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Woodhouse Weekly Pick of the Papers: 23 November 2014

1. Mark Reckless wins by-election for UKIP (unit 1 Parties)
The much anticipated by-election has resulted in a victory for UKIP’s Mark Reckless, winning over the Conservative candidate by 2920 votes. In his victory speech, Mark Reckless said “The radical tradition that has stood and spoken for the working class has found a new home in Ukip.” He went on to remind UKIP activists that as Rochester and Strood had been declared UKIP’s 271st most winnable seat “if UKIP can win here, we can win across the country”.
Ladbrokes have opened up odds for which Tory MP to defect next- with Philip Hollobone at 2/1.
However all is not good news for UKIP,  the margin of victory was tighter than expected, Reckless only winning by 42.1% of the vote on a turnout of just 50%. The Conservatives were only slightly behind on 34.8%. This has led David Cameron to state confidently “I am absolutely determined to win this seat back at the next general election”. So UKIP’s position in Westminster is not secure yet.

2. Emily Thornberry resigns from Shadow Cabinet (unit 1 Democracy)
The bad result for the Conservatives in Rochester  has almost been overshadowed by another scandal in the Labour party. The Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury, and a close ally of Ed Miliband, Emily Thornberry has resigned from the Shadow Cabinet after posting a controversial tweet of a man with a white van in his drive flying three different English flags with the caption “Image from #Rochester”The tweet was read by many, to be snobbish and mocking working class people who were proud to wave the english flag. Ed Miliband said the tweet made him feel “angry” and the view of working class patriots conveyed in the tweet “never will be our view”. However her senior position in the Labour Cabinet before Thursday have left many thinking that, secretly, it is the view of many people in the Cabinet.

3. SNP to form “Anti-austerity” bloc in Westminster (unit 1 Elections)
The SNP hopes to form an “anti-austerity” alliance with Plaid Cymru and the Green Party, Scotlands First minister says. With all three parties expected to do well next year, they could form a significant block for the alternative left in the Houses of Commons. The SNP’s membership has nearly quadrupled from 25,000 to 92,000 since the referendum, and they are expected to gain the majority of Scottish MP’s in the next election. Should this anti-austerity coalition succeed, they could seriously influence public policy, especially so if no party gains a majority at the next election.

4. 20% of crimes are not recorded (unit 2 Civil Liberties/ unit 3 Law & Order)
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has released a report saying that more than 800,000 crimes  or 1 in 5, crimes reported across the 43 police forces in England and Wales are not recorded. This information is based off of an audit between November 2012 and October 2013. Failure to record these crimes usually result in no investigation into them.  A breakdown into individual crime categories is even more disturbing,   26% of reported sexual offences are not recorded, including 200 rapes, and 33% of violent crimes are not recorded. Theresa May has called the findings “utterly unacceptable” however the police have said things have gotten better since October 2013, although evidence they have for that is sparse.

5. Gordon Brown to resign as MP.
Gordon Brown is to resign as an MP before the next General election,  one of his closest political allies has revealed. He is expected to make the formal announcement before Christmas, citing his desire to spend more time doing charity work. The former Prime Minister has been an MP for 32 years and is credited with saving the Better Together campaign at the Scottish referendum back in September. He is not expected to take a seat in the House of Lords, continuing his job as UN Special Envoy for Global Education.

By Theo Cox Dodgson

Nigel Farage and Mark Reckless celebrate winning Rochester and Strood byelection

The rise and rise of UKIP

Most political pundits have been forced to acknowledge that, at least in terms of the popular vote, UKIP are easily the third party, out-polling the Liberal Democrats and the Greens. But in some areas it is even better than that for the party. In the by-elections on October the 9th, two key insights into the power of UKIP were revealed. In Heywood and Middleton they lost to the Labour party candidate by just 617 votes, leaving the Conservative candidate (Ian Gartside) far behind with just 12% of the vote. In the Clacton on sea by election on the same day, Douglas Carswell won over 21,000 votes, whereas the Labour candidate, Tim Young, got less than 4,000. This left the Conservative party ineffective in Heywood and the Labour Party inadequate in Clacton. A similar result occurred in the Rochester by-election, the Labour Party, having held the constituency while it was called Medway from 1997 to 2010, came a distant third in Thursdays by-election, with just 6713 votes to the Conservatives 13,975 and UKIP’s 16,867. Read More

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 8/11/14-15/11/14

New powers to stop jihadists returning to UK revealed by PM

David Cameron has recently announced plans to stop suspected jihadists returning home to the UK from Syria and Iraq. In these new plans, the police would be given the power to cancel suspected jihadists’ passports for up to two years under new Temporary Exclusion Orders. Furthermore, Border officials would also be able to take passports from anyone suspected of travelling to join a violent extremist group when they haven’t been given the permission to do so by the Home Secretary which is essential under the current law. Moreover, Airlines would be compelled to share passenger data, suggesting planes carrying suspected jihadists could be turned away from Britain. The Prime Minister stressed on the idea that action is needed to counter the “twisted narrative” of Islamism “that has seduced some of our people”. The proposals, which form part of the Counter-Terrorism Bill, due to be published before the end of the month, mark a slight retreat from Cameron’s original proposals in September to altogether remove passports from suspected jihadists. This was rejected by Liberal Democrats, who said it broke international law. Human rights lawyers are also likely to argue that placing individuals on a “no-fly” list amounts to rendering suspects stateless, “something which is forbidden under at least two UN conventions”, says the Times Newspaper.

Pressure on Juncker to resign from European Commission presidency

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, is under increasing pressure to resign after allegations emerged that he helped some of the world’s largest multinational companies avoid paying billions of pounds in tax while he was prime minister of Luxembourg. Critics say that Juncker’s new position as head of the body investigating the tax practices that he used to oversee is a “clear conflict of interest”. Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the cross-party public accounts committee, said Juncker should at least explain what he knew of the tax arrangements he presided over. There is no suggestion that Juncker has done anything illegal but, according to Bloomberg, “the union is struggling to emerge from the financial crisis and is increasingly seen as elitist, meddling and incapable of producing either fairness or growth. It cannot help this effort to have it overseen by a man who spent his career as a quintessential backroom dealer while building and running an international tax haven at other European countries’ expense.”

Miliband says his critics know he has the right stuff to be PM

Ed Miliband has admitted his “mettle” was tested by reports that some of his colleagues don’t want him to lead Labour into the next general election – and promised to tackle “vested interests” and banks. Talking to Nick Robinson during an interview, Miliband admitted his “mettle had been tested” by media reports that senior Labour figures wanted him to step aside but said: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” He told Robinson he “absolutely” sees a future Prime Minister when he looks in the mirror in the morning – and said his critics know full well he is capable of leading the party to victory in 2015 Speaking in London on Thursday, Miliband outlined his “zero-zero economy” theme and in a speech quickly hailed as a “fight back”, he said the poor are struggling with zero-hours contracts while the rich “get away with zero tax”. Miliband insisted that Labour would tackle the “powerful forces” and “vested interests” including banks who want to keep things that way. He said it was the party’s duty “not to shrink from the fight, not to buckle under the pressure but to win”. He also turned on UKIP, saying it was natural to feel a sense of longing for the past but asserting: “Mr Farage, you may want to live in that world but come the general election, I don’t believe the British people will follow. He added that Labour would be “talking more about immigration as a party” in the future but insisted it would be “on the basis of Labour values, not UKIP values”. He said that UKIP secretly wanted to privatise the NHS.

By Gloria Ganda

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The coalition government’s deficit reduction programme

The coalition agreement states that “the deficit reduction programme takes precedence over any of the other measures in this agreement”. Deficit reduction is the raison d’être of the coalition government, and so it is always important and relevant to analyse how far this flagship policy has been achieved. The Labour opposition have often criticised the coalition for cutting “too far, too fast”, and failing to find a healthy balance between the need for growth and the desire to cut. Although it must be considered that it is the Labour government who ultimately left an economic mess behind them, it can certainly be argued that the Conservative and Lib Dem coalition’s deficit reduction programme has gone too far and too fast in order to deal with the problem. Read More


Weekly Parliament Roundup: 1/11/14-8/11/14

Merkel ready to let UK exit EU over migration rule changes

It has been claimed that the German Chancellor Angela Merkel would rather see the UK leave the European Union than end the right to free movement of labour within the EU.Merkel reportedly warned David Cameron that he is approaching a “point of no return” if he continues to push for migration reform that requires fundamental changes to EU principles. Cameron wants to renegotiate the terms of the UK’s EU membership before holding an in-out referendum. He has said that the freedom of movement of workers would be at the “very heart” of his renegotiation strategy. But a German government source said: “Should Cameron persist, Chancellor Angela Merkel would abandon her efforts to keep Britain in the EU. With that, a point of no return would be reached. That would be it then.” A Downing Street spokesman said Cameron would make a speech on immigration before Christmas and stressed “You can be sure he will always put Britain first”.

Norman Baker resigns with stinging attack on Theresa May

The Liberal Democrat Norman Baker will step down as crime prevention minister today, after likening his experience at the Home Office to “walking through mud”. He took a parting shot at Home Secretary Theresa May, warning that “rational evidence-based policy” was in short supply at the top of her department. In an interview with The Independent, he claims his plans had been thwarted by May and her advisers, who looked upon the Home Office as a Conservative department rather than a coalition one. The Independent says his resignation is further evidence that relations are “rapidly deteriorating” within the coalition ahead of next year’s general election. Baker, the MP for Lewes, said he was proud of his part in tackling female genital mutilation, promoting alternatives to animal experiments, bringing in a new approach to combating anti-social behaviour and championing an “evidence-based” approach to drugs policy.

Could Red Ed be facing more pressure to quit if by-election doesn’t succeed?

Critics of Ed Miliband say he will face further pressure to step down as Labour leader if the party fails to put in a credible performance in the Rochester and Strood by-election later this month. As he launched a pledge to win the general election “street by street”, one party source said a poor performance in an area held by Labour under Tony Blair would raise questions about Miliband’s ability to win over centre-ground voters. The Labour leader wrote in a post on his Facebook page that he would fight the election on a “radical alternative programme for government” drawn up and costed over the past four years. Miliband wrote: “Labour will fight and win this election street by street, house by house, taking our case to the people on every issue … As we enter the last lap before the general election, Labour will show in towns and cities across Britain that we have a plan to answer the deep problems faced by so many families. Over the past four years we have built a radical alternative programme for government which is clear, costed, and concrete.” Patrick Diamond, a former Downing Street adviser who helped write the 2010 Labour general election manifesto with Miliband, said the party must reach out to voters in middle Britain. Diamond told the Guardian: “Endless speculation about the leadership is utterly self-defeating. Labour has to refocus on how it can win the next election. What Labour needs is a message and policies that chime with a broad coalition of voters, one reason why it is essential the party performs well in the Rochester and Strood by-election later this month. The leader should initiate a ‘road to the manifesto’ process (…)Voters don’t just want to be ‘listened’ to, they want to know Labour has credible and economically responsible policies that can make a difference to their lives and offer them hope.”

By Gloria Ganda