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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Eurosceptic MPs to Force Vote on EU Referendum

A group of eurosceptic Conservative MPs is trying to force a Commons vote on the EU referendum next week, after regretting that the measure was not mentioned in the Queen’s Speech. The measure needs to be accepted by the Speaker, which the BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson understands is a given, and should be debated and voted sometime between Tuesday and Wednesday. Prime Minister David Cameron had refused to table a similar motion because he was sure his coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, would oppose such plans. The eurosceptics have therefore decided to force the issue, calling on the government to stage the referendum before the next general election. Cameron had promised a referendum in 2017. Meanwhile, Mayor of London Boris Johnson has said the Conservatives should support Cameron’s stance of negotiating better terms with the EU, but that the country should be ready “to say, OK, fair enough, we can’t get the terms that are suitable, then we will walk away“.

Gunmen Abduct Son of Former Pakistani PM During Campaign Rally

Unidentified armed men kidnapped the son of former Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani during a campaign event in a suburb of the city of Multan, the family’s political power base. Ali Haider Gilani, thought to be in his mid-20s, is a candidate for the assembly of Punjab province. Gilani had left a home in the Farrukh Town neighbourhood when he was set upon by gunmen on motorcycles and automobile. His personal secretary was killed in the ensuing shootout, though local media reports did not clarify if Gilani himself had been hurt in the attack. His father, the former prime minister, said that “those who want to disrupt the elections can be behind the kidnapping”, referring to the Taliban. The Islamist group had threatened several candidates and targeted political rallies with suicide bombings during the current electoral season. The kidnapping comes two days after one of the leading candidates for prime minister, former cricketer Imran Khan, injured himself after falling from a mechanical lift during a campaign rally in Lahore.

US Sees No Future Role for Syrian President Assad

US Secretary of State John Kerry has stated that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will have no role after the end of the Syrian civil war, a condition demanded by the country’s opposition movement for the convening of an international conference between all sides to seek a solution to the conflict. Speaking after meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, Kerry said that Jordan would be instrumental in negotiating “a transition government by mutual consent of both sides, which clearly means that in our judgement President Assad will not be a component of that transitional government”. He added that the US-Russian proposal of a conference on Syria negotiated with President Vladimir Putin had received “a very positive response”, with the Syrian Foreign Ministry welcoming the move and praising “the firm Russian stance which is based on the UN principles of non-interference in internal affairs or the threat to use force against the safety of any state”.

Coalition Rifts Emerge Over Childcare Reforms in England

A rift in the governing coalition was revealed as plans for childcare reform in England made by a Conservative minister, Elizabeth Truss, were criticised by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Truss proposed an increase in the number of under-one-year-olds that could be looked after by an adult from three to four, and the number of two-year-olds from four to dix. The number of three-year-olds could go to 13 children per adult supervisor. Clegg said that he was concerned that the new ratios would be too great a challenge for childminders and nursery workers. Truss, when asked by MPs on the matter, answered that “these policies are alive and well in France, in Ireland, in Holland, in Germany – there is not a single country, including Scotland, where the ratios are as low as they are here in England”, but added that the government could “make further announcements in due course”. The shadow education secretary, Labour MP Stephen Twigg, said that this was “yet another example of chaos and incompetence at the heart of government policymaking”.

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