The Cabinet: IN or OUT?

After Mayor Of London, MP Boris Johnsons’ announcement today that he would be backing the campaign to ‘Leave’ the EU, this is how the Conservative cabinet shall be voting:

cabinet vote.png

@telegraph

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A Special Status Inside the European Union

After long and agonising talks with other EU leaders in Brussels, David Cameron has finally struck a deal over Britain’s future in Europe.

Shortly after the talks David Cameron said in a press conference that, “I have negotiated a deal to give the United Kingdom special status inside the European Union.”

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council announced the agreement after more than 24 hours of intense discussions over British demands to curb benefits for migrant workers. “Unanimous support for new settlement for the UK in Europe,” he said after a final agreement was signed off at dinner of 28 EU members in Brussels.

Whilst compromises had to be made by Cameron such as restricting welfare payments to Eastern European workers, the deal as a whole will be viewed as a victory for the Prime Minister.

“Britain will be permanently out of ever-closer union, never part of a European super-state, there will be tough new restrictions to our welfare system for EU migrants – no more something for nothing – Britain will never join the euro and we’ve secured vital protections for our economy.”

So what are the key points from the deal:

  • If a bail out is required of another EU member country, the British taxpayer will be reimbursed.
  • British businesses cannot be discriminated against just because they are outside the Euro zone.
  • Safeguards for Britain’s large financial services industry to prevent eurozone regulations being imposed on it
  • the Euro zone cannot act as a block to undermine the single market.
  • the pound will be protected as the EU has agreed there is more than one currency and responsibility for securing the financial stability of the UK remains in the hands of the UK.
  • It will be easier for services industries to compete in the EU and for businesses to access capital, and the EU has given commitments it will establish trade deals with other blocs, meaning a boost to competition
  • On migration, there will be new powers to stop criminals and suspected terrorists from coming to the UK and to deport them if they commit crime.
  • On benefits, anyone coming to the UK from the EU who does not find work within six months can be required to leave
  • there will be an emergency brake that allows the UK to stop paying in-work benefits for seven years, and EU migrants working in Britain can no longer send child benefit home at UK rates.
  • On protections against further union, treaties will be changed so that the principle of an ‘ever-closer’ union will not apply to Britain. This specifically means that Britain can’t be forced into further political integration.
  • It will become easier for governments to block unwanted legislation, If 55% of national EU parliaments object to a piece of EU legislation it may be rethought.

Now all that’s left to do is to start campaigning! The IN vs OUT referendum will take place on the 23rd of June.

Elephants in the Commons

 

On the day of the 2nd strike over the Junior Doctors Contract, not once was it mentioned at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons. David Cameron was subjected to half an hour of questions on the day of the strike but neither he, nor Jeremy Corbyn, nor any backbencher from any party raised the subject.

Questions asked by Jeremy Corbyn were mainly about the housing crisis and especially how young people would be able to afford to buy homes.

The closest any politician came to implicitly mentioning the medics’ stoppage was Corbyn wearing a pro-trade union badge on his label reading “heart unions”. The badge was however a nod towards the campaign to stop the Government’s proposed anti-trade union laws, rather than direct reference to the strike.

There are no urgent questions or statements about the strike scheduled for later today, meaning the main platform for discussing it in Parliament has been missed.

Labour’s lack of will to capitalise on the strike in the Commons comes despite a very high proportion of the public blaming the Government for it. An Ipsos MORI poll for the Health Service Journal found 64 per cent of people believe the Government is to blame for the strike, while 13 per cent say junior doctors are. Whilst according to a poll by Sky News, 74% of people back today’s walkout by junior doctors.

A Department of Health spokesperson said this morning: “This strike is completely unnecessary. It is very disappointing that tens of thousands of patients and NHS staff have been inconvenienced by the BMA.”

Other significant issues that were missed out during PMQs was questions regarding the EU referendum. The topic was ignored by MPs, despite it dominating much of the discussion in Westminster ahead of next week’s crunch EU summit. A subject which in recent weeks’ has dominated news’ headlines was not questioned even once.

David Cameron was not asked about his mother, Mary. Earlier this week it was revealed she had put her name to a campaign against plans by Conservative run Oxfordshire County Council to close a number of children’s centres as a result of government cuts. Cuts introduced by her son. However, again the issue was ignored.

Furthermore, recently published figures have revealed cases where children have been admitted to A&E and were diagnosed with psychiatric disorders – and had also intentionally harmed themselves – has more than doubled since 2011. The statistics show that self-harm among those with mental health problems under the age of 18 rose from 1,098 in 2010/11 to 2,313 in 2014/15. The figures also come as the number of children diagnosed with mental illnesses has more than doubled in five years, and cases of intentional self-harm have also surged. However the topic was not raised by MPs at today’s prime minister’s questions.

David Cameron must think PMQs nowadays are just a stroll in the park. Jeremy Corbyn ought to step it up, if he really wants to see David Cameron begin to wobble.

ISIS are Planning more Mass Strikes in Europe

The terrorist group ISIS are planning more mass strikes in Europe and according to Europol, the law enforcement agency for the EU, Isis has set up secret training camps across Europe to prepare fighters to carry out “special forces style” attacks in the UK or other EU countries.

The international police agency said that the barbaric organisation had “smaller scale training camps in the EU and Balkan countries”. They would include survival training and sports activities to help jihadists prepare for “combat and interrogation resistance”.

And ISIS could be looking to recruit refugees who have fled to Europe to launch terror attacks in the countries that have given them shelter, the agency said.

It emerged last year that remote villages in Bosnia were being turned in to terror training camps by ISIS.

Furthermore, the threat assessment also warned that ISIS has developed a new specialist style”external actions command” to plot and carry out attacks in the West and around the world. The ‘special forces’ style means attacks in the future could be more like the kind that took place in Mumbai in 2008 and also similar to the attacks seen in Paris last year.

The terror group released a new video on Sunday which indicated the UK would be the next target because of its decision to join air strikes in Syria.

The Europol assessment said: “In selecting what to attack, where, when and how, IS shows its capacity to strike at will, at any time and at almost any chosen target.

It also suggested that, after the Paris attacks- where 130 people were killed, there is “every reason to expect that Isis will undertake a terrorist attack somewhere in Europe again… intended to cause mass casualties amongst the civilian population”.

President Putin “probably” approved murder of ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko

Alexander Litvinenko was a former officer of the Russian Federal secret service, who specialised in tackling organised crime. In November 1998, Litvinenko publicly accused his superiors of ordering the assassination of the Russian tycoon and oligarch Boris Berezovsky. Litvinenko was arrested the following March but was later was acquitted and then re-arrested before the charges were again dismissed in 2000. He fled to London and was granted asylum in the United Kingdom, where he worked as a consultant for the British intelligence services.

He wrote two books in which he accused the Russian secret services of staging the Russian apartment bombings and other terrorism acts in an effort to bring Vladimir Putin to power. He also accused Putin of ordering the murder in October 2006 of the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

At a central London hotel on 1 November 2006, he took tea with Mr Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun, who was also a former Russian agent. Mr Litvinenko fell ill soon afterwards and spent the night vomiting. It was established as a case of poisoning by radioactive polonium-210 which resulted in his death on 23 November. It is alleged that prior to his death Litvenko was investigating Spanish links to the Russian mafia and had planned to fly to Spain with former agent Andrei Lugovoi – the main suspect over his murder.

The UK demanded for an investigation, which the Russians denied- resulting in a thawing of tensions between the two countries.

A British public inquiry into the death of Aleksandr Litvinenko, was realeased in which it has accused senior Russian officials of “probably” having motives to approve the murder

The chairman of the inquiry, Sir Robert Owen said, “Taking full account of all the evidence and analysis available to me, I find that the FSB operation to kill Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr Patrushev and also by President Putin.” Sir Robert also added that Litvinenko’s cooperation with the British intelligence services may have been a factor

The Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed the report, blaming London for politicizing the “purely criminal” case of Litvinenko’s death.

According to a foreign ministry spokesperson, the inquiry was “neither transparent nor public” and resembles a “shadow play” because it was “conducted mostly behind doors, with classified documents and unnamed witnesses contributing to the result.”

The public inquiry into the case was launched in January 2015. The case cannot face a formal trial in Britain as the main suspects are not in the UK.

Russian officials, as well as the two men suspected in Britain of killing Litvinenko – Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun – have always denied the accusations.

Commenting on the publication of the report, Lugovoy reiterated his innocence and said, “It happened as we expected it, no sensation here. The result of the inquiry voiced today just confirms the anti-Russian stance of London, the bias and lack of determination to establish the true cause of Litvinenko’s death.”

The enquiry has once again bought to light potential conspiracy theories and accusations surrounding the death of Litvinenko and the involvement of the Russian government. The diplomatic fall-out from the enquiry could derail international co-operation as well as relations between the UK and Russia.

 

How the UK is Helping Saudi Commit War Crimes in Yemen

In just three months last year the UK sold more than £1 bn worth of bombs, missiles and rockets to Saudi Arabia. In comparison, during the previous three months only £9 mn worth of sales were made, which shows more than a hundred fold increase in the amount sold- according to an official record of arms export licences quietly released by the Government this week.

This was despite that there are clear indications that the weapons and arms would have been used by Saudi forces in their battle in Yemen. The Saudi Arabian led coalition, aims to push back Houthi rebels and reinstall the exiled government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi in Yemen. The campaign has been condemned by the United nations who said the region is facing a  ‘humanitarian catastrophe’.

The campaign in Yemen has raised concerned that war crimes are being committed and that it violate human rights. Reports also suggest that civilian targets and aid hospitals, including those ran by Medicins Sans Frontieres, have been targeted.

The UN says more than 7,000 people have been killed in Yemen’s war, including nearly 3,000 civilians. The international body has reported that more than 80 percent of the country’s 24 million people require some form of humanitarian assistance.

However, disregarding the evidence, David Cameron has defended the arms sales to Saudi Arabia, describing the kingdom as a key ally in the fight against terrorism.

“Our relationship with Saudi Arabia is important for our own security,” he told BBC Radio 4 . “We’re trying to do everything we can to make sure that the work done by Saudi Arabia is properly targeted and it’s right that we should do that. We’re working with them and others on behalf of the legitimate government of Yemen.”

Human rights groups have condemned the UK’s role in the Yemen war, and in December, it was found that Britain’s exports to Saudi Arabia was breaking national, EU, and international law and policy. Supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia, who are using them in military intervention and in a bombing campaign is violation of the laws. The UK government, however, insists it is not taking part in the campaign.

Amnesty Internationals head of policy and government affairs Allan Hogarth said., “These figures are deeply worrying, showing that the UK continued to dispatch huge amounts of weaponry to Saudi Arabia despite overwhelming evidence that the Saudi war machine was laying waste to Yemeni homes, schools and hospitals… As officials were signing off these sales, hundreds – possibly thousands – of Yemeni civilians were dying in a terrifying barrage of indiscriminate Saudi air strikes in the country.”

In total British weapons companies have sold more than £5.6 bn worth of arms, fighter jets and other military equipment to Riyadh- according to the Campaign against Arms trade.

For the full analysis by Amnesty International describing the laws being broken by the UK click here.

 

Idris Elba On Diversity

Media is the ‘means of mass communication’. It has an extremely important role in modern day society which aims to effectively represent and link together a source to its audience.

In our multicultural society, one which we should be so proud of, diversity plays an increasingly important role in attempting bridge together societies, cultures and ethnicities. It helps us to learn from each other and make us better, providing new opportunities and planting new ideas. It is now part of the fabric that makes our British society so great.

Idris Elba recently made a speech to Members of Parliament regarding this issue, and in particular within the Media Industry- which I thought deserved to be shared, so here it is:

And here’s the full transcript of the speech: http://www.channel4.com/info/press/news/idris-elba-s-keynote-speech-to-parliament-on-diversity-in-the-media?hootPostID=82edcd8d27c64b8197527ea00e8229a2

Public executions deserve ‘respect’

Public executions for ‘crimes’ such as homosexuality, blasphemy or apostasy, seem only applicable to the teachings and practices of terrorist organisations and cults such as ISIS. And when they are carried out they are rightly condemned by most of the civilised world.

However, one of the Wests’ allies is also culpable for such acts. Saudi Arabia.

Beheadings in the Middle Eastern Superpower are almost as common as parking tickets. According to several groups that monitor the death penalty worldwide, the kingdom executed 157 people in 2015, with beheadings reaching their highest level in two decades. Just 2 weeks ago 47 people in one day were execcuted. Yet, Saudi arabias foreign minister urged Britain to respect the contry’s use of the death penalty.

Adel al-Jubeir, responding to a question over the kingdom’s image problem by saying, “In your country, you do not execute people, we respect it. In our country the death penalty is part of our laws and you have to respect this as it is the law.”

He also suggested, “We have not been good at explaining ourselves, we have not done a good job at reaching out to the British media or to the British public or to the British institutions, academic institutions, think thanks and so forth.

Extra Armed Officers to Tackle Terror

The Metropolitan police recently announced that the number of armed officers in London will be doubled. Before I carry on, it has to be said that we, as a country, should take pride in that the majority of police officers are not armed and are able to tackle crime without violence or harming any one. But, to tackle extremist threats, I whole heartedly believe that this is the right thing to do.

Scotland Yard revealed that there would be an extra 600 armed police in London, so that if an attack similar to Paris in November was to happen the force could effectively and quickly respond. After 130 innocent lives were taken away in the attacks on the French capital it seems an incredibly important measure to take to ensure the safety of citizens in London.

To introduce this, it will cost around £25 million, but will be made available through the existing Metropolitan police budget of £3.2 billion.

But, I feel that increasing armed offices should not be restricted to just in London. The threat of terrorism is being faced across many large cities in the UK and extra support and protection should be made available in those areas as well.

With the threat of violence at a high, it should be paramount that measures are taken to protect us citizens of the UK. And yes, through arming some of our police officers is one way to do this.

93% of the Met Police will still remain unarmed.