Author Archives: NewsHound

Carmichael: PM can’t be allowed to rewrite election law in his favour

In the Times Red Box yesterday, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alastair Carmichael said a functioning liberal democracy relies just as much on self-restraint as on the wielding of power while in government.

Recently found to have hypocritically broken his own laws, a populist authoritarian leader now seeks to curb the right to protest and rewrite election law to favour his party.

No, it’s not the latest press filing out of Hungary or Venezuela – it is the rushed final week of parliament before prorogation, as the lawbreaking prime minister Boris Johnson looks to rewrite the law to his own benefit.

Amongst a rogues’ gallery of questionable measures in contention, one of the most egregious is the government plan to bend the Electoral Commission to its will, by imposing Conservative-mandated priorities. This would utterly undermine the independence of our elections regulator.

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Dodds: GPs could be forced to leave Wales

Yesterday in the Senedd, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds requested that the Welsh Government issues a statement on the possibility that 80 or 160 overseas trainee GPs in Wales may be forced to leave the country.

The request came as the Lib Dems revealed that across the border in England, 6.2 million people waited over eight days for a GP appointment in February, up 9 per cent on the previous month.

A report by the Welsh BMA GPs committee earlier this year highlighted that current Home Office rules implemented by Priti Patel and the Conservatives mean that individuals must have worked for five years under a Skilled Workers Visa in order to be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILTR).

This could result in 80 out of this year’s 160 GP trainees in Wales not being eligible to stay in the country under ILTR because of limited work opportunities at Welsh GP practices that serve as established Skilled Worker visa sponsors.

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Vote for Gerry the Springer

There are lots of elections going on at the moment, with Lib Dems across the country campaigning hard to hold and gain council seats.

There is another competition going on , however. Voting is open for Holyrood’s Dog of the Year. If you like dogs and want a wonderful way to take a break, spend some time reading about all the canine participants. We can guarantee you will fall in love with at least one of the contenders. They are all wonderful.

The sole Lib Dem entrant is Gerry, the cleverly named Springer Spaniel who owns Liam McArthur, our Orkney MSP.

Gerry is by far the most bonkers of any of the participants and delights readers of Liam’s social media.

His entry on the Dog of the Year site says:

What are your favourite characteristics of your dog?

Nose down, tail up, Gerry the Springer is never happier than when he’s on a scent. With ears that can pick up Sky TV and help him seemingly levitate, as well as his impersonation of a ‘busted sofa’ when asleep, Gerry has melted hearts across social media.

Gerry is an adored member of the McArthur family and much loved in the constituency office offering TheraPet sessions on Mondays and Fridays for staff and often constituents too.

How does your dog enhance your day to day life?

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Leaseholders still at risk of having to pay huge sums for cladding replacement

We don’t often reference the Daily Mail here on LDV. But this week they published a generally supportive article (with photos of both Ed Davey and Hina Bokhari): Campaigners call for more help for cladding-hit flat owners and a proper overhaul of leaseholds after latest vote on Building Safety Bill.

Leaseholders across the country, particularly in cities with high rise blocks of flats, are concerned that they will have to pay for the replacement of dangerous cladding.

The Government insists that leaseholders are protected from the costs of dangerous buildings.

Earlier this year, the Secretary of State for Housing Michael Gove said leaseholders ‘are blameless, and it is morally wrong that they should be the ones asked to pay the price’.

However, recent Government amendments to the Building Safety Bill include some caveats, meaning many leaseholders could still have to pay life-changing sums for the remediation work.

A recent survey by the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign of more than 2,200 properties in buildings over 11 metres suggested that 64 per cent of leaseholders outside of London and 83 per cent of leaseholders in London will not be protected from all costs to fix non-cladding fire safety defects.

The item includes a photo of Ed Davey addressing the rally outside Parliament earlier this week and two further ones of London Assembly member Hina Bokhari with protesters. Hina is quoted at length:

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Farron: Sewerage bill moves to second reading

Last night, Tim Farron presented a Lib Dem bill on controlling sewerage charges. MPs agreed to allow the bill to progress and its second reading will be on 6 May after Farron said:

Our lakes and rivers are our natural treasures, yet water company bosses are degrading those natural treasures to keep a hold of their own treasure. Last year, the water companies made profits of £2.7 billion and paid out £27 million in bonuses. Their chief executives earn seven-figure sums, yet they are free by law to preside over enormous numbers of dangerous discharges that damage our environment and our wildlife, and are a threat to human life, too.

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Olney letter: Suicide risk assessment must be improved

Sarah Olney, MP for Richmond Park, and Steve Mallen, co-founder of the Zero Suicide Alliance are the lead signatories in an open letter to Sajid Javid published in yesterday’s Times. Olney and national charities have teamed up with Philip Pirie whose son Tom, a young teacher, took his own life a day after a counsellor determined that he was at “low risk” of suicide.

An average of 17 people a day took their own lives in 2020. An average of five of these were in touch with mental health services and four out of those five had been assessed as “low” or “no” risk. Standardised risk assessment tools are poor predictors of suicide. Yet despite NICE guidance saying such assessments should not be used they are still commonplace.

 

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Local elections: ‘It will be tough for us’

In the Guardian, deputy political editor Rowena Mason, gave the lowdown on the Lib Dem local election campaign launch in Merton.

“This set of local elections is about gaining and building on ‘footholds’ where the Lib Dems are strong in nearby areas, says one of the party’s senior electoral strategists… The Lib Dems are feeling chipper after surprise byelection wins at Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire. They believe this test at the local elections in places like Wimbledon will show they have the potential to break new electoral ground in 2023-24.

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Cooper: NHS rocked by mental health tidal wave

The Liberal Democrats have warned the NHS is at breaking point after new figures uncovered a mental health crisis sweeping through staff across health services in the UK.

A Freedom of Information Request tabled by the Party to all NHS Hospital Trusts has revealed that there have been at least 8.3 million mental health sick days since 2017.

The number of mental health sick days has increased every year since 2017, with some Trusts seeing large increases during the pandemic years.

The terrible revelations show that in 2021 alone more than 2 million days were taken off sick by staff suffering from mental health issues – the equivalent of 6,041 years. Liberal Democrat analysis of the data taken from 67 Hospital Trusts shows that Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust has been hit, with a staggering 591,254 working days lost to mental illness.

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Davey on Partygate: “Our prime minister just doesn’t get it”

Ed Davey has been busy appearing almost everywhere in the media in the last two days. This morning alone, Davey has spoken to BBC R4, BBC 5 Live, BBC Breakfast and Sky News. In this article, Newshound covers the interviews on Radio 4’s Today programme and BBC Breakfast.

On Today, Davey said that he was right to criticise the police originally. They changed their policy on the investigation and have since done the job well. The country is in crisis with the cost of living emergency and Ukraine. The prime minister and chancellor were dishonest. The trust in them that is vital during a crisis has gone. They should resign. The government’s got an appalling record on the economy and now they’ve broken their own laws.

These themes were picked on BBC Breakfast, when Ed Davey also spoke with passion about families not being able to see their families for five minutes when they were dying, yet the prime minister could party for five minutes. Davey also spoke emotionally about the plight of Ukrainian refugees, saying a new leadership could be true to the compassion and generosity the British on refugees rather than imposing paperwork.

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Good polling news ahead of May local elections

In May, local elections will take place across Scotland and Wales and in many areas of England.

In a Savanta ComRes poll of 2,203 UK adults commissioned by the Lib Dems, one in five traditional Tory voters said the 1.25 per cent rise in National Insurance could put them off supporting the Conservatives. Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said Rishi Sunak has shown he is more conman than Conservative and the hike in will lead to voters taking  their fury to the ballot box in May.

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Jardine bill to force Sunak to reveal family tax arrangements

The Liberal Democrats have drawn up draft legislation to force the Chancellor and any other government ministers to reveal whether they or their spouses claim non-domiciled status or have holdings in overseas tax havens.

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Christine Jardine MP has drafted the Ministerial Tax Residency Status Bill and will present it to the House of Commons once Parliament has returned from Easter recess.

It was recently revealed that Rishi Sunak was listed as a beneficiary of tax haven trusts set up in the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands and held by his wife Akshata Murthy – just days after it emerged she was using her non-domiciled status to avoid paying taxes in the UK.

Ed Davey has written to the Cabinet Secretary and to Lord Geidt, the Prime Minister’s Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests, calling on them to investigate whether Sunak has broken the Ministerial Code.

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Chamberlain: We won’t end homelessness with the same old ineffective solutions

In the Times Red Box yesterday, Wendy Chamberlain tackled the continuing issue of homelessness, especially in rural areas.

When asked to think about homelessness, it’s easy to conjure up a mental image of a man, sleeping in a doorway, somewhere in the centre of a big city. When the media reports on homelessness, that’s the stock photo.

But the reality can be very different…

People who experience homelessness are all genders; families as well as single people; spanning all backgrounds. And homelessness is a problem in rural communities as much as it is in large, urban areas.

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Jo Cox Foundation calls on election candidates to take Civility Pledge

We have received an interesting press release from the Jo Cox Foundation which we want to share with our readers.

It reads:

Ahead of local elections across the UK on 5 May 2022, polling from the Jo Cox Foundation (conducted by ICM Unlimited) shows that over half (54%) of the public would be less likely to vote for a political candidate who spoke insultingly about others in the running, as the charity calls for candidates from all parties to promise to campaign respectfully.

With official candidate lists for the local elections expected to be published today (6 April), the Jo Cox Foundation is urging candidates up for election on 5 May to publicly lead by example in rejecting abuse, by sharing their Civility Pledge on social media.

Su Moore, CEO of the Jo Cox Foundation, said:

“We strongly believe robust debate and scrutiny are essential aspects of public life, but abuse and intimidation shouldn’t be. Jo was passionate about encouraging more women to be active in political life – women make up 51% of the UK adult population but only 35% of MPs. Yet evidence has shown that abuse at all levels disproportionately impacts women. In order to ensure our politics is truly representative, we need to stamp out abuse and champion civility instead.

“What this polling shows is that civil behaviour from politicians is important to voters too. Change must begin at the highest levels and we strongly urge all those up for election this May to set an example by pledging to uphold the dignity of all candidates.”

If you’re running for election next month, visit the Civility Pledge webpage for instructions on how to share your pledge.

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Christine Jardine calls for planning changes to protect women

Christine Jardine is to bring forward a bill in the Commons which would make it a legal requirement for women’s safety to be published as a condition of planning approval for major developments.

An assessment of the impact on women’s safety would need to be published as a condition of planning approval for major developments.

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Hobhouse on sibling sexual abuse

Speaking yesterday in Westminster Hall, Wera Hobhouse tackled the “hugely difficult and harrowing” subject of sibling sexual abuse which, she said, can have “devastating, lifelong consequences”. The child who has harmed often has to deal with the dichotomy of their actions as a child and who they are now as an adult. Parents are often faced with the “double dilemma” of trying to support both of the children involved, dealing with school, social services, children’s services and police investigations, as well as unaffected siblings, friends and extended family. Criminal justice is not the answer to tackling sibling sexual abuse; we need health and education to work together and take a trauma-informed approach.

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Lib Dem reaction to the Spring Statement

In his budget today, Rishi Sunak cut fuel duty by 5p a litre, raised the threshold at which workers start paying national insurance by £3,000 a year and announced a future 1% reduction in income tax.

But the OBR said almost 3 million more people will be brought into paying income because the income tax threshold has been frozen. Ed Davey said:

This tax bombshell will send a shiver down the spine of families who are drowning in spiralling bills.

Rishi Sunak is trying to swindle the British public by burying the true cost of his disgraceful tax hikes. He has insulted millions of squeezed families across the country by thinking he can hide this in the small print. Rishi Sunak is following Boris Johnson’s lead by not being up front and honest with the country.

Tim Farron was scathing about the fuel duty cut:

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Farron: Nationality and Borders Bill worst legislation I’ve seen in 17 years

In a passionate speech in the House of Commons yesterday, Tim Farron condemned the Nationality and Borders Bill saying it is based on a bogus premise, that we are swamped by asylum seekers. He slammed the “utterly bogus, completely contrived and arbitrary notion” that asylum seekers should be treated if they got here by illegal routes.

Farron asked why are we not granting asylum seekers the right to work? He said if MPs vote for this Bill, “they are voting for deaths in the channel”. People come here not because of the pull factor, but because of the push factor and …

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Vince Cable on tomorrow’s Spring Statement

Writing in the Independent today, Vince Cable said:

The geopolitical earthquake in Ukraine will generate an economic tsunami, sweeping away comforts and orthodoxies with which we have become familiar in recent decades. We don’t yet know the height of the waves, but we know they are on their way.

The era of low interest rates is first to go. Central banks, including our own Bank of England, are becoming alarmed about inflation and are moving to higher rates, which further depresses consumer demand and investment. Despite rate rises, some forecasters believe the UK could hit 10 per cent inflation by the end of the year and be in recession.

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Ukraine: Johnson is not Churchill, he is Basil Fawlty

Those that had the strength of will to listen to Boris Johnson’s speech to the Conservative Party spring conference yesterday were left gasping and outraged. One of the least statesmanlike prime ministers in British history had the gall to compare the decisions facing the people of Ukraine with those people in Britain made over Brexit:

“I know that it’s the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom, every time. I can give you a couple of famous recent examples. When the British people voted for Brexit in such large, large numbers, I don’t believe it was because they were remotely hostile to foreigners. It’s because they wanted to be free to do things differently and for this country to be able to run itself.”

Lib Dem MPs and many others were quick to attack Johnson for his crassness and insensitivity.

 

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Davey to Truss: Emergency airlifts for refugees on Polish border needed

Ed Davey has called for an emergency airlift for Ukrainian refugees on the Polish border who want to reach the UK. In a letter today to the Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary, Ed Davey has suggested the UK Government must now provide free flights to the UK, with coaches to the nearest Polish airports from key border crossing points and welcoming reception centres for the refugees on arrival at the UK.

The call comes following the Liberal Democrat Leader’s visit to the Polish border this week to meet with Ukrainian refugees and the charities supporting them. In contrast to the swift action of the British public to offer shelter and countless volunteers from the UK to help with the humanitarian crisis, Ed Davey was appalled by the absence of any UK Government personnel to provide swift and safe passage to those fleeing to the UK.

Boris Johnson’s reckless dismissal of security warnings about one wealthy Russian contrasts with his heartlessly inadequate response to countless Ukrainian women and children fleeing Putin’s bombs. This shames him and his Government.

Emergency airlifts are now the best guarantee for these refugees to get to the UK safely and swiftly, to the kindness and compassion of the British public waiting for them.

It was shocking to see so many other nations united and already helping refugees at a humanitarian aid centre near the Ukrainian-Polish border, whilst the UK Government had no-one.

The queues of refugees are exhausted and traumatised. Surely these families have been through enough. It’s urgent that people are now airlifted to safety and help so they can start rebuilding their lives.

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Dodds: Aberpergwm Coal Mine Expansion Must be Stopped

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have reiterated their opposition to the expansion of Aberpergwm Coal Mine in Neath Port Talbot Council. Addressing a protest in front of the Senedd Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds stated that if we are to stand any hope of tackling climate change before it’s too late, the coal must be left in the ground.

A protest yesterday in front of the Senedd in Cardiff saw multiple Welsh climate groups attend.

The expansion of Aberpergwm Coal Mine has been at the centre of a row between the UK and Welsh Governments, with the Welsh Government claiming it does not have the legal authority to block the mine’s expansion, while the UK Coal Authority has insisted that the Welsh Government could in fact stop the development.

The new license, which was approved by the Coal Authority in January will allow Aberpergwm Mine to extract another forty million tonnes of coal. The development could release up to 1.17 million tonnes of very strong greenhouse gases, including methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

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Farron & Morgan: We’re the party that backs British farmers

The Lib Dems are gearing up to win over farmers in the May elections when eyes will be on the blue walls of rural heartlands in places like Somerset, Herefordshire and Westmorland – key Lib Dem, Conservative battlegrounds in May.

The Liberal Democrats have put the Conservatives’ former rural heartlands on notice at their conference this weekend. It comes as the party has passed sweeping reform aimed at targeting the farming community that is “fed up with being taken for granted by the Government”.

The push to win the farming community comes after the North Shropshire by-election which caused a political earthquake in true blue Shropshire.

Alongside the “Back British Farmers” party policy reform the Liberal Democrats have also launched specialised farmers campaigning packs for local Lib Dems to gain support from farmers and paint true blue rural heartlands in orange diamonds.

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Morgan: Ambulance crisis motion passed at Conference

Helen Morgan, Liberal Democrat MP for North Shropshire yesterday evening passed a party policy motion at the Liberal Democrats Spring Conference to tackle the ambulance service crisis.

In the new policy, called ‘The Crisis in Our Ambulance Services’ passed by Liberal Democrat members this weekend the party calls for:

  • Emergency funding to be made available to ambulance trusts to reverse closures of community ambulance stations and cancel planned closures where needed.
  • The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid to commission the CQC to conduct an investigation into the causes and impacts of ambulance service delays.
  • An Ambulance Waiting Times Bill to be passed into law requiring accessible, localised reports of ambulance response times to be published.
  • A campaign to retain, recruit and train paramedics and other ambulance staff.
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Moran: Stronger ties with Europe needed to counter Putin

Today, Conference agreed a roadmap to improve the UK’s trading relationship with Europe, benefitting British families and businesses, helping counter the threat posed by Putin’s Russia.

The approved motion calls for closer ties in education by through the Turing scheme and Erasmus Plus. The UK should seek cooperation agreements with EU agencies and work to reach a UK-EU agreement on asylum seekers. It should deep trade with Europe, including by negotiating greater access for UK food and animal products to the Single Market. Eventually, the UK should place its relationship with the EU on a more formal footing by seeking to join the Single Market.

Layla Moran said:

At this dark moment, our security depends on urgently forging a relationship that works with our closest neighbours. Countering the grave threat posed by Putin means we must stand tall with our European allies instead of needlessly antagonising them.

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Chamberlain: Ending corruption and sleaze vital to democracy

The government has been mired with sleaze. The Conservatives attempted to keep Owen Paterson as an MP and thankfully failed. Boris Johnson is the first prime minister to be interviewed by the police under caution. He is dodging the question of whether he will resign if he is fined over partygate.

Yesterday, the Lib Dem Spring Conference voted for a package of reforms. These include putting the Ministerial Code into law and making sure it is fully independent of the prime minister; appointing an Independent Adviser to oversee the Code and launch their own investigations; and introducing a range of sanctions for those found to have broken the Ministerial Code.

Sanctions could include apologies, fines, and demanding a minister’s resignation.

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Ed Davey calls for nuclear power plant military exclusion zones

The news this morning that the Russians had seized control of the Zaporizhzhia power plant in Ukraine has send shock waves across the world.

Ed Davey has said the the UK must take the lead and call for the UN Security Council to place military exclusion zones around nuclear power plants.

He says:

People all across Europe – including in Russia – will have woken up today with fear in their hearts, following the reckless shelling of Zaporizhzhia power plant. While thankfully it looks like disaster has been averted, it is vital that we now use every diplomatic lever available to prevent any further strikes on nuclear facilities.

We simply cannot allow what is already a dire humanitarian tragedy to deteriorate in this manner.

The UK has a seat at the UN Security Council – we must use it today, to try and declare a military exclusion zone around nuclear power plants.

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Carmichael: Seize oligarch mansions to house Ukrainian refugees

The Liberal Democrats have demanded that the Government seize mansions and houses belonging to oligarchs linked to Putin’s regime and use them to help house Ukrainian refugees.

In a letter to the Home Secretary, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said UK properties owned by Putin’s cronies should be used to house Ukrainian refugees temporarily while they await permanent resettlement.

He added this could prevent the situation faced by Afghan refugees last year, many of whom were left languishing for months in hotel rooms or military barracks while they awaited permanent accommodation.

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Hobhouse condemns Tories for blocking misogyny as hate crime

Yesterday, Conservative MPs voted against a law that would have made misogyny a hate crime. The House of Lords approved adding misogyny in the list of hate crimes last month. The vote comes days after a man pleaded guilty to the murder of Sabina Nessa and just days before the anniversary of the murder of Sarah Everard.

Cross-party peers had added a clause to the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to make crimes motivated by hatred of women aggravated offences, so they are treated as seriously as crimes motivated by racial or religious hatred. Liberal Democrat MPs voted to keep the amendment, which now returns to the House of Lords.

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Welsh Lib Dems call for UK to follow Ireland and let in Ukrainian refugees

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have called on the UK Conservative Government to axe the Nationality and Borders Bill amid the ongoing Russian Invasion of Ukraine. In a letter to Home Secretary Minister Priti Patel, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds has urged her to drop the “cruel” bill stating that the events over the last few days demonstrates its “cruel consequences”.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have also called on the Government to follow the lead of Ireland and waive visa requirements for all Ukrainians and open a resettlement scheme immediately.

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Davey: Use ‘oligarch tax’ to insulate the UK from Putin’s gas price spike

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey has called for an ‘oligarch tax’ to offset increased gas prices at a time when households are already facing a cost of living crisis.

The Liberal Democrats said this would ensure that Putin’s cronies and Russian energy companies foot the bill for any gas price spike following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The oligarch tax would comprise of two elements:

  • Freezing and beginning the process of seizing the assets of Putin’s cronies who have money and property in the UK, using Unexplained Wealth Orders.
  • A windfall tax on oil and gas superprofits, including those of Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom, whose trading arm is based in London. Gazprom recently announced a £179m dividend. This can then be used to reduce UK dependency on Russian gas.
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