Lord Tebbit: Unemployed youngsters should pull up roadside weeds for benefits

Unemployed youngsters should pull roadside weeds in exchange for benefits, a former Conservative cabinet minister has said.

Lord Tebbit said East Anglian landowners were plagued by ragwort and suggested Neets – people not in education, employment, or training – should help tackle the problem.

The controversial proposal came in a letter to Buglife, an environmental charity which has raised concerns about ragwort, and has been branded “Victorian” by one Labour MP.

More…

UK: Political Earthquake Next May?

The United Kingdom Independence Party [UKIP] not only managed to halve the Conservative vote, but also the Labour Vote and the Liberal Democrat vote.

UKIP stands for small government, low taxes, and preservation of Britain’s identity and sovereignty, values that appeal to Conservative voters; and it wants to pull the United Kingdom out of the European Union. UKIP also stands for strong policies on law and order and immigration, which appeal to the traditional old Labour heartlands.

Strategically, to pick up Labour votes, UKIP would need to move to the left, but examples in France, Switzerland, Denmark and Geert Wilders’s PVV in the Netherlands, show that it is possible to attract voters from both the left and the right.

More…

What China Sees in Hong Kong

Democratic evolution in China was being seriously considered. The failures of U.S. support for democracy in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt and Libya gave new food for thought to those opposed to democracy. Lastly, the United States did not strongly oppose the anti-democratic coup d’état that overthrew a democratically elected government in Thailand.

On the other hand, Russia — dominated by Vladimir Putin, a new autocrat determined to stifle democracy in Russia — provided a new model.

The whole of Eastern Europe and most of Latin America, formerly in the clutches of dictatorships, are now efficient democracies. This seems to indicate that while democracy cannot be parachuted into a country, there is a broader, longer-term global trend toward democracy and that its growth depends on local conditions.

As economic development needed careful planning, political reforms need even greater planning. The question remains: is China preparing for these political reforms?

More…

Morning Briefing – The Telegraph

Good morning. Is it all over in Rochester & Strood? A new ComRes poll has Ukip 13 points clear of the Conservatives, who will announce the winner of their postal primary today. The numbers are: Ukip 43% Conservatives 30% Labour 21% Greens 3% Liberal Democrats 3%. The usual health warnings apply about one-off polls: but it comes off the back of the increasing bullishness from Ukip about their chances of adding a second MP to their ranks in as many months. Remember, too, that ComRes’s detailed poll of Scottish Borders called the referendum result correctly for that region.

Below the headline figures are more causes for Conservative misery. Voters are divided 4 in 10 Tory voters from 2010 are now supporting Ukip. Ukip voters divide 65% to 30% against the proposition that a vote for Ukip might mean Ed Miliband becomes Prime Minister. Just 30% of Ukip voters by the PM’s referendum pledge against 68% who don’t believe it. But it’s not all good news for Labour, who have lost 30% of their 2010 vote to Ukip against 39% from the Conservatives. (57% of the Ukip vote comes from non-voters; James Kirkup crunches the numbers around those who stayed at home in 2010 here)

But forget the old parties, what about that Nigel Farage, eh? He must be feeling pretty chipper, eh? Not so fast. ComRes polling confirms that it’s not just Rochester where Ukip is usurping the Tories – the People’s Army are now seen as the nastiest party by a plurality (32%) of voters. A slew of poll results suggest that support for a British exit from the European Union is waning, with IpsosMori showing support for the EU at its highest level since 1991. YouGov’s EU referendum tracker continues to show a small average lead for the status quo – it’s 40% – 39% this month.

That Ukip might do more harm than good to the prospects of the Out campaign has been a long-time fear among its supporters – here’s Dan Hannan from July of this year – and those worries now look to be justified. If, as looks increasingly likely, Ukip continue to flourish, their most significant impact may be a movement of British popular opinion towards Europe and Ed Miliband in Downing Street.

SUPERMASSIVE BLACK HOLE (1)

The NHS needs an £8bn funding boost, major reforms and a “radical upgrade” in unhealthy lifestyles to survive into the 21st Century, NHS supremo Simon Stevens has said. Among the plans: a breakdown of the separation between hospitals and general practitioners, with consultants and mental health professionals playing a more active role earlier on in treatment. “NHS needs £8bn extra, says chief (some of it to lose weight” is our take. “Price of saving the NHS: £8bn extra by 2020″ is the Guardian’s splash. “NHS: the £8bn black hole” warns the Times’ frontpage. It’s Mr Stevens’ calls for the NHS to pay obese people if they lose weight that has caught the Mirror’s eye, though: “NHS Will Pay Fat People To Lose Weight” is their headline.

WORKING MOTHERS

“Osborne gets mothers back to work” is our splash. Hundreds of thousands of stay-at-home mothers will be encouraged to get back to work under government plans to reform childcare and give Britain one of the highest rates of female employment in the world. The number of women in paid work has increased by more than 771,000 since 2010 to a record 14.4 million. Laura Perrins, a former barrister and now part of the Mothers at Home Matter campaign group, isn’t pleased: “Only a bean counter would make it government policy.” “No woman should have to choose between their career and their family,” Nicky Morgan says.

SUPERMASSIVE BLACK HOLE (2)

The three main political parties are not being honest with voters about the costs of austerity, the IPPR, a left-leaning think-tank, warns. Labour has detailed only “a very small proportion” of the cuts needed to eliminate the deficit by 2020 – the freeze in child benefit is worth a mere £100m according to the IPPR – while their additional tax plans have largely been allocated to additional spending. The Conservatives’ conference announcements leaves that party with “a bigger job to do on deficit reduction than they had at the beginning of the conference season”, the IPPR says. The full details are here.

PM’S PLANS, JUNCKED

Jean-Claude Juncker says he is “not willing to compromise” on the issue of free movement in a direct threat to the PM’s pledge to make control of migration a red line in his renegotiation with the European Union, Bruno Waterfield and Peter Dominczak report. M Juncker said: “I am not prepared to change. If we are destroying the freedom of movement other freedoms will fall. I am not willing to compromise.” Meanwhile, the UK accepts three times the amount of non-EU migrants than any other member state, Duncan Robinson and Gavin Jackson say in the FT.

BUDGET BATTLES

The PM will demand “downward pressure” on the EU’s budget today at a meeting of the European Council, after the European Parliament voted to ask for an additional 6.4 billion euros for the 2015 budget, the Times reports. “The EU appears impervious to reform of any sort,” our leader growls, adding, “in such circumstances, it is hardly surprising that anti-EU parties…are making such headway.”

SMITH TALKS

The Smith Commission, the all-party group tasked with agreeing the shape of Scotland’s increased powers, has met for the first time in discussions that Lord Smith, the commission’s head, described as “constructive”. There will be a media black-out on the progress of the talks, with only the full agreement, if one is forthcoming, announced towards the end of November. James Cusick has the the details in the Indy.

BAD WOOLF

“Oops! Silly Me!” is the Mail’s splash. A photograph that appears to show Fiona Woolf with Lady Brittan at an awards ceremony in October 2013 will increase the pressure on Ms Woolf, who had told MPs that she had had no social contact with the Brittans since April 2013. Meanwhile, a legal challenge is being mounted by abuse victims to her appointment as head of the inquiry into historic child sexual abuse, the Guardian reports.

SQUIFFY RETURNS

The great-grandson of HH Asquith, the first Prime Minister to reform the House of Lords will sit as a Liberal Democrat peer following a by-election after the death of one of the remaining 92 hereditary peers. The Earl of Oxford and Asquith succeeds Lord Methuen, who died in July. Jamie Ross handily explains the contest over at BuzzFeed.

CALYPSO COOLER

Controversial earworm “the Ukip calypso” has been withdrawn from sale at the request of Mike Read, the composer and performer, who apologised for “unintentionally causing offence” with his fake Jamaican accent and references to “illegal immigrants in every town”. But Ukip’s attempts to find an alternate home for the revenue have led them into a confrontation with the Red Cross, who have said they will not take the money as the song is party political, Georgia Graham reports. “As a neutral organisation, we cannot benefit from something which overtly supports one political party,” a spokesperson said, “In addition, the Red Cross has a proud history of helping refugees and asylum seekers who are negatively referred to in the lyrics.”

PHILIP DAVIES FEELING FOR SNOW

Philip Davies has described a confrontation between him and veteran broadcaster Jon Snow behind-the-scenes at Channel 4 News. “You’re past your best,” the MP for Shipley said. “At least I had a best,” Mr Snow replied. Anita Singh has the story.

ISIS releases video clip showing Syrian woman being stoned to death

Islamic State militants fighting in Syria and Iraq have released a sickening video of a young woman being stoned to death by a group of men – including her own father.

The shocking footage is understood to have been filmed in the city of Hama and shows a bearded cleric ranting at the woman in Arabic and accusing her adultery while she pleads for her life.

The woman turns to her father and begs his forgiveness but he coldly rejects her, saying he would rather please God. He then turns to the men to give the signal for his daughter’s murder to begin.

Minutes later, as the men rain rocks down upon the helpless woman, her father steps forward with a large stone and the video fades to black.

It is believed he had been granted the barbaric ‘honour’ of being allowed end the life of the daughter he felt had betrayed both him and her religion.

More…

It was so windy in Derbyshire yesterday a waterfall flowed uphill

A rambler has captured on camera the astonishing moment a small waterfall ceased to exist during strong winds.

“As storm force winds batter the Derbyshire Peak District, near Hayfield, the river Kinder is stopped in its tracks as it is blown back up onto Kinder Scout Plateau at the point where it would normally cascade 80ft down Kinder Downfall,” Rob Kirkpatrick wrote on YouTube.

More…

Morning Briefing – The Telegraph

Good morning. The Mail’s investigation into the Welsh NHS enters its third day – “Condemned To Die By Waiting List Shambles” is today’s splash. Nearly 1,400 patients are waiting at least a year for an operation annually, compared to just 574 in England, which is 17 times larger than Wales.

“Tory bully-boy attacks”, Welsh Health Secretary Mark Drakeford tells the Guardian. Labour strategists on both sides of the border think they’re the victim of an organised campaign to blunt their advantage on healthcare. It’s a bid to distract from the unpopular Health and Social Care Bill, they say. On the other side, the Conservatives feel that the chaos in Wales is the best argument yet for Lansleycare; Wales is “what you get if you do not reform” as one Conservative put it to me last night.

Who’s right? Elsewhere, the Government is under fire for plans to pay family doctors £55 for every patient they diagnose with dementia. It’s an “ethical travesty”, Iona Heath, former president of the Royal College of GPs says – Laura Donnelly has the story.

It does seem to be drawn from the same bag of politically popular but intellectually bankrupt ideas as Labour’s “a cancer test within seven days” pledge. (The objections are remarkably similar: what test? Starting from what admission date? And what about the perverse incentives thrown up for doctors by the scheme? Etc, etc.)

Is the trouble in England too much reform and the problem in Wales too little? As neat as that seems it’s probably unlikely. Wales is one of the biggest losers from the Barnett formula – government funding breaks down to £9.8k per head compared to £10.1k for Scotland, although that country is far richer – coupled with additional demographic pressures, it’s no wonder that their health service is buckling under pressure. Ditto, for all the political heat that Mr Lansley’s reforms generated, the greatest problem in England is that the above-inflation spending increases increases that kept the NHS going under New Labour aren’t financially possible these days.

Meanwhile our politicians compete to find new ways to remind us that they love the NHS. Absent a grown-up conversation about our ageing population and our anaemic public finances, love may not be enough.

THE COMPANY YOU KEEP

Ukip “do a lot of stuff that is absolutely vile”, Chuka Umunna told LBC last night. But enough about the Ukip calypso, what about their new allies in the European Parliament, eh? The Board of Deputies of British Jews says they are “deeply concerned” that Nigel Farage’s party has aligned itself with Robert Iwaskiewicz of the KNP. “I have found nothing at all in this guy’s background to suggest he is a political extremist at all,” says Mr Farage. Try page 2 of today’s Sun, Nige: “If Hitler had survived it would have been difficult to pin the Holocaust on him” is one winning line.

TAX CUTS, CUT?

“Osborne’s tax cuts pledge in doubt as borrowing rises” is the FT’s headline. Despite the recovery, tax receipts continue to be disappointingly low, jeopardising both the timeline to get Britain back in the black and the revenue for the promised £7.2 billion tax cut thereafter. Robert Colvile explains what’s going wrong and why it’s so worrying for the Chancellor.

QUIET BAT PEOPLE

The first pages of the Liberal Democrat manifesto have been caught on camera after the party’s strategy supremo, Ryan Coetzee, was photographed carrying a copy as he left a meeting. The pledges include – a further increase in the personal allowance, waiting time targets for mental health, the deficit eradicated by 2018 and a qualified teacher in every classroom. “This just isn’t good enough,” Caron Lindsay, co-editor of LibDemVoice, writes on her blog. More “planet-saving, establishment-busting” stuff is required, she says.

WHO’S AFRAID OF THE BIG BAD WOOLF?

“A sheep in Woolf’s clothing?” quips the Indy this morning. Fiona Woolf, the new head of the official inquiry into historic child sexual abuse, is under facing calls for her resignation after it emerged that she had attended dinner parties with Lord Brittan, the Tory grandee at the centre of the scandal. Speaking to the Commons Select Committee, Ms Woolf insisted she was “not a member of the establishment”, before insisting that her dinners with Lord Brittan were networking, not social affairs. “I was building my City network,” she explained. Simon Danzcuk’s not convinced: “In the world I come from, if you have people round for dinner you consider yourselves friends.”

THE STREATHAM QUESTION

The PM’s move to exclude Scottish MPs from voting went “against the spirit” of the campaign to save the Union, Chuka Umunna told his monthly radio show on LBC. The Shadow Business Secretary argues that prohibiting Scottish MPs from talking about devolved issues in Westminster is the same as preventing London MPs from discussing issues such as transport, which are devolved to the Mayor of London.

iSPY

Sir Iain Lobban, the outgoing head of GCHQ, has warned that the Internet has become a refuge for the “worst aspects of human nature” in his farewell speech, Steven Swinford reports. The “Utopian dream” that the Internet remain a “totally ungoverned space” is flawed and that presenting it as a “sort of binary option – security or privacy – is to represent a false choice.”

BUSINESS VS EVERYONE

David Cameron is more concerned with Ukip than doing right by the economy, while Ed Miliband has “zero interest” in helping businesses, according to 23 of Britain’s most successful businessmen. The comments come in a report by YouGov CEO Stephan Shakespeare, Sam Coates reports in the Times.

RUB OF THE GREEN

Sir Andrew Green of MigrationWatch will join the House of Lords as a crossbencher. Credit to Sir Andrew for turning the conversation his way, says James Kirkup, now, how about a peerage for someone willing to make the positive case for immigration?

FABRICANT’S WARNING

An Out vote would be defeated in the In/Out referendum as things stand, Out supporter Michael Fabricant has warned in an article for the Guardian. The In campaign would be led by a “consensual, passionate businessperson” while the Outers have “no leader who commands popular support”. The campaign would be led by “angry looking grey men who have been arguing the toss on Europe for years,” he says.

FRANKIE’S CRANKY

Frank Field’s having a pop at Ed Miliband again, the Indy reports. “A sizeable part of ex-Labour voters have been repelled by the policies promoted by a largely non-working class party elite with whom these ex-voters find it difficult to sympathise and vice-versa,” Mr Field says.