Weekly Parliament Roundup: 6th -12th September
By Gloria Ganda
0.7% of national income to be given to foreign aid?
MPs have backed a new law which commits to spending 0.7% of national income on foreign aid. This means that roughly £11bn per year will be given to international aid and development after the Tories have finally backed the Liberal Democrat bill which is also supported by Labour. The legislation was opposed by just seven Conservative MPs and both the Tories and the Liberals are one step ahead of fulfilling one of their manifesto promises to put the 0.7% measure into law. Despite the majority agreeing to the new legislation, the Tories primarily were hesitant towards the legislation as they thought it was unpopular with their grassroots in the difficult economic climate which we are in. However, it looks as though the Legislation could soon come to force.
Polls tighten on Scottish Independence Referendum
With the Scottish Independence Referendum only days away (18th September), the polls are illustrating that for now, it is too close to call whether Scotland will be staying in or pulling out of the UK. Thus far, the No campaign is leading with 51% but the Yes campaign are closely catching up with 49%. Despite this, there are still 17% of voters who are still undecided. The no campaign is still reaching closer and closer, despite a week of intense political campaigning by pro-union politicians and repeated warnings from business about the dangers of independence. The ultimate decision heavily depends on the voters who are not yet decided but either way, we will be able to witness the fate of Scotland and their relationship with the UK on the 18th .
Boris selected to stand for Tories in Uxbridge and South Ruislip
Boris Johnson is set to make his great comeback to Westminster after being elected as the Conservative candidate for Uxbridge and South Ruislip on Friday night. Johnson defeated three other candidates on the short list following a secret ballot of party members in the constituency. He wants to return in team for a leadership contest which might take place if Cameron loses the general election next year. He stated that the process was “very enjoyable” and paid tribute to his three unsuccessful opponents. Furthermore, Boris denied that this was the start of a campaign to enter Downing Street and was instead the beginning of a battle to retain the west-London seat, which has a Tory majority of more than 11,000, for the Conservatives and stopping Labour from winning the next election.
Weekly Parliament Roundup – 3rd March-9th March
Liberal Democrats definitely Pro EU
In his recent speech at the party’s spring conference, Nick Clegg reinforced the fact that the Liberal Democrats are the UK’s most pro-EU party. In the speech, he says that they are ‘’Britain’s only party of in’’ and that ‘’Britain stands tallest in the world when it stands tall in Brussels, Paris and Berlin’’. It might be suggested that this is a little audacious of Nick Clegg but in some way, he is finding an advantage in this as this might help him to broaden his voter range in preparation for next year’s General Elections. Clegg used his speech to claim responsibility for the economic recovery and defend the benefits of immigration and this might be seen as a way of him bashing the Tories. The Conservatives are trying to claim for themselves the elements of Liberal Democrat policies but the Lib Dems want the public to be well aware of which policies and ideas were theirs. Click here for more information from the GUARDIAN
Is Nick Clegg a good leader?
Nick Clegg claims that he wants to be the leader for the Lib Dems for the next six years but the main question arising is: is he a good leader for the Lib Dems? We can be sure that he handles certain situations in ‘okay-ish’ way but we are still not sure whether Clegg has the right attributes to take on a nation. This week’s PMQs illustrated his inability to tackle questions about decision made within the party head on. However, maybe if the party gets into another coalition we might then be able to see Clegg grow as a leader.
Tory influence over budget
The Lib Dems want to raise the starting point of tax to £10,000 and beyond but George Osborne wants to make sure that the public know that this was the idea of the Conservatives. Again, it is evident that the Conservatives want to take credit for every successful and important decision and this is shown again through the fact that certain Tory Backbenchers want a Conservative only measure in the budget which would be an increase in the 40% threshold to help middle class voters. Osborne might raise the tax threshold beyond to what is expected to £10,000 whereas the Lib Dems want it raised to £10,500. There will be quad meeting to settle the differences regarding budgeting
Labour short on Money
There has been a recent behind the scenes Labour debate about how they will deliver better public services without spending extra money. The party have been putting forward new proposals on what they intend to do if they get back into government in 2015 but the main question is how will they deliver all the things it talks about with less money? Either the party needs to re-strategize their plan or they should think about devolving powers downwards and finding solutions locally. This might be the only effective way for them to deliver their plans.
Weekly Parliament roundup 23/02/14-2/03/14
The Ukraine government is allegedly saying that Russia has declared war on Ukraine. As for now we don’t actually know what President Putin’s intentions are and he has discounted most of the sanctions they’ve been getting from the West. He doesn’t believe that the threats from Western governments will be a great deal and one of his main fears is the fighting in Ukraine, if opposition rises, Putin is unsure whether his Military will be able to handle the Ukrainian people efficiently. In regards to foreign relations, Putin doesn’t really care what Cameron has to say about the issue but but is more concerned over Obama’s reactions.
William Hague has been in Kiev urging restraints and there have been recent worries about the consequences for Britain’s defence posture if we get involved. Should Britain be dragged into another conflict when our money is tight? We can only take action to calm the situation down as if the issue continues to escalate the way it is now, we might be on the brink of facing Cold War 2. The UK has joined The USA, France and Canada in suspending preparations for a G8 Summit in Russia in June. Additionally, David Cameron says it will be inappropriate for ministers to represent the UK in the Sochi Paralympic games following recent events.
Economy Focused week for Tories
David Cameron will make a speech this week (5th March) where he will talk about apprenticeships and housing .He will also talk more about the Help to buy scheme which has been backed up by the government. Michael Gove will also be making a speech on Monday (3rd March) which will be about apprenticeships and Vocational Education. He will stress about the fact that every company should take young people on apprenticeships and give them an opportunity .Moreover, Gove will also emphasise on the need for schools to encourage and look out for children who not only have academic abilities but also the right traits which businesses want.
Coalition on the rise
From looking at the current party standings, it is said that there is a high chance of there being another hung parliament in the 2015 general elections. Therefore, a coalition will most likely occur again. Business spokesman Chukka Ummona says that Labour should be open about the prospect of a coalition with the Lib Dems and that they should fight the next election in the centre ground whereas lot of Labour people disagree with this. On the contrary, Ed Miliband is being advised that if he doesn’t win a majority, since he has the largest party, he should run a minority government and then have a re-election after 6 months in order to give the public time to see the Labour party in action and then give them a chance to decide whether Labour should have a majority.
All MPs, including Cameron and Miliband stood united in agreeing that Russian action against Ukraine was wrong. Below is a link to the BBC’s full summary and recorded coverage of this Wednesday’s PMQs where the Prime Minister fully addressed the the Ukrainian crisis and Britain’s action plan. BBC PMQs 5th March 2014 summary
The Pick of the Papers (24/2/2014-2/3/2014)
Woodhouse’ weekly pick of the papers is devoted to keeping A level politics students up to date with the political news and on track with the Unit 1 and Unit 2 syllabus.
Source: The Guardian
Politics Topic: Parliament
Summary: Sir Mark Waller, the intelligence service commissioner has repeatedly refused to appear before the Home Affairs committee over Edward Snowden leaks and other counter-terrorism issues, which has lead them to summon him in front of MPs. This is a rare move which the parliamentary committee has the power to send for people and papers. Keith Vaz said that he was ‘disappointed’ by his refusal to their invitations and said that this summons is the first of this parliament.
Source: The Independent
Politics Topic: Party Policies and Ideas
Summary: Miliband has received a morale boost as the former Labour leader has backed his reforms which will allow people to register as ‘registered supporters’ who at the price of £3 can vote on the Labour leader. Blair himself said that ‘I should have done this myself’. The Conservatives however have responded to this, stating that this is just another way trade unions can exercise their power over the Labour leadership as ‘union bosses pick the leader, buy the policies and rig the selections’
Source: The Telegraph
Politics Topic: Prime Minister and Cabinet
Summary: There is disbelief with Cameron’s motive’s and policies as the Tory rank and file believe that whatever Cameron does, he does it only for the effect and is willing to abandon it if it goes wrong. Example of this is the anti-coalition promise that people close to the PM has said but then this conflicts with Tory modernisers who would find that to be insane and unrealistic. Clear conviction Cameron lacks.
Weekly Parliament Roundup: 17th-23rd February
Cabinet visits in Scotland
The Cabinet will be heading for the second time in 90 years to North East of Scotland, Aberdeen, the home of the UK’s oil and gas industry. First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond will also be chairing his own cabinet meeting and both the Cabinet and he want to address the future of the North Sea oil industry. Alex Salmond believes that Scottish independence will bring great benefits to the sector. As the referendum is coming nearer, the UK is aiming to now make strong economic arguments in order to weaken the independence arguments. In addition, there have been slightly negative reactions to the visit as some Scotts believe that the three main unionist parties are trying to dictate the actions of the Scottish.
Angela Murkel to visit Westminster on Thursday
Angela Murkel will be visiting the UK this Thursday and she is here mainly going to have talks The Prime Minister and take a visit also see the Queen. They will talk about the troubled relationship which the UK has with the EU. Conservative Eurosceptic that a re-negotiation of European treaties would have to be done if the Conservatives are re-elected. Moreover, backbenchers want Cameron to stress on the fact that either we get a new relationship that makes sense for Britain or the British people will vote to leave. Regarding other recently important issues, they will also discuss Ukraine.
Farage Vs Clegg on EU
After a recent radio interview with LBC, Nick Clegg has challenged UKIP leader Nigel Farage to a debate regarding the EU and Nigel Farage has agreed. He commended UKIP in the interview by saying that at least they’ve got a clear position that they want to ‘yank Britain out of UKIP’ and the same thing cannot be said for Conservative and Labour don’t really have ‘courage of their convictions on it’. Clegg stressed that the Lib Dems are clearly Pro EU and that being in the EU means being in work. Over 3 million jobs in the country depends on us being in EU according to Clegg and he said that the debate will good way for the public to hear both sides of the argument and decide for themselves regarding the EU.
Special Labour Conference on Saturday
Labour are to hold a special conference on Saturday mainly regarding party reforms. They are attempting to push through the creation of a one member one vote system when electing for the party leaders. Ed Miliband wants the support on allowing the public to pay three pounds to become registered members and show interest in the party and they will have a say in electing the leader and policy making. There has been a positive outlook on these proposals as Labour needs to broaden their support base and gain more voters and these reforms might be the right way to go about it.
Recently, the speaker for the House of Commons, John Bercow suggested that there should be a reformation to Prime Minister’s questions as he believes that the MPs are too unorderly and there needs to be less chaos in the House. However, the reforming PMQs might actually draw people away, there’s always going to be passion and noise in PMQs because it’s the nature of our politics. This week in PMQs, there was mainly disagreements regarding Cameron’s plans for the floods and overall Conservative spending on flood defence spending and climate change. Ed Miliband disagreed with Cameron that the current Government’s spending regarding flood defence spending increased. However, both Miliband and Cameron agreed that climate change, especially man-made climate change is an important issue.
Weekly Parliament Roundup: 29/01/14-5/02/14
Conservative style Ofsted
After the firing of Ofsted Chair and Labour peer Sally Morgan, Michael Gove has said that the next head of Ofsted will be appointed upon merit but has not yet ruled out appointing a Conservative peer. A number of critics have been saying that Gove is trying to ‘politicise’ an independent body and the same argument has been said by Liberal Democrat Schools Ministers who have said that Gove is bringing his own people into an impartial organisation. However, Michael Gove has replied back by saying that it’s just time for a fresh pair of eyes and his decision on not ruling out the appointment of Conservative peers has nothing to do with politics.
Formal Tests in Nursery
Michael Gove has given an indication that he wants to introduce formal assessments for 4&5 year olds in order to measure progress more effectively. He believes that by children taking these assessments when they start school, their performance in year 6 will then be better contrasted. As a result, schools will be able to see how well the child has developed academically under their teaching, allowing them to make precise improvements for children in the future. Several schools have already stated that they already do this so the proposal doesn’t seem to be anything drastic.
Miliband to reform links with Trade Unions
Ed Miliband’s plans to reform the party went before the party’s ruling national executive this week. Within these plans, trade unions will keep their 50% votes at the party conference and the selection of parliamentary candidates won’t change. Because of this, Trade Union leaders seem to not appear panicked about the reforms because essentially, parliamentary candidates are unable to get nominated without the backing of Trade Unions. In regards to parliamentary candidates, the plans state that they will have to declare that they want to opt in to pay the party. Once they are then elected, Labour will then send them a ballot paper.
Despite the fact that Miliband thinks that the reforms will strengthen the link between the party and the unions, several trade union leaders have hinted that the fundamental relationship won’t change and the unions won’t accept further reforms. Additionally, they have said that Labour is being a little optimistic in its assessment of how many affiliated members they will gain through these reforms. Furthermore, a more important question arising from these reform proposals is: will they make Labour more dependent on Trade Unions?
Miliband strikes again (PMQs)
This week, we saw Miliband gain another victory roll for the third time this year. After hitting the Prime Minister with a few start up questions on the length at which the Tories were taking in handling the flooding issues, he brought out his killer question about what the PM has exactly done in order to improve women equality. As usual, David Cameron tried to get out of answering the question by giving the opposition figures regarding floods. When he finally did reply, he made the remark of the Conservative party having a female Prime Minister and this gave Miliband the perfect opportunity to hit back at Cameron by highlighting his failures of winning the last General Election.
Timeline of the UK’s constitutional changes
The role of a constitution is to organise, distribute and regulate state power. By doing so, the constitution creates the structure of the state and sets out the principles of governing for the state’s citizens, whilst also outlining the role of government. Britain is unusual in that it has an ‘unwritten’ constitution. Unlike the great majority of countries, such as the USA, there is no single legal document which sets out in one place the fundamental laws outlining how the state works. Thus, Britain’s lack of a ‘written’ constitution is often explained via its history. In other countries, many of whom have experienced revolution (E.G. France) or regime change, it has been necessary to start from scratch or begin from first principles, constructing new state institutions and defining in detail their relations with each other and their citizens.
The British Constitution has evolved over a long period of time, reflecting the relative stability of the British Government. Britain has never truly been close to a written constitution, although the Liberal Democrats portray their great interest as shown in their wish for a political reform whereby Britain becomes codified. The Lib Dem’s pledge that they ”will involve the people in producing a written constitution” evidently indicates they are oblivious to the fact that Britain is not susceptible to change, particularly when it is mostly producing a strong government. Of course, there is the other matter that parties and politicians are infamous for failing to keep their promises made before the elections, lets see, tuition fees, tax cut for millionaires, mansion tax - hence, another major reason citizens may lack faith in the Liberal Democrat’s desire for a codified constitution.
Presently, what Britain obtains is an accumulation of various statutes, conventions, judicial decisions and treaties which collectively can be referred to as the British Constitution. Today we now refer to Britain’s constitution as an ‘uncodified’ constitution, rather than an ‘unwritten’ one. By accurate definition, an uncodified constitution means there is no single document which explains how we are governed. Instead constitutional experts point to a number of treaties, laws and conventions (another word for ‘habits’) which together make up the constitution. These include:
Weekly Parliament Roundup: 22/01/14-29/01/14
50p Tax rate for the Rich:
Ed Balls recently said that a future Labour government promises to achieve a budget surplus, falling national debt and a 50p top rate of tax for the rich. Businesses have criticised the third proposal by saying that it will harm the economy and put a stunt on job production. However, Ed Balls said that Labour’s Plans to reintroduce the 50p top rate of tax does not mean that the party is against business. Despite this, more business figures have said it is sending the wrong signals. Alistair Darling supported Ed Balls by saying that the timing for making this proposal was right since the General Elections are only about 15 months away. Even though there’s a lot of support for the proposal, Former trade minister Lord Digby called it ‘lousy economics’ in the sense that it might prevent businesses from investing in England.
The Immigration Bill
The Immigration bill was back in the Commons last week and Tory rebels have been threating to reinstate controls over Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants. There’s a big fear among David Cameron and Senior Ministers regarding how the Conservatives react after the European elections. Cameron has become unsure whether the party become unmanageable and more blatantly Eurosceptic following the results of the elections. Many of the Tory rebels are threatening to reinstate controls over immigration because Cameron and Hague though they could park the issue with Europe and they are getting frustrated because Cameron and Hague aren’t doing more to explain what they mean by a renegotiation of power with Brussels.
Lord Rennard Aftermath
Following last week’s Lord Rennard issues, Nick Clegg hopes that mediation is the way they would now solve the issue. He is disappointed by the fact that things have been made more difficult as legal procedures have been brought in by Lord Rennard. In regards to the reputation of the Liberal Democrat party and Nick Clegg himself, he doesn’t seem to be such a strong leader as shown through the way in which he has handled the situation. In addition, the internal procedures that were taken in the party during the last week don’t seem to be fit for a governing party.
Ed Miliband’s Syria success (PMQs)
Last week we saw Ed Miliband pressurising David Cameron into allowing a certain amount of Syrian refugees into entering Britain and despite a disagreement by Cameron who stressed that we were already helping them enough by providing them with aid, the Conservatives still gave in. After Ed Miliband’s demand for Syrian refugees to be allowed in Britain, Home Secretary Theresa May made an announcement stating that hundreds of Syrian Victims, especially fragile victims such as Orphans will be able to come to Britain as refugees.
Miliband’s triumph in getting Cameron to agree and accept his demands regarding the Syrian refugees was evident in his confident and assured demeanour in this week’s PMQs. Not sounding too boastful, he was able to once again act calm and professional while questioning the Prime Minister regarding the 50p tax rate. He was shown as strong and persistent as he continuously asked Cameron to rule out a reduction in the top rate of income tax to 40p, leaving Cameron tongue –tied and embarrassed. So far, we can well and truly say that Miliband has achieved his first big win.
Pick of the Papers (20/1/2014-26/1/2014)
Source: The Telegraph
Politics Topic: Parliament
Summary: After another Conservative MP has announced that she will step down in the 2015 general election, it raises the question why are MPs leaving Parliament. One explanation of this is that while Parliament may look grand on the outside, on the inside it is so dysfunctional that continuing as an MP seems like a real waste of time.
Source: The Independent
Politics Topic: Party Policies and Ideas
Summary: Trying to get back economic policy credibility is a tough job for the shadow Chancellor Ed Balls who has announced that Labour will still make cuts to the budget so per year they will have a surplus budget, which is seen as a toughening of fiscal policy for Labour.
Source: The Independent
Politics Topic: Party Policies and Ideas
Summary: Members of the House of Lords as well as Tory backbenchers are putting more pressure onto the prime minister to accept the United Nations programme and to allow Syrian refugees to come to Britain, despite Cameron wanting to get tougher with immigration laws.
Source: The Guardian
Politics Topic: Parliament
Summary: The bill passed through the House of Commons has not been called a dead parrot, as Labour and Lib Dem peers in the House of Lords delaying the bill passing through as long as possible. Critics to this bill state that the bill is ‘inappropriate, confusing and potentially misleading’ while others say that ‘it’s a government bill trying to patch over divisions in the Tory party and outflank Ukip.
Source: The New Statesman
Politics Topic: Party Politics and Ideas
Summary: Nigel Farage has been found to be unable to talk about Ukip policies and completely bemused by policies which are on the website but unknown to him. This has made the Tories write him off as being incredible but to the voters, this just adds to his image of informality which they pay more attention to than policies.
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