. And the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn, who hardly lifted a finger to keep us in Europe during the referendum, confirms the party is not set to change course any time soon.

That is not good enough. It’s clear a hard Brexit would hit the most deprived parts of Britain the hardest, decimating manufacturing in sectors like the car industry on which so many skilled jobs rely. The approach of the diehard eurosceptics would mean years of damaging uncertainty and barriers to trade with our biggest trading partners. While the likes of Liam Fox and boris Johnson would be busy travelling the world cobbling together trade deals from scratch, it would be communities back home who pay the price.

We are running out of time to stop a hard Brexit. Britain needs a strong, united opposition to this Tory Brexit Government, one that will fight for our membership of the single market and the jobs that depend on it. If Labour doesn’t fill this gap, the Liberal Democrats will.

Tim Farron is leader of the Liberal Democrats.