Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy injected fresh momentum into the Libya campaign today, saying there can be no peace with Colonel Gaddafi still in charge.
For the next few weeks, Ed Jacobs will be sending out the email, with the latest from the election campaigns in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English local elections, as well as the AV referendum campaign; Look Left will return on Friday, May 6th
• Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy injected fresh momentum into the Libya campaign today, demanding the departure of the Tripoli tyrant, saying there can be no peace with Colonel Gaddafi still in charge.
In a joint letter in The Times, International Herald Tribune and Le Figaro, the three world leaders write:
“In an historic resolution, the United Nations Security Council authorised all necessary measures to protect the people of Libya from the attacks upon them. By responding immediately, our countries halted the advance of Gaddafi’s forces. The bloodbath that he had promised to inflict on the citizens of the besieged city of Benghazi has been prevented. Tens of thousands of lives have been protected. But the people of Libya are suffering terrible horrors at Gaddafi’s hands each and every day. His rockets and his shells rained down on defenceless civilians in Ajdabiya. The city of Misrata is enduring a medieval siege as Gaddafi tries to strangle its population into submission. The evidence of disappearances and abuses grows daily.
“Our duty and our mandate under UN Security Council Resolution 1973 is to protect civilians, and we are doing that. It is not to remove Gaddafi by force. But it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Gaddafi in power. The International Criminal Court is rightly investigating the crimes committed against civilians and the grievous violations of international law. It is unthinkable that someone who has tried to massacre his own people can play a part in their future government. The brave citizens of those towns that have held out against forces that have been mercilessly targeting them would face a fearful vengeance if the world accepted such an arrangement. It would be an unconscionable betrayal.
“Furthermore, it would condemn Libya to being not only a pariah state, but a failed state too. Gaddafi has promised to carry out terrorist attacks against civilian ships and airliners. And because he has lost the consent of his people any deal that leaves him in power would lead to further chaos and lawlessness. We know from bitter experience what that would mean. Neither Europe, the region nor the world can afford a new safe haven for extremists.
“There is a pathway to peace that promises new hope for the people of Libya: a future without Gaddafi that preserves Libya’s integrity and sovereignty and restores her economy and the prosperity and security of her people. This needs to begin with a genuine end to violence, marked by deeds, not words. The regime has to pull back from the cities it is besieging, including Ajdabiya, Misrata and Zintan, and its forces return to their barracks.
“However, so long as Gaddafi is in power, Nato and its coalition partners must maintain their operations so that civilians remain protected and the pressure on the regime builds. Then a genuine transition from dictatorship to an inclusive constitutional process can really begin, led by a new generation of leaders. For that transition to succeed, Colonel Gaddafi must go, and go for good. At that point, the United Nations and its members should help the Libyan people as they rebuild where Gaddafi has destroyed – to repair homes and hospitals, to restore basic utilities, and to assist Libyans as they develop the institutions to underpin a prosperous and open society.”
The letter concludes:
“Today Nato and its coalition partners are acting in the name of the United Nations with an unprecedented international legal mandate. But it will be the people of Libya, not the UN, who choose their new constitution, elect their new leaders and write the next chapter in their history. Britain, France and the United States will not rest until the United Nations Security Council resolutions have been implemented and the Libyan people can choose their own future.”
Fighting on the ground, as well as NATO bombing missions, continues. Latest reports say a rocket attack in Misrata by pro-Gaddafi forces killed 23 people on Thursday, with new reports of rocket fire into the city this morning. A BBC reporter has entered the besieged city, where she found an intensive care unit full of people with serious injuries and multiple shrapnel wounds – including a six-year-old girl.
The fight for freedom goes on, and for as long as Gaddafi continues to murder, maim and massacre the Libyan people, there will be no let up; Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy, showing real leadership, courage and principle, will not rest till they are free.
• Domestically, immigration (see below) and health dominated the agenda, with David Cameron making a keynote speech on the former and Andrew Lansley suffering a further blow on the latter.
The Royal College of Nursing delivered an overwhelming vote of no confidence in the health secretary – by 478 votes to six – with delegates warning his plans will ruin the NHS and lead to worse patient care, accusing him of mismanaging the health service and pursuing a policy driven by “ideological dogma, not what is best for our patients”, with one nurse saying:
“This (Bill) does nothing to reflect nursing, the NHS or to benefit our patients.”
Lansley himself said he was “sorry” for failing to communicate his plans properly, insisting he would press on with his “listening exercise” on the future of the NHS:
“I believe in the NHS. If there is an ideology in what I am doing, it is a belief in the National Health Service. I want to enable the NHS to be stronger, and protect the NHS… I did read what was said this morning, and the result of the vote this morning, and from my point of view, therefore, I am sorry. I am sorry if what it is I am attempting to do is not communicated…
“We haven’t got that right. Listening to the vote this morning, and what was said, if I haven’t got that message across, I apologise.”
Ed Miliband, meanwhile, warned David Cameron and Nick Clegg they faced “not a problem of public relations, [but] a problem of principle”:
“If the prime minister wants to listen, he should listen not to his deputy, but to the nurses, patients and others. He appears to believe that people don’t like his bill because his government haven’t explained it properly. But the opposite is true. The more people understand and hear about these proposals, the less they like them…
“The Health Service faces huge challenges from an ageing population to rising chronic disease. These challenges demand reforms to make the NHS more accountable to patients, more focused on prevention and to better integrate care and strengthen collaboration.”
Left Foot Forward also reported this week on new warnings over the safety of patient care; warnings over the impact of poor housing on the Welsh NHS; Lansley’s delusions over the scale of opposition to his reforms; and the latest doubts over David Cameron’s commitment to protecting the NHS.
• The referendum on the alternative vote (AV) is now less than three weeks away. This week, Left Foot Forward has looked at the effect AV will have on the BNP, and exposed the truth about No2AV and Labour NO to AV.
On the BNP, Will Straw explained:
“The Independent reports new analysis from the Institute for Public Policy Research – also covered by The Guardian – showing that AV would hinder the BNP. The research fundamentally rebuts claims made earlier this month by the No to AV Campaign which were promoted by Guido Fawkes. On April 1st, the right-wing blogger published an article which claimed: ‘Research out today from the No to AV campaign suggests that in the region of 35 constituencies could have their outcomes determined by the second preferences of BNP voters. This is the unwelcome empowerment that the AV system brings to democracy.‘
“The analysis by ippr from a forthcoming report examining the case for AV looks at each of the 35 constituencies in turn. Using analysis from a British Election Study survey of voting intentions of 13,356 people, it found that in 25 of these seats the outcome of the 2010 general election would have been the same under AV. In the remaining ten seats, which would have changed hands under AV, the BNP vote was not decisive. This was calculated using polling from the BES paper which outlines the second preferences of BNP supporters. It found that BNP supporters gave 45 per cent of their second preferences to Ukip, 29% to the Tories, 10% to Labour, 9% to the Greens, and just 7% to the Lib Dems…
“Summing up the absurdity of of the No campaign’s claims that the AV would “[give] BNP supporters more power at the ballot box”, Billy Bragg told the Independent: ‘It’s much easier for them to get elected under first-past-the-post – they need a small number of angry, highly motivated people to win under first-past-the-post… If AV is going to help the BNP, why are they against AV? They are opposed to AV because they know that to win power they have to gain more than 50 per cent of the vote.’
“The Yes campaign are now turning this point to their advantage with new adverts outlining Nick Griffin’s opposition to AV.”
On the No2AV campaign, Dominic Browne revealed:
“In their publicity material they describes themselves as a ‘cross-party’ campaign, concerned that changing the voting system ‘would undermine confidence in our electoral process…’; however, ‘NO to AV’ receive 99 per cent of their declared donations from Tory donors, who have given a staggering £28 million to the Conservative party and a further £10.6m in loans. Also for a campaign worried about public confidence in the electoral process, they show a remarkable lack of concern when it comes to the damage their donors have done to confidence in so many fields of public life…”
And on Labour NO to AV, he reported:
“This morning Left Foot Forward reported on the level of funding for the NO to AV campaign that comes from Tory donors. We can now reveal that Labour No to AV are a permitted participant of the same campaign and can share in the same funds… A spokesman for NO to AV confirmed that Labour No to AV share office space, reception services, accounting services, legal services, staff, and funding with them…
“As The TaxPayers’ Alliance – where No2AV director Matthew Elliot is chief executive – accounts for gifts in kind such as staff time as financial support, we think it’s only fair to do the same. Some have been concerned about the links between electoral reform society campaigns for electoral reform and electoral reform services who use expertise to help run elections. But funding issues range over the AV campaign. If Labour No to AV is funded in any way by Tory donors it is legitimate to ask to what extent it is truly ‘Labour No to AV’.”
The vote takes place in exactly 20 days’ time, on Thursday, May 5th.
Progressive of the week:
Vince Cable, who took on his boss, the prime minister, over immigration this week, calling David Cameron’s comments “very unwise”, saying they “risked inflaming extremism” and weren’t part of the coalition agreement.
He told the BBC:
“The reference to the tens of thousands of immigrants rather than hundreds of thousands is not part of the coalition agreement, it is Tory party policy only. I do understand there is an election coming but talk of mass immigration risks inflaming the extremism to which he and I are both strongly opposed…
“Much of the remaining immigration from outside the European Union is crucial to British recovery and growth. That’s why the cabinet collectively agreed to support British business and British universities by exempting overseas students and essential staff from the cap on Non-EU immigration.”
While Nick Clegg said:
“This is not the language he would have used in a speech about immigration. This is a Conservative prime minister talking to a Conservative audience about an issue that matters to Conservatives on the first day of an election campaign.”
It is great to see some politicians prepared to take on the tired old prejudices and make the progressive, liberal case for immigration – though it’s a shame it hasn’t (yet) come from the official Opposition.
Regressives of the week:
The landlords, staff and various random homophobes at the John Snow in Soho, who “objected” to a gay couple kissing and asked them, impolitely, to leave. In 2011. In London. In. Soho. In. F*ing. Credible.
The Guardian has more:
“At what point does public intimacy tip over from a touching display of innocent romance into offensive vulgarity? Jonathan Williams and James Bull found themselves on the front line of this moral conflict when when they were thrown out of a London pub for kissing.
“Williams, a journalist for a financial magazine, and Bull, a charity volunteer, said they had been ejected from the John Snow in Broadwick Street, Soho, central London, on Wednesday by a woman – claiming to be the landlady – who accused them of being “obscene” while out on their first date…
“…the management at the John Snow were unimpressed by Williams and Bull’s embraces – which one bystander told the Guardian amounted to ‘snogging, but it wasn’t heavy petting’ – the lovestruck pair found rather more support on Twitter and Facebook, even inspiring plans for a ‘kiss-in’ event at the pub…
“The case is intriguing legally. The Licensing Act 2003 gives a landlord the right to eject customers. But the Equality Act 2010 says everyone must be treated equally in the provision of goods and services. For a successful defence against any legal action under the act, the landlord would have to prove he had ejected heterosexual couples for similiarly overt displays of intimacy.”
The “kiss-in” takes place between 7 and 10 tonight.
Evidence of the week:
A new report from the OECD showing the gap in voting rates between 16-35 year olds and those aged 55 or over is wider in Britain than in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States – and is three times the OECD average gap.
The report, “Society at a Glance 2011 – OECD Social Indicators”, also revealed:
• Women in Britain spend two hours more per day doing unpaid work than men;
• Income inequality in the UK is the seventh highest in the OECD, and has been increasing at more than the OECD average rate.
• Poverty rates are little more than OECD averages, 11.3% compared to an OECD average of 11.1% in 2007; and
• 57% of British people have volunteered time, given money, or helped a stranger in the previous month – the fifth highest in the OECD, whose average is 39%.
Ed Jacobs’s Week outside Westminster:
Wales: Across Wales, it was a week of manifesto launches. On Tuesday, Plaid Cymru launched their document, entitled “A Manifesto for a Better Wales”. Writing on the day for Left Foot Forward, the party’s director of policy, Nerys Evans, outlined the context of the election, explaining:
“While we are, of course, fighting this election in the dark shadow of Conservative and Liberal Democrat cuts to the Welsh budget, Plaid Cymru is choosing instead to look ahead.”
Wednesday saw the Welsh Lib Dems launching their manifesto. Entitled “Wales can do better”, it should perhaps have read “Lib Dems – must do better”, as the media picked up on the numerous spelling errors within it.
Thursday, meanwhile, saw Welsh Labour launching “Standing Up for Wales”, with a pledge to bring “hope for the people of Wales”. Writing for Left Foot Forward on the day, Labour’s Counsel General, John Griffiths, outlined the key challenge facing the new Assembly:
“The stakes are high. The next assembly government will face major challenges. It will have to operate in an environment of increasingly tight budgets making prioritisation and innovative and more effective service delivery the order of the day. The new primary law powers available following the March referendum Yes vote must be effectively used.
“Welsh Labour is clear that, with many important strategies and policies in place, delivery must be the mantra for the next assembly government. The opinion polls are encouraging and our leader, Carwyn Jones, is far and away the most popular choice for first minister.”
Scotland: On the day that the SNP launched their manifesto, a new poll of polls suggested Labour just had the edge over Alex Salmond’s nationalists. Moray MacDonald, Scottish managing director of public affairs firm Weber Shandwick, explained:
“This is undoubtedly going to be a tight race to see who is the biggest party, but if the SNP is to remain in power, they need to do significantly better on the regional vote. What does seem to be clear is that this election is much more polarised between two parties than ever before, and that is not good news for the Liberal Democrats, Conservatives or Greens.”
Meanwhile, as Andrew Lansley faced and lost a vote of no confidence from the Royal College of Nursing, the RCN in Scotland warned that overstretched and tired nurses were propping up the health service north of the border.
The college’s director in Scotland, Theresa Fyffe, said:
“The health and well-being of NHS staff is a major concern. If they become overstretched and stressed because they or colleagues are ill, there is a risk that poor practice can emerge In Scotland, we are asking the next government to ensure that health boards implement the recommendations of the Boorman Review into NHS staff health and well-being.
“This is one way in which the NHS can begin to take better care of staff to allow staff to provide the standard of care they would like.”
“I have no problem with anyone disagreeing with Sinn Féin. That is your right, but you have no right to attack anyone and there is no support for this. That is clear from the overwhelming public rejection of the attack which killed Ronan Kerr. The people of this island demand that you stop.”
Meanwhile, in a sign of the normalisation of politics in Northern Ireland, one SDLP MP, Alasdair McDonnell, wrote for Left Foot Forward:
“I have been fighting elections since the 1970s and until now, every one of them revolved around our past and differing views of the past. It is not much of an accolade that our devolved assembly has managed to survive a full four-year term without collapse, but it is a start and we can build on it.”
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