The EU must be more vocal of its criticism of Vladimir Putin

While European governments have taken action against Russia’s violations of Ukrainian sovereignty, too little is being done about its violations of the rights and freedoms of its own population

Putin ncrPutin’s aggression toward its neighbours has required urgent attention but must never overshadow the human rights situation in Russia itself. Civil society, journalists and opposition figures are increasingly being repressed and intimidated.

Last Thursday, the European Parliament voted on a resolution urging Russia to stop the crackdown on civil society and non-governmental organisations. The direct cause of the resolution is the case of Memorial, a human rights group under threat of closure. Russia’s justice ministry asked the Supreme Court to “liquidate” Memorial, the final hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for November 13.

The closing of Memorial, a so-called ‘foreign agent,’ would be more than symbolic.
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Posted in Multilateral Foreign Policy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Responses

Today’s EU climate deal means it will be harder for Westminster to blame Brussels for rising energy bills

One positive effect of today’s European deal is that it should be more difficult for MPs to deflect attention onto the faceless bogie-man that is ‘Brussels’

Gas hob ncrjIt has long been convenient for British politicians and journalists to blame Brussels for any number of the problems that we face, including rising energy bills. Today’s EU climate deal means that from now on this should be much harder to get away with.

Yesterday the Daily Mail reported on concerns from the ‘Open Europe’ think tank that a new Brussels agreement on climate change and clean energy could put up energy bills for British families and businesses.

Contrary to some of the media headlines, the author of Open Europe’s report since clarified to the Carbon Brief website that his organisation was not opposing new targets for cutting carbon pollution per se, just some of the proposals made by some European countries for nationally-binding technology specific targets. Read More »

Posted in Environment | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

We need to bring democracy back to life. Let’s start with the House of Lords

The events of this week were yet another reminder of how far behind Westminster is in adapting to the new world

House of LOrds ncrIn a parliamentary democracy, the idea of a second chamber to revise primary legislation and to take a longer view than the main chamber sounds good in theory. And indeed, in the UK we are served by some distinguished legislators who sit in the House of Lords.

The problem is that no matter how hard they work and how effective their interventions might be, none of it can mask the lunacy of the way the House of Lords is constituted.

We’ve seen it again this week on two fronts. Firstly, the prime minister appointed an additional four peers. So as not to upset the gender balance, he was careful to choose three men and a single woman – thus ensuring the 75:25 split in favour of men in the Lords was preserved. One of his appointments appears to have been made in response to the politics of the day – in this case, immigration issues. Read More »

Posted in Good Society | Tagged , , | 14 Responses

The huge challenge facing Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru will gather for its annual conference with support for an independent Wales at just 3 per cent

Wales flag ncrjPlaid Cymru will today gather for its annual conference in the small town of Llangollen in the north east of Wales.

This will be the first conference for the Welsh nationalists following last months’ referendum in Scotland which saw a clear majority opting to remain within the Union.

With all parties in Wales now falling over themselves to call for greater powers to be given to Cardiff Bay, Plaid’s leader Leanne Wood has quite a job on her hands when she addresses delegates later today, namely to give a clear explanation as to why Plaid are relevant. Read More »

Posted in A Britain We All Call Home | Tagged , , , , | 5 Responses

UK GDP up 0.7 per cent

UK GDP grew by 0.7 per cent in the third quarter of 2014, according to the latest quarterly national accounts from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The key points from the latest release from the ONS are: Read More »

Posted in Sustainable Economy | Tagged , , , | 3 Responses

Renewables are the future: get on board, or get out of the way

Over the last year renewables have been breaking records

wind turbineEarlier this week something amazing happened. Wind power overtook nuclear as the third largest source of electricity on the UK grid, keeping the lights on as gas power stations caught fire, and atomic ones developed cracks in their boilers.

This was not a freak event. Over the last year renewables have been breaking records with monotonous regularity. In the second quarter of 2014 renewables contributed 17 per cent of national electricity demand. In fact if you close your eyes and listen carefully on any windy or sunny day you can almost hear the last creaks of the 20th century electricity system as it starts to fall apart. Read More »

Posted in Environment | Tagged , , , | 3 Responses

The row over TTIP rumbles on

The row over TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal between the EU and the USA) and the inclusion of an ISDS (Investor State Dispute Settlement) mechanism is growing almost daily.

TTIP2 ncrjFollowers of the progress of the TTIP talks will be aware of the twists and turns on policy in regard to ISDS which has resulted in the EU president having to clarify the EU’s position, over-rule his new trade commissioner and now ask his number two to sort it out. Read More »

Posted in Public Services for All | Tagged , , , | 1 Response

Pay at the top has become a self-enriching racket

The relationship between bonus increases and profit growth is virtually non-existent

Canary wharf ncrjThere are a number of difficult questions to grapple with when trying to establish whether or not the increasingly extraordinary sums of money paid to a super-rich elite in a handful of leading professions are ‘fair’.

Can one or two individuals really be responsible for the success of organisations employing thousands of people on multiple continents? Are the markets for executives, lawyers, bankers and consultants completely transparent, open and functional?

Is there a limit beyond which we might consider the gap between rich and poor to be intolerable, grotesque or socially and economically destructive? Read More »

Posted in Sustainable Economy | Tagged , , , | 17 Responses

Cameron must not cave in to UKIP pressure at the EU climate change summit

The argument put forward by Tory and UKIP dinosaurs is fundamentally flawed

Coal ncrjOver the next few days, European leaders including David Cameron will meet in Brussels to thrash out an agreement on the EU’s climate change targets up until 2030. There is a huge amount at stake.

So far, the EU has been a world leader in the fight against climate change, becoming the first region to set binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But in the face of the financial crisis, leaders have become more nervous and the momentum behind the drive towards a greener economy has started to wane.

This could have far-reaching consequences. If EU leaders fail to agree on ambitious EU targets, this would send a damaging signal in the build-up to talks over a global deal on reducing emissions in Paris next year. Read More »

Posted in Environment | Tagged , , , , , , | 38 Responses

UKIP continue to lead in Rochester and Strood

UKIP’s lead in the seat is up from the 9-point lead it had in a similar poll published earlier this month

Ukip badgejConservative HQ will this morning be feeling jittering thanks to a new poll by ComRes in the Rochester and Strood constituency published last night.

Ahead of the by-election on the 20 November, triggered by the defecation to UKIP of the sitting Conservative MP Mark Reckless on the eve of the Conservative Party conference, UKIP enjoys a 13 percentage point lead over the Conservatives, with UKIP on 43 per cent, the Conservatives on 30 per cent and Labour on 21 per cent. Read More »

Posted in Good Society | Tagged , , , , | 8 Responses
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