THE UK Independence Party today sparked renewed speculation that Nigel Farage could try again to become a Westminster MP by opening candidate nominations for the seat he fought in 2015. The move was provocatively timed to coincide with a blistering verdict from watchdogs on how the Tories accounted for their spending in the 2015 general election and in three 2014 by-elections. The Electoral Commission’s bombshell findings include that the Tories appeared to have understated campaign spending in the Kent battleground seat of South Thanet where Conservative Craig Mackinlay beat Mr Farage. Some think pressure on the Tories over their spending in that and several other contests could force re-runs. The question is whether the Tories wrongly attributed spending aimed at getting individual local candidates elected to national party expenses, with particular controversy focused on how it accounted for the costs of a battle bus that toured activists round target seats. In Thanet South, the Commission said some of the Tories’ alleged national spending related to the effort to help Mr Mackinlay. It should thus have been included in the accounts returned by Mr Mackinlay, who like all candidates was strictly legally limited in what his individual campaign could spend.

The UK Independence Party (UKIP) is inviting applications to be its candidate in a South Thanet by-election, anticipating the Conservative party will be stripped of its 2015 victory in the constituency. The announcement, by party Chairman Paul Oakden, was made just hours after the Electoral Commission slapped the Tories with a record fine for failing to properly declare hundreds of thousands of pounds of spending in key seats during the 2015 general election and two by-elections. South Thanet was one of the constituencies mentioned by the Electoral Commission, in which they claimed Tory rule bending gave them a “realistic prospect” of an unfair advantage.


THE European Union has finally “run out of patience” with the UK after years of enduring “British ambiguities”, according to an EU official. Italian EU diplomat Corrado Pirzio-Biroli revealed his regret at trying to convince Britons to stay in the Brussels bloc during the 1975 referendum. And the former Commission official attacked British governments for their constant ambivalence towards Europe – claiming attitudes towards the bloc have not changed since Winston Churchill was in charge. In an article in 1930, the war-time prime minster said: “We are with Europe, but not in it. “We are linked, but not compromised. “We are interested, but not absorbed.” And Mr Pirzio-Biroli said the exasperated 27 remaining member states have had enough of the UK’s failure to commit to the bloc’s ideals and plans. He also savaged Britain for trying to secure special deals while opting out from most of the bloc’s main agreements and treaties.

French presidential frontrunner Marine Le Pen has denounced threats by Emmanuel Macron and others to get rid of British border checks in Calais, calling for strong French borders instead. Ms. Le Pen’s main rival for the French presidency, the centre-left former Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, has called repeatedly for the scrapping of the current “juxtaposed controls” arrangement, which allows British immigration to conduct checks in France and French immigration officials to conduct checks in the UK. “The day [Britain’s EU membership] unravels, migrants will no longer be in Calais,” he threatened prior to the Brexit referendum, despite the Le Toquet treatment which governs the existing system having nothing to do with the European Union. He reiterated this claim just days after the British public voted to leave the EU on 23 June 2016. In a wide-ranging LBC interview with Brexit campaign leader Nigel Farage, however, Ms. Le Pen said the solution to the migrant crisis in France is proper French border controls, not attempting to funnel migrants onwards to the United Kingdom.

Speaking at a rally in Antalya this morning, Turkey’s Foreign Minister has said Europe is headed for “wars of religion”. Mevlut Cavusoglu used his platform to attack the Netherlands, whose relationship with Turkey has been on the rocks over the last few weeks after the Dutch decided to stand up to Islamist dictator, Recep Erdogan. “There is no difference between the mindsets of Geert Wilders and social democrats in the Netherlands,” he said. He added: “They all have the same mindset…that mindset is taking Europe to the cliff. Soon wars of religion may and will start in Europe.” This latest threat comes just days after President Erdogan said the Dutch would “pay the price” for banning Turkish ministers from addressing rallies across the country.

HOLY wars will soon begin and lead to the collapse of Europe, a high-profile Turkish minister has apocalyptically warned. Mevlut Cavusoglu, the country’s foreign minister, made the comment following the defeat of Far Right leader Geert Wilders in the Netherlands election. Despite centre-right Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte clinging to power, he said religious wars would engulf the continent. It comes after a diplomatic row between the two countries saw Turkey accusing the Netherlands of behaving like “Nazis”. In a translation by Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, Mr Cavusoglu said: “Now the election is over in the Netherlands … when you look at the many parties you see there is no difference between the social democrats and fascist Wilders. “All have the same mentality. Where will you go? Where are you taking Europe? You have begun to collapse Europe. You are dragging Europe into the abyss. Holy wars will soon begin in Europe.” Wilders’s anti-Islam Party for Freedom was beaten into second place with 20 seats to Mr Rutte’s Party for Freedom and Democracy Party, which won 30 seats. Wilders is unlikely to be included in any coalition after mainstream political parties all vowed not to work with him.

An astonishing interview has been published in a Polish magazine which claims that a Turkish Islamic organisation which runs schools and faith centres in Austria teaches kids that the ‘western lifestyle’ is an invention of the devil. Deniz, an Austrian Turk, told the Przeglad magazine that as a child, he was taught to hate Europe and that the “West is the enemy, [and] the Jews are bad.” He said all of the teachers came from remote parts of Turkey with very little knowledge of life in the west, so taught the children the Sunni version of Islam they themselves were raised with. He explains that kids are taught in segregated classrooms and are taught about the importance of sharia law. Deniz even claims that children as young as 3 were taken to the centres, as “it is never too early to start learning about Islam”.

French populist and Front National leader Marine Le Pen spoke out against claims the European Union has eyed France and Britain’s nuclear arsenals with a view to take them over for the common use of EU nations. While the plans have been considered by fringe Europhile diehards for decades as a means to force European military unity, the idea of taking over the nuclear weapons already possessed by EU member states for the common good have never been taken seriously. However, a flurry of articles in recent weeks discussing the plans and a resurgence of interest has caused concern — prompting presidential candidate Marine Le Pen to speak out against the idea. According to the claims, these fringe European defence theorists are speaking up for the plans in the wake of the election of President Donald J. Trump, as European leaders look for defence alternatives should they fail to maintain their NATO commitments, and therefore jeopardise their relationship with the U.S. While Britain’s withdrawal from the EU would preclude the independent nuclear deterrent being co-opted by Brussels, the approximately 300 French warheads will for now remain within the political reach of the Union.


BRITAIN’S two year deadline to secure a Brexit deal with the European Union (EU) will be cut short to almost half that time due to a relentless list of breaks, holidays and events on the Brussels calendar. The Queen will sign off the Brexit Bill today giving Theresa May the power to trigger Article 50 and begin the two years of negotiations allowed. But in reality there is actually far less than the apparent 730 days available to thrash out an agreement and have it ratified by all concerned. Brussels effectively shuts up shop in August as it takes its summer break, meaning two months are out straight away. And over the two years, this includes the equivalent of three months of weekends. Another five months will be needed for Parliaments to translate, scrutinise, debate and then approve any final deal that is put on the table. And two months will be required to turn around a special summit as well as draft and agree an EU negotiating directive once Mrs May triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Theresa May will be forced to abandon key planks of her Brexit strategy in order to secure a deal within the two-year deadline for talks, former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said. A paper drawn up by the senior Liberal Democrat suggests that the only practical way forward would be to agree a limited transitional deal, paving the way for future talks on a long-term settlement. The analysis, produced with a panel of experts and following private talks with key players in Brussels and other EU capitals, suggests the Prime Minister will need to accept paying a “Brexit bill” to the EU in order to secure agreement to run talks on future trade deals at the same time as discussing the terms of the divorce from Brussels. Mr Clegg, a staunch Europhile and the Lib Dem Brexit spokesman, said: “The cumulative effect of the Prime Minister’s decisions to date has been to reduce the already slim chances of striking the deal she wants in the time available. “This analysis confirms that something will need to give – on both sides, but most significantly on the part of the UK. “The sooner the Prime Minister explains to the British people that any negotiation involves significant compromise, the sooner we will be in a position to strike the best possible deal for both the UK and the EU. At present, her red lines are internally inconsistent and based on a wholly unrealistic set of assumptions.”

Labour Lords have launched a new drive to secure greater influence over Theresa May’s Brexit and secure the rights of EU citizens in the UK. The peers want to force ministers to the despatch box to discuss the two issues later this month around the time that Ms May is expected to trigger Article 50, sparking the two-year countdown to Brexit. Their demands include a new joint committee including Lords and MPs to work out how, when and why Parliament should vote on the final Brexit deal – something Ms May has promised will happen. It comes as the Queen gave her assent to the piece of legislation granting Ms May permission to start the process. The House of Lords twice defeated the Government over two amendments to Ms May’s Article 50 Bill – one guaranteeing Parliament a vote on the final Brexit deal and a second securing EU citizens’ rights – though they were both later ditched in the Commons.


Theresa May steps up the pressure on Nicola Sturgeon today, accusing the SNP leader of forcing a “fundamentally unfair” independence referendum that would damage Brexit negotiations. In an article for The Times, the prime minister toughens her stance against starting talks over a second independence vote before spring 2019 — the timetable set out by Ms Sturgeon in a surprise announcement this week. The prime minister had already appealed to Ms Sturgeon to “step back” from plans to table a demand for a second vote next week, making clear that it would be rejected. “Now is not the time,” she said last night. In response Scotland’s first minister accused Mrs May of “returning to the bad old days of Margaret Thatcher”.

Theresa May plans to hold off Nicola Sturgeon’s plans of a second independence referendum for as long as six years. The Prime Minister has insisted the Scottish people have to know what Brexit will look like before another vote can even be contemplated. Mrs May plans to call the First Minister’s bluff by challenging her to prove she has a ‘cast iron’ mandate for a new referendum at the Scottish elections in 2021, reports the Telegraph.  Furious Nicola Sturgeon claimed the rebute was ‘undemocratic’. But the Prime Minister has said she would not begin talks on a referendum until the UK has had time to settle after Brexit, which would be around two years. To complete the formalities needed to organise another referendum could take another 18 months, meaning another Scottish vote on independence could be pushed back as far as 2023.

Scotland could abandon a currency union with the rest of the United Kingdom if it gained independence, former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond told the Financial Times. Nationalist Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon this week demanded a new independence referendum in late 2018 or early 2019, but UK Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday that “now is not the time” for such a vote. Salmond, who resigned as Scottish leader after losing a 2014 independence referendum, said he was open to changing his view that the best option after independence was a currency union between Scotland and the remainder of the UK, the FT said on Friday. He ruled out joining the euro, but suggested that Scotland could introduce a new currency, either freely floated or pegged to the pound. Another option, he said, was to use sterling without any say in monetary policy while the new currency was introduced.

Theresa May will frustrate Nicola Sturgeon’s hopes of a second independence referendum  for as long as six years as she draws the battle lines for her defence of the “precious, precious Union”. The Prime Minister decided Scotland should not be given a vote until Scots have seen how Brexit works out, and will call Nicola Sturgeon’s bluff by challenging her to prove at the next Scottish elections in 2021 her claim that she has a “cast iron” mandate for a new poll. Mrs May infuriated the First Minister by formally rejecting her demand for a referendum between autumn 2018 and spring 2019, saying “now is not the time” for a vote on the future of the Union. Ms Sturgeon described the decision as a “democratic outrage” and said she remained “determined” to hold a poll on her own timescale. She added that she would “consider my options and what I should do” if a Scottish Parliament request for permission to hold a referendum is turned down.

Electoral fraud

The Conservative Party has been handed the biggest fine in the history of the Electoral Commission after the watchdog ruled that it broke election law, failed to declare spending from 2015 and did not co-operate with the investigation. The commission fined the party £70,000, the maximum sum allowed, for failing properly to declare election expenses and failing to explain its accounts. There are 12 police forces now investigating whether up to 20 MPs filed incorrect returns after the election and, if charges are brought and proved, the contests would have to be rerun. The findings will put pressure on Theresa May, who is facing particular embarrassment over the focus on Thanet South.

The Electoral Commission has fined the Conservative Party £70,000 over “significant” election campaign expenses issues. 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. It has also referred one matter, relating to the party’s treasurer declaring he had examined the return and believed it to be complete and correct, to the Metropolitan Police. The 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.

Two Conservative MPs, Karl McCartney and William Wragg, have confirmed that files relating to their election expenses are among those sent to prosecutors after a 10-month police investigation into allegations of electoral fraud. Police are understood to have interviewed both MPs under caution as part of a series of investigations into whether a string of Conservative candidates broke electoral law by breaching local spending limits. McCartney, the MP for Lincoln, said: “There is an ongoing police investigation and, as such, I would prefer not to comment directly on that as it has yet to be concluded other than to say I know I have done nothing wrong and I acted honestly and properly throughout my election campaign, as did, very importantly, my election agent.” Pressure on Conservatives MPs intensified on Thursday as the Electoral Commission imposed a £70,000 fine on the party and referred its registered treasurer, Simon Day, to the police after finding numerous failures to declare spending on its 2015 election campaign.

RAGING Tory MPs told last night how they are being thrown under the bus as Downing Street scrambles to protect Prime Minister Theresa May from the biggest scandal of her leadership. Inept party chiefs have been found guilty of breaking strict spending rules over the use of special busses during the 2015 Election. Up to 20 Tory MPs could now face criminal charges over dodgy election spending. And any police charges could trigger a string of by-elections which – in a doomsday scenario for the party – could slash Mrs May’s tiny majority as she battles to deliver Brexit. On Wednesday the Conservative Party was slapped with a record £70,000 fine for cheating in General Election and three by-elections in 2014.


The number of patients who have to endure the humiliation of being in a mixed-sex hospital ward has trebled in only two years, figures revealed yesterday. 
Nearly 8,000 patients were put in a mixed-sex ward in the past 12 months – despite four manifesto promises from Tory and Labour ministers to end the indignity. In January, 230 patients a week were put in the wards as the NHS grappled with one of the worst winter crises in its history. In 2010, following a long-running Daily Mail campaign, the Government promised to end the ‘wards of shame’ – but ministers’ pledges to tackle the issue date back more than 20 years. Critics say mixed-sex wards are dehumanising and frightening for patients, particularly the elderly or those from certain religions.  Despite this, NHS England figures published yesterday show the number of patients being placed in them has reached a five-year high. 

Up to £800million of NHS cash that was meant for struggling GP surgeries and mental health care is being used to bail-out debt ridden hospitals. Doctors’ leaders described the move as ‘scandalous’, warning that these areas of the health service were at breaking point. A leaked letter from NHS England obtained by the Health Service Journal reveals how the ‘contingency fund’ cash will be used to offset debts in hospitals. This is a pot of money that was held back from GPs, mental health and community services in 2016/17 just in case it was needed in an emergency. Figures last month showed NHS trusts overspent their budgets by £900million – and that was despite being given another £1.8billion cash injection by the Government. The deficit is partly due to trusts squandering vast amounts on expensive agency staff to cover last minute rota gaps. Hospitals have also been wasting money on payslips and telephone costs by failing to negotiate better deals.


BBC News
Every school in England will see budget cuts before 2020, even after new funding plans are put into place, research suggests. The Education Policy Institute analysis looks at the impact of the new national funding formula against the backdrop of financial pressures in schools. It finds even schools benefiting from the funding shake-up will see their gains wiped out by budget pressures. The government insists schools funding is at a record £40bn level. But the EPI estimates that average losses will reach £74,000 for primary schools and £291,000 for secondary schools by 2019-20. This is because schools are bearing the brunt of unfunded rises in pay, pension and National Insurance contributions, which will account for between 6% and 11% of their budgets by 2019-20.

ITV News
Secondary schools could lose the equivalent of six teachers as a result of severe funding cuts, it has been suggested. The average secondary in England is facing losses of almost £300,000, while primaries will lose out on tens of thousands of pounds, according to a new report by the Education Policy Institute (EPI). It warns that growing financial pressures will mean that all state schools across the country are likely to see real terms cuts to per pupil funding in the next few years, with half of primaries and secondaries facing reductions of between 6% and 11% by 2019/20. The average primary school will see a real terms drop in funding of £74,000 between 2016/17 and 2019/20, while the average secondary is set to lose out on £91,000. These drops equate to the loss of two teachers for a primary school and six teachers for a secondary, it calculates.

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