Afzal Amin resigns as Conservative candidate for Dudley North

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The Conservative Party have confirmed that Afzal Amin has resigned as the party’s candidate for the Dudley North constituency.

Senior figures in the party distanced themselves from Amin after it was alleged that he worked with the English Defence League to announce a meeting which he could take the credit for when cancelled.

Amin admitted that he did have meetings with the English Defence League but said that his actions were “normal conflict resolution, confidence building measures”. The Dudley North constituency for a target for the Conservatives with Ian Austin currently having a 649 majority for the Labour Party.

 

Green Party hit by more damaging headlines

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The Green Party has been drawn in a second investigation into actions of their party representatives today.

Earlier today Jenny Ross mocked Nigel Farage’s cancer and the party leadership has confirmed that a party inquiry will take place into allegations that a Green Party councillor took photographs of Frank Field, a Labour Party MP for Birkenhead, when he was having a heart attack. Field was attending a meeting to debate the sell-off of land of the former Rock Ferry High School at the time that the alleged incidents took place.

Field called on Natalie Bennett, the party leader, to investigate and he said:

“To take a photo of someone who has just had a heart attack would be a despicable thing to do”

Colin Dow, a Green Party councillor, has reported by Labour List to have said that photographs weren’t taken by him but that “had I been closer, I would have taken a picture”.

The Green Party said that an investigation would take place into the allegations.

Ed Miliband rejects idea of SNP influence on a Labour Government

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Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Opposition, has rejected comments made by Alex Salmond, the former SNP First Minister of Scotland, that the SNP would influence a future Labour Government.

Miliband said “Alex Salmond is at it again, and it’s a combination of bluster and bluff” and added that “I’ll tell you who is going to be writing the Labour budget, it’s me and Ed Balls. Not Alex Salmond in a million years”.

Miliband’s comments come after Salmond suggested an informal partnership between the parties on a vote by vote issue. Salmond had also suggested that this would help steer the Labour party towards a more progressive direction and that HS2 could be re-routed as a bargaining tool.

 

Foreign Secretary condemns use of chemical weapons in Syria

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Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, has today condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria and called for an investigation.

Hammond said in a statement:

“I am appalled by the reports in recent days of further chemical attacks against civilians in Idlib province which have caused a number of fatalities. The Syrian regime must provide a full account of these incidents. There needs to be a comprehensive investigation and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Fact Finding Mission must be allowed to establish whether this was indeed a chemical attack.

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution this month condemning the use of chlorine gas in Syria. The use of chemicals by the Assad regime as a weapon against his own people not only breaches international law, but also violates previous Security Council resolutions and the Chemical Weapons Convention to which Syria acceded. If these latest allegations are verified, this would constitute a violation of UNSCR 2209. The UK, along with international partners, remains committed to ensuring that those responsible are held to account”.

John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, said that he was deeply disturbed by the news and added in a statement:

“If true, this would be only the latest tragic example of the Assad regime’s atrocities against the Syrian people, which the entire international community must condemn”.

 

The Green Party apologise after their candidate Jenny Ross mocks cancer

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The Green Party have apologised after their Parliamentary candidate for Stalybridge and Hyde, Jenny Ross, mocked Nigel Farage’s cancer and compared him to Adolf Hitler.

The blog Order Order reported that the Green Party immediately distanced itself from the comments and said that:

We condemn the language used by Ms Ross. It is neither appropriate or constructive to use this kind of inflammatory language. Our party will fight the vicious rhetoric espoused by Farage but we will not do so by making this kind of offensive remark. We expect an apology from Ms Ross and an internal investigation of her actions is already underway”.

The blog sought a comment from Ross but she refused to apologise and was reported to have made a Twitter post saying:

“No surprise Kippers don’t like dark humour…”

Health Surcharge introduced for new long-term entrants to the UK

The Government has confirmed that the Health Surcharge will be introduced on 6 April 2015. This will require any individual applying for a UK Visa of over six months to pay a £200 a year health surcharge for any NHS care that they might receive.

Citizens from the EU, Australia and New Zealand will not have to pay the charge and those staying for less than six months will also not have to pay. The Government said in a statement that the actual cost of care on average for each individual is estimated to be higher and that the figure is less than is charged in other comparable countries.

The Government expects to raise as much as £200 million a year from the new charge which an expectation of raising £1.7 billion over the next ten years. Payment will be collected at the same time as the Visa application is made by the individual and any dependents will also have the pay the same sum.

UKIP suspend and de-select Janice Atkinson MEP

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Janice Atkinson, the UKIP MEP for the South East, has been suspended by the party. The party has also confirmed that she will not represent them for the Folkestone and Hythe at the General Election.

The party admitted that the allegations were of serious financial misconduct and the BBC have reported that it related to expenses fraud. Atkinson has yet to make a statement on the allegations. Atkinson previously stated that she left the Conservative to join UKIP because she couldn’t “speak about immigration, Europe and grammar schools”.

Atkinson apologised to the media in August 2014 for using the phrase “ting-tong” about one of the party’s supporters. Despite the family stating that she was a “racist bigot” UKIP took no further disciplinary action at the time.

IFS calls on clarity from George Osborne on welfare cuts

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The Institute for Fiscal Studies, the IFS, have called on George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to clarify where the £12 billion of welfare cuts will come from.

In a speech made today on the budget Paul Johnson, the Director of the IFS, said:

“It is now almost two years since he announced his intention of cutting welfare spending by £12 billion. Since then the main announcement has been the plan not to cut anything from the main pensioner benefits. We have been told about no more than £2 billion of the planned cuts to working age benefits. And remember apparently the “plan” is to have those £12 billion of cuts in place by 2017-18. It is time we knew more about what they might actually involve.”

A spokesman for George Osborne said that further details on the projected savings on benefits would be announced before the General Election as part of the Conservative Party’s manifesto.

Supreme Court finds in favour of the Government over the Benefits Cap

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The Supreme Court has said today that the Government did not breach the European Convention on Human Rights when it introduced the benefits cap.

The benefits cap was introduced as a maximum that any family could claim in benefits and it is currently set at £26,000 a year. The Government has said that this is equivalent to a taxable salary of £34,000 a year and that those on benefits shouldn’t be paid more than the average working wage. The Government has said that the measure has saved the tax-payer £225 million over two years.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said:

“I am delighted that the country’s highest court has agreed with this government and overwhelming public opinion that the benefit cap is right and fair. I am proud to say that it is one of the most significant reforms we’ve implemented over the past five years.”

Gloria De Piero to be referred to Parliamentary authorities

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The Guido Fawkes blog has reported that Gloria De Piero is to be reported to the Parliamentary authorities for using her publicly funded communications budget for party political advantage.

De Piero is the current Labour MP for Ashfield, a seat she has held since 2010 when she won a majority of just 192 over the Liberal Democrat candidate Jason Zadrozny. Both De Piero and Zadrozny are also standing again at the 2015 General Election along with Helen Harrison for the Conservatives and Simon Ashcroft for UKIP.