MPs warn tax phone line may collapse again

MPs are concerned that moving more of HMRC's services online could lead to a disastrous decline in its phone-based customer service.

In 2014/2015 waiting times for HMRC customer services tripled. HMRC claims average call waiting time is five minutes and aims to reduce this further.

The government has told HMRC it must save £98 million by 2021, which is being implemented by employing 16% fewer staff and closing 137 offices.

It has also been suggested that an automation of solutions to basic enquiries will free up HMRC to deal with more complex issues such as tax evasion/avoidance.

Sarah Olney wins Richmond Park & North Kingston by-election

It's tough for Liberal Democrats to find positive news these days, this blog post will undoubtedly change that. After Zac Goldsmith resigned as the Tory MP for the constituency in protest of his party's favour for Heathrow expansion (which would cause disruptions for Richmond Park), a by-election was inevitably triggered.    

Goldsmith decided to contest the by-election as an 'independent' candidate, though he would still of course have had close ties to the Tories. The Tories didn't decide to field a candidate against him which meant the Lib Dems (often the runner up party in Richmond Park) seized the opportunity. Olney over-turned a 23,015 Tory majority by receiving 20,510 votes compared to Goldsmith's 18,638 votes (a majority of 1872 votes).

It's not all doom and gloom for Goldsmith though, Olney is also against Heathrow expansion. The only major difference will most likely be the Lib Dems' intentions to disrupt Brexit as much as possible, which is understandable because the constituency backed Bremain.

Labour's candidate finished a distant third, so much so that they lost their £500 deposit. The rest of the candidates were from fringe parties.  

The result of this by-election is important as it will be interesting to see if other Bremain-backing constituencies follow suite and vote for Lib Dems because of their Bremain/Bremoan platform. However, with the absence of a Tory candidate many could argue that Tory voters might have stayed at home.

Voter turnout was 53.6%. Like I said with the UKIP leadership election, with a turnout like that you really have to make of it what you will...

Does Boris support free movement of people?

During the EU referendum campaign, Boris was a stalwart for the Brexit side. Reiterating his age-old adage 'we can have our cake and eat it', one can definitely remember the BoJo promising we could maintain our single market access whilst simultaneously controlling our borders via limiting freedom of movement if we voted for Brexit.

However, Sky News and numerous other sources report that Boris told EU diplomats that he 'supported' freedom of movement. Although his spokespeople reassure us that he was just reaffirming his support for 'controlled' 'freedom of movement' rather than the current immigration levels seen under EU policies. As far as I can remember, Brexiteers promised us that they could maintain our single market access and end freedom of movement; I think they should jolly well get on with it otherwise people may get a feeling they were perhaps lied to(!)

Paul Nuttall wins UKIP leadership

UKIP have been a disaster of a political party recently, and, given that the UK voted for Brexit, questions about their relevance in contemporary politics have been brought to the fore.

Nigel Farage will be pleased to know that third time lucky he will be able to resign as UKIP leader and, like other former high profile politicians such as Michael Gove and George Osborne, go on a lucrative public speaking tour.

Nuttall previously served as deputy leader for six years and won 62.6% (9622 votes) of support among party members.

It seems Nuttall will be taking UKIP in the direction of a pressure group on the Tories pushing the government into giving a 'real' Brexit. No changes there then...

In all fairness, he is targeting traditional working class Labour supporters disenfranchised by Jeremy Corbyn. He could be on to something there.

Suzanne Evans came second with 2973 votes (19.3%) and John Rees-Evans came third with 2775 votes (18.1%).

There were 32,757 ballot papers sent out with 15,405 votes cast. Approximately a 53% turnout of the selectorate. Make of that what you will...

Will a recount give Hillary Clinton a win?

After computer scientists raised concerns over electronic voting, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein launched a campaign for a recount in battleground states which reached its $2.5 million goal in hours.

The states involved in the recounting are Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Wisconsin and Pennsylvania both narrowly voted in favour of Donald Trump and the final count for Michigan is still being established. I predicted based on polling averages that Clinton would take Wisconsin, Michigan and wrong I was!

The computer scientists suggest there is a link between the fact Clinton's vote was down by 7% on average in Wisconsin counties where electronic voting was used. Correcting this discrepancy would give Clinton an additional 30,000 votes and she lost Wisconsin by 27,000 votes.

Stein claims to be doing this impartially, aiming to show how untrustworthy the US electoral system is rather than supporting Clinton.