Government accused of ‘total failure’ to widen elite university access

From the Guardian: Ministers have been accused of a “total and abject failure” to widen access to top universities for disadvantaged students, after analysis by the Labour party found the proportions attending Russell Group universities had increased by only one percentage point since 2010.

Separately, research by a group of Labour MPs suggests pupils from towns are less likely to attend university than those from London, with a nine percentage point gap between pupils from London and the rest of the country, and a 20-point gap between those from low-income families in the capital and in towns.

Labour said the Russell Group, which includes Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, University College London and Imperial College, had failed to recruit students from neighbourhoods where few traditionally enter higher education.

The party’s analysis of the Higher Education Statistics Agency data found the proportion of students from those areas had increased by one percentage point across all Russell Group universities to 6%, less than half that at non-Russell Group institutions.

Labour said it was clear the Department for Education would not reach the target set in 2013 by the then prime minister, David Cameron, to double the proportion of university entrants from disadvantaged backgrounds by 2020.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Jo Swinson pairing row: Conservatives admit chief whip asked MPs to break arrangements

From The Guardian: The Conservatives have been forced to admit that their chief whip asked MPs to breach Commons voting conventions in knife-edge Brexit votes on Tuesday, as opposition parties demanded he quit and queried the accuracy of the prime minister’s account of events.

Party sources conceded on Thursday night that Julian Smith had asked several Tory MPs to break pairing arrangements but most had refused to do so. The only one who did obey the instruction was paired to a Liberal Democrat MP who was on maternity leave.

They admitted that Smith had wanted some MPs to break “short-term” pairing arrangements, where a Tory is asked to skip a vote because an opposition member is unable to attend for good reason, but had made an error in asking the party chairman, Brandon Lewis, to vote because he was paired with Jo Swinson – who only recently gave birth.

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Esther McVey misled MPs over Universal Credit, watchdog says

From The Guardian: Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, has been forced to apologise to parliament after making misleading statements about the government’s faltering welfare changes.

The MP for Tatton’s statement followed the release of a damning letter from Sir Amyas Morse, who told the minister she had misinterpreted a report by the National Audit Office on Universal Credit to make it look as if the new welfare system was working well.

McVey should not have claimed universal credit was being rolled out too slowly when the NAO had said the DWP should ensure it was working properly before transferring any more people on to it from previous benefits, she was told.

She should not have said universal credit was working when the report said this was not proven, Morse said. She should not have claimed that the report had not taken into account recent improvements in welfare, when it was signed off days earlier by her department, he added.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Tories ridiculed after shamelessly taking credit for new EU law to protect holidaymakers

From Evolve Politics: The Conservative Party have once again attempted to take the British public for fools after bigging themselves up for implementing a new law that they had nothing to do with.

Writing on Twitter, the Conservative Press Office proudly announced that: “We are introducing new rules to protect package holidaymakers and save customers tens of millions of pounds.”

However, almost immediately after posting their tweet, the Tory Press Office were inundated with numerous exasperated responses pointing out that, far from this being anything to do with the Conservative government, it was actually an EU Directive.

This is far from the first time this year that the Tory government have been caught out claiming credit for EU laws.

[Read full article on Evolve Politics…]

Amber Rudd was sent targets for migrant removal, leak reveals

From the Guardian: Amber Rudd’s insistence that she knew nothing of Home Office targets for immigration removals risks unravelling following the leak of a secret internal document prepared for her and other senior ministers.

The six-page memo, passed to the Guardian, says the department has set “a target of achieving 12,800 enforced returns in 2017-18” and boasts that “we have exceeded our target of assisted returns”.

The document was prepared by Hugh Ind, the director general of the Home Office’s Immigration Enforcement agency, in June last year and copied to Rudd and Brandon Lewis, the then immigration minister, as well as several senior civil servants and special advisers.

The leak will raise questions about Rudd’s public position on what she knew about the setting of targets for the enforced removal of migrants.

The issue has become particularly toxic because of coverage of the Windrush generation – many of whom have been made destitute, homeless and denied benefits and healthcare because of the Home Office’s “hostile environment” policy towards those it deems to be lacking appropriate documentation to be in the UK.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Andrew Neil lays into Tory MP over “outrageous smear” against Corbyn

From LabourList: Today Andrew Neil used Tory MP Steve Baker’s spot on the BBC’s Daily Politics to slam the claims of Conservative MPs that Jeremy Corbyn “sold British secrets” and “betrayed his country”.

Following the Sun‘s “Commie Corbyn” story, which claimed the Labour leader met with a communist spy in the 1980s and suggested he briefed them on British politics and matters of state security, defence secretary Gavin Williamson said Corbyn “cannot be trusted” and accused him of “betrayal of this country”.

Neil repeatedly asked Steve Baker, “do you think he has betrayed his country?”. Steve Baker repeatedly refused to answer the question.

Tory vice-chair Ben Bradley was forced to delete his tweet stating “Corbyn sold British secrets to communist spies” after the leader of the opposition threatened legal action. On Twitter security minister Ben Wallace compared Corbyn to Soviet spy Kim Philby.

“Your security minister has compared Mr Corbyn to Kim Philby. Kim Philby was a traitor – at the time if he’d been found guilty he would have been hanged! That’s an outrageous smear to say of the leader of the opposition,” said Neil.

He concluded: “The real scandal, Mr Baker, isn’t what Mr Corbyn has supposedly done or not done. It’s the outright lies and disinformation that your fellow Tories are spreading.”

[Read full article on LabourList…]

Have the Tories blown hot and cold on the environment?

From BBC News: Once in power, critics say, David Cameron’s enthusiasm for the green agenda began to wane, and some questioned his genuine commitment to the cause.
 
There was a planned sell-off of state-owned woodland in England.
 
In 2013, it was reported that David Cameron had told Downing Street aides to “get rid of all the green crap” – referring to environmental levies on energy bills.
 
And he backed fracking, to the dismay of green campaigners.
 
After the 2015 election yielded a Conservative majority, the Green Deal for home insulation was scrapped and subsidies for on-shore wind farms came to an end a year earlier than initially planned.

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Damian Green sacked after ‘misleading statements’ on porn claims

From BBC News: Damian Green, one of Theresa May’s closest allies, has been sacked from the cabinet after an inquiry found he had breached the ministerial code.

He was “asked to quit” after he was found to have made “inaccurate and misleading” statements over what he knew about claims pornography was found on his office computer in 2008.

He also apologised for making writer Kate Maltby feel uncomfortable in 2015.

[Read full article on BBC News…]

Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt admits false claims over mental health

From Channel 4 News: The Tory health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has been forced to re-write parliamentary records after making a false claim about mental health.

Speaking on World Mental Health Day, he told MPs: “We’ve got 30,000 more people working in mental health today than we had when [Labour] left office.”

He repeated this again, saying: “We have 30,000 more professionals working in mental health than when my Government came into office.”

But when questioned by FactCheck, the Department for Health admitted that Mr Hunt’s figure includes all professionally qualified clinical NHS staff in England – not just those working in mental health.

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The Grenfell residents still living in hotels: ‘This is no normal life’

From The Guardian: Only two families who escaped Grenfell Tower have moved into permanent new homes, despite a firm commitment from Theresa May two days after the fire that everyone would be rehoused within three weeks. Approximately 150 households are still scattered across London in 36 hotels. The hotel bill (excluding meals) already stands at more than £5m.

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Newly revealed CCTV footage supports truth of Corbyn’s “Traingate” claims

Video from Double Down News:

EXCLUSIVE: New CCTV footage reveals Jeremy Corbyn told truth a…

EXCLUSIVE: We reveal never before seen CCTV footage that proves Jeremy Corbyn told the truth about #Traingate

Posted by Double Down News on Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Who ever could have imagined that Richard Branson, an owner of a privatised train company with a personal net worth of $5 billion, would have a motive to smear Jeremy Corbyn?

 

Police announce ‘significant’ investigation into Tory election call centre

From Daily Mirror: Police say they are carrying out a ‘significant’ investigation into a secretive call centre operating on behalf of the Conservative party in the run up to the election. An undercover investigation at the Blue Telecoms call centre in South Wales claimed the cold-call centre broke data protection and election law.

[Read full article on Daily Mirror website…]

Jacob Rees-Mogg was reported to Parliamentary standards watchdog for failure to declare interests

From The Independent, December 2014: A leading Conservative backbencher was reported to Parliament’s standards watchdog after speaking in four Commons debates in support of the tobacco, mining and oil and gas industries without declaring that he is a founder and director of a firm with multimillion-pound investments in the sectors.

[Read original article on Independent website…]

Tory MP appears in court for expense fiddling over election battle bus

From The London Economic:Tory MP and his two aides accused of misdeclaring expenses after breaching election campaign spending limits in the 2015 general election will face trial, a court heard today.

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay, 50, is said to have not properly reported expenses in his local return.

Mackinlay, his election agent at the time Nathan Gray, 28, and campaign specialist Marion Little, 62, were all charged under the Representation of the People Act 1983.

The charges relate to allegations that the party’s election expenses during the 2015 campaign in the constituency were not properly reported to the Electoral Commission.

Expenses incurred during the campaign in South Thanet were wrongly attributed to national expenditure instead of local expenditure, it is claimed.

Had they done so, they would allegedly have been in breach of spending limits.

[Read full article on The London Economic website…]

Tory pledge to cap energy bills missing from Queen’s speech

From The Guardian: Millions of people are unlikely to see their energy bills capped after Theresa May appeared to make a U-turn on one of her flagship election promises – to the delight of big energy companies.

The prime minister had pledged to cap bills for 17 million families on the worst-value energy tariffs, but the plan was missing from the Queen’s speech and No 10 would not confirm a cap would go ahead.

Instead, the government looks likely to extend an existing ceiling on bills for 4m households on prepayment meters to a further 2.6 million vulnerable customers.

That compromise would be exactly what the industry has been lobbying for, and a huge rowing back by the Conservatives after months of escalating rhetoric from May and ministers.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

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