Tag Archives: mass

Schoolkids know the score: reopening all schools in England will infect the nation with Covid-19

“Perfectly safe”: this photo was taken on a school staircase after Boris Johnson ruled that it was “perfectly safe” for children to go back there in September – no social distancing, no PPE… not safe at all. Now he is planning to do it all again, with infection rates nearly seven times higher than when this image was made.

Boris Johnson loves announcing big plans without giving us the facts and figures behind them, and he has done it again with school reopening.

How humiliating for him that it has been up to school pupil Jamal Elaheebocus to explain that when schools were recklessly reopened in June last year, one in 1,100 people were infected with Covid-19. When they were recklessly reopened in September, this had fallen to one in 2,000.

In mid-February, the infection rate was one in 115 people. It is hoped this will have fallen to one in 300 but that is nearly seven times more than in September last year – and look how that turned out!

Jamal reminds us of a few more uncomfortable truths:

the prevalence of the virus in communities remains high. As Johnson himself admitted on January 4, schools are vectors of transmission.

To any of us working or studying in schools, the reasons why schools are hotspots for infection are obvious.

Fitting thirty students and a teacher in a classroom makes social distancing impossible, overcrowded buildings means that several year groups who are separate bubbles then mix together.

Students are then packed on buses and trains to get home, spreading infection not only among themselves but among the wider public as well.

The latest data from Imperial’s React programme showed that 5 to 12 year olds had the second highest infection rate of any age group. Given this, there is no doubt that schools will increase the infection rate again. The difference this time is that infection rates will be much higher.

While the vaccine may help limit the rise in infection to an extent, infection rates will undoubtedly increase. This is a reckless gamble just to get children into schools for three weeks before Easter holidays.

Yes.

So why is Johnson doing it?

This was inevitable, thanks to the pressure from the mainstream media and Keir Starmer.

How low Labour has sunk! Its leader is now counted among those responsible for inflicting an inevitable increase in Covid-19 infections on the UK – yet again. People will die because Starmer did this.

Yes, some of the arguments in favour of re-opening schools have influence – but only because prolonged closures have placed pupils at the mercy of the Tories’ neoliberal system – one that Starmer wholeheartedly supports.

The combined incompetence of the government and the cruelty of the neoliberal system has meant many kids have missed out on free school meals, families are struggling to cope in overcrowded homes and kids have not been able to access online learning because of lack of access to a laptop or good broadband.

Lockdown has been made so difficult for school pupils because of the government’s decision to continue to punish the poorest in society. It is a disgrace that the Tories and the right-wing media are attempting to manipulate the stress and hardship and use it to back up their reckless campaign to open up society and let the virus run rampage.

It is a disgrace.

And the Tories’ adherence to the neoliberal system that demands minimal investment for maximum return (to the very, very rich) means that the reopening will be done on the cheap.

Jamal proposes a series of measures to make schools safe – or at least safer. None of them have been supported – or even mentioned – by Boris Johnson because they cost money.

Teachers should be prioritised for the vaccine since they will be mixing with such a large number of people. This should have been done months ago and as more and more of the clinically vulnerable and elderly are vaccinated, there is no reason not to now prioritise teachers.

There should also be plans to repurpose public buildings as classrooms or put money into new buildings on school sites to facilitate social distancing in classrooms and allow for proper separation of year group bubbles.

Supply teachers and newly-qualified teachers who are not employed can be utilised to allow for smaller class sizes and more social distancing.

The vaccine is not the cure-all that Johnson and his cronies have claimed. It wont protect you as fully as you think, and it won’t protect as many people as you think.

And, of course, it has only been applied to a minority of the population – on a first-dose basis.

How sad that Johnson is so keen to prolong the UK’s Covid-19 agony, just to please his backbenchers, the baying hounds of the mass media… and Keir Starmer.

Source: A school student speaks: 8 March ‘big bang’ reopening just isn’t safe – Counterfire

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There’s a good reason we shouldn’t all take vaccines that have Tony Blair’s support!

Tony Blair: He might look tight-lipped in this image but when he opens his mouth, he’s dangerous.

New Labour has-been and alleged war criminal Tony Blair has been trying to be relevant again.

His fan club has been singing his praises after he announced an outline plan of what Boris Johnson’s government should be doing during it’s four-week November lockdown in England.

And fair play to him – at least he has a plan. Johnson’s will be to give even more of your money to private-enterprise ‘test, track and trace’ snake-oil charlatans who won’t deliver anything and wait for herd immunity to kick in, no matter how many people die before it does.

Here’s Blair’s plan:

What a shame it falls down in the details!

You see, the vaccines he wants to deploy have not been proven safe – or even particularly effective – yet, and look at the kind of people supporting him on it:

(Tom Harwood writes for the odious Guido Fawkes Tory-support blog. If he’s supporting Tony Blair, what does that make Blair?)

This is Blair’s perennial problem. He comes out with these grand overarching schemes, but the minutiae let him down.

For instance, do you remember when he said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)?

In fact, Iraq destroyed its chemical weapons stockpile and halted its biological and nuclear weapon programs in 1991, more than a decade before Blair made the speech quoted above.

But the UK still went to war in Iraq – and that’s why many of us want to see Blair tried in The Hague for war crimes.

Looking at it objectively, would you put your health in the hands of this reckless cowboy?

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Typical: After the Extinction Rebellion protests, Jeremy Corbyn is the only leader who listened

“Tell the truth”: The ‘pink boat’ at Oxford Circus became a symbol of the Extinction Rebellion protest.

It turns out Michael Gove didn’t “get the message” after all.

The nation’s Environment Secretary has done nothing to respond to the environmental catastrophe highlighted by the Extinction Rebellion protests in London over the last two weeks.

Instead it has fallen to Jeremy Corbyn – much-maligned by dimwits – to bring the matter to Parliament for a vote.

I was talking about this issue with a friend last week, and he said that people here in the United Kingdom think they are insulated from climate crisis – that we live in a society that is well-enough ordered that it can survive an emergency. That they didn’t “get the message” either.

Because if the climate emergency goes much further, supplies of food will break down. Crops will fail; even more animals will die (half of the world’s species have already gone, within This Writer’s lifetime).

Even here in the UK, my friend said, people will be fighting each other on the streets for the last precious morsels of food.

That’s if this goes too far.

The message to humanity is simple: Change or die.

But people like Mr Gove, and the big business interests he prefers to represent instead of the people who elected him, still need to “get the message”.

Perhaps it is time to put the “rebellion” into the name of Extinction Rebellion.

Perhaps it is time to make a list of the people who are perpetuating the climate catastrophe; the people responsible for the planet’s sixth extinction event (which is what we’re going through right now). They are the worst mass-murderers in history so we really do need to record their names in our history books.

And perhaps it is time to put them up against a wall and put the message to them in the bluntest, most immediate terms: “Change or die.”

I know. It’s an unusual comment for This Writer. Usually I am the strongest advocate of peaceful methods. But “Change or die” – right?

Perhaps we could start with Mr Gove.

Labour will force a vote on Wednesday to try to make the UK the world’s first country to declare a climate emergency.

Senior party figures confirmed they will use their opposition day in the Commons to move the environment to the top of the agenda.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Extinction Rebellion protests in London and other cities, in which 1,100 were arrested, had been a “wake up call” and he would urge the Government to act.

He said: “Only concerted government intervention through a Green Industrial Revolution can deliver this scale of change. We can and will harness the power of new technologies for social and environmental justice.”

Extra: Here are a few more names to add to the list – the leaders of the company that has been given oil-drilling rights in the Golan Heights by Israel, which has been illegally occupying this part of Syria for decades.

Here they are:

That’s Genie Energy: Dick Cheney, Rupert Murdoch, James Woolsey, Bill Richardson, Larry Summers, Michael Steinhardt and Jacob Rothschild.

Hmm. A Rothschild – the name that has become synonymous with the anti-Semitic stereotype about Jews being in control of the world’s money, or some such nonsense.

Do you think he’s on that board so its critics can be accused of anti-Semitism?

Source: Labour wants UK to be first country in the world to declare climate emergency – Mirror Online


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Mass resignation from Trump’s arts and humanities committee contains a hidden message

Donald Trump [Image: Reuters].

I think it’s long enough after the events for This Writer to admit that I used to put acrostics into some of the stories I wrote in newspapers.

An acrostic is a hidden message in a larger text, in which some letters are used to form words – most commonly the first letter in each paragraph.

I wrote acrostics into my stories as an act of rebellion if I was being asked to produce what are known as “puff” pieces – publicity for third parties that have no news value – or if an editor had asked me to obscure the real news value in favour of an angle that was not appropriate. Some of the words I used were very salty indeed but I knew that very few people would realise what I was doing.

Check out the word spelt out by the first letters in each paragraph of the following letter, in which multiple members of Donald Trump’s arts and humanities committee walk out on him:

“Resist.”

Please do, America.


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As war between mass media and social media heats up, Facebook comes out for the corporations

Following the announcement that it will prioritise corporate news media over the social media, Facebook is in the wrong group in this image.

 

No doubt some of you will say this should be no surprise, but it is worth spreading the word – otherwise the corporations will win without you knowing it.

Remember when This Site reported that Facebook has altered its algorithms in order to push social media posts down your News Feed, in an attempt to deny you access to the articles you want to read while keeping you unaware of the fact? Refresh your memory here.

Yesterday This Site commented on a Guardian article that attempted to justify the mainstream press and trash the social media. I said trying to send us back to sleep was not the answer and the newspaper – which is struggling financially – should take a leaf out of our book and encourage people to get awake, aware and critical.

The Graun piece was partly inspired by a clip of “professional controversialist” and member of Justice4Grenfell, Ismahil Blagrove, tearing metaphorical strips off a Sky News reporter who was sent to cover the aftermath of the blaze.

Mr Blagrove makes many good points about the mainstream media in this clip, from June 26, which hasn’t received anything like enough attention [WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE]:

Now Facebook has doubled down on its betrayal of the social media – for whom it is the most popular platform but has become the main betrayer – by announcing publicly that it will support corporate “news” (and I put that word in quotation marks for a reason) over the social media.

Here’s how Redacted Tonight covered that particular story. It’s an American organisation but the message applies just as much to people in any other nation.

The publicity blurb for this piece reads: “Facebook announced it would give priority to “fast-loading” media, but what does that really mean?? It means billions of people will be fed mostly corporate and mainstream media on Facebook. They will be far less likely to see alternative voices.”

Here it is [AGAIN, BE WARNED: STRONG LANGUAGE]:

The writing may be on the Facebook wall but it won’t be seen if Mark Zuckerberg’s minions have their way.

We need strategies to deal with this; to continue getting our messages out to people who want to know what’s really going on in the world but aren’t savvy enough to know how to find our work.

Putting messages at the end of our articles (or the beginning) calling for readers to subscribe to our sites won’t be enough; too few people will. We need a better plan.

I’m open to suggestions.


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Ridicule of May’s #Brexit speech shows her weakness – and that of her supporters in the press

The front page of German newspaper Die Welt after Theresa May’s Brexit speech. The cover blurb, translated, says: “Prime Minister Theresa May leads Great Britain into isolation”.

Confession time: On Tuesday afternoon I had a brilliant idea to contrast the reaction to Theresa May’s Brexit speech – as provided by her supporters in the right-wing press – with the response from real people on the social media, and from the press and politicians in other countries, inside and outside the EU.

I would have published comments about different parts of her speech next to each other, with a ‘pro’ comment following an ‘anti’ remark, to demonstrate the strengths – or weaknesses – of each view. Good idea, right?

There’s only one problem: It’s impossible.

The amount of commentary coming in is like an avalanche, and with new stories happening all the time – plus real-life pressures here at Vox Towers – there simply isn’t enough time in the day.

So, with apologies, I’ll just have to settle for publishing the comments I’ve collected against Mrs May below – all in a jumble – and ask you to pick your own choices from the right-wing gibberish we’ve seen in the likes of the Daily Mail.

Shall we begin?

“From professing a tepid and bashful Europeanism when she was Home Secretary under David Cameron, [Theresa May] now supports a shameful, xenophobic nationalism… The nub of her 12-point programme is this exclusion of the UK from the market of 500 million consumers, which will fall to 65 million, plus those Britain can add through new trade deals – something hypothetical and difficult for a country which after four decades has lost experience in this arena outside the Union. Everything in May’s speech grated. The promise of a “positive” accord is fallacious. It is not positive to spurn European citizens, nor to discriminate against residents. Nor does it make sense to threaten the Europeans with whom she will have to negotiate over the next two years.” Spanish newspaper El Pais.

“Theresa May is ready to turn the UK into a low-tax, low-regulation haven after Brexit, her spokesperson confirmed today”. There was more. “Asked whether the prime minister backed comments made by the Chancellor Philip Hammond that the UK could be forced to abandon its ‘European economy with European style taxation’ her spokesperson said she ‘stands ready to do so’”.  UK Business Insider

“May will make clear that the UK will default to slashing taxes and regulation if we don’t agree an acceptable trade deal with the EU – in other words she will say ‘be nice or it’s commercial war’”. Robert Peston

Any Trades Union that backed Brexit must now know they have been had for mugs. Their members are set to be royally shafted. As to all those working class voters UKIP has been targeting – they will feel the full force of being made even more flexible, even more disposable, even less protected than before. Tim Fenton

Leaving the single market and turning the UK into a low-tax, low-regulation island off the coast of continental Europe may be how many Tory Brexiteers see our future — but for anyone who relies on the protections at work, who relies on public services or who provides those services, that would be a disaster. No-one voted to leave the EU to weaken their rights at work. Dave Prentis, Unison

https://twitter.com/Barkercartoons/status/821450379053375488

Announcing that Britain will inevitably leave the single market, before the negotiations have even begun, is a disaster for the British economy. Accepting that immigration must trump all other concerns, whatever the cost, is a political failure. Suggesting that Britain may walk away from negotiations with no deal at all — as May has done — shows an astonishing lack of ambition. Niamh Ni Mhaoileoin, Left Foot Forward

For months, May has promised ‘the best deal for the United Kingdom’, but instead she’s delivered this. It’s a plan that — by her own admission https://www.theguardian.com/politics/video/2016/oct/25/theresa-may-private-brexit-warning-speech-to-goldman-sachs-audio — will leave the country materially worse off. We have to assume that some of her ambitions — like associate membership of the customs union — will never actually be achieved. Niamh Ni Mhaoileoin

“I did not really get it out of this speech that she wants to give up something. It was a little bit like cherry picking. So to speak: you can’t eat a cake without paying for it.” Michael Fuchs, senior advisor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel

“A hardline approach to Brexit may hold the Conservative party together, but it could rip Britain apart. And if we continue on this path – towards a hard Brexit – we risk having to explain to future generations why we knowingly put their economy, their prosperity and their place on the world stage in such peril.” Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

https://twitter.com/pauljholden/status/821509402440171520

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Facebook ‘fake news’ tools risk being abused by the ‘fake news’ brigade

Does nobody at Facebook think before putting a bad idea into practice?

The bosses of the world’s largest social network, stung by accusations that it has been used to peddle ‘fake news’ stories, have rushed new measures onto the site to flag up offenders and potentials.

So an option entitled “It’s a fake news story” has been added to the site’s reporting feature, where people can report spam or offensive messages.

What happens to messages that are reported in such a way? Are they automatically blocked, or what?

Because, you know, Vox Political isn’t a news site – it’s a blog – but I occasionally run stories that are news, generated here. The Freedom of Information story on the deaths of benefit claimants was such a story.

Would Facebook block such a story – a legitimate story – from reaching the public if, say, a right-wing hate-propagandist pushed the button marked “It’s a fake news story”?

The “Disputed” stories option is better. This would refer stories that people claim are fake to third-party fact-checkers, who must sign up to a code of principles.

This could work – if the fact-checkers are adequately vetted and if the source of the story is contacted to provide evidence.

Facebook is also considering attempts to discover if people who read a story but do not share it with friends have been misled by it in some way – I also have doubts about this idea.

Lots of people read Vox Political stories but don’t share them. It’s very frustrating when I want to get something out to the world at large, but it’s also democracy in action. People read it but didn’t think it was worth bothering their friends with the link. Fair enough.

Now, Facebook is suggesting this lack of interest should be an accusation. That can’t be right.

And there’s a possibility Facebook may penalise websites that try to mimic major publishers or mislead readers into thinking they are a well-known news source – but how do you get to be a well-known news source?

Couldn’t this be used by the mass media moguls to keep the new social media pioneers down?

That’s how it seems to This Writer.

How long do you reckon it will be before somebody flags a VP story as fake? I’ll be surprised if it hasn’t happened already.

Source: Fake news: Facebook rolls out new tools to tackle false stories – BBC News

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The DWP has been silencing news stories that criticise its policies – here’s the proof

The DWP closely monitors media output, and compiles a “sentiment of articles” chart every month to make sure that they receive positive coverage.

The DWP closely monitors media output, and compiles a “sentiment of articles” chart every month to make sure that they receive positive coverage.

Ministers have been doing their best to pretend that they never do anything wrong – and have then done their best to hide the fact that this is what they’re doing.

Doesn’t that tell you everything you need to know about the DWP?

Officers for the Department claimed that the information was “commercially sensitive”, of all things.

That just leads one to ask why. What commercial contracts would this information prejudice?

Clearly the Information Commissioner was not convinced by whatever argument the DWP produced, because we have our information now.

This Blog is one of the social media sources that offers almost exclusively negative coverage of the Department for Work and Pensions, and it is interesting to note how the DWP treated one of my biggest stories.

In August 2015 the DWP “proactively briefed” the media about the long-awaited statistics which showed the amount of ESA claimants who had died after being found fit for work.

I had no way of knowing this at the time, but this action was successful in ‘spiking’ coverage in the FT (whose editors should have known better), the Express (this is more understandable) and on ITV.

The DWP’s commentary stated that the most critical initial coverage of the statistics misrepresented their details. This was because the DWP had done its best to present them in a manner that would be misunderstood. Still, it was able to secure corrections in the Grauniad and the Mirror which weakened the story.

We are left with a clear message: The DWP is more concerned with distorting the facts – or preventing them from being known at all – than with the facts themselves.

It does not matter to Conservative ministers that their policies have killed thousands of people.

They just want to make sure nobody finds out about it.

Following a 13 month battle, the DWP have finally been forced to release secret documents illustrating the tactics they use to control and manipulate the media.

The documents reveal that the DWP monitors and analyses both mainstream and social media to reduce and manage negative coverage.

And even more worryingly, the documents show the DWP have managed to kill hundreds of stories by making sure that they are not reported.

Almost every month since March 2014 the DWP communications team has produced “Media Evaluation Reports” detailing the ways and methods that the DWP controls negative stories about them in the media.

The reports give valuable insight into a department that is unhealthily focused on the press coverage [it receives].

The fact that they have managed to kill so many stories that they don’t approve of raises serious questions as to how the department is exercising its influence over the free press.

The role of journalism is to bring people the truth behind the DWP’s rhetoric, not to act as the chief mouthpiece for it.

Source: Secret DWP Documents Prove They Silenced The Media From Running Stories They Didn’t Approve Of | EvolvePolitics.com

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Corbyn explains how media helped campaign – and tried to harm his family

150913CorbynNewLeader

It seems Jeremy Corbyn decided to run for the Labour leadership only after LBC Radio’s Iain Dale suggested it, Vox Political can reveal in the second part of its media roundup of Mr Corbyn’s victory.

The station’s website proclaimed: “Iain suggested he should run, saying: ‘In all seriousness, someone from your side of the party – John McDonnell has done this before.

“‘Someone who is not seen as New Labour or anything like it. I think it would actually enhance the debate.

“‘I don’t know who it would be apart from yourself – we’ll put the thought in your mind, and take full credit if you do decide to run.’

“And speaking a month later, Mr Corbyn gave Iain full credit for putting the idea in his mind.”

But The Independent chose to highlight the abuse thrown at Mr Corbyn, his family and friends, by the media. He alluded to this in his acceptance speech, and the newspaper stated: “He has been accused of being an anti-Semite, a racist and was also accused of failing to act on child abuse allegations in his Islington constituency.

“Those are just some of the allegations that have been levelled against him in the media and even by some of his fellow Labour MPs, who have attempted to persuade people against voting for the far-left MP in a bitter, three-month leadership contest.”

Speaking the day before his historic victory, Mr Corbyn was reported to have said: “As nasty and unpleasant [as] much of the stuff printed is and remains and is deeply hurtful to my wife, family and close friends, we’re not responding in any way; we don’t do that kind of politics.”

In The Guardian, Labour MP John Woodcock said the time had now come for supporters of Labour’s various factions to stop infighting and get behind the new leader.

“If we are to move on from here, then we must recognise how damaging it has been for Labour people, who have all basically wanted the same thing, to have knocked lumps out of each other for 20 years,” he wrote.

Ironically, at the time of writing, those words appear right next to a box declaring: “Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson suggests he’ll oppose Jeremy Corbyn over scrapping Trident.”

It seems some of us haven’t got the message yet…

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Corbyn’s win: Social media roundup

Victorious: Jeremy Corbyn.

Victorious: Jeremy Corbyn.

This Writer did not stick around for all the punditry after Jeremy Corbyn’s history landslide win of the Labour Party leadership. I went shopping with Mrs Mike instead. Times may be hard but groceries won’t wait.

Judging from the BBC’s coverage, I wasn’t going to miss much. Norman Smith – who managed to make Ed Miliband look good and be branded a “pillock” with a silly question during the general election campaign – showed he hadn’t learned any lessons by spouting babble about Corbyn being out within a year. If that was the quality of the immediate reactions, then Yr Obdt Srvt was better-occupied buying toilet bowl cleaner.

On my return, I found that some social – as well as mass – media commentators had started to express opinions. The first I saw was by Corbyn’s fellow left-winger, Michael Meacher MP: “With four contestants in the running, to achieve 60 per cent of the leadership vote in the first round is an outright landslide.

“Jeremy Corbyn has secured a higher percentage than Blair got in 1994. Even more significant, Corbyn’s electorate at 554,272 was more than double Blair’s, and no less than 76 per cent of them actually voted, a higher percentage turnout than Blair got. And another pointer to the overwhelming inspiration that Corbynmania achieved – no less than 160,000 volunteers were recruited to the Corbyn campaign – far, far bigger than in any similar campaign in the past.”

Why this fixation on Tony Blair? Because Blair’s arrival marked the beginning of huge – and controversial – changes in the Labour Party, changes that were famously applauded by Margaret Thatcher (think on that). Corbyn’s landslide gives him a mandate to change Labour even more radically than Blair – back to what it should be.

No wonder Mr Meacher was delighted: “This is a seminal day in British politics, marking the coming together of the two great conditions needed for transformational change – radical new ideas and a burgeoning social movement on the scale required to push through major change.”

The Daily Mirror was next to attract This Writer’s attention, claiming that the Tories were salivating at the thought of Corbyn as leader: “They see a serial rebel who will not be able to command any loyalty, a man whose foreign policy interventions involve greeting Hamas as ‘friends’ and a leader who will drag his party further from the centre ground.”

The reference to Hamas is of course to a term he used as a matter of politeness, rather than as a description of his feelings – as anybody who has researched the issue will know.

“You can add to the charge sheet his stance on Trident (against renewal), his association with anti-austerity organisations and, horror of horrors, his Republicanism.”

But the Mirror added: “Voters in the Labour leadership were attracted to Corbyn because of his authenticity. His views are obviously not to everyone’s taste but people admire the way he articulates them with sincerity,” before saying he needs to show he can reach out beyond Labour’s reservation(if this means the Labour Party itself, that party is now greatly expanded, thanks merely to his candidacy).

Tories who think Labour moving left will allow them to take the centre ground should think again, the paper says, as “when one party moves further towards its heartlands, the other finds itself pushing equally forcefully, like two repelling magnets, in the other direction”. A far-right Tory Party is unelectable, of course.

Also: “David Cameron, while he is Prime Minister, will no longer have the comfort of working with a leader of the opposition pliable on issues of foreign policy and military intervention.

“Cameron and Osborne will also have to make the case anew for their anti-austerity agenda against an opponent who has been surprisingly articulate when it comes to setting out an alternative agenda.”

More was to follow…

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