Jump to content

BBC News (June-December 2017)


Recommended Posts


McCrimmon assembles minority government, appointed Prime Minister

Walthamstow MP and former Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland James McCrimmon has been appointed Prime Minister after securing confidence and supply agreements with Plaid Cymru and Green MP Caroline Lucas. The Northern Irish Social Democratic and Labour Party is a sister party to the British Labour Party and takes the Labour whip in the House of Commons.

McCrimmon was elected Leader of the Labour Party following the resignation of Jeremy Corbyn, who had suffered a stroke earlier this month. Shortly after his election, negotiations with Plaid Cymru and Ms Lucas resulted in two agreements that give Labour a working majority in the House of Commons.

Breakdown of the House of Commons for key confidence votes.

While the confidence and supply agreements with Plaid Cymru and the Green Party provide for support on key votes, they include concessions from the government on investment for Wales, environmental legislation, and constitutional reform. Additionally, the agreements do not contain provisions for achieving a functioning majority for critical votes on Brexit.

Scottish and Northern Irish MPs commented that they "expect investments in Wales to be mirrored in Scotland and Northern Ireland" and that "special treatment for one of the nations of the United Kingdom will breed inequality if the others are left behind."

Number 10 speech

In his brief remarks outside of Number 10 after his appointment, McCrimmon promised "to end austerity, fight climate change, and make our country work for the many and not the few". He further thanked the Green Party and Plaid Cymru for providing support for his government.

Most notably, he paid tribute to Jeremy Corbyn, who is not expected to return to frontline politics even as he completes his recovery from a stroke earlier this month.

Opposition MPs commented that the Prime Minister's speech "lacked substance". Conservative MP Clarice Ashbridge summarised the speech, saying "we heard nothing about Brexit, nothing about our economy, nothing about the NHS, or education, or the constitutional future of this country. We heard absolutely nothing."

Analysis: BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg

Following Labour's victory in the general election and the surprise resignation of Jeremy Corbyn, we see relative unknown James McCrimmon enter Number 10. His brief remarks following his appointment offered little insight into his plans for government - many of which we expect to be revealed during the State Opening of Parliament. McCrimmon made several appearances with the 2017 manifesto during his leadership campaign, so we can expect his policy to be broadly in line with that.

However, his speech to the nation was brief and more politically attuned voters see Conservative criticism as justified. McCrimmon, as a relatively unknown member of the frontbench, has a brief honeymoon period to make himself a known figure - however, the length of that period is rapidly diminishing as Conservatives set the tone on his leadership. Unless he presents a compelling case to the country, he may find that the press start to echo what they're hearing from the newly minted Shadow Cabinet.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Mauritius Prime Minister announces plan to take Chagos dispute to the UN

Prime Minister of Mauritius Pravind Jugnauth announced plans to take the island nation's dispute with the United Kingdom over the Chagos archipelago to the United Nations General Assembly. In remarks to local media, Jugnauth said that "it is time for the international community to demonstrate its support for human rights and reject the colonialist past". He claimed that he already had the backing from the African Union in making this push.

The islands of the Chagos archipelago, including Diego Garcia, were separated from the colonial territory of Mauritius in 1965 to form the British Indian Ocean Territory, BIOT. At the time, the United Nations noted that the separation of territory ascribed to Mauritius was "unusual" and contrary to the normal rules surrounding decolonisation.

Mauritius says it was forced to trade the islands in 1965 for independence. The UK has said it does not recognise Mauritius' claim to sovereignty over the archipelago. Between 1968 and 1974, the UK forcibly removed thousands of Chagossians from their homelands and sent them more than 1,600km (1,000 miles) away to Mauritius and the Seychelles, where they faced extreme poverty and discrimination.

Jugnauth said that Mauritius will seek a resolution instructing the International Court of Justice to draft an opinion on the legality of the separation of the BIOT from Mauritius and the status of the island nation's decolonisation. "The decolonisation of Mauritius is incomplete, held back by hypocrites in the capitals of our former imperial occupier and their masters [the United States]," said Jugnauth in his statement.

The BIOT is home to a military base at Diego Garcia, which former Chief of the Defense Staff General Sir Nicholas Houghton described as being "critical to the security of the United Kingdom and its allies" and "vital to our interests in the Indian Ocean, Africa, and South Asia."

The United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said that the resolution currently being circulated by Mauritius was attempting to "rewrite international law" and would be opposed by the United States. Many European delegations were less forthcoming on their positions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...


 Government secures confidence in Queen's Speech vote

The government passed its first parliamentary test, with MPs approving the Queen's Speech, which sets out James McCrimmon's priorities for the parliamentary session, by 319 votes to 297.

The Prime Minister declared this "is a Government who wants to do right by those people" and committed to a campaign of ending austerity. Critiquing the former government, he claimed that, "People can’t eat, they can’t get healthcare, there aren’t enough teachers" and that, in response, "The Labour movement stands up for the people hurt hardest by Tory cuts."

The Chancellor declared that Labour would embark upon a "responsible, measured economic course". In setting out the agenda for the Treasury, the Chancellor specifically pointed to "tackling the cost of living crisis" and "[giving] workers more of a stake in economic decisions". The Foreign Secretary, likewise, declared the beginning of "a progressive foreign policy approach built on the ideas that through compassion, hard work, and diplomacy". In a notable break from the Corbyn years, the Foreign Secretary pledged to continue military action against Daesh in both Iraq and Syria.

Leader of the Opposition Dylan Macmillan criticised the government for putting forward an agenda where there is "There is no plan, there is no confrontation of the hard choices, there is only an endless parade of contradictions, platitudes, and in some cases outright codswallop." Further critiques of the government's agenda focused on what Mr Macmillan claimed to be it's "unfunded" nature. These claims were supported by the shadow chancellor, who chastised the government for forgetting that "you cannot tax and borrow your way into prosperity" and drawing up memories of the 2008 financial crisis.

What's in the Queen's Speech?

The Queen's Speech outlines the government's agenda on a number of topics, ranging from Brexit to environmental policy. Included in the speech are:

  • The government's plans for Brexit, including an EU Exit Rights and Protections Bill that protects workers’ rights, consumer protections, and environmental protections.
  • Commitments to end austerity across all domains of domestic spending, including spending on the nations.
  • Significant labour market reforms, including the repeal of the Trade Unions Act, sectoral collective bargaining, a raise in the minimum wage, and an end to zero-hour contracts.
  • Minor changes to the welfare state and benefits.
  • Investment in the NHS and the formation of a National Care Service.
  • Creation of a "cradle-to-grave" National Education Service.
  • Significant constitutional reforms, including votes at 16 and reform of the House of Lords, as well as a constitutional commission.
  • A commitment to increase foreign aid spending to 1% of national income (up from 0.7% currently).
  • Binding targets to achieve net zero, banning fracking, support for renewable energy start-ups, and a commitment to strengthening the Paris Climate Agreement.

SNP abstention saves government

The decision by SNP Westminster Leader Devon Milne to abstain on the vote saved the government from a defeat in its first test of its ability to maintain the confidence of the House. Five Labour MPs, including housing minister Calvin Ward, were absent from the vote.

 Ayes to the right, noes to the left: results of the division on the Queen's Speech

 "The absence of five MPs, including a Cabinet minister, had the potential to be catastrophic for the government," said ___. "Based on their confidence agreements, the government can't afford to have ministers missing votes. The fact that the Chief Whip let this slide early in the Parliament spells trouble for Labour. It's almost a sackable offence."

Speaking to the BBC, Devon Milne said, "I’m glad to see that pledges to end austerity, to make up for draconian and damaging cuts to devolved countries and to public services, to invest in a greener future, and to build a government that works better for the people rather than just cheaper has passed the Commons- even as close as the vote was."

However, he additionally cautioned the government: "I do think this Government is going to have a hard time ahead if they only rely on a couple of partners rather than building a coalition of support for measures ranging from fair pay to devolution to Brexit. Labour made conscious decisions to not engage with the SNP, and they made a conscious decision to avoid any mention of Scotland in their Queen’s Speech. I only hope that this sort of difficulty doesn’t mean that we’ll be going to an early election or seeing the Tories take the reins."

Reactions to the Queen's Speech across the country

Reactions to the Queen's Speech across the country were mixed.

Conservative criticisms of spending plans were muted slightly by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which noted that "this is a bold spending agenda" but that they would "wait to see the entirety of the government's fiscal plans at their first budget before rendering judgment on their commitment."

Business groups split, with Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry calling the government's commitments "a welcome change of tone on Brexit" and stating that "investment in infrastructure and skills will be most welcomed by our members, provided tax policy is kept within conventional bounds". The Institute of Directors, however, sharply criticised the governments plans - particularly as it related to sectoral bargaining and strengthening labour unions. It accused the government of "abandoning nearly forty years of economic orthodoxy to build an anti-growth coalition that will be disastrous for British business." The FSB called on Labour to scrap its plans to raise tax on small companies.

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady was more open in her backing of the contents of the speech, saying "After a decade of an economy that has put bankers and the wealthiest first, this Queen’s Speech is a promising start. We all know stronger unions lead to higher pay, higher living standards and higher economic growth. By pledging to strengthen unions, roll out collective bargaining, boost the minimum wage and end zero hours contracts we have a Queen’s Speech that is finally committed to putting working people first."

The Resolution Foundation's Torsten Bell offered cautious support for the Queen's Speech, particularly the commitments on the two-child limit for child benefits and repealing the bedroom tax. However, he added that he expects the government to "go farther" on repealing some of the policies but into place in 2016 - including legislating to end the benefits freeze. "The government can create a more generous and more effective welfare system, but they need to make clear that they have the political will to do so," said Bell.

Renewables UK broadly commended the commitment to net zero in the Queen's Speech, but noted that "the devil is in the details" and that they looked forward to seeing "a robust industrial policy that supports a green transition." The UK Petroleum Industry Organization said that "caution would be key" and "disruption of key industries in support of an ideological agenda will be detrimental to growth and squeeze families".

Analysis by BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg

The government made it through its first test - though perhaps not as comfortably as it had hoped. The fact that the SNP is the savior of the government today should be raising red flags in Downing Street this afternoon. That said, the test is passed and now the government can move on to governing.

In terms of the public reaction - people generally like what they're hearing about the government's agenda. Do they have concerns about cost? Yes. However, unlike the opposition, most are willing to wait for the government to lay out their fiscal plans at budget - as is the IFS. People like seeing that the Labour Party is committed to getting Brexit done. It's important that the "flavour" of Brexit is considered less important than the deed itself by many critical voters in Labour's electoral coalition.

There were some glaring omissions, such as terrorism. Others, however, are less critical - nobody expects everything to be featured in the speech or the Queen would be reading entire manifestos. But many of the critical things were there.

Naturally, there is some concern about the speech around the country. The CBI was won over by Brexit but could be lost easily if Labour shifts its economic agenda to be too radical. The devil will be in the details, as Renewables UK put it, for the government. Managing the economy, domestic concerns, and an international agenda was always going to be detail driven. As a statement of principles, though, this is a well-received agenda.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Former prime ministers caution on devolution settlement

Britain's five living former prime ministers cautioned Westminster politicians on respecting the devolution settlement in light of Brexit. In a nearly unprecedented joint statement, the five said that there is "an imperative to make clear our commitment to the devolution settlement in light of unprecedented changes to the constitutional structure of the United Kingdom."

The statement issued by Sir John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, and Theresa May called on all politicians to "reflect carefully on the precious union between England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland and the structures that underpin that precious, precious union."

In particular the former leaders of the country said that politicians should not use Brexit as an excuse to withhold powers that should be "rightfully devolved" from the devolved administrations. They said all parties should commit to working within the Joint Ministerial Committee to ensure a smooth of powers from the European Union to the devolved administrations once the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. Likewise, they reflected on the importance of protecting the internal market of the United Kingdom through measured action.

DUP, others advocate for more power in Westminster

While the former prime ministers were clear about their advocacy for maintaining the United Kingdom's constitutional settlement, others were not as welcoming.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said that powers should not be automatically devolved after Brexit and that Westminster "should demonstrate it's critical functions for the Northern Irish people." She raised concerns about the functioning of devolution in Northern Ireland and the importance of maintaining close ties between Belfast and London.

Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party Ruth Davidson advocated for more consultation on devolution matters. On balance, she said there should be a presumption in favour of devolution after Brexit. However, she said that "more central investment in Scotland - showing the people of Scotland the benefits of unionism - would be welcome." Her statement contained a caveat that spending must respect devolved institutions - providing an example that implementing policy on firmly reserved matters via spending would be "difficult", providing the example of using funding to influence education policy.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites


Councillors across Nottinghamshire have warned of heightened flood risks throughout the county which features many towns and cities close to rivers. A survey conducted by the Environment Agency on both drainage capacity and river levels has identified a heightened flood risk in both rural and urban areas. 

One area of concern in the report relates to drainage in urban areas. It found that the capacity of the drains for runoff and rainfall is, on average, 44% lower than the designed capacity. In some regions, the report states that “drains were inaccessible or blocked entirely” or “in a state of disrepair or beyond usefulness to carry water to sewers below.” When heavy rainfall occurs, this will naturally heighten the flood risk as the water has nowhere to go on a non-permeable surface, such as tarmac and asphalt, and in urban areas, in particular, could lead to localised flooding; damaging property, blocking roads and could result in fast moving flows of water. 

Commenting on this report, the local inspector in charge of this report comments that the trends observed “aren’t just isolated to the area” and that the picture nationally was “very similar”. 

The report also touched on other flood risks in areas connected to the River Trent. It found along some stretches what it describes the water levels as “notably higher than could be expected” - the cause of which was in part attributed to a lack of dredging in river channels - the process by which sediments and debris are removed from the river.

The responsibility for cleaning and maintaining drains, as well as ensuring the cleanliness of rivers, falls on the local authority. However, councillors in Nottinghamshire have told the BBC that funding shortfalls mean funds are often redirected to other areas, and these issues often go unaddressed - despite regular warnings from scientific agencies. Heightened flood risk naturally poses risk to life, damage to property and for those living in more rural areas can leave them cut off entirely. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites


Vince Cable becomes Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Sir Vince Cable has become the new Leader of the Liberal Democrats in an unopposed election. 

Cable, 74, was the only candidate on the ballot as nominations closed, with no other MPs having declared to oppose him.

The vacancy occurs following the resignation of Martin Wright, who opted to stand down on health grounds. Wright had been spotted looking 'unwell' after a ride on the Monorail at the Beaulieu Motor Museum, and whilst his office stated that his health was strong enough to remain as an MP, he would be quitting the Leadership in order to reduce the burdens upon himself. 

In his remarks upon becoming Leader, Cable stated that Brexit could be stopped under his leadership and that the Lib Dems were the only party able to achieve an "exit from Brexit." Within these remarks, Cable confirmed that the Lib Dems still support a "People's Vote". 




Formerly Margot Redfearn MP

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Royal Mail could be in for a breakup | Tatler

Royal Mail to return to public ownership

The Government announced today that after five years of nationalisation, occurring under the coalition Government in 2013, Royal Mail is to return to public ownership. Founded in 1516 by King Henry VIII, the organisation had been owned by the Government before 2013. Royal Mails’ principal responsibilities entail the collection and delivery of post and parcels throughout every corner of the United Kingdom. 

In a statement to the House of Commons when introducing the pre-requisite legislation to enable the purchasing of the company from existing investors, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Harry West, called the privatisation of the Royal Mail one of a “firesale[s] of the country's crown jewels.”. Critics at the time said the tax-payer didn’t get a good deal. In 2013, investment bank JP Morgan carried out a valuation of the organisation and came to the conclusion it was worth £10 billion. However, the Government only valued it at £3.3 billion. This value later increased to £5 billion when the shares were floated on the stock market, but still represented a difference in opinion as to the value of the company. 

As part of the plan, the existing shares in Royal Mail - held by a mixture of private investors and employees (10% of claims were explicitly reserved for distribution to employees) - will be traded for Government bonds. The Treasury estimate this to be around a £3.5bn cost. This means there is no immediate cost to the taxpayer as it is simply an exchange of assets between the Government and Royal Mail. As for the shares owned by employees - the Government does not intend to purchase the shares immediately, but says it will “establish a scheme to allow them to elect to return their awards at equivalent fair market value when and if they choose”. This scheme will be the only method for them to trade their shares.

Union leaders have come out to praise the Government for taking these steps, with one union leader telling the BBC that for the employees of Royal Mail, it “restores the principals of putting the worker before profit.”. Since 2013, approximately £400mn has been paid out in dividends to shareholders of Royal Mail - money that some consumer groups say doesn’t get reinvested into the company, resulting in an overall decline in service. In addition, union leaders say the money withdrawn from the business “is not making it into the pocket of employees”. They say executive pay has spiraled out of control, with group CEO Moya Greene taking home £4.1 million in 2016.

For those wanting to post letters or parcels, there will be no discernable difference in the day-to-day operations of Royal Mail. A spokesman for Royal Mail says that it is very much “business as usual” amid the ownership change, and said that no “large scale changes” are to be expected until the change in ownership is complete. Once that has occurred it will be up to the Chancellor and the wider Government to give a clear business plan for the future of Royal Mail for its consumers, partners and employees.

Analysis ~ Laura Kuenssberg 

The move to nationalise Royal Mail came as no surprise. It was in the manifesto of the newly elected Labour Government. The topic of public ownership of is likely to become more common as the Government settles into its legislative agenda throughout this parliament. It may represent a significant expansion of the state versus previous Governments. The debate from either side will focus on getting the best value for the British taxpayer in terms of purchasing large companies into state hands and then delivering good consumer outcomes within the industry of that company.

Today, it is Royal Mail. Tomorrow, with sectoral collective bargaining also on the agenda, it could be any industry the Government deems would benefit from social ownership. Likely candidates for further nationalisation could well be rail and water. 

The overall risk with nationalisation always comes with the initial investment cost, but when running costs of these companies start to rise, the Government has to foot the bill. Where the profits of the company do not cover these costs, this can come in the form of borrowing, or invoke changes in fiscal policy to provide more money to keep the business afloat and the employees paid. In the case of Royal Mail, this is unlikely to be an issue - under its last year of public ownership a profit of £321 million suggests it is more than capable of being sustainable under state ownership. What happens in these other industries remains to be seen.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


A shot of a ZDF patrol on the streets of Harare today

Clashes take place in Harare amidst reports of "military coup" against Robert Mugabe

A series of armed skirmishes have taken place in Harare overnight and into today amidst reports of a coup by the Zimbabwean Defence Forces (ZDF) against long-time President Robert Mugabe. 

The clashes began after ZDF units moved into tactical positions around Harare and assumed control of the Zimbabwean Broadcasting Corporation. A ZDF spokesperson, Major General Sibusiso Moyo, stated that the 'operation' was being carried out to ensure "appropriate stability and continuity of government amidst efforts to remove 'criminals' from the corridors of power." It is unclear as to who the 'criminals' are that the ZDF refer to, but reports indicate that the armed forces have clashed with members of the police and also private security forces protecting government officials. 

Major General Moyo said that key government officials, such as President Mugabe and his family, would be "protected to ensure their safety and security is guaranteed". However, independent sources at this time have been unable to verify the status of Mugabe. Furthermore, the clashes are reported to be surrounding the residences of members of Mugabe's government who are loyal to the President.

This incident takes place following weeks of power struggle over the succession of President Mugabe, a rivalry between his wife Grace and former Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa, which has split the governing Zanu-PF. Following a call from Mrs Mugabe, Mnangagwa was removed from the vice-presidency earlier this month. But, on Monday, Army Chief General Constantino Chiwenga said the army was prepared to act to end purges within Zanu-PF and analysts believe that this military action is the result of General Chiwenga's call. 

The British Embassy in Harare has issued a warning to all UK nationals in Harare to stay indoors because of the military activity in the city. Governments all around the world have begun issuing similar warnings. Presently, no other military activity is reported in other areas of Zimbabwe. Prime Minister Anthony Clarke and Foreign Secretary Simon Bleyer are being kept apprised of the situation by the Foreign Office. 




Formerly Margot Redfearn MP

Link to comment
Share on other sites


  • Create New...