1. Party Political reactions to the Charlie Hebdo attacks
On Wednesday the 7th 2 masked gunmen burst into the offices of French Satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people, including the magazine’s editor in chief Stéphane Charbonnier (known as Charb). The attacks have shocked millions around the world. Here are the party political reactions.
1a) Conservative Party
The Conservative Party leader David Cameron is set to join Francois Hollande and 40 other world leaders in a solidarity march for the 12 people killed which is set to get a turnout of close to 1 million. In Wednesdays PMQ’s David Cameron said “I’m sure the whole house would like to join me in condemning the barbaric attack on an office of a magazine in Paris…. I know that this country stands united with the French people in our opposition to all forms of terrorism and we stand squarely for free speech and democracy. The Home Secretary Theresa May is scheduled to meet Bernard Cazeneuve (The French Interior Minister) to discuss the threats posed by terrorism to European Security.
1b) Labour Party
In Wednesdays PMQ’s the Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband joined the Prime Minister in condemning the attacks stating “I join the Prime Minister in expressing horror and outrage about the unfolding events in Paris. We stand in solidarity with the people of France against this evil terrorist attack by people intent on attacking our democratic way of life and freedom of speech”
1c) Liberal Democrats
Nick Clegg came under fire on LBC from a caller claiming that foreign policy may have been to blame for the attacks. The Man described as “Omar from Croydon” said that the cartoons were just “the straw that broke the camels back,” The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg replied”‘I cannot express to you how strongly I disagree. There can be no excuse, no reason, no explanation.They have killed cartoonists who have done nothing more than draw drawings which they happened to find offensive. At the end of the day, in a free society people have to be free to offend each other.”
Nigel Farage has been accused of exploiting the tragedy in France for political gain after saying the attack was a result of a “gross attempt at encouraged division that we’ve had in society for the last few decades in the name of multiculturalism” and that there was a “fifth column” living in Britain and France who “hate us”. He also denied that the attacks were a good reason for political union between European countries. David Cameron has criticized Nigel Farage for making “political arguments” so soon after the attack
2) David Cameron debates
David Cameron has signalled that he would not appear in televised election debates between the leaders unless the broadcasters altered their planned format, asking that the Greens be allowed to take part.
He challenged Ofcoms ruling of the Greens as a small party, in an interview ITV news in an interview “The Greens are polling ahead of the Liberal Democrats; to me that makes them a serious party.”
This surprise support for ideological rivals has surprised many, and Nigel Farage and Ed Miliband have both accused him of not wanting the debates to happen, the latter stating “What’s now clear is that David Cameron is trying to find any excuse to stop these debates happening. The Prime Minister should stand on his record and stop running scared. He wants to avoid these debates at all costs”
This decision came shortly before he refused to take part in an online debate with Bite the Ballot, an initiative aimed at engaging the youth vote. The public perception of these choices among many seems to be that he is a weak leader unable to defend his record in government in this, most crucial general election for the Conservative Party.
3) Tory MP’s demand Chilcot report published before General Election
A group of MP’s including former shadow- Home Secretary David Davis and former Liberal Democrat Coalition Minister Norman Baker are aiming to crystallize the growing pressure on the Inquiry to publish the report on Britain’s involvement in Iraq without further delay
The Inquiry was scheduled for release by early 2014 but it has run behind schedule and it although it is “nearly finished”, the timing as to when to publish it is with the Prime Minister. There are now concerns as to whether publishing it right before a General election is appropriate, this being an election in which many MP’s who voted for the war are seeking re-election, and which the Labour Party as a whole is aiming to move away from the New Labour image left by Tony Blair.
Mr Davis said : “It is an independent inquiry but at the end of the day it is Parliament that effectively voted on this decision [to go to war] and Parliament is still concerned over whether it made that decision on the basis of accurate information.”
He added: “It is Parliament that rejected the call to bomb Syria last year, at least in part as a result of concerns over this judgement being got wrong in the past. Until we hear from Chilcot it is going to be very, very difficult for us to make these judgements in the future.”
Other members of the group include Labour MP’s Fabian Hamilton and Kate Howey.
4) Labour Party aims to fix a crisis in the NHS
The campaign for the general election has begun, with early posters from the Conservative Party focusing on the “Road to recovery” and Labour focusing on an “NHS in crisis”. The leader of the Scottish Labour Party Jim Murphy has stated he will use funds from the Mansion Tax, 95% of which come from the South East of England alone, to fund 1000 more nurses for Scottish hospitals. This is far more than the SNP will be able to pledge because they are not a UK-wide party and will not be able to acquire funds from the whole of the UK, unlike Labour.
This arrangement has been described as a “win-win” for Scotland, however London Labour MP’s such as Diane Abbott, who has described the plan as “unscrupulous” and a plan to “expropriate money from Londoners to win an election in Scotland.”. This announcement from Jim Murphy came shortly before David Cameron accused Miliband of wanting to “weaponize the NHS”, as Jim Murphy seems to be doing.