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May 9, 2015

Conservatives win majority in 2015 UK general election

Conservatives win majority in 2015 UK general election

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Saturday, May 9, 2015

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David Cameron is to continue being Prime Minister of the UK after his Conservative Party won a majority of seats in a general election on Thursday. Although the party led a Coalition government it formed alongside the Liberal Democrats after the previous general election in 2010, this is the first time the party has won an overall majority since 1992.

Cquote1.svg Our manifesto is a manifesto for working people and as a majority government, we will be able to deliver all of it. Indeed, it is the reason why I think majority government is more accountable Cquote2.svg

David Cameron

Across the UK, Conservatives won 331 seats out of the 650 available, an increase of 24 on their 2010 total. The Labour Party, which won 258 seats in 2010, now has 232. The Liberal Democrats experienced the heaviest number of seat losses, dropping from 57 to eight. Amongst the Liberal Democrat figures to lose seats were David Laws, Charles Kennedy, Simon Hughes, Jo Swinson, Lynne Featherstone and Jenny Willott. Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg said while “fear and grievance have won, liberalism has lost”.

Although UKIP and the Greens each only won one seat, their national vote share increased by 9.5% to 12.6% and by 2.8% to 3.8%, respectively; this compares to 7.9% for the Liberal Democrats, 30.4% for Labour and 36.9% for Conservatives. Statistics reported by the BBC suggest the voting turnout was 66.1%, based on an electorate of approximately 46.4 million.

The bulk of Conservative seat increases occurred in England, where their seat total increased by 21 to 319 out of a possible 533. Labour’s seat count here increased by 15 to 206, while the Liberal Democrats dropped from 43 seats to six. The final results defied opinion polls, which had broadly suggested Labour and Conservatives were tied for the lead. An independent inquiry is set to be conducted into opinion polling accuracy in the UK, given they had appeared to underestimate the Conservatives’ success and/or overestimate Labour’s results.

“I truly believe we are on the brink of something special in our country”, David Cameron said in a speech yesterday. “We can make Britain a place where a good life is in reach for everyone who is willing to work and do the right thing. Our manifesto is a manifesto for working people and as a majority government, we will be able to deliver all of it. Indeed, it is the reason why I think majority government is more accountable.” In highlighting what a Conservative government would set out to achieve, he said it would include “Three million apprenticeships, more help with childcare, helping 30 million people cope with the cost of living by cutting their taxes, building homes that people are able to buy and own, creating millions more jobs that give people the chance of a better future and yes, we will deliver that in-out referendum on our future in Europe.” He went on to talk about new powers the UK Government had and would devolve to regional administrations in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. For the latter, he said, “our plans are to create the strongest devolved government anywhere in the world with important powers over taxation.”

In Scotland, the Scottish National Party (SNP) made the largest gains of any party in the UK, increasing from six seats to 56 seats out of a possible 59, the highest number they have ever had, based on a Scotland vote share of approximately 50%. The number of constituencies held by Labour and Liberal Democrats there decreased from 41 and 11, respectively, to one for each of them, with the Conservatives staying at one seat. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, who said this result had surpassed her expectations, said “the tectonic plates of Scottish politics [have] shifted”. Sturgeon also stated that the SNP would “work with others across the UK, to try to get more progressive politics at the heart of Westminster”. One seat, Glasgow North East, experienced a record swing of 39% from Labour to the SNP. On top of that, 20-year-old student and SNP candidate Mhairi Black became the youngest MP to be elected in the UK since 1667.

In Wales, Conservatives went up from eight to eleven of a possible 40 seats. Labour achieved 25, down one from 2010; the Liberal Democrats went down two to one seat and Plaid Cymru remained at three seats. In Northern Ireland, most of the 18 constituencies did not change hands. However, Sinn Féin went down one to four seats, while the Alliance Party lost their one seat. The Ulster Unionist Party, who did not win any seats in the last general election, won two seats this time.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls was one of the high profile losses for Labour, having lost his seat to the Conservatives by a narrow 422-vote margin. Numerous Liberal Democrats who were previously government ministers, including Ed Davey, Vince Cable and Danny Alexander, all lost their seats. In the wake of the results, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage all announced they would resign from their roles as the leaders of Labour, Liberal Democrats and UKIP, respectively. Farage had said he would stand down as leader if he did not win the seat of Thanet South, which he did not, but said yesterday he was considering whether or not to stand in a leadership election for the party later this year. Clegg described the situation for his party as “a very dark hour for our party”. He blamed the large loss of Liberal Democrat MPs on “forces beyond their control”, describing the situation as “simply heartbreaking”. Meanwhile, Miliband said “I have done my best for nearly five years” and that “Britain needs a Labour Party that can rebuild after this defeat”. Harriet Harman — the current deputy leader — is to serve as interim leader until a new Labour leader is selected. Harman also intends to resign the deputy leadership.

Tom Watson, Labour MP for West Bromwich East, said he is considering running for Labour deputy leader. “I’ve always thought that the deputy leader role is the campaigning role”, he said. “We’ve got a mayoral election in Tower Hamlets to fight in six weeks’ time. Who knows, we might even have a by-election for London mayor. So this party has got to keep campaigning whilst we try and understand what’s gone on in the general election.”

Meanwhile, Cameron has begun to appoint members of his new cabinet, announcing George Osborne, Theresa May, Philip Hammond and Michael Fallon are to retain their posts as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary, respectively.

David Cameron, Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister. Image: Land of Hope and Glory.

David Cameron, Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister.
Image: Land of Hope and Glory.

Ed Miliband, outgoing Labour Party leader. Image: Department of Energy.

Ed Miliband, outgoing Labour Party leader.
Image: Department of Energy.

Nick Clegg, outgoing Liberal Democrats leader. Image: World Economic Forum.

Nick Clegg, outgoing Liberal Democrats leader.
Image: World Economic Forum.

Nigel Farage, outgoing UKIP leader. Image: Nigel Farage.

Nigel Farage, outgoing UKIP leader.
Image: Nigel Farage.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish National Party leader and Scottish First Minister. Image: Scottish Government.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish National Party leader and Scottish First Minister.
Image: Scottish Government.



Related articles

  • “Labour grabs poll lead in UK General Election campaign” — Wikinews, April 10, 2015
  • “UK elections: Hung parliament, Cameron to negotiate with Liberal Democrats” — Wikinews, May 7, 2010
  • 2010 UK general election results” — Wikinews, May 6, 2010

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  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg United Kingdom general election, 2015
  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg United Kingdom general election, 2010

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October 2, 2014

Hong Kong democracy protesters call for CY Leung resignation as demonstrations continue

Hong Kong democracy protesters call for CY Leung resignation as demonstrations continue

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

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The protests in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong on Monday.
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Protestors in Hong Kong have called for the resignation of CY Leung, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, and vowed to continue the protests. If their demands are not met today, the protestors have said they will start occupying government buildings.

Tens of thousands of protestors — some affiliated with the ‘Occupy Central‘ movement — have kept up a demonstration for seven days against plans by the Chinese government to screen candidates seeking to be on the ballot for the 2017 election. Lester Shum, the vice secretary of the Hong Kong Federation of Students and one of the leaders of the movement, outlined his plans: “Leung Chun-ying must step down. If he doesn’t resign by tomorrow [Thursday], we will step up our actions, such as by occupying several important government buildings”. He said there was “no room for dialogue” with CY Leung after the police fired tear gas at protestors.

Chan Kin-man, another leader in the movement, said: “I hope people will understand why the action keeps on escalating. It’s because the government is getting more and more closed without listening to Hong Kong people.”

Pro-democracy protestors catching some sleep.
Image: B Clarke.

United States Secretary of State John Kerry urged the Hong Kong authorities to “exercise restraint and respect for the protesters’ right to express their views peacefully” and said Hong Kong needs to have the “highest possible degree of autonomy”. Kerry stated the US position was support for “universal suffrage in Hong Kong, accordant with the Basic Law”.

David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, said: “What matters is that the basic agreement that we set out with the Chinese all those years ago should be stuck to […] Universal suffrage really means not just being able to vote but having a proper choice.”

A statement on Chinese state television asked residents of Hong Kong to support efforts by the city authorities to “deploy police enforcement decisively” and “restore the social order in Hong Kong as soon as possible”.

Wang Yi, the Chinese Foreign Minister, appearing alongside John Kerry, said the protests were illegal and warned: “Hong Kong affairs are China’s internal affairs. All countries should respect China’s sovereignty. For any country, for any society, no-one will allow those illegal acts that violate public order.”

People’s Daily, a newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, published the following: “Hong Kong has for many years enjoyed peace and harmony. It now sees the emergence of this embarrassing ‘chaos’, and the root cause lies with a few people who are disrespecting the law”.



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June 6, 2014

Queen\’s Speech sets out Coalition government\’s final year agenda

Queen’s Speech sets out Coalition government’s final year agenda

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Friday, June 6, 2014

File:Queen Elizabeth II delivering 2013 Queen’s Speech.jpg

Queen Elizabeth II, opening Parliament in a similar event last year.
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Queen Elizabeth II formally reopened Parliament on Wednesday and announced the legislative agenda of the UK government for the final year of the Coalition’s five year term. New measures introduced covered crime, the economy, energy and house building.

Business and economy

The next year of legislative changes would, the speech claimed, “deliver on [the government’s] long-term plan to build a stronger economy and a fairer society”. On economics, it promised the government would continue to lower taxes, produce an updated Charter for Budget Responsibility to “ensure that future governments spend taxpayers’ money responsibly”, and continue reduction of the deficit.

On employment law, the Queen’s Speech announced reduction in employment tribunal delays and plans to try and “improve the fairness of contracts for low paid workers” — a response to “zero-hours” contracts. The Institute of Directors support reforms to zero-hours contracts, specifically by removing “exclusivity” clauses. The speech also announced the introduction of a “collective pension” system similar to schemes in use in the Netherlands.

The government is also to increase penalties on companies that do not pay employees minimum wage, and reform National Insurance contributions by self-employed people. The government also plans to extend the ISA and Premium Bond savings schemes and abolish the 10% tax rate on savings. The speech also promised more house building, and also to introduce legislation to reduce the use of plastic bags.

Crime and law

The speech announced the government would seek to pass a new Serious Crime Bill “to tackle child neglect, disrupt serious organised crime and strengthen powers to seize the proceeds of crime”. Another bill will be introduced to deal with modern slavery and human trafficking and to support victims of these offences. The speech also said the government “will lead efforts to prevent sexual violence in conflict worldwide”.

The Serious Crime Bill would also include an increase in the sentence for those who bring about “cyberattacks which result in loss of life, serious illness or injury or serious damage to national security, or a significant risk thereof”. Under the Computer Misuse Act 1990, these are currently subject to a ten year prison sentence, but the punishment would now risk imprisonment for life. Punishment for cyberattacks that cause “a significant risk of severe economic or environmental damage or social disruption” would increase from the current ten year maximum tariff to fourteen years.

Jim Killock from the Open Rights Group said existing laws already allow effective prosecution of those engaging in cyberattacks.

The speech also announced legislation would be introduced “to provide that where a person acts heroically, responsibly or for the benefit of others, this will be taken into account by the courts”.

Constituents would be able to “recall” an MP who had been found guilty of misconduct under a proposed law that will be debated. The Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith described the current plans as “meaningless” and said voters had been “duped”. The Bill would force a by-election if 10% of voters signed a petition within eight weeks, but only if a Commons committee had decided the MP could be recalled. This latter requirement will make it “impossible to recall anyone” according to Goldsmith.

Business minister Michael Fallon defended the recall proposals: “we have to protect MPs from being recalled by people who just disagree with them[…] What you have to ensure is an MP can’t be hounded out just because people disagree with them back in their constituency.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he agreed with Goldsmith the bill was not perfect, and he wanted “a radical California-style recall” system, but he had settled for a “modest” bill to satisfy “Conservative Party resistance”. Goldsmith claimed Clegg had been “the architect of the current Recall Bill”.

Tim Aker, head of policy for the UK Independence Party, said: “The decision to only offer recall voting on a signed-off-by-Parliament-basis reflects a political class that does not know, does not trust and certainly does not represent its people.”

Fracking

Green MP Caroline Lucas spoke in opposition to the government’s fracking proposals.
Image: The Health Hotel.

The speech included measures to make it easier for businesses to engage in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of shale gas. The Institute of Directors said laws “must be updated if the UK is to enjoy the benefits of our shale potential”, specifically by scrapping laws on trespass to allow the gas extraction to occur. The British Chamber of Commerce also support such a reform: “While fracking may be unpalatable to some, it is absolutely essential, and business will support legislative measures to exploit Britain’s shale gas deposits”. Activists from Greenpeace fenced off Prime Minister David Cameron’s home in Oxfordshire with a sign reading “We apologise for any inconvenience while we frack under your home”, and delivered a £50 cheque — identified as the maximum compensation suggested for property owners.

Simon Clydedale from Greenpeace UK said of the fracking proposals: “The prime minister is about to auction off over half of Britain to the frackers, including national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty like the Cotswolds. Fracking won’t deliver energy on a meaningful scale for years, if ever, by which time we’ll need to have moved away from dirty fossil fuels and towards high-tech clean power if we’re to head off dangerous climate change.”

Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP, spoke in opposition to the fracking proposals after the Queen’s Speech: “Not only does this bill defy public opinion, it denies people a voice. To allow fracking companies to drill under people’s homes and land without their permission is to ignore public interest in pursuit of the vested interests of a few.” A poll conducted by YouGov found 74% of respondents opposed the plans.

Reaction

Following the Queen’s Speech, politicians from all parties debated the direction of the government in the year ahead.

Prime Minister David Cameron said that the Queen’s Speech showcased “a packed programme of a busy and radical government”, whose “long-term economic plan is working but there is much, much more to do”, and it would “take the rest of this Parliament and the next to finish the task of turning our country around”.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “We would have a Queen’s Speech with legislation which would make work pay, reform our banks, freeze energy bills and build homes again in Britain. A Queen’s Speech which signals a new direction for Britain, not one which offers more of the same.”

Cameron described Miliband as having a “rag bag, pick-and-mix selection of statist Seventies ideas [… a] revival of Michael Foot‘s policies paid for by Len McCluskey‘s money” — a reference to controversies surrounding the substantial funding Labour gets from trade union Unite.

Liberal Democrat president Tim Farron said of the Queen’s Speech: “I suspect the pensions proposals will be around for a generation or more and will be remembered. It’s about making sure they are fairer, cheaper, more secure, more reliable and potentially better for people.”

Plaid Cymru MP Elfyn Llwyd said: “This was an uninspired Queen’s Speech delivered by a government that has well and truly run out of steam.”

Angus Robertson, the leader of the Scottish National Party in Westminster, said the Queen’s Speech barely mentioned Scotland: “The absence of any mention at all of the Westminster parties’ plans for Scotland in the Queen’s Speech is extraordinary. […] In this – the year of the biggest opportunity in Scotland’s history – Scotland hardly even gets a nod at Westminster, and not a single mention of future plans for improving government in Scotland.”

The speech made brief mention of Scotland: “My government will continue to implement new financial powers for the Scottish Parliament and make the case for Scotland to remain a part of the United Kingdom.”



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December 10, 2013

UK Government announce same-sex weddings to start from March 29

UK Government announce same-sex weddings to start from March 29

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Maria Miller, the minister who led the same-sex marriage bill through Parliament.
Image: Work and Pensions Office.

The British government announced today that marriages in England and Wales between members of the same-sex will be conducted from March 29 of next year. The change follows the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act earlier this year.

The equalities minister Maria Miller said: “Marriage is one of our most important institutions, and from 29 March 2014 it will be open to everyone, irrespective of whether they fall in love with someone of the same sex or opposite sex. This is just another step in the evolution of marriage and I know that many couples up and down the country will be hugely excited that they can now plan for their big day and demonstrate their love and commitment to each other by getting married.”

The government have not given details of how couples already in a civil partnership will be able to convert to a marriage. The government are also working on arrangements for those who wish to change their legally recognised gender while married. Miller said arrangements on both of these issues would be in place by the end of 2014.

Ben Summerskill from the gay rights group Stonewall said: “This historic step will mean that, for the first time, every gay person in England and Wales will finally enjoy exactly the same rights as their heterosexual friends and family.”

The deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, said on Twitter that it was “great news”.



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October 18, 2013

UK politicians weigh in as \’Plebgate\’ affair reopens

UK politicians weigh in as ‘Plebgate’ affair reopens

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Friday, October 18, 2013

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Andrew Mitchell in 2011.
Image: Chatham House.

Following an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) ruling on Tuesday, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and other senior British politicians have criticised the actions of three police forces in England for allegedly covering up the behaviour of police officers involved in the investigation of former Cabinet Minister Andrew Mitchell.

Andrew Mitchell resigned from his job in the Cabinet as Chief Whip following an incident in September 2012 at Downing Street. Mitchell had been told he could not ride his bicycle in Downing Street. The next day, The Sun newspaper reported Mitchell had sworn at the police officers and called them “plebs“. Mitchell agreed he had been rude to the officers and apologised but denied he had used the word “plebs”. A police log was later leaked to The Daily Telegraph which claimed Mitchell had told the officers to “learn [their] fucking place” and referred to them as “fucking plebs”.

The current controversy regards a meeting between Andrew Mitchell and officers and representatives of the Police Federation, the union for police officers. The officers claim Mitchell did not disclose the precise words he said during the altercation. A tape by Mitchell has since emerged of this meeting which casts doubt on this claim.

An investigation by the IPCC ruled on Tuesday that the officers involved should face gross misconduct proceedings as there was evidence they had deliberately set out to discredit Mitchell. The report, and the revelation that Mitchell’s taped version of the conversation does not match the police accounts, has led to senior figures in the government to call for the Police to apologise to Mitchell.

Despite internal recommendations, the chief constables of the relevant police forces — West Mercia, West Midlands and Warwickshire — have rejected the call for misconduct hearings.

David Cameron said of Mitchell: “He is owed an apology. The conduct of these officers was not acceptable.”

Nick Clegg said on his LBC radio show it was “perfectly legitimate for Andrew Mitchell to feel pretty sore” for the behaviour of the police officers.

Conservative minister Greg Clark told the BBC that David Cameron should reinstate Mitchell. Home Secretary Theresa May said the behaviour of the police in the Mitchell affair threatened the public’s trust in the police.

Sir Hugh Orde from the Association of Chief Police Officers said the chief constables need to be given chance to explain their reasons for not engaging in further disciplinary action: “It seems to me in this case there is no issue that the finding by the police service was the officers’ behaviour fell below the standard. The question is the quantum of seriousness and I think that’s why the chief constables are clearly determined to explain that.”

Next week, the chief constables are to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee to discuss their decisions.



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March 3, 2013

Liberal Democrats hold onto Eastleigh in by-election as UKIP vote soars

Liberal Democrats hold onto Eastleigh in by-election as UKIP vote soars

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Sunday, March 3, 2013

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A photo of David Cameron with Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne.
Image: Office of Nick Clegg.

The Liberal Democrat candidate Mike Thornton won the Eastleigh, United Kingdom parliamentary by-election on Thursday with a slim majority of 1,771 votes, with the Conservative Party finishing in third place after a voting surge for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) who finished in second.

Thornton, who lives in Bishopstoke and has been a local councillor since 2007, said in his victory speech, “The people of Eastleigh recognise that the Liberal Democrats have always had a superb record of delivery, we’ve always listened to what people want, and we always make sure that we do a good job.” Leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg celebrated with Mike Thornton and party supporters; in a statement he said: “We held our nerve, we stood our ground. We overcame the odds and won a stunning victory”.

At the last general election in 2010, Liberal Democrats won with 46.5% of the vote, holding a 3,864-vote majority over the Conservative Party, who gained 39.3%, and the constituency has been in the Liberal Democrats’ control since another by-election in 1994. The party’s share of the vote dropped by 14.4 percentage points as UKIP posted their best-ever election results.

A map of the Eastleigh constituency.
Image: Wereon.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has said that after their success in the by-election they will “take the tremor that [they] have created at Eastleigh and turn it into a national political earthquake” in the European Parliament election in 2014. Farage said of Prime Minister David Cameron, “He’s talking about gay marriage, wind turbines, unlimited immigration from India. He wants Turkey to join the European Union. The Conservatives’ problems are not because of UKIP, it’s because of their leader”.

Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party chairman, said “We’ll be fighting the next election providing a clear choice between David Cameron as PM or Labour Party leader] Ed Miliband.” David Cameron played down suggestions that UKIP pose a big threat to the Conservative Party at the 2015 General Election. He said, “It is a disappointing result for the Conservative Party, but it is clear that, in mid-term by-elections, people want to register a protest”.

The Labour candidate John O’Farrell ended up fourth with 9.82% of the vote. Ed Miliband responded by saying, “Clearly I would have preferred to get more votes but this was always going to be a tough fight for Labour”.

Chris Huhne, the former Secretary of State for Energy, triggered the election when he resigned as the MP after admitting perverting the course of justice by asking his wife to take speeding penalty points for him in 2003.



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June 22, 2012

UK education secretary Michael Gove to drop GCSEs in favour of new O-level-style exams

UK education secretary Michael Gove to drop GCSEs in favour of new O-level-style exams

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Michael Gove, the UK’s education secretary.
Image: Paul Clarke.

According to documents leaked to the press, Conservative education secretary Michael Gove intends to drop GCSE exams as part of a sweeping reform of the school exam system in England and replace them with exams based on the traditional “O-level” system that GCSEs replaced in the 1980s.

As leaked, Gove plans to phase out the current General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) exams, with students taking exams in the replacement courses in the summer of 2016. Combined science courses would be split out into separate qualifications in physics, biology, and chemistry. Gove has said reforms to the examination system are needed to fight against what he perceives to be a “dumbing down” of academic standards.

The top ‘A’ grade in mathematics would require advanced topics such as Calculus, and English literature exams would no longer allow access to the set text.

Cquote1.svg I can hardly think of a worse education reform than ‘bringing back the CSE’ – dead-end exams for children treated as second rate. Cquote2.svg

—Andrew Adonis, Labour Peer

The leaked document also notes the government intends to scrap the National Curriculum at the secondary school level “and not replace it”. Instead, school headteachers would be able to decide what to teach in order to prepare pupils for the examination.

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, said the plans were “self-evidently not policy that has been discussed or agreed within the coalition”.

Justice minister Ken Clarke suggested on BBC programme Question Time the leak originated within the Department of Education rather than from Gove personally: “If the secretary of state for education leaked it I would feel very strongly about it, but I don’t think he did”.

Conservative MP Graham Stuart has questioned the timing of the plans given reforms to GCSEs last year. “This has come out of the blue”, he said to BBC Radio 4. “Just last year, the government was ramping up its new GCSE target and now a year on we are having to change back to the future, and back to O-Levels.”

Kevin Brennan, Labour‘s shadow schools minister, said Gove’s proposals were a move “back to the 1950s”.

Cquote1.svg the current system needs improving … some GCSEs really don’t stretch the very brightest Cquote2.svg

—Dr Wendy Piatt

Andrew Adonis, a Labour Peer, criticised the plans on Twitter: “I can hardly think of a worse education reform than ‘bringing back the CSE’ – dead-end exams for children treated as second rate.” Nick Clegg mirrored this complaint, saying he would oppose any plan “that would lead to a two-tier system where children at quite a young age are somehow cast on a scrap heap”.

Dr Wendy Piatt from the Russell Group, which represents a number of top-end British universities, agreed with Michael Gove that there is a problem: “the current system needs improving”, she told ITV’s Daybreak, because “some GCSEs really don’t stretch the very brightest”. Piatt warned “there is a real danger here… there is a worry that at a very early age you will be pigeonholed and then put on a course that is not really suitable for you and then you won’t be able to change to the more academic course”.

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Dr Kevin Stannard from the Girls Day School Trust challenged the plans, suggesting since “able pupils” are already going to continue studying some subjects, “why not require them to take exams at 16 only in the core subjects that they propose to drop? That would encourage breadth in learning to 16, while also giving students the space for deeper learning.”

Leighton Andrews, the Education Minister in Wales, said Wales “certainly won’t be bringing back O-levels” and leaking the plans to the newspapers was a “bonkers way of proceeding”. Instead, he vowed the Welsh would make decisions as to curriculum and exam reform “in our own time on the basis of evidence supplied to us”.



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January 31, 2012

Elizabeth II annuls Fred Goodwin knighthood

Elizabeth II annuls Fred Goodwin knighthood

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

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Queen Elizabeth II, the British monarch, has today withdrawn and annulled a knighthood given to Fred Goodwin in 2004, heeding the advice given to her by a forfeiture committee. Goodwin is the former chief executive at the Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) and was awarded his knighthood by the British government of the time for services to banking. The committee concluded “that widespread concerns about Fred Goodwin’s decision meant that the retention of a knighthood for services to banking could not be sustained.”

Goodwin was chief executive of RBS when they purchased ABN AMRO, a Netherlands bank, in 2007. The British government subsequently bailed out RBS for £45 billion, amidst the late-2000s financial crisis.

British prime minister David Cameron stated about the annulment: “The proper process has been followed and I think we’ve ended up with the right decision.” Cameron and Ed Miliband, UK Leader of the Opposition, both believed Goodwin’s knighthood should be removed. Miliband called it “the start of the change we need in our boardrooms.”

Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy PM Nick Clegg considered it to be the “right decision”. “[A]ppropriate” was the word George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer used to describe it. “RBS came to symbolise everything that went wrong in the British economy in the last decade,” Osborne stated. Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland stated the title was given “for services to banking which could not therefore be sustained”, calling the decision “correct”.

Goodwin does not have the right to appeal against the decision, nor had the right to provide the forfeiture committee with any representations. The monarch holds sole responsibility for withdrawing all knighthoods; on this occasion Elizabeth II followed the advice of the committee, who decided to recommend the withdrawal to her. The Cabinet Office announced the advice had been given to the queen on the understanding that “Goodwin had brought the honours system in to disrepute”.

Speaking of the “exceptional case”, the committee explained: “In 2008, the government had to provide £20 billion of new equity to recapitalise RBS and ensure its survival and prevent the collapse of confidence in the British banking system. Subsequent increases in government capital have brought the total necessary injection of taxpayers’ money in RBS to £45.5 billion.” The committee understood that “Fred Goodwin was the dominant decision maker at RBS at the time.”

Until this announcement, criminal conviction and professional expulsion were the only causes for which individuals had their knighthoods revoked.



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August 12, 2011

Three killed amongst Birmingham, England riots

Three killed amongst Birmingham, England riots

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Friday, August 12, 2011

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A car fatally crashed into three individuals in the British city of Birmingham, England. The three men, aged 31, 30, and 21, died during a second consecutive night of violent events in Birmingham.

The incident occurred at approximately 0100 BST (0000 UTC) Wednesday morning in the Birmingham inner-city region of Winson Green. The men were attempting to protect property from nearby riots. Witness reports say that the vehicle contained as many as three passengers and drove at a speed of fifty miles per hour without stopping after the crash.

Police have since recovered a vehicle and arrested a 32-year-old male in association with the incident, on a charge of murder. According to Chief Constable Chris Sims, the details of the incident West Midlands Police have would indicate that “the car was deliberately driven”.

Tariq Jahan, the father of one of those killed, said his son, 21-year-old Haroon Jahan, was attempting to protect the area from nearby violence and unrest. Jahan said he had attempted to perform CPR at the scene of the incident. Jahan said his son was “a very good lad, a good man starting at the beginning of his life and had his whole life ahead of him. I’ve got no words to describe why he was taken and why this has happened and what’s happening to the whole of England.” Jahan said violent acts like this which killed innocent bystanders made “no sense”.

Cquote1.svg [There is] simply no excuse whatsoever for the violence, looting and destruction Cquote2.svg

Nick Clegg, British Deputy Prime Minister

A statement released from West Midlands Police says that “detectives are treating [this incident] as murder. Three men were taken to hospital where two later died from their injuries. A third man was in a critical condition but confirmed dead at around 6:30AM. West Midlands Police have launched a murder inquiry, arrested one man in connection with the incident and recovered a vehicle nearby which will be examined by forensics experts,” the force stated. Police have requested that individuals contact them if they have any information about the incident. About 200 people from the Asian community have gathered at the hospital where the victims were transported after the crash. Two of the victims were known to be brothers. All three of them were reported to be Pakistani Muslims.

The West Midlands has seen other instances of violent behavior. Thefts have taken place in the city centre of Birmingham, West Bromwich and in Wolverhampton. The charges being brought against suspects on remand for court appearances include public disorder offences, such as violent disorder and aggravated burglary. Six police officers have experienced minor injuries as a result of the violence.

According to police, a scrapyard fire which occurred in Birmingham is unrelated to recent violence. Two ambulances were attacked in two separate incidents with objects being thrown at the vehicles. Ambulance staff were left uninjured in both cases. Ambulances have appeared on thirty-five occasions in West Bromwich, Wolverhampton and various parts of Birmingham. Thirty-one individuals were given ambulance staff treatment, with nineteen receiving hospital treatment, albeit for practically minor assaults in most cases.

In Wolverhampton and West Bromwich, there have been reports of roads and streets being closed. Wolverhampton and Birmingham have experienced significant travel disruption, with buses not entering city centres last night. One vehicle in Birmingham and two in West Bromwich have been set alight amongst the violence. Various businesses have also been targeted, such as M&S and a high fidelity shop in Birmingham. A jewelry business in Wolverhampton has been robbed of ornaments, watches and money.

Yesterday, British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg condemned the violent actions of individuals, claiming there was “simply no excuse whatsoever for the violence, looting and destruction”. Below is a picture gallery of the damage caused by public disorder in Birmingham Tuesday night:

Various buildings in Birmingham have been damaged by rioting, including this hairdressing shop. Image: Clare Lovell.

Various buildings in Birmingham have been damaged by rioting, including this hairdressing shop.
Image: Clare Lovell.

This ATM has been left damaged by rioting. Image: Clare Lovell.

This ATM has been left destroyed by rioting.
Image: Clare Lovell.

A window of this mobile phone store has been badly damaged by violence. Image: Clare Lovell.

A window of this mobile phone store has been badly damaged by violence.
Image: Clare Lovell.



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May 6, 2011

UK holds referendum on voting system

UK holds referendum on voting system – Wikinews, the free news source

UK holds referendum on voting system

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Friday, May 6, 2011

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File photo of a UK polling station sign.
Image: secretlondon123.

The United Kingdom electorate took to the polls yesterday to vote in both local elections and a UK-wide referendum regarding the system used to elect its members of parliament to the House of Commons. The polls opened at 07:00 BST (0600 UTC) yesterday morning and closed at 22:00 BST (2100 UTC) last night.

Alongside the normal local elections for seats on 279 councils, and elections for seats in the devolved Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies, the country saw the first nation-wide referendum since 1975, regarding potentially replacing the current first past the post voting system with the Alternative Vote (AV) system currently used for general elections in Australia, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea, as well as for some mayoral and party leadership elections worldwide, including in the UK.

Mayoral elections also took place in Leicester, Mansfield, Beford, Middlesbrough, and Torbay. Some areas also experienced elections to parish councils, while the constituency of Leicester South underwent a by-election after its Labour MP Sir Peter Soulsby stood down to run for mayor.

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One polling station in Stockport was delivered the wrong ballot papers, causing around 90 people to cast invalid votes. Those affected were, where possible, contacted and asked to cast their vote again, according to the local council. Another, in Llandeilo, was closed for two hours after escaped dogs bit four people nearby.

The AV referendum came about as a result of the coalition agreement between the Liberal Democrats, who support voting reform and promised a referendum in their campaign, and the Conservatives, who initially opposed reform but agreed to a referendum as a compromise, following the election in May last year.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) hopes to retain control of the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, where it currently runs the minority government, in the hopes of potentially holding a referendum regarding Scottish independence, which they did not deliver in their first term in power; meanwhile Labour hope to end their coalition with Plaid Cymru by taking control of the Welsh Assembly; however, sources from within the party report that it is likely that Labour will fail to reach a majority. Little is expected to change in Ireland, where the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin are expected to retain their dominance over the Northern Irish Assembly.

Polling booths in the New Forest.

Polls taken prior to the election implied that AV would be rejected by some margin, but due to low turnout — despite good weather — the results are likely to be unpredictable. The results of the AV referendum are not due to be declared until 20:00 BST (1900 UTC) today, and counting is not due to begin until 16:00 BST (1500 UTC).

As usual, Sunderland was the first council to report, and was held by Labour; as is the case with many councils in the north of England, it is considered a Labour safe seat. Early predictions indicate that a number of Liberal Democrat councilors in northern cities will lose their seats to Labour or Conservative candidates. Former Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett reportedly said that the national opinion had changed from “Clegg mania” into “Clegg pneumonia”. In an interview with the BBC, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg put predicted Liberal Democrat losses down to voters being “angry” at the coalition government, but also said that the electorate is “not stupid”, and would vote in council elections based on local—rather than national—factors.

The first Scottish Parliament constituency to report was Rutherglen, which is held by the incumbent Labour MP, James Kelly. Despite being considered Labour’s fourth safest Scottish seat, it experienced a swing of more than seven percent towards the SNP, and large Labour losses are predicted across Scotland. Nearby East Kilbride was the second to report, and was gained by SNP candidate Linda Fabiani from the Labour incumbent Andy Kerr.



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  • w:English Wikipedia United Kingdom Alternative Vote referendum, 2011 — Wikipedia
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