Libya declares ceasefire

Foreign minister says an immediate ceasefire will be imposed after UN backs no-fly zone.

The Libyan foreign minister, Mousa Kousa, has told reporters that Libya will impose "an immediate ceasefire and stoppage of all military operations" against rebel forces.

Speaking to reporters in Tripoli, he said that the country will abide by yesterday's UN Security Council resolution calling for a no-fly zone and a ceasefire.

Kousa was critical of the "unreasonable" UN resolution, which allows the use of military power. "This goes clearly against the UN Charter, and it is a violation of the national sovereignty of Libya," he said.

He said Libya would "try to deal positively" with the resolution, and that a no-fly zone would "increase the suffering of Libyan people and will have negative impact on the general life of the Libyan people", as it will affect civilian as well as military flights.

This professed concern for civilians is a significant change in rhetoric from the Libyan regime. Just last night, Muammar al-Gaddafi warned that "no mercy" would be shown to the people of Benghazi.

It is far too early to tell how long a ceasefire will last, and whether this is a genuine laying down of arms or merely a strategic move to buy time. Oliver Miles, a former British ambassador to Libya, told Sky News: "I think he has taken a step that no one foresaw. It is very difficult to read Gaddafi's mind but I think he sees this as a way of holding back the military attack."

The next important thing to watch is the terms of the ceasefire and how it will be monitored: it is highly unlikely that the regime will allow rebel groups in Benghazi to continue with impunity, ceasefire or not. Will the UN be allowed into Libya for monitoring purposes? It's worth noting that Kousa refused to answer any questions after his announcement.

If it comes to it, it will not be difficult for Gaddafi to ramp up the violence again.

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

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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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