British Press and Social Media

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    Guardian UK @GuardianUK 2h

    Recent IPSOS poll: DUP 37%, SDP 32%, LPP 12%, SNP 5%, UKIP 5%, Plaid 5%, Green 4%

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    Rachel Tucker @RachelTucker1 3h

    Sad to finish last performance with @WickedUK, but excited to go reprise the role on Broadway. Look out Verington! Love to @kerryjanellis as she greens up.

    Dame Maggie Smith @DameSmithOBE 15m

    What does one do on a Saturday evening in? Hot cocoa and classic British films. #cosyliving

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    Government To Increase Mental Health Funding and Services

    24 October 2016

    After changing the NHS to be a large government insurance scheme in their first 100 days of Government, the Democrats have added some public services back, including paediatric services and now mental health services. The Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, announced that an increase of £3 billion into the health budget will be sought after over the course of the Parliament to provide public mental health clinics across the United Kingdom. This step was made after consultation from mental health professionals and the Chairman of the NHS, who said that while healthcare services have become more efficient and sustainable with the change beginning in April of this year, more services were needed to help those who needed preventative care and mental health care.

    "The Government would be better served to return paediatric preventative care, mental health care, and adult preventative care like general practitioners back into public hands. The latter of those is not necessarily required for all GPs to come back into public sector, but have the option there for people more or less," said Simon Stevens. "This would ensure sustainability but allow those who cannot contribute anything to their care to have these key healthcare professionals to go to before getting seriously ill."

    The tax rate of 5p levied as an NHS tax has provided the necessary funding required to the NHS, £273.3 billion, directly to the NHS, has enabled the government to negotiate costs as the largest insurance company in Britain. However, supplementary health insurance industry has begun to thrive as well as people pay for supplementary insurance to cover the remaining costs after the NHS covers many services including age care services. The Government was quick to use the words of the NHS chair, Simon Stevens, on the sustainability of this version of the NHS.

    "The fact remains," Jeremy Hunt said in Parliament on Monday, "that the NHS is now more sustainable and safer in the hands of this Democratic Government than in the hands of the SDP. It just goes to show that we on this side of the House are on the side of all of the British people while those opposite only care about making this country poorer and unsustainable."

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    Government to Look at Universal Credit (Britcoin) in Autumn Statement

    LONDON --- The Government will be looking at the threshold for Universal Credit during the Autumn Statement. The Treasury has indicated that one of the areas that the Chancellor was looking at in terms of potential changes in the Autumn Statement. Upon the introduction of Universal Credit in place of the many tiers of benefits, the Government has had a small issue with the threshold of those who needed the credit most. It has been a point of contention between the Government and the Opposition at Prime Minister's Questions, and the Government has been trying to keep its own reforms under wraps. A source from HM Treasury has told the Guardian that: "changes to the threshold will be in the Autumn Statement, as well as some regular check-ups like tax rates and a policy announcement regarding public services".

    Mrs. May has been said to be a fan of privatising some government owned assets like the Royal Mail, but other potential national assets like the payment system for the National Health Service and others have popped up in recent days. The speculation may be overdone that the Government would announce such a policy at an Autumn Statement, and not at a Budget, which will take place in the Spring. The Chancellor, the Prime Minister, and other Government ministers were not made available to comment on the source's report to the Guardian.

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    Politics: PM to Reshuffle Cabinet After Autumn Statement

    Rumours of a Cabinet reshuffle have popped up at the anniversary of the 2015 snap general election that saw the Democratic Unionist Party swept into power, ending the almost two decade rule of the Social Democrats under first Tony Blair, then Gordon Brown, and then Ed Miliband and Barack Obama. Prime Minister Theresa May has enjoyed strong economic conditions buoying public opinion on the Government, and has taken the time to list the achievements of the Government ahead of the Autumn Statement:

    "This is the year anniversary of this Democratic Government, and we have already begun to make positive change for Britain's future. We have reduced our budget by nearly 7% of GDP, an immense £800 billion saved for the taxpayer. We have spurred economic growth by simplifying the tax code and reducing taxes across the whole of the United Kingdom, also taking measures to ensure that people have quality public services that are sustainable. Our reform to the pension system have given savers the opportunity to amass enough savings over their lifetime that they could secure their retirement. We have reformed the NHS so that quality services can be delivered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week while keeping healthcare costs down to the Government, giving us more leeway in health policy to bring about even more change for the better. There are more people in work than ever before, holding at 2.9%, the lowest in British history. We have delivered a political future for all parts of the United Kingdom to be the most devolved it has ever been. However, we still have work to be done and the Autumn Statement will point us in the direction that the Government will take in the future."

    The Cabinet, on the other hand, will still be shuffled. The Great Offices of State will stay the same: Javid will stay on as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rudd as Home Secretary and Crabb as Home Secretary, as will Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. There are rumours, though, that some big positions like Health Secretary are under consideration by Mrs. May.

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    Times Politics (@timespolitics)

    Gov't increases lead on SDP.

    DUP 38, SDP 30, LPP 10, UKIP 7, SNP 6, GRN 4, PLD 3, GRN 2

    Study shows voters move from minors to SDP, SDP to DUP

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    Politics: Social Democratic Party Rumblings; Calls for Challenge to Corbyn

    As the Parliament draws to a close for 2016, the SDP have found that they have significant ground to cover in the polls against the Government. While there are signs that supporters of the Greens and some supporters of even smaller left-wing parties in the United Kingdom gravitated towards the SDP under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, more centrist leaders have begun to move towards the Government in recent polling. According to YouGov, the DUP Government has held firm at 39%, while the SDP has fallen by 2 points to 28%. An 11 point margin would deliver an electoral landslide for the Government at a future general election, which has raised questions over whether the Government would call for a snap general election if current trends hold further. While some people say that Theresa May would not pull that snap general election trigger just yet. It would allow the Prime Minister more latitude in the Senate, where she does have to negotiate a deal with UKIP and tricky crossbench support to get key support for legislation like the Infrastructure Plan, which the SDP, Greens and Scottish Nationalists have already decided to try and add more amendments to after the House of Commons held its first and second readings.

    The blame, according to Andy Burnham, sits squarely on the shoulders of Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the SDP since early 2016. The leader's lacklustre performances so far in PMQs, according to internal sources, have contributed to the parliamentary caucus of the SDP in the Commons and in the Senate looking for a new replacement. Senator Shami Chakrabarti expressed on Sky News this week that "Corbyn's performance as Leader has not broadened the base of the SDP, and has put them in a rough position with English regional elections in 2017". With the new regional legislatures coming to fruition in May 2017, it appears that the SDP will barely hold on to power in the West Midlands Assembly, while the Northeast and Northwest Assemblies remain the only solid SDP heartlands in England outside of London, with the SDP beaten into third place in the Southwest, and a distant second in the East Anglia Assembly and East Midlands Assembly.

    The SDP have moved away from supporting working class people in England towards liberal metropolitan elites. The Daily Mail called out the SDP as "being the party of Islington, liberal Kensington, and essentially of London, where there is some displeasure across the United Kingdom directed since 2010". Some have called for Corbyn's head. Andy Burnham continued:

    "Jeremy Corbyn hasn't done enough to broaden our base. We were taken out of power in 2015 because people felt the United Kingdom could not act of its own accord in foreign affairs but rather had devolved itself to being a lapdog of the Duxburian Union and Angleter, and they felt that the Government, our Government did not take the time to listen to concerns of people beyond the M25. To have a leader from London speak to issues that haven't resonated beyond the London and Manchester urban areas is dangerous. We cannot limit ourselves to being the party of Greater London and Greater Manchester only. We will never win power, and that is what being a political party is about. We must figure out a way to win power again".

    The SDP's schism on Trident, on international affairs, on economic protectionism, on emissions and clilmate change economy, on state intervention and regulation (the list goes on), seems largely between the Corbyn supporters who also happen to come from a class of voter affectionately (or perhaps dis-affectionately) called champagne socialists and left-wingers, the caucus, and traditional, more socially moderate working class voters in middle and northern England. This three way split has got other parties like the Scottish Nationalists, Liberal Progressives, and even UKIP trying to snap up the varying voters. Could this be the death of the SDP? Senator Chakrabarti seems to think so if the party isn't careful.

    "If we do not work to address this party, the large coalition of the left that a model SDP should be," Senator Chakrabarti said to Andrew Neil on Daily Politics, "we could see the SDP either have a long period of being in the wilderness, or completely dissolve altogether, which would be a shame that this proud party, the party of Attlee, of Wilson, and of the recent Blair-Brown and Miliband Governments could dissolve. We cannot assume that we have a right to exist, and we cannot make our message smaller and expect to win elections and retain power. Voters will respond".

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    Politics: Senate Review on Government NHS Policy to be Handed Down on Tuesday

    LONDON -- The Government may see its key reforms heavily scrutinised by the Senate on Tuesday as the long awaited Annual Senate NHS Review headed by Senate Opposition Leader Angela Smith. She chaired the Senate Committee before broader Senate scrutiny was invited on the Governments transformation of the National Health Service in 2015-2016, set to start on January 1 of 2017. Senator Smith said that "this privatisation en masse of NHS services would inherently damage the NHS into an unrecognisable husk". While the Government withdrew its initial legislation, it passed through the House of Commons a second draft on the proposed single payer healthcare coverage (not provider) scheme. The legislation was blocked in the Senate 51-48, with all but the UKIP Senators backing the Government's proposal, but upon accepting one amendment from a Plaid Cymru Senator, the Liberal Progressive Party crossed the floor and voted with the Government in the Senate 56-43 to keep recommend the law receive the amendment written by Senator Liz Saville-Roberts but otherwise be cleared for Royal Assent.

    At the time, Theresa May hailed the bipartisan effort of the Government in the Senate as a huge achievement for sustainability of public services, and said that the move "ensured the NHS would last for centuries to come". She may rue the day she decided to tackle the NHS. The Annual Senate NHS Review is set to air a list of grievances by the SDP, SNP, and LPP on some aspects of the impending implementation of the NHS on 1 January. The Prime Minister has indicated that even if the reforms are unpopular initially, they are needed for the future of both the budget and the services that the Government provides. The Senate Review will also outline achievements of the Government and list recommendations that both sides of the chamber had to agree to before publishing.

    This all in the last week of sittings for the Parliament in 2016. With an infrastructure bill ready to go from the Secretary of State for Tertiary Education, Innovation and Skills Jo Johnson, the entire political year could be stolen away from the Government by a Senate with an axe to grind.

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    Canary Wharf, Oxford-Cambridge, Northern England Development Targets For Government

    2017 may be the big year that the Government was hoping 2016 would be. After cautiously starting off 2016, the Government announced in its white paper an infrastructure and development plan, aimed at generating an extra 2% of economic activity in the United Kingdom by 2018. The new investment will include upgrading the existing Crossrail link to Canary Wharf in London, partnered with Transport for London, 4,000 new residences in Canary Wharf. Other big projects include the Oxford-Cambridge Tech Corridor and rail connections between Manchester-Leeds and Manchester-Blackpool upgrades and vital airport upgrades to Edinburgh, Manchester, and Dublin airports. Jo Johnson had this to say about the infrastructure projects and their potential for jobs and growth.

    "Development in the Oxford-Cambridge corridor as well as upgrading the regional hub airports like Dublin, Edinburgh and Manchester as well as the development of Canary Wharf to include residential areas and associated lifestyle industries will be absolutely essential in the new economy we want to create in Britain. Powering our economy with dynamic private sector investment and building on traditional strengths that have made Britain the fantastic country it has been in the past. We look to the future with these designs and make sure that we get Innovation Britain powered and ready to go," the Secretary said in a speech to the Canary Wharf Group luncheon on Sunday.

    The "Veringtonisation" of London has been limited so far to the Wharf, but the City has also seen its share of high rises go up in the last 10 years, and will continue to see these investments pop up across the capital. The problem, says Nick Hurd, is delivering the economic growth to the rest of the United Kingdom.

    "We are blessed to have a wonderful capital city," said the Secretary of State for Business and Energy. "Our goal is to get business investment to grow at a faster rate outside of London than in London so that the rest of the country can catch up. Dublin has led the way in the north as has the rest of Ireland, but there is more work left to do."

    Some economists at the London School of Economics have touted that 2017 could be the year for Britain to really start to kick its growth into high gear with the infrastructure projects coming to fruition in that year like HS2 and 3 (which created the Birmingham to Manchester link and the Edinburgh-Leeds,London high speed connection), Crossrail in London and big retraining projects rolled out to help with the Government's tech policy boosted by the full roll-out of the fibre optic National Broadband Network (UKNBN). Check back again in December 2017.

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    Pravoslaviya Torpedoes Migrant Boat; Government Holds Emergency Cabinet Meeting

    LONDON --- It may be time for a new year, but the Government has one more emergency piece of business on its agenda. The Prime Minister, Theresa May, called back her Cabinet Minister to London for an emergency meeting of the Cabinet in which they discussed the news from Pravoslaviya that a boat carrying migrants from besieged country of Dromund Kaas, now entering its 5th year of internal conflicts.

    The boat, which was torpedoed in the earlier hours in the morning, was carrying up to 250 Kaasian migrants towards Pravoslaviya. According to the Denes Nad Pravoslaviya newspaper:

    They confirmed that some remains have been recovered, but that it is too early to say how many bodies have been found and how many remain to be recovered. The migrants' belongings, recovered from the wreckage, confirmed that at least some of them were Kaasians of the Sithian sect.

    Metodi Pravoslav has defended the policy, saying that "this is a tragedy, yes. However, we expect it will be an effective deterrent. Thousands of people have died in the Caspian in recent years because they've got on ships believing that they will get a better life in Pravoslaviya. Now it's clear. We will no longer tolerate these boats. They will not get to Pravoslaviya. So what we will see happen in the coming months is a reduction in the number of boats - hopefully to zero - and ultimately thousands of lives being saved.

    The Prime Minister was left feeling "shocked and appalled at the atrocities committed by the new Pravoslaviyan government". She and other members of the Cabinet are taking careful steps in deciding what will come next for Pravoslaviya.

    "The Government has to consider all options on the table for such conduct, especially against non-belligerents. We have been monitoring the extreme rhetoric that has come from Pravoslaviya, Tryumpov and Prime Minister Metodi Pravoslav, and as a nation built on democratic values and compassion, we will not stand by and let these actions go without consequence. We must also consider our role in the Dromund Kaas conflict, a conflict that our SDP predecessors put the United Kingdom in back in 2012 but quickly withdrew. Our allies in the Duxburian Union and Angleter have done a great deal to advance the cause of liberal democracy and freedom to the country slowly, and we must consider Britain's role in re-entering the conflict in a supporting role," the Prime Minister replied. "There have been many displaced people in Europe over the last two years, and the most have come from Dromund Kaas as they find a nation that has no government, insurgency runs rampant, and there is chaos everywhere. Europe should be ashamed of its lack of concern as the Coalition of the Willing continues to act on its own with no support from the regional government."

    The Government has also been in touch with Australian Prime Minister Hillary Clinton and her Government.

    "We have been in contact with our allies, including the Australian Government, who has been taking in Kaasian refugees for some time now. Mrs. Clinton has assured me that Australia will support the United Kingdom in its pursuit to dealing with the refugee crisis that has amounted from this 4 year struggle in Dromund Kaas," Mrs. May continued. "I hope that I can speak directly to Prime Minister Courtenay and the Angleteric Government and Steward Maxmillian in the Duxburian Union."

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    Parliament Recalled Early on Vote to Rejoin Coalition in Dromund Kaas

    LONDON --- The Prime Minister announced that Parliament would begin a special sitting on Wednesday in regards to the recent issues in Pravoslaviya and Dromund Kaas. On the steps of Number 10, she spoke of the need to be on the side of people in need.

    "The Government's foreign policy principles are based on strength: the strength of our resolve, the strength of our nation, and above all, the strength of our compassion. The events of the following week has rocked Europe and the United Kingdom into action. We believe that Britain's place is at the heart of the issues, working with our partners across the region to promote peace. That is why we have called Parliament back for a three day sitting starting on Wednesday, so that we may have debate in the House of Commons and in the Senate on what to do regarding the Pravoslaviyan actions in the deaths of nearly 250 refugees, further cooperation with Angleter and the Duxburian Union in Dromund Kaas, and the Government's policy on refugees.

    "Though we are far away from Dromund Kaas, we do believe that it is in the interest of Europe and this country to do our part in a conflict in which Britain played a role back in 2012. At the time, I said it was silly for the former Prime Minister to withdraw British forces from Dromund Kaas, and that it would only be through a combined effort that the conflict would come to a swift resolution. He did not heed that warning, and now we are nearing the fifth year of such conflict. The time to re-enter has never been clearer. That is what the Government will put forward to Parliament, and that is what we will be debating.

    "We will also debate the Government's target to take in 100,000 Kaasian children, and through a thorough vetting process, accompanying family members."

    SDP leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the special sitting, stating that "the Government has ignored the cries for help made by the people in Dromund Kaas" and that the former SDP government was fixated on the Teutonic crisis, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of migrants closer to the United Kingdom.

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    Parliament Votes to Approve Dromund Kaas Re-entry; Senate Blocks Initial Migrant Proposal

    LONDON --- The House of Commons and the Senate have both authorised the Government to re-enter the Dromund Kaas conflict, giving the Prime Minister authority to formally ask the King to declare war on Dromund Kaas. The British Armed Forces have been asked to be on their highest readiness alert, with deployment coming as early as next week into the conflict upon consultation with Angleter and the Duxburian Union on the crisis. The more disappointing aspect, however, may have been the Senate's rejection of the acceptance of 100,000 migrant children and their families to the United Kingdom.

    In a move that stunned the Government, several Democrat and SDP Senators voted against the Government while others abstained, leaving the Senate short of the 51 majority it needed to get the issue passed through, enabling the Government to take action on the migrant issue. UKIP Senator Katie Hopkins echoed sentiments heard not just in Britain, but in Australia as well.

    "There is no way to ensure that the people we are taking into Britain are in fact safe. We know that many in Dromund Kaas were brainwashed into the awful and deadly Sithian ideology. There could be sleeper agents for terrorist groups in there. There could be any number of dangers, as well as illegitimate migrants who simply want to move from a different country, pretending to be from DK, taking jobs from British workers. This huge spectrum of issues makes the Prime Minister's proposals absolutely dangerous."

    Downing Street will continue to push Parliament to accept the migrants, and if the House of Commons approves the measure by 65%, the Senate's rejection will be overridden. Parliament's official sitting begins January 9, which means that the first week's agenda will be dominated by the Dromund Kaas issue as well as the issues of the day for the United Kingdom.

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    Snow Grounds Flights; Creates Travel Headache Across Southern England

    LONDON --- A harsh winter storm system has hit the United Kingdom, and it has grounded more than 100 flights across southern England, including at London Heathrow Airport and London Gatwick Airport. Winter Storm Phaedra brought up to seven inches of snow in some parts of southern England, with four inches falling on London. High winds and sleet conditions have also created headaches across the motorway system in the southeast, creating long jams in London, Kent, and parts of Wales. Minister for Transport Chris Grayling has said that "the Department for Transport in conjunction with local and devolved areas have made resources available to deal with the snow. The Government will always consider the safety of our citizens when making decisions on roads, flights, and rail travel in snow conditions".

    Highways England have continued to plough across the region, with snow and sleet conditions continuing as far north as Leeds as the unusually heavy snowfall continues across the south of the country. National Rail has issued a statement that all trains will be fitted with snow ploughs and rail travel should continue with trains moving cautiously across the United Kingdom. High speed rail travel has seen delays as trains have been forced to travel slowly through the country, with the hour and a half Eurostar from London to Mertz taking upwards of two and a half hours.

    Winter Storm Phaedra is due to move on from the area by Tuesday.

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    Breaking: UK Government Puts Furukawa on NSTL

    LONDON --- Theresa May will announce new measures on national security as a threat from the nation of Furukawa grows. The nation, capable of producing nuclear weapons, has not come to the ENAA for approval to build nuclear weapons. Nor has it developed any. Still, the Prime Minister announced that Furukawa will be on the National Security Threat List starting Monday as the number two threat to the United Kingdom. Speaking to an audience of foreign intelligence workers at MI5, Mrs. May said:

    "The first priority of Government is to protect the citizens of the United Kingdom. Furukawa, as we have learned upon arrival in the European Union, is nuclear capable and is therefore a threat to Britain. Every nation in the European Union has the right to defend itself from what it considers threats, and in this situation, the UK Government has found this nation to be a threat. I encourage the Government of Furukawa to come to London so that we may find a solution to this threat."

    A top intelligence and national security adviser to Number 10 said that "the policy to place nations on the National Security Threat List is fluid and ever growing. Placing a nation on this list means they're at the very top of the priority list in Europe in terms of security concerns".

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    Spotlight On: Diana Damrau

    Fremetian-born British coloratura Diana Damrau has made her mark on the opera scene across Europe, performing in all of the famous opera houses for nearly a decade in the greatest coloratura roles from the Queen of the Night to Lucia di Lammermoor. Now she returns to Covent Garden to star in the latest production of Rossini's Le Comte Ory as Adele along side big names like Juan Diego Flores and Joyce DiDonato. The BBC caught up with Damrau in her Kensington home as she prepared to step back into Rossini's comic opera.

    BBC: So glad to have you back at home, Diana!

    Diana Damrau: It's nice to be back at home.

    BBC: What was it like to be back and performing on London's brightest opera stage?

    Damrau: Oh, it's wonderful. I'm glad to be here and I'm glad to be with my colleagues on what is my home stage.

    BBC: Let's talk about Adele in Le Comte Ory. She is one half of the show's main plot, where the title character fights to win the love of Countess Adele. The story is set in Miraco, the year 1200, in Touraine. What is your favourite part about doing this opera?

    Damrau: Oh, it's a wonderful opera that's somewhere in between a traditional opéra comique in the Miracois style and a full bludded, Fremetian bel canto opera. There's still the big structure of music put together with the help of recitative, but it's not the same as a opera seria, or even an opera buffa. It's a wonderful marriage of many different styles, unique unto itself. La Comtesse Adele, she is a wonderful role to play, full of wonderful arias and delicious musical lines from the masterful composer of bel canto, Rossini.

    BBC: What is it like performing alongside Juan Diego Florez. The Derectan tenor seems to have such a huge following anywhere he goes.

    Damrau: Yes, and rightly so, he has an incredible voice. He's a tremendous actor, he's everything you could ask for in an opera star and this is a great opera for the tenor. A lot of times the tenor can be added onto beautiful soprano writing and not really have a weighty part of its own, but the tenor really....Count Ory as the title character has some of the most exquisite tenor writing.

    BBC: How long is the opera playing?

    Damrau: We have two weekends of performances, which is rare for Covent Garden, but this is such a popular opera. I know on the Thursdays they will be showing Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci with some incredible British talent, and then Friday and Saturday will be the performances of Le Comte Ory. After that, there's talk of Turandot or Die Fledermaus for the gala in April with the exquisite diva Natalie Dessay making her return to Covent Garden, or perhaps even Renee Fleming from the Duxburian Union. That would be something!

    BBC: Will you be at the Covent Garden Gala?

    Damrau: Yes, but not in a performing capacity. I will have engagements at the Sydney Opera House giving a couple of recitals before diving into more work, returning to do the Queen of the Night in Melbourne before travelling to Angleter for a special performance of Les Contes d'Hoffmann.

    BBC: Very busy time for you!

    Damrau: Yes, but it's always a treat to be busy, to be wanted on stage. It could be the exact opposite.

    BBC: Thank you for talking to us today. Break a leg, diva!

    Damrau: Thank you!

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    Budget: Dr. David Lidington (Secretary of State for International Trade) and Senator Shami Chakrabarti

    Robert Peston: Budget week was, for the first time in a long time, partly uneventful. The Government put forward its case on the economy, touting higher wages, numbers that show that the UK economy grew by 2.2% over the course of 2017-2018 fiscal year. T-Levels, closing loopholes, cutting corporate tax, tech corridors, and innovation hubs litter the budget. Joining me in depth is the Secretary of State for International Trade and Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Shami Chakrabarti of the SDP. As always, Allegra Stratton brings us reaction from social media....oh, and there she goes again.

    Senator Shami Chakrabarti: Thank you for having me.

    Dr. David Lidington: Yes, thank you Robert.

    Peston: Dr. Lidington, I see you're wearing a tie, but you know ties are banned! We'll forgive you this time. Let's take a quick look at the budget details. No surprise that defence spending is still tops in there. 26.4% of the budget...£474.6 billion, and BAE must be absolutely giddy as well as the Duxburian aircraft contractors. That procurement budget alone of £47 billion is going to make them very happy. It's an extraordinarily large amount of money, even more if you convert it to the regional currency, euros. Is it right that we are spending this much on defence?

    Lidington: Yes, of course. Even though we are in alliances, we have to be able to defend ourselves effectively. The at sea deterrent of the Trident submarine programme, the new Dreadnought-class which will be in service by 2020, having kept the details of the programme secret. We have to keep the country safe, as it is the number one priority of any government. This Government has done a particularly good job at restoring the serious credibility of the United Kingdom. We have in two years already paid off the procurement of the new vessels and we are looking to continue to increase our capacity, so there may be even more to the procurement budget in the future.

    Chakrabarti: Yes, if you don't count the fact that we are going to be seen around the world as profiteering on war and violence. Look, we could be spending this insane amount of money on defence and putting the UK out there in a posturing way, or we could be focused on building greater infrastructure. We could be shoring up the NHS, which is constantly careening from funding crisis to funding crisis. I mean, it says a lot that Theresa May, Philip Dunne, and Anna Sobury have no idea what sorts of issues the Government has put us in.

    Lidington: Oh come on....

    Peston: Well, defend that, Shami. I mean, the SDP also spent quite a lot on defence. In fact, then Prime Minister Ed Miliband, spent just about the same amount of money on defence as the current Government. You could have spent more on social projects when you were in Government. I mean, you had 18 years to do something about it!

    Chakrabarti: But we did spend on other things. We built High Speed 1,High Speed 2...we did loads of motorway projects....

    Lidington: Yes, and we have build and delivered Stansted and Gatwick expansion, and an Estuary Airport for London, as well as breaking ground on High Speed 3, 4 and 5, all focused on delivering higher speed connection between northern cities like Manchester to Edinburgh, Edinburgh to Dublin, and Leeds to Dublin.

    Chakrabarti: We made sure that the NHS had its lowest waiting times, higher outcomes, and more money for research and development under our watch. It was not underfunded like it has been in 2015 and 2016. There is a serious crisis going on in the services the Government is providing in terms of funding, and the Government tries to hide behind the rhetoric of "encouraging greater productivity". I can tell you, you are more productive when you are sure you are making a living wage for the amount of work the people who work in these services are doing.

    Peston: Alright, but we're on this Government, and let's keep dissecting the budget. Now, the biggest point of contention between the Unionists in Parliament and the SDP is the Britcome, that UK Income Supplement. The Opposition have been calling again and again for the Government to increase the scope of the programme. Well, looking at the budget, it looks like they have expanded the system to the lowest 30% of income earners in the country to get an extra £4,500 a year. How are the SDP going to justify being in opposition to a programme that is now giving 30 million working class people a leg up?

    Chakrabarti: It's not a fair system. Why is the limit the Government is putting on it at 30% of the lowest income earners? If we're going to give people an income supplement, we believe that 70% of working people should get it. It would certainly help the JAMs that the Prime Minister talked about when she came to power in 2015.

    Peston: But is that feasible?

    Lidington: If I can answer that for you, no it is not feasible. Remember that this UKIS or Britcome payment is in exchange for the system of benefits that were so prone to abuse. The Housing Benefit, Child Benefit, etc. It was out of control and it was the SDP who wanted a welfare economy, low wage, high welfare society. We Unionists, believing in one nation conservatism and governing as such, are trying to give people a cheaper system, cutting out £10 billion in administrative costs from the budget and overlap in the Civil Service. We have given the people who receive these a choice to where it goes. Often times, it will go into either a down payment on a car, a down payment on technology upgrades, new clothes, better food, and it will go back into the economy. We have also put the payment on special cards that cannot be withdrawn from ATM's, which means people can't just blow it on more questionable activities that easily. People on benefit before could be taking that and not at all using that to pay bills or better their lives, but spend it all at the pub or on drugs. This system is much more tight and is a better use of taxpayer money.

    Peston: We do see that, but is it right that only 30 million out of 93 million workers get this and the others don't?

    Lidington: But we are also helping all workers save for their future in superannuation accounts that get matching contributions as a combination of Government funds, business contribution via payroll tax, and through the individual at work via the National Insurance Contribution. This three pronged contribution gives people up to £10,000 annually in their superannuation pension account that will accrue interest at 1.5% higher than the rate of inflation, which right now is 2%. With wage growth growing 2.1% ahead of inflation as well, people can contribute tax free up to £200,000 into their superannuation account. We are encouraging savings for the future, and since it compounds twice, the average worker who begins at age 22 and works until age 63 will earn over £950,000 in their state super accounts. From there, they can continue to leave their money in savings accounts and withdraw that money as needed, and it will still compound twice and collect interest. As such, people can also choose to deposit their tax returns into their super accounts.

    Peston: But that's just retirement, how is that helping them now?

    Lidington: That money is theirs, and while there is a small penalty fee of 2%, if they need that money if something happens where they need to withdraw it, people are allowed to take it and use it.

    Chakrabarti: But how is that fair to the people who can't work?

    Lidington: How is it fair to the people who do to subsidise people who don't? We want full employment across the United Kingdom, and we are still covering people with the Government contribution if they have recently lost their job for six months after that. Coupled with the Britcome payment, and it is not like we are leaving the unemployed or unable to be completely out of luck. Those who are proven unable to work can also petition the Government UKIS office to receive the average rate of contribution to their accounts.

    Peston: Shami, that seems like quite solid logic....well, we have to take a break. When we come back, even more budget analysis! We'll look at that NHS budget and how the Government will make sure that each devolved area receives the right amount of money.

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    Politics: Under STV, SDP-SNP Coalition Would Be Likely Says Poll

    LONDON --- As the Government enjoys a popularity that hasn't been seen since the Unionist Governments of Sir John Major and Nigel Lawson, an Ipsos Mori poll questioned voters on their preferred party and ran a mock election with their 10,000 sample size. Under an STV election, the Social Democrats would have held on to power in 2015 with a change in voting system. Similarly, under the Australian two-party preferred Mixed Member Proportional Vote, the SDP would have just held on to power with a parliamentary majority of 2 seats. Ipsos Mori also ran the current situation under the STV and MMP systems and it predicted that the current government would still have a majority under the MMP system, but would have to form a coalition like they did in the Senate, most likely with the Liberal Progressives.

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    Breaking: Internal Rumblings of SDP MPs and Senators Call for Corbyn Resignation

    LONDON --- In an secret meeting of SDP MPs and Senators, Jeremy Corbyn has sounded out the Parliamentary SDP on support. Many say that Corbyn will call a leadership spill. Rumours around Westminster have said that Hillary Benn and Sir Keir Starmer could be running against Corbyn. This comes as polling shows a near 17% gap between the Government and the SDP has opened up in recent days, with the Democratic Unionists holding strong at 42% while the SDP, once polling at 35% lost 10% over the course of June 2016 and the latest polling in March 2017. Heading into the summer of 2017, all eyes will be on the pivot from the 2015 general election aftermath towards 2020 and the future of UK politics.

    Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP have also said that the prospect of never-ending Unionist governments that Scotland did not vote for could be grounds for seeking an independence referendum under Section 30 of the Scotland Act 2012. The Prime Minister, Theresa May, nor her Office have made any statement regarding that rumour, nor has the Scottish Government or Scottish Parliament sought to table any documents outlining a proposed referendum on Scottish independence.

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    Breaking: Sir Keir Starmer to challenge Jeremy Corbyn

    LONDON --- The Leader of the Opposition SDP, Jeremy Corbyn, has officially been challenged by the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Sir Keir Starmer. Starmer resigned from the Shadow Cabinet and received 55 of the Parliamentary SDP backing his nomination when he put it forward. Party rules allow for an immediate leadership spill or for a leadership contest. Depending on the results of the Parliamentary SDP meeting going on tonight, the SDP may opt for the leadership spill option. Should Starmer rise to be the SDP leader, he will have quite the time in trying to dissect the Unionist Government led by Theresa May. Currently riding highs, the DUP may coast to the next general election.

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    GuardianPolitics - @GuardianPolUK 45m

    BREAKING: SDP in Parliament vote Starmer as leader #ukpol

    Sky News Politics Desk - @SkyNewsPolitics - 15m

    Rumours in Westminster that Number10 will call snap general election on #IndyRef

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