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June 5, 2009

UK’s Labour government faces cabinet resignations, electoral defeat

Friday, June 5, 2009

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Gordon Brown at the the World Economic Forum in 2008

The Labour government of United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown received multiple blows this week after a spate of resignations from the cabinet and losses in local and council elections.

As of this morning, six ministers — Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, Communities and Local Government Minister Hazel Blears, Work and Pensions Minister James Purnell, Transport Minister Geoff Hoon, Employment Minister Tony McNulty and Defence Minister John Hutton — had all handed in notices of resignation from the cabinet as fallout from the Members’ expenses scandal spread.

Mr Purnell’s resignation included an admonition for Gordon Brown to step down as Prime Minister and allow the Labour Party to choose a new leader. In his letter of resignation, Purnell told the Prime Minister “I owe it to our party to say what I believe no matter how hard that may be. I now believe your continued leadership makes a Conservative victory more, not less likely.”

However, when John Hutton, a known critic of Brown who once predicted that Brown would be a ‘Fucking disaster’[1], resigned he gave his full backing to the Prime Minister. “I firmly believe that Gordon Brown is the right man to lead our party and our country”.

Incoming results from Thursday’s local elections also show heavy losses for Labour, with the party in control of none of the councils which have yet declared results. The last Labour-run County councils — Lancashire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire — were all lost. In Staffordshire there was a wipeout of Labour, going from 32 council seats to just three. Another telling figure was the result from St Ives in Cambridgeshire: Labour’s candidates placed last, behind the Official Monster Raving Loony Party‘s “Lord Toby Jug”.

While the results from the 2009 European Elections, which the United Kingdom also voted in on Thursday, will not be counted until Sunday, polling before the election indicated Labour’s share of the vote could be only the fourth largest, after the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and UKIP.

Labour’s troubles have prompted the Prime Minister to re-shuffle his cabinet, with Health Minister Alan Johnson becoming the new Home Secretary. His role of Health Secretary was taken by Andy Burnham. Tony Blair‘s former spin doctor Peter Mandelson taking an expanded portfolio along with Gordon Brown’s own former title of First Minister.

Staying in their positions are Jim Murphy, the Scottish Secretary, Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary and Ed Balls, the Children, Schools and Families Secretary. Peter Hain, who resigned from the government last year returns as Welsh Secretary. Ben Bradshaw becomes the new Culture Secretary. Lord Adonis has become the new Transport Secretary, meaning that there are now two Lords in charge in major spending Government departments, and three Peers in the Cabinet. This has caused some controversy for Brown.

Drawing from the business world, Sir Alan Sugar, the hard-nosed tycoon who hosts the UK’s version of The Apprentice, has been appointed as ‘enterprise Tsar’.

There are now just three full members of the Cabinet who are women: Yvette Cooper, Baroness Royall and Harriet Harman.

Despite the setbacks, Brown said at a press conference this evening that he would “fight on” and rejected calls to step aside, saying “I have faith in doing my duty… I believe in never walking away in difficult times.”

However, even after such a dramatic day the bad news kept on coming for Brown. Caroline Flint, hitherto the Europe Minister resigned from government, attacking Brown’s use of female politicians as “female window dressing”. She accused Brown of running a “two-tier” government with an “inner” cabinet circle. Later Geraldine Smith, the Labour MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale criticized Flint saying “She should have counted to ten before she wrote that letter”.


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References

  1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/blog/2009/jun/05/local-elections-european-elections


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May 6, 2009

UK Home Secretary announces ID card pilot launch

UK Home Secretary announces ID card pilot launch

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

U.K. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has announced a voluntary pilot scheme for identity cards. Greater Manchester has been chosen for the pilot and passport holders over sixteen will be able to submit applications for the card at post offices and pharmacies.

UK Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith

A number of other high street retailers are negotiating with the government to be permitted to take photographs and fingerprints for the scheme.

Opposition leaders stand against the planned compulsory nationwide scheme, calling for the £5.3 billion programme to be scrapped. The pricetag does not include the costs that agencies and other government departments will incur procuring equipment to verify the cards.

The trial is also supposed to be in effect at London City and Manchester airports. This is opposed by the British Air Line Pilots Association (BALPA), claiming it is effectively compulsory; in order to get airside passes pilots will have to produce one of the new national identity cards.

Cquote1.svg When any old chemist in Wythenshawe or Ancoats is responsible for collecting personal information that is supposed to be private and secure, there is a real chance for that information to be used for fraudulent purposes Cquote2.svg

—Michael Parker, NO2ID

BALPA general secretary, Jim McAuslan, emphasised some of the concerns of the association’s members, “Like every other citizen, they ask themselves what will happen to the data they are coerced into providing; whether it will it [sic] be safe, whose hands might it fall into, and what might they do with the data?” As do many of the ID card scheme’s detractors, he made the Orwellian comparison, “Our members increasingly have a sense that a line is being crossed in the relationship between state and citizen; a sense that Big Brother knows best.”

Wikinews contacted NO2ID about the proposal, and received feedback from their press spokesman, Michael Parker. He emphasised that this announcement is not a sure sign that the cards will actually be available later this year. Regarding the choice of post offices and chemists to serve on the front line of issuing the cards he said, “…it totally undermines the whole idea of the project as a ‘gold standard’ ‘unbreakable’ ID card that would guarantee we are who we say we are. When any old chemist in Wythenshawe or Ancoats (Manchester districts) is responsible for collecting personal information that is supposed to be private and secure, there is a real chance for that information to be used for fraudulent purposes.”

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NO2ID is an independent group set up to campaign against the ID card system, and what they describe as the ‘database state’. When Wikinews asked if they trust the UK Government with a database of 60 million individuals’ details his response was cutting and blunt, “I would say ‘Not as far as I could throw them’, but then it would be easy to download 60m peoples’ details onto a CD and then throw that quite far…”

Despite the existence of pressure groups such as NO2ID, the government asserts that there is broad public support for the introduction of compulsory ID cards.

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February 20, 2009

European Court of Human Rights orders UK to compensate Islamist

European Court of Human Rights orders UK to compensate Islamist

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Cquote1.svg Whilst I am very disappointed with any award, I recognise the Court has made substantially lower awards than these men sought in view of the fact these measures were devised in the face of a public emergency. Cquote2.svg

—Jacqui Smith, British home secretary

The European Court of Human Rights has awarded €2500 to Abu Qatada, an Islamic militant and cleric, in a lawsuit he filed against the United Kingdom which detained him without trial in 2002.

Qatada, who is facing extradition to Jordan to serve a life sentence for terrorism charges, and 10 others were detained under Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. This act allowed foreign nationals suspected of terrorism to be detained, before being repealed in 2004 due to its discriminatory nature. The ECHR’s ruling determined the decision to detain Qatada under this law breached the ‘right to liberty and security’ secured in the European Convention of Human Rights.

The British government claimed they believed the people detained were “a threat to our national security.”

Some British politicians also objected to paying compensation to people believed to be terrorists.

Matthew Elliot, a lobbyist for the Taxpayers’ Alliance, argued: “This man hates everything Britain stands for, so it is disgusting that ordinary taxpayers are now forced to pay him thousands of pounds.”

Chris Grayling, the shadow home secretary commented: “This decision will horrify most reasonable people in the UK … it makes a mockery of the concept of human rights if we can’t protect ourselves against people who are out to destroy our society.”



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April 4, 2008

UK sex offenders to be banned from some websites

UK sex offenders to be banned from some websites

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Friday, April 4, 2008

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith who revealed the plan today.

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Around 30,000 registered sex offenders in the United Kingdom could be made to provide the government with their email addresses, in order for their access to social networking sites to be blocked.

New government proposals would mean that the addresses provided would be passed onto sites such as Facebook, Bebo and MySpace, and others, who would then be responsible for blocking or monitoring access from those email addresses.

Offenders who refuse to, or provide fake emails, could expect jail terms of up to five years under the proposal, which, according to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is designed to allow children to be “free from fear” whilst on line.

The policy has been welcomed by online protection groups, however others have commented that the policing of the internet is not possible. The criticism comes on the same day that The Carphone Warehouse refused to disconnect customers who shared music for free.

The details of the policy will be decided in the future, by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, which currently investigates around 400 reports of abuse every month, and internet firms.

It is estimated that around half of all children aged from 8 to 17 have at least one profile on a networking site.



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March 11, 2008

Greater Manchester Police Chief found dead

Greater Manchester Police Chief found dead

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Michael Todd
Image: Greater Manchester Police.

Michael Todd, chief of Greater Manchester Police, has been found dead in North Wales. It has been reported that he was found at the bottom of a cliff with letters found nearby, either on his body or in his car, which were addressed to family and friends, although this has not been confirmed.

The discovery comes after an extensive search by mountain rescue teams, following Todd’s unexpected absence. According to GMP, the chief Constable had been on a walking trip, which was not uncommon, however when he failed to return the alarm was raised.

Sources in GMP have said that it was possible the 51 year old had committed suicide, with recent behaviour, including phone calls to close colleagues and friends, having been noticed, however the cause of death has not yet been confirmed.

Current Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was quoted as saying Todd had “contributed greatly to the fight against crime and terrorism”. A profile on the BBC news site also mentions Todd had called for close co-operation between MI5 and a dedicated counter terrorism unit established in Greater Manchester.

The deputy police chief has commented on the death saying “I and all the officers of Greater Manchester Police and all the members of Greater Manchester Police Authority are absolutely shocked by what’s happened and what has taken place in the last 16 hours.”

The full text of the Deputy Police Chief’s statement can be found below:

Cquote1.svg

Yesterday our Chief Constable Michael Todd was off duty walking in Snowdonia. Last night we became concerned for his welfare and as a result searches started to find him.

These searches have continued today and unfortunately this afternoon a body has been found. I believe that it is Michael but we have not been able to formal identify him at this time.

The weather conditions are extremely bad at the moment and are hindering our inquiries. There will be a coroner’s investigation which means I can’t say anymore at this time.

As you can imagine all of his friends and colleagues are extremely upset. Our hearts and thoughts are with his family, and I would ask that they be left in peace to come to terms with this tragic shock.”

Cquote2.svg



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December 12, 2007

UK police officers will vote on right to strike

UK police officers will vote on right to strike

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Police on foot patrol

Police officers and officials at an emergency meeting have voted to ballot every United Kingdom police officer over the right to strike. They also called for the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, to resign over the current dispute and further passed a vote of no confidence in the home secretary’s ability to deal with pay and conditions.

Under current UK law, it is illegal for police officers to stage walk outs as part of protests or disputes, however some members of the force want to strike over the pay package dispute and thus are lobbying for the right to strike to be allowed once again. This has also been supported by a petition, started by Keith Vaz, chair of the home affairs select committee, which has been signed by 78 MPs.

This comes after the decision by the UK government not to backdate a 2.5% pay rise to September 2007, leading to a loss of income, from £130 – £264. However the government says that this is necessary to control inflation in the UK.



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July 4, 2007

UK threat level reduced to \’severe\’

UK threat level reduced to ‘severe’ – Wikinews, the free news source

UK threat level reduced to ‘severe’

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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Thames House, headquarters of MI5.

The United Kingdom’s Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), a division of the security agency MI5, has now reduced the United Kingdom threat level from ‘critical’ to ‘severe’.

Since the terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow the threat level in the United Kingdom was at ‘critical’ meaning an “attack was imminent”, however the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, today announced the level was to be reduced.

She said, “There is no intelligence to suggest that an attack is expected imminently. However, the reduction of the threat level to severe does not mean the overall threat has gone away.”

The MI5 website stated, “This means that future terrorist attacks are still highly likely, but no longer thought to be imminent. The decision has been made by JTAC based on a review of the latest intelligence.”

This reduction comes after eight arrests were made in connection to the terror attacks.

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June 30, 2007

MI5 terror threat warning level raised to \’critical\’

MI5 terror threat warning level raised to ‘critical’

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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Cquote1.svg I can confirm that the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) has raised the national threat level to critical. This is in response to the events of the last 48 hours. Cquote2.svg

—Home Secretary Jacqui Smith

The United Kingdom’s Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), a division of the security agency MI5, has raised its threat level to critical. Critical denotes that a terrorist attack is expected imminently. The threat is noted as being from al-Qaida, groups associated with al-Qaida, and other Islamic extremists. The change was made as a result of an earlier incident where a burning jeep drove into Glasgow Airport, which has been linked to the attempted London car bombings of the previous day.

MI5 also indicated that, although the threat comes principally from al-Qaida and related networks, Northern Ireland-related terrorism remains a threat.

In a press release Saturday, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said, “I can confirm that JTAC has raised the national threat level to critical. This is in response to the events of the last 48 hours. Critical is the highest level of threat, and the threat level will be closely reviewed on a regular basis. Appropriate security measures have been put in place.”

A terror alert system was set up by the UK government to keep the public informed about the level of threat to the UK from terrorism. According to the Home Office, the likelihood of a terrorist attack taking place in the UK is identified in following threat levels:

  • critical – an attack is expected imminently
  • severe – an attack is highly likely
  • substantial – an attack is a strong possibility
  • moderate – an attack is possible but not likely
  • low – an attack is unlikely

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Car driven into Glasgow International Airport

Car driven into Glasgow International Airport

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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Glasgow International Airport in Renfrewshire, Scotland was evacuated after a green Jeep Cherokee struck the airport’s terminal building and burst into flames at 1511 BST.

An eyewitness told the BBC that “[A] man was on fire.” All flights are grounded, and two men have been arrested and the United Kingdom has raised the national threat level to “critical” which means another terror attack is imminent.

Eyewitnesses described a Jeep speeding toward the building with flames coming out from underneath. They also reported seeing two Asian men in the car, one of whom was on fire.

Cquote1.svg We saw a green Cherokee drive straight into the front door of the airport but it got jammed. They were obviously trying to get it further inside the airport as the wheels were spinning and smoke was coming from them. One of the men, I think it was the driver, brought out a plastic petrol canister and poured it under the car. He then set light to it. Cquote2.svg

—Lynsey McBean, 26

The BBC quoted an eyewitness as saying that two attempts were made to ram the Jeep through the wall, and that the passenger was holding a lit Molotov Cocktail and made several attempts to throw the bottle.

The front of the building where the attack took place

The Strathclyde Police Chief announced that the event is being linked to the earlier attempted car bombings in London, and as such is being treated as a terrorist investigation.

Eyewitnesses are now saying that one of the two men was pouring bottles of petrol into the car’s interior and onto himself, before running from the car, on fire, into the main terminal building. Witnesses have also reported that gas cylinders were removed by bystanders from the burning vehicle.

According to the BBC, the driver of the vehicle put up a violent struggle before being overpowered by the police and public. One person who tackled him was Stephen Clarkson, a member of the public.

Richard Gray, an eyewitness to the event, stated “There was an Asian guy who was pulled out of the car by two police officers.”

Seven people have been taken to local hospitals with injuries.

Police said that this incident was a deliberate attempt and not a road accident. Officials have also said that the incident is connected to earlier attempted car bombings in London the day before.

Two people have been arrested, one of whom was badly burned. Seven known casualties, including the Asian male have been taken to the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley.

While the suspect was being treated in the hospital, a suspect device was discovered in the hospital, resulting in the partial evacuation of the building while the device was moved to a safe area. This object later turned out to be mundane, although initial reports believed it to be a suicide belt.

Cquote1.svg The first duty of the Government is the security and safety of all the British people, So it is right to raise the levels of security at airports and in crowded places in the light of the heightened threat. I know that the British people will stand together: united, resolute and strong. Cquote2.svg

—Gordon Brown

The BBC announced that the Prime Minister is being kept fully informed. He chaired a meeting of Civil Contingencies Committee (COBRA) at 1900 (BST), after which the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, announced that the national threat level been elevated from “Severe” to “Critical”, meaning another attack is expected “imminently.”

Officials at Edinburgh Airport have said that all cars are being turned away from the airport, and at Heathrow in London, passengers are being advised not to bring private cars near to the terminal buildings. Some passengers were kept waiting in planes while the area was secured.

The first bomber, who was taken to Govan high security prison, has now been interviewed, though no further statements from Strathclyde police have been forthcoming. The second bomber, who was taken to the Royal Alexandria hospital in Paisley, is listed in critical condition tonight, and is being kept under 24-hour guard.

2,300 passengers who were due to set off from Glasgow Airport today have been driven by coach to a conference centre, where a reception area has been set up for them.

Two people were arrested by The Metropolitan Police Anti-Terrorist Branch on the M6 motorway in Cheshire in connection with the Glasgow International Airport attack and attempted London car bombings.

The Prime Minister Gordon Brown is expected to hold another COBRA meeting with other members of the Cabinet today. This will be the fifth COBRA meeting in 48 hours.

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Police Incident Room
The public inquiry number for the Strathclyde Police is: 0800 056 0944
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Anti-Terrorist Hotline Number
For providing information to authorities about terrorist activities, contact the anti-terrorism hotline at: 0800 789 321

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June 29, 2007

Car bomb defused in central London

Car bomb defused in central London – Wikinews, the free news source

Car bomb defused in central London

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Friday, June 29, 2007

The Mercedes-Benz on Haymarket covered by a tent
Image: Snapper Jack / Eye Spy Mag.

A car containing an large explosive device has been defused in the Haymarket, London. A second device was later found in a car park in Park Lane.

A car, a light metallic green Mercedes-Benz E Class saloon (produced 1984-1995), parked near the nightclub ‘TigerTiger’, contained petrol, gas cylinders and nails. Police described it as a “potentially viable explosive device”.

Police carried out a controlled explosion at 2:00 a.m. BST and the car has been taken to a forensic explosives laboratory for further investigation.

Eyewitnesses saw the car driving “erratically” and colliding with bins before being abandoned. An ambulance crew in the area alerted police after seeing smoke inside the car.

Deputy Assistant Police Commissioner Peter Clarke said there could have been “significant injury or loss of life”.

A meeting of COBRA, chaired by new Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was held about the incident.

Police say it is too early to tell who is behind the threat. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the country faces a “serious and continued security threat” and urged people to “be vigilant at all times”.

Disruption has been caused to transport in the area with roads closed and bus routes diverted. Piccadilly Circus tube station has reopened after an earlier closure

Police are reviewing major events to be held in London over the weekend.

CBS News has reported that a message appeared on the widely used jihadist Internet forum Al-Hesbah at 8:09 a.m. June 28, saying: “Today I say: Rejoice, by Allah, London shall be bombed.” The message went on to mention the recently announced knighthood of Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie.

Following an incident at Glasgow airport, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced the elevation of the UK’s national threat level from “Severe” to “Critical”, indicating that an attack could be expected “imminently”.

Two people have been arrested in Cheshire in connection with the Glasgow International Airport attack and attempted London car bombings.

Park Lane

Park Lane was closed to the public due to a suspicious car parked in the underground car park beneath Hyde Park. Police, who believed the two incidents to be linked, cordoned off Park Lane and Hyde Park to allow the bomb disposal unit access to the vehicle. The car was illegally parked on Cockspur Street and was towed to the pound on Park Lane, it was then discovered that the car contained an explosive device.

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2007 London car bombs


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