Woodhouse Weekly News Roundup Sunday 22 February 2015

1. Former member of the Labour National Executive Committee Harriet Yeo joins UKIP.
A former chair of Labours’ National Executive Committee has left the party in order to support UKIP in the coming general election, Nigel Farage has announced.ember for eight years and chair in 2012/13. She will sit the remainder of her term as a councilor as an independent, after being deselected as a candidate for the 2015 local elections.

Harriet Yeo, a former president of the TSSA transport union, an NEC member for eight years and chair in 2012/13, is the most senior Labour figure to quit the party in favor of Ukip. She will sit the remainder of her term as a councilor as an independent, after being deselected as a candidate for the 2015 local elections.
However she cited Ed Milliband’s refusal to give Britain a referendum on the European Union as a reason for leaving the party. She is not a member of the eurosceptic party, and is unlikely to run as any sort of candidate, but this will most likely be seen as a serious blow to leader Ed Miliband and his previous assumptions that UKIP are only a danger to the Tories.This high profile defection comes at a time when it is increasingly likely that UKIP may break through in the once-Labour stronghold of the North and win a seat off the party that has no other serious opposition in the area.
In an interesting intervention last month Tony Blair said modern politicians should spend less time attempting to “empathize” with voters who are disaffected and instead show strong leadership.
In response Nigel Farage said “I’m delighted that UKIP can now count upon the support of such respected figure as Harriet Yeo. A life-long trade unionist and Labour Party member ….she is yet another voice calling for Britain to have a choice about its future. We are welcoming support from across the board”

2. Ed Miliband: “Russell Brand is saying what a number of people are thinking”
The Leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband has said the comedian is “saying what a number of people are thinking”.

In an interview with Shortlist magazine he said “I definitely want people to vote – and I want people to vote Labour, obviously – but it’s really important that we engage people in the election. People criticise Russell Brand, and I don’t agree with his message, but what he’s saying, a number of people are thinking. Which is that politics does not feel like it speaks to them.”
Mr Brand, the revolutionary anti-capitalist, with a following of over 9 million on twitter and a net worth of around $15 million, has been criticized for encouraging his (mostly young) following not to vote, due to the untrustworthy nature of politicians.

In an interesting intervention last month Tony Blair said modern politicians should spend less time attempting to “empathize” with voters who are disaffected and instead show strong leadership. He also said that ““I’ve studied a lot of what the Russell Brand stuff really means. But

I suspect if you implemented that, or tried to implement that, I literally don’t know what it means,”

He went on to say “There is a whole swathe of the country that thinks, I elect my government, you guys go and govern. Don’t keep troubling me every three seconds with what I should think or shouldn’t think; they want to see their leaders leading.”


3. Shadow Transport Secretary promises public control of the railways 

Michael Dugher, the Shadow Transport Secretary, has promised public ownership of the railways if Labour were to win power in 73 days time. This would the first act of nationalization of railways by Labour since 1948.
To date, Labour has pledged to allow the public sector to compete with private companies for rail franchises as they expire. But Dugher suggests that the bidding process itself could cease to exist. “Privatisation was a disaster for the railways. I’m adamant about putting the whole franchising system, as it stands today, in the bin,” he tells me. He adds: “The public sector will be running sections of our rail network as soon as we can do that”.
“I’m not saying let’s go back to some sort of 70s and 80s British Rail, I don’t think sensible people are, actually,” he says. “But I think we’ve got to make the starting point that privatisation was a mess, it was botched and what you’ve found is, in a sort of piecemeal way, little changes were made, often in response to horrendous events, whether it was Hatfield and rail maintenance coming back in house, or Railtrack imploding and Network Rail being set up, Network Rail now being on our books, we are dealing with the consequences of one of the worst decisions that any government has made. It’s not going back to a 70s, 80s model of British Rail but I think you can do far more to make some really big changes and that’s why I’m talking about a public sector operator”
Dugher also describes Labour’s plan to establish a new passenger body in unashamedly socialist terms. “I’m going to be honest and proud about this: I want there to be more public control of the railways and we should just say it because, actually, that’s what the public think as well.” Public ownership of the railway is very popular, especially among Labour voters, as this Yougov poll shows
Dugher contrasts the party’s policy programme with that of New Labour: “This is not like 1997, that whole deference to markets and the private sector, that’s gone too.”
Dugher also seemed adamant that the Labour Party were going to get a majority in 73 days time, despite attacks on the left from the SNP and the Green Party.
4. David Cameron plays down prospect of 2016 referendum
David Cameron has downplayed the chance of an early referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union and said he needs time to renegotiate the best deal.

The comments contrast with senior Conservative politicians  and prominent business leaders who have called for an EU referendum in 2016 following media reports that Number 10 was considering the idea.
Boris Johnson, the London Mayor and likely runner for the future Tory leadership, said the Prime Minister should hold a vote next year and “get it done”. John Longworth, director general of the BCC – which represents 92,000 British companies – called last week for the Prime Minister to “bring the referendum date forward” amid fears two-and-a-half years of “uncertainty” could damage businesses who trade with the European Union.

David Cameron stated during a question and answer session in West Sussex, “I think that’s (a 2017 referendum) a better choice, frankly, than saying: ‘Let’s have an In/Out referendum tomorrow.’ The problem with that is you’re really offering people two unappetising choices – stay in on the terms that aren’t quite working for us now or leave all together without having had a proper go at renegotiating something better.”


5. Nick Clegg backs cannabis use for medicinal purposes.

The leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has stated that people should be free to use cannabis to help alleviate medical problems.

It comes after new King’s College London research found the most potent form of the drug – known as “skunk” – was so powerful it tripled the likelihood of having a psychotic episode.

Pushed by a caller if he believe “we need access to legal medical cannabis”, Mr Clegg replied: “Basically I agree with you.”

“I strongly agree with you that where there is a proven medicinal use for cannabis for instance we should make that easier for those to have access to it in a straightforward legal way” He added: “Let’s take a more intelligent approach – where there is a clear medicinal use, make sure you have access to that in a regulated way.”


6. Labour receive money from tax dodging firms

The Labour Party, whose leader seems to have led the moral crusade against tax dodging, received nearly £400,000 from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), an accounting firm who encourage tax dodging. Last week The Commons public accounts committee this month attacked the company for “promoting tax avoidance on an industrial scale”.

The donation emerged in the final round of party political donations published by the Electoral Commission ahead of the general election in May. It was the partys largest non union donation.

The Conservative vice-chairman Bob Neill said: “Labour’s hypocrisy is laid bare. They are only too happy to publicly lambaste companies but in private are happy to benefit from donations from them.”

This comes a week after Miliband called Cameron ” “dodgy prime minister surrounded by dodgy donors”, in a heated dispute during Prime Ministers Questions. The Labour leader singled out Lord Fink in the attack, and called his bluff when asked to retract his comments. Me thinks the lady doth protest too much.


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