Bercow

The Speaker of the House of Commons is still in trouble, reports the Telegraph.

The Speaker of the House of Commons has become involved in a fresh row about political bias after he admitted voting to stay in the European Union and said immigration into Britain was a good thing.
John Bercow is already facing a vote of no confidence from Mps next week after he angered the Government by vetoing the idea of an address by President Donald Trump to both Houses of Parliament during his state visit later this year.
Now it has emerged Mr Bercow told a group of students he voted Remain at last year’s EU referendum, adding he hoped EU rules on parental leave, working time regulations and equality laws would continue after Brexit.His fresh comments appear to breach the convention that Speakers of the House of Commons do not allow themselves to be drawn into political debate.
Parliamentary rules state: “The Speaker is the chief officer and highest authority of the House of Commons and must remain politically impartial at all times … therefore, on election the new Speaker must resign from their political party and remain separate from political issues even in retirement.”

The Mail also report his words.

John Bercow is facing fresh controversy over his role as Speaker of the House of Commons after admitting voting for the Remain campaign and ‘backing immigration into Britain’.
He was filmed talking to students at the University of Reading earlier this month that he thought it was ‘better to stay in the European Union’.
His comments could be seen to breach Parliamentary rules that the Speaker ‘must remain politically impartial at all times’ and ‘upon election must resign from their political party and remain separate from political issues even in retirement’.
It comes as Mr Bercow is facing a vote of no confidence from MPs next week due to his opposition to US President Donald Trump addressing the Houses of Parliament during a state visit this year.

Labour Party

And the official Commons opposition party is also continuing to be torn asunder, says the Times.

Labour is conducting secret “succession planning” for Jeremy Corbyn’s departure, according to leaked documents that warn the party is facing meltdown under his leadership.
The public appeal of two rising stars, Angela Rayner and Rebecca Long-Bailey, has been tested by a focus group as the hard left looks for potential successors to Corbyn.
The group, organised by Labour’s pollster BMG Research, delivered a damning verdict on Corbyn himself with participants saying he was “boring”, appeared “fed up” and “looks like a scruffy school kid”.
The research also found that Corbyn is Britain’s most unpopular party leader, behind Ukip’s Paul Nuttall and Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party, as well as Theresa May and Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader.

The Express reports on a possible successor to Corbyn.

A LITTLE-known Labour MP is being touted as Jeremy Corbyn’s replacement, despite once working for a firm which offers advice on NHS private contracts.
Rebecca Long-Bailey’s rise through Labour’s ranks since being elected MP for Salford and Eccles in 2015 was cemented on Friday after she was made shadow business secretary.
The 37-year-old replaced Clive Lewis who resigned over the
Brexit Bill.
Sources say a plot is being orchestrated by shadow chancellor John McDonnell for the docker’s daughter to succeed
Jeremy Corbyn.
A Labour insider said Mrs Long-Bailey was Mr McDonnell’s “preferred candidate” because her relative inexperience meant he could remain as “the power behind the throne”.
The insider said: “What we are seeing is a repeat of the Blair-Brown era being played out behind closed doors. McDonnell knows he is unelectable, but if he can get a young, careerist MP to do his bidding, then his future in the
Labour party will be assured.”

And Sky News reports that secret polling has been carried out within the party.

Labour has carried out secret polling to test the popularity of senior figures touted as successors to Jeremy Corbyn.
Voters were asked to rate shadow chancellor John McDonnell along with rising stars Rebecca Long-Bailey and Angela Rayner, according to a document leaked to the Sunday Times.
A party source told Sky News the focus group carried out in Manchester last month was evidence of “succession planning” for who could follow Mr Corbyn as leader.
The leaked documents also give a scathing assessment of the Labour leader – who voters branded “boring”, “fed up” and “looks like a scruffy school kid”, according to the newspaper.
Labour has denied it is vetting potential successors, saying the focus group by its pollster BMG research was routine. The party has denied that Mr Corbyn plans to step down before 2020.

But the party denies carrying out the poll, says ITV News.

Labour has denied a report which claims it is vetting potential leadership successors to Jeremy Corbyn in the run-up to key parliamentary by-elections.
Rising party stars like Angela Rayner and Rebecca Long-Bailey were reported to have been assessed for popularity as part of internal “succession planning”, according to
The Sunday Times.
The paper also suggested that leaked documents gave a scathing assessment of Mr Corbyn, who was said to be “boring” by focus groups.
Polling was also cited in the document, which rated him as the least popular of all current party leaders, including Ukip’s Paul Nuttall.
But Labour claimed that the polling of voters in the North was a routine measure to gauge the popularity of its politicians in the area.
A party source said: “In common with all political parties, Labour conducts polling to get a clearer picture of views in different parts of the country.

Commonwealth visas

The Independent reports that residents of the former Commonwealth countries should be given visa quickly.

Dozens of Conservative MPs have signed up to a plan to give citizens of the 52 Commonwealth countries “fast-track” visas to the UK after Brexit.
A letter to the Home Secretary, published in
The Daily Telegraph newspaper, says loosening visa control on Commonwealth nations would “extend the hand of friendship to our Commonwealth partners”.
If the MPs’ plan goes ahead citizens from countries including Pakistan, India, Australia, Canada, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Ghana could find it easier to come to Britain.
The idea, which also proposes faster passport control queuing at UK border points for Commonwealth citizens, is due to be debated in Parliament on 26 February.
The MPs say it is unfair that EU and EEA citizens should get to join the UK queue while Commonwealth countries are lumped in with others.
“In the previous century, Commonwealth countries stood with Britain as we faced existential threats from abroad, but as we pivoted to Europe, increasingly, our Commonwealth allies were left in the cold,” the letter says.

Article 50 Bill

The Times reports the possibility of Peers throwing out the Bill.

Theresa May faces defeat in the House of Lords over the right of foreign nationals from other European Union countries to live and work in Britain after Brexit.
Those who arrived before the EU referendum last summer would be able to stay under an amendment to the article 50 bill tabled by the Liberal Democrats who are confident that they have the cross-party alliance needed to get it through.
The challenge comes as government tensions over Brexit are re-emerging after the concerted effort to get the bill triggering the departure process through the Commons last week.
One minister claimed that some colleagues were “in complete denial” about the danger of crashing out without a deal on trade and travel.

EU

Over on the Continent there has been speculation that this might be the start of the end of the bloc, says the Telegraph

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he fears Britain will divide the European Union’s 27 remaining members by making different promises to each country during its Brexit negotiations.
“The other EU 27 don’t know it yet, but the Brits know very well how they can tackle this,” Juncker told Deutschlandfunk radio. “They could promise country A this, country B that and country C something else and the end game is that there is not a united European front.”
Mr Juncker also reportedly said he would not seek a second term as European Commission president when his five-year term expires in 2019.
Britain will by the end of March trigger formal divorce talks with the EU, a major test for the bloc which is struggling to have a grip on other challenges like keeping Greece in the euro zone, the refugee crisis and the election of Donald Trump as US president.
To add to all of that, the Netherlands, France and Germany are holding general elections this year, in which populist anti-EU parties are expected to make strong showings.

Sky News also reports the Commission president’s words.

Jean-Claude Juncker has expressed doubts that EU countries will be able to maintain a united front during Brexit negotiations.
Speaking to Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio, the European Commission president said: “The other EU 27 don’t know it yet, but the Brits know very well how they can tackle this.
“They could promise country A this, country B that and country C something else and the endgame is that there is not united European front.”
He asked: “Has the time come for when the European Union of the 27 must show unity, cohesion and coherence?
“Yes, I say yes, when it comes to Brexit and (US President Donald) Trump… but I have some justified doubts that it will really happen.”
He added: “Do the Hungarians and the Poles want exactly the same thing as the Germans and the French?
“I have serious doubts.”

And Breitbart claims Juncker will not stand again in two years’ time.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg who now serves as President of the European Union’s powerful unelected executive, will not stand for a second term after 2019.
The despondent 62-year-old said he doubted the bloc would hold together during the upcoming Brexit negotiations, reports Sky News, in an interview with Deutschlandfunk Radio which will air on the 11th of February 2017.
“The other EU 27 don’t know it yet, but the Brits know very well how they can tackle [the negotiations]”, he said. “They could promise country A this, country B that and country C something else and the end game is that there is not [a] united European front.
“Has the time come for when the European Union of the 27 must show unity, cohesion and coherence?” he asked rhetorically. “Yes, I say yes, when it comes to Brexit and Trump… but I have some justified doubts that it will really happen.
Do the Poles and the Hungarians want exactly the same thing as the Germans and the French? I have serious doubts.”

NHS

Our National Health Service continues its woes, reports the Sun.

NEARLY 70,000 patients have been forced to wait too long for vital cancer care, official figures reveal.
NHS hospitals missed their targets for treating urgently-referred sufferers over the past three years.
It means one patient in five is forced to wait at least nine weeks for surgery or other life-saving action.
Hospitals are meant to treat 85 per cent of people suspected of having cancer within 62 days of their GP referring them.
But new figures show the government has failed to meet its target in every quarter since the end of 2013.
Just 82.1 per cent underwent their first treatment in time, meaning 6,450 waited longer than needed in the last quarter.
The figures heaped fresh embarrassment on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, under fire over the crisis in over-stretched accident and emergency units.
Labour last night branded the cancer stats “absolutely shocking”.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “It’s disgraceful that patients needing cancer treatment are being forced to wait so long.

And the Sun also reports the huge salaries being claimed by some doctors.

LOCUM doctors are still being paid up to £4,000 a day to plug shortages in care, an NHS watchdog warned yesterday.
NHS trusts have been accused of “throwing money” at stand-in staff with new figures revealing many annually earn £250,000.
This is despite the introduction of capped pay in 2015.
Watchdog NHS Improvement figures show staff, who provide temporary cover when permanent staff are sick, on holiday or a post is waiting to be filled, are costing the NHS £300 million.
The pay cap meant a consultant on a shift should receive no more than £75 an hour in normal working hours.
But one doctor regularly charges £363 an hour, or £4,356 for a 12-hour shift.
Five others have ask for an hourly rate of £250 which means a £3,000 a day.
Jim Mackey, chief executive of NHS Improvement, said the cash should be spent getting “many more hands on deck”.
He said: “Each trust running A&E services could get six more nurse shifts a week if agency staff in A&E kept to the price cap.
“It’s not right to charge these extortionate rates for temporary workers.
“It’s not a good deal for patients and it’s not a good deal for the NHS.”

Education

And our education system is also under pressure, says the Mirror.

Schools are being pushed to ‘breaking point’ according to new figures unearthed by the Lib Dems.
Rising costs of inflation, teachers salaries and pensions are putting extra pressure on the system.
And ministers admit there will be an 8 per cent increase in costs over the next few years.
Now Lib Dem education spokesman John Pugh is calling on Theresa May to abandon her plans for grammar schools and put more money into the comprehensive system.
Mr Pugh said: “It is a disgrace that while schools face a severe funding crisis, £240m is being spent on expanding grammars.
“This Conservative Government has completely the wrong priorities.
“Instead of protecting funding per pupil to give every child a chance in life, it is slashing budgets and pushing through plans that will stretch our schools and teachers to breaking point.”
When asked about funding forecasts, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Schools Lord Nash said: “We recognise that schools, as with other public services, are facing cost pressures.

Cyber attacks

The Times reports Russia’s attempts to hack our computers.

Britain is being hit by 60 significant cyber-attacks a month, including attempts by Russian state-sponsored hackers to steal defence and foreign policy secrets from government departments, the new cyber-security chief has revealed.
In his first key interview, Ciaran Martin, head of GCHQ’s new National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), warned there had been a “step change” in Russia’s online aggression against the West as well as more attacks on “soft targets” such as local councils and charities to steal personal data, and universities to steal research secrets. The Queen will open the new cyber-centre on Tuesday.
Concern is also growing at the emergence of Russian media outlets that are accused of disseminating fake news as part of a Kremlin “disinformation” campaign.

Supervolcano

And, as usual, the Star reports a potentially catastrophic natural event.

THE risks from a “high threat” super eruption that could ground thousands of planes, destroy the world economy, and impact the health of millions “should not be ignored”.
Long Valley supervolcano in eastern California has the potential to wreak havoc across the entire world.
Around 760,000 years ago the 3,600ft deep magma filled mountain blew its lid on an apocalyptic scale.
Molten lava incinerated thousands of square miles and most of the United States was blanketed in toxic ash.
Should that happen again, the choking veil of sulfuric acid spewing from its chasm would block out the sun, sending temperatures plummeting to Ice Age levels.
Thick blankets of magma and smog would immediately wipe out California and the surrounding areas off the face of the Earth.

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