Boris Johnson is facing growing pressure to implement a widespread lockdown before and after Christmas, while allowing families to meet over the festive period. Senior figures warned the current tiers system was not enough to "get on top of the numbers" but said harsher restrictiRead More »
Prime minister says new measures will focus on rail links and pub closures. Boris Johnson has announced another election package costing hundreds of millions of pounds for neglected towns, some of which will be spent in marginal constituencies. Concentrating on rundown high streets, the closures of pubs and post offices and the restoration of rail links, the prime minister has claimed that the measures will build upon the £3.6bn towns fund first announced in July. Towns that have been singled out in the new measures include Cleveleys, near Blackpool, where the Conservatives are defending a majority of 2,023, and Willenhall in Walsall North, where they hope to improve on a 2,601 majority. Labour said last night the Conservatives were responsible for the destruction of the high streets they are now claiming they will help. Andrew Gwynne, the shadow communities secretary, said: “The Tories are destroying our high streets and towns. A decade of vicious cuts to the services that people in our communities rely on has taken 60p in every £1 from council budgets.” Johnson said a future Conservative government would extend the retail discount on business rates to 50% next year. For businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000, this will mean an increase on the current retail discount of 33% in 2020-21. This would amount to “an effective £280m tax cut” for small businesses, the party claimed. A new £1,000 business rates relief for pubs would also be introduced under a Johnson majority government – an £18m tax cut for next year, it is claimed. The Conservatives said they would also introduce a £150m fund that will help groups trying to take over and run pubs and post offices threatened with closure. Following on from previous pledges to reverse rail cuts recommended by Dr Richard Beeching in the 1960s, Johnson has also pledged to set up a £500m Beeching Reversal fund. Towns such as Ashington, Seaton Delaval and Blyth, with a combined population of 100,000, will receive cash following a request from Northumberland council for £99m to reinstate stations, the Tories claimed. Willenhall and Darlaston in the West Midlands will receive £18m to reopen stations – a further £10m has already been provided by the government, the party said. Investment will also be provided to connect Skelmersdale to Liverpool and Manchester. A disused railway line will be funded to improve transport connections for Thornton-Cleveleys and Fleetwood. In a statement last night, Johnson said: “For too long, too many towns and villages across Britain have been overlooked and left behind. When the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, many communities felt their voices had been heard for the first time in decades and that their lives would improve. “We will invest in these communities and help people put the heart back into the places they call home.” One organisation representing retailers said Johnson’s plans did not go far enough to revive the UK’s troubled shopping districts. Tom Ironside, director of business and regulation at the British Retail Consortium, said the majority of the UK’s 3 million retail workers were employed in businesses that would not benefit from today’s announcement. “It is essential that the next government scraps ‘downwards transition’, which costs retailers £1.3bn, freezes next year’s rates increase, and introduces an improvement relief to encourage investment in our high streets. “To ensure the long-term vitality of our town and city centres, the next government should follow the recommendations of the treasury select committee and commit to wholesale reform of our broken business rates system,” he said. The Conservatives have been accused of using public money to boost their election prospects after it emerged that funding from the towns fund was going to wealthier Tory marginals. An analysis by the Times found this week that a third of the 100 towns due to receive some of the £3.6bn pot were not among the 300 most deprived towns. These included Loughborough, which was won by Nicky Morgan, the culture secretary, at the last election, with a majority of around 4,000. Kirby was not on the list.
Jeremy Corbyn vowed to fight his suspension from Labour on Thursday night as his allies accused the party's leader, Sir Keir Starmer, of "inciting war". Mr Corbyn mobilised his supporters against Sir Keir as MPs, unions and members loyal to him demanded his reinstatement and reopened the toxic row over anti-Semitism within the party. It came after the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found Labour guilty of unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination as a result of "inexcusable" failures to tackle anti-Semitism under Mr Corbyn's leadership. The former leader's party membership was suspended and the whip removed by Labour's general secretary after he claimed the scale of anti-Semitism in the party had been "dramatically overstated for political reasons" and later refused to retract his statement. Len McCluskey, a Corbyn ally and the leader of Unite, Labour's biggest financial backer, was among those demanding that the decision be reversed, saying it would "cause chaos" and split the party, leaving it "doomed to defeat" at the next general election. Some union figures were discussing the possibility of a new breakaway party on Thursday night. Mr Corbyn became the first serving or former leader of Labour to lose the whip since Ramsay MacDonald in 1931 on what Sir Keir described as a "day of shame" for the party.
Labour's left calls for Jeremy Corbyn's suspension to be liftedUnite leader calls action ‘grave injustice’, while Momentum says suspension is ‘attack on the left’
The real Brexit battle was democracy v realpolitikGodfrey Stadlen, Iradj Bagherzade, Prof Anne Deighton, Dr Peter Neville and Graham Watson respond to an article by Vernon Bogdanor
Brexit talks making good progress, says Ursula Von der Leyen. European commission president says key issues are level playing field and fisheries
None of this is Jeremy Corbyn’s fault, of course – he has been fighting racism all his life, don’t you know
Canada promised a post-Brexit trade deal with Britain would be easy to agree on Thursday, as Brussels said UK-EU negotiations had entered a “critical” phase. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau predicted that a rollover deal with Britain to replace the EU-Canada trade agreement after Brexit will be “straightforward”. It will form the basis of a new UK-EU deal after Britain falls out of the EU-Canada deal when it leaves the transition period at the end of the year, he said. He stressed Ottawa wanted a trade deal with Brexit Britain and that it would be much simpler than the ongoing trade talks with Brussels. Mr Trudeau was speaking at a press conference after an EU-Canada video-summit with the presidents of the European Commission and Council. He said, “There are significant complexities that the UK sorry grappling with in terms of negotiating the post Brexit agreement with the European Union. “I can highlight that it's fairly straightforward with Canada and we are certainly very optimistic in the ability to see things roll over smoothly,“ he said. “There have been many discussions over the past years between myself and Prime Minister Johnson and his predecessor on that seamless transition,” Mr Trudeau added. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European commission, said she was in hourly contact with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator. She said intensified talks with Britain, which resume on Friday in Brussels, were in a “critical phase”. “We're making good progress but on two critical issues, the level playing field, and the fisheries, there we would like to see more progress,” she said. Mrs von der Leyen said the level playing field guarantees were the price for zero tariff access to the Single Market. “We are now in depth in detailing out how could we construct a system that is fair for both sides for a level playing field,” she said. How to construct the system with clear rules on both sides and a dispute mechanism system was a “crucial” question negotiations would delve deep into in the coming days of negotiations, she said. Britain had previously rejected EU demands for stricter level playing field guarantees and argued that all it wanted was a "Canada-style" trade deal with non-enforceable commitments.
International Monetary Fund downgrades forecast for UK and calls for continued fiscal support as second wave builds across Europe
Labour suspends Jeremy Corbyn over EHRC report commentsSuspension of former leader – after he says antisemitism in party is ‘overstated’ – likely to ignite Labour civil war * Key findings of the EHRC inquiry into Labour antisemitism
Antisemitism in the Labour party was real and it must never be allowed to returnThe EHRC report is damning, and Corbyn’s suspension necessary. The tragedy is that any of this had to happen in the first place
Less than a year ago, Jeremy Corbyn was Labour's candidate to be prime minister. Now, he has been cast into the wilderness, suspended from the party, by his successor as Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer. The ruthless action by Sir Keir looks like the most brutal purge of the Labour left since Neil Kinnock took on the Militant Tendency in the 1980s.
Jeremy Corbyn has been suspended from the Labour Party pending investigation, a party spokesman said. The former leader has also been stripped of the Labour whip in the House of Commons. The announcement came shortly after current leader Sir Keir Starmer ducked pressure for disciplinary action following a damning report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission on antisemitism in Labour under Mr Corbynâs leadership.
The former Labour leader said allegations about anti-Semitism had been “dramatically overstated” by his political opponents.
The former Labour leader insisted he was 'not part of the problem' over the party’s handling of anti-Semitism.
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been suspended from the party after refusing to accept the findings of a bombshell report into anti-Semitism during his tenure.On Thursday the Equality and Human Rights Commission found the party was responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination.
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been suspended from the party and has had the whip removed. A party spokesman said it was "in light of his comments made today and his failure to retract them subsequently". Mr Corbyn had reacted to a damning report into antisemitism by saying that the number of complaints made during his tenure were "dramatically overstated for political reasons".
Liverpool is tired, angry and ready for a fight with Boris JohnsonScousers were too savvy to ever be taken in by the Tories’ talk of ‘levelling up’. After coronavirus, they’ve had enough
British Brexit negotiators arrived in Brussels on Thursday for trade negotiations with the city under threat of lockdown amid the second wave of coronavirus. Brussels is at the epicentre of rocketing infection rates in Belgium, which are second only to the Czech Republic in the EU and far outstrip the UK's. Belgium is expected to announce that it will follow France and Germany back into lockdown on Friday. UK-EU Trade talks resume that day and will continue through the weekend as both sides race to agree a trade deal before mid-November and avoid a damaging no deal Brexit. Future negotiations could be held exclusively in London – although this is understood to be unlikely – or shifted to cumbersome online video conferences, depending on how strict the Belgian lockdown is. UK-EU negotiations restarted in London last Friday after the European Commission promised Britain daily, intensified talks. They were extended until Wednesday in the hope that the public health situation in Brussels would improve. However, it has got worse. Belgium reported 1,424.2 new coronavirus infections per 100,000 inhabitants over the last two weeks, and rising death and hospitalisation rates on Thursday. In Britain the rate is 424.1, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Contamination figures in Belgium are 10 times worse than in Germany and significantly worse than in France, where non-essential travel was banned this week. Brussels has already closed all its bars and cafes and introduced a curfew. Masks are mandatory everywhere outside, and working from home is strongly recommended. Marc Van Ranst, a virologist advising the Belgian government since the start of the pandemic, said earlier measures had failed. He tweeted: "Like in our neighbouring countries, it is time for us to hit the emergency brake: lockdown." Mr Frost and Mr Barnier, the two chief negotiators, will discuss the impact of the new Belgian coronavirus restrictions, which are expected to last a month and beyond the mid-November deadline, and make a joint decision on the next steps.
Formal complaints on Corbyn and other MPs sent to Labour party after EHRC reportAntisemitism campaign group asks Keir Starmer to investigate and ‘deliver justice’ * Labour EHRC report findings: live updates * Labour responsible for harassment and discrimination
Jeremy Corbyn rejects findings of EHRC report on antisemitism in LabourProblem was ‘dramatically overstated for political reasons’ by opponents, says former Labour leader
Jeremy Corbyn said he did not accept all of the Equality and Human Rights Commission's findings and added that the scale of the anti-Semitism problem in Labour was "dramatically overstated" for political reasons, "by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media". The EHRC identified serious failings in the Labour Party leadership in addressing anti-Semitism and an inadequate process for handling anti-Semitism complaints. In a statement posted on Facebook, he said: "Anti-Semitism is absolutely abhorrent, wrong and responsible for some of humanity's greatest crimes. As Leader of the Labour Party I was always determined to eliminate all forms of racism and root out the cancer of anti-Semitism. I have campaigned in support of Jewish people and communities my entire life and I will continue to do so. "The EHRC's report shows that when I became Labour leader in 2015, the Party's processes for handling complaints were not fit for purpose. Reform was then stalled by an obstructive party bureaucracy. But from 2018, Jennie Formby and a new NEC that supported my leadership made substantial improvements, making it much easier and swifter to remove anti-Semites. My team acted to speed up, not hinder the process. "Anyone claiming there is no anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is wrong. Of course there is, as there is throughout society, and sometimes it is voiced by people who think of themselves as on the left. "Jewish members of our party and the wider community were right to expect us to deal with it, and I regret that it took longer to deliver that change than it should. "One anti-Semite is one too many, but the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media. That combination hurt Jewish people and must never be repeated. "My sincere hope is that relations with Jewish communities can be rebuilt and those fears overcome. While I do not accept all of its findings, I trust its recommendations will be swiftly implemented to help move on from this period." Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the findings of the excoriating report represent a "day of shame" for the party and has promised to implement its findings in full. Speaking at a press conference, Sir Keir said: "I found this report hard to read and it is a day of shame for the Labour Party.