Weekly Political Round-up – 8th July 2014
July has kicked off with a relatively quiet week in Westminster. The last month has seen particular focus on elections, bills and the Queen’s Speech, but one can be forgiven into believing that just as the buzz of the world cup is easing as we enter into the latter stages, the buzz in parliament is mirrored as we enter the final year of this term in Government.
It’s fair to say that Ed Miliband has not had the quietest ride this week. His policy chief Jon Cruddas MP began the week by accusing the Labour plan of pursuing “cynical” policies designed only to “chime with focus groups”. Much can be read into the lack of MPs criticising Cruddas, the Labour leader having to rally aid from his right-hand Ed Balls MP. This week also saw many of the party faithful criticising Labour’s decision-making body, the National Executive Committee (NEC) into ousting its veteran MP Dennis Skinner. In addition, Trade Unions and Unite general secretary Len McCluskey are expected to continue to pile on the pressure on Miliband in supporting an EU referendum and a renationalization of major railways. Trade Unions will again express their views on the government by organising a number of strikes across England and Wales over the week in support of firefighters and public sector pensions.
In the midst of it all, Miliband tried keeping to his word in favour of decentralisation by offering to devolve £30 billion from Whitehall and hand it to local council regions. This comes all in the name that the Labour Party is just as much about business as are the Conservatives. The Labour Leader set the agenda for PMQs on the NHS again and in particular cancer treatment, with both sides battling it out and trading statistics on their respective records.
This week saw the Prime Minister David Cameron appeal in Glasgow that an independent Scotland would “break my heart”. But the plea seems to have worked. The argument that the Yes Campaign has lost pace recently is corroborated by the Financial Times poll, with the Better Together campaign in at a 12% lead at 49%, against its rival at 37%. As confident and flamboyant as the First Minister may appear on the TV, this news must bring him discomfort with not much time left. With many UKIP members split over the issue of independence, it has been announced that its leader Nigel Farage MEP will address a rally at Glasgow closer to the vote in a bid to save the United Kingdom. However, this may not be rejoiced in his party and the Better Together campaign, due to last year’s antics by pro-independent supports in an Edinburgh pub, added by the controversy that seems to follow Farage, most notably highlighted by the very little media attention gained from him leading his MEPs to literally turn their back on the anthem-playing orchestra at the European Parliament on Tuesday.
Whilst the USA celebrated their independence, jail sentences were the headlines on the 4th of July in the UK, with Andy Coulson and Rolf Harris facing the brute end of the law and somewhat the repercussions of both their respective careers. Coulson, prominent News of the World editor and Advisor to Prime Minister David Cameron was sentenced to 18 months in jail for his involvement in the News of the World hacking scandal. Along with him, four ex-journalists were sentenced but his partner in professional and personal life Rebekah Brooks acquitted of all charges. The prime minister was constrained to apologise for the role Coulson played at Number 10 as his director of communications.
Rolf Harris was shown no remorse by the judge for his 12 indecent assaults on four victims ages seven to 19 and has been sentenced to jail for a total of 5 years and nine months. The 84-year-old entertainer and TV personality, often viewed by children across the country, stood through a sentence ruling that lasted almost an hour for the offences spanning over a number of decades. Harris is also facing four charges as a result of a police raid to his house and the possession of indecent images of children.
With court cases still on the agenda, former Cabinet Minister Lord Tebbit has brought to light 114 missing files indicating potential child sex abuse cover-ups dating back 30 years. The prominent Conservative figure in Thatcher’s Government of the 1980s admitted on the Andrew Marr show that amongst the 13 missing files, dossier information presented to the-then Home Secretary Leon Brittan could provide evidence of a political cover-up. Early indications show that Labour MPs along with David Cameron want to see a full inquiry, whilst senior Conservative figures are slightly more hesitant.