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BBC News (October 2013-)
Macmillan becomes PM
The leader of the Conservative Party, Dylan Macmillan, has been appointed Prime Minister following his unexpected victory in the Conservative Party leadership race. After meeting the Queen in Buckingham Palace, he delivered a speech outside of Downing Street - pledging lower taxes, especially for the poorest and investment in the NHS. He said:
"It is my intention to meet today and in the coming days with the leaders of opposition parties to seek to form the working majority required for government to continue. I am willing to negotiate in good faith with these other parties in an attempt to find an agreement to prevent the necessity of a General Election but that does not mean I will pursue a deal at any price. The arrangement going forward must work for the British people first and foremost, that is my aim, the Government is the people’s servant not their master."
Macmillan has consistently been seen as an underdog and rebel in the Conservative Party, with his result being seen as a shockwave for British politics and the political establishment despite being polled as a popular figure amongst the British public. He was suspended from the Conservative Party after hinting that a leak during the first Conservative leadership election that plagued the Cambel campaign and the Conservatives thereafter had come from the Cambel campaign itself, and has since campaigned on issues controversial within the Conservative Party such as Lords reform.
After the collapse of the coalition and Cambel's resignation, Dylan Macmillan was allowed back into the Conservative Parliamentary party where he put his name forward to be Conservative leader. Despite his popularity, it was expected the leadership would fall to William Croft. Dylan Macmillan won the contest with 52.9% of the vote.
Despite the victory for Macmillan there have been significant challenges faced. Professor Robert Hazel told the BBC that, with the Fixed Terms Parliament Act, we are in an "extraordinary constitutional pickle we haven't been in in a long, long time." Macmillan signalled on the steps of Downing Street that he would be in talks with other parties in order to seek a Parliamentary majority.
Macmillan also faces challenges from within his own party, where he is a more divisive figure. A group of Eurosceptic backbenchers have formed a 'pressure group' called the 'Greater Britain Committee' (GBC). Though it has a series of aims and pledges, it is largely seen as being a pressure group on the issue of Europe and an anti-Macmillan force within the party.
Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC's political correspondent, says this on Macmillan becoming Prime Minister:
"There are few political rollercoasters like it. The Tory outsider, not even accepted in his own party a month ago, is now wandering the halls and corridors of Downing Street. Macmillan and the supporters of his kind of politics will be elated, but there are many challenges ahead and the Prime Minister may need to pack his bags before he's even changed the curtains - something he has tacitly accepted in his very first speech.
The first problem is forming a majority after his predecessor left the coalition in tatters. There are a few routes to this, but whether any of the parties are interested in playing ball is another matter. If this government loses the upcoming vote of no confidence and cannot form a majority from then on, the Conservatives face an election which - even with any polling boost Macmillan can provide - they seem destined to lose decisively. Macmillan may have had his moment of glory, but from here on he looks stuck between a rock and a hard place.
This is further compounded by problems within his own party. Though most Conservative members approve of Macmillan - a majority having voted for him - he is a much more controversial figure in his own ranks due to allegations he was seen to have made against the outgoing Prime Minister, rumours of planned defection or party splits and some controversial policy positions within the party that Macmillan has aligned himself with.
This has been evidenced by the formation of the Eurosceptic grouping 'Greater Britain Committee' by right wing Conservative backbencher James Rackham - they're not a majority of the Conservative Party, but they're a sizeable and powerful chunk. The warning shot to Macmillan couldn't be louder. Trouble has brewed further with leaked alleging the Conservative leadership contender, William Croft, had encouraged his own supporters and campaigned behind the scenes for Dylan Macmillan. This has been rubbished, however, by the supposed Eurosceptic Defence Secretary Ewan McLeod. It does seem that Macmillan's dealings so that he can secure the power he has rallied against for so long has removed a little of his shine, with his pledge for a free vote on a referendum in the next Parliament seen as a U-turn amongst many of those sympathetic to him. Has Macmania faded already? Is he a rebel without a cause? In the next few weeks, we'll just have to wait and see."
UK Ravaged by Floods
In a bid to mobilise support, a 'major incident' has been declared by two councils - Somerset county and the Sedgemoor District - as rain continues to fall and floods have worsened. It is known that the two have requested the use of the armed forces to help those that have been cut off. Angry residents have criticised a failure to dredge the nearby rivers, and government paralysis following the coalition breakdown.
Stormy weather has 'wreaked havoc' throughout January, with a combination of high winds, rain and strong waves battering the coastline and causing inland flooding. Homeowners on the Somerset inland have been evacuated, with the landmark rock arch in Cornwall being reduced to rubble and a rock stack on the coast of Portland, Dorset, known affectionately as the pom pom rock locally, being washed away.
It is estimated that up to 100,000 homes have been left without power across Southern England as a result of the flooding. It is estimated that the cost to affected areas could be as high as £100 million over the next 20 years.
Mia Smith, a resident in Somerset, told the BBC: "This is an absolute disgrace. We've been warning the Environmental Agency of the consequences not dredging the rivers could have for too long and they've sat on their hands. This has been made by the fact politicians are completely able to get their act together. I know people who have lost their homes while politicians are just sitting around and arguing about Europe or elections. They need to get their act together and help us."
"Conclusive evidence" Cambel personally responsible for Tory leadership leak, investigation says
The independent investigation into the leaks that plagued the Tory leadership and led to a dogged scandal overshadowing Mary Cambel's short time as Prime Minister has concluded. In a sensational report, the law firm Slaughter and May said that there was "conclusive proof" that the former Prime Minister had personally authorised and conducted the leak alongside the former Chief Whip and Attorney General, Harold Saxon; and that the document leaked was a "fabricated ruse" that was never intended to be party or government policy.
According to the report, the leak was referred to only as "Operation Icarus" and was intended to undermine the campaign of Deborah Carpenter, who they saw as the most dangerous challenger in the race, by attempting to implicate now Prime Minister Dylan Macmillan as the culprit as well as draw sharp attention to the candidate's actual economic policies. The report said that great effort had been taken to cover the involvement of both Mary Cambel and Harold Saxon, who both wrote and then leaked the false document, but that neither had been able to keep the issue entirely hidden.
Nick Robinson responded to the report by confirming that the leak had come directly from Mary Cambel to him, and saying that now he was freed from BBC constraints on revealing sources that the former Prime Minister had "played a dangerous game" with BBC impartiality. "I came very close to believing it was more in the public interest to disclose the source of the leak, even though I had been put in a position where it could mean the end of my career," he told the Today program.
The report also said that there was circumstantial but not conclusive evidence that both had then taken further measures in government to keep the scandal under wraps; including the appointment of Michael Kirton MP to lead an investigation and improperly redacting and keeping from the rest of government papers and information that implicated them.
The report will come as a blow to the Conservative Party who will hope now to put the issue behind it, but will also be a personal vindication for the Prime Minister - who was one of the first to suggest that there was more to the leak than met the eye.
The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg said the following:
The Conservatives will hope this shocking revelation puts an end to what has been an utterly bizarre saga of leak, accusation, suspension, cover up, and resignation. That wish probably won't come true quite yet, and the fallout over revelations of so-called 'Project Icarus' will almost certainly run for a few days yet. What remains to be seen will be how new Prime Minister, Dylan Macmillan, who I am sure will be feeling at least somewhat vindicated today, reacts. He will want to put the sorry saga behind him, but whether that means clemency or returning the favour and suspending the culprits remains to be seen.
BREAKING: Parliament approves early election without division, polling day set for 10 April
Parliament approved the Government's motion for an early election today unopposed, after which a polling date of 10 April was set. The motion means that the government can approve an early election outside of the normal five year cycle set out in the Fixed Terms Parliament Act.
Alongside this MPs approved a number of bills and votes in what is known as "wash up", where outstanding and essential business is concluded before Parliament dissolves. MPs approved legislation to authorise preparatory spending on the HS2 rail link and a caretaker Budget to permit the government to continue to collect income tax.
The election, called a year early, is expected to be close, with opinion polls suggesting the Conservative Party and Lib Dems will lose seats but that no party will necessarily have an overall majority.
Election 2014: Labour largest Party in bitterly divided Parliament
Labour emerged as the largest party after yesterday's General Election but will be unable to govern alone after a surge in support for minor parties left no party in Westminster with an overall majority. The results are the most divided Parliament in nearly 100 years.
Labour Party 9,514,986 (30.7%, +1.0%) (284 seats, +26)
Conservative Party 9,423,856 (30.4%, -6.5%) (265 seats, -42)
Liberal Democrats 5,041,807 (16.3%, -7.3%) (50 seats, -7)
Scottish National Party 965,189 (3.1%, +1.4%) (27 seats, +21)
Plaid Cymru 178,078 (0.6%, +/-) (3 seats, +/-)
UK Independence Party 4,064,517 (13.1%, +10.0%) (2 seats, +2)
Green Party 1,003,212 (3.2%, +2.3%) (1 seat, +/-)
Swing from Conservative to Labour of 3.8%
Both the Labour and Conservative Parties were the unhappiest with the results, with the election a significant blow to their normal hegemony over seats and votes. Labour, which had hoped to get an overall majority only a few months ago, made significant inroads in England and Wales - nearly enough to win an overall majority - but fell sharply in Scotland, with the pro-independence SNP becoming the largest party north of of the border.
The Conservatives have recovered markedly over the last few months but will inevitably be frustrated that they are just out of reach of being able to form a government. Even a revival of the previous coalition government would be out of reach of a majority and would have to rely on several other smaller parties to win votes.
The Lib Dems staged what was perhaps the most significant recovery, with predictions earlier in the year that they could lose more than half of their seats unfounded. The party even made some gains across the country, with a particularly shocking gain in the three-way marginal of Watford. Most of their losses were in Scotland, where they too lost seats to the SNP surge - although they did manage one pickup from Labour in Edinburgh. The Lib Dem position was shored up by a decent campaign focussed on their key defences, and by the fact that many of their vulnerable seats in England are vulnerable to the Conservatives rather than Labour.
But the real story of the election was the meteoric rise of UKIP, the SNP, and to a smaller extent, the Green Party. Because its vote is so dispersed, UKIP gained only two seats in Thurrock and Shrewsbury; but came within touching distance of third place. The SNP catapulted to first place in Scotland, winning the most seats, in a development which will have unclear implications for the imminent independence referendum.
Laura Kuennsberg had this to say:
This election will have shaken Westminster politics to its core. For Labour, they will almost certainly lead the next government but will probably not be able to implement the radical agenda its leader has fought on. For the Conservatives, the euroscpetic wing of the party - the so-called GBC - has already said it will not try and depose Dylan Macmillan but will be looking at that UKIP vote and those UKIP seats and think that something has to give. And the Lib Dems are in possibly the most unusual position, kingmakers - or should I say, queenmakers - again. But almost definitely forced to put into No10 a Prime Minister who has defined herself and her Party so completely in opposition to the policies pursued by the coalition they were just a part of.