Paul Vale   |   July 15, 2015    4:15 PM ET

NEW YORK -- A political group is to confront President Obama with 5,000 naked men and women on his forthcoming trip to the Kenya, a protest against Obama’s "open and aggressive support for homosexuality."

The demonstration is the plan of the country’s ultra conservative Republican Liberty Party, an organisation vocal in its opposition of extending rights to the LGBT community. Homosexuality is currently illegal in Kenya, with acts carrying a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

Obama is to visit the African country later this month, with Republican Liberty Party leader Vincent Kidala having already sought permission to hold a “peaceful protest,” which involves thousands of men and women stripping naked to show the President the “differences” between the genders.

According to the Nairobi Times, Kidala sent a notification for the march on Tuesday.

His letter read: “The procession shall be carried out by approximately 5,000 totally naked men and women to protest over Obama’s open and aggressive support for homosexuality. The party’s main objective is for him to see and understand the different [sic] between a man and a woman.”

According to Pink News, Kidala confirmed authenticity of the missive, telling local media that his party is to hire “prostitutes” to bolster numbers for the protest. He added that the prostitutes would work for free as they’ll lose business should homosexuality be made legal.

Anti-LGBT groups in Kenya have advised Obama not to talk about gay rights on his visit, however White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the President will confront the issue, telling reporters last week: “I’m confident the president will not hesitate to make clear that the protection of basic universal human rights in Kenya is also a priority and consistent with the values that we hold dear here in the United States of America.”

Last month, the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage would be legal across all 50 states, a move decried by social conservatives and the majority of the Republican presidential field.

SEE ALSO:


The Nuclear Deal Is Good for Iran and Bad for US Allies

Nehad Ismail   |   July 14, 2015    1:43 PM ET

The media reported that a landmark Iran nuclear agreement has been finally reached on Tuesday July 14th after two weeks of intensive political bargaining in Vienna, reported Reuters quoting Iranian diplomats.

The deal is said to allow U.N. inspectors to press for visits to Iran's military sites as part of their monitoring duties - a compromise between Washington and Tehran. Iranian media rejected such a demand earlier today.

"All the hard work has paid off and we sealed a deal. God bless our people," one diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. A second Iranian official confirmed the agreement.

But access at will to any site would not necessarily be granted and even if so, could be delayed, a condition that critics of the deal are sure to seize on as possibly giving Tehran time to cover any sign of non-compliance with its commitments

Death to America:
Meanwhile on Friday July 10th 2015 whilst the nuclear talks were taking place tens of thousands of protesters in Tehran and cities across Iran Friday chanted "Death to America" in the Islamic republic's annual Quds (Jerusalem) Day of Demonstration.
Even in stifling heat approaching 100 degrees (38 Celsius), the crowds were undeterred. Participants in the demonstrations included President Hasan Rouhani and other top Iranian officials.
Analysts believe Iran is the winner. The US negotiating team has been the weakest link giving away more and more concessions whilst the Iranian team remained stubbornly firm. The Iranians were aware of the fact that both President Obama and his secretary of State John Kerry were desperate to sign a deal. In June news leaked that Obama had written letters to Iranian President Rouhani virtually begging him to sign a deal. Both Obama and Kerry are desperately seeking some kind of foreign policy success.

The Iranian leaders will celebrate by announcing to their people that the world super powers have acknowledged Iran's right to become a nuclear power. Obama's advisors will tell him that such rhetoric is for local consumption. But this doesn't alter the fact that Iran will squeeze more and more concessions from a weak US President. Obama's weakness was starkly reflected in his refusal to take a tough stance against the Assad regime which is Iran's ally and client. According to Washington sources Obama was afraid any action against the Syrian regime would alienate Iran and derail the nuclear talks.
President Obama is rushing to sign a nuclear deal with Iran at any price. Iran's negotiators have won generous concessions from the Obama administration.

Many issues still remain unresolved:

The Iranians have failed to provide satisfactory answers to several questions:
In March the IAEA asked about the possible military dimensions (PMDs) of their nuclear program. Iran refused to answer. No clear answer has been given in the recent talks either.
According to latest reports the agreement announced Tuesday, Iran has NOT agreed to allow unfettered, unlimited access and intrusive inspection of suspected sites military and non-military without prior consultations. Iran had said it would implement the Additional Protocol (AP) of the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but the supreme leader had balked at its implications, declaring inspections of military sites a red line.
Critics of the nuclear deal such as John Bolton former US Ambassador to the UN warn of Iranian concealment, cheating, delay and obstruction to defeat whatever is agreed in writing. Bolton even dismisses the "snapback" mechanism to revive economic sanctions as questionable and will be subject to endless disputes and delays.

The Economist (Tuesday July 14th) referred to "worrying differences between the detailed American account of what had been agreed and the far vaguer public interpretation of the accord by the Iranians. These were subsequently amplified by statements about "red lines" by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in which he appeared to reject key provisions of Lausanne, particularly those relating to inspection of suspicious sites".

However the Financial Times cautiously welcomed the deal:
"Iran has accepted unprecedented international control and surveillance over its nuclear programme as well as cuts in its uranium stocks and in the number of centrifuges. Yes, it might cheat. But the terms imposed by the US and the other members of the P5+1 group of leading powers will not make that easy".

Many in the Middle East including Saudi Arabia and Israel think that Iran will at some point in future become a nuclear threshold state, as a result of the P5+1 agreement. The lifting of sanctions will embolden Iran to escalate its funding to its proxies and continue its strategy of sponsoring and supporting terrorism.
As far as the Middle East is concerned Obama's speech celebrating the deal has not impressed or reassured the allies. Obama just repeated what he has been saying for the last two years.

Labour's Untimely Demise

Grainne Gillis   |   July 14, 2015   10:10 AM ET

What has happened to the Labour party? Once the proud defender of the working classes, it has been steadily showing its true blue colours since it assumed the mantle of the now defunct and destructive 'New Labour' project. For me, this culminated in Harriet Harman's failure to oppose the government's welfare cuts, which seems a bizarre type of own goal, considering she is the deputy leader of the now blindingly apparent nominal 'Opposition'.

Let's make no mistake about it: these Tory-lite tactics cost Labour the election. For sure, Labour had a weak messenger in Ed Miliband, who in almost 5 years failed to define what he, or the PLP under his leadership, stood for. Moreover, when he did define what he stood for - it turned out to be a carbon copy of a UKIP anti-immigration policy. But the Labour Party's biggest failure under his leadership, in my opinion, was the failure to be an effective opposition and challenge the lie of austerity. A failure that Harman and anyone cut from that Blairite cloth seem absolutely intent on continuing.

Part of me is in absolute despair at the state of British politics, and I believe what we are witnessing is the absolute exposure of the endgame of the freemarket capitalism - the new feudalism. Class war has never been so obviously played out, and clearly most of the political elite at Westminster are hopelessly out of touch with what is actually happening in the country. Homelessness has been on the rise; food bank usage has been on the rise by the working poor; child poverty has been on the increase; at least 49 benefit claimants have killed themselves directly related to welfare cuts. This has all happened since 2010, and the link with ideological, unnecessary austerity is brutally transparent. And where is the Labour Party on all this? Our supposed Opposition is towing the government line on austerity, sucking up to the Bullingdon bullies like an erstwhile gangly-limbed teenager trying to ingratiate themselves in a gang. Teenagers have an excuse for this; elected MPs who are voted in by the public to oppose wrong-footed government policy do not.

Like many others, the wasteland of the Miliband years have left me feeling increasingly disenfranchised from a party which, as a centre-Leftist, should feel like my natural political home. The problem, I suspect, is that while my political views have not changed much (I believe in a healthy mixture of socialism and capitalism - note the word 'healthy') the party has been pulled so much to the right as to be indistinguishable from the Tories (who in turn are being pulled to the right by UKIP, and UKIP have ended up taking the place of the BNP, with more legitimacy than the BNP ever had). Here's what would make me support Labour again, and what I believe would increase their supporter base:

1. A clear mandate opposing ideological austerity, and exposing in no uncertain terms the economic and societal vacuousness of pursuing those policies in terms of economic recovery.

2. Proper and independent regulation of the financial sector and the media. While every sector should be regulated it has recently struck me that there is a huge disparity between the eagerness Cameron has in regulating and gagging, let's say, the Third Sector and his cronies and party backers in big business and the media.

3. Closing tax avoidance loopholes, which are costing the UK upwards of £12bn a year. Compare this to the proposed welfare cuts, which will save the UK the comparatively measly sum of £1.2bn. The lack of logic behind this alone should prove to be a godsend for any Opposition, which Harman seems to have blithely ignored.

And I don't think I'm alone in feeling that the Labour Party is in disarray. And yet, if this is Labour's untimely demise, it has come at the worst time possible, because never has it been so badly needed. The thirst among friends, even those that would sway more to the Right than I would, for a new kind of politics that will stand up for the non-millionaired majority of the electorate, has never been so keen. Where has the party of Hardie and Attlee disappeared to? As short-lived as his leadership was, of John Smith? If we spend every goddamned year in the United Kingdom eulogising the dead and veterans of World Wars I & II, why are we not protecting their legacies of the welfare state and the NHS, where no child would go hungry, and the vulnerable would be protected, rather than letting the same legacies be used and spat out by the evil (or should I say, EVEL) of Cambornian ideology? Where is the political warrior that will go into battle day in, day out in Parliament for the next 5 years and stand up for the working and middle classes? Because ultimately, that is the direction the Labour Party should be taking now. Otherwise its MPs may as well hand in their red rosettes and join the Tories and have done with it.

Out of all the candidates for the Labour leadership, there is only one that may potentially fulfil that criteria. I don't buy into the notion that Corbyn is unelectable; and, quite frankly, I'm not so concerned with the election in 2020 as I am with the damage the Tories are currently wreaking and how to oppose that. If a week is a long time in politics, five years is an eternity; and the candidate that appeared unelectable yesterday may very well crest the wave of capturing the Zeitgeist in a few years. In recent years, Obama is the proof positive of that.

The best way to revive Labour's fortunes is not to follow the trajectory it has been on since Blair, but to revive its beating heart, and that lies not in Westminster (yet) but in the people in the wider UK who still hope that political heart exists. The victory of the SNP, and the left-wing policies they espoused shows that there is a hunger for an alternative to Toryism. Politics is changing; and rather than doing what is politically expedient and towing the redundant New Labour line, Labour must now find a new voice. If they do, they might be pleasantly surprised at how the electorate respond in kind.

Kathryn Snowdon   |   June 26, 2015    8:09 PM ET

US President Barack Obama led a chorus of "Amazing Grace" during his eulogy for the reverend of the Charleston church where nine people were gunned down before calling for stronger gun laws.

Obama described Reverend Clementa Pinckney, pastor of Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, which was targeted in a "hate crime", as a "good man".

He described those killed as "good people, decent people, God-fearing people. People so full of life and so full of kindness, people who ran the race, persevered. People of great faith."

barack obama

Barack Obama led a chorus of 'Amazing Grace' at Reverend Clementa Pinckney's funeral

He told the families of those murdered: "The nation shares in your grief. Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church."

The president also used the eulogy to call on America to front up to its problem with guns.

He said that for too long America has "been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts on this nation", and called for action on gun control, not just talk.

The removal of the confederate flag from the country's capital was also touched upon. Obama said that, while "this flag did not cause these murders", the flag represents more than just ancestral pride.

He said removing the flag from the state's capital would not be an act of "political correctness".

Obama said: "For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now.

"By taking down that flag," he said, "we express God's grace."

Article continues below slideshow:

Obama said taking the flag down would be an "acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought, the cause of slavery was wrong".

Obama never mentioned the name of the 21-year-old charged over the murders, Dylann Roof, name, only referring to "the alleged killer" during his eulogy.

The president said: "Blinded by hatred the alleged killer couldn't see the grace surrounding Revered Pinckney and that bible group."

He added: "The alleged killer couldn't imagine how the city of Charleston... how the state of South Carolina... and the United States of America would respond, not merely with revulsion at his evil act but with big hearted generosity and more importantly with a thoughtful introspection and examination that we so rarely see in public life."

After his speech, Obama tweeted how much he admired the grace shown by the victims' families, using the hashtag 'HateWontWin'.

People were moved by Obama's rendition of Amazing Grace.


SEE ALSO:

'Hate Crime' Church Shooting Leaves Nine Dead In Charleston As Police Hunt Suspect

Jon Stewart's Devastatingly Brilliant Gun Violence Speech Drops Jokes For Brutal Truths

Charleston Shooter Captured By Police

Anonymous To Stop 'Hateful' Westboro Baptist Church From Picketing Charleston Shooting Victims' Funerals

Words Of Forgiveness From Charleston Shooting Victim's Son Are Utterly Inspiring

Steven Hopkins   |   June 25, 2015    7:04 AM ET

Barack Obama took time out during an event honouring LGBT Pride Month to teach a heckler some manners, and left no one in doubt what is expected when you're in "my house".

The president was speaking at the White House on Wednesday when an LGBT activist interrupted him to protest against his administration's policies on deportation of undocumented immigrants.

"Not one more deportation!" Jennicet Gutiérrez, a transgender woman, shouted.

Obama had no time for Gutiérrez, telling her, "no, no, no, no...", before continuing, "listen, you're in my house".

obama

President Barack Obama responds to heckler Jennicet Gutiérrez after she interrupted him during a LGBT Pride Month event

When Gutiérrez continued to try and get the president's attention, he said, "It's not, you know, respectful, when you get invited to somebodies..."

The crowd cheered as Obama shut Gutiérrez down, telling her: "You're not going to get a good response from me by interrupting me like this."

Gutiérrez was booed by the crowd, before Obama continued: "I'm sorry... no, no, no... shame on you. You shouldn't be doing this."

The crowd began chanting "Obama", before the president turned to his security detail and asked if Gutiérrez could be removed from the venue.

Story continues below

Obama told Gutiérrez: "You can either stay and be quite, or we will escort you out." After pausing for a moment, the president then gave the order: "Can we have this person removed please."

Later he reportedly said: "As a general rule I'm just fine with a couple of hecklers, but not when I'm up in the house," before receiving a jovial pat on the back from Vice President Joe Biden.

Gutiérrez, 29, came to the US from Mexico when she was 15. She is in the process of getting a green card through her sister, but is currently undocumented.

The president was interrupted by transgender woman Jennicet Gutiérrez

At Wednesday's event, Gutiérrez said she intended to deliver a letter bringing the abuse of undocumented LGBT immigrants to Obama's attention.

Before the event started she said: "The letter is asking to release our communities from detention centers and to stop deportation."

The Williams Institute estimated in 2013 that there were 267,000 adult undocumented immigrants in the US who identified as LGBT.

The Department of Homeland Security recognises LGBT individuals as a "special vulnerability," which officers are instructed to consider when making decisions on detention and deportation.

SEE ALSO

Barack Obama Compared To 'Weak Black Coffee' In 'Racist' Joke Tweeted By Israeli Minister's Wife Judy Mozes

Matthew Hancock Defies Philip Hammond, Flies Rainbow Flag From Cabinet Office Celebrating 'Pride'

#PoweredByPride Donates £1 To LGBTQ Charities For Every Selfie Taken With London Art Installation

But LGBT people are nevertheless detained, despite the risk of abuse in holding facilities. Immigration and Customs Enforcement holds about 75 transgender immigrants each night, most of them transgender women seeking asylum, according to report by Fusion published in November. The report found that many transgender women are housed with men, and one in five said they had been sexually assaulted.

Representatives Raúl M. Grijalva , Michael Honda, and 33 other House Democrats, signed a letter this week asking Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to improve treatment of LGBT people by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Honda said in a statement: "The alarming rates of sexual assaults of non-heterosexual detainees should be a wakeup call for ICE.

"Even more dire is the fact ICE continues to detain transgender women in men's detention facilities. ICE has the power to determine suitable alternatives to detain LGBT persons, but instead they continue to ignore safer alternatives. Our letter calls on ICE to use the power they have to create a safer and more humane alternative that will treat LGBT individuals with respect and dignity."

Obama briefly addressed immigration in his remarks at Wednesday's event, saying: "Those of us who know freedom and opportunity thanks to the toil and blood of those who came before us, we have an extra responsibility to extend freedom to those who are still marginalised."

He went on to mention "immigrants who deserve a pathway to be able to, to get right with the law," among other groups.

After the event, Gutierrez said in a statement that she was disappointed by Obama's response.

She said: "I am outraged at the lack of leadership that Obama demonstrated.

"He had no concern for the way that LGBTQ detainees are suffering. As a transwoman, the misgendering and the physical and sexual abuse -- these are serious crimes that we face in detention centers. How can that be ignored?"

Obama's slapdown is reminiscent of Jed Bartlet's dismissal of a heckler in political drama, West Wing.

US Dithering Will Turn Iraq Into a Failed State

Struan Stevenson   |   June 23, 2015    3:02 PM ET

Following the major offensive of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq last year, the country's key cities fell like dominos, increasing the Jihadist's control over a vast territory spanning from Syria to Iraq. The magnitude of this catastrophe for Iraq and for the region is mind-boggling. As a direct result of the conflict, three million people have been internally displaced and eight million are now in desperate need of humanitarian support. Mass executions, systematic rape and atrocities are widespread across the country.

When Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi assumed office in September 2014, many held high hopes that he would alter the sectarian policies of his predecessor Nouri al-Maliki, who alienated the Sunni population and facilitated the rise of ISIS. Nine months into his tenure, al-Abadi's plan for national reconciliation lies in tatters, leaving many to believe that Iraq is now a failed state. Urgently needed judicial reforms have never been implemented, nor has Abadi supported the creation of a national guard to arm and train the Sunni tribes to fight against ISIS. These are major mistakes. Instead, al-Abadi has relied upon the brutal Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias, which operate outwith any official framework and openly target and discriminate against Sunnis and other ethnic minorities.

Al-Abadi's reluctance to push the national reconciliatory agenda for Iraq may be partly explained by Nouri al-Maliki's political resistance, which is closely tied to Tehran and maintains enormous influence over the coalition of the ruling Shi'ite political parties. A recent disturbing report in The Washington Times elaborated on how al-Maliki, who remains in government as vice-president, undermines al-Abadi at every opportunity in a bid to return to power. Khalid Mufriji, a Sunni MP who chairs the Committee on Regions and Provinces in the Iraqi parliament, told the Times that: "Maliki is still controlling a lot of the power" and further argued regarding the coalition of Shi'ite parties that: "Abadi cannot get out of the circle of what they decide."

In the absence of a U.S. strategy in Iraq and a capable Iraqi army, the Popular Mobilisation Forces, an umbrella of Tehran-backed Shi'ite militias such as Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Badr Organisation, Hezbollah Brigades and the Imam Ali Brigades, have effectively become the leading services in the fight against ISIS under the command of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Al-Muhandis is a close affiliate of Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran's terrorist Quds Force and maintains close ties with Iran. Tehran exploits the political dynamics in Baghdad through its proxies to advance its own agenda for regional hegemony and the ISIS crisis has been a pretext for the Ayatollahs to send troops, arms and funds into Iraq in order to achieve this goal.

While President Obama has yet to make up his mind on whether he should confront the Iranian regime's meddling in Iraq, the mullahs make sure they do not miss any opportunity in forming new Shi'ite paramilitary forces, indoctrinating them with Khomeini's brand of Islamic fundamentalism in order to increase their influence on the ground. The brutality and the atrocities committed by these militia forces against the people of Iraq is similar or sometimes even worse than the carnage committed by ISIS.

Washington backed the nomination of Haider al-Abadi for the premiership last year as he is seen as a moderate. However, by not having a robust strategy for ousting Iran and its proxies from Iraq, the Obama administration has effectively emboldened the extremist elements in Iraqi politics that follow the instructions of the theocracy in Tehran. In such an environment, it is virtually impossible to implement the national reconciliation process in Iraq. Some say that Washington does not wish to pick a fight with Tehran over Iraq as it is keen to reach a nuclear deal with Iran at any cost. But allowing the mullahs to advance their vicious plans and export their fundamentalism and terrorism to the rest of the region will have far greater and long-term negative consequences both for the region and the rest of the world.

Paul Vale   |   June 22, 2015    4:06 PM ET

NEW YORK -- Barack Obama gave a blunt appraisal on Monday of the recent shooting in Charleston, telling a podcast that "it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public." The country's first African-American commander in chief added: "That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don't, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior."

obama

President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks at the Annual Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in San Francisco, Friday, June 19, 2015

Nine people were murdered in an African-American church in South Carolina last week, with Dylann Roof arrested on suspicion of the massacre. The FBI is looking into the killings as both a possible hate crime and an act of domestic terrorism.

Obama noted that "no other advanced nation on Earth" suffers these incidents with such frequency, ascribing that to the “legacy of slavery." He said: “Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives, you know, that casts a long shadow, and that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on."

When asked how to stop the killings, he said it was possible to “make events like this less likely," namely passing laws to control gun rights in the US, however said the "grip of the NRA on Congress is extremely strong."

dylann roof

Suspected killer Dylann Roof appears via video link at the courthouse in South Carolina on Friday. The judge set his bail at $1 million

On gun control, Obama reflected: “The question is, is there a way of accommodating that legitimate set of traditions with some common-sense stuff that prevents a 21-year-old who is angry about something, or confused about something, or is racist, or is, you know, deranged from going into a gun store and suddenly is packing and can do enormous harm? That is not something that we have ever fully come to terms with."

Legislators in South Carolina are coming under increasing pressure to remove the confederate flag from the state building, with critics arguing the banner is a symbol of racial hatred. During the shooting, victims reportedly pleaded with the killer not to shoot, the attacker responding: "No, you've raped our women, and you are taking over the country... I have to do what I have to do." On Sunday, protesters in Charleston defaced a confederate monument, writing, “black lives matter” on a civil war statue.

Last week, a board member of the National Rifle Association responded to the Charleston killings by blaming the pastor and state senator who was gunned down in the massacre. Writing on the TexasCHLForum.com, Charles Cotton said Clementa Pinckney was to blame for the slaughter as he voted against a law that would have allowed congregants to carry concealed guns in churches.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

SEE ALSO:

What Could an EU Exit Mean for the UK Construction Industry?

Simon Thomas   |   June 22, 2015    1:02 PM ET

Even though the dust from the 2015 General Election has only just begun to settle, the political news agenda has already shifted to the next public poll; the European Union Referendum.

The EU referendum is one of those issues that seemingly everyone has an opinion on - even US President Barack Obama has weighed in on the debate to say that he opposes a UK exit. That's because an EU exit - for better or for worse - will have profound effects on the way business is done in Britain, especially in my own sector; construction.

Britain's continued involvement in a political and economic union of European states has been a subject of controversy stretching back as far as the 1970s. In 1975, a referendum was held asking whether or not Britons wanted to remain part of the European Economic Community, which became part of the EU - founded in 1993. The electorate resoundingly voted to stay.

That is not to say that history will repeat itself this time. The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) - a party whose core belief is that Britain should leave the EU - have enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence in recent years. Despite only winning a single seat in the General Election, their 12% share of the vote proved that their controversial brand of anti-EU politics has struck a chord with millions.

Additionally, the ruling party - the Conservatives - are facing serious infighting about the issue, which could well lead to resignations and defections to more right-wing parties like UKIP. So what if the UK does vote to go it alone? How would this affect the construction industry and the way we go about our day-to-day business?

The first major issue is access to labour, without which the construction industry would be unable to function. The industry relies heavily on foreign workers to fill both skilled and non-skilled job roles, and always has done. This, of course, is nothing new. There's evidence to show that the architects of the Pyramids of Giza created incentives to entice labourers from all over Egypt to come and work for them. More recently, in the mid-20th Century, a British labour shortage - coupled with a financial crisis in Ireland - meant that the construction industry in the UK was primarily made up of Irish migrant workers.

A core principle of the EU is the right of free movement, which makes immigration between member states relatively easy and stress-free. For the construction industry, this provides a vital resource. An EU exit would mean that foreign workers would find emigration to the UK much more difficult. It's logical that in this scenario those skilled individuals will instead take the easy option and cast an eye toward France, Germany, or Spain, where the right of free movement would remain intact. James Hick, head of recruitment firm Manpower, says that an EU exit could lead to a skills crisis in any sector that relies on educated and/or skilled workers. I fear that Mr Hick is correct.

This is the view of many in the construction industry. Rob Hooker, director at Greendale Construction says that "foreign labour is vital to reduce skills shortages," and that UKIP's "little Englander" approach is short sighted; we are part of the global market, and to influence it we must remain in the EU. I can't help but agree.

Another issue is investment. At its core, the EU is a trading union, which breaks down the barriers that make it more difficult for companies in different countries to do business with, and invest in, one another. This has caused some alarm among multinationals with a foothold in the UK; already, European manufacturing giants Airbus have expressed concern about investing in an independent UK. Similarly, a high level employee of German firm Festo (which has an annual turnover of £1.76bn) has said German companies should hesitate to invest in Britain until the business landscape of a post-referendum UK becomes clear. And let's not forget that Germany is the economic powerhouse of the EU.

It's not just European countries voicing their opinion either. The BBC's business editor Kamal Ahmed recently wrote of a trip to Japan, where businessmen openly baulked at the prospect that the UK could possibly want to leave the biggest trading union on Earth.

Another factor that is important to keep in mind is that no country has ever withdrawn from the EU before; there is no precedent for how it could affect the way in which we do business with our contemporaries on the continent.

These examples indicate that, from a business point of view, an exit from the EU doesn't make an awful lot of sense. It allows other countries to provide ours with workforce and investment, and allows British businesses better opportunities to set up shop abroad. It seems to me that the strange identity crisis Britain has about itself in Europe is a prevailing factor in an anti-EU surge. Many Britons prefer to identify as British rather than European, and the concept of a union of European states dictating UK policy is a bitter pill to swallow for some. Make no mistake though; an EU exit on the back of a nationalistic, flag-waving, emotive campaign would have real, serious effects on British industry.

Back in 2011 George Osborne famously said "Britain is open for business." If he truly believes those words, now's the time for him to put his money where his mouth is and throw his support behind the campaign against an EU exit. The prosperity of the UK construction industry could depend on it.

Simon Thomas is the Managing Director of Asset International, a leading manufacturer of large diameter plastic pipes. Asset International Ltd supplies bespoke designs to the water and construction industries, from surface drainage to foul sewers and inter-process pipework: www.weholite.co.uk

Sara C Nelson   |   June 22, 2015   11:08 AM ET

An Israeli TV and radio personality has apologised after she was accused of tweeting a racist joke about President Barack Obama.

On Sunday Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes, who is also the wife of Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, informed her 74,000 followers: “Do u know what Obama Coffee is? Black and weak.”

Mozes, whose husband is involved in Israel’s US-sponsored talks with Palestine, was accused of being “racist” and of causing “grievous damage” to foreign relations.

judy mozes

Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes in 2003


She hurriedly deleted the tweet and composed a series of apologies in English and Hebrew.

barack obama

President Obama has not responded to the tweet, nor Mozes' apology

She said: “I apologise, that was a stupid joke, somebody told me."

Addressing him directly, she added: “President Obama I shouldn’t have written the inappropriate joke I heard. I like people no matter about their race and religion.

“Sorry if I caused any offence to anyone. I hope I will stay married when my husband will land and hear what I did.”

It’s not the first time Mozes has found herself in hot water on Twitter.

In March 2012, Mozes tweeted in response to rocket fire coming from Gaza: “I hope that today they decide to destroy Gaza if they don’t stop shooting. Let them suffer as well,” Vox recalls.

A few months later, when her husband's own Twitter feed was taken over by pro-Hamas hackers, she tweeted: "The murderers have taken over Silvan's Facebook, Twitter and email. Our son Nimrod is trying to salvage. I wish they would die!"

Paul Vale   |   June 18, 2015    6:20 PM ET

NEW YORK -- Following Wednesday’s massacre in Charleston in which 9 people were killed after a gunman opened fire in an historic African-American church, Barack Obama addressed the nation noting that “too many times” he had been forced to make a speech about gun related killings.

Local police took Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white male, into custody on Thursday on suspicion of killing the parishioners and the church's pastor. According to one church member, the suspect used racist language during the attack: “He just said 'I have to do it. You rape our women and you're taking over our country. And you have to go.'"

obama

Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, speaks on the church shooting in Charleston on Thursday, June 18, 2015

Speaking from the White House, the President said, “any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy,” adding that there was something "particularly heartbreaking" about murder in a "place of worship.”

“I’ve had to make statements like this too many times," he noted. “Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times. Once again, communities [were destroyed] because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no problem getting their hands on a gun.”

In a frank assessment of the politics of the gun control, Obama said: “Let’s be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this type of frequency. It is in our power to do something about it. I say that recongising the politics in this town... but it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it.”

dylann roofs

Shooting suspect Dylann Storm Roof, second from left, is escorted from the Shelby Police Department in Shelby, N.C., Thursday, June 18, 2015

Despite repeated massacres, gun control in the US remains a politically immovable issue because the firearms industry, via the National Rifle Association, spends millions of dollars each year funding politicians that defend gun rights. It also donates money to the opponents of politicians that call for greater gun control.

As of Thursday evening, the NRA had not responded to Obama's statement, however Second Amendment defenders were quick to hit Twitter (muskets in hand) to peddle stock lines and conspiracy theories:

And then there was Fox News, who on Thursday morning managed to twist the massacre away from the issue of racism and gun control and turn it into an attack on faith, specifically Christianity. They also asked a pastor if clergymen should be armed.

Despite the killings, recent Pew polls show an increase in the popularity of gun rights in the US. In research published last December, 57 percent of adult respondents said guns “protect people from becoming crime victims.” Only 38 percent said guns “put people’s safety at risk."

SEE ALSO:

Forget the 'Daily Show' Hype, This Is What the Scottish National Party Really Stands For

Simon Phillips-Hughes   |   June 9, 2015    4:32 AM ET

This week Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party and unexpected media star of the UK's recent general election is on a 'charm offensive' tour in the US. The amity of Americans and Scots is natural and well documented; from their shared egalitarian culture, the large numbers of 19th century immigrants to America and the genuine charm tourists experience north of the Border, not just in scenery but in person.

But of course having a lot of time for Scotland is not the same as agreeing with the SNP. For at the center of contemporary Scots nationalism is an anti-English sentiment that overshadows its pro-Scottish credentials, and merges with the anti-Americanism of the far left everywhere. Honestly, these guys make Bernie Sanders look like Rand Paul and Barack Obama look like Ronald Reagan.

Take away the media savvy and cheeky persona and you will uncover SNP hostility to anyone that has the temerity to question their proposals. It is true of the torrent of online hate the famed 'Cybernats' directed at critics of independence like J.K. Rowling or recently departed (and hounded) Scottish Liberal Democrat Charles Kennedy. It is true of their bullying disregard of centuries old protocol in the legislature. It is seen in double-talking reminiscent of Orwell; Nicola Sturgeon reassured an SNP vote in the general election was not one for Scots Independence... right until the 'dramatic' morning after the vote.

Seeing as Sturgeon is in the US, it is topical to underscore the SNP's anti-Americanism, which has made an unlikely return to UK politics by way of Hadrian's Wall (Labour Party spin doctors sensibly eradicated most of this stuff from the British left in the 1980s). The Scottish First Minister is in the US ostensibly to promote links but wants exemptions north of the border to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that would otherwise bind America and European countries closer together.

From their rhetoric on public spending you would think that government is the fountainhead of all that is good, because that is what the far left believes. The rest of us are lucky they let us make the money they spend. Their statist vision for an independent Scotland is the exact opposite of the laissez-faire values that made the US the powerhouse it is, rooted in commerce. Put simply, SNP stalwarts loathe capitalism and its champions.

But it is on the question of defence that this all becomes rather more serious. An independent Scotland would oppose American foreign policy and prevent some of the best units in the British Army from joining their brothers in arms. It's sad enough that Obama's terms have led, paradoxically, to the possible necessity of stationing US cruise missiles in Britain again (and don't worry, we will welcome them). To make matters worse, it has always been the mission of the SNP to disarm Britain of its own Trident submarine system, with targets agreed by the Pentagon and permanently ensconced in the side of Scotland. Vladimir Putin can only be delighted this has come at a time when Finland has put 900,000 reservists on notice and the Poles are breaking out the brick-bats in fear of invasion.

Yet it is this very talk of independence that is most calculated to tug at the heart strings of Americans (and prompted the SNP's Alex Salmond to cry hypocrisy when even Barack came out in favour of the Union). Any analogy with the American experience is false. English soldiers last pacified the Highlands hundreds of years before the Union Army settled the West and a Scot inherited the English throne to unite the kingdoms 150 years before the United States. The Smith commission agreed devolution of powers to Scotland last year that exceeds the federal freedom the Constitution gives States (and which the American left would deny them). And by American standards, the Scottish Government is an elective dictatorship because (McFly, hello!) there is no separation of powers. At least Westminster has the poor old Lords as a check on executive largesse.

In fact, the top-down Jacobite tendency of Scottish politics the SNP represents is a form of frustrated imperialism common to nationalists movements all across Europe, still seething they never became the power Britain did in the 19th century or the US did in the 20th. When Scottish autocracy failed in Nova Scotia, or to make it down to London in 1715 and 1745, they were at the forefront of the oppression of Whig colonists in America a few decades later. And now they are coming again!

So, sure, John Stewart and the NGO crowd should welcome Nicola Sturgeon, share a dram, recognise what a talented politician she is. But that is all she is, and she should leave the hate and the crazy stuff alone at home as much as on her best behaviour stateside.

Paul Waugh   |   June 8, 2015    8:33 AM ET

The five things you need to know on Monday June 8, 2015...


david davis


BACK SACK CRACKS?

David Cameron’s defiant refusal to let ministers campaign for a ‘No’ vote in an EU referendum has certainly sparked a backlash. It’s worth noting his exact words: “If you want to be part of the government you have to take the view that we are engaged in an exercise of renegotiation to have a referendum and that will lead to a successful outcome.”

Lots of papers interpret that as a ‘Back Me or I’ll sack You’ message (the Mail) or at least a ‘Vote for Europe or resign (the Telegraph).

The risk of an historic split or crack in the Tory party has been obvious ever since the PM made his famous Bloomberg speech pledging an In-Out referendum. Many Eurosceps still point out that he would never have made such a pledge without 81 of them rebelling in the Commons.

Still, it’s clear that the PM feels emboldened by his election victory to take on what No.10 calls the ‘irreconcilables’ on the Tory benches. Barack Obama yesterday emerged from his meeting with Cameron sounding like a man who had been reassured that a Yes vote was gonna happen, saying he was ‘looking forward’ to the UK remaining part of the EU.

The new Conservatives for Britain group (note their title is ‘for’ something, not ‘against’ anything, part of the optimistic tone needed for change) has 50 Tories on board and could easily get the 100 Steve Baker expects.

David Davis has been on the Today prog and fired a salvo at the PM, declaring he’s not sure it would be ‘constitutional’ to ban ministers from campaigning for No. He added that Cameron’s position suggests he doesn’t have confidence in the result. "If the only people who will not have the freedom to vote and speak on it are ministers in the government, that is extraordinary and will likely lead to some people resigning from the government." That sounded like we could expect those resignations sooner rather than later.

But the PM is making a calculation that the Cabinet won’t risk their own career prospects by veering off collective responsibility. The Telegraph lists six senior figures it thinks could campaign for Brexit: IDS, Hammond, Javid, Gove, Fallon and Boris. Of that six, I personally reckon only IDS would really walk. Hammond himself was pretty loyal on Marr yesterday, don’t forget.

Boris is the only one with the Tory leadership in his sights. Some of his allies think he would be the perfect leader of a ‘No’ campaign and his words in his maiden last week suggested we could have a ‘glorious’ future outside the EU. Yet people like Douglas Carswell suspect that was all a cunning plan to make any watered down deal look like a great triumph as Boris praises it and gets rewarded with a Cabinet post. In his Tel column today, Bojo was as loyal as ever, saying the PM is making all the running on the EU.

It was left to James Wharton, the EU referendum bill sponsor last term and now a CLG minister (expect cries of ‘traitor’ from some colleagues) to make the Government’s case today. Wharton said ‘I think anything is possible. He’s ruled nothing out.’ But he was firmly loyal on the big question, saying it was ‘reasonable to expect’ ministers to quit if they disagreed with collective responsibility: ‘On big issues like this, we saw this with the Scottish referendum, the government takes a position. If you don’t want to take that position, you then leave.”

The Times splashes on claims that the PM is to lift the campaign limits in a referendum by 40%, from £5m to £7m, fuelling fears that he wants to rig the odds in favour of a (better funded) Yes vote. Still, it’s not clear that the No camp will be outspent.


EXECUTIVE RELIEF

Harriet Harman’s interview with the Independent proves the merits of having an acting leader freed of the cares of permanent office. The most eye-catching quote of all is her claim that even Labour supporters ‘feel relieved that we are not in government’.

This is a welcome ice-cold plunge pool for all those deluded by the 40,000 new extra Labour members signed up since the election, who believe that the nation is striving to get rid of the wicked Cameron administration. Harman’s words are backed up by focus groups from Deborah Mattinson, in which some Labour voters confessed to being ‘ a little bit disappointed and a little bit relieved that Miliband was not in power. Expect Cameron to feast on all this in PMQs this week.

I wonder if Harriet is a secret Liz Kendall supporter? She tells the Indy that she is urging the party to choose the leader who will best connect with voters in 2020, rather than make Labour members “feel glowing about our principles and values.”

Kendall yesterday on Marr was forced onto the defensive about just how much her own prospectus sounds like that of the Conservatives. She refused to condemn outright Osborne’s cuts programme, saying ‘let’s see what the details are’. Asked to answer Yvette Cooper’s charge that she was ‘swallowing’ the Tory manifesto, Kendall said defiantly: “The only thing I have swallowed is the sheer scale of the defeat that we faced at the election and the huge changes we need to win again.”

The gloves are coming off in this race. On Radio 4‘s Week In Westminster on Saturday, the discussion got pretty lively as Kendall backer Simon Danczuk told his party to ‘get real’ and claimed Cooper hadn’t laid a glove on Theresa May. Jess Philips and Louise Haigh made clear they weren’t in politics to ape the Tories.

Cooper at the weekend warned against choosing the ‘new but untested and naive option’‘. Kendall ally John Woodcock, who yesterday said the EdStone should be smashed up, saw that as another attack on his candidate. He tweeted: “Disappointed Yvette attacking @LizforLeader as ‘untested. Seen others over two decades, that’s why I’m backing Liz..Might be put on someone’s blacklist for that, but you know what? We need to turn the page on Labour machine politics and ‘doing people in’.”


SPECIALLY FOR YOU

The ‘special relationship’ between the US and UK was put under strain in Cam’s hour long chat with Obama last night. The President said he hoped Britain would stick to its 2% defence spending target, a warning that the Sun describes as a ‘dressing down’. A No.10 source admits: “President Obama said he thinks the 2% target is important and hoped the UK will continue to meet it”.

The PM was forced to respond by setting out all of the UK’s obligations worldwide - a line he uses a lot whenever this topic comes up - and how it continued to meet them. Cameron insisted the Prez, like everyone else, would have to wait for the comprehensive spending review in the autumn. Watch out for Defence Questions at 2.30pm today. Will ‘Big Vern’ Vernon Coaker hint he backs Kendall’s 2% call?

Meanwhile, the PM is trying to again be creative about overseas aid spending, telling the G7 it could be used to target countries that were the source of migrants heading for the Med.

The Sun has an exclusive that the G7 has quietly dropped its annual progress report on nations htting the 0.7% GDP target. Remember Blair’s Gleneagles summit and all those signatures committing to the target? Well, only Britain hit the figure this year. No wonder some Tory MPs now say the UK is ‘the world’s mug’ on the issue.

Yvette Cooper is today calling for refugee policy to be separated from immigration policy, declaring it’s ‘morally wrong’ to lump them both in the same migration target. That could help her with Labour members.

BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR...

Check out a surprising item on the G7 agenda, courtesy of Patrick Wintour’s Tweet.


CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE

The looming Budget will offer a first glimpse of the comprehensive spending review battles ahead and the £12bn welfare cuts will be the focus for many. With the PM keen not to touch disability benefit and with child benefit having been ruled out categorically, all the chat in Whitehall is about tax credits and housing benefit being the main items on the cuts list. The Sunday Times yesterday said that axeing housing benefit for under-25s and restricting child tax credits to just two children were top of the DWP’s list.

But what’s top of the Treasury’s list? The Indy suggests ministers think cutting tax credits and Universal Credit would be more palatable politically because they are less visible.

A new report from the Resolution Foundation says IDS’s Universal Credit should now go ahead, but with key modifications to further help women’s earnings by increasing work incentives for second earners and lone parents.

EU, JIMMY

The EU referendum bill has its second reading tomorrow and after Labour signalled it wouldn’t oppose the legislation the main stumbling block is the growing row over the voting age.

Senior Lib Dem peer Jim Wallace (aka Lord Wallace of Tankerness and a former Advocate General, dontcha know) has told the Times that many in his party hoped 16 and 17-year-olds would be given the franchise in the referendum. “It’s a matter for the Conservative party to say: really, is it worth getting our heels dug in for this? The clock is ticking.”

Does that mean the clock will tick on the Parliament Act? I’m not so sure it will go that nuclear. The Lib Dems and Labour (Baroness Smith, Labour’s new Shadow Leader of the Lords) made clear yesterday this issue was a big one for her too. But will they really want to dig in, to use Wallace’s own word?

To get round the Salisbury Convention, will both Labour and the Libs use the excuse that the Tory manifesto didn’t explicitly state the voting age? With the SNP determined to help teenagers, Dave will need all his MPs not to wobble in the Commons, but the Lords are the ones who could really delay things.


COMING UP LATER

The Scotland Bill has its second reading. George Osborne is due to meet the SNP's John Swinney today too.

Sol Campbell has chucked his hat in the ring for the Tory mayoral race (he’ll be speaking at the Conservative Way Forward hustings on July 4). The real question is: will Zac Goldsmith go for it or not?

The Telegraph has a story about Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner suggesting lorry drivers could stage ‘sit in’ barbeques on motorways to protest at austerity cuts. Expect Labour leader and deputy leader contenders to be asked about that one.


Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Paul Waugh (paul.waugh@huffingtonpost.com), Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com), Graeme Demianyk (graeme.demianykt@huffingtonpost.com) and Owen Bennett (owen.bennett@huffingtonpost.com)

Louise Ridley   |   June 7, 2015   11:50 PM ET

US President Barack Obama has said that America is "looking forward" to the United Kingdom remaining part of the European Union.

Mr Obama's comments came as he met Prime Minister David Cameron for talks in the margins of the G7 summit of world leaders in Schloss Elmau, Germany.

They are the strongest indication yet that Washington wants a Yes vote in the referendum which Mr Cameron has promised by the end of 2017 on whether Britain should stay in the EU.

obama

Obama and Cameron met at the G7 summit

Greeting Mr Cameron at the start of the bilateral talks, Mr Obama said the US-UK relationship remains strong, telling reporters: "We have no closer partner around the world on a whole host of issues."

And he added: "I would note that one of the great values of having the United Kingdom in the European Union is its leadership and strength on a whole host of global challenges, so we very much are looking forward to the United Kingdom staying part of the European Union because we think its influence is positive not just for Europe, but also for the world."

obama

Obama: "We very much are looking forward..."

Obama's comments come on the same day as Labour leadership contender Liz Kendall criticised the Prime Minister for reducing the question of Britain's future relationship with the EU to the issue of migration.

The shadow health minister accused David Cameron of putting "internal political management" before the national interest.
She described the policy of removing tax credits to migrant workers as "definitely something we should look at" but called for a wider debate on the subject ahead of the referendum in 2017.

Ms Kendall told BBC 1's The Andrew Marr Show: "We do have to deal with the issue of people who come here to work. They must be working and not claiming benefits. But this is about something much bigger - it is about the future of our country and our place in the world.

"David Cameron should be focusing on what is in Britain's national interest and our place in the world, not on internal party politics."

SEE ALSO:

Asked if she was in favour of removing tax credits to migrant workers, she replied: "That's definitely something we should look at, but this is a far bigger debate.

"Of course David Cameron is reducing the question because he has failed to show leadership with his own backbenchers.
"He has allowed this to define whether or not Britain remains part of Europe. That is a profound lack of leadership on his behalf because he is more concerned about internal political management than the future of the country."

Pushed on the migration question again, she added: "I'm in favour of free movement of labour but not free movement of benefits. People who come here should come here to work.

"If we allow this debate to be defined by that issue alone, we will be profoundly wrong. This about Britain's place in the world, our future economy."

She reiterated her support for maintaining the 2% defence spending commitment, adding: "Our place in Europe is essential as part of our wider international relationship."

liz kendal

Kendall speaking on The Andrew Marr Show

Ms Kendall also failed to confirm whether or not she supports the £3 billion of cuts announced by the Chancellor this week.

Asked about the need to cut the deficit, she said: "Let's see what the Conservatives come out with in their budget. I'm not going to provide a budget response to a budget that has not been delivered."

Paul Waugh   |   June 5, 2015    8:40 AM ET

The five things you need to know on Friday June 5 2015...

george osborne


1) CHARITY DOESN’T BEGIN AT HOME

George Osborne was the axeman who cometh yesterday, unveiling £4bn in new savings and lopping £3bn off departmental budgets. But just days after it looked like No.10 was giving the nod to a 10% pay rise for MPs, the timing wasn’t good. Trousering a nice wad at a time of austerity for others isn’t exactly the ‘we’re all in it together’ message the Government wants to project.

And, like zombies from the Thriller video, MPs’ quotes from 2013 - when IPSA first proposed the 10% rise - are being disinterred by hacks and public alike. The Times has dug up this choice morsel from Michael Gove at the time: “Pay rise? They can stick it.” Nicky Morgan this week answered the straight question with a straight answer, suggesting she would donate any rise to charidee,

Chris Grayling’s letter to IPSA yesterday, warning them again not to go ahead with the rise, smelled very much like a U-turn. Only on Tuesday, No10 expressed a surprisingly new tone - at best fatalistic, at worst nonchalant - that if the independent body went ahead with bumper pay rises, well there was not a lot it could do about it.

The Telegraph reveals today that the PM himself told his Cabinet on Tuesday not to make ‘public statements about giving the money to charity or things like that’. That may explain why the PM’s spokesman said that he will take the rise. No.10 hopes the charity question will go away, but it will keep on coming back.

As for the Chancellor, he yet again displayed a Gordon Brown-like gift for theatrics by overshadowing his cuts with the surprise announcement of the Royal Mail sell-off. But the papers aren’t letting him get away with it. The Sun and Telegraph are both unamused about the cuts to the defence budget.


2) REFERENDUM MOMENTUM

It’s the 40th anniversary of the UK’s referendum on membership of the ‘common market’ and matters European abound in the news today. Greece’s cheeky decision to play hardball and withhold a 300m euro debt repayment (which makes the Guardian and FT splashes) is a reminder that this is one can that keeps on being kicked down the road. The Tsipras goverment is muttering darkly that if Brussels and the IMF don’t like it, they can lump it in the form of a snap election or even a referendum.

Greece is the perfect foil for George Osborne’s own austerity plans (look what happens when you don’t get a grip on your debts folks). But David Cameron’s own EU renegotiation and referendum plans continue to meet bumps in the road.
Nigel Lawson last night repeated on Newsnight his belief that any changes Cam gets from Brussels will be ‘inconsequential, of no significance at all’ and that the UK is heading for another ‘Yes’ vote.

Some papers pick up on yet more warm words from Angela Merkel to the BBC that when it comes to treaty change ‘if that is really necessary then we have to consider it’. But she added that she was ‘not losing sleep over this’. That may fuel the suspicions of Eurosceps that little real change is going to happen.

The Mail has a nice tale that the PM is prepping for a Europe referendum as early as May 5 next year. Cameron has overruled the Electoral Commission advice that any vote would clash with elections in Scotland, Wales, English councils and London. The Mail says Tory whips have told MPs that the referendum campaign that could be as short as 16 weeks.

As for Labour tactics in a referendum, don’t forget it is worried about UKIP. The Times pursues reports of the Shadow Cabinet’s splits as people like Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Michael Dugher worry about cosying up to Cameron in a joint Yes campaign. But Alistair Darling tells the paper it would be a ‘massive mistake’ to shun a cross-party effort, adding the SNP tsunami was more about Labour’s own failures than Better Together’s.


3) BETTER THAN AMERICA

It’s not often you can say the UK is doing better than the States. But our employment rate is now higher than the US’s. Indeed if the US had the same rate as us, there would be 10 million more people in jobs over the pond.

A new study by the Resolution Foundation has found that workless family rates in Britain are their lowest for 30 years. The idea that the US is a booming jobs-filled economy while we are a welfare-dependent backsliders has been turned on its head. For all Bill Clinton’s warm words on the issue, American single mothers’ unemployment rates have gone up, not down.

What’s driving the change is the great success Britain has had in getting women into the workplace, thanks to a combination of more childfriendly workplaces, tax credits, schemes to get lone parents into employment.

Writing for HuffPostUK, Gavin Kelly warns that any attempt to cut tax credits could undermine all the good work done since the 1990s. Note that Ed Miliband put down a clear marker yesterday that he would oppose cuts to tax credits and any “harsh brutal and brutalising” welfare reforms.

But the Resolution Foundation analysis is also sure to be seized on by Iain Duncan Smith’s team as proof that he’s making a difference in getting people off welfare into work. Indeed many Republicans in the US are looking closely at how the UK has pulled off its transformation. Paul Ryan has told IDS that ‘you’re ten years ahead of us, but that’s where we should be heading’.


BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR...

Check out this cute pic of Barack Obama and a White House ‘rugrat’.

Also, watch Damian Collins’ YouTube video promoting his bid to be chairman of the DCMS Select Committee. It’s a digital first alright, featuring Prince Harry and even Alan Rusbridger. Most MPs prefer discreet chats in the tea room or Portcullis House (and the lobbying has been fierce this week) but you can’t fault his transparency.


4) SECOND STAGE LABOUR

Ed Miliband’s self-deprecating speech yesterday was well received by by all sides of the House (Tory backbenchers came up to him afterwards to praise him). But it was also a reminder of the need to move on.
Yvette Cooper is in Scotland today, the first Labour leadership contender to enter the lion’s den. She’s citing her Inverness born roots and work for John Smith. Will it be enough to counter what could be a very rough ride? Her camp is certainly pleased at the way she responded to Prince Charles’s spider letters, compared to Andy Burnham’s more deferential tone.
The Guardian meanwhile is continuing to look back on Labour’s election campaign woes. It reports that Miliband’s decision to insert a new front page to the party manifesto - for a fiscal responsibility ‘lock’ - caused uproar among some. Jon Cruddas and Angela Eagle were kept out of the loop and Jon Trickett was furious that this all came after the Clause V meeting to approve the manifesto.
“In the end, the document was subordinated to a statement about a programme of austerity,” he says. Sounds like the party still hasn’t sorted out just where it wants to go on this central issue.
In the Deputy Leader race, Tom Watson is stepping up the pace. His website is offering the prize of tickets to the London Fashion Week show of celeb designer Katie Eary - in return for a £10 donation to his campaign.


5) SOCIAL MEDIA BEHAVIOUR ORDERS

The NSPCC has hit hard at Facebook’s decision not to remove a clip from its site showing a "terrified, sobbing baby" being repeatedly dunked into a bucket of water. David Cameron has called out Facebook before about terror posts, will he do so again today?

Over in the US, there’s been a huge hack of Government workers’ details. But the whole issue of what can and can’t be done to govern the online space is a tricky one.

John McAfee has been on the Today prog criticising the UK’s plans to let security agencies access data held by US web giants. Yet the Indy picks up on a quiet announcement yesterday that Whitehall has unveiled its very first contract to
monitor what people Tweet, post and blog about the Government. Five firms have been approved to keep an eye on Facebook, Twitter and blogs and provide daily reports to Whitehall on what’s being said in “real time”. Ministers, their advisers and officials will provide the firms with “keywords and topics” to monitor. The lovely-sounding Human-Driven Evaluation and Analysis system that will allow them to see “favourability of coverage” across old and new media. You have been warned.


Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Paul Waugh (paul.waugh@huffingtonpost.com), Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com), Graeme Demianyk (graeme.demianykt@huffingtonpost.com) and Owen Bennett (owen.bennett@huffingtonpost.com)