Displaying items by tag: Politics
In the Kingswood and Wellingborough by-elections, the Labour Party achieved significant victories, causing a setback for Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives. Labour’s Gen Kitchen and Damien Egan won in Wellingborough and Kingswood respectively, overturning substantial Conservative majorities. These results mark the ninth and tenth by-election defeats for the government in the current parliament and represent one of the largest swings from Conservatives to Labour. The defeats add pressure on Sunak amidst a recession and strong by-election performances by Reform UK. Labour leader Keir Starmer celebrated these wins as signs of change and trust in Labour. The Conservatives have now suffered the most by-election defeats for a government since the 1960s, which indicates a shift in public sentiment against them.
Labour has halved its commitment to green investments, reducing its annual pledge from £28bn to less than £15bn. This decision, a significant shift under Keir Starmer's leadership, has caused unrest among environmentalists, unions, and some in the energy sector. Only one-third of the revised budget, announced by Starmer and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, represents new funding. The reduction aims to mitigate Conservative criticism about excessive borrowing, yet it has angered environmental groups who argue it increases long-term costs and hinders achieving green objectives. The Unite union criticised Labour for aligning too closely with Conservative policies, while the energy sector expressed concern over diminished ambitions for UK energy. Starmer justified the decision by citing changed economic circumstances since the initial announcement in 2021, including high interest rates and government debt concerns. The revised plan includes £4.7bn yearly on green projects, complementing existing government commitments. Labour MPs have expressed relief at the change, despite the reduced financial commitment. Environmental campaigners, however, are disappointed, pointing out the challenge of meeting energy targets with less funding.
Thailand's constitutional court has ruled that the Move Forward party's campaign promise to amend the strict royal insult law during the 2023 election amounted to an attempt to overthrow the monarchy. The case was initiated by a conservative activist lawyer, who argued that the party's pledge to amend the lèse-majesté law violated Section 49 of the constitution. The nine judges unanimously ruled against Move Forward, stating that its efforts to change the law undermined and weakened the monarchy, posing a significant danger to the state's security. Move Forward was ordered to cease any activities violating Section 49. The party is not being disbanded, but the lawyer has said he might make a new petition asking the election commission to do so. Move Forward's leader warned that the ruling could further make the royal institution increasingly ‘a factor behind conflicts in Thai politics’.
Rishi Sunak has proposed compromising some of Britain's Brexit freedoms to encourage the return of devolved government in Northern Ireland. He plans to introduce a requirement that all new laws undergo screening to ensure they won't create additional trade barriers in the Irish Sea, aiming to persuade the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to end its two-year boycott of Stormont, which has paralysed Northern Irish politics. All laws would have to come with a ministerial statement confirming they would not significantly harm internal UK trade. If Britain diverges from EU rules, these checks could increase, potentially blocking new laws that differ from Brussels. Unionists argue that the current arrangement harms the Northern Irish economy. While Sunak's offer aims to guarantee no new laws will create more trade barriers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, critics argue it would tether the UK to European standards and limit the benefits of Brexit. The DUP leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, has been in talks with the government over returning to power-sharing in Stormont but has faced resistance within his party.
There are allegations of extensive official censorship on coverage of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) ahead of the country's elections on 8 February. PTI, founded by former prime minister Imran Khan, is considered one of the most popular political parties in Pakistan. However, he has been imprisoned since August 2023, facing corruption and state secrets leakage charges which he claims are politically motivated. Censorship against PTI has increased since Khan lost a confidence vote in April 2022, leading to his resignation. The election commission has rejected nomination papers for Khan and other PTI leaders and stripped the party of its election symbol (a cricket bat), forcing many candidates to run as independents. Several journalists have admitted receiving official instructions not to use party symbols or identify candidates as PTI members. though the government has denied these claims. Media censorship has grown since May 2023, when PTI supporters protested against Khan's arrest. Government officials recently said that unrestricted internet access during elections cannot be guaranteed, citing technical issues.
On 24 January, supporters of the main opposition party, Chadema, staged a peaceful march in Dar-es-Salaam - the first such occasion in seven years. A ban on political gatherings and protests was imposed by former president John Magufuli in 2015 but lifted by Samia Suluhu Hassan in 2021. Under heavy police protection, the demonstrators marched peacefully through the streets, waving placards and blowing whistles. They are calling for constitutional amendments to allow presidential election results to be challenged in court and to prevent the president from selecting electoral commission members. The opposition party also highlighted concerns about the high cost of living in Tanzania. Chadema's chairman, Freeman Mbowe, urged the withdrawal of proposed electoral law amendments from parliament until public opinions are incorporated. Unlike the previous era under Magufuli, this demonstration was not disrupted by the police, indicating a shift in the government's approach to political dissent. During his tenure, opposition gatherings were often violently suppressed, and leaders faced arrests and attacks, which they deemed politically motivated.
In a significant upheaval within the Labour Party, high-profile MP Jess Phillips and nine other frontbenchers either resigned or were sacked following party leader Keir Starmer's refusal to support a ceasefire in Gaza. This was in response to a parliamentary vote on an SNP amendment to the King’s Speech, which proposed an immediate ceasefire in Gaza but was rejected by a majority of 168 votes. A total of 56 Labour MPs voted in favour of the amendment, marking the largest rebellion against Starmer's leadership so far. Shadow defence secretary John Healey commented on the situation within the Labour Party, expressing regret over the loss of frontbenchers and reaffirming their support for Starmer's prime ministerial bid. He emphasised the importance of collective responsibility and discipline in parliamentary decisions, defending Starmer's stance on the Gaza conflict.
The Labour Party has pledged to introduce comprehensive legislation to ban gay conversion therapy without any loopholes if it wins the upcoming general election. The Government has faced delays in announcing its own plans for a ban, partly due to concerns from various religious groups about potential impacts on their practices. Shadow equalities secretary Anneliese Dodds has denounced conversion therapy as abuse and criticised the delay in banning it. Many church leaders have expressed support for banning specific conversion therapy practices but are concerned that a full ban might hinder their ability to pray with individuals experiencing unwanted same-sex attraction. They cite an example from Australia where similar legislation led to challenges to church teachings and prayer practices.
Downing Street has refused to guarantee that HS2 will run to Manchester as planned. Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt are in talks about scrapping the project’s second phase due to spiralling costs and delays. The prime minister’s official spokesman told reporters that ‘spades are already in the ground on our HS2 programme, and we are focused on delivering it’. Asked whether Mr Sunak was committed to the line going to Manchester, he said: ‘We are looking at the rephasing of the work in the best interests of passengers and taxpayers’. Northern leaders reacted with fury to the news. Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham accused ministers of ‘making the north pay for their failure’. The high-speed railway, currently under construction between London and Birmingham, has already had its leg to Leeds cut and faces uncertainty about its approach into central London.
Last month we prayed for water quality to be improved and managed before protected areas are built upon. This week the House of Lords blocked the Government's plan to relax restrictions on water pollution to encourage house building in England. Governments often lose votes in the House of Lords, but what makes this one stand out is that ministers can't revive this plan easily. Because it is a new idea, parliamentary procedure means the only way to have another go would be attaching it to another proposed law, or bill. This is a row that gets to the heart of one of the biggest issues in contemporary domestic politics. Building more homes in England in places people want to live. Labour plans to solve environmental concerns by letting developers build but ensuring they have sorted out the environmental issues before anyone can move into the new homes.