Today's news

January 28, 2004


Blair narrowly wins the higher education bill vote
The prime minister escaped humiliation by just five votes last night as he scraped to victory over university tuition fees and narrowly survived the first part of his two-day ordeal. Labours 161-vote majority slumped to single figures as a rearguard operation led by Mr Blair, Gordon Brown and John Prescott persuaded enough rebels to switch sides. Seventy-three Labour MPs voted against the government. Last night's vote left Mr Blair facing today's publication of the Hutton report with his authority badly damaged but not destroyed.
( Times )

Universities welcome result but students forecast backlash
The government's narrow victory at the second reading of the higher education bill last night was hailed by universities as "a step in the right direction" towards averting a financial crisis for higher education by helping to fill a long-standing funding gap of up to £11 billion. But the leaders of students, lecturers and teachers warned that the proposals were "deeply regressive" and pledged to fight them at every stage of their passage through the Commons and Lords, with a day of action due at the end of February.
( Guardian )

Relief clouded by fears for teaching and research funds
There was "relief all round" from universities last night as the higher education bill, which could eventually provide the sector with up to £1.3 billion extra income, scraped through the Commons. But some vice-chancellors were concerned about the impact on the higher education budget of government concessions, and called for reassurance that public money for teaching and research would be increased alongside the introduction of graduate contributions. Michael Sterling, chairman of the Russell group of leading research institutions, warned that reviewing the principle of variable fees in 2009 could result in "a move backwards" at a crucial time.
( Financial Times )

Round-up of last night's higher education bill vote in the papers:

The Times
- Leader: The great escape: the prime minister survives a cut-throat vote
- Blair scrapes home by five votes on fees
- Students protested in Parliament Square before the vote
- Reputations at stake as the blame game enters new round
- Winners: Alan Johnson, Gordon Brown, John Prescott; Losers: Tony Blair, Charles Clarke, Nick Brown, Michael Howard
- Leading universities say £3,000 will not be enough for security
- How friends with high hopes won the day for Blair
- Reforms will carry on despite the scare
- Rebels told they would perpetuate the class divide (cartoon reads : "I commend this dog's breakfast to the House!")
- Howard's strident approach attacked by David Kelly's Tory MP
- Peter Riddell: Cheers from Labour benches tell of relief, not triumph
- Simon Jenkins: The aye vote is a terrible result for universities
- Alice Miles: Is Blairism dead? The question not on voter's lips
- Letter, Sir Terence Conran: Disillusion and rebellion on fees

Daily Telegraph
- Leader: Who governs Britain? Gordon Brown, apparently
- Humiliated Blair scrapes home on top-up fees
- Such a gross act of party loyalty shocks everyone
- Dramatic tale of two Browns ends in knife-edge government victory
- Tuition fees proposal 'undermines public's trust in parliament'
- List of how the MPs voted
- PM's 'heir' may have lost his grip
- What was it that persuaded Labour's rebels to toe the line?
- Janet Daley: Blair may have won - but it was on the enemy's terms

Independent
- Leader: A day of political drama ends with a wounded leader in a harsh spotlight
- Donald MacIntyre: Chancellor was key, but PM showed steel in his gamble
- Round One: Blair escapes to victory. Round Two: Now Lord Hutton awaits
- Clarke set out stall in university funding, and rebel after rebel took pot-shots at it
- Labour MPs voting against the bill
- Students march on Westminster in a last-ditch protest against the proposals
- Vice chancellors to charge maximum
- How the rebels' leader turned traitor, and lifted the gloom around Downing Street
- Meetings, deals and a last-minute retreat: How the vote was won
- Steve Richards: Now Mr Blair must start to win back the support of his neglected backbenchers
- Frank Dobson: Don't spring any more of these divisive issues on us
- Simon Carr: All those who 'knew what was going to happen' were lying

Guardian
- Leader: Too close for comfort
- 316-311. Victory of sorts, for Blair (cartoon reads: "Just in! Nick Brown dartboards.")
- Rebel's switch seen as price worth paying to aid chancellor
- Faltering rebellion that brought Blair to the brink
- Profile: Nick Brown shows loyalty
- Analysis: Narrow victory seen as warning to Blair
- Reaction: Critics raise prospect of two-tier system
- List of rebels, turncoats and don't knows
- Body politic breaking faith, says Hague
- This pyrrhic victory means that Brown is master now
- Simon Hoggart: He's smiling. And he's read Hutton

Financial Times
- Leader: An expensive victory on tuition fees
- Blair scrapes home over fees
- PM just five ayes away from disaster
- Outrider role keeps Newcastle Brown in spotlight
- Proposals expected to face further attacks
- Team effort as chancellor plays the loyalty card
- Philip Stephens: Self-interest persuaded chancellor to back Blair
- Do your duty to end crisis, Clarke tells MPs
- Relief clouded by fears for teaching and research funds

Daily Mail
- Leader comment: A pyrrhic victory, tasting of ashes
- Gordon to the rescue
- Tartan army backs Blair
- Labour MPs who said no
- We still need more, say the universities
- Paul Eastham: How rebellion was snuffed out
- Who said what as the Commons waverers made up their minds
- How the bill was watered down
- Nick Brown, fixer with a powerful ally
- The trust between Mr Blair and his party has imploded
- Quentin Letts: They exchanged the coy smiles of post-tiff lovers
- Chris Woodhead: Improve higher education? You must be joking
- Lynda Lee-Potter: Needing a degree of common sense

Evening Standard
- Chancellor comes to Blair's rescues as he wins over MPs
- Sterling on the retreat as double test looms for Blair
- Joe Murphy: Brown shows he is the man with the muscle
- Amanda Platell: Howard the chancer
- Reviews and cash: the key concessions

Daily Express

- Leader: Politics is discredited by sell-out of Labour rebels
- Brown saves Blair's Bacon
- The concessions
- The cost. Families on £35,000 and £15,000 compared
- Rebels knifed by the most hated man in politics

The Sun
- Leader: Rebels' shame
- I sur-five-d! Blair relief as he beats rebels by just 5 votes

Cambridge makes a monkey of academic freedom
Cambridge University and the government were yesterday accused of buckling under pressure from animal activists after scrapping plans for a medical research centre that would conduct live experiments on monkeys. Brian Cass, the managing director of Huntingdon Life Sciences, a research company that has spent millions of pounds protecting its 1,200 employees, said the decision was a victory was sending out the wrong message and was a victory for a very small number of militants.
( Daily Telegraph, Times, Financial Times, Guardian, Independent, Daily Mail, Evening Standard )

Telegraph apologises to Bristol University
The Daily Telegraph has apologised for the headline "Bristol reject candidates who favour Oxbridge" (January 21) which wrongly suggested that Bristol University had a policy of automatically rejecting such candidates. Apparently it does not.
( Daily Telegraph )

Pollution 'changes sex of whales'
Male whales, dolphins and seals are the latest animals to show signs of developing female sex organs as a result of pollution, scientists from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology at Lancaster Environment Centre said yesterday.
(Dail y Telegraph )

New email virus 'is biggest threat yet'
Millions of email systems were swamped yesterday by a computer virus described as the biggest and potentially most damaging yet. MyDoom, also known as Norvag or Mimail-R, has already outstripped last year's Sobig.F virus. Originating from Russia on Monday, by yesterday afternoon MyDoom had spread to 168 countries.
( Daily Telegraph, Times, Guardian )

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