COBRA to meet over flooding crisis

Liz Truss
Liz Truss

Downing Street has confirmed that the COBRA (Cabinet Office Briefing Room – used in situations of crisis) will meet again tomorrow (Sunday 27 December 2015) to discuss the flooding crisis which has affected much of northern England as well as some parts of Scotland and Wales.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, wrote on Twitter:

“My thoughts are with people whose homes have been flooded. I’ll chair a COBRA call tomorrow to ensure everything is being done to help”.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Labour Party, said on Twitter:

“Heart goes out to the tens of thousands affected by the floods and huge gratitude to incredible efforts of army, firefighters and volunteers”.

Tim Farron, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said on Twitter:

“The Government must look again at the swingeing cuts to departments like DCLG and DEFRA that will be needed to help communities back onto their feet. I want to pay tribute to local councils, the Army, emergency services, Environment Agency and everyone else who is working to hard to help people”.


Elizabeth Truss, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said in a statement:

“Over the past 24 hours we have seen very high levels of rainfall on already saturated ground in Yorkshire and Lancashire. This has resulted in rivers rising to historically high levels and severe flood warnings being issued.

I chaired COBR meetings on Christmas Day and this morning to ensure that the best possible preparations were made and that local authorities, emergency services, the Environment Agency and the armed forces were working together to respond.

Late on Christmas Day it became clear that the majority of the rain was likely to fall in Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Therefore the Environment Agency and the army worked through Christmas evening and overnight to move temporary defences, pumps and personnel to those areas.

In both Lancashire and Yorkshire, emergency services and armed forces personnel from 2nd Battalion Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (2LANCS) have been working round the clock to warn, inform, to protect lives and properties and to evacuate vulnerable communities.

This work continues as we expect further impacts tonight and into tomorrow and beyond.

This is clearly a particularly terrible time of year for flooding to take place and families and business to suffer. I have every sympathy for their situation and I am determined to ensure that affected communities get all the support they need.

I am travelling to affected areas tonight with the Cabinet Office Minister, Oliver Letwin and Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, Sir James Bevan, to ensure that those working on the ground have all they need. A further COBR will be held tomorrow morning”.

40 Year Old Father Dies following IRA Bombing in 1996

Stuart Packard, a 40-year old father of two who was living in Essex, has died from cancer which is thought to be linked to the 1996 IRA bombing in Manchester. Mr. Packard had worked as a security guard at the site for around three weeks after the bombing and it is thought that he may have been exposed to asbestos.

Mr. Packard died in November and had been diagnosed with mesothelioma in March of this year. A claim is being considered by his family as it may be that he wasn’t offered sufficient protective equipment at the time.

The Provisional IRA took responsibility for planting the bomb in June 1996 which injured over 200 people and caused over £1 billion of damage. The IRA were condemned by the British, Irish and American Governments in what was the largest bomb on English soil since the Second World War.

Pressure on Conservative MP Lucy Allan Increases after deleted post


Lucy Allan, the Conservative MP for Telford, has deleted a post on her web-site about bullying allegations shortly after she posted it earlier today.


Allan has been under pressure over bullying allegations from her former staff after a recording was made of the MP. In her, now deleted post, Allan criticised a staff member for contacting the Conservative Party about her actions saying:

“I do not know why Arianne contacted the Conservative Party and the media about the allegations”.

Allan made a statement to the London Evening Standard last week saying:

“Arianne Plumbly was dismissed from her employment with Lucy Allan, MP in Telford, after four months’ employment, for gross misconduct following misuse of the Parliamentary email system, persistent unauthorised absenteeism, refusal to follow a reasonable instruction and rudeness to residents”.

The Conservative Party has said that the matter will be fully investigated.

Michael Heseltine warns of Tory arguments over Europe

Michael Heseltine, the former Conservative Party Deputy Prime Minister, has warned of splits in the party over the upcoming referendum on UK membership of the European Union.

Talking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Heseltine argued that David Cameron, the Prime Minister, would be “a laughing stock” if he allowed a free vote for Cabinet members on the referendum.

Heseltine added:

“To have a civil war within the Conservative Party at that time, in the belief that the referendum having been determined, the participants in the civil war are going to sit around the table and happily smile together, is, I think, rather naive”.

Labour MP Jess Phillips Says She Will Knife Corbyn in the Front

Jess Phillips, the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, has said that she “knife Jeremy Corbyn in the front rather than the back” if she thought he was damaging the party’s chances of electoral success.

Phillips was speaking in an interview with Owen Jones when she said she didn’t believe Labour would win a General Election if it were held today. She added:

“I would do anything that I felt was going to make the Labour party win the general election because if I don’t have that attitude then all I’m doing is colluding with the Tories”.

When asked about Corbyn’s electoral chances she said:

“I would do whatever I could to make Jeremy Corbyn more electable, but you’ve got to give me something to work with, mate”.

Jeremy Corbyn’s office refused to comment on the interview.

Commons European Scrutiny Committee Says Cameron Would Need Treaty Change


The House of Commons’s European Scrutiny Committee has said that David Cameron, the Prime Minister would need treaty change to deliver substantial reforms to the European Union.

The Prime Minister had support for his reforms at a summit to be held this Thursday but the Committee said that formal treaties would be needed to guarantee these changes were implemented.

Bill Cash, the Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, said “there is no certainty that they will be delivered to the British people” without treaty change. A referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union is expected to be held in 2017 and treaty changes would likely be impossible before this date.

Cash added that “this is a historic referendum that will determine the future of our country. We have to warn the voters”.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said:

“The Prime Minister has been clear that the reforms we are seeking will need to be legally binding and irreversible, and that some will require treaty change. His position hasn’t changed”.

David Cameron Meeting With Nicola Sturgeon


David Cameron, the Prime Minister, and Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, met at Downing Street earlier today to discuss matters of interest to both countries.

The issue of terrorism and security was discussed including ways in which the security services shared information with the Scottish Government. Lord Dunlop, the Scottish Office Minister said:

“The Prime Minister and the First Minister enjoyed a constructive meeting and much progress was made on security and intelligence co-operation, particularly around the sharing of information to help counter the terrorist threat across the country. The UK government is absolutely committed to working together with the governments of our devolved nations on security and counter-terrorism matters, and today’s discussions reflected that.

Put simply, every citizen in every part of the United Kingdom must have the same level of safety and security.

What we need to see now is wide support for our legislative efforts to allow the police and security services to keep the UK safe in the 21st century. The Investigatory Powers Bill is a vital piece of legislation if we are to prevent Daesh-inspired terrorists from having safe spaces in which to communicate in our country.

I hope that when the Commons debates this in the new year, we will see support from MPs from across all parts of the UK”.

Philip Hammond Praises Work of Riyadh Conference in aiming for a unified Syria


Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, has praised the work of the Riyadh Conference in their aim to build a united Syria. The conference brought together a number of opposition politicians and rebels in the country and aims to start peace talks in the region.

Hammond said:

“I congratulate Syrian Opposition leaders and their hosts, Saudi Arabia, on bringing together a broad and inclusive group of Oppositionists to affirm their vision for Syria, develop a clear approach to negotiations with the regime, and appoint a negotiating committee which will now prepare the way ahead.

I welcome the Riyadh Conference’s commitment to a unified and pluralistic Syria and its rejection of terrorism in all its forms.

The UK will continue to play our full part in the International Syria Support Group established to ensure a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition based on the Geneva Communiqué of 2012, and to an ambitious but clear timetable. This conference was an important step ahead of the next International ISSG Meeting next week”.

Jeremy Corbyn to attend Stop the War Event


Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, has confirmed that he intends to be present at a Stop the War Event despite opposition from within the Labour Party.

A number of senior figures in the Labour Party, including Tristram Hunt, Caroline Flint and Emma Reynolds, have called on Corbyn to cancel his attendance. Earlier in the week Caroline Lucas withdrew her support for the group following a series of controversial statements made by Stop the War.

One article, referring partly to the terrorist attacks in Paris, published by Stop the War said:

“Let’s be as clear as possible. The hellish world we live in today is the result of deliberate policies and actions undertaken by the United States and its allies over the past decade”.

The group denied some of the allegations made against them, including that they were pro-Assad and in support of Russian air strikes. They said in a statement:

“The Stop the War Coalition is under unprecedented attack because of its opposition to the bombing of Syria and because attacks on it are perceived to weaken Jeremy Corbyn”.

The group was also criticised this week in a letter to the Guardian by a number of signatories, including Peter Tatchell, Rupert Read, Darren Johnson, Abdulaziz Almashi and Mark Boothroyd . The letter said:

“StWC has repeatedly refused to have anti-Assad Syrian democrats and leftwingers on its platforms at events where Syria is being discussed; whereas it has offered a platform to pro-Assad speakers such as Issa Chaer and Mother Agnes. Moreover, StWC intervened to stop a Syrian Solidarity UK speaker from addressing the Migrant Lives Matter rally in London in April”.


Petition to ban Donald Trump from UK tops over 400,000


A petition to ban Donald Trump from the UK has reached over 400,000 signatures and will now be debated in the House of Commons. The petition follows comments made by Trump, a Republican Presidential hopeful in the USA, that Muslims should be banned from the country “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on”.

The text of the petition at states:

“The UK has banned entry to many individuals for hate speech. The same principles should apply to everyone who wishes to enter the UK.

If the United Kingdom is to continue applying the ‘unacceptable behaviour’ criteria to those who wish to enter its borders, it must be fairly applied to the rich as well as poor, and the weak as well as powerful”.

Trump has also cancelled a planned trip to Israel following the controversy and added that he will only return to the country when he is the President of the United States.