MPs to vote today on Syrian Air Strikes

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MPs will vote today on whether to support air strikes in Syria. There will be a ten hour debate in the House of Commons before the vote takes place.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, is in support of air strikes whilst Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, opposes them. There will though be a free vote in both the Conservative and Labour Party to allow MPs to vote with their conscience.

An estimated 40-60 Labour MPs are expected to support the Government’s proposals, as are the Liberal Democrats. Around 10-20 Conservative MPs are though expected not to support air strikes and the SNP are also opposing them.

Senior Labour figures call on Ken Livingstone to resign

Senior Labour figures have called on Ken Livingstone to resign after he blamed the 7/7 bombings in London on Tony Blair. 52 people died in the terrorist attacks which took place in July 2005.

Livingstone was defending the controversial comments he made on last week’s BBC Question Time. Livingstone is currently the joint chairman of Labour’s defence review,  a position to which he was appointed two weeks ago by Jeremy Corbyn.

Ian Murray, the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, said:

“Ken Livingstone should do the right thing and remove himself from front-line Labour Party politics and apologise to the British people for what is a deplorable way to conduct himself”.

Angela Smith, the Labour MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, said that Livingstone “should resign”.

Ken Livingstone defended his position saying:

“I merely told the truth – that Tony Blair was warned that if you go into Iraq you increase the risk of a terrorist attack in this country”.

Prime Minister Calls Vote on Syrian Air Strikes for Wednesday

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David Cameron, the Prime Minister, will call a vote on whether the UK should begin air strikes on Syria following a debate this Wednesday. If the House of Commons votes in support of the motion then air strikes could begin in Syria by the end of this week.

The Government had previously not called a vote until it was clear that there was a majority in the House of Commons. Previously Jeremy Corbyn had said that the Labour Party would vote as one on the matter but he reversed the policy today after facing opposition from his Shadow Cabinet.

Cameron said:

“We will hold a debate and a vote in the House of Commons to extend the air strikes that we have carried out against Isil in Iraq to Syria, that we answer the call from our allies and work with them, because Isil is a threat to our country and this is the right thing to do”.

The HS2 Rail Link between Birmingham to Crewe is to open six years early

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George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has confirmed that the HS2 Rail Link between Birmingham and Crewe is to open six years early. The route will now open in 2027 and will cut rail journeys between London and Crewe by 35 minutes.

In a statement Osborne said:

“In my Spending Review we committed to the biggest rise in transport spending in a generation meaning that major projects like the construction of HS2, to link the Northern Powerhouse to the South, can begin.

Bringing forward this part of the HS2 route by six years is a massive step in the right direction for the Northern Powerhouse where high speed rail will play a big role in connecting up the entire region with the rest of the country.

It’s fantastic to announce someone of the calibre of John Cridland to take on the important role of chairing Transport for the North. He will bring huge knowledge and experience to this position and I want to say thank you to Sir Richard Leese for the great job he has done in an interim capacity. I look forward to continuing to work together to deliver our shared aim of a world-class transport system for the north”.

Jeremy Corbyn Backs Down Over Air Strikes on Syria

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Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, has backed down on a previous commitment that the Labour Party would vote as one on Syria. Facing with resignations from the Shadow Cabinet, the Labour leader today confirmed that MPs in the party would be able to vote with their consciences.

Diane Abbott, the Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, had earlier rejected such a policy saying that if Jeremy Corbyn agreed to a free vote then it would “hand victory to Cameron over these air strikes, it hands victory to him on a plate”.

The Labour leader has though written to David Cameron, the Prime Minister, asking for a two-day debate on air strikes. In his letter he wrote:

“As of this morning we have not had a clear proposal from the government on when you plan to bring forward a motion to the house on airstrikes in Syria or on arrangements for the debate.

In the view of the opposition on a matter of such critical importance there must be full and adequate time for any debate in the house and only a full two-day debate would ensure time for all members who wish to participate to be able to do so.

As has happened previously a one-day debate would inevitably lead to important contributions being curtailed. It is incumbent on us all to ensure the country feels there has been the fullest parliamentary discussion of what you have rightly described as a highly complex situation”.

Government Issues Joint Statement over Libya

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The United Kingdom has joined the Governments of Algeria, France, Germany, Italy, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States in calling for a new Government of National Accord in Libya.

The Government statement said:

“We strongly encourage all parties to form a Government of National Accord. Only a Government of National Accord can begin the difficult work of establishing effective, legitimate governance, restoring stability, and preserving the unity of the country, as expected by all Libyans.

We commend the courage of these HoR and GNC members who face intimidation by hardliners on both sides seeking to frustrate progress towards a GNA. We admire their determination to build a united Libya which will be able to combat instability, extremism and terrorism. We remind those attempting to impede progress that they will be held to account by the Libyan people and by the international community for their actions”.

Grant Shapps Resigns Over Mark Clarke Scandal

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Grant Shapps, the Minister of State for International Development, has resigned over allegations of bullying whilst he was the Conservative Party Chairman. The allegations are currently centred around the behaviour of Mark Clarke and that Shapps failed to take action.

Mark Clarke has been accused of bullying others in the party and was named by Elliott Johnson in a suicide note of being responsible. Clarke works for Unilever who have refused to comment regarding the allegations which have been made against him.

In a statement issued today by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, he referred to the death of Johnson saying:

“I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place.

It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply”.

Leaked letter suggests Grant Shapps was aware of behaviour of Mark Clarke

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A leaked letter obtained by the Guardian has suggested that Grant Shapps, the then Conservative Party Chairman, was aware of allegations of bullying conducted by Mark Clarke. Clarke was expelled from the Conservative Party last week after serious allegations were made against him.

Shapps, now an International Development Minister, has said that he hardly knew Mark Clarke. However, the Daily Mail found photos which showed the two together at events on numerous occasions.

Friends of Shapps were reported to have said that he was unaware of any bullying allegations. However a letter was written by Baroness Warsi, a former Conservative Party Chair, where she wrote:

“I look forward to hearing from you as to what action you intend to take against Mr. Clarke”.

The allegations made about Mark Clarke are so serious that they were passed onto the police last week. It also follows reports that Elliott Johnson, a young Tory activist, named Clarke in a suicide letter which was found after he killed himself.

The Conservative Party said in a statement last week:

“In the light of information that has come to our knowledge this week, Mark Clarke’s membership of the Conservative Party has been cancelled for life.  This means he cannot be a candidate or represent the Party in any way.

Mark Clarke’s Party membership was suspended in September 2015, following allegations of bullying and inappropriate behaviour.

The Party does not tolerate bullying or any other improper behaviour.  Lord Feldman acted immediately to set up an internal disciplinary inquiry as soon as he received the allegations in August 2015, of which he was previously wholly unaware.

Furthermore the Party’s lawyers and the Party Board’s disciplinary committee will continue to investigate complaints received in relations to Roadtrip2015.  Also, it is confirmed that Roadtrip is no longer authorised as a campaigning entity for the Conservative Party.

Going forward, we will ensure that all groups affiliated to the Conservative Party formally adopt the harassment and anti-bullying policy of CCHQ, as contained in the staff handbook.

The Party will continue to make available on an ongoing basis to all Party members and activists the counselling service provided by Westfield Health”.

Labour Party division over Syria worsens

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Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, is facing mounting criticism over his handling of the Syrian airstrikes question. For the first time a number of Labour MPs have called on Corbyn to stand down as party leader.

John Spellar, the Labour MP for Warley, said:

“It is no good just saying ‘this number of people voted for me as though this takes a trick in every discussion. These issues need to be discussed properly. This is not the way to go about behaving, to walk out of a meeting and… to try and do a lightning strike and a coup against your shadow cabinet. It is pretty extraordinary behaviour”.

A number of Labour MPs have also said that Jeremy Corbyn should consider his resignation. Fiona MacTaggart, the Labour MP for Slough, said that his leadership was “unsustainable”. John Spellar added “If anyone should resign after this incident, it should be Jeremy Corbyn”. Frank Field, the Labour MP for Birkenhead, has said that the party “should consider an alternative leader”.

Prime Minister announces £5 million to tackle Commonwealth extremism

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David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has announced that £5 million will be spent across Commonwealth countries to assist with anti-extremism measures. The announcement was made earlier today at the beginning of the Commonwealth Summit which is being held in Malta.

Cameron said:

“The fight against extremism is something that affects us all. The Commonwealth has a vital role to play in broadening international efforts to counter extremism. Its civil society and education networks make it particularly well placed to complement international efforts to build counter narratives to this poisonous extremist ideology.

This is the struggle of our generation, but by working together we will defeat this extremist scourge that is a threat to us all”.