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China web users say searches on Google’s Hong Kong site blocked

Mobile services also partially blocked in China, says Google.

Web users say that the internet connection is being reset after each search so results cannot be displayed, the Guardian has reported. However, there were suggestions that the problem may not be an intentional block by the Chinese authorities, as it was still possible to use the advanced search function on the Google Hong Kong homepage.

An alternative explanation could be the presence of certain letters in a search parameter representing the abbreviation of blocked radio website Radio Free Asia, which may have triggered internet filters. Google told Reuters that "mobile services are partially blocked from within mainland China," but did not speculate on the cause.

The internet search provider's mobile service was also behaving erratically this week. Whilst users users in Shanghai said that there were no problems, others said that searches produced uneven results.

The news comes a week after Google announced it was closing its mainland search service and would be redirecting Google users to an uncensored Chinese language service hosted in Hong Kong. Google, whilst continuing some business operations in China, said it was not willing to self-censor following a cyber-attack originating from within the country.



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David Cameron’s starter homes: poor policy, but good politics

David Cameron's electoral coalition of buy-to-let retirees and dual-earner couples remains intact: for now.

The only working age demographic to do better under the Coalition was dual-earner couples – without children. They were the main beneficiaries of the threshold raise – which may “take the poorest out of tax” in theory but in practice hands a sizeable tax cut to peope earning above average. They will reap the fruits of the government’s Help to Buy ISAs. And, not having children, they were insulated from cuts to child tax credits, reductions in public services, and the rising cost of childcare. (Childcare costs now mean a couple on average income, working full-time, find that the extra earnings from both remaining in work are wiped out by the costs of care)

And they were a vital part of the Conservatives’ electoral coalition. Voters who lived in new housing estates on the edges of seats like Amber Valley and throughout the Midlands overwhelmingly backed the Conservatives.

That’s the political backdrop to David Cameron’s announcement later today to change planning to unlock new housing units – what the government dubs “Starter Homes”. The government will redefine “affordable housing”  to up to £250,000 outside of London and £450,000 and under within it, while reducing the ability of councils to insist on certain types of buildings. He’ll describe it as part of the drive to make the next ten years “the turnaround decade”: years in which people will feel more in control of their lives, more affluent, and more successful.

The end result: a proliferation of one and two bedroom flats and homes, available to the highly-paid: and to that vital component of Cameron’s coalition: the dual-earner, childless couple, particularly in the Midlands, where the housing market is not yet in a state of crisis. (And it's not bad for that other pillar of the Conservative majority: well-heeled pensioners using buy-to-let as a pension plan.)

The policy may well be junk-rated but the politics has a triple A rating: along with affluent retirees, if the Conservatives can keep those dual-earner couples in the Tory column, they will remain in office for the forseeable future.

Just one problem, really: what happens if they decide they want room for kids? Cameron’s “turnaround decade” might end up in entirely the wrong sort of turnaround for Conservative prospects.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.