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BBC News: November 2012 - May 2013
#1
November 2012

Major Parties Select New Leaders

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All three of the major political parties in Westminster by acclamation, with no formal contests taking place. Additionally Labour has elected a new Deputy Leader to replace Harriet Harman who had been acting leader before the conclusion of the nomination process.

The new Liberal Democrat leader is Cynthia Aylward, the MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark since 1983. She was journalist at the Guardian and the New Statesmen early in her professional career, she was also a union official for the NUJ and later became the General Secretary of the NUJ. She was also noteworthy for her vote against the merger of the SDP and Liberal Party. A figure firmly on the left of the party, she has also spoken out against her party on issues such as privatisation, austerity and the NHS. Perhaps uncharacteristically for a Liberal Democrat she is considered a staunch trade unionist. She will now have the responsibility of forming a new government as the leader of by far the largest party.

The new Conservative leader is Elizabeth Palmer, who has been MP for Surrey Heath since 1997. The former Banker and executive at Lloyds is widely considered a distinct centre-right voice within the party and is also well liked within the party as evidenced by the lack of challenge to her leadership bid. She has often expressed her disdain for the 'mushy' politics of Liberals and the centre. Mrs Palmer inherits something of a poisoned chalice, with seemingly no viable way to form a government, the best hope for her party in that regard would be a grand coalition with the Liberal Democrats something many Tories would find unthinkable.

The new Labour Leader and Deputy Leader is Gavin Holmes and Emily Greenwood respectively. Mrs Greenwood takes over the post from Harriet Harman who has now returned to the backbenches. Mrs Greenwood is the new Labour MP for Copeland having won the seat off the Conservative party after a collapse in the Tories vote share. Mrs Greenwood, a former teacher is largely considered sympathetic to the New Labour project of former PM Tony Blair, but is also known to have a firm independent streak. The new Labour leader is Gavin Holmes who will take on the unenviable task of bringing the Labour party back to relevance, a product of the USDAW union having been an area officer for the North East, Mr Holmes is regarded as an excellent organiser. He became the MP for Sunderland South and Houghton in 2008 and has never held a senior post within his party. He now faces a choice with regards to the Labour party's role in this hung parliament and what he decides will be crucial going forward.

These three leaders will now face their respective challenges that their parties present, they will be hoping that they can navigate them with success. The first challenge for all of them will be the negotiating period that will now occur following the last election and their decisions in that process will determine what kind of government Britain will have over this parliament.
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#2
BREAKING: LIBERAL DEMOCRATS NEGOTIATION TEAM MAKE STATEMENT OUTSIDE ADMIRALITY HOUSE

In the last few minutes Liberal Democrat negotiator Callum Shaw gave the following statement outside Admiralty House

Quote:  "We are delighted to have reached an agreement with the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party to govern in the interest of all Britains. The electorate sent a clear indication that they wanted change in Westminster and with the agreement we have reached, change is at the forefront of our shared agendas."

It is understood Cynthia Aylward will visit Buckingham Palace tomorrow 
tt8
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#3
November 2012
C&S Agreement Published

The cabinet office has published the full text of the confidence and supply agreement between the Liberal Democrats, on the one hand, and the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party, on the other.

The cabinet office had finalised the text and published it per approval from Ms Cynthia Aylward, who is currently on her way to the Buckingham Palace, where she will be officially invited by Her Majesty the Queen to form a government in her name.

The full text is as follows:

Quote:
A Confidence and Supply Arrangement for a Liberal Democrats-Led Government

 
This document outlines the “Confidence and Supply” arrangement between the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, and the Green Party to facilitate a Liberal Democrats-led minority Government and the agreed policy principles that underpin that arrangement.
 
The Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, and the Green Party agree to:
-         Vote for the motions for the Address in Reply to Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech, provided that it doesn’t contain legislations that will introduce reforms to the electoral system that is used to elect members to the House of Commons without referendums or referenda being held on all the said reforms; and
-         Vote against or abstain on any motions of no confidence in the Government;
-         Vote for the Supply and Appropriation Bills.
 
The Liberal Democrats-led minority government agrees to:
-         Commit to a timetable of three years for the relocation of Trident, and the Vanguard-class submarines in which they are carried, to a site or sites in England, and to commit to not renewing the Trident missile programme, and to include all the aforementioned measures in its first Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech;
-         Legislate for a referendum on Scottish independence to be held if the Scottish Parliament votes for such referendum to be held;
-         Introduce an income tax rate of 50 per cent on income over £200,000 in its first Supply and Appropriation Bill;
-         Legislate for linking the Vehicle Excise Duty to carbon dioxide emissions of vehicles;
-         Assure that homes will not be built on green belt lands;
-         Commit to reducing class sizes in primary and secondary schools in England to 20 pupils as a long-term goal;
-         Devolve to the Scottish Government and Welsh Assembly Government the powers to create new benefits in all devolved areas and to make discretionary payments in any area of welfare;
-         Devolve to the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales the powers to set the rates and thresholds for the personal income tax;
-         Devolve to the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales the powers on certain aspects of the employment laws, including, but not limited to, workers’ rights and working time regulations; and
-         Cooperate with the Scottish Government to review the case for devolving powers on the licensing of onshore oil and gas extraction underlying Scotland to the Scottish Government.
Speaker of the House of Commons (The Right Honourable Ann Widdecombe)

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#4
CYNTHIA AYLWARD BECOMES BRITAIN'S SECOND FEMALE PRIME MINISTER

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In the last few moments Cynthia Aylward has become the new Prime Minister in a historic day. The country's second female Prime Minister gave a statement outside Downing street:

Quote:I have just returned from Buckingham Palace where Her Majesty The Queen has asked me to form a government. It is in the spirit of national unity that I have accepted this offer. Yesterday’s talks with the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, and the Green Party were productive, and progressive. We focused on economic reform, on political reform, and on building a Britain that works for everyone. At the last election, Britain stood at a crossroads. Ahead of us were a few starkly different paths. You, the British people, were offered a few different options. The Conservatives offered you more austerity, more cuts, more giveaways to the privileged few. Labour offered you a re-run of their last time in office, with very little done differently. The BNP offered you the chance to cut Britain off from the outside world and look inwards, rather than outwards, for the first time in our history. UKIP offered you the safe haven of isolationism, away from the European Union, away from our European neighbours, away from all the freedom that the European Union brings. On election day, you said no. You said no to more of the same politics. You wanted a change, and that is what we, along with the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and the Green Party will be delivering.


You, the British people, gave an endorsement to our principles of building and safeguarding a fair, free, and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. Our vision for a more liberal Britain, is in tune with these principles, and in tune with the progressive, tolerant principles that are deeply held by most people here in Britain, both today and in years gone by. In this government, we will pursue policies that we believe will help build a better Britain, a fairer Britain, a more liberal, tolerant Britain. It was in the spirit of these principles, and in the spirit of unity, that my colleagues and I conducted talks yesterday, and we have reached an agreement that advances the causes of the Liberal Democrats, as well as the causes of the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and the Green Party. It’s no exaggeration to say that there are areas of divergence when it comes to the views of the Liberal Democrats and those of our newfound partners, but rather than focussing on the differences, we focused on the similarities. Progressivism, pragmatism, patriotism. Looking after the many, rather than the few. Ensuring that our place on the world stage is not just protected, but enhanced and furthered. Making sure that our planet doesn't pay the price for unrestrained markets. Federalism, to ensure that every part of our country gets local power. Gay rights, women’s rights, civil rights, voting rights, human rights. In the coming hours, our programme for government will be published and you can peruse it at your leisure, but it is my belief that this government, our government of progressive, tolerant, liberal values, deserves your support. We will work together, in the spirit of national unity, to build a liberal Britain that works for you. Thank you very much, let’s get to work.


The new Prime Minister will also lead the country's first ever Liberal Democrat Government, backed by the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party in a confidence and supply agreement.

The Prime Minister is expected to appoint and announce her cabinet today as she settles into Number 10.
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#5
November 2012

Gaza Border Attack Triggers Retaliation
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Earlier today an anti-tank missile has been confirmed by the IDF to have struck at the Karni crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel, wounding four IDF soldiers with 2 in critical condition. The IDF has responded by shelling the source of the missile attack, however unconfirmed reports indicate that there have been several civilian casualties, with reports that several of the strikes hit a sports stadium where teenagers where playing football. Hamas have responded to the attack with rocket fire into Israel. This marks an escalation of several minor incidents that have occurred between Palestinians and the IDF and Israeli authorities with the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reporting that 92 Israeli attacks happened within the 3 miles zone against Palestinian fishermen in the first half of 2012 with 43 men arrested, 18 boats confiscated and 4 times equipment damaged and confiscated. With the region at large still in flux due to the Arab Spring uprisings, the potential for a large scale civilian uprising against Israel in both the West Bank and Gaza cannot be discounted.

International leaders appealed for calm with US President Barack Obama calling for "an immediate end to hostilities from the Palestinian side." With the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemning the Israeli response saying "Those who deliberately target civilians are not just the enemies of peace, they are the enemies of the Turkish Republic and I warn Israel not to take this action further otherwise we will send another flotilla and this time they wont be unarmed." The Turkish Prime Minister was referring to the Flotilla incident between the two countries in 2010 and has repeated the threat of the Turkish Navy escorting aid flotillas in the future.

The Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad strongly condemned Israel saying "The Zionist regime has once again shown its disregard for humanity, I call on all freedom loving peoples of the region and the world to assist the Palestinians in their just struggle and seek the annihilation of the Zionist regime." Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah also added to the criticism in Lebanon's parliament fuelling concerns that the conflict may escalate beyond the Gaza Strip. This is an already volatile region and most observers say the result of Israels retaliation will only cause further volatility in the region with Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi who has himself come under pressure from protests has said he will "Consider the complete opening of the border between Gaza and Egypt to give the Palestinians all the aid they require." In what is widely seen as a move to shore up his support domestically.
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"Lasting peace is sought, it is essential to adopt international measures to improve the lot of the masses. The welfare of the entire human race must replace hunger and oppression." - Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
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#6
November 2012

New C&S Deal Reached before Queen's Speech

Cabinet office confirmed that upon the resignation of the former PM, Cynthia Aylward, the Liberal Democrats have entered into another round of negotiation with the SNP and Plaid Cymru, which led to a new Confidence and Supply agreement. Deputy Prime Minister Ms Esther Sinclair has led the talks. The old C&S agreement (with the Green Party as one of the parties) is effectively scrapped. The text is as follows:

Quote:
A Confidence and Supply Arrangement for a Liberal Democrats-Led Government

This document outlines the “Confidence and Supply” arrangement between the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru to facilitate a Liberal Democrats-led minority Government and the agreed policy principles that underpin that arrangement.

The Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru agree to:
-         Vote for the motions for the Address in Reply to Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech, provided that it doesn’t contain legislations that will introduce reforms to the electoral system that is used to elect members to the House of Commons without referendums or referenda being held on all the said reforms; and
-         Vote against or abstain on any motions of no confidence in the Government;
-         Vote for the Supply and Appropriation Bills.

The Liberal Democrats-led minority government agrees to:
-         Commit to a timetable of ten years for the relocation of Trident, and the Vanguard-class submarines in which they are carried, to a site or sites in England, and to commit to not renewing the Trident missile programme, and to include all the aforementioned measures in its first Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech;
-         Legislate for a referendum on Scottish independence to be held if the Scottish Parliament votes for such referendum to be held;
-         Devolve to the Scottish Government and Welsh Assembly Government the powers to create new benefits in all devolved areas and to make discretionary payments in any area of welfare;
-         Devolve to the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales the powers to set the rates and thresholds for the personal income tax;
-         Devolve to the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales the powers on certain aspects of the employment laws, including, but not limited to, workers’ rights and working time regulations; and
-         Cooperate with the Scottish Government to review the case for devolving powers on the licensing of onshore oil and gas extraction underlying Scotland to the Scottish Government.
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#7
November 2012

Israeli Forces Enter Gaza After Sustained Rocket Fire
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The IDF has entered the Gaza Strip after sustained rocket fire from both Gaza and Lebanon, including several rockets targeted at Jerusalem for the first and Tel Aviv has also been targeted for the first time since the first Gulf War. Retaliatory fire was fired at alleged rocket sites in Gaza, local news outlets report that at least 4 Israeli civilians have been killed in the rocket fire, unconfirmed reports from within the Gaza Strip claim that Israeli retaliatory strikes have killed around 120 civilians and 150 Hamas militants in the densely populated region. The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has continued its fire into Israel, with many resources at its disposal many expect Hezbollah to continue its rocket offensive.

Heavy fighting has broken out in the Gaza Strip as a result of the IDF's incursion into Gaza, with reports of IDF forces being prepared to enter into Lebanon to neutralise the Hezbollah rocket sites, though there are no signs that they will do so at this time. Unconfirmed reports suggest that there have been heavy casualties on the Palestinian side as well as several on the Israeli side. The UN security council is currently considering the matter after an initial period of deadlock, the latest escalations seem to have brought an urgency from the UN on this matter. The government has issued travel advice, advising against all travel within Israel, the Palestinian Territories and the Sinai Peninsular in Egypt.

Other world leaders have had mixed reactions, with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, leader of the anti-Zionist March 8 Alliance which contains Hezbollah issuing a strong condemnation of the Israeli entrance into Gaza and issued a stark warning against Israel entering Lebanon saying the nation is prepared to defend itself. Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that "Any incursion into Lebanon would recreate a state of war between Syria and Israel." The Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has called for Israel to withdraw from Gaza immediately and allow the provision of aid to the Palestinian people. In Turkey many groups, both secularist and Islamist rooted are raising funds for an 'aid flotilla to Gaza' however Prime Minister Erdogan has become more muted in his condemnation of Israel however he did continue to call Israel an "enemy of peace" and announced that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is preparing to make a trip to the Gaza Strip. President Obama appealed for calm on all sides and condemned attacks committed against Israeli civilians and called on Israel to respond in a "proportionate manner." There has been no indication that situation will deescalate anytime soon.
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#8
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION HAS HEART ATTACK

Shock grips the country today as Elizabeth Palmer, leader of the Conservative party, as well as being Leader of the Opposition, is in a comma today after suddenly having a heart attack. At just past one o’clock this afternoon, as Mrs Palmer was exiting her car, she collapsed and was rushed to hospital. At 14:18, she was declared to be in a coma and doctors say they do not know whether she will wake up.

The leader had been gearing up for what had been expected to be a riveting Conservative conference, which is now expected to take a slightly more sombre tone. The deputy leader of the Conservative party, James Savage, now steps into the limelight as the interim Leader of the Opposition.

The 1922 committee have signalled that they will seek a new leader, but will prevent nominations from opening until at least the final days of the conference, the time in which some movement will need to be seen from Mrs Palmer if a recovery is on the way.

Letters have been flooding in fast, with many saying that Mrs Palmer represents a new blend of Conservatism, which many suggest as the reason for the recent bump in polling that the party has recently seen. The message repeated throughout all is that her work should be upheld by the Conservative party through the coming weeks and months, regardless of whether she makes a comeback or not.
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#9
December 2012

Israel Withdraws From Gaza

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The Israeli government has announced that it has ceased operations in the Gaza Strip after it claims it has neutralised Hamas affiliated rocket sites and has declared a unilateral ceasefire at the same time as the Hamas leadership declared a one week ceasefire alongside Hezbollah in Lebanon. The UN Security Council had passed a resolution by 13 votes, with Pakistan and Azerbaijan abstaining which called on an immediate cessation of violence against civilians and called for aid to be allowed to be delivered to the Gaza Strip. The intervention by Israel has seen tensions across the region increase with neighbouring nations such as Egypt, traditional allies such as Turkey and historic enemies such as Iran and Syria all expressing fierce criticism of the Israeli government. It has also seen the rise of anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic sentiments in many countries, with large protests held outside of Israeli embassies across Europe including in the UK.

The three week operation has resulted in large scale destruction in Gaza as well as civilian casualties on both sides which has sparked fierce criticism across the world. The exact numbers are unclear, but unconfirmed reports indicate that Israel suffered 10 fatalities and 70 injuries to IDF members and Hamas suffered the loss of between 110 and 400 militants depending on the source. Initial reports indicate that between 140 and 400 Palestinian civilians have died over the course of the conflict with around another 3000 wounded according to Palestinian sources. Several high profile incidents have occurred in which civilian targets have been hit by IDF forces, sparking outrage in the West Bank where sporadic demonstrations have begun to take place. Israeli civilian losses numbered around 30 with half of the civilian casualties coming as a result of Hezbollah rocket fire, the number of Israeli civilians injured is expected to number around 800.

International reaction has been mixed, with most nations welcoming the end of hostilities. US President Barack Obama called on both sides to return to the negotiating table "as soon as Hamas renounced violent means to achieve their objectives." Calls which sparked outcry from US allies in the Muslim world such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia with Prime Minister Erdogan saying "On the one hand he calls on Muslims to renounce violence, but he cannot bring himself to tell his Zionist masters to put down their guns from the heads of civilians and children." Secularist and Islamist rooted organisations in Turkey have come together to organise a flotilla to deliver Turkish aid to Gaza, a similar flotilla caused a large scale diplomatic incident between the formerly close allies in May 2010. Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has promised large scale rebuilding aid to Gaza in a perceived attempt to shore up his government against enlarging anti government protests in Egypt.

With the Hamas and Hezbollah declared ceasefire only lasting a week time will tell whether this can be the basis for a longer lasting peace, however with partners that both sides can trust in short supply it's difficult to see how a long term peace can be achieved.
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#10
NEVILLE-JONES OUT, HUIZENGA IN

BRUSSELS - In a surprising announcement, Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones announced her retirement from her position as Britain's EU Commissioner. Appointed by Prime Minister Cameron in 2008, she was previously Minister for Security for a few weeks in the Cameron Government. Appointed to replace Peter Mandelson, she had served as Commissioner for Justice, Freedom, and Security until President Jose Manuel Barroso's reshuffle in 2010, where she was appointed as Vice President and as Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Neville-Jones in a prepared statement said that she was resigning of her own volition to spend time doing consulting work.

With the approval of the European Parliament, Prime Minister Esther Sinclair appointed the Rt. Hon. Sir Lincoln Huizenga, the Secretary of State for Environment and Infrastructure as the newest European Commissioner. Huizenga, a social worker and university instructor, was elected to Parliament in 1992 for Cheltenham, having previously been a Cheltenham Borough Counselor. His work over the years in Parliament included time on the Justice Committee (including four years as Chair), and having served as Shadow Secretary of State for Justice in the Clegg Shadow Cabinet. He was appointed to Sinclair's Cabinet in November. A published author and researcher, he was honored in 1991 with a GBE for "services to public health and education." 

President Jose Manuel Barroso has appointed Huizenga to serve as Vice President and Commissioner for Climate Action, replacing Connie Hedegaard who moves to serve as Commissioner for Energy, and Gunther Oettinger moves to serve as Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

A quick note as to the changes in composition from RL, no policy changes were made: Jacques Barrot was appointed to Trade in 2008-2010 and Joaquin Almunia was appointed as First Vice-President in 2010 instead of Ashton/Neville-Jones.
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