- Will Croft elected Leader of the Conservative party
- South Pacific nations agree new alliance to counter China
- Budget 2016: Chancellor faces global slowdown
- Ministers embarrassed by ‘Legion’ leak
BBC News (May 2010-October 2013).
Election 2010: First Hung Parliament in Decades
The Conservatives have won the most MPs in the UK general election but fallen short of a majority, leading to the first hung parliament since 1974. With counting almost concluded, the Conservatives are projected to have 307 seats (including the Speaker), a nominal gain of 109. Labour are projected to have 258, a fall of 97. The Liberal Democrats who had hoped for a significant breakthrough after a strong campaign and the soaring popularity of Nick Clegg, are projected to win 57 seats, a nominal drop of 5.
Elsewhere the Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas won in Brighton Pavillion, giving the Green Party their first MP. The SNP held all of their seats, while Plaid Cymru gained one to take their total to 3.
The battle is now under way to see which leader can form a government. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said the situation was "fluid" but the Tories had the first right to seek to govern.
Mr Brown, has returned to Downing Street with aides and is expected to make an offer to Mr Clegg's to try to form a coalition government.
Conservative leader David Cameron will make a statement at 1430 BST in which he will set out how he will seek to form a government that is "strong and stable" with broad support that acts in the national interest.
David Cameron becomes PM after deal with the Liberal Democrats.
David Cameron has been asked to form a government by the Queen and is officially Prime Minister after making an agreement with Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg. The two have unveiled their policy programme, which they state will create the ‘radical change’ the UK needs. Mr. Cameron says the ‘remarkable’ document combines ‘the best’ of the Tory and Lib Dem manifestos, though policies on both sides have been axed.
He describes it as a blueprint for a ‘radical, reforming’ government, but the Labour Party, who have just faced the resignation of leader and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, state the document ‘raises more questions that it answers’ and ‘barely papers over the cracks.’
The document includes policy areas such as civil liberties, banking, defence, the environment, Europe, immigration, welfare and political reform, some of which the two parties have disagreed with in the past. Mr. Clegg stated the document, titled ‘Our Programme for Government’ would “transform our country for the better.” Though he stressed the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats would fight the next election as separate parties, they would work ‘in partnership’ for the next five years to pursue a ‘radical, reforming agenda.’
Political editor Nick Robinson notes that policies on both sides have ‘mysteriously vanished’: Conservative pledges on the European Union have been watered down to make room for the pro EU Liberal Democrats, with the Conservatives’ proposed sovereignty bill put on the ‘back burner.’ Tory promises to restore national control over social and employment legislation have also been replaced by a more nuanced commitment to ‘examine’ the EU’s existing remit. As have plans to end the so called ‘couple penalty’ in the tax credit system, with plans to ‘reduce’ rather than to ‘end’ it.
Some Liberal Democrat pledges are similarly absent, including a plan to repeal the controversial Digital Economy bill and to fund broadband with a ‘landline tax.’
Robinson said: “Many Labour ministers such as Hilary Benn have said it isn’t long until there will be fundamental disagreements between the Tories and their coalition partners, but so far they have held up a united and stable front. Whether that can last is the question, and if it doesn’t, is the devil in the details that are missing, rather than the details that are included?”
Royal Mail part privatisation.
NHS shake up
‘Free schools’ to be established.
Council tax freeze in England.
‘Flexible working’ for employees
Local spending transparency
License fee to fund broadband.
Anonymity plan for rape accused.
‘Unfair’ bank charges ban.
ID cards scrapped.
Alcohol loss leaders ban proposed.
Political reform including AV referendum.
UK ‘will push EU on CO2 targets.’
Cap on non-EU migration.
Home Information packs ban.
UK death toll in Afghanistan conflict reaches 300
The number of UK service personnel killed as a result of the Afghanistan conflict since 2001 has hit 300, after a wounded marine died in hospital. The MoD said the man, from 40 Commando Royal Marines, died in Birmingham's New Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Sunday. His family has been informed. He had been injured in a blast in the Sangin district of Helmand on 12 June.
The prime minister said it was a moment for the whole country to reflect on the sacrifices the armed forces make. "The 300th death is no more or less tragic than the 299 that came before. But it's a moment for the whole country to reflect on the incredible service and sacrifice and dedication that the armed forces give on our behalf." Mr Cameron said.
About 10,000 British military personnel are in Afghanistan as part of a 45-nation Nato-led force. Mr Cameron, who recently warned the UK to expect more casualties during the summer of this "vital year", acknowledged that many people questioned the country's role.
Some 34 of the 300 deaths have been from accidents, illness or non-combat injuries. Another 1,282 UK military and civilian personnel have been wounded in action since 2006, including about 388 who suffered serious or life-threatening injuries. Of those, 120 lost limbs. The Ministry of Defence has no clear record of how many casualties there were before then, although statistics show 10 were seriously hurt.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox said the UK's resolve to see through the mission and prevent the creation of a "security vacuum" in Afghanistan remained "steadfast". The British deputy commander of the Nato-led force, Lt Gen Nick Parker, said individual tragedies must not be allowed to affect the mission's plan. "What people want is definable progress so that we start to bring sustainable security to Afghanistan, and that's what we're doing," he told the BBC.
However, shadow foreign secretary David Miliband said the government must have a "clear strategy" to bring the conflict to an end. "That can't be done by military means alone. It needs a political settlement," he added.
Labour MP for Newport West, Paul Flynn, told the BBC it was a "complete myth" that fighting in Afghanistan could stop al-Qaeda. "They already can work in those areas where the Taliban occupy in Afghanistan. We're only there in a small area, and they can also operate in Pakistan, and in the Gulf, and in north Africa."
Cameron announces he wants Afghanistan troops home by 2015.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said he wants troops home from Afghanistan by 2015. Speaking from Canada, he told reporters that there was ‘no doubt’ he wanted to see troops home by the next General Election due in 2015. Despite this, ahead of talks with US President Barack Obama the Prime Minister told Sky News he preferred not to deal in ‘too strict timetables.’
307 UK forces personnel have died since the Afghan mission began in 2001.
During the election campaign, Mr. Cameron said he would like to see troops brought back during the course of this Parliament. Interviewed in Canada, where he will participate in the G8 and G20 summits, Mr. Cameron said: “We can’t wait five more years, having been there for nine already. One thing we must be clear about - Britain should have a long-term relationship with Afghanistan, including helping to train their troops and civil society long after the bulk of troops have gone home.”
His aides insisted his comments did not suggest a new timetable for bringing troops home. BBC political editor Nick Robinson said while there was insistence the remarks did not indicate a new policy, the Prime Minister’s statements ‘his mind is on how and when we bring British forces out of Afghanistan.’
Mr. Cameron spoke as four UK soldiers who died in an accident in Afghanistan on Wednesday - the latest British fatalities there - were named by the Ministry of Defence. Pte Alex Isaac, Pte Douglas Halliday and L/Cpl David Ramsden were travelling in a Ridgeback armoured vehicle when it left the road and landed in a canal.
US President Obama wants a US drawdown of troops to begin next summer, though US General David Petraeus, who replaced sacked commander of multinational forces Stanley McChrystal - insisted that has to be based on conditions on the ground. Asked about Mr. Obama’s preferences, Cameron insisted he did not ‘deal in too strict timetables’ but wanted to get on with bringing ‘some stability’ in Afghanistan so it could be autonomous and troops could come home.
In an interview with Canadian broadcaster CBC, Mr. Cameron said he wanted a ‘proper review’ of progress done towards the end of the year, continuing with: “I want this to be done, as far as possible, on the basis of success rather than lines in the sand and dates, but I am pushing very hard to get everything done so this can happen.”
The Prime Minister said there were ‘three main aims’: ensuring the troop surge works and counter insurgency continues “full steam ahead”, training the Afghan army and police and achieving the political settlement needed with the elements of the Taliban that wanted to lay down their weapons. “Get those three things right and the timetables are realistic,” he conceded.
Around 10,000 British soldiers are based in Afghanistan, many fighting a counter insurgency campaign in the southern Helmand province. Ministers say it is crucial to Britain’s own security to ensure ‘a stable enough Afghanistan’ to prevent it again becoming a haven for those who ‘want to carry out attacks like 9/11.’
VAT up to 20% and spending cut in emergency Budget
Chancellor George Osborne increased VAT from 17.5% to 20% and cut welfare spending as he moved "decisively" to tackle Britain's record debts. Child benefit and public sector pay will be frozen and 25% cut from public service spending - but alcohol, tobacco and fuel will escape tax hikes.
Unveiling his first Budget to MPs, Mr Osborne said "tough but fair" action on debt was "unavoidable". But Labour said it was "reckless" and would "throw people out of work". Acting Labour leader Harriet Harman said Mr Osborne's budget would stifle growth and hit hardest "those who can least afford it".
It represents a major departure from the previous government's economic policies, with business leaders saying they hoped it would be a "defining moment" in Britain's economic recovery. But trade unions have warned hundreds of thousand of jobs could be lost in the public services, potentially wrecking local economies and sparking a "double-dip" recession.
Setting out his plans in the Commons, Mr Osborne said "decisive" action was needed to prevent a "catastrophic collapse" in economic confidence but stressed it would be done in a "fair" way with the better-off shouldering most of the burden. "Everyone will pay something but the people at the bottom of the income scale will pay proportionately less than those at the top. This is a progressive Budget," he said to jeers from Labour MPs.
UK households, on average, will be about £400 a year worse off, Budget documents suggest, with the poorest 10% losing £200 and the richest £1,800, although the poorest will be hit harder than most as a percentage of their income.
Mr Osborne vowed to balance Britain's books within five years, with the bulk of the savings to come from cuts to benefits and public services rather than tax increases.
Tax credits will be cut for families earning more than £40,000 a year - and there will be a two year pay freeze for public servants paid more than £21,000. Those earning less will get a £250 rise for two years.
Giving her response to Mr Osborne's statement, acting Labour leader Harriet Harman poured scorn on the Liberal Democrats for providing a "fig leaf" for their Conservative coalition partners, arguing "this reckless Tory budget would not be possible without the Lib Dems. Their leaders have sacrificed everything they ever stood for to ride in ministerial cars and to ride on the coat tails of the Tory government," she added.
Ed Miliband is elected leader of the Labour Party
Ed Miliband has won the Labour leadership after narrowly beating brother David in a dramatic run-off vote ahead of the party's conference. Ed won by just over 1% from former foreign secretary David after second, third and fourth preference votes came into play. He said a "new generation" had taken charge of Labour and it had to change. Ed Balls was third, Andy Burnham fourth and Diane Abbott last in the ballot of MPs, members and trade unionists.The former energy secretary appears to have benefited from a last-minute surge of support before voting in the postal ballot closed on Wednesday. Older brother David won a majority of support from Labour's MPs at Westminster and party members, but Ed was ahead among members of trade unions and affiliated organisations in Labour's electoral college voting system.
In his victory speech, he vowed to unify the party, telling delegates: "The Labour Party in the future must be a vehicle that doesn't just attract thousands of young people but tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of young people who see us as their voice in British politics today." He paid tribute to his predecessors Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, but added: "We lost the election and we lost it badly. My message to the country is this: I know we lost trust, I know we lost touch, I know we need to change.
Under Labour's complex electoral system, voting power is divided equally between three sections: MPs and MEPs, affiliated organisations including trade unions and ordinary party members. If no single candidate secures 50% or more of the first round vote, the last-placed contender is eliminated and the second preferences of their backers are redistributed. The elimination process continues until one of the candidates reaches 50% or more, potentially ending, as in this case, as a head-to-head fight between two of them.
After four rounds of voting Ed Miliband won with 175,519 votes, while David Miliband received 147,220 votes.
Vote 2011: Lib Dems collapse as AV is rejected and SNP win majority
Counting in local and devolved elections have concluded alongside the referendum on adopting the AV voting system.
The Liberal Democrats suffered severe losses, losing control of 9 councils and losing 748 councillors across England. Labour were the primary benefactors, gaining 857 seats and taking control of 26 additional councils. The Conservatives ended the night with a net gain of 86 seats and 4 councils, most of their gains came at the expense of their coalition partners.
The terrible performance, combined with the comprehensive defeat of the Alternative Vote system has led to some calls for Nick Clegg to resign as Lib Dem leader. The AV system was rejected by a margin of 67.9-32.1%.
In devolved elections, the SNP gained enough seats to form Holyrood's first majority government. The Labour Party gained 2 seats in Wales to leave it one short of an absolute majority as the Conservatives overtook Plaid Cymru to form the official opposition in Wales.
There were limited successes for the Green Party who increased their number of councillors by 14 to bring the total to 79. The BNP lost all but 2 council seats that they held prior to the election.
The London Riots: Aftermath
Riots in London and around the country saw widespread looting and buildings set alight. Dozens were left homeless after a night of riots on the streets of Tottenham after a peaceful demonstration on the 6th of August over the death of a man who was shot by police turned violent. The riots began after Mark Duggan, 29, was shot dead by police at Ferry Lane, Tottenham on the 4th of August. On the following Saturday, 300 people protested outside of Tottenham police station demanding “justice” for Mr Duggan.
The violence began that evening as bottles were thrown at two patrol cars close to the police station. One of the vehicles was set alight, while the other were pushed into the middle of the road before also being torched. Unconfirmed reports say the incident was sparked off by a confrontation between a teenage protester and a police officer. Riot officers from the Territorial Support Group and police on horseback were deployed to disperse the crowds but came under attack from bottles, fireworks and other missiles.
Violence then quickly spread across the country, including Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham. Courts began to remain open through the night to fast track convictions following arrests made.
As of the 12th of August the Metropolitan Police say 1,103 people have now been arrested in connection with the riots and 654 people have been charged.
Greater Manchester Police said they had so far made 147 arrests and more than 70 people had already gone through the courts. Merseyside Police said they had made 77 arrests and charged 45 people. West Midlands Police said 445 people had been arrested and Nottinghamshire Police said they had arrested 109 people and charged 69.
DPM promises ‘fundamental reform.’
MPs debated the fixed term Parliaments bill, which was introduced on Thursday and is widely expected to pass. The bill would mean that General Elections occur every five years on the first Thursday in May, rather than a date chosen by the Prime Minister. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is overseeing the coalition’s constitution reform programme, said the legislation showed: “fundamental reform of our politics is finally on the way.”
He added: “The coalition government is determined to put power where it belongs - with people. You will decide how you want to elect MPs. By making constituencies more equal in size, the value of your vote will no longer depend on where you live, and with fewer MPs the cost of politics will be cut. And, by setting the date that Parliament will dissolve, our Prime Minister is giving up the right to pick and choose the next general election - that’s a true first in British politics.”
Labour has tabled an amendment which would change the terms from five years to four, though this is largely expected to be rejected, with the proposals being met with strong opposition from Conservative MPs. The Liberal Democrats criticised the Labour Party’s ‘politicking’ in regards to the bill, stating the party “supporting constitutional reform when in opposition, but quashed it when in government.”
UK economy shrinks in last few months of 2011
UK economic activity shrank by 0.2% in the last three months of last year according to official figures.
The Chancellor, George Osborne, said the figures were disappointing but not a surprise. "They are not entirely unexpected because of what's happening in the world and what's happening in the eurozone crisis," he said. "The truth is that dealing with those problems is made more difficult by the situation in the eurozone."
Ed Balls MP, Labour's shadow chancellor, said the fall in GDP was linked to the government's cuts in public spending, which was curbing domestic demand: "The British recovery has been stalling since the government's spending review in the autumn of 2010, but now the economy has gone into reverse. By clobbering the economy with spending cuts and tax rises that go too far and too fast, the government has left us badly exposed if the eurozone crisis deepens this year."
Salmond calls for independence referendum in 2014
Alex Salmond has said he wants to hold an independence referendum in Scotland in the autumn of 2014. The Scottish first minister said this date would allow people to make a "considered" decision on the country's future within the United Kingdom. The news came as the UK government said its Scottish counterpart could not legally go ahead without its authority.
Prime Minister David Cameron has warned that uncertainty over Scotland's future is damaging its economy and all three Unionist parties - the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats - have called for any referendum vote to be held as soon as possible. In a statement to MPs, Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said it was the government's "clear view" that the power to hold a referendum was "reserved" to Westminster under laws passed in 1998 paving the way for Scottish devolution and the Scottish government could not authorise a referendum on its own.
Mr Moore said the UK government was not suggesting a date for the poll in its consultation but it would recommend a single Yes or No question - rather than a third option which has been floated by the SNP involving increased financial powers for the Scottish government short of full independence.
Miliband brands Budget an “omnishambles”
Ed Miliband has attacked the decision to cut the 50p top rate of income tax and freeze personal allowances for pensioners as the Government’s Budget rapidly comes under fire from many corners.
"This Budget comprehensively fails the test of fairness and it spectacularly fails the test of competence," he said. "Over the last month we have seen the charity tax shambles, the churches tax shambles, the caravan tax shambles and the pasty tax shambles. This really is the omnishambles budget.”
The government has rejected the charge, saying: "This Budget cut taxes for 24 million people, this Budget cut corporation tax, this Budget made Britain competitive."
The Budget has come under controversy with substantially downgraded growth forecasts and a number of unpopular decisions, including cutting the top rate of income tax to 45p, freezing the age-related personal allowance - known as the granny tax - and extending VAT to reheated foods - known as the pasty tax.
Election 2012: Roundup
Both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties have suffered losses across the country in the wake of the council elections. As counting finished, the Liberal Democrats suffered devastating losses alongside their coalition partners. The Conservatives however did manage to hold on to the London Mayoralty, with Boris Johnson edging out Ken Livingstone by 3%.
In England Labour had a good night, gaining control of 22 councils and over 500 councillors at the expense of both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems. The Conservatives lost over 300 councillors and 10 councils, while the Liberal Democrats lost 190 councillors and one council.
Meanwhile, in Wales Labour made substantial gains at the expense of the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru who lost control of their only council. In Scotland both the SNP and Labour made gains, but the SNP have the most councillors in Scotland.
In London Boris Johnson beat Ken Livingstone in a run-off by 3% as the Green Party candidate Jenny Jones finished third ahead of the Lib Dem candidate.
London 2012: How the world saw the Olympics
David Segal, The New York Times: “The Games have hit this country like an extra-strength dose of mood enhancing drug. The question being asked here is whether this national euphoria can last or, better yet, lead the country out of its economically driven malaise. Perhaps, as one writer for The Guardian wrote, the Games can symbolise an end to Britain’s age of decline.”
China Daily: “Despite concerns about the creaky transport system and a shortfall of private security guards, which forced the government to call in thousands of troops, the Games have passed by fairly trouble free. A furore over empty seats at several Olympic venues blew over, especially once the track and field showcase kicked in and drew capacity crowds for virtually every session. Even the weather improved as the games went on: bright sunshine has graced the closing ceremony of a festival that has helped lift spirits in Britain.”
Ma’ariv, Israel: “The London 2012 games have been all an Olympics can be: a celebration of all that is good, beautiful, uniting and gladdening.”
David Pilditch, Daily Express: “A great British celebration crowned a magnificent fortnight which has put a proud host nation on top of the world. Our greatest team of athletes led from the front, winning an astonishing 29 gold medals - Britain’s biggest hall in more than a hundred years. But it was ordinary British people who turned London 2012 into an unprecedented spectacle with their passion and generosity of spirit.”
Cahal Milmo and Jerome Taylor, The Independent: “After 16 days of sporting heroism which made London the centre of the world, the curtain fell on the Olympics last night with a display of exuberant - at times anarchist - revelry that had but one message: ‘Goodbye world, we hope you had as good a time as we did. Now lets dance.”
Fraser Nelson, The Spectator: “Normally, government chokes the life out of any arts project it takes on and I’d expected the Olympic stadium ceremonies to be the Millennium Dome Live. How wrong I was. The gathering of the thousands of athletes reprised the theme of the opening ceremony: that this is about people, not the massive Chinese style display of state power.”
President Obama: “I want to offer my congratulations to the Prime Minister and the people of the United Kingdom and London on an extremely successful Olympic games, which speaks to the character and spirit of our close ally. I also want to commend the exception performance of both the US and Great Britain and want to note how proud of them we are. I thank the Prime Minister for hosting so many US athletes and for the warm welcome shown to the First Lady.”
Russian Ambassador to the UK, Aleksander Yakovenko: “Our opinion is that there were more pluses than minuses in the Games and their organisation, and the assessments given by President Putin when he was here in London and took part in a number of events still stand. In a word, it was not bad. What impressed everyone, what was really moving, was of course the work of volunteers. They were very welcoming, very professional and tried their best to help literally everyone in the city.”
Tom Newton Dunn, The Sun: “The lights are going out all over East London, we will not see them lit again. But we will always remember the greatest ever Olympics.”
Comedian, Simon Pegg: “What a brilliant and inspiring couple of weeks. Well done to everyone involved, competitors, organisers and volunteers. Nowt but love for ya.xx”
Comedian and broadcaster, Stephen Fry: “Waaaah - sobbing like a baby. Dear oh dear. Seb for next President of the IOC. If not General Secretary of the UN. #2012closingceremony.”