Some light Christmas reading

A few politics articles for light Christmas reading …

Why are taxpayers spending £60m on a bridge for Joanna Lumley?

The bridge has been sold as a new public right of way by Johnson. In reality it is anything but. TfL’s business case suggests that just 0.03% of all those using the bridge will be people making new trips. The rest will be either tourists or others already on the Southbank.

So who will benefit from this bridge? Well according to the business plan, the biggest benefit of the bridge will be to “residential property values”. Incredibly, they estimate that the bridge will raise local property values by an estimated £84 million.

So excellent news for the tiny number of wealthy property owners in central London. Not so good news for the millions of people struggling to afford the cost of their monthly travelcard to work.

TfL bury Boris bike fare hike under the Christmas tree

Bullingdon Tory idiot Boris Johnson

The cycle hire scheme, perhaps Boris Johnson’s most notable achievement as mayor, has so far been serially underused, with a complex hiring mechanism turning potential users away.

Promised “at no cost to taxpayers” it remains substantially subsidised to the tune of millions of pounds a year.

A poor value-for-money sponsorship deal with Barclays and a complex hiring mechanism, means that it has so far failed to generate anything like enough revenue to cover its costs.

Iain Duncan Smith to meet Universal Credit target in 700 years’ timeImage of IDS Iain Duncan Smith

Ian Duncan Smith promised that more than a million people would be signed up to his universal credit scheme by April 2014, with twelve million signed up by 2017.

However, new figures released today reveal the DWP currently have just 17,850 people on their caseload.

This means that at the current rate of progress, it will take them almost 700 more years to meet their original target of twelve million.

Christmas cannot be captured in fairytale endings, Archbishop warns

[T]he true spirit of Christmas cannot be captured in fairytale endings, the Archbishop of Canterbury will tell the faithful.

Life-size cardboard Ed Miliband cutout ‘held HOSTAGE’ after being ‘stolen’ from County Hall

A statement from Worcestershire County Council read: “We are aware that a life-sized picture has gone missing out of the Labour room within County Hall.

“Staff and elected members are working closely to ensure that it is returned and this situation is concluded.”

The cut-out is the same height as the Labour leader – at 5ft 9in.

It is alleged that prior to its disappearance, some staff members turned the cardboard Ed around so people walking past could only see his backside in the window.

Continue ReadingSome light Christmas reading

ISIS, Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria

http://www.vox.com/cards/things-about-isis-you-need-to-know/sunni-shia-conflict-ISIS

Perhaps the single most important factor in ISIS’ recent resurgence is the conflict between Iraqi Shias and Iraqi Sunnis. ISIS fighters themselves are Sunnis, and the tension between the two groups is a powerful recruiting tool for ISIS.

The difference between the two largest Muslim groups originated with a controversy over who got to take power after the Prophet Muhammed’s death, which you can read all about here. But Iraq’s sectarian problems aren’t about relitigating 7th-century disputes; they’re about modern political power and grievances.

The civil war after the American invasion had a brutally sectarian cast to it, and the pseudo-democracy that emerged afterwards empowered the Shia majority (with some heavy-handed help from Washington). Today, the two groups don’t trust each other, and so far have competed in a zero-sum game for control over Iraqi political institutions. For instance, Shia used control over the police force to arbitrarily detain Sunni protestors demanding more representation in government last year.

So long as Shias control the government, and Sunnis don’t feel like they’re fairly represented, ISIS has an audience for its radical Sunni message. That’s why ISIS is strong in the heavily Sunni northwest.

http://www.vox.com/cards/things-about-isis-you-need-to-know/maliki-sunni-shia-tension

ISIS would be able to recruit Sunni fighters off of the Sunni-Shia tension even if Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki hadn’t held office until mid-August, but his policies towards the Sunni minority have helped ISIS considerably. It remains to be seen whether the new PM, Haider al-Abadi, will be an improvement.

Maliki, a Shia Muslim, built a Shia sectarian state and refused to take steps to accommodate Sunnis. Police killed peaceful Sunni protestors and used anti-terrorism laws to mass-arrest Sunni civilians. Maliki made political alliances with violent Shia militias, infuriating Sunnis. ISIS cannily exploited that brutality to recruit new fighters.

When ISIS reestablished itself, it put Sunni sectarianism at the heart of its identity and propaganda. The government persecution, according to the Washington Institute for Near East Studies’ Michael Knights, “played right into their hands.” Maliki “made all the ISIS propaganda real, accurate.” That made it much, much easier for ISIS to replenish its fighting stock.

 

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Cameron, Clegg and Ed sneak in a snoopers’ charter by the back door

A snoopers’ charter by the backdoor: One day until Drip is forced through

by Ian Dunt

Privacy campaigners are frantically trying to brief MPs about the implications of the data retention and investigatory powers bill (Drip), before it is forced through all of its Commons stages tomorrow.

The more experts look at the bill, the more convinced they’ve become that it provides authorities with the spine of the snoopers’ charter, but without any of the public debate or parliamentary scrutiny which were supposed to accompany it.

The charter – known as the draft communications bill before it was killed off – would have forced internet service providers and mobile operators to keep details of their customers’ behaviour for 12 months.

Analysis of Drip, which was supposed to only extend the government’s current powers for another two years, suggests it forces through many of those requirements on internet firms without any of the political outrage which derailed the earlier effort.

Clause four of the bill appears to extend Ripa – the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (basically Britain’s Patriot Act) – so that the UK government can impose severe penalties on companies overseas that refuse to comply with interception warrants. It also lays out situations in which they may be required to maintain permanent interception capacity.

Clause five then provides a new definition of “telecommunications service”, which includes companies offering internet-based services. That seems to drag services like Gmail and Hotmail into the law, and very probably social media sites like Facebook too.

The government insists the extraterritoriality clause merely makes explicit what was previously implicit. It’s tosh. As the explanatory notes for the legislation – released very quietly on Friday night – make clear, overseas telecommunications companies did not believe they were necessarily under Ripa’s jurisdiction.

“Regarding the amendments to Ripa, in view of the suggestion by overseas telecommunications service providers that the extra-territorial effect of Ripa is unclear, it is considered necessary to amend the legislation to put the issue beyond doubt,” it reads.

“This includes clarifying the definition of a ‘telecommunications service’ to ensure the full range of telecommunications services available to customers in the United Kingdom are included in the definition.”

David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband insist Drip merely extends their current powers for two years. That’s nonsense. These two clauses, which have nothing to do with the purported aim of the bill, provide the spine of the snoopers’ charter.

They also appear to provide a legal basis for programmes like Tempora, the project revealed by Edward Snowden to allow GCHQ to tap into transatlantic fibre-optic cables and stored data.

Notably, Privacy International, Liberty and others are taking the government to a tribunal this week on whether Tempora is legal, even though the government won’t even admit its existence. Drip could make the tribunal ruling irrelevant.

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Continue ReadingCameron, Clegg and Ed sneak in a snoopers’ charter by the back door

Cameron says be afraid of evil terrrists in this dangerous world

Image of David Cameron“Sometimes in the dangerous world in which we live we need our security services to listen to someone’s phone and read their emails to identify and disrupt a terrorist plot.”

Cameron said the public needed to be protected from “criminals and terrorists”

(source)

The UK Tory coalition government and the so-called Labour Party opposition have joined in a stitch-up to pass excessive spying on the public laws.

The nasty coalition government and its mate the Labour Party are responding to a judgement by the EU Court of Justice that the Data Retention Directive 2006/24/EC was invalid since it “disproportionately restricted individuals’ Charter Rights under Article 7 (respect for private and family life) and Article 8 (protection of personal data).”

Support of this attack on human rights appears to be against Ed Miliband and the Labour Party’s interests: While Miliband is seeking to protect a wafer-thin poll lead, electors vote for what they have already got when they are scared. This is what Ian Blair was doing – suggesting “Bubonic Plague” while campaigning for Tony Blair at the 2005 election. ed: actually that wasn’t what Ian Blair was doing discussing “Bubonic Plague”. That’s what he was pretending to do.     later ed: Let’s say he was doing two things at once.

 

Continue ReadingCameron says be afraid of evil terrrists in this dangerous world

Commentary and analysis

What a hoot, The Labour Press Team announce

Everybody should have his own owl

The Press Team later claimed that their Twitter account had been hacked, blaming a “bot”.

A group of former British ambassadors call for Tony Blair to be sacked as Middle East envoy saying that his achievements are “negligible” and that and he is guilty of seeking to please the Israelis.

 

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Commentary and analysis

Commentary and analysis of recent UK political events …

Good to see that blind old cnut David ‘airy-fairy civil liberties’ Blunkett announces his resignation at the next general election. Not a moment to soon, eh?

The Liberal-Demonrats are out for Nick Clegg while the Labour Party are out for Ed Miliband.

Image of David Cameron and Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg is described as ‘toxic’ on the doorstep which seems about right. He is a very hated figure having abandoned election pledges and supported nasty Tories. The truth is that Nick Clegg has always been a Tory – he was a member of Cambridge Uniersity’s Conservative Association, worked in Leon Brittan’s private office in Brussels (after Leon was relocated by Thatcher under some very nasty – scandalous even – er, alleged circumstances) and is an out-and-out Tory according to the Orange book and his calls to privatise the NHS.

I’m disappointed that the Labour Party is pursuing a policy of continuing the Conservative-Liberal-Democrat (Conservative) coalition’s austerity measures instead of pursuing tax evasion and avoidance. I am disappointed, for example, that Rachel Reeves has stated that Labour intends to be harder on benefits claimants than the Tories and that she has recently announced benefits cuts on young people – exactly the opposite to previous claims.

Image of Tony Blair and Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband seems to be adopting a policy of doing nothing to differentiate himself and the Labour Party from the Tories or Liberal-Demonrats Tories in an attempt to preserve his narrow poll margin. He most certainly won’t have my support while he is trying to out-Tory the Tories.

Tens of thousands march in London against coalition’s austerity measures

Image of Russell Brand at anti-austerity march 21 June 2014

Tens of thousands of people marched through central London on Saturday afternoon in protest at austerity measures introduced by the coalition government. The demonstrators gathered before the Houses of Parliament, where they were addressed by speakers, including comedians Russell Brand and Mark Steel.

An estimated 50,000 people marched from the BBC’s New Broadcasting House in central London to Westminster.

“The people of this building [the House of Commons] generally speaking do not represent us, they represent their friends in big business. It’s time for us to take back our power,” said Brand.

 

* Plans for this blog include regular updates and ‘monetizing’ (making money from it). I have resisted this but I can’t really see any alternatives. I’m sorry to say that ads are on their way.

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UK politics news

A selection of recent UK and international political articles.

Continue ReadingUK politics news

UK politics news

Recent UK politics news articles

 

Continue ReadingUK politics news

Commentary and analysis of recent political events

The government is trying to pass a clause in the Care bill today that will allow hospitals to be closed much easier without public consultation.

Hospital closure clause battle heats up today

Stormy scenes are likely in parliament today as the government tries to “rush through” changes that will make it far easier to close hospitals without public consultation. The changes,which OurNHS has campaigned on from the start, now face fierce opposition from doctors, 38 Degrees, the British Medical Association, NHS campaigners and charities.

On Friday Ed Miliband tabled a motion of opposition to the Bill, saying it “includes provisions which could put NHS hospitals at risk of having services reconfigured without adequate consultation and without clinical support”.

The hospital closure clause gives Trust Special Administrators greater powers including the power to make changes in neighbouring trusts without consultation. It was added to the Care Bill just as the government was being defeated by Lewisham Hospital campaigners, in an attempt to ensure that campaigners could not challenge such closure plans in the future. But the new Bill could be applied anywhere in the country.

Louise Irvine, Chair of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, said “If services need redesigning the law must ensure this is with proper and extensive consultation with local people. This process cannot be rushed. Decisions should not be based on the needs of investment banks. What happened to the government promises that in the NHS there would be ‘no decision about me, without me’?

OpenDemocracy appears on the Want to make a worthwhile donation this Solstice? page

Ed Miliband commits to doubling the number of homes built each year. The move is likely to prove very popular. I think that he’s correct in recognising development and building as a racket concerned with profiteering. I would also like to see the renovation of properties and the conversion of buildings to homes or other forms of social housing.

Ed Miliband promises drive to double rate of housebuilding

Profiteering property developers that hoard land and councils that block developments will be swept aside in a “non-stop drive” to more than double the number of homes being built each year in England, Ed Miliband will promise on Monday.

Attacking “stick-in-the-mud councils”, the Labour leader will say he would order a national planning inspectorate to give priority to local authorities that want to expand if they are being blocked by neighbouring councils refusing to release land.

Under the Labour plans, councils would be empowered to compulsorily purchase land or charge fees if developers fail to build on land for which they have planning permission. Michael Lyons, the chair of Labour’s new independent commission on housing and a former BBC chairman, told the Guardian that Britain needed to recapture the postwar spirit when building homes was the national priority.

Despite MPs claiming publicly that they object to their intended pay rise, only 10 MPs back a motion to limit their pay rises to 1% to match the public sector.

Cuts to care funding mean half a million fewer looked after, study finds

Almost half a million fewer old and disabled people are receiving care and support from the public purse than would have been the case before the financial crash, according to an expert study.

The research comes as MPs vote on Monday on the coalition’s care bill, which aims to overhaul the care system in England but threatens to tighten still further the rules of eligibility for state support.

Charities and care organisations are calling on ministers to address a “black hole” in social care funding which they say has left the system short of £2.8bn a year that would be necessary to meet people’s needs assessed as “moderate”.

Bridget Warr, chief executive of the United Kingdom Homecare Association, said: “Funding good care which helps people stay in their own home is not only a moral responsibility for any civilised society, but is also cost-efficient as it extends people’s wellbeing, reducing admissions to A&E, and helps people return home from hospital quicker.”

Continue ReadingCommentary and analysis of recent political events