3 min read
Nicola Sturgeon has announced fresh lockdown restrictions for Aberdeen following a spike in coronavirus infections.
The First Minister said she was reintroducing the strict measures after 54 newly confirmed cases in the city sparked fears of a significant “significant outbreak”.
The move comes after a cluster of infections were initially traced to several bars, with Ms Sturgeon saying more than 20 pubs and restaurants had now been linked to the flare-up.
And she confirmed that further transmission had occured within the community following the tracing of 121 contacts.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon said all indoor and outdoor hospitality venues have been told to close by 5pm on Wednesday, while people have been asked not to enter each other’s homes.
Meanwhile a five-mile travel limit has also been introduced within the Aberdeen City Council area for leisure purposes, with people outside the city asked not to visit.
And she said while she was “extremely reluctant” to order the reimposing of lockdown on the city, she hoped the measures would help to “stamp out” the outbreak.
“These regulations and the associated guidance and advice will be reviewed in seven days’ time, by which time I hope we will be in a better position to judge the scale and the trajectory of this outbreak,” the SNP leader said.
“And at that point if these restrictions can be removed, we will remove them in their entirety or in part.
“But I should also give notice that if it is considered necessary, we may extend them beyond the initial seven-day period.”
Responding to the news, Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn said: “The increased number of cases of Covid-19 in Aberdeen is another reminder that this virus has not gone away, and we must all remain vigilant. It remains extremely infectious and, of course, it remains extremely dangerous.
“All of of us have a part to play in denying this virus the opportunities to spread or we run the risk of undoing some of the progress made thanks to the overwhelming majority of people in Aberdeen following the guidelines.”
Meanwhile, CBI Scotland Director Tracy Black urged the Scottish Government to provide extra support for firms impacted by the second lockdown.
“While this news will come as a disappointment to many people and businesses, it’s essential that we keep on top of the virus and public safety must come first,” she said.
“Aberdeen won’t be the last local area that faces renewed restrictions in the coming months, so the Scottish Government must do everything it can to provide clear, timely advice and appropriate support to firms and individuals.
“That’s a must to maintain public confidence.
“This will be a particular blow to the local hospitality sector, which has now faced a double-whammy of lockdowns, and emphasises the need for government support to evolve in-line with the trajectory of the virus.”
Paul Rusesabagina of ‘Hotel Rwanda’ appears in court again seeking bail after arrest on terrorism charges
He appeared before the Nyarugenge intermediate court Friday in the capital, Kigali, where a judge ruled that a decision will be made on his bail application October 2.
Rusesabagina, 66, was appealing against last week’s ruling to remand him for 30 days.
His lawyers, Emelin Nyembo and David Rugaza, told the court that Rusesabagina should not be tried for crimes committed by the MRCD party, a coalition of opposition parties. The group’s military wing, FLN, is accused of several attacks on Rwandan territory in 2018.
Rusesabagina faces 13 charges related to terrorism, and is accused of being the “founder, leader and sponsor of violent, armed, extremist terror outfits,” Rwandan authorities have said.
He admitted to the court that he was a member of the MRCD and that general decisions were taken under the leadership of all parties, with each party having different functions.
He said, “MRCD was a coalition of four opposition political parties, my own party PDR-Ihumure was in charge of diplomatic mission, CNRD party was in charge of military operations hence forming military wing (National Liberation Front-FLN), others had other responsibilities.”
“The FLN was an armed group with specific role, mine was different. I was in charge of diplomacy,” he added.
At a hearing on September 17, the judge said the court had analyzed all 13 charges against Rusesabagina and concluded that there were compelling reasons to remand him for 30 days.
His lawyers questioned the jurisdiction of the court to try their client, saying he is a citizen of Belgium, with residence in the United States.
It is a sentiment echoed by his family. His daughter Carine Kanimba told CNN that he has no right to be put on trial as a Rwandan, as a Belgian citizen.
“We do not accept this whole attempt at pretending that this is a fair trial. We are begging the international community to help us. We are worried that they will kill him and they have already silenced him. The pictures we saw of him in court told us that he is frail and weak,” she said.
Kanimba said that a Belgian diplomat was able to visit her father, but that Rwandan officials were present.
There are also questions about how Rusesabagina came to be in Rwanda. His family believes he was kidnapped from Dubai in late August. In a video interview with the New York Times on September 15, Rusesabagina said he was supposed to go on a private plane to Burundi to speak to churches on August 28, but when he woke up, he was in Rwanda surrounded by soldiers.
Longstanding Kagame critic
Around 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the genocide, which was led by Hutu extremists.
Rusesabagina also holds Belgian citizenship, according to a government source in Belgium.
Crackdown on opposition
Rusesabagina has not lived in Rwanda since 1996, when he survived an assassination attempt.
While widely praised for transforming Rwanda in the aftermath of the genocide, Kagame has also faced widespread criticism for human rights abuses and a crackdown on opposition.
Opposition politicians in Rwanda have often found themselves jailed on what they say are trumped-up charges for standing against Kagame in polls.
In one of the more widely publicized cases, Diane Rwigara and her mother were jailed when the former attempted to run for president in the same election as Kagame in 2017.
Victoire Ingabire, the leader of the FDU-Inkingi party, was jailed in 2010 for charges that included collaborating with a terrorist organization, “divisionism,” “minimizing the genocide” and “genocide ideology.”
She had returned to the country from the Netherlands to contest in the 2010 presidential elections after years of living abroad but was barred from running, and served eight years of a 15-year prison sentence before receiving a presidential pardon in 2018.
House GOP super PAC seeks to shore up additional Republican seats
“CLF is doubling down and pressing even deeper into our top offensive opportunities, reinforcing our swing-seat incumbents and providing a small insurance policy in a few seats to ensure a win this November,” CLF President Dan Conston said in a statement.
Notable new reservations include $865,000 to boost Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska); $500,000 to help Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.), $500,000 for Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), $750,000 for Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), $740,000 for Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) and $750,000 for an open seat in central Virginia where Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) lost renomination in a district convention.
CLF also reserved $850,000 in Meadows’ former district, where the Republican nominee is 25-year-old businessman Madison Cawthorn. Court-ordered redistricting last year made the seat more favorable to Democrats by uniting the liberal enclave of Asheville, but President Donald Trump still carried it by 17 points.
Reps. Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.), Kendra Horn (D-Okla.) and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.) are each getting over a million in new ad reservations against them from the group — a sign that Republicans are still pushing to pick off incumbents. The group is also making large six-figure buys against Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.), Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) and Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.). And earlier this week it laid down a new offensive target with a $2 million ad buy against Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.).
The vast majority of CLF’s total spending for the cycle is on offensive targets, and Republicans feel confident they will make gains in November, particularly if Trump tightens the presidential race. Democrats are defending 30 districts that the president carried in 2016.
But most of the districts in this new wave of reservations are Republican-held. CLF is increasing its buys to help Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.) — and in open seats on Long Island and in the suburbs of Indianapolis, Houston and Dallas.
Democrats, meanwhile, are scaling back their defensive buys and shifting resources away from once-vulnerable incumbents. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this week scrapped four TV flights set to run from early-to-mid October in districts held by Reps. Jared Golden (D-Maine), Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), Haley Stevens (D-Mich.) and Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) — a show of confidence in their reelection prospects. All four hold seats won by Trump in 2016.
Republicans are hampered by the cash advantage of Democratic candidates and by their large number of open seats. Members like Hill and Young were outraised by their opponents last quarter — and Young trails in cash on hand. And retirements by longtime incumbents in Indiana, New York and Texas deprived the GOP of the war chests they amassed over the years.
Matt Hancock Must Guarantee MPs A Vote On New Coronavirus Restrictions Or The Government Will Be Defeated, Says Rebel Ringleader Graham Brady
8 min read
The leader of a growing band of Tory rebels, Sir Graham Brady, says Matt Hancock must offer “explicit guarantees” MPs will get to vote on new coronavirus restrictions before they come into force or the government faces defeat on its flagship pandemic legislation.
Pressure is mounting on Boris Johnson to cave to the demands of his backbenchers after dozens of Conservatives signed an amendment put forward by Sir Graham, the chair of the powerful 1922 Committee.
He told PoliticsHome it is “a fundamental matter of principle that the House ought to be consulted” before new lockdown measures are put in place.
It comes amid growing anger from MPs the Commons has been ignored by ministers as they have repeatedly changed the rules, affecting the lives of their constituents.
Sir Graham said he was spurred to act after his own constituency of Altrincham and Sale West was put into and then taken out of extra local restrictions, only to be put back under the measures hours later.
“It’s been a frustration for a long time, I was wary even back in March when we gave the emergency powers very rapidly. And I accepted it on the basis the House was about to go into recess and there was plausible concern NHS critical care capacity would be overwhelmed.
“But then when we found that every review of the lockdown, the government simply continued, and that when Parliament returned on 21 April we still didn’t have decisions put to the House of Commons.
“I thought that was wrong.”
He added: “But I guess it came to a head really with the experience of the additional local restrictions that were put in for Trafford and Greater Manchester at the end of July.
“And then the experience of the government removing Trafford from the extra restrictions at the end of August – and then 12 hours putting us back in again.
“And in none of this was the House of Commons, or me as a local MP, able to express a view.”
With the six-month renewal of the coronavirus powers due for a vote on Wednesday, he has written an amendment which could bind the government into more votes. It has more than 50 signatories, including 42 Tories as of Friday afternoon – enough to defeat the government if selected, but there is some debate as to whether it will be allowed.
Such a motion would not normally be amendable; it would simply be the case that MPs either back it or not, with the final decision to be taken by the Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle on the morning of the debate.
On whether it would be selected for debate, Mr Brady said: “Some people have suggested it is ‘disorderly’ in itself. It was drafted by a very senior clerk, who when I raised that with him gave me a very clear explanation why he is right.
“So I’m confident that it is selectable, but it is still – as with any amendment – a decision for the Speaker.”
He confirmed he had been to see Sir Lindsay, who he said suggested it was “more likely to be selected” if it had support from across the House, which is why he was pleased to have chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party, John Cryer, put his name to it along with party grandees Harriet Harman and John Spellar.
A spokesperson for the Speaker would only confirm the motion is “technically amendable”.
They added: “The Speaker will take advice from the clerks about whether the amendment is in scope before deciding whether to select it.”
There is also debate over whether any amendment, if passed, would have any binding effect on the government, given it is not a vote on the legislation itself.
Sir Graham said: “It wouldn’t have statutory force because the motion itself isn’t statute, so what it would be is a resolution of the House instructing ministers to do something – and that has constitutional force.”
And Tom Tugendhat, chair of the foreign affairs select committee, told PoliticsHome: “This isn’t supposed to be an epic rebellion but an indication that people want to have wider consultation.
“I think what this is a very clear sign of, and I think the government recognises this, is the whole country needs to be involved in decision making and the decisions that we are taking and for us to have consent we need to consult widely and part of that consultation is with the people sent to Parliament to represent their communities.”
Mr Spellar said: “What we are trying to do is say to government you can’t just go rampaging around making decisions based on a very small group of advisers.
“If you say you’ve gone from the science, there’s a significant division in the scientific world.”
It is a view echoed by Sir Graham: “I’m quite sceptical about a number of these measures, I think they are grossly intrusive into people’s civil liberties, the right to family life, but I suspect that there is a fairly strong majority of the House that would support the government in most of what it’s doing.
“So I don’t think by securing these votes we’re suddenly going to see the government losing them all and these powers being stripped away.
“I think it’s just a fundamental matter of principle that the House ought to be consulted, that if people’s liberties are being removed it should be done with the consent of parliament on their behalf.
“And also that ministerial decision-making will be improved if they know they’ve got to justify themselves in the House of Commons and the House will express its views in a vote.”
Mr Johnson is likely to want to avoid another confrontation with his own backbenchers after already having to change tack on the Internal Markets Bill, with talks set to take place with Mr Brady and other rebels on Monday.
One MP suggested more names could go down on the amendment over the weekend ,with another signatory telling PoliticsHome it would be “dumb” if the government did not reflect on the number of disaffected Tories and try to come up with a compromise, or table their own amendment.
On whether he would pull the amendment, Sir Graham said it would need Matt Hancock to say from the despatch box that MPs will get votes on new restrictions before they are enacted, a point he said he had already pressed upon Number 10.
“If there were sufficient explicit guarantees given on the floor of the House then I may not press it to a vote,” he said.
“But I think it’s really important to have the opportunity to press it to a vote to make sure the health secretary gives those explicit guarantees.”
He said the time lag between announcements being made and the restrictions coming into force was the perfect time to hold a debate, pointing to the ‘rule of six’ policy.
“That was leaked to the press on Tuesday, the PM made a statement about it on Wednesday, it wasn’t going to come into force until the following Monday – but the Thursday was just general debates in the House of Commons,” he explained.
“It would have been entirely possible to change the schedule, put in a full day’s debate on the ‘rule of six’ with a vote at the end of it, and the government simply chose not to.”
Pressed on whether his amendment was in response to ministers not listening to backbench concerns, he said: “I put the point to Matt Hancock in the chamber as to why these powers had not been put to the House on the Wednesday, and he said ‘I’m talking to the business managers about how this can happen’, but it still hasn’t happened two weeks later, there still hasn’t been a debate or a vote on what was introduced then.”
The PM’s spokesman has repeatedly said there would be a vote on the renewal of the Coronavirus Act 2020, and that MPs also have the chance to vote on individual regulations.
But there has been criticism of that system, which is known as an ‘affirmative statutory instrument’, which allows the Commons a vote within 28 days of the legislation coming into force.
Some MPs have said they want new powers to be created as ‘draft affirmative statutory instruments’, where the vote takes place before they start to take affect.
But the government have said with a backlog of legislation from the summer, along with the fact the process can pass through the Commons quickly, but takes weeks to get though the House of Lords, they have argued it was not possible.
One potential solution may be to give MPs the guarantee that an ‘affirmative’ SI will be debated within seven days, rather than it taking the full month, but the government have stuck to the line that “the current position does provide for parliamentary scrutiny”.
Disclosure: Sir Graham Brady is editor of the House magazine, which is part of the Dods Group.
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