Storm Desmond struck the UK this week
- The British Medical Association suspended strikes planned for December after an eleventh hour agreement with the government. The union has been at loggerheads with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt over proposed changes to the terms of their contract; an increase in base pay was set to be introduced, but a cut in unsociable hours payments and the weakening of safeguards that limit the number of hours that doctors can be expected to work have been criticised. To fully resolve the dispute, there have been calls for further talks. However, these developments came too late to prevent 4000 patients having their treatment delayed.
- Labour won a by-election in Oldham West and Royton with 62% of the vote. Some commentators had predicted that UKIP would make significant gains, but Nigel Farage’s party came a distant second on 23%. The result is a significant test passed for Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn. UKIP have made tentative allegations of electoral fraud relating to an unusually large number of postal votes, but are yet to submit a formal complaint. Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson described the suggestion as “sour grapes”.
- Storm Desmond battered parts of Scotland and the North of England on Saturday. The Met Office issued over 100 flood warnings and alerts, including more than fifty ‘severe flood warnings’, which imply “danger to life”, while 1000 people in Cumbria and the Scottish Borders evacuated their homes. Train journeys between England and Scotland faced heavy disruption, with Virgin Trains advising passengers not to attempt any journey between the two countries today.
- The RAF began strikes on ISIS positions in Syria, after MPs approved action in a vote on Wednesday. Parliament supported the extension of military action, which until that point had been limited to an air campaign against the terrorist group in Iraq, by 397 votes to 223. The vast majority of Conservatives voted in favour of the motion, while most Labour MPs, including Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods, voted against. The two air strikes carried out so far have targeted ISIS-held oil fields.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin accused his Turkish counterpart Recep Erdogan of involvement in the trade of oil with ISIS. Russia invited foreign journalists to a media briefing on Wednesday to show satellite images which claim to show oil tankers travelling from ISIS-held areas in Syria to the Turkish border. However, it’s not clear what evidence there is to implicate the Turkish state. Erdogan described the accusation as “slander” and his Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said: “It is not possible to explain Russia’s allegations by reason.” The claim comes little over a week after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane that they say violated its airspace.
- Oscar Pistorius was found guilty of murder by a South African appeals court. He had originally been sentenced for the manslaughter of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, after shooting her through a locked bathroom door on Valentine’s Day 2013. He claimed to have mistaken her for an intruder, and shot in self-defence. But the court argued that he must have known the shots were likely to kill, and that he hadn’t adequately established that his life was in danger. The Paralympic gold medallist, sometimes called “Blade Runner”, became the first amputee to sprint at an Olympic Games in 2012.