Thursday News Review

Lib Dems fear support dropping by day so move writ for by-election

Well, it looks like we’re going to have a Jan 13th by-election in Oldham East and Saddleworth. Labour MP Chris Ruane’s question at PMQs wasn’t knocked down by David Cameron and Tory sources later all but confirmed the date. This is all highly unusual because normally it is upto the incumbent party to move the writ of a by-election. Labour sources say they were planning to do so in early January, with the election taking place in Feburary. They point out that it has only been a couple of weeks since the Woolas court judgement and didn’t want to impose a campaign on the voters over Christmas and New Year. If the Lib Dems do indeed break with the convention and try to move the writ themselves (it has always been open to any party to do so), it will further underline the gulf between them and Labour. – PoliticsHome

Normally it is up to the party who previously held the seat – in this case Labour – to call the election. But the Lib Dems will break with Parliamentary convention and call the election themselves. The party’s decision means that campaigning for the election will take place over the quiet Christmas period. It also means that over 1200 students studying at the Huddersfield University campus in Oldham will still be on holiday when by-election takes place. The Lib Dems only need 103 more votes than in May to take the seat from Labour who said yesterday they will not to contest the move. – The Independent

The headline in the Manchester Evening News says it all. The Lib Dems will be moving the old & Sad by-election writ today and a Tory prime minister accuses Labour of “running scared”. Clearly the decision to put convention to one side and for a non-incumbent party to be moving the writ suggests a high degree of co-operation between the coalition partners. For if Labour object the overwhelming advantage that the Tories plus the Lib Dems have in terms of MPs will come into play. Labour might have wanted a February encounter but they have no control. – PoliticalBetting

Liam Fox under fire from Foreign Office

Liam Fox, the defence secretary, is planning to defy the Foreign Office by making a personal visit to Sri Lanka this weekend to deliver a speech in honour of a former foreign minister. The Foreign Office is debating whether to appeal to Downing Street to prevent Fox from visiting Sri Lanka, whose government is facing allegations of war crimes during its final assault on the Tamil Tigers last year. The row erupted after Fox, who has personal links to Sri Lanka from his time as a Foreign Office minister in the 1990s and who has visited the country twice in the last 13 months, accepted an invitation to deliver the Lakshman Kadirgamar memorial lecture. The invitation was issued by the widow of the late foreign minister, who was murdered by a Tamil Tiger sniper in 2005. – The Guardian

Ainsworth calls for drugs policy shake up

Mr Ainsworth is the most senior politician so far to publicly call for all drugs, including heroin and cocaine, to be decriminalised. He said he realised while he was a minister in the Home Office in charge of drugs policy that the so-called war on drugs could not be won. Mr Ainsworth has called for a strict system of legal regulation under which different drugs would either be prescribed by doctors or sold under licence. The Labour backbencher said successive governments had been frightened to raise the issue because they feared a media backlash. But he predicted in the end ministers would have no option but to adopt a different approach and consider decriminalisation. – BBC

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