Posts Tagged ‘MPs’

Kenyans call foul after MPs go to World Cup at taxpayers’ expense

July 12, 2018

Kenyans voiced outrage on Thursday as it emerged that a group of lawmakers had gone to the World Cup at the taxpayers’ expense, even though the country had failed to qualify for the tournament.

The scandal erupted after some of the legislators posted selfies on social media of themselves enjoying matches in Russia.

“Isn’t that a big bad joke, that leaders can travel all the way to Russia to watch football when we have a lot of problems here?” asked Sylvester Aseka, who sells second-hand computers in Nairobi.

© AFP | Footy mania: Kenyan fans rejoice as Nigeria scores a penalty against Argentina in a group match

“Oh my God, I want to believe that is not true, the pictures some of them are posting,” said Jacinta Mong’ina, 26, a student. “It means they have a lot of time and resources to go to Russia. When will they serve their constituents?”

The Star daily newspaper reported that around 20 MPs had travelled to Russia at the beginning of the month and were expected to attend Sunday’s final.

The cost of accommodation, per diems and match tickets was being footed by the government, it said.

The Star’s estimate of the total cost was around $450,000 (385,000 euros). By comparison, the minimum wage in Kenya is between $120 and $280 per month, depending on the skill.

In parliament, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi confirmed the trip but said it was “not a bad thing”.

“They must prepare a report when they come back and table it in parliament. That’s the standard procedure,” he said.

According to The Star, Senate Clerk Jeremiah Nyegenye also defended the trip as “official business”.

“It is their responsibility to understand sports, how to host such international tournaments. This is not a holiday and it is too simplistic to look at it as a joyrider mission,” he was cited as saying.

Kenya’s Harambee Stars have never reached the World Cup finals, and have not qualified for any major international tournament since the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations.

Kenya’s lawmakers — among the highest paid in the world — have often rubbed public opinion up the wrong way notably over their salary demands.

Last August, before they had even taken up their seats after an election, the new MPs launched a campaign to demand higher wages.

Kenya has also previously courted scandal at major sporting events, from doping allegations to the 2016 Olympics where several athletics officials were charged with offences such as stealing team uniforms.



UK MPs pressure Zuckerberg to testify on Facebook data breach — could issue a formal summons

May 1, 2018

British MPs threatened Tuesday to issue a formal summons to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg for him to testify over a major privacy row, after he declined to appear.

© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File | Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg was grilled by the US Congress last month but sent one of his executives to answer questions posed by the House of Commons culture and media committee


Zuckerberg was grilled by the US Congress last month but sent one of his executives to answer questions posed by the House of Commons culture and media committee.

MPs are investigating the use of Facebook data by a British political consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, as well as the phenomenon of “fake news” and Russia’s involvement in spreading misinformation online.

In a letter to Facebook, committee chairman Damian Collins cited unconfirmed reports that Zuckerberg would testify to the European Parliament in May and asked him to come to London during the same trip.

“We would like the session here to take place by 24 May,” he wrote.

“It is worth noting that, while Mr Zuckerberg does not normally come under the jurisdiction of the UK parliament, he will do so the next time he enters the country.

“We hope that he will respond positively to our request, but if not the committee will resolve to issue a formal summons for him to appear when he is next in the UK.”

Ignoring a formal summons could invite action by the House of Commons, although in the past, the threat has usually been enough to make a witness appear.

Facebook has admitted that up to 87 million users may have had their data hijacked by Cambridge Analytica, which worked for US President Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign.

Collins noted that there are more than 40 million Facebook users in Britain “and they deserve to hear accurate answers” from Zuckerberg.

A spokesman for the European Parliament said last week that an invitation had been sent to Zuckerberg to appear before MEPs “but we still wait for an answer… nothing has been decided yet”.

Theresa May: We’re on course to deliver Brexit despite vote — David Davis calls Commons vote “ill-conceived gimmick”

December 15, 2017

BBC News

Starts with Video:

May: We’ve won 35 out of 36 votes

Theresa May has said the UK is “on course to deliver on Brexit” as she arrived in Brussels, the day after her first Commons defeat as prime minister.

She said she was “disappointed” at the vote on the EU Withdrawal Bill, but the legislation was making “good progress”.

MPs backed an amendment giving them a legal guarantee of a vote on the final Brexit deal struck with Brussels.

EU leaders are expected to formally agree to start the next phase of negotiations on Friday.

The European Commission has said “sufficient progress” has been made on the first phase to move onto discussing the framework of a future relationship between the EU and UK – on issues such as security and trade.

Mrs May told fellow EU leaders at dinner on Thursday that she wanted to get agreement on the “implementation period” as a priority but wanted to talk about trade “as soon as possible”.

She said was personally committed to delivering a “smooth Brexit” and she wanted to approach the next phase of talks “with ambition and creativity”.

Speaking to reporters earlier, she said: “I’m disappointed with the amendment but actually the EU Withdrawal Bill is making good progress through the House of Commons and we are on course to deliver Brexit.”

Asked whether she felt she would have to compromise more to win over rebels from her own party, she told BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg: “We’ve actually had 36 votes on the EU Withdrawal Bill, and we’ve won 35 of those votes with an average majority of 22.”

Mrs May lost by just four votes, as MPs backed an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill by 309 to 305.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described it as a “humiliating loss of authority” for the PM and warned that his party would vote against another bit of the bill – the plan to put a fixed Brexit date into law.

He said setting an “arbitrary date” was not sensible and there “should be some flexibility”.

What difference does this defeat make?

Brexit is unstoppable and MPs will not block it, says Boris Johnson

It will not derail Brexit but MPs who voted against the government hope it will give them a bigger say in the final deal Theresa May strikes with Brussels.

BBC Brussels reporter Adam Fleming said that as other EU leaders also run minority or coalition governments they would see the vote defeat as a small-scale domestic political issue.

The government had promised a “meaningful vote” for MPs on the final Brexit deal, but this defeat means that promise now has legal force and must happen before any UK-EU deal is implemented in the UK.

Ministers had wanted to be able to start implementing any deal as soon as it was agreed – in case, for instance, it was only agreed at the last minute.

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said it would embolden the opposition and showed there was a majority in Parliament against a “hard Brexit”.

Cabinet Minister Jeremy Hunt told the BBC the vote was “not going to stop Brexit”.

How the government was defeated


Labour joined forces with the SNP, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party in a cross-party alliance.

If all Conservative and DUP MPs had voted against the amendment the government would have won. But 11 Conservatives resisted the arm-twisting by their party managers to vote with the opposition.

The Tory rebels were Dominic Grieve, Heidi Allen, Ken Clarke, Jonathan Djanogly, Stephen Hammond, Sir Oliver Heald, Nicky Morgan, Bob Neill, Antoinette Sandbach, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston. Another Conservative MP, John Stevenson, officially abstained by voting for and against the amendment.

Two Eurosceptic Labour MPs – Frank Field and Kate Hoey – voted with the Conservatives and the DUP.

The mood among Tory MPs

“I’m in parliament to do my duty by my constituents and by my country” said Tory rebel Dominic Grieve

Emotions ran high before, during and after Wednesday’s Commons debate, with Eurosceptic Conservatives accusing the rebels of trying to “frustrate” Brexit.

In dramatic scenes, the rebels shouted “too late” as Justice Minister Dominic Raab announced a concession shortly before voting began and Tory whips could be seen attempting to twist the arm of MPs thinking of voting against the government.

Leading rebel Anna Soubry said she had found a woman MP “upset and shaken” on Tuesday evening after a whip tried to persuade her not to revolt. She told MPs on Thursday morning, that none of the rebels took any pleasure in defeating the government, adding that “nobody drank champagne”.

After the result was announced, one of the rebels, former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, tweeted: “Tonight Parliament took control of the EU Withdrawal process.”

This did not go down well with Tory MP Nadine Dorries, who called for the deselection of rebel Tories for “undermining the PM”, and accused their leader, Dominic Grieve of “treachery”.

Rebel Tory Sarah Wollaston hit back on Twitter, saying: “Get over yourself Nadine.”

Dominic Grieve tried to calm the mood, insisting he was merely trying to ensure Brexit was carried out in an “orderly, sensible way”.

 There were cheers from the opposition benches as the result was announced


BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg

It’s certainly true that the Tory party is so divided over how we leave the EU that the Parliamentary process was always going to be very, very choppy.

But another minister told me the defeat is “bad for Brexit” and was openly frustrated and worried about their colleagues’ behaviour.

Read the rest of Laura’s blog

Back to Brussels for another summit

Theresa May has travelled to Brussels to attend a dinner with the 27 other EU leaders, at which she will urge them to approve an agreement to move Brexit talks on to a second phase.

They are all but certain to agree. Talks could then start next month on the two-year transition period the UK wants to ease it out of the EU after it formally leaves in March 2019.

But the EU wants more detail from the UK government before starting talks on a future relations – including trade – with the UK.

Brexit Secretary David Davis has said he wants to complete the “substantive portion” of trade negotiations by March 2019, leaving open the possibility that the detail will be hammered out during the two-year transition period.

Media captionIs it game over for Brexit?

The EU Withdrawal Bill – what is it?

The EU Withdrawal Bill is a key part of the government’s exit strategy.

Its effects include ending the supremacy of EU law and copying existing EU law into UK law, so the same rules and regulations apply on Brexit day.

MPs have been making hundreds of attempts to change its wording – but Wednesday’s vote was the first time one has succeeded.

Unless the government manages to overturn it further down the line, it means a new Act of Parliament will have to be passed before ministers can implement the withdrawal deal struck with Brussels.

The next Brexit row?

Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer urged David Davis not to undermine Wednesday night’s vote when the EU Withdrawal Bill reaches the next stage of its passage into law.

Mr Davis said the vote would lead to a “very compressed timetable” for Brexit legislation and the government “will have to think about how we respond to it”.

There is also a row brewing over a vote next week on putting the precise date and time of Britain’s exit from the EU – 11pm on 29 March 2019 – into law.

Sir Keir described the vote as the next “accident waiting to happen”, telling Mr Davis: “Rather than repeat last night’s debacle, will the government now commit to dropping that ill-conceived gimmick?”

Mr Davis told Sir Keir: “Unlike him, I do not view votes of this House of Commons as accidents. They are decisions taken by the House, and that decision we respect, as we will the next one.”

Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake also warned the prime minister she was heading for defeat if she did not drop the “silly idea” of enshrining the Brexit date and time in law, adding: “Parliament has now shown it is not prepared to be bullied.”

Brexit: Theresa May Again Meets EU Leaders — talks that could be hampered by divisions at home

December 14, 2017

Theresa May will urge European Union leaders to approve an agreement to move Brexit talks on to a second phase after an embarrassing parliamentary defeat.

The Prime Minister will repeat her case for moving the talks on to trade negotiations, which she sees as crucial to offering certainty for businesses.

The 27 other EU leaders are all but certain to approve the deal to move to “phase two” on Friday, after Ms May has left Brussels, launching a new stage of talks that could be hampered by divisions at home and differences with the EU.

Live Updates

Brexit should be cancelled, Austrian prime minister says

Austria’s prime minister has said he hopes that Brexit can be reversed, hours after British MPs voted to give themselves a veto on Theresa May’s final deal. Arriving at European Council summit in Brussels Christian Kern said Brexit would likely throw up problems that are “not easy to solve”.

Arriving at the summit in Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there were “still a few questions remaining open” about the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, but there was “a good chance that the second phase can now begin”.

French President Emmanuel Macron said it was “not simply a council about Brexit”, stressing that his focus was on issues of EU defence and migration policybeing discussed on Thursday evening.

UK must accept EU laws to prevent ‘dramatic and damaging’ impact on economy after Brexit, MPs warn

A transition period after Brexit where the UK continues to accept EU rules would be a “price worth paying” for economic stability, an influential Commons committee has said. Cross-party MPs on the Treasury Committee said the Government should consent to a “standstill” transition deal with Brussels, which would likely include remaining in the single market and customs union, and accepting judgements from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) after Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.

Tory former minister who rebelled against May warns she faces second defeat

Conservative ex-cabinet minister Dominic Grieve has said he does not care about “knives being out for me” over his role in forcing changes to Theresa May’s Brexit plans, as he warned the Prime Minister she faces a second defeat.

All you need to know about the Brexit bill’s Amendment 7 and why it has just humiliated Theresa May

Theresa May’s government was handed a defeat on the Brexit bill as 11 MPs rebelled and backed an amendment to give Parliament a much greater say in leaving the European Union (EU).  Amendment seven, tabled by the former attorney general Dominic Grieve, requires any Brexit deal to be approved by a separate Act of Parliament before it can be implemented.

High Court just ruled Government policy of deporting homeless EU citizens is illegal

The IndependentThe High Court has ordered the Government to stop deporting homeless EU citizens under a controversial policy that has been ruled unlawful. Mrs Justice Lang said measures introduced last year were discriminatory and violated European law, following a challenge by two Polish men and a Latvian. The three men were all facing removal because they were found by police and immigration officers sleeping rough.

Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Coveney, said a transition period needs to be closer to five years than two.
Speaking in the Dail on Thursday, he insisted that businesses need time to adapt to any new realities in the context of Brexit.
He also said that, in his view, the commitments that the UK Government has made to Ireland and the rest of the EU are “cast-iron”.

Watch the moment Theresa May was defeated by her own MPs in humiliating Brexit vote

The Independent — This is the moment that the government lost its key vote on its Brexit bill after a rebellion by 11 Conservative MPs. In front of a packed House of Commons in the end the Government was defeated by 309 votes to 305, a margin of just four votes. Cheers erupted as the result was announced.

This is from the FT’s Brussels Correspondent. Luxembourg’s PM says the EU will not renegotiate a deal with Britain if Parliament rejects the one on offer. 

Luxembourg’ PM Bettel asked if EU will renegotiate exit deal if rejected by parliament: “No”.

Tory former minister who rebelled against May warns she faces second defeat

Conservative ex-cabinet minister Dominic Grieve has said he does not care about “knives being out for me” over his role in forcing changes to Theresa May’s Brexit plans, as he warned the Prime Minister she faces a second defeat.

Asked whether the Prime Minister agreed with the Archbishop of Canterbury (see 9.22am) a Downing Street spokesman said:

“The Government understands there are strong feelings on both sides, we continue to listen to views and move forward to secure the Brexit deal the country needs.”

The Tories have sacked their own vice-chairman after he helped defeat the Government over Brexit

Tory MP Stephen Hammond has been sacked as a vice-chairman of the Conservative Party after he rebelled against the Government on a key Brexit vote. The former transport minister voted in favour of Dominic Grieve’s amendment seven, to back his attempt to ensure MPs have a “meaningful vote” on the withdrawal deal. Before the news broke, Mr Hammond said the rebels had been prepared to work with the Government to ensure a meaningful vote.

Read more:

Brexit defeat for Theresa May as MPs back curbing government powers — What Theresa May’s Brexit defeat means

December 13, 2017

LONDON (Reuters) – MPs defeated Prime Minister Theresa May’s government on Wednesday, voting to change her Brexit blueprint in a move which could complicate her efforts to sever ties with the European Union.

The parliament voted 309 to 305 in favour of an amendment to demand parliament pass a separate bill to approve any final deal with the EU.

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Andrew Heavens


The Guardian

What Theresa May’s Brexit defeat means

UK Parliament sex scandal: Woman who worked for MP reported sexual assault four times but was ‘ignored by Parliament authorities’

October 31, 2017

A growing parliamentary sexual misconduct scandal looks set to engulf Westminster

By Joe Watts Political Editor
The Independent


Theresa May is under pressure to sack minister Mark Garnier amid the brewing scandal Getty Images

The Westminster sexual harassment scandal has deepened after it was claimed authorities in Parliament failed to deal with an assault allegation made by a woman working for an MP – despite her reporting it four times.

The female staffer who suffered the alleged sexual assault confided it to another MP, who on Monday exposed the situation during a House of Commons debate.

A different MP said instances of sexually inappropriate behaviour towards young workers had been disregarded by the authorities, while a senior backbencher claimed attempts to strengthen protections for Commons workers had been blocked by political parties.

Minister Mark Garnier, who has already admitted asking his secretary to buy sex toys and to referring to her as “sugar t*ts”, looked set to lose his job after Theresa May refused to say she had confidence in him.

Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom said MPs risk losing their ministerial roles and losing the party whip as a consequence of harassment allegations, even if their behaviour falls significantly below “criminal activity”. Both Commons Speaker John Bercow and Ms Leadsom vowed to take further action, as a list of 36 Conservative MPs subject to allegations of bad behaviour was drawn up by staffers and leaked.

Liz Saville Roberts MP told colleagues: “A worker employed as staff of a Member in this House told me today that she reported being sexually assaulted to the proper authorities earlier this year, who did nothing. She is deeply disappointed and distrustful and she tells me that distrust is endemic. How can I assure her that her complaint will now be treated differently?”

The Plaid Cymru member later told The Independent the victim had been so incensed at the assault and lack of an adequate response, that she reported it to the authorities four times in the hope action would be taken.

In the end she was told to go to the police, but when she did the case was not taken further.

Ms Saville Roberts told The Independent: “You would expect this place to be setting an example and not lagging behind what is normal workplace practice anywhere else in the country.”

Ms Leadsom said in the chamber that she would personally listen to the woman’s allegation and deal with it herself, but the problem of inappropriate behaviour was also reported by others.

Labour Newcastle MP Chi Onwurah told of instances she had heard of that took place in the Sports and Social bar in the Palace of Westminster, a place where young staffers and MPs can regularly be found drinking in the evening.

She said : “When I complained recently to an officer of Parliament who had some responsibility in this area, that I knew a number of researchers, male and female, who had been made to feel deeply uncomfortable in the Sports and Social club here, by Members of Parliament, I was told that that happens in pubs all over the country.”

Jeremy Hunt says there will be an investigation into whether sex pest scandal behaviour has broken ministerial code

Other MPs claimed they had overheard colleagues making light of allegations that had been made while walking to the evening’s debate.

Sir Kevin Barron MP complained that the ability of the Committee on Standards, which he chairs, to tackle sexual misconduct had been clipped by the political parties. He told MPs that in March 2012 the committee, which takes on complaints about MPs’ behaviour, tried to give the commissioner that acts as the final arbiter more scope to investigate.

But he explained: “An amendment tabled by the three major parties’ parliamentary shop stewards, and supported by the frontbenches, was introduced to block this and therefore the Commission was left unable to look into these very important issues.”

European Parliament members protest against sexual harassment

It also emerged that later on, in 2014, senior Tory MPs blocked moves to give commons researchers and secretaries extra protection from sexual harassment.

The 1922 Committee of backbenchers mobilised against an attempt made by David Cameron to create a binding code of conduct that would have included a right for staff members to seek arbitration, amid fears it could lead to politically motivated complaints.

It came as a Cabinet Office investigation got under way into alleged misconduct by International Trade Minister Mr Garnier, with his position looking less than secure after Ms May’s official spokesman declined to confirm the Prime Minister has full confidence in him.

The Wyre Forest MP has insisted incidents in which he asked his secretary to buy sex toys and referred to her in sexually inappropriate language, did not amount to harassment, but were merely “high jinks”.

Under Secretary of State for International Trade Mark Garnier has admitted making his secretary sex toys and calling her ‘sugar t*ts’ (PA)

While the list of Tory MPs accused of misbehaviour was being circulated in Westminster, Labour members admitted that the problem was something that affected all parties.

Parliamentary authorities met on Monday evening to discuss calls from Ms May for action to tackle bad behaviour, with Mr Bercow backing change amid what he described as “disturbing” allegations of a “culture of sexual harassment”.

But he insisted that in the first instance it was for political parties to “live up to their responsibilities”, given that parliamentary staffers are employed by MPs rather than the Commons authorities.

Setting out details of her plan in the Chamber, with the Prime Minister by her side, Ms Leadsom said the recent spate of allegations against MPs showed current arrangements were “inadequate” and action was needed in “days rather than weeks”.

She stated that behaviour should be deemed inappropriate even if significantly below criminal activity. “If people are made to feel uncomfortable, that is not correct,” she told MPs in the debate called by ex-Labour frontbencher Harriet Harman. “In terms of the consequences for the perpetrators, I think I’ve also been perfectly clear that in the case of staff they could forfeit their jobs, in the case of Members of Parliament they could have the whip withdrawn and they could be fired from ministerial office.”

Among Ms Leadsom’s proposals are a new, more substantial independent helpline service to deal with complaints of sexual harassment and abuse at Westminster. There is also a proposed support team linked to the helpline, that should be able to recommend the onward referral of a case to ensure “appropriate investigation and action”, including being able to “strongly recommend” any criminal allegations are reported to the police.

There should also be specialised pastoral support available to anyone in distress as a consequence of their treatment in the workplace, said Ms Leadsom, along with a contractually binding grievance procedure for MPs and staff.

See also:

Westminster sex scandal could be worse than MPs’ expenses, Tories fear

Vietnam targets 16 bankers in latest crackdown on scandal tainted banking sector — favouritism, dodgy loans, and “missing money” are common

August 1, 2017


© AFP/File | Vietnam’s capital Hanoi: authorities are waging a crackdown against wrongdoers in banking

HANOI (AFP) – Vietnam issued arrest warrants for 14 bankers and took two more into custody on Tuesday after accusing them of causing losses totalling hundreds of millions of dollars in the scandal-tainted sector.The communist government has been on the warpath against wrongdoers in an industry plagued by favouritism and dodgy loans — part of a broader drive against corruption in the country.

A total of 16 people from various private and government-owned banks are accused of deliberate misconduct, the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) said on its website without elaborating.

The bankers allegedly colluded with the private Vietnam Construction Bank to skirt the law to secure millions in loans, causing $660 million in losses, state media reported.

The group “deliberately violated state regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences”, MPS said.

The two most senior bankers named are Tram Be and Phan Huy Khang from Sacombank, one of the country’s leading private banks. Both were arrested Tuesday.

Image result for Sacombank,, vietnam, signage, photos

Be is the former bank deputy chairman and belongs to one of Vietnam’s richest families, who earned much of its fortune in logging, real estate, farming and jewelry.

Khang was CEO from 2012 until he was sacked last month along with Be.

Several people have already been punished.

In September last year 36 former Vietnam Construction Bank employees were given jail terms of up to 30 years, after they were accused of secretly withdrawing millions of dollars from clients’ accounts to use for loans or keep for themselves.

Image result for Vietnam Construction Bank, signage, photos

Vietnam has achieved several years of solid economic growth of five percent or higher, making it one of the best performing economies in Southeast Asia.

But soaring public debts, bloated state-owned enterprises and rampant official corruption have threatened progress.

Several high-profile bankers are currently awaiting trial or serving lengthy prison terms.

Authorities have also targeted other sectors in their anti-corruption drive. Former state oil executive Trinh Xuan Thanh handed himself into police Monday after an 11-month manhunt.

Also on Monday officials proposed that deputy trade minister Ho Thi Kim Thoa be stripped of her post for suspected wrongdoing at a state-owned lamp factory.

Despite Vietnam’s vow to crack down on corruption, analysts have said prosecutions and punishments are often spurred by political infighting rather than a genuine commitment to reform.

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting and indoor

Three-year investigation results in Chairman and 15 other senior bank officials being found to have cases to answer from Vietnam’s Ocean Bank

Whatever happens in the EU referendum David Cameron is finished

February 21, 2016


Instead of a small minority of Tory MPs arguing against the PM for Leave, it could well be half Getty Images

The Prime Minister wasn’t the only one to call the split in his party wrongly but he will be its first casualty

By John Rentoul
The Independent

It is not often that you see a party of government splitting before your eyes. What is extraordinary is that the last time it happened, in 2003, we weren’t fully aware of it. When the House of Commons voted in favour of military action in Iraq all attention was on the strength of Tony Blair’s mandate across the House. With the support of the Conservative leadership, MPs supported the Government by a comfortable majority of 263.

We realised that 139 Labour MPs had voted against their own Prime Minister – the biggest parliamentary rebellion since 1846 – but we hadn’t fully appreciated that the Labour Party had split down the middle. It was a whipped vote: ministers voted for military action unless they were one of the few who resigned with Robin Cook. But exactly half of backbench Labour MPs voted against.

Unlike Iraq, there will be no vote in Parliament on David Cameron’s “reformed EU”. But the vote in the country on 23 June will be just as divisive and MPs will not be able to avoid declaring where they stand.

Cameron calls for referendum on EU on June 23

Blair stayed on in the top job for four years after the Iraq vote, so it wasn’t terminal, and David Cameron only wants to stay for another three and a bit. But the division now opening up in the Tory party doesn’t augur well.

I got the great split among Conservative MPs wrong. I thought that only a few more than the hard core of known Outers would oppose Cameron’s deal in the end. There were surprisingly few of these publicly declared anti-EUers until the past couple of weeks, not more than 30.

On the other hand, there were lots of MPs who called themselves Eurosceptics and who said they would wait to see what the deal was before deciding on In or Out. I thought they were like Cameron himself. He had long been impatient with the EU as a special adviser to ministers and thought of himself as a Eurosceptic, not least because he was staunchly opposed to Britain adopting the euro. For him, leaving the EU was not unthinkable. On the contrary, it was quite tempting. But he had never actually gone over the brow of that hill.

It turns out that a lot of Tory MPs are not like Cameron at all. They were not waiting and seeing so that they could stay in, they were waiting and seeing so that they could finally announce that they wanted to get out without automatically terminating their ministerial careers.

Instead of a small minority of Tory MPs arguing for Leave, it could well be half. The numbers are quite finely balanced: there are 330 Tory MPs, not including the Speaker, John Bercow. On Saturday the running tallies kept by Guido Fawkes and The Spectator had identified 142 of them as Outers. Some of them may be persuaded, as some of their Cabinet colleagues such as Sajid Javid have been. But some of the undeclared will join them – many of them are ministers and have so far been limited in what they can say. But it looks as if the Leave total will be close to half of the Parliamentary Conservative Party. That’s 165 MPs.

This is not how Cameron hoped it would be. He thought his party – and the country – was looking for excuses to stick with the status quo. Instead one of the unintended consequences of renegotiation has been to remind people who think of themselves as vaguely pro-EU of the things about EU membership that they don’t like. The European Parliament, the Brussels bureaucracy and Michael Gove telling us that “hundreds of new EU rules cross my desk, none of which were requested by the UK Parliament, none of which I or any other British politician could alter in any way”.

Oddly, most of Gove’s ministerial colleagues don’t share his frustration enough to want to turn their desks over. The split in the Conservative Party does not run in a perpendicular line. The top leans towards staying in the EU, MPs are split down the middle and the grassroots want to leave. That is the fault line with consequences.

If Cameron wins this referendum he will be hobbled by his party. Within moments of the result, the anti-EU Tory party will be looking towards the next referendum. At some point the EU treaties will have to be rewritten and it will be hard to resist demands for another referendum. Far from settling the European question, this referendum could ensure that Europe will dominate the Tory party’s choice of Cameron’s successor. Which is at least partly why Boris Johnson is making such an extended song and dance about his fence-dismounting: he wants to be the more Eurosceptic candidate if he faces George Osborne in the vote between the final two.

If Cameron loses the referendum, forget all his hints about staying on. His time would be over. His party would not countenance Brexit negotiations being handled by a leader who wanted to stay in. One way or the other, this is the end of his premiership: we just don’t know how or exactly when.

Lebanon’s Protesters Raise A Stink — Trash Building Up Since July — “The politicians are all suffering from Alzheimer’s.”

September 20, 2015

AFP — Lebanon ‘You Stink’ protesters stage anti-MPs demo

Lebanese protesters scuffle with supporters of Parliament speaker Nabih Berri during a demonstration denouncing Lebanon’s stagnant political system on September 20, 2015, in the capital Beirut. AFP photo

BEIRUT (AFP) – Scuffles broke out in the centre of the Lebanese capital on Sunday as thousands of demonstrators protested near parliament to demand that MPs be replaced in a general election.The trouble came after Assaad Thebian, an organiser of the so-called “You Stink” campaign, called for parliament to be “taken back” from political officials.

Lebanon’s current political crisis began in July when the closure of a landfill caused rubbish to pile up on Beirut’s roadsides, in parking lots and river beds.

“You Stink” emerged as a movement to demand a solution to trash collection but has broadened its target to the entire political class, accused of being corrupt and inept.

Lebanon’s last legislative elections were held in 2009, and parliament has twice extended its own mandate, citing internal political divisions and regional instability as justification.

On Sunday, there was a heavy security presence around the central Beirut square housing the parliament complex to keep demonstrators at bay.

Amid pushing and shoving, several protesters and security personnel fainted and were given first aid.

“We are the people and this place belongs to us. Why are we not allowed access?” asked one demonstrator.

A member of the security forces said: “The right to peaceful protest is established by law, but it is our prerogative to change the direction of protest marches and where they stop.”

Ajwad Ayyache, another one of the organisers, charged “parliament is not legitimate” and that “no one demands accountability” from MPs.

Under public pressure, on September 10 the government approved a plan to tackle the rubbish crisis, but campaigners said it was too vague and did not meet their demands.

“Medicines, bread, water… everything is rotten. There is nothing left for the poor in this country,” said one demonstrator in his sixties.

“The politicians are all suffering from Alzheimer’s,” said another.

Lebanon’s political system is deeply divided between two main blocs, which has caused months of political paralysis.

One bloc is led by the Shiite movement Hezbollah, allied with Syria and backed by Iran. The other is headed by Sunni former prime minister Saad Hariri, who is supported by Saudi Arabia and the West.

The country has been without a president for more than a year, as a divided parliament has been unable to fill the post despite meeting more than two dozen times.

Australia: Tony Abbott angers backbench with dismissive ‘slap-down’

February 24, 2015

By Mark Kenny, James Massola, and Richard Baker
Sydney Morning Herald

Prime Minister Tony Abbott in Parliament on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Tony Abbott has done nothing to salve discontent on his backbench with a dismissive party-room “slap-down” of MPs who advocated a less combative approach to the issue of children in immigration detention, by telling voters how successful the Coalition had been in reducing the number of minors locked up.

On the same day as government senators eviscerated Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs for the commission’s Forgotten Children report which criticised successive Australian governments for detaining children, Mr Abbott slammed Professor Triggs, telling Parliament she had lost the confidence of the government.

He had earlier told Liberal MPs his uncompromising approach would not change, rejecting their advice to go positive and telling them he would always call out a political “stitch-up” when he saw it.

Mr Abbott also faced strong criticism from his backbench over the broken promise of future submarine construction in South Australia and on the “captain’s call” decision to dump Philip Ruddock as chief whip.

In a further sign of the internal discontent now gripping the government, Mr Abbott weathered what one MP called a “cavalcade of complaints” in the meeting with MPs continuing to push back against his “aggressive” style, his method of decision making, and his public presentation.

An MP present at the meeting confirmed that two Liberals, Craig Laundy (NSW) and Andrew Laming (Qld), suggested to Mr Abbott that he concentrate on getting the remaining children out of detention rather than attacking Ms Triggs.

The MP described Mr Abbott’s response as “a complete slap-down”, noting that it surprised others at the meeting, and had only fuelled concerns over Mr Abbott’s tendency to put “politics over policy”.

Fairfax Media has been told by several MPs that Don Randall – the WA MP who seconded the spill motion against Mr Abbott two weeks ago – repeatedly questioned the Prime Minister about the sacking of former chief whip.

An MP said it had been “tense” with another calling it “an ugly moment”.

Mr Abbott was also pressed by South Australian MPs on submarines with Rowan Ramsey warning him he would be breaking an election promise “if the hulls aren’t welded” in South Australia.

Andrew Southcott adopted a more conciliatory tone, asking for better communication of the Commonwealth’s considerable defence acquisition budget being spent in South Australia.

But tensions within the Liberal Party show no sign of abating.

One day after a damaging leaked email from the party’s honorary treasurer Phil Higginson to executive members, there are claims that federal executive members could “rise up” against Richard Alston, the party’s president, and federal director Brian Loughnane unless they implement governance changes recommended by Mr Higginson.

A prominent member of the executive said there was a strong feeling of frustration at the “lack of accountability, openness and fairness” within the Liberal’s organisational wing.

Although the federal Liberal Party’s 2013-14 accounts were belatedly signed off by Mr Higginson last week, the executive member said excessive secrecy around the spending of funds remained a big concern.

“This issue has been swept under the carpet for years by the previous president (Alan Stockdale) and by the current president (Richard Alston),” the executive member said. “I think Phil Higginson was very polite in what he wrote. If he is not taken seriously, then who knows what else could happen? The executive could get a backbone and rise up.”

Another executive member described the mood within the party’s organisational wing as restless and frustrated. The member said it was obvious to all on the executive that the party’s system for managing finances was inadequate and non-transparent.

The member said it was difficult to fathom how the Liberal’s federal executive had yet to meet in 2015 given the multitude of problems being faced by the Abbott Government.

“The upcoming meeting on March 6 should be very lively,” the member said.

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