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  1. Question Time Where is Question Time? Question Time takes place on Discord. Who can I ask questions to? That general depends on whether you are a backbencher or on the frontbench. If you're a backbencher (regardless whether on the Government or Opposition side of the House), you may ask parliamentary questions to any Minister (even the Prime Minister). You can only have 3 outstanding questions across all Ministers at any time, with a maximum of 1 question outstanding per Minister. If you're on the Official Opposition frontbench, you can only ask questions to your opposite number. The same rule of 3 outstanding questions applies, but now they can all be to the same Minister. If you shadow multiple departments (including via NPCs), you are allowed up to 3 outstanding questions to one minister and 5 outstanding questions total. If you are the leader of a minor party, you are allowed up to 6 outstanding questions total and may have up to 3 outstanding questions to one minister. If you're a Government frontbencher, you can't ask questions at all; you can only answer them. How long do ministers have to answer questions? Ministers must answer questions within 72 hours. If they miss the deadline, the questioner may raise a Point of Order so Mr. Speaker can yell at them. Stronger punishments may follow for repeated late responses. It is courteous, but not required, for a questioner to give the Minister a reminder when there's less than 24 hours to the deadline. If the Minister is unavailable (perhaps due to a player's registered absense), it is the responsibility of others in the Government to organise someone to stand-in within the deadline. What if I don't like the answer I get? As in real life, the Speaker has no power to police the responses given by Ministers. If you don't like the answer the Minister gives (perhaps you feel that they didn't actually answer the question), there's no point in raising a Point of Order as the Speaker won't do anything about it. You should find a different way to make your feelings known instead. Urgent Questions What are Urgent Questions? Urgent Questions are special questions that are conducted live on Discord. Government ministers must answer questions in real time and not with a 72 hour delay. Per the House of Commons, "to be judged as ‘urgent’, a question should relate to a very recent or imminent event or development on which a minister may reasonably be expected to provide an answer that day. The matter raised in the question must be important in terms of public policy, and must have more than a local or temporary significance." Topics covered by urgent questions might include: Questions related to current scenarios that are unfolding. Questions relating to government policies that have been announced in the press but not in Parliament. Scheduling an Urgent Question: Backbench MPs and shadow ministers may petition the Speaker for an urgent question on Discord (in the #house-floor channel). In making their request, the MP should specify the topic of the question and the minister whom they believe should answer the question. If the Speaker approves the urgent question, an agreeable time between the MP requesting the question and the minister will be found for a live event. In the event that the minister is not available within 24 hours of the question being granted, the Government will be asked to provide a replacement minister (this can be an NPC junior minister if necessary). Note: if you say you're not available and then Mr Speaker sees you posting all over Discord, he will be most displeased. Running the Urgent Question: Once a question is approved and a time agreed, the questioning will start on Discord. The Speaker will call the MP who requested the question to ask their question. The Speaker will then call on the minister to answer. The MP who requested the question will then be allowed at least two and up to four follow up questions depending on the time available. If the minister is still available, other MPs may be allowed to ask questions at this time. This is a fluid and flexible situation. At the end of the period, the Speaker will thank the minister for their time and the urgent question will end. Live Prime Minister's Questions What are Live PMQs? Like urgent questions, Live PMQs are live events conducted on Discord and are designed to simulate RL PMQs. The Prime Minister (or their designee) must answer questions in real time and not with a 72 hour delay. When are Live PMQs? Live PMQs are scheduled by the admins alongside the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition. The schedules of the third and fourth party leaders are also considered. There will be several announcements by the A-Team on Discord once Live PMQs are scheduled. How do they work? Once a time is announced, MPs will be able to sign up to be placed on the Order Paper and ask a question. If you are not free during the scheduled time, you may submit a question to a member of the A-Team in advance, who will ask it on your behalf. If you are a frontbencher and want to ask a question, you may do so via an NPC (either asking it yourself live or submitting it to a member of the A-Team). In general, the following schedule is used for Live PMQs: A backbench MP is called upon to ask "Question 1" followed by their actual question. The Main Event: The Leader of the Opposition asks the Prime Minister six questions. The Leader of the Third Party (currently the SNP) asks the Prime Minister two questions. A guaranteed question for the Leader of the Liberal Democrats. Questions from backbenchers and NPCs will take place throughout. Often players from all parties will come to support their leaders through in character reactions and roleplay (such as jeering, waving the order paper, shouting things, and so on and so forth). It's a fun event for everyone involved!
  2. At this time we are allowed players to join the two major parties: the Conservatives and Labour. Here you will find a brief description of the two major parties and the factions that make them up. ----- Labour Party: 316 seats Labour is the United Kingdom's centre-left to left wing party. More importantly, it is a party in transition. Once dominated by its right wing during its years in government (1997-2010), Labour found itself slowly moving leftward until 2015, when it stepped on the gas with the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. While the left wing of the party, consisting of the Socialist Campaign Group and Momentum, isn't particularly large in the Parliamentary Labour party, it has a history of influence in the party writ large and grew in size in the recent election. Of course, that the right wing continues to dominate the parliamentary party with some representation from the centre left has caused plenty of strife in recent years. Ideologically, Labour varies between social democracy (Labour to Win), democratic socialism (Tribune Group), and socialism (Socialist Campaign Group). The exact location of Labour on the spectrum is up to you to decide. Today, the Labour Party finds itself in an ideological conundrum. Core groups of the party disagree in regards to the direction that the party should take with regard to Brexit. Likewise, pundits and politicians can't agree on the cause of Labour's recent election win. Was it a triumph of socialism (the opinion of the left) or a rejection of Theresa May and her leadership style (the opinion of the right)? More importantly, with little experience governing, will the left wing of the party be able to bring forward an agenda that actually gets enacted? Factions of the Labour Party Labour to Win: The right of the Labour Party. In pretty much all of Labour's history, there's been a 'right' in some variety who have identified as socialist revisionists or shed the socialist label entirely, though they hit their peak during the New Labour period and controlled the party relentlessly from 1994-2015. The Corbyn years have been rough on Labour's right, but they're still around. They believe in equality of opportunity and not of outcome, using market economics to achieve social goods, being tough on crime and a pro-European and an Atlanticist foreign policy. In recent years, they've separated themselves into two groups: Blairites: A relatively new and modernising force in Labour's history, Blairites were a product of the Thatcher revolution within the Labour Party and are the ideological descendants of Tony Blair. They believe in the power of neoliberal economics and globalisation as forces for social good, are keen supporters of the EU and are strong proponents of public sector reform. Good modern examples include Liz Kendall, Wes Streeting and Ian Murray. Brownites: Much more rooted in Labour's traditional Old Right, Brownites are the evolution of Labour's 'Old Right' in the post New Labour period and are the ideological descendants of Gordon Brown. They wouldn't have admitted to it in the 2000's, but they have a lot in common with Blairites. Notable divergences include Brownites being much more relaxed with Labour's Trade Union link, much more sceptical view towards Europe and much more cautious approach to public sector reforms. Good modern examples include Yvette Cooper, Tom Watson and Rachel Reeves. Tribune Group: Garden variety Labour. If you throw yourself into any period of Labour history, the Tribune group is, if not the dominant force within Labour politics, they're a dominant force within Labour politics. They're broadly everything you would associate with being 'centre left' - believers of gradual reform to establish a strong public sector, strong welfare state and protections for workers and the most vulnerable. They're sceptical of conservative and market forces and tend to take more socially liberal positions. They can be divided into these subgroups: Labourites: The garden variety of the garden variety. 'Mainstream Labour', so to speak. Labourites are basically what you would get if you produced a generic Labour MP. They're favourable to the public sector and investment and are often rooted in the Trade Union movement, but are staunch reformists and democrats who are as sceptical of Labour's more strongly left wing elements as they are its more pro-market wing. Good modern examples include Andy Burnham, Sadiq Khan and Ed Miliband. Open Labour: A new name for a very old Labour tradition - Open Labour represents the 'soft left' of the Labour Party. They identify as being on Labour's left but disagreements in the 80's led them to separate themselves ideologically from Labour's 'hard left'. They support public ownership, Trade Unions and a high tax, high investment economy - but identify as having a more pluralistic, more pragmatic politics than their more left wing counterparts. Good modern examples include Louise Haigh, Angela Rayner and Anneliese Dodds. Blue Labour: You could also debatably put them in the hard left or the right of the Labour Party too: Blue Labour is the awkward uncle of the Labour Party, supporting a staunchly left wing, communitarian, anti-globalist economic approach but forging it with a uniquely conservative social approach: they're proper eurosceptics, unashamedly tough on crime, defence and immigration and are deeply patriotic. Good modern examples include David Lammy (if you ignore his Europhilia), Lisa Nandy (if you ignore her liberalism) and Jon Cruddas (the best Blue Labour torchbearer in the PLP). Socialist Campaign Group: Labour's infamous "hard left." They've always had an enduring, dramatic place in Labour's history, but have tended to be on its fringes. Their most notable, if only, period of real power has been between 2015 to present, when Jeremy Corbyn shockingly took the leadership and seized the Labour party's machinery in the process. The Socialist Campaign Group are sceptical of imperialism and Atlanticism and support nationalisation to create a socialist command economy which promotes social justice. They can be divided into these subgroups: Bennites: The classic hard left we know and love (or for many, hate). They split from the 'soft left' in the 80's and have had a more marginal place in the Labour Party ever since. They passionately support anticapitalism, a command economy, an anti-imperalist foreign policy and of course stronger Labour Party democracy to boot. Good modern examples include Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Ian Lavery. Momentum: A much newer tradition in the left that has come about as younger millennials and gen z'ers have found their place in left wing politics. Like Brownites and Blairites, the Old Left and the New Left share a lot in common. Unlike Brownites and Blairites, the Old Left and the New Left are not as aware or caring of those differences. In contrast with their more old school counterparts, the New Left are much more pro-EU, more interested in constitutional reform and are passionate about climate and identity politics. Good modern examples include Diane Abbott, Clive Lewis and Dawn Butler. Conservative Party: 268 seats The Conservative Party is Britain's centre-right party, often lauded as the "natural party of government" - though this moniker is up for debate in the 21st century, particularly in light of recent events. The past nine years of government were turbulent for the Conservative Party: David Cameron moved the Conservatives to the liberal conservative centre ground and then Theresa May moved them in a more working class direction. Of course, the entire direction of the party was muddled by Brexit, which made odd bedfellow of everyone involved and threatened to tear the party apart. So where are the Conservatives now? The good news is that the party has yet to tear itself apart over Brexit, having largely aligned itself behind Theresa May's Lancaster House speech setting out her red lines. The bad news is that the Tories are set to return to Opposition after the 2017 election, in which a series of unfortunate events saw them fall behind Labour in terms of seats. May's working class conservatism seems to have won the party some support in the North of England, whereas some of the younger set in the South of England have moved to other pastures. Where the Conservatives go from here is up for debate. Factions of the Conservative Party Cameroons: The Cameroons are the coalition put together by former Prime Minister David Cameron during his decade at the head of the Conservative Party and currently make up the largest single group in the Conservative Parliamentary Party. Depending on who you ask, this is the segment of the Conservative Party that is probably closest to the opinions of those who vote Conservative. The 2010 and 2015 manifestos offer a good representation of the views of this group. There are two wings that make up the Cameron coalition: Bright Blue: Could also be described a "Liberal Democrats who wanted to be successful in politics", these are Conservatives that are predominantly socially liberal and believe in the importance of investment in public services and international development. They include environmentalists, largely opposed Brexit, and promote social justice. Prominent examples of Bright Blue MPs are Justine Greening, Sarah Wollaston, and Heidi Allen. Tory Reform Group: Traditional, One-Nation Conservatives, these are the MPs who are socially moderate (maybe slightly centre-right) and believe in fiscal responsibility ("austerity was a necessary choice") and growth as a precursor to everything else (strong growth as the foundation for strong public services, as an example). The TRG like reliable services, but don't necessarily believe they need to be entirely public (competition in the NHS or academies being prominent examples). Some examples of TRG MPs include George Osborne, Nicky Morgan, and Jeremy Hunt. Maybots: The smallest group in the Conservative Party, the Maybots (alternatively, Red Tories) had potential to grow had Theresa held on longer. As a result of being small, it doesn't really have any subgroups. The Maybots represent a a working-class conservatism openly critical of the "cult of individualism" and globalization. What does this mean? While socially conservative, tough on crime, opposed to uncontrolled migration, and Euroskeptic, this wing of the party is more likely to support economic intervention (like a living wage), oppose individual tax cuts (and the bootstraps theory) as a means of stimulating growth, and prioritise social justice to a degree (or, in May's own words, work to confront the "burning injustices" in society). The Maybots may represent the views closest to the general population and is best summarised by the 2017 manifesto. Some examples of Maybots include Theresa May (obviously), Iain Duncan Smith, Esther McVey, and Damian Green. No Turning Back: The No Turning Back Group represents that traditional, Thatcherite right of the Conservative Party. No Turning Back probably represents the faction in the Conservative Party that is closest to the opinions of Conservative Party members. While it hasn't been in charge of the Conservative Party since the 1997-2005 era, the basic tenants of this faction can be derived from the publications of the Cornerstone Group, the Centre for Policy Studies, and the Institute for Economic Affairs. One can think of the No Turning Back Group has having three distinct subgroups that, for our purposes, make it up: Faith, Flag, and Family: The traditional social conservatives of the Conservative Party, they back socially conservative reforms and are unapologetically tough on crime (and immigration). They support a strong central state (just say no to devolution, keep power in Westminster), a strong national defence, and a robust foreign policy. Prominent MPs associated with this group include Christopher Chope and, to some extent, Nadine Dorries and Priti Patel. Free Market Forum: For the free market right, the priority for these MPs are low taxes, more deregulation, less government, and promoting free market principles. Privatising public services is welcome here, as is reducing the size of government and "government handouts". These MPs are closely affiliated with the Institute for Economic Affairs - famously a think tank that drove Thatcher's economic policy. The Free Marketers in the Conservative Party include Liz Truss, Kwasi Kwarteng, and John Redwood. European Research Group: The Euroskeptic right that played a key role in the referendum and Cameron's demise, the priority for the European Research Group is a clean break from the European Union - a hard Brexit as it were. Prominent ERG members include Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker.
  3. Andy


    Nurses set to strike over pay The RCN said the current pay award leaves an experienced nurse more than £1,000 worse off in real terms, describing it as "a national disgrace". Nurses have voted to strike over pay, in the first walkout by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in England and Wales in their over 100-year history. The RCN announced that 84% of votes were in favour of action, on a turnout of 73%. The RCN also confirmed that it has increased its industrial action strike fund to £50m, up from £35m, to provide financial support towards lost earnings during strikes. The college had called for a pay rise for nursing staff of 5% above RPI inflation, which is currently 11.8%, but have also suggested a deal matching the 12% pay rise offered by the government to teachers. The government had previously announced a pay award that the RCN said leaves an experienced nurse more than £1,000 worse off in real terms, describing it as "a national disgrace". Pat Cullen, RCN general secretary, said: "Nursing staff will stop at nothing to protect their patients. Staff shortages are putting patient safety at risk and the government's failure to listen has left us with no choice but to take this action. A lifetime of service must never mean a lifetime of poverty. Ministers' refusal to recognise the skill and responsibility of the job is pushing people out of the profession. The government must change course urgently."
  4. Andy


    Migrant support groups resume legal challenge against ‘pushback’ tactics Human rights organisations have restarted their legal efforts to block the Government from turning back boats of migrants in the Channel. Freedom from Torture, Care4Calais and Channel Rescue filed the case, alongside the Public and Commercial Services Union, who represents Border Force workers. They argue that the policy to redirect boats carrying refugees back into French territorial waters is unlawful. The four claimants originally launched their judicial review in December 2021, but halted it following confirmation in April this year from Home Office lawyers that the policy had been withdrawn, just days before the first hearing was due. Last month, a Royal Navy ship pushed 27 dinghies back into French waters, signalling that the policy was back in place. Explaining its legal move to block the proposal, Kim Bryan, a Channel Rescue volunteer, said: “We believe this policy is life-threatening, inhumane and unlawful. It is outrageous for the Home Office to have suddenly reinstated it, just months after abandoning it in the face of our legal challenge.” As well as changing the policy itself, the law firm Reed Smith LLP, acting on behalf of Channel Rescue, has asked the government to publish its “pushback” plan for transparency. The claimants argue that the policy has no legal basis in law, and is also in contravention of several UK laws, international treaties and common law principles. The Home Secretary, Juliet Manning, told the House of Commons that she is confident that the Government’s actions are fully compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights and the principle of non-refoulement of refugees.
  5. Andy

    Daily Mail

    Militant union pay demands are revealed in full: Now firefighters, NHS staff and postal workers threaten to join barristers, railway workers and teachers in walkouts that will ruin the rest of YOUR year Firefighters' union leader is warning of the first strikes since 2003 after reacting angrily to a 2% pay offer More than 115,000 Royal Mail postal workers also started voting this morning on whether to strike over pay Doctors demand an inflation-busting THIRTY per cent pay rise Civil servants, council staff, rail workers, nurses and teachers are all threatening walkouts in 2022 Britain is spiralling further towards a national strike today after firefighters threatened to walk out in what would be their first industrial action for approaching 20 years. More than 115,000 Royal Mail workers also started voting this morning on whether to strike in a dispute over pay in action that would likely shut down the postal service. Doctors have threatened to strike unless they get a pay rise of up to 30 per cent. Nurses, meanwhile, want a rise of more than 12 per cent. Swathes of the public sector have demanded inflation-plus pay rises, and threatened strikes that could wreck the run through to Christmas if their wishes are not met. The leader of the firefighters' union is warning of the first strikes since 2003 after reacting angrily to a two per cent pay offer. The executive of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is recommending rejection of the offer, which it said is well below the soaring rate of inflation. Between 2009 and 2021, firefighters' real pay has been cut by 12 per cent, or nearly £4,000, the FBU said. The Communication Workers Union is demanding that Royal Mail Group negotiates with them to secure a 'straight, no-strings' pay increase for employees. The union said management intends to impose a 2% pay rise which will be a 'dramatic real-terms wage cut' because of soaring inflation. Royal Mail claims that they offered a deal worth up to 5.5%. Strike action amongst doctors and nurses is almost unprecedented. The Royal College of Nursing has not staged UK-wide industrial action since its foundation in 1916. But other healthcare unions such as Unison, GMB and Unite have held strikes in 1988, 2014, 2015 and 2016 over pay. The news will compound fears that Britain is facing an end of the year with strikes crippling everyday life, as unions representing other professions also flex their muscles in pursuit of inflation-busting pay rises. Here are the areas of the public sector threatening to strike and what they are demanding:
  6. Andy


    Largest teaching union threatens to ballot members in England on strike action National Education Union writes to the new education secretary Kemi Badenoch, calling for ‘inflation-plus’ pay rise Leaders of the country’s largest teaching union say they will ballot their members on strike action later this year unless the government agrees to an “inflation-plus” pay rise. The joint general secretaries of the National Education Union (NEU) said in a letter to the new education secretary, Kemi Badenoch, that they would campaign in favour of industrial action if the government persisted with the existing plan for a 3% pay increase for most teachers in England, after the latest figures showed the consumer price index rising 9.1% last month. “You must respond to the new economic reality of double-digit inflation and the threat this poses to teacher living standards. We call on you to commit to an inflation-plus increase for all teachers,” the letter stated. “A clear and unambiguous signal that educators are valued, with undifferentiated inflation-plus pay increases for all teachers, is urgently needed. And you must fund schools accordingly.” The letter argued that schools across England are reporting difficulty in retaining and recruiting staff, with teacher pay having fallen by a fifth in real terms since 2010 before this year’s increases in inflation. The NEU said that left teachers’ salaries at their lowest level compared with average earnings for more than 40 years. “Failing to recruit or retain enough teachers adds to the workload problems and highlights the damage caused by previous pay cuts, but the government plans more pay cuts and has not taken effective action on workload,” the NEU said. The NEU’s letter follows a similar demand from the other major teaching union, the NASUWT, which earlier this week said it would hold a strike ballot if the government “does not deliver pay restoration for teachers”. Patrick Roach, the NASUWT general secretary, said: “If the government and the pay review body reject a positive programme of restorative pay awards for teachers, then we will be asking our members whether they are prepared to take national industrial action in response.” Schools are waiting for the annual recommendation on teacher pay to be published by the independent School Teachers Review Body. In December, the then Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, formally requested that the body consider pay awards for 2022-23 and 2023-24 to raise the starting salary for teachers in England to £30,000. That would mean an 8.9% rise next year to minimum starting salaries but leave only a 3% or 2% rise for most teachers and school leaders. Ministers have previously said there will be no additional funding for school budgets to cover any pay increases.
  7. Andy

    Daily Mail

    Keir Starmer's leadership is in crisis - police launch a probe into his beer and curry night during lockdown Starmer's leadership is in crisis as Durham Constabulary reopened investigation Notorious April 2021 'Beergate' event saw Sir Keir open a cold one with activists The probe is a humiliation for Labour leader, who has called on Johnson to resign Keir: 'Honesty and decency matter. He needs to do the decent thing and resign' Ex-leader Corbyn, who lost Labour whip, refused to say whether Keir should quit Cops cite 'significant new information' as they relaunch probe after Mail coverage Keir Starmer’s leadership was in crisis last night after police launched an investigation into ‘Beergate’. Durham Constabulary said they were opening a fresh inquiry into the notorious event when Sir Keir was filmed enjoying a late-night beer with party activists during lockdown. The move is a humiliation for the Labour leader, who called on Boris Johnson to resign in January after police launched an inquiry into claims of lockdown-busting events in No 10. In a tweet, he said: ‘Honesty and decency matter. He needs to do the decent thing and resign.’ Sir Keir ignored questions yesterday about whether he would adhere to his own standards and quit – insisting only that he had not broken the rules. But a Cabinet source said Sir Keir had been ‘hoist by his own petard’, adding: ‘Who would have guessed that the holier-than-thou saint would turn out to be a total hypocrite?’ Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries told the Daily Mail: ‘For three months, he attempted to divert the Government’s attention away from important and pressing issues such as the cost of living and the war in Ukraine by continuously calling for the PM to resign for nothing more than being investigated. Do his inappropriate and repeatedly shrill-voiced standards apply to himself as well?’ One Labour backbencher branded Sir Kier’s actions in Durham ‘indefensible’ – telling PoliticsJoe they would refuse media interviews to avoid having to defend the party’s embattled leader. A political adviser to Sir Keir added: ‘It’s a relief Durham police aren’t handing out retrospective fines. Because we would probably get one.’ Yesterday’s police intervention follows a string of revelations by the Mail about what really happened when Sir Keir gathered with MPs and officials in Durham Miners Hall on the night of April 30 last year. Durham Constabulary said last night the force had received ‘significant new information’. Durham police have faced questions about why they delayed their bombshell announcement until after Thursday's local elections. Last week this newspaper revealed that, despite denials stretching back three months, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner was also present at the drinks in the Miners Hall.
  8. Andy


    Partygate — timeline of a Downing Street scandal Vomiting, partying until 4am, and staff hoping they’d “got away with it” — Sue Gray’s long-awaited report contains scandalous new details about 16 alleged boozy events across Downing Street and Whitehall during lockdown. Here is a look back at how the events unfolded. May 15, 2020: Johnson and Matt Hancock attend an alleged cheese and wine party in the Downing Street garden The first of Gray’s newly-uncovered lockdown parties comes before all those we knew about already. According to the report, the PM and former Health Secretary Matt Hancock attend a cheese and wine party in the garden of Downing Street, with proceedings lasting for roughly 40 minutes. Gray says Johnson “brought cheese and wine from his flat” but points out that the “gathering was actually a number of separate meetings” and concludes they were for work matters. Covid restrictions at the time: Full national lockdown, people in England are barred from their homes unless there is a “reasonable excuse”. May 20, 2020: No 10 allegedly throws a BYOB party in the Downing Street garden The Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, allegedly invites as many as 100 people to “socially distanced” drinks, writing in an email: “After what has been an incredibly busy period we thought it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden this evening.” He does, however, warn that it would be “helpful” if people avoided “walking around with bottles of wine” ahead of the party as it was taking place after a press conference, according to the Sue Gray report. The Prime Minister reportedly attends for 25 minutes before returning to his office, along with his then-fiancée Carrie Symonds, who has drinks with Michael Gove’s then-adviser Henry Newman. Gray’s findings showed the party lasting all evening until 11pm, with drinks and pizza provided and paid for by staff. A senior official reportedly jokes about the risk of drone surveillance (an admission that rules were being broken?) and there are official complaints about the state of the garden afterwards. Later, Reynolds messages a special adviser saying: “Best of luck - a complete non story but better than them focusing on our drinks (which we seem to have got away with).” June 18, 2020: The Cabinet Office hosts a leaving do for an unnamed official with pizza, prosecco (and a bust-up) A leaving do for an unnamed official takes place in No 10 and the Cabinet Office between 6pm and 9pm on June 18, with officials reportedly eating pizza and drinking prosecco. Gray has uncovered an email by one official calling the event “drinks that aren’t drinks” and texts warning that a party “comes with rather substantial comms risks”. It goes ahead anyway. Roughly 20 people are understood to attend, including former deputy Cabinet secretary Helen MacNamara, who provides a karaoke machine. “There was excessive alcohol consumption by some individuals,” Gray reports. “One individual was sick. There was a minor altercation between two other individuals.” Covid restrictions at the time: Social gatherings indoors are forbidden, people are allowed to meet outside in groups of no more than six June 19, 2020: Boris Johnson reportedly attends a “surprise” birthday party thrown by his wife at No 10 The Prime Minister reportedly attends a party in Downing Street to celebrate his 56th birthday, thrown by his now-wife Carrie Johnson between 2.25pm and 2.45pm. A source says staff are emailed in advance with a plea to come to the cabinet room and “wish the prime minister happy birthday”. Around 30 people attend the gathering, which takes place just before Boris Johnson is due to chair a Covid strategy meeting about the route out of lockdown. He is said to be presented with a Union Jack cake, while Carrie leads staff to sing him Happy Birthday. Johnson, his wife Carrie and Sunak are all later fined £50 for attending the event. November 13, 2020: Johnson attends Lee Cain’s leaving party and later plays ABBA music in his flat This is the event you’ll probably recognise from recent pictures. Images released by ITV News this week show Johnson standing smiling in front of a roomful of staff, raising a toast, with empty wine bottles littering the table in front of him. Notably, it is the same day Downing Street announces that two of the prime minister’s most senior advisers, Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain, would leave Government. The pictures are laid out in Gray’s report and were reportedly taken inside No 10 to celebrate Cain’s departure. “There was a leaving speech and drinks in No 10 for Lee Cain later that day, which the prime minister attended,” her report concludes. Gray says a second party took place that night: this time in Johnson’s Downing Street flat , with Abba music - specifically the song The Winner Takes It All - heard blaring from the windows. She is not investigating this event, however, because of the Met’s separate inquiry. Covid restrictions at the time: A second national lockdown. People are ordered to stay at home and different households are banned from mixing indoors or in private gardens, unless in a support bubble December 10, 2020: Gavin Williamson throws a party for Department for Education staff Gavin Williamson reportedly throws a party for two dozen of his Department for Education staff while London is under Tier 2 restrictions, banning social mixing between households. The former education secretary reportedly delivers a speech and there are drinks and canapes in the department’s café. “There were lots of people gathered in the café area, mingling and drinking wine. It was just so reckless,” a source has since told the Mirror. Gray’s report confirms this. “The Secretary of State for Education wanted to thank staff for their hard work ahead of the Christmas break,” she says. “Senior officials and special advisers attended the event. There was food and alcohol available and it lasted for around an hour.” Covid restrictions at the time: Tier 2 (‘high alert’), no mixing of households indoors, but people can meet outdoors in groups of six - they can meet their friends at a pub, but only if it’s serving substantial meals. Last orders are at 10pm, with bars and pubs ordered to close by 11pm. Self-employed workers and freelancers without an office or other workplace who have a meeting that needs to be held face-to-face can meet a contact for a business lunch. December 15, 2020: Tobias Ellwood attends a Christmas party in Piccadilly and Downing Street hosts a quiz Conservative MP and chairman of the Commons Defence Select Committee Tobias Ellwood attends a “Christmas party” for 27 guests at the Cavalry and Guards Club in Piccadilly. He reportedly makes a speech at the Iraq Britain Business Council event, which is described on the organisers’ website as a “Christmas party”. Meanwhile, a quiz is reportedly taking place in Downing Street. “The quiz and prize-giving lasted approximately three and a half hours,” Gray finds. Her report also uncovers a message sent by a No 10 official on internal No 10 systems referring to “drunkenness” and advising staff to leave No 10 via the back exit. The No10 official informed the investigation team that they did this in order to avoid staff being photographed by the press outside, Gray adds. December 17, 2020: The Cabinet Office ‘Christmas party’ and two leaving dos at Downing Street Two gatherings take place on the same night in No 10 to mark the departure of two No 10 officials, says Gray. But while they might have started separately, officials later join together to eat pizza and drink late into the evening. “A leaving event for two No 10 officials took place in No 10 in the Pillared Room,” says Gray. “There were speeches, including from the prime minister and senior officials, and alcohol. Approximately 20 people attended.” Reports have also emerged of a separate gathering in the Cabinet Office that night, organised by Case’s team. The event is noted in digital calendars as “Christmas party!” and includes an online quiz. “A virtual quiz took place in the Cabinet Secretary’s private office for staff who were in the office and working at home that day,” says Gray. “Alcohol and food were consumed during the quiz which lasted approximately 90 minutes in total.” Covid restrictions at the time: Tier 3 (‘very high alert’), no mixing indoors with anyone outside your household or support bubble, six people allowed to mix in some outdoor public places December 18, 2020: Downing Street allegedly hosts a Christmas party An alleged staff party takes place in Downing Street. The gathering is organised on a WhatsApp group and “several dozen” staff - some wearing Christmas jumpers - are asked to bring in Secret Santa presents. The report states that food and alcohol were available and some members of staff drank excessively. A cleaner who attended the room the next morning noted that there had been red wine spilled on one wall and on a number of boxes of photocopier paper. According to a previous report in the Daily Mirror, party games are played and food and drinks are served at the party, with revelries going on past midnight. At the time, the Tier 3 rules explicitly ban work Christmas lunches and parties where it is “a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted”. According to Gray, officials and advisers reportedly make speeches, enjoy a cheese board, drink together and exchange Secret Santa gifts. The prime minister does not attend. December 25, 2020: Carrie Johnson’s friend Nimco Ali spends Christmas with the Johnsons The Johnsons’ friend Nimco Ali, a prominent FGM campaigner and godmother to their son Wilfred, reportedly spends Christmas with the Johnsons at Downing Street at a time when lockdown restrictions in London prevent almost all household mixing. Government rules state that it is possible for people to use a childcare bubble on 25 December, even in areas under the highest tier, “but only if reasonably necessary for the purposes of childcare and where there are no reasonable alternatives”. Covid restrictions at the time: Tier 4 in London and the south-east, people must stay at home and not mix indoors with anyone from outside their household. They are only allowed to leave the house for specific purposes or if they have a “reasonable excuse” and can only meet one person outdoors. January 14, 2021: Downing Street hosts more leaving drinks Yet another set of leaving drinks uncovered by Gray. This time, to celebrate the departure of two private secretaries who remain unnamed in the report, one of whom worked in the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. “The prime minister attended for a short time to give a leaving speech. Alcohol was available,” says Gray. Covid restrictions at the time: Another national lockdown. People are only allowed to leave their homes for a few specific reasons, such as shopping for basic necessities and exercising with their household or support bubble April 16, 2021: Downing Street hosts two leaving dos on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral The night before the Queen sat alone at the funeral of her late husband, in compliance with Covid rules, Downing Street reportedly hosts not one but two leaving dos for staff, with people leaving until as late as 4.20am. The No 10 entry logs show that a number of people leave No 10 at this point. They are encouraged by the custodian to use the rear exit of the building, says Gray. Covid restrictions at the time: People can only mix indoors with their household or support bubble. They can meet indoors, including in gardens, in groups of six people or two households October 18, 2021: Downing Street defends the Johnsons hosting friend Nimco Ali over Christmas Reports that Ali spent Christmas with the Johnsons are revealed in Harper’s magazine, which claims she “spent Christmas with the couple at No 10 despite pandemic restrictions on holiday gatherings.” Both Number 10 and the Prime Minister’s spokesperson refuse to confirm whether Ali stayed with them, but deny that the couple broke their own coronavirus rules. “The PM and Mrs Johnson have followed coronavirus rules at all times. It is totally untrue to suggest otherwise,” the PM’s spokeswoman says. November 30, 2021: Reports emerge of the Downing Street Christmas party in December 2020 Almost a year after the alleged events, the Daily Mirror accuses Boris Johnson and his Downing Street staff of breaking Covid rules by attending parties at Number 10 in the build-up to Christmas 2020. According to the exclusive report, Johnson gave a speech at a “packed leaving do” for a top aide during the second lockdown last November, and there was a smaller gathering on November 13, the night Dominic Cummings left Downing Street, “where [staff] were all getting totally plastered”. The Mirror also alleges that a festive bash was held in Downing Street the following month, just days before Christmas, with around “40 or 50” staffers drinking wine and taking part in a Christmas quiz and Secret Santa. According to a source quoted in the newspaper, staffers were crammed “cheek by jowl” into a medium-sized room in Number 10. “It was a Covid nightmare,” one source tells the Mirror. December 7, 2021: Footage is leaked of a mock Downing Street press conference in December 2020 A video obtained by ITV News shows the Prime Minister’s then press secretary Allegra Stratton answering questions at a mock press conference on December 22, 2020 about a party the previous Friday – the date of the alleged Covid rule-breaking gathering. Advisor Ed Oldfield is heard asking Stratton: “I’ve just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night, do you recognise those reports?” One aide is heard saying: “It wasn’t a party, it was cheese and wine.” “Is cheese and wine all right? It was a business meeting,” Stratton replies, to laughter in the room. Stratton then notes “this is recorded”, adding: “This fictional party was a business meeting … and it was not socially distanced.” The Met confirms it will examine the leaked footage of aides joking about the party and Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer leads urges for Johnson to “come clean and apologise”. Meanwhile Downing Street denies the party ever happened. “There was no Christmas party. Covid rules have been followed at all times,” a spokesman says. May 25, 2022: Sue Gray finally publishes her long-awaited partygate report, uncovering 16 events in total Finally, the day reporters have been waiting for and the PM will have been dreading - especially since he recently asked Gray to ditch the report altogether, according to reports. Downing Street denies this suggestion, saying the pair only discussed “process” at a recent meeting, but either way the PM certainly won’t have welcomed the scandalous new details uncovered in Gray’s findings, released late this morning. Vomiting, partying until 4am, and WhatsApping about “getting away” with rule-breaching parties are among the most shocking details to emerge so far. Johnson says he takes “full responsibility” and will hold a press conference in the wake of the report. So will the latest developments prove to be the PM’s final undoing or will he ride it out, as he has so far? The coming hours, days and weeks will surely tell.
  9. April 2022 Energy price: Bill shock for millions as rises hit Millions of people will now feel the impact of an unprecedented £700-a-year rise in energy costs - at the same time as a host of bill hikes take effect. The 54% rise in the energy price cap means a household using a typical amount of gas and electricity will now pay £1,971 per year. A further rise pushing the annual bill up to £2,600 should be expected in October, one analyst has told the BBC. Council tax, water bills and car tax are also going up for some on 1 April. Minimum wage rates are rising which, along with some financial support from the government, is partially softening the blow. The £693 a year rise in a typical energy bill will affect 18 million households, with 4.5 million customers on prepayment meters facing an even bigger increase of £708 a year. Among them is Winston Carrington, a grandfather in his 70s, who said he was growing vegetables in the garden of his Manchester home to help ease the impact of the rising cost of living. "I'm going to grow, and I'm going to fill my freezer this year with my own produce. I'm going to have to," said Mr Carrington, who uses a prepayment meter. "I can't go away this year again, not because of Covid or anything. I just can't afford to go away. The state pension that we're getting at the moment does not cover what I need." Prices in general are rising at their fastest rate for 30 years, but the sudden increase in the cost of energy is the most significant for individuals. New official figures suggest four in 10 bill-payers have been finding it very, or somewhat, difficult to afford their energy costs. The governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, said the country is facing the biggest single shock from energy prices since the 1970s. It is the largest increase, by far, in the energy regulator Ofgem's price cap, since it was introduced. The cap, set every six months for England, Wales and Scotland, is designed to protect domestic customers from the volatility of wholesale energy prices. However, official forecasters and analysts have warned people to be braced for another huge rise in energy bills when the next cap takes effect in October. Wholesale prices have been affected by the war in Ukraine and ongoing pressure on suppliers. This could add another £629 to a typical bill in October, according to the most up-to-date prediction, provided to the BBC from leading energy consultancy firm Cornwall Insight. If this proved to be accurate, then the average bill next winter would be double that of the winter just gone. A typical bill is expected to fall back to the current level in summer 2023, although longer-term forecasts are tricky. Bill Bullen, the boss of Utilita, warned that elderly people and children were at serious risk over the next winter because of a lack of heating. "We are going to see an extra £500 or £600 added to bills in October, and frankly the chancellor's going to have to fund that entirely for low-income households," he told the BBC's Today programme. "He won't be able to afford to take this problem away for everybody... but for customers who can't respond to that price [increase], that's where the help needs to be targeted." Chris O'Shea, chief executive of Centrica, which owns the UK's largest supplier British Gas, said his business was supporting struggling customers and was giving grants to those most in need. "We would love to do more. The reality is that for a retail energy company, the market has gone through quite a change, and profits have reduced quite substantially," he told the BBC's Big Green Money Show. However, he accepted that profits had risen sharply for the heavily taxed exploration arm of the business. Month of bill rises Council taxes and water bills are also going up for many people, added to the rising cost of food and household items. One estimate suggests that a typical consumer is now facing a £73 a month increase in bills, of which about £58 is from rising energy costs. "The added cost pressures set to come into play in April threatens to obliterate even the most finely tuned budgets." said Myron Jobson, senior personal finance analyst at Interactive Investor. The Office for National Statistics said that low earners, renters, parents, people with disabilities, unemployed people and divorcees were least able to afford a bill shock. Even before the latest increases, charity Citizens Advice said that in March, it referred 24,752 people to food banks or to other charitable support, up by 44% compared to the same month last year. The government has said it was taking "decisive action" to help people with the cost of living, including a £200 reduction to energy bills in October - which needs to be paid back in instalments, and a £150 reduction in council tax bills for 80% of billpayers. Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour party, branded the government's response as "pathetic". He accused the government of forcing people to choose between heating their homes or eating. He said that the Labour party would introduce a one-off windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas companies and use the money to help households struggling to cope with rising energy bills. But Chancellor Rishi Sunak told the BBC's Newscast: "I'm confident in what we've done. I know it's tough for people. We're facing a very difficult situation with the price of things going up and I want to do what we can to ameliorate some of that, but I'm also honest with people that we can't ameliorate all of it, sadly."
  10. February 2022 Ukraine conflict: Russian forces invade Russian forces have launched a major assault on Ukraine, firing missiles on cities and military targets. The invasion by land, air and sea began after a pre-dawn TV address where Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that Ukraine's military lay down its arms. Initial reports of casualties included Ukrainian civilians and soldiers, and Russian troops. Ukraine's leader said his country "won't give up its freedom". "Russia has embarked on a path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself," President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted. Ukraine has declared martial law and severed all diplomatic relations with Russia. It says weapons will be given to anyone who wants them. In the capital Kyiv, home to almost three million people, warning sirens blared out as traffic queued to leave the city and crowds sought shelter in metro stations. Several neighbouring countries have begun preparations to take in a large number of refugees. Moldova alone said more than 4,000 people had come over the border from Ukraine. Thursday's invasion followed weeks of escalating tensions, as Russia massed troops along Ukraine's borders. The UK, EU and other Western allies have vowed to impose tough new sanctions to punish Moscow, but say they will not send in troops. "These are among the darkest hours of Europe since the Second World War," EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said. Dozens of people have been killed, including about 10 civilians. Six died in an air strike in Brovary near the capital Kyiv. A man was also killed in shelling outside the major north-eastern city of Kharkiv. A Ukrainian presidential adviser said that more than 40 soldiers had died and many more were wounded. Ukraine said it had killed 50 Russian troops and shot down six Russian aircraft, but this has not been verified. 'Unprovoked and unjustified' The Russian leader launched the "special military operation" by repeating a number of unfounded claims he has made this week, including alleging that Ukraine's democratically elected government had been responsible for eight years of genocide. He said the goal was demilitarisation and "denazification" of Ukraine. Hours earlier Ukraine's president had asked how a people who lost eight million of its citizens fighting Nazis could support Nazism. "How could I be a Nazi?" said Mr Zelensky, who is himself Jewish. Mr Putin also warned that any outside power intervening on Ukraine's behalf would face an "instant" response. Neighbouring countries have reacted to the crisis. In the Baltic republic of Estonia, which borders Russia, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said a number of Nato allies that shared borders with Russia had agreed to launch consultations under Nato's Article 4. Under the defensive alliance's treaty, Nato can be brought together if any member fears their independence or territory is under threat. "Russia's widespread aggression is a threat to the entire world and to all Nato countries," she said. As cars queued on Ukraine's border with Moldova, the country's pro-EU president, Maia Sandu said she was declaring a state of emergency and was prepared to give help to tens of thousands of Ukrainians. Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda also said he was signing a state of emergency to be approved by parliament. "President Putin, in the name of humanity, bring your troops back to Russia," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Ukraine's Western allies had repeatedly warned that Russia was poised to invade, despite repeated denials from Moscow. The US, EU, UK and Japan imposed sanctions against leading Russians, Russian banks and MPs who backed the move. In a televised address, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the "hideous and barbaric venture by Vladimir Putin must end in failure". Addressing Russians, he said: "I cannot believe this is being done in your name, or that you really want the pariah status it will bring to the Putin regime." He told Ukrainians that the UK was "on your side". US President Joe Biden said the world would hold Russia accountable. He is expected to address Americans on Thursday about consequences Russia will face. France's President Emmanuel Macron said the attack would have "deep, lasting consequences for our lives". Why Russia invaded Earlier this week Russia's president announced he was recognising the independence of two self-proclaimed people's republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine. The breakaway regions were seized by Russian-backed rebels after Russia invaded Crimea in 2014. Mr Putin launched that attack after mass street protests in Ukraine that ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. Since then more than 14,000 people have died in the east in a conflict between the rebels and Ukrainian forces. A shaky ceasefire had held but there has been a surge in violations in recent days. Mr Putin said the military operation's objective was to defend the people in the breakaway areas. Kyiv and its Western allies have repeatedly rejected as absurd Mr Putin's claims that Ukraine was being run by neo-Nazis, instead pointing out that Ukraine was now a nation with growing democratic institutions, unlike an authoritarian Russia. Fears of a Russian attack have been rising for months. Mr Putin has repeatedly accused the US and its allies of ignoring Russia's demands to prevent Ukraine from joining the Nato military alliance and offer Moscow security guarantees.
  11. I'm afraid that seat is unavailable. You can see which seats are available in the spreadsheet linked in the first post of this thread.
  12. Autumn Budget 2021: Key points at-a-glance What is the Budget? Each year, the Chancellor of the Exchequer - who is in charge of the government's finances - makes a Budget statement to MPs in the House of Commons. It outlines the government's plans for raising or lowering taxes. It also includes big decisions on what the government will spend money on - including health, schools, police and other public services. How is the economy fairing? Inflation in September was 3.1% and is likely to rise to average 4% over next year, OBR says UK economy forecast to return to pre-Covid levels by 2022 Annual growth set to rebound by 6.5% this year, followed by 6% in 2022 Unemployment expected to peak at 5.2% during next year, lower than 11.9% previously predicted Wages have grown in real terms by 3.4% since February 2020 Borrowing as a percentage of GDP is forecast to fall to around 3.5% next year, then fall in the following four years to 1.5% Foreign aid spending projected to return to 0.7% of GDP by 2024-25 Are we still paying for the pandemic? Measures such as the furlough scheme - which finished at the end of September - were expensive, and government income is down because it collected less money in tax during the pandemic. To close the gap between higher spending and less money, the government has had to borrow more. In the year ending April 2021, the government borrowed £320bn - the highest figure seen outside wartime. Economists expect it to borrow around £180bn more this year, another enormous sum. Are taxes going up or down in the Autumn Budget? Universal Credit taper rate will be cut by 8% no later than 1 December, bringing it down from 63% to 55% - allowing claimants to keep more of the payment Confirmation business rates to be retained and reformed. A 50% business rates discount for the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors in England in 2022-23, up to a maximum of £110,000 Planned rise in fuel duty to be cancelled amid the highest pump prices in eight years Consultation on an online sales tax National Living Wage to increase next year by 6.6%, to £9.50 an hour Planned rise in the duty on spirits, wine, cider and beer cancelled, and rates simplified What will the Government be spending on? Whitehall departments to receive rise in overall spending, totalling £150bn over the course of this Parliament Funding will rise by an average of £4.6bn for Scottish Government, £2.5bn for Welsh Government, and £1.6bn for Northern Ireland Executive Levelling Up Fund will mean £1.7bn invested in local areas across the UK Government backing projects in Aberdeen, Bury, Burnley, Lewes, Clwyd South, Stoke-on-Trent, Ashton under Lyne, Doncaster, South Leicester, Sunderland and West Leeds Extra £2.2bn for courts, prisons and probation services, including funding to clear the courts backlog Tax relief for museums and galleries will be extended for two years, to March 2024 Core science funding to rise to £5.9bn a year by 2024-25 £6bn of funding to help tackle NHS backlogs £7bn for transport projects in areas including Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and South Yorkshire Schools to get an extra £4.7bn by 2024-25. There will be nearly £2bn of new funding to help schools and colleges to recover from the pandemic Does the Budget affect all parts of the UK? Some parts of the Budget, such as defence spending, affect the whole of the UK. Others, such as education, only affect England. This is because Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland make their own decisions. Scotland has income tax-raising powers, which means its rates differ from the rest of the UK. The Scottish government will publish its Budget on 9 December. If the government announces extra spending on areas that only affect England, the other nations get an equivalent extra sum of money to spend as they choose, according to a rule called the Barnett formula.
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