This week, the country has seen the attempted assassination of a former MI6 operative, there has been more Brexit talk from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, along with a controversial Saudi state visit.
There is now an ongoing investigation into the attempted murder of Sergei Skipral, the 66 year old spy who had been previously convicted of treason in Russia for passing intelligence to MI6. Skipral and his daughter, Yulia, were found unconscious in Salisbury, having been poisoned. This prompted a meeting of Cobra, chaired by Amber Rudd, as well as a warning given by Boris Johnson in parliament that if the Russians are behind the attack then further sanctions will have to be discussed, alongside a boycott of the upcoming World Cup to be held this summer in Russia
The Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, made a visit to meet the PM in order to negotiate business and trade arrangements between the two nations. This comes at an opportune time for both countries, with Britain looking to secure trading partnerships outside the EU in preparation for a post-Brexit era, and with Mohammed bin Salman’s 2030 reform plan, including a deeper UK-Saudi partnership as part of his intention to diversify the Saudi economy, lessening their dependence on oil.
This opened up an opportunity for critics of the Saudi regime to voice their concerns about human rights abuses, breaching international law in Yemen and funding Islamic extremism in the UK. This criticism included a lambasting of the regime from Jeremy Corbyn at in parliament, followed by Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable decrying the government’s “red-carpet” reception to the “dictatorial head of a medieval, theocratic regime”.
Cable has been busy later in the week at the Liberal Democrats Spring Conference. Unsurprisingly, he has reaffirmed the Lib Dems commitment to an ‘Exit from Brexit’ through a second referendum. He also made a commitment to a diversity agenda, not only within the party but extended to education policy too. The more radical education policy to come out of the conference, however, is the scrapping of SATs and Ofsted, to make schools less results-focused. Instead they would like schools to focus more on well-being and individual development.
The Scottish Labour party also had a conference this week, graced by an appearance from the national Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. In his speech he called for a ‘common sense’, ‘Jobs-First’ Brexit, reaffirming Labour’s recent pledge to be part of “a customs union”. It is unclear at this stage whether this will mean staying in the existing one or negotiating a new one. This Brexit strategy is supposedly compatible with Labour’s “radical” economic plan, which includes the nationalisation of many industries. Corbyn also promised to pass power from the EU directly to devolve authorities, standing in opposition to the Conservatives recent plan to temporarily take power from devolved authorities after Brexit. He also took an opportunity to criticism the government’s position in regards to Saudi Arabia, calling for an end to arms deals and a for political settlement in Yemen.
The conference, however, has been somewhat dominated by a row over Brexit policy. Pro-Single Market campaigners in Scottish Labour wish to vote on a motion to make single market membership a Scottish Labour policy, but the leadership are trying to block this motion that would put Scottish Labour at odds with national policy, which Corbyn has argued cannot include full membership for his economic plans to be achieved.