Dame Shirley Williams
Former Labour cabinet minister and one of the ‘Gang of Four’ Baroness Shirley Williams has died at the age of 90. A former Paymaster General and Secretary of State for Education when a Labour MP, Shirley left the Party in 1981 and formed the SDP along with Roy Jenkins, David Owen and Bill Rodgers. She became the first SDP MP in the 1981 Crosby by-election but subsequently lost her seat in 1983. She was integral to the formation of the Liberal Democrats, created through the merger of the Liberal Party and the SDP, and served as leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords between 2001 and 2004 as Baroness Williams of Crosby.
Troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan
The UK, along with the US, have announced that they will withdraw their final troops from Afghanistan by September. British combat troops left in 2014, but over 700 still remain as part of a NATO mission to train members of the Afghan military.
The move follows an announcement from President Biden that all US troops will be withdrawn by September 11. The move by Britain reflects previous comments from NATO that all forces will be withdrawn at the same time. In order to secure a stable and long-lasting peace in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence have said that there needs to be a ‘meaningful dialogue’ between the Taliban and the Afghan government. However, the speaker of the Afghan Parliament, Mir Rahman Rahmani, has said that any full withdrawal is likely to lead to a civil war.
Earlier this week the Government confirmed that it had reached its vaccination target 3 days early. This means that everyone over 50, the clinically vulnerable and health and social care workers have been vaccinated. This coupled with a 95% vaccine uptake bodes well for our COVID-19 roadmap to recovery.
Boris Johnson called it a “hugely significant milestone”. In the coming weeks, we can see a focus on second doses, with close attention being paid to new variants appearing and the Government keeping a close eye on Covid cases now that non-essential retail and hospitality venues are open.
More Greensill Gossip
David Cameron has finally broken his silence over his involvement in the Greensill Lobbying Scandal. In a PR masterclass, he chose to break his silence in the days leading up to Prince Philip’s funeral. Boris Johnson yesterday ordered an independent inquiry into the firms’ operations, with David Cameron agreeing to give evidence.
We can expect this to unfurl further in the coming weeks. Labour tried to drag Rishi Sunak into the mire with an Urgent Question today in parliament, and so far, Treasury officials have successfully managed to divert these accusations to BEIS. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
There are reports of Russia building up its forces along its border with Crimea, a recently annexed region of Ukraine. Russia has accused Ukraine of “provocations” with little evidence. The Ukrainian President estimates that there are now as many as 40,000 Russian troops on the border.
Is this Sabre rattling or a legitimate threat of invasion? Russia is most likely testing the military resolve of Ukraine and NATO during these ‘unprecedented times’. Britain and the US are strong allies of Ukraine, but appetites for another proxy-war in Whitehall and Washington could not be lower.
Charlie Souster Account Executive
Benedict Croft Researcher