BBC News (2001-Present)

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BBC News (2001-Present)

Post by Alexander 'Alec' Dundas »

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Re: BBC News (2001-Present)

Post by Barclay A.A. Stanley »

Blair Gets the Boot!

2001

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The most popular Labour leader in decades couldn’t hold together the fragile alliances he had built.

Tony Blair, the most popular Labour figure since Nye Bevan, has resigned as Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party after a tumultuous year which saw him sack his chancellor, Gordon Brown, and come under heavy fire in parliament for the appointment of his friend and ally, Peter Mandelson, as CEO of the Millenium Project.

In a statement delivered in front of Number 10 this morning, the beleaguered Prime Minister said that he was resigning “on the advice of close friends and colleagues” and that his “continuation as the leader of the Labour Party threatened to jeopardize all of the progress we have made.” He also spoke to defend his record or modernizing the Labour Party, but admitted that he had perhaps moved “too quickly… too suddenly” when asked by a Guardian journalist what he believed to be the greatest faltering step in his leadership.

“We moved at great pace in the modernization of our party and there were elements who were not ready to move with us. Perhaps we moved too quickly or, rather, too suddenly,” said the Prime Minister who was visibly shaken. “I should, perhaps, have moved at a slightly more moderate pace -- though I do believe that my record is one to be proud of and that the New Labour party is a modern and fresh one.”

The news of Blair’s departure has come as a sigh of relief to Gordon Brown and his acolytes whose divorce from the Prime Minister was public and acrid. The BBC reached out to the former Chancellor for comment, but could not be reached, but his ally, and Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, Sir Jack Anderson, struck a conciliatory tone, saying “while I understand him to be a somewhat divisive figure in and out of the Labour Party, Mr. Blair was a towering figure in British politics who had won two General Elections for the Labour Party. There is a big void left with his resignation, and I hope the party takes the time to think clearly about not just what it has gotten right, but where it has been led astray in recent years.”

Blair reportedly met with his closest allies late last night to discuss his future. Reports from inside the meeting indicate that the Prime Minister sought to fight back against a “lacklustre defense of [Mandelson]” but was advised that he may not be in the best position to fight back. “Tony was ready to fight, but we thought, under the circumstances, that the New Labour project could be better served by a clean slate,” said one source on the condition of anonymity.

Sustained Pressure from Both Ends

The Prime Minister’s decision to sack his Chancellor was, perhaps, the first in a series of decisions which left the Labour Party with no confidence in their leader, but the straw which broke the camel’s back appears to be the Conservative Party’s motion on the House Floor criticizing Blair’s penchant for hiring his friends to lucrative government positions. It is not strictly the Conservative Party which has engaged in pressing the government on the Mandelson appointment, however. Even the Prime Minister’s closest allies were tepid in their defense of Mandelson, preferring to launch a counter-attack against the Tories’ record rather than defending their own leader’s.

Among the Labour left, there were even more vocal and incisive criticisms. James Doherty, a member of the Socialist Campaign Group and open critic of the New Labour movement, was not shy in his comments about Blair’s departure. He said he “welcomes the announcement of Blair’s departure.” He went on to say that, under Blair, “we haven’t seen the radical change our society needs. I have been especially disappointed with the policy of PFI among other things, including benefits and Europe, and the attempts by the leadership to diminish the left within the party.”

Outside of party politics, Blair sustained further criticism over his crony appointment with former Creative Director of the Millennium Project, Stephen Bayley, calling Mandelson “reminiscent of an East German Stalinist” in his leadership style, and the outgoing CEO, Jennie Page, lashing out at the government, and particular Mandelson himself who was, at the time, a Minister-Without-Portfolio, for “politicizing the Millenium Dome Project.”

With attacks from within his own party, and from trusted and noteworthy independent public servants, it seems the writing was on the wall for Blair. One of his closest allies, Dame Caroline Blakesely told the BBC that “there comes a time when the individual must put the good of the nation ahead of their own: that is where Tony is. In just seven years, he led Labour out of the wilderness and put Britain on the path of recovery after eighteen years of Tory failures. Now the task is ours to continue the New Labour project in a meaningful way: delivering results for the British people, ensuring opportunity for our children, and building the nation we aspire to be. Tony’s legacy will live on in the shape of the country this Labour government continues to build and his work will endure.”

Next Steps

With Blair set to potentially lose the motion in the House, his resignation renders the political fallout of such a vote inconsequential. The Labour Party will now move to elect a new leadership team, with rumours indicating that notable Brown ally Dr. Mary MacAndrews appears to have secured a not-insignificant level of support from the parliamentary party. Challenges may be mounting, however, from the fledgling Socialist Campaign Group whose chances of winning, though slim, are bolstered by the Labour Party’s three-fold system.
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Re: BBC News (2001-Present)

Post by Barclay A.A. Stanley »

Tragedy at St. Pancras International

2001

Emergency crews were busy at work at St. Pancras International Train Station today, after a man in his middle ages fell under a train and was killed. The man has been identified as jovial and popular Liberal Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy.

Kennedy has been credited with keeping the Liberal Democrat party united by sheer force of character as two sides geared up for a battle over the soul of the party. In the early morning, Kennedy was seen staggering on the platform before falling onto the train tracks and being struck by a moving locomotive. He died instantly.

No word has yet been given from the federal headquarters of the Liberal Democrat party about how they plan to deal with the fallout from the tragic scenes, but internal sources reveal that party President, Navnit Dholakia, is anxious to find a new leader. "I have to admit, we were not prepared for this eventuality, how could we be? But we will carry on, in order to present Britons with a third choice, an alternative to the Tory-Labour dichotomy," he said.

Sir Bryant Wolfe paid tribute to his fallen leader, saying "Charlie was a dear friend and colleague to me and a great leader of our party. May he rest in peace."

An investigation has been opened by London Police and the railway authority into the cause of the incident.
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Re: BBC News (2001-Present)

Post by Alexander 'Alec' Dundas »

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Hague steps down as Tory Leader

William Hague, the Leader of the Conservative Party, has resigned with immediate effect following rumours of 'gay past' after 'explosive' revelations in Michael Portillo's new book.


July 2001

After a short announcement today outside the Carlton Club, William Hague announced that he was stepping down as Leader of the Conservative Party. This follows a week of torrid speculation about Mr Hague's sexuality, stemming from leaked passages that have been pre-emptively sent to the press from Michael Portillo's new autobiographical book, where -it is claimed- that Mr Hague and Mr Portillo would visit 'homosexual establishments' in Soho frequented by the 'gay Tory magic circle' during the latter years of the Thatcher Government. Michael Portillo was famously subject to 'Portillo Moment 2.0' when he failed to clinch the Tory nomination for the safe seat by election in Kensington and Chelsea, losing out to maverick right-winger Peter Hitchens in 1999 - effectively ending his hopes of a return to Parliament.

Portillo's failure to win over Tory activists has in no small part been put down to his own admission of homosexual experiences when a younger man, with many shocked by his self 'outing' in the national press, Tory MPs at the time were incredulous by this apparent act of self sabotage. But Portillo's political allies have maintained that his loss to Peter Hitchens came straight from Smith Square - claims that Hague's silence over the contest were the nod and wink to party members that they ought not select, someone, in the words of Mr Hitchens himself: 'a moral degenerate'.

This revelation by Michael Portillo was at first dismissed by Tory spinners as the work of a bitter loser, but over the course of the week the frenzy and storm that the allegations of Mr Hague's homosexuality have created ultimately proved too much for the Tory Leader.

Despite being the nation’s most precocious political talent, having memorably addressed the Tory conference as a 16 year-old in 1977, Mr Hague has always displayed a certain naivety about how others see him, typified by his boasts about 14-pint drinking sessions and his insistence on wearing baseball caps.

One of his oldest friends, the financier Guy Hands, believes the rumours about Mr Hague’s sexuality grew out of nothing more than the fact that he had close friends at Oxford who were homosexual, and championed their rights while at university. Mr Hands told Mr Hague’s biographer: “Certainly in the 15 months that William lived in my house in Nelson Street [Oxford] I didn’t see that William’s sexuality was anything but heterosexual, and indeed never have since. “Although there were pockets of gay activity that coalesced around the Oxford Union (of which Mr Hague was president) and the Oxford University Conservative Association, William was not associated with them.”

Mr Hague did have girlfriends at university, but friends said he “wasn’t particularly sexually driven” and was subjected to innuendo because of the fact that he shared a house for a time with the openly homosexual Alan Duncan, who later became a parliamentary colleague.

When Mr Hague became an MP at the age of 27 and a minister in 1995, aged 33, the rumours persisted, largely because of his bachelor status. Shaun Woodward, who quit the Tory party in a row over gay rights and joined Labour, was reported to have told colleagues Mr Hague could never be Conservative leader because he had a “gay past”. During Mr Hague’s successful leadership campaign in 1997 he decided to confront the issue, telling MPs he would not have run for leader if he had been homosexual (thus offending homosexuals who inferred that he was saying a gay man could not be a party leader).

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph at the time, he described the rumours as “water off a duck’s back” and said his friends knew the claims were ridiculous. Even so, he had to endure suggestions that his engagement to Ffion in 1997 was somehow a contrivance, and even after the wedding he was repeatedly asked about his sexuality. On ITV’s This Morning in 1998, he was asked by Richard Madeley: “What about this rumour that you were gay that went around for two or three years? It seems to have gone on until you actually got married. Does that disturb you?”

Reaction to the resignation of Mr Hague from within the Conservative Party has been sombre, with most Tory MPs fully expecting Hague to continue in post after severely denting Labour's majority at the last election. Daniel North told BBC reporters outside the Commons: “William has led our party extremely ably over the past four years, and the entire Conservative movement owes him a debt of gratitude for his devoted efforts in holding this government to account. His reported personal indiscretions are regrettable, and not characteristic of the man I know and have served with. Unfortunately, the news of such indiscretions would cast a dark shadow over the Conservative Party and distract from the important issues of the day. William has therefore made the right decision in choosing to stand down as Leader of the Opposition, but I wish him and his family well". Likewise Sir Tristan St. John said:"Even if there's any truth to these rumours at all, what William Hague does with his private life would still be his own business. Nevertheless, though I am sad to see him go, I do see that it might be a bit of a distraction to have these rumours bandied about, and I am glad that he has taken his responsibility there. After all, the leader of the Conservative Party must be one who can be fully committed to the cause. I hope the next leader will continue and reinforce Mr Hague's push for sensible policies, and restore our staunch commitment to British values, among which are tolerance, freedom and decency."

From the hard right Monday Club, Mrs Beauvais-Becker broke ranks with a highly inflammatory statement which will undoubtedly earn her few friends in the parliamentary party, but may just be what the Tory Association faithful want to hear: "I have called for William's resignation for party purposes but this is cherry on the top frankly. In my editorial I was talking about Conservatives abandoning moral duties and frankly if rumours are true this is just yet another example of it. I don't care about what someone does in their bedroom but those who engage in immoral actions should not be expected to hold frankly high office, we have to clean our house first before we move on to Labour's sleaze."

No one in the Conservatives seems to have a clear idea of what'll follow next from William Hague's resignation, in many ways he has kept the Thatcherite flame burning with the significant gains made at the last election and there are those who think it would be unwise to shift course now from what appears to be a winning strategy. Yet the fact remains that the arithmetic in Parliament puts the Tories on a par with Labour's 1983 results, and nowhere near Government - something which must undoubtedly play on the minds of Tory MPs.
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Re: BBC News (2001-Present)

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CHARLES TREVORROW BECOMES LIBERAL DEMOCRAT LEADER

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Charles Trevorrow (right) can be seen here at an event called “Ruskin and a reading”.

Charles Trevorrow, the Liberal Democrat MP for Truro and St Austell, has taken over as the leader of his party. Backed unanimously by colleagues on both wings of the party, he will now preside over the largest number of Liberal MPs in the modern era.

Having previously served as President of the Lib Dems, and more recently as Chief Whip under the late Charles Kennedy, the Cornish MP is well integrated with the inner workings of the party and is expected to use this to his full advantage.

He is seen as a fierce defender of St Austell and the wider Cornish region, which has filtered through to the local level. Residents in Truro celebrated Trevorrow’s victory in the contest by thronging to various pubs on the high street.

Trevorrow comes from a working class background, having previously worked as a railwayman and a brewer.

The leadership election arose after the unfortunate death of former leader Charles Kennedy, who was recently hit by a train on his way home from Westminster. Tributes have poured in from colleagues on all sides of the House, with both major party leaders noting his compassion and drive to deliver a fairer, freer society.

Charles Trevorrow will have face a BBC interviewer this Thursday at 18:30pm
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Re: BBC News (2001-Present)

Post by Barclay A.A. Stanley »

Lockhart Locks in Deputy Leadership After Dull Campaign

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Amelia Lockhart is the Labour Party's new deputy leader and the first female to hold the office in Labour Party history.

The 65-year-old Member of Parliament for Great Grimsby is closely associated with outgoing-leader Tony Blair and appears to be the continuation candidate for the New Labour brand. In a speech given earlier in the campaign, Lockhart told the crowd that she would "[defend] our record in government" and be the chief cheerleader for whomever was elected to lead the Labour Party.

The result was comprehensive. Among the Unions, Lockhart took 60%; among the Parliamentary Party, she secured 63% votes; and of the party membership, she won 63%. This is being trumpeted as a firm reaffirmation of New Labour's position within the party in spite of the recent troubles sustained by Tony Blair; but some in the Labour Party are laying this at the feet of a poor performance from Laski, rather than a full-scale endorsement of the New Labour project.

"When we look at it, we have to say that Laski has failed the working people of this country," says dockworker and Salford resident, Aiden O'Toole. "We counted on him to really bring the fight to the white-collar infiltrators of New Labour and he just didn't show up. It's no wonder that Lockhart got all those votes: she went out to get them, while Laski stayed at home. Maybe it is true that once the powers and trappings of a job in London get into your brain, you loose touch. I'm just gutted."

Tailor and mender, Rita McNeil, of Ellesmere Port and Neston, said that she was on the fence when the leadership was announced, but soon realized that she had to vote for Amelia Lockhart. "Well I were not quite sure when they announced it because I am working class; but once the campaign sort of unfolded and I didn't hear anything from Mr. Laski, I couldn't possibly vote for him. I needed to be sure that whoever I voted for would continue to work hard and keep the Tories out. New Labour might not be my cup of tea, but they're better than the Tories, I suppose."

Regardless of how it came about, the overwhelming result for Lockhart sees her take on the mantle as Deputy Leader beside either Scottish New Labourite Dr. Mary MacAndrews or Socialist Campaign Group stalwart, Jack Wright. Questions remain unanswered as to whether or not Lockhart will be able to make good on her promise of defending the leader's record should Mr. Wright win the job and find himself in Number 10.
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Re: BBC News (2001-Present)

Post by Barclay A.A. Stanley »

Croft By a Crumb

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The Conservative and Unionist Party has elected a new leader. Late into the night, volunteers counted ballots after what was an incredibly contentious leadership election for the country's right wing party. Members who were present at the convention centre were up well past midnight waiting for results after a tight vote. Finally, the party's Chairman, David Davis, emerged from within the shadows and made the announcement.

"Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the wait. I am pleased to announce, as Chairman of the Conservative and Unionist Party, the results of the 2001 leadership election:

Number of ballots cast: 138,000

BEAUVAIS-BAKER, Cosette: 64,860
CROFT, William: 73,140

I am therefore pleased to announce that Mr. William Croft is the new leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party."

Rapturous applause erupted from a segment of the crowd. Notably, however, a sizable minority within the crowd booed and jeered the new leader. This division among the ranks was perhaps predictable, given how tumultuous some of the campaigning had been between the right win Beauvais-Baker, and the softer Thatcherite, Croft; but it is nonetheless jarring for a newly-crowned leader to face open hostility from the crowd.

The BBC interviewed members from both camps before and after the results came through. Here are some snippets of what they had to say:

Mrs. Gloria Maclesfield, a resident of Woking and supporter of Cosette Beauvais-Baker, said "well I'm gutted, aren't I? We had one chance to surely save the pound and put in office a serious, no-nonsense leader and we ended up with a clown. Oh sure, he looks good and he sounds good. But so did Tony Blair. I'm very worried, very worried about what the future holds for this country under MacAndrews or, God forbid, that socialist bloke, when William Croft is what we have standing between us and them."

Mr. Peter Stokely of Hertfordshire South West told us that he was "over the moon, really" about Croft's election. "It isn't so much about their policies-- I honestly think Cosette had some very sane, common sense ones-- but it is about their style. Mrs. Beauvais-Baker would have made me a laughing stock at my club. I know Croft can be a little bit over-rehearsed, but at least he isn't talking pejoratively about 'bent city consultants' whom I consider very close friends."

Young Conservative member from Henley, Martin Coombes (16), said that he was "beyond excited" to see a young, fresh face in charge of the Conservative Party. "Will is exactly what we need: a breath of fresh air, a modern style. He is a strong leader and I think we will see the Tories charging up in the polls."
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Re: BBC News (2001-Present)

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MacAndrews Wins Race to Become New Prime Minister

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Dr Mary MacAndrews, the MP for Edinburgh Central, has beaten rival Jack Wright in the battle to become Labour’s new leader - and Britain’s new Prime Minister.

Labour leaders are elected by an ‘electoral college’ of three different parts - the Parliamentary Party (MPs and MEPs), Affiliated Unions, and the party membership. Each is weighted to one third of the total result.

In a hotly contested fight, the Education Secretary secured 69.9% of the total vote, edging out the left wing backbencher in all three of the colleges. This represents a bigger mandate than outgoing leader Tony Blair, though the anti-left vote fell slightly amongst the membership.

MacAndrews is an ally of former Chancellor Gordon Brown, who was at the heart of the spat that signalled the beginning of the end for Blair. The incoming Labour Leader has previously hailed Brown as the “true leader of the labour movement”. It seems, therefore, that the party is shifting marginally towards the left - but not in a rebuke to the Blair-Brown platform. The scale of this win is evidence that Labour will not be abandoning the beliefs of their double election winning team, despite poor results at the last European Election.

But the news is not all doom and gloom for the Labour left. Though hammered in the PLP section, where Wright received just 28 votes out of a maximum 376, he performed surprisingly well amongst the membership - receiving 73,960 votes (43%). This is a significant consolidation of the anti-centrist vote, hoovering up most - if not all - members that had backed Margaret Beckett and the late John Prescott in 1994.

Dr Andrews has an important task ahead of her in transforming the public’s opinion of the Labour party. Despite the 1997 landslide, many voters switched sides to the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives earlier this year - and it remains to be seen whether this trend can be reversed. But she has indicated that she is going to meet this challenge, telling BBC Newsnight that she wants to “be Prime Minister to deliver the change this country sorely needs.” Support for the NHS and other key public services are expected to make up the backbone of her domestic programme.

Full results are below.
Full result:

MP/MEPs:
- MacAndrews; 92.6%
- Wright; 7.4%

Unions:
- MacAndrews; 60%
- Wright; 40%

Members:
- MacAndrews; 57%
- Wright; 43%

Overall:
- MacAndrews; 69.9%
- Wright; 30.1%
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Re: BBC News (2001-Present)

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United States to continue pursuit of missile shield

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United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced that the United States intended to move forward with further testing of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system in the coming days. "We intend to continue the development of our independent missile defence system in light of rising concerns regarding the nuclear programmes of rogue states," said Mr Rumsfeld at a Pentagon press briefing.

As he prepares to leave for Moscow for discussions on nuclear policy, Mr Rumsfeld stated that the United States wished to deploy ballistic missile defence systems due to the risk of proliferation of nuclear weapons by rogue states. "This is something that Russia should stand with us in supporting. In ten years time, they'll be praising advances made in missile defence."

The United States proposal for a missile defence system runs afoul of the Antiballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972. The United States has indicated that it intends to withdraw from the Cold War-era treaty in order to deploy its missile defence system in Alaska and California. Under the terms of the treaty, both the United States and Russia are allowed one missile defence system. Russia deploys its system around Moscow, whereas the United States deploys its missile defence system to protect part of its ICBM force.

"The United States hopes for a broad agreement with Russia on offensive nuclear forces and defensive systems," said Mr Rumsfeld. US diplomats repeatedly stated that it hopes to see a reduction of strategic nuclear weapons in concert with the Russia, while allowing for the deployment of limited missile defence systems.

During his travels, Mr Rumsfeld will speak at NATO headquarters, briefing European leaders on the United States missile defence and nuclear modernisation plans. Part of these modernisation plans will likely include an extension of the lifetime of the D5 (Trident II) missile, which is currently deployed by the United Kingdom as part of its independent nuclear deterrent.
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Re: BBC News (2001-Present)

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Rebecca Flair wins snap Liberal Democrat leadership election

Rebecca Flair, the Liberal Democrat MP for Gordon, will replace the late Charles Trevorrow as party leader, after winning an unopposed race.

The ex-solicitor becomes the third Liberal Democrat leader in as many years, as the party struggles to cope with the loss of two of its leading lights. She is a so-called “Orange Booker”, coming from the right of the party. This marks a change from Trevorrow, who favoured centre-left Beveridge politics.

Flair is a relative unknown outside of the Westminster bubble, having been an MP for just four years – and never having sat on the Liberal Democrat front benches. Amongst lobby journalists, the fierce Scottish MP is speculated to move away from the “Breakthrough Tour”, and instead focus on devolution and economic liberalisation.
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