John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, has been criticised for quoting Chairman Mao

John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, has been criticised for quoting Chairman Mao in his response to the annual spending review. It is thought that up to 60 million Chinese died due to the economic policies of Mao Tse-tung.

Chris Leslie, Labour’s previous Shadow Chancellor said after McDonnell’s comments that it was “a misjudged stunt”.

Chuka Umunna, Labour’s former Shadow Business Secretary said:

“I haven’t quoted a Communist before and I have no intention of doing so in the future”.

During questioning by the BBC McDonnell didn’t apologise but said about the former Chinese leader:

“I condemn all that”.

Government Confirms Holloway Prison to Close


Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary, has confirmed that Holloway Prison is to close. The prison houses women and young offenders and it was originally opened in 1852. It was also home to the last female prisoner to be executed in the UK when Ruth Ellis was hanged.

In a statement Gove said:

“I am extremely mindful that Holloway holds many vulnerable women. For that reason, no one will be moved immediately and we will not close the prison until services similar to those currently provided for women offenders are in place elsewhere. We expect the prison to close by summer next year.

The closure of Holloway underlines our determination to invest in a high-quality, modern prison estate with better facilities to help prisoners turn away from crime”.

Government U-Turn on Tax Credits


George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has announced that the planned cut in tax credits will be scrapped. Osborne made the statement at the annual spending review held today which also confirmed that there would be no cuts in the policing budget.

There will also be additional taxes on buy-to-let landlords of second home buyers as they will pay a surcharge of 3% on stamp duty. The proposed £12 billion of cuts to the social security budget will continue but there will be no cut in tax credits until they are phased out and replaced by the universal credit.

The basic state pension will increase £3.35 a week from next year and there will no longer be tax-free childcare for those who earn more than £100,000.

The full text of the annual spending review is available here.

UK allows French to use Cyprus base for their air strikes on Syria


The British Government has allowed the French to use their military base in Cyprus to conduct air strikes on Syria. The decision comes after a meeting between the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the French President, François Hollande.

The base to be used is RAF Akrotiri which is a British military station which has been in use since the 1950s. The military base is around 300 kilometres from Syria and will not be used for direct air strikes but just for refuelling and serving French fighters.

Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, said:

“This offer is another demonstration of our solidarity with our French allies. It is right that we do all we can to help them hit ISIL harder. Meanwhile, we will continue to strike this vile organisation in Iraq and build the case for extending those strikes to Syria”.

David Cameron in Paris offering support to the French Government

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has made a statement whilst in Paris offering his support for the French with their military action against ISIS.

Cameron said:

“The United Kingdom will do all in our power to support our friend and ally France to defeat this evil death cult”.

The Prime Minister added that the European Union needed to do more to tackle terrorists:

This requires a pan-European effort.

“We need a stronger external EU border to protect our security more effectively, with screening, systematic security checks and greater sharing of data amongst member states.

We must, without any further delay, finally agree rules that will enable us to share passenger name records. It is frankly ridiculous we can get more information from countries outside the EU than we can from each other”.

A copy of the full statement is available.

British Government issues statement on air raids in Iraq


The Government has issued a statement on air raids on ISIS targets in Iraq which have taken place in recent days.

The statement, issued today, is:

“ISIL terrorists in Iraq have suffered further losses from precision air strikes conducted by the Royal Air Force.

RAF aircraft flying as part of the coalition campaign against ISIL have maintained intensive armed reconnaissance missions, striking a number of terrorist targets in the last few days. On Tuesday 17 November, Tornado GR4s from RAF Akrotiri provided close air support to Iraqi ground forces closing in on Ramadi. Our aircraft conducted three successful attacks with Paveway IV guided bombs, destroying an improvised artillery piece – a so-called “Hell Cannon” – and two heavy machine-gun positions. Support was also given to the Kurdish forces as they exploited their recent victory at Sinjar, and on Thursday, Tornados used a Paveway to destroy a Da’ish sniper position which had opened fire on Kurdish troops, then scored a direct hit with a Brimstone missile on a terrorist vehicle near Sinjar. The same day saw a Reaper flying overwatch for Iraqi troops further south, and it successfully struck a group of terrorists with a Hellfire missile.

Reapers conducted three strikes on Friday 20 November: two Hellfires destroyed an armed pick-up truck and a terrorist check-point, whilst a GBU-12 guided bomb eliminated a large group of terrorists gathered at a weapons cache. Two more ISIL check-points were struck by a Reaper over northern Iraq on Saturday, while on Sunday 22 November, Tornado GR4s attacked a Da’ish vehicle armed with an anti-aircraft gun and a stockpile of home-made explosives, destroying both with Paveways.

Vital support is provided to the strike missions by RAF Voyager air tankers, Sentinel and Air Seeker surveillance aircraft. On the ground, British military instructors continue to provide training to Iraqi and Kurdish troops as part of the large coalition programme to help train and equip the Iraqi security forces”.

Odeon and other cinemas criticised for reversing decision on showing Christian advert


The Odeon, as well as Cineworld and Vue, have been criticised for banning a Christian advert on the grounds that it could offend their customers.

The cinemas initially said that the Digital Cinema Media (DCM), who provide their advertising, had a policy against showing any political or religious advertising. The Church of England, who commissioned the advert, have since provided evidence that DCM had approved the advert in July 2015 and agreed to a discounted price.

DCM also claimed that there was a written policy against accepting religious or political adverts but reporters for the Daily Mail discovered that this document was placed on the DCM web-site just a few hours before the controversy broke.

Richard Dawkins, a scientist and writer who questions religion, said:

“I strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might offend people. If anybody is offended by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended”.

In a statement the Odeon said:

“Like most cinema operators in the UK, the advertising in our cinemas is determined by the code of practise and policies of Digital Cinema Media (DCM). This includes clear guidance on both political and religious advertising”.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said that the decision made by the cinemas was “ridiculous”.

Government borrowing highest since 2009


Figures released today by the ONS have shown that Government borrowing is the highest in six years. The Government borrowed £8.2 billion in October 2015 which was an increase of £1.1 billion over the last 12 months.

The figures are seen as disappointing for George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as it will make hitting the Government’s borrowing targets more difficult. A spokesman for the Chancellor said:

“As today’s public sector finance figures show the job is not yet done and government borrowing remains too high”.

Government says that situation in South Sudan is worsening


Grant Shapps, the Minister of State for International Development, has said that the situation in South Sudan is worsening with the famine affecting more people.

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but has faced a civil war since then. Famines have been a serious issue for the country over recent years and there are continued healthcare difficulties.

In a statement Shapps said:

“It is clear there is an urgent and deepening crisis in South Sudan.

More people than ever before are facing severe and catastrophic food shortages and without additional relief the world’s newest country faces a very real risk of famine.

Britain’s aid will save many lives and help stabilise one of the world’s most fragile countries, helping them cope better with future shocks like droughts and food shortages.

South Sudan can only build a safer, more peaceful and prosperous future when its peace agreement is implemented in full and aid agencies are given the unrestricted access they need to do their jobs”.

Jeremy Corbyn faces rebellion over Syrian air strikes decision


Opposition has arisen following the announcement yesterday by Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, that the party would vote as one on the issue of Syrian air strikes.

Chuka Umunna, the former Shadow Business Secretary, said on the decision:

“Each individual MP has a mandate from those who elected them. We are primarily representatives of our constituents. The first duty of any elected representative, not just ministers, is to do all we can to ensure the security of our constituents, particularly in the face of the terrorist threat we are facing”.

It is thought that up to one third of Labour MPs are willing to rebel against the party leader and vote in support of the Government’s proposals to use air strikes in Syria.