World leaders condemn Gaddafi’s actions

Barack Obama has finally broken his silence on Libya – but there is no consensus on sanctions or a n

The situation in Libya is getting worse as it becomes increasingly apparent that Colonel Gaddafi is willing to see a huge death toll rather than give up power over the country he has ruled for 41 years. Reports that he has ordered the destruction of oilfields underline the potential threat to world security.

Other governments have been focused on getting their citizens out of Libya – and as US citizens prepared to be evacuated, Barack Obama broke his silence, condemning Gaddafi's actions and threatening sanctions.

Hillary Clinton is flying to Europe to discuss what actions the international community can take to stop the violence. Western leaders are united in condemning the bloodshed, and have variously called for sanctions and a no-fly zone over Libya. Meanwhile, the Arab League has suspended Libya, but has not vocalised any criticism.

Here is a summary of who has said what so far:

Barack Obama

Thursday 24 Feburary 2011

The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and it is unacceptable. So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters and further punish the people of Libya. These actions violate international norms and every standard of common decency. This violence must stop.

Obama said he has asked his administration for a list of options on how to respond to the crisis.

This includes those actions we may take and those we will co-ordinate with our allies and partners, or those that we will carry out through multilateral institutions.

Angela Merkel

Tuesday 22 February 2011

The news we've had from Libya yesterday and today is worrying and the speech by Colonel Gaddafi this afternoon was very, very frightening, especially because he virtually declared war on his own people

We urge the Libyan government to halt immediately the use of violence against its own people, and if the use of violence does not cease then Germany will exhaust every possibility to exert pressure and influence on Libya.

She added that if the violence did not stop "we would then speak in favour of sanctions against Libya".

Nicolas Sarkozy

Wednesday 23 February 2011

[I am asking] European partners to rapidly adopt concrete sanctions so that those who are implicated in the violence know that they must bear the consequences of their actions. These measures should include the possibility of making people face justice, blocking access to the European Union, and the surveillance of financial movements.

He added:

The continuing brutal and bloody repression against the Libyan civilian population is revolting. The international community cannot remain a spectator to these massive violations of human rights.

David Cameron

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Speaking to al-Jazeera, the Prime Minister condemned violence but was vague about whether to impose a no-fly zone or sanctions. It is likely that this position will toughen if and when British citizens are evacuated (a process that has now begun), when the government no longer has to worry about antagonising the Libyan regime.

Sanctions are always an option for the future if what we are seeing in Libya continues. Of course, if Libya continues down this path, there will be a very strong argument [for sanctions].

On military action, he said:

I do not think we are at that stage yet. We are at the stage of condemning the actions Colonel Gaddafi has taken against his own people.

Meanwhile, the former foreign secretary David Owen became the first British politician to call for a no-fly zone, telling the Today programme that he believed UN planes would already be on alert.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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