PolLaw Express: 29th July edition.

Your daily dose of politics and the law. NI intrigued? Covered. UK focused? Sure. US-centric? You got it.

PolLaw Express blog photo

Welcome to the daily news round-up via my e-newspaper. Here are the top stories from today:

(There were technical difficulties yesterday evening which prevented me from fully completing this post, and as I did not wish to post a half-complete post, I deferred until today.)

1. Review begins into benefits for drug and alcohol addicts (via BBC News)
~ A new review could result in those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction losing their sickness benefits if they refuse treatment.

Medical expert Dame Carol Black will examine the support given to addicts – and obese people – on sickness benefits to ‘better support them in work’.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who ordered the review, says there is currently no requirement for such groups to undertake treatment and suggested that this could change.

The idea of requiring drug users to seek treatment or lose their benefits was first suggested by the last Labour government – although it was not adopted following a consultation. During the last Parliament, the Conservatives floated extending the concept of sanctions to those with serious alcohol conditions and the clinically obese but the idea was not pursued by the coalition government.

While support and treatment would continue to be provided for everyone, the Prime Minister has said the system has to consider what to do when addicts simply refused help and expected taxpayers to continue funding their benefits.

This follows his comments in February 2015 at the launch of the review:

 ‘Some [people] have drug or alcohol problems, but refuse treatment.

‘In other cases people have problems with their weight that could be addressed – but instead a life on benefits rather than work becomes the choice.

‘It is not fair to ask hard-working taxpayers to fund the benefits of people who refuse to accept the support and treatment that could help them get back to a life of work.’

2. Tim Farron unveils his Lib Dem front bench team (via BBC News)
~ The new Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has unveiled his team of spokespeople, and interestingly former leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has turned down a role.

Mr Farron said this was an ‘excellent’ team which would lead the ‘Lib Dem fight back’. The former party president was recently elected as the new leader of the Liberal Democrats on 16th July, beating rival Norman Lamb with 56.5% of the votes cast. Lamb has been appointed the Health brief by Farron.

In a statement, the new Lib Dem leader said the new team ‘is the Liberal voice that Britain desperately needs’.

The contest was sparked by Clegg’s resignation after the party’s virtual wipe-out at the 7th May General Election, which saw the Lib Dems reduced to merely eight MPs.

(I will soon have a brief post about Tim Farron online: keep your eyes peeled for it.)

3. Basingstoke Green Party job-share MP candidates refused judicial review (via BBC News)
~ If it involves judicial review, I’m on it, and this story is no exception. I remember watching Sarah Cope speaking on the Daily Politics programme and thought whilst job-sharing MPs was an intriguing notion, I doubted that her and Ms Phipps’ application for judicial review would succeed.

The Green Party candidates at the recent General Election, Sarah Cope and Clare Phipps  have been refused a judicial review over their plans to become job-share MPs.  They had previously had their nomination to stand as MPs in Basingstoke rejected by the returning officer before May’s General Election.

They appeared at the High Court in London in a bid to overturn the returning officer’s decision – but were refused.

Ms Cope said they wanted to change the culture of Westminster where ‘over 450 of the 650 MPs in Parliament are men’. The two candidates had planned to share one seat in a job-sharing capacity, as Ms Cope is the main carer for two young children and Ms Phipps suffers from a disability.

The acting returning officer rejected their nomination as invalid because two people were seeking election in one seat. Whilst Ms Cope and Ms Phipps had argued the rejection breached both human rights and equality laws, Mr Justice Wilkie however ruled that the returning officer’s decision was ‘unarguably correct’ and dismissed their application.

Ms Cope has stated previously that

‘We need to change the culture of Westminster and stop wasting so much untapped talent. Allowing MPs to job-share is a relatively minor change which could bring about huge benefits.’

Counsel for the Green Party members said this application was not an attempt to overturn the re-election of Maria Miller, who had won the Basingstoke seat in the general election.

(Speaking of the Greens, anyone else remember this car-crash interview on LBC radio by party leader Natalie Bennett?)

4. Northern Ireland government teetering, Gerry Adams warns David Cameron (via The Belfast Telegraph)
~A story from my neck of the woods which raises the importance of devolution in the UK.

Gerry Adams, the President of the Sinn Fein party, used the 10th anniversary of the IRA formal end of its armed campaign to warn the Prime Minister that Stormont is facing collapse due to his austerity policies.

 The Executive has been in crisis mode for many months due to a bitter row over implementing welfare reforms, which were vetoed in the Assembly by nationalists. (You can read the 28th July PolLaw Express post for some background to this; see number four on the list.)
Adams said during his speech that the end of the IRA campaign a decade ago ‘broke the long cycle of conflict and opened up new political possibilities’ in Northern Ireland.

However, he went on to state:

‘But the progress that was made over many years is now in severe jeopardy, not least because of the attitude of Mr Cameron…The political structures negotiated so painstakingly as part of the Good Friday Agreement face collapse as a result of the British Government’s ideologically driven austerity agenda.

‘By slashing hundreds of millions of pounds from the finances of the North’s Executive, the British Government has attacked the ability of the political institutions to deliver for citizens.’

The political stalemate between the Unionist and Nationalist parties in the Assembly and the resulting inertia is ongoing.

5. Should Londonderry be renamed Derry? Thousands sign petitions as battle heats up (via The Belfast Telegraph)
~ Symbolism is alive and kicking in Northern Ireland courtesy of our history, so this story should not come as a surprise.

Thousands of people have signed rival petitions as controversy over the proposed renaming of Londonderry to Derry increases.

 A campaign by Sinn Fein and other Nationalists to change the official name and drop references to London has been branded sectarian and divisive by Unionists, who lauded historic connections to ‘one of the world’s great cities’.
Yet more than 3,000 people have so far supported the change, claiming that the name Londonderry caused social and political problems, especially in reminding victims of atrocities in a city scarred by the Troubles and Bloody Sunday, when British troops killed civil rights protesters.
The London prefix was added when the city was granted a Royal Charter by King James I in 1613. In 1984, the name of the nationalist-controlled council was changed from Londonderry to Derry City Council. The city itself continues to be officially known as Londonderry, but is locally referred to as Derry.In 2007 a High Court judge ruled that only legislation or royal prerogative could change the city’s name.

Sinn Fein has said its proposal, supported by the council, was not about airbrushing London from the history of the city, but about ensuring it had a clear brand and single name.

The call for renaming is due to be considered by Environment Minister Mark H Durkan (of the SDLP) in the power-sharing Executive at Stormont.

6. Tsipras threatens rebels as Syriza risks split (via Politico EU)
~ Another day, another series of political problems in Greece.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras threatened hardline dissenters in Syriza with early elections if they decide to deprive him of a parliamentary majority, further highlighting a rift within the left-wing party that could endanger Greece’s reluctant drive for reforms. The left-wing party has called for an emergency meeting on Thursday 30th July.

Tsipras, who was elected for a four-year term in January, managed to push unpopular austerity reforms through Parliament — the condition for Greece’s third bailout package in five years — thanks partly to support from pro-euro opposition parties. Yet nearly 40 of his own 149 members of Parliament refused to support the measures.

Mr Tsipras can still find some positives, however. Despite accepting an agreement that contradicts the anti-austerity referendum which he won in early July, the Prime Minister is still steadfastly popular with the Greek public, having recorded a 61 percent approval rating in a recent poll.

Speaking on the Greek radio station Sto Kokkino on Wednesday, Tsipras said:

‘I would be the last person to want elections, if I had the secured parliamentary majority to make it through to the end of the four-year term…But if I don’t have a parliamentary majority, we will be forced to go to elections.’

If elections were to be held immediately, according to a recent poll conducted by Palmos Analysis, Tsipras’ party would win 42.5 percent of the vote- and putting it far ahead of conservative New Democracy and other rivals.

However, an election campaign would create further instability just as the economy emerges from the constrictions of capital controls and thereby increasing speculation about a Grexit from the Eurozone.

(You can read my thoughts on the latest bailout here.)

To read these headlines and more besides, why not visit PolLaw Express?

I will be away on holiday (ahoj, Prague!) from this Friday 31st July to Saturday 8th August. PolLaw Express daily news round-ups will therefore not be posted during these dates, and will resume on Monday 10th August.


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