Category Archives: Parties

Do the main UK political parties agree or disagree on policy and ideas?

The ‘main’ political parties can be defined as The Labour Party and The Conservative Party, who have been the only political parties to gain a majority for over a hundred years. Despite other smaller parties such as UKIP, the Green Party and The Liberal Democrats building in popularity they are none of them big enough to act as a real challenger to these two. Despite Labour and Conservative being very different by definition; Labour being left wing and Conservatives right wing, in more recent years, in the terms of Tony Blair and David Cameron they have been often more similar than different both settling on centrist views trying to please the whole population. However, since the appointment of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn this has drastically changed and with Corbyn especially being so notoriously left wing the two are arguably more different now than ever. Despite this there are still surprising similarities remaining between the two. Continue reading

How far do the main political parties differ on policies and ideas?

Traditionally, political parties have been characterised by very different ideologies. The policies of the three main parties were underpinned by a coherent set of ideas and beliefs, which were particular to that party. Although the three main parties still have distinct ideological traditions, they have evolved since their conception and as a result of Thatcherism and ‘New Labour’  – the once distinct policy boundaries have become blurred. All three parties now subscribe to the Thatcher concept of a free market. In recent years the parties can be said to have moderated their traditional positions as part of an effort to appeal to as wide a range of voters as possible. All three parties are now essentially social democratic in nature and are more concerned with making piecemeal changes to current arrangements as opposed to imposing an ideological model. As a result, it can be seen that there are considerable similarities in policy and the differences are usually one of approach in achieving the goal – for example, in the 2010 election, in the economic policy, all three parties agreed that there would need to be significant spending cuts to reduce the deficit: Conservatives argued for immediate major cuts in spending but the Labour and Liberal Democrats proposed no major cuts in the first year. Continue reading

The EU referendum and the left’s dilemma

Following the EU Summit, leaders of the other 27 member nations of the EU have approved a deal which will see: a seven year term in which EU migrants in the UK will be restricted from claiming in-work benefits; child benefit payments proportionate to the cost of living for children living outside the UK for all new arrivals to the UK; ability for any single non eurozone country to force a debate among EU leaders about problematic EU laws; and an unambiguous opt-out stating in any future EU treaty references to ‘ever closer union’ are not applicable to the UK. Following the summit, the Conservative Party has been divided between those that wish to remain in the EU and those that hope for a Brexit. Continue reading

EU referendum: Who’s in and who’s out?

Since the 2015 general election, the promised Tory EU referendum has been looming over our heads and the prime minister has managed to seize a deal with the other 27 leaders of the EU council which gives the UK, what David Cameron describes as “a special status” within the EU. The deal was reached when talks in Brussels ended after a planned “British breakfast” turned into a “British dinner”. The first cabinet meeting to be held on a Saturday since the Falkland war took place as the tired PM David Cameron arrived back from the negotiation table in Brussels and passed the deal by his ministers. Continue reading

To what extent do the political parties agree on ideas and policies?

 

The major political parties often disagree on many issues and one of these particular issues is tuition fees. Currently, the conservative standpoint is to maintain the £9000 a year cost. Furthermore, William Hague said the party would not rule out an increase in fees. This is very contrasting to the Labour policy which would see a decrease to £6000 a year. A reduction is the general party agreement, however, Jeremy Corbyn wishes to scrap fees entirely. The Lib Dems disagree with Labour and believe that cutting fees would be stupid. They believe in keeping the current yearly fees which partly agrees with the Tory party view. UKIP is the only party which wish to scrap uni fees entirely. Despite this, Nigel Farage wants students of the arts to still have to pay the full fees.

Continue reading

Divisions within the Conservative Party

There is a fundamental division that exists within The Conservative party. The party leadership is dominated by the modernisers, those MPs gathered around Cameron that see the Conservative Party as the natural centre ground. Osborne is a key moderniser and his recent speech to the Tory conference was seen to be treading on traditional New Labour territory. However, the party also consists of a number of fundamentalist right wingers that believe in leaving the EU, imposing stricter regulations on immigration and moreover scrapping the Human Rights Act, which is manifesting itself in the showdown that is the EU referendum, set to be held by May 2017. Continue reading

Corbyn and the renewal of Trident

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, has been facing opposition from both within and outside his party regarding his stance on various political matters, one of which is the renewal of Trident. Corbyn is adamantly anti-nuclear weapons, declaring that he would never use them. Many view his uncompromising view and willingness to state it as political suicide. Continue reading

Divisions in UKIP explained

There seems to be chaos in the ranks of UKIP- a scandal that started off with Farages unresignation and has extended to squabbles over public money, resignations and people denouncing those whom 2 weeks ago they would call allies. As of 17/05/15 this has culminated in Douglas Carswell, the party’s only MP, calling for Nigel Farage to take a short break although no doubt there will be further developments after this article is published
This chaos and confusion has only been exacerbated by a 24 hour news cycle- Thursdays episode of Question Time shedding little light on the situation. Those not fixated by pre-determined attitudes to UKIP are unable to decide whether this is a much talked about pub-brawl that will soon blow over, as most UKIP supporters believe, or a political implosion in the works-as most UKIP detractors believe.
No-one really seems to know what is going on, so one will not comment on the details in particular.
However, with the growing possibility that Farage will no longer be leader of UKIP soon, and with the ongoing discussion of the direction UKIP should take for the 2020 election, this article will discuss the divisions in the party. These divisions are

1. Blue (economically right) vs Red (economically left) UKIP.
2. Socially conservative UKIP vs socially liberal UKIP
3. Peoples army UKIP vs politically correct UKIP

1. Blue (economically right) vs Red (economically left) UKIP.

The face of UKIP for most of it’s history and certainly under the early leadership of Nigel Farage was “Blue UKIP”. Disillusioned Thatcherites in exile who left the Conservative Party and joined UKIP sometime between the signing of Maastricht and the present. Such “Thatcherites in exile” include

1. Nigel Farage himself, a former Conservative Party activist who claims he is ” The only politician keeping the flame of Thatherism alive” and has written in favour of Ms Thatcher in his new book “The Purple Revolution.”

2. Douglas Carswell- who wrote a book called “The Plan” in 2009 alongside Daniel Hannan calling for the NHS to be replaced by a new system of health provision in which people would pay money into personal health accounts which they would use to buy healthcare when they needed it. This would in effect be the dismantling of the NHS as we know it. Since joining UKIP he has changed his mind and supported a fully-nationalized health service.

However Carswell can still be found preaching the virtues of free trade free markets and removing big business from politics. It’s clear that although he has to appeal to working class voters, he is still a Thatcherite at heart.

3. 90% of their money comes from former Tory donors. 

However in their attempt to appeal to working class voters a faction I name “Red UKIP” has been increasingly prominent in the party. These are not Thatcherites in exile, but in fact people disillusioned with Labour and seeking an alternative. Such individuals/ groups include.

1. Alan Sked- A man of the center left who founded the party in 1993 and left it in 1997 and has subsequently founded a party called “New Deal” which describes itself as “a new left-of-centre anti-EU party which he hopes will challenge Labour”. Alan Sked has been critical of the right wing and extremist direction the party has taken under the leadership of Nigel Farage.

2. Patrick O Flynn- The Party’s communications director and economic spokesperson called for an increased in VAT on luxuries- or a “wag” tax at their Autumn conference last year only for the policy to be rejected by Farage instantly. In the controversial interview he did for the BBC he has called for UKIP to be on the “common sense center” of British politics and condemned some of the people close to Farage for promoting an “American Tea Party agenda” such as “gun liberalization” or “scrapping the NHS”- both ideas espoused by Nigel Farage himself in the past.

3. Large numbers of their voters- 73% of whom think the railways ought to be nationalized and 78% of whom think energy companies ought to be nationalized. This puts UKIP voters somewhat to the left of the Labour Party leadership- never mind their own.

2. Socially conservative UKIP vs socially liberal UKIP

One of UKIPs unique selling points is its hostility to what it describes as “open door immigration”. It is clear no-one in the party is going to support open borders. No-one in the party is going to support fascistic closed borders and mass-repatriation. Within those 2 extremes there are shades of difference. For example Douglas Carswell in his victory speech in the Clacton by-election of 2014 said “We (UKIP) must be a party for all Britain and all Britons, first and second generation as much as every other”. This contrasts Nigels comments on the failure of multiculturalism made shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.

Immigration is not the only issue where the party is divided. Nigel Farage has come out in the past in favour of drug legalization- saying the war on drugs has failed. However he has said that he is at odds with most of his party on the subject- though he is reluctant to name names and few have publicly condemned him on the subject.  One senior figure in UKIP who clearly disagrees with him is Suzzane Evans who openly agrees with Peter Hitchens’ claim that there is no war on drugs and that it ought to be fought with more vigour. This division is made more complicated by the promise in the manifesto she played a large part in writing which states

“We will not decriminalize illegal drugs, however we will focus on ensuring drug suppliers, not their victims, face the full force of the law.”

This is a middle of the road position that is going to please neither libertarians who wish to decriminalize drugs, or conservatives like Peter Hitchens, who want to prosecute those who posses drugs with more vigour. This dispute over drugs may be one of the disputes between Farage and Suzanne Evans who despite being a relatively new member of the party is widely expected to be the new leader should Farage resign properly.

Farage has also come out in favour of liberalizing gun laws. This is something condemned by Patrick O Flynn, as stated in the linked BBC interview above, and Diane James, their Home Affairs spokesperson. However in a rare moment of agreement Douglas Carswell has supported repealing the Firearms Act 1997- claiming in the aforementioned “The Plan” that it has done nothing to reduce gun crime. He hasn’t expressed a change of heart on this issue since joining UKIP.

Aside from economics, social policy is a key area of policy UKIP cannot afford to be “all things to all people” on. They must either become more conservative, in attempt to gain support of their conservative critics such as Peter Hitchens. Or they must become more libertarian and risk abandoning their conservative supporters but appeal to the disenfranchised right-wing libertarians who increasingly find themselves without anyone to vote for

3. Peoples army UKIP vs Politically Correct UKIP
This is perhaps the most complicated division to explain. UKIP as it stands exists as an “insurgent” party- a protest vote. They are against the “liblabcon” and despise “Political correctness” However their increased poll ratings and their new-found ability to attract people from the political establishment- people like Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell, have resulted in a crisis for UKIP. Are they “the peoples army” or are they “Politically correct”

One fallen soldier of the “Peoples army” was Godfrey Bloom. UKIP MEP for 9 years he was ejected from the party after calling countries which might receive foreign aid “Bongo Bongo Land” calling a room full of women “sluts” and hitting Michael Crick over the head with his own party’s manifesto. A full list of his gaffes can be found on his Wikipedia article. Bloom sat the rest of his term as an independent MEP and shortly before leaving the Parliament he gave an interview to Michael Crick comparing Nigel Farage to Stalin in his determination to purge wrongdoers.
Despite Farage’s apparent Stalinist attitude, it would seem fruitcakes keep slipping under his radar. In 2015 alone we have had
1. UKIP MEP for Scotland David Coburn comparing Scottish government minister Humza Yousif with Abu Hamza (no sanctions were applied)
2. UKIP PCC Robert Blay pledging to shoot his Tory opponent Ranil Jayawardena – saying ““His family have only been here since the Seventies. You are not British enough to be in our parliament. “I’ve got 400 years of ancestry where I live. He has not got that.” (suspended immediately)
3. Peter Endean- a council candidate in Plymouth, tweeting pictures of Mediterannian migrants with the caption “Labour’s new floating voters. Coming to a country near you soon”. (No sanctions applied)

The alleged Stalinist Nigel Farage has himself said all sorts of politically incorrect things on Islam, multiculturalism, HIV benefit tourism, the pay gap, gun control, Scottish nationalism, the European Union, Equality legislation and climate change. It is believed his comments during the ITV 7 leaders debate on HIV benefit tourists were a pre-planned dog-whistle to make him stand out from the crowd of politically correct politicians.

This is one of the sources of O’Flynns frustrations- he dislikes the people who advise Nigel, saying they are turning him into a “nasty” man (see interview linked above). O’Flynn clearly wants the party to be more politically correct. This would involve Farage being less “nasty” and “aggressive” and more focused and the party’s main job of convincing the majority of the UK electorate to leave the European Union. O’Flynn is not alone. Douglas Carswell, in a speech aimed at changing attitudes within UKIP said “What was once dismissed as “political correctness gone mad”, we recognize as good manners”. No doubt several other MEPs and hundreds of candidates agree with Carswell and O’Flynns point of view; if they want to be re-elected in 2019 to the European Parliament, or if they are to be taken seriously in future elections, they will not want to be burdened with news stories of controversy from others in their party.

However this is difficult. For many UKIP is the last refuge for controversialists. It is a populist party that has been appealing to all people at the same time, which leads to policy division as seen above. But what is too controversial for UKIP? Some lines are already set in place- you have to agree to its constitution and you have to state you’ve never been a member of a far-right group (BNP, EDL, Britain First, Liberty GB etc). But this still leaves a wide-net, which can let in several bad fish, as detailed above. And if UKIP purged everyone who said anything controversial then I doubt even Douglas Carswell would be attending this Autumns conference.So the fight in UKIP is mainly where to draw the line- what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.

To conclude this rather lengthy article- UKIP now suffers the same problem the Liberal Democrats have historically suffered. They are a party with no clear values who try to appeal to all people. What has united them is a popular figurehead (Nigel Farage) and the collapse of the Liberal Democrats. There is now no reason they need to be a united party- and so differences that were brushed under the carpet will now have to be openly addressed if they are to survive until 2020.

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. Continue reading

The Coalition Government Policy Fault-lines

The coalition is generally united over policies and ideas, many of the big reforms of this government, austerity, health and education have all passed due to agreement at cabinet level. Both parties combined their manifestos and developed a working document for government in 2010 and suggested 70% of their manifestos were adopted. There are, however a number of areas where disagreement has emerged, particularly constitutional matters and Europe.  Continue reading

Cameron: Proud of Britain as a Christian country?

 

Easter, time for sober reflection and chocolate eggs. This year Prime Minister David Cameron, writing in the Church Times , followed by a radio interview about his children’s faith, and a speech at an Easter reception for Christian leaders in Downing Street, treated the British public to his views on Britian’s Christian roots. Continue reading

Britain’s drug problem: Compassion vs Coercion

Over the last two weeks, the main talking point in British politics has been the televised debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage concerning the issue of Europe. As much as I hate to admit it, Nigel Farage came off far better, and Clegg was largely left mumbling about how Farage either loves Putin or was a conspiracy theorist who thought Elvis was still alive. It was clear that the two men are not obvious political allies, and that they are divided on almost every issue. I say almost, because there is one area on which the two men find consensus: drug policy reform.

Farage declared that the war on drugs had been lost ‘many, many years ago’, and that he supported full decriminalisation. I never thought that I would say this, but bravo Mr Farage. Completely at odds with his party, the Ukip leader has bravely gone exactly where he should be going. Ukip advertises itself as a Libertarian Party, and by supporting full decriminalisation of drugs in the UK, Farage is showing that this claim might not be totally off the mark. I’ve always been sceptical of the claim that Ukip were Libertarians, it seemed to me that they were Libertarian about issues they wanted to be (environment and taxation) and not so much about issues they didn’t want to be (same-sex marriage and drug legalisation), but perhaps with the announcement that Farage does support same-sex marriage, followed by this new announcement, they will soon genuinely be able to make that claim.

Likewise, in February of this year, Clegg announced, after a visit to Columbia, that, ‘if you are anti-drugs, you should be pro-reform’. Impressively, Clegg became the first party leader to stand up against our failed drug policy and say that things needed to change. Although some may see this as an attempt to differentiate the Lib-Dems from the Conservatives in the run-up to the general election, it is, without doubt, a step in the right direction. The general public have realised that British Drug laws aren’t working, with the majority of people agreeing that government’s approach to illegal drugs is ineffective, and now politicians are beginning to realise too.

I think that most people agree that drugs are an awful stain on our society, but this does not mean that criminalisation is the answer. People die at the hands of these drugs, but there is no evidence to suggest that making them illegal means that fewer people will take them. The country that spends the most money, by far, on its anti-drugs campaign is the United States, and yet, it leads the table for the highest cocaine use in the world, it leads the table for the highest cannabis use in the world, and it leads the table for the most people in prison for drug use in the world. Why? Wouldn’t you expect, given the amount of money that is spent on keeping people from using drugs, that the rates of abuse would be much lower? Portugal is another interesting case study. In 2001, drug use was decriminalised across the country, and yet, its annual prevalence of cocaine use is 0.3% compared to the US’ 2.8%, and its annual prevalence of cannabis use is 7.6% compared to the US’ 51.6%. Put simply, the United States’ drug laws are not working, but Portugal’s are. The United Kingdom is not far behind the United States, being third in the world for cocaine use and ninth in the world for cannabis use.

Some may argue that Portugal’s drug use has always been lower than that of the United States (or the UK), and that the decriminalisation was not what made the difference, but rather a difference of culture. The statistics again show that this is untrue. Portugal’s reformed policy lead to a reduction in drug related deaths, a reduction in drug use among teenagers, an increase uptake of treatment programs, and a reduction in HIV deaths due to shared needles. What we have seen in Portugal is not a wave of new drug users who have been enticed by their decriminalisation, as we have been warned about by our government, we have not seen more people dying as we have been told there would be, and we have not seen more young people turning to drugs. What we have been told is simply wrong.

So, what is the answer? Compassion and care for drug users. We need to treat drug use, not drug users, as the problem. We need to offer treatment and advice, and try to make sure people are not in a bad enough state that they resort to drug use in the first place. We know the causes of drug abuse, and we know that people in poverty are much more likely to resort to using hard drugs. Income inequality is another factor behind drug use; we know that the worse a country scores on the Gini Coefficient (a measurement of income inequality), the more likely they are to have a drug-taking population. Interestingly, one country that bucks the trend here is Portugal, where there is high income inequality yet low drug use. Any guesses as to why?

The British political landscape is changing. In 2010, we saw the first hung parliament since 1974, showing that the people of the UK are disillusioned with the main two political parties. The smaller parties are rising fast, and these are the parties who are pushing for radical drug law reform. It is only so long until the main parties catch up.

 

Sam Glover

Clegg’s Conscious Uncoupling

The debate political hacks were waiting for, Clegg Vs Farage on EU membership treated viewers and listeners to a spectacle generating more heat than light. Both sides were in combative mood. Farage playing the ‘I’m a real man’ act, not part of the ‘Westminster bubble’, ‘I feel the pain of ordinary hard-working people’. Whilst Clegg presented himself as a numbers man ready to undermine UKIP hyperbole on immigration and champion common sense liberal values over political scaremongering. Political pundits and pollsters now begin the work of chewing over the audience response. So who won it? Well there are no losers. Both win, some polls place Farage ahead but Clegg probably doesn’t mind very much.  A closer look at Clegg’s strategy shows us that he is not after the Farage vote, like Paltrow, Clegg is going through a conscious uncoupling of his own.  Continue reading

Cameron VS the Liberal Democrats: The Green Tax Promise

 

David Cameron is said to be going back on his word about green taxes despite obligations from Lib Dems.

 

David Cameron has come under fire for his statement on reviewing energy bills. The Prime Minister said that the green taxes had helped push up household bills to “unacceptable” prices, but a source close to the prime minister said his message in private was blunter than that. He is claimed to have said, “We’ve got to get rid of all this green crap.” Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne’s Autumn Statement in December will set out new plans to reduce the impact of environmental impacts on fuel bills. The changes have set out to cause disruptions in the coalition government because the Lib Dems vowed to prevent in any falls in levies during this parliament.

 

The Lib Dems are also keen to keep the green taxes, arguing they are essential to creating a sustainable and environmentally friendly energy supply for the UK. Cameron wants to scrap most of the charges, which help subsidise wind farms and pay for home insulation. But Nick Clegg is insisting they must stay despite Cameron stating “We need to roll back some of the green regulations and charges,”  during Prime Minister’s Questions. His decision to review energy levies came after three of the “big six” energy firms announced price rises of between 8% and 10%, as well as pressure from Labour leader Ed Miliband who is vowing to freeze energy prices if he comes to power in 2015. Cameron once pledged back in 2010 that he would lead the “greenest government ever” and even travelled, in 2006, to the Arctic Circle with a pack of huskies to highlight his concern about climate change. He applied to put a wind turbine on the roof of his family home and was repeatedly pictured cycling to the Commons – though this backfired when it emerged his shoes and papers followed in a car.

 

Yet, his stance on government ideologies about the environment seemed to have changed when faced with pressure in the House of Commons. Tory high command has also privately abandoned Mr Cameron’s pre-election mantra ‘vote blue, go green’. To defend his decision on regulating green taxes after promising to be the “greenest government ever”, he answered, ‘we have got the world’s first green investment bank, we have got great support for our green technology industries and we have got the first nuclear power station since 1995’. ‘This is a government investing in important green technologies’, Cameron defiantly states, when asked by journalists whether he still believed in the environmental agenda.

 

According to Government figures, the green levies add £112 to a typical household bill. The money is then used to pay for loft insulation schemes and subsidies for renewable energy projects, under the Coalition’s rules. Downing Street sources said that, if there was no policy change, green levies could rise from the current £112 to £194 – or 14 per cent of the typical household bill – by 2020. Mr Cameron wants action to reduce the impact of the levies, the source said.

 

But, rather than trying to dictate prices or influence the global cost of energy, he said the government’s focus was on dealing with the aspects of energy bills it could control. After the review is held, there will be a competition test for the energy market to see how it is functioning. He said that he wants more energy companies so that consumers have greater choice. ‘I want more companies, I want better regulation, I want better deals for customers, but yes we need to roll back the charges that Mr Miliband put in place as energy secretary’. The reaction from some Lib Dem members hasn’t been too positive with a source accusing the Conservatives of a “panicky U-turn”.

 

“Everybody knows the Tories are getting cold feet on the environment” the source said.

 

“The Tories have put no properly worked up policies in front of us. But we will not allow a panicky U-turn during PMQs to dictate Government policy. However where the similarities ended between the Lib Dem party was when Nick Clegg said green levies are not ‘all crap’ and added that Mr Cameron agrees with him. A Conservative MP and environmentalist Zac Goldsmith criticised both Cameron and Miliband on twitter “In 2010, leaders fought to prove they were the greenest. Three years on, they’re desperately blaming their own policies on the other. Muppets.” This came after Mr Miliband and Mr Cameron were seen arguing with each other during Prime Minister’s Question Time, when Miliband said that 60% of green taxes had been introduced by the current government and reminded the Prime Minister of his stated ambition to lead the “greenest government” ever.

 

“He really is changing his policy every day of the week. His energy secretary says it is nothing to do with green taxes. And who is the man who said ‘Vote blue to go green’? It was him.” To which Mr Cameron made a statement in response to a question from Conservative MP Brian Binley, he said:  “It simply is the politics of the con man to pretend that you can freeze prices when you’re not in control of global energy prices, but the proper approach is to look at what’s driving up bills and deal with it.”

 

Abigail Owusu

The Split Coalition

Coalition United? I think not

When the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats formed a coalition in the aftermath of the general election of 2010, it was uncharted territory for the UK. Not only was it the first ever Coalition government between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives in history but  was also the first time the Lib Dems gained some real political power in decades – poor Lib  Dems. So the people of Great Britain were naturally curious to see whether the new government would last. Leading members of the Coalition David Cameron and Nick Clegg have continuously said that they support the Coalition and that it is ‘getting things done’, but today, the cracks are appearing within this partnership of parties.

 

Firstly, one of the big cracks is this issue about the European Union. Now this causes a huge divide already within the Conservatives as they are naturally sceptical about the European Union. The fact that Tory backbenchers want to leave the EU is quite drastic compared to the leading Tory MPs such as the Rt Honourable and PM David Cameron who wants not to leave the EU. Instead, Cameron wishes to change the terms and conditions of the relationship Britain has with the EU, such as the matter of clashing with Brussels over a EU-China Trade and implementing a referendum in 2017, concerning whether Britain should stay in the EU. This is proposed of course,  if a Conservative government is re-elected. The Lib Dems on the other hand, are the most pro-EU party of the three main political parties. An example of this is Nick Clegg attacking UKIP calling them “unpatriotic” and Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary for the Treasury saying that “If you are anti-Europe, you are anti-business, anti-growth”.

 

Secondly, another difference within the coalition is the issue of same-sex marriage. The Lib Dems were completely for it, as Nick Clegg said “I support gay marriage. Love is the same, straight or gay, so the civil institution should be the same, too. All couples should be able to make that commitment to one another”. Whereas on the other hand, the Conservatives were divided between some Tories who felt that gay marriage should be legalised such as David Cameron and others such as Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who rejected the notion and voted against it. It was such a divide within the Conservative party that David Cameron had to get the support of the Labour party to make sure that the bill would go through. Arguably, traditional conservatism was overruled by the popularity of the liberal approach.

 

Finally, the issue of the environment splits the two parties. Originally, David Cameron had rebranded the Conservatives as an eco-conscious party, using the slogan running up to the general election Vote Blue, Go Green’. But now he has distanced himself from green policies even as far saying ‘Get rid of the green crap’ according to the Sun. The Lib Dems on the other hand love the environment, and have made it hard for the Conservatives, resisting Tory plans to remove green taxes as Danny Alexander Chief Secretary to the Treasury said that they ‘are vital to Britain’s long-term commitments to funding renewable energy’.

 

To conclude, there are always cracks in a relationship, regardless if you can see them or not. But this Coalition has problems on the surface which could break the strength of relationship between the two parties. The question of whether we’ll have another coalition formed in the next general election is very much on the mind of the public and politicians. I suppose party leaders will have to contemplate sacrificing policies if there is to be a hung parliament, and they may indeed need to bear in mind this saying; ‘keep your friends close, but your enemies closer’.

 

See the Independent for Alistair Campbell’s prediction of a Labour/Liberal Democrat Coalition 2015

 

Kevin Augustine

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 13th-19th January 2014

Parliament Roundup – 13/01/14-19/01/14

 

Labour Speech

This week, Labour leader Ed Miliband and his shadow ministers will make speeches for the electorate in order to announce Labour’s upcoming plans. The speeches are designed to broaden the debate away from spending and the deficit. Shadow Housing Minister Emma Reynolds made a speech on Tuesday reemphasising on Labour’s plans to build more than 200,000 homes a year by the end of the next Parliament in 2020 by stressing that we need to increase social housing. However, this might prove tricky for Labour as they will have to allow more borrowing in order to reach this ambitious goal. This goal in particular might be seen as Ed Miliband’s way of proving that Labour is not just about short term goals such as his established energy price freeze.

Euro sceptics unsatisfied

 

95 of Conservative backbenchers have recently signed a vote for the law to be changed for the House of Commons to veto new EU regulations. There has been much recent disagreement with this vote and William Hague recently said that it’s unrealistic to give every country a veto on EU law. The main issue is that the euro sceptics will never be satisfied by any of Cameron’s actions towards the European Union. It is very obvious that our relationship with Europe isn’t working but this doesn’t necessarily mean that we should back out when we feel like it and tie the House Commons down with every EU law that is put in place. We can’t join an international treaty and then simply pick and choose what we like and what we don’t like, the whole point of being in union with Europe is to work together and compromise on some issues.  We also need to trust that Cameron is doing the best he can and we should simply let the people decide in 2017 in Cameron’s referendum promise whether or not they want to stay in the EU. Making the House of Commons veto every single EU regulation will not solve the deep underlying issues which Britain need to sort out with the EU.

PMQs

Ed Miliband and other members of his party have realised that there have been a slight decline in the number of people watching PMQs due to the programme becoming too much like a ‘Punch and Judy Show’ (starring himself and David Cameron). Therefore Miliband is attempting to act more civilized and ordered. So as to doing this, he is trying to find some areas where he and Cameron agree on certain issues. This was visible on Wednesday’s PMQs where Miliband, instead of beginning his questions rather loudly and impatiently towards Cameron, acted in a more ‘professional’ manner. We will see how long it will all last before his tantrums about the Cost of Living Crisis begins again

Miliband questioned Cameron about The Royal Bank of Scotland asking the government to approve bonuses to 100% on multi million pound salaries. It seemed like he was willing to talk about this issue in an orderly manner whereas Cameron resulted to attacking him again about the failures of the labour government to handle the issues with RBS. David Cameron even went as far as stating that Miliband should be apologising of the mess that they made of RBS in the first place.

Other News

– David Cameron will announce that the government will give new incentives to allow shale gas/fracking development .Councils will get more than 1.7 million pounds a year for these sites. See the Guardian for more detail

 

Gloria Ganda

The Coalition Welfare Reforms Explained

Coalition Welfare reforms

Job Seekers Allowance (JSA): The Department for Work and Pensions have set up schemes aimed at getting unemployed people back to work, it has caused much controversy Critics have dubbed the programmes as “Workfare”, likening them to unpaid labour, or forcing people to work for their benefits. To get people back to work by either Work Experience (November 2011, 34,200 people had started a Work Experience placement), Sector-based work academies, Mandatory Work Activity, Community Activity Programme and the Work Programme. JSA has been cut to at least £56.80 a week, varying on an individual’s situation.

Universal Credit: A new in- and out-of-work credit, which integrates six of the main out-of-work benefits. The aim is to increase incentives to work for the unemployed and to encourage longer hours for those working part-time. “The main differences between Universal Credit and the current welfare system are:

  • Universal Credit will be available to people who are in work and on a low income, as well as to those who are out of work
  • most people will apply online and manage their claim through an online account
  • Universal Credit will be responsive – as people on low incomes move in and out of work, they’ll get ongoing support, giving people more incentive to work for any period of time that is available
  • most claimants on low incomes will still be paid Universal Credit when they first start a new job or increase their part-time hours
  • claimants will receive just 1 monthly payment, paid into a bank account in the same way as a monthly salary
  • support with housing costs will go direct to the claimant as part of their monthly payment”

Many feel the policy has been a total failure is in serious trouble. The national rollout, originally intended for this October, has been delayed until next spring and will reach fewer towns. Many observers believe this disaster to be inevitable. Why? Because to work efficiently, benefits must, by necessity, be complicated.  Combining the distribution of benefits and collection of tax requires a gargantuan IT system, a system which is reportedly the problem here, just as it was with the ambitious, disastrous and ultimately – abandoned, NHS IT system, which cost £12.7bn. Universal credit also rolls out in a complex world. People could ruin a perfectly fine idea with their lack of online access and IT skills, which is causing further difficulties. The scale and cost will unnerve ministers, who are struggling to roll out the beleaguered £2.4bn universal credit system, and have admitted that they have already written off £34m on failed IT systems for the project, though departmental estimates suggest the total figure for write-offs could reach at least £140m.

Housing Benefit: Benefit for low income families to help pay for rent, controversial policy includes the ‘Bedroom Tax’ a reduction in housing benefit if the user has spare bedrooms. The government wants to cap housing benefit at £400-a-week for the largest homes or £290-a-week for two-bed flats. It will also cut the amount of the allowance so that it was pegged to the bottom third of rents in any borough. It is also agreed by many that the changes to housing benefit will increase homelessness, which has been the trend in recent years. The aim of the Bedroom tax is to tackle overcrowding and encourage a more efficient use of social housing. Working age housing benefit and unemployment claimants deemed to have one spare bedroom in social housing will lose 14% of their housing benefit and those with two or more spare bedrooms will lose 25%. An estimated 1m households with extra bedrooms are paid housing benefit. Critics say it is an inefficient policy as in the north of England, families with a spare rooms outnumber overcrowded families by three to one, so thousands will be hit with the tax when there is no local need for them to move. Two-thirds of the people hit by the bedroom tax are disabled. Saving £465m a year, as many as 660,000 people in social housing will lose an average of £728 a year.

Old Age Pensions (OAPs): Pensioners are to receive a flat-rate universal retirement payment of £140 a week The Work and Pensions Secretary will pledge to sweep away a host of complex rules and “fundamentally simplify” the basic state pension. Mr. Duncan’s Smith’s intervention represents the start of a Coalition drive to replace the existing state pension regime with a “single tier” retirement payment. Advocates of a single-tier pension say the higher cost could be funded by abolishing a range of secondary retirement measures, including means-tested pension credits, which cost taxpayers £6 billion year.  Pension age risen to 65 men 60 for women, due to rise again soon. These propose changes are challenged by critics saying the rise in pension age has happened too quickly and hits women in their late 50’s the hardest.

Weekly Parliament Roundup:4th-11th December 2013

Parliament Roundup: 4/12/13-11/12/13

MPs to receive 11% pay rise:

Click for a video explanation

IPSA(Independent Parliament Standards Authority) have recently proposed to provide MPs with a pay rise of 11% which will increase their salary to £74,000. They have stated that there will be changes to the pension scheme which will save tax payer 2.5 billion pounds if the rise is to take place. Even though this might be seen as a great thing for the MPs, lots of them are scared to state publicly that they think it is a good idea. The main issue with this proposal is that it might be the wrong time to make such high rises in MP’s salaries when other public sectors are facing difficult freezes. However, of this proposal is to go ahead, it will take legislation in 2015 to stop this from occurring.

The public might not like the sound of the proposal at first because many might feel that the MPs don’t deserve such a high pay rise as they have failed to improve costs of living. Despite this, the huge worry for IPSA and for several MPs is that the public won’t fully understand the fact that this will not affect them in any major way. This money will not be taken out of the tax payer’s pockets and in fact, it might even aid them. This proposal will also mean that there might be tougher regulations on expenses.

Shadow Red Ed

Following George Osborne’s autumn statement stating that ‘Britain’s economic plan is working’ and that ‘The hard work of the British people is paying off, and we will not squander their efforts’, Ed Balls made one of the most disastrous responses which led him to be mocked by Osborne and the rest of the opposition. In his response, he stated that Labour was winning the economic argument despite being contradicted by recent polls. Despite this, he has recently stated that he’s not bothered at all about the gossip about his performance in House of Commons and he also refuses to accept the fact that his response was weak. David Cameron also attempted to throw an attack at him again in this week’s PMQs by saying that ‘He can dish it out but he can’t take it.’ 

Click here for more detail on Cameron’s argument

 

Tributes to Mandela

After the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela, Parliament paid tribute to the iconic figure on Monday. All parties stressed upon the fact that he’s legacy will stay imminent in our lives. David Cameron also talked about Mandela’s strength of character and mentioned the fact that progress is not won by people accept the way things are but dreaming of what it can be. Cameron,Clegg and Miliband went to Johannesburg for Mandela’s memorial service on earlier on this week and Prince Charles will be attending the funeral on Sunday.

PMQs

This week’s PMQs saw the return of Cameron Vs Miliband on another round of Cost of living, only this time the debate was dominated by the 11% proposed pay rise for MPs which Ed Miliband used to strengthen his argument of course. Mr Miliband asked Cameron that if given the current living standards issues among families should MPs receive a pay rise. Surprisingly, the two men agreed on the fact that these proposals were in fact unacceptable and Cameron reemphasized the fact that these decision weren’t finally. After a few seconds of agreement, Cameron once again played the blame game and replied to Miliband’s request to work together on the issue by saying that the Conservatives are still left with the mess that Labour has left behind.

 

Gloria Ganda

 

Labour Leader Ed Miliband – Does he have what it takes?

 Does Ed Miliband have what it takes to be Prime Minister?

 

 

The views of the public depict conflict when addressing Ed Miliband as a leader, not only concerning his strength and influence within the Labour Party but whether he is indeed, too “weak” to act as Prime Minister. With those who are in favour of Miliband such as the likes of  political thinker Anthony Barnett who argues provocatively that “Ed Miliband is an exceptionally effective opposition leader, brave and an adroit party manager” and present PM David Cameron often highlighting his disproval of Miliband  and asserting his leadership as poor by stating “We know Labour’s approach, you go in with your hands up and a white flag” , the public are found torn between choosing Labour for their policies or abandoning the idea of Ed Miliband as Prime Minister out of uncertainty and scepticism.

Following the conclusion of the Miliband brothers’ pyscho-drama in the battle to become leader of the Labour party, the aftermath of Ed’s victory seemed strangely anticlimactic.

It didn’t seem to make sense; surely if Ed had managed to win the battle to become leader he had earned the respect of his colleagues and surely they must have thought that he was the person certain to win them the election in 2015? However, many Labour politicians seemed to barely tolerate Miliband and the party famous for its divisions has since become even more disparate. Some even say Miliband won the party election because of the support of trade unions; which is something he is currently desperately clinging onto. Moreover, the general public – the people who will ultimately decide whether Labour regains power – seem to have little faith in Ed. After three years of his leadership, a poll found that 52% of Labour voters are dissatisfied with his performance and his personal ratings have “sunk to levels” as bad as those of IDS and his predecessor as Tory leader, William Hague.

A common criticism is that of Miliband’s policies. His sympathy towards the ‘Squeezed Middle’ when he first became leader was met with confusion due to his failure to clearly define the concept and hostility when it was thought that he was abandoning traditional Labour heartlands. It resulted in the middle-class reaffirming their faith in the Tories, and the working-class becoming increasingly disillusioned with the Labour Party.

Squeezed middle: they believe deficit reduction measures are treating them unfairly

Image: The Squeezed Middle

However, three years on, Ed’s ideas have received a more positive response: his claims concerning ‘Crony Capitalism’ got the public thinking and, equally importantly, they got the Tories worrying. David Cameron was forced to respond with assurances that he was creating a climate of ‘Responsible Capitalism’ and it could be considered an indisputable achievement for Ed, but it did pose questions about Labour’s loyalties. ‘Crony Capitalism’ describes ‘an economy wherein success in business depends on close relationships between business people and government officials’ – Miliband expanded on it by attacking bank deregulation and big bonuses. The right labelled Milliband a ‘socialist’, however the approach resonated with some voters.

If the problem isn’t his policies, maybe it’s simply the fact people can’t see him as Prime Minister. In August, 63% of a poll of the general public said that they did not like him. Although ideas such as the Energy Freeze are popular, the fixation on his nervous grin and ‘crazy’ eyes – features that have earned over 8,000 Google results comparing him with the cartoon character Wallace – express a widespread anxiety about his ability and strength as a leader. Slip ups on camera, including the infamous ‘These Strikes Are Wrong’ speech yet refusal to elaborate when asked further questions portray an unconvincing leadership image.

Ever since he became party leader, Miliband has been battered with complaints that he’s too Right, too Left, too Old, too New; too downright strange. This is the problem.  The Living Wage tax break sounds like a step forwards – or at least a starting point for other solutions to the Cost of Living Crisis. The Energy Freeze is also an option for dealing with a problem that needs to be solved, and 63% of voters polled in September supported freezing gas and electricity prices for 20 months.

However, the recent YouGov poll shows Labour are ahead in Public opinion at 39%, therefore, perhaps we should stop focusing on family dramas and insults from the Daily Mail, and even his awkwardness when faced with a camera. Instead, we should concentrate on whether or not Ed Miliband, being an anti-politician Politician will make the best leader for Britain and give his upmost attention to how he can ensure his “pledges” and promises will work.

Maya Tikly-Young

Old Labour vs New Labour: Labour’s ever-changing colours

Old Labour vs New Labour

 

At the start of this year, Ed Miliband had set a clear path for the Labour Party to follow. Fearing that a radical approach would further alienate voters, he declared that his ‘One Nation’ Labour would acknowledge the lack of relevance that both strands in his party’s post-war history hold in 21st century Britain. Miliband professed that his Labour will reach out to voters alienated by the party in the 1980s, while also standing up to the vested interests courted by the party in government over the past decade. “New Labour”, he continued, “rightly broke from Old Labour to celebrate the power of private enterprise to energise the country … From crime to welfare to antisocial behaviour, New Labour was clear that we owe duties to each other as citizens.” He went on to criticise New Labour’s feebleness under the influence of big businesses, declaring:

Continue reading

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 13th-20th November

Weekly Parliament Roundup – 13/11/13-20/11/13

Geneva II Conference November 2013

 

Over the last few weeks, the Geneva conference has taken centre stage in the news, in regards to Iran’s nuclear projects. The conference was postponed to the 20th and has resumed over the past few days. Even though definite decisions have not yet been made, following his visit to Geneva, Foreign Secretary William Hague states that Britain’s aim is to create a “Interim first step agreement with Iran that can then create the confidence and the space to then create a comprehensive and final agreement”. The main question is however, is it too late for Britain to step in and try to give Iran guidance on the decision that it should make? The country seems set on making the brave choice to go ahead with their plans without the restrictions from America. Hopefully, Hague will make an influential effort to try and impose financial and energy sanctions against Iran, with the help of other countries such as France and Germany.

Increase in Tax Thresholds

Nick Clegg has made recent proposal plans to raise the income tax threshold to £10,500 and wishes for this to be done by April 2015. The Lib Dem leader already succeeded in getting the Conservatives to increase the tax threshold to £10,000 but he claims that by raising the threshold to a further £10,500, it would mean a tax cut of around £100 a year. Mr Clegg has suggested that part of this increase might be funded by the Mansion Tax but David Cameron has not shown any support of this proposal thus far. The main reason why this might be is because there is no clarity as to where this increase will be funded and a big criticism of this proposal is that it’s an extremely expensive way to deliver a positive outcome for the poorest.

Prime Minister’s controversial trip to Sri Lanka

The Prime Minister recently returned from his trip to Sri Lanka and on Monday, he told MPs in Parliament about the outcomes of his trip. In his speech, he emphasized the fact that it was an extremely difficult trip but it had various achievements. In addition, he announced that there will be a time limit to set up an enquiry on the human rights violation allegations and if Sri Lanka’s president doesn’t set up an enquiry by next year March, Cameron will use his way with the UN to get an International enquiry set up regarding the issue. Read up on Sri Lanka’s response to Cameron’s visit

Left Wing Unity Party

There have been recent talks about the setting up of a new Left Wing Unity Party. The proposed party will differ to other left wing parties by appealing to individuals who are not involved in any kind of politics. In other words, the party will try to attract those who feel dissatisfied with current left wing parties and their policies but yet don’t want to vote right wing. For now, these plans have not been finalised and there will be more information on this topic once any Parliamentary action has been taken.

Ed Miliband’s Childcare Cost talks and PMQs

Labour Leader Ed Miliband has been stressing upon the issue of the dramatic increase of problems with child care costs.  He has even gone as far as stating that parents in England are facing a ‘childcare crunch’ and he believes that these issues need to be immediately addressed in order to reduce financial burden on parents. The main reason why there have been rises in childcare costs, he claims, is due to ‘broken coalition promises’ and he made this issue pretty clear as he intensely grilled  David Cameron during this week’s PMQs where he also mentioned about closures of Sure Start services for disabled children. The PM hit back stating that when it comes to childcare, the Conservatives have provided 15 hours childcare for every 3 and 4 year old, 3 hours of free child care for disadvantaged 2 year old children and upgraded child tax credit by £420 which is something the Labour party never managed to do.  Overall, the PMQs highlighted the growing tension between the two leaders. Click to read about how Ed Miliband vows to tackle ‘childcare crunch’

 

Gloria Ganda

Pressure Groups

Unit 1: Pressure Groups

A Pressure Group is an organised group that does not hold candidates for election, but seeks to influence and change government policy or legislation. They are also described as ‘interest groups’, ‘lobby groups’ or ‘protest groups’. In Britain, the number of political parties is on the small scale compared to the mass number of pressure groups that run into their thousands. Pressure Groups can be distinguished in a variety of different ways including; local/national/European/transnational groups and temporary/permanent groups, however the most common distinctions are between:

Interest and cause groups / Insider and outsider groups

 

Interest groups (sometimes called ‘sectional’, ‘protective’ or ‘functional’ groups) are groups that represent a particular section of society, for example, workers, employers, consumers, an ethnic or religious group.

Interest groups have the following features:

  • They are concerned to protect or advance the interests of their members
  • Limited membership to people in a particular occupation, career or economic position
  • Members that are motivated by material self-interest

Examples of this type of group are trade unions, business corporations, trade associations and professional bodies. They are called ‘sectional’ groups because they represent a particular section of the population. Specific examples include the British Medical Association (BMA), the Law Society, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

Cause groups (sometimes called ‘promotional’, ‘attitude’ or ‘issue’ groups) are groups that are based on shared attitudes or values, rather than the common interests of its members. They seek to advance many and various causes and range from charity activities, poverty reduction, education and the environment, to human rights, international development and peace.

Cause groups have the following features:

  • They seek to advance particular ideals or principles
  • Membership is open to all
  • Members are motivated by moral or altruistic concerns (the betterment of others)

Specific examples of cause groups include the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), Amnesty International, Shelter, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Electoral Reform Society.

 

Insider groups are groups that are consulted on a regular basis by government and operate ‘inside’ the decision-making process yet the degree at which they are consulted varies. ‘Ultra-insider’ groups are regularly consulted at ministerial or senior official level within the executive. Examples of insider groups include the CBI, National Farmers’ Union (NFU), BMA, MENCAP and the Howard League for Penal Reform. Where as an Outsider group is a pressure group that is either not consulted by government or consulted only irregularly and rarely at a senior level.

Below are some of the UK’s key pressure groups:

 

UK Uncut

UK Uncut Involves a network of protest groups whose main aim is to protest against tax avoidance in the UK and raise awareness about cuts to public spending. The group uses direct action to get its message across and actions are organised independently by local UK Uncut groups and promoted through the UK Uncut website.

 

Britain in Europe

 

Until August 2005, Britain in Europe was the main British pro-European pressure group in Britain. It was founded by Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Kenneth Clarke, Michael Heseltine and Charles Kennedy. It initially founded to campaign a “ yes” vote for the euro but later progressed to support a “yes” vote for the referendum on the Treaty establishing a constitution for europe.

On 17 August 2005, the group was wound up following the French and Dutch “No” votes on the proposed European Constitution. Its resources were turned over to the European Movement.

 

Greenpeace

Greenpeace is an international organization whose goal is to “ensure the ability of the Earth to nurture life in all its diversity”. They have offices in over 40 countries so do not accept funding from governments, corporations or political parties. But instead rely on 2.9million individual supporters and foundation grants. They focus on world-wide issues such as deforestation, overfishing, global warming, commercial whaling, genetic engineering and anti-nuclear issues. Greenpeace uses direct action, lobbying and research to achieve its goals.

Click to see why Greenpeace method’s have recently been questioned in the news

 

Amnesty International

Amnesty International Non-governmental organization focused on human rights. The objective of the organisation is “to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated.”Amnesty draws attention to human rights abuses and campaigns for compliance with international laws and standards. It works to mobilise public opinion to put pressure on governments that let abuse take place.

 

MigrationWatch UK

Migration Watch UK is an immigration and asylum think-tank, which describes itself as independent and non-political. It is chaired by Sir Andrew Green, a former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. The company’s objective is “to conduct research into migration issues and to educate the public about the relevant facts”. The organisation is not registered as a charity but operates instead as a company limited by guarantee and its website states that the organisation relies on donations from the public.

 

 

Here is a more detailed video/audio about pressure groups:

 

 

By Abigail Owusu

Who’s Who – The Shadow Cabinet

Who’s Who – Shadow Cabinet

The Shadow Cabinet consists of only Labour MPs. It is the Shadow Cabinet’s job to criticise and challenge the policies and actions of the leading government, including the likes of Tory Prime Minister David Cameron. Here’s a list of the members and their roles. Why not check the links for recent news updates, it may just help you to learn about their past history and present position in politics…

 

David Miliband MP (Labour)

Role: Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Labour Party.

Education: Studied PPE at Oxford and at the London School of Economics.

Political Career: Elected MP for Doncaster North since 2005. Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change from 2008 to 2010.  Leader of the Labour Party since 2010 having won against his brother.

Extra Information: Click for the Miliband fact file 


Harriet Harman MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Deputy Prime Minister and Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

Education: Studied Politics at the University of York.

Political Career: Elected MP for for Camberwell and Peckham in 1982. She was Secretary of State for Social Security and was Minister of State in the Department for Constitutional Affairs. Also she was Leader of the House of Commons in Brown’s Cabinet.

Extra Information: Click for Harman’s Background and history in politics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ed Balls MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

Education:Studied PPE at Oxford as well as Harvard in Economics.

Political Career: Elected MP for Morley and Outwood, West Yorkshire in 2005. He was the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families from 2005 to 2010.

Extra Information: Click for Ed Ball’s in the NEWS

 

Douglas Alexander MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Foreign Secretary and Chair of General Election Strategy.

Education: Studied Politics and Modern History at the University of Edinburgh

Political Career: Elected MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South in 1997. He was Secretary of State for Transport and Secretary of State of Scotland from 2006 to 2007. He then became Secretary of State for International Development from 2007 to 2010.

Extra Information: Alexander in the NEWS

 

Yvette Cooper MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Home Secretary

Education: Studied PPE at Oxford and studied at Harvard.

Political Career: Elected MP for Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford  in 1997. She was Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 2008 and then became Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Extra Information: Cooper News Update

 

Sadiq Khan MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice and Shadow Minister for London.

Education: Studied Law at the University of North London

Political Career: Elected MP for Tooting in 2005. He was Minister of State for Transport in 2005 before becoming Shadow Secretary of State for Transport in 2010.

Extra Information: Who is Sadiq Khan?

 

Andy Burnham MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Secretary of State for Health.

Education: Studied English at Cambridge.

Political Career: Elected MP for Leigh since 2001. He was Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 2007 before he became Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in 2008 and then became Secretary of State for Health in 2009.

Extra Information: What’s Burnham saying about health?

 

Chuka Umunna MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Secretary of State for Business, innovation and Skills.

Education: Studied Law at the University of Manchester.

Political Career: Elected MP for Streatham in 2010.

Extra Information: More background on Umunna 

 

Rachel Reeves MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Education: Studied PPE at Oxford.

Political Career: Elected MP for Leeds in 2010. Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 2011.

Extra Information: Recent news and background history

 

Tristram Hunt MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Secretary of State for Education.

Education: Studied History at Cambridge.

Political Career: Elected MP for Stoke-on-Trent central in 2010.

Extra Information: Check Hunt’s profile for recent stories in the news

 

Vernon Coaker MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Secretary of State of Defence.

Education: Studied Politics and Economics at Warwick.

Political Career: Elected MP for Gedling since 1997 (safe seat, evidently).  Minister of State for the Home Office from 2008 to 2009 before becoming Minister of State for Schools and Learning between 2009 and 2010.

Extra Information: Wiki

 

Hilary Benn MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Education: Studied Eastern European Studies and Russia at University of Sussex.

Political Career: Elected MP in 1999. Secretary of State for International Development from 2003 to 2007 as well as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural affairs.

Extra Information: Benn’s Background

 

Caroline Flint MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

Education: Studied American Literature, History and Film Studies at the University of East Anglia.

Political Career: Elected MP in 1997. She was Minister for Public Health  from 2005 to 2007, the Minister for Employment from 2007 to 2008, the Minister for housing and planning in 2008, and as the Minister for Europe from 2008 to 2009. She also became Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Extra Information: Profile and most recent news

 

Mary Creagh MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Secretary of State for Transport.

Education: Studied Modern Languages at Oxford and European Studies at the London School of Economics.

Political Career: Elected MP in 2005. Appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Extra Information: Creagh’s news updates

 

Ivan Lewis MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Education: Studied at Bury College.

Political Career: Elected MP for in 1997. Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Sports and Media in 2010 and Shadow Secretary of State for International Development.

Extra Information: Lewis in the news

 

Jim Murphy MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Secretary of State for International Development.

Education: Studied Politics and European Law at the University of Strathclyde.

Political Career: Elected MP for Renfrewshire East in 1997. Secretary of State for Scotland in 2008, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence since 2010.

Extra Information: Murphy Update

 

Margeret Curran MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland.

Education:  Studied at the University of Strathclyde.

Political Career: Elected MP for Glasgow East in 2010.

Extra Information: Electoral history

 

Maria Eagle MP (Labour)

Role: Shadow secretary of Setae for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Education: Studied  PPE at Oxford.

Political Career: Elected MP for Wallasey since 1997.  Shadow Secretary of State for Transport in 2010.

Extra Information: Recent news and fact file 

 

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 6th-13th November 2013

Weekly Parliament review – 6th -13th November 2013

Commonwealth Summit

Prime Minister David Cameron will still attend the Commonwealth Summit in Sri Lanka despite India and Canada boycotting the event. There have been calls for the PM to boycott the event, especially from Labour members who proposed that they would strongly support the Prime Minister if reversed his decision to attend. On the other hand, Foreign Secretary William Hague stated that if the Prime Minister decided not to attend the summit, it would damage the commonwealth without making any positive change in Sri Lanka. The summit will concern the country’s Human Rights records and Cameron has pledged to put ‘serious questions’ to the Sri Lankan President Mahinda  Rajapaksa  about his regime’s widely condemned Human Rights records and allegations of war crimes against the Tamil minority.

Concerns over rise in personal debt in the UK

The Conservative member of the Treasury Select Committee Mark Garnier has raised concerns over the level of personal debt in the UK. He recently stated on The World This Weekend on BBC Radio 4 over the issue:

“I think we’ve, as a society have got ourselves into a pretty terrible mess quite frankly. If you look at household debt as a percentage of household income, then you cast your mind back to the 1980s during the Lawson-boom; we saw household debt as a percentage of household income go from 70% to 80%, and that fuelled what was quite an exciting time for people, such as myself, who were starting their careers.

There are some real pressures on households, and certainly with energy prices. Obviously we’re having this huge debate at the moment in the House of Commons about energy prices, and we’ve got to come up with a proper answer to this, that households are under a certain pressure. But having said that, we have seen in the economy an extra one and a quarter million people in jobs, we’ve got more people in jobs than ever before. So actually what that has meant is that there’s more money collectively around.”

Help to buy scheme

It’s been a month since the Help to buy scheme has been introduced and on 11th November, Cameron will talk to the individuals who have already benefited from the scheme and make a speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet. There have been various criticisms from the opposition in regards to the type of people who are applying, but the scheme seems to be getting off to a good start as recent polls this week has shown that over 2,000 people have put forward offers to enter into the scheme. Additionally, recent polls also show that the majority of those who are placing offers for the scheme are in their early thirties and are also first time buyers-these are the type of individuals which The Tories would like to attract for the next General Elections.

Ed Miliband and Cost of living argument

Ed Miliband has pledged to ban payday lenders to stop advertising on children’s TV channels . On Tuesday  12th November, Miliband took part in an apposition debate where he pledged for the bedroom tax of what the ministers call the ‘spare room subsidy’. The cost of living has been an issue which Miliband has been determined to highlight in Parliament. 54% of people agree that if people are living in a house that is subsidised by the tax payer and they have a spare room, they should receive less housing benefits.

Summary

Overall, the week in Parliament heavily consisted of talks about whether or not the Prime Minister should boycott the Commonwealth conference and the benefits and progress of the Rights to buy scheme. Ed Miliband’s “cost of living crisis” campaign which was raised 12th November in the opposition debate has left Nick Clegg wanting to “fightback”, says the Independent. In next week’s review, we will look more closely and in full about this week’s Geneva Conference and William Hague’s proposals regarding the Iraq Nuclear programme.

 

Gloria Ganda

 

News Report: Labour Party becomes media target after Falkirk investigations

Union within Labour party creates false memberships in order to rig voting process in Falkirk.


 

The Labour party came under fire after it was found that UniteLabour’s biggest union backer was accused of coercing members to join the Labour Party and signing up unsuspecting families without their knowledge to ensure the union’s favoured, now with drawn candidate, Karie Murphy was selected as the Falkirk MP.

The investigation was first brought up by two families who suddenly found that they had become members of the labour party despite never signing the forms to join the party. The general secretary of the Unite union Len McClucky, denied fresh claims that the union was involved in the forgery and coercion and stated that it was a poor attempt from the Tories to discredit Ed Miliband, as the Conservatives take it upon themselves to leak emails of internal Labour reports of the Falkirk investigations to the Sunday Times.

Allegations:

In an interview with presenter Andrew Neil on BBC’s Sunday Politics Len McCluskey defends Unite by claiming “We didn’t thwart anything. The Labour party report was deeply flawed”. Yet, The Sunday Times last week said it had a plethora of emails sent to and from Stephen Deans, Chairman of the Falkirk Labour Party which revealed the full extent of the plot, raising questions about whether Unite had influenced the outcome of the inquiry when the case was cleared by an Internal Labour Party investigation after key witnesses withdrew their allegations.

The emails included details of reports by Labour officials which had never been published and included evidence of where there were “deliberate attempts to frustrate” interviews with some of the key witnesses. If these allegations are true then there could be a potential breach of the 2006 fraud act and a subsequent attempt to induce those who had complained, to change their testimony before the national party could investigate.

Vice – chairman of the Conservative Party Bob Neil also wrote a letter to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, saying ”I am concerned that this instance is just the tip of the iceberg, as Unite themselves admit they are targeting at least another 40 Labour Party parliamentary selections for similar treatment. Senior Labour Party sources have also confessed that the problems go wider than just Falkirk.” Len McCluskey replied to these claims by telling presenter Andrew Neil, “This is a trap set by Tory central office and Ed Miliband should not fall into those traps.”

But he claimed the leaks to the Sunday Times were part of a wider plot to undermine Ed Miliband.

Ed Miliband’s deputy, Harriet Harman also came forward to say that Miliband should “not apologise” even though the allegations had caused a rift between the party and Unite. The Labour party went as far as to say that they had no plans to re-open the investigation after two full police enquiries. Miliband did however, come to the defence of senior official Michael Kane, in the local branch of Unite by disclosing that he bought group membership for his whole family stated in September that several witnesses had indeed, retracted their statements.

Ed Miliband doesn’t want to completely cut off ties with the unions admitting it could be a huge “gamble” and could potentially plunge the party into “financial meltdown”. Several Labour councillors have come forth to say that Ed Miliband must now publish the party’s report on the affair or re-investigate. Shadow Defence Secretary and Eastwood MP Jim Murphy told the BBC: “The fact that Unite are an important part of the Labour Party doesn’t give them a right to behave in a macho way of doing their politics, of a way that belongs in the past.

“They need to remember they don’t run the Labour Party. Ed Miliband runs the Labour Party.”

Prime Minister’s Questions in October presented PM David Cameron’s lack of hesitation to mention Labour’s links with Unite and has accused Ed Miliband of being too weak to stand up to the union. Miliband’s most recent response concerning Falkirk is that Labour are intending to look into “new evidence” and speaking at the event in central London he clarifies for the journalists and public that he is “absolutely determined that we do not have a repeat of Falkirk anywhere”. 

 

 

Report by Abigail Owusu

UKIP: U-keep Or U-Gone?

UKIP, the UK Independence Party is a right-wing political party that was established in 1993. Their views are often seen as being more radical than the other political parties, like their immigration policies and proposed EU referendum.

There is constant controversy surrounding UKIP due to its proposal of radical changes to immigration, such as implementing a five year freeze on immigration for permanent settlement and disallowing immigrants to apply for public housing and benefits until they have paid tax for five years. Some argue they are racist, as they are exploiting immigrants’ rights. UKIP deny that, claiming they are not against race but against an ‘open-door’ policy.

Nigel Farage stated that in the past 10 years, there has been more migration into Britain than between 1066 and 1950. Anna Soubry, the defence minister, said that Nigel Farage was ‘scaremongering’ and putting ‘fear in people’s hearts’ with his anti-immigration rhetoric and ‘prejudice’. Farage hit back at Soubry’s remarks by calling them ‘abusive’ and it showed how the Conservatives were ‘terrified’ about the rise of UKIP. Its policy to end  ‘mass uncontrolled immigration’  certainly seems like a popular policy at the time of recession, it seems inevitable that UKIP’s electoral power will begin to grow.

UKIP are most known for their belief in withdrawing from the EU, this view is not held by any other mainstream political party, who have all adopted a more centrist position towards the EU.  Farage wants an ‘amicable divorce’ from the European Union, and Britain will only maintain trading links with its neighbouring countries and end its membership. The policy seems to have wide support amongst British voters and crucially amongst leading Conservative MP’s and members.

So, how many votes have UKIP secured? At local elections, they have made steady and significant ground with 227 UKIP councillors. However this is more symbolic,  the Conservatives have 8,550 and Labour have 8,151 councillors respectively. But it is at the EU Parliamentary elections that they have made the most significant progress, with 11 out of 73 UK seats, and not far behind with 13 seats are Labour and with 12 seats are the Liberal Democrats. The Conservatives still have the largest share. UKIP can be seen in many ways as a pressure group, attempting to use elections to pressure political parties and in particular the Conservatives into a more anti-Eu position.

However, UKIP have not actually won any seats in the Houses of Commons, yet. With the existing electoral system: first past the post, it looks improbable that they will, as they would have to damage a large majority largely from Conservative constituencies. Moreover, they would need a large concentration of voters in a particular constituency in order to win at least one seat. Although they  have 30,000 members, many view the party to have incorporated racists and fascists. Former UKIP member Chris Pain was found to have posted alleged racist comments on Facebook and was expelled from the party in September. In the same month of Pain’s expulsion, UKIP leader Nigel Farage defended claims about his schooldays after Channel 4 claimed to have a letter from his teachers from 1981, describing him as a ‘fascist’ and a ‘bully’. In August, MEP Godfrey Bloom was filmed on camera saying British aid shouldn’t be sent to ‘Bongo, Bongo Land’, referring to third-world countries, however later regretted his remarks. All these examples may show that members of UKIP have closet racist views.

In the next general election, Nigel Farage claims that by 2015, UKIP membership will be the third highest in the country. He also says:  UKIP is still ‘on course’ to be a significant political force in the 2015 general election despite a shambolic conference, overshadowed by Godfrey Bloom’s comments about women.

UKIP will continue to attract support due to the present economic climate, public opposition towards immigration and anti-EU sentiments. With their sights on next years EU parliament elections and the 2015 general election UKIP may still  ‘cause an earthquake in British politics’. 

Yllka Krasniqi

Energy Bill Crisis: Cameron’s dilemma

Energy Bills – Is Cameron ‘panicking‘ yet?

Over the past few months, we’ve witnessed politicians persistently speaking of energy prices rocketing and of the ‘Big Six’ making huge profits from the bills of their overcharged customer’s, of whom are without any knowledge of they came to be so high in price.  Many individuals who are unable to afford these high prices are left confused and deceived by their energy supplier and blame PM David Cameron for not taking action against this ever increasing issue. Recently, the problem has been addressed by Cameron in parliament and of who has even been in discussion with Neck Clegg in order to find a way to get household bills down and made sustainable. The “big” questions are;  how soon and how will he make changes to the British taxpayer’s energy bill?

According to research by uSwitch, energy bill suppliers such as the likes of British Gas have a current bill at around £1,340 and the new bill is said to raise to a staggering £1,465 – an increase of £125 which will make lives extremely hard for customers struggling to survive financially. Shockingly, The British Gas Boss has currently seen a pay rise of 40% in line with bills. This alone should be enough to persuade Cameron to revisit his Social Conservative ideologies and not only do something to prevent the energy suppliers from unfairly profiting from these bills but to also prevent them from stealing from the people’s pockets, the same British people he highly values and encourages to work hard for their country.

In the run up to the 2015 elections, Labour looks like they’re one step ahead of Cameron on energy issues as Ed Miliband promised in the recent Labour conference to put a 20 month freeze on the energy bills if he wins the next election. In fact, Cameron’s inability to put energy cut action plans on paper has given the Labour party an opportunity to criticise his priorities and responsibility to the public. During the conference, Caroline Flint,the shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary ,said consumers were ‘’sick and tired of being left out of pocket because of David Cameron’s failure to stand up to the energy companies’’.

Despite criticisms, it is clear that Cameron is ready to take a stand against the ‘Big Six’ by proposing to cut the energy bill prices. However, it is still uncertain as to how and when he is going to do this. He has already begun to focus on the green aspect of the average household fuel bill which currently stands at £112. The Liberal Democrats have insisted that only £50 of the bill really subsidies the issues e.g wind and solar power, and they suggest that £62 is help for householder and it should subsidies for greener boilers and insulation. Focusing on greener energy such as these will aid the government in helping to keep the bills down.

Hopefully, these plans in discussion will be Cameron’s stepping stones into helping him put a stop to the rising energy bills for once and for all.

 

Gloria Ganda

A Summary of the Labour Conference – Autumn 2012

The quote ‘One Nation’ has become a National mantra for supporters of the Labour party after the recent party conference in Manchester came to a close this week. Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour party, demonstrated what some critics have described as being the ‘utmost resilience and determination’, in an attempt to restore the Labour party to its former glory. Miliband spoke candidly about his hopes to advocate a ‘One Nation’ party, which to many people is a simple reminder of an earlier broadcast by the post – 1945 One Nation group of Tories led by Tory Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Disraeli had hoped to unite the country through fiscal discipline, self-reliance and building on historic strengths, unlike Miliband’s hope of leading the country on the basis of sufficient support from active trade unions and diligent Labour supporters. Continue reading

A Summary of the Liberal Democrat Conference – Autumn 2012

As the recent Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton drew to a close last week, supporters and critics of the party have been left wondering how the party’s proposals will affect the decline in support two years into the coalition government. On the one hand, Nick Clegg’s heartfelt apology for breaking his promise on those tuition fees; on the other hand, however, recent reports questioning Nick Clegg’s credibility as leader of the Liberal Democrat party have surfaced, as the Independent newspaper recently reported that the majority of members of the Liberal Democrat party have lost complete faith in their leader. So, was Clegg right to make a public apology or should he have focused more on ensuring that the 2012 Liberal Democrat conference was a success and not a reflection of his unpopularity amongst his fellow Lib Dem Cabinet supporters? Continue reading

What the local election results mean

For the Tories

‘A tough night’ was what Conservative chairman Sayeeda Warsi predicted for her party, and so it proved true as the party  faced a mass rejection from voters across the country as they lost 403 council seats, 12 council majorities and 2 London assembly seats. With articles questioning Cameron’s competency floating around, these elections alongside a disastrous response to the mayoral system across the country, have served a severe blow to the Conservatives in moving forward.

These loses have provoked Tory backbenchers to demand that the Prime Minister drop unpopular policies such as gay marriage and House of Lords reform.

Senior Conservatives blamed the results on “mid-term blues” and said that the turnout was just 32 per cent nationally. Party strategists pointed out that Tony Blair lost more than 1,000 council seats in the late 1990s but still won a landslide majority in the 2001 general election.

The London mayoral contest provided some respite for the Prime Minister with Boris Johnson winning, although the results were far closer than expected and much of his win is attributed to not being a ‘traditional conservative’.

The results are expected to fuel calls for David Cameron to reshuffle his ministerial team (which many think is due anyway) and add to pressure on the Prime Minister and his deputy, Nick Clegg, to outline a compelling programme for government in the Queen’s Speech next week.

According to The Guardian, Cameron’s aides have already started discussions on whether to offer a referendum on Europe in the party’s election manifesto, and make this known before the European elections in 2014 as a way of spiking the guns of Ukip. However this would probably be damaging for Cameron’s personal integrity.

For Labour

However you read the results, the elections were an excellent day for Labour, even if there are questions around turnout and the mayoral contest, the overall picture of Labour gaining 32 council majorities, 824 council seats and 2 London assembly positions will consume the national papers and therefore the minds of the majority.

Ed Miliband’s party even won council seats in the Prime Minister’s own constituency, although Miliband was careful to not seem complacent saying in a local cafe “we are a party winning back people’s trust, regaining ground, but there is more work to do”, even as they faced stiff competition from SNP for seats in Glasgow, Labour managed to secure the council, possibly as a result of Scots being unconvinced by the SNPs fight for independence.

The question that local elections implicitly ask of voters is “do you like the government?” The question in a general election is “will you change the government?” Labour’s swings do not demonstrate at this point, national appetite to have Ed Miliband as PM but this is a step forward and Milibands response has been positively received by many.

For the Liberal Democrats

During the run up to these local elections, the Lib Dems were trying to stamp their foot down on many government proposals, going against collective cabinet, now, after losing 438 council seats, falling below 3,000 councillors for the first time in the party’s history and coming 4th in the London mayoral elections, the future of the Liberal Democrats looks bleak.

With the Conservatives facing calls within their own party to stop listening to the Lib Dems so much, the Lib Dems may soon be feeling pushed out of their own Coalition. Clegg is also feeling pressure to distance the Lib Dems from the Tories, amid fears that his party’s roots are being poisoned by the Coalition.

“One more election like this and we will be in danger of no longer being a national party,” said the party’s former Treasury spokesman Lord Oakeshott.

 

 

“A Boris for every city” – Mayoral system rejected across the country

Along with a series of local election defeats the coalition’s localism agenda took a battering during their round of referendums. With people in Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Bradford, Coventry, Sheffield, Leeds, Wakefield and Newcastle voting against the idea in local referendums, only Bristol voters bucked the trend and provided the Prime Minister with some comfort. Continue reading

Blair’s back, backing business but not backing Ed

Tony Blair is back. Until now he has been reserved about directly commenting on the fortunes of the Labour Party. However he has broken his silence with a series of meetings with Labour MPs. Blair’s basic message is that the Labour Party cannot leave the ‘centre ground’ and must keep close to the business community in order to win elections. Continue reading

Prayer in a Pickle

A ruling following a legal challenge from the National Secular Society this Friday stating that the saying of prayers during Bideford council meetings was unlawful has ignited criticisms from the Communities and Local Government Minister, Eric Pickles.

He commented that the judgment was “surprising and disappointing” and he believed that under the Localism Act councils ought to be allowed to say prayers.

Continue reading

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John Prescott – The Commissioner

Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has announced his intentions to become one of Britain’s first elected police and crime commissioners. Prescott who will face the polls in November if selected to stand following being nominated, said he would spend the next few months consulting the public before drafting the manifesto he would use to campaign for the up to £100,000 a year job. Continue reading