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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Royal prerogative

The royals have a lot of privileges, including the right to veto aspects of legislation from a directly elected government that impacts on their financial interests, but for those who believed that the days when a king can plunder the assets of the nation for his own enrichment disappeared with Henry VIII and the dissolution of the monastries, the way that the Crown Estate is managed should disabuse them of that notion.

The Guardian reports that official accounts reveal that King Charles is set for a huge £45m pay rise with an increase of more than 50% in his official annual income>

They say that profits of £1.1bn from the crown estate – a percentage of which funds the monarchy – mean the sovereign grant, which supports the official duties of the royal family, will rise from £86m in 2024-25 to £132m in 2025-26.

They add that royal accounts also show that the Prince of Wales received £23.6m income from the Duchy of Cornwall in his first full year after inheriting the land and property owning estate from his father.

As Nation Cymru outlines, the Crown Estate is a collection of land and assets owned by the Crown, but managed by an independent trust. Its profits are funnelled into the UK Treasury, and 25% of revenues into the Sovereign grant, paid for the upkeep of the royal family.

In Wales, the crown estate owns about 65% of the Welsh foreshore and riverbed, and more than 50,000 acres of land. In 2020-21, the value of the estate went from £96.8m to £603m, reflecting the value of the land for renewable development and other projects. The estimated annual revenue in 2020-2021 was £8.7m. As revealed by Cymru Republic, the value in 2023 is £853m.

Since 2016, the Crown Estate has been devolved in Scotland but here in Wales the money goes to the Treasury and onto the royal estate. That is money that could be invested in public services and which should be staying in Wales.

Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Costly Tory decisions

The public finances are in a mess, and one of the reasons for that are decisions taken by Tory Ministers in pursuit of their own 'anti-woke' agenda. 

Of course the main reason is the billions of pounds lost in dodgy PPE deals and also the struggling economy, caught up in needless bureaucracy because of Brexit. But let us not forget some of the other bizarre schemes.

The Guardian reports on the revelation that the Conservative government spent £700m of taxpayers’ money on the failed Rwanda deportation scheme, described by the new Home Secretary as a “costly con”:

Yvette Cooper described the policy, which was introduced two-and-a-half years ago and sought to send UK asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing, as “the biggest waste of taxpayer money I have ever seen”.

She told the Commons that over the course of six years ministers had intended to spend £10bn on the policy, but they never divulged this figure to parliament.

The home secretary said she had formally notified the Rwandan government that the partnership was over and thanked them for working with the UK “in good faith”.

“The failure of this policy lies with the previous UK government, it has been a costly con and the taxpayer has had to pay the price,” she said.

Under the Conservatives, the Home Office refused to set out the full cost of the scheme, though an official letter last year stated it had reached £290m. In a report last spring the National Audit Office estimated that the cost of the policy had surpassed £500m.

Ultimately, just four people travelled to Rwanda voluntarily under the scheme, Cooper told the Commons. “We had often warned that it would frankly be cheaper to put them up in the Paris Ritz – frankly now it turns out it would actually be cheaper to buy the Paris Ritz,” she said.

Cooper said the £700m cost included £290m payments to Rwanda, chartering flights that never took off, detaining people and then releasing them, and paying more than 1,000 civil servants to work on the policy.

And then there is the Prime Minister's decision to scrap the second phase of HS2, which a National Audit Office report estimates will cost up to £100m and could take three years to complete.

The Independent says that Rishi Sunak’s decision to slim down the high-speed rail link also means the government has £592m worth of land and property on the route from Birmingham to Manchester it needs to sell, which the government spending watchdog has warned could take years and distort local housing markets.

Everything the previous Tory Government touched appeared to go wrong, while the cost to the public purse grew increasingly out of control. So much for the Tories being the party of good governance.

Tuesday, July 23, 2024

The Welsh Labour schism

I've just come across an interesting blog on the Vaughan Gething affair from the Labour Senedd Member for Llanelli, Lee Waters. It is an honest and searing appraisal of what went worng with Gething's tenure as First Minister as well as the problems facing the Welsh Labour Party going forward.

Waters starts by saying that Welsh Labour are in a pickle. He says that after 25 years as the largest party in the Senedd, and 102 years as the party of Wales, Labour have become the establishment. 

He adds that while their opposition is weak then, like many political systems where single parties dominate, Welsh Labour turns on themselves from time to time in order to check power and keep themselves honest:

'We are currently in the midst of the biggest schism since 1999, when the ‘pluralist’ section of the party embodied by Rhodri Morgan went ten rounds with the ‘machine politics’ section of the party represented by Alun Michael, and beat ten bells out of the each other. Those bruises took a decade to heal.

The last four months has seen the same happen again, albeit beneath the surface. The inevitable resignation of Vaughan Gething has brought that into the open and now party leaders are desperately trying to keep a lid on it by brokering a quiet deal to avoid any further open conflict.

How do we ‘heal the wounds’ is a question that bleeped across my WhatsApp frequently over the last week. The instinctive response being offered up is to come behind a ‘unity candidate’ and all will be well. I completely understand the instinct, and necessity, to pull together in common cause.

Disunity is a genie that is very difficult to get back into the bottle. But unity is not an end in itself; if that becomes our primary focus it risks a search for the lowest common denominator.

Unity is a consequence of renewing in office. It is the end result of a process to reach an agreement. It follows an exchange of ideas and is not some precondition for a contest where the less that is said the better.

There are honest differences, as there should be in any group of intelligent adults let alone a political party. We need to talk them through, test the arguments. Persuade and then decide.

We are not a management committee, we are a political movement. We were created for a purpose - to bring about change for working families, to challenge power, to make society fairer, and be a voice for the voiceless. That requires a passion, a hunger, and courage to reshape and reform ourselves as a political force to meet the modern context, in order to do the same for our society.

I think the new MP for Swansea West, Torsten Bell, hit the nail on the head, “The question”, he said, “is whether social democrats can turn themselves from simple defenders of the system into insurgents”.

That’s the real challenge to the people who wish to lead.'

His verdict on how Gething mishandled the whole donations saga is damning, not least with regards the £25,000 donation from the taxi firm Veezu:

'Set aside the much publicised stench of the extraordinary donation from David Neal, I think the equally problematic donation from taxi firm Veezu has attracted no attention. Bear in mind at the time of the leadership election we were in the process of passing a taxi reform Bill which has now been ditched, Vaughan took a £25,000 donation - which is the single largest donation to a Labour leadership campaign (before the Dawson one) - from a company at loggerheads with trade unions, who until recently was also paying right-wing Conservative Alun Cairns.

We now have had the extraordinary spectacle of a First Minister announcing on the floor of the Senedd that we are failing for the second time to honour a manifesto commitment to bring forward legislation on taxi reform (instead we are to have a draft Bill, which is something) and being forced to add when making the announcement: “Members may wish to note a declaration of interest concerning the company Veezu”.

Never before has a First Minister had to declare a formal conflict of interest on a key matter of Government business.

The fact it has passed without a single comment tells us something about where we have reached.

When I spoke out in the Senedd about the donations I rooted my objections in the damage this was being done to political culture, and to democratic norms. Here’s what I said:

The point about devolution, this place, a Parliament we have created from scratch, is that we set higher standards. 25 years ago we talked of devolution as the beginning of a new politics; but the reputation of politics, and politicians, seems to be lower than ever.

The First Minister told a Senedd committee last week that his approval ratings haven’t been affected by the controversy. I must say that surprised me, and troubled me. Whether the polls bear that out or not, it really isn’t the point. Surely the question isn’t what any of us can get away with, it’s what is right?

The fact that some voters just shrug their shoulders is what should worry us. Far from being an endorsement, I fear it’s a reflection that we are all tarred with the same brush. And we all get it - you’re all the same; you’re in it for yourselves; you’re on the make. Not only is it really demoralising for many of us who see politics as a genuine public service, a sacrifice; but it’s also dangerous to the fabric of our democracy at a time when it’s already under huge strain.

Academics call it ‘norm spoiling’.

They say that when accepted standards of behaviour, norms, are undermined, it lowers expectations. And that lays the ground for a new set of weaker standards to take hold. That is why we need to confront this situation.

I have felt increasingly dislocated by the fact that so many people in the Labour Party have been prepared to turn a blind-eye to what the public have been able to see very clearly. But ultimately our political culture has asserted itself and acted.'

He says that the central question of this leadership contest should be how Labour can meet the appetite for change in a way that honours their values as a political movement:

'But the voters aren't daft, and the warning signs are clear enough for those who want to look for them in the General Election result. Whereas the Westminster voting system this time flattered us, the new more proportional voting system we’ll be using in Wales will be far less forgiving if our support levels don’t get back beyond the 30% threshold. The last YouGov poll put us at 27% at a Senedd election - just 4 points ahead of Plaid.

The d’hondt voting system we’ve legislated for will actively work against us if our numbers stay at that level and a generation in the wilderness awaits.

That’s where we’re heading as I write, and people are panicking and so the ‘we must unite’ banner is quickly pulled up the flagpole and the call has gone out to rally round. My worry is that a superficial unity is in fact counter-productive. We have to be prepared to do the hard work of remaking our unity based on a real consensus of approach. Not a backroom deal to avoid having to go there.'

To be fair, Waters has been very open about his views on this affair but as he says, the Gething camp was not prepared to listen:

'One of the reasons why the last three months has been so painful in the Welsh Labour Party is that the schism that has surfaced has revealed a genuine tension in values. I literally felt sick when I felt compelled to speak out against what I saw as ‘norm spoiling’ behaviour; and when my cry of pain was ignored I made myself ill with the thought of endorsing this amorality in a confidence vote. I couldn't do it, and didn’t do it.'

So, as many suspected, it wasn't just that Gething lost the confidence vote because two members were absent, but at least one of them says that he couldn't bring himself to vote against it. As Waters says in conclusion:

We now have to try and come together and heal. But let's learn the lessons of these torrid few months - the best way to resolve disagreements is to address them openly and honestly. People don’t like divided parties, but they like dishonest ones even less.

Will Welsh Labour listen or will they anoint a so-called unity team as First Minister and Deputy and carry on as before in the hope that it will all go away? If they do then they could have a rude awakening at the next Senedd elections.

Monday, July 22, 2024

Labour doubles down on two-child benefit cap

The Independent reports that Rachel Reeves has doubled down on Labour’s opposition to scrapping the two-child benefit cap, highlighting the £3bn annual price tag of the measure.

The paper says that the chancellor came under pressure over the limit, which prevents parents from claiming benefits for any third or subsequent child born after April 2017. Scrapping the policy would lift an estimated 300,000 children out of poverty, according to the Child Poverty Action Group

Reeves was asked about opposition to the George Osborne-era cap from Labour heavyweights including Gordon Brown and Andy Burnham, but said she could not make “unfunded spending commitments”:

Labour is facing growing pressure over its refusal to commit to repealing the limit, with left-wing backbenchers prepared to rebel and back an amendment to the King’s Speech on the topic.

The SNP has tabled an amendment to the King’s Speech to scrap the two-child cap, which is backed by the Greens, the SDLP, Plaid Cymru, the Alliance party and independent MPs including Jeremy Corbyn.

Meanwhile 35 MPs have signed a Commons motion by Labour’s Kim Johnson calling for the limit to be axed. They include fellow Labour MPs Zarah Sultana, John McDonnell, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Bell Ribeiro-Addy.

The motion claims that if scrapped, the move would immediately lift 300,000 children out of poverty and calls on the government to act.

It referenced recent figures showing around 1.6m children are missing out on thousands of pounds every year due to the policy.

The damning new figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that 1.3 million children are living in a universal credit household and 270,000 living in a child tax credit household.

This should be fundaemental for Labour, who are supposed to be committed to tackling child poverty. That they continue to resist this straightforward reform suggests that the change we have been promised is a long way away.

Friday, July 19, 2024

Welsh government damned by covid inquiry

The BBC reports that the Welsh government has been strongly criticised over its preparations for the Covid pandemic.

They say that the public inquiry looking into the UK’s preparedness for a pandemic said the system in Wales was "labyrinthine" and "hampered by undue complexity":

In a damning report, UK Covid-19 Inquiry chair Baroness Hallett said the UK government and devolved nations had "failed their citizens" as they planned for the wrong pandemic.

First Minister Vaughan Gething said he welcomed the first report from the inquiry and that its publication was an "important moment" for the bereaved families and frontline NHS staff.

A group representing families bereaved by Covid in Wales said they had been failed by the Welsh government.

In its first report into preparedness for a pandemic, the inquiry said the UK government's sole pandemic strategy from 2011 "was outdated and lacked adaptability", adding that "it was never properly tested and the doctrine that underpinned was ultimately abandoned".

"Processes, planning and policy of structures failed the citizens of all four nations," she added.

Baroness Hallett said the inquiry was recommending a fundamental reform of the UK government and devolved nations' preparedness for civil emergencies.

She suggested a radical simplification of preparedness systems, rationalising and streamlining bureaucracy, a new approach to risk assessment, and a new UK-wide approach which learns lessons from the past and takes proper account of existing inequalities.

In Wales, the report referred to the evidence given to the inquiry by Dr Andrew Goodall, the head of the civil service in the Welsh government.

The inquiry "was not persuaded" by civil service chief Andrew Goodall's argument that the system made more sense to those within it than outside.

It said: "For an administration that prided itself on its efficiency of movement because of its relative lack of scale, and which had described itself as operating effectively under one roof, the reality did not match the rhetoric.

"The system was labyrinthine".

The inquiry "was not persuaded" by mitigation offered by Dr Goodall that it made more sense to those within the system than those outside of it.

"An opportunity to create a coherent and therefore dynamic system in Wales had been hampered by undue complexity" it said.

The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru group said on X, formerly Twitter,, external that the Welsh government had "failed us".

"We knew they'd failed us and instead of listening they turned their backs on us," the group said.

"Welsh Labour must now stop blocking a Wales Covid inquiry."

They added: "This cannot happen again and yet there is no indication 4.5 years on that any progress has been made. Wales still does not have its own risk register."

It added that the report had been able to "uncover a lot of deficiencies in systems in Wales", but said it was "UK/England heavy".

This report must surely justify a separate Welsh covid inquiry to get down into the detail of how we can do better next time. .

Thursday, July 18, 2024

Could Labour lose control of the Senedd?

Whisper it softly, Labour could well end up out of government at the next Senedd elections.

That at least is the verdict of one Welsh academic, who says that there is a real possibility that a midterm slump in support for Labour at the UK level could augur the unthinkable, namely an election in Wales in which Labour does not emerge as the largest party.

In the Guardian, Richard Wyn Jones argues that Vaughan Gething's resignation in the midst of a donations scandal in which no rules were broken, and a mishandled ministerial sacking, combined with a poor General Election performance in Wales where opposition parties demonstrated some positive electoral momentum, could help form a perfect storm that, combined with a mid term UK government slump, will throw Labour out of power in Cardiff Bay in 2026.

He argues that any new Welsh Labour leader will need to repair shattered relations among Labour members in the Senedd:

Having rubbed along pretty well together for the first quarter-century of devolution – for example, sidestepping most of the psychodrama associated with the Corbyn era – the ruling Labour group has transformed over the past few weeks and months into something altogether less wholesome. It is far from clear how the divisions that now exist can be bridged.

Less obviously, but just as importantly, the new first minister will also need to reckon with Welsh Labour MPs in Westminster whose overall attitude to their Senedd colleagues is characterised by condescension that shades into animosity. Both the attitude and influence of these MPs was apparent in Labour’s recent general election manifesto which, while promising extensive further devolution within England, offered nothing of substance to Wales. There was, for example, no pledge to devolve the crown estate let alone the failing criminal justice system, as supported by the Welsh government and the wider Welsh Labour party. Since gaining power in London, we have also seen Labour engaging in a startlingly quick “reverse ferret” on securing what it had previously termed “fair funding” for Wales. Having once enthusiastically argued the case for Wales to receive substantial additional funding in lieu of spending on HS2 in England, Jo Stevens – the secretary of state for Wales and, in effect, shop steward for Welsh MPs – is now downplaying the relevance of that scheme.

The attitude of Stevens would appear to be that, from now on, the Welsh government should be seen and not heard. It’s time for the grownups in Whitehall to take the leading role. One of the problems with this view is that Labour faces a tricky Senedd election in May 2026. In the past, the Welsh Labour party has succeeded at the devolved level by presenting itself as a party willing to “stand up for Wales” no matter which party is in charge in Westminster. If this approach is no longer tenable or acceptable to Labour at the London level, then this radically reduces the room for manoeuvre for Gething’s successor.

Which bring us to the final and perhaps most difficult challenge that she or he will face, namely what would appear to be the increasingly jaded attitudes of the Welsh electorate. Labour’s very recent electoral triumph in Wales conceals a much more worrisome prospect as thoughts now turn to the next Senedd election. While the party won 84% of Welsh constituencies, it did so while securing only 37% of the vote – a 4% reduction on its 2019 performance and a historically low proportion of the UK general election vote for Welsh Labour.

This was also an election in which – from a Labour perspective – both Reform and Plaid Cymru appeared to have developed a worrying degree of momentum. Given that Labour support is always significantly lower in devolved elections – elections fought using a much more proportional system – there is now a real possibility that a midterm slump in support for Labour at the UK level could augur the unthinkable, namely an election in Wales in which Labour does not emerge as the largest party.

Such an outcome would herald devolution coming of age, at last. However, there is still a lot of water to pass under the bridge before we get there.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Welsh Labour's hidden weakness

Labour have dominated Welsh politics for nearly a hundred years, and have formed the government in the Welsh Senedd since it was formed in 1999, but are cracks beginning to appear in this hegemony, and if so how serious is it?

We have already seen an implosion in the Senedd, with the First Minister being forced out by his own colleagues, Boris-Johnson-style, and there is no doubt that this, combined with Labour's inability to get to grips with public services, is going to hit them badly in the polls, but it is the long-term electoral trends, heavily disguised by the first-past-the-post system that could really hit Labour for a six.

As the Guardian points out, although Welsh Labour won its 28th general election in a row this month, the results effectively sealed Mr Gething’s fate:

On the surface, the Tories were routed in Wales, losing all 14 MPs. Yet this disguises the fragmentation of politics in the country. On the right of politics, the Conservatives haemorrhaged votes to Reform. While Labour’s vote share increased by 1.6% across the UK, in Wales it fell by 3.9% – with the nationalist Plaid Cymru and the Greens eating into the leftwing vote and increasing their shares by 4.9% and 3.7% respectively.

Labour’s landslide is a result of the first-past-the-post electoral system. If the poll had been held under proportional representation, Labour would have probably only won 12 out of 32 seats in Wales. The problem for Mr Gething – and Welsh Labour – is that the 2026 Senedd elections will take place using a PR system that reflects the share of the vote each party has received in constituencies that map onto current parliamentary boundaries.

Labour currently holds half the seats in the Welsh parliament, but on its current polling might only end up with a third of them in two years’ time. This might not be bad news. The devolved parliament was set up so that politics would be conducted consensually. There’s a lot to be said for a more pluralistic form of governance. But Labour would prefer not to be weakened further. This is a distinct possibility unless the party can elect a new leader who can command public confidence, win the backing of their own members and work with opposition parties.

They conclude that the tensions between the devolved government in Cardiff and Westminster require creative dealmaking, rather than meek deference, to resolve:

The NHS in Wales is in a terrible state and urgently needs money from the Treasury. Sir Keir Starmer’s team is reluctant to accede to demands from Welsh Labour to devolve criminal justice. Yet the developments that have occurred in Wales since devolution – political disengagement, the rise of the far right, the vote for Brexit – reveal a political settlement in need of urgent repair.

The question is whether Welsh Labour are capable of carrying out that repair.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Vaughan Gething resigns as First Minister

I confess I didn't expect it to happen so soon, but Nation Cymru reports that Vaughan Gething has resigned as First Minister following weeks of controversies and a mass walk out by his cabinet.

His resignation comes after four Welsh ministers stepped down from their posts in an apparently calculated move to force his hand.

In a move reminscent of the coup against Boris Johnson,  Counsel General Mick Antoniw, Cabinet Secretary for Economy Jeremy Miles, Cabinet Secretary for Housing Julie James and Cabinet Secretary for Culture Lesley Griffiths posted separate letters on social media on Tuesday morning in which they called for Gething to go.

They did so just a day before the Senedd's last session prior to recess, in which the Tories have tabled a motion calling for the evidence that led to Hannah Bleddyn's sacking to be published.

Although the opposition have been calling for this outcome for some time, I am sure they would have hoped that Gething could hang on a little longer given he was such an asset to them. However, Labour's problems in Wales are not just about one man.

There is a general perception in Wales that Welsh Labour has failed to improve people's lives, while public services are getting worse on their watch. If the new First Minister cannot turn that around then the 2026 Senedd elections could prove very interesting indeed.

Now is the time to take a decisive step to tackle child poverty

With the Kings speech imminent and a legislative programme of about thirty five bills predicted, none of them is more important than the single reform that will help to alleviate child poverty in this country.

The Guardian reports that the first real test of Labour’s hardline approach to public spending is the two-child benefit limit introduced by the Conservatives in April 2017. This prevents households from claiming universal credit or child tax credit for a third or any subsequent child born after this date:

For good reason, the two-child limit is loathed by many Labour MPs because while having no impact on the number of children families have, it has had the predictable result of increasing poverty.

The Resolution Foundation thinktank says the number of families affected by the policy has increased from 70,000 to 450,000 in the past six years and that a third of its impact is yet to come.

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) says the two-child limit can cost households up to £3,455 a year – a massive hit to family budgets. Child poverty is at its highest ever level, and Labour says it has “an ambitious strategy” for reducing it.

Currently, this ambitious strategy does not extend to scrapping the two-child benefit cap, even though CPAG says doing so would lift 300,000 children out of poverty at a cost of £1.7bn a year. No other single measure the government could take would be as cost-effective in reducing the number of children living below the breadline.

Labour’s line is that scrapping the two-child limit is something not currently budgeted for in its programme, so abolition will have to wait until there is money to spare. The argument is that this would open the floodgates to a host of other demands.

This might make short-term sense but it is still misguided. The two-child cap will not survive five years of a Labour government with such a commanding parliamentary majority, and so it is a question of when, not if, the policy originally brought in by George Osborne will be canned.

Delaying that decision condemns more children to a life of misery and want. There is an economic case for a more generous approach to welfare – poor families tend to spend more of their income than rich families – but there is also a moral dimension. Needlessly pushing more children into hardship is plain wrong.

Finally, £1.7bn is a tiny sum in the context of a £2.7tn economy, and there are plenty of ways the chancellor, Rachel Reeves, could find it without any difficulty. As the tax expert Richard Murphy has shown, taxing capital gains at the same rate as income would net the Treasury £12bn a year, while restricting tax relief on pensions to the basic rate of income tax would raise a further £14.5bn. Removing the losses the Bank of England makes on its gilt holdings from the way the government’s debt rule is calculated would raise an estimated £20bn, according to the consultancy Oxford Economics.

If Labour fail this test so early in their administration then we really should be questioning what they are for.

Monday, July 15, 2024

Dark Underbelly

I was on a plane coming back from New York when a gunman tried to take out Donald Trump, so it was a shock when I switched my phone back on and saw the news. 

It is not as if American politics is a stranger to violence. As one blogger wrote shorty afterwards, they have experienced one founding father killing another in a duel, four U.S. presidents were assassinated while in office; another 13 were the targets of unsuccessful plots.

In the past few years alone Gabby Giffords, Steve Scalise, and Paul Pelosi were the targets of politically-motivated attacks. Three years ago Vice President Mike Pence and the entire U.S. Congress were the target of a violent mob assault on the U.S. Capitol. There were 656 mass shootings in the United States in 2023 and another 261 in the first half of 2024.

However, this is not an entirely American phenomenon. The Independent reports that the government’s adviser on political violence has called on the home secretary to investigate a “dark underbelly” of abuse and intimidation of candidates during the general election:

John Woodcock, a former Labour MP, who now sits in the House of Lords as Baron Walney, also suggested there could have been a “concerted campaign by extremists”.

He has urged Yvette Cooper to commission an inquiry.

His call comes just days after the Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: “If there is something that keeps me awake at night, it is the safety of MPs.”

Two MPs have been murdered in the UK in the last eight years. The security of MPs was tightened after David Amess was stabbed more than 20 times during a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex on 15 October 2021.

Ali Harbi Ali was later convicted of his murder. At the trial it emerged that he had also planned attacks on other MPs, including cabinet minister Michael Gove, who he believed posed “a harm to Muslims”.

Amess’s murder was the second in recent years, after Jo Cox was killed in her constituency in 2016.

A number of MPs had to have police protection because of the threats they received during this election campaign.

Labour MPs Jess Phillips and Shabana Mahmood have highlighted the intimidation and threats they suffered, which they described as an “assault on democracy”.

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage had a milkshake and other objects thrown at him while he was on the campaign trail.

And Reform UK’s candidate for Truro and Falmouth, Steve Rubidge, suffered severe injuries during an alleged assault.

In a letter reported by the BBC, Lord Walney said evidence pointed to a “concerted campaign by extremists to create a hostile atmosphere for MPs within their constituencies to compel them to cave in to political demands”.

He wrote: “The conduct of the election campaign in many communities has underlined the gravity of the threat to our democracy”.

Lord Walney added: “I am increasingly concerned about the scale of intimidation against candidates in the general election.

“I believe there is now a need for a focused piece of work on the scale and drivers of this intimidation so that it cannot continue to mar our democratic processes and put candidates at risk.”

Politics certainly arouses passions in people, but there is no excuse for it degenerating into violence. The future of democracy is at stake.

Saturday, July 06, 2024

Time to redress the media balance

In many ways Nigel Farage's Reform was a victim of its own hype. For a party that has had years of preferential treatment on the UK media and was being touted as winning thirteen plus seats, to end up with just five must have been a major disappointment. 

What is most disturbing though has been the reaction of the many media outlets who seem to believe that because Farage is now an MP and has four other MPs to back him up, then they are now justified in continuing that sort of coverage.

Let's put this in context. The UK Reform Party have five MPs, the Greens have four, Plaid Cymru have four, the Liberal Dempcrats have 72. None of those parties have had the sort of coverage that Farage and his fellow travellers have had. 

The BBC in particular needs to get its act together on this. Their coverage of Farage has defied their duty to impartiality and balance for a long time now.

Farage may be good entertainment but political coverage is more serious than that. It's time for all media outlets to redress the balance and give the other parties a much bigger slice of the cake.

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