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Cable hits out at Osborne for seeking to turn UK into a "tax haven"

Business Secretary issues coded criticisim as Pfizer eyes UK tax advantages over AstraZeneca takeover. 

Vince Cable has just used his Commons statement on Pfizer's bid for AstraZeneca to take a characteristically unsubtle swipe at George Osborne. He told MPs: "We see the future of the UK as a knowledge economy, not a tax haven." One of the key attractions for the American Pfizer of taking over the British AstraZeneca is that, owing to Osborne, the UK's corporation tax rate is now just 21 per cent (and will to fall to 20 per cent in 2015), compared to 35 per cent in the US. A merger would allow the new company to be domiciled in the UK for tax purposes, while retaining its corporate HQ in the US. 

Cable also said that he was "open-minded" about the new public interest test proposed by Ed Miliband but warned that it would face significant EU hurdles. He said: 

The opposition calls for changes to the law, but we are operating within the framework that they introduced in 2002. They removed ministers from making decisions about mergers apart from in a few specified public interest areas. I notice that they chose not to reform the regime in response to the Cadbury’s/Kraft merger.

One of our options as the government would be to consider using our public interest test powers - or even expanding them. This would be a serious step and not one that should be taken lightly. I am open-minded about it, but should stress that we are operating within serious European legal constraints.

Throughout his statement, Cable used the plural "we", but the fact that Andrew Lansley was the only senior Tory on the frontbench, with not one Conservative business minister present, only encouraged the impression that the coalition is divided over the deal. One shadow cabinet minister told me yesterday: "He's been sidelined on it by the Treasury and No. 10". 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Donald Trump's healthcare failure could be to his advantage

The appearance of weakness is less electorally damaging than actually removing healthcare from millions of people.

Good morning. Is it all over for Donald Trump? His approval ratings have cratered to below 40%. Now his attempt to dismantle Barack Obama's healthcare reforms have hit serious resistance from within the Republican Party, adding to the failures and retreats of his early days in office.

The problem for the GOP is that their opposition to Obamacare had more to do with the word "Obama" than the word "care". The previous President opted for a right-wing solution to the problem of the uninsured in a doomed attempt to secure bipartisan support for his healthcare reform. The politician with the biggest impact on the structures of the Affordable Care Act is Mitt Romney.

But now that the Republicans control all three branches of government they are left in a situation where they have no alternative to Obamacare that wouldn't either a) shred conservative orthodoxies on healthcare or b) create numerous and angry losers in their constituencies. The difficulties for Trump's proposal is that it does a bit of both.

Now the man who ran on his ability to cut a deal has been forced to make a take it or leave plea to Republicans in the House of Representatives: vote for this plan or say goodbye to any chance of repealing Obamacare.

But that's probably good news for Trump. The appearance of weakness and failure is less electorally damaging than actually succeeding in removing healthcare from millions of people, including people who voted for Trump.

Trump won his first term because his own negatives as a candidate weren't quite enough to drag him down on a night when he underperformed Republican candidates across the country. The historical trends all make it hard for a first-term incumbent to lose. So far, Trump's administration is largely being frustrated by the Republican establishment though he is succeeding in leveraging the Presidency for the benefit of his business empire.

But it may be that in the failure to get anything done he succeeds in once again riding Republican coattails to victory in 2020.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.