Voting across Britain on May 5 resulted in a rejection of changes to the electoral system, but election results in Scotland may herald the end of Britain as we know it. The referendum on introducing an “Alternative Vote” voting system (much like the preferential voting system in Australia) to replace the current “First Past The Post” system was decisively defeated. With a turnout of only 42%, 67.87% voted against the change.
Good politicians are few and far between, but British health secretary Andrew Lansley is among the worst. In 2008, he was forced to apologise after saying recessions brought "good things" such as people being able to spend more time with their families. In Britain’s parliamentary expenses scandal in 2009, he was accused of claiming for the renovation of a rural cottage, selling it, then “flipping” his second home designation to a London flat and claiming thousands of pounds for furniture. He said his claims were "within the rules".
About 500,000 people marched in London on March 26 against the British government’s program of huge spending cuts. Called by the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the march drew people from every part of Britain — a splendid cross section of the country with numbers dominated by the working class. Thousands also marched in Belfast against the spending cuts. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) said 6000 people took part in the rally in front of City Hall.
A rebellion is developing across Britain in the face of huge spending cuts by the Conservative Party-Liberal Democrat coalition government. The scale of the cuts is huge. The government is seeking to privatise huge swathes of the economy and hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs are under threat. They have also cut corporation tax, but sharply increased the goods and services VAT tax from 17.5% to 20%, which hits those on lower incomes hardest. By changing the inflation measure used to determine benefits and pensions, the government is plunging more people into poverty.
On November 10, tens of thousands of students marched through London against education cuts and fee hikes. This was an indication of the revival of a militant student movement in Britain. Clare Solomon, president of the University of London Union, told Green Left Weekly: “That demonstration was absolutely electric, especially when we occupied the Millbank Tory party headquarters. “There were thousands and thousands of 14, 15 and 16-year-old students, dancing, singing, hugging. It really was like a carnival of the oppressed.”
Stalin Ate My Homework By Alexei Sayle Sceptre, 2010, 304 pages, $35 (pb) Even at primary school in Liverpool in the 1950s, Alexei Sayle, was a “mouthy little bastard”. So the British comedian, whose stand-up career began at the London Comedy Store in 1979 and became well-known for his role in TV shows The Young Ones and
, writes in his memoir Stalin Ate My Homework.
When the British Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government announced it would raise the maximum yearly tuition fee universities could charge students to £9000, thousands of students took to the streets of London in a series of protests. Highlights included occupying the Conservative Party headquarters in London and frightening Prince Charles. The tuition rise came after the release on October 12 of the Browne Review, a report into education funding chaired by former BP chief executive John Browne. The report recommended abolishing the cap on tuition fees.
US investigators have admitted their efforts to find grounds on which to prosecute WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange over the whistleblowing website’s release of hundreds of thousands of classified US documents were in trouble. They have been forced to concede they have been unable to find evidence that Assange encouraged theft of secret documents, the Wall Street Journal said on February 9. The admission came as Assange faced an extradition hearing in London on February 7, 8 and 11 over allegations of sexual assault in Sweden. More coverage:
The deepest cuts to Britain’s public spending since World War II were announced in October. At the same time, it was revealed that some of the nation’s biggest corporations and richest people were using legal loopholes to avoid paying tax. The treasurer in the Conservative Party-Liberal Democrat coalition government, Conservative MP George Osborne, announced that £81 billion would be slashed from public spending including £7 billion in welfare cuts.
In 2009, more than a 100 activists were arrested in a swoop on a community centre in Nottingham in an operation involving hundreds of police. They were alleged to be planning to close down Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station. It was revealed that one of the organisers of the alleged protest, Mark Stone, was an undercover cop who had tipped off the police. Stone was unveiled after his partner found a passport in his real name of Mark Kennedy. He was confronted by Camp for Climate Action activists and confessed all.