U.K. Conservatives Win Hartlepool Parliament Seat

LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain scored a striking political victory on Friday when his Conservative Party snatched a bellwether parliamentary seat from the opposition Labour Party, which had held it since the constituency’s creation in the 1970s.

In a by-election in Hartlepool, in the northeast of England, the Conservative candidate, Jill Mortimer, easily defeated her rivals, consolidating Mr. Johnson’s earlier successes in winning over voters in working-class areas that had traditionally sided mainly with Labour.

Better still for the prime minister, the vote on Thursday came after days of publicity over claims that he broke electoral rules over the financing of an expensive refurbishment of his apartment.

That appeared to have counted for little with voters in Hartlepool, an economically struggling coastal town, when the results were announced Friday morning after an overnight count.

after a successful vaccination program for which Mr. Johnson has been able to claim credit.

Though not unexpected, the outcome underscored the extent to which Mr. Johnson is rewriting Britain’s electoral map and dealt a blow to Keir Starmer, Labour’s leader. Mr. Starmer took over from Jeremy Corbyn last year after Labour’s defeat in the December 2019 general election, its worst performance in more than 80 years.

That landslide election victory for the Conservatives in 2019 followed the crisis over Britain’s exit from the European Union, and Mr. Johnson scored well in many traditional working-class communities with his appeal to voters to give him the power to “get Brexit done.”

Though Britain has now completed its European Union withdrawal, and the issue is fading somewhat, the new Conservative victory suggests that Mr. Johnson remains popular in areas — like Hartlepool — that voted for Brexit in a 2016 referendum.

Collectively known as the “red wall,” because they were once heartlands of the Labour Party, these areas are being targeted by Mr. Johnson who has promised to “level up” by bringing prosperity to the north and middle of England, and to areas that feel forgotten.

Elections also took place on Thursday in Scotland and those could present a bigger threat to Mr. Johnson. Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who leads the pro-independence Scottish National Party, is hoping for a strong performance that she can use to justify her call for a new referendum on whether Scotland should break away from the United Kingdom.

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Israeli President Taps the Opposition Leader Lapid to Form Government

JERUSALEM — Yair Lapid, the centrist leader of the Israeli opposition, was asked on Wednesday to try to form a coalition government after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to do so by a Tuesday deadline.

Mr. Netanyahu remains caretaker prime minister and if Mr. Lapid cannot cobble together a government, the country could face another election this summer, its fifth general election in a little more than two years.

Mr. Lapid has 28 days to persuade a majority of the 120-seat Parliament to support him after the president, Reuven Rivlin, gave him the mandate to begin coalition negotiations.

In the March election campaign, Mr. Lapid, 57, ran on a promise to preserve checks and balances, and to prevent Mr. Netanyahu from remaining in office at the head of a right-wing, religious alliance that seeks to curb the power of the judiciary.

divisions and complexities of Israeli politics currently make it impossible for Mr. Lapid to win office without reaching a compromise with parts of the far right.

general election in March with 17 seats, behind Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing party, Likud, with 30 seats.

offering Mr. Bennett a power-sharing deal in which, like the deal proposed by Mr. Lapid, Mr. Bennett would go first as prime minister.

But Mr. Bennett rejected it because the proposed alliance would still not have commanded a parliamentary majority.

Right-wing parties hold a majority in Parliament, but have been unable to form a functional government over the past two years because they are divided between those who support Mr. Netanyahu, and those who believe he should resign to focus on his corruption trial.

That split has redrawn the Israeli political map — as political ideology has become defined more by perceptions of Mr. Netanyahu than by economic policy or approaches to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Netanyahu Fails to Form New Israeli Government, Prolonging Deadlock

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel failed to form a new government by the midnight Tuesday deadline, putting his political future in jeopardy as he stands trial on corruption charges and prolonging a political deadlock that has only worsened after four elections in two years.

Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, may now give a rival, eclectic camp of anti-Netanyahu parties a chance to form a government, which could oust Mr. Netanyahu from power after 12 consecutive years in office.

Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party is by far the largest on Israel’s fractured political scene, having won 30 seats in a general election in March. Despite that, he was not able to muster enough coalition partners to command a majority of at least 61 seats in the 120-member Parliament.

His hopes for a right-wing and religious coalition ultimately fell short because his far-right allies refused to join a government supported by a small Islamist Arab party. The Arab party, Raam, was willing to back a Netanyahu administration in return for benefits for Israel’s Arab minority.

failed in a last-gasp effort to persuade a right-wing rival, Naftali Bennett, to join him in a power-sharing agreement that would have seen the pair take turns as prime minister.

Mr. Bennett had dismissed the offer, saying that even with his support Mr. Netanyahu could not muster a majority.

Three minutes before midnight, Likud issued a terse statement blaming Mr. Bennett for foiling Mr. Netanyahu’s chances by refusing to commit to a right-wing government, “which would certainly have led to the formation of a government joined by additional members of Parliament.”

Mr. Rivlin may now ask one of Mr. Netanyahu’s rivals — representing a disparate group of parties ranging from the pro-settlement right to the secular left — to try to cobble together a governing coalition that would send the prime minister into the opposition. Or Mr. Rivlin could ask Parliament to put forward a candidate.

He has three days to make that decision. His office said that he would restart the process on Wednesday morning by contacting each of the political parties represented in Parliament.

bribery, fraud and breach of trust, he has denied wrongdoing and insists the cases against him will collapse in court.

a political stalemate that has left Israel without a state budget for two consecutive years in the middle of a pandemic, and has delayed appointments to several key administrative and judicial posts.

The largest party challenging Likud, and the runner-up in the election, is Yesh Atid, a centrist group that won 17 seats. But its leader, Yair Lapid, a former finance minister, does not have an easy path to forming a government either.

The bloc opposing Mr. Netanyahu is made up of numerous other small parties with clashing agendas. The smaller right-wing parties in the bloc view Mr. Lapid as too left-wing to lead the government.

pledged during the election campaign to put his ego aside and concede the premiership if that was what it took to unseat Mr. Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

collapsed after seven months of political and administrative paralysis.

Some analysts say that Mr. Netanyahu, a political survivor, is happy to function as a caretaker prime minister, riding the wave of electoral turmoil from one transitional government to another, as long as he remains in office. And if the latest imbroglio ends in a fifth election, he is likely to run again.

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Greek Neo-Nazi Lawmaker Stripped of Immunity by European Parliament

BRUSSELS — The convicted Greek neo-Nazi Ioannis Lagos was stripped of his immunity as a member of the European Parliament on Tuesday, clearing the way for his extradition to Greece months after he was sentenced in a landmark trial.

Mr. Lagos, a leading member of the now-defunct criminal organization Golden Dawn, which formed a political party that in its heyday was the third largest in the Greek Parliament, told The New York Times in written comments earlier this year that he was planning to flee to a “European country” where his rights would be protected, but did not specify which.

On Tuesday, shortly after the waiving of his immunity was announced, he did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The decision by the European Parliament, announced Tuesday morning after a secret ballot held a day earlier, comes after months of delays of procedure over protocol and the Covid-19 pandemic.

and he was sentenced to 13 years in prison for running a criminal organization, but was protected until now by immunity afforded to members of the European Parliament.

Golden Dawn rose to prominence a decade ago, systematically targeting the European Union and migrants, especially Muslims, during the financial crisis that devastated Greece’s economy and society.

The trial in Greece lasted more than five years and is widely regarded as one of the most important cases against neo-Nazis in contemporary Europe, where forces of the far right became empowered during the financial crisis and further emboldened after the refugee crisis of 2015-2016, in some cases penetrating the mainstream political spectrum.

One of the leading members of the party, Christos Pappas, remains on the run after his conviction.

Mr. Lagos has been fighting to hold on to his immunity and avoid extradition to Greece to serve his sentence, while also claiming the case against him is political and that he’s being prosecuted for his political thoughts, not his deeds.

has come under criticism for taking months to deliberate on the waiver of Mr. Lagos’s immunity and for refusing to prioritize his case over other pending immunity cases of European lawmakers wanted in their home countries over smaller legal matters.

The Parliament’s relevant committee defended its pace and prioritization of cases as partly a matter of slowed-down deliberations because of the coronavirus outbreak and partly an effort to meticulously follow protocol to avoid any charges of bias.

The committee recommended the European Parliament waive Mr. Lagos’s immunity last week, in an anonymous vote of 22 to 2, and the full Parliament supported that decision in a vote by 658 to 25, with 10 abstentions.

The next step is for the Greek authorities to ask the authorities in Belgium, where the Parliament is based most of the time and Mr. Lagos is a resident, to arrest and extradite him.

It would then be up to Belgian courts to rule on the request, which may take months. The Brussels Public Prosecutor’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Should the Belgians block a request, Mr. Lagos would continue to sit in the European Parliament, but that seems highly unlikely.

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Canadian Lawmaker Apologizes for Taking Nude Photo of Colleague

A member of Canada’s House of Commons apologized on Wednesday for having taken a nude photo of one of his colleagues during a Zoom call, an episode that prompted mockery, anger and calls for an investigation after the image circulated widely on social media.

The lawmaker, Sébastien Lemire, a member of the Bloc Québécois, acknowledged having taken the photo of William Amos, a Liberal Party member from Quebec, when Mr. Amos appeared nude on Zoom during a legislative session last week. Mr. Lemire said he did not know how the photo had ended up on social media.

Mr. Amos had said he had been changing into his work clothes after a jog and had been unaware that the camera on his computer was on. Although other lawmakers who were logged into a private Zoom call could see Mr. Amos standing naked between the flags of Canada and Quebec, the video was not streamed publicly because Mr. Amos was not speaking at the time.

lawmakers said they were furious that someone had taken the photo of Mr. Amos while he was naked and that someone had then uploaded the image to social media.

Canadian law forbids publishing, distributing or making available an “intimate image of a person knowing that the person depicted in the image did not give their consent to that conduct.”

“Taking a photo of someone who is changing clothes and in the nude and sharing it without their consent could very well be criminal,” Pablo Rodriguez, the leader of the government in the House of Commons, said last week during a House session. “Did the person who took the screenshot give any thought to the ramifications of their actions? Did they think of the member’s family, children, friends and the fact that internet is forever?”

Mark Holland, the chief government whip, was among those who had called for an investigation, saying the dissemination of the photo was “a terrible violation” and a “potentially criminal act.”

“We must know who is responsible for leaking nonconsensual images from a private video feed,” he said in a statement last week. Mr. Amos “made an unintentional error; his screen was on while in the middle of getting dressed,” Mr. Holland added. “It could have happened to any of us.”

Mr. Amos had said last week that it was “most unfortunate that someone shared, without my consent, a photo in which I was changing my clothes.”

“This photo came from a video feed that only MPs or a very small number of staff had access to,” he said in a statement. “No person deserves to suffer such harm. I expect the speaker of the House of Commons to conduct a thorough investigation.”

he said on Twitter last Wednesday. “My camera was accidentally left on as I changed into work clothes after going for a jog. I sincerely apologize to all my colleagues in the House. It was an honest mistake + it won’t happen again.”

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Pakistan

Pakistan’s Parliament is expected to vote on Tuesday on whether to expel the French ambassador, a move widely seen as a capitulation by the government to a militant Islamist party that has led large protests and clashed with the police.

The vote illustrates how deeply unsettled Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration’s feels amid a reeling economy, a new wave of coronavirus infections and spreading social unrest. It also suggests the party, Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan, which has capitalized on public anger over the publication of caricatures depicting the Prophet Muhammad in France, could pose a major threat to Pakistan’s stability.

Just a week ago, the government declared Tehreek-e-Labaik a terrorist outfit and banned it. At least four police officers have been killed in clashes with the group, and at least 11 officers have at one point been taken hostage. Police officials acknowledged the death of three protesters, but the party claims that a larger number of their supporters have been killed.

Intermittent protests since last winter were sparked by President Emmanuel Macron of France, who last year gave a defiant eulogy for a French teacher who was murdered after showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a classroom. Mr. Macron said the teacher, Samuel Paty, was killed “because the Islamists want our future and they know that with quiet heroes like him they will never have it.”

Salman Taseer, the sitting governor of Punjab Province. At the time, Mr. Taseer sought justice for a Christian woman who had been jailed on dubious charges of blasphemy.

Mr. Qadri was eventually sentenced and hanged in 2016, but the group tried to free him by justifying the murder he committed. Since then, it has shaped itself into a political party contesting elections and continuing to unsettle governments.

On Tuesday, it was clear Mr. Khan’s government had made some concessions to the group, while trying to give itself political cover by putting the ambassador’s expulsion to a vote in Parliament.

Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, Pakistan’s interior minister, said the 11 police officers who were taken hostage during the week of protests had been released. He also said that Tehreek-e-Labaik have pledged to call off a nationwide protest while the government seeks a dialogue with France.

“After long negotiations between the government of Pakistan and Tehreek-e-Labaik, it has been agreed that the government will present a resolution on the expulsion of the French ambassador to the National Assembly today,” Mr. Ahmad said in a video message early on Tuesday.

Mr. Ahmad said that, as part of the agreement, any judicial proceedings against the members of the group would also be scrapped. The National Assembly, Pakistan’s legislature, which was not scheduled to meet on Tuesday, announced a special session for the afternoon to take up the expulsion resolution.

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Shirley Williams, Breakaway Political Force in Britain, Dies at 90

LONDON — Shirley Williams, a pioneering British lawmaker and former cabinet member who broke from the Labour Party in the 1980s to help found a centrist movement that briefly promised to upend British politics, died on Monday at her home in England. She was 90.

Her death was announced by one of the parties she had helped establish, the Liberal Democrats. No other details were provided.

Charismatic and principled, Ms. Williams was long a force in British politics, serving in senior positions in a male-dominated Parliament and rising to cabinet ministerial posts. Many lawmakers have cited her career as an inspiration. Mark Peel, author of “Shirley Williams: The Biography,” said in an interview, “She gave politics a very good name.”

In 1981, concerned that the Labour Party was veering too far to the left, Ms. Williams and three other senior Labour lawmakers, known as the Gang of Four, founded the more centrist Social Democratic Party. It then formed an alliance with the old centrist Liberal Party and attracted a surge of support.

“Testament of Youth,” in which she described losing her fiancé, brother and two close male friends in the fighting, is widely considered a classic.

to chair the Labour Club there, in 1950. At Oxford she studied politics, economics and philosophy and acted in drama productions. She later won a Fulbright scholarship to study American trade unions at Columbia University.

Returning to Britain, she took up journalism, working for The Daily Mirror and The Financial Times. But she also kept her eyes on a political career, running unsuccessfully as a Labour candidate for Parliament in the 1950s before winning a seat in 1964, from the town of Hitchin, in southern England.

She quickly climbed the ranks, becoming minister for education and science in the Labour governments of Prime Minister Harold Wilson in the ’60s. After the 1970 general election, when Labour lost power, she served as Labour’s spokeswoman on home affairs. In subsequent Labour governments in the ’70s she served as a trade secretary and then secretary of education under Prime Minister James Callaghan.

Roy Jenkins, David Owen and Bill Rodgers — announced the formation of the centrist Social Democratic Party in January 1981.

“She was not somebody who liked taking orders from party whips or party machines,” Mr. Peel said. “She was in many ways a free spirit, an individual who did her own thing.”

At a time when few women had climbed to senior positions in politics, Ms. Williams faced extra challenges. She spoke in a 1979 interview about the difficulties of balancing domestic life with her parliamentary duties. Women, she observed, “have the business of trying to keep two lives going.”

She later said that the political demands on her time led in part to the annulment of her first marriage, to the philosopher Bernard Williams, whom she married in 1955 and with whom she had a daughter, Rebecca, her only immediate survivor. Mr. Williams died in 2003. Ms. Williams married the American historian and presidential adviser Richard E. Neustadt in 1987. He also died in 2003.

After forming the Social Democrats in 1981, Ms. Williams won the party’s first parliamentary seat that year, in Crosby, in northwestern England, taking it from the Conservatives. But she lost the seat in the disastrous 1983 general election.

Sky News interview.

In her final speech in the House of Lords, Ms. Williams reminded her colleagues that Britain had a tradition of leadership that was “not just national but global — where we are part of a larger group of human beings seeking a better world and a better life.”

“I think it would be a tragedy if the country gave up that kind of leadership,” she said.

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Election Overhaul Plan Threatens to Sideline Hong Kong’s Opposition

HONG KONG — The Hong Kong government on Tuesday introduced the final details of a push to drastically overhaul the city’s election system, including a proposal that would make it illegal to encourage voters to cast blank ballots or boycott elections.

The electoral changes are the latest effort by the central Chinese government to stamp out political opposition in Hong Kong, after months of fierce antigovernment demonstrations in 2019. Last month, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, an arm of China’s Communist Party-run legislature, unanimously approved a plan that would give national security bodies the authority to select candidates for political office.

That proposal, which followed the enactment last year of a harsh national security law, dictated that less than a quarter of Hong Kong’s legislature would be directly elected, compared to half before. It also created a candidate vetting committee with the power to unilaterally bar anyone deemed insufficiently loyal to the government. And it reshuffled the membership of another election committee that selects Hong Kong’s top leader, stacking it with more Beijing loyalists.

But some details of the new system, including exactly who would sit on the reconstituted election committee, remained unclear until Tuesday, when the Hong Kong government published a bill of more than 500 pages. The bill made clear that the election committee — already tilted in favor of the central government — would be filled with even more pro-establishment business and interest group leaders, as well as members of pro-Beijing political bodies.

entirely of pro-establishment figures after the mass resignation of the opposition last year.

“We all want elections to be very fair, so any manipulation to jeopardize or sabotage an election should not be permitted,” Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, said at a news conference.

The bill also laid out dates for upcoming electoral contests. The 1,500 members of the election committee are scheduled to be elected on Sept. 19.

Ma Ngok, an associate professor of government at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“The key issue is who in the pro-democracy camp will still run and who will be allowed to run,” Professor Ma said. “If you have already built in a very stringent screening system, then I don’t think it is actually necessary for the government to change” the system.

In the weeks since Beijing approved the electoral plans, the authorities have repeatedly said that Hong Kong’s residents had broadly embraced the changes.

But in moving to criminalize protest voting, Professor Ma said, the government seemed to be acknowledging that the changes were in fact unpopular, at least among some segment of the population.

“It seems that the government thinks that actually a lot of people will try to boycott or cast a protest vote,” he said.

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