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Baroness Fox is introduced in the House of Lords

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Local politicians in a small north Wales town have written a furious letter to Boris Johnson after Claire Fox was installed in the House of Lords as Baroness Buckley.

Members of Buckley Town Council contacted the PM because they said they “could not say nothing and suggest approval” when the former Brexit Party MEP revealed her choice of title. 

Mr Johnson’s decision to award Baroness Fox a peerage has been heavily criticised, largely due to her refusal to condemn IRA attacks on Birmingham, Brighton and Warrington while a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party in the 1980s.

The party’s position was “we support unconditionally the right of the Irish people to carry out their struggle for national liberation in whatever way they choose”.  Baroness Fox has since refused to disassociate herself from the comments or apologise, although said she had “great sympathy” for the families of victims and “does not condone violence”.

Cllr Arnold Woolley, who is the mayor of Buckley in Flintshire, north east Wales, told PoliticsHome: “It is her general political background comments, particuarly her comments at the time of the Warrington bombing, which she has never, ever withdrawn or regretted, which sound repugnant to most people.

“It was discussed in the town council and the unanimous feeling was that to link Buckley with that, and for us to say nothing – which might suggest a mark of approval – was not appropriate.”

Cllr Woolley said while Baroness Fox spent some of her early years in Buckley, she attended a high school in another town and “vanished off the face of the earth as far as Buckley was concerned”.

The town council’s letter, sent after members discovered there was no formal mechanism through which they could object to the use of their town’s name, reads: “The town council is surprised that no formal communcation was received with regard to the above lady taking the title of the town of Buckley in her letters patent, to seek the town council’s opinion on the use of the town’s name in her title.

“The town council wishes to inform you that it renounces any association of Baroness Fox with Buckley and disassociates itself from her title.

“The actions of the said lady, in the past, do not associate with the values of Buckley or the town council.”

Several peers are understood to have deliberately stayed away from the chamber for Baroness Fox’s introduction on Thursday, including Conservative Lord Lexden – a former adviser to ex-shadow Northern Ireland secretary Airey Neave, who was killed by a car bomb outside the House of Commons.

“I have made sure that I shall be absent for this introduction,” he told PoliticsHome.

“I have expressed my abhorrence at this peerage on a number of occasions.

“Sadly, there is no way in which those who believe that an IRA apologist – who has disgraced herself in other ways too – should not be a member of the Lords can seek to block admission.”

Fellow Conservative Lord Tebbit, who also voiced concerns about the appointment, said he had not made direct representations to the PM because he “did not think there would be any point”.

“I don’t think she will add very much to the wisdom of the House of Lords,” he added.

Baroness Fox’s introduction was sponsored by Labour peer Maurice Glasman, a fellow Brexiteer – a move one of his colleagues described as “shocking”.

“The House of Lords is a funny place – there are lots of often quite stark differences of opinion, but this is off the scale,” they added.

“The House likes people to do things properly and respect the institutions of society. Her refusal even now to disown those [IRA] comments makes people very angry.  And it’s across the board.”

Another Labour insider said: “It’s well known that [Lord Glasman] prides himself on being a bit unconventional but this clearly misreads a much bigger room.”

The prime minister has ignored numerous calls to step in and halt Baroness Fox’s appointment, with a Number 10 spokesman previously saying: “Claire Fox has addressed her historic comments about the Troubles and acknowledged the pain that the families of the victims of terrorism have faced.

“She is not a Conservative peer, and her political views will differ from those of the Conservative Government.”

Warrington North MP Charlotte Nichols, who previously called for Mr Johnson to intervene, tweeted following Baroness Fox’s introduction: “Utterly disgraceful to see Claire Fox sworn into the House of Lords today. Boris Johnson had the final say on her peerage and did nothing to block it, despite all the hurt it has caused in Warrington.”

PoliticsHome has contacted Baroness Fox for comment.

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Turkey earthquake: Search for survivors continues

The search for survivors in Izmir, Turkey continues after a

powerful earthquake on Friday.

Work continued through the night to search for survivors in buildings that were destroyed as a result of the earthquake.

Around 100 survivors have been pulled out alive from the rubble so far, Turkey’s Environment and Urbanisation Minister Murat Kurum told reporters.

However many people are still trapped and aftershocks have hampered rescue workers.

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Poland’s biggest protests in decades stand against abortion ban

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Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski said more than 100,000 people were in attendance, while protest organizers put the figure at 150,000.

Police detained 37 people Friday evening, the vast majority of whom were football hooligans, Sylwester Marczak, spokesman for the Warsaw Police headquarters, said Saturday morning. Taking into account the huge number of participants, it was a “very peaceful” protest, he added.

Demonstrations of this scale were last seen in the Solidarity movement of the 1980s in Poland which led to the collapse of the government, analysts say.

The protest in Warsaw was the culmination of nine days of nationwide protests since a court ruling on October 22 deemed abortion due to fetal defects to be unconstitutional. This meant abortion in Poland would only be legal in two scenarios — if the pregnancy threatened the mother’s life and health, or if a woman became pregnant following rape or incest.

Demonstrators also turned out in Gdańsk, Białystok, Poznan, Kraków, Wroclaw, Torun, Sczescin, Myślenice, Gorlice and Jasło on Friday.

According to local media, 430,000 people attended more than 400 demonstrations across the country against the ban on Wednesday. Online supporters are using the tag #ThisIsWar to show solidarity with those marching.

Polish women disrupt church services in protest at abortion ban

The protests have been taking place in defiance of a ban on gatherings of more than five people due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Aerial footage of the demonstration in Warsaw posted to social media showed the vast scale of the turnout there on Friday evening.

Protest organizers urged protesters to make their way towards the residence of Jaroslaw Kaczyński, the leader of the ruling right-wing Law and Justice Party Leader (PiS) who is widely seen as the de facto decision maker in Poland. The demonstration ended there at around 11 p.m. local time and organizers urged protesters to make their way home safely.

Kaczyński on Wednesday called the protesters “criminals” and said people taking part in mass gatherings were endangering people’s lives given the surge in coronavirus cases in Poland.

Thousands of protesters march towards the residence of ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski during the demonstration Friday in Warsaw.

Draft amendment

In an apparent softening of his stance, Polish President Andrzej Duda on Friday submitted a draft amendment to the controversial law which would legalize abortion in situations where the baby has “lethal defects” and would die soon after birth.

The amendment would mean abortion would remain legal in an event where “prenatal tests or other medical indications indicate a high probability that the child will be born still or burdened with an incurable disease or defect that will lead to the death of the child inevitably and directly,” according to a statement from Duda on Friday.

“It is an extremely delicate and painful situation for every mother, for every parent. In the case of lethal defects, the death of the child is inevitable. The protection of his life is therefore beyond human power,” the statement also said.

Duda had earlier clarified his stance on abortion in such cases in an interview with Polish radio station RMF FM. “You must clearly ask yourself whether anyone has the right to demand, or the law may require such a woman to… bear such a child in her womb and then bear the entire physical cost of birth,” Duda said.

Duda added that he did not think abortion should be legal in situations where a child has Down syndrome, for example, and the life of the unborn child is not at risk.

Poland moves to near-total ban on abortion, sparking protests

The ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal removed one of the few remaining grounds for legal termination in the country, which already had some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe.

Abortions due to fetal defects comprised approximately 98% of all legal abortions carried out in Poland in 2019, according to data from the Polish Ministry of Health.

Asked about the ongoing protests across Poland over the controversial court ruling, Duda condemned the demonstrators who disrupted church services earlier this week.

“If we are talking about acts of physical or verbal aggression, if we are talking about invading churches, if we are talking about insulting religious feelings, profaning places of worship, I am sorry, but the boundaries are definitely exceeded here,” he said.

Abortion rights protest leaders have accused the populist PiS party of pushing the court to tighten abortion restrictions in order to please the party’s base, and the Church. Church leaders have denied influencing the change in law.

Covid warning

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Friday urged protesters not to go out on the streets as he announced further steps to try to limit the spread of Covid-19.

“I understand your anger, but I urge you to stay at home, especially for the sake of seniors,” he said.

The measures include closing cemeteries for three days, urging business owners to allow employees to work from home and urging older citizens to remain at home.

Health Minister Adam Niedzielski told Polish news channel TVN24 on Friday that he looked with “great concern” at the protests and urged people to isolate themselves from those taking part, saying they could be more exposed to Covid-19.

On Friday, Poland recorded 21,629 new coronavirus cases, marking another record high in the country, where case counts have tripled in less than a month. A further 202 deaths were also reported by the Polish Health Ministry, with the total number of confirmed infections in the country surpassing 340,000.

CNN’s Zahid Mahmood contributed to this report.

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Coronavirus: Hungary and Poland see record cases

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Greece is the latest country to announce a partial lockdown, with restaurants and other leisure activities closed in major Greek cities from Tuesday. “We must act now, before intensive care units buckle under the strain of lives in danger,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Saturday. Greece has not seen as many cases as other parts of Europe, but there has been a steady increase since early October

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