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22 June 2012

The Weekly WHIP: 22 June 2012

The Weekly WHIP: 22 June 2012

#Govelevels

Michael Gove announced to the world his intention to reintroduce O-Levels, with them replacing GCSEs for most pupils. The education secretary was hauled before parliament to answer questions from the opposition after details of the plans were released by the Daily Mail.

Liberal Democrat leader, and incidentally deputy prime minister, cast doubt on the longevity of these plans, while opposition spokesman Kevin Brennan rather shot himself in the foot by announcing to parliament: "Only 3 in 10 pupils - that's 60%, because I know that the Secretary of State is not very good at maths – only 3 in 10 pupils got a good GCSE in 1997". He later tweeted: "Oops".

Aung San Suu Kyi

Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi addressed both Houses of Parliament on Thursday as well as meeting with William Hague and David Cameron who said she was "a symbol of courage". Introducing her before the gathered parliamentarians in Westminster Hall, Speaker John Bercow described her as "the conscience of a country and a heroine for humanity".

In her address she said: "Our own determination can get us so far. The support of the people of Britain and of peoples around the world can get us so much further." The final event of her eight day visit, to the British Burmese community, threatened to be overshadowed by tensions as to whether she is doing enough to combat sectarian violence in Burma.

Jimmy Carr

Comedian Jimmy Carr took to Twitter to recant from his tax avoidance ways after coming under furious criticism, including being described by the prime minister as 'morally wrong'. Cameron's spokesman didn't take that line when quizzed over Gary Barlow's tax affairs, and whether they would demand he hand his OBE back for good.

As well as Cameron's strong words, the government moved quickly to suggest that the loophole, used to gain income through taking a loan from a company of which you are a shareholder (potentially the only one), known as K2, was being examined by the treasury.

Jimmy Carr's advertising strategy also came into question after urging theatre goers to watch his performance, and leave their conscience, sense of common decency and moral compass at home.

Bishop's bench

The Independent splashed on Thursday about Bishops in the House of Lords claiming up to £27,000 in allowances. The Church of England's parliamentary team took to Twitter to defend the Lords Spiritual, pointing out that while they make up 3.5 per cent of the Lords they account for only 0.7 per cent of allowance claims.

The claims were somewhat undermined by the assertion, now corrected, that the Archbishop of London had claimed for 24 days worth of parliamentary sittings.