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News review – Thursday 16 March 2017

Electoral fraud

Independent
The Electoral Commission has fined the Conservative Party £70,000 over “significant” election campaign expenses issues. Their investigation found the party’s 2015 General Election spending return was missing payments worth at least £104,765. Separately, payments worth up to £118,124 were either not reported to the Commission or were incorrectly reported.It said a portion of the amount should have been included in the party’s return, while another portion was put into the return when it was candidate spending. The Party also did not include the required invoices or receipts for 81 payments, with the value of £52,924.

Guardian
The Conservative party has been fined £70,000 and its former treasurer reported to police after an Electoral Commission investigation found “significant failures” by the party to report its campaign spending. On Wednesday it was revealed that a dozen police forces have passed files to the Crown Prosecution Service over allegations that up to 20 Conservative MPs broke local spending limits at the last general election, in a separate criminal investigation. The commission, which has conducted its own inquiry separate to the police, concluded some election spending was wrongly apportioned to the national party rather than candidates – the crux of the police investigation into MPs and their agents. Prosecutors have to decide whether to charge the MPs or their agents, after a 10-month investigation into whether party spending on an election battlebus that brought activists to marginal seats was wrongly recorded as national spending.

Express
THE Conservative Party has been fined £70,000 by the Electoral Commission for failing to accurately report its election expenses. The independent elections watchdog said the party had made “numerous failures” in reporting its expenses for the 2015 General Election and three by-elections in 2014. Commission chairman Sir John Holmes said the Tories’ failure to follow the rules “undermined voters’ confidence in our democratic processes” and said there was a risk political parties were seeing such fines as “a cost of doing business”.

Sky News
The Conservatives have been fined £70,000 after an investigation into its election expenses, the Electoral Commission has said. The investigation found “significant failures” by the party to report how much it spent on the 2015 General Election campaign – and three by-elections in 2014. The Commission has also reported the actions of the then party treasurer Simon Day to the Metropolitan Police for investigation.

BBC News
The Conservative Party has been fined £70,000 by the Electoral Commission for breaking election expense rules. The commission’s report highlights  “numerous failures” in reporting spending on three by-elections in 2014 and the 2015 General Election. These included missing payments of £104,000 – and £118,000 that was either not reported or incorrectly reported. The Conservatives said they had accepted last March they had made “an administrative error”. A spokesman added that Labour and the Lib Dems had also been fined and “there needs to be a review of how the Electoral Commission’s processes and requirements could be clarified or improved”.

Westmonster
The Conservative Party has been hit with a £70k fine for breaking rules on election spending. It is the biggest fine ever dished out by the Electoral Commission. Apparently the Tories have fallen foul of allocating national spend for local campaigns. The real question is though, will there be by-elections? £70,000 for a party raking in millions isn’t exactly the end of the world for them.

Proportional representation

Independent
MPs are set to debate scrapping Britain’s “First Past the Post” voting system and switching to a form of proportional representation. The debate has been put on the cards after a petition on the Parliament website calling for electoral reform reached 100,000 signatures – meaning the subject will automatically be considered for discussion by MPs. Petition founder Tim Ivorson, said that the Government’s original official response to the document had been “riddled with falsehoods” and that a debate would offer the opportunity “to correct some misunderstandings and for all MPs to explore the issue in more detail”. After the petition had hit 10,000 ministers had said that they were “concerned that proportional voting systems would weaken the direct constituency link which is a key feature of our parliamentary system, and under a proportional system the voting process is more complicated for the voter”.

Brexit

Express
THE European Union (EU) could force Britain to wait until June to start formal Brexit talks, thwarting Theresa May’s efforts to secure a deal within two years. EU officials say the 27 other member states are looking to June to officially open negotiations, despite Theresa May planning to trigger Article 50 by the end of March. Brussels’ eight week delay risks upsetting banks and businesses eager to seek clarity on the terms of Brexit. Crucially the plans for a summer meeting eat into the already tight two year leaving period under the Lisbon Treaty.  
EU officials, under condition of anonymity, told Bloomberg Politics government ministers could meet in Luxembourg on June 20, almost a year since the EU referendum, to open the talks. The time-wasting comes despite plans for the leaders of EU countries to draw up a framework for talks in April or May. 

Westmonster
In another sign of the EU’s intention to deploy childish delay tactics in the upcoming Brexit negotiation, plans have emerged to kick off proceedings as late as June. EU officials have indicated the EU27 plan to kick negotiations off at a meeting of ministers in Luxembourg on 20 June, just shy of the first anniversary of the referendum and at least 81 days after Theresa May sends her letter to the European Council formally declaring the UK’s intention to leave the EU. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has already made it clear he plans to run down the clock on the two-year negotiating period in the hope of making the UK panic and either stay in the EU or accept a crummy deal.

Mail
The Queen will today give Royal Assent to the Article 50 Bill, clearing the way for Theresa May to trigger Brexit. She is expected to formally sign off the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, clearing the way for Mrs May to begin the two-year process of leaving the EU. It came as Brexit Secretary David Davis played down concerns about quitting the EU without a deal, saying it was ‘not as frightening as some people think’. The PM has declared her readiness to walk away from negotiations without an agreement, insisting that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’. Appearing before a committee of MPs, Mr Davis played down the suggestion by Remain MPs that it would be a catastrophe. He said the Government had not conducted a formal economic assessment of the consequences of leaving without a deal. That sparked accusations that ministers were ‘driving towards a cliff-edge with a blindfold on’.

Sun
THERESA May will be allowed to begin Brexit from 11am today when her new powers become law. The Queen signed the bill that authorises the PM to trigger Britain’s EU departure last night. It formally receives Royal Assent to become an act when it is read out in both houses of Parliament late this morning. But Mrs May has already taken the decision to hold back on the landmark move until the last week of March. No10 sources say she doesn’t want to anger the EU’s other 27 members ahead of two years of difficult negotiations. They warned her that triggering ‘Article 50’ talks now would overshadow the run up to the 60th anniversary celebrations next weekend of the EU’s foundation.

Express
EFFORTS to protect British taxpayers from having to cough up for European Union projects long after the country leaves the bloc failed today after being voted down by Labour. An amendment proposed by Ukip which would have altered the wording of the upcoming EU budget was defeated at the parliament in Strasbourg this afternoon. The alteration, which explicitly called for UK contributions to be excluded from Brussels’ financial planning for the post-Brexit period, was defeated by a landslide 558 votes to 83.  Ukip said the move showed that left-wing MEPs were not committed to properly pulling Britain out of the EU project and claimed it could cost “billions” in future contributions. But Labour insisted the amendment would have severely weakened Theresa May’s negotiating hand and also blocked the UK from continuing to take part in popular European programmes, such as the Erasmus scheme for students. 

UKIP

Breitbart
UKIP donor and Leave.EU founder Arron Banks has hinted at setting up a new political movement called ‘The Patriotic Alliance’. Mr. Banks tweeted a logo for the organisation Wednesday afternoon with the comment: “No nonsense policies that will knock the skin off a rice pudding!” He has previously spoken of plans to set up a movement of that name, based on Italy’s populist anti-establishment Five Star Movement, to bring Brexit supporters together across party lines. Earlier this week, Mr. Banks said he had been “suspended” from UKIP on Twitter, speculating the move was “apparently for saying current leadership couldn’t knock the skin off a rice pudding!” Hinting at a new project, he added: “UKIP 2.0, the force awakens.”

Dutch elections

Telegraph
Geert Wilders’s promise to bring a populist “revolution” to Europe fell flat on Wednesday night after his anti-immigrant Party for Freedom failed to live up to supporters’ expectations in a closely-watched Dutch general election. The possibility that the far-Right firebrand could become the largest party in the Dutch parliament had sent tremors through Europe’s political establishment in recent days fearing yet further destabilisation following the UK vote for Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. In the event Mr Wilders won just 20 seats, according to several exit polls, and was soundly beaten by Mark Rutte, the incumbent centre-Right Dutch prime minister, whose VVD Party was on track to becoming the largest party in the Netherlands 150-seat parliament with 33 seats. 
The CDA and centrist Democrats 66 tied for third with 19 each, data provided by the ANP news agency showed.

Mail
Right-wing Dutch MP Geert Wilders has accused the country’s victorious Prime Minister Mark Rutte of treating his supporters like ‘semi Nazis’ after his party lost the General Election. Rutte’s VVD party won with a predicted 32 seats in the 150-seat parliament, while Wilders’ populist PVV party is joint second with 19 seats, alongside the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and the Democracy party (D66). The anti-Islam politician has previously promised to deliver a Nexit, a Dutch version of Brexit from the EU, and a ‘patriotic revolution’ to the Dutch people. The loss represented a decrease of nine seats for Rutte and an increase of seven seats for Wilders. Speaking after exit polls predicted he had won his third term as Prime Minister, a jubilant Rutte said: ‘This is an evening where the Netherlands, after Brexit and Trump, said ‘That’s enough of the wrong sort of populism’.

Express
GEERT Wilders has vowed to win the next Dutch election after already jumping from third place to second in this year’s polls to fall behind Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Up to 13 million people in the Netherlands voted in yesterday’s Dutch election which was seem as a face-off between Geert Wilders and the current Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Mr Wilders, the leader of the anti-Islamist Party for Freedom (PVV), took on Mr Rutte, from the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), in the knife-edge election race. The blonde populist cast his vote in the election yesterday after a fiery election campaign in which he pledged to shut the country’s borders, ban the Koran and close mosques. After the people of the Netherlands went to the polls, here is a look at the latest news and updates on the Dutch election. 

Times
Dutch voters turned out in huge numbers to thwart the anti-Muslim leader Geert Wilders yesterday and halt the wave of populist successes that delivered Brexit and President Trump. Mark Rutte, the centre-right prime minister, emerged from a bitter election campaign with the highest number of parliamentary seats, according to exit polls. However, he lost nearly a quarter of his MPs and may struggle to form another coalition quickly. Labour, his ruling partner for the past five years, lost 28 of 38 MPs. With 93 per cent of votes counted this morning the VVD party led by Mr Rutte, 50, was in front with 33 seats after a late surge in support attributed to his tough stance on Turkey and a ban on President Erdogan’s ministers.

Breitbart
Wednesday’s Dutch general election saw a collapse of support for mainstream parties including the conservatives (VVD) and their coalition partners, Labour, but not enough to hand victory to insurgent movements like Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom (PVV). After polls closed at 9-pm Dutch time and in the early hours as half the votes had been counted, it was clear that Mr Wilders had not made the breakthrough polls just a fortnight before the vote he would, and that the Dutch incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte would likely be staying on. Yet despite the position of Rutte’s VVD remaining the largest party, the election has seen a dramatic change in fortune for the traditional parties, which beyond a five-point drop for the conservatives saw the vote for the Labour party crash from 26 to 6 points.

Railways

Mail
Travel chaos looms for train passengers over Easter weekend as Network Rail deploys 13,000 workers to fix tracks. Services in and out of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Glasgow and Edinburgh are among those that will be disrupted by the £70million upgrade. The engineering works will take place from Good Friday to Easter Monday, April 14-17, with many trains subjected to speed limits and diversions. The repairs – part of a £50billion project to upgrade the creaking Victorian rail network – will also cause disruption for those heading abroad for Easter. Services to the UK’s two biggest airports, London Heathrow and London Gatwick, will be affected. The biggest disruptions will include the closure of the line between London Liverpool Street and Essex, hitting operators such as Great Anglia and TfL Rail. Elsewhere, bus replacement services will be used on several key services into Bristol Temple Meads, and on a number of lines in the West Midlands, affecting Birmingham New Street.

Times
A fresh deal has been struck to end chaos on one of Britain’s busiest rail lines after company bosses made a new guarantee over staffing levels on trains. Southern Rail has reached an agreement with Aslef, the train drivers’ union, after a long-running dispute over modernisation of the network used by 300,000 passengers a day. The Department for Transport is believed to have stepped in to force through the new deal after anger over continuing mayhem on the line, which runs through Tory heartlands between London and the south coast. 
It is the second time in little over a month that the two sides have made an agreement aimed at ending one of the worst industrial disputes since the privatisation of railways two decades ago.

Labour Party

Telegraph
Many thought PMQs would be a bloodbath, with Labour landing most of the punches, after Philip Hammond and Theresa May were forced to perform an about-turn over the disastrous National Insurance hike policy minutes before the weekly session started. However, they forgot one thing: that Jeremy Corbyn is the leader of the opposition. People across the political spectrum expressed their disbelief and anger as he failed to challenge the Prime Minister over the NICs about-turn.

Independent
Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of “incompetence” by some of his own MPs after he gave a lacklustre response to the Government’s U-turn on National Insurance at PMQs. The Chancellor released a letter 20 minutes before the start of Prime Minister’s Questions announcing that the rise, announced just a week ago in the Budget and opposed by Labour, would not be going ahead. With little time to prepare, the Labour leader was judged by many to fail to land a blow on Theresa May in the House of Commons, inviting ridicule and disdain from his own party on social media. Labour MPs Tom Blenkinsop and Mike Gapes shared footage from football matches consisting of open goals being missed. Mr Gapes added: “Great question by Yvette Cooper, pity she couldn’t have had six today.” Leaders of the opposition are given six questions to ask the Prime Minister while backbenchers must jostle to ask one.

Sgt Blackman

Mail
A Royal Marine was cleared of murdering a Taliban insurgent yesterday following a Daily Mail campaign. Judges downgraded Alexander Blackman’s  conviction to manslaughter after accepting expert evidence he had combat stress. The sergeant – known as Marine A when he was jailed for life at his trial – said a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He could walk free within days. More than 30,000 Daily Mail readers helped fund the £800,000 legal challenge that led to yesterday’s triumph at the Court Martial Appeal Court in London. Sgt Blackman’s loyal wife Claire beamed at the verdict. But there was a deafening silence from the military commanders who let Sgt Blackman down on the battlefield then hung him out to dry at his court martial. The judges reduced his conviction to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, saying he had been subjected to exceptional pressures in the lead-up to the incident.

Sun
JAILED Royal Marine Alexander Blackman could be free within weeks after his murder conviction for killing a wounded Taliban fighter was reduced to manslaughter. Appeal Court judges ruled the “exemplary” soldier — known as Marine A — was suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness when he pulled the trigger and that his conviction should be of the lesser charge by reason of diminished responsibility. Blackman is expected to be handed a new sentence next week, but has already spent three years behind bars, sparking hope his time in jail is coming to an end. His wife Claire hailed the “victory” on the steps of the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Emerging to cheers, she said: “We’re delighted at the judges’ decision to substitute manslaughter by diminished responsibility. 
This is a crucial decision and one that much better reflects the circumstances that my husband found himself in during that terrible tour of Afghanistan.

NHS

Mail
Patients could be denied access to new medicines for up to three years after they have been approved for NHS use. A plan to cap the annual cost to the health service of any new drug at £20million – no matter how good it is – was approved yesterday by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Currently 20 per cent of new medicines breach this, meaning eight or nine drugs a year would be affected. In future NHS England will be able to delay or phase in the introduction of these drugs to ease budget pressures. Health charities warned that the measure could have a ‘devastating impact’ and some patients might die waiting for treatments. They accused the Government of breaching the NHS constitution and breaking an election pledge to increase access to medicines. Any drug approved by Nice, the health service watchdog, currently has to be made available by every NHS hospital within 90 days of approval. But the new rules, which come into force next month, will allow officials to delay access to expensive drugs for three years in an attempt to ease pressure on the stretched NHS budget.

Times
Patients will have to wait three years for many life-extending new drugs as health chiefs press ahead with controversial rationing despite widespread opposition. Cancer Research UK was among charities warning that the changes could cost lives after the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) yesterday approved plans to allow even cost-effective medicine to be delayed if the total yearly bill to the NHS exceeds £20 million. The Conservatives denied that the plans broke a manifesto pledge to speed up access to cutting-edge medicines. At present patients have a legal right to any deemed good value for money by Nice. From next month, the NHS England measure is expected to affect one in five new drugs.

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Debbie
About Debbie (585 Articles)
Debbie has been a journalist for longer than she cares to admit! She has been freelance for the last 15 years and is an associate editor on UKIP Daily, specialising in covering the morning press each day.

16 Comments on News review – Thursday 16 March 2017

  1. From the Republican email circular about Trump’s budget:

    ‘This morning, President Trump released the America First budget, which promises to make our nation a better, safer, and stronger place for generations to come. Here’s how he will do that:

    Department of Veterans Affairs +10.2% in funding
    Department of Defense +10.0% in funding
    Department of Homeland Security +7.3% in funding
    Environmental Protection Agency – 31% in funding’

    Ok so vets spending up 10.2%. The Evening Standard says Trump cutting homeless veterans’ money! Emotive eh? Fake news by the looks.

  2. All those members on ukipdaily who would like to be consulted on the future of Ukip, please go to today’s ‘Letters to the Editor’ page (Thurs 16/3/17) where there is a link to a poll.

    This poll asks you to say Yes or No to the question “Do you think Members should be consulted about the future of Ukip?”

    Do you? Hurry and pass it on!

  3. Jack T,

    I think he may be thinking along the same lines as he said he might consider it, if UKIP were functioning properly he would most likely jump at the chance to be vindicated.

  4. Great joy to see the Tories finally fingered for what we all know they’ve been up to for years. When you have their sort of cash you can not only afford to cheat, but to regard the fine as a good investment.
    If Mr Plod does not get some criminal convictions, they will be worse next time. 70K for swinging what, 18 odd seats looks good value to me.

  5. £70,000.00p fine for such levels of electoral fraud is more of a good investment than an even an irritation for these political miscreants.
    THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY ARE NOT ALONE ABOUT SUCH MALPRACTICES!
    The effective crooked % in Parliament have not empowered The Electoral Commission enough to police and eliminate continuations.
    If opportunities for re-running elections and bye-elections emerge, I have grave and serious doubts the competency of the current appointed and elected bosses at UKIP Head Office with Branch Chairmen/women to manage our interest and affairs!
    Comments invited.

  6. Importantly
    IF they call a re-run of Thanet South
    IF Nigel stands again
    Will he stand for UKIP or “Democratic Alliance”

  7. Proportional representation will not serve us well. There is a better way to limit anomalies such as the gross over representation of the Scots per voter.

    Now, obviously and perhaps logically every MP gets a single vote. If they were to get a fraction of a vote proportionate to the overall vote count in their constituency then such anomalies would be removed. Of course there will be argumants over whether it should be calculated on constituency size, votes cast or votes won.

    Given an electronic voting system in the HoC(long overdue anyway) the result would be available in an instant.

  8. Electoral fraud:

    £70,000 is mere irritation; they should have been fined enough to do serious damage to party funds. This a serious matter and warranted a serious penalty.

  9. Wilders climbed to joint second place despite all the persecution. Described by The Sun as ‘slight gains’ haha. How they spin. Second place in a country for an outsider party is great! Express fairer saying could now be first next time. It’s not easy to do this stuff and the media likes to overhype expectations so they can say say failure later! They do it with everyone they want to do down from time to time.

  10. Surely now it has been confirmed that the Conservatives have cheated the seats involved should be re- contested. In the case of South Thanet Nigel could then stand again and hopefully take it, but would he want to do it under the UKIP banner as he seems as disappointed with them as we are with their present demeanor.

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