Commentary on and analysis of recent political events

The big story today is the current UK coalition government’s attempts to hide the UK’s part in torture and rendition under the Tony Blair government. Despite repeated denials by liar Jack Straw at the time, evidence has surfaced that Tony Bliar’s government conducted illegal renditions. It is widely accepted that Blair’s government had little regard for the law, truth or justice.

Image of liars Jack Straw and Tony BlairUK inquiry on rendition and torture to be handed to ISC

The stalled official inquiry into the UK’s involvement in rendition and torture in the years after 9/11 is to be handed to the controversial intelligence and security committee (ISC), the government will announce on Thursday.

The decision follows years of assurances by ministers that the inquiry would be headed by a senior judge.

It is a move that will dismay human rights groups. The ISC is the oversight body that failed to report publicly on the bulk surveillance operations being conducted by the UK’s signals intelligence agency, GCHQ, and it has already conducted one inquiry into rendition, after which it cleared MI5 and MI6 of blame.

The extent to which the agencies were involved in the abuse of terrorism suspects may be outlined on Thursday with the publication of a redacted version of an interim report of the stalled inquiry that was led by Sir Peter Gibson, a retired appeal court judge.

Gibson is said to be calling for further investigation into the UK’s involvement in the rendition of two Libyan opposition leaders and their families to Tripoli in 2004, and the role played by Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary at the time. Straw was not available for comment but has previously denied any wrongdoing. MI6 is reported to have confronted him with documentary evidence that he personally authorised the agency’s involvement in the rendition operations.

NHS sign

Poorest areas to get extra NHS money to tackle ill health

The poorest parts of England are to receive extra money to tackle ill health after NHS bosses rejected plans to divert resources from there to wealthy areas.

NHS England’s decision means that scores of GP-led clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in deprived areas will no longer see their budgets cut from April. Its board has defied the Department of Health by throwing out its plans to make the age of the local population, not the level of deprivation, a key factor in the allocation of NHS funding.

Labour MPs had claimed that such a move would lead to almost £1bn being shifted from poor areas which have low life expectancy to wealthier places where residents live longer.

Instead NHS England has opted to give all 211 CCGs rises of at least the rate of inflation both next year and in 2015-16, and give those serving the most deprived places extra money to help cope with the demand caused by ingrained health problems. It was obliged to do that to help meet its legal duty to reduce health inequalities and differences in life expectancy between rich and poor areas, said chief financial officer Paul Baumann….

For the Sake of Humanity Society Must Unleash War on the Tories

The campaign of hate being waged by this government of rich, privileged, and privately educated sociopaths against the poor, the unemployed, and those who dare try to claim the benefits to which they are entitled is unparalleled in modern history. Even Thatcher in her pomp was not as malicious in her treatment of the aforementioned demographic. This was not because she didn’t wish to be more malicious than she was, it was because when she came to power we still had trade unions capable and willing to resist such an onslaught, meaning that the cost involved in even attempting to rip up the foundations of the welfare state and the collective ethos which lies at its heart would have been too damaging to her government and party to make worthwhile.

Three decades on and the fruits of Thatcherism – with the corresponding neutering of the unions and other forms of working class solidarity – have culminated in a new normal of demonisation and the near criminalisation of poverty in Britain. Austerity has been sold to the country as a policy of necessity in response to years of Labour profligacy and a bloated public sector. It is a lie so bold and barefaced that even Joseph Goebbels would blush while repeating it.

Prisoners serving less than a year should be allowed to vote, says Parliamentary committee

Prisoners serving sentences of 12 months or less should be given the vote, the Government is today told by an all-party parliamentary committee.

It also called for all inmates who are within six months of release to be entitled to take part in elections.

The recommendations will not be welcome in Downing Street as David Cameron has said he would feel “physically sick” if prisoners were allowed to vote.

Britain is locked in an eight-year battle with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which has ruled that the blanket ban on prisoner voting is incompatible with European law.

Government to make 40 per cent of Britain available for fracking

The vast disruption that could be caused across the country by fracking has been laid bare, with the Government announcing it would make 40 per cent of Britain available to companies to explore for oil and gas next year.

Local communities could be subjected to thousands of wells being dug every year in the search for fossil fuels – requiring billions of litres of water, with dozens of lorries passing by every day – after the Coalition said it would put oil and gas licences covering 100,000 square kilometres up for auction next summer.

The auction, which would give the licence-winners exclusive rights to explore an area for oil and gas, but would require additional permits for fracking, would add to the 19,000 square kilometres of licences that have already been sold to hydrocarbon producers.

Ian Watkins abuse: police forces to be investigated by IPCC

Investigations are under way to find out if three police forces should have done more to pursue allegations of sex abuse, dating back to 2008, against Ian Watkins.

Watkins, the 36-year-old former Lostprophets lead singer, is to be sentenced on Wednesday for a string of offences including the attempted rape of a baby.

Before his sentencing, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it was investigating police forces in South Wales, where Watkins lived, but also South Yorkshire and Bedfordshire. One line of inquiry is whether officers failed to look properly into Watkins’s activities because of his celebrity status.

The IPCC’s commissioner Jan Williams said: “No one can fail to be shocked by the vile details of Ian Watkins’s offending that emerged in court last month.

“Questions are now rightly being asked as to whether Ian Watkins could have been brought to justice sooner, what steps were taken by police in response to allegations made against him as far back as 2008 and whether his celebrity status had any impact on the investigation.” He added, however, that the investigation was complex and would take time.

Continue ReadingCommentary on and analysis of recent political events

Commentary and analysis of recent political events

That Conservative, illiberal Nick Clegg is keen to do the Tories’ work

Clegg leaves the door open to further welfare cuts

George Osborne has made it clear that he plans to introduce “billions” more in welfare cuts if the Tories win the next election, including a possible reduction in the £26,000 household benefit cap and new limits on child benefit, but where does Nick Clegg stand? At the Deputy PM’s final monthly press conference of the year, I asked him whether he was prepared to consider a reduction in the benefit cap in the next parliament. He told me:

It’s not something that I’m advocating at the moment because we’ve only just set this new level and it’s £26,000, which is equivalent to earning £35,000 before taxI think we need to keep that approach, look and see how it works, see what the effects are, but not rush to start changing the goalposts before the policy has properly settled down.

The key words here are “at the moment”. While Clegg again declared that he believed the priority should be to remove universal pensioner benefits from the well-off (“you start from the top and you work down”), he was careful not rule out a cut in the level of the cap.

Spiked has a good article on modern slavery being make-believe and Theresa May’s Modern Slavery bill addressing a non-existant problem. This blog has addressed slavery not existing. Spiked are on the Want to make a worthwhile donation this Solstice? page.

Firefighters to strike on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Tony Blair intervened directly in a firefighters’ strike while the FBU was headed by a Labourite idiot. Strange to see Blair referring to the “real world” since he was a total stranger to it.

Image of GCHQ donught buildingHome Secretary Theresa May fails to provide any evidence that the Guardian’s publishing the Edward Snowden leaks have damaged national security as claimed by boss of MI5, Andrew Parker. Keith Vaz, chair of the home affairs committee told May “What you have given us today, and what we have heard so far, is only second-hand information. Mr Parker and Sir John are making statements in open session and nobody knows what the follow-up is.” and “Everyone is appointed by the prime minister … They are asking questions of each other, and giving answers to each other … That is exactly why we need to see them [the agency heads]. But you don’t want us to see them at all.”

Why Cameron is wrong to declare ‘mission accomplished’ in Afghanistan

What the welfare cuts mean for us: ‘The feeling of dread never goes away’

Hungry Christmas: Food Bank Use Soars

2013 in Review: Unions Are the Only Defence Ordinary People Have Left

Poorer than your parents – post-war pensions boom ‘is coming to an end’

Federal judge holds NSA telephone surveillance unconstitutional

Lord Hanningfield says of allowance claims: ‘I have to live, don’t I?’

For the Sake of Humanity Society Must Unleash War on the Tories

SILENT TO THE GRAVE (The Waterhouse Report)

Continue ReadingCommentary and analysis of recent political events