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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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January 14, 2011

Fifteen flu sufferers die in Wales in one week

Fifteen flu sufferers die in Wales in one week

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Friday, January 14, 2011

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Over the course of the last week, fifteen people who have suffered from influenza have died in Wales, as reported to the Welsh Assembly Government. The total amount of flu-related deaths in Wales since October 2010 has now increased to 27.

Cquote1.svg Despite the slight increase in the clinical consultation rate for influenza this week compared to the previous week, the rate of consultations for flu-like illness in Wales still remains within the levels of normal seasonal flu activity. Cquote2.svg

Dr. Tony Jowell, Chief Medical Officer of Wales

On Tuesday, 49 people were being treated in critical care beds in hospitals around Wales, according to health officials. With twelve reported admissions, Aneurin Bevan Local Health Board had the highest amount of critical care patients in Wales. Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board has the second highest total number of patients experiencing this critical care in the country, with eleven being cared for. Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board have nine important care admissions each. Cwm Taf NHS Trust contains five of such patients, while Hywel Dda NHS Trust has three.

The age group of 25–34 years old had the largest amount of meetings with general practitioners; the rate of consultation was 147 people for every 100,000. For all age groups, 93 people out of every one hundred thousand have been consulting with a GP; on January 5, the total figure stood at 85 meetings per 100,000.

“Despite the slight increase in the clinical consultation rate for influenza this week compared to the previous week, the rate of consultations for flu-like illness in Wales still remains within the levels of normal seasonal flu activity,” said Dr. Tony Jowell, the Chief Medical Officer of Wales. “Most healthy people will recover from flu-like illnesses within five to seven days with plenty of rest and drinking non-alcoholic fluids. On the issue of vaccination against seasonal flu, whilst we have been working to make stocks of the vaccine that was developed against swine flu available to be used where supplies of seasonal flu vaccine have run low, we are now well into the flu season.”

According to Media Wales, 13 patients experiencing flu-related symptoms were getting treatment at Withybush General Hospital in Haverfordwest on Tuesday. Meanwhile, five were receiving hospital treatment at Bronglais General Hospital in Aberystwyth. Also, Carmarthenshire NHS Trust in Llanelli and West Wales General Hospital in Carmarthen both had a solitary patient.

Jowell also commented: “People in at-risk groups are at a higher risk of complications from seasonal flu, and the best protection is early vaccination. A press and publicity campaign has been running since October and has included television, radio and bus adverts to let people know if they are in an at-risk group, and that the vaccine is available free of charge to those groups from GPs. We have also encouraged health boards and GPs to ensure that their patients and front line NHS staff are vaccinated against seasonal flu.”

Throughout the United Kingdom, 62 individuals reportedly died in the last week, as the result of suffering from influenza. The majority of these victims were suffering from swine flu. In most of these cases, the sufferers were aged between 15 and 64. However, nine of the fatalities were of children aged below fourteen.



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January 26, 2010

Wales railway upgrade proposals would cost £5bn, says expert

Wales railway upgrade proposals would cost £5bn, says expert

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

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A file photograph of a Welsh train service in Cardiff
Image: Chris McKenna.

A committee of Welsh Assembly politicians has called for an extensive programme of works to upgrade the railways in Wales, saying that Wales is not being treated fairly in comparison with other parts of the United Kingdom. However, one academic who gave evidence to the committee says that the proposals, if implemented in full, would cost about £5 billion (more than US$8 billion), and it is unclear whether this level of public finance will be available.

The Enterprise and Learning Committee made a number of recommendations to improve the rail service within Wales, and between Wales and England. It calls for better links between the north and south of Wales, high-speed links from Wales to other parts of the UK, and light rail systems for the southern cities of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport.

Other suggestions include upgrading the Severn Tunnel between south Wales and England, electrifying the line along the north Wales coast, and new carriages, especially on routes serving the valleys of south Wales. Improved access for passengers with disability is another area where the committee wants action. It also calls for more decision-making powers about railway matters to be transferred to the devolved government in Wales.

The committee, which took two months to look over the report, said that it was concerned that passenger satisfaction with the service was lower in Wales than elsewhere. In addition, investment was needed to meet an anticipated increase in demand for passenger and freight services. It wants the possibility of reopening closed lines, or building new lines, to be examined.

Committee chairman Gareth Jones said that the report “examines the long-term future of the rail network in Wales”, adding, “The evidence we have gathered indicates that freight and passenger traffic on our network will increase over the coming years. The objective hopefully will be that Wales benefits from this extra traffic so that we are better placed in terms of high speed link connections with the rest of the UK and Europe. It is important that the Welsh government provides for that extra demand.”

Commenting on the report, Profesor Stuart Cole from the University of Glamorgan said that although the plans were ambitious, the committee had “set out very clearly what is required if you’re going to get a 21st century railway”. The 21 recommendations would cost £5bn in total, with the three light rail schemes taking about one-third of that total, in his view.

Other improvements, for example between the north and south of Wales, could be achieved at a lesser price. Cole, who gave evidence to the committee, says that “for an expenditure of £50m spread over three years we could get the journey time from Llandudno to Cardiff down from four hours to three hours and 20 minutes.”

The Welsh Assembly Government will give its full response to the report at a later date. A spokesman said that a modern railway was “crucial” for Wales, and commented that the Assembly Government agreed with many of the recommendations. Network Rail, which manages railway tracks in Wales and elsewhere in Great Britain, said that it would already be spending more than £1.5bn on infrastructure over the next five years, with improvements to over 120 stations planned.



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Welsh air route in difficulties, call for funding cut

Welsh air route in difficulties, call for funding cut

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

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Highland Airways, which runs flights between Anglesey in north Wales and Cardiff in south Wales, has said today that it is business as usual, despite suspending online booking yesterday. Meanwhile, Liberal Democrats have called on the Welsh Assembly Government to withdraw the £800,000 annual public subsidy for the route (about US$1.3 million) and use the money on “green public transport” instead.

Logo of Highland Airways, the troubled company running the north–south service in Wales.
Image: Highland Airways.

Although flights were continuing and passengers were told to “check in as normal”, the company stopped taking bookings for future flights yesterday, blaming “technical difficulties”. However, it also said that trading conditions were “difficult”. The company’s commercial director, Basil O’Fee, explained that the company’s problems had been “exacerbated by the severe winter and resultant reduced flying and reduced income.” He added that the board was in talks with potential new investors, and hoped for a outcome of these discussions to be known “within days rather than weeks”.

“It is now time to end this costly debacle before even more public money is poured into a service that is both economically and environmentally unsustainable,” according to Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats. She wants the money spent on improving rail transport in Wales.

However, Ieuan Wyn Jones, the leader of the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru and the Assembly member for Anglesey, said that the service was an “essential link”. He hoped that the company would be able to keep going, or in a “worse case scenario”, that the route would be run by administrators while the Assembly Government looked at other options.

The company has carried 37,000 people on its twice-daily service since it started operating. According to Jones, this showed that that the service “has been a huge success with passenger numbers far exceeding expectations”.

Bidding for the next contract with the Assembly Government to provide the route closed last week, with Highland Airways thought to be the only entrant. The lack of other bids was “particularly worrying”, commented Jenny Randerson, Welsh Liberal Democrats transport spokesperson. “This does suggest that despite huge public subsidy, this service is still not seen as a viable, profitable, and green solution to this key transport need”, she said.

Highland Airways is based in Inverness, Scotland, where it operates passenger and freight services for island communities. The news that the company was in difficulty was said to come as a surprise to business and transport leaders in Scotland, where it is regarded as a “Highland success story”.



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May 27, 2009

Workers at Swansea auto parts plant vote to strike

Workers at Swansea auto parts plant vote to strike

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

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The Linamar plant in Swansea

Workers at the Linamar automobile parts factory in Swansea, Wales voted by a wide margin today to strike, after an dispute over the firing of one of the worker’s union organisers remained unresolved.

An 88% turnout resulted in a vote of 139 in favor of striking to 19 against.

Canada-based Linamar took over the plant from Visteon in July 2008. Shortly after the takeover, Linamar offered 208 of the plant’s 360 workers voluntary redundancy, hoping to transfer work to Mexico; 140 accepted. Linamar claims to have no long-term plans to close the plant. On April 28, however, Linamar fired political activist and union convener Rob Williams. Upon Williams’ firing, he refused to leave the Visteon plant. The police escorted him from the building as the day shift workers at the plant staged a spontaneous walkout. Williams was temporarily reinstated after emergency negotiations between Unite and Visteon management, but his dismissal was made permanent a week later.

Rob Williams

Unite, Williams’s trade union, describe Williams’s firing as an “illegal” “attack on the union” and has brought the matter to the attention of UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Williams himself told left-wing newspaper Socialist Worker: “They have sacked me because they want to weaken the union and intimidate the shop floor.”

Workers at the plant also say Linamar is breaking a promise made to the union when the plant was taken over to keep Visteon’s terms and conditions, particularly to establish a final pension scheme for workers who were part of the company before its 2000 spin-off from Ford.

Linamar has not given comment to the press on the dispute as of this writing.

A crowd rallies in support of Rob Williams and Unite at Linamar

Rallies in support of Williams, who is also running for European Parliament on the No2EU ticket, and of the union have drawn sizeable crowds, with about 90 at the most recent rally include three Members of the Welsh Assembly representing the ruling coalition of the Labour Party and Plaid Cymru as well as the Liberal Democrats, on May 17 outside the Visteon plant in Swansea.

Linamar Swansea has close ties with Visteon factories in Enfield, Belfast and Basildon. Workers at those three factories recently won a victory against Visteon by occupying their plants and locking management out when redundancies were announced in April.



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May 4, 2007

Party supporting Scottish independence from UK wins elections

Party supporting Scottish independence from UK wins elections

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Friday, May 4, 2007

Debating chamber in Scottish Parliament building
Image: Pschemp.

The Scottish National Party (SNP), which supports Scottish independence from the UK, has pulled off a historic, albeit narrow, victory in yesterday’s Scottish elections.

In the third Scottish election since the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, the left of centre SNP beat the ruling Labour Party by a single seat. It won 47 seats, while Labour won 46, down from the current 50.

It is the first time since the parliament opened that Labour has been beaten, and the first time in fifty years that they have not had a majority of Scottish constituency seats in any election.

SNP leader Alex Salmond declared: “Scotland has changed for good and forever.” He added that the Labour Party had “lost the moral authority to govern Scotland.”

The current First Minister of Scotland, Jack McConnell of Labour said: “While I recognise that the SNP are the largest party by the narrowest of margins, Alex Salmond must himself recognise that he does not have a majority in the Scottish Parliament or anywhere near a majority of the vote.”

It is believed that many factors caused the Labour vote to slump and the SNP vote to rise, including the war in Iraq and the renewal of Trident, which are both unpopular in Scotland.

The election also raises a serious dilemma for the Labour party’s Gordon Brown, a Scotsman widely tipped to succeed Tony Blair as the next prime minister of the United Kingdom. Brown is vehement in his support of the Union, and is a Westminster (London parliament) MP for Kirkcaldy. An SNP government in Scotland will find itself facing the very Labour party it beat in power in London.

Turnout was up 2% on the last Scottish election.

Controversy

The election was highly controversial, not least for having three separate systems, running in tandem –

  • A constituency vote, which was “first past the post”, and for a candidate.
  • A regional list vote, which was additional member system, and was for a party.
  • A local authority (council) vote, which was Single Transferable Vote, and in which parties could field more than one candidate in a ward.

The three systems, along with difficulties with electronic counting meant that maybe as many as one hundred thousand ballot papers were “spoiled”. In addition, there was also huge problems with the postal vote.

Due to the extensive computer problems, votes had to be cancelled early on Friday morning, and postponed to later in the day.

Many other problems beset the election, with a helicopter from the Western Isles constituency being held up by fog, and a boat carrying ballot papers from the Isle of Arran, breaking down in the Firth of Clyde.

Other parties

In addition to the SNP and Labour, the other parties results’ were as follows –

  • Conservative and Unionist – 17 members.
  • Liberal Democrats – 16 members.
  • Scottish Greens – 2 members.
  • Independent – 1 (Margo MacDonald, formerly of the SNP)

The Scottish Socialist Party, Solidarity and the Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party were all wiped out.

In order to establish a majority in the Scottish Parliament, the SNP must form a coalition with one or more of these parties. The Liberal Democrats, who were in coalition with the Labour party in the first two terms of the Scottish parliament, are a possibility.

Other parties that campaigned for seats in Holyrood included the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), the British National Party (BNP), the Scottish Unionist Party, the Scottish Socialist Labour Party, the Christian Peoples Alliance and the Scottish Christian Party.

Gains and losses

The Scottish National Party, while not gaining the landslide it had wished for, made breakthroughs in Glasgow (Govan), Edinburgh (Edinburgh East) and also took both seats in Dundee.

The Liberal Democrats gained seats in Dunfermline West, but their losses mean the number of seats they hold is unchanged.

Wales and England

While the Scottish election was going on, the Welsh were also having their election for the Welsh Assembly. Plaid Cymru gained a seat from Labour at Llanelli. The Conservatives had their best showing since the Assembly began.

The final results show that the membership for the new assembly will be:-

Labour 26 -4 Plaid Cymru 15 +3 Conservatives 12 +1 Liberal Democrats 6 – Independent 1 –

In England, the elections were more minor, dealing only with local authorities. However they can be an important indicator of how battleground seats might go in the General Election, expected in 2-3 years time. The Conservatives made the greatest gains, but did not make the breakthrough in Northern England that they would have hoped. The Liberal Democrats did not make the advances that they had hoped, and stayed at more or less the same level. Elsewhere, Cornish regionalists Mebyon Kernow gained an extra seat bringing their total to seven, and the Eurosceptic United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and Liberal Party (not to be confused with the Liberal Democrats) gained seats in several areas of England.

Sources

Wikipedia
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Scottish Parliament election, 2007
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March 15, 2007

Kids game portal BBC Jam to close after competition complaints

Kids game portal BBC Jam to close after competition complaints

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BBC Jam promotional image, with logo.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Kids will have to look elsewhere for educational entertainment, after the European Commission received complaints that the British Broadcasting Corporation’s website was “unfair competition” to the commercial online games market.

The site, called BBC jam, will be suspended on March 20, 2007, pending review, per the BBC Trust.

BBC jam offers educationally-oriented games aimed at 5 to 16-year-olds, created with an operating budget of £150 million (US$290 million) over five years, US$85 million of which allocated to independent content producers. The government funded service is formally requesting proposals on how it should promote education and learning digitally, without being “non-compliant”.

NUT Cymru, a Welsh teachers’ union, is worried about the closure.

Cquote1.svg As a union we believe that education should be a public service and when you start talking about the commercial online companies the alarm bells start ringing and we think ‘has this been too successful?’ It’s only 15 months old and it’s been cut at very short notice. It makes us very worried. One wonders to what extent commercial companies are going to step into the gap that the BBC has left in terms of Welsh language provision. Cquote2.svg

Both NUT Cymru and the Welsh Assembly Goverment have questioned the extent to which commercial firms would step in and fulfill the terms of the Welsh Language Act 1993.

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September 21, 2006

Wales to call time on smoking in April 2007

Wales to call time on smoking in April 2007

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

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The Welsh Assembly Government has announced that smoking will be banned in enclosed public places on April 2, 2007. The ban will affect pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants and all other enclosed public spaces in Wales, although smoking in beer gardens etc will be at the discretion of the landlord. The ban will come into effect one month before the Welsh general election, on the same day as a similar ban in Northern Ireland and before a ban in England. Scotland already has a similar smoking ban in place.

People lighting up after April 2, 2007 will face on the spot fines. New bilingual no smoking signs will need to be prominently displayed.

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External Links

Smoking Ban Wales Official Site

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September 7, 2006

Blair will quit as British PM within a year

Blair will quit as British PM within a year

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Thursday, September 7, 2006

British Prime Minister Tony Blair bowed to pressure from within his own Labour Party today by publicly confirming he will resign within a year. “I would have preferred to do this in my own way,” said Blair who added “the next party conference in the next couple of weeks will be my last party conference as party leader.” However, he refused to name the specific date of his resignation, “The precise timetable has to be left to me and has to be done in the proper way,” Blair insisted. “I’m not going to set a precise date now. I don’t think that’s right. I will do that at a future date, and I will do that in the interests of the country.”

He apologised for the party’s conduct this week saying it “has not been our finest hour, to be frank”.

Demands that Blair announce his resignation plans have mounted over the past few months particularly over concerns about the Prime Minister’s strong support for Israel during the Israel-Hezbollah war, the perception that he is a loyal follower of United States President George W. Bush and a precipitous slide in Labor’s support in public opinion polls where the party is now at a 16 year low.

Yesterday, eight Labour MPs resigned from their junior government positions over Blair’s refusal to announce his retirement. They had previously been considered staunch Blairites. The British press reports of a shouting match yesterday between Blair and his likeliest successor, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown over the handover date.

“I want to make it absolutely clear today that when I met the prime minister yesterday, I said to him, as I have said on many occasions to him and I repeat today, that it is for him to make the decision,” Brown said.

“I said also to him, and I make clear again today, that I will support him in the decisions he makes, that this cannot and should not be about private arrangements but what is in the best interests of our party and, most of all, the best interests of our country.”

Despite Blair’s announcement, several MPs expressed their dissatisfaction at his refusal to name a precise date and demanded that he leave sooner rather than later.

Manchester Blakeley MP Graham Stringer told the BBC if Blair “thought it was going to take the politics out of the next nine months that simply is not going to happen”.

MP Doug Henderson said “It doesn’t seem to me that the public knows any more about the PM’s retirement plans. People keep saying to me that the Labour party must have a clear direction forward with clear priorities and a new leader before the May 2007 (regional) elections.”

The eight MPs who resigned as junior ministers or parliamentary secretaries, Wednesday, expressed a concern in their resignation letter that Blair needed to go soon in order not to harm the party’s prospects in next May’s elections to the Scottish parliament, Welsh assembly and English local authorities.

Blair became Prime Minister in 1997 when Labour defeated the Conservative government of John Major. He has led the party to three majority victories and promised before the last election that his third term would be his last.

Related news

  • “British PM Tony Blair pressured by resignations” — Wikinews, September 6, 2006

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September 6, 2006

British PM Tony Blair pressured by resignations

British PM Tony Blair pressured by resignations

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Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Tony Blair at a 2002 conference

Demands that the British Prime Minister Tony Blair set a date for his departure as leader of the British Labour Party reached a new level today as seven government members resigned to protest his continued leadership.

Junior Minister Tom Watson and six Parliamentary Private Secretaries had previously been considered loyal Blair supporters. Wayne David, Ian Lucas, Mark Tami and David Wright, the resigning PPSs, signed a letter stating their concern that the ongoing leadership crisis would hurt Labour at next year’s elections to the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and English Local Authorities. Two others, David Mole and Khalid Mahmood have also resigned as PPSs. Parliamentary Private Secretaries are Members of Parliament appointed to assist Cabinet ministers. Blair responded by calling Watson “disloyal, discourteous and wrong.”

Watson told BBC News he no longer believes it is in the best interests of the country for Blair to continue as prime minister.

The resignations come in spite of a report in The Sun newspaper quoting unnamed friends of the prime minister saying he would resign as Labour leader on May 31, 2007. The report has not been confirmed by Blair or his office.

Earlier this week at least 14 MPs who were first elected in 2001 and were previously thought loyal to Blair, including Watson and the 6 PPSs, signed a confidential letter to Blair calling on him to publicly announce a date for his resignation. The letter was leaked to the press.

Conservative Leader of the Opposition David Cameron responded to the resignations by saying the government was “divided and in meltdown”. Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said that the national interest was “not being served by the continuing uncertainty over Mr Blair” and that the prime minister “should either resign or set a date.”

The mounting crisis comes two weeks before the party’s annual conference being held this year in Manchester.

Related news

  • “I’m staying for at least a year: British PM Tony Blair” — Wikinews, August 6, 2006

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