Displaying items by tag: Politics

Thursday, 23 June 2022 22:37

France: legislative election upset

France is in uncharted waters after President Emmanuel Macron lost his majority, with a large, shaky opposition bloc on the left and many more far-right lawmakers surging into the National Assembly. Just two months into his second five-year term, Macron has the narrowest majority in French political history and must govern through coalition-building. Marine Le Pen's strategy to turn her far-right party mainstream has succeeded, increasing its lawmakers almost tenfold and cementing the party's rise from fringe status to mainstream opposition. The largest opposition group can claim the privilege of chairing the National Assembly's finance committee - a strategic role because the committee's president sets the agenda, giving any opposition lawmaker determined to hamstring the majority a tool to do so. It also confers powers of inquiry, with access to tax and public spending documents usually off-limits. Marine Le Pen says she intends to lobby for this highly strategic post.

Published in Europe
Thursday, 23 June 2022 21:52

Israel: political instability

Once again there is political tumult in Israel, where the fifth election cycle in three years is about to begin. Crippled by dysfunction and tribalism, Israel has joined the ranks of Italy and Greece, where general elections occur with infuriating frequency. In June 2021 there was a big change when the new government sworn in was not headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, who had held the position for twelve years. A politically diverse coalition was cobbled together by Yair Lapid, leading the centrist Yesh Atid (There Is a Future) party. The coalition government, headed by rightwing prime minister Naftali Bennett, was a grouping of eight political parties, including an Arab Islamist party. It began crumbling in recent months after two right-wing lawmakers defected, which meant that the coalition lost its majority. In recent weeks left-wing and Arab coalition members were not backing key legislation. The next coalition will form after October’s polls.

Published in Worldwide
Thursday, 09 June 2022 23:51

Government prayers

After months of power struggles and accusations, Boris Johnson has said, ‘Let's draw a line under our issues’. The House of Commons and House of Lords both begin their sessions with prayers: may God graciously answer them at this time. The Speaker's Chaplain prays along these lines: ‘God of righteousness and truth, grant our government and MPs your Spirit’s guidance. May they never lead the nation wrongly through love of power, desire to please, or unworthy ideals, but laying aside all private interests and prejudices remember their responsibility to improve the condition of our nation.’ The House of Lords prayer is: ‘Almighty God, You raise up leaders to reign and decree justice. Grant them Your counsel, wisdom, and understanding. Direct and guide all meetings, so that all private interests, prejudices, and partial affections are laid aside. May the result of all our counsel bring glory to Your Name. Lord and be graced with your favour.’ See

Published in British Isles
Friday, 20 May 2022 00:07

Civil service job cuts

Cabinet secretary Simon Case has said in a letter to civil servants that the Government wants to cut up to 91,000 jobs within three years to save money. The civil service has grown a lot since 2016. Major changes like Brexit and the response to the pandemic created jobs which are not needed now. No 10 insists its approach is about ‘good housekeeping’, and more efficiency and automation will mean no cut in services. But where the numbers will be reduced is not clear. What would cuts to a big department like works and pensions or defence mean in practice? Although the civil service is often associated with Whitehall and the machinery of government, tens of thousands of people work on things like delivering benefits and keeping the courts running.

Published in British Isles
Thursday, 19 May 2022 23:58

Delaying ban on multi-buy junk food deals

Health campaigners accused Boris Johnson of ‘playing politics’ with children's health after the department of health said it plans to defer the bans on multi-buy deals for junk food and pre-watershed TV advertising for a year. Officials will assess the impact on household finances as families struggle with the increasing cost of living. Curbs on junk food placement in stores will still go ahead in October. Public health minister Maggie Throup insisted the Government remains committed to tackling the issue of childhood obesity. Prof Graham MacGregor, a cardiologist who is chairman of Action on Sugar, said the delays contradicted the ‘levelling up’ agenda.

Published in British Isles
Thursday, 19 May 2022 23:41

Pipeline awaits approval

The EU is finding it difficult to decrease its dependence on Russian oil and gas. One alternative is the proposed EastMed pipeline, which would carry natural gas extracted from fields under the waters of Israel's and Cyprus's exclusive economic zones to Greece and from there to other European countries. The pre-feasibility studies of the pipeline, conducted from 2015-18 and paid for by the EU, found that the project is ‘technically feasible, economically viable and commercially competitive’. The US under secretary of state for political affairs, meeting with her counterparts in Turkey, has said that more pipelines are needed in the Eastern Mediterranean. However, the USA prefers to steer business to Turkey rather than to America's democratic allies, Cyprus, Israel and Greece. Algerian gas pipelines are also acceptable to the Americans, but the long-planned EastMed pipeline is not.

Published in Worldwide

Some medical students need to work multiple part-time jobs to afford to complete their degrees. Final year students have stopped training because they don't have enough money to survive.

For that year, they get a bursary to live on (maximum £6,458). It is not enough - especially for those from low-income backgrounds. They are campaigning for better NHS bursaries. Penny Sucharitkul hopes to be a vascular surgeon, but the money does not even cover her rent. She is from a single-parent family, and relying on Universal Credit after her father lost his job during the pandemic. On top of studying full-time, she works as a martial arts instructor and a clinical research assistant. She says working-class students are treated unfairly. ‘We're getting up at 6 am, training all day, then going to work again. It’s incredibly taxing on our mental health. We're burning people out before they've even started in the NHS.’

Published in British Isles

Keir Starmer insists he did not break coronavirus lockdown laws by having a beer and a curry at a ‘campaign event’. A source who was present at the meal said, ‘It has been claimed that Starmer worked during the curry and then after the curry. None of those two things happened. He did not go back to work.’ He added, ‘Some of those present at the event with Sir Keir and deputy leader Angela Rayner were not working at all and were just there for a jolly’. Durham police are looking into the event. ‘Sir Keir Starmer has been economical with the truth about “Beergate”', said Dominic Raab. But he did not call for Sir Keir’s resignation if police fined him. Instead he said his party would remain focused on the economy, not engaging with the beer saga. ‘If he's going to be talking about his curry menu for the next week, we're not going to be engaged in that.’

Published in British Isles
Friday, 13 May 2022 09:28

Sri Lanka: more anti-government unrest

We prayed for Sri Lanka in April.l Please continue praying as protesters across the country are torching houses and businesses belonging to various ministers and MPs belonging to the ruling Rajapaksa family. During this week’s violence and looting PM Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned, and a luxury holiday resort owned by his son was torched by a mob. Over 200 people were injured and eight murdered in three days. The protesters want President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Mahinda’s brother, to leave office. He has grossly mismanaged the economy, and they insist he must stand aside. In his first national address since protests began last month, he offered to cede some of the president's power to parliament but ignored calls to resign. Security forces are shooting law-breakers and looters on sight, and thousands of police and riot squads are patrolling the streets with tear gas and water cannons.

Published in Worldwide
Friday, 13 May 2022 09:08

Australia: election and climate change

Scott Morrison's government is criticised for its inaction on climate change. When Australia - long considered a climate policy laggard – holds an election on 21 May, the outcome could be significant for the planet's future. Still reliant on coal for most electricity, it is one of the dirtiest countries per capita, making up over 1% of global emissions with only 0.3% of the world's population. It is also a massive supplier of fossil fuels globally; when that is factored in, it accounts for 3.6% of the world's emissions. Australia is most at risk from climate change, having recently suffered severe drought, historic bushfires, successive years of record-breaking floods, and six mass bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef. It is racing towards a future full of similar disasters. Climate policy played a role in toppling three prime ministers in a decade. Most voters want tougher climate action, but some coal towns in swing constituencies are key to winning elections.

Published in Worldwide
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