New Ipsos MORI suggests large SNP gains


Polling undertaken by Ipsos MORI has suggested that the SNP may be on course to win every seat in Scotland. The polling though does suggest that many voters are still undecided so the electoral position may remain fluid.

Details of the polling are available here.

Labour announces new immigration strategy


Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Opposition, has announced the Labour Party’s ten point immigration strategy if they win the 2015 General Election.

The strategy includes:

  1. Recruiting 1,000 extra borders staff, paid for by a small charge on non-visa visitors to the UK.
  2. Stopping those who have committed serious crimes coming to Britain and deporting those who commit them after they arrive.
  3. Introducing full exit checks, so that we can count people in and out of the country.
  4. Ending the indefinite detention of people in the asylum system and upholding our traditions and obligations on refugees.
  5. Keeping the cap on workers from outside the EU and tightening the rules by requiring large firms hiring workers from outside to offer apprenticeships here.
  6. Making it illegal for employers to undercut wages by exploiting workers – and enforcing this law with a special 100-strong Home Office unit with investigatory powers.
  7. Banning recruitment agencies from hiring only from overseas.
  8. Closing the agency workers loophole where employers are able to use agency staff as a way to undercut the wages of permanent staff.
  9. Preventing people who come here from claiming benefits for at least two years or sending child benefit to families living abroad.
  10. Requiring people working in public services in public facing roles to speak English.

Foreign Secretary pledges help for British nationals in Nepal


Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, has pledged help for British nationals who have been caught up in the earthquake in Nepal. In a statement Hammond said:

“Foreign Office staff continue to work around the clock tracing British nationals and getting them to safety in the wake of this catastrophe. More than 300 who had no accommodation have been hosted by our Embassy in Kathmandu and we have arranged for around 120 to be repatriated on a flight chartered by the UK Government to deliver relief supplies.

The situation remains extremely challenging due to widespread infrastructure damage caused by the earthquakes, landslides and avalanches. Search and rescue teams, medics and our armed services are on the ground now helping British nationals and others in need. Hundreds of Britons have now been accounted for and our teams are working closely with the Nepalese army and authorities to locate British nationals in remote areas and get them to safety.

We know that this is an agonising time for those who are waiting for news of loved ones. But the scale of the disaster and the limited communications means that it may be some time before we can account for everyone. Many are likely to be in a place of safety but not able to communicate easily.

Sadly I can confirm the death of one British dual national, a resident of Hong Kong”.

Conservatives to rule out increases in Income Tax, VAT or National Insurance


David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has ruled out any increases in Income Tax, VAT or National Insurance if the Conservatives win the General Election.

The Prime Minister said that the Government would legislate within 100 days of the General Election to enshrine in law no tax increases by 2020.

In a speech he said:

“When it comes to your tax bill, do you trust the people who taxed you to the hilt when they were in power and still haven’t come clean about the taxes they want to increase next time round?

“Or do you trust the Conservatives, who have cut income taxes for 26 million people, and who will cut your taxes again next time?”

A Labour spokesman said that they expected the Conservatives to increase VAT.

Prime Minister meets with Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan


David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has met with Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, at 10, Downing Street in London. A Downing Street spokesman said:

“The Prime Minister welcomed Prime Minister Sharif of Pakistan to Downing Street following their attendance at the Gallipoli commemorations at the Cenotaph earlier this morning. The leaders took the opportunity to discuss a number of regional issues, including the situation in Yemen and Afghanistan. The leaders set out their support for finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Yemen and working with Saudi Arabia to help bring about this transition. Prime Minister Sharif also updated the Prime Minister on Pakistan’s work with Afghanistan towards a peace process. The Prime Minister said that it was in Britain and the wider region’s interest to see stability and a close working relationship between both countries”.

A spokesman for Sharif said:

“During their meeting, the two leaders discussed a wide range of issues pertaining to bilateral cooperation as well as regional and international situation, including the current situation in the Middle East.

The two leaders expressed satisfaction that relations between the two countries have substantially strengthened in recent years. They expressed confidence that bilateral ties between the two countries would see further enhancement especially in the area of trade and economy.

Prime Minister David Cameron, while acknowledging the sacrifices rendered by Pakistan, appreciated Pakistan’s efforts to eradicate extremism and terrorism from its soil and said UK would continue to assist and extend cooperation to Pakistan in this regard. The Prime Minister also appreciated UK’s cooperation and assistance in the areas of security and counter-terrorism”.

Jim Wells has resigned from his Northern Ireland Healthcare post


Jim Wells, the DUP Assembly Member for Down South in Northern Ireland, has resigned as the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety in the Province. In a statement he said:

“Those who know my family and I, know the last three months have been the toughest of our lives as we watched my wife, Grace, suffer two successive strokes and battle through major heart surgery. However, as she now faces further challenges I have come to the point where I am no longer able to continue my ministerial duties and give Grace the attention she deserves.

On the issue of comments I have made which have attracted significant publicity, I have already said sorry for the offence caused and acknowledged that the comments were factually inaccurate.  At no time did I set out to hurt or offend anyone and it has upset me greatly that the comments made have caused distress to some within our community.   I am deeply saddened that some of those who represent a different viewpoint from me have attacked my family and me in a deeply personal, nasty and in some cases threatening way. Some of the outbursts on social media have been particularly abusive and menacing in nature”.

The resignation days after controversial comments Wells made which appeared to link same-sex couples to child abuse and the police confirmed that they were investigating the comments. At this time Wells said in a statement:

“The last few weeks have been extremely difficult for me personally. I had just come from a hospital visit and my focus was not on the debate. Indeed, during the event I received several messages from the hospital.

I have listened to a recording of the relevant part of the debate. I accept that one line of what I said caused offence and deep concern amongst members of the audience and beyond. I regret having wrongly made that remark about abuse and I’m sorry those words were uttered. The comment did not reflect my view nor that of my party.

Within seconds of realising this error, I asked the Chairman to let me back in and twice corrected my remarks before the debate moved on. This clarification has been confirmed by the journalists present at the event. Partial clips, spin and selective reporting regrettably miss this.

The neglect or abuse of children is awful and happens in unstable relationships whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. I make no distinction between anyone who neglects or abuses a child regardless of their sexual orientation. I trust people will accept my explanation and my apology”.

The leader of the DUP, Peter Robinson, said:

“Jim and Grace have been foremost in our prayers over the last few months.  Almost daily he has updated me on Grace’s progress.  I trust she will make a full and speedy recovery.  I have always advised Jim that we stand ready to assist him in any way we can.

I know Jim was enjoying leading change within the Department and putting in place new policies that were making our health service better.  I believe he has made a great contribution and always offered positive support at an Executive level.  I would have wanted it to be otherwise but I respect Jim’s decision.  However, he is right to put his family first and I will fully support his decision.  With such a significant portfolio, there should be an orderly transition; therefore Jim will continue in post until 11th May when the new Minister will take up office.  In the meantime, I have requested that the Finance Minister, Simon Hamilton, assume some of Jim’s duties to release some of the pressure.

I place on record my thanks, and that of my party, for Jim’s service and trust everyone will accept the stress and strain Jim has encountered over these past months and offer him and his family support and encouragement as Grace battles her illness”.duplogo

Foreign Secretary pledges help after earthquake in Nepal


The Government has pledged help to Nepal following an earthquake in the region which is thought to have killed over 1,000 people and caused significant disruption.

Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, said in a statement:

“My thoughts are with the people of Nepal and everyone affected by the terrible loss of life and widespread damage caused by the earthquake.

We are in close contact with the Nepalese government. The British Embassy in Nepal is offering our assistance to the authorities and is providing consular assistance to British Nationals”.

Justine Greening, the International Development Secretary, added:

My thoughts are with the people of Nepal, in particular all those who have lost loved ones.

“The absolute priority must be to reach people who are trapped and injured, and provide shelter and protection to those who have lost their homes.

Nepal needs our urgent humanitarian assistance and that is why we have rapidly deployed a team of humanitarian experts who will immediately begin work assessing the damage and helping the Nepalese authorities respond to this devastating earthquake”.

Reclaim Brixton Group event ends in violence

An event held by the Reclaim Brixton group in London has ended in violence with the windows of Foxtons estate agents smashed. The event had been intended to campaign for more local housing in the area to counter increasing house prices in the area.

The Metropolitan police confirmed that some of the campaigners broke away from the main group saying in a statement “a group of protesters then made their way to Brixton Road where the window of a commercial premises was smashed and graffiti sprayed on the building”.

The police also confirmed that another group who had entered the force’s police station in Brixton and that CS gas was used to disperse them. The Guardian newspaper reported that violence continued into the evening.

Labour pledges to reform rented housing market



Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Opposition, has said that a Labour Government would reform the rented housing market by introducing rent controls and increasing the length of a minimum tenancy.

Landlords who fail to keep their housing stock in good condition will also potentially lose their buy-to-let tax relief cut. After a six month trial tenancy period tenants will be able to sign a three year tenancy agreement with rental increases linked to inflation.

Sir John Major Warns of the Danger of a Labour-SNP Coalition


Sir John Major, the Conservative Prime Minister from 1990 until 1997, is to warn today of the dangers of an SNP-Labour coalition in a speech in the West Midlands.

He is expected to say:

“Labour would be in hock to a party that – slowly but surely – will push them ever further to the left. And who would pay the price for this? We all would. We would all pay for the SNP’s ransom in our daily lives – through higher taxes, fewer jobs, and more and more debt.”

Warning that the SNP would have a pro-nationalist agenda Major is also expected to say:

“That is no way to run a country. And nor is it remotely fair to England, Wales and Northern Ireland”.